17 November, 2017

Zimbabwe’s Military Coup in Perspective

by Leon Hartwell

Regardless of statements by Zimbabwe’s military leaders, a coup d'etat has taken place. Some Zimbabweans are already openly celebrating the removal or President Robert Mugabe, who has ruled the country since 1980. How did this military coup come about? What can we expect in the coming months?


The Role of Securocrats

For those who have been close observers of the situation in Zimbabwe, this military coup did not come as a complete surprise. The king maker role of the so-called “securocrats” has been fundamental to Zimbabwe’s political establishment for decades. In fact, there is an old joke in Zimbabwe: “Why do they call it ‘general elections’? Because the generals determine the outcome of elections.”

Since the beginning, Mugabe carved out an important role for the security sector to maintain order and to keep his regime intact. From 1982 to 1987, he used the notorious North Korean-trained Fifth Brigade to crack down on opposition in Matabeleland. It is said that Emmerson Mnangagwa, a crucial figure behind the current coup, was also a key player during that period when almost 20,000 Ndebele were massacred. For a period after that, the military was sent back to the barracks. However, by 2008, Mnangagwa reactivated the military to help secure Mugabe’s victory during the controversial run-off election.

The Timing of the Coup
Many of the securocrats who fought for Zimbabwe’s independence and who kept Mugabe in power, are the same people who have now turned against him. A key factor in the timing of the coup has been the ascendency of Mugabe’s wife, Grace within the ruling party, the Zimbabwe African National Union – Patriotic Front (ZANU-PF).

Since Grace entered public life, Zimbabweans have viewed her as a sexually promiscuous, uneducated former typist whose only interest is luxury shopping. By 2014, Grace went into high gear to beautify her image. The state-owned, ZANU-PF-controlled media, constructed an image of a person with a good heart (through her support for young orphans), a sophisticated businesswoman, an intellectual (the University of Zimbabwe controversially awarded her a PhD within two months of enrolment), and a shrewd politician.

By the end of 2014, Grace became ZANU-PF’s head of the Women’s League and she helped to push out Vice President Joice Mujuru, who at the time stood a good chance of becoming Mugabe’s successor. It was a warning to other potential successors.

More than anything else, Grace’s rise to the top in Zimbabwe threatened the interests of Zimbabwe’s establishment, which includes the security sector. She wanted to establish a dynasty and to replace prominent securocrats with Generation 40 (G40), a relatively younger crop of Zimbabweans who showed loyalty towards her.

The removal of Grace was therefore a matter of urgency. In Zimbabwe, power is money, and the being shunned has major financial implications. The coup has nothing to do with genuinely restoring the constitutional order or anything noble, it is an attempt to protect the establishment’s political and financial interests.

Besides, this coup came at a time when Grace’s public image took yet another nose dive, which means there will not be a huge outcry if she is removed from the political scene. In August, Grace viciously assaulted a model in a luxury apartment rented by her sons in South Africa. The incident reinforced Grace’s bad reputation for public outbursts and it sparked greater scrutiny over the First Family’s opulent lifestyles.

Grace’s problem is that she was punch drunk on victory, but little did she realise that she was overplaying her hand. Her most drastic move to date was her open intentions to get rid of Vice President Mnangagwa, arguably one of the most important securocrats in Zimbabwe. Whether her preferred method was poisoning him through thallium, or by convincing her husband to sack him remains unclear. Nonetheless, after Mnangagwa was unceremoniously fired, the security sector had to act rapidly. If Mnangagwa truly believes that he was poisoned by Grace’s minions, the coup was also a matter of life and death as well as revenge. Over the years, Mugabe has thrown too many struggle ‘comrades’ under the bus and this was, “the last straw” as one Zimbabwean described it to me.

The timing of this coup was also perfect, given the state of Mugabe’s health and his extensive traveling. He is 93 years old, and he has increasingly been caught stumbling and sleeping in front of cameras. In 2017 alone, Uncle Bob spent an enormous amount of time (almost 57 percent of his time by mid-May), outside of Zimbabwe, sometimes for medical reasons. This gave the securocrats plenty of time to plot their coup, and if need be, an excuse to say that Mugabe is not medically fit to be President.

A third factor that precipitated the coup, is that the Zimbabwean economy is once again “in the intensive care unit” as some would say. At the end of October, economist Steve Hank noted that the country’s annual inflation rate stood at 348 percent. It is possible that the coup makers calculated that most Zimbabweans will not lose much sleep over the removal of Uncle Bob. In fact, some individuals from Harare to Beijing, might even welcome it.

Looking Into the Crystal Ball
The top four priorities for the coup makers will be maintaining order, controlling the message, cloaking the military takeover in civilian clothes, and rolling out measures to improve the economy. All these issues are ultimately intertwined.

With regards to maintaining order, already, police officers have been rounded up throughout Zimbabwe and Mugabe has reportedly been placed under house arrest. It is unlikely that there will be heavy infighting within the security sector given the broad support for General Constantino Chiwenga (commander of Zimbabwe’s Defence Forces), Air Marshal Perence Shiri, Lieutenant-General Valerio Sibanda (Commander of the National Army) and Mnangagwa.

War veterans have also been brought in to provide legitimacy to the coup. Their role should not be underestimated. For years, Zimbabwean propaganda has praised them as the liberators of the country. The War Veterans, then under the leadership of the late Chenjerai "Hitler" Hunzvi, were also the ones who were instrumental in the country’s land grab.

Current chairman of the War Veterans Association, Chris Mutsvangwa, has thus far praised the military coup leaders for setting Zimbabwe on a path to restore “genuine democracy” after it was captured by rogue elements. It is probable that Mutsvangwa will also play an important role in terms of presenting a friendly face on behalf of the ‘new’ regime. He is a prominent businessman, politician, and diplomat. He was instrumental in developing Mugabe’s Look East Policy where Zimbabwe began to focus increasingly on China to replace Western businesses after the country was hit by sanctions. At the same time, Mutsvangwa has served as a diplomat in the Western world, and he has a positive reputation among Western diplomats.

As for messaging, the coup makers moved rapidly to take over the state-owned media in order to control the message. Their main focus has been, and will continue to be, to legitimise the military coup. This will involve justification of the coup by for example saying that this has been done in the name of national interest and ultimately for the greater good.

At the same time, the coup makers will satanize Grace Mugabe and other G40 members like Jonathan Moyo, Saviour Kasukwuere and Ignatius Chombo. They will parade their wealth and all their dirty laundry in front of the television cameras so as to demonstrate that these individuals were looting Zimbabwe at the expense of the average Zimbabwean. The lines between “us” and “them” and “good” and “evil” will become more pronounced in the coming days.

Another big part of the gaining popular support for the coup will be to make economic development a key priority. For a start, coup makers will have to dampen the country’s hyperinflation. They will also do their best to court Zimbabwean, South African and Western businesses. One can expect them to stress the importance of private property rights in order to bring some form of predictability back into the economy.

The coup makers will also have to call on some favours from China. Despite his Look East Policy, Chinese companies have reportedly had a difficult relationship with Mugabe after they were recently accused by him of siphoning off $15 billion in diamond revenue. Less than a week ago, G40 attempted to finger Mnangagwa for looting the revenues, but in truth, they were all in it together. Chinese companies will therefore have to cough up some diamond revenues in exchange for guarantees that their interests in Zimbabwe will not be harmed. It is likely that this was a central issue that Chiwenga ironed out with the Chinese during his recent visit to the country shortly before the coup. China could also provide Zimbabwe with some protection within the United Nations Security Council if need be, especially if issues such as sanctions of military intervention are raised.



Legitimising the Military Coup and Scenarios
Despite the evidence, the military has claimed that what has transpired in Zimbabwe is not a coup. This is a crucial issue, given that both the African Union (AU) and the Southern African Development Community (SADC) generally react negatively towards coups d'état. Their reactions to past coups in the region have ranged from membership suspension to military intervention. The latter move is unlikely at present, but there will definitely be a lot of pressure by SADC and the AU to return the levers of power to civilian hands.

Military coups can be flued, but broadly speaking, there are three scenarios to remove Mugabe and to install a civilian government (even if the latter will merely be window dressing). One, coup leaders could force Uncle Bob to resign in exchange for security guarantees for him and his family. They could strategically demand that Mnangagwa be reinstated as Vice President before his resignation. Legally speaking, that would make it easier for the Crocodile, as Mnangagwa is nicknamed, to become President.

In a second scenario, should Mugabe fail to cooperate, coup makers, with the help of their friends in ZANU-PF, could also argue that Mugabe has become “incapacitated” over the past few weeks, which is when Grace became the de facto President. This means that Mnangagwa’s dismissal as Vice President was unconstitutional, and instead of being fired, he should have legally become President of the country. As a result, he will simply be ‘reinstated’ in his ‘rightful’ position.

A third scenario would be to call for an extraordinary ZANU-PF conference. Mugabe can then be officially removed as president of the party (and subsequently also the country) and ‘democratically’ replaced by Mnangagwa or a compromise candidate. This by no means entails that succession will be easy, as succession rules are very murky. But, with G40 out of the way and the military in control, there is a greater chance that ZANU-PF will unite behind one candidate.

Finally, coup leaders could form some sort of a Government of National Unity (GNU) akin to the one birthed by the Global Political Agreement after the violent 2008 elections. This would make the military coup more attractive to Zimbabwe as a whole at it would give the illusion of inclusivity and hope. In this effort, they will attempt to construct another GNU by bringing in representatives, not only from ZANU-PF, but also from opposition parties. One can expect that the military will engage a wide-ranging group of players, including Joice Mujuru, Morgan Tsvangirai, Tendai Biti, and Welshman Ncube. They will also likely promise free and fair elections within a reasonable time period.

Some opposition figures might respond favourably to the coup makers for two reasons: Firstly, after a long absence from government, they will be tempted to be part of it given that it would provide them with access to some form of power and resources. Secondly, they might hope that the military coup represents the possibility to effect change. However, they should not be blinded as to how this military coup came into being. This is the same security sector that helped to keep Mugabe in power for nearly four decades, the very man who is about to be vilified. In the absence of serious institutional changes, the risk is that they will again be disposed as soon as the next general election is announced, and we know why they call it general elections.

What If the Crocodile Comes Out on Top?
As seen, in several of the scenarios, Mnangagwa stands a good chance to replace Mugabe as President. I remember meeting him at a function at the end of 2012 or beginning of 2013 at the Rainbow Towers in Harare. It was during the country’s Constitution making process and I was keen to gage his perspective on the matter. After exchanging a few pleasantries, I asked him about his background in law. I said to him, “They say you are well versed in legalese”, to which he icily responded, “I am a military man.”

Mnangagwa has been a key player within the security establishment from the very beginning. He also has strong links with the political and security establishment in SADC as well as China. But it is his political unpopularity that should raise the most serious red flags. As a candidate, he has proven to be unpopular in past elections. It means that should he be fielded as ZANU-PF’s presidential candidate at some point in the future, he will most likely resort to familiar methods that have served him well in the past - threats, violence and extreme electoral manipulation - in order to stay on top.

In the coming weeks though, the military coup leaders will attempt to soften Mnangagwa’s image. They will present him, not as a “military man” as he put it to me, but as a victim and a humble politician ready to serve the nation. His background and experience in law will certainly come in handy to perform legal gymnastics to legitimise this coup.

Those who already rejoice over the removal of Mugabe in the hope that something better is on the horizon will most likely be disappointed. What has happened represents merely a readjustment of the old older rather than a new beginning.

Leon Hartwell was the Senior Policy Adviser for Political and Development Cooperation at the Embassy of the Kingdom of the Netherlands in Harare from 2012-2013.  He is currently a PhD candidate at Stellenbosch University focusing on conflict resolution and mediation.

13 November, 2017

Can South Africa Escape its Economic Stagnation?

by Philippe Burger
(Professor of Economics, University of the Free State, South Africa)

South Africa has a triple challenge of high unemployment, high poverty and high inequality. The latest official unemployment rate falls just shy of 28%, while the so-called broad unemployment rate exceeds 36%. In addition to people actively searching for a job, the broad unemployment rate also includes those who want a job but because of job scarcity stopped looking for one (they are also called discouraged work-seekers). Whereas in other countries typically six out of ten working-age individuals work, in South Africa it is just a bit more than four out ten. That increases the dependency ratio in South Africa of non-working individuals (of all ages) to working individuals significantly.

In 2009, during the global financial crisis, 796 000 workers lost their jobs. Broad unemployment increased by 918 000 people during this period. After the crisis subsided employment started to increase, but at a very slow pace. From the end of 2008 to the end of 2016 the number of employed workers increased by 1.3 million. But unemployed people seeking jobs increased by 1.7 million, while discouraged work-seekers increased by 1.1 million. Thus, using the broad definition of unemployment, the number of unemployed people increased by 2.8 million. This is more than double the increase in employed workers. Clearly South Africa does not create enough jobs. Furthermore, unemployment and non-participation in the labour market are the largest contributors to poverty and inequality in the South Africa. Thus, reducing unemployment will go far to deal with reducing poverty and inequality.

Empirical evidence shows us that higher economic growth translates into higher employment growth. However, historically the growth in employment resulting from economic growth in South Africa has not been very strong (economists call this a low employment intensity of economic growth). Over the period 1982 to 2017 for every 1% that the economy grew employment grew on average by only between 0.23% and 0.3%. In many countries this is closer to 0.5%.


South Africa also suffers from stagnating, low growth. Whereas the economy grew in excess of 5% in the mid-2000s, by 2016 growth fell to 0.5%. This is less than the population growth rate of 1.61% in 2017, indicating that per capita income is actually falling. Unlike earlier recessions, such as the recession in the late 1990s that followed the Asian crisis, and the so-called Great Recession of 2008/9 that followed the global financial crisis, the recessionary conditions characterising South Africa currently seems mostly of its own making.

Policy uncertainty and a seeming longstanding unwillingness of the government to address a number of deep structural problems characterising the South African economy has contributed to a loss of confidence among both investors and consumers, and hence to the fall in economic growth. To reduce unemployment, poverty and inequality requires that economic growth be inclusive. However, it is often forgotten that for growth to be inclusive, there first needs to be growth.

At the conclusion of its most recent visit to South Africa in November 2017, the International Monetary Fund (IMF) highlights the need for the South African government to address issues causing the loss of confidence. The IMF also opines that to restore confidence, an announcement on much-needed reforms that increase competition and reduce input costs to businesses and households should be made sooner rather than later.

Confidence is further weakened by fears that rampant corruption and so-called state capture is undermining the democratic structures of the country. Indeed, the need to roll back corruption and state capture is increasingly seen as a prerequisite to restoring investor confidence. Only then will economic growth stand a chance of returning to levels last seen in the mid-2000s; only then can the triple challenge of high unemployment, high poverty and high inequality be addressed.

Standard growth theory tells us that economic growth depends in the first instance on a country’s levels of physical and human capital. South Africa lacks fixed (physical) capital investment. And its poor school performance means that it fails dismally in the creation of human capital.

The lack of fixed investment is not a new phenomenon. From 1992 to 2007 the total public and private capital stock of the country, expressed as a ratio of total income earned in the country, fell from almost 353% to just more than 256% in 2007. It then rebounded to reach 275% in 2015 (mostly as a result of the construction of the Medupi and Kusile power stations). To restore these capital stock levels requires much higher levels of fixed investment than is currently characterising the economy. In addition, given that the drop in the country’s capital-to-income ratio resulted from a drop in both public and private capital, investment is needed in both the public and the private sectors.

To restore private investment requires the roll back of corruption and the implementation of policy reforms that address the economy’s deep structural problems. Public investment in the form of infrastructure development is also necessary. However, the state of finances of South Africa’s state-owned enterprises and the growing public debt-to-GDP ratio of the national government put a limit on government’s ability to expand infrastructure investment. To cut debt and increase public sector investment will require a cutback in government’s current expenditure, of which government’s salary bill constitutes a large proportion (larger than is usual in South Africa’s emerging market peer-group countries). Given the limit on government’s borrowing capacity, policy should also consider supporting private investment in what traditionally was considered the realm of public investment. Examples include renewable energy sources such as wind and solar power.

The structural reform policies that the government needs to implement, must also include policies that ensure inclusivity – otherwise economic growth will not be inclusive. Key inclusive policies that also support growth include tenure rights reform on communal land, policy to significantly improve South Africa’s dismal education system, and policy to support investment.

More than 30% of South Africans still live on communal land, mostly located in the former apartheid homelands. Most of this land is still controlled by traditional leaders, with individuals living on the land lacking proper tenure rights to the land. Tenure reform must ensure that communities gain control of communal land and that individuals farming plots of land have tenure security that they can leverage to access commercial and development finance. To reduce input costs and improve market access, the government must also facilitate the development of proper supply chains within which small-scale farmers can be embedded.

Farmers in South Africa (by Solidarity Center)

In the longer run inclusion in both urban and rural areas will depend on education. According to StatsSA almost half of the unemployed did not complete high school, with a further 11% having completed only primary school or less. This contrasts with just more than a third of the employed not having completed high school and a further 13% completing only primary or less. Only 7.8% of the unemployed hold a tertiary qualification. This contrasts with 20.3% of employed workers holding a tertiary degree. The mismatch between the qualifications of the employed and the unemployed shows that lower levels of education coincides with a higher probability to be unemployed. In addition, research by Hanushek and Woessmann clearly shows that countries whose children score better in mathematics and science are also countries that grow much faster. And note that it is not only rich countries that grow fast. To the contrary, many emerging market countries appear on the list of fast growers.

Even though education will contribute to faster economic growth, given the time it takes to educate people, education remains a long-term policy (though with a short-term urgency to implement it). To spur growth in the short- to medium term requires higher levels of fixed investment. Ensuring policy certainty, business-friendly economic policy and a willingness to see the business sector as a true partner in developing the economy, will spur the business sector to invest. The government should then encourage a recursive investment policy, i.e. a policy that not only encourages investment, but also the reinvestment of the returns made on investment. Irrespective of whether such investment takes place in labour- or capital-intensive industries, employment will increase. We know this from the all too brief growth spurt of the mid-2000s when, even though South Africa has a low employment intensity, economic growth of between 3% and 5.5% reduced the unemployment rate from about 29% to 21% between 2003 and 2008.

11 November, 2017

Zimbabwe’s Watershed Moment After the Axing of Vice-President Mnangagwa

by Mlandvo Ndwandwe

A country once called the breadbasket of Southern Africa has constantly failed under the autocratic leadership of President Robert Mugabe. His disdain for his own people was demonstrated when President Mugabe sacked his popular long-serving Vice President Emmerson Mnangagwa. Mnangagwa was seen as a leading contender to succeed President Mugabe and his removal appeared to clear the way for the First Lady, Grace Mugabe, to take over. Mnangagwa’s dismissal follows a familiar pattern. The former Vice President Dr. Joyce Mujuru was dismissed as a result of false accusations of not being loyal to Robert Mugabe and wanting to overthrow him. Similar charges were levelled at Mnangagwa.

Hailed as the military mastermind of the 1970 war against settler-colonialist forces of the Ian Smith regime, Mnangwana, gained tremendous popularity within the ranks of ZANLA, the former military wing of the Zimbabwe African National Union, ZANU. We’re not talking about a peace-time hero here but a war veteran who spent more than 10 years in prison for fighting against colonialism and a freedom fighter that proved his endurance during difficult times by passing important examinations for his junior law degree whilst incarcerated. As a result, Mnangagwa’s popularity and subsequent dismissal raises questions as to Zimbabwe’s future stability.


Why was Mnangwana fired just now?
Mnangwana is one of the few public servants who has served as a minister since the first administration in 1980, as a Minister of State Security, to the Ministry of Defence, Rural Housing and Social Amenities, Speaker of Parliament and again Minister of Justice before being appointed Vice President three years back by President Mugabe. Being loyal, committed and performing from 1980 surely we cannot accept the lame excuse given by the Information Minister Simon Khaya Moyo, “It had become evident that his conduct in the discharge of his duties had become inconsistent with his official responsibilities,” who announced the dismissal. Mnangwana is an extremely experienced bureaucrat who cannot be recalled from office without concrete evidence or at least a formal investigation. The question is, why is the Vice President displaying undesirable conduct 37 years in the same government he helped to build?

The context is important in dispelling the official narrative that the loyal Vice-President was incompetent and therefore needs to be dismissed. On 12th August 2017, Emmerson Mnangwna was reportedly poisoned during the Zanu-PF rally in Gwanda which is in the southern part of Zimbabwe. On his return to his office on the 19th August, rumors were spread that he was planning to take power ‘unconstitutionally’. These rumours were allegedy spread by top ranking members of the ruling party including Mrs Grace Mugabe. The level of infighting within ZANU-PF is intimately related to post-Mugabe succession politics. As the spokesperson of the opposition People’s Democratic Party (PDP) asserted, Zanu-PF is, "simply a group of cannibals who feast on each other's political blood."

What does this mean to the political future of Zimbabwe?
Democratic structures are grossly undermined and political insurrection is inevitable. We see an institutionalization of the Mugabe dynasty in the same pattern as we have witnessed dynastic succession in same as we saw it entrenched in North Korea and Gabon. Speculation is rife that Mnangagwa’s removal is part of the elaborate plan to get the First Lady to succeed her ailing husband. Zimbabwe is at the brink of total political collapse and the destruction to come will reduce the country to a kleptocratic dictatorship maintained only by state repression. The future of the country looks increasingly abysmal and socio-economic recovery is unlikely to be achieved.

What should Zimbabweans do?
The masses of the people should start participating in the country’s politics, especially during local and national elections. The people of Zimbabwe are their own saviors and should take their voting powers seriously. To avoid what happened in the 2008 rigged national elections they should fully participate in the electoral processes – and not boycott them. This includes campaigning for a democratic dispensation, fixing their accountability structures and casting and counting of votes. Sacrifices are unavoidable, the regime will victimize some citizens but they cannot stop the collective will of the people as we witnessed during the Arab Spring. Zimbabweans should take control of their destiny or suffer the consequences of complacence in a kleptocratic dictatorship.

The international community were wrong-footed with Mnangagwa’s ouster. Western countries, in particular, supported Mnangagwa on account of his proposed business-friendly policies. The international community should speak with one collective voice and exert pressure on Harare to ensure that any future poll is free and fair – so that the voice of ordinary Zimbabweans are heard.

19 October, 2017

A Call for Free Education by South African Students

by Moitshepi MoAfrika Lipholo
(Student Leader, University of the Free State, South Africa)

In 2015, South Africa was subjected to significant student driven protest actions in the higher education sector. This was based in the form of various social movements beginning with the #Rhodes Must Fall campaign at the University of Cape Town (UCT). The actions of a postgraduate student at the UCT pouring human waste over the campus statue of the colonialist Cecil John Rhodes gave birth to the #Rhodes Must Fall movement. The demand for eradication of colonialist and Apartheid symbols such as buildings, statues, artworks, and names in the higher education spaces linked to the apartheid past, can be regard as the first phase for the students’ revolt. This first phase was pregnant with the call for free education under the hash tag Fees must Fall.

A new phase of the student movement started at Wits University after the leaked information that the Johannesburg university was about to increase its fees by 10. 5%. On 14 October 2015 South Africa was trending with #FeesMustFall. The students used social media as the tool to mobilize other students to protest against the increase of fees. On the same day students also started to shut down campuses across the country. On this day too, the former Minister of Higher Education and Training Dr Blade Nzimande was hosting the Summit on Transformation in Higher Education in Durban with different stakeholders. The students boycotted the summit. This was a sign of problems ahead regarding the affordability of fees in higher education for poor deserving students. At the end of October that year, students closed almost all campus around the country. They also managed to bring the country to a standstill and forced a freeze on fees increase. The call for free education was the fight against the commodification of education in South Africa. The notion that the only way to access higher quality education is by paying a premium for it was very wrong and dangerous. This was the perception of students fighting for free education.

The government of President Jacob Zuma started to realise that what they now were confronted with in the student movement was much more serious than they initially assumed. The call for free decolonized quality education was marked by the eruption of violent protests around university campuses. The main reason violence was adopted by students in their protests was because of the decision by government to militarize the university campuses. Students saw the entry of police on campuses as part of the government strategy to stop the call of free education by the students. University campuses were transformed into ‘police stations’ because of the high number of police officers and private security guards around campuses. Others started to blame the ANC government for using the same strategies as the Apartheid government under PW Botha, by using state security as the solution to bring stability. For the rest of 2016, universities adopted the strategy to fight with fire. The student protestors took fire to lecture rooms, cars, computer laboratories, statues, university paintings, administration buildings, residences, and the offices of vice-chancellors. The justification behind their actions was that the only language the government understood was violence and burning.

Throughout the South African history, intellectuals and academics have often played a key role in struggle for the modernisation of societies, national liberation and social justice. But the question was why they now failed to play a role in this call for free education? Is South Africa facing the pitfall of the intellectuals or had they forgotten that they still have to play part in solving this social inequality? The students continued to question why do the poor have to pay for higher education in the country that is blessed with natural resources? The corruption and maladministration in the government was some of the reasons why the government failed to provide for free education.

Free education in South Africa is a constitutional right. So, when students protest they indeed fight for a noble cause. South African politicians routinely sell dreams and make promises of free education to the electorate. The call for free education by the students was a way to remind the ruling government what they promised the poor and the students. When President Zuma was re-elected for his second term as the president of the ruling African National Congress (ANC) in Manguang, he mobilized support under the message of ‘delivering free higher education.’ Even the historic documents of the ANC indicate that the ANC supported free education. The most celebrated ANC historic document ‘The Freedom Charter’ is the testimony that the ANC had been promising the people of South Africa free higher education. The Freedom Charter was adopted at the Congress of the People in Kliptown on 26 June 1955. In this document under the heading ‘The Doors of Learning and Culture Shall be Opened’, the fourth line highlights that “Education shall be free, compulsory, universal and equal for all children; Higher education and technical training shall be opened to all by means of state allowances and scholarships awarded on the basis of merit.”

At the close of the 2016 academic year, government officials, heads of universities, leaders from the private sector, and civil society met once again to find ways for providing free high quality education. An agreement was concluded to fully fund poor students and to provide aid to the missing middle class students. These are students who are not rich enough to pay their fees and on the other hand not poor enough to qualify for state funding. In 2017 President Zuma established a commission to find ways to provide for free education. The commission submitted the report in the middle of 2017, but even now the president has not made the report public. As the nation is waiting for the response from the president, October 2017 witnessed different universities announcing that they will increase fees by 8 percent. The University of Stellenbosch was the first to make the announcement of an 8 percent increase followed by the Central University of Technology in the Free State with the same percent. The country can expect that all universities around the country will follow the same pattern of 8 percent.

The nation has to wait to see if the students will submit or challenge this decision of increase fees by 8 percent. The question that is dominating the conversation around South Africa is what the students will do to put pressure on the president to make the report public. Only time will tell, whether the country will go back to the phase of students closing campus around the country or whether the president will give them what they what - free education.

09 October, 2017

South Africa’s Leadership Crisis: A Dire Need for Political Reform

by Michaela Elsbeth Martin

The emergence of a democratic South Africa in 1994 marked the beginning of a transition period from the brutal Apartheid-government to a newly democratised state. The first president of the new South Africa, the late Nelson Mandela, played an instrumental role in unifying the country and establishing democratic values with human rights at the forefront of his administration. Former President Nelson Mandela thus succeeded in creating responsive and accountable state institutions. The ANC at the time had a type of leadership calibre that spoke directly to the democratic project the country desperately needed. The leadership that followed consequently built on the established democratic values projected in 1994 with a more pragmatic approach to economic, social and political development in South Africa and Africa as a whole.

Under the leadership of former President Thabo Mbeki, South Africa’s economic growth was at 4.2 percent per annum, and South Africa also contributed to the rejuvenation of Africa’s most pivotal institutions such as the transformation of the Organisation of African Unity (OAU) to the African Union (AU) in 2002. This reformation was coupled with additional institutions such as the New Partnership for African Development (NEPAD), Africa’s Peer Review Mechanism, and the formation of the bloc of developing countries BRICS (Brazil, Russia, India, China and South Africa). These institutions helped ensure the complete integration of South Africa into the international system and global economy. South Africa, under President Mbeki’s tenure displayed an image of strong leadership at a local, regional and international level. It can be argued that South Africa’s leadership style between 1994 and 2007 led to a large degree of democratic consolidation within the state, and an integration of the state and its institutions into regional and international bodies.

However, the calibre of the political elites that emerged in the post-Polokwane Conference in 2007, proved to be lacking in capacity and integrity. The Zuma administration’s capacity to lead state institutions and serve ordinary citizens has not been strong. In response to this decline, and the perception that radical economic policies are only benefiting party elites, the rhetoric of revolution has been growing louder. Ordinary citizens, especially the youth and women are economically marginalised. Moreover, there exist general feelings among government structures that if you are not with us, you are against us, and if you are against us, there is very little you can do to influence the country’s policy.

President Jacob Zuma

More problematically, consultation with the population means consultation with the African National Congress (ANC) branches and structures. Ordinary citizens outside these structures have limited spaces to make known their grievances. In essence then, the people are taken to be the members of the ANC and conversely the ANC is regarded as the people. It is this kind of high-handed hegemonic project and the persona of President Zuma that is having a serious impact on the South African state. The leadership crisis is coupled with intense factional battles fuelled by the desire to benefit from state coffers and this has led to the repurposing of state institutions to benefit power elite in the government. Moreover, President Zuma is hell-bent on staying in power, with his faction preparing itself to destroy the ANC and the national government to do so. The political and economic implications of the mismanagement of state resources and the lack of state capacity have left the South African state in a dire position. The economy has been seriously affected by the leadership crisis, with South Africa operating in junk status and an economic crisis; ordinary citizens are barely surviving with the unemployment rate at 27 percent.

With the upcoming ANC electoral Conference in December 2017, there has been much debate on who will be the next president of South Africa. The hope amongst the much of the general public, the opposition and the ANC, is that the challenges that beset the country will abate with the departure of the current President and that the constitutional fabric of post-apartheid democracy will be restored. The top six, referring to the ANC’s most senior leaders are known, appear to be evenly split. One faction consists of President Zuma, ANC Deputy Secretary-General Jessie Duarte, and Baleka Mbete, who is both the National Assembly speaker and party chairwoman. In opposition to the Zuma faction are the 'reformers' consisting of Deputy President Cyril Ramaphosa, ANC Secretary-General Gwede Mantashe, and ANC Treasurer-General Zweli Mkhize.

It is imperative to note that without a serious change in leadership in the ANC the party might lose complete power of South Africa in the 2019 General Elections. The popularity of the ANC under the Zuma presidency has already declined significantly and has been criticised for being out of touch with its constituents and is associated with poor local administration.

16 September, 2017

The Lesotho Defence Force in Turmoil

by M. K. Mahlakeng

On 5 September 2017, Lesotho experienced yet another killing of the Lesotho Defence Force’s (LDF) commander, Lieutenant-General Khoantle Motšomotšo. This is the second killing of Lesotho’s army commander in just two years. Brigadier Maaparankoe Mahao, who was appointed as LDF commander to replace the then LDF commander Lt-Gen Tlali Kamoli, was shot dead by LDF members who had come to arrest him for allegedly being leading a mutiny to oust the army command.

Lesotho Defence Force Deputy Commander Maj. Gen. Motsomotso Medical Readiness Excercise 14-1
The late Lieutenant-General Khoantle Motšomotšo

Lt-Gen Motšomotšo was gunned down in his office at the Ratjomose barracks by Colonel Tefo Hashatsi and Brigadier Bulane Sechele. The duo who were implicated in Lt-Gen Mahao’s killing had come to confront Lt-Gen Motšomotšo on issues pertaining to the investigation of the January 2014 bombing of the homes of PM Tom Thabane’s wife MaIsiah Thabane and that of the then Lesotho Mounted Police Service (LMPS) commissioner (ComPol) Khothatso Tšooana; the May 2014 shooting of Lisebo Tang and Tšepo Jane by former LDF commander Lt-Gen Kamoli’s bodyguards in which the respective Lisebo and Tšepo were sitting in a car that was parked near Lt-Gen Kamoli’s residence; and, the June 2015 killing of Lt-Gen Mahao. All of which were part of the SADC mandate.

The concern by both Col Hashatsi and Brig Sechele over Lt-Gen Motšomotšo’s facilitation and cooperation with the LMPS in investigating these unique but yet related issues was that they felt exposed to conviction if these matters were investigated further. Moreover, they felt that the commander was, in contrast to protecting army personnel implicated in these events, selling them out. Hence he [Motšomotšo] came to be branded a “sell-out” among several military personnel. Given his close relationship with the duo [Hashatsi and Sechele] and former army commader [Kamoli], Motšomotšo was expected to ignore the SADC mandate and recommendations implicating them [Hashatsi and Sechele] and/or other military personnel in these incidences.

According to the Public Relations Officer who was with Lt-Gen Motšomotšo at the time of his confrontation with Col Hashatsi and Brig Sechele, the duo enjoyed frequent access to Lt-Gen Motšomotšo and always had their firearms with them given their status as senior and/or high-ranking officers. During their encounter with Motšomotšo, Hashatsi and Sechele aggressively questioned the former as to why he was cooperating with Prime Minister Thabane and the LMPS, in particular regarding the SADC mandate to investigate numerous members of the LDF involved in atrocities under Lt-Gen Kamoli’s tenure. It is alleged that in his response, Motšomotšo stated that the investigation into these acts is in fulfilment of a mandate by SADC and any aspect relating to the SADC’s mandate is not exempt from investigation.

For many within and outside the military forces, this statement would mean two possible realities. Firstly, Motšomotšo would proceed with the SADC’s recommendations (in an attempt to signal a sense of legitimacy from his part as the new army commander), but eventually create a cover-up to save his colleagues. And/or secondly, he [Motšomotšo] would see the investigation processes through to their finality, to a point where all members of the LDF implicated cases of murder, attempted murder and treason were suspended and/or convicted. This would also be an attempt to signal a sense of legitimacy from his part as the new army commander. However, for Hashatsi and Sechele, the latter possibly appeared to be rising. Following this confrontation with the army commander, Sechele then took out his firearm and fatally shot Motšomotšo. Subsequent to this, Motšomotšo’s bodyguards shot both Sechele and Hashatsi, with the former dying on the spot and the latter succumbing to his wounds and dying later that day in hospital. What was later found at the scene of the shooting was a hand grenade on Sechele and Hashatsi respectively.

Following the killing of Lt-Gen Motšomotšo, Major General Lineo Poopa was then appointed as acting LDF commander by virtue of his ranking as second in command to Motšomotšo’s. However, given the intense divisions within the military, his role, popularity and either success and/or demise will be highly tested. Moreover, given his part in the LDF command that killed Lt-Gen Mahao, Maj-Gen Poopa and the LDF’s future raises further concerns.

02 July, 2017

South Africa’s “Rot” Runs Deep

by Michaela Elsbeth Martin

As South Africa’s political and economic environment continues to deteriorate, the phenomenon of State Capture remains at the heart of its institutional decay. This came after an explosive cache of emails form inside the Gupta Empire (South Africa’s alleged captors), revealed how the family obtained several businesses from the government. The series of emails additionally revealed the extent of the Gupta family’s control over state owned companies and their CEOs, as well as their board members. This evidence could not have come at a more appropriate time. President Jacob Zuma’s political clock is quickly running out, amid mounting confirmation of state capture and growing opposition within the African National Congress (ANC).

The correspondence within the Gupta-compound provided insight into the critical role of the President’s son, Duduzane Zuma, in presidential matters. Mr D Zuma remains a close Gupta associate, even after reports last year circulated that he cut ties with the family. Moreover, President Zuma continuously defends his association with the controversial family, as well as his son’s business partnership with them. It is believed that Mr D Zuma has made billions through this strategic partnership.

Atul Gupta protest banner - Cape Town Zuma must fall

The cache of emails reflected the following about the Gupta family’s influence within the South African government. Firstly, it became known that the résumé of Mr Mosebenzi Zwane’s, Minister of Mineral Resources, was emailed to the Gupta’s just a month before his appointment. The emails revealed that Mr Zwane had close ties with the family prior to his appointment in July 2015. Just three months after his appointment, the minister was on a working trip in Zurich where he helped to facilitate the sale of the Optimum Coal Mine in Mpumalanga to a company owned by the Guptas and Mr D Zuma. Since Mr Zwane’s appointment as Mineral Resource Minister, South Africa’s Mining Industry has been at its lowest, which is directly attributable to draconian labour legislation, corruption, political demagoguing, and the reluctance of organisations to adhere to the law.

Secondly, the leaked emails revealed that former Minister of Communications, now Minister of Public Services, Faith Muthambi, in 2014, directly forwarded a presidential proclamation to Tony Gupta detailing her powers before it was signed by President Zuma. The regulations listed in the email gave the communications minister wide-ranging power over the Independent Communications Authority of South Africa, including the power to make policies, and issue policy direction and oversee applications pertaining to network licences, radio frequency plans and commercial broadcasting licences. Ms Muthambi was appointed Public Service and Administration Minister in the cabinet reshuffle in March this year. As Communications Minister, she was accused of allowing the South African Broadcasting Corporation (SABC), to be plundered and run into the ground.

The emails additionally shed light on President Zuma’s decision to replace former Finance Minister, Nhlanhla Nene with Des van Rooyen in the autumn of 2015. Email correspondences show that Mr Van Rooyen repeatedly gave false testimony when he asserted to have paid for a private trip to Dubai, just shortly after his appointment to the cabinet in December 2015. However, the leaked emails revealed that the trip was financed and sponsored by the Gupta’s, and booked just a day before his departure on December 2015. Mr Van Rooyen however vehemently denied that this trip was planned in a short period of time, and asserted that it was planned long before his appointment as member of cabinet. Relatedly, on arrival as Finance Minister, Mr Van Rooyen was accompanied by advisers, Mohamed Bobar and Ian Whitley, who is said to be also affiliated to the Guptas. It is on this basis that it is claimed that Mr Van Rooyen’s appointment as Minister of Finance was influenced and instigated by the Captors of the South African state.

The leaked Gupta emails demonstrate how entrenched the family has become in the South African government. They reveal that President Zuma is not only incapable of leading the country, but also that he continues to place his own needs before those of the nations. This point is not an empty rhetoric as it speaks to the point that the Gupta family had bought President Zuma a R330-million retirement home in the upmarket suburb of Emirates Hills in 2015, in the same year that the President’s son bought an apartment valued at R18-million in the Burj Khalifa. Analysts concur that this approach of give and take between the two families in particular, emanates from the Gupta’s primary goal of gaining access, control and influence over South African state institutions and mechanisms.

From the above it is apparent that the once celebrated African nation, commended for its courage of fighting vigorously against an oppressed system, has now backslid into another classical example of an African state characterised by corruption, political, economic and institutional decay.

27 June, 2017

Thabane Back in Power in Lesotho: Hope or Despair for the Kingdom?

by M. K. Mahlakeng

All Basotho Convention (ABC) leader and former Prime Minister, Thomas Thabane, has returned to power. This is following 3 June 2017 elections which came at the background of a no-confidence vote in Prime Minister Pakalitha Mosisili and his seven-party coalition government. This no-confidence vote led to the dissolution of the ninth Parliament in Lesotho on 6 March 2017. Dissolving parliament was one of two options PM Mosisili had at the face of the success of the motion. Contrary to this, the PM would have had to resign as PM and allow for his party deputy to lead the Democratic Congress (DC) - a leading partner in the 2015 coalition government- in Parliament and subsequently becoming the PM. However, opting for the dissolution of parliament meant that an election date must be announced. As such, elections should be held within a period of three months of the dissolution.

The outcome of the results saw Thabane leading the race despite failing to gain an outright majority thus forcing him to form a coalition government with other political parties (i.e. Alliance of Democrats (AD), Basotho National Party (BNP) and Reformed Congress for Lesotho (RCL)). This sees the formation of the third coalition government in Lesotho in just five years (i.e. 2012, 2015 and 2017 respectively). Following the 26 May 2012 elections, Lesotho witnessed its first ever coalition government. This pact comprised of three political parties i.e. the All Basotho Convention (ABC), Basotho National Party (BNP) and Lesotho Congress for Democracy (LCD).

Chinese Lesotho project Lesotho Parliament II

This coalition government collapsed only two years in office as a result of poor leadership, and tensions and misunderstandings that occurred between coalition partners (especially between the ABC and LCD). This collapse of government led to the 28 February 2015 general snap elections which resulted in a second coalition government comprising of seven parties, i.e. the Democratic Congress (DC), Lesotho Congress for Democracy (LCD), Marematlou Freedom Party (MFP), Basotho Congress Party (BCP), National Independent Party (NIP), Lesotho People’s Congress (LPC) and Popular Front for Democracy (PFD). Following the 3 June election in 2017, Thabane’s ABC combined its 48 seats with the AD’s 9, BNP’s 5 and RCL’s 1, thus enabling them to pass the 61-seat threshold required to form government in the 120-seat National Assembly (NA).

However, in just two days before Thabane’s inauguration, his estranged wife, Lipolelo Thabane, was shot dead on Wednesday 14 June at about 6:40 pm as she was about to enter her premises. Thabane and Lipolelo had been living separately since 2009. Subsequent to this was a divorce filed by Thabane in 2012. However, Lipolelo, through legal measures, never stopped pushing for her privileges as first lady.

In mid-January 2015, the High Court of Lesotho rule that “Lipolelo Thabane is the country’s official first lady and should be immediately afforded all benefits she is entitled to including a Chauffer driven government vehicle and a bodyguard”. This judgement appeared to be a major setback for the PM’s partner and current wife MaIsaiah Thabane, formerly known as Liabiloe Ramoholi whom Thabane customarily married as it effectively did not recognise her as the rightful wife of Thabane and first lady.

Nonetheless, the inauguration of PM-elect Thabane went ahead as scheduled on 16 June despite security claims, uncertainties and tempers flaring over the killing of Lipolelo. It is however still not clear on the actual cause of the assassination of Lipolelo Thabane. Nonetheless this hasn’t deterred people from either connecting the killing to PM-elect Thabane and his current wife who are seen to have had a lot to lose in the existence of his former wife post inauguration; or, to the outgoing government who it is perceived to cause instability in the country following their defeat in elections.

It must be noted however that, the PM, the Tranformation Resource Centre (TRC), Christian Council of Lesotho (CCL), and other development partners have been silent on the killing of Lipolelo Thabane. This is contrary to their firm role in high profile assassinations, human rights violations and other security breaches in Lesotho. And the subsequent continuation of the inauguration further exacerbates these claims and uncertainties.

26 April, 2017

Lesotho’s Upcoming Elections: The Collapse of a Second Coalition Government

by M. K. Mahlakeng

The dissolution of the ninth Parliament in Lesotho on 6 March 2017 as a result of a successful vote of no-confidence against Prime Minister (PM) Pakalitha Mosisili, has put an untimely end to the seven party coalition government. As such, Lesotho is expected to hold its general elections on 3 of June 2017. The no-confidence vote against the PM meant two realities. Firstly, the PM, who is the leader of the Democratic Congress (DC) - a leading partner in the coalition government, would have to resign as PM and allow for his party deputy to lead the DC in Parliament and subsequently becoming the PM. And secondly, the passing of this motion meant that the PM acting according to section 83(1) and (4)(b) would have to advise the King as Head of State to prorogue and/or dissolve parliament. And if the option in this case become the dissolution of parliament, then an election date must be announced. As such, elections should be held within a period of three months of the dissolution. Therefore, the PM opted for the latter which is to advise the King to dissolve parliament and announce an election date.

According to section 83(1), “the King may at any time prorogue or dissolve Parliament”. Moreover, section 83(4)(b) states that “in the exercise of his powers to dissolve or prorogue parliament, the King shall act in accordance with the advice of the Prime Minister: provided that if the National Assembly passes a resolution of no confidence in the Governement of Lesotho and the Prime Minister does not within three days thereafter either resign or advice a dissolution the King may, acting in accordance with the advice of the Council of State, dissolve parliament”.

King Letsie III and the Queen of Lesotho. Photo: IAEA Imagebank (CC BY-SA 2.0)

This relationship between the PM (i.e. Head of Government) and the King (i.e. Head of State) and the role afforded to the King relates much to the system of governance used in Lesotho. In contrast to the Presidential system of government where the Head of State is also Head of Government, Lesotho uses a Parliamentary system of government. Given the existence of a Monarch, Lesotho is a parliamentary constitutional monarch and in this instance, in due respect of history and culture the Monarch simply plays a ceremonial role. A role meant to symbolize a unified nation. The Monarch’s existence in Lesotho’s sociopolitical environment means that he plays the role of being head of state and plays no part in the political affairs of the country.

This sees the collapse of a second coalition government in Lesotho, with each coalition government barely completing its expected term of governance. The 2012 Thabane-led three party coalition government collapse in 2014. This pact comprised of the All Basotho Convention (ABC), Basotho National Party (BNP) and Lesotho Congress for Democracy (LCD). This coalition government collapsed only 2 years in office as a result of poor leadership, tensions and misunderstandings that occurred “between coalition partners” (especially between the ABC and LCD).

This collapse therefore led to the 28th February 2015 general snap elections which resulted in a second coalition government comprising of 7 parties i.e. the Democratic Congress (DC), Lesotho Congress for Democracy (LCD), Marematlou Freedom Party (MFP), Basotho Congress Party (BCP), National Independent Party (NIP), Lesotho People’s Congress (LPC) and Popular Front for Democracy (PFD). However, in contrast to the causes of the collapse of the Thabane-led government (i.e. a fall-out between coalition partners), the prolonged “power struggle within parties” (i.e. particularly in two major coalition partners – the DC and LCD) was a major factor. These power struggles led to the formation of factions within these parties and subsequently causing splinter groups to emerge thus affecting the stability and size of government to rule legitimately as a majority government.

Now with an election date of 3 June confirmed, there is a further indication of a possible coalition government. This is made evident of electoral pacts already being formed signifying the possibility that one party alone cannot win government power. And the cause of this has been the rapid emergence of splinter parties which have successfully broken down major parties and further broadened electoral choice. These election pacts are witnessed on the one hand between the ABC, Alliance of Democrats (AD), BNP and Reformed Congress for Lesotho (RCL), and on the other hand between the DC, LCD and the Popular Front for Democracy (PFD). Although signs of a successive coalition are imminent, however, to clearly determine which coalition government with which party as a partner will largely depend on a successful election campaign to make a party in either pact an important partner worth working with.

14 April, 2017

Zambia: On the Brink of Dictatorship

by Hussein Solomon

Under the strong-man leadership of President Edgar Lungu of the ruling Patriotic Front (PF), Zambia is increasingly displaying authoritarian tendencies whilst the economy is in free fall under the weight of corruption and gross incompetence. One indicator of this latter point according to Transparency International is the fact that 60 percent of the population are illiterate and poor whilst corruption is so endemic in society that 78 percent of the populace has admitted to paying bribes.

Amongst the first to suffer under Lungu’s growing authoritarianism was the media. In August 2016, for instance, the so-called Independent Broadcasting Authority suspended the broadcasting licenses of Muvi TV, Komboni Radio and Itzehi Itzehi Radio ostensibly because they posed a threat to national peace and stability. What all these media houses had in common was the fact that they spoke truth to power. The former Editor-in-Chief of the independent The Post newspaper (which has been rebranded as The Mast), Dr Fred M’membe, was personally threatened with death by President Lungu whilst the PF filed more than 50 lawsuits against Dr. M’membe.

This authoritarianism is best seen in the political sphere, where the leader of the opposition United Party for National Development (UPND), Hakainda Hichilema has been routinely harassed by the authorities. “HH” as he is popularly known has been a thorn in the side of the ruling party for some time. In the August 2016 elections he was narrowly defeated by President Lungu in an election which was described as fraudulent by many. Since then the UPND was targeted as a major threat to the PF’s political control. Permission for party campaigning and rallies on the part of the UPND is therefore routinely denied. Last October, for instance, HH and his vice-president Geoffrey Mwamba were arrested for unlawful assembly. This past week, HH’s home was raided by police who indiscriminately fired teargas into the house causing his wife and daughter who suffer from asthma to faint. Then HH was arrested for treason on the flimsy basis that he obstructed the convoy of President Lungu. It should be noted that treason is a non-bailable offence in Zambia with a minimum jail term of 15 years and a maximum sentence of death.

UPND rally, 2016. Photo: Likezz (CC BY-SA 4.0)

In all this, the international community has been silent. The regional body, the Southern African Development Community’s (SADC) silence has been deafening. If one is to prevent another Zimbabwe in this blighted region, the international community has to act now. The easiest lever to affect change may well rest in the economic realm. The parlous state of the Zambian economy has resulted in a shortfall of US $1.3 billion in the 2017 Zambian budget. Zambian Finance Minister Felix Mutati intends to borrow this amount from the International Monetary Fund (IMF) in the form of an Extended Credit Facility. The IMF should refuse to assist Lungu and his regime until they begin exercising democratic governance.

09 April, 2017

South Africa under Cardiac Arrest

by Michaela Elsbeth Martin

On the evening of 29 March 2017, the South African state took an unexpected turn for the worse. It has been a whirlwind few days in South Africa, with a cabinet reshuffle resulting in what has been described as a complete state capture by opposition parties. The reshuffle of President Zuma’s cabinet included the dismissal of Finance Minister Pravin Gordhan and his Deputy, Mcebi Jonas. This move is set to have far-reaching political consequences as President Zuma and his allies have their hands firmly on the wheel of the National Treasury, with the appointment of former Home Affairs Minister, Malusi Gigaba, in place of Gordhan. The reshuffle comes three days after President Zuma informed the ANC top five that he wanted to get rid of the Minister and Deputy Finance Minister due to an alleged Intelligence Report claiming that the leadership of the Treasury Department wanted to overthrow the Zuma government.

Former Finance Minister Pravin Gordhan in February 2017 (Photo: GCIS)

The dismissal of Gordhan has been a long anticipated move since 2016, in which the South Africa’s National Prosecuting Authority (NPA) head, Shaun Abrahams laid criminal charges against, and announced to prosecute the country’s Finance Minister. The Finance Minister was accused‚ in his previous capacity as head of South African Revenue Services (SARS), of fraudulently approving an early retirement for then Deputy Commissioner Ivan Pillay and re-hiring him as a consultant. Additionally, Minister Gordhan was attacked by the Gupta Family (South Africa’s alleged captors) after he submitted an explosive affidavit at the Pretoria High Court that details a list of allegedly suspicious transactions which led to four major banks closing the family’s accounts in April last year. The National Treasury’s investigations in South African Airways (SAA), Eskom, Denel and the South African Broadcasting Corporation (SABC) as well as the Nuclear Procurement Programme, have become a threat to President’s Zuma’s patronage networks, thus the intense efforts that has eventually led to the recent axing of the Finance Minister. It becomes therefore increasingly evident that President Zuma’s cabinet reshuffle is driven by the ambition to appoint a Zuma-aligned Finance Minister.

The cabinet reshuffle is therefore politically driven and widely regarded as flimsy. This is an attack on the institution of the Treasury and as such has triggered multiple downgrades. While there are some fiscal attacks, what increasingly worrisome is the Treasury’s potential role in procurement, preventing corruption and oversight of state-owned enterprises, including nuclear and banking.
The Secretary General of the African National Congress (ANC), Gwede Mantashe asserted that the cabinet reshuffle plans were not done in consultation with the ANC, but were drawn up “somewhere else” and then handed over to them for their consideration. Further, Mr Mnatashe noted that the matters concerning the Finance Minister and His Deputy were discussed on Monday last week and some changes were effected to initial proposals made by President Zuma, but the rest of the reshuffle was shocking news even to the ANC's top leadership. The reshuffle of the cabinet has intensified the factionalism within the ANC. This point is reiterated by Deputy Minister of the ANC Cyril Ramaphosa, in which he described the phenomenon as a government that wages war with itself. On the one end of the spectrum exists a large rural-based faction of patronage politicians surrounding President Jacob Zuma. The other faction includes with no doubt, the National Treasury, represented by the beleaguered former Finance Minister Pravin Gordhan, ANC stalwarts, the media, nongovernmental organisations and business leaders.

The cabinet reshuffle has similarly exacerbated the economic climate of the country. Just 90 hours after President Zuma axed Mr Gordhan as finance minister, Standard and Poor (S&P), announced that South Africa’s long-term foreign currency sovereign credit rating would be downgraded to sub-investment grade or junk status. The downgrade to junk status came as result of divisions in the ANC-led government that have led to changes in the executive leadership, including the finance minister, that have put policy continuity at risk. Standard and Poor has asserted that South Africa’s political risks will remain evaluated this year and that policy shifts are likely, which could undermine fiscal and economic growth outcomes more than the company currently project. The decision pertaining to the cabinet reshuffle thus created a dire loss of institutional knowledge and raises legitimate and alarming concerns regarding issues of fiscal discipline, the protection of state institutions and the scope of state capture.

The question therefore arises of the criminalisation of the South African state, in which the President has unconstrained and unlimited political power, and where the state is used as a criminal enterprise where those in power abuse state power to loot state resources. This is power is shown by Jacob Zuma’s ability to implement and enforce decisions regarding the future of South Africa without the consultation of the ANC and the society at large. The recent developments in South Africa additionally highlight the notion of state capture in which the South African state has been captured by corrupt government officials. Despite an admirable constitution and vibrant civil society, it appears that South Africa may well be following the path of neighbouring Zimbabwe, where a predatory state enriches the elite, while investors flee, unemployment rises and government institutions collapses.

06 February, 2017

Lesotho Splinter Parties: Cause and Effect

by M. K. Mahlakeng

Since the emergence of political parties, there has always been a challenge of “splinter parties”. Splinter parties are “small organisations, typically, a political party, that have broken away from a larger political party”. And the reason, as it has been for many years, for parties to split and subsequently lead to the formation of a totally new party has always been ideological.

However, this typical thinking has proved to limit the understanding of the political cycle and politicians that entertain it. Two other reasons have emerged as contemporary causes of splinter parties. Firstly, it has become a common notion that disputes between a party leader and one of his subordinates or possible successors would result in the emergence of factions within the party thus leading to either of them abandoning the party to form a new political organisation. In numerous instance, party leaders, fearing that they might be ousted out of power by their subordinates or possible successor, tend to make it impossible for the latter to survive within the party solely to force him out of the party. As a result, leaving the subordinate and/or successor to leave with his supporters and eventually forming a new party.

Secondly, the decision of many politicians to split from the mother body and form a new political organisation can also be closely linked to the greed of politicians. Politicians have often been seen to pursue the formation of a new party as a result of acquiring a seat in parliament solely because this translates to a monthly cheque as opposed to pursuing perceived party policies. However, these two reasons are not to say ideological differences are not central to the divisions within political parties, but, they have rather become secondary.

The problem that comes with splinter parties is two-fold. Firstly, these new parties tend to experience and identity and/or ideological crisis. This is often reflected by their manifestos, party regalia etc. Secondly, splinter groups increase the number of already existing parties in a specific country. Although perceived by many to be a sign of a healthy democratic practice, however, they cause more instability than they attempt to prevent. This leads to the division of electorate votes thus failing to establish a party as a dominant party. Hence, eventually the emergence of “coalition systems of governance” or “power-sharing governments”.

Chinese Lesotho project Lesotho Parliament II
The Lesotho Parliament. By OER Africa  [CC BY 2.0], via Wikimedia Commons


The case of Lesotho, among other cases, provides the best example in which all these conditions hold. That is, it is confronted by the challenge of splinter parties as a result of factions within a party as a result of political contestation and/or greed. For instance, in less than two months between end of November 2016 and early January 2017, three splinter parties were born. First, Alliance of Democrats (AD) led by former Democratic Congress (DC) Deputy Leader Mr Monyane Moleleki is a break-away party from the DC.

Second, Movement for Economic Change (MEC) led by former Lesotho Congress for Democracy (LCD) secretary-general Mr Selibe Mochoboroane is a break-away party from the LCD. And third, True Reconciliation Unity (TRU) former All Basotho Convention (ABC) Deputy Leader Mr. Tlali Khasu is a break-away party from the ABC. In addition, these splinter parties suffer from an identity and/or ideological crisis. Furthermore, splinter parties have divided the electorates’ votes thus shifting Lesotho’s political landscape from a dominant-party system of governance to a coalition system of governance.

This challenge of splinter parties in Lesotho is not a new phenomenon and can be traced as far back as 1997 when the Basotho Congress Party (BCP) (which led Lesotho to multiparty democratic rule in 1993 to 1998) split and the Lesotho Congress for Democracy (LCD) was formed and led Lesotho from 1998 to 2012. And it didn’t end there. The LCD split four times in 2001, 2006, 2011 and 2017 and led to the formation of the Lesotho People’s Congress (LPC), All Basotho Convention (ABC), Democratic Congress (DC) and Movement for Economic Change (MEC) respectively. Furthermore the ABC (which led Lesotho from 2012 to 2015 in a coalition government with the Basotho National Party (BNP) and LCD) and DC (currently leading Lesotho since 2015 in a coalition government with LCD, Marematlou Freedom Party (MFP), BCP, National Independent Party (NIP), LPC and Popular Front for Democracy (PFD)) faced splinter parties respectively. The former split and saw the formation of TRU and the latter saw the formation of AD.

The emergence of these splinter parties in Lesotho has caused a division of votes as far as every party is concerned ultimately giving rise to power-sharing systems of governance. Subsequently, they are largely responsible for the leadership and stability crisis experienced today in Lesotho.

31 October, 2016

Do African Lives Matter for African Leaders?

by Hussein Solomon

Africans have grown accustomed to the West ignoring their suffering. This is hardly a new phenomenon. Consider the fact that Belgian King Leopold II’s atrocities was historically ignored in Europe at the time and barely gets a footnote in recent European books on its African colonies. To be clear, 15 million Congolese were murdered and numerous others were mutilated by this ‘civilized’ European king as he sought to extract rubber from this blighted country. More recently, more than 6 million Congolese have been killed since the 2nd August 1998. Once again, there is scarcely a mention on the front pages of The Washington Post or the New York Times.

At one level, perhaps, this is understandable. According to psychologists one is supposed to have greater empathy for one’s in-group as opposed to the proverbial other. What is particularly galling for Africans, however, is when their own leaders display such callous disregard for their lives. Worse, still, is the hypocrisy accompanying the callousness on the part of Africa’s leadership. Consider for instance the events surrounding the 7 January 2015. This was the date of the brutal terrorist attack on the Charlie Hebdo offices which resulted in 17 people being killed on the streets of Paris. The world rallied with the French and a mass march of 1,6 million people took to the streets of Paris. This march also included 40 world leaders, including several African leaders who mourned the lives of the innocent savagely cut short. This is as it should be.
At the same time, of the Paris killings, however, there was another atrocity taking place. In the dusty town of Baga, northern Nigeria, Boko Haram militants slaughtered 2000 innocent people. There was no similar Paris march. No African leader took to the streets to commemorate the lives of those lost. Even the Nigerian President at the time, Goodluck Jonathan, did not immediately respond to the tragedy which took place on his own territory where his own citizens lost their life in such a cold-blooded way. This prompts the question: Do African lives matter to African leaders?

I asked this question several times following the decision by my own government – South Africa - to withdraw from the International Criminal Court (ICC). The South African decision may well be related to domestic politics. According to Anton du Plessis of the Institute for Security Studies, the Zuma administration is attempting to protect itself from an imminent Constitutional Court hearing in relation to the 2015 visit of Sudanese President Omar al-Bashir when Pretoria refused to arrest him as it was obligated to do under the Rome Statute. Instead Bashir and his entourage were whisked out of the country by the South African authorities.
Peacekeepers in Darfur (Aekkaphob / Shutterstock.com)

To be clear, the arrest warrant for Bashir was based on the charge that he oversaw the war in Darfur which resulted in the deaths of between 200,000 and 400,000 people and the displacement of a further 2.5 million people in Darfur out of a population of 6.2 million. The so-called leaders of Africa denounced the ICC decision ostensibly because heads of state should have immunity of prosecution. The counter-argument is simply this: as Head of State should the buck not stop with him? Do not forget that Bashir was not merely Commander-in-Chief by virtue of him being President of Sudan. He was a military man who staged a coup in 1989 to come to power. The second charge levelled against the ICC was that it was unfairly targeting Africa. Let us be frank: many of the ICC investigations were initiated by African countries themselves since they did not have the resources to conduct an investigation and engage in a trial themselves. Do not forget, too, that the ICC is a court of last resort. The attack on the ICC is simultaneously taking place at a time when Africa’s own domestic and regional judicial mechanisms have come under threat from Africa’s self-serving leaders who desire to escape accountability at all costs whilst they simultaneously steal from and brutalize their citizens.

Perhaps the most powerful response to these objections put forward would simply be this: Do African lives matter to African leaders? Their deep concern for Bashir is akin to sympathizing with the aggressor as opposed to the victims. After all who speaks for the hundreds of thousands of innocent victims who needlessly lost their lives in Darfur?

14 October, 2016

Lesotho: 50 Years of Independence?

by M. K. Mahlakeng

“Sir George Grey restore to me all the land that was in my possession before the arrival of the Afrikaners..”
King Moshoeshoe I - 31 July 1858

On the 4 October 2016, Lesotho celebrated its 50th year of independence (the Golden Jubilee) from the Great Britain (4 October 1966 – 4 October 2016). But one serious noteworthy question remains. Is Lesotho really independent? Independence refers to sovereignty, self-government and the state or quality of being independent. It is conceivable to argue that Lesotho attained self-rule and sovereignty from the Great Britain, however, “the state or quality of being independent” (i.e. socially, economically and otherwise) is a highly contended issue. It is generally perceived that Lesotho is not truly independent and that its “total independence” is central to regaining the “lost territory”, which is the Free State.

The Free State, as seen from the University of the Free State, QwaQwa Campus

50 years later, the Free State which was lost by the Basotho nation to the Afrikaaner following a series of fights has still not returned to Lesotho. The Afrikaner, leaving the Cape Colony as a result of the conflict with the British, showed up on the western borders of the then Basutoland (today Lesotho), and claimed land rights. This eventually led to a series of fights in 1858 between the Afrikaner and Basotho in the “Free State – Basotho War”, thus leading to Moshoeshoe I to lose a great portion of the western lowlands.

50 years later Lesotho is still heavily dependent on foreign aid (posing a great deal of challenge in addressing socioeconomic issues), and imports 95% of its goods from South Africa. Its geographic location, being an enclave landlocked country entirely surrounded by South Africa, seems to be a negative aspect to its political and economic development which has left Lesotho in a position of being dependent on South Africa for economic survival. Moreover, it has left Lesotho with the inability of negotiating sustainable deals.

Furthermore, 50 years later Lesotho, with a population of about 2.1 million, has not been able to fully address political and socioeconomic upheavals confronting the country simply due to the lack of resources. However, there is a solution to this. And this solution falls back to the issue of the Free State region. The total retrocession and restitution of the Free State to Lesotho. The retrocession and restitution of the Free State to Lesotho would mean a number of things for the enclave landlocked country. Firstly, it would mean a considerable increase in arable land, which currently stands at 10% of the total of this mountainous country.

Secondly, this additional land comes with a number of these resources essential in addressing Lesotho’s political and socioeconomic upheavals such as, among others, HIV prevalence, lack of employment and poverty, which has led to serious health issues such as chronic malnutrition of children under the age of 5. These resources include gold in Allanridge, Welkom and Virginia; coal in Sasolburg; and, diamonds in Jagasfontein and Theunissen. Furthermore, The Free State falls under what is commonly referred to as “The Maize Triangle” possessing the best maize. This maize triangle stretches from Lichtenburg (North West Province), Hobhouse (Free State Province) to Ermelo (Mpumalanga Province) thus forming a triangle.

Furthermore, the same region (i.e. the High Veld in the Free State) is recognized, among four other parts of the World (i.e. the Prairies in Canada, the Pampas in Argentina, the Steppes in Ukraine, and the Downs in Australia), as possessing rich soil able to sustain agricultural life. Despite trade routes, Lesotho remains dependent on South Africa simply because it lacks resources (found in the Free State) essential for the development of a competitive economy and a prosperous social and political life.

The failure by Prime Minister Pakalitha Mosisili and King Letsie III, during their respective speeches commemorating 50 years of Lesotho’s independence, to not acknowledge the positive outcomes that would come with the return of the Free State to Lesotho and the fact that Lesotho is not independent until retrocession and restitution of the Free State to Lesotho is final, is detrimental to the knowledge and history of Lesotho and its nation respectively.

26 September, 2016

South African Universities in Turmoil

by Hussein Solomon

The university sector is in deep trouble across South Africa. Confronted with a declining subsidy in real terms from the state over several years, universities have looked to make up the shortfall by increasing student fees. Given the stagnant nature of the South African economy with economic growth in a downward trajectory, the ability of students or their parents to pay higher fees was always questionable. Student groups then mobilized nationally last year demanding that there should be no fee increase. As university buildings were set alight and lecture halls vandalized and students and staff intimidated by the more violent student protestors, government vacillated. University management too dithered attempting to reach compromise with students who increasingly viewed compromise not so much as an olive branch but as a sign of weakness.

Demonstrations at the University of Cape Town (Photo: Tony Carr)

When students marched on the Union Buildings, the seat of the presidency, last year, government panicked. Government promised a zero percent fee increase and set up a commission to investigate the possibility of free tertiary education. In retrospect the establishment of such a commission was simply an exercise in kicking the can down the road. Given South Africa’s small tax base, given the slowing economy, given the other competing social demands, free education is simply not possible.

Last week, the Minister of Higher Education, Dr. Blade Nzimande, announced a capped fee increase of 8 percent for students whose household income exceeds R600,000 per annum. In practice, this mean there was to be no increase in fees for students emanating from poorer households. Despite this students mobilized once more, now demanding that they pay no fees whatsoever. Once again other students and staff were intimidated for wanting to resume their academic activities. Once again violence accompanied protest action across South African campuses.

The chaos engulfing South Africa’s universities however is symptomatic of a much larger set of problems. First, there is an economy in the doldrums. A situation which is to be exacerbated should rating agencies downgrade our investment status as is expected in December this year. In this context, different sectors of society are violently mobilizing demonstrating their unhappiness. It is no coincidence that students are boycotting classes and shutting down universities at the same time when workers are on strike and variously townships are on fire, protesting poor service delivery. Second, the Zuma government does not seem to understand the gravity of the crisis nor does it have the necessary political will or skill sets to respond to the crisis. Those senior civil servants in the Treasury who do understand the extent of the crisis and who do have the necessary technical skill sets to at least contain the crisis are being prevented from doing what they know is in the country’s national interest by a corrupt political elite led by President Zuma dedicated to plundering state coffers. The looting of state resources also robs the government of any morality in dealing with students demands from a position of integrity. How does one say to students that there is no money to meet their demands for free higher education when billions are lost each year as a result of corruption?

Third, there is the issue of the dysfunctional nature of the educational system which practically guarantees failure. Many students emanate from dysfunctional schools not being really taught the skill sets necessary to prepare them either for the world of work or for university. Fearing a confrontation with the powerful South African Democratic Teachers Union (SADTU), government turns a blind eye to corruption, absentee teachers and poor quality teaching generally. Students graduate from high schools and enter universities and find that they do not have the necessary skill sets to make a success of their university studies. Thus, despite valiant efforts on the part of universities with extra tutorials and other interventions, the drop-out and failure rates are extremely high. At the end of the day no matter what interventions universities embark upon, one cannot undo the damage of 12 years of dysfunctional teaching within the first year or two of university education. The dysfunctional nature of the education system is also reflected in the fact that often even those students who do graduate often do not find jobs. The reason for this is that there is a tremendous mismatch between the skill sets graduates have and the needs of the South African economy. Consider the tens of thousands of students who each year enters the humanities and the dismally small number who find their way into the sciences. So graduates leave universities with heightened expectations of a good professional job. Instead they find themselves unemployed or doing menial work for which no degree is required.

We are all failing our youth. To fix this, we need a growing economy in the first instance. We need government and university administrators to come together engaging in a radical overhaul of the entire education system from primary and secondary school to the higher education sector. They need to develop a vision of the South African economy which emphasises high growth and high employment and they need to do this in conjunction with the business sector to ensure that skill sets taught is what is needed for the economy of tomorrow.