03 June, 2015

South Africa’s 2016 Local Government Elections

by Hussein Solomon

Despite being a year away, it is clear that campaigning for South Africa’s local government elections has begun in earnest. The results of the national elections has forced the ruling African National Congress (ANC) to confront the unpleasant reality that it is increasingly becoming a rural party – being largely shunned by middle class voters of all races. There is a very real danger, then, that large metropolitan areas such as Johannesburg in Gauteng Province and Nelson Mandela Bay in the Eastern Cape might well go the route of Cape Town and vote for the opposition Democratic Alliance (DA). It is no coincidence that the DA chose to have their electoral conference in the Nelson Mandela Bay area nor is it coincidental that the first black leader of the DA – Mmusi Maimane – comes from Gauteng.

Mmusi Mainane (Photo: Democratic Alliance)

It is clear as to why middle class voters are abandoning the ANC in droves. Crime and unemployment is on the rise – so is personal income tax and there is every likelihood that interest rates will continue their rise as well given the increased fuel prices and the increased electricity tariffs which would also mean an increase in inflation. Moreover, whilst the government has a plan to kick start economic growth – the National Development Plan – it has not implemented it for fear of upsetting the Congress of South African Trade Union (COSATU) with whom it shares a close relationship. This adoption of grandiose polices without implementation meanwhile has seen investors – both local and foreign – not investing in the country. Not surprisingly, South Africa’s investment status has been downgraded by international ratings agencies. Also adding to the ire of middle class voters is the growing incompetence of the state as seen in problems around service delivery whilst the size of the public service has effectively tripled since 1994. The bloated public service together with endemic corruption which has permeated all levels of government has turned ire to growing disenchantment with the ruling party. Given the small tax base in the country, the middle class is acutely aware that corruption is their hard-earned tax money being appropriated for personal aggrandizement.

At the same time, there is another – inter-generational - dimension coming into play in next year’s local government elections. Whilst the ANC can still appeal to an older generation on the basis of it having delivered the country from apartheid, this has scant appeal to a younger generation where apartheid is a historical fact and not a lived experience. Increasingly, it is the youth who have borne the brunt of the ANC’s mis-steps in economic policy. This is evident in the fact that more than half of the youth in the country are unemployed. Moreover, the ruling party lacks rapport with the youth given the fact that its own ANC Youth League remains in disarray. The popular disgruntlement of South Africa’s youth with the ruling party is seen in the recent election at the University of Fort Hare – the intellectual home of the ANC – which witnessed black youth there voting for the DA.

The ANC is clearly aware of the enormity of the challenge posed – both popular alienation and the inroads the opposition has been making within their own constituency. At the same time, they seem powerless to change course. Whilst the ANC is aware that corruption is increasingly costing it votes and whilst the party has set up an ethics committee, it has largely disregarded the findings of its own ethics committee. Taking action, for instance, against the popular Northern Cape ANC strongman John Block would cost it votes amongst his supporters. Not taking action against him is also costing it votes, however, amongst ordinary South Africans. More importantly, it must be difficult to take action against local councilors or regional players when President Zuma himself is so flawed.

Similarly, whilst elements within the ANC understand the need for a greater role for the private sector in, say, electricity provision, given the repeated failures of state utilities like ESKOM to keep the lights on, it realizes that its South African Communist Party (SACP) and COSATU allies will baulk at the privatization of state utilities irrespective how incompetent they are or the fact that the country is shedding jobs and economic growth as a result of load-shedding.

Without therefore being able to change direction, the ANC’s strategy seems to be one of parachuting popular party members who would elicit loyalty from a particular constituency. A case in point is Nelson Mandela Bay where Danny Jordaan has been made the ANC’s mayoral candidate. Such a strategy is decidedly short-term however – changing personalities whilst the festering conditions for resentment remain. In the process, the popular appeal of such leaders will erode as citizens increasingly realize that their circumstances remain as desperate as ever.

05 May, 2015

Xenophobia's Aftermath: South Africa and SADC

by Hussein Solomon

Once again, South Africa’s streets were the scene of the most horrific violence against foreign migrants – specifically those from the African continent. Blaming immigrants for everything from stealing jobs to “stealing our women” to bringing diseases into the country, South Africans went on the rampage against fellow African immigrants. Anti-immigrant sentiment was clearly fuelled by comments made by King Goodwill Zwelithini – king of 7 million Zulus - who called on foreign nationals to leave South Africa as well South Africa’s President Jacob Zuma’s son, Edward Zuma. Zuma Junior blamed much of the crime in the country on immigrants. In the ensuing violence immigrant-owned shops were looted and they themselves were beaten and stabbed on the streets of KwaZulu-Natal and Gauteng.

What is clear though, is that the recent xenophobic violence has a lot to do with the worsening local economic conditions. Unemployment is hovering at record levels – with youth unemployment estimated at 50 percent. Investment into the country, meanwhile, is rapidly declining given the inability of the state power utility – ESKOM – to keep the lights on as well as the strident labour unrest and endemic corruption. Economic growth, meanwhile, hovers at a lacklustre 1.4 percent. Given these desperate economic times, locals are seeking an easy scapegoat to blame for their economic woes. Foreign migrants perform this role of scapegoats – a useful diversion, incidentally, for a government which has failed to deliver economically to its citizens despite it being in power for 21 years. A similar dynamic is also being played out in Europe suffering biting austerity measures where immigrants are being blamed for the falling living standards of locals.

In the aftermath of the xenophobic attacks, it was clear that South Africa’s image on the African continent was severely tarnished. Nigeria, withdrew its High Commissioner from Pretoria displaying its diplomatic teeth publicly; whilst there were calls from others for trade sanctions against Pretoria. It was within the Southern African Development Community (SADC), however, where Pretoria came under its severest criticism. Malawi’s Minister of Information, Kondwani Nankhumwa stated, “Our message to the government of South Africa is clear: protect other nationals or expect trade repercussions, as we cannot continue discussions of regional trade integration with a country where our citizens and our trade partners are being attacked”.

SADC Headquarters

Not to be outdone, Zimbabwe’s Information Minister Jonathan Moyo stated on his twitter account: “Sad Zuma failed to condemn xenophobia outright. SADC cheap labour built SA economy and region bore brunt of apartheid”. Moyo’s political boss, President Robert Mugabe, who is also the Chairman of SADC led the charge against Zuma’s handling of the xenophobic violence at a SADC meeting in Harare. Malawi’s President Peter Mutharika meanwhile agitated for a SADC resolution critical of Pretoria.

This criticism has hardened attitudes within the Zuma administration – noting that the problem of migration begins with the sending countries where economic and political conditions are such that many flee southwards. What is clearly enraging the South Africans is that the country adopting the toughest stance against South Africa – Zimbabwe – is contributing the largest number of migrants to South Africa because of the economic meltdown and oppressive political conditions in the country. This hardening of attitudes in Pretoria on issues of migration is clearly seen in the increased searches and deportations of illegal immigrants, the deployment of the South African National Defence Force (SANDF) to the country’s borders as well as discussions on the establishment of camps to confine refugees there.

All this bodes ill for the future of the SADC as a united body. Indeed, one of its first attempts at regional integration was to examine the establishment of a free movement protocol. There are voices of reason within SADC – such as that of Botswana’s president Ian Khama who stated, “…we cannot treat South Africa as an employment bureau for our citizens. We have a problem and one of the issues is development and integration of our economies, as well as industrialisation”. SADC should heed such sage advice from President Khama. The way to regional integration is not through further polarisation but further economic development for a prosperous region.

30 April, 2015

Xenophobia, Immigration and Pan-Africanism

by Shamiso Marange

The ongoing xenophobic attacks by South Africans against African immigrants should be a wake-up call for Africans leaders. There is of course, no justification whatsoever for the hooliganism, violence and inhumane attacks being perpetrated against the foreigners in South Africa. Especially in this day and age in which open discourse, petitions and peaceful protests are among the instruments at the disposal of the citizens in a ‘democratic’ state like South Africa in expressing their plight and whatever displeasure they may feel at the influx of foreigners in their country.

The images of necklacing and stoning of foreigners to death that is being displayed by the South Africans are very disturbing and inexcusable. Furthermore, the manner in which the South African government is responding to the matter and their inability to put together long-term solutions that stop these attacks on foreigners is very worrisome.

Photo: UNHCR/Linh Dang

On one hand, the statements made by the Zulu King Goodwill Zwelithini that foreigners must leave because they are taking South African jobs, are politically incorrect and are a source for heightened nationalistic sentiment that instigates attacks on foreigners, but even so his words should not be taken lightly. Whether people care to admit it or not many South Africans, particularly those in the low-income earning bracket, feel this way. Actually, it is arguable that these nationalistic attitudes could be the probable reason why the South African leadership is being lethargic in offering condemnations of the violence.

On the other hand, the stance that is being taken by African leaders in relation to the xenophobic attacks is equally as irking as the Zulu King’s speech. President Lungu of Zambia and Prime Minister Hailemariam Desalegn of Ethiopia, to mention a few, are insisting that South Africa should accommodate African immigrants because the continent made sacrifices for the country during the apartheid era. Other African leaders are threatening to cut off South African electricity supplies and boycott their goods and products.

This arm-twisting approach, that the Africans want to adopt is counter-productive and is not a solution to the immigration problem in South Africa. The Organisation of African Unity, now the African Union, was founded on the basis that all African countries should unite toward their common enemy – colonialism and racism alongside ensuring that Africans felt at home in any nation they set foot in on the continent. After all, the African states are demarcated by artificial boarders.

However, by assisting South Africans during the apartheid era, it illustrates that Africans adopted and understood the pan-Africanist ideology, that they should unite, defend and lift each other up. The African leaders of the 1960s through to the 1980s, in spite of their own hardships, were willing to assist the freedom fighters, politicians, academics, musicians or artists that were in exile because that was the right thing to do.

Now for African leaders to take and use this argument as an excuse to impose their nationals on South Africans is illogical, and shows that they are adhering to the perpetual victim mentality which is in stark opposition to the pan-Africanist concept. South Africa is not dealing with several hundred African immigrants, instead they are giving sanctuary to millions of them.

African leaders need to be addressing the underlying causes that are making their nationals economic and political refugees and unwanted entities in other people’s countries. Immigrants from Africa are fleeing the undemocratic systems, the lack of good governance, the poverty and corruption in their own countries. They are seeking greener pastures, which in itself is not a wrong, but what economic value are they bringing to which ever nation they are settling in? What good are the immigrants if they are leeching off a poorly implemented immigration system and denying the South Africans opportunities within their own countries.

What many people seem to forget is that the only African and most contested member state of the BRICS is still a developing country. The South African government has its own socio-economic problems that they need to address, that include providing its citizens with decent housing and sanitation, quality education and health care and ensuring that the 24 percent of its population that is unemployed (according to the national census of 2011), is given preference in income-generating projects that can take them out of poverty. It is not the South African government’s duty to save the citizens from other African nations.

Xenophobic attacks on African immigrants are taking place not only in South Africa, but in Greece, in Israel and other isolated incidences in Europe have occurred although not on a grand scale. All these attacks are a wake-up call for Africans to get their houses in order. They should have some dignity and take responsibility and address the political and socio-economic situations of their people within their own countries. They should offer their citizens peaceful and safe environments to prosper and pursue their own happiness. If Africans could be seen as holiday-makers, academics and business people and not a liability, then they would be more than welcome to any nation they chose to go to.

Of course the argument is more complex than this, it is true that South Africans must stop the xenophobic attacks because their acts are barbaric and tarnish the image of a very beautiful country. But then again if African leaders made a more fervent effort to turn around their citizens' economic situations, reducing the need for their people to emigrate in search of greener pastures, then xenophobic attacks on African immigrants could become a thing of the past.

19 April, 2015

Revisiting the Lesotho Highlands Water Project (LHWP): Water for Life?

by M. K. Mahlakeng

“Has the provider for life become a threat to life?”
The Lesotho Highlands Water Project (LHWP) is a bi-national collaboration between the governments of the Kingdom of Lesotho and the Republic of South Africa. The multi-billion dollar project is by far the biggest and the most complex water scheme in Africa. It has two main goals: to transfer water from Lesotho to South Africa; and, to produce hydroelectricity in Lesotho. Feasibility studies for the project were launched in 1978, and later led to the signing of the Lesotho Highlands Water Treaty (LHWT) in 1986. However, the entire water project faces contentions between both countries’ politicians and policy-makers to renegotiate the issue of “water transferred to South Africa and the royalties received by Lesotho”. This issue has been controversial and somewhat sensitive.

Katse Dam, Lesotho (Photo: Christian Wörtz)

This might be a result of two key issues. Firstly, this bilateral treaty was signed by Lesotho’s military junta that came into power through a military coup in 1986, the same year the treaty was signed. And, secondly, despite the World Bank providing funding to an illegitimate government for the construction of this hydropower project, it also failed to complete its environmental and social studies prior to releasing the funds. Furthermore, these studies were not subject to public scrutiny.

However, the most crucial controversy surrounding the LHWP is its threat to life. To-date, the project has left devastating environmental and social effects both to arable land and communities that inhabit these lands. Firstly, thousands of people were displaced from arable areas that were economically viable. Secondly, no proper compensation (at a level commensurate with the current socio-economic demands), was provided. The current economic demands are far greater than the monetary compensation provided. What is also important to note is that monetary gains can never compensate for the agricultural subsistence lost. In 1996 people who protested for proper compensation were shot at, with some wounded and some killed. Thirdly, these people are deprived of clean water and electricity. And lastly, in the face of poverty for most of Lesotho’s citizens and the country’s poor agricultural activity, arable land was damaged in the construction of this project therefore posing a threat to local food security.

What is evident is that the social and environmental implications on land and inhabitants are far greater than the hydropower potential expected. And this is due to the fact that in terms of three essential responsibilities noted in political science (i.e. national, international and humanitarian responsibilities) for the people, politicians and policy-makers in carrying out their duties were or are not being adhered to. Firstly, the national responsibility holds that “states people are responsible for the well-being of their citizens. The only fundamental standard of conduct that they should adhere to in their foreign policy is that of national self-interest”. Secondly, according to the international responsibility, “states people have a foreign obligation deriving from their state’s membership of international society, which involves rights and duties as defined by international law and therefore they must observe International Law”.

And lastly, humanitarian responsibility provides that “states people have an obligation to respect Human Rights”. This responsibility postulates that “states people must give sanctuary to those in need of material aid which you can supply at no sacrifice to yourself”. All these responsibilities are essential in curbing the corruption associated with royalties, in addressing the preservation of arable land in order to better address poor agricultural activity and food security; the provision of water and electricity; and, the provision of adequate compensation.

10 April, 2015

South Africa and the Islamic State

by Hussein Solomon

This past week, South African media and social networking sites paid a great deal of attention to a story emanating from Cape Town. A 15-year-old girl was taken off a British Airways flight on her way to join the Islamic state. South Africa’s State Security Minister David Mahlobo confirmed that the country’s intelligence services were investigating the manner in which the girl was recruited and how she managed to obtain funds to pay for the airfare.

The shock and surprise accompanying the announcement was, however, unfathomable. Six weeks earlier, in February 2015, one newspaper broke the story that members of an Eastern Cape family sold their home to join IS. In November 2014, meanwhile, the Daily Maverick reported of how an 18-year-old South African from Johannesburg using the pseudonym of Abu Huraya al-Afriki was fighting with IS and making use of various social media platforms to recruit other South Africans to join the jihadist cause of “Caliph” Abu Bakr Al-Baghdadi – the IS leader.


These are not isolated incidents. Indeed one estimate puts the number of South Africans fighting for IS at 140. According to Iraq’s Ambassador to South Africa, three South African IS members have already been killed in the fighting. All this points to the ideological appeal of IS together with their tech-savvy social media propaganda and their military successes on the ground (IS controls an area the size of Britain in Iraq and Syria). This ideological appeal was captured by Abu Hurayra when he stated, “I joined the Islamic State because their aim is to establish the word of Allah (There is no God, but Allah) as the highest, and the word of Kufr (disbelief) as lowest, and this is what Allah tells us in the Qur’an to do. So, it is a compulsory duty upon all the Muslims around the world to join the Jihad, although many of them are misguided and Allah did not choose them…”. The danger for South Africa as developments in Libya and Tunisia testify is when those who return from the Middle East establish sleeper cells in their home country.

The astonishment of the South Africa’s security services to this development is shocking given the fact that 15,000 people from 80 countries have already flocked to the IS banner. More importantly, given recent developments in Australia, Canada, Paris, Libya and Tunisia as well as with Nigeria’s Boko Haram aligning itself with IS, one would assume that Pretoria’s securocrats would have understood that the country is not immune from these global developments. Moreover, given South Africa’s history with radicalism – one would have expected South Africa’s security forces to be on high alert. By 1997, for instance, both Hezbollah and Al Qaeda had established a presence in the country. By the early 2000s, reports of various jihadi paramilitary camps inside the country as well as in neighbouring states, more specifically, Mozambique came to light.

On a more positive note, various Muslim clerics and organizations are now condemning the barbarism which is the Islamic State. At the same time, many of these like Shabbier Ahmed Saloojee, the principal of Zakariyya Park madrassa in Johannesburg are receiving threatening calls for their anti-IS stance. It is a troubling development when moderate Muslims are intimidated from speaking out against the radicals and does not portend well for the future.

31 March, 2015

$10 for my vote! How Botswana Opposition Women Politicians Learnt the Hard Way that Party Loyalty Is a Thing of the Past!

by Sethunya Tshepho Mosime

Surprising for the beacon of Africa democracy, the number of Botswana women in politics has been declining over the last ten years. Trends in much of Africa have been quite the opposite, with Rwanda leading in the world at a whopping 56% of its parliament seats being held by women. Liberia has a woman president, Ellen Johnson Sirleaf. Malawi also had Joyce Banda briefly serving as a woman president. Zimbabwe’s Joyce Mujuru also briefly served as a woman vice-president. South Africa is not doing too badly either, and South African woman Nkosazana Zuma- Dlamini is the current Chairperson of the African Union.

Botswana went into the 2014 general elections refusing to sign the 2008 Southern Africa Development Community (SADC) Gender Protocol, which among other things calls for commitment to the quota system to ensure representation of women. This did not altogether discourage women from contesting for local government and legislative positions. Altogether 17 women from the three main political parties stood for a total of 57 seats, only 4 women made it through the ballot box, and for the first time, a woman from an opposition party made it to parliament. At local government, even more women entered the race, although still very few in proportion to men. An even smaller number won the local government seats.

The newly founded Letsema Resource Mobilization Support for Botswana Women in Politics provided some modest training for the women before the general election. Training included bringing Ambassador Meryl Frank from the United States to share her experiences in running against strong male opposition. Appointed by President Obama, Frank is a former mayor of Highland Park in New Jersey and serves as ambassador and deputy U.S. representative to the Commission on the Status of Women. Women also trained on the use of social media, message packaging and personal branding. However, none of this prepared them for a new phenomenon they discovered on the eve of elections and on the day of elections, $10 for my vote!


Although there had been a massive public servants strike in May to July 2011, by the beginning of the 2014 election year, it seemed as if it would be business as usual in Botswana politics with the ruling Botswana Democratic Party (BDP) comfortably winning. Predictions were that, the Botswana Congress Party (BCP) would come second. Very little was initially thought of the new kid on the block – the Umbrella for Democratic Change (UDC). As a union of three opposition parties of the Botswana National Front (BNF), Botswana Movement for Democracy (BMD) and Botswana Peoples Party (BPP), speculation was that the union would be inundated by in-fighting. They became the game-changers, making social media a massive campaign tool for the first time in the elections history of Botswana. They reached very quickly to their target audience - the youth. Rather than deterring them, the death of Gomolemo Motswaledi, President of the BMD, catalysed them into branding their ‘bring change’ campaign more crisply into Moono 2014 – making change the agenda for elections 2014. It went viral on social media and by election eve, it was the most trending and threatening development for other parties. Moono 2014 was a success, and the UDC emerged from oblivion to the second biggest political party in Botswana, winning a whopping 17 seats.

At Letsema elections evaluation workshop for women candidates held recently, it came out that Moono 2014 was by no means the only game-changer. Neck on neck with Moono 2014 was a very new and disturbing trend, $10 for my vote! Women shared about this unprecedented trend, where party loyalty was laid to rest. Voters had all the three parties’ membership and attended all the rallies of all the parties. “Even after cross-checking the voters’ roll, no candidate of any party could say for sure how many supporters they had”, one of them declared. “My very own campaign team ditched me at the last minute because they found a better paying candidate to campaign for!” said one. Another recounted the story of an artisan that had come to do a small job in her town. Asking him when he planned to go back to his town for elections, the man shockingly replied, “Depends on which of the contesting candidates in my town will pay for my fare back!”

Social media was in fact used, but not the way the women had been trained. They were trained to use it to spread their message and stay in touch with the younger electorate which preferred social media. Come Election Day, smart phones were used to take pictures of the ballot paper as proof to candidates that the voter had indeed cast them a vote for the promised reward! Male candidates stood outside the polling stations to dish out the reward – the $10 for my vote!


Sethunya Tshepho Mosime (University of Botswana, Department of Sociology) is also the Chair of the Letsema Resource Support for Botswana Women in Politics.

26 March, 2015

Namibia: On the Road to Economic Ruin?

by Hussein Solomon

At face value, it would seem that Namibia has a lot going for it. Its relatively sparse population of 2.2 million inhabitants occupies a vast country. It has immense natural resources and is classified as a higher middle-income country with an estimated GDP per capita of US $5,828. Yet this figure conceals tremendous income inequalities. Indeed, Namibia is one of the most unequal societies in the world with a gini-co-efficient of 0.591. To put it differently, whilst a few are enjoying the economic largesse, 55.8 percent of the population survives on less than $2 per day. Furthermore, consider the fate of the hapless 52 percent of the population who are unemployed.

Windhoek (Photo: Brian McMorrow)

In such a situation of extreme inequality, social unrest beckons. The Namibian government clearly understands this and in 2010 launched an ambitious fiscal expansion programme aimed at job creation. Unfortunately, this failed spectacularly making little impact on unemployment whilst at the same time resulting in a situation where government debt has grown exponentially. That this is taking place at a time when Namibian GDP growth is slowing – from 5 percent in 2012 to 4,2 percent in 2013 with further contraction predicted in 2015 is particularly worrisome.

Three reasons account for Namibia’s economic vulnerabilities. First, the economy is too dependent upon South Africa. 90 percent of the country’s imports originate in South Africa and much of its exports find their way to the regional hegemon’s markets. Moreover, the Namibian dollar is pegged to the South African rand. Given the poor health of the South African economy, the Namibian economy is bound to suffer from any setback in the economic performance of the hegemon. Difficult, as it is to do, the need to become less dependent on the South African economy is an imperative for Windhoek’s policy makers.

Second, the Namibian economy suffers too from its lack of economic diversification. Consider here a country, which is prone to droughts yet 47 percent of its labour force is located in the agricultural sector. Consider too that much of its exports emanate from its minerals yet given the perilous state of the global economy, demand for such minerals is declining. In both these cases diversification of the economy would make the country less vulnerable but such economic diversification is held back by the poor education system – made worse by a restrictive immigration policy that effectively prevents highly skilled immigrants from entering the work force.

Third, and a perennial problem across the continent, is the fact that Namibian policy-makers are sending the wrong signals to international investors. Corruption is endemic and pervasive. This coupled with fact that government is placing pressure on white and foreign owners to sell property hardly builds confidence in the international community to invest in Namibia. Without such investment, economic diversification and lessening dependence on South Africa is all but impossible.

17 March, 2015

A Constitutional Reform: An Essential Element for the Success of Lesotho’s Coalition System of Governance

by M. K. Mahlakeng

“a coalition government is a cabinet of a parliamentary government in which several parties cooperate, and a common reason for such an agreement is that no party on its own can achieve a majority in parliament”

Following the 28th February general snap elections, a coalition of seven parties, namely 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), also viewed as a coalition of “Congress Parties”, was established.

On the 4th March, the coalition partners’ met at “Mosikong-ao-Thaba” (i.e. the BCP headquarters) and elected DC leader and former PM Pakalitha Mosisili as the country’s next PM. The DC won 47 of the 120 parliamentary seats on offer, while the All Basotho Convention, LCD, Basotho National Party, Reformed Congress of Lesotho, PFD, BCP, LPC, MFP and NIP took 46, 12, seven, two, two, one, one, one and one, respectively.


Pakalitha Mosisili (Photo: ILO)
This is a second and largest coalition government in Lesotho following the collapse of the ABC, BNP and LCD coalition which only took office for two years. With varying reasons for its “coup de grâce”, ranging from unilateral decision-making, the politicisation of the security agencies to a clash of ideologies, however, one can question whether the current coalition government will learn from the former coalition.

As many of these parties come from one branch (i.e. the BCP), for instance, a split occurred within the BCP in 1997 forming the LCD, and the LCD went through two splits in 2001 and 2012 which saw the establishment of the LPC and DC respectively. One ought to believe that this coalition represents the re-establishment of a sense of unity of the Congress movement in Lesotho. And as such, miscommunication in the process of governance, which is common in an entity of various organisations, will be easily restored.

However, one key element that is essential for the survival of this coalition government, or any coalition government in Lesotho for that matter, is the establishment of a constitutional commission to see the process of “constitutional reform”, something that was not done in the previous coalition government and detrimental to its downfall. Due to the changing political landscape, the constitution must change accordingly to accommodate for varying needs and demands associated with coalition governments. This means the inclusion of the principle of the coalition government in the constitution to provide it with legitimacy.

An inclusion of the coalition governments’ principles in the constitution will serve numerous purposes. Firstly, this will ensure accountability and responsiveness to the duties of the coalition partners. Secondly, it will protect the principles and integrity of the coalition government. Thirdly, it will protect the rights of all coalition partners. And lastly, it will help avoid duties and responsibilities of coalition partners in various ministries being encroached upon.

If the survival of any coalition government rests on an efficient co-operative manner of governance, then a constitution is an essential tool to ensure such.

10 March, 2015

“National History” and Local Perspective: Thoughts on the Death of T. K. Mopeli

by Sayaka Kono

Tsiame Kenneth Mopeli passed away on 10 October 2014. He was the first and the only Chief Minister in the former Bantustan or “homeland” called Qwaqwa in the Eastern Free State of South Africa from 1975 to 1994. His death became news among local Africans because of both positive and negative perceptions of his contribution to community development and the liberation struggle. Here, I will try to discuss an issue associated with the ongoing South African nation-building process, which can be seen from the local perspective of T. K. Mopeli.

The territory of Qwaqwa expanded and developed under T. K. Mopeli's rule

The Bantustan policy was an extreme practice of 'divide and rule' in the apartheid system. The small territories called Bantustans were designated as “homelands” for all the “ethnic” groups and the “ethnic” government ruled its “citizens” or theoretically all the members of the “ethnic” group. Since such policy was the basis of the apartheid system, the Bantustan politicians were criticized by the anti-apartheid activists as collaborators or puppets. T. K. Mopeli was seen as such in the current ANC (African National Congress)-oriented “national history”. This perception is common among the majority of South Africans – as an African historian from Johannesburg told me, “don’t drop your tears at his (T. K. Mopeli’s) funeral because he is a puppet”. He was criticized, as were other Bantustan leaders, for supporting the apartheid system by accepting status within the system, monopolizing power for his “tribe”, or oppressing opposition by violence etc. These critics are correct in a sense, but we also need to turn our attention to the other dimension of history.

The reaction to his death by the local Africans in the Free State was a bit different. The news spread through local radio, local newspaper and by word of mouth. A teacher, concealing his grief, said that he was a great leader contributing the development of Africans’ education in the Free State. An unemployed old man told me how many factories were operated and jobs created in the area during his era. A woman in the media said that she strongly regretted not to be able to attend the funeral due to her work. Even a teenage girl related to me a short story about T. K. Mopeli that she was told by her family when our conversation came to the topic of Qwaqwa. I could see that there are still quite a number of the people in Free State who appreciate him as a local leader; as one who established so many schools for Africans, who helped his fellow “citizens” to gain land, who was always humble and standing the people’s side.

Nevertheless, the situation is not as simple as a “national discourse versus local discourse”. There is still a deep confrontation between ANC supporters and T. K. Mopeli’s followers in Free State, especially in places like Qwaqwa, where his influence was strong. There are two reasons for this. Firstly, there was massive violence by young ANC sympathizers against his supporters during the late 1980s and during the transition era. On the one side, the victims remain traumatized about “ANC’s violence” and cannot openly speak out about it even now. On the other side, supporting Bantustan politicians still means to some people as supporting apartheid and having contributed to the legitimization and maintenance of the system. Secondly, complaints regarding the new ANC local government have risen but have been suppressed in the post-apartheid era. They arise from the failure of the new ANC government to develop the economy in these areas in comparison to the former Qwaqwa government, but they cannot always raise their voice because they might be disadvantaged if they do so. Thus, there remains a power structure even among the locals reflecting both history and today’s politics.

The funeral was a large one, but smaller than I expected considering his contribution to the region. Those in attendance were mainly his political supporters. There was some attendance from the ANC in the form of representatives of the public sectors as well. Although all the speeches praised what he did as a local leader, there was political argument over who should rule the region comparing now and then.

Of course, he was not a perfect leader, but no politician is. We, however, cannot ignore the fact that there are still those who strongly appreciate his governance. Twenty years have passed since the end of apartheid. Dissatisfactions have grown, and ANC is driven to emphasize its “central” role in the liberation struggle to keep its supporters. In this process, there will always be some people who would be excluded from the mainstream “national history”. The people’s sorrow at T. K. Mopeli’s death shows that he should not be evaluated by a “resistance versus collaborator” dichotomy. To understand the dynamics of today’s political situation, we need to reveal the complexity of the histories which have been undermined by “national history” discourse, and which have constructed the hierarchy in the interaction with the current politics.

A businessman in Qwaqwa said with an ironic smile: “To be honest with you, I hate the ANC with all my heart, but what can I do? I just say ‘Amandla’ to keep going on.”

20 February, 2015

Lesotho’s Judiciary Compromised

by M. K. Mahlakeng

On the 15th January 2015, Prime Minister Tom Thabane appointed Kings’ Council (KC) Kananelo Mosito as the new President of the Court of Appeal. In consideration of the current caretaker status of the coalition government, this appointment fails to abide by the powers and functions of a caretaker or transitional government, breaches the electoral code, immensely threatens the possibility of holding elections and places dire ramifications on the country’s judicial system. The consequences for such an appointment include the resignation of four foreign Court of Appeal judges, that is, Justice Doughlas Scott, Justice Craig Howie, Justice Wilfred Thring and Justice Roger Cleaver, on the 30th January 2015, reducing the country’s apex court to only two South African judges, namely, Justice Winfred Louw and Justice Ian Farlam.

Kananelo Mosito

Following the dissolution of Lesotho’s parliament on the 5th December 2014, it was decided by the electoral agreement (i.e. the Maseru Facilitation Declaration) mediated by SADC appointed mediator and Deputy President Cyril Ramaphosa that the current Coalition Government will only act in its capacity as a “transitional or caretaker government” pending the 28th February 2015 general snap elections to eventually determine a legitimate government.

A caretaker or transitional government is set up for a number of reasons: 1) when a parliamentary system is defeated in a motion of no confidence; and, 2) when the house to which the government is responsible is dissolved. This government has limited powers and functions differing from that of an actual government such as: 1) a caretaker government rules the country for an interim period until an election is held and a new government is formed; 2) caretaker government’s activities are limited by custom and convention, with no authority to make any key appointments pending elections; 3) caretaker governments operate in the interim period between the normal dissolution of parliament for the purpose of holding an election and the formation of a new government after the election results are known

The PM has violated this caretaker status due to his keen motive to win power by all means and meet the diamonds interests of the Gupta-ANC in Lesotho. This is also an attempt by the PM to capture key positions of the State in light of the fact that his coalition government faces prospects of being unseated by possibilities of yet another coalition government, come February elections. Ignoring the caretaker status and the obligations of the electoral code implies the same unsatisfactory element (i.e. Tom Thabane’s unilateral decision-making despite rules mandated to him by the Constitution) that has brought the coalition government into the current political situation.

With the recent delegation hosted by President Zuma on the 9th February in his capacity as chair of the SADC troika organ on politics, defence and security co-operation and the visit of Mr Ramaphosa to Lesotho on the 13th February, concerns over security and the violation of the Maseru facilitation and security accords were raised. Nonetheless, the issue of the appointment of the President of the court in question was not addressed, in its nature also central to the peace process in Lesotho.

23 January, 2015

The Maseru Security Accord Refuses to Crack under Pressure from the State House

by M. K. Mahlakeng

As the eagerly anticipated 28 February snap general elections approach, one question shared by many in the opposition is whether the Maseru Security Accord (MSA) will hold up to its promise of a peaceful election or whether it will crack under the pressure. With the security situation under normalcy and a high-level security detail from South Africa guarding the Prime Minister as per his request, the PM has however requested that Commissioner of Police (ComPol) Khothatso Tšooana returns to the country.

This request was made to the Southern African Development Community (SADC) facilitator to Lesotho and Deputy President of South Africa Mr. Cyril Ramaphosa. The reasons for recalling the ComPol include, among others, “to strengthen police operations ahead of the snap general elections”, despite the security situation having been restored. ComPol Tšooana was sent on special leave to Algeria amidst allegations that he was involved in the 30 August 2014 fallout between the Lesotho Mounted Police Service (LMPS) and the Lesotho Defence Force (LDF), and the distribution of arms and ammunition to the All Basotho Connvention- (ABC) allied movement “Under the Tree army” (UTTA) to destabilise an intended peaceful march by members of the opposition on 1 September 2014 proposing for the re-opening of parliament.

Such a request challenges the provisions provided for by the MSA that, “the warring security forces will take a leave of absence for specified periods to specified SADC and Commonwealth countries; and, during this period of leave of absence, they will not exercise any authority or undue influence over the Lesotho Mounted Police Service (LMPS) or the Lesotho Defence Force (LDF) and defer power to their deputies”.



However, in response to Dr. Thabane’s request, Mr. Ramaphosa warned that this move threatens all agreed deals thus placing the electoral process in serious danger. In an attempt to force the PM to abide by the MSA, Mr. Ramaphosa further stated that, “Should ComPol Tšooana be recalled from his special leave, he [Ramaphosa] would have no choice but to recall Lieutenant General Tlali Kamoli who is also on a special leave in South Africa, and will withdraw Thabane’s security detail seconded to protect him”.

It is believed that the PM had already recalled the ComPol and that he was detained at the OR Tambo International Airport on the morning of 11 January by South African security agencies and was barred from boarding a flight to Maseru. Thabane’s attempt to challenge these provisions threatens any peace mechanism intended to produce peaceful elections come 28 February.

In light of the prospects that the right-wingers (the ABC and Basotho National Party, BNP), also members of the coalition government, are about to lose in these elections, the idea of disturbing and threatening the possibility of peaceful elections is commonplace. This is among other pre-election attempts and many more to be witnessed by the PM to disturb the unfolding of these elections.

18 January, 2015

Zambia's Upcoming Elections: Presidential Endorsements

by Maximilian Mainza

Campaigns for the January 20th presidential by elections have reached the peak with political players endorsing candidates they think will carry the day. What is interesting is the number of candidates and the way in which political players are endorsing their preferred candidates. It is known that political endorsements’ impact depends on the level of ideological congruence between the voters and the source of endorsements and on elite clues, voter behavior and representation. Ideally, voters reward candidates when they perceive that the endorsing newspaper/politician is ideologically similar to their preferences but punish the endorsed candidates when they perceive that the source is ideologically distant.

The campaigns for the 20 January presidential by election have been characterized by endorsements after endorsements for the two leading candidates in the race to State House – Edgar Lungu (EL) of the Patriotic Front (PF) and Hakainde Hichilema (HH) of the United Party for National Development (UPND). The most eye-catching endorsement for Edgar Lungu is that of former president Rupiah Banda, and a group of Movement for Multiparty Democracy (MMD) MPs and National Executive Committee (NEC) members. Rupiah Banda was poised to stand as MMD presidential candidate before the Supreme Court ruling that disqualified him to stand on the MMD ticket in favor of Nevers Mumba. This may backfire for the Edgar Lungu camp, given that Rupiah Banda’s popularity among the electorates is questionable following the manner in which he lost the 2011 Presidential elections to the late Michael Sata. However, recent comments published by online media and the Post newspaper indicate that Rupiah Banda is doing it for personal benefits because he thinks Edgar Lungu has a higher chance of winning the elections than the MMD candidate, Nevers Mumba. Furthermore, Rupiah’s son, Andrew, has accused his father is supporting Edgar for selfish political reasons, and of a lack of patriotism towards the country he once ruled as President.


On the other hand, the main challenger to Edgar Lungu, Hakainde Hichilema has also received endorsements from a group of MMD MPs and NEC members, including former first lady Maureen Mwanawasa, Alliance for Development and Democracy (ADD) president Charles Milupi, some former ministers in the Mwanawasa government, and most recently, two PF MPs, Geoffrey Mwamba and Sylvia Masebo. Many HH endorsements appear to be a result of intra-party conflicts in the PF and MMD, which has led to factions openly campaigning for their preferred candidate regardless of the party to which they belong. Some of these endorsements are genuine, while others may be for selfish reasons. And the party most affected is the MMD, whose members are divided into three factions, those supporting MMD, PF and UPND.

The question is how important these endorsements will be in influencing the electorates, come 20 January, 2015. It is likely that these endorsements for either EL or HH will have an impact on the outcome of the elections given that the endorsers have a considerable following from their provinces and can even influence the undecided voters whose ideologies are similar to the endorsers. So far the opinion polls have been in favor of HH, though one might question the methods used and the credibility of the publishers of the polls. Nevertheless, the endorsements may sway the mood of voters given the daily shifting and realigning of the campaign strategies of frustrated politicians and other political players.

11 January, 2015

The ANC at 103

by Hussein Solomon

As South Africa’s ruling African National Congress (ANC) celebrates its 103rd anniversary this weekend in Cape Town, political and economic prospects for the country have never looked bleaker under the ANC’s 21 years of misrule. Corruption has become increasingly institutionalized in the country under the ANC. Moreover, those seeking to expose such corruption have paid a horrendous price. The vilification of Public Protector Thuli Madonsela for her courageous report on the Nkandla scandal which witnessed R240 million of taxpayer money siphoned off to upgrade President Jacob Zuma’s private residence is a case in point. The recent axing of Lieutenant-General Anwa Dramat from his post, meanwhile, seems designed to protect the financial interests of President Zuma, his family and business partners.

At an economic level, and despite the adoption of the National Development Plan (NDP), the ANC seems to be floundering rudderless. The various dysfunctional state enterprises like the power utility Eskom is one indicator of the malaise. Poor planning, shoddy senior appointments, a focus on the short as opposed to the long-term have all resulted in load-shedding where electricity is cut off for a period of time each day. There is every indication that this will begin again next week and continue into 2016. Needless to say, it will only serve to undermine investor confidence as the limping economy will switch to recession with the attendant social costs of even further unemployment. Indeed, one economist has predicted that South Africa’s investment status will be cut to junk should load-shedding take place in the first quarter of 2015.

It is increasingly evident that voters are losing patience with the party. In last year’s elections, the ANC suffered significant declines in support across key urban metros from Gauteng to the Eastern Cape (KwaZulu-Natal being the exception, given it being Zuma’s support base). Indeed, some political commentators see the ANC, like Zimbabwe’s ZANU-PF, becoming an increasingly rural political party in the future.

Anniversary celebrations in the news

Despite these stark realities, the ANC launched its festive anniversary celebrations in Cape Town with a vow to taking back the Western Cape, the only province it does not control from the opposition Democratic Alliance (DA). The ANC’s politics however suggest that it remains stuck in the racial politics of the past as opposed to moving this great country forward. Addressing a press conference in Cape Town in the run-up to the festivities, ANC Secretary-General Gwede Mantashe accused the DA of wanting to keep the Western Cape “white and uncontaminated”. If this is the best, this 103 year-old party has to offer, then its best that in the next election, voters ensure that this dinosaur of a party is confined to the dustbin of history. South Africa deserves better.

18 December, 2014

Zimbabwe: ZANU PF Congress 2014

by Shamiso Marange

Joice Mujuru’s fall from grace leaves yet another dent in the political history of Zimbabwe. Ms. Mujuru, 59, the first female Vice President in the country, along with eight ministers aligned to her faction found themselves displaced in an effort by President Mugabe to purge factionalism from his Zimbabwe African Nationalist Union – Patriotic Front (ZANU PF). A first in the 51 years of party’s existence.

Prior to Robert Mugabe curtailing Mujuru’s influence in the politburo of the ruling party and sacking her and her comrades from their government positions, Grace Mugabe had gone on a whistle-blowing crusade, verbally-attacking Mujuru and instigating contempt towards the former freedom-fighter.

It is now evident that, the first lady had been unleashed to lay the the foundation to vanquish the Vice President and her faction on behalf of her husband. All Robert Mugabe had to do was step on the podium at the 6th ZANU PF Congress (or should we say, Con-Grace?) and hammer the final nails in the coffin. By the time the convention had begun Mujuru had been turned into a villain. She had been exposed and the knives to stab her in the back had been drawn. Her squeaky clean image as a hardworking heroin dedicated to the ruling party, was dragged through the mud. She was made out to be a thief, a traitor and a simple-minded character relying on witchcraft in an attempt to unseat the ‘messiah’.

A few days before the congress Mugabe set up a kangaroo court and made amendments to the ZANU-PF constitution, granting him powers to directly select his deputies and anoint his successor. An indication of the lack of genuine democracy within the ruling party structures. Before the changes to the ZANU-PF charter, Mugabe and his two ZANU-PF deputies had to be elected by members from the country’s 10 regions. The deputies automatically took up the same posts in government.

Mugabe set his snare in a timeous fashion, creating a well-orchestrated exit for Mujuru. She was check-mated and outmanoeuvred before she could make her move of superseding the nonagenarian leader from the party. In the end she never attended the congress and it would have been improvident if she had presented herself for her own guillotining. Only time will tell if she can make a comeback because a sizeable number of influential ZANU PF members were ousted along with her. But then again, because Mugabe has instilled so much fear in his followers, it is very likely that she will not rebel, and this could signify the end of her political career. Bullying, intimidation and violence are a part and parcel of the ruling party and not even its members are immune to these ailments.

New appointments
ZANU-PF’s other faction leader, former freedom fighter and security strongman also known as the Crocodile, Emmerson Mnagagwa, 68, replaced his rival Mai Mujuru as Vice President.

The new VP: Emmerson Mnagagwa

The crocodile (a name earned for his ruthlessness in the liberation struggle) was so gleeful with his new appointment that he knelt in front of Mugabe when he was appointed VP of the ruling party and state. It would appear he is having the last laugh as he was elevated and his nemesis, Mujuru, was reduced to being an ordinary card-holding member of ZANU PF.

Mr. Mnagagwa, the justice minister was named as Mr. Mugabe’s first deputy, whilst Phekezela Mphoko a small-time former diplomat, was named as the second deputy. As a high-school student in the 1960s, Mr. Mnangagwa was imprisoned for arson charges and it is whilst in jail, he met Mr. Mugabe, a political prisoner during the Rhodesian era. This is where the father-son bond between the two was created, as Mnagagwa looked up to one of the masterminds of the Zimbabwean liberation struggle.

After he was pardoned from a death sentence because he was under 21 years old and later released from prison, Mnagagwa went on to train as a lawyer in Zambia, and after graduation, he received military training in Egypt and China. By the late 1970s, he had climbed the ranks within ZANU PF and was appointed Mugabe’s special assistant.


Since then, Mnagagwa is rumoured to have been in charge of the security and intelligence operations for ZANU PF. He was head of internal security in the 1980s when Mr. Mugabe ordered a brigade of soldiers to be trained by North Korean in an operation called Gukurahundi (the early rain which washes away the chaff before the spring rains). Several thousands of civilians, mainly supporters of Joshua Nkomo of the opposition party Zimbabwe African People’s Union (ZAPU), were murdered.

However, now that Mugabe has purged the factionalism from within ZANU PF, and the succession issue within the party is somewhat transparent, the question arises - why did the nonagenarian choose Mnagagwa over Mujuru?

The Mugabe dynasty is arguably the principal reason. The president needs to ensure that his family and his business interests will be safeguarded upon his death. This is where ‘Gucci Grace’ enters the arena, many believe that whoever has her ear has Mugabe’s favour. Mnagagwa wants power, Grace wants to preserve her dynasty. Her whistle blowing gambit was meant to clear the path for her apparent ally, Mnagagwa. Although she might have obtained the leadership of the ruling party’s Women’s League, the appointing of Mnagagwa dampens the supposition that Grace would take over from her husband. It is very doubtful that she will be able to play an influential role in politics or take control of ZANU PF when her spouse is gone. However, if she succeeds in attaining influential power within ZANU, then she can be credited for having created a new phenomenon now being referred to as the ‘bedroom coup’.

On the other hand, Mnagagwa is considered to embody Mugabe’s leadership ethics. He is deemed a hardliner that is unlikely to adopt liberal democratic practices. He has been in the game for too long and has observed, learned and assisted Mugabe in his reign as President. In terms of security and intelligence, Mnagagwa will continue to offer Mugabe a safe environment from anyone or anything that is deemed as a threat.

Can an individual with such a ferocious background be trusted to uphold the rule of law or respect human rights if he succeeds Mugabe? The manner in which he superseded Mujuru makes one wonder how dignified of a leader he will be once at the throne.

Furthermore, the recent shake-up on the political scene in Zimbabwe has nothing to do with improving the lives of the 13 million plus citizens of the country. It is the typical tale, the legacy of self-serving leaders that take advantage of the vulnerability and helplessness of their people, which is unfortunately not new to sub-Saharan Africa.

12 December, 2014

Political Will Versus Political Entitlement: The Left-Right Political Spectrum of Lesotho

by M. K. Mahlakeng

On the 18th November, Prime Minister Tom Thabane and his coalition government partner and leader of the Basotho National Party (BNP), Thesele Maseribane went AWOL after missing a crucial meeting with South African Deputy President Cyril Ramaphosa. Ramaphosa is acting in his capacity as the facilitator of the peace process under the banner of SADC, whom is expected to ensure the possibility and stability of the upcoming snap elections proposed for end of February 2015.

Thabane and Maseribane’s unhappiness towards Ramaphosa includes concerns of his mediation process citing unsatisfactory judgements by Ramaphosa in favour of the “opposition” (also known as the left-wingers). This includes the allied Congress parties and Metsing, who is also a Deputy Prime Minister in the coalition government and a leader of the Lesotho Congress for Democracy (LCD), but has since shared the sympathies of the opposition regarding the reign of Thabane.

Facilitation talks: Cyril Ramaphosa and Lesotho minority opposition (Photo: GCIS)

Many in the opposition have viewed this stance by Thabane and Maseribane (right-wingers) as a means, among many others, to sabotage or delay the unfolding satisfactory status to hold these upcoming elections. This, as history serves, is what distinguishes the left-right wingers of Lesotho. And this distinction has always been marked by a sense of political will versus political entitlement.

On the one hand, commoners or those perceived to be commoners (i.e. ordinary people who are members of neither the nobility nor the priesthood), throughout history, used their political will to influence political and socioeconomic decisions. And on the other hand, those perceived to have a degree of nobility or relations to such would be entitled and/or feel entitled to a role in decision-making. The right-wingers for instance, favoured nobility and/or priesthood and therefore used the chieftainship, the Britons and the Catholic Church to curtail popular freedom, while the left-wingers wanted more freedom and liberty and therefore advocated that the role and influence of these institutions be reduced.

History serves that, in a society where party A (i.e. a tribe, clan, parties, positions or ideologies) prohibits party B from contesting power through political will and/or popular support (i.e. the ballot), it leaves the former with a sense of entitlement thus making them hostile to elections, while the latter develops a basis of political reason.

In contrast to political will which advocates freedom and liberty, political entitlement on the other hand incorporates sabotage, use of excessive force etc. This is relevant to, for instance, the “1970 state of emergency” by Chief Jonathan Leabua (founder of the BNP and then PM) when he refused to cede thus denying the Basotho Congress Party (BCP) power after winning general elections; and the notorious “Order Number 4” of 1986 introduced by the Military Government of General Justin Lekhanya (then chairman of the Military Council and leader of the BNP) to prohibit political activity and thus legitimised repression. It is events such as these that have chiselled the current political landscape of Lesotho since independence, thus leaving Lesotho’s right-wingers (Nationalists) with political entitlement and left-wingers (Congress) with a sense of political will.

09 December, 2014

Another Landslide Victory for SWAPO in Namibian Elections

by Hussein Solomon

Namibia became the first African country to adopt electronic voter machines in its November 2014 polls. This technological innovation at e-voting however was not without its problems with technical glitches experienced with both electronic voting machines and handheld scanners to verify voter cards and fingerprints of voters. A subsequent report from the African Union’s Electoral Observer Mission made it clear that these were less technical glitches and more the result of electoral staff not knowing how to use the equipment. Unsurprisingly, the AU called on electoral staff to be properly trained in these new technologies.

Photo: Electoral Commission of Namibia

The 28th November polls saw Namibians voting for members of the National Assembly as well as a President. Incumbent President Hifikepunye Pohamba is compelled to step down on account of constitutional term limits. The ruling South West African People’s Organization (SWAPO) retained their electoral dominance in the National Assembly, with SWAPO’s Hage Geingob succeeding Pohamba as president. What accounts for this SWAPO dominance? After all, SWAPO’s growing authoritarian streak, its mounting corruption scandals and its poor record at governance should count against it at the polls.

SWAPO’s political dominance can be explained by three inter-related variables. First, is demographics. 50 per cent of the population are Oshivambo speakers. These make up 90 per cent of SWAPO’s core supporters. This makes SWAPO one of the most ethnically based political parties on the continent. Second, and a concomitant of this, is that most of the other opposition political parties are also ethnically based but their respective population groups are in single digits, thereby preventing them from mass political mobilization in the same way that SWAPO can with the Oshivambo. Unless political parties can mobilize on political platforms other than ethnicity, they are bound to lose any future election. Third, SWAPO makes use of its vast patronage network – its parasitic relationship with the Namibian state – to co-opt critics and rewards sycophants.
Whilst SWAPO has won these polls, ordinary Namibians are the losers in the long run.

From 'Bethani' to Lindela: The Plight of Malawian Migrants in South Africa

by Harvey C.C. Banda

International migration of unskilled and semi-skilled labourers between Malawi and South Africa is a century-old phenomenon. In fact, for a long time on the one hand countries like South Africa and Botswana have been dubbed labour-receiving countries because of their strong economies. On the other hand, countries like Malawi, Mozambique, Lesotho and, of late, Zimbabwe are labour-supplying countries because of their faltering economies.

In this article, I reflect on the plight of Malawian ‘illegal migrants’ in South Africa in the wake of a recent South African court ruling regarding the treatment of detainees by Lindela Repatriation Centre. I argue that in spite of the High Court order in South Africa, the detainees’ constitutional rights will, in practice, continue being trampled upon. In my view, this is because the detention and consequent deportations are expected to deter repetition and to ward off potential illegal entrants.

Asylum seekers queue at Dept. Home Affairs (Photo: UNHCR)

For quite some time Malawian migrants have dominated the numbers of immigrants entering South Africa for purposes of taking up wage employment. This was particularly the case during the hey-days of mine migrancy up to the late 1980s. Alongside contract migration to the mines, a large number of migrants entered South Africa clandestinely, as ‘border jumpers’. The latter were categorized as illegal migrants since they entered South Africa without requisite documentation – travel passes and other identity documents.

However, towards the end of the 1980s and the early 1990s, mine migrancy entered a decline partly as a result of the process of internalization or localization in which the South African government preferred engaging South African nationals in the mines. In the case of Malawian migrants, specifically, as most people might be aware, the popular HIV/AIDS scourge debate between the South African and Malawian governments also played a significant role.

In the period up to the 1980s, all illegal migrants in South Africa captured by the police were sent in droves to work in farm prisons, one of which was the famous ‘Bethani’ prison. Most former Malawian migrants who once worked in such prisons have fond memories of the suffering and torture that they experienced, hence the popular ‘Bethani stories’. For instance, captives were forced to dig Irish potatoes using their bare hands.

Since the early 1990s a new wave of labour migration replaced mine migrancy: informal migration. Since then different categories of both men and women are involved in the migration process. What is also different is the fact that almost all informal migrants during the contemporary period enter South Africa with valid documentation in the name of passports. In this case, they enter South Africa as legal migrants. However, they are only allowed to stay for a specified period, for instance, thirty days. Since they purportedly go to South Africa to secure wage employment (i.e. fewer numbers enter South Africa for business purposes), they end up overstaying upon which they become ‘illegal migrants’ hunted down by police authorities.
With expired visas, they are arrested and sent to Lindela Repatriation Centre awaiting deportation. As can be depicted here, their illegal status is actually acquired during their stay in South Africa and not necessarily upon entry, as alluded to by the Malawi Human Rights Commission executive director, Grace Malera, in the media recently.

In my view, the Lindela sufferings nowadays are reminiscent of the ‘Bethani stories’ in the old days since captives have no room whatsoever to collect their property including monetary savings ahead of deportation. There have been reports of human rights violations of detainees at Lindela including deprivation of medical care. The situation is bound to continue in view of the xenophobic feelings of South Africans towards foreign migrants who, in their words, ‘steal jobs’ rendering nationals jobless.

Having seen deportees, locally called ‘madipoti’, looking frail and sickly alighting from ‘cargo planes’ from South Africa, and who have left behind hard-earned possessions in South Africa, it is not surprising to find some of the migrants resort to any number of means, including traditional medicinal beliefs, in an effort to avoid such Lindela sufferings and eventual deportations.

11 November, 2014

Succession Games and Presidential Candidates in Zambia

by Maximilian Mainza

Zambia, a country well-known for being peaceful and politically stable, mourns its late resident, Michael Chilufya Sata, who died on 28 October, 2014 and will be put to rest on 11 November, 2014. It was a well-known secret that the late president was sick, even though the Zambian government hid the sickness and the actual health condition which caused his death. He becomes the second Zambian president to die in office. The Vice President Guy Scott, who has Scottish parentage, was announced as Acting President according to the provisions of the constitution, taking over from Edgar Lungu, Secretary-General of the ruling Patriotic Front (PF), who was Acting President at the time of Sata’s death. According to the Zambian constitution, presidential by-elections should be held within 90 days from the day the office of the president has been rendered vacant.

Zambia's ruling party: Who will take the helm?

The announcement of Guy Scott as Acting President of Zambia, has been a bone of contention for some sections of society who have different interpretations of the constitution, with some still insisting that Edgar Lungu should have been allowed to continue acting as president until after a new president is elected. Despite the announcement by Acting President Guy Scott that no political meetings/campaigns were allowed during the mourning period – 29 October to 11 November, 2014 – many PF members have been strategically positioning themselves in an attempt to influence the course of the presidential candidacy for the party. Every day of the mourning period has been mired with new twists and turns, each of which seems to create more friction between those aspiring to be adopted as presidential candidates. The political environment boiled over when it was announced that Acting President Guy Scott had dismissed Edgar Lungu from his position as PF Secretary-General. The result was spontaneous riots and protests in Lusaka and other PF strongholds, with many others taking to the social media to express and share their dissatisfaction. The internal wrangles and divisions within the ruling PF government are a source of concern for Zambians, the majority of whom appear to feel that the mourning period of the late president should be respected.

There are leaders within the PF government who are frequently mentioned in the media as potential presidential candidates. Edgar lungu, who, in addition to party Secretary-General, serves as Minister of Defence and Minister of Justice, seems to be the favorite to be adopted for the presidential by-election. Others hopefuls are former Justice Minister Wynter Kabimba, Finance Minister Alexander Chikwanda, former Defence Minister Geoffrey Mwamba, Chishimba Kambwili, Miles Sampa, and Mulenga Sata, the Mayor of Lusaka. However, the succession process is reportedly being marred by underhanded methods by outside forces like Fred Mmembe, editor and owner of The Post newspaper, with editorial attacks against PF leaders such as Finance Minister Chikwanda, Chishimba Kambwili and Edgar Lungu. According to most media reports, Fred Mmembe is believed to be supporting former Justice Minister Wynter Kabimba, and is using Acting President Guy Scott as an important player in the king-making games.

These succession games provide an opportunity for the opposition to take advantage of the situation. The main opposition is already known, with the United Party for National Development (UPND) President, Hakainde Hichilema, being seen as the major threat to the still unknown candidate from the PF. The other opposition will be from the former ruling party, Movement for Multi-party Democracy (MMD), with its president, Nevers Mumba, who still has to overcome internal wrangles within his party. Other opposition parties that might have an influence on the next Zambian president include Elias Chipimo Jr. and his National Restoration Party (NAREP), and Forum for Democracy and Development (FDD) President Edith Nawakwi. If the opposition wins the upcoming presidential by-election, there will be more twists and turns, given that there is no major opposition in parliament. While the UPND have 32 members of parliament and the MMD has 37, the ruling PF has 78, the rest being independent members of parliament.

The question is whether the candidate to be adopted by the PF will have enough time to sell his/her vision to the electorate, or will have to rely on the spillover effects of the late President Sata’s legacy to attract sympathy votes. The succession games provide a lot of talking points in predicting who the next President of Zambia will be. We wait for more revelations after the burial of the late President Michael Sata, may his soul rest in peace.

08 November, 2014

Reflections on Botswana's 2014 General Election

by Hussein Solomon

On 24th October 2014, more than 680,000 Batswana went to the polls out of 824,000 registered voters and in a population of two million. Voters had a choice between 192 candidates for 57 seats in parliament. The result was an eleventh straight victory for the Botswana Democratic Party (BDP) of President Ian Khama, which has been governing the southern African country since independence in 1966. The BDP captured 37 of the 57. In other words, the BDP secured 64.9 percent representation in parliament.

President Ian Khama (Photo: GovernmentZA)

Whilst at face value, this might appear as the trouncing of the political opposition, in reality the BDP’s vote share fell for the first time in its history below half - to 46.7 percent. What accounts for the almost twenty percent difference between the popular vote and the BDP’s representation in parliament is the first-past-the-post electoral system which institutionalizes a winner-takes-all system. To put it differently, 25 of the 57 MPs elected secured less than 50 percent of the vote. As a result there has been a call for this first-past-the-post system to be discarded and replaced with a proportional representation electoral system which is intrinsically more democratic. Despite these calls to ditch the existing system, the major stumbling block is the intransigence of the BDP to change the current system – a system which they draw benefit from.

Despite the inequities of the current system, the political opposition in the form of the Botswana National Front, the Botswana People’s Party and the Botswana Movement for Democratic Change, have made tremendous political progress. These parties contested the elections under the banner of the Umbrella for Democratic Change (UDC) and managed to secure 30 percent of the popular vote, giving them 17 seats in parliament. This is the highest number of seats any opposition political party managed to secure since independence. If the UDC could forge an alliance with the opposition Botswana Congress Party which secured 19.6 percent of the popular vote in the next election then the political ascendancy of the BDP will end. One of the fault lines which has been highlighted in the October 2014 elections is the rural-urban divide with the ruling BDP maintaining its support in the rural parts of the country whilst the opposition has been making significant inroads amongst the educated middle classes in the urban areas.

As President Khama’s second and final term will end in March 2018, 18 months before elections are due in 2019, the next elections in the country will be most interesting.

06 November, 2014

Districtization in Lesotho: A Desperate Pre-Election Move

by M. K. Mahlakeng

As in most countries, when elections approach, the political sphere becomes interesting. Either because of the war of words between contenders, or maybe because this is the only time civil society feels involved in the political life of a country. It is commonplace that in many democracies and political circles around the World during this period, politicians vie for electoral support by “promising the most benefits from the public treasury”, as Alexander Tyler puts it. And politicians go directly at each other.

Nonetheless, it becomes worrisome when statements are issued or used in a careless racial, tribal and/or ethnic manner in a desperate attempt to win electoral support. This limits the political literacy of the electorate to racial, tribal and/or ethnic lines, and subsequently endangers the political existence on which the well-being of a great many citizens rely, and reduces the mere national allegiance of citizens to racial or tribal allegiance. This is an evident cause of many African intra-state conflicts.

Basotho National Party (BNP) leader, Thesele
‘Maseribane; Prime Minister, Tom Thabane and Lesotho Mounted Police
Service (LMPS) Commissioner, Khothatso Tšooana.

In Lesotho, a homogeneous country with ten districts, where ethno-linguistic structure consists almost entirely of Basotho, an estimated 99.7% of the people identify as Basotho. There remains, however, another form of division. Politically, the national allegiance of citizens tends to be reduced to a small sector of the country (i.e. districts), and popular support is contested and divisions are created on the basis of districts. “Districtization” has become an instrument for electoral support and also a threat to communal peace and stability. This is a phenomenon with serious implications for the future political literacy and stability of Lesotho.

On the 31st October, Prime Minister Thabane, during the (re)opening ceremony of a national referral hospital, Queen Elizabeth II, seized the opportunity to districtize the crisis that led to the closure of the hospital some three years earlier. The 100 year-old hospital had experienced undeniably serious challenges, hence its closure. For instance, the hospital had a severe shortage of basic drugs; it lacked crucial equipment like the CT-Scan, and at times had been forced to suspend surgical operations because of power outages and the malfunctioning of some diagnostic machines. Furthermore, it was short-staffed due to the fact that doctors and nurses were faced with poor working conditions and uncompetitive salaries; and, in many instances, patients were forced to sleep on the floor due to overcrowding and a lack of beds.

In his statement the PM argued that “the closure was political and meant to punish Maseru residents who have been voting overwhelmingly for the All Basotho Convention (ABC) since the party’s formation in 2006 … the person who led government when the hospital was closed is not from Maseru (but Qacha’s Nek District); I strongly believe this hospital was only shut down for political reasons, not that it was too old”. This is despite the fact that such problems still existed in the hospital while he served as a minister in numerous portfolios during the administration of his predecessor.

01 November, 2014

Clickbait and Stereotypes: Media Coverage of the DR Congo

by Virgil Hawkins

On 31 October, Reuters released an article headlined “Congo crowd kills man, eats him after militant massacres: witnesses”. The killing was reported as being motivated by revenge for a series of attacks and massacres perpetrated by the Allied Democratic Forces and National Army for the Liberation of Uganda (ADF-NALU) – the victim was apparently suspected of belonging to this rebel group. The incident was described in just one-fifth (roughly 100 words) of the article, with a single reference stating that the victim's corpse had allegedly been eaten, according to “witnesses”. The vast majority of the article, however (roughly 400 words) is not about this apparent killing. It instead details the recent movements (primarily political and military) related to the conflict between the ADF-NALU and the DRC government.

The article in question

The term clickbait – the misleading use of a provocative or sensationalist title aimed at enticing readers to click on a link – comes to mind, although the article does, in part, cover the actual event the headline mentions. But given the brevity of the description, and the fact that the incident is substantiated only by unnamed and unspecified “witnesses”, one is tempted to question not only the dubious use of the headline, but also how well the facts were actually checked in this case. It is certainly clear that the article was rushed through the editing process – at one point, for example, the rebels are referred to as ADF-NAUL, rather than ADF-NALU.

The Reuters story was picked up by Yahoo!, and the response (at least on the US edition of the site) was overwhelming. In just 12 hours, the article had attracted 6,448 comments. Glancing through these, one struggles to find a single comment that is even vaguely thoughtful, that attempts to seriously discuss the issues raised in the article, questions its validity, or addresses anything in the article apart from the alleged incident of cannibalism. The vast majority of the comments would fit neatly into one (or more) of the following themes: pure racism (Africans/black people have not evolved, and cannibalism is something that they generally do); genocide (sealing off the entire continent and destroying it, or leaving it to its 'fate'); colonial apologism (this is what happens when you take away white European leadership and give them independence); patronizing charity fatigue/resignation (you try to help these people, but this is what they go and do); and obscene attempts at humour (primarily related to cannibalism).

Other recent articles describing the same conflict that were written by news agencies and had been picked up by Yahoo! (US edition), were, perhaps quite predictably, incomparable in terms of the readers' response. One article by AFP, for example, published two weeks earlier describing a massacre of women and children in eastern DRC by the same rebel group attracted just 10 comments in total – those comments were similarly themed to those mentioned above. The responses of Yahoo! readers to the mention of violence in Africa on the whole seem to be primarily based on knee-jerk racism and stereotyping at a grand continental level, and almost invariably include a degree of genocidal thoughts and apparent colonial nostalgia. Add a brief mention of a single incident of cannibalism that may or may not have actually happened, and all this is confirmed and amplified with great vigour. While the article in question did go on to explain some of the issues associated with the conflict, in opening it played to the lowest common denominator, and this denominator turned out to be disturbingly low.

Racism is a product of ignorance, among other factors, and, given the chronic lack of information offered by the news media about Africa in general, the fact that ignorance prevails on such a large scale should not seem surprising. The little information provided about the conflict in the DRC in particular, combined with its unparalleled scale, makes it the greatest stealth conflict in the world today. But it is more than just the lack of information – it is also about the lack of balance in the little information that is provided. And this is not only an issue of balance between 'bad news' and 'good news' (something that is indeed lacking). Consideration must also be given to the balance between brief throwaway journalism (that tends to play to already entrenched stereotypes), and detailed, comprehensive and thoughtful journalism.

Horrible atrocities are a part of any armed conflict – indeed armed conflicts are by definition horrible atrocities. But as those in the journalism industry and academia calling for 'conflict sensitive journalism' and 'peace journalism' teach us, there is so much more to conflict than expressions of violence that needs to be told by the news media. Armed conflict is a complex social phenomenon, and understanding it involves getting to know the root causes (including social, economic and political inequalities), the belligerents (including their motives and objectives), the suffering of its victims, and efforts aimed at reaching a peaceful settlement, among many other aspects. The news media rarely get this balance right, but they certainly tend to do a better job for conflicts that are not occurring in Africa than those that are.

Reuters (and Yahoo!) can do better than this, and, judging by the disturbing array of comments posted in response to this article, so can the casual observer of armed conflict and atrocities.