24 August, 2015

What Went Wrong in Just Two-and-a-Half Years? A Regime in Question

by M. K. Mahlakeng

The SADC Commission of Inquiry to Lesotho, under Prime Minister Pakalitha Mosisili’s request, has widened its terms of references to look at the role of former Prime Minister Tom Thabane’s two-and-a-half year coalition regime in the security and constitutional ills of Lesotho. On 3 July following the death of Brigadier Maaparankoe Mahao, SADC held an Extraordinary Summit of the Double Troika and later established an Independent Commission of Inquiry chaired by Botswana High Court Judge Mpaphi Phumaphi to look into the security and constitutional status of Lesotho which has deteriorated in the past two years.

SABC Report on the Inquiry

In his communiqué to Mr Ramaphosa dated 9th July 2015, Prime Minister Mosisili has requested that the commission make important additions to its terms of references. Firstly, the Commission is requested to investigate the 30 August LDF operation and/or “alleged coup” in which Sub-Inspector Mokheseng Ramahloko lost his life and subsequently led to Thabane to fleeing Lesotho to South Africa. Secondly, the Prime Minister has asked the Commission to investigate the relationship between Thabane and the Lesotho Mounted Police Service (LMPS) which led to the appointment and dismissal of four Commissioners of Police in Thabane’s two-and-a-half years in office.

In conjunction to this, the Prime Minister requested that Thabane’s relationship with former Police Commissioner Khothatso Tšooana, which may have influenced Thabane to award the LMPS “hefty,albeit unbudgeted, salary increase” without Cabinet approval and to the exclusion of the other two security agencies (i.e. Lesotho Correctional Services (LCS) and LDF), be investigated. This conduct is seen to be suspicious of character and has prompted the now go-slow strike in the LCS which started in December 2014 in which LCS staffers have demanded that the government increase their salaries and restructure the institution’s ranks to be level with their counterparts in the country’s security agencies.

It is evident that this go-slow has presented several challenges (administrative paralysis) to the judiciary and police departments whereby staffers have refused to take inmates to and from court hearings and have denied them visitations from legal representatives and family members. Similarly, new inmates are refused admission into facilities causing police stations nationwide to fill to capacity in an attempt to accommodate these inmates. And lastly, according to the Prime Minister, the 12th June 2014 indefinite suspension of Commissioner Napo Sefali of the LCS by Thabane similarly merits investigation.

In addition to its terms of references, the Commissions will probe numerous constitutional and security incidents in Lesotho such as: the 27 January 2014 bombings of several homes (i.e. of Thabane’s partner Liabiloe Ramoholi, ‘Mamoshoeshoe Moletsane and former Police Commissioner Tšooana); the legality and manner of the August 2014 removal of Lieutenant General Tlali Kamoli as head of the LDF and his May 2015 reappointment thereof. However, his reappointment has since been defended by the Prime Minister arguing that this was merely an attempt among several other attempts to rectify the wrongs of his predecessors’ administration; the 25 June 2015 death of Brigadier Maaparankoe Mahao; the killing of member of opposition parties; the Lesotho Defence Force (LDF) investigation into the alleged mutiny plot which encompasses the alleged kidnap of former LDF members; the impact of various changes in the top leadership of the courts such as the January 2015 appointment of the President of the Court of Appeal Justice Kananelo Mosito by Thabane which is considered to possibly impact on the courts’ ability and legitimacy to handle certain criminal and civil cases.

The Commission has recognised the Lesotho Government’s requests as important factors to be added into the Commissions’ terms of references in order to find a lasting solution. Since the 2012 general elections which saw Lesotho’s first coalition government, Lesotho’s security and constitutional status has been under coverage by media outlets for the wrong reasons. Given that words such as “instability”, “coup” etc., have been rhetoric in the last two years, it is not a far-off possibility that these security and constitutional issues may be attributed to the conduct of Thabane’s two-and-a-half years’ regime.

23 July, 2015

Lesotho: A Fight Against a Mutiny Attempt

by M. K. Mahlakeng

Since May 2015, following the reinstatement of Lieutenant General Tlali Kamoli as the commander of the Lesotho Defence Force (LDF), there have been rumours of a plot to overthrow the army leadership. And subsequently, there has been an ongoing operation to probe a suspected mutiny in the army in line with the LDF Act of 1996. According to Major Bulane Sechele (Operation Commander), “the LDF conducted a special operation after it uncovered a mutiny plot by some of its members”.

As a result, a number of events unfolded. These includes the detaining of 56 soldiers implicated in this plot; the fleeing of the tripartite (ABC, BNP, and RCL) opposition party leaders to South Africa; and, the demotion and later killing of the former LDF commander Maaparankoe Mahao. All of which are implicated in this plot. First, from the 14th May 2015, the army has been making arrests of soldiers allegedly involved in the mutiny within the LDF. Fifty-six soldiers have been detained at the Maseru Maximum Security Prison for allegedly being part of a plot to overthrow the army leadership.

Second, tripartite opposition (All Basotho Convention (ABC), Basotho National Party (BNP) and Reformed Congress for Lesotho (RCL) leaders (former PM Thomas Thabane, Thesele ‘Maseribane and Keketso Rantšo) have fled Lesotho to South Africa on the 11th, 13th and 26th May respectively. On the one hand, this was amidst claims over security concerns that they had been alerted of a plot to kill them by the LDF. On the other hand, it has been argued that they have fled Lesotho because of their alleged role in the mutiny. However, both these claims respectively have not yet been accompanied by tangible proof.

Third, on the 29th August 2014, Brigadier Maaparankoe Mahao was appointed as Lieutenant General and LDF Commander. This was following the sacking of Tlali Kamoli as LDF commander due to claims of an August attempted coup against former Prime Minister Tom Thabane’s coalition administration.

On the 21st May 2015, two and a half months after the defeat of the then PM Thabane’s coalition by the current coalition led by PM Pakalitha Mosisili in the 28th February 2015 general snap elections, Mahao was removed as head of the LDF and demoted from Lt General to Brigadier. Mahao’s appointment as LDF commander was argued by government as illegal due to the failure to follow due process hence the demotion from Lt General to Brigadier and removal as LDF commander. Government then declared Lt Gen. Kamoli as a rightful LDF commander.

Subsequently, during the same operation by the army to probe a suspected mutiny, Brigadier Mahao was shot dead on the 25th June 2015 during a shootout. The Military and the Defence Minister Tšeliso Mokhosi through their statements respectively have indicated that “the former commander was resisting arrest and there was an exchange of gunfire which subsequently led to his killing”.

These events ultimately led to a SADC Extraordinary Summit of the Double Troika in Pretoria. On the 3rd of July, SADC held an Extraordinary Summit of the Double Troika following concerns over the security situation in Lesotho and the killing of Mahao. The Summit endorsed PM Mosisili’s proposal that a Commission of Inquiry be established to look into these security issues. This proposed Inquiry will be three folded. Firstly, The Inquiry is expected to look into the circumstances surrounding Mahao’s murder. Secondly, the Inquiry is also expected to look into the events that led to the alleged 30 August attempted coup against former PM Thabane’s coalition government. And lastly, The Court Martial to try LDF suspects for alleged mutiny would be suspended during the Inquiry period.

16 July, 2015

South Africa’s Dim Economic Prospects

by Hussein Solomon

The opening sentence in the editorial in this morning’s Sunday Times could scarcely be bleaker, “Our economy is trapped in stagflation, characterised by low growth, high inflation and, to add salt to those painful truths, rising unemployment”. Worse, when one looks at the trends – there is no shining light at the end of the tunnel.

South Africa’s business confidence index has declined to 84.6 index points – its lowest level in 16 years. The lack of business confidence is seen in corporate South Africa choosing not to invest its billions in the country as well as the emigration of high net worth individuals. To put matters into perspective, 8000 dollar millionaires have left South Africa since 2000. These individuals also tend to have the scarce skill sets that the country so desperately needs if we truly wish to grow the economy. Manufacturing production has fallen for the second consecutive quarter and the economy, according to some economists, risks recession and further credit-rating downgrades.

Yet, things did not have to be this way. South Africa’s economic wounds are self-inflicted. In recent travels to Ethiopia I have watched that country grow with young people leading the drive in business innovation. In Kenya the entrepreneurial spirit of young people is amazing with the number of tech start-ups staggering. Sadly, when I ask my final year BA students what they intend to do – it is generally to work for government. This at a time – when the incompetence of our bloated civil service has become legendary even on the African continent. What 21 years of African National Congress (ANC) rule has successfully accomplished was to kill the entrepreneurial spirit of South Africans whilst at the same time creating dependency on the state through social grants and the like. This, despite the fact that it is just not economically sustainable. Given rising debt, it seems that government is considering raising personal income tax yet again. Give the small percentage of tax payers employed in the formal sector this is hardly an effective strategy. Moreover, it will only further undermine growth as consumption decreases as well as increase the emigration of further skill sets.

It is not rocket science to get South Africa to grow. We need to radically restructure our education system so skills sets produced align with our economic needs. We need to instil into our young people a strong work ethic and entrepreneurial skills. Government needs to look upon business as an ally for development and not an enemy. We need to ensure that our labour market is flexible. We need to eliminate the red tape to facilitate business start-ups. We need to guarantee a stable electricity supply without which growth is impossible. We need to end corruption which has increasingly become institutionalized. And, yes we need to make hard choices - taking on the trade unions. At the end of the day – we should be more concerned with the millions unemployed and get them working as opposed to further entrenching the labour aristocracies which our trade unions have been transformed into.

Yet, as I write this I know two things. First, the Zuma government lacks the vision and the political will to implement any of these reforms. A case in point is the moribund National Development Plan adopted by the ANC and not implemented. Second, time is running out. Our economic challenges will escalate in the short-term. The recent 30 percent plunge of the Chinese stock-market holds grave challenges to our domestic economy given our dependence on the Chinese market for the export of our raw materials. The fact that the US Federal Reserve is contemplating an increase in interest rates will also negatively impact on us as foreign investors look for better returns on Wall Street as opposed to the Johannesburg Stock Exchange.

Unless, we as a country can begin making painful decisions in the short-term, we will all suffer in the long-term.

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.

01 June, 2015

Kamuzu Banda’s Legacy: Eighteen Years after His Demise

by Harvey C.C. Banda

14 May was a very popular day during the one party regime in Malawi. It was a day when Malawians from all walks of life, whether they liked or not, commemorated the birthday of the then His Excellency the Life President Ngwazi Dr Hastings Kamuzu Banda (may his soul rest in peace). This year, like most years during the multi-party dispensation, this day passed largely unnoticed. In fact, 14th May is no longer a public holiday in Malawi. 2015 marks eighteen years since his passing in 1997. In this article I reflect in passing on the legacy of Dr Hastings Kamuzu Banda in the history of Malawi. I argue that although Kamuzu Banda, like any other human being, had his own weaknesses and strengths, politically he left behind a resounding and lasting legacy.

During the years before the transition to multi-party politics in 1994, 14 May was as important in Malawi as other key public holidays like 6 July, the day Malawians celebrate the attainment of independence (in 1964) and 3 March (Martyrs Day), when Malawians remember the sacrifice that Malawians made in fighting against the oppressive colonial rule. Most of these holidays have lost touch over the years. On 3 March in the past, for example, people had to stay away from their daily business. This was a must and anything to the contrary drew the wrath of the state machinery: the price for such an act was one year detention with releas the following March. Members of the Malawi Youth League (MYL), a wing under the Malawi Congress Party (MCP), had their intelligence ‘ears’ everywhere in the country and regularly pounced on offenders.

One of the controversies not yet settled among historians about Kamuzu Banda surrounds his year of birth. This is an issue which, to an extent, is associated more with myths than reality. So many contradictory years have been advanced on the birth of one man: Kamuzu. The following are some of the years in question: 1896; 1898; 1902; and 1906. In my view, this is not surprising for two main reasons: first, the question of literacy levels then among parents as mission-led education was just being introduced in different parts of the country from the 1880s onwards. As a result of this, some parents in the rural areas were still illiterate and could not remember and record the years of birth of their children. Second, the early life of Kamuzu is clouded in mystery, for example, his early schooling and how he travelled to South Africa en route to the United States of America to further his education. In this connection, his year of birth is part and parcel of this deadening mystery.

The following account illustrates the mystery in question. According to K.K. Virmani, in his book Dr Banda: In the Making of Malawi (1992), Dr Banda was born of Chewa parents in Kasungu district in 1902. However, Rev. Msokera Phiri, who claimed to be Dr Banda’s uncle, maintained that he was born in 1898. When the young Banda came of age, he went to Livingstonia Mission for his junior primary school education. Here it was Rev. Phiri, then in the employ of the mission, who looked after the young Banda. History indicates that Phiri left Livingstonia Mission for Hartley in Zimbabwe; leaving Banda behind. Aged thirteen, Banda wanted to join the teacher training course at Livingstonia, but was suspected of cheating during the entrance examinations and was, thereafter, expelled. However, the story goes, Banda was not cheating, but he was actually leaning towards another student in front of him, trying to see clearly the blackboard because of sight problems. Following his expulsion, young Banda joined his uncle in Zimbabwe. However, at Hartley both did not stay long before moving to South Africa in 1917. After briefly working in the mines, Banda joined the African Methodist Episcopal Church in Johannesburg in 1922. It was this church which provided financial assistance for his further education in America from 1925 onwards.

Kamuzu Banda
Fast forward, Dr Banda returned to Malawi (then Nyasaland) in 1958 and after several conflicts with the British colonial masters led Malawi to independence on 6 July 1964. It is indicated that the use of detention without trial by the colonial regimes had prevented the emergence of different political ‘fronts’. Practically, though, it provided a style of governance which was soon emulated by the rulers of the newly-independent states. In fact, this seemed to have been the pattern in most African countries: the nationalist leaders fought against oppression, but immediately after attaining independence, they used the very approaches to suppress, unfortunately this time around, genuine opposition!

Independent Malawi was soon associated with a poor human rights record: purging of political opponents, for example, through detention without trial; repression and stifling of any independent political activity; exiling of political opponents; and official discrimination of religious minorities, a good example of which are the Jehova’s witnesses (the latter’s offence was their utter refusal to join the MCP). In order to do all these, the MCP was remodelled and took on board bodies such as the paramilitary Malawi Young Pioneers (MYP) and the Malawi Youth League. These two were eventually armed with powers of arrest. It is fascinating to note that officially the MYP was aimed at imparting agricultural skills to a cross-section of Malawians. In practice, the truth was actually the opposite and this was merely a front. In some cases, the MYL was seemingly more powerful than the Malawi Police forces in as far as the treatment of offenders and suspects is concerned.

As if this was not enough, Dr. Banda’s regime strongly promoted nepotism and tribalism. In this connection, although Malawi was described as an ethnically homogenous country, it had been riven by deep ethnic and regional tensions. President Banda seemed to favour the Chewa from the Central Region against the Tumbuka of the Northern Region, on the one hand, and the Yao and the Lhomwe of the Southern Region, on the other hand. It is unfortunate that the signs and symptoms of such regionalism and nepotism are still visible in democratic Malawi up to the present day.

On a positive note, however, Dr. Banda ushered in what may be described as genuine and lasting development. He embarked on massive infrastructural development throughout the country. This resulted in the construction of roads, schools, hospitals and market centres. These structures are still solid and in use up to date. The University of Malawi, with several constituent colleges, attest to this. The only drawback is that, like many other aspects, such development initiatives were regionally-based, with the Northern Region lagging behind among the three regions. Sadly, again, this trend has continued up to date. Realising that Malawi had an agrarian economy, relying mainly on tobacco, he encouraged the cultivation of cash crops in addition to maize, the staple food crop. He also made deliberate efforts to provide a market for the farm produce: the Agricultural Development and Marketing Corporation (ADMARC). Through this structure, farmers took farming as an occupation because of the assurance of the steady market for their produce. However, one persistent outcry amongst farmers were persistent low buying prices by ADMARC; a sign of exploitation, indeed.

Furthermore, Malawians were generally hard working, industrious and disciplined people. This can be attributed to the four cornerstones (locally dubbed ngodya zinayi) on which MCP was built: unity, loyalty, obedience and discipline. This was reinforced by songs which had been coined to that effect. These songs were a common feature during public celebrations through such traditional dances as Chimtali, Chiwoda, Gule wamkulu, Mganda and Malipenga. All these were virtually thrown to the dogs at the onset of democratic governance in 1994.

In a nutshell, Malawi under Br Hastings Kamuzu Banda was both ‘a totalitarian state’ and ‘a personal despotism’ in which the state apparatus was answerable to one man: His Excellency the Life President Ngwazi Dr. Hastings Kamuzu Banda. However, if one reflects on the negative and positive aspects of Dr Banda’s legacy, the positive aspects, in my view, far outweigh the negative ones. However, this depends on one’s view point and the focal point at hand. It should, therefore, not be surprising to see other people reaching a totally different and contrary conclusion. I am persuaded to arrive at this conclusion by comparing Dr Banda’s legacy with the legacies of the successive democratically-elected governments in Malawi since 1994. To a large extent democratic Malawi is relatively in socio-economic and political shambles!

13 May, 2015

‘Xenophobia’ and Being a ‘Proud’ Citizen in Post-Apartheid South Africa

by Sayaka Kono

Again, massive ‘xenophobic’ attacks threatened foreign nationals in South Africa. The saddest thing is the fact that both the victims and the assailants are the ones who suffer from poverty. South Africa is economically highly developed compared to its neighbour countries. That is the very pull factor for the migrants, but at the same time, this development has become possible because of the economic oppression of the majority. At first, it was the oppression of the South Africans who were excluded from the South African state and the Africans in the neighbor countries. After 1994, however, the structure of the oppression was continued. The matter is not the colour anymore, but the oppressed are still oppressed except for a few.

I stayed in one of the poor areas in a township for oral history research. The area I normally stay is full of shacks and mud houses. Many of the residents are unemployed. HIV/AIDS affects a lot of households. I could see that people were not satisfied with the current government. Interestingly, however, I found that many people were so proud of talking about their own country, even though they felt they had not been treated properly by the ANC government. The common reason they mentioned is South Africa’s development. I heard many people showed a pity to the migrants from other African countries, saying that their countries are poor or ‘uncivilized’. That is why, they said, the migrants had to come to South Africa. The similar perceptions can often be seen not only among the poor South Africans but also among other stratus, even the emerging African middle class who gain benefit from the new government.

The aftermath of attacks in Botshabelo, 2012

Being proud of one’s own country is not a bad thing, but it can be a dangerous thing as well, since it might let people be blind to where they are in the world. And I believe that this is exactly what is happening to many of the people who have grown up in South Africa. During the apartheid era, people were isolated from information. Media was monitored by the government. Education was also controlled by the government. Thus people were forcefully kept ‘ignorant’ by the apartheid government. A similar situation continued in the poorer areas even after 1994. Education is corrupted, and the access to information is very limited there. The little change is that all the people know that ‘ANC ended the apartheid and we have freedom’. The structure of the oppression has not changed yet as I mentioned above. However, since they still live in a very narrow world which is arbitrary limited, many people easily believe that the migrants from the neighbor countries come to South Africa because South Africa is ‘nice and rich’, without seriously thinking about how these migrants perceive their life there.

Allow me to use the example of the Zimbabweans I met in South Africa. Some of them are educational elites at university. Others are street venders and factory workers. Very few among them told me that they were comfortable living in South Africa. Although many of them want to stay in South Africa for economic or political reasons, they miss their country. Mealie meal which is not GMO, kitchen gardens which you can hardly see in South Africa, daily conversation which is not always materialistic. They could list up so many things they miss in their country. From this list, I had the impression that the major difference they mentioned are caused by the neoliberal culture in the post-apartheid era. I became more confident with this impression of mine when I visited Harare. Most of the people with small informal business on the streets had experienced staying in South Africa, or have close relatives there. Although they admit political and economic hardship in Zimbabwe, they prefer to stay in their country at the time of my interviews, not only because of their family and friends but also the difference of the sense of value, life style and so on.

A kitchen garden in Harare

Here I am not saying which country is better, but pointing out that there are different values which many Zimbabweans cherish, and many South Africans do not know. Furthermore, these differences might be what South Africa has lost by their adoption of neoliberalism. This might be what the ‘proud’ South African poor do not understand. They would not understand what the migrants sacrifice to come to South Africa. They are left behind in the competition, but they are not even allowed to realize what they have lost.

My point is the feeling of despair which has been strengthened through their ‘ignorance’. They are suffering from poverty. But they know their country is developed and ‘rich’, and they are proud of it. They can even see their ex-fellow comrades owing huge houses and driving very expensive cars. The ANC says that this is a free country and that apartheid is over. Many migrants from ‘poor’ countries are working here and there. So they should also be able to get benefit from it. They should also be able to improve their lives, but the reality expressed by many is, “South Africa should be the best country, and I am a citizen of that best country. But why are we struggling to get a job?”

I would not apply this perception to all the South African people. Nonetheless, I cannot help but be left with the impression that many South Africans are locked up in a very small world bound hand and feet by the complex apartheid legacy. There are various grass-roots movements protesting the structure of the oppression. The South African government, however, does not have time to waste. Yes, it has been only twenty years since the abolishment of the apartheid laws. Yet, people’s dissatisfaction is growing faster than the country is changing. The explosion of the hopelessness and anger expressed through the attacks towards foreign nationals will not stop until the fundamental issues are seriously acknowledged and addressed.

08 May, 2015

Where From? Where To? Malawian Migrants in the Wake of the April 2015 Xenophobic Attacks

by Harvey C.C. Banda

Much has been written on the plight of immigrants from various African countries resident in South Africa following the eruption of xenophobic attacks in April 2015. These attacks started in Durban or Kwazulu-Natal area, especially following the so-called xenophobic sentiments expressed by King Goodwill Zwelithini. Barely a few days after such sentiments a horde of South Africans rushed out, attacking foreigners and looting their shops demanding that they “go back home”. This was sensationally described in the print media in South Africa as “looting for our king!”

In this article, firstly, I critique the response of both the host country, in this case, South Africa, and the sending country, that is, Malawi, following these attacks. I argue that the response by the South African government was rather slow, lukewarm and, above all, characterised by denialism about the existence of xenophobia. The same response was notable after the 2008 xenophobic attacks. On the part of the Malawi government, I am of the view that much as it came in promptly, it would have been much better to transform from reactive to proactive approaches in as far as the socio-economic plight of Malawians is concerned. The Malawi government sounded to be very caring in responding to the needs of Malawian migrants who fell victim to these attacks. But looking at the bigger picture, the question would be: Why not impart the promised skills to Malawians for use in their day to day lives in order to prevent the mass exodus of unskilled and semi-skilled Malawians in the first place?

Secondly, I examine the dilemma facing Malawian migrants displaced from South Africa by these attacks: should they go back to South Africa? If yes, such a move would be tantamount to risking their lives in case of fresh xenophobic waves. Or should they forget about South Africa and settle down in Malawi? But, practically, what will they be doing by way of earning a living? If it were that easy, would they have emigrated to the xenophobic, dangerous and, therefore, life-threatening South Africa in the first place?

Xenophobia has emerged as a deep-rooted social phenomenon in South Africa, especially after the collapse of Apartheid in 1994. Many South Africans seemed to have developed hatred against foreigners, blaming them for a host of ills in society: that they are bringers of diseases, especially HIV/AIDS; take way jobs and contribute to systemic low wages since they grab anything that comes their way; to such extreme claims that they snatch women from them. However, with time it has become apparent that this hatred carries a racial tag. These xenophobic attacks are particularly directed at foreigners of African origin, that is, fellow blacks from African countries. In addition, fellow South Africans from the north of the country, for example, the Shangaan and the Pedi, have also fell victim in the process simply because the Zulu largely rely on ‘street language tests’ and whoever fails to prove proficiency in isiZulu is deemed to be ‘a foreigner’.

Malawians returning from South Africa (18 April 2015)

Consequently, there is currently a hot debate among scholars and observers whether to characterise these attacks as xenophobia, afro-phobia or negro-phobia. According to Christina Steenkamp in a research paper titled Xenophobia in South Africa: What Does It Say About Trust? (2009), xenophobia refers to the irrational fear of the unknown or, specifically, as the fear or hatred of those with a different nationality. It relies heavily on the circulation of myths and stereotypes about foreigners. Hence the belief among South Africans that foreigners are a source of problems in their midst. Loren Landau in Exorcising the Demons Within: Xenophobia, Violence and Statecraft in Contemporary South Africa (2011) soberly notes that there is no single word referring to ‘foreigner’ in South Africa, rather a cross-section of such words as makwerekwere, magrigamba, amagoduka, amaVerkom, cockroach and mapoti.

In the wake of xenophobic attacks in April this year, the official South African government response was sluggish to say the least. It took long for the government to denounce the inhumane attacks on foreigners. The government was busy refuting that whatever was happening was xenophobia and that maintaining that South Africans are not xenophobic. How can you describe that as xenophobia? We have foreigners from around the globe; why are these attacks only directed at African nationals? These were some of the questions usually posed. In my view, whether this was xenophobia or afro-phobia is immaterial, what is crucial is prompt government response to save innocent lives and property. The government kept on assuring the public that the situation was under control and that there was no need, as yet, to involve the army. When the latter came in, unfortunately, thousands of foreigners had already been displaced from their homes.

It has been noted that the same was the response after the outbreak of violence in 2008. In fact, the official response was to deny that xenophobia was involved and, furthermore, that it existed at all! Thambo Mbeki is quoted as having argued that those who claimed that South Africans were xenophobic were themselves guilty of xenophobia. Clearly this is a classic element of denialism on the part of the government.

The Malawi government deserves appreciation for the way it assisted Malawian migrants stranded in South Africa as a result of the April xenophobic attacks. It hired buses which were at the disposal of all those who felt threatened and were willing to return home. In short, repatriation was at the discretion of those affected. In addition, the Malawi government promised to ensure that the repatriates settled down in Malawi and found something to do in order to earn a living. There were plans to introduce artisanal skills, for instance, tailoring and carpentry, for the direct benefit of these repatriates. This is a good and commendable initiative, indeed. However, if only this were to be the everyday approach of government in assisting the unskilled Malawians, we would not have been grappling with this problem of emigrants to South Africa!

The mixed reaction of Malawian migrants to the violent attacks in April shows clearly why labour migration from Malawi to neighbouring countries is a century-old phenomenon. Asked on the life after xenophobia in South Africa, migrants gave two contrasting responses. For some this was the end of the migration journey, arguing they were never going to come back to this ‘xenophobic country’. While for others, surprisingly, by going home they were simply taking a break and waiting for the violence to die down. “If I am to stay permanently at home, what will I be doing? There are no opportunities there”, some responded. In fact, it was reported that barely a few weeks after repatriation, a few Malawians were caught on a bus in Lilongwe amongst fresh emigrants, heading back to South Africa. This shows how deep-rooted the migration phenomenon is and the tough task that both the Malawi and South African governments have in permanently tackling this migration problem.

At this juncture, I am compelled to agree with the migration experts who are of the view that there is need for ‘migration governance’ in order to solve the migration challenges between sending and receiving countries, for example, in southern Africa. In this case, there is need for concerted efforts between the concerned governments regarding cooperation and coordination in migration issues. As for the Malawian migrants recently repatriated in the aftermath of the attacks in question, going by the sluggish and ambivalent response by the South African government, they are better off finding something to do back home: I am afraid to say the xenophobia monster had been bruised, but is not yet dead and buried. It is not good to take a risk in such a situation!

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.