03 December, 2012

SA: On Our Way to a Banana Republic

by Hussein Solomon

As the festive season approaches, I am desperately trying to escape the feeling of gloom that pervades me as we approach the end of the year – and for once it has nothing to do with the imminent fulfilment of the Mayan prophecy.

No, the sense of gloom stems directly from my sense that South Africa is well on its way to a Banana Republic and that 2013 may be much worse than 2012. At the economic level, the country’s growth slowed to a paltry 1.2 percent in the third quarter. Economic contraction will continue in the next year as a result of a combination of external factors such as the danger that the European Union, our largest trading partner, will enter into a double dip recession as a result of the austerity measures being imposed. This will see an ever great trade deficit. Internal factors such as the recent labour unrest have also served to undermine our economic prospects. Strikes have not merely undermined investor confidence (seen in the recent credit downgrades) but have also resulted in greater people joining the ranks of the unemployed. As the gap between haves and have-nots widen in South Africa expect greater social alienation and political agitation. In these circumstances expect more Marikanas’ and more De Doorns’.

On the political front, it is clear that our democratic order is coming under severe threat from the ANC. The imminent passage of The Protection of State Information Bill into law which imposes such draconian measures as a five-year jail term for possessing or disclosing classified state information marks just one threat. It should be noted that this bill should also be seen in the context of sustained attacks on our judiciary by the ruling party as well as the harassment of journalists and the ongoing politicization of our intelligence services.

The clearest sign that our country is on the path towards a Banana Republic however is seen in the ANC’s internal power struggles. Two events this week highlight an ominous trend – the use of violence to decide who sits in office. The Limpopo provincial general council meeting convened to choose who they would be voting for in Mangaung had to be called off when the meeting was attacked by hordes wearing t-shirts emblazoned with Jacob Zuma’s face on it. Limpopo was expected to follow Gauteng in support of the Deputy President Kgalema Motlanthe come Mangaung. To make matters worse, the local police seemed to have taken their time in responding to the aggression by Zuma supporters.

In the North-West province, meanwhile, there was an assassination attempt at senior ANC provincial leader Kabelo Mataboge – a key supporter of Motlanthe. If violence is the instrument of choice for the ANC in settling political succession, what prevents the ruling party from deploying this destructive force against the political opposition, journalists or members of civil society who threaten their political hegemony in future?

Maybe the ancient Mayans were onto something – maybe Zuma’s second term in Mangaung this December signifies something catastrophic. Maybe I need some Prozac to get into the festive spirit!

22 November, 2012

The Other Conflict: Covering Eastern DRC

by Virgil Hawkins

Never mind that the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) hosts the world's deadliest conflict today, or that the current levels of violence are the worst seen there in the past five years. Whatever its status or state of affairs, the conflict, the country, and the region are going to struggle to attract any substantive levels of media coverage from the outside world.

This sad reality reflects entrenched patterns in terms of the various factors that editors and producers use to help them decide what they think is newsworthy and what is not. These include race, socioeconomic status and perceived national/political interests. Being poor, black and outside the range of vital national interests of the world's powerful countries certainly does not help. Central Africa's chances of getting attention are not good at the 'best' of times.

So it doesn't require much imagination to predict what will happen to media coverage when a major outbreak of violence in the DRC happens to coincide with a major outbreak of violence in a part of the world that is deemed as being exceptionally 'important'.

Since mid-November, this is precisely what has happened. Unfortunately for the people of eastern DRC (though perhaps fortunately for those leading the offensive and their backers), the rebel (M23) assault on, and capture of, the major city of Goma, has coincided almost perfectly with the conflict over Gaza. This has effectively ruled out the possibility of any substantive media-led concern, indignation or interest regarding the fate of eastern DRC and its people.

Let us first let the figures speak for themselves. The following graph shows the levels of coverage in the New York Times (including both online and print) in the one week leading up to the fall of Goma to the rebels.

In this one-week period, the New York Times produced, in response to the escalating conflict in the DRC, 2,947 words in 5 articles (none of which were front-page stories or editorials). For Israel-Palestine, it produced 48,711 words in 60 articles, including 12 front-page stories and 3 editorials. In terms of word count, the conflict in Israel-Palestine attracted 17 times more coverage than did the conflict in the DRC.

And this yawning gap in coverage, this terribly disproportionate level of interest, certainly does not just apply to the New York Times. It is a trend that applies to the news media globally, both online and off.

Any incidence of conflict in Israel-Palestine is automatically newsworthy, for a number of reasons, most importantly elite political interest in powerful Western countries. It is clear that factors such as the death toll or level of humanitarian suffering are unlikely to feature in a major way in the decisions in response to foreign conflict made by policymakers in these countries. But it is shameful that these factors do not feature either in decisions made by media gatekeepers regarding newsworthiness.

Is it too much to ask that the decision-makers in media corporations tone down their deference to elite interests a little, shake off some of the urge to ignore the plight of those whose skin and/or passports are of a different colour from their own, and take a new and fresh look at the state of the world?

20 November, 2012

Just the Bad News: Reporting on Peace Operations in the DRC

by Virgil Hawkins

“No news is good news” – so goes an old adage. But it does not necessarily apply to the reporting of conflict in Africa by media corporations from beyond the continent, for no news does not necessarily mean an absence of bad news. It often simply means that the media corporations have decided that the events on the continent (both good and bad) are not worthy of reporting.

By the same token, if a recent study by the author is any indication, on the not-so-common occasions that issues related to conflict and peace in Africa are reported, it is indeed the 'bad' news that gets the coverage. The study in question involved measuring the coverage by the New York Times of peace operations in the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) over the course of the thirteen years since it was established. The coverage was measured by a word count. The results can be seen in the figure below.

New York Times' coverage of peace operations in the DRC (1999-2012)

There was some coverage of the UN Mission in the Congo (MONUC) when it was established by the UN Security Council in 1999, and more in 2000, particularly as it encountered difficulties in deploying because of obstacles on the ground. But as conditions changed, allowing their deployment in full, and as the peacekeepers began fanning out across the country in early 2001, coverage virtually disappeared – good news simply wasn't news.

It would be two years before the New York Times would show any interest in covering the peace operations in the DRC again. This time, massacres in the Ituri district led to the possibility (and realization) of intervention by a small French-led European Union force. A combination of the massacres and the deployment of Western troops in response got the attention of the newspaper, but not for long. The EU force would only stay for three months (MONUC would remain), but coverage lasted for little more than one month – the situation had calmed in the town in which the forces were deployed. This was as concentrated as coverage of peace operations in the DRC would ever get.

More bad news – a scandal involving sexual abuse perpetrated by some peacekeepers – attracted a reasonable degree of attention more than a year later. Between 2008 and 2010, peacekeepers' failures to stop rebel advances, and their dubious collaboration with government troops accused of human rights abuses also was the object of some coverage, but not that much. Coverage has since flatlined.

Since peace operations began in the DRC, there is no question that there have been numerous negative occurrences worthy of reporting, but there have also been positive achievements made in helping keep a very fragile region from falling apart altogether. This also equally deserves our attention.

At the time of writing, rebels are at the gates of the eastern city of Goma again, and MONUC's successor, the UN Stabilization Mission in Congo (MONUSCO) is using helicopter gunships in an attempt to halt their advance. We hope that the New York Times will not simply continue its tradition of reporting the bad news and little else. More importantly, we hope that further violence can be averted, leaving the newspaper with no more bad news to write about.

19 November, 2012

The Dismal State of South Africa's Political Leadership

by Hussein Solomon

Two news stories this week caught my eye and prompted my reflection on the state of political leadership in South Africa.

The first was the story of General David Petraeus who stepped down as Director of the Central Intelligence Agency following reports of his affair with his biographer. From all accounts, General Petraeus was not pushed out of his job and indeed President Obama did ask him to reconsider his resignation but it seems that Petraeus said that he exercised poor judgement and that he failed his own standards of right conduct.

The story of Petraeus stands in sharp contrast to our own sorry political leadership. Can one imagine President Jacob Zuma saying that he exercised poor judgement with his friendship of Schabir Shaikh or poor judgement in his sexual liaisons and was therefore stepping down? Of course, one cannot. In similar vein, can one imagine a senior ANC member like Tony Yengeni who has served time in jail to be too embarrassed to continue to hold political office and in the interests of his party and the country stepping out of the political and public limelight? The answer is also negative. Neither of these men have an ounce of moral credibility and neither have an ounce of patriotism to this country.

The second story emanates from Egypt. A tragic accident occurred when a train collided into a school bus resulting in the death of 49 children. The Minister of Transport and Communications immediately took responsibility and handed his resignation to the president who accepted it. This was followed by the resignation of the Head of Egypt’s Railway Authority. Neither of these gentlemen was pressured into resigning but both felt that the buck stopped with them. Both felt accountable for the deaths of these children.

Compare this with South Africa where our political mandarins do not even know the meaning of the word “accountability”. The Minister of Basic Education refuses to take political responsibility for not getting textbooks into schools on time. The Premier of Limpopo refuses to take responsibility for the fact that his province is a cesspool of corrupt tenderpreneurs. The ANC leadership in the Eastern Cape refuses to take responsibility for the fact that they simply cannot govern this province – from potholed roads, to appalling conditions in hospitals, to dysfunctional schools.

I am always amazed at the potential this great country of ours has. I am amazed at the teacher I came across who stayed on in the late afternoons to assist his weaker students with their studies. I am amazed at the medical doctor who offers his services free to the less fortunate. I am amazed at the resilience of South Africans generally in hard times and the fact that they can still smile and laugh. But unless our political leadership can exercise good judgement and are accountable for their actions, the potential of this country will never be realized.

07 November, 2012

Time to Put Africa Front and Centre, President Obama

by Hussein Solomon

US President Barrack Obama has been re-elected for a second term after a hard-fought electoral campaign. What are the implications for Africa? When Obama occupied the White House for the first time, there was an expectation in Africa that Obama, with his Kenyan ancestral roots, would do much for Africa. Sadly he was to disappoint.
Indeed, Africa was almost an after-thought for Obama in his first term in office. Consider the following: it was only in June 2012, five months ago, that the White House released an official African strategy. And whilst US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, visited 15 African countries in four separate trips, President Obama only managed to spend a measly twenty hours in Ghana in July 2009 where he gave a speech on democracy with no substantial follow-up.

To be sure, Africa was knocked off the radar screen in Washington by the ongoing Eurozone crisis, the rise of China, the Arab Spring, the Iran nuclear question and America’s own economic woes. Still, Obama’s Africa record pales into comparison if one considers his two predecessors’ engagement with the African continent.

President Bill Clinton’s African Growth and Opportunity Act (AGOA) reduced trade barriers for more than 1800 products from the continent. This served to stimulate African economies which were good for Africa and the United States. Trade between the US and Africa tripled to over US $90 billion since 2000.

President George Bush’s Millennium Challenge initiative built on President Clinton’s AGOA and partnered with 13 countries on the continent in an effort to stimulate their economies. Bush’s efforts to curb malaria on the continent resulted in steep declines in African child mortality in several African countries. George Bush’s President’s Emergency Plan for AIDS Relief or PEPFAR served to save the lives of 2,4 million Africans with HIV/AIDS.

In contrast, I can only think of only one major African success story for the Obama White House – Sudan. Vigorous diplomatic efforts prevented a return to war whilst assisting with the independence of South Sudan.

Here is my wish-list to President Obama in his second term. First and foremost foster more economic growth in Africa. Despite the fact that the continent is home of six of the world’s ten fastest growing economies, more needs to be done. After all seven out of ten Africans are living without electricity. Africa needs international assistance in these crucial areas.

Second, economic growth will not take place without peace. Peace will not be attained if the African Union’s Peace and Security structure remains deficient. The crisis in northern Mali, for instance, clearly demonstrates that the much vaunted African Standby Force (ASF) remains a paper tiger. President Obama, and more specifically, United States African Command, needs to greatly assist the ASF to make its vision a reality.

Third, given the fragility of many African states, the continent cannot afford a repeat of the Cold War – this time between Washington and Beijing as they fight for influence on the African continent. Consensus between the United States and China in their relations with Africa is absolutely crucial.

President Obama, it is time to put Africa front and centre in your second term.

01 November, 2012

Zuma vs Motlanthe: It Really Does not Matter!

by Hussein Solomon

As we approach Mangaung, I am being inundated by journalists enquiring about the current state of the leadership tussle within the ANC between President Jacob Zuma and his deputy, Kgalema Motlanthe. Would the sudden inflation of delegates from KwaZulu-Natal ensure a Zuma victory? Would Marikana and its aftermath harm the President’s standing? Would Ebrahim Harvey’s book on Motlanthe assist his campaign?

Frankly, I could not care less since whatever the outcome at Mangaung, it would not make any difference to the lives of ordinary South Africans. I do agree with most commentators that a President Motlanthe would lend the Union Buildings more gravitas. For instance, I do not see an artist like Brett Murray painting Motlanthe’s penis nor do I see cartoonist Zapiro drawing Motlanthe with a shower on his head. At the same time, I do not see, whatever the outcome of the leadership tussle, any substantive change emanating from Mangaung.

As I watch Obama and Romney slug it out in the final week of the US elections engaging each other on issues as disparate as their respective visions on US foreign policy and their plans to fix the stagnant US economy, I notice that this is what is lacking in the run-up to Mangaung. Zuma’s praise singers demand that he should be given a second term. Motlanthe’s supporters, meanwhile, believe that he will make a better president. What their respective policy platforms are to fix our moribund economy and reassure foreign investors (the South African economy lost 44 percent of foreign direct investment in the first half of 2012) we do not know. What their respective policy platforms are to restore public trust in the police services, in the midst of persistently high crime levels, we do not know. What their respective policy platforms are to deal with endemic corruption, we do not know. Indeed, ANC delegates are supposed to vote merely for or against a personality not a policy position. This is ridiculous. If anything describes the intellectual poverty of the ANC, this is it. It is also the most glaring reason why the ANC cannot govern South Africa.

Whilst President Zuma was always uniquely unsuited for the tasks of leading this nation, the issue which perturbs me most about Motlanthe is that he does not seem to be a strong enough personality given the challenges confronting the country. At no point has he decided to openly state that he wished to run for the highest office of the land. He prefers, it seems, to want to lead from behind – which is no leadership at all. As Secretary-General of the ANC he would bemoan the disarray of the branches but did nothing to crack the whip and fix the problem. South Africans need strong leadership. We need a President who would tackle the problems confronting the mining industry much more forcefully. We need a President who would call the Minister of Basic Education and say, “Angie, I am tired of your excuses. The state of our schools is a disgrace. I do not want someone who cannot get textbooks into schools on time in my cabinet. Our children deserve better. You are fired!” This, of course, would never happen in the ANC under a Zuma or Motlanthe presidency.

Sadly the choice for ANC delegates at Mangaung is between the fatally flawed incumbent and the rather weak and mediocre Motlanthe – both of which have no solutions to the multiple crises confronting South Africa. This is the real tragedy for a country which has so much potential.

14 October, 2012

The Economy is in Crisis. Where the Hell is Leadership?

by Hussein Solomon

The South African economy stands on the precipice of economic recession as a result of an unhappy confluence of external and internal variables. Externally, South Africa’s integration into the global economy is resulting in our economy feeling the negative effects of the Eurozone crisis and the slowing down of the Chinese economy. With no short-term solution in sight to Europe’s economic woes, our exports to Europe are shrinking. China, meanwhile, perceived to be the engine of global economic growth, is also slowing down. Indeed this year, Chinese growth is estimated to be the lowest in more than a decade. For South Africa, this holds disastrous consequences for our widening current account deficit and as jobs start to evaporate.

Internally, the current wave of strikes is sapping local and foreign investor confidence in the local economy and foreign disinvestment has become a noticeable trend since the Marikana tragedy. As the strikes in the mining and transport sector is set to spread in the coming weeks and as government lacks a clear strategy on how to deal with this, the rand has plummeted to almost R9 to a US dollar, rating agencies have already downgraded our economic prospects, and the International Monetary Fund (currently meeting in Tokyo) has lowered its forecasts for South African growth prospects for 2013. Indeed, an economic recession looks imminent.

This combination of internal and external variables are exacerbating an already weak South African economy and heightening the costs of corruption which has increasingly become institutionalized in the country. Moreover the danger of intensified social strife as people are laid off works is very real. Already, only four out of ten adults work – and only two of these in the formal sector.

In all this, what is lacking is political leadership. In this time of economic crisis, when the country is desperate for decisive and effective leadership, the ANC is turned inwards with a firm focus on Mangaung and political succession. Moreover, so-called solutions bandied around by the ruling party like the amorphous “Second Transition” hardly qualifies as an economic strategy. What does the “Second Transition” say about creating a flexible labour market? What does the “Second Transition” say about making the economy more competitive? What does “Second Transition” say about easing regulations to facilitate small business? What does “Second Transition” say about restoring investor confidence? What does “Second Transition” say about our failed education system which has difficulty with producing students who can read and write – forget anything more sophisticated. We simply do not know.

South Africans, you are on our own. Do not look for leadership from this rudderless, morally bankrupt and intellectually inept government to get you out of this mess.

13 October, 2012

2012 Conference and Interview Series

by Virgil Hawkins

From 21-23 September 2012, the SACCPS held its second major conference in Lusaka, Zambia. This time the focus was on peacekeeping and peace enforcement (the topic for 2011 was mediation and peacemaking). Speakers from eleven universities throughout (and beyond) the southern African region presented the results of their research, in sessions covering the broad underlying issues, the involvement of the Southern African Development Community (SADC), the sole current peacekeeping operation in the region – that in the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC), and issues beyond the region.

With a view to keeping the research conducted policy relevant, and to help ensure that policymaking is informed by research, the conference was also designed to include the inputs of a number of policymakers and practitioners. Speakers and participants included a former ambassador of Zambia to the UN, representatives from embassies and high commissions at the ambassador level, and members of the Zambian defence force as well as civilians with experience on the ground in peacekeeping missions. A panel for practitioners on the final day of the conference proved to be particularly enlightening.

In terms of conference output, some of the papers presented at the conference will be published in the SACCPS-run journal – Southern African Peace and Security Studies. Other concepts and ideas explored will find expression in the form of blog articles here. But the SACCPS is also working to make its work available through a variety of multimedia outlets. At the conference, for example, the organisers took the opportunity to interview (on video) participants, asking them what they thought were critical issues affecting the peace and security of southern Africa. These short interviews are currently being edited and made available online through YouTube.

The SACCPS homepage continues to be updated with new information released by the network, but it should also be noted that the SACCPS Facebook page contains links to all the interviews, and also contains a large number of photos from the conference. To keep up with SACCPS events and outputs in realtime, this is a good page to 'Like' (to use the Facebook lingo).

The network is what 'we' (those with an interest in issues of peace and security in the region) make of it, and it is never too late to get involved. This blog remains open for new writers – in English, French and Portuguese (just send an email), and the journal is also open for more involved and in-depth studies and articles. We look forward to expanding the breadth and depth of the network.

05 October, 2012

South Africa's Campaign to Reform the United Nations

by Hussein Solomon

As the annual United Nations jamboree began in New York this week with the focus shifting from the ongoing turmoil in Syria, to the Iran nuclear question to the territorial dispute between China and Japan over islands both claim, President Jacob Zuma and his Minister of International Relations have sought to pursue the issue of the democratization of the august body itself – and more specifically the UN Security Council (UNSC).

At face value the arguments make sense. The Permanent Five (P5) veto wielding states reflect the power configuration of the post-World War II world. It scarcely resembles the power balance of the world in 2012. How can Western Europe have two seats on the Security Council (Britain and France) given its relative demise in global influence whilst the rising power of India and its billion-plus population is not reflected as a permanent member of the Security Council? President Zuma is also correct to note that a UNSC which does not reflect the planet’s seven billion citizens will have its authority repeatedly questioned.

Let me be clear, I do believe that the UN needs to be thoroughly overhauled if we are to have a more representative and effective world body. But, the devil is in the detail. If we increase the UNSC considerably with the addition of new members, would this not result in a more unwieldy body? In other words, increased representation might well result in decreased effectiveness. One way out of this is to possibly look at regional representation – in other words ensuring that one country represents a particular region. Here too there are problems. Mexico contests Brazil’s view that it should represent the region on the UNSC, Pakistan contests India’s incorporation into the UNSC and Nigeria, South Africa’s.

There is yet another problem and this relates to what values the new members will uphold. Could one imagine Mswati’s Swaziland or Asad’s Syria on such a reformed UNSC? Let us be clear, South Africa’s first stint on the UNSC was an embarrassment to all South Africans who assumed that post-apartheid Pretoria will be upholding human rights and freedom. Our country chose to ally itself with rogue regimes and sought to protect others from international censure. This is unacceptable. This is not to say that the P5 have been models of ethical behaviour. Too often the collective interests of the UN and humanity were sacrificed at the altar of national interest by the P5.

Perhaps one way out of the impasse is for the Zuma administration to campaign for gradual change regarding the rules of the existing UNSC as opposed to opting for revolutionary change in membership which is sure to be opposed by vested P5 interests. One such constructive way is for Pretoria to mobilize around the issue of when the veto could be used at the UNSC. It is in such incremental ways that the process of UN reform can begin.

18 September, 2012

The Politics of Greed and Assassination

by Hussein Solomon

In September 2008, Mcebisi Skwatsha, the then newly elected African National Congress (ANC) chairperson in the Western Cape, stated that the ANC in the province has “been driven by factionalism, patronage and political assassination”. Skwatsha, of course, experienced this first hand in June of that fateful year when he was stabbed in the neck at an ANC meeting.

I have been mulling over Skwatsha’s prescient words in recent days as we witness a spike in political murders in KwaZulu-Natal. According to Willies Mchunu, KZN MEC for Community Safety, there have been 35 politically related murders since mid-2011. The most recent of these was Umtshezi Municipality Ward Councillor Jimmy Lembede who was shot dead by two men at his home whilst both his wife and five-year-old daughter were shot and wounded and his 11-year-old son was burned with boiling water. The viciousness of the act speaks volumes about the violent nature of our society and the barbarism which has come to characterize South African politics.

Unlike the 1980s and 1990s which witnessed political murders as the ANC and the Inkatha Freedom Party were engaged in a life-and-death struggle for political dominance, the current spate of assassinations seem to be more over greed as opposed to ideological difference. Indeed Frans Cronje, CEO of the South African Institute of Race Relations has cogently argued, “We have been hard pressed to find a single person killed over an idea. It all depends on tenders and corruption”.

In other words, being a councillor provides you with the means to divert state resources into your personal bank account. Conversely, losing your position as a councillor means this avenue for self-enrichment, at the expense of the taxpayer, is now closed. Small wonder then that during last year’s local government elections South Africa witnessed a spike of murders against local councillors by those left off from party lists.

Neither is KZN and the Western Cape the only provinces to be affected. In Mpumulanga, intra-ANC killings in the run-up to the 2011 local government elections moved Democratic Alliance (DA) leader Helen Zille to declare that, “The ANC has lost the meaning of their existence. Their sole focus is on money and that’s why there are political killings in the province. These killings are a clear sign of how corruption has grown in the ruling party”.

These tendencies within the ruling party, in particular, raise several disturbing questions. At what point will this politics of greed and assassination surface at provincial and national level? After all, alliances between the different factions contesting the Mangaung leadership conference straddle local, provincial and national levels. Given the ANC’s inability to curb this destructive phenomenon themselves, could the security services take decisive measures to end these political assassinations? Given their own politicisation, however, how can the security services be seen as impartial referees?

As the country gears itself for national elections next year, we should prepare ourselves for more political murders.

10 September, 2012

Economic Folly in the Aftermath of Marikana

by Hussein Solomon

In the aftermath of the tragedy at Marikana, economic folly continues to afflict the minds of the tripartite alliance leadership. Following a meeting on Friday, the ANC, COSATU and the SACP leadership saw it fit to blame mining companies for the unrest sweeping across South Africa’s mines. Indeed, in their joint statement the ANC’s Gwede Mantashe, COSATU’s Zwelinzima Vavi and Communist Party boss Blade Nzimande accused mining houses of fanning the flames of conflict.

The patently illogical nature of such statements is obvious to all – mining companies have a profitable reason not to flame such unrest. After all each day the Marikana miners are on strike costs LONMIN millions in lost revenue. More importantly, there is sufficient evidence to suggest that South African corporations have been a force for good and that the stereotypical image of blood soaked capitalists is fallacious in the extreme. A recent Sunday Times study has demonstrated that more than 90 percent of 3200 companies surveyed across 278 business sectors have actually exceeded their corporate social investment. Business is not the problem – government is!

Such statements, however, do serve a political purpose – deflecting the blame from government. Unfortunately, since the ANC took over the reins of power in 1994, it has scarcely provided either political or socio-economic leadership to the pressing problems confronting this country. When faced with crises, convenient scapegoats are to be found to deflect blame from government failures such as the ever elusive third force – and now it is the turn of the mining houses to be blamed for the ANC not making good on its promise for a better life for its supporters.

At issue is the fact that the ANC government, the trade unions and the Communist Party refuse to deal with a central problem- that given the global recessionary environment, employers cannot afford massive salary increases. To be clear the Marikana workers are demanding a wage increase from R5405 per month to R12 500 per month – more than a 100 percent salary increase!

Should LONMIN cave in to this demand, labour unrest will spread throughout the country as similar outrageous demands are pushed forward by other AMCU copycats. South Africa cannot afford such salary increases or such labour disruptions especially in the context of a global economic recession. To put matters into perspective, a recent report from the Industrial Development Corporation pointed out how problems in the Eurozone are impacting on South Africa. Should our exports to the European Union drop by 5 percent, domestic growth will contract by R5.9 billion and 18 700 jobs will be lost. To compound matters, the Eurozone crisis according to economists will be with us for another decade, the US economy remains sluggish, whilst both India and China’s economies are beginning to slow down.

In this international context, the ANC and its tripartite allies see it fit to attack the business community – the very creators of jobs – for short-term political gain. This is the height of economic folly.

High Treason in the DRC

by Philippe Tunamsifu Shirambere

The recent political history in the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) has been marked by the forced resignation of Vital Kamerhe, former Speaker of the National assembly, in January 2009. The reason being that he publicly denounced the fact that the National Assembly was not informed about the agreement that allowed Rwandan troops to engage in joint military operations against the Democratic Forces for the Liberation of Rwanda (FDLR) on the territory of the DRC. This opposition was to show that President Joseph Kabila violated the Constitution by signing a secret accord between the DRC and Rwanda.

Indeed, the procedure of negotiation and ratification of treaties and international accords is provided for in Article 213 of the Constitution, and the procedure of the declaration of the war is provided by Articles 86 and 143 of the Constitution in the DRC. In both situations the National Assembly and the Senate must be informed. This did not happen.

The purpose of this post is to analyze the legal consequences of the opposition of the former Speaker of the National Assembly to the Government's decision to invite Rwandan troops into the country to pursue a Rwandan militia. This analysis will be made with reference to the constitutional duties of the President, who must ensure compliance with the Constitution as provided for by Article 69(2), and under his oath to observe and defend the Constitution and laws of the Republic as provided by Article 74 of the Constitution. Moreover, in this paper we will appreciate the recent declaration of the Opposition parties in DRC that calls for the impeachment of President Joseph Kabila for high treason.

1. The nature of the Government's decision to invite Rwandan troops into the DRC:
According to the Vienna Convention on the Law of Treaties (1969), a “treaty” means an international agreement concluded between States in written form and governed by international law, whether embodied in a single instrument or in two or more related instruments and whatever its particular designation (Article 2a).

Thus, the decision of the two heads of state of the DRC and Rwanda that eventually resulted in the invitation of Rwandan troops to intervene in a joint military operation and to pursue a Rwandan Hutu militia, the FDLR, which has long contributed to instability in the eastern DRC and served as a threat to Rwandan security, is qualified as a bilateral treaty.

However, according to Article 213 of the Constitution, the President negotiates and ratifies treaties and international accord, and shall inform the National Assembly and the Senate. Indeed, the Constitution provides that the DRC has four institutions: the president of the Republic, the parliament, the Ggvernment, and the courts and tribunals (Article 68). As such, given that the President signed the aforementioned decision, or bilateral treaty, he was obligated to inform other institutions of the Republic, namely the National Assembly and the Senate.

Furthermore, the agreement between the two heads of state to invite Rwandan troops into the country to pursue the FDLR can be considered as a declaration of war. In the DRC, this kind of agreement entails a particular procedure. Indeed, in accordance with Articles 86 and 143 of the Constitution, “the President of the Republic declares war by Order deliberated in the Council of Ministers after the Supreme Council of Defense and authorization of the National Assembly and the Senate”.

Indeed, it should be noted that, according to the International Crisis Group, Presidents Kabila and Kagame concluded a secret agreement to strengthen their respective positions on the basis of the American proposition (African Report n°165, 2010). In my view, this secret agreement was a win-win situation, because it allowed for the arrest of Laurent Nkunda, former general and chairperson of the National Congress for the Defense of People (CNDP), and for the invitation of Rwandan troops to participate in a joint military operation against FDLR.

As the discussion shows, considering that the President has concluded a secret agreement without informing the other relevant institutions as provided by the Constitution, it is clear that President Joseph Kabila has violated the Constitution of the DRC. Furthermore, his constitutional duties is to ensure compliance with the Constitution (Article 69, 2), to observe and to defend the Constitution and laws of the Republic (Article 74), but when the President himself acts against his constitutional duties, this violation is called “Treason” as provided for by Article 165.

Indeed, the public opposition of Vital Kamerhe, as Speaker of the National Assembly, to a joint military operation against the FDLR in the eastern part of the DRC has had major consequences. Also, Vital Kamerhe has accused Rwanda of looting Congolese mineral resources when it supported rebel groups, and it is clear that the population was uncomfortable with the presence of Rwandan troops even if under an agreement.

Kamerhe's opposition was based on the assertion that the President violated the Constitution, and subsequently, he could be accused of high treason. In order to avoid the procedure of impeachment of the President for high treason, Vital Kamerhe was forced to resign as Speaker of the National Assembly.

2. Declaration of the opposition parties called for the impeachment of President Joseph Kabila for high treason:
Since May 2012, the DRC is facing a new rebellion (M23) with former CNDP rebels that had been integrated into the Congolese Army. The rebellion started as mutiny in the eastern part with the main claim being the full implementation of peace agreements of 23 March 2009 between the Government and the CNDP.

Indeed, according to the Congolese Government, the reports from NGOs and the UN, there is evidence that the M23 rebellion is being backed by Rwanda. However, on 31 August the Rwandan Government decided to withdraw the Rwandan forces deployed in the eastern part in North Kivu largely occupied by rebels. For the Rwandan Minister of Defence, the Rwandan forces were officially deployed to Rutshuru to hunt down the FDLR. This reveals the continued existence of a secret agreement between Presidents Kabila and Kagame in effect since 2009.

However, on 03 September 2012, as shown in the political declaration made by the leaders of the opposition parties, these leaders consider the complicity of those in power with the perpetrators is totally established. They have called for the impeachment of President Kabila accusing him and members of his government of complicity in the rebellion.

Indeed, as provided by Article 165 of the Constitution, there is high treason when the President has violated the Constitution. Due to this, opponents recommend that in the parliamentary session of September, the Parliament should trigger the mechanism of impeachment of President Kabila for high treason.

In conclusion, it seems that in the DRC history is being repeated. When authorities who are supposed to ensure compliance with the Constitution decide to intentionally violate its dispositions, there is clearly a problem. The Congolese population should stand together unanimously to promote the rule of law.

Philippe Tunamsifu Shirambere is a lecturer of law at the Faculty of Law at the Université Libre des Pays des Grands Lacs (ULPGL/RD Congo)

31 August, 2012

Journal Now Online

The SACCPS has published online the inaugural issue of its journal – Southern African Peace and Security Studies vol. 1 no. 1. The majority of articles in this issue are based on papers presented at the SACCPS network's first conference held in Lusaka, Zambia in September 2011. That conference focused on the issue of peacemaking and mediation, and thus, much of this inaugural issue deals with this subject. After an editor's introduction proving an overview of peace and security in southern Africa (Virgil Hawkins), academic articles are presented discussing the subject of quiet diplomacy in Zimbabwe (George Abel Mhango), attempts at conflict mediation by South Africa (Katabaro Miti), the DRC's state of 'no war, no peace' (Gerrie Swart), and community mediation in Tanzania (Riziki Shahari Mngwali). This is followed by a policy brief on the problems associated with the DRC's 2011 elections (Masako Yonekawa), and finally a book review.

The journal will be published twice per year – the next issue is to be issued in December 2012. While it is an academic journal, it remains highly conscious of the need to stay close to and actively engage with policymakers and representatives of civil society. This will ensure that the research conducted and lessons learned are firmly grounded in the demand for the development of practical solutions for real-world issues, and that the achievements are accessible and useful to policymakers and civil society. As such, on top of the peer-reviewed research articles (6,000 to 8,000 words), it also publishes policy briefs written primarily by practitioners (1,500 to 2,000 words) and reviews (up to 800 words).

With its sights set firmly on the region, Southern African Peace and Security Studies aims to produce a quality mix of cutting-edge academic and practical policy-oriented content, offering a variety of perspectives from experts and practitioners from within and beyond the region.

01 August, 2012

South Africa: A Violent Future Awaits Us

by Hussein Solomon

In the Western Cape service delivery protests have turned violent. In Botrivier, angry residents vented their anger by showering passing motorists with stones, smashing the windows of the local municipal building and blockading roads as they protested their deteriorating living conditions. Residents in Nyanga and Gugulethu, outside Cape Town also took to the streets, barricading streets, these whilst pelting motorists with stones and torching motor vehicles and a bus. The constant interruptions in electricity supply was the catalyst for residents of Tembisa on the West Rand to also take to the streets. Meanwhile incensed residents of Kagiso also violently challenged security forces following two children being knocked down by a truck despite the repeated appeal to the Mogale City municipality to construct speed bumps on the road. The scale and intensity of the protests in recent months is unprecedented, even by post-apartheid South Africa’s own dismal standards.

This is only going to get worse. Three factors account for the increasingly violent future awaiting us. First, the Achilles’ heel remains local government with its institutionalized incompetence and spiralling corruption. This was recently laid bare by the Auditor-General’s report. Civil servants staffing local municipalities are unresponsive to residents’ needs whilst lining their own pockets. This burgeoning corruption of political elites together with the deplorable state of services result in deteriorating living conditions which are fuelling the current wave of unrest. The deployment of political party apparatchiks to senior positions within local government – positions to which they are often not qualified for – reinforces incompetence and undermines government’s ability to deliver a `better life for all’ – in those exceptional cases where there is the political will to serve one’s citizens.

Second, such incompetence and corruption is going unchecked by the executive. Despite the populist rhetoric, President Zuma is more concerned about securing a second term for himself than about the welfare of ordinary citizens. Should he act against incompetence, his fear is that he might alienate this or that constituency as we prepare for Mangaung and the election of the next ANC president. This same fear, I am sure, has prevented, him taking action against our shockingly incompetent Minister of Basic Education who also happens to head the ANC Women’s League – a key voting bloc in Mangaung. This inaction and resulting paralysis in government has created the conditions for incompetence and corruption to become increasingly institutionalized throughout all levels of government.

Third, the economic challenges confronting South Africa will also feed service delivery protests. The global economic crisis which has engulfed the European Union, our largest trading partner, is already exerting a negative influence on our economy. The fact that the Chinese economy is slowing down, too, is also impacting on our mining sector. In addition to these outside pressures, the local economy is just not sustainable – a small tax base supporting millions receiving handouts from the state. As the global economic crisis worsens, the contradictions in the local economy will intensify. The ability of the state to provide social grants will be severely diminished and protests will intensify further across the length and breadth of the country. Brace yourselves!

28 July, 2012

Carnage in the Congo

by Hussein Solomon

There seem to be no let up to the horrors being endured by the hapless citizens of the Democratically Republic of the Congo (DRC). Since the 2nd August 1998, more than five million people have lost their lives in this blighted country. The latest round of violence started once more in the east of the country, near the provincial capital of Goma, in April 2012 causing 260, 000 people to flee from the region. M-23 rebels, former Tutsi-rebels who were integrated into the regular army in 2009, demanded better pay and the full implementation of a peace deal signed on 23rd March 2009, after which they were named. They consequently began attacks against military installations and capturing towns. The poorly trained, poorly led, lowly paid and thuggish Congolese armed forces took to their heels, leaving United Nations (UN) peacekeepers to protect citizens by deploying helicopter gunships against the rebels’ positions.

Whilst leaders from Africa’s Great Lakes Region, plan to send an international stabilisation force to the region, it is difficult to see how such a force could possibly be successful when 20,000 UN peacekeepers currently on the ground has been unable to contain the situation. Moreover, however many peacekeepers one wishes to deploy to this volatile region; it would not address the structural reasons for why this conflict persists.

Three inter-related structural reasons account for the intractability of the conflict in the eastern DRC. First, a conflict system exists throughout the Great Lakes Region where sources of insecurity in the respective countries are mutually reinforcing. Consider the following: given the intrinsic weakness of the Congolese state, various negative forces have sought refuge in its ungoverned spaces, these include the Interahamwe militia responsible for the 1994 Rwandan genocide as well the terrorist Lord’s Resistance Army and the rebel Allied Democratic Forces of Uganda. Both these countries therefore have a vested strategic interest in the eastern DRC. In the case of Rwanda, twice in recent years it has invaded its larger neighbour and has also propped up various rebel forces in the eastern parts of the country. A UN panel has accused Rwanda of supporting the M-23 rebels and its leader, renegade general Bosco Ntaganda is accused of receiving direct military assistance from Kigali. Whilst the United States has red-carded Rwanda for this support by suspending aid, this measure can only be effective within the context of addressing underlying conflict dynamics in the region as a whole.

Second, there is the issue of the politics of identity. Ethnic loyatlies cast a long shadow in this region and are more durable than the artificial nation-states in which they are to be found. Here, President Joseph Kabila has failed to create an inclusive national identity and common citizenship for all Congolese. In recent years there have been increasing attacks against Congolese of Tutsi ancestry – specifically the Banyamasisi and Banyamulenge – who are perceived to be foreigners despite living in the DRC for centuries. Earlier this year, xenophobic violence against these groups spiked. Is it any wonder that practically all members of the M-23 are Banyamasisi and Banyamulenge – or that their ethnic kin, fellow Tutsis in Rwanda, are supporting them?

The third structural reason driving the conflict is the issue of the war economy. Whilst, Congo’s 68 million citizens are the poorest on the planet according to the UN Development Report, the country has vast natural resources. Untapped deposits of raw minerals are estimated to be worth in excess of US $ 24 trillion. Is it any wonder that reports are emerging that M-23 is also involved in illegal mining? Greed, thus, is also driving the conflict.

Unless these structural reasons are addressed, the DRC will remain the “Heart of Darkness” and the nightmare will continue for all Congolese.

23 July, 2012

The Death of Dag Hammarskjold

by Virgil Hawkins

A few kilometres off the main road connecting the northern Zambian cities of Ndola and Kitwe, is a well-kept memorial marking the site where the plane carrying the then UN Secretary General Dag Hammarskjold crashed in 1961. His visit was a peace mission, aimed at brokering a ceasefire in the neighbouring Congo. Among the plaques marking the visits by various dignitaries who came to pay their respects, is one inscribed with the words “On the occasion of the visit of the UN Secretary General H.E. Mr. Kofi Annan, 7 July, 2001”.

But Kofi Annan was never there. The inscription neglects to mention the fact that the actual visit was made by a representative of the former UN Secretary General. In fact, no UN Secretary General has visited the crash site. The current Secretary General, Ban Ki Moon, had his chance in February 2012 when he visited Zambia, but after addressing that country's parliament in the capital, Lusaka, chose to go south to Zambia's prime tourist destination, Victoria Falls, instead of going north to visit the crash site.

Clearly, UN Secretary Generals are exceptionally busy, and such a pilgrimage may well be considered unnecessary. But might there also lie somewhere a desire to avoid drawing attention to the uncomfortable possibility that the crash was not an accident, but an assassination? A British-run commission of inquiry concluded that the crash was caused by pilot error, but a UN inquiry did not rule out the possibility of foul play.

Suspicions that the plane was deliberately downed have certainly not gone away. A book released in 2011 (Susan Williams, Who Killed Hammarskjold?), included fresh evidence suggesting it highly likely that this was the case. And now, more than fifty years after the incident, it has been announced that a new inquiry is being established to attempt to determine the cause of the crash.

A host of evidence revealed to date casts serious doubts on the official account that the crash was an accident. Multiple witnesses saw a second plane in the sky at the time of the crash, and some claim to have seen one plane open fire on the other, but their testimony was ignored. A former US naval intelligence officer who was stationed at a radio listening post even recalled hearing a cockpit recording of what he concluded to be a running commentary of the attack.

Even the simple statement that Hammarskjold “died in a plane crash” cannot be used with certainty, because suspicions remain that he was in fact killed after the plane crashed. The head of UN military information in the Congo at the time, who saw Hammarskjold's body (which oddly showed no signs of burns), noticed a round hole in his forehead that could have been a bullet hole. Official photographs of the body do not show such a hole, but a forensic expert determined that these photos had been doctored. Eyewitness accounts also tell of two Land Rovers speeding to, and later from, the crash site hours before it was officially 'discovered'.

So if it was an assassination, who might have been responsible? Fingers tend to point in the direction of European industrialists in mineral-rich Katanga, with the deed being carried out by mercenaries under their employ. The conflict in the Congo was essentially about an attempt by the mineral-rich Katanga province to break away from the Congo, with the support of former colonial master, Belgium, other colonial powers and Western corporations, among others.

They were clearly willing to go to considerable lengths to minimize the impact that the independence of African countries would have on their economic and political control over Africa. Many also saw de facto white control over the economic powerhouse of Katanga as a bulwark against the rising tide of opposition to white rule in southern Africa. Hence the large contingent of mercenaries from Europe and white southern Africa in Katanga's pro-secession army.

UN forces intervened (in an unusually aggressive manner) to prevent Katanga from breaking away, and needless to say, for the European industrialists in particular, this made Hammarskjold an enemy hated with a passion. While the UK and US officially supported the UN operation, it was believed that they were, behind the scenes, on the side of the industrialists.

Nor can the Cold War context be ignored. Indeed the conflict in the Congo was in many ways seen as a proxy war between the superpowers. Eight months prior to Dag Hammarskjold's death, Congo's first prime minister, Patrice Lumumba was assassinated, in an operation directed by Belgium and assisted by the CIA. In his handling of the Congo crisis, Hammarskjold had managed to threaten the interests of both the US and the Soviets.

The new inquiry into the crash is not an official one. But the committee charged with its implementation does include a number of high-profile jurists. It will be up to one year before the committee makes its conclusions and submits them to the UN. The world (at least part of it) has waited fifty years for a definitive conclusion on the matter of the death of the former UN Secretary General. With the hope that this time, such a conclusion will be reached, it can wait one more.

12 July, 2012

NHK and the Missing Continent

by Virgil Hawkins

It would appear that the Japanese news media has nothing to say about sub-Saharan Africa. And I mean that in the most literal sense. A study by the author of coverage by the national broadcaster's (Nippon Hoso Kyokai – NHK) flagship news program, News Watch 9, for the first six months of 2012, revealed not a single news item about the various events that occurred in sub-Saharan Africa. In fact, Egypt was the only country on the entire continent to have been the object of coverage over this period.

Media corporations outside Africa have a long and inglorious history of paying scant attention to the continent, but the news media based in Japan seem to particularly 'excel' at it. Previous studies by the author have found, for example, that coverage of Africa by Western media corporations (such as BBC, the New York Times and Le Monde) tends to make up between six and nine percent of the time/space devoted to world news. Meanwhile, for Japanese media corporations like the Yomiuri Newspaper (Japan's largest in terms of circulation), Africa is worth no more than three percent of the little space it allocates to world news.

One might, however, have expected more from NHK. Its budget is the largest of all the broadcasters in Japan, sustaining 29 bureaus throughout the world. Its News Watch 9 program is one full hour worth of news, with no commercial interruptions. And the news it presents is of the serious variety. Celebrity marriages and breakups, and the intriguing goings on in the world of boy/girl bands are generally not covered – something that sets it apart from the 'infotainment' often presented by commercial broadcasters.

But the news in Japan on the whole tends to be highly insular and inward looking, meaning that not only Africa, but also most of the rest of the world is largely left out. And NHK is no exception. Only nine percent of the News Watch 9 program was devoted to news about the world beyond Japan's borders (compared, for example, to twenty percent devoted to sports news), and a quarter of that was concerned with issues associated with North Korea alone (its attempt to launch a 'satellite' in particular).

Japan does have one 24-hour news channel (NHK World) that broadcasts news about Japan and the world (or at least certain parts of it – primarily Asia), but it is broadcast in English to the rest of the world. Thus, it would appear that the national broadcaster expends more resources to disseminate Japanese perspectives about Japan and the world to the world, than it does to inform people in Japan about what is happening in the world.

Within Japan, if one has access to a broadcast satellite dish, one can watch a lengthy world news program presented by NHK that borrows news from foreign broadcasters, which is dubbed over in Japanese. This is arguably as 'global' as the news in Japan gets. News streams in from 23 news broadcasters around the globe – every continent and region of the world is represented, with the exception of Antarctica and Africa.

When questioned by the author as to why no African broadcasters were being utilized, a representative of NHK replied that unfortunately they could not cover all of the world, and that news about Africa was at times presented by broadcasters from other regions that do feature on the program – such as BBC and Al Jazeera.

Indeed, covering all of the world may not be feasible, but the reasoning behind the choice to entirely ignore news from just one of the world's inhabited continents, one that happens to make up of one-quarter of the world's countries and accounts for as much as 88 percent of conflict-related deaths in the post-Cold War world, remains extremely difficult to fathom.

NHK's own newsgathering structure, of course, reflects similar priorities. Of its 29 overseas bureaus, only one is situated on the African continent – in Cairo, Egypt. But Cairo looks more to the Middle East than it does to Africa, and, considering that NHK has three other bureaus in the Middle East, Cairo seems an odd choice for a bureau supposedly responsible for covering Africa. Then again, if the coverage of Africa (or rather the lack thereof) by NHK news is any indication, it would appear that the Cairo bureau is not expected to cover Africa.

NHK, globalization is happening, and, for better or for worse, Africa is included. Please adjust accordingly.

28 June, 2012

Malaise in Madagascar

by Virgil Hawkins

The eyes of the world seem to be fixed on Madagascar. Or should I say Madagascar 3: Europe's Most Wanted? The animated comedy movie with lions, zebras and other assorted animals that talk, sing and dance, continues to sit atop the box office, dazzling audiences around the world. The world is not quite as bedazzled, on the other hand, by the goings on on the large island that sits to the south east of the African mainland, which also happens to be known as Madagascar. In fact, if the levels of media coverage are any indication, many might be surprised to learn that things are going on there at all.

But they are. In 2009, amidst political upheaval on the island, 35 year old Andry Rajoelina, former mayor of the capital, Antananarivo (and before that, a radio DJ), took control of the country with the backing of the military and was declared President of the 'High Transitional Authority'. His rise to power was swiftly condemned by most of the outside world as a coup d'etat. Madagascar was suspended from the Southern African Development Community (SADC) and the African Union (which also imposed targeted sanctions on the 'government'), and the bulk of non-humanitarian aid coming from beyond the continent was cut off. For its own political and economic reasons, France, however, continues to back the de-facto administration.

It has been a long and eventful transition. Rajoelina promised presidential elections and promised not to stand as a candidate, but the elections did not happen, and he managed to push through a constitutional referendum that conveniently reduced the minimum age for the president from 40 to 35, making him eligible to stand. A group of disgruntled soldiers attempted a coup of their own in 2010, but the mutiny was put down.

The deposed president, Marc Ravalomanana, who went into exile in South Africa, was sentenced in absentia to life imprisonment. In 2011, an agreement signed by all the major political parties under the auspices of SADC established a road map for a unity government and elections. And although the same agreement guarantees the unconditional right to return for exiled political leaders, a unilateral attempt by Ravalomanana to do so ended in failure when the commercial flight he had boarded was refused permission to land.

But before becoming overly sympathetic to the plight of the deposed president, we might spare a thought for how things were in Madagascar before he was deposed. In March 2009, thousands of demonstrators gathered near the presidential palace to protest against was perceived as a corrupt and increasingly authoritarian regime. Presidential guards threw grenades and fired into the crowd and a massacre ensued leaving as many as 50 people dead.

And South Africa is unlikely to remain a safe haven for Ravalomanana for much longer. In 2012, a court in South Africa ruled that foreign nationals in that country who are accused of crimes against humanity must be investigated, and Ravalomanana would appear to fall under this category. For the time being, attempts at a return to political life may have to take a back seat to the realization of a reconciliation deal that includes a pardon for the crimes he has already been convicted of (in absentia) in Madagascar and immunity from further prosecution. Rajoelina and Ravalomanana have, in fact, agreed to a meeting, which will possibly take place at the end of June, although the agenda is unclear.

In spite of the endless political wrangling, life goes on for the people of Madagascar. But it is not the same as it was before. The country's political crisis coincided with the global financial crisis, and the economy has taken a battering. Foreign investment and international demand for the country's produce (not least vanilla, of which Madagascar is the world's leading producer) have dropped. Levels of illegal logging and mining and the resulting environmental degradation, on the other hand, have skyrocketed. Poverty levels are rising and health indicators are falling. As the expression goes, when elephants fight the grass gets trampled.

Madagascar 3 the movie had its happy ending. Hopefully the other Madagascar will too. And even if this is a little too much to hope for, an increase in the levels of attention from the outside world – some enhanced external scrutiny, engagement, and cajoling – will probably not hurt its chances of at least heading in the general direction of something happier.

22 June, 2012

Governing Africa's Cities

by Hussein Solomon

The phenomenal growth of urbanization and the concomitant re-emergence of the city-state constitute a severe challenge to urban governance. Kevin Davie has recently pointed out that even by the most conservative estimates China will have 130 cities with more than one million inhabitants by 2025 – this is more than the United States and Europe combined. Of these, 90 are expected to have more than five million people, while 8 will have more than 10 million. In similar fashion, to ease urban “congestion”, Egypt is building 65 new cities.

The impact of urbanization will be particularly felt on the African state given its fragility. Africa’s urban population stood at a mere 15 percent in 1960. It then rose to 35 percent in 2006 and is expected to reach a staggering 60 percent by 2020. Unfortunately for many of these migrants from rural areas the promise of the bright lights of the city and the expectation of a higher standard of living is not met and sprawling informal settlements characterised by poor housing and even poorer infrastructure or “slums” is the result. Indeed, Sub-Saharan Africa has the dubious reputation of having the highest prevalence of slums of any region in the world. Small wonder then that Franklin Obeng-Odoom observed that the “...movement to cities in Africa is a journey from rural poverty to urban misery”.

Given the youthful profile of Africa’s population unmet expectations, frustration and urban misery might well result in urban and political violence. Consider here the fact that these very same dynamics propelled young Arabs on the streets of Tunis, Cairo and Benghazi. Small wonder then that from 2009, 77 percent of African governments tried to stem the tide of urbanization. In its most extreme form this was reflected in Zimbabwe’s Operation Murambatsvina (“remove the filth”) where the military was used to clear out squatter settlements and “restore order”. Of course, the fact that these informal settlements also happened to be the strongholds of the opposition Movement for Democratic Change (MDC) also entered into their calculations. Such efforts to stem the tide of urbanization however are bound to fail for three inter-related reasons. First, African governments do not have the necessary financial resources to invest sufficiently in rural areas to make staying there an attractive option to would-be migrants. Second, they do not have the capabilities to physically stem the urbanization tide. Consider here the disastrous example of influx control in apartheid South Africa. Third and most importantly is the fact that the tide of demographics is against them. Given Africa’s youthful profile, the continent’s population is expected to continue to grow rapidly. By 2050, a quarter of the world’s population will live in Africa.

If one cannot stem the tide of urbanization, how then do we manage it? Some principles need to be laid out. First, local government functionaries need to be chosen on the basis of their professionalism and their competence. They cannot be appointed on the basis of their political connections. Second and a concomitant of the first our approach to urban governance cannot be dictated by ideological considerations, pragmatism, economic efficiency and social inclusion must govern our approach to governing Africa’s cities. In the interests of inclusion city councils need to form strategic alliances with non-state actors: both non-governmental organizations and the business community sharing the same geographic space. In this way all stakeholders buy into the vision for that municipality. In the process, democracy is deepened.

Governing Africa’s cities should have special resonance to South Africans for three reasons. First, 68.5 percent of South Africans are urbanized. Second, local government remains the Achilles’ heel of governance in South Africa. Third and more importantly, is the restive nature of our cities seen in the violent and recurrent service delivery protests every week in some part of our country.

19 June, 2012

Of Solidarity Politics and African Dis(Unity): The Shifting of the AU Summit

by George A. Mhango

The announcement by Malawi on Friday 8th June 2012 that it is not hosting the African Union (AU) summit takes the debates about realities of disunity in the purportedly cohesive African continental organization to a new level. It is becoming clear that some countries are ready to reverse their earlier mistakes on the subject of compliance with arrest warrants issued by the International Criminal Court (ICC) on serving African leaders. All along, the AU has vehemently argued that it does not recognize international arrest warrants on serving heads of African governments on the basis of their immunity, and the organization further urged its member states not to comply with such arrest warrants.

Yet, only months after giving the Sudanese leader, Omar al-Bashir a red-carpet reception at a regional summit, Malawi made it clear that it was not ready to repeat the gesture during the forthcoming 19th AU summit which was supposed to take place in Lilongwe from 9th to 16th July 2012. The venue has since been moved to Addis Ababa. Malawi expressed that it was not ready to accept any conditions from the AU for it to host the summit, further arguing that, much as it was bound by continental obligations, it also had [other] obligations to international protocols and that it was in the best interest of Malawians to comply with the ICC since Malawi was a signatory to the Rome Statues. This was in protest to a directive from AU that all heads of state should be invited to the Lilongwe summit. Hence, to avoid being dragged into a quandary of continental versus global allegiance, Malawi decided to surrender the hosting of the summit, thereby putting the celebrated solidarity politics of the African Union to the test.

Africa received the announcement with mixed reactions. For some it was an expression of cowardice by the new Malawi government in that was ready to give up the ideals of solidarity for the sake of serving an imperialist agenda. Others lauded the development as a signal that some African states were ready to implement the Rome Statutes that established the mandate of the ICC.

However, there was another reason to believe that Malawi was going to give up the summit at some point. Soon after her ascendancy to the presidency in April 2012, Joyce Banda was pessimistic about the capacity of Malawi to host the summit in light of the country’s seriously deteriorated fiscal stance which is currently having serious knock-on effects on the economic position of the government she inherited following the sudden death of Bingu wa Mutharika. But even after resolving to proceed to host the summit, following consultations with government and civil society, Banda categorically stated in May 2012 that the Sudanese president should not come to Malawi for the summit because Malawi was ready to comply with ICC arrest warrant. She indicated that she was not ready to damage her efforts aimed at diplomatic reconstruction with key donors by ignoring international obligations such as the Rome Statutes to which Malawi is a signatory.

Of course, the establishment of the ICC has not received universal reception in Africa as evidenced by some countries that have yet to sign the international agreement and hence do not feel bound by any obligations under the statutes. These countries argue that there is no need for an international policeman masquerading as the executor of justice in countries that are self-governing and have internal laws capable of supporting the wellbeing of their citizens. Ethiopia is one such country, and hence it is no surprise that Sudan insisted that the Summit be shifted to Addis Ababa after the president of Malawi had advised the Sudanese president to stay away from the Lilongwe Summit or risk being arrested.

However, without dwelling on global justifications and condemnations, a sober reflection on the developments reveals that the African Union’s stance to have all heads of state invited to this year’s continental summit had merit and a moral basis. Among the many reasons, Sudan and South Sudan are on the Agenda and it was only in the interest of natural justice that the president of Sudan must be invited to the heads of state summit. The challenge however was that the venue of the summit was predetermined a year prior to the summit which, ceteris paribus, was a non-conformist and non-cooperating government to the ICC despite being a signatory to the Rome Statute. Hence, there was no doubt that Malawi would be receptive to a visit by the Sudanese head of state, and the pace was clearly set in October 2011 when Malawi defied the ICC arrest warrant by ably hosting the Sudanese leader.

But four months before the summit, a change in the political landscape led to a reformist and somewhat conformist new government that has found itself between a rock and hard place with regard to respect of international standards, fear of donors and satisfaction of AU standards for hosting a summit for heads of governments. Hence, under pressure from the international society and in a bid to save its ailing economy, Malawi snubbed a crucial summit participant whose presence adds immense value to deliberations on the question of South Sudan.

In light of the foregoing, it is also important to understand that Malawi’s unique relationship with the continental body which reflects departures from norms in certain crucial moments. A historical perspective of this relationship reveals some unorthodox anti-solidarity resolves made by Malawi and most often in response to its difficult economic situations. On such occasions, the main argument has been that the government was not ready to sacrifice its people for the sake of continental good citizenship.

For instance, during the 1964 Organization for African Unity (OAU) summit, just months after independence, Malawi’s first president Dr Hastings Banda openly declared his refusal to support sanctions on the regimes in Zimbabwe (then under Ian Smith who unilaterally declared independence from Britain but was suppressing self determination movements by Black Zimbabweans), Portuguese East Africa (Mozambique) and the apartheid regime in South Africa, on the basis of national interest (survival). His argument was that he did not want to betray his people by backing sanctions against the very same countries that sustained Malawi’s economic heartbeat. Since Malawi’s economy hinged on trade routes in Mozambique and South Africa, Dr Banda was not ready to be party to a resolution that seemed to alienate these two countries for the sake of his people. What followed was a period of suspicion and distrust as Malawi was treated as an intruder in the OAU.

Of course, there are a number of differences between the 1964 experience and the current scenario. While in 1964 Malawi was in support of regimes that were tramping human rights and specifically, the right to self-determination, in the current scenario Malawi is repelling a leader who has grossly violated human rights on his own soil yet the continental body supports him. Another contrast, and more important, in light of the recent development, is the growing number of states that are ready to act contrary to the declaration by the AU that none of its member states will arrest Omar al-Bashir. This alone challenges the assumption that AU speaks with one voice. There have been instances where countries such as Botswana, South Africa, Tanzania and Zambia have openly declared that Omar al-Bashir is not welcome in their territories while in others such as Kenya, Uganda and Central African Republic (CAR), civil society has put pressure on governments not to welcome the Sudan leader and this has resulted in the cancellation of proposed visits.

With this background in mind, projections into future relations between Malawi and the AU consequent to the summit shift may not be straightforward. One early sign is the announcement by Joyce Banda that she will not be attending the 19th AU Summit in Addis Ababa and that her deputy, Khumbo Kachali, will attend in her stead. Her boycott of the overly male-dominated caucus may be perceived as a deliberate refrain from a possible diplomatic backlash that may come from some die-hards in the pro solidarity camp. However, with all the indications that Botswana(1) is ready to stir the debate towards the circumstances leading to the shift of the Summit, one can only expect more divisions on the issue. However, it is only fair to say that Malawi has set the pace on a topical issue that AU has customarily considered sacred, and it remains to be seen where the tide will point as we continue to reflect on the future of the AU.

(1) Botswana publicly lauded the decision by Malawi not to host the summit following the insistence by AU that all heads of state be invited.

15 June, 2012

SA Economy on a Precipice

by Hussein Solomon

Call me pessimistic but I just do not believe the newspaper headlines screaming out how well our economy is doing. I am sure you have seen it too: ‘Strong Growth in SA Economy,’ or ‘SA Banks Soaring Profits’. Let me confess that I am no economist, but each time I am confronted with these positive headlines I think of my friends and colleagues living from pay check to pay check. I think about the people in the Checkers queue paying for groceries with their credit cards. I think about the “For Sale” signs on homes I walk by everyday for months. Worse still, I am not the only person feeling negative about the economy. Indeed, South Africa’s business confidence index plummeted to a 10-year low.

For better or worse we live in a globalizing world characterised by an interconnected economy. The European Union is our largest trading partner and the woes in the Eurozone are bound to affect us. Whilst investors consider the very real prospect of Greece exiting the euro, Spain, Europe’s fourth largest economy, is calling for a credit line for its ailing banks. Neither is this an issue only affecting the southern periphery of the Eurozone. Last week German banks were downgraded. Germany is the very core, the heart of the Eurozone. These problems in the Eurozone are also mirrored across the Atlantic, in the world’s largest economy – the United States – where the economy refuses to take-off despite quantitative easing. Meanwhile, across the Indian Ocean, both the Indian and Chinese economies are slowing down as a direct result of the contracting economies in Europe and the United States. South Africa has already been negatively impacted by these developments seen in the fact that our economy lost jobs in the first quarter of the year as well as the volatility of the rand.

However, the problems confronting the South African economy are not only the result of external factors alone. Internal factors like corruption also play a role. According to Transparency’s International Corruption Perception Index, the country has been steadily slipping. With corruption perceived to be on the rise in South Africa, it is understandable when investors think twice in investing in the country. Given the poor savings culture, South Africa needs these foreign investors if we are to invest in the infrastructure of the country. Populist rants about nationalization are also sure to further dent investment confidence in the country.

More than anything, there is a desperate need for new social compact between government, business and labour. Government needs to move from rhetoric to demonstrate its seriousness to take on corruption, to facilitate small business development, to deregulate the labour market. Business has to understand that given legacies of the past, a business culture of focusing on profit alone and not also social redress is bound to undermine stability in this country. Labour unions have to accept that they need to shift their focus from those employed to the ranks of the unemployed – getting South Africa to work as opposed to focusing on those lucky enough to have jobs.

In this spirit of compromise, we can all serve as catalysts for our moribund economy.


by Rui Faro Saraiva

April 2012 - another “semi-successful” coup d’état in a fully failed state - this seems to be the never-ending story of Guinea Bissau.

On this occasion, the presence of the Angolan Military Mission in Guinea Bissau – MISSANG – appeared to be the prime trigger for the event. But we can also observe that this was in fact only a tool used by the coup plotters to interrupt the current electoral process.

MISSANG, composed of the Angolan armed forces and police, was concluded on the 9th June, with the withdrawal of all personnel. The Angolan military were in Guinea-Bissau on the basis of a military technical cooperation agreement signed by the two countries, which aimed to carry out reforms within the armed forces and local police, as well as to rehabilitate its infrastructures. The Angolan military have now been replaced by forces of the Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS) commanded by Lieutenant-General Guibanga Barro, of Burkina Faso, who, in a ceremony at a Guinean military airport, presented farewell greetings to Lieutenant General Gildo dos Santos, the Commander of the Angolan troops.

The Angolan program, which was interrupted, included the repair of military barracks and police stations and administrative reorganization, along with technical and military training held in not only in Bissau, but also in military and police institutions in Angola. The mission failed to achieve its objectives, which were to support defence and security sector reform, and ultimately raise Angolan influence over Guinea Bissau, which has rich bauxite deposits and possible offshore oil.

Along with the MISSANG mission, Angolan financial support given to Guinea-Bissau to reorganize its Security and Defence infrastructure was also cancelled. Ultimately, the only apparent beneficiaries of the coup d’état were the coup plotters themselves, who have succeeded in dragging the beleaguered country into yet another crisis. Nigeria, through its mediation role and its interpretation of the “zero-tolerance approach”, may try to consolidate its influence in Guinea Bissau and profit also from the coup d’état.

The CPLP (Portuguese Speaking Countries Community), the EU and the UN condemned the coup in Guinea-Bissau and advocate a strict zero-tolerance approach to coups in general. These international institutions still call for the immediate restoration of constitutional order in Guinea Bissau and refuse to recognize all non-elected transitional institutions. Although as yet without success, they continue to push for a different outcome from the recent Guinea Bissau political crisis.

The issue of competition for influence in Guinea Bissau aside, the success of this coup seems to demonstrate definitely the failure of a weak democracy in a strong “narco-state”.

What this episode also shows is the positioning of the Angolan State as an emerging power in Africa and an influential actor among the Lusophone countries. While Angola's active involvement in the case of Guinea Bissau needs to be seen from the perspective of linguistic, cultural and colonial ties, it would be naïve to think that Angolan interests in West Africa are confined to Guinea-Bissau.

The competition for mineral (e.g. bauxite) and energy resources in west Africa as a whole will mean continued interest and involvement at some level by Angola. It is likely to become more influential, not as a South Africa proxy but in its own right, and perhaps along with the support of China.

The southern African region cannot be fully understand politically without bearing in mind its interaction and interdependence with other parts of Africa and beyond.

04 June, 2012

Overcoming the Politics of Identity in Africa

by Hussein Solomon

At the opening of the annual Africa Day conference hosted by the Department of Political Sciences at the University of South Africa, Professor Pieter Labuschagne commented on the politics of ethnicity – pointing to the fact that you have over 3000 ethnic groups uncomfortably residing in Africa’s 54 states. The level of discomfort is clearly evident in the number of ethnic and other identity-based conflicts across the length and breadth of the African continent. These identity conflicts – whether race, ethnicity, religious, or clan – reflect the floundering of the nation-building project on the African continent. The failure of the nation-state project is seen most dramatically in the issue of secession. Where secession has taken place as in Ethiopia and Eritrea and the two Sudans – intra-state conflict is transformed not into peace but inter-state conflict.

In northern Africa, there are the ongoing tensions between Muslims and Coptic Christians in Egpyt. In Morocco conflict persists on the issue of the Saharawis and in Algeria the question of Berber identity is still unresolved. In Nigeria, in West Africa, religious strife between Muslims and Christians are reinforced by their different ethnic and regional identities. Mali has also been torn apart on the issue of a Taureg homeland.

The Democratic Republic of the Congo, in the heart of Africa, remains a conflict-prone area despite the loss of 5 million lives since the 2nd August 1998. Competing identities in a fragile state fuelled by a war economy remains at the heart of this conflict. Here competing ethnic militias like the Hema and Lendu have fought over mineral resources, whilst ethnic groups like the Banyamulenge Tutsis in the eastern Congo see themselves less as Congolese and more as Rwandan as they share the same Tutsi origins with their kin across the border.

Kenya, in eastern Africa, has witnessed the rise of virulent ethnic nationalism between Kikuyu and Luo in the run-up to their last elections. This violent has been temporarily suspended as a result of a political power-sharing agreement brokered. However this agreement looks increasingly shaky as Kenyans hand over suspects in that violence to the International Criminal Court and as the country prepares for elections.

In the Horn of Africa, Somalia represents the quintessential example of where identity politics leads – a balkanized state carved into different clan fiefdoms run by warlords and religious fanatics.

Southern Africa, too, has not escaped this scourge of identity politics. We see it in various forms between Shangaan and Ndau in Mozambique, between Ndebele and Shona in Zimbabwe and between Ovimbundu and Mbundu in Angola. Whilst ostensibly representing the “Rainbow Nation of God,” South Africa’s nation-building project is also floundering. The xenophobic violence which periodically plagues this country illustrates the point well. We also see it in the charges of racism which the ruling party periodically hurls at the political opposition, civil society, the media, and more recently at artists. We see it, too, in claims of the “Zulufication” of the African National Congress following Jacob Zuma’s rise to the presidency.

Whilst the African Union attempts to integrate the African continent, whilst some talk of Pan-Africanism, the reality is that one billion Africans increasingly see themselves as belonging to this or that ethnic group, clan, or extol a religious affiliation as opposed to being “Nigerian” or “African”. Until we can build more inclusive states and societies, conflict will persist and the economic potential of this continent will never be unleashed.

01 June, 2012

Mauritius and the Chagos Islands

by Virgil Hawkins

The modern history of the Chagos islands is a thoroughly shameful one. This small archipelago, situated in the middle of the Indian Ocean, was originally part of what was then the self-governing British colony of Mauritius. Mauritius was convinced to sell these islands to the UK in 1965 under dubious circumstances: the sale was part of the independence negotiations (independence was achieved in 1968) and the prime minister of Mauritius who negotiated the deal was awarded a knighthood soon after the transfer.

The UK subsequently leased the largest island of the archipelago, Diego Garcia, to the US (who wanted it for a military base) in exchange for a discount on Polaris nuclear missiles. In preparation for the construction of the military base, the UK then proceeded to ethnically cleanse the islands, forcibly removing the entire population and dropping them off unceremoniously in the Seychelles and what was left of Mauritius.

Diego Garcia became an important base for the US, particularly so in the 2000s, when it served as a hub from which long-range bombers attacked Afghanistan and Iraq. The base has been used by the CIA for so-called 'extraordinary rendition' flights, and may also have served as a CIA black site prison. In 2010, the UK established a 'marine protected area' (the world's largest) around the archipelago. According to US diplomatic cables made public courtesy of WikiLeaks, this move was specifically designed to prevent former residents from returning (survival for the inhabitants would be difficult if they were prevented from fishing). For the UK, this clever 'solution' looked good from any angle: not only would the possibility of return be taken off the table, but US military activities could continue, and 'points' for environmental concern could also be scored.

Isolated and unpopulated (or conveniently depopulated) islands are, of course, the ideal springboards from which to project military power in this day and age. There are none of the hassles associated with holding or running a colony, for example, and not only do they makes sense in pure military terms (especially if one has long-range bombers), but they also preclude witness or interference by any pesky civilians, journalists or human rights organizations. In the case of populated islands, the consent of inhabitants can, to a degree, be bought, but opposition can still be politically and financially costly, as the US and its generally willing collaborator (the Japanese government) have found, for example, in the use of Okinawa for military bases.

The lease of the Chagos islands to the US expires in 2016, and any possible extension has to be agreed on by December 2014 (the lease allows for a 20-year extension). Crucially, the original terms of purchase of the Chagos islands allow for their return to Mauritius when they are no longer needed for defence purposes. If there is a time for negotiating a return of the islands to Mauritius, it is now. Indeed, the prime ministers of the UK and Mauritius are set to meet next week, and the issue of the Chagos islands is on the agenda.

Mauritius has expressed its intention to have the islands returned, but interestingly, has also made it clear that it does not intend to challenge the continuation of US military activities there. Clearly, allowing the base to remain in Diego Garcia would serve as a considerable financial incentive for the government of Mauritius. But how receptive will the UK be to a call by Mauritius for the return of the islands? Will their response reveal anything about possible plans in the West to bomb Iran? Diego Garcia would undoubtedly serve as one of the key military hubs in the case of any such catastrophe.

There are other deals in play. Mauritius has recently agreed to offer its territory and services for the prosecution and imprisoning of Somali pirates. Was this designed to improve their bargaining position for the return of the Chagos islands? To what degree will any such deals benefit the people of Mauritius and the former (forcibly evicted) inhabitants who wish to return to the Chagos islands (as opposed to a few people holding political power at the top)? Will the end result of all of this simply be a continuation of the same old systems under new management? This is a good time for some hard-hitting media scrutiny on this issue – in the UK, US and Mauritius.

25 May, 2012

The Politics of Victimhood

by Hussein Solomon

You have to hand it to Jacob Zuma – he really does know how to play the victim. In the run-up to Polokwane, South Africans were told that President Mbeki was engaged in a massive conspiracy to keep his dismissed deputy from succeeding him. We were to forget the corruption charges and the Schabir Shaikh judgement which implicated Zuma. We were to focus on the conspiracy. This was clearly a case of deflection from the weaknesses of a flawed character whilst blame was to be attached to a shadowy third force which had its origins in the Union Buildings itself.

With the current controversy surrounding the painting “The Spear” at the Goodman Gallery in Johannesburg wherein Zuma is standing with his genitals exposed, once more Zuma has donned the mantle of victim. Disrespect is shown to the person and the Office of the President. There is clearly racism behind this new conspiracy against Zuma. We are not asked to consider issues of freedom of expression in a liberal democracy. We are not asked to consider this work of satire as a commentary on the morality and ethics of the person occupying the highest office of the land. We are not asked to consider whether Zuma himself with his extra-marital affairs, nepotism and general incompetence has not brought disrespect onto the highest office of the land. We are not asked to consider “The Spear” in the context of other paintings in the exhibition at the gallery which expresses the commonly held view that the ruling party is suffering from a severe case of moral decay. Indeed, we are asked not to think – just to label as racist and dismiss. This is a strategy commonly deployed by autocrats everywhere. In labelling and dismissing, one need not reflect on the very flawed character at the centre of this controversy – racism, after all, explains everything!

To be sure, playing the victim serves a political purpose. One could rally the troops as was seen with the marches of intolerance on the streets of Johannesburg by Zuma’s sycophants or indeed at recent COSATU meetings. Zuma, will certainly benefit from this controversy in the short term. Racism is a good rally cry to boost the sagging fortunes of a party unable to deliver a better life for all. Conspiracies are good for a party which has lost its moral compass and where greed is increasingly institutionalised in the organs of state.

But, what happens tomorrow Mr. Zuma after Mangaung and you and your decrepit party is still unable to deliver. Charges of racism and new conspiracy theories will not create jobs, will not build homes, will not put food on the table. There will be more Ficksburgs’ as service delivery protests increase in scale and magnitude. Unfortunately there will be more Andries Tatanes’ too, but ultimately Mr. Zuma the tide of history is against you and your party.