15 September, 2013

'Comrade' Khama Endorses Comrade Mugabe: Solidarity Triumphs over Reason

by George A. Mhango

The recent endorsement of ZANU-PF victory by Botswana’s Ian Khama during the 33rd SADC heads of state and government summit last month is enough food for thought for analysts of southern African political and security governance. To put this discussion in perspective, it is also important to point out that the context within which Botswana was hoodwinked to finally make this decision has already become subject of debate amongst many analysts. But suffice to say that the decision alone is landmark and has both regional and extra-regional implications. At least for me it means two things.

President Ian Khama speaks (Photo: GovernmentZA)

First is that SADC has successfully managed to corner the only outspoken and non-conformist member state, bringing back the prodigal son to the fold. This should be good news for the elder statesman, Robert Mugabe, who is also ‘Chairperson apparent’ of SADC, now that the ‘menacing boy’ has successfully been silenced and can join the sing-along of the sub-regional body’s old fables crafted in solidarity politics of the liberation rhetoric. I can imagine SADC leaders finally sighing a great relief ‘…at last we have him among us…’

But the second (and most worrying for me) is that we have lost an important voice in the region with regard to upholding of democratic morals. It goes without saying that for almost a decade, Botswana has been characterized by a strong culture of confronting undemocratic, platitudinous and rhetorical stances taken by SADC. This stance was undoubtedly healthy and it was important that the sub-region needed to move forward on the basis of principle and not personality or comradeship.

There is enough reason to worry about the future of a SADC without a voice of reason – a critical mind that gives the comrades food for thought on crucial matters touching the sub-regions development. I am not convinced that the region will be able to move along the path of democratic integrity without a ‘sanitizer within’. And given this path-breaking stance, it becomes difficult to take Botswana with the seriousness that we have always accorded it. Nevertheless, these are the dynamics of our regional politics. Maybe this is the right place to say that solidarity politics is turning out to be an important framework for analyzing sub-regional politics in southern Africa. Granted that comradeship is resurfacing, but I am not sure for how long this will be the case. Otherwise, my conviction is that meaningful democratic breakthrough in the region hinges on the assuagement of these liberation ideological imperatives which are a threat to the voices of our remnant democrats.

14 September, 2013

SACCPS Seminar on Peacebuilding (Lusaka, Zambia)

From 20 to 22 September, 2013, the Southern African Centre for Collaboration on Peace and Security (SACCPS) will hold its third international seminar, this year on the subject of peacebuilding in the southern African region.

The seminar will welcome speakers from throughout and beyond the region, as well as practitioners and diplomats based in Zambia. The seminar will aim to both further conceptualize the issue of peacebuilding, and examine how it is being applied in the context of the southern African region. Presentations will include case studies, such as situations in Angola, the DRC and Zimbabwe, as well as thematic issues, such as the role of women in peacebuilding, transitional justice, and democratization.

The program for the seminar (which will be held at the Chrismar Hotel in Lusaka), can be found here.

The seminar hopes to build on the success of the 2012 SACCPS seminar, held on the subject of peacekeeping and peace enforcement in southern Africa. Work presented at the seminar will be reflected on this blog, on the SACCPS website, and eventually in the journal, Southern African Peace and Security Studies.

For further information on attending the conference, please contact info@saccps.org.

05 September, 2013

Who is Isabel dos Santos?

by Rui Faro Saraiva

In a recent controversial article by Forbes magazine, Isabel dos Santos, businesswoman and daughter of the Angolan president José Eduardo dos Santos, was described as a billionaire who may have abused her public powers for her own illicit enrichment.

“For the past year FORBES has been tracing Isabel dos Santos' path to riches, reviewing a score of documents and speaking with dozens of people on the ground. As best as we can trace, every major Angolan investment held by Dos Santos stems either from taking a chunk of a company that wants to do business in the country or from a stroke of the president’s pen that cut her into the action. Her story is a rare window into the same, tragic kleptocratic narrative that grips resource-rich countries around the world.”

Isabel dos Santos, promptly denied Forbes’ allegations of unlawful enrichment and accused one of the co-authors of the article, Rafael Marques, of political activism. He is a renowned human rights activist and also the head of the Angolan anti-corruption NGO, MAKA Angola.

Additionally, some other important African personalities came to Dos Santos' defense. Donald Kaberuka, president of the African Development Bank, said, “Isabel is an example for all African women, and not only that, she is an example for all Africans”. This statement was delivered at the meeting of the 'BRICS Business Council' held in Johannesburg 19-20 August, gathering businessmen and investors from Brazil, Russia, India, China and South Africa, where measures and specific initiatives to boost ties, negotiation, trade, industrialization and investment among BRICS countries and Africa were discussed. Isabel dos Santos was present in the BRICS Business Council as a representative of Unitel, the Angolan mobile phone Company, and Banco BIC, Angola’s biggest private bank.

Isabel dos Santos also seems to be a key figure in the relations between China and Angola. She was recently interviewed by the China Daily, where she underlined that the industrial Chinese investors that want to create new factories and mines in Angola are the key players in the next developments of the deep relations between the two countries. Indeed, if we compare with the 1980’s, the current commercial trade between China and Angola is one thousand times bigger, as noted by Gao Kexiang, the Chinese ambassador in Luanda.

Isabel dos Santos may be Africa’s richest woman and one of the most important key players in the intricate Angolan power web. “Who is Isabel dos Santos?” seems to be a question with an easy answer. But the Forbes magazine may be triggering different questions.

Angola seems destined to be one of the most relevant and influential actors in Africa, particularly in the Southern African region. However, its political stability, economic growth and social development may face considerable challenges as a result of widespread corruption and embezzlement. Additionally, José Eduardo dos Santos, remains the planet’s third-longest-serving non-royal head of state, while “70% of Angolans live on less than $2 a day, and 10% of the country’s population is scrambling for food due to drought and bureaucratic neglect”.

So where’s the money going? This seems the most crucial question and its answer may have wide political, economic and social implications in Angola.