19 October, 2017

A Call for Free Education by South African Students

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

09 October, 2017

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

by Michaela Elsbeth Martin

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

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

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

President Jacob Zuma

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

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

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

16 September, 2017

The Lesotho Defence Force in Turmoil

by M. K. Mahlakeng

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

02 July, 2017

South Africa’s “Rot” Runs Deep

by Michaela Elsbeth Martin

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

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

Atul Gupta protest banner - Cape Town Zuma must fall

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

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

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

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

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

27 June, 2017

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

by M. K. Mahlakeng

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

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

Chinese Lesotho project Lesotho Parliament II

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

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

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

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

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

26 April, 2017

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

by M. K. Mahlakeng

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

14 April, 2017

Zambia: On the Brink of Dictatorship

by Hussein Solomon

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

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

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

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

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

09 April, 2017

South Africa under Cardiac Arrest

by Michaela Elsbeth Martin

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

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

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

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

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

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

06 February, 2017

Lesotho Splinter Parties: Cause and Effect

by M. K. Mahlakeng

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

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

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

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

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


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

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

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

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