Thoughts on South African and international politics and culture

Tuesday, August 30, 2005

Interesting moves by Jiyane
Whilst the odds are naturally stacked up against any new opposition party entering the political fray in south Africa, we are starting to see some interesting moves. After being ignominiously booted out of the IFP, Ziba Jiyane recently started the National Democratic Convention as an opposition party, with which no one patently expects him to have much success.

The ANC is simply too strong a force to be bothered by opposition parties, especially small ones, as Patricia de Lille has discovered. All of these parties are merely biding their time until the "liberation party" aura falls from the ANC, and are living off the political scraps falling from the tri-partite alliance's table.

However, Jiyane is one of the few that at this stage is trying to create a multicultural platform. The Cape Times reports that Jiyane's party has contacted former president FW De Klerk for party support. Jiyane has to reach out beyond his traditional power base in KZN, and gaining tacit or vocal support from De Klerk will offer inroads into coloured votes in the Cape and white votes around the country. Whether this will prove successful is highly unlikely for Jiyane in the short-term, but it does offer the way forward for opposition parties to gather a broad voter platform as opposed to the niche currently being exploited by most smaller opposition parties. Only in this way will opposition parties get away from traditional cultural lines and move toward issues-based voting, which is the only method for them to have a reasonable growth against ANC domination.

Monday, August 29, 2005

Sunni rejection
The Iraqi leadership presented the draft constition for the new Iraq over the weekend, but Sunni and Shia leadership have rejected amendments and have vowed not to support it. Whilst Bush (as he would have to) praised it as an "inspiration", the truth of the matter is that unless the Iraqi consitution can have the support of all of Iraq's secular factions, there remains a distinct danger for future unrest. Although the Sunni's and Shia are in the minority in Iraq, they hold much power and have support from Iran's Ayatollah, and their exclusion from the political process is worrying for the fledgling Iraqi democracy.

The danger from the US side lies in the fact that the Sunni's and Shia want a government based more on Islamic law than democracy, (I.e. a theocracy), which will be difficult for the US and it's allies to take. Bush is thus keen to push this draft through the upcoming referendum. However, the peril lies in this short-term move having significant long-term implications.

Friday, August 26, 2005

The Independence of the SABC
The SABC's independence has been under fire as the 'national broadcaster' even before the ANC's Snuki Zikalala took over the reigns. Mud mud has been thrown and much has stuck, and rival broadcaster E-TV has been been only too happy to reinforce the perception.

The lack of coverage on SABC's News of the booing of Deputy President Phumlani Mlambo-Ncuka at an ANC earlier rally this month led to much criticism of the national broadcaster. In their defence, the SABC stated that they had a freelance cameraman covering the event, who arrived too late and missed the booing incidents. Enter a gleeful E-TV, who showed footage of the self-same cameraman dutifully filming the entire incident, including the booing, inferring that the coverage was cut in the editing process. This clearly shows a political intercession by the news editors, which calls to question the role of the SABC in providing independent news versus government propaganda.

The critical factor in South Africa is the prevalence of SABC's transmissions, not only on TV, but more importantly for the mass market, on radio. The same editors cover television and radio, and in South Africa's tightly controlled public broadcast market, this means that the majority of South Africans rely on the SABC to develop their perceptions about our nation, its leaders, policies and culture. This in turn implies that the SABC has to be vigorous in that responsibility. Unfortunately, it consistently seems as though the SABC is failing in this regard, and that those who feared Zikalala's appointment have been proved correct.

It will be very difficult for the SABC to regain the trust of those that have seen through these issues, but sadly, given that the majority of our country receives it's news from the SABC itself, and that the loudest voices in the story have been the Mail & Guardian, Business Day and E-TV, most will have been blissfully aware of the issue in the first place. Irony abounds...

Wednesday, August 24, 2005

Cosatu "may be wrong on Zuma"
In what is rather a bizarre article, Cosatu secretary-general, Zwelinzima Vavi, admitted that they had 'pandered to the pressure of their members and could be wrong' about Zuma.

"It is possible that we may be wrong," he said. "It is possible there may be an element of correctness on both sides, that there may have been corruption, that those acts of corruption or wrongdoing may have just fed into a political plot.

The Cape Times states that the Cosatu leadership feels 'trapped' between their allegiance to the ANC and their members' emotional support of Zuma. The newspaper quotes Vavi as saying: "The overwhelming majority of Cosatu activists and leaders believe there is a conspiracy to deal with (Zuma). There is absolutely nothing we can do to change those beliefs," and then makes the inference: 'suggesting Cosatu's leaders were caught between an emotional rock and a political hard place'.

Whilst this is undoubtedly true, it paints a somewhat spurious picture of of Cosatu's leadership being innocently swept along in this issue. The Cosatu leadership has led the charge on Zuma's innocence from the first indictments against Shaik, and their leadership has been very vocal in support of Zuma. What they're now realising is that those comments have materially damaged their relations within the tri-partite alliance, and that they have created a groundswell amongst their membership that is proving immensely difficult to quell, which they realise may prove to be political suicide.

They've hardly been 'caught' between a rock and a hard place. On the contrary, they've firmly walked the path there. If this does constitute a slight change of heart by Cosatu's leadership, they have a lot of work to do in rebuilding relations internally. It also suggests that the ANC leadership has clamped down sufficiently on party leadership lines behind closed doors, and may hasten the decline of Cosatu as a political entity.

Tuesday, August 23, 2005

Respect for law

"The Congress of South African Trade Unions and the South African Communist Party are planning a 'million signature campaign' to convince President Thabo Mbeki to drop corruption charges against his former deputy, Jacob Zuma." - IOL

Would COSATU also support a hypothetical former convicts of South Africa "million signature campaign" to force Thabo Mbeki to drop all murder charges against those in prison? The process and rule of law is robust; once commenced, it cannot be wished away on the whim of a party. On the other hand, could this be the first signs of COSATU realising that he may be found guilty in a court of law?

COSATU: Democracy "disaster for the poor"
COSATU's Western Cape secretary Tony Ehrenreich comments yesterday only reinforce my rapidly declining views of the union.

Ehrenreich said that : "Economically, we have overseen a disaster. 40% of our people are unemployed..." "the inequalities between the rich and the poor have grown..." "You would know that thousands of clothing workers have lost their jobs because of the policy choices they've made in this country."

All undoubtedly true, but the blame placed on democracy, and the belief that communism would have altered the situation is laughable. I would love somebody (perhaps Wayne or Laurence from Commentary) to write a "what-if" of the post-Apartheid leadership driving a communist manifesto through South Africa's economy as opposed to a democratic one. I would envisage that a "revolution" to democracy would have taken place very swiftly. Think of all white capitalist businessmen, who largely controlled the economy, fleeing the country with their capital and skills. Think of a complete lack of FDI. Think of the complete feeding frenzy when the unskilled masses were randomly allocated resources and jobs. I would imagine that South Africa would be in a significantly worse state than we're in now [read a 'collapsed' state]. We would be fighting with Zimbabwe for the most failed state on the African continent, and the world would be looking at us with pity and shame, asking what happened to the "Miracle".

This year, the economy has created more net jobs for the first time in a decade, is overseeing a burgeoning GDP growth rate that is undoubtedly higher than the 4% the incompetent Stats SA offers and a creation of a robust black middle class that was so desperately needed for South Africa's long term future. It's not all pretty, poverty is undoubtedly a huge challenge, but it always was going to prove so.

Communism may have given rise to more employment, but not more wealth per capita. The few global examples of communist states only bear witness. As a long term solution, our government has taken the right path, and continues to build an economy that will offer the most long-term job prospects and poverty alleviation for our nation.

Monday, August 22, 2005

Carte Blanche
Whilst I used to enjoy the common courage of Carte Blanche's investigative journalism, I have over the past few years found it to have degenerated into a poorly produced and often one-eyed program. The aim of an investigative journalism program is to bring to light insightful views on a particular issue or topic, looking at it from both sides and providing an avenue for the viewer to make their judgements on the credibility of the story. Far too often these days, it is clear that Carte Blanche's producers enter a story with a known outcome, and do little to provide a balanced viewpoint. This is a general observation and not limited to last night's edition.

What does astound me though, is that there can be simple spelling errors in sub-titles during a show, which to me is testament to the slipping production standards of Carte Blanche as a show. In the story last night surrounding the schoolboy beating of black homeless people, "break" was subtitled as "brake" and "lose" was sub-titled as "loose". Call me pedantic, but a show that is based on providing intelligent commentary about South African issues, that is just appalling.

Friday, August 19, 2005

Quote of the Day
"I'm fine... I'm being hassled by Gestapo-type tactics, but I'm dealing with it. I'm a revolutionary and I'll take on Mbeki and his boys."

- Schabir Shaik overheard on his phone outside his house.

Thursday, August 18, 2005

The deafening silence
Anybody noticed how the key players have gone silent on SA's bailout loan to Zimbabwe? With negotiations between Trevor Manuel and his Zimbabwean counterpart commencing last week, there has been nothing but static regarding its progress this week.

An offer was clearly made by the South Africans to get former Mozambican leader Joaquim Chissano in for help in mediating talks between the MDC and Zanu-PF, which Mugabe has today loudly rebuffed. It seems largely indicative of the sort of background shuffling that is going on unseen by various South African diplomats. This deal is very important to South Africa, as having been constantly berated by local and global allies for their lack of progress in quiet diplomacy, it represents what could quite possible be quiet diplomacy's last gasps.

As I've said before, if this loan fails - or goes through without any political stipulations - Mbeki and Dlamini-Zuma may be forced to adopt a more forceful, and vocal, foreign policy with Zimbabwe. It is clear that this is not the way Mbeki and other ANC Africanists want to go, hence the scrambling that is currently going on behind the scenes.

This is clearly a situation that is not going to be rushed, and one that is not going to be lost without a significant fight by the South African diplomatic corps. Oh to have a phone tap on Trevor's mobile phone!

Wednesday, August 17, 2005

Life terms and mandatory sentencing
Call me philosophical, but I've always thought that the rape of children is equitable to a murder of their souls, such is the psychological damage done to the child, inferring an inherent difficulty in continuing to live out the rest of their lives. The government recently extended the minimum life sentence for the rape of a person under sixteen, and it is with great pleasure that I read that a judge yesterday handed down three life sentences to a father who was repeatedly raping his three daughters.

Child rape is a despicable scourge in South Africa, and although my words can do nothing to dent the prevalence of it in our society, one hopes that more publicity surrounding these life sentences may go some way to dissuading those perpetrators from action, and persuading them to find psychological assistance.

My emphasis here on child rape is not by way of ignoring the rape of those above the age of sixteen, which is an almost hourly occurrence in South Africa as well. The difficulties are often in proving rape over consent in these cases, but I strongly support the harsher minimum sentencing for rape cases in these instances as well. As it stands, the minimum sentencing laws are:

A life sentence is mandatory three cases of rape. The first is when it is committed

1. in circumstances where the victim was raped more than once, whether by the accused or by any co-perpetrator or accomplice;
2. by more than one person, where such person acted in the execution of [or?] furtherance of a common purpose or conspiracy;
3. by a person who has been convicted of two more offences of rape, but has not yet been sentenced in respect of such convictions; or
4. by a person, knowing that he has acquired immune deficiency syndrome or the human immunodeficiency virus.

The second instance (really three instances, grouped together) where a life sentence is mandatory for rape is where the victim is a girl under the age of 16 years; is a physically disabled woman who, due to her physical disability, is rendered particularly vulnerable; or is a mentally ill woman as contemplated in specified legislation relating to mental health.

Thirdly, a person convicted of rape must be sentenced to life imprisonment where the rape involved the infliction of grievous bodily harm.

Minimum sentencing has it's critics, mostly over issues of overcrowding. This graphic (click to enlarge), taken from a 2005 ISS paper (available here) shows the impact of minimum sentencing since inception in 1998:

We still hear of judges giving substantially reduced sentences in cases of rape, under the provision in the mandatory sentencing act which states that if a court "is satisfied that substantial and compelling circumstances exist which justify the imposition of a lesser sentence than the sentence prescribed in those subsections, it shall enter those circumstances on the record of the proceedings and may thereupon impose such lesser sentence."

Taken in totality, mandatory sentencing has increased prison populations, but I strongly feel that they are a step forward in our country's fight against crime, and a form of insurance against corruption in the judiciary. There is current debate about their efficacy, with a view to dropping the legislation. I sincerely hope this does not occur.

Monday, August 15, 2005

Salman Rushdie on the London Bombings
There's an interesting debate going on at the Times' website over an article written by Salman Rushdie about the need for reform of Islam in the wake of the recent terrorist attacks in London. The article by Rushdie is here and the debate page is here.

Mbeki's First Move
Having ridden the recent troubled waters surrounding Zuma, service delivery and, more recently, the adverse welcome at various events for the new Deputy President, Mbeki has made his first major move in the realignment of ANC party lines. The decision to cut funding for the ANC Youth League was a long time coming as the child and parent body staked out increasingly disparate positions on major political issues. As much as Smuts Ngonyama and the ANCYL will deny it, this was a move telegraphing a warning to those that try to butt heads with the ANC leadership.

Mbeki's leadership has always been tough an uncompromising, and he deals with threats conclusively. Whether this hard line will control the temerity of youth will remain to be seen, but expect top see a more aggressive Mbeki coming out of his corner now after a tough six months for the President.

Friday, August 12, 2005

Quote of the Day

"We are soon going to annex Zimbabwe so don't despair, we will have quite a population to choose from."

- ANC MP Tsietsi Louw after Komphela expressed concern that local interest in the event would crumble if South Africa was eliminated in the first round of the 2010 World Cup.

Thursday, August 11, 2005

Mbeki and the olive branch
Politically speaking, I think Mbeki has handled the recent threats and rumbles from the Cosatu/SACP alliance very well. Under immense pressure from public commentary and street riots, Mbeki has held his tongue and has not elevated the rift to a governmental level, which is to his great credit. He could easily have fanned the flames of discontent, but by keeping quiet he has given the other tri-partite members little platform for argument and few opportunities to launch a decisive political move, which has shown that the best place for the SACP and Cosatu lies within the ANC alliance, not outside of it.

Yesterday, Mbeki made comments in support of the tri-partite alliance and extended an open hand to the SACP and Cosatu, saying:

"The alliance also needs to engage more directly and coherently in political and ideological struggle that is taking place in our country, countering the conservative positions that continue to dominate public discourse. It is quite clear that we cannot undertake this task successfully unless we are united as a democratic movement, as an alliance, Cosatu, as (the SACP)... as the ANC.

There are many who would like to see the democratic transformation of South Africa fail. They would like to see an alliance that is divided, that is unsure, that does not know what it is doing. We cannot allow that to happen."

Well handled.

Blogger has flu
Apologies for the slow blogging this week, I've been taken down with the old arch enemy - flu. Normal service to resume shortly...

Monday, August 08, 2005

Robin Cook

Most politicians are granted rose-tinted prose and verbose accolades upon their passing, and many of these are undeserved. For some, however, these cliched eulogies are a disserving antecedent to a true obituary of praise and endearment. One such recently passed politician was Robin Cook, the former UK foreign secretary, who will be remembered as one of the most integrous of world politicians.

Cook's principled stand over the Iraq war, his emphasis on humanitarian intervention, his efforts in the creation of the international criminal court and his successful fight to ban the British use of anti-personnel mines will provide the basis for his empathetic and principled legacy. He was also an incredibly eloquent speaker, as his speech upon leaving Parliament in protest against the Iraq war is testament to:

"This is the first time for 20 years that I have addressed the House from the back benches. I must confess that I had forgotten how much better the view is from here . . . The longer that I have served in this place, the greater the respect I have for the good sense and collective wisdom of the British people.

"On Iraq, I believe that the prevailing mood of the British people is sound. They do not doubt that Saddam is a brutal dictator, but they are not persuaded that he is a clear and present danger to Britain . . . from the start of the present crisis, I have insisted, as Leader of the House, on the right of this place to vote on whether Britain should go to war . . . I intend to join those tomorrow night who will vote against military action now. It is for that reason, and for that reason alone, and with a heavy heart, that I resign from the Government."

Rest in Peace.

Friday, August 05, 2005

Bailout failure will signal watershed in SA-Zim relations
The controversial Zimbabwean bailout package to be supplied by the South African government looks doomed before it starts as Zimbabwean officials have rejected the main political stipulation that they resume talks with the MDC. From the Business Day:
Nathan Shamuyarira, chief spokesman for the ruling Zanu-PF and a confidant of President Robert Mugabe, said yesterday that Zimbabwe would not relent to pressure for a negotiated political settlement with the MDC.

"We will not have talks with the MDC. We have been saying this over and over again. Why are we being forced to talk to them? Why should they talk to us?" Shamuyarira said.

His comments echo Mugabe's announcement last weekend that Zimbabwe would not succumb to pressure "from whomever" to accept talks with the MDC.
This then raises the question about the future of relations between the two countries. The political stipulations inherent in the package should be deal breakers, as the international community would not look favourably on such a generous bailout unless it was linked to political change. However, as I've stated before, it leaves South Africa damned if they do, and damned if they don't, as the fallout of a failed economic state in Zimbabwe will undoubtedly be felt directly by South Africa.

It also presents a watershed to Thabo Mbeki and Nkosazana Dlamini-Zuma. If quiet diplomacy is publicly rebuked by the Mugabe regime in this manner, it must surely lead to its rejection as the diplomatic tool of choice. The simple issue of meeting with the MDC should not have been a deal breaker, for its consequences for Zanu-PF could easily be contained, and it illuminates the insincerity by which Mugabe has been stringing Mbeki along.

If negotiations over the next few days between Trevor Manuel and his Zimbabwean Finance Minister Herbert Murerwa come to nought on these stipulations, one should see a watershed moment where South Africa's policy toward Zimbabwe changes. It will not be overt - don't expect to see Mbeki publicly criticising Mugabe - but expect to see more emphasis placed on the MDC and the international community, and less assistance for Zanu-PF, particularly from the ANC party structures.

Wednesday, August 03, 2005

Tories in a muddle
In what is largely symptomatic of the woes of the Tories, two Tory politicians express polar views on the recent bomb attacks on London. David Davis, the shadow home secretary and most likely successor for Tory leadership, said yesterday in a speech condemning multicultural Britain that "questions must be asked about how the perverted values of the suicide bomber". No sooner had the ink dried on reporter's notepads than came a comment by Tory shadow Attorney General Dominic Grieve that "I find the suicide bombing totally explicable in terms of the level of anger which many members of the Muslim community seem to have about a large number of things."

No direction, no cohesion - the Tory story.

Monday, August 01, 2005

Quote of the Day

"I refuse to accept that black people can be racists."

- Jon Qwelane, in his ridiculous weekly diatribe on

Last days of the IFP?
The IFP has long struggled for relevance since the mid-nineties, and with the last two weeks' internal battle between the reformists and the Buthelezi loyalists, the latter's perceived victory seems as though it is a party doomed to follow the NP into obscurity.

Jiyane's suspension yesterday by the IFP slams the door on the principles of reform and rejuvenation from the chairman. The comments by Jiyane that the IFP constituted "an internal dictatorship" were clearly meant to divide the party and rally support for change, with him as the new leadership candidate. They were borne of an endemic frustration with the party's continued rudderless listing in the political waters. It is a pity that this suspension will now infer that reform will be taken off the IFP agenda, and none of the ideals proposed by Jiyane will be taken on board.

Buthelezi is not a man to give up power easily, and this represents a boon to his political survival. The Mail & Guardian has reported Jiyane's comments as a "masterstroke" of politicking by old hand Buthelezi, who drew Jiyane into a "trap" using the IFP Youth League to stir up publicity on Jiyane's comments and force him into a position that would put him squarely against Buthelezi in the party's eyes, with Buthelezi an easy victor.

Whatever the case, the IFP needs fresh blood and a new direction. The party is simply not seen as a viable alternative in government, and this lack of policy development and issue development is destining the party for failure. With Buthelezi's victory over Jiyane, one would be hard-pressed to see constructive change in the party. And without that, one cannot see the party surviving beyond the next elections in 2009.