Thoughts on South African and international politics and culture

Friday, September 28, 2007

Conspiracy confirmed?
It seems that a conspiracy has been confirmed on the Pikoli suspension, but not the one we had thought. It turns out that Pikoli had issued a warrant for arrest for police chief Jackie Selebi over alleged links with crime syndicates. Now, as the latest conspiracy theory goes, Mbeki suspended Pikoli as he was unhappy with Selebi being pursued for arrest.

His reasons for this only Mbeki can explain. Perhaps the international embarrassment of Interpol's chief being arrested? The Cape Argus reported on Tuesday that Mbeki was about to commence a probe into Selebi's dealings, but if the Scorpions and the NPA had already concluded that there was enough evidence to issue a warrant for arrest, why would this be necessary? Or does it come down to a simple fact of Mbeki being a control freak, in that neither himself, nor the Justice Minister were notified of plans to arrest Selebi?

In any event, this is certainly a story that is gaining momentum with every second, and Thabo Mbeki has a lot of explaining to do.

Thursday, September 27, 2007

The Thursday Three
Got three things to point to today, so I'll keep the introduction brief.

Firstly, some amusement was had yesterday in court at the exploits of the terminally grumpy Judge Nkola Motata, who was in the dock for being drunk behind the wheel. You may remember the judge knocking over a wall driving into someone's garden, and then expressing his anger that the aggrieved person was there in the first place. Officers testified how he refused to leave the car, had to be dragged out, and then immediately fell over, whilst swearing at everyone within earshot. All the sordid, and amusing, details here.

Secondly, another cracker from Fox Radio blow-hard Bill O'Reilly, who visited the world renowned Harlem eatery Sylvia's and noted on air:
"I couldn't get over the fact that there was no difference between Sylvia's restaurant and any other restaurant in New York City. I mean, it was exactly the same, even though it's run by blacks. There wasn't one person in Sylvia's who was screaming, 'M-Fer, I want more iced tea.' You know, it was like going into an Italian restaurant in an all-white suburb. People were sitting there, and they were ordering and having fun. And there wasn't any kind of craziness at all."
That, Ladies and Gents, is a prime example of the most dangerous racism of all - nuanced prejudice.

Finally, I read with interest the latest Mo Ibrahim Index of African Governance, which has South Africa third after Sudan and Burundi as Africa's most dangerous country. I'm not sure how this is compiled, but it does strike me as strange that South Africa could be seen as more dangerous than Somalia, Sierra Leone and Congo. The DA has naturally picked up on it as a political tool, and one wonders if that's just what it is...

Tuesday, September 25, 2007

Pikoli: Fired for lack of action on Zuma?
The suspension of National Prosecuting Authority chief Vusi Pikoli has landed like a firestorm in the media this week and the conspiracy theories are flying. I don't have the inside information to know the answers but the juiciest has to be the succession theory.

Vusi Pikoli was seen by some, especially on the Zuma side, as Mbeki's stooge, well used by the President to charge Zuma at various times. Some of these see a conspiracy in Mbeki's unconstitutional suspension of Pikoli (only Parliament can fire him officially), in that he was dumped for not expediting Zuma's graft trial to before the December AGM. Stranger things have happened...

Friday, September 21, 2007

Bush says Mandela "is dead".
I couldn't help but chuckle at this one. I'm really not one to poke fun at the hapless George W. Bush's gaffs, I leave that to the bloggers funnier than I. However, this was a real howler. In a press conference yesterday, Bush stated:
I thought an interesting comment was made — somebody said to me, I heard somebody say, “Now, where’s Mandela?” Well, Mandela’s dead because Saddam Hussein killed all the Mandelas.
His spokepeople afterwards claimed he was talking about 'mandalas' but I'll leave that up to you to decide, because he surely would have been using it in the plural sense if that was so.

Check the video here.

Wednesday, September 19, 2007

The world turns to quiet diplomacy?
Apologies for the lack of posts this week, having a really tough work week! Finally some support for Thabo's quiet diplomacy policy with Zimbabwe. The Brussels-based International Crisis Group (ICG, a foreign affairs think tank, has stated in a report that:
Western sanctions had failed and attacks on President Robert Mugabe by London and Washington were counter-productive. Mediation by President Thabo Mbeki "offers the only realistic chance to escape a crisis that increasingly threatens to destabilise the region", said the ICG in a report. It said: "It is critical that all international actors close ranks behind the Mbeki mediation."
Will that happen? Probably not. But it is increasingly difficult to see what the Western powers can do about Zimbabwe, barring forced regime change, which is a very unlikely scenario.

Friday, September 14, 2007

McBride 'cover-up' blown open
Not too much time to post today, but couldn't resist directing to a great undercover piece by the Mail & Guardian. They have secured video evidence of the lawyer for the three 'witnesses' (about to testify against McBride in his drunk-driving cover-up) outlining their involvement in serious crimes, which their lawyer and police knew about, and how he managed to obtain indemnity from prosecution by brokering a deal for them to turn state witness in the drunk-driving case.

Essentially, this throws into significant doubt the credibility of these witnesses against McBride, and thus, the conviction that everyone assumed would largely be a foregone conclusion.

Thursday, September 13, 2007

Is SA's Democratic Honeymoon Over?
My new Thought Leader article is up, discussing converging trends which are putting unprecedented pressure on our somewhat optimistic 1994 democratic principles:
I’m increasingly feeling that 2007 will be remembered as a seminal year in South African post-apartheid politics. It is shaping up to be a watershed year. I recently discussed the African National Congress’s 2007 as an annus horribilis, but it’s wider than the party. I think 2007 will go down as the year that South Africa’s honeymoon trust in democracy falters, and debate begins on how to test the boundaries of governance. Before I continue, let me be clear, I’m not calling anything near an end for democracy in South Africa, far from it, but rather a more realistic expectation of what democracy means for our nation.

I think this is the crossing of two wider trends in the country. The first being the disillusionment of many of the poorer segments of our society and the resultant move away from liberation party voting, and the second being the increasing centralisation of power in the Presidency and the ANC’s increasing paranoia of power.
Read the rest here.

Wednesday, September 12, 2007

Look before you leap
Moneyweb's got some interesting reading for those executives ready to jump the Good Ship South Africa for foreign lands. Seems like when total cost of living is taken into account, the huge salaries in Rand-value are not nearly as appealing as those locally. For example:

An executive thinking about moving to Australia should be ready to take a 50% drop in disposable income.

An executive thinking about moving to the UK should be ready to take a 30% drop in disposable income.

An executive thinking about moving to France should be ready to take a 30% drop in disposable income.

In fact, only executives moving to the USA have an advantage in terms of real purchasing power. Have a read here.

Monday, September 10, 2007

Running for the hills
I can imagine there's a whole raft of people who are thinking of running for the hills because of Helen Zille's arrest at a protest over the weekend. Zille was arrested for breaking the rules of the peaceful protest, seemingly for standing on somebody's driveway.

Two things are important here. Firstly, Zille has had a somewhat combative relationship with the police force, and this is undoubtedly the work of some overzealous and undoubtedly disgruntled policeman. Secondly, the move has been condemned at the highest levels of the ANC, including Thabo Mbeki and today, ANC Secretary General Kgalema Motlanthe. Motlanthe stated that "It's an unfortunate incident. If incidents like this are reported abroad, it creates a very negative picture of South Africa. We would consider that someone in such a high position would be treated with a measure of respect," he said on behalf of the ANC."

It was what it was, an unfortunate incident.

Thursday, September 06, 2007

The Slow Death of the PAC
It is sad that it is floor-crossing that puts the final nail in the once-proud Pan African Congress' coffin. The PAC entered the floor-crossing season with 4 MP's left, so far two have left to form a new party, and one has all but crossed. The sole remaining MP, former president Motsoko Pheko, is currently under dispute with the PAC, who have been trying to oust him from the party anyway. The case is under appeal, and should the appeal fail, the PAC will be a party without representation.

The first two to leave, former party deputy president Themba Godi and former secretary general Mofihli Likotsi, have formed the African People's Convention, a new party which aims to carry on the ideology and policy positions of the PAC, within a new vehicle. Personally, this seems like a vain move, given that the PAC's demise found its antecedent in a lack of relevance with the electorate. The PAC in a new guise will surely fail.

If looked at from a historical point of view, the demise of the PAC is a shame. The PAC has nearly a half century of history in South African politics, most of that as a strong player in the Struggle. It is the party of Robert Sobukwe, the ideological home of Steve Biko, and the platform for the Black Consciousness Movement. Whilst many, including myself, disagreed with the role of APLA during the Struggle, the PAC's influence as part of the collective that brought freedom to our land is difficult to deny.

Tuesday, September 04, 2007

Ramaphosa: Very much in play, despite what you read
All the dailies carried a statement by Cyril Ramaphosa refuting an article in the Sunday Times, in which he said: "As I have said in the past, I have no interest in standing for this position. Like all ANC members I am confident that this matter will be clarified in accordance with the policies, organisational culture and processes of the ANC."

Most dailies have read this as a flat denial and have written off Ramaphosa as a presidential option, but in my opinion, this misses the intricacies of ANC politics. Tokyo Sexwale, as Ramaphosa's main centrist opposition for the post, came out and explicitly stated that he was standing for the presidency. There were howls of protest from within ANC structures that this was not the way it was done. Within ANC politics, you are called by the ANC for duty, you do not select yourself. Thus, in my opinion, the second part of Ramaphosa's statement is much more illustrative than the first. Ramaphosa will not "stand" for the position, he will wait for the outcome of the nominations process "in accordance with the policies, organisational culture and processes of the ANC."

This is how the ANC nominations work; behind closed doors, impeccably lobbied and rewarding those that follow due process. I may prove to be wrong, but in my view, Ramaphosa is still very much in play.

Monday, September 03, 2007

The ANC: End of the Empire or Annus Horribilis?
My latest piece on Thought Leader has a look at the current state of the ANC, and poses the question whether we are seeing the beginnings of the end of "liberation party" voting or whether this is simply a bad year for the party. A short sample:
Since the end of the first decade of freedom in 2004, many political commentators have been looking for signs of that watershed moment when the ANC electorate stops voting solely for the party of their liberation, and starts voting for the party of their relevance.

The ANC has traditionally gained from being the instrument of liberation in taking the key role in the negotiations from 1990 to 1994 and for possessing the symbol of the struggle in Nelson Mandela. Most voters spent their first years of free elections voting for the ANC solely for this reason. For the past three years since the end of the first decade, there has been significantly more internal and external dissent, none more so than 2007. The question thus stands: Is this just a bad year for the ANC, or are we in the first throes of the end of the empire?

Between the violent and widespread delivery protests, corruption problems, the succession battles, Zuma’s graft and rape trials, open verbal warfare between the ANC, SACP and Cosatu, and the Health Ministry issues, the ANC as a party hasn’t seen a tougher year since coming to power. Thus far, this has translated into a somewhat shaken international respect, a difficult final term for Mbeki, and a lot of shouting at ANC imbizos, but has not yet manifested in the form of altered voter sentiment, but the real tests here are in the coming years.

Have a read of the full post here.