African Democracy

July 16, 2008

Business as usual in Pretoria

Filed under: South Africa — africandemocrat @ 11:22 am
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At the opening of Parliament in Cape Town this year, South Africa’s President Mbeki announced his theme for this year as , “Business Unusual”.

South Africa had just experienced more than a week of electricity shortages and mines were forced to close down their operations for safety reasons.  Mbeki promised to deal with issues that directly impact the lives of South Africans promptly and effectively.

Since then, Mbeki has survived a serious discussion by the ANC/COSATU/SACP alliance to force him to stand down.  The alliance partners decided that the political instability that would result from firing him would be worse than leaving him to finish his term in office.

In December 2007, the African National Congress, South Africa’s ruling party, met in the Limpopo Province capital of Polokwane and elected Jacob Zuma to be its President.  While Jacob Zuma enjoys popular support within the ANC and alliance partners the Congress of South African Trade Unions and the South African Communist Party and also amongst his fellow Zulus in Kwazulu-Natal Province, surveys have indicated that he doesn’t have the same support in the rest of South Africa.

South Africans are nervous of “The Showerman” as he has been dubbed because of his bizarre claim that taking a shower after having sex with a woman known to be HIV positive would protect him from HIV infection.  Zuma is due to stand trial for corruption, and his personal life has been in the spotlight in two very public trials.  It has been demonstrated in court that Zuma is quite incompetent at budgeting for his own household and hence vulnerable to the largesse of donors or those offering bribes.  The rape trial ended with his acquittal, but illustrated that Zuma tends to not know when it is prudent to keep his pants zipped.

Nevertheless, the way in which President Mbeki has gone about his business this year is causing many South Africans to think that Zuma, for all his blatent faults, might very well be a better President than Mbeki has been.

Mbeki’s role as the SADC-appointed mediator for Zimbabwe is widely criticised within South Africa.  Many, if not most, South Africans think that he is biased towards Robert Mugabe and should recuse himself.  He has refused to utter any public condemnation of the ZANU-PF brutality whatsoever.  At least Zuma has done that.  It illustrates that having Mbeki as President of SA and designated mediator for Zimbabwe is a profound conflict of interest.  He finds himself unable to act in South Africa’s interests because that would undermine his credibility as mediator.  Replacing him as chief negotiator in the Zimbabwe crisis with someone from outside the region such as Kofi Annan seems an eminently sensible action.

The way that Pretoria has handled the flood of refugees from Zimbabwe is incomprehensible.  Mbeki has stated that they are not refugees, but “economic migrants” seeking better opportunities in South Africa.  Maybe a few Zimbabweans have had better job offers in South Africa, but those few thousand economic migrants left years ago with legal papers.  The millions of Zimbabweans that have fled their country, entering South Africa illegally have been trying to escape from famine, grinding poverty and political violence.  They come to South Africa hoping to find safety and enough food to survive.

Instead, because the Mbeki government refuses to state categorically that there is indeed a crisis in Zimbabwe, political, economic and humanitarian, the Zimbabweans flooding into South Africa are refused refugee status, are treated as illegal immigrants, and South Africa continues to deport thousands back to Zimbabwe.

What South Africa should be doing for Zimbabweans is to recognise that they are indeed refugees from famine and politically motivated violence and set up refugee camps in the Limpopo Province.  There the refugees can be provided with shelter, clean water, food and basic medical care with the assistance of the international community.

But to do the right thing that South Africa is required to do as a signatory to treaties concerning refugees requires that Mbeki calls the situation in Zimbabwe a crisis and publically admits that Mugabe and his ZANU-PF military junta are indeed using violence against their fellow Zimbabweans.

That, President Mbeki, would be Business Unusual.  Instead, we’re likely to see the situation in Zimbabwe and in South Africa gradually deteriorate for the next 9 or 10 months until we finally get a new President. 

Pity the next person to be sworn in as President who has to clean up the mess that Mbeki looks likely to be leaving as his legacy.


July 14, 2008

The Constitution must be defended by all – especially the ANC

Filed under: South Africa — africandemocrat @ 10:07 pm
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The Star published the following on 14 July 2008:

Remnants of the counter-revolution, including the Democratic Alliance, and those opposed to Jacob Zuma becoming South Africa’s next president must be eliminated, says ANC Youth League President Julius Malema.

“We must … intensify the struggle to eliminate the remnants of counter-revolution, which include the DA and a loose coalition of those who want to use state power to block the ANC president’s ascendancy to the highest office of the land,” he said on Sunday.

Malema was speaking at the funeral of former ANCYL Free State secretary Thabo “Skotch” Moeketsi in Vredefort.

In addition:

Malema said Zuma would not only be the face of the ANC election campaign in 2009 but also the next president of South Africa.

“The political campaign to rubbish his name and destroy his political career will not succeed.”

The National Prosecuting Authority was involved in a “relentless pursuit of an innocent man using state resources”.

Reading the above in the context of other utterances by ANC leaders, one can only conclude that some ANC leaders and members have no respect whatsoever for our Constitution.

The attack on the Constitution and the rule of law in South Africa is of serious concern.  Should the principled stance of the ANC over the decades be abandoned, and the rule of ruffians be allowed to take its place, we are in deep trouble.  That will put us on the same path as Zimbabwe, the DRC, Sudan and Somalia.  In particular, various writers have warned against the “Somaliazation” of South Africa.

No one, including the President of the ANC is above the law.  In fact, the office bearers of the ANC should be held to a higher standard than the ordinary ANC member.

If Jacob Zuma is truly an innocent man, then he has nothing to fear from the law, and should welcome the opportunity to clear his name.  Instead, we see him ducking and diving and using every legal loophole that his counsel can find to attempt to have the case against him dropped, and to suppress evidence both in South Africa and Mauritius.

Currently, Shabir Sheik is doing time for paying a bribe.  He has tried to have the judgement against him deposed in every court in the land, and has failed.  If Shabir Sheik paid a bribe, then we, the citizens of South Africa demand to know to whom he paid that bribe, and we expect that person to be prosecuted for bribery and corruption.

Then we have the “elephant in the living room” in the form of the infamous arms deal.  Why, if the ANC top brass are squeaky clean, do they persist in squashing any and all investigations into the deal?  If they have nothing to hide, they should open the books and invite a full forensic audit into the deal.  Instead, they refuse to co-operate with Germany and Britain who have both found irregularities from their side.

Just how high up the ANC hierarchy do allegations and actual incidents of bribery and corruption go?  Does the buck stop in the office of the President of South Africa, or in that of the former Deputy President?

Finally, the attack on the Democratic Alliance (DA) is completely unwarranted.  The DA today stands on the shoulders of giants like Helen Suzman who for decades was the lone voice in the whites-only Parliament speaking out against Apartheid.  No one can rightly claim that the DA is counter-revolutionary.  Before 1990 when the National Party finally relented and began the process of negotiation with the ANC and other revolutionary groups, current and former members of the DA were amongst the groups of white South Africans who made the trip to Dar-es-Salaam to talk to the ANC leadership.  It was those approaches that began the collapse of Apartheid.

The Democratic Alliance is a legal political party in South Africa.  As the largest party not allied to the ANC, it is the official opposition party.  Under the constitution of South Africa, it is every citizen’s right to associate with whomever he or she might choose, and to organise and register a political party if they have sufficient support to do so.

If we are to adopt the same logic that ZANU-PF uses against the MDC, then it is “counter-revolutionary” to vote for the PAC, or the Independant Democrats, or Bantu Holomisa’s United Democratic Movement simply because they are not the ANC.  The struggle credentials of Patricia De Lille and Bantu Holomisa are not in question and they have proven to be fierce fighters against corruption and for the Constitution of South Africa. 

Are we to understand from Malema’s speech that he, like Mugabe, seeks to annhiliate the opposition by whatever means are available?

Disagreement with, and opposition to the ANC is not, and never will be “counter-revolutionary”.  Julius Malema is sounding more like Robert Mugabe by the day.  The revolution was accomplished with the overthrow of the white Apartheid government, and the elections of 1994 completed that process.  We now have an inclusive society where, under the law at least, all people are equal.  South Africa cannot, and will never go back to the dark days of Apartheid.  Even if the people of South Africa chose to elect a government of mostly white people to govern them, it would still not result in a return to Apartheid.  We have all moved on from those dark days, and will never allow a return to a time where a Minister of (so-called) Justice could, at a whim, declare a person to be a threat to the government and have them imprisoned or banned without even being charged in a court of law.

Never again, Mr Malema.  The importance of the Constitution cannot be over-emphasised.  We have to have one set of principles that transcend the petty issues of the day, so that, in the end, we can say that the struggle was not in vain, and that the lofty principles of those who signed the Freedom Charter, dedicated their lives to fighting Apartheid, and finally prevailed, are not forgotten.

The struggle was not fought so that some ambitious people could get rich.  It was so that the poor people of South Africa could gain the right to share in the wealth of our land.  That the ANC has done such a poor job of uplifting the poor, and such a good job of enriching cronies stands as a shame on the ANC, and dishonours all the honourable men and women who led the ANC during the struggle.

South Africa is more important than the ANC.  The Constitution is more important than the ANC.  A hundred years from now, the ANC might no longer exist, but the Constitution of South Africa must still stand as a beacon of light on our dark continent and in our dark world where the rights of humans are being trampled daily, especially by those who claim the loudest to be the champions of those rights.

The ANC is more than the leadership of one man.  Right now, Jacob Zuma enjoys the popular support of the members of the ANC.  Outside of the ANC, the majority of South Africans have grave doubts whether Showerman has what it takes to be our next President.  Leaders will come and go, but if the ANC wishes to remain relevant to the future of South Africa, then foolish utterances like those of Julius Malema need to be treated with the contempt that they deserve.

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