Following on my earlier post, The five biggest mistakes of the new South Africa, here is my promised look at the up side of post-apartheid South Africa.
1. THE ELIMINATION OF INSTITUTIONALISED DISCRIMINATION
The formal end of apartheid in 1994 was a symbolic act. Over the next ten years, the new government had to work very hard to undo the legislative scrambled egg to place all citizens on an equal footing, enjoying the same basic rights. Masses of legislation made their way through parliament under Nelson Mandela, opening up education to all, allowing access to health facilities and removing obstacles to movement and involvement in the economy. This was a huge accomplishment which, accompanied by a massive campaign around reconciliation, was without the rancour – except for among a small portion of the beneficiaries of apartheid – that such transformation could have attracted. The lives of millions of South Africans were instantly touched by this legislative programme which ensured the legitimacy of the new state with the majority of the people. Read More…
ZIMBABWE’S Robert Mugabe is about to announce a government, effectively shredding the multi-party negotiations which represent his country’s last hope of unifying the fractured country and rebuilding its international credibility.
This is despite a massive compromise apparently offered by the MDC that the two bitter rivals co-chair Cabinet. Here’s an extract from our story on this:
“The only new but absurd suggestion from the MDC was that the cabinet be co-chaired by President Mugabe and Tsvangirai,” state daily The Herald quoted a source by Mugabe’s ZANU-PF as saying, referring to MDC opposition leader Morgan Tsvangirai.
“ZANU-PF dismissed the suggestion, not just as insolent, but also stunning ignorance on how government works.”
South Africa, which has been leading the mediation process via the person of President Thabo Mbeki, must not recognise such a government unless it wishes to once more create the impression that it quietly condones Mugabe.
The multi-party agreement which Mugabe will destroy was crafted with South Africa acting as midwife. We must defend it against the assault that Mugabe is mounting.
1. FAILURE TO IDENTIFY AND COMBAT THE THREAT OF AIDS
The pre-1994 government of FW de Klerk was slow to identify and deal with the threat posed to life, the economy and society by the rapid spread of HIV and Aids. 1994 presented an opportunity for a democratic government to adopt a progressive approach combining treatment, prevention and education. Unfortunately, this did not happen. A healthy skepticism of conventional wisdom on Aids turned to denialism in the highest echelons. More than a decade passed before government finally began seriously addressing treatment. In the meanwhile, the epidemic brought death to the door of tens of thousands of families. Read More…
THIS afternoon, President Thabo Mbeki’s office issued yet another denial of allegations linking him to the arms deal.
The statement described allegations made in a Sunday Times article that Mbeki had received R30 million from MAN Ferrostaal as “a hotch-potch recycling of allegations that have from time to time been peddled against the government’s Strategic Defence Procurement Package.”
The statement goes on to quote an investigation conducted in 2001 by the Auditor-General, the National Director of Public Prosecutions and the Public Protector which concluded: “No evidence was found of any improper or unlawful conduct by the government. The irregularities and improprieties referred to in our report, point to the conduct of certain officials of the government departments involved cannot, in our view, be attributed to the President or the Ministers involved.”
But 2001 was a long time ago. Since then Mbeki has himself fired Jacob Zuma from the position of Deputy President after his financial advisor was found guilty of corruption related to the arms deal.
Zuma himself faces charges of corruption, suggesting that the 2001 report did not properly investigate the higher echelons of decision-making on the arms deal.
The investigation was not a public one which inspired confidence that all allegations had been properly dealt with.
The result has been that the cloud of suspicion continues to linger over the highest office in the land.
There is a very simple solution at hand: Government could convene a proper public inquiry headed up by a senior judge.
Inquiries such as these have been readily called on other matters where much vaguer allegations were made such as those that the former prosecutions boss, Bulelani Ngcuka, was an apartheid spy.
Mbeki must call such an inquiry with urgency
ZIMBABWE’s negotiators have left the table to consult with their principals (corrected from principles), apparently deadlocked over whether or not Robert Mugabe should continue as president.
Those close to the talks are saying that the MDC’s Morgan Tsvangirai has been offered the position of third deputy president, the equivalent of offering Barry Ronge a restaurant table next to the kitchen door.
For now, there seems nowhere to go.
Zanu-PF’s negotiators have returned to Harare to brief Mugabe on the impasse.
And Tsvangirai is somewhere in Gauteng getting the low down from his negotiators.
But all is not lost. In talks attempting to reshape a country after a long conflict, it is to be expected that the parties will hit a brick wall from time to time.
South Africa’s experience at the negotiations over a new constitution were frequently bedevilled by walk-outs, threats, the withdrawal of delegations and the like.
But, having started with talks, there was no turning back for either party and so it will be for the Zimbabweans.
Should Mugabe withdraw from the negotiations, he will lose the final fragile straw of credibility that remains for him and the world will turn to much harsher action against his regime.
This is why it is a good thing that the world pushes ahead with efforts to isolate Mugabe politically and economically.
He must know that there is metal behind the criticism of his destruction of the democratic process in his country.
South Africa has years of painful experience with talks and the Zimbabweans will no doubt be persuaded to return to the table.
When they do they must be made to craft a government that properly reflects the will of the Zimbabwean people, who gave more votes to Tsvangirai than Mugabe.
Anything else will be a sham.
SCENARIO planning is an inexact science at the best of times.
In an environment of political transition with a rampaging oil price and confusion about which statistics are an accurate reflection of what’s going on, things become even less predictable.
But there are some certainties which we can draw on to try and start painting a picture of where this nation is going.
The first and most immediate of these is that somewhere near Tshwane today leaders from Robert Mugabe’s Zanu-PF and the opposition MDC are meeting to try and solve Zimbabwe’s problems.
That this meeting is happening at all is a small miracle, one which President Thabo Mbeki can justifiably chalk down as a diplomatic triumph.
Then there’s that report from Investec which suggests that inflation may be overestimated by more than two percentage points.
Although this has led to a row with the Reserve Bank, it is nonetheless cause for some celebration.
These positive factors should not be lost in the sea of negativity around crime and the looming Jacob Zuma presidency.
But we are about to enter dangerous times.
Crime remains a major concern and one which is yet to be tackled with any conviction by the authorities who are instead disbanding the Scorpions.
And Zuma’s August court date promises to deliver the most dramatic public assault on the judiciary by those that will kill for him.
There will be high-profile killings that will dim our view of this country. There will be political madness and negative stereotypes.
Brace yourself for angry mobs whipped into a frenzy by militant rhetoric as the Zwelinzima Vavi’s and Julius Malema’s lose what little self-control they have left.
But remember that the majority of loyal, hard-working South Africans want a winning country. And we will fight for it.
Finally there are reasons to be cheerful. There are the small things like the fact that the petrol price seems to have arrived at some sort of ceiling and may even start falling, and the fact that we beat the All Blacks at the House of Pain (Ok, that’s not a small thing). But then there are some bigger picture factors which are encouraging:
1. Some eight months after Polokwane, the sky has not fallen on our heads. President Thabo Mbeki and Finance Minister, Trevor Manuel, appear confident that South Africa will hold its economic policy line. The voices of the left are sounding increasingly shrill. Silly rantings about the zero-rating of foods that are already zero-rated and calls for killing in the name of Jacob Zuma are not causing alarm so much as tut-tuts.
2. Zimbabwe is now involved in serious talks aimed at settling that country’s political crisis. It has only been a few days, so chickens ought not to be counted. But the fact is that Mugabe’s people and Tsvangirai’s people are right now seeking a way forward together. As soon as there is any advance on this front, the dividend for South Africa and this region will be phenomenal.
3. South Africa’s civil society is finding its voice once more. The likes of Archbishop Desmond Tutu are speaking out fearlessly about what is wrong in the country and there is once more a sense that a democratic center is holding. There are other voices, such as that of former Education Minister Kader Asmal, who is spearheading a petition aimed at demonstrating support for our constitution.
And, new addition:
4. Inflation has been overestimated by two percent according to Investec. This means that we are in a whole lot better shape economically than we previously thought. This will have a positive effect on the interest rate climate and may even signal the top of that cycle.
Use it, don’t use it.
THIS has got to be the best news to greet this country – and this region – for many years. Zimbabwe’s President Robert Mugabe and the opposition leader, Morgan Tsvangirai, have signed an agreement to sort out the country’s problems through dialogue. This just in from the SA Press Association:
Zimbabwe’s President Robert Mugabe and opposition leader Morgan
Tsvangirai signed a framework agreement Monday which paves the way for
fully-fledged talks on ending a protracted political crisis.
The two men signed a memorandum of understanding at a ceremony
overseen by South African President Thabo Mbeki, the region’s long-time
mediator between Mugabe and Tsvangirai’s rival parties.
Mbeki said all parties wanted a rapid resolution to their dispute
sparked by elections in March.
“It commits the negotiating parties to an intense programme of work
to try and finalise the negotiations as quickly as possible,” said
“All the Zimbabwean parties recognise the urgency of the matters
they are discussing and all are committed to trying to complete this
process as quickly as possible.”
Now let there be peace.
This picture just in from Harare, Zimbabwe, shows Thabo Mbeki and Robert Mugabe holding hands again. But, as I have observed on previous hand-holding occassions, all is not as it seems. To my untrained eye, it is clear that Mbeki is very reluctant to have his hand held. His fingers are closed, denying the palm to Mugabe. But Mugabe, keenly aware of the propaganda value of having a head of state in his presence and, perhaps, just a little desperate, has grabbed the next best thing – Mbeki’s wrist.
Mbeki has a look on his face that says to me: “Oh, no! Not another handshake ambush. Watch the media turn me into a Mugabe puppet by tommorrow morning … eish!”
NOW that Robert Mugabe has held his sham election in which he was the only candidate, the world must take action to end his regime.
This action should include diplomatic efforts aimed at creating a transitional caretaker state which should oversee legitimate, free and fair elections.
But steps need to also include some real pressure on Mugabe to recognise the need for a transition.
These should include a strong global statement that Mugabe’s is an illegitimate government which is not recognised.
Sporting isolation, led by the global cricketing fraternity is already on the cards.
Economic isolation, which was so effective against apartheid, ought to also be considered.
The notion that Mugabe can be somehow cajoled into negotiating a settlement with the opposition because he will at some undefined point in the future undergo a change of heart is frankly laughable.
He is playing a game of power politics and he needs to feel the steel of isolation and shame if he is to be forced from office.
South Africa needs to step out from Mugabe’s shadow and lead the world on this matter if it is to regain its credibility.
The ANC has finally begun to make the right noises on Mugabe, but government appears to be lamentably behind the times.
President Thabo Mbeki’s failure to grasp the Mugabe nettle is becoming a source of embarrassment, even within the ranks of his ruling party.
He must continue to lead the diplomatic effort to deal with Zimbabwe, but he needs to realise that his powers of persuasion are not equal to Mugabe’s powers of manipulation.
If the truth be told, Mbeki has been played like an out-of-tune second fiddle by Mugabe because he has not properly grasped the power dynamics.
There is precious little time for him to make up for this and he should start right now.