Tag Archives: South Africa

Africa and the world – rising but on the margins


As pressure mounts for Africa to take greater responsibility for development, peace and security on the continent, the question of regional leadership becomes pressing. A recent African Futures paper explores the changing power capabilities of Algeria, Egypt, Ethiopia, Nigeria and South Africa (the so-called ‘Big Five’) over the next 25 years. These countries are all leaders in their respective regions and hold some of the greatest power potential in Africa.

Collectively, they represent 60% of the African economy, 40% of Africa’s population and 58% of the continent’s military spending. This is expected to remain the same over the next 25 years. The future of these countries will provide a fairly straightforward answer to the often-evoked question of whether or not Africa is rising. Indeed if these states fall or fail, Africa will not be able to rise.

The authors of the paper, published by the Institute for Security Studies and the Frederick S. Pardee Center for International Futures, use the International Futures forecasting system to forecast future power trajectories. In an increasingly flat world where institutions matter, states that don’t network will have little influence on issues of regional and global governance.

The projections explored in the paper are based on a new index to measure national power, which includes diplomatic engagements in addition to traditional measures such as demographics, economics and technology.

If the world were a democracy, Africans would certainly have a bigger say

Today, the combined power of Africa’s 55 countries accounts for close to 9% of global power. This is more than that of Japan, Russia or India, but less than the United States (US) or China, which represent about 18% and 13% of global power, respectively. By 2040, Africa’s total relative power is forecast to surpass that of the declining European Union (EU) and US – although only adding up to around 11% of global power. This is at odds with the world’s demographic evolution. By 2050, one in four people will be African. If the world were a democracy, Africans would certainly have a bigger say.

In the next couple of decades, Africa is set to remain at the margins of global power. And this is an understatement, as Africa is clearly neither a country nor a union of states with any kind of supranational provisions. Even with significant advances in regional and continental integration, it is highly unlikely that Africa will speak with one voice in foreign policy matters, or be able to act in unison.

Only Nigeria has the potential to become a player with global significance. But this would require far-reaching changes in its current domestic stability, governance capacity and political leadership, which is an unlikely scenario. All other African countries are expected to remain so-called ‘minor powers,’ which affects Africa’s influence in issues of global governance.

For the Big Five, the data tells a story of two emerging powers and three whose potential is waning. The capabilities of Nigeria and Ethiopia are expected to grow considerably in the next 25 years. Those of Egypt, South Africa and Algeria, on the other hand, are forecast to remain stagnant or experience a slight decline.

Nigeria’s economy, already the largest in Africa, is expected to represent almost 3% of the global economy by 2040. Its military spending is set to increase significantly over the next 25 years, ready to overtake Africa’s current military heavyweight, Algeria, in more or less 10 years. By 2040, Nigeria is forecast to account for nearly a fifth of Africa’s total power capabilities.

By 2040, Nigeria is forecast to account for nearly a fifth of Africa’s total power

Ethiopia, the other rising power, is coming from a low base and the country will remain the poorest among the Big Five. Nevertheless, by 2040 it is expected to be the sixth largest African economy due to high average economic growth rates. Algeria, Egypt and South Africa are likely to grow below the African average growth rate of 6.3% per annum. The size of their populations will also stagnate – although this is due to higher general levels of development, which are associated with lower fertility rates.

Among the Big Five, Egypt has traditionally dominated the category of global diplomatic engagement. This can be gauged according to the number of embassies abroad, the number of memberships to international organisations and the number of international treaties ratified by a country. Egypt’s strategic location, and its important role in both Arab and African nationalism, ensures that it is deeply connected internationally. Egypt is closely followed by South Africa, Nigeria and Algeria, while Ethiopia lags behind. Not surprisingly, South Africa made big strides after the end of apartheid in 1994 when the country reintegrated into the international community.

The way the Big Five project power is not necessarily in line with their capabilities. After all, power is as much about potential as it is about concrete projection. Some countries are able to influence more international actors, institutions or regimes than would be expected based on their capabilities, while others don’t live up to their potential.

It is questionable whether South Africa will continue punching above its weight

This is the case for Nigeria, which has been punching below its weight despite a strong set of capabilities. High levels of internal instability and corruption along with a political economy of violence compromise the country’s prospects. There is also a lack of strategic vision in the foreign-policy domain, which has recently been aggravated by the growing threat of Boko Haram.

Algeria’s role in Africa is also at odds with its relatively robust albeit declining capabilities. Faced with significant domestic and regional threats, Algeria remains focused on the need to maintain a large military capacity for internal purposes.

Egypt punches above its weight internationally, but below its weight in the African context. The country is struggling to cope with the aftermath of the Arab Spring as well as spill-over effects of the conflict in neighbouring Libya. Domestic challenges seem to detract from projecting power outside of the country, with external priorities evolving around the conflict in the Middle East and efforts to contain terrorism.

In contrast, both South Africa and Ethiopia have largely punched above their weight. Despite its limited capabilities, Ethiopia is Africa’s largest contributor to United Nations peacekeeping missions and plays an important role in peace and security matters in the Horn of Africa. Indeed, regional security is a domestic priority for Ethiopia.

South Africa, for its part, has capitalised on the miracle of the transition to democracy; Nelson Mandela’s legacy; the international activism of his successor, Thabo Mbeki, as well as several years of healthy economic growth and a benign global environment. Yet it is questionable whether the current context of stagnant or even declining capabilities and a lack of credible leadership will allow South Africa to continue punching above its weight in the medium-term future.

What seems certain is that the distribution of relative power in Africa will remain multipolar, with various countries fulfilling the role of regional leaders.

Julia Schünemann, Senior Researcher and Project Leader, African Futures and Innovation Section, ISS Pretoria; Jakkie Cilliers, Executive Director, ISS; Jonathan D. Moyer, Associate Director, Frederick S. Pardee Center for International Futures.

Is it time to pull the plugs on the Southern African Customs Union


Time to pull the plug on SACU?
12 March 2015

The formula that determines how the customs and excise revenues gathered in the Southern African Customs Union (SACU) are distributed among its members looks, to a layperson, dauntingly complex. But this formula has had an enormous impact on the economic and even political development of the five SACU member states; South Africa, Botswana, Lesotho, Namibia and Swaziland.

The impact has arguably been greatest on South Africa’s neighbours, the four smaller member states that are often referred to simply as the BLNS. But it has also had an impact on South Africa.

SACU was founded in 1910, the year the Union of South Africa came into existence, and is the oldest surviving customs union in the world. Originally it distributed customs revenue from the common external trade tariffs in proportion to each country’s trade..

This apparent generosity almost certainly masked a political intention to keep its neighbours dependent

So, South Africa received nearly 99%. Surprisingly, South Africa’s apartheid government radically revised the revenue-sharing formula (RSF) in 1969 after Botswana, Lesotho and Swaziland had become independent. This gave each of the BLS members first 142% and later 177% of their revenue dues, calculated on both external and intra-SACU imports, with South Africa receiving only what was left. But this apparent economic generosity from Pretoria almost certainly masked a political intention to keep its neighbours dependent and in its fold, as the rest of the world was increasingly turning against it.

However, as Roman Grynberg and Masedi Motswapong of the Botswana Institute for Development Policy Analysis pointed out in their paper, SACU Revenue Sharing Formula: The History of An Equation, the 1969 formula became increasingly unviable for South Africa as it had been de-linked from the common revenue pool. This threatened to burden Pretoria with a commitment to pay out to the BLS states more than the total amount in the pool.

The African National Congress government saw the dangers when it took office in 1994 and soon began negotiations with the BLNS states for a new formula. That was agreed in 2002 and implemented in 2004. But although the 2002 RSF eliminated the risk that the payouts to the BLNS might exceed the whole revenue pool, it actually increased the share of the pool accruing to the BLNS at the expense of South Africa – as Grynberg and Motswapong also observe.

The new RSF was based on three separate components. The first divided the customs revenue pool proportional to each member state’s share of intra-SACU imports. Because of the growing imports of the BLNS states from the ever-mightier South Africa, this meant most of the common customs pool went to the BLNS. This proportion is increasing – but never to more than the entire pool.

The second component of the RSF divided 85% of the pool of excise duties (the taxes on domestic production) in direct proportion to the share of the gross domestic product (GDP) of each of the SACU members. The remaining 15% of the excise duties became a development component, distributed in inverse proportion to the GDP per capita of each member. So the poorest members of SACU would receive a disproportionate share of this element of the excise.

Over the years the BLNS countries have grown increasingly dependent on the SACU revenue. It now funds 50% of Swaziland’s entire government revenue, 44% of Lesotho’s, 35% of Namibia’s and 30% of Botswana’s. Because of its own growing fiscal constraints, Pretoria launched a review of the formula in 2010. But this review got bogged down over major disagreements and seems to have gone nowhere.

In his budget speech this month, Finance Minister Nhlanhla Nene raised the issue again, calling for a ‘revised and improved revenue-sharing arrangement,’ and Parliament’s two finance committees examined it. National Treasury spokesperson Jabulani Sikhakhane told ISS Today that while efforts to reform the SACU formula are ongoing, ‘progress has unfortunately been arduously slow.’

A total overhaul would make explicit that SACU is a disguised South African development project

Budget documents show that in 2014-15, South Africa paid out some R51.7 billion to the BNLS countries out of a total estimated revenue pool of R80 billion, and was projected to pay out R51 billion again in 2015-16. Kyle Mandy, a PricewaterhouseCoopers technical tax expert, told Parliament’s two finance committees last week that South Africa was paying about R30 billion a year more than it would otherwise under the SACU RSF. He said South Africa contributed about 97% of the customs revenue pool and received only about 17% of it.

The R51.7 billion payout to the BLNS this year represents about 5% of South Africa’s total of R979 billion in tax revenue, a substantial ‘subsidisation’ that was no longer affordable at a time of growing fiscal constraint, which had forced Nene to increase taxes, Mandy said.

He noted that the SACU revenue had allowed all but Namibia of the BLNS countries to set their taxes below South Africa’s. ‘This means South Africa is subsidising the BLS countries to compete with South Africa for investment with their more attractive taxes,’ he said in an interview.

‘This is not sustainable for anyone. It locks the BLNS countries into dependency on South Africa. They have neglected their own fiscal systems. But the moment that the revenue fluctuates, [as Nene’s budget predicted it would in 2016-17, dropping to R36.5 million], it puts them in a difficult position. When South Africa sneezes, they catch flu.’

But what to do about this? Some, like political analyst Mzukisi Qobo, have called for a total overhaul of the SACU agreement, which would make explicit that SACU is a disguised South African development project. The development aid would become transparent and could be tied to conditions such as democratic government.

Pretoria’s decision had turned SACU into a ‘dead man walking’

That is on the face of it an attractive solution, offering the opportunity of leveraging democracy in Swaziland, in particular, by placing a conditional foot on its lifeline of SACU revenues. But Grynberg warns that a sudden withdrawal of the vital direct budgetary support which SACU customs and excise revenues provides, could implode both Swaziland and Lesotho and provoke economic crises in Namibia and even Botswana.

He also points out that the RSF is not plain charity by South Africa to its smaller neighbours. The formula has essentially just compensated them for the cost-raising and polarising effects of SACU – that the BLNS countries have generally had to pay more for imported goods over the years than they would have otherwise done because of import tariffs designed to protect South African industries; and because the duty-free trade within SACU has tended to attract investment to larger South Africa.

Meanwhile, South Africa has benefitted from a ready market for its much larger manufacturing machine. Grynberg wrote in a more recent article for the Botswana journal, Mmegi, that the South African government was thinking of pulling out of SACU because it couldn’t get its way in the negotiations to revise the RSF; and because the 2005 Southern African Development Community Free Trade Agreement now gave it duty-free access to the BLNS countries without the need to pay the re-distributive SACU customs revenues.

It was only President Jacob Zuma who was preventing this, because he didn’t want to go down in history ‘as the man who crippled the Namibian and Botswana economies and created two more “Zimbabwes” – i.e. Swaziland and Lesotho – right on the country’s border.’ Pretoria’s decision had turned SACU into a ‘dead man walking, just waiting for someone to pull the switch and end its life.’

Grynberg strongly advised the BLNS to prevent this by accepting that the political reality that underpinned the RSF of SACU no longer existed. He says that it should be transformed into a purely development community without the formula, but with mutually agreed spending on development – mainly in the BLNS. He suggested, though, that this radical change would take at least 10 to 15 years to phase in.

All very well. But isn’t that what SADC is supposed to be already? Which suggests that it might be time to take the 105-year-old dead man off life support.

Peter Fabricius, Foreign Editor, Independent Newspapers, South Africa

South Africa – Zuma expected to duck main issues at parliamentary session

Mail and Guardian

Analysts feel that President Jacob Zuma may once again duck the main issues, but know what they think he should say.

President Jacob Zuma during the State of the Nation Address 2015. (David Harrison, M&G)

With Nkandla hanging over his head and the issue of the incomplete sessions from last year still to be finalised, President Jacob Zuma is expected to face a robust interaction with members of Parliament when he appears for an oral question session tomorrow.

And, according to analysts, dealing with the question head on and providing solutions, such as making a symbolic payment for some of the unnecessary upgrades and establishing a joint parliamentary committee to avoid future abuse, would go a long way as a goodwill gesture to the country – instead of avoiding the issue totally.

The president will appear in Parliament for the first of four oral questions sessions of the year and is expected to answer only six questions, with four follow ups each.

He will not be dealing with questions from his August?21 appearance, which was interrupted when Economic Freedom Fighters (EFF) MPs chanted “Pay back the money”.

The MPs were referring to public protector Thuli Madonsela’s Nkandla report, which suggested that the president should repay some of the money used to upgrade his home in KwaZulu-Natal.

The question again raised its head during the president’s State of the Nation address last month, when EFF MPs interrupted the proceedings and asked when the president would “pay back the money”, which led to the EFF caucus being violently ejected from the chamber.

Nkandla not mentioned
Debating the State of the Nation address the following week, EFF leader Julius Malema stuck to the topics at hand and promised that they would make the president answer about Nkandla when he appeared for oral questions on Wednesday.

“We are here to debate the State of the Nation address, taking note of the fact that when it was presented, we were not in here because the Speaker ordered police to forcibly remove and assault us for asking a simple question of ‘when are you, Mr President, going to pay back the money?’. There is no doubt that you unduly benefitted from the construction of your private residence in Nkandla, and in our absence from this Parliament, you never said anything about the fact that you unduly benefitted, and must pay back the money. That is a question for another day and you will answer that question on a different date.”

Nkandla is not mentioned at all in the six questions expected to be asked by the different parties in Parliament tomorrow.

Political analyst Somadoda Fikeni said that as the chief executive of the country, the president could start by acknowledging that something wrong happened with regard to the upgrade of his homestead.

“He could start by saying he has seen all the reports and something is wrong. ‘I may not have been involved and may not have interested myself in the nitty-gritties, but with the help of hindsight I think this was a mistake because, as the chief executive of the country, when something wrong happens, irrespective of who has initiated it, I have to take final responsibility’, he could say.”

Zuma has painted himself into a corner
He said Zuma could take ownership of the issue, especially about the time it has taken away from the real business of the country and the paralysis it had caused in Parliament and the public.

“He could start a joint parliamentary committee to look into new laws, which will look at how to avoid any other potential abuse for future presidents in terms of upgrades. That would send a good positive gesture. He could make a symbolic payment for things he would continue to enjoy long after his term has ended, like the kraal and the swimming pool. It would not be an admission of guilt, but to send a signal to all citizens that we ought to take responsibility. And thank South Africans for being patient during the saga.”

Another political analyst, Daniel Silke, said the president could use the question session to protect his legacy by dealing with the Nkandla matter because it was what he will always be known for.

“He is going to find it extremely difficult to avoid what is perhaps a defining issue of his presidency. The Nkandla issue is the one he will be best known for. But it might be difficult for him as he has painted himself into a corner by rubbishing the public protector’s report on the matter. If he was really bold, he could acknowledge, and I suspect that he will, that errors were made in terms of the appropriation of the cash, but he will not take personal blame at all.”

Many unanswered questions
Last month, the president sent written replies to cover the outstanding August 21 2014 oral questions, which were not answered after the disruption to Parliament.  Last week it was proposed that the president have three days to answer oral questions for the remainder of the year. The dates are June 18, August 6 and November 19.

The Democratic Alliance has raised concerns about the fact that the presidency has not given an extra date to compensate for the interrupted question session, or the session the president missed during the last term of 2014.

DA chief whip John Steenhuisen said he expected the session to be robust and for there to be problems because there were still unanswered questions from the last session, even though the presidency has disputed this.

“The president has not come back for the end of year session, and there were three questions that were unanswered.

“So it’s actually 12 questions that were not answered if you count the follow-ups from last year.

“It is not right. They should have added an hour upfront on Wednesday’s session to first deal with those questions then go into the session for this term.”

He said he believed this would cause problems in tomorrow’s session, which starts at 3pm.

“We believe … there will be problems in the house on Wednesday because people don’t feel that the president has met his obligations in terms of answering questions and being held accountable in the house. So he might be in for a rough ride on Wednesday in terms of the questions he might be asked and the manner in which it might be dealt with in the house.

We want answers now
“But that’s what happens when one disrespects Parliament. You can’t disrespect Parliament [and] then come and expect it to simply bow before you. It is going to be very robust.”

Although the president is expected to answer only six questions and four supplementary follow-up questions on each question, EFF spokesperson Mbuyiseni Ndlozi told the SABC earlier this month that the party would ask about Nkandla when Zuma appeared in Parliament again.

Ndlozi said the president could not dictate to Parliament what questions to ask.

“We want an answer. We want a date and time, a commitment that ‘I [Zuma] recognise that there was an undue spending and an undue benefit as a result and therefore I’m undertaking to pay back the money’.

“We are going to ask it. That is the platform we have. We are going to say, ‘no, no, no, President, when are you going to pay back the money?’ All South Africans, even members of the ANC, want to know when he’s going to pay back the money,” he was quoted as saying.

South Africa – E Cape officials summonsed over misuse of Mandela funeral funds

City Press

Public Protector Thuli Madonsela’s office has subpoenaed senior Eastern Cape politicians and government officials as part of the investigation into the misuse of public funds relating to former president Nelson Mandela’s funeral.

The Daily Dispatch reported yesterday that Eastern Cape acting director-general Mahlubandile Qwase and Buffalo City Metro mayor Zukisa Ncitha did not voluntarily appear before investigators and have now been subpoenaed.

Other officials to be subpoenaed include human settlements MEC Helen Sauls-August, Buffalo City municipal manager Andile Fani, Buffalo City CFO Vincent Pillay, Buffalo City senior manager Ondela Mahlangu and PAC councillor Jerome Mdyolo.

According to the report, they are legally obliged to appear before investigators conducting the probe into the alleged misuse of funds budgeted for the funeral.

Madonsela announced last year that her office is investigating allegations of maladministration, corruption and misuse of public funds relating to the procurement of service providers for the former statesman’s memorial services and funeral.

Various Eastern Cape municipalities allegedly spent nearly R65m without following proper procurement procedures. A report in May last year revealed that R22m was used for T-shirts, food and transport. However, the ANC denied that government funds were misused.

Ncitha was arrested last June for alleged fraud.

Madonsela’s office hopes to have the investigation completed by the end of March, the Daily Dispatch reported.

– News24

South Africa – Zuma land reform plan and ban on foreign ownership


South Africa’s Zuma outlines land reform plans

President Zuma gives his State of the Nation speechMr Zuma’s government is under pressure to put more land in the hands of South Africa’s black majority

Foreigners will be banned from owning land in South Africa under new proposals outlined by President Jacob Zuma.

Locals will have limits set on the size of their farms under the proposals.

Mr Zuma first announced them in a state of the nation speech on Thursday overshadowed by violence in parliament.

Two decades after the end of apartheid, land is still concentrated in the hands of a largely white minority, and remains a sensitive issue.

The government is under growing pressure to put more land in the hands of the country’s black majority.

“Land has become one of the most critical factors in achieving redress for the wrongs of the past,” said Mr Zuma, elaborating on the plans on Saturday.

“In this regard, the regulation of land holdings bill will be submitted to parliament this year.”

In the future, foreigners will only be allowed to lease land, not to own it, he said, adding that local farmers would not be able to own more than 12,000 hectares.

That is presumably aimed at white farmers who still own much of the best farmland a generation after the end of racial apartheid, says the BBC’s Andrew Harding in Johannesburg.

There are many reasons for the slow pace of change in the country, says our correspondent, and these new proposals will face strong legal challenges from farmers who argue that smaller plots will not be commercially viable.

But the governing African National Congress is looking for votes, and is wary of being outflanked by more radical voices calling for white-owned land to be seized without compensation, he adds.

Parliamentary brawl

On Thursday, parliament descended into chaos as leftist MPs scuffled with security during Mr Zuma’s key annual speech.

Nomsa Maseko reports on the protests inside the chamber

The Economic Freedom Fighters (EFF), led by Julius Malema, repeatedly interrupted Mr Zuma, demanding answers over a spending scandal.

The speaker of parliament then ordered their removal, prompting scuffles.

The EFF used President Zuma’s annual State of the Nation speech to question him about a state-funded, multi-million dollar upgrade to his private residence.

The party has shaken up South African politics with a series of populist proposals to redistribute wealth.

South Africa – Mbete says EFF “cockroaches” and tools of the west

Very unfortunate use of cockroaches – echoes of the Hutu dehumanisation of Tutsis. Hope this isn’t the start of a discourse of dehumanising abuse against opponents. Mbete is so wide of the mark about EFF and the West that it would be laughable if it wasn ‘t such a sad reflection of how crass the ANC is becoming. Does she realise that both EFF and Zuma are becoming laughing stocks around the world. KS

Mail and Guardian

ANC chairperson Baleka Mbete attacked “cockroach” Julius Malema and the EFF when she addressed the North West provincial conference on Saturday.

Baleka Mbete called on ANC branches to prepare themselves to fight the EFF in provincial legislatures and municipalities.

ANC national chairperson Baleka Mbete dug into the Economic Freedom Fighters (EFF) during her address to the party’s North West provincial congress on Saturday, accusing the opposition party of working with some western countries in their quest to take over South Africa.

She further called on ANC branches to prepare themselves to fight the EFF in provincial legislatures and municipalities, where she said the EFF planned to move on to next.

Mbete, who is also the Speaker of the National Assembly, delivered a keynote address to North West’s eighth provincial congress in her capacity as one of the ANC’s top six officials, but appeared to struggle to leave behind the drama that ensued under her watch at last Thursday’s state of the nation address (Sona), when EFF MPs were roughed up and forced out of Parliament by security personnel. This after EFF MPs demanded that President Jacob Zuma answer some questions, particularly on the upgrades at his private Nkandla home, before delivering the annual address.

That action, said Mbete, is part of EFF’s plan to unseat Zuma’s government. “They want to – in their words – collapse Parliament so they can force this country to an early election. They want to take this country so that they must take over the mines and share them with friends they were seen gallivanting with in Europe,” she said. “My question is where will we be when they do that? Who do they think they are?”

Mbete expressed delight at the manner in which EFF MPs were removed from the National Assembly. “The President finally delivered his address after we have had actually a beautiful opportunity to deal with those irritants”.

She also urged branches to get ready to face EFF head-on at local level, fuelling an excited response from delegates who said they were all set for action. “Don’t ever think what’s happening in Parliament has got nothing to do with you in branches. Those thugs there are going to come to provinces to run a similar campaign, not only in legislatures but also in municipalities,” she said. “You must teach our children not to be misled by those wearing red overalls. Those people (EFF) are not working with people of this country alone, they are pawns in a bigger scheme of things where some western governments are involved”.

She said western countries – that she did not name – had an issue with Zuma running the country because he was “a stubborn, rural man from Nkandla who is stubborn and committed to ANC policies. How can a rural man sit with them on international structures?” she asked.

She then accused the media of working with those who want Zuma to leave his job and sustaining the narrative that the ANC has done nothing since it began leading the government.

As part of her strategy to weaken EFF, Mbete said ANC deployees must work hard. “If we don’t work we will continue to have cockroaches like Malema roaming all over the place”.

Mbete told North West delegates that the ANC and its MPs “knew everything” EFF had planned for Thursday’s state of the nation address because they were tired of being caught by surprise. “We knew everything, including what the red overalls discussed. We knew who was going to stand first and what they were going to say”.

This could explain why Mbete had a readily available, brief, written question on Nkandla that she read out on Thursday night.

In her long speech to the North West congress Mbete also made time to speak against corruption, claiming in the process that she didn’t know anything about tenders. “There is something called tender. I don’t know how it works, but it has really brought out the worst in us”. The ANC was not being given enough credit, she said, for its corruption fighting efforts.

“It is not that the ANC arrived and introduced corruption. After 1994 it became clear that there was a culture of having a smart way of eating money. It’s the ANC that decided this corruption must be dealt with,” she said.

Mbete also called for younger ANC members to give the party’s veterans an opportunity to lead. “There’s a tendency of marginalising veterans in the ANC. Let us value the history that is vested in this group of people”.

The ANC in the North West will today nominate and probably elect additional members to serve on the provincial executive committee.

Mmanaledi Mataboge is the Mail & Guardian’s political editor.
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South Africa – 25 years since Mandela walked to freedom

School of Advanced Study, University of London

Twenty-five years ago:  Mandela finishes his long walk to freedom

Posted on February 11, 2015 by

Nelson Mandela and De Klerk

On 11 February 1990, the world’s most famous political prisoner was set free after 27 and a half years in captivity. Keith Somerville, a senior research fellow at the Institute of Commonwealth Studies (ICWS) who has been following South African politics for decades, discusses the event that heralded the end of white minority rule and launched a new era in a divided country.

The sight of Nelson Mandela hand-in-hand with wife Winnie, his other hand clenched and raised in a defiant salute to the crowd and cameras, is one of the dominant images of the late 20th century.

As he walked to freedom from Victor Verster prison on 11 February 1990, it was as though another Berlin Wall had come down, this time the brutal one of apartheid. It presaged an era of hope but also trepidation in South Africa, establishing Nelson Mandela as one of the century’s great statesmen, converting him from the liberation leader prepared to die for his beliefs into the man who led the ANC to power. He was the voice of reconciliation and builder of the rainbow nation.

That the excitement, expectations and the huge hopes of that day concealed the enormity of the task ahead of Mandela and the ANC is not surprising. Nor is it surprising that his election in 1994, his message of reconciliation and global role came to dominate reporting and analysis of his years in power, concealing the ANC’s failure to deal with many core problems in South African society and the economy.

His national and global standing boosted the feeling among, and within, the ANC that they had a right to rule, and that the Mandela magic could be used even after his death in 2013 to win elections and to justify their increasingly questionable behaviour.

But in looking with the hindsight of years at the events and hopes of 1990, one should not forget what a massive and seemingly sudden change this had been. The ANC (along with the South African Communist Party and the rival Pan-Africanist Congress) had been unbanned on 2 February in a speech by President F.W. de Klerk in the South African parliament, broadcast live on TV. De Klerk, who had succeeded the ailing and atavistic P.W. Botha the previous year, took many South Africans and the world by storm with his announcement of a new era in South African politics and the start of a process of negotiations that would lead to free elections in April 1994.

I was running the evening edition of the BBC World Service programme Newshour that evening and, luckily, had been following South African politics closely for years, first as a student, then as a member of the editorial board and a regular writer for Anti-Apartheid News, and finally as a journalist at the BBC. Those who had, like me, been following the minutiae of South African politics in the preceding six months were less surprised at De Klerk’s announcements than some, but I was still amazed at the extent of the changes.

For some time I had been aware of a shift in National Party policy and of the way that key groups like the Afrikaner Broederbond (Afrikaner Brotherhood), the military and the intelligence services, were beginning to say that apartheid was unsustainable. They wanted the National Party to start a process of change in which they could exert control and not be like Ian Smith in Zimbabwe ten years before, who tried to hold the line against a process he couldn’t stop and didn’t want.

I’d spoken to De Klerk a few months before and to Roelf Meyer, the man who would lead the National Party negotiating team. I’d also interviewed Walter Sisulu, Mandela’s long-time friend and co-leader of the ANC, just after his release from prison in October 1989, and Thabo Mbeki, the up and coming ANC mover and shaker in exile. They all said change was coming, but were all guarded about the speed and extent of the process.

Those two days in February 1990 made clear the all-encompassing nature of the process of change. The unbanning of the liberation movements, the release of Mandela and the return of ANC exiles and combatants began with a speed that indicated how much groundwork had been done before.

For four years, without prior approval from his close colleagues in prison and the ANC leadership in exile, Mandela had been talking to the National Party leadership – something that worried many ANC leaders when they became aware of it. But he refused to renounce armed struggle or make concessions in return for his release. Once he was released, he had a stronger hand because of that.

And, in a sign that he was taking control, Mandela did not leave the prison at the time appointed by the South African government. He kept the media waiting. He chose to have tea with members of his family and to ensure he was ready to come out on his terms. And we know what happened next.

Keith Somerville is a senior research fellow at the Institute of Commonwealth Studies and editor of the Africa – News and Analysis website. He made documentaries in South Africa for the BBC World Service on the start of the negotiation process and led the World Service news team at the South African elections in 1994. His book on the history of post-independence Africa, Africa’s Long Road Since Independence: The Many Histories of a Continent is published by Hurst in May 2015.