23 January, 2015

The Maseru Security Accord Refuses to Crack under Pressure from the State House

by M. K. Mahlakeng

As the eagerly anticipated 28 February snap general elections approach, one question shared by many in the opposition is whether the Maseru Security Accord (MSA) will hold up to its promise of a peaceful election or whether it will crack under the pressure. With the security situation under normalcy and a high-level security detail from South Africa guarding the Prime Minister as per his request, the PM has however requested that Commissioner of Police (ComPol) Khothatso Tšooana returns to the country.

This request was made to the Southern African Development Community (SADC) facilitator to Lesotho and Deputy President of South Africa Mr. Cyril Ramaphosa. The reasons for recalling the ComPol include, among others, “to strengthen police operations ahead of the snap general elections”, despite the security situation having been restored. ComPol Tšooana was sent on special leave to Algeria amidst allegations that he was involved in the 30 August 2014 fallout between the Lesotho Mounted Police Service (LMPS) and the Lesotho Defence Force (LDF), and the distribution of arms and ammunition to the All Basotho Connvention- (ABC) allied movement “Under the Tree army” (UTTA) to destabilise an intended peaceful march by members of the opposition on 1 September 2014 proposing for the re-opening of parliament.

Such a request challenges the provisions provided for by the MSA that, “the warring security forces will take a leave of absence for specified periods to specified SADC and Commonwealth countries; and, during this period of leave of absence, they will not exercise any authority or undue influence over the Lesotho Mounted Police Service (LMPS) or the Lesotho Defence Force (LDF) and defer power to their deputies”.

However, in response to Dr. Thabane’s request, Mr. Ramaphosa warned that this move threatens all agreed deals thus placing the electoral process in serious danger. In an attempt to force the PM to abide by the MSA, Mr. Ramaphosa further stated that, “Should ComPol Tšooana be recalled from his special leave, he [Ramaphosa] would have no choice but to recall Lieutenant General Tlali Kamoli who is also on a special leave in South Africa, and will withdraw Thabane’s security detail seconded to protect him”.

It is believed that the PM had already recalled the ComPol and that he was detained at the OR Tambo International Airport on the morning of 11 January by South African security agencies and was barred from boarding a flight to Maseru. Thabane’s attempt to challenge these provisions threatens any peace mechanism intended to produce peaceful elections come 28 February.

In light of the prospects that the right-wingers (the ABC and Basotho National Party, BNP), also members of the coalition government, are about to lose in these elections, the idea of disturbing and threatening the possibility of peaceful elections is commonplace. This is among other pre-election attempts and many more to be witnessed by the PM to disturb the unfolding of these elections.

18 January, 2015

Zambia's Upcoming Elections: Presidential Endorsements

by Maximilian Mainza

Campaigns for the January 20th presidential by elections have reached the peak with political players endorsing candidates they think will carry the day. What is interesting is the number of candidates and the way in which political players are endorsing their preferred candidates. It is known that political endorsements’ impact depends on the level of ideological congruence between the voters and the source of endorsements and on elite clues, voter behavior and representation. Ideally, voters reward candidates when they perceive that the endorsing newspaper/politician is ideologically similar to their preferences but punish the endorsed candidates when they perceive that the source is ideologically distant.

The campaigns for the 20 January presidential by election have been characterized by endorsements after endorsements for the two leading candidates in the race to State House – Edgar Lungu (EL) of the Patriotic Front (PF) and Hakainde Hichilema (HH) of the United Party for National Development (UPND). The most eye-catching endorsement for Edgar Lungu is that of former president Rupiah Banda, and a group of Movement for Multiparty Democracy (MMD) MPs and National Executive Committee (NEC) members. Rupiah Banda was poised to stand as MMD presidential candidate before the Supreme Court ruling that disqualified him to stand on the MMD ticket in favor of Nevers Mumba. This may backfire for the Edgar Lungu camp, given that Rupiah Banda’s popularity among the electorates is questionable following the manner in which he lost the 2011 Presidential elections to the late Michael Sata. However, recent comments published by online media and the Post newspaper indicate that Rupiah Banda is doing it for personal benefits because he thinks Edgar Lungu has a higher chance of winning the elections than the MMD candidate, Nevers Mumba. Furthermore, Rupiah’s son, Andrew, has accused his father is supporting Edgar for selfish political reasons, and of a lack of patriotism towards the country he once ruled as President.

On the other hand, the main challenger to Edgar Lungu, Hakainde Hichilema has also received endorsements from a group of MMD MPs and NEC members, including former first lady Maureen Mwanawasa, Alliance for Development and Democracy (ADD) president Charles Milupi, some former ministers in the Mwanawasa government, and most recently, two PF MPs, Geoffrey Mwamba and Sylvia Masebo. Many HH endorsements appear to be a result of intra-party conflicts in the PF and MMD, which has led to factions openly campaigning for their preferred candidate regardless of the party to which they belong. Some of these endorsements are genuine, while others may be for selfish reasons. And the party most affected is the MMD, whose members are divided into three factions, those supporting MMD, PF and UPND.

The question is how important these endorsements will be in influencing the electorates, come 20 January, 2015. It is likely that these endorsements for either EL or HH will have an impact on the outcome of the elections given that the endorsers have a considerable following from their provinces and can even influence the undecided voters whose ideologies are similar to the endorsers. So far the opinion polls have been in favor of HH, though one might question the methods used and the credibility of the publishers of the polls. Nevertheless, the endorsements may sway the mood of voters given the daily shifting and realigning of the campaign strategies of frustrated politicians and other political players.

11 January, 2015

The ANC at 103

by Hussein Solomon

As South Africa’s ruling African National Congress (ANC) celebrates its 103rd anniversary this weekend in Cape Town, political and economic prospects for the country have never looked bleaker under the ANC’s 21 years of misrule. Corruption has become increasingly institutionalized in the country under the ANC. Moreover, those seeking to expose such corruption have paid a horrendous price. The vilification of Public Protector Thuli Madonsela for her courageous report on the Nkandla scandal which witnessed R240 million of taxpayer money siphoned off to upgrade President Jacob Zuma’s private residence is a case in point. The recent axing of Lieutenant-General Anwa Dramat from his post, meanwhile, seems designed to protect the financial interests of President Zuma, his family and business partners.

At an economic level, and despite the adoption of the National Development Plan (NDP), the ANC seems to be floundering rudderless. The various dysfunctional state enterprises like the power utility Eskom is one indicator of the malaise. Poor planning, shoddy senior appointments, a focus on the short as opposed to the long-term have all resulted in load-shedding where electricity is cut off for a period of time each day. There is every indication that this will begin again next week and continue into 2016. Needless to say, it will only serve to undermine investor confidence as the limping economy will switch to recession with the attendant social costs of even further unemployment. Indeed, one economist has predicted that South Africa’s investment status will be cut to junk should load-shedding take place in the first quarter of 2015.

It is increasingly evident that voters are losing patience with the party. In last year’s elections, the ANC suffered significant declines in support across key urban metros from Gauteng to the Eastern Cape (KwaZulu-Natal being the exception, given it being Zuma’s support base). Indeed, some political commentators see the ANC, like Zimbabwe’s ZANU-PF, becoming an increasingly rural political party in the future.

Anniversary celebrations in the news

Despite these stark realities, the ANC launched its festive anniversary celebrations in Cape Town with a vow to taking back the Western Cape, the only province it does not control from the opposition Democratic Alliance (DA). The ANC’s politics however suggest that it remains stuck in the racial politics of the past as opposed to moving this great country forward. Addressing a press conference in Cape Town in the run-up to the festivities, ANC Secretary-General Gwede Mantashe accused the DA of wanting to keep the Western Cape “white and uncontaminated”. If this is the best, this 103 year-old party has to offer, then its best that in the next election, voters ensure that this dinosaur of a party is confined to the dustbin of history. South Africa deserves better.