31 October, 2016

Do African Lives Matter for African Leaders?

by Hussein Solomon

Africans have grown accustomed to the West ignoring their suffering. This is hardly a new phenomenon. Consider the fact that Belgian King Leopold II’s atrocities was historically ignored in Europe at the time and barely gets a footnote in recent European books on its African colonies. To be clear, 15 million Congolese were murdered and numerous others were mutilated by this ‘civilized’ European king as he sought to extract rubber from this blighted country. More recently, more than 6 million Congolese have been killed since the 2nd August 1998. Once again, there is scarcely a mention on the front pages of The Washington Post or the New York Times.

At one level, perhaps, this is understandable. According to psychologists one is supposed to have greater empathy for one’s in-group as opposed to the proverbial other. What is particularly galling for Africans, however, is when their own leaders display such callous disregard for their lives. Worse, still, is the hypocrisy accompanying the callousness on the part of Africa’s leadership. Consider for instance the events surrounding the 7 January 2015. This was the date of the brutal terrorist attack on the Charlie Hebdo offices which resulted in 17 people being killed on the streets of Paris. The world rallied with the French and a mass march of 1,6 million people took to the streets of Paris. This march also included 40 world leaders, including several African leaders who mourned the lives of the innocent savagely cut short. This is as it should be.
At the same time, of the Paris killings, however, there was another atrocity taking place. In the dusty town of Baga, northern Nigeria, Boko Haram militants slaughtered 2000 innocent people. There was no similar Paris march. No African leader took to the streets to commemorate the lives of those lost. Even the Nigerian President at the time, Goodluck Jonathan, did not immediately respond to the tragedy which took place on his own territory where his own citizens lost their life in such a cold-blooded way. This prompts the question: Do African lives matter to African leaders?

I asked this question several times following the decision by my own government – South Africa - to withdraw from the International Criminal Court (ICC). The South African decision may well be related to domestic politics. According to Anton du Plessis of the Institute for Security Studies, the Zuma administration is attempting to protect itself from an imminent Constitutional Court hearing in relation to the 2015 visit of Sudanese President Omar al-Bashir when Pretoria refused to arrest him as it was obligated to do under the Rome Statute. Instead Bashir and his entourage were whisked out of the country by the South African authorities.
Peacekeepers in Darfur (Aekkaphob / Shutterstock.com)

To be clear, the arrest warrant for Bashir was based on the charge that he oversaw the war in Darfur which resulted in the deaths of between 200,000 and 400,000 people and the displacement of a further 2.5 million people in Darfur out of a population of 6.2 million. The so-called leaders of Africa denounced the ICC decision ostensibly because heads of state should have immunity of prosecution. The counter-argument is simply this: as Head of State should the buck not stop with him? Do not forget that Bashir was not merely Commander-in-Chief by virtue of him being President of Sudan. He was a military man who staged a coup in 1989 to come to power. The second charge levelled against the ICC was that it was unfairly targeting Africa. Let us be frank: many of the ICC investigations were initiated by African countries themselves since they did not have the resources to conduct an investigation and engage in a trial themselves. Do not forget, too, that the ICC is a court of last resort. The attack on the ICC is simultaneously taking place at a time when Africa’s own domestic and regional judicial mechanisms have come under threat from Africa’s self-serving leaders who desire to escape accountability at all costs whilst they simultaneously steal from and brutalize their citizens.

Perhaps the most powerful response to these objections put forward would simply be this: Do African lives matter to African leaders? Their deep concern for Bashir is akin to sympathizing with the aggressor as opposed to the victims. After all who speaks for the hundreds of thousands of innocent victims who needlessly lost their lives in Darfur?

14 October, 2016

Lesotho: 50 Years of Independence?

by M. K. Mahlakeng

“Sir George Grey restore to me all the land that was in my possession before the arrival of the Afrikaners..”
King Moshoeshoe I - 31 July 1858

On the 4 October 2016, Lesotho celebrated its 50th year of independence (the Golden Jubilee) from the Great Britain (4 October 1966 – 4 October 2016). But one serious noteworthy question remains. Is Lesotho really independent? Independence refers to sovereignty, self-government and the state or quality of being independent. It is conceivable to argue that Lesotho attained self-rule and sovereignty from the Great Britain, however, “the state or quality of being independent” (i.e. socially, economically and otherwise) is a highly contended issue. It is generally perceived that Lesotho is not truly independent and that its “total independence” is central to regaining the “lost territory”, which is the Free State.

The Free State, as seen from the University of the Free State, QwaQwa Campus

50 years later, the Free State which was lost by the Basotho nation to the Afrikaaner following a series of fights has still not returned to Lesotho. The Afrikaner, leaving the Cape Colony as a result of the conflict with the British, showed up on the western borders of the then Basutoland (today Lesotho), and claimed land rights. This eventually led to a series of fights in 1858 between the Afrikaner and Basotho in the “Free State – Basotho War”, thus leading to Moshoeshoe I to lose a great portion of the western lowlands.

50 years later Lesotho is still heavily dependent on foreign aid (posing a great deal of challenge in addressing socioeconomic issues), and imports 95% of its goods from South Africa. Its geographic location, being an enclave landlocked country entirely surrounded by South Africa, seems to be a negative aspect to its political and economic development which has left Lesotho in a position of being dependent on South Africa for economic survival. Moreover, it has left Lesotho with the inability of negotiating sustainable deals.

Furthermore, 50 years later Lesotho, with a population of about 2.1 million, has not been able to fully address political and socioeconomic upheavals confronting the country simply due to the lack of resources. However, there is a solution to this. And this solution falls back to the issue of the Free State region. The total retrocession and restitution of the Free State to Lesotho. The retrocession and restitution of the Free State to Lesotho would mean a number of things for the enclave landlocked country. Firstly, it would mean a considerable increase in arable land, which currently stands at 10% of the total of this mountainous country.

Secondly, this additional land comes with a number of these resources essential in addressing Lesotho’s political and socioeconomic upheavals such as, among others, HIV prevalence, lack of employment and poverty, which has led to serious health issues such as chronic malnutrition of children under the age of 5. These resources include gold in Allanridge, Welkom and Virginia; coal in Sasolburg; and, diamonds in Jagasfontein and Theunissen. Furthermore, The Free State falls under what is commonly referred to as “The Maize Triangle” possessing the best maize. This maize triangle stretches from Lichtenburg (North West Province), Hobhouse (Free State Province) to Ermelo (Mpumalanga Province) thus forming a triangle.

Furthermore, the same region (i.e. the High Veld in the Free State) is recognized, among four other parts of the World (i.e. the Prairies in Canada, the Pampas in Argentina, the Steppes in Ukraine, and the Downs in Australia), as possessing rich soil able to sustain agricultural life. Despite trade routes, Lesotho remains dependent on South Africa simply because it lacks resources (found in the Free State) essential for the development of a competitive economy and a prosperous social and political life.

The failure by Prime Minister Pakalitha Mosisili and King Letsie III, during their respective speeches commemorating 50 years of Lesotho’s independence, to not acknowledge the positive outcomes that would come with the return of the Free State to Lesotho and the fact that Lesotho is not independent until retrocession and restitution of the Free State to Lesotho is final, is detrimental to the knowledge and history of Lesotho and its nation respectively.

26 September, 2016

South African Universities in Turmoil

by Hussein Solomon

The university sector is in deep trouble across South Africa. Confronted with a declining subsidy in real terms from the state over several years, universities have looked to make up the shortfall by increasing student fees. Given the stagnant nature of the South African economy with economic growth in a downward trajectory, the ability of students or their parents to pay higher fees was always questionable. Student groups then mobilized nationally last year demanding that there should be no fee increase. As university buildings were set alight and lecture halls vandalized and students and staff intimidated by the more violent student protestors, government vacillated. University management too dithered attempting to reach compromise with students who increasingly viewed compromise not so much as an olive branch but as a sign of weakness.

Demonstrations at the University of Cape Town (Photo: Tony Carr)

When students marched on the Union Buildings, the seat of the presidency, last year, government panicked. Government promised a zero percent fee increase and set up a commission to investigate the possibility of free tertiary education. In retrospect the establishment of such a commission was simply an exercise in kicking the can down the road. Given South Africa’s small tax base, given the slowing economy, given the other competing social demands, free education is simply not possible.

Last week, the Minister of Higher Education, Dr. Blade Nzimande, announced a capped fee increase of 8 percent for students whose household income exceeds R600,000 per annum. In practice, this mean there was to be no increase in fees for students emanating from poorer households. Despite this students mobilized once more, now demanding that they pay no fees whatsoever. Once again other students and staff were intimidated for wanting to resume their academic activities. Once again violence accompanied protest action across South African campuses.

The chaos engulfing South Africa’s universities however is symptomatic of a much larger set of problems. First, there is an economy in the doldrums. A situation which is to be exacerbated should rating agencies downgrade our investment status as is expected in December this year. In this context, different sectors of society are violently mobilizing demonstrating their unhappiness. It is no coincidence that students are boycotting classes and shutting down universities at the same time when workers are on strike and variously townships are on fire, protesting poor service delivery. Second, the Zuma government does not seem to understand the gravity of the crisis nor does it have the necessary political will or skill sets to respond to the crisis. Those senior civil servants in the Treasury who do understand the extent of the crisis and who do have the necessary technical skill sets to at least contain the crisis are being prevented from doing what they know is in the country’s national interest by a corrupt political elite led by President Zuma dedicated to plundering state coffers. The looting of state resources also robs the government of any morality in dealing with students demands from a position of integrity. How does one say to students that there is no money to meet their demands for free higher education when billions are lost each year as a result of corruption?

Third, there is the issue of the dysfunctional nature of the educational system which practically guarantees failure. Many students emanate from dysfunctional schools not being really taught the skill sets necessary to prepare them either for the world of work or for university. Fearing a confrontation with the powerful South African Democratic Teachers Union (SADTU), government turns a blind eye to corruption, absentee teachers and poor quality teaching generally. Students graduate from high schools and enter universities and find that they do not have the necessary skill sets to make a success of their university studies. Thus, despite valiant efforts on the part of universities with extra tutorials and other interventions, the drop-out and failure rates are extremely high. At the end of the day no matter what interventions universities embark upon, one cannot undo the damage of 12 years of dysfunctional teaching within the first year or two of university education. The dysfunctional nature of the education system is also reflected in the fact that often even those students who do graduate often do not find jobs. The reason for this is that there is a tremendous mismatch between the skill sets graduates have and the needs of the South African economy. Consider the tens of thousands of students who each year enters the humanities and the dismally small number who find their way into the sciences. So graduates leave universities with heightened expectations of a good professional job. Instead they find themselves unemployed or doing menial work for which no degree is required.

We are all failing our youth. To fix this, we need a growing economy in the first instance. We need government and university administrators to come together engaging in a radical overhaul of the entire education system from primary and secondary school to the higher education sector. They need to develop a vision of the South African economy which emphasises high growth and high employment and they need to do this in conjunction with the business sector to ensure that skill sets taught is what is needed for the economy of tomorrow.

30 August, 2016

The End of the Road for the Mugabe Regime?

by Hussein Solomon

2016 might well be the year which marks the end of Mugabe’s authoritarian regime. The portents do not look good for the world’s oldest president, Robert Mugabe, who at 92 has misruled his country for 36 years. A number of factors have come together to form a perfect storm around his tottering government. First, the Zimbabwean economy is fast running out of cash. In past economic crises Mugabe and his cronies were bailed out by the International Monetary Fund and the Chinese. Given the ongoing mismanagement of the economy and institutionalized corruption, there are no international actors who are likely to assist him this time. One indicator of this economic meltdown was that on 26 July the daily volume on Harare’s stock exchange plummeted to US $105, from US $1 million at its peak.

President Robert Mugabe (Photo: GCIS)

Without money, the ruling ZANU-PF’s patronage networks are crumbling with normally loyal allies turning against the leadership. Earlier this year a group of influential war veterans attacked Mugabe’s “dictatorial tendencies”. The cash crunch has also resulted in the government’s inability to pay the salaries of its bloated civil servants. Elements in the security services are already threatening to join protestors should their full salaries not be made timeously. In an effort to maintain their control given the threat from the security services, ZANU-PF said it will deploy its youth wing to crush any protests. However, following last week’s protests, ZANU-PF’s Youth League could only muster 500 of its members and were compelled to shelve their plans to crush political dissenters.

The ongoing drought has also added further impetus to the economic crisis. Four million Zimbabweans currently have insufficient food. This too has strategic significance. Over the past two decades, ZANU-PF has lost the support of its urban cities with the rural areas becoming the stronghold of the ruling party. Given the lack of assistance from the government in responding to the drought, there are indications that dissatisfaction against Mugabe’s rule is also spreading to the countryside.

The urban opposition meanwhile is more united than ever. At the end of August leaders of 18 opposition parties, including a former prime minister, vice president and finance minister, met to forge a coalition against Mugabe’s ZANU-PF. These are further supported by civil society groupings such as Tajamuka and #ThisFlag. Last week’s demonstrations were among some of the biggest in the country with security forces being overwhelmed by protestors and being forced to retreat. The fact that the peaceful protests were given the green light by Zimbabwe’s High Court to go ahead and that despite this the police brutally attempted to crush the protestors demanding urgent electoral reforms ahead of the 2018 poll particularly riled demonstrators. The mood amongst demonstrators was uncompromising, “Beat us all you want, but we shall not yield”, they defiantly roared on the streets of Harare.

To compound matters for Mugabe, his own party is deeply divided. One faction is led by his wife Grace who sees herself as Mugabe’s natural successor and is supported by Higher Education Minister Jonathan Moyo and Local Government Minister Saviour Kasukuwere. Another faction is led by Vice-President Emmerson Mnangagwa who commands the support of the security services.

As Zimbabwe burns, as UN Secretary General Ban ki-Moon expresses his concern, the rapidly deteriorating situation in the country does not attract the attention of either the African Union or the Southern African Development Community.

11 August, 2016

Lesotho: Dilemmas of a Coalition System of Governance

by M. K. Mahlakeng

Since 2012, Lesotho has been characterized by coalition systems of governance. Post 26 May 2012 elections, Lesotho witnessed its first ever coalition government. This pact comprised of 3 political parties i.e. the All Basotho Convention (ABC), Basotho National Party (BNP) and Lesotho Congress for Democracy (LCD). This coalition government collapsed after only 2 years in office as a result of poor leadership, and tensions and misunderstandings that occurred between coalition partners (especially between the ABC and LCD). This collapse of government led to the 28 February general snap elections which resulted in a second coalition government comprising of 7 parties, i.e. the Democratic Congress (DC), Lesotho Congress for Democracy (LCD), Marematlou Freedom Party (MFP), Basotho Congress Party (BCP), National Independent Party (NIP), Lesotho People’s Congress (LPC) and Popular Front for Democracy (PFD).

Coalition governments are political pacts formed in times of crisis in which it becomes evident that a certain action cannot be achieved and/or avoided by working separately. Moreover, coalition governments are a result of splinter parties and/or groups that affect the possibility of one party claiming total majority in elections subsequently forming a government on its own.

Inauguration of PM Mosisili, 2015 (Photo: DoC)

Coalition governments have their own strengths and challenging weaknesses. What is advantageous for coalition governments is that, having to share mandate leads to broader representation and greater scrutiny of policy-making. However, disadvantageous to this form of governance is the conflict that may occur due to conflicting ideologies leading to policy standstills thus affecting the stability and functioning of government. One complex and detrimental issue in coalition governments is dependency which subsequently creates a “one size fits all” way of life, meaning “your problems and worries become my problems and worries”. This disadvantageous dilemma is true for Lesotho as it was evident in the collapse of the 2012 coalition government, and has resurfaced to challenge the current coalition government.

The major partner in the current political pact (i.e. the DC), is faced with issues threatening the stability of the party itself and of the government as a whole. The issue that is currently accumulating pressure on the stability of the party and government is central to the leadership of Prime Minister Pakalitha Mosisili and his grip to power. Despite his grip to power resulting in infightings in his party, however, the PM has shown little signs of relinquishing power, a common notion across the African continent. Undoubtedly, his display of arrogance emanates from him being more than a decade in power. Mosisili has been a PM for 14 years (as the then leader of LCD before its split in early 2012 leading to the formation of the DC) from May 1998 to June 2012 before his defeat to the ABC-led coalition government. It is however important to note that, what has also added to his long stay in power is the ineffectiveness of his deputies (starting in the LCD and now in the DC), at the face of endorsement by a majority of party members, to stand out and outright contest the position of leadership.

His grip on power has resulted in vicious factions within the party mainly characterised by succession quarrels. On the one hand, one grouping has made calls for him to step down opting for his deputy in the DC, Monyane Moleleki, to be his successor. While on the other hand, another group is standing firmly behind him. This infighting, although not intensely evident at the moment, places immense pressure on the stability of the DC, but more importantly, on the stability of the governing coalition. Having led two governments to-date, it is easy to argue that he can become a key source of advice to the administration of his party and of government even after his resignation.

One thing is certain. With his continued arrogance, he will face a motion of no-confidence in his party resulting into a political marginalization of him and his loyalists thus affecting, among others, patronage. What is left to be seen however, is whether he will attempt to split once again from the DC, one usual stunt in Lesotho and one of his common traits perhaps inherited from the former PM Ntsu Mokhehle. For instance, in 1997 Ntsu Mokhehle, founder and leader of the BCP since 1952, initiated a split from the BCP, facing pressure from within his party (this split resulted into the political turmoil that witnessed a fumbled South African-led intervention in 1998 commonly known as “Operation Boleas”), thus leading to the formation of the LCD. Mosisili later took the leadership role of the LCD and similarly split from the LCD in 2012 to form the DC also facing pressure from within the LCD. This clearly overrides the illusion that individuals are loyal to their parties to a point of accepting defeat. However, if a split should be the case, then the current governing coalition won’t see the light of day.

08 August, 2016

Local Elections…National Repercussions: A Brief Look at the 2016 South African Local Government Elections

by Willem Ellis

Like all other cities in South Africa (SA), my city Bloemfontein has been festooned with local government election banners and posters for the last few weeks. The faces of the leaders of political parties beaming down at us from lampposts with slogans promising us to trust them with transforming society; giving power to members of all communities; fighting for our rights; bringing economic freedom in our lifetime and one party that merely said…trust us!

The local government election circus of 2016 has come and (almost) gone and now the time for analysis has arrived. Commentators, academics, experts and fellow citizens will analyse the results to death – leaving no bone unpicked or statistic untouched. I know my students will ambush me for an opinion in our next class…so here is my penny’s worth of opinion. For me the election results are mostly about three parties and two issues.

Photo: HelenOnline

For the African National Congress (ANC) the election results must have been like a bucket of cold water in the face! For the 1st time since 1994 the party’s general support has waned below 60% of the national electorate (±54%). Its apparent loss (depending on ongoing coalition talks between all parties that has won seats) of the previously held Metropolitan Councils (metros) of Nelson Mandela Bay (centered around the city of Port Elizabeth in the ANC heartland of the Eastern Cape province); Tshwane (centered around the city of Pretoria, the administrative capital of SA) and Johannesburg (the economic hub of SA) is a staggering result for the ANC and an apparent loss of faith in the ruling party by the urban electorate. Yes, it might seems that the swing away from the ANC could have been influenced by voters staying away rather than voting for other parties in a form of protest (also against the scandals surrounding President Jacob Zuma), inclement weather or a ineffective election campaign marred by violence…but the votes have been counted and it seems the fat lady has sung!

The Democratic Alliance (DA) could be seen as major winners looking at its big gains in areas that had previously been dominated by the ANC. Not only has it retained its dominance of local councils in the Western Cape (including the metro of Cape Town) and Midvaal in Gauteng, but it has really put the cat amongst the pigeons with its support in (and possible future governance of) the metros mentioned above. Even though the ANC still dominates the local government scene, the DA has grown its support in most councils across the country. Its message centered on its clean record of governance in the Western Cape seems to have found fertile ground across the country. The challenge will now be about proving their political and governance mettle in new untested and possibly hostile local municipal and metropolitan areas. The jury on whether the DA has been able to really grow its support among the black electorate exponentially is still out, but it seems that especially among the urban black electorate its message is finding sympathetic ears.

And then the Economic Freedom Fighters (EFF)! The new kid on the block as far as local government elections are concerned have not been able to capture a single municipality but its strong showing in all of the hotly contested metro’s mentioned above has given it the really enviable role of kingmakers when it comes to the formation of coalition governments. As this is being written, frantic coalition talks are ongoing all over SA and the EFF holds the key to most of them! Before and during the elections, the EFF has gone on record saying that they will not enter into coalitions with the ANC – but we all know the 14 days municipalities are given to form their councils after the declaration of final results can prove to be a very long time in politics!

The two issues that really interest me are the forming of the local coalition governments and the reaction of the ANC to the results of the elections. South Africa does not really have experience of coalition politics and it seems that parties with vastly differing ideological backgrounds and agendas (the DA and EFF comes to mind) are considering forming coalitions…an experiment that could be doomed for failure! Even though it is being said that local government is about service rendering and not ideology, getting rid of socialist, capitalist, nationalist or whatever baggage is never that easy! Local government in SA is in a precarious state and our citizens deserve clean, effective and accountable government and service rendering – not bickering politicians!

That leaves us with the ANC reaction to it all…will there be introspection and realignment as promised or will we see instability within the party with President Zuma using the opportunity to purge political opponents - especially in the Gauteng metros, a province where voices have been going up against him recently? Were the elections also a bit of a referendum on the state of national governance? Will the ANC allow itself to be governed by others or will we see instability being fomented in “new” opposition-controlled municipalities and metros?

The 2019 national elections are closer than we think and with everything to play for, the gloves will come off soon…very soon.

So now the banners and posters come down and our lives return to normal…if ever there will be a normal in South African politics again!

01 August, 2016

Mozambique: Echoes of War?

by Hussein Solomon

The conflict between Mozambique’s FRELIMO (Front for the Liberation of Mozambique) and RENAMO (National Mozambican Resistance) ended two decades ago. Its legacy, however, continue to haunt the country with more than 100,000 dead and more than a million refugees. That war ended in 1992 with the signing of a peace agreement which allowed the RENAMO leader, Afonso Dhlakama, to participate in the first multi-party elections in 1994.

The possibility of civil war, however, has resurfaced in recent years. Part of the reason for this simmering conflict lay in the sense of marginalization that RENAMO and its constituency feels. Whilst Mozambique is one of Africa’s fastest-growing economies, much of the economic development is occurring in the south as opposed to the central and northern regions in which RENAMO is active. To exacerbate matters this regional split also reinforces other cleavages – specifically that of ethnicity. Whilst Shangaans largely reside in the south, ethnic Ndau inhabit the central and northern regions of the country. The recent discoveries of energy resources is also set to exacerbate the competition for a larger slice of the economic pie whilst the growing corruption within the ruling FRELIMO party in power since 1975 is also set to cause further antagonism against the party and its resultant patronage networks.

Afonso Dhlakama (Photo: Adrien Barbier)

There is also a sense of political marginalization acutely felt by Dhlakama who is being slowly pushed off the national stage by a younger generation of politicians – both FRELIMO and RENAMO. Dhlakama is an old-style African politician with a strong belief in the “Big Man” syndrome. He refuses to tolerate any challenge to his leadership. When RENAMO member Devisso Mango proved popular as mayoral candidate for Baira, Dhlakama tried to stop his election. Mango, exploited his popularity with a younger electorate, and then won as an independent under the banner of the Democratic Movement of Mozambique. Small wonder, then, that one of Dhlakama’s demands from FRELIMO is that he gets to appoint provincial governors in the central and northern regions.

All the blame is not to be laid at Dhlakama’s door, however. FRELIMO in power for more than 40 years is displaying ever greater arrogance, showing scant respect for the political opposition (not just RENAMO) or broader civil society. Far from attempting to affect a political compromise, for instance, greater autonomy of provinces, FRELIMO is attempting to consolidate power further. Unfortunately, for FRELIMO, its tough political stance does not match its military’s capabilities. FRELIMO’s aversion to political compromise is taking place at a time when the Mozambican armed forces is very weak. Under these circumstances, political tensions are mounting and spilling over into armed conflict.

On 12 and 25 September 2015, Dhlakama’s convoy was shot at twice. On 20 January 2016, RENAMO’s Secretary-General Manuel Bissopo was injured and his bodyguard killed in a drive-by shooting. After the two assassination attempts on his life, Dhlakama’s statements have become increasingly bellicose. For its part FRELIMO points out that Dhlakama’s speeches of capturing control over the six central and northern provinces – Manica, Sofala, Tete, Zambezia, Nampula and Niassa – threatens the territorial integrity and security of the state. FRELIMO also blames RENAMO gunmen for killing two people including a traditional chief in Sofala earlier this year as part of a concerted attempt to remove authorities loyal to Maputo in these provinces. With FRELIMO’s deployment of more soldiers into the central and northern provinces and clashes erupting between the belligerents, thousands of luckless residents have fled into neighouring Malawi.

Despite these ominous signs of impending conflict, there is little action from the regional body – the Southern African Development Community (SADC). But then again, should we be surprised? There was no action taken by SADC in Zimbabwe despite the economic and political meltdown in that country. Neither is there action on the part of SADC in Swaziland where a profligate King Mswati III continues to behave like a medieval feudal monarch whilst driving his country into economic ruin.

30 July, 2016

How Unstable is Lesotho? A Two-Year Old Myth or an Enduring Reality?

by M. K. Mahlakeng

Barely two years ago, the rumour that Lesotho is confronted with instability become a part of civil life in Lesotho. On the one hand, this rumour was heavily supported. It was backed up by several events, giving it the credibility to be true. Firstly, on 29 August 2014, the then Prime Minister Tom Thabane fled the country claiming that there had been an attempted coup d’état by the army. Numerous incidences were mentioned as evidence of this plot to overthrow his government. This includes the barricade of police stations, including the police headquarters, and the takeover of the radio and TV stations by the army, resulting in a total black out in broadcast.

Secondly, from the 11, 13 and 26 May 2015, tripartite opposition (All Basotho Convention (ABC), Basotho National Party (BNP) and Reformed Congress for Lesotho (RCL) leaders (former PM Thomas Thabane, Thesele ‘Maseribane and Keketso Rantšo) fled Lesotho to South Africa on claims that their lives were in danger. Lastly, on 25 June 2015, Brigadier Maaparankoe Mahao was shot dead by Lesotho Defence Force (LDF) members who had come to arrest him for allegedly leading a mutiny to oust the army command.

SADC facilitator Cyril Ramaphosa in Lesotho (Photo GCIS)

On the other hand, this rumour was equally challenged. It was argued that many claims and allegations received attention and support despite the lack of substantiated evidence. And on an analytical level, a number of these events are easily disputable due to lack of provision of evidence. Firstly, a lot of interpretations can be attached to a raid of police stations and a take-over of communication services, however, these actions had similar but doubtful characteristics of a coup d’état.

Looking back at the events that led to the “attempted coup”, it was discovered that the PM has on recent occasions used the police force as his personal agency to threaten and intimidate members of society (this includes members of the opposition and the military). It was later discovered that the PM intended to use the police to distribute arms and ammunition to his ABC-allied youth movement to destabilise an intended peaceful march by members of the opposition on 1 September 2014 proposing for the re-opening of parliament. Hence a pre-emptive disarmament and barricade of police stations to stem this flow of weapons. The takeover of the communication services as argued by the army was a mere attempt to avoid rumours of a coup leaving citizens and investors in confusion and shock. Hypothetically, if it was indeed a coup, why wasn’t it successful because the radio and TV stations, police stations, including the police headquarters were under the control of the army, moreover, the State house was unoccupied due to the fleeing of the PM?

Nonetheless, despite the confusion between what is fact and what is rumour, on 3 July 2015, SADC held an Extraordinary Summit of the Double Troika and later established an Independent Commission of Inquiry chaired by Botswana High Court Judge Mpaphi Phumaphi to look into the security and constitutional status of Lesotho. On the 20th January 2016, the Double Troika Summit handed over the report of the Commission of Inquiry to the Government of the Kingdom of Lesotho, and tasked the Government of the Kingdom of Lesotho to provide feedback to the Chair of the Organ on Politics, Defence and Security Cooperation, and to publish the Report within 14 days (by 1 February 2016).

The Double Troika Summit also tasked the Kingdom of Lesotho to prepare a roadmap for the implementation of the constitutional, public sector and security sector reforms and submit a progress report to the Summit in August 2016. Among the report’s recommendations, the commission of inquiry has recommended that army commander Tlali Kennedy Kamoli be fired, whose actions are seen as being central to the crisis in Lesotho, as part of efforts to restore stability in the troubled kingdom and to secure a safe return and stay of Thabane in Lesotho. As a result, opposition leaders are also likely to remain in exile as they have vowed not to return as long as Kamoli remains at the helm of the LDF. The Phumaphi report also disputed the existence of any such mutiny and recommends an amnesty on the soldiers arrested by Kamoli.

However, the commission and its report has raised more questions than answers. This is due to uncertainties regarding the expected outcome of the report. First, won’t the removal of Kamoli affect and/or sow divisions within the army? Second, does the removal of Kamoli equally imply the removal of high ranking officials within the military? Third, who will be his successor? Fourth, will the regional body determine and decide on this too? And lastly, is there tangible proof to support the report’s dispute that there was no existence of a mutiny?

The commission and its report has also divided society, mainly based on its motive and intentions. Since its inception, SADC has been unable to hold certain leaders to account for their undemocratic actions. And although it might appear to be solving conflicts in the region, however, it tends to neglect underlying causes in favour of quick-fix solutions. There are a number of countries in the region that need SADC interventions. These include Zimbabwe and Mozambique to name but a few. The neighbouring South Africa has also reached a peak of instability. This is evident from the wave of violent service delivery protests (literally everyday), the killing of foreigners in 2008 and 2015, to the influx killing of politicians ahead of the 2016 municipal elections. One is left to question what form of “instability” instigates a commission of inquiry by the regional body? One thing is certain, the commission and its report’s recommendation are likely to stoke more turmoil.

29 March, 2016

Political Stability and FDI in SADC: A Love-Hate Relationship

by Yani Karavasilev

Foreign direct investment (FDI) is undoubtedly one of the most important factors for economic advancement in developed and developing economies alike. So what determines the levels of FDI flows into a country or region? Natural resource availability is one key factor that previous studies have identified, but so is political stability, with the assumption being that investors look for a stable environment in which their investments can be protected and nurtured. In this sense, the importance of regional blocs such as SADC in enhancing FDI flows to the region cannot be understated, especially in view of the assumption that in addition to expanding the size of the market, regionalism can promote political stability by restricting membership to countries with democratic political systems, as well as provide carrot-or-stick type of incentives for member countries to implement good policies.

The following are some of the key results of an academic study attempting to identify the relationship between political stability and FDI in SADC. The full details of the study can be accessed in an article in the Southern African Peace and Security Studies that was recently published.

To test the effects of political stability within SADC, a sample was assembled containing data for all 15 SADC members for the period 1996 through 2014 and the impact of political stability on FDI inflows per capita was investigated, while taking into account other important factors (control variables) such as GDP growth proxying for FDI returns, price levels proxying for investment-related costs, natural resource dependence, inflation etc., selected based on preliminary tests so as not to affect the reliability and validity of the statistical analysis. Political stability was measured using the ‘Political Stability and Lack of Violence’ indicator provided by the World Bank. It is one of the six Worldwide Governance Indicators which capture key dimensions of governance.

The results revealed that there is a U-shaped relationship between FDI and political stability. The lowest point of that U-curve lies at about a value of -1.0 of the PS indicator (the minimum and maximum are about -2.5 and +2.5). Above this level, and especially above 0.0, there is a relatively large, robust and positive causal relationship between political stability and FDI inflows in SADC members. The coefficient increases as the lags increase, showing that the political stability in a country is crucial two to three years before the actual investment happens, which is understandable considering the long-term nature of and the bureaucracy surrounding FDI projects. Using a different cutoff of -1.0 yields even more staggering results – for every one unit of improvement in political stability, there is an FDI inflows within a country.

The results confirm the findings of previous studies and cannot be said to constitute any exciting news. What is surprising, however, is that for the observations below the abovementioned -1.0 cutoff point, these implications do not hold. These observations were seen in the case of the DRC, Angola, and in certain limited periods (mostly around the time of land reform) in the case of Zimbabwe.

Why is the DRC different?

A careful look at the geography of FDI there suggests that there might be no relation between political stability and FDI in the DRC to begin with. The DRC is the largest country in SADC, and its largely underdeveloped infrastructure obstructs quick coordination among its already largely economically, linguistically and ethnically different parts. This line of thought would render the analysis of the DRC as a single politico-economic entity counterintuitive to say the least. What could be described as the economic powerhouse of the country is in essence a relatively small region bordering Zambia, situated in the Katanga Province which itself is home to a mere 6-7% of the population but could be said to account for upwards of 70% of the DRC’s total exports (primarily copper and cobalt). Approximately the same amount of the FDI flowing into the country should be expected to be concentrated in the region. The region has been largely unaffected in a direct way by the conflict in the country, which has taken a heavy toll on the North and South Kivu provinces.

To support the claim that political stability is not the most relevant factor in investment decisions in the mining sector in the south, a backward interpretation of the Fraser Institute survey was considered. According to this survey, the DRC’s political environment was picked out as a major negative factor influencing FDI - over 50% of investors surveyed the said it was a deterrent to investing in the country’s mining sector. While this is certainly true, one does have to look from the opposite angle and recognize that for almost 50% of investors the policy environment is not a major issue. At least not in comparison with other factors, such as corruption and infrastructure problems, which were both found to be a deterrent to 100% of investors (compared to only 50% for Zambia, for instance). Furthermore, whereas political stability turned out to be a major concern for approximately 80% of investors, only half of them (40%) reported they would not pursue any investment in the DRC. The reverse reading of the survey results is very much in line with the explanation outlined in the previous paragraph.

Why is Angola different?

The case of Angola is the only one where an unambiguously negative relationship between PS and FDI be observed (Figure 3). Angola is the only other severely natural-resource dependent country in SADC alongside the DRC, and specifically, it is oil-dependent, being the only OPEC member within SADC. The overwhelming part of FDI in Angola goes into the oil sector, which accounts for more than 90% of the country’s exports. The number of oil extraction wells more than doubled between 1993 and 2003. In light of the fact that FDI in the oil sector depends mainly on the discovery of reserves and on global demand for oil, it is not surprising to see huge fluctuations in FDI flows, including outflows due to falling demand in recent years despite constantly improving political stability. The most relevant part of Angola’s dependence on oil, however, is the geography of its oil extraction industry, very much in parallel with the DRC’s mining sector. As much as 98% of Angola’s oil is pumped from fields offshore, in the Atlantic Ocean, so there is almost no direct contact between the oil industry and the onshore political and social development. Since any potentiality of political violence is virtually non-existent, it follows logically that there should be no relationship between the political stability indicator and the FDI inflows.

Are Angola and the DRC really part of SADC?
Natural resource dependence and the lack of relationship between FDI and political in Angola and the DRC are not the only characteristics that differentiate them from the rest of the SADC members. The two countries, together with the Seychelles, are the only ones which do not participate in the SADC Free Trade Area established in August 2008 (SADC, 2012). As a result, they are not as deeply integrated into the community, with tariffs, regulations and visas limiting their participation in cross-border value chains, FDI and joint-venture projects. To illustrate, FDI outflows from South Africa to other SADC members were examined. South Africa is an FDI powerhouse not only in the region but in Africa as a whole, and a lot of FDI in SADC members originates from South Africa. The DRC and Angola are the only countries which did not experience an increase of FDI from South Africa since 2000. In fact, DRC does not even report any FDI originating from that country. Curiously, apart from South Africa, no other African country reports FDI in either the DRC or Angola. On the other hand, apart from some negligibly minimal investments in neighboring Mozambique, South Africa and Zambia, Angola and the DRC do not invest in SADC members. The overwhelming part of FDI in the DRC originates from Belgium and China, and in the case of Angola, the main contributors are France, Norway, Portugal, the USA, China and Brazil. Considering this, one would wonder whether the DRC and Angola are economically part of SADC, or for that matter the African community at all.

07 February, 2016

Infrastructure for Peace (I4P): Re-learning the Lessons of the Past

by Willem Ellis

The median temperature in South Africa (SA) has been rising and I am not referring only to the heat wave that had been beleaguering the sub-continent for the past months. 2016 promises a steady rise in the political temperature with a possible forecast of a perfect political storm. Elements like crucial local government elections; ongoing service delivery protests; a crumbling economy; racial tension; a president beset with ethical problems and a restive civil society guarantees that thunder and lightning will be unavoidable!

Twenty-two years after SA’s transformation to democracy it can be argued that the country is still in a phase of state- and peace-building, with its reconciliation process incomplete. This despite the fact that the SA transition was hailed as a “miracle” and the country had been exporting its conflict resolution skills to countries as far afield as Sudan, Ireland and Nepal. Regular resurgence of xenophobic violence, the ongoing race issue and general lack of trust among groups are examples of wrinkles still to be ironed out. Most South Africans are only now realising that the country’s social fabric is rapidly fraying and that peace- and nation building is not only something that happens in other countries!

March against Xenophobia, Johannesburg (Photo by Dyltong)

SA is (in)famous for setting up ad hoc structures to address problems and the current situation is no different. Already there is talk about kick-starting dialogue, organising conferences on race, inequality and the simmering conflict potential within the country. What is to be done? The answer might lie in a fairly recent “trend” in peacebuilding called Infrastructures for Peace (I4P) – the creation of peace- and nation-building initiatives rooted in local dynamics (cultural, historical, structural) and described as the “local turn” by Richmond (2013). Without subtracting from the role played by civil society in such I4P’s, the formalisation of such infrastructures by the state and external actors deserves special attention.

Van Tongeren (2011) states that the idea of peace infrastructure is to develop mechanisms for cooperation among stakeholders, including the government, by promoting co-operative problem-solving and institutionalising response mechanisms to (violent) conflict. Nishanka (2014) posits that organisational elements of such infrastructure can be established at all stages of peace and dialogue processes - during peace-building as well, at all levels of society and with varying degrees of inclusion. Participating parties can be assisted through capacity building, processes of mediation or public participation can be facilitated and agreements’ monitored. I4P’s seem to share the following key characteristics:
1) a domestic foundation;
2) establishment during any stage of peace or dialogue processes;
3) their presence at all levels and peace-building tracks;
4) varying terms of inclusion; and
5) various objectives and functions to be attained and performed through/by those participating. (Nishanka, 2014).

Is this what SA is looking for? If so, we do not have only have to look forward, but also back and relearn the lessons of the past…quickly! SA has flirted with I4P as recently as 1994 on a national basis and 2003 on a provincial basis. Although not as comprehensive as the Accra Declaration of 10 September 2013, envisaging national I4P for all members of ECOWAS, with Ghana taking the lead, some institutional memory of previous efforts remain.

The creation of the National Peace Accord (NPA) in SA in 1991 has received some credit for contributing to a peaceful transition and had a far reaching impact through the establishment of understanding amongst different sections of the SA population – facilitating dialogue, building tolerance and addressing issues of conflict through mediation and problem-solving approaches. The directs and tangible impact of the NPA was seen in the National Peace Secretariat (NPS) with a national secretariat, 1 regional peace committees and 200 local peace committees established country-wide. More than 15 000 peace monitors were trained, international observers hosted and uncounted smaller and larger scale mediation interventions performed. Although not problem free, the NPA did kick-start SA’s first dalliance with I4P – only to be deactivated after the 1994 transition.

In an initiative totally unique in SA, the Free State Centre for Citizenship Education and Conflict Resolution (CCECR) was set up in the Free State province from 1998 – 2003. It was the result of initiatives by ex-NPS members, provincial politicians and international donors. CCECR worked on issues of conflict resolution and human rights as a statutory body of the Free State legislature for five years, doing sterling service – unique for a province in South Africa! Since it closure in 2003, no such initiatives have followed.

Does SA need some form of I4P? I think it definitely does! Does it have to reinvent the wheel in setting it up? Definitely not – just re-learn the lessons from the past.

* Willem Ellis, is based at the Centre for Africa Studies and Department of Political Studies and Governance, University of the Free State, South Africa

06 February, 2016

The Phumaphi Commission Report to Lesotho: South African or SADC Agenda? Personal or Regional Politics?

by M. K. Mahlakeng

There has been ambiguity in the word ‘recommendations’, and it seems the Southern African Development Community (SADC) has also been caught-up in this inexactness. This follows a statement made by SADC during its double troika summit in Gaborone comprising of Botswana, Mozambique, South Africa, Swaziland, Tanzania and Zimbabwe. SADC issued a 14-day ultimatum prescribed by the regional body to Lesotho to “implement the Phumaphi Commission Report or face suspension from the regional body”. The Commission was expected to probe the killing of former Lesotho Army Commander Maaparankoe Mahao among other issues.

The tone and manner of this statement, in essence, seems to signify that recommendations are binding on member states and that failure to implement such recommendations will ultimately lead to the suspension of a specific member state. Two main issues of concern were the reasons surrounding the delay by government to implement the findings of the report, and these include the court case against SADC by Lieutenant-Colonel Tefo Hashatsi, and the security measures that needed to be taken before making the report public.

Lt-Col Hashatsi’s court case, which sites Prime Minister Pakalitha Mosisili, Justice Phumaphi, the SADC Commission of Inquiry and Attorney General Tšokolo Makhethe as its respondents, is two-fold. Firstly it aims to nullify the findings of the Commission on the grounds that the commissioners, in particular Justice Phumaphi, was being biased against him noting that he [Hashatsi] is a suspect in the killing of Mahao. Lt-Col Hashatsi was among several people interviewed during the probe. The LDF officer said, in his court application, that “the commissioners’ line of questioning made him appear a suspect in Lt-Gen Mahao’s killing, which he said violated his constitutional right to be presumed innocent until proven guilty by a competent court”. And because of the alleged bias, Lt-Col Hashatsi wanted the respondents to give reasons why the inquiry should not be declared illegal. Secondly, Lt-Col Hashatsi is challenging the legitimacy of the commission for allegedly violating its terms of reference by hearing evidence in South Africa when it had been established by Lesotho laws. However, the SADC reiterated that “any court decision taken against the Commission of Inquiry is of no legal effect and will not bind SADC and its institutions.”

SADC Headquarters

The second issue, concerned a delay due to government’s desire to be given time to go through the report and, if need be, edit out from the report any parts that threatened the country’s peace and security, before making it public. And also paramount to the delay was government's respect for the courts, arguing never to receive the report until the finalization of Lt-Col Hashatsi’s court case.

South African President and an outgoing Chairperson of the SADC Organ on Politics, Defence and Security Cooperation, Jacob Zuma, on 19 January 2016 during the South African Broadcasting Corporation (SABC)’s Morning Live programme stated that “SADC would unilaterally release the report to the public and push for a complete suspension of Lesotho from the regional body”.

Zuma’s support for Lesotho’s suspension from the regional bloc, and what is viewed as ‘anti-Lesotho remarks’, was met with no surprise. It has been argued that the untimely end of the Thabane-administration and the subsequent sacking of the controversial Guptas, alleged friends of Zuma, in Lesotho serve as ample explanation for Zuma’s harsh stance on Lesotho’s internal politics.

Former Prime Minister Tom Thabane and also alleged close friend of Zuma, appointed the Guptas to be his special advisers, claiming that “these people [the Guptas] are good friends of the ANC and we have good relations with the ANC...I was introduced to them by the ANC president Jacob Zuma and other ANC officials”. However, at the end of the two-and-a-half-years Thabane-led government, the Guptas were fired as special advisers to the Prime Minister’s office and their diplomatic passports revoked.

In reaction to President Zuma’s statements, PM Mosisili claimed that his [Zuma] statement is contradictory. In substantiating his viewpoint, The PM made a comparative scenario of Lesotho’s situation with SADC vis-à-vis that of South Africa with the International Criminal Court (ICC). He reiterated that “this is the same thing that today they [South Africa] are claiming immunity by saying that ICC should hold their horses in this regard (holding SA accountable over the Bashir case), and yet you [Mr Zuma] maintain that it is wrong when we say a regional bloc should hold their horses since we still have a case in court…it is surprising that a bloc [SADC] that believes in democracy and the rule of law can say that courts’ decisions are not binding”.

One ought to ask, are recommendations binding or prescriptive? And, what can force the suspension of a member state from a regional organisation? Firstly, according to the Oxford Dictionary, a recommendation is “an official suggestion about the best thing to do”. They merely act as tools that serve member states to refer to and draw from as desired (with liberty to accept or reject). And secondly, nations get suspended from SADC because of unconstitutional governance (i.e. lack of adherence to the rule of law, negligence on peace and security etc.). However, Lesotho’s position to respect the rule of law by waiting for the case that is currently in court and take necessary steps in tabling the report has left it at the gallows.

It is undoubtedly evident through policy initiatives that South Africa (SA) and SADC are highly committed to regional integration, constitutionalism and stability through peacekeeping diplomatic missions. And these all come down to democracy and the rule of law. However, ignorance by both [SA and SADC] over the proceedings of the courts of Lesotho has marked a fundamental shift of policy against a member state.

And this equally raises the question of their role in the call for the democratization of Swaziland – they have turned a blind-eye to the ban on political parties which has been in place for more than four decades, the prohibition of political protests and the plight of many Swazi dissidents exiled in South Africa and Mozambique. The same applies to their stance regarding politically motivated murder, election rigging and economic pillaging in Zimbabwe.

31 January, 2016

Japanese media and the lack of coverage of African news

by Irina Novikova

International media seem to have little interest in events in Africa. Even such major media corporations as the BBC and the New York Times allocate no more than 9 percent of its international news to news from Africa(*1). But, among media outside Africa, the Japanese media seem to particularly fail in producing extensive reports on the region with only 2-3 percent of its international affairs being devoted to Africa.

The poor accessibility to remote areas of conflict, as well as the safety concerns of journalists certainly play a role. However, it might also be useful to look at the number of overseas bureaus in the region. For example, it appears that the Yomiuri Newspaper – a Japanese newspaper with the largest circulation, has only two news bureaus in Africa – one in Johannesburg, South Africa and one in Cairo, Egypt(*2). However, the bureau in Cairo focuses more on the Middle East than on Africa itself. That means that there are at most only two agencies to cover the whole continent: a continent, which is in fact the second-largest in the world. At the same time, there are nine Yomiuri bureaus in Europe alone. It reveals that there is a certain imbalance in how Japanese media cover different parts of the world. Moreover, it suggests that Japanese media in particular perceive African countries as not worthy of detailed reporting.

Consequently, many potentially significant events in Africa fail to reach the Japanese public. Therefore, it is interesting to analyze the content of the Yomiuri Newspaper articles and see, if African events are covered, what is being covered? The following table shows the total number of characters devoted to African news in the Yomiuri Newspaper over the year 2015 (1 January to 31 December). The list represents the top ten of the most covered countries and the total number of characters devoted to them.

Ten most-reported African countries in the Yomiuri Newspaper, 2015

Nigeria and Kenya received the most attention, with 49 and 24 articles respectively reporting on a complicated security situation in both countries. That is hardly surprising, considering the number and intensity of attacks by Boko Haram, an Islamic militia in Nigeria, and Al-Shabaab, an Al-Qaeda affiliate from Somalia which mainly carries out its attacks in Kenya.

However, a closer look at the content of articles reveals that the coverage of conflict and terrorism in Africa cannot be called extensive or detailed. Out of 49 articles primarily devoted to Nigeria, around 29 are short columns within 200 characters, which simply state the place, perpetrators and number of victims. They do not offer a broader analysis of the situation. Moreover, follow-up stories after initial reports on attacks are rare. For example, only 3 Yomiuri articles with a total of 1,923 characters focused on the deadly Al-Shabaab attack on a Garissa University campus in Kenya, which took the lives of 148 people. This number looks especially insignificant next to 26,467 characters (or 18 articles) written by Yomiuri about the November attacks in Paris just in the first two days. Although these are two different cases, the comparison definitely emphasizes the lack of attention to African affairs.

Overall, six countries in the list are related to conflicts: Nigeria, Kenya, Somalia, South Sudan, Libya, and Algeria. The focus on a security issue is clearly demonstrated in the following chart of most covered topics in the newspaper. Conflict-related articles make up around 39 percent of the whole coverage. Such attention can be explained by the intensifying insurgency of Islamic militia around the world and its direct consequences in Europe and Japan (e.g. the beheading of two Japanese nationals by the Islamic State in October 2014).

Some other topics that gained substantial coverage were “society” and “politics”. News about presidential elections in Nigeria and Burkina Faso, Obama’s visit to Africa, and visits to Japan by African diplomats, all fall under the category of “politics”. It makes up 14 percent of the total coverage. Articles discussing human rights improvements and other public affairs are categorized as “society” and constitute 17 percent of the news. Although this might suggest that Japanese media show a certain level of interest in African society, in reality 47 percent of such articles (or 16 out of 34) are news related to both, Japan and Africa. They might as well be labeled as Japanese news. For example, one article focuses on how Japanese style-management can improve the working environment in African companies, while other articles focus on a great contribution by the Japanese International Cooperation Agency (JICA) to the development of living standards. In other words, a connection to Japan seems to be a significant factor in whether society-related news would receive attention of Japanese media.

The same can be said about African news in general, as 23 percent of all articles published in 2015 by Yomiuri were written in the context of a connection to Japan or Japanese people or organizations, as can be seen from the following chart:

This brief analysis of a Japanese newspaper reveals a few interesting aspects of how Japanese media deal with Africa. First, within the little coverage devoted to the continent, conflict-related news attracts the most attention. However, “the most attention” should not be confused with “much attention”, as even the worst atrocities by Boko Haram and Al-Shabaab are not nearly as covered as attacks on Western soil and consequently are deprived of a chance to compete for the reader’s empathy. Certainly, given the context of the emergence of IS, the security concern is not specific for Japan and is rather an international issue. At the same time, when it comes to other issues with global impact such as Ebola or the refugee crisis, it seems that unless the issues threaten to cross the Japanese border, the Japanese media will look the other way.

*1 V. Hawkins. NHK and the missing continent (accessed: 21.01.2016)
*2 World bureaus network of the Yomiuri Newspaper (accessed: 21.01.2016)

11 January, 2016

Zambia`s Economic Crisis and the Political landscape leading to the 11 August 2016 Elections

by Maximilian Mainza

The economic woes of the world's second largest economy and Africa's largest bilateral trading partner – China – are causing alarm throughout the globe, with Africa not spared the turmoil. The plunging stock markets and the devaluation of the Yuan has increased concerns by most African countries, regarding the effects on the demand for oil, gold, copper and other resources, as the devaluation is depressing global commodity prices.

More than 25 percent of sub-Saharan Africa's exports go to China. Countries that have China as the major export destination, predominantly resource rich countries such as Zambia, Angola and South Africa, have endured the brunt of the economic shock. Other countries that receive colossal FDI inflows from China such as Nigeria, Ethiopia, Kenya and Uganda have also been seriously affected by the shock. More than half of the world’s worst performing currencies for 2015 are from Africa.

Zambia is one of the countries heavily dependent on resources exports, which include copper and cobalt, with China the major export destination. Because of its reliance on copper exports, (70 percent of export earnings are from copper), coupled with a weak Chinese economic growth and low commodity prices, the Zambian currency, the kwacha, has depreciated by more than 40 percent in 2015. The depreciation has prompted the government to continuously intervene in the foreign exchange market, resulting in declining foreign reserves and a widening current account deficit. The weaker kwacha has made imports expensive for the import dependent Zambia, while the dwindling copper and other precious metals' prices have made the balance of payment situation worse for Zambia. Inflation has risen to 21.1 percent as of December 2015, the highest in 10 years, which averaged 9.46 percent between 2005 and 2015.

A copper mine in Solwezi, Zambia

In addition, a pocked-sized manufacturing and energy sector in association with poor economic diversification and a continued widening current account deficit has posed a challenge for the Zambian governments efforts to contain the economic shock. Copper mines have been hit the most by the economic shock and the power shortages resulting in reduced production and closures for some, and laying off workers. More than 5,000 jobs have been lost in the mining sector in 2015, most notably at Mopani copper mines and Luanshya mines. Government is reviewing the mining tax regime in an effort to reduce the effects on the mines.

To contain the economic shock, the Zambian government has to make tough decisions on monetary and fiscal policy aimed at containing inflation, and stabilizing the exchange rate, such as increasing domestic revenue (through tax hikes), and reducing external debt. Such policies may have political implications, as they will directly affect the general public. For example, the government raised the electricity tariffs in November 2015 only for the President, Edgar Lungu to reverse them in January 2016 due to public pressure about the increased cost of living.

History indicates that economic crises can have adverse effects on the political landscape of a country. The obvious consequence would be a decline in political support of incumbents, in some cases, brings forth increased political opposition and social protests and unrest. The challenge then is the decisions by the leaders and the security forces about the use of force in response, as this can have effects on the intensity of protests as well as the security forces' integrity or on their future careers if the opposition was to win elections.

In Zambia the economic shock has increased the political opposition and social protests. The police have been used to halt the opposition using the Public Order Act by using force to disrupt opposition gatherings so that they fail to organize their parties and mobilise supporters. Students’ protests have been met with strong force by the police. Even the rioting miners who were laid off or put on forced leave were not spared from police brutality. Police officers that were believed to have been soft on the opposition were retired on grounds of national interests.

It is not clear whether the strong use of force by the police will lead to more unrest. But it is obvious that police integrity has been lost, and more violent attacks are expected months leading to the 11 August 2016 general elections. The major opposition seem to be gaining support in areas where they were not popular, especially the Copperbelt region, where miners lost jobs due to the reductions in copper production as a result of a 30 percent reduction in power supply to the mines and the reduced demand for copper by China. The increased rate of riots by miners and students especially, shows the lack of confidence in president Edgar Lungu, since the riots at Luanshya mine for instance, happened at the time when President Lungu was visiting the province to address the problems with the mines.

On 5 January 2016, President Edgar Lungu signed the Amended Constitution, whose major political highlight in the electoral system and process is the presidential running mate clause and the 50+1 clause (the winning presidential candidate must receive more than fifty percent of the valid votes cast). The previous election winners since 2001 have never garnered more than 50 percent of the votes. As such, the 11 August 2016 general elections will be difficult to predict, especially with the effect of a presidential running mate likely to also determine the direction of votes and given the existing economic crises. However, it’s vital to point out that the major opposition have a huge chance to win given how narrowly (1 percent) the ruling PF candidate, President Lungu won against UPND`s Hakainde Hichilema in the January 2015 presidential by-elections.