Africa News blog

African business, politics and lifestyle

S.Africa must reform white-dominated economy

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South Africa’s economy is still largely under the control of whites who held power under apartheid, President Jacob Zuma has said calling  for a “dramatic shift” to redress the wealth balance more evenly in favour of the black majority.

Zuma, speaking at the start of a major policy meeting of his ruling African National Congress, said the challenges of poverty, unemployment and inequality posed long-term risks for Africa’s richest country 18 years after the end of apartheid.

Without giving details, he called for a “dramatic shift and giant leap” in coming years to spread the country’s wealth more equitably, mentioning the distribution of mineral resources and land ownership as areas which needed to be overhauled. Zuma said the proposed “second transition” was necessary to complement the negotiated end of apartheid in 1994, when he said “certain compromises” over economic ownership had been made to ensure a smooth political transition from white minority rule.

The ANC has drafted a raft of policy documents that call on mining firms to pay more to the state to help finance welfare spending.The proposals also advocate relying on state-owned enterprises to be engines of job creation and growth. Zuma said the debate over how the country’s mining wealth should be used must go beyond simply the question of “to nationalise or not to nationalise.” Calls for nationalisation from some sectors of the ruling ANC have stirred investor concerns in the world’s No. 1 platinum producer.

100 years and going strong; But has the ANC-led government done enough for its people?

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By Isaac Esipisu

Although the role of political parties in Africa has changed dramatically since the sweeping reintroduction of multi-party politics in the early 1990s, Africa’s political parties remain deficient in many ways, particularly their organizational capacity, programmatic profiles and inner-party democracy.

The third wave of democratization that hit the shores of Africa 20 years ago has undoubtedly produced mixed results as regards to the democratic quality of the over 48 countries south of the Sahara. However, one finding can hardly be denied: the role of political parties has evidently changed dramatically.

Was South Africa right to deny Dalai Lama a visa?

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By Isaac Esipisu

Given that China is South Africa’s biggest trading partner and given the close relationship between Beijing and the ruling African National Congress, it didn’t come as a huge surprise that South Africa was in no hurry to issue a visa to the Dalai Lama.

Tibet’s spiritual leader will end up missing the 80th birthday party of Archbishop Desmond Tutu, a fellow Nobel peace prize winner. He said his application for a visa had not come through on time despite having been made to Pretoria several weeks earlier. (Although South Africa’s government said a visa hadn’t actually been denied, the Dalai Lama’s office said it appeared to find the prospect inconvenient).
Desmond Tutu said the government’s action was a national disgrace and warned the President and ruling party that one day he will start praying for the defeat of the ANC government.

Searching for it — not quite feeling it — in Polokwane

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- Searching for it — not quite feeling it — in Polokwane The fan fest sounded like a wild party with the vuvuzela horns booming through the empty streets of Polokwane town, one of the smallest of 10 venues for the first World Cup on African soil. Everyone must be there, we thought as there was little going on for a Saturday night in the northern South African town. Even the local Nandos restaurant on the main street shut by 8 p.m. But on closer inspection the soccer fan fest — loud as it was — was also pretty deserted. Soccer fever has yet to reach Polokwane. A sleepy town of just 500,000 people, it was hard to imagine Polokwane, which means place of safety, would host its first World Cup soccer match in less than 24 hours. In Johannesburg or Cape Town you could definitely “feel it”. Here we weren’t so sure. Driving through the town’s eerily deserted streets searching for a restaurant where we could eat and watch the soccer, we discovered that was not an easy find. It was also hard to imagine what long-term benefit the town would see from being a host city. While for the four matches to be played in Polokwane the few hotels on offer for tourists were full, in between there were plenty of rooms at the inn. No team was staying nearby which would bring with it the paraphenalia of adoring fans or news-hungry media and the associated business. Those playing were flown in for pre-match training, again the day of the match and ferried back straight after. Police closed down the roads near the stadium on the edge of town the night before. But those fearing traffic similar to the four-hour long queues witnessed in Johannesburg trying to get to Soocer City need not have bothered. The streets were empty, the car parks empty and — just 30 minutes before kick-off — the stadium was half empty. By the second half, the stands were just about three-quarters full, though the blasts of the vuvuzelas compensated for the missing supporters. The Peter Mokaba stadium almost looked like they hadn’t had time to finish painting it, with the stark grey concrete of the outer wall in direct contrast with Soccer City in Johannesburg’s brightly coloured exterior. The inside was still coated in construction dust and most of the refreshment stands remained shuttered and closed during the match. Just two hours after the players left we found ourselves the lone figures in a dark stadium struggling to see the keyboard as we tapped out the finishing touches to our stories. Even the name of the stadium was controversial. Mokaba was the African National Congress (ANC)’s youth league leader who, like his current counterpart Julius Malema, was fond of the phrase “Kill The Boer,” which upset many Afrikaners. Ironically there’s not even a local soccer team to make use of the sparkling pitch. Residents said the Rai Stars disbanded long ago and the nearby promising Black Leopards team are based more than 150 kilometres away in a less than World Cup standard stadium. <http://www.blackleopardsfc.com/10_stadium_info.htm> The Dynamos train 100 kilometres away. Neither team play in the country’s top league. “You can’t help thinking this huge stadium will just be derelict and empty in a few years time,” said one hotel worker.

Polokwane StadiumThe soccer fan fest sounded like a wild party with the vuvuzela horns booming through the empty streets of Polokwane town, one of the smallest of 10 venues for the first World Cup on African soil.

Everyone must be there, we thought as there was little happening on a Saturday night in the northern South African town centre.

“Kill the Boer”: History or hate speech?

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SAFRICA-ELECTIONSThe African National Congress has defended the singing of an apartheid-era song with the words “Kill the Farmer, Kill the Boer”, saying it is no incitement to violence but a way of ensuring a history of oppression is not forgotten.

That does little to assuage the concerns of the white minority, however, in a country branded the “Rainbow Nation” after the relatively peaceful end to apartheid 16 years ago and the government’s message of “unity in diversity”.

Support slumps for rival to South Africa’s ANC

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SAFRICA-ELECTION/CELEBRATIONIt would be hard for the leaders of South Africa’s COPE party to put a positive spin on its latest poll rating of just over 2 percent. If the breakaway group from the African National Congress gave the ANC a bit of a jolt before elections in April, the ruling party doesn’t seem to have much to worry about from that quarter now.

In terms of electoral success, it hasn’t been a good year for parties trying to challenge the former liberation movements that run most of southern Africa.

What is COSATU fighting for?

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South Africa’s largest trade union federation was quick to break into stirring songs of class struggle during its recent congress and COSATU members showed an impressive ability to sign along in unison.

But the question of what it is fighting for these days and its role in the ruling tripartite alliance with the African National Congress and the South African Communist Party has never been under such great scrutiny as it has since President Jacob Zuma took office in May.

Was it right to grant refugee status to white South African?

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Canada’s decision to grant refugee status to white South African Brandon Huntley has drawn anger from the ruling African National Congress, which described it as racist, and has again stirred the race debate in South Africa 14 years after the end of apartheid.

Huntley had cited persecution by black South Africans as the reason why he could not return to the country of his birth. The chair of the Canadian panel that granted his request said he had shown evidence “of indifference and inability or unwillingness” of South Africa’s government to protect white South Africans from “persecution by African South Africans”.

South African fury at sex test for track star

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Eighteen-year-old Mokgadi ‘Caster’ Semenya is being celebrated as a national hero in South Africa after winning the 800 metres at the World Athletics Championships, but the decision by international athletics officials to order a gender verification test has stirred deep anger – and brought accusations of prejudice against the country and the continent.

Many in South Africa feel a victory by their talented young athlete is being tarnished by bad losers and a world all too  ready to mock. Sensitivities to prejudice are never far from the surface in the country where apartheid white minority rule ended just 15 years ago.

Zuma’s balancing act

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South African President Jacob Zuma has a tough balancing act to perform as he begins his term in office.

 On the one hand, Zuma is anxious to assure investors that there will be continuity in the economic policies that have secured the country’s status as the regional powerhouse.

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