Sunday, April 20, 2014
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ideas have consequences

You are here:Home>>Displaying items by tag: South Africa
 
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  • South Sudan: Attack on UN Base a Possible War Crime
    [Deutsche Welle]The UN Security Council has said an attack on one of its bases in South Sudan may "constitute a war crime." It called on the country's government to do more to prevent future attacks.
  • South Sudan: Dozens Die in Cattle Raid
    [Sudan Tribune]Juba -At least 20 people were killed and dozens injured when suspected cattle raiders attacked a village in South Sudan's Warrap state on Thursday, an official said.
  • Ghana: Ghana's Oil Quagmire
    [Ghanaian Chronicle]As Ghana strives harder to escape the quagmire of oil curse which is the vile menace of oil and gas producing countries in third world countries across the globe, there are already looming signals that Ghana is virtually losing its gravity and battles to the foreign partners in her oil and gas industry.

Mandela didn't adjust his moral compass for anyone.The struggles for civil rights in the US and South Africa had many parallels. But we didn't just talk about politics – he loved boxing more than anything.

 

I can't remember the first time I ever heard the name of Nelson Mandela. Maybe it was in 1963. Then we were all in jail. I was in jail in Greensboro, North Carolina, he was in jail on Robben Island. Dr [Martin Luther] King was in jail that year too, in Birmingham, Alabama.

 

We who were involved in the civil rights movement back then were acutely aware of the parallels of the ANC struggle with our own struggles.

 

They were interrelated, those forces holding us back, those same racist forces opposing civil rights in the south of this country were the same as were operating in the south of Africa, big corporates, big money and interests.

 

As a young civil rights activist I knew how raw and ugly and violent the apartheid regime was. They were being jailed, we were being jailed. We were being killed, and they were being massacred. The courts were behaving in a similar way in both continents. It was a long time before I met him; by the time I did I had a deep kinship with South Africa.

 

There were tremendous parallels in our labour struggles. My first arrest was when I was 18, on 16 July 1960, at a civil rights protest at Greenville's segregated public library. We marched there and we were thinking of what had just happened a month or so before at Sharpeville. What was happening in Africa was being used as a basis to justify occupation and murder against black people in the US. Our country was on the wrong side of all this revolution, it was trying to stamp on the freedom movement. [Henry] Kissinger with his talk of terrorists' associations and threat to national security.

 

So you see we knew what was going on in South Africa, those bridges and links were always there, those parallels just as I saw in Nelson Mandela with our own Dr King. They had an awful lot in common: intellect, courage and high moral authority. Embracing the struggle for others as a way of life. Accepting what happened to themselves with fortitude, with non-violent intent.

 

Even though the ANC was pushing towards a military campaign, Mandela was a man of peace. He expressed to me that, when he and the others went on trial in 1964, they were going to do some blowing up, something was planned, and he was glad that that had failed, even though it meant he went to jail and he suffered.

 

And so Mandela was in prison all the time I was making links with South Africa, although I felt him around – you can see Robben Island from the city and Robben Island can see you! I was in Cape Town by chance on the day of his release. I heard the maids in my hotel beating their pots and pans and people screaming and singing, oh I could feel the change coming. It's very difficult to describe the release of glee and joy when the word got out that he was officially freed.

 

I was that day meeting the wife of Oliver Tambo. Tambo was in exile and we had just been marching together in Trafalgar Square in London before I had gone on to South Africa and I had met with Mrs Tambo. We heard the news and went down to City Hall in Cape Town, just to see what was going on.

 

Then he was there and I became the first African American to meet Mandela after his freedom from captivity. He immediately recognised me and we embraced and one of the first things he said was that he had seen the 1984 presidential campaign speech I had made where I had called for sanctions and stood up against apartheid and he thanked me.

 

That is the kind of man Mandela was, he would come to you, to thank you, at such a time for him. He knew everything about the struggle back home, he had followed it so closely. My children were with me that day and it was one of the proudest things that I can say, I showed you this day and you met this man.

 

We became friends and I hosted him in my home when he visited the United States.

 

It was not all politics and causes, he had a great sense of humour. He was a very funny man and he loved The Cosby Show. He understood immediately how important The Cosby Show was for African Americans, the first time a black family had been portrayed in a civil and positive light on television.

 

We were all used to seeing these negative stereotypes, of course, in the movies, of black people, racist stereotypes.

 

So the Bill Cosby show made some impact, was something we both loved to see and talk about, as well as movie distortions about black people. Boxing was what he loved best, that's what he'd rather talk about than anything. He loved Joe Louis. For a very serious man he had a great sense of humour. But he was also a very serious man who was very focused, his mind was rapier sharp, he was never tripped up in any situation.

 

He took tough decisions. I remember the flak he took for going to Cuba to see [Fidel] Castro, but he said calmly to the American press: "Your enemy is not my enemy." He did not get tripped up by trying to appease, he was not going to forsake those who had helped him. He didn't adjust his moral compass for anyone else.

 

In so far as racial reconciliation goes in South Africa, no one could do what Mandela did. There is no doubt Mandela averted a bloodbath, through his reconciliation and rehabilitation at a time when men were thirsting for revenge.

 

But even with his death there is unfinished business.

 

Africans are free but not equal, Americans are free but not equal. Ending apartheid and ending slavery was a big deal, Mandela becoming president of South Africa, [Barack] Obama becoming the first African American president was a big deal, but these are stages. We have to go deeper. We were enslaved longer than we have been free and we have a long way to go. We have unravelled our injustices in stages but they remain, in land ownership, in health and life expectancy, in certain aspects of the media and in major business.

 

It is time to commemorate our great men. Mandela was a great, great man. A champ and a hero with such immense stature. But he has left us unfinished business. In his name we must carry on our struggle.


Picture of Jesse JacksonRev. Jesse Jackson is American Civil Right Activist and the founder Of Rainbow coalition.

The former ruling class has withered but outside of politics a lot of whites are still doing pretty well


ON NOVEMBER 18th 1993 a gathering of South African political groups of virtually every stripe approved a new constitution, enshrining equal voting rights regardless of race. Nelson Mandela would not be elected president until the following spring but apartheid was over. Ever since his release from prison in 1990 the momentum towards black rule had been unmistakable. Most whites accepted the loss of power yet fretted that extreme violence and economic breakdown lay ahead. Black-on-black quarrels were taken as alarm bells. By the end of that decade, perhaps a fifth of the whites had emigrated; others withdrew to suburban ghettos to enjoy a braai—Afrikaans for barbecue—on weekends among their kin.

 

But the next two decades turned out much better than expected. Crime may be worse than under apartheid, yet most whites are relatively well protected. They make up 9% of the country’s 52m people but fewer than 2% of murder victims. Racially motivated bloodshed is fairly rare. South Africa’s economy is not growing as fast as those of neighbouring countries, partly owing to the ruling African National Congress (ANC), but the market has stayed free, enterprise flourishes and South Africa remains the biggest and by far the most sophisticated economy on the continent. The most successful media mogul, Koos Bekker, is white. South Africa’s pluralistic democracy is well entrenched.

 

 

After its post-apartheid exodus, the white population began expanding again. The most educated are part of a cultural elite that is as vibrant as ever. Economic and moral sanctions were lifted a generation ago and international links continue to spread. Publishing and journalism thrive, projecting distinct white voices.

 

Still, the lives of many whites exude sadness and isolation. They tend to stay close to Johannesburg and the south-western sunspots around the Cape. In a few in-between towns like Potchefstroom, west of Johannesburg, the commercial capital, they strut their stuff. In gated communities such as Kleinfontein, to the east of it, hardliners hunker down in all-white “cultural villages”. Retired teachers run hotels in the Karoo desert.

 

The races are generally at peace and mix easily enough on the street but they hardly make up a true rainbow nation. Blacks complain about feeling shut out of Cape Town, where they are a minority, some even calling it a “racist city”. That is unfair, yet visitors remark on seeing only white staff and guests in places like the upmarket Hidden Valley vineyard near Stellenbosch, an hour’s drive east of Cape Town. Everybody is welcome but racial separation is still the norm. In the beach community of Kommetjie, near Cape Town, the all-white residents euphemistically talk of “sustainability” and “protecting our cultural heritage” in the face of an expanding slum on their doorstep. In Johannesburg, a wealthy property owner in a mostly white suburb recalls talking to his neighbour, a black entrepreneur with a smaller house and garden. “He tells me his house is worth more than mine and I ask why, man, why would that be, look at my house and at yours, and he says, ‘Yes, but I don’t have any black neighbours’.”

 

Two decades after the end of apartheid many whites see their country ebbing still further away. Afrikaners, those of mainly Dutch descent, who still make up 60% of whites, mourn the steady demise of Afrikaans, their ancestors’ language. Its throaty tones are no longer heard in the public sector, and most universities have stopped holding lectures in Afrikaans. For the ANC the change is symbolic. Afrikaans was the language of apartheid. In exile in Zambia and Britain its leaders spoke English.

 

For many Afrikaners, the descendants of voortrekkers, the pioneers whose ox-drawn wagons headed northward from the Cape into Africa’s hinterland, the loss is heartbreaking. But their songs and folk tales are unintelligible to a growing number of their young. Apartheid’s disappearance is threatening their identity. Hermann Giliomee, a historian, says, “Afrikaans is slowly being pushed aside.”

 

Yet Afrikaners are not all doing badly, especially in business. The four biggest media firms when the ANC took over were of roughly equal size, three of them run by Anglos—whites of an English-speaking heritage. Mr Bekker, an Afrikaner, now dwarfs them, having made his company 42 times bigger than its nearest rival (by investing abroad) and himself a billionaire, taking his entire salary in share options.

 

Such talent is evident elsewhere in the often gloomy community. During apartheid, Afrikaners staffed almost three-quarters of the civil service. No matter how dim, they were virtually guaranteed a job, even if it was to watch over blacks who did the actual work at a fraction of the pay. No more. Rian Malan, an iconoclastic Afrikaner writer, discerns a useful spur. “It got people going,” he says. Three out of four Afrikaners—often less well educated than Anglos—are self-employed today. One group of former Afrikaner civil servants runs a taxi firm for foreign diplomats.

 

Even so, in economic terms whites are losing. Their income per person is still highest but South Africans of Indian descent (under 3% of the population) are catching up fast and will eventually overtake them. White poverty is growing. Perhaps 10% live below the poverty line. Destitute whites in rags beg on street corners. All-white squatter camps have sprung up, with residents in shacks made of sheet metal. They survive on odd jobs and complain that poor blacks get more help from the government. Breyten Breytenbach, a writer and anti-apartheid campaigner, has sympathetically chronicled their plight.

 

Whether rich or poor, many whites are disgruntled. They grouse about ANC cronyism and corruption as well as “black economic empowerment” rules which benefit well-connected blacks more than the masses. White-owned businesses above a certain size must share control with blacks. This is meant to make up for unfavourable treatment during apartheid. In reality it bolsters a new black elite.

 

White disgruntlement has spawned some vile but mostly harmless extremist groups. A pop singer, Steve Hofmeyr, recently led a “Red October” march to protest against a “genocide” of whites. A few weeks later a court sentenced five leaders of a group calling itself “the Boer Army” each to 35 years in prison for a white supremacist plot to assassinate Mr Mandela and drive blacks out of the country. AfriForum, a “human-rights group”, goes to court to defend whites’ “minority rights”.

 

Too white, too liberal

Most whites, some blacks and many Indians and Coloureds (as those of mixed race are still known, amounting to 8% of the population) support the Democratic Alliance, a liberal party that has been gaining ground—but nothing like fast enough to challenge the ANC’s ascendancy soon. It governs the Western Cape province and may get a quarter or so of the national vote at the general election next year. Its white leader, Helen Zille, has said her successor will be black. She is trying to broaden the party’s base, perhaps by softening its pro-market economics.

 

Overall, whites are politically marginal. The ANC has always had quite a number in senior posts but few of their children are likely to rise to the top. Racially charged language is common in public discourse. Firebrands like Julius Malema, a former ANC bigwig who has founded a populist party, calls for Zimbabwe-style land grabs. Mindful of the ANC’s vulnerability on its angry left flank, Cyril Ramaphosa, the miners’ leader-turned-tycoon who is the country’s suave deputy president, has warned that not voting ANC means “the Boers [literally “farmers”, as Afrikaners were called] will come back to control us.” Perhaps unsurprisingly in the wake of apartheid, the racial climate is still often toxic. White guilt, black anger, plus prejudice and misinformation on all sides, still cloud South African whites’ existence.

Wednesday, 20 November 2013 03:58

PhotoNews: Building collapse in South Africa

 

"At least two people have died and up to 40 people are feared trapped after a roof collapsed at a construction site in eastern South Africa, emergency services say. The collapse occurred in the township of Tongaat, near Durban. Thirty people have been transported to the hospital with injuries ranging from moderate to critical, Crisis Medical operations director Neil Powell told CNN from the scene. Powell said the construction work had been taking place beside a shopping mall." - CNN

A paramedic looks for people trapped in the collapsed building. The South African Press Association reported that the building was a shopping mall under construction.

Paramedics look for people trapped in the rubble.

"It's unknown exactly what caused the collapse," said Crisis Medical operations director Neil Powell. "There was a large amount of scaffolding and cement foundation that collapsed on to some of the construction workers."

Thirty people have been transported to the hospital with injuries ranging from moderate to critical, Powell told CNN from the scene.

Medical personnel carry an injured person from the site of the collapse.

Another view of the damage.

Wednesday, 23 October 2013 11:34

Dear Mr President, Africans Are Not Backward

 

South Africa; Dear Mr President, Africans Are Not Backward


President Jacob Zuma should withdraw his statement last night that "we can't think like Africans because we are in Johannesburg and not some national road in Malawi".

The President was saying we must welcome e-tolls and pay up because new freeways have been built in Johannesburg.

What the President doesn't realise is Africa is actually developing at a faster pace than he suggests.

Many governments in African countries have adopted investor friendly policies that create jobs.

They are not burdening citizens with double-taxation through an expensive e-tolling system.

The President should rather take a leaf out of the books of other African economies that are actually growing faster than us.

This is what President Zuma neglected to think about when he signed the e-toll bill into law.

Mr President, we are not being backward when we say we can't afford e-tolls.

Your claim that working class people with cars can afford tolls is false.

Who can afford to pay R400 extra month to drive between Soweto and Midrand?

Instead of insulting South Africans by saying we are backward when we oppose e-tolls, we should get rid of this backward and expensive tolling system.

The President should apologize and withdraw these insulting remarks.

Mmusi Maimane, DA Premier Candidate for Gauteng

The South African Reserve Bank is concerned about keeping inflation within its 3-6 percent target band and about pricey labour deals fanning inflationary pressure in Africa's largest economy, Governor Gill Marcus said on Wednesday.

 

Marcus also said reducing chronic unemployment was one of the country's most pressing policy objectives and South Africa needed to diversify beyond the mining sector that has traditionally accounted for about 4-6 percent of the economy.

 

Government data a day earlier showed unemployment was at 25.6 percent in the second quarter and about 4.7 million South African job seekers were without work, the highest figure in the survey's five-year history.

 

Marcus said South Africa has faced a jobs crisis for the better part of three decades and its effects would be around for years, partly because of structural challenges.

 

Labour strife in mining over the past year has slowed production of minerals for export and been a drag on growth. Mining houses have reached wage deals well above the 6 percent inflation rate to bring calm to the troubled sector.

 

Marcus said labour regulations have not lived up to expectations, with collective bargaining favouring large firms, at the expense of small and medium-sized firms that provide most jobs.

 

South Africa's labour laws have been ranked as some of the most restrictive in the world, making labour less competitive than other emerging markets.

 

The unemployment rate has been stuck at around 22-25 percent for more than a decade and is one of the biggest headaches for President Jacob Zuma's ruling African National Congress as the country heads into elections next year.

Gross domestic product is a powerful political tool — but it hides more than it reveals.

 

Since 2012, the government of Nigeria has been working to revise the calculation of economic performance with a view to producing new measures for its gross domestic product (GDP). The central goal of this reform is to update the so-called base year, which is the benchmark for all calculations used in computing the GDP of a nation.

 

The base year is of critical importance as it determines the year in which prices are held constant, (which enables statisticians to distinguish economic growth from inflation), the weighing of each economic sector with respect to the whole economy and, crucially, the type of data that is included in the final calculation.

 

Although most higher income countries revise their base year every five years in order to account for changes in the nature and shape of their economies, the majority of low- to middle-income countries do so more sporadically, as they lack the technical resources to overhaul the national income accounts at regular intervals.

 

Thus far, Nigeria has been no exception and its latest revision dates back to 1990, which means that some booming sectors such as information communications technology and entertainment (especially the Nollywood film industry) are systematically undercounted in official statistics. But what may appear to be a mere statistical endeavour may easily trigger a political earthquake in Africa, with repercussions on traditional power balances throughout the continent.

 

Most estimates suggest that, as a result of the revisions, Nigeria's GDP may increase by up to 40% in nominal terms, which means that the West African powerhouse would overtake South Africa as the continent's largest economy in 2014. Similar leaps have happened in the past. In 2010, GDP revisions elevated Ghana to the status of a middle-income country thanks to a sudden 60% jump in nominal growth. In Turkey, the rebasing of GDP produced a 30% increase in 2008.

 

As I show in my latest book, Gross Domestic Problem: The Politics behind the World's Most Powerful Number, GDP is a powerful political tool. The most important global governance institutions, from the G8 to the G20, are based on GDP credentials. Thus far, South Africa has been the only African country represented in the G20 on the grounds of the scale of its economy.

 

The Nigerian question

What will happen if Nigeria claims this status? Would it affect South Africa's membership of the Brics, and would Nigeria become the preferred counterpart of Brazil, Russia, India and China? There are many who believe Nigeria's overtaking of South Africa would produce significant effects in the governance structures of the continent.

 

In the past few years, Nigerian politicians have become increasingly assertive with respect to their role in the continent and they wait for the GDP revisions to do the trick. Several pundits already see the West African giant as the new continental leader.

 

Arguably, this GDP battle may ruffle some feathers in Pretoria, where policymakers fear their country may lose its traditional crown as leader of the African continent in world politics.

 

But the GDP battle hides more than it reveals. This is because GDP is a very misleading measure of economic performance, let alone social and political progress. Neither Nigeria nor South Africa is a healthy economy.

 

For many reasons, however, the former is far worse than the latter, and the whole continent would be much worse off if Lagos were to replace Johannesburg as Africa's economic hub.

 

Both South Africa and Nigeria are among the least sustainable economies in the world. According to the World Bank, the depletion of non­renewable energy in Nigeria accounted for about 25% of its GDP in 2013.

 

Decline in natural resources

South Africa is Africa's most polluting country and the 13th worst emitter of carbon dioxide in the world.

 

According to the United Nations Development Programme, both South Africa and Nigeria have experienced a significant decline in natural resources since 1990. Although these countries enjoy relatively large pools of fossil fuels, their reliance on energy-intensive economic growth has imposed huge drawdowns on their natural capital base, with serious risks for human health, the environment and the subsistence of local communities.

 

In most areas, Nigeria has been faring much worse than South Africa. The Inclusive Wealth Index (IWI) published by the UN measures the growth of produced capital (for example, GDP) against the stocks of natural resources that are depleted in the process. For the IWI, Nigeria is by far the worst performing country.

 

When the gains in terms of GDP are offset against the depletion of human capital and natural resources, the Nigerian miracle evaporates altogether. Rather than increasing its overall wealth, the West African country has been accumulating economic losses at an average annual rate of 1.8% since 1990. Nigeria has also overtaken South Africa in the costs associated with environmental degradation: 2.51%, compared with the 2.24% of the Rainbow Nation.

 

During the period 1990 to 2008, Nigeria destroyed 41% of its forest resources, one of the highest deforestation rates in the world. According to the Resource Governance Index, Nigeria falls at the bottom of the global ranking, with a very poor record in terms of transparency and accountability in the management of its oil riches, more than 20 places below South Africa.

 

We all know about the dire effects of multinational companies' systematic exploitation of oil fields in the Niger delta: environmental destruction, political destabilisation and human displacement.

 

Role model for the continent

But GDP regards these phenomena as "positive" for the economy, with paradoxical consequences for the way in which most African economies are designed and run. No surprise, therefore, that one of the world's least ­sustainable societies is now touted as a role model for the continent.

 

As the UN recognises, GDP focuses exclusively on the "cash" being generated by market activities (that is, present income and production flow) whereas alternative measures of inclusive wealth highlight the importance of stocks of assets and their changes over time.

 

The politics of GDP makes countries blind by rewarding short-term consumption and wholesale exploitation of natural assets at the expense of social justice and sustainability.

 

There is no economic success without sustainable progress, and African economies would be better off if their leaders realised that GDP-based frameworks are very misleading. If South Africa is serious about leading the continent towards a brighter future, it should develop a more comprehensive wealth-based accounting system and help the rest of Africa, including Nigeria, to do the same.

 

Lorenzo Fioramonti is the director of the Centre for the Study of Governance Innovation, University of Pretoria, and author of Gross Domestic Problem: The Politics Behind the World's Most Powerful Number (Zed Books, 2013)

Nigeria’s Economy: GDP Rebasing To Help Nigeria Overtake South Africa As Africa’s Biggest Economy

 

The long-awaited revisions to Nigeria’s gross domestic product data have been a drawn-out saga. Nevertheless, whenever the revised data are released, they are likely to show that Africa’s most populous nation and largest oil producer have already claimed South Africa’s crown as the continent’s largest economy.

 

Most developed countries overhaul their GDP calculations every five years to reflect changes in output and consumption. This is particularly true in emerging economies, where measurement techniques tend to be less developed. But Nigeria's economic output data is still calculated using 1990 as the base year, which fails to capture booming sectors like mobile telecommunications and the “Nollywood” film industry that have emerged since then.

 

The National Bureau of Statistics of Nigeria has been working since early 2012 to gather enough data to rebase Nigeria’s GDP. The original plan was to complete the revisions last year, but the finish date has repeatedly been postponed due to technical difficulties (i.e., low survey response rates). Yemi Kale, the statistician-general of the Federation, admits he underestimated the size of the task. The proposed revisions have now been delayed until 2014 -- hopefully in the first half of the year.

 

First, the base year for real GDP will be altered from 1990 to either 2010 or 2012, to capture structural shifts in the economy by giving more weight to sectors such as retail and telecoms. Agriculture, which last year made up 40 percent of Nigeria’s GDP, is likely to decrease in influence, with telecoms and entertainment sectors given larger weightings. The second change is the use of improved methodology and surveying techniques, according to Capital Economics African economist Shilan Shah.

 

Africa’s second-largest economy has been one of the continent’s most consistent performers in recent years, with annual gross domestic product increases of between 5 percent and 8 percent since 2003. In the first quarter of this year, growth was 6.56 percent.

 

While the petroleum sector’s contribution declined due to legislative uncertainty and industrial scale theft of crude oil, the non-oil sectors remained a strong driver.

 

Early estimates suggest that, as a result of the revisions, measured GDP in Nigeria ($258 billion in 2012) could increase by up to 40 percent in nominal terms. Even taking a conservative estimate of a 20 percent increase, Nigerian GDP would overtake South Africa’s by 2014, according to Shah.

 

While this seems enormous, there have been some notable recent examples of changes to GDP data showing huge underestimations of the size of an economy.

 

For instance, following revisions in 2010, Ghana’s measured nominal GDP was shown to be 60 percent bigger than initially thought, Shah said in a research note. Similarly, revisions to Turkish nominal GDP in 2008 revealed a 30 percent increase.

 

On the positive side, the rebasing will help Nigeria narrow the budget deficit and public debt ratios as a share of GDP. However, the revision would reduce the relative size of Nigeria’s current account surplus.

 

“Given the current account surplus has been in decline for some time, this will raise further questions about the effectiveness of the management of oil revenues,” Shah said.

 

 

Moran ZhangMoran Zhang is a finance and economics reporter at The International Business Times. Her work has appeared in the Wall Street Journal Digital Network’s MarketWatch, United Press International and the San Diego Union Tribune. She is a graduate of the Medill School of Journalism at Northwestern University and holds a master’s degree in business journalism. She is based in New York. Moran can be reached at This e-mail address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it , and she can be followed on Twitter at @moranzhang.

Apartheid South Africa looked after white people and nobody else. Now some of its white communities face a level of deprivation, or of violence, which threatens their future in the country.

 

Everyone here, regardless of colour, tells you that white people are still riding high.

 

They run the economy. They have a disproportionate amount of influence in politics and the media. They still have the best houses and most of the best jobs.

 

All of this is true but it is not the only picture.

 

Look below the surface and you will find poverty and a sense of growing vulnerability.

 

The question I have come to South Africa to answer is whether white people genuinely have a future here.

 

The answer, as with so many similar existential questions, is "Yes - but…"

 

Read the whole story at BBC News

 

 

 

 

Saturday, 08 December 2012 18:13

South African icon Nelson Mandela hospitalized

 

South Africa's former President Nelson Mandela was admitted to a military hospital Saturday for medical tests, though the nation's president told the public there was "no cause for alarm" over the 94-year-old icon's health.

The statement issued by President Jacob Zuma's spokesman said that Mandela was doing well and was receiving medical care "which is consistent for his age." The statement offered no other details.

Mandela, who spent 27 years in prison for fighting racist white rule, became South Africa's first black president in 1994 and served one five-year term. He later retired from public life to live in his village of Qunu, and last made a public appearance when his country hosted the 2010 World Cup soccer tournament.

"We wish Madiba all the best," Zuma said in the statement, using Mandela's clan name. "The medical team is assured of our support as they look after and ensure the comfort of our beloved founding president of a free and democratic South Africa."

While the government sought to reassure South Africans about Mandela's health, he remains viewed as a father figure to many in this nation of 50 million people. Each hospital trip raises the same worries about the increasingly frail former leader of the African National Congress — that the man who helped bring the nation together is slowly fading away.

In February, Mandela spent a night in a hospital for a minor diagnostic surgery to determine the cause of an abdominal complaint. In January 2011, however, Mandela was admitted to a Johannesburg hospital for what officials initially described as tests but what turned out to be an acute respiratory infection. He was discharged days later.

Mandela contracted tuberculosis during his years in prison. He also had surgery for an enlarged prostate gland in 1985.

While Zuma's statement offered no further details about who would provide medical attention for Mandela, the nation's military has taken over caring for the aging leader since the 2011 respiratory infection. At 1 Military Hospital in Pretoria on Saturday night, the facility that previously cared for Mandela in February, everything appeared calm, without any additional security present.

Mac Maharaj, a presidential spokesman, declined to say whether Mandela had been flown by the military from Qunu to Pretoria. He also declined to say what the tests were for.

"It's quite normal at his age to be going through those tests," Maharaj told The Associated Press.

Mandela's hospitalization comes just days after the crash of a military aircraft flying on an unknown mission near Mandela's rural home in which all 11 onboard were killed.

The plane was flying to a military air base in Mthatha, which is about 30 kilometers (17 miles) north of Qunu. Military officials declined to say whether those on board had any part in caring for Mandela.

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Monday, 03 December 2012 15:54

D-Day looms for South Africa's Jacob Zuma

South Africa's governing African National Congress (ANC) is preparing for a leadership contest which could decide whether it will reinforce the pattern of Africa's well-documented post-colonial failures or break away from a dark past into a bright future for Africa's largest economy.

 

The stakes could not be higher for President Jacob Zuma - he is up for re-election at the conference in Mangaung, where the ANC was founded 100 years ago. With the ANC's huge majority in South Africa, whoever leads the party is virtually assured of leading the country after the 2014 elections.

 

In 2007 President Zuma was catapulted into the top job at the previous such conference, in Polokwane, when he ousted his long-term friend and comrade, then-President Thabo Mbeki in a humiliating defeat by a majority of 61% to 39%.

 

Since the ANC opened nominations on 1 October, those who support a second term for President Zuma seem to be in the majority compared to those who support his much loved but somewhat reserved deputy Kgalema Motlanthe - the only other candidate.

 

President Zuma's successes in his first term have been partially overshadowed recently by the Marikana massacre, when 34 striking miners were shot dead by police during a bloody pay dispute at the Lonmin platinum mine on 16 August - the most deadly police action since the end of apartheid.

 

His critics say that President Zuma's lethargic style of leadership is fuelling the decline of his ANC and the economy, which is struggling to maintain growth rates enjoyed elsewhere on the continent. Another dark cloud hanging over Mr Zuma, sometimes referred to by his clan name Msholozi, is his alleged use of public money to fund a multi-million dollar renovation at his private rural homestead in Nkandla.

 

Public Protector Thuli Madonsela is investigating whether a government department is funding home improvements amounting to 248m rand ($28m), at a time when miners are fighting to earn a salary of 12,500 rand ($1,400) per month.

 

Reports in local newspapers said the building costs include a clinic, helicopter pad and underground bunkers amongst other facilities. Mr Zuma denies any wrongdoing, saying he took out a mortgage for the development. Another charge which may affect President Zuma's support in Mangaung is that of widespread corruption.

 

There is a perception that under his leadership, corruption is on the rise and that his family is benefiting from nepotism by getting business deals purely because they are related to the president.

Enemy within?

His old friend turned political foe Mr Mbeki broke a four-year silence when he launched a scathing attack on Mr Zuma's lacklustre leadership style, saying he was "deeply troubled by a feeling of great unease that our beloved motherland is losing its sense of direction, and that we are allowing ourselves to progress towards a costly disaster of a protracted and endemic general crisis".

 

Mr Mbeki continued: "I, for one, am not certain about where our country and nation will be tomorrow, and what I should do in this regard, to respond to what is obviously a dangerous and unacceptable situation of directionless and unguided national drift." President Zuma's greatest challenge does not come from the opposition benches of parliament, it comes from within.

 

Mr Motlanthe, 63, is a quiet, popular former political prisoner who is a rather reluctant presidential candidate.

A former trade unionist in the National Union of Mineworkers (NUM), he served as president for six months in 2008-9 after Mr Mbeki was recalled by a divided ANC.

In a BBC interview, he said he accepted that people were right to criticise the ANC:

"The harsher that judgement is, the better for the ANC. We ought to hear the truth as painful as it is and take steps to address the basis of those concerns," he told the Newsday programme.

 

"If we fail to stay on our toes because of the cries of the people, then we don't deserve deserve to hold these positions of responsibility."

Unlike Mr Zuma, who usually breaks into song and dance on podiums across the country, Mr Motlanthe is a very private and restrained man.

He has been nominated for the top job by most branches in South Africa's richest province, Gauteng, while those in six of the nine provinces have backed Mr Zuma.

He recently told journalists he was "agonising" over whether to challenge Mr Zuma.

 

Mr Motlanthe is supported by the expelled firebrand ANC Youth League leader Julius Malema, although the deputy president sought to downplay this, pointing out that the Youth League only had 45 votes in the Mangaung conference and so "is not a king-maker".

 

Mr Motlanthe does not want South Africa's rich mines to be nationalised, as Mr Malema has been demanding. If he decides to take on Mr Zuma and wins, he could breathe new life into the ANC. If he loses that would end his career in the party. But by failing to quash the speculation, it looks as though he may already have signed his political death warrant.

The pro-Zuma factions have now nominated Mr Motlanthe's former comrade in the National Union of Mineworkers, veteran of the anti-apartheid struggle and businessman Cyril Ramaphosa, for deputy leader. He has 65% of the nominations so far but this could change before the Mangaung conference.

 

If Mr Ramaphosa accepts the nomination and wins, Mr Motlanthe would lose his position in the party leadership. During the Marikana dispute, Mr Ramaphosa was criticised by some for his links to Lonmin but he remains popular in the business community and his nomination shows he has not lost his support within the ANC.

 

For Mr Motlanthe, who is described in Ebrahim Harvey's book Kgalema Motlanthe, A Political Biography, as a quiet man, a deep thinker, it is decision time. But what would Mr Motlanthe do differently from Mr Zuma if elected?

 

First and foremost, some say he would bring dignity to the highest office in the land, in contrast to the lurid headlines about the polygamous Mr Zuma's private life.

In the ANC, leaders can only bring their individual style but very little substance, purely because policy decisions are taken by the collective and therefore no leader can introduce policies that were not discussed at the ANC headquarters in Luthuli House.

So why does Mr Zuma remain the favourite to win?

Honeymoon over

He is a populist, good with crowds and with some noted success in the fight against HIV and Aids, getting South Africa recognised as one of the Brics group of developing nation (joining Brazil, Russia, India and China), getting his ex-wife and former Former Minister Nkosazana Dlamini-Zuma elected as chairperson of the African Union commission.

Under President Zuma, 70, also a former Robben Island prisoner, the HIV infection rates have drastically come down and he is currently overseeing the largest HIV/Aids treatment programme on the planet.

 

But more than 18 years after the end of apartheid, Nelson Mandela's "Rainbow Nation", has clearly come to the end of its honeymoon period. Can the beloved ANC of Madiba - the clan name used to refer to Mr Mandela - survive in the hands of the man from Nkandla? Some in the ANC believe that if Mr Zuma continues to lead for another term which translates into seven years, including a five-year presidential term, then it could prove to be the beginning of the party's demise.

BBC

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