Monday, October 23, 2017

Timol inquest opens new door to justice against apartheid atrocities

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Bishop Desmond Tutu during South Africa’s Truth and Reconciliation Commission process.

A powerful legal precedent that promises to see the reopening of other apartheid era crimes has been set in motion thanks to anti-apartheid activist Ahmed Timol’s family. They pushed for a new inquiry into Timol’s death, in 1971, while in police custody. An inquest held a year later found that he committed suicide while in detention. Now a judge has found that Timol was pushed to his death. The outcome refocuses the spotlight on how societies deal with authoritarian pasts.

In 1989 the Prime Minister of Poland, Tadeusz Mazowiecki, famously called for a “thick line” to separate the past and current political dispensations in Poland. The country was emerging from more than 40 years of communist rule that had been toppled by a popular uprising. Mazowiecki called for those who had been in power to be absolved of responsibility for their crimes to enable Poland to move forward.

South Africa, meanwhile, opted for a trade-off between culpability and truth after the fall of apartheid. Apartheid era offenders were required to give full disclosure of their crimes in exchange for amnesty. This was done under the auspices of the Truth and Reconciliation Commission (TRC).

The TRC built on the precedent of similar commissions set up in South American countries that had been through military rule. The TRC gave South Africa great international attention as it was viewed as a stellar success. As a result South Africa has been held up as a benchmark of how to deal with post conflict situations.

Ahmed Timol.
Ahmed Timol Family Trust

The model has been applied in different scenarios, ranging from Ireland’s sectarian conflict to Canada’s treatment of its First Peoples.

But more than 20 years after the formation of the TRC South Africans have become increasingly restive about its success. Critics say that rather than achieving truth and reconciliation, truth was sacrificed for reconciliation.

Dealing with the past

The transition in South Africa was informed by the 1980s series Transitions from Authoritarian Rule, edited by Guillermo O’Donnell, Philippe C. Schmitter and Laurence Whitehead, in the wake of authoritarian regimes collapsing in Latin America.

In comparing these transitions, they spelt out the steps societies would take in the future. Beginning with liberalisation, where general rights would be extended to all, they predicted that societies would then move to democratisation, where political rights would be democratised. The last step, socialisation, would provide social and economic equality.

As Wits University academic David Everatt has observed, this reasoning looks increasingly determinist. This is because it is obvious that South Africa and other post-authoritarian regimes have struggled to match the steps of liberalisation and democratisation with socialisation.

In effect, the steps set out in the Transitions series were also advocating for a “thick line” approach to dealing with the past. This underplayed the collective psychological trauma borne by those emerging from authoritarian societies, as was the case for black South Africans.

But the fundamental criminality of the apartheid system has provided ample grounds for families of victims to reopen inquests.

The desire of individual families, such as the Timols, to get to the truth of the death of their loved ones – and if possible, to see those responsible prosecuted – has ensured that further cases will be opened.

It has by no means been smooth sailing though: take the case of Neil Aggett, the trade unionist who died in police detention in 1982. A biography on Aggett written by Beverley Naidoo in 2012, Death of an Idealist, led to an article in a local newspaper exposing how one of Aggett’s main interrogators, Stephan Whitehead, had gone on to enjoy a successful career in the security forces after 1994.

The Neil Aggett Support Group – formed by his friends, family, lawyers and activists – wrote an open letter to Jeff Radebe, the then-Minister of Justice and Constitutional Development in February 2013. They called for the prosecution of Whitehead, who did not apply for amnesty to the Truth and Reconciliation Commission. But the National Prosecuting Authority (NPA) failed to take action.

Their experience mirrored that of Timol’s family who had faced obstacles at every step. Timol, a South African Communist Party member, died in very similar circumstances to Aggett’s at the same John Vorster Square in 1971.

Imtiaz Cajee, Ahmed Timol’s nephew, during the inquest into his death.
ANA/Jacques Naude

The Timol family saw an application they filed in 2003 turned down by the NPA. In 2016 the family presented new evidence that finally led the NPA to reopen the inquest later that year.

The Timol family have finally won what they fought so hard to achieve. The judge’s finding that Timol was pushed to his death has set a powerful legal precedent that promises to see other apartheid era crimes reopened.

The ConversationTo some extent the atrocities of apartheid have been contained for the past 20 years as a result of the country’s truth and reconciliation process. But the Timols, in their search for justice, have reminded South Africans that there can be no thick line separating the past from the present.

Ian Macqueen, Lecturer, Department of Historical and Heritage Studies, University of Pretoria

This article was originally published on The Conversation.

Spike in Listeria infections in South Africa: why it matters

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Listeria is an organism that contaminates food and can result in pregnant women going into premature labour or even losing their babies. The Conversation Africa’s Health and Medicine Editor Candice Bailey spoke to Kerrigan McCarthy from the National Institute of Communicable Diseases about listeriosis and why it needs attention.

What is listeriosis and why is it dangerous?

Listeriosis is a serious bacterial infection caused by the rod shaped bacteria listeria monocytogenes. The bacterium is spread when people eat food contaminated with the bacterium. The most common foods to be contaminated are raw or unpasteurised milk as well as soft cheeses, or vegetables, processed foods and ready-to-eat meats and smoked fish products.

Infection with listeria bacteria results in mild to severe gastroenteritis. In people with weak immune systems it can lead to meningitis or septicaemia. And in pregnant women, listeriosis can result in a miscarriage or stillbirth, premature delivery, or meningitis in the newborn – leading to with permanent disability.

Listeria bacteria are found in the environment – for example in water and in the soil. This means that animals and vegetables can become contaminated at any time and that, as a result, anyone can get listeriosis. But there are certain groups that are at higher risk of severe disease: these include newborns, the elderly, pregnant women and their unborn babies; and those with underlying conditions such as HIV, diabetes, cancer, chronic liver or kidney disease.

Pregnant women are particularly prone because pregnancy causes a natural reduction in the strength of the immune system.

Why are the numbers rising?

In South Africa, the first documented outbreaks of listeriosis were in 1977. Between August 1977 to April 1978, 14 cases were reported in the Johannesburg area.

Since then, sporadic cases have occurred throughout the country. For example, between January 2015 and September 2015 seven cases were reported at a tertiary hospital in the Western Cape Province.

Over the last few months the National Institute for Communicable Diseases has received reports of a marked increase in the number of cases across the country, but particularly in the Gauteng Province, South Africa’s smallest but most densely populated province.

There have been 190 confirmed cases across the country this year. In Gauteng, the population incidence rates have increased from two per million to eight per million. The highest incidence has been recorded in the City of Johannesburg at 12 cases per million. This is not as high as the number of people who get meningococcal meningitis or pulmonary tuberculosis, but the consequences are just as serious.

Of the 122 cases in Gauteng, over 60% are newborn babies that have been infected.

The institute is trying to establish what the source of the infection is so that measures can be put in place to prevent further cases. Mothers who have been infected with the bacteria are being interviewed and the institute is also engaging with the food service quality industry.

What are the signs and symptoms?

Listeria can survive in fridge temperatures of 4°C. The infection incubates for between three and 70 days. In healthy adults, symptoms are usually mild and may include fever and sometimes nausea or diarrhoea.

In high-risk patients, the spread of the infection to the nervous system can cause meningitis leading to headaches and confusion, a stiff neck and convulsions. Bacteraemia – when the bacteria is found in the blood – may also occur.

Gastroenteritis due to listeria does not require treatment. But meningitis or septicaemia as a result of listeria can be life-threatening and should be treated with intravenous antibiotics.

What are the challenges in dealing with listeriosis?

Outbreaks of listeria in food are common across the world. Outbreaks of listeriosis across the world present the same problem: that the source of contaminated food is difficult to identify. There are two reasons for this.

Firstly, the incubation period of 70 days makes it difficult to track what the patient ate and therefore to identify the contaminated food.

And secondly, once the food source is narrowed down, tests need to be conducted on the range of possible foods to establish which is the implicated one. Only once authorities are able to identify the source are they able implement measures to prevent further cases.

How can we protect ourselves from this infection?

There is no vaccine or pre-exposure prophylaxis that can prevent infection. The main preventive measure is good basic hygiene, and proper, safe food preparation and storage.

Unlike most other food borne pathogens, Listeria monocytogenes can grow in refrigerated foods that are contaminated. To prevent this, fridge temperatures should be set below 4⁰C; and freezer temperatures below -18⁰C.

Those at high risk of listeriosis should avoid:

  • Raw or unpasteurised milk, or dairy products that contain unpasteurised milk,
  • Soft cheeses like feta, goat cheese and brie,
  • Foods from delicatessen counters like prepared salads and cold meats that have not been heated and reheated adequately,
  • Refrigerated pâtés

The ConversationAdditional measures include thoroughly cooking raw foods from animal sources, such as beef, pork or poultry. Raw fruit and vegetables should be thoroughly washed before eating. And surfaces where food is prepared should be decontaminated regularly, particularly after preparing raw meat, poultry and eggs, including industrial kitchens.

Kerrigan McCarthy, Head of the Outbreak Response Unit, National Institute for Communicable Diseases

This article was originally published on The Conversation.

Wednesday, October 18, 2017

What's at stake in South Africa's new finance minister's first budget

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There’s a great deal hanging on South Africa’s 2017 medium term budget policy statement. Three factors are at play: there is political turmoil around the governing African National Congress, the country’s economy is performing poorly and this is the first budgetary statement from the new Finance Minister Malusi Gigaba. The Conversation Africa’s Sibonelo Radebe asked Jannie Rossouw to layout his expectations.

What keeps you up at night in relation to this medium term budget?

The single most worrying factor is the lack of economic growth South Africa faces. Growth has slowed down significantly in recent years and the economy flirted with recession after shrinking during the last quarter of last year and the first quarter of this year. The economy did bounce back into positive growth during the second quarter but the outlook remains unimpressive. Only 0.5% growth is expected for 2017 and less than 2% over the medium term.

Owing to this lack of growth, unemployment is on the increase – it now stands at a staggering 27% – while government revenue is under pressure. It also implies that the government’s burden on the economy (for instance total government debt as percentage of gross domestic product, orDebt/GDP ratio) will increase.

Government’s debt to GDP ratio is currently budgeted to level out around 50%. This is to be welcomed because any increase in the ratio increases the interest burden.

But if slow growth and revenue shortfalls persist, government debt will increase. The debt to GDP ratio will be on its way to 65% of GDP in the medium term.

And should the combination of low growth and growing government expenditure continue after the period of this medium term statement (2017/18 - 2020/21), the debt/GDP ratio might be on its way to 100%. This projection really stresses one of the most worrying factors that has to be addressed in this statement: Limiting the level of government debt before it reaches this level.

In other countries where this level has been exceeded, severe adjustments had to be forced on their economies. Take the Irish Republic case. Remuneration levels and employment numbers in the civil service had to be cut dramatically to deal with the Irish government debt crisis.

There is a new finance minister in place and he comes with shifting political dynamics. How do you rate him and what do you expect from him?

It is difficult to rate the new minster, given that he’s only been in the job since April and the fact that he has not yet tabled his first budgetary statement. The only statement against which his performance can really be assessed is the 14-point plan he announced in July 2017.

We’ll be watching the medium term statement for his report back on progress in implementing it.

But Gigaba comes with worrying political dynamics, including accusations that he is party to corruption.

And its difficult to separate him from the history of bad policy options of the African National Congress which has delivered the prevailing lacklustre economic performance. The fiscal crisis facing South Africa is a direct result of these policies.

How significant is the medium term budget policy statement?

It’s very important as it provides an overview of government’s plans for expenditure and for raising revenue over the next three years. A three year view is significant because it provides insight into planned government expenditure and indicates expected tax increases that South African taxpayers have to face. It also informs decisions of the credit rating agencies about South Africa’s fiscal stability.

The statement forms the basis of the annual budget of government revenue and expenditure that is tabled in Parliament in February each year.

The statement is the first formal opportunity after the tabling of the annual budget where the government reports on the actual performance of revenue raised in comparison to budgeted revenue and of actual expenditure in comparison to budgeted expenditure.

This reporting by government gives an early indication of expectations for the main budget in February. For instance, if government revenue is underperforming, the expectation is that taxes will be increased the following February. Indeed a tax increase might materialise in this medium term statement.

What in you view will be key focus areas in this medium term statement?

As South Africa’s economic growth is currently lower than the forecast used for the 2017/18 fiscal year, tax collection has come under pressure. A revenue shortfall is expected for this fiscal year. The medium term statement is when the size of the shortfall will be formally disclosed.

Given expectations of a substantial shortfall, South Africans should brace themselves for substantial tax increases in the main budget in February 2018. The fiscal crisis might even be so serious that the government might decide to divert from previous practice and announce tax increases in this medium term statement.

Like any other government in the world, it raises revenue through taxes and use this revenue to fund its expenditure. If revenue exceeds expenditure, the difference must be borrowed, which adds to the level of government debt, or expenditure must be cut.

One of the biggest budgetary headaches is the ailing state owned enterprises. What should be done?

The ConversationGovernment is really throwing good money after bad by using public money to bailout ailing state owned enterprises. I have said a long time ago that South African Airways should simply be given away. This is a much cheaper option for the taxpayer instead of never ending bailouts. The South African government should reassess its holding of state owned enterprises and close, sell or give away those that are no longer financially viable. Such action will remove a large financial burden on the South African taxpayer.

Jannie Rossouw, Head of School of Economic & Business Sciences, University of the Witwatersrand

This article was originally published on The Conversation.

Ahmed Timol inquest: why uncovering apartheid crimes remains so important

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Former policeman Joao Rodrigues giving evidence at the Timol Inquest.
Anthony Schultz/Mail & Guardian

The recent, reopened inquest into the death of teacher and anti-apartheid activist, Ahmed Timol, was different in many ways from a traditional court case. Instead of the standard adversarial criminal trial, which is associated with an acrimonious standoff between opposing parties, the state and the representative of the Timol family, Advocate Howard Varney, seemed to agree on the importance of arriving at the truth about Timol’s death.

Timol was 29 when he was arrested on 22 October 1971. After being interrogated and tortured by the feared security branch of the police, he died on 27 October 1971. Magistrate JL de Villiers, who presided over the inquest that followed his death, found that Timol had committed suicide.

The reopened inquest in the North Gauteng High Court nearly 50 years later was intensely symbolic. The atmosphere in the court was heavy with history. At times the testimony of witnesses reminded one of funeral-like memorialisation. It was clear that the case was not only about Timol’s death but about the dozens of victims who died at John Vorster Square, the notorious Johannesburg security branch headquarters, and more broadly, the countless victims of apartheid crimes.

Throughout the hearings Judge Billy Mothle heard compelling testimony from witnesses such as Timol’s friend and fellow detainee Salim Essop. Essop testified of brutal torture including electric shock treatments and attempts to suffocate detainees.

In concluding his deliberations after hearing the evidence, Judge Billy Mothle found that Timol was either pushed from the 10th floor of John Vorster Square or from the rooftop of the building.

The ruling has been seen as a vindication of the tireless efforts on the part of Timol’s family and friends to have the apartheid security force’s lies and misrepresentation of the young activist’s final days overturned.

Truth and reconciliation

The Timol case resurrects many of the questions South Africa raised during the Truth and Reconciliation Commission (TRC), and in its direct aftermath. In many ways, the Timol case can be understood as a continuation of the work of the commission: the reopening of an inquest can be a way of establishing the truth of apartheid era atrocities.

In some ways, court proceedings are more efficient and powerful than hearings of the TRC kind. Courts have the power to subpoena witnesses and to declare lying witnesses in contempt of court. In addition, their judgments form formal precedent for future decisions. Court cases are also infused with a certain weight and formal authority.

One of the most serious criticisms of the design of the TRC was that it had the power to grant amnesty under certain conditions. While the conditional amnesty model was lauded as innovative and reconciliation-building, over two decades later it’s clear that there were crucial gaps in the amnesty scheme.

Firstly, the truth uncovered by the amnesty hearings was a selective truth in the sense that many apartheid victims didn’t have the means to travel to the sites of the hearing to testify. Secondly, many former perpetrators didn’t apply for amnesty. Many must have made a calculated guess that they were unlikely to be prosecuted if they did not apply for amnesty.

And there have been less than a handful of prosecutions post TRC. This arguably makes a mockery of the amnesty scheme. Also, the National Prosecuting Authority’s Priority Crimes Litigation Unit has been exceedingly passive. It’s this unit that failed to follow up on important cases such as the Wouter Basson case. Dubbed “Dr Death” in the media, Basson was the head of the apartheid government’s chemical and biological warfare programme. When the Constitutional Court gave the prosecuting authority the go ahead to prosecute, it failed to follow up.

In light of the poor, lacklustre track record of the state over the past 20 years, there’s little reason for optimism that all apartheid era inquests will be reopened. There can be no doubt that reopening inquests is an important way of discovering the truth about the past and setting the historical record straight.

Many cases will be obstructed by the fact that witnesses and accused would have died in the decades since the killings.

Even if witnesses are alive their memories often fail them as might have been the case with Joao “Jan” Rodrigues in the Timol inquest.

Banality of evil

Rodrigues was one of the policemen present at the time of Timol’s killing and is accused of helping to hide the evidence of his killing.

When testifying at the Timol hearings, Rodrigues (78) was completely uncooperative and continuously claimed that he could not remember the events of October 1971. Watching from the public gallery, I found Rodrigues the most interesting of the witnesses. He was interesting precisely because he was ordinary and reminded me of philosopher Hannah Arendt’s concept of the “banality of evil” in “Eichmann in Jerusalem: A Report on the Banality of Evil” – her account of Nazi officer, Adolf Eichmann, who Arendt thought willingly did his part to organise the Holocaust but in a non-ideological combination of careerism and obedience.

Rodrigues’s testimony is representative of the denial of a whole generation of white South Africans. He did not show a slither of remorse. His body language conveyed a certain irritation and annoyance at the fact that he was hauled from the daze of retirement into the spotlight of a prominent and inconvenient court appearance. He conveyed that he was somehow being victimised by a process he found strange and unnecessary.

Appropriate relief

Judge Mothle stated that the perpetrators are dead. This raises the question of appropriate relief – a question which is still unclear. But punishment of perpetrators is not the primary relief sought by victims of state sponsored atrocities.

The ConversationIt is good and right that the Timol case gives hope to the families of murdered apartheid activists and that victims will be encouraged to come forward to reopen inquests. But it’s important that families should be warned of the significant resource obstacles the state faces and the selective nature of prosecutions. There is only one thing worse than living in hope: hope that is continuously frustrated.

Mia Swart, Professor of International Law, University of Johannesburg

This article was originally published on The Conversation.

Tuesday, October 17, 2017

Using the South African army to fight crime is a bad idea: here's why

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South Africa’s police minister, Fikile Mbalula, has stirred controversy by calling for the involvement of the country’s military in fighting crime. Although there might be short term gains from deploying the South African National Defence Force (SANDF) in crime-ridden urban areas of the country, there are several reasons why it should be discouraged.

An obvious reason is that, tactically, militaries are not trained to do community protection and fighting crime in urban communities. They aren’t taught and trained how to apply police and law enforcement rules when it comes to the use of minimum force, or how to follow the proper procedures during an arrest.

Moreover, soldiers are generically trained to use machine guns, not pistols. Also, military doctrine and command structures are not suited to deployments in urban areas and especially to fight gangsterism. In short, armies are basically geared to fight external enemies.

Mexico is a case in point from a South African perspective. A decade ago the country’s military was brought in to fight drug cartels - a role its leadership is now questioning. The Mexican Defence Minister Salvador Cienfuegos recently pointed out that their responsibilities in fighting crime doesn’t correspond with their training.

We didn’t study how to chase criminals.

South Africa can learn from the Mexican experience. There are no short cuts to fighting crime, and instead of looking to the SANDF for quick fixes, the South African government should be focused on building a more effective and functional police and crime intelligence service. In simplified terms: the South African Police Service (SAPS) and related law enforcement agencies should improve their institutional capabilities and get the job of crime prevention and fighting done more efficiently. Beyond the fact that it wouldn’t be desirable to use the military in anti-crime efforts in Cape Town and Gauteng, there is also the hard reality that South Africa’s defence force is in a weakened and parlous state in several respects.

Three reasons why it shouldn’t do the job

There are at least three important reasons why the South African National Defence Force shouldn’t be deployed to fight crime in urban communities.

The first is that the country’s defence force is in an increasingly critical state of degeneration. There has been a continuous decline in military spending over the past few decades. In real terms, the defence budget was cut by half between 1989 and 1997. Until 2010 expenditure was pinned at about 1,6% of GDP - which is between 6% and 7% of total government expenditure). Over the past seven years it has levelled out at 1.2% to 1.1% of GDP.

It’s not surprise that the recently adopted Defence Review (2015) found that:

The Defence Force is in a critical state of decline … Left unchecked, and at present funding levels, this decline will severely compromise and further fragment the defence capability. It is clear that certain defence capabilities, if not addressed now, will be lost in the very near future. The longer this prevails, the greater the effort, time and cost will be to restore the Defence Force.

The second reason is that the military is ill-equipped to be called on to fight crime is that it’s been criticised for being unable to meet its current responsibilities,
including being able to fulfil its responsibilities as a peacekeeping force on the continent. In fact South Africa’s participation in continental peacekeeping operations of both the United Nations and the African Union has decreased notably. It’s participation has reached the lowest level since the early 2000s following the recent withdrawal of its soldiers from Darfur, Sudan.

Helmoed-Römer Heitman, one of South Africa’s most authoritative defence analysts contends that:

[t]he reality is that the state of readiness [of the South African National Defence Force] is appalling: The South African National Defence Force is in no way capable of handling anything but the most minor crisis.

The third reason is that, despite insufficient funding, the SANDF has had to take on extra responsibilities over the last seven years. Since 2010 it has taken back the border protection function (and related crime fighting along the borders) from the police and begun patrolling the country’s borders. It is now deployed along the seven provinces that have landward borders with surrounding countries. Tasks range from stopping people attempting to enter South Africa illegally to confiscating contraband, mainly cigarettes and liquor and dagga (marijuana). Since 2011 the SANDF also had to take up the task of assisting the Kruger National Park’s rangers in preventing rhino poaching.

Weak police force is the issue

There is, however, a much bigger issue at stake - the functionality of the SAPS. This is in fact the main issue. The current budget allocation favours public order and safety (earmarked for the police) over defence and state security (partially earmarked for the military). The 2017/18 allocation to the police portfolio was R93bn while the defence portfolio got R53bn.

In 2013 South Africa was listed as having the 11th biggest police force in the world and it gets almost 48% of the total allocation of the overall defence, public order and safety account At the same time, this does not mean that the SAPS is without shortcomings and constraints. According to UN statistics, South Africa is in the lower-middle end of policing ratios compared to other countries in the world.

The ConversationStill, the police get a sizeable chunk of the country’s budget and it can be expected to deliver a better service to the South African public. The country has unacceptably high crime levels. But, the political solution to crime in the relevant areas of Cape Town and Gauteng does not lie in deploying the army. The relevant political leaders would do the country’s citizens a favour if they focused on fixing the police service and strengthening crime intelligence, and stopped pursuing unhelpful ideas like using the army to fight crime.

Theo Neethling, Professor and Head: Political Studies and Governance in the Humanities Faculty, University of the Free State

This article was originally published on The Conversation.

Can Zuma untie Gordian knot after failing to quash corruption charges?

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South Africa’s president faces a difficult time ahead, following the loss of his bid to escape justice.

The Supreme Court of South Africa’s rejection of President Jacob Zuma’s appeal against an earlier judgment that he face 783 criminal charges has renewed uncertainty about his future.

The earlier High Court ruling had found that the 2009 decision by the National Prosecuting Authority (NPA) to withdraw the charges of corruption, money laundering and racketeering against Zuma was irrational.

The judgment forms part of three milestones in Zuma’s recent history dominated by corruption, unethical conduct and his ability to avoid criminal charges. These were, firstly, the Schabir Shaik case in which Zuma’s financial advisor was convicted of corruption as a result of his relationship with him. The second was the Nkandla case that involved the use of public funds on lavish renovations to Zuma’s private homestead. The Constitutional Court found that Zuma had acted illegally and in a way that was inconsistent with the Constitution.

The third is the latest case, known as the “spy tapes” case. This involved intercepted discussions in 2007 between the then National Director of Public Prosecutions Bulelani Ngcuka and Leonard McCarthy (head of the then elite crime-fighting unit, the Scorpions) about the timing of Zuma’s indictment. Mokotedi Mpshe, who succeeded Ngcuka in an acting capacity, withdrew the charges in 2009, arguing that these discussions showed the charges were politicised.

The “spy tapes” saga returned with the application by the opposition Democratic Alliance to be given a copy of the tapes Mpshe used to exonerate Zuma. It was followed by another application for a judicial review of Mpshe’s decision. The High Court subsequently declared Mpshe’s decision irrational. This view has now been affirmed by the Supreme Court of Appeal.


A number of factors are going to complicate Zuma’s options after this judgment. The first is that, unlike most other states, the South African legal system does not include presidential immunity or amnesty.

The second factor is about timing. Zuma’s term as president of the governing African National Congress ends in December when the party is due to elect a new leader. He will at that point lose most of his political power and will therefore be less able to protect himself by co-opting key figures in the criminal justice system.

It’s against this background that his preference for Nkosazana Dlamini-Zuma to succeed him is part of his strategy to avoid being convicted during his retirement.

Implications of the judgment

The implications of the Appeal Court judgment for a Zuma counter-strategy are important. The first one is that the relevance of the spy tapes has been removed. The fact that the Court concluded that the motive for charging a suspect is irrelevant and that procedural questions can only be settled by the trial court, removed the contextual arguments of political misappropriation of judicial processes and also important discretionary options from the NPA.

The second one is that the judgment made it impossible for the National Director of Public Prosecutions to review his own decisions and that only a trial court could do it. Again, it limits the NPA’s discretion.

The third one is that the Supreme Court of Appeal raised serious concerns about the NPA’s integrity in 2009, the quality of its legal interpretations and the serious internal differences of opinion. This will become a major test of the NPA’s credibility.

The fourth implication is that the rationality principle has been reinforced. The final decision taken by the National Direct of Public Prosecutions Shaun Abrahams will be subjected to the same test.

The Supreme Court of Appeal did not spell out in any detail what steps the NPA should take next. Two interpretations have emerged: the one is to take the process back to 2009 and that the charges must be reinstated by the NPA. The second one is that the matter should be considered anew by the NPA. This would have to include Zuma’s insistence that he makes presentations before he can be indicted.

The scene is therefore set for legal game-playing. What’s clear is that the decision about Zuma’s indictment will not be finalised and implemented any time soon.

Implications of a Zuma trial

What are the implications of a Zuma court case in the near future?

The first is that having him in court would have a negative effect on government activities until 2019. This can’t be used as an excuse not to prosecute him – in any case this would amount to another irrelevant political motive which the Appeal Court has, in principle, disqualified. A power void would nevertheless cascade down the tiers of government.

The second possible implication is that, if summonsed, Zuma would have no choice but to resign of his own accord. If this happened, an Acting President would have to be appointed and a new President elected within 30 days. This could either be the new ANC President, due to be chosen at the party’s conference in December, or a caretaker president (as happened previously) until 2019.

The third possibility is that Zuma would be forced to resign in the same way that the governing ANC forced Thabo Mbeki out of presidency in 2008. Given its inherent potential to create instability and lead to splits in the ANC makes this the worst case scenario.

All three possible outcomes are not only detrimental to Zuma, but also to the ANC in general. Revelations that are bound to come out in any court case will seriously embarrass the ANC and will provide ample ammunition for the opposition in an election campaign. This would be true whether Zuma was still president or not.

This leaves presidential hopeful Cyril Ramaphosa and the part of the ANC that is aligned to him with a conundrum. They have characterised themselves as being anti-corruption as well as striving for the moral renewal of the ANC. They would have to weigh this against the countervailing effects of having Zuma on trial.

The ConversationThe option of a political settlement can also not rescue the situation, because the case against President Zuma has become a moral litmus test for the ANC.

Dirk Kotze, Professor in Political Science, University of South Africa

This article was originally published on The Conversation.

Monday, October 16, 2017

Life stories of significant South African women told through the prism of love

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Nelson Mandela and his comrade, anti-apartheid activist, Fatima Meer.
Indian Spice

South Africa’s apartheid social engineering, the post-1994 victory over racialised inequality and the subsequent recognition that the victory may have been Pyrrhic have elicited a vast literary response, including a fascinating body of personal responses in the form of memoirs, biographies and autobiographies.

These narratives have sought to memorialise significant lives that drove the anti-apartheid struggle, and often focused on documenting the times that created the people.

An emerging trend is one that foregrounds the family in the lives of activists, rather than the established paradigm of the autonomous national auto/biographical hero. Examples that signal this shift are Gillian Slovo’s “Every Secret Thing” (1997) and Elinor Sisulu’s “Walter and Albertina Sisulu: In Our Lifetime” (2002).

These auto/biographies take the social microcosm of the family, both nuclear and extended, as the most important matrix out of which lives committed to social justice emerge. They are then placed within the broader context of the nation.

Eros at the heart

“Love in the Time of Treason: The Life Story of Ayesha Dawood” (2008) by Zubeida Jaffer and the autobiography, “Fatima Meer: Memories of Love and Struggle” (2017), acknowledge and recollect the households that created – and are created by – political activists – households which occupy a shifting space between private and public spheres. What sets these two life narratives in relief is the way in which they position eros at the heart of the narrative.

Cover of ‘The Life Story of Ayesha Dawood’.

Veteran journalist, Zubeida Jaffer, presents a portrait of an extraordinary person in decidedly ordinary, yet moving terms. Ayesha Dawood was a young woman in the little country town of Worcester near Cape Town in the 1950s when the first effects of apartheid were being felt. Despite a conservative, sheltered upbringing as the daughter of an Indian shopkeeper, Ayesha is drawn into various social protests and the trade union movement through her innate sense of justice.

Ayesha’s political involvement leads to her being arrested and tried at the Treason Trial of 1956 along with Nelson Mandela, and various other more high profile figures. She also subsequently is jailed and kept in solitary confinement for an extended period in a women’s prison in the nearby town of Paarl.

But contrary to expectation, the biography is not constructed around her activist experience. In fact, the biography does not even open with a focus on Ayesha. Instead, the story of her South African struggle experience begins with her future husband in India.

The narrative is constructed as a love story. It’s a love obstructed by numerous separations. Yusuf Mukadam falls in love with Ayesha at first sight in the village in India where she visits her grandmother. After her departure, despite no real contact with or commitment from her, Yusuf later joins the merchant navy as a cook. His sole purpose: to meet Ayesha again in Cape Town as part of a two-year voyage.

Yusuf sends a letter to inform her of his arrival. But the letter is never opened since Ayesha is in police custody at the time. Yusuf arrives in Cape Town and thinks he has been spurned when he is not met as arranged.

Some years later, back in India, he discovers why he didn’t get a response from the woman to whom he feels incontrovertibly and inexplicably bound. He then signs up for another voyage. This time he jumps ship in Durban and travels to Cape Town to meet and marry Ayesha, almost a decade after their first meeting.

Years into their marriage, after the birth of two children, Yusuf is arrested as an illegal immigrant. But the arrest is a pretext to blackmail Ayesha into acting as a police informant. Since she does not cooperate, her husband is deported to India, an exile which she shares with her life partner.

The poverty of the Indian village means that Yusuf must become a migrant worker in Kuwait in order to support Ayesha and the children. The family finally returns to South Africa, many years later, after the release of Mandela.

Throughout the biography, Jaffer foregrounds romantic attachments. The narrative is prologued by the occasion when Ayesha sees Mandela again on his visit to Worcester on the Blue Train in 1997. The bonds of intimacy between Mandela and Graça Machel at the train station, and Ayesha and Yusuf, are paralleled.

The biography is structured around and locates its narrative momentum in this enduring, ethically cognisant love – or as Jaffer has Ayesha succinctly utter:

Yusuf is my taqdeer (destiny).

Complex relationship

The love relationship is similarly foregrounded in internationally recognised academic-activist Fatima Meer’s autobiography, posthumously published by her daughter.

Cover of ‘Fatima Meer: Memories of Love and Struggle’.

What is surprising about Meer’s autobiography is the way in which the complex relationship with her husband, prominent struggle lawyer Ismail Meer, is used as the organising principle around which her life story is told.

If Yusuf was Ayesha’s destiny, Ismail seems to shape the destiny of Fatima. The Meer relationship is a curious one where a member of the extended family whom she had regarded as an uncle later comes to be her husband when they proverbially fall head-over-heels in love. As trusted “uncle”, Ismail plays a role in determining that Fatima, constrained by a conservative community, should get to study away from home at the University of the Witwatersrand, and influences what she should study.

In a somewhat less tranquil relationship than that of Ayesha and Yusuf, Fatima presents her husband, despite his fierce temper and tendency to domineer, as the central pole and pulse of her life. Fatima’s is a life that is internationally known for never being cowed, a life remembered for its outspoken, principled defiance and critique, even of comrades.

The ConversationIt’s not clear whether these two South African “romance” struggle auto/biographies are a harbinger of a trend, or whether they are anomalies that won’t be repeated. What they certainly do, is to focalise the anti-apartheid struggle through the lives of heroic women whose public and private lives were intimately bound and who were bound by love.

F. Fiona Moolla, Senior Lecturer in English, University of the Western Cape

This article was originally published on The Conversation.

Saturday, October 14, 2017

Under the Trump administration, US airstrikes are killing more civilians

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Smoke from an airstrike rises in the background as a man flees during fighting between Iraqi special forces and IS militants in Mosul, Iraq, on May 17, 2017.
AP Photo/Maya Alleruzzo

When President Donald Trump took office in January, it was unclear whether the bombast from his campaign would translate into an aggressive new strategy against terrorism. At campaign rallies he pledged to “bomb the hell” out of the Islamic State. He openly mused about killing the families of terrorists, a blatant violation of the Geneva Conventions, which prohibits violence against noncombatants.

Ten months into his presidency, a clearer picture is emerging. The data indicate several alarming trends.

According to research from the nonprofit monitoring group Airwars, the first seven months of the Trump administration have already resulted in more civilian deaths than under the entirety of the Obama administration. Airwars reports that under Obama’s leadership, the fight against IS led to approximately 2,300 to 3,400 civilian deaths. Through the first seven months of the Trump administration, they estimate that coalition air strikes have killed between 2,800 and 4,500 civilians.

Researchers also point to another stunning trend – the “frequent killing of entire families in likely coalition airstrikes.” In May, for example, such actions led to the deaths of at least 57 women and 52 children in Iraq and Syria.

The vast increase in civilian deaths is not limited to the anti-IS campaign. In Afghanistan, the U.N. reports a 67 percent increase in civilian deaths from U.S. airstrikes in the first six months of 2017 compared to the first half of 2016.

The key question is: Why? Are these increases due to a change in leadership?

Delegating war to the military

Experts offer several explanations.

One holds that Trump’s “total authorization” for the military to run wars in Afghanistan and against IS has loosened Obama-era restrictions and increased military commanders’ risk tolerance. Micah Zenko of the Council on Foreign Relations notes: “Those closer to the fight are more likely to call in lethal force and are less likely to follow a value-based approach.”

In other words, an intense focus on destroying IS elements may be overriding the competing priority of protecting civilians. Because Trump has scaled back civilian oversight and delegated authority to colonels rather than one-star generals, the likely result is higher casualties.

Urban battlefield?

A second explanation points to the changing nature of the counter-IS campaign. The Pentagon contends that the rise in casualties is “attributable to the change in location” of battlefield operations towards more densely populated urban environments like Mosul and Raqqa.

This is a partial truth. While urban warfare has increased, Trump’s team has substantially escalated air strikes and bombings. According to CENTCOM data, the military has already used 20 percent more missiles and bombs in combined air operations in 2017 than in all of 2016. One notable airstrike in March, for example, killed 105 Iraqi civilians when U.S. forces dropped a 500-pound bomb in order to take out two snipers in Mosul. In fact, a Human Rights Watch analysis of bomb craters in West Mosul estimates that U.S. coalition forces are routinely using larger and less precise bombs – weighing between 500 and 1,000 pounds – than in prior operations. Finally, the urban battlefield explanation also does not account for increased civilian deaths in Afghanistan from airstrikes, where the environment has remained static for several years.

Pressure from the president

A third explanation of higher civilian casualties is that aggressive rhetoric from the president is inadvertently pressuring the military to take more risks and to deprioritize protecting civilians.

As former Assistant Secretary of State Tom Malinowski observes: “If your leaders are emphasizing the high value of Raqqa and Mosul, while saying less about the strategic and moral risks of hurting civilians, it’s going to affect your judgment.” Words matter, especially coming from the commander-in-chief. In the face of such aggressive rhetoric, it should not come as a surprise that military officers feel encouraged – if not indirectly pressured – to take greater risks.

Unfortunately, the increased trend of civilian casualties is unlikely to diminish. In fact, signs abound that the White House is developing a new set of policies and procedures that will authorize more sweeping discretion to the military. In September, The New York Times reported that White House officials were proposing two major rules changes. First, they would expand the scope of “kill missions” and allow for the targeting of lower-level terrorists in addition to high value targets. Second – and more notably – they would suspend high-level vetting of potential drone attacks and raids.

These changes represent a sharp about-face. The Obama administration carefully crafted a deliberate set of rules guiding the use of force. In 2013, Obama released the Presidential Policy Guidance for Approving Direct Action Against Terrorist Targets (PPG), which created specific rules for determining when the use of force against terrorists was legally justified.

Then, in 2016, Obama issued an executive order on civilian harm that established heightened standards to minimize civilian casualties from military actions, and required the public release of information pertaining to strikes against terrorist targets.

While the latest actions from the Trump administration stop short of reversing Obama-era restraints, they are unsettling steps in the opposite direction. For example, it appears for now that the White House will preserve the “near certainty” standard, which requires commanders to have near certainty that a potential strike will not impact civilians. But this could change over time.

One senior official quoted in The New York Times article bluntly asserts that the latest changes are intended to make much of the “bureaucracy” created by the Obama administration rules “disappear.” As the White House dissolves the existing bureaucracy and relinquishes civilian oversight, Trump is embarking on a slippery slope that will potentially lead to major diminutions of civilian protection.

The current battle to take the Syrian city of Raqqa is emblematic of the stakes at hand. The U.S. is leading a punishing air war to soften IS defenses. In August, U.S. forces dropped 5,775 bombs and missiles onto the city. For context, this represented 10 times more munitions than the U.S. used for the whole of Afghanistan in the same month and year. The resulting civilian toll has been gruesome. At least 433 civilians likely died in Raqqa due to the August bombings, more than double the previous month’s total. Since the assault on Raqqa commenced on June 6, more than 1,000 civilians have been reported killed.

U.N. human rights chief Zeid Ra’ad Al Hussein cautions that the intense bombardment has left civilians caught between IS’s monstrosities and the fierce battle to defeat it. Zeid insists that “civilians must not be sacrificed for the sake of rapid military victories.”

The ConversationTrump would be wise to heed this warning. Even as U.S. forces continue to turn the tide on IS, the trail of destruction left in the campaign’s wake is unsettling. The specter of massive civilian casualties will remain a rallying point for new terrorist organizations long after anti-IS operations conclude.

Steven Feldstein, Frank and Bethine Church Chair of Public Affairs & Associate Professor, School of Public Service, Boise State University

This article was originally published on The Conversation.

President Zuma loses bid to dodge 783 charges. But will he have the last laugh?

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South Africa’s Supreme Court of Appeal has upheld a High Court Decision to reinstate almost 800 criminal charges against President Zuma.

South Africa’s Supreme Court of Appeal has dismissed President Jacob Zuma’s and the National Prosecuting Authority’s appeal against an earlier decision by the North Gauteng High Court that a decision to dismiss 783 charges against Zuma in 2009 was irrational. Then, Zuma had claimed that the charges against him were part of a political conspiracy to prevent him from becoming president. But the North Gauteng High Court, in a case brought by the opposition Democratic Alliance, ruled last April that the charges of corruption, money laundering and racketeering against Zuma should be reinstated. The Conversation Africa’s Politics and Society Editor Thabo Leshilo spoke to constitutional expert law Pierre de Vos about the latest decision.

What are the implications of the judgment?

The judgment means that the original decision by the North Gauteng High Court to charge President Zuma stands and – in the absence of another legal move – the National Prosecuting Authority is legally obliged to implement it.

This means Zuma will be prosecuted unless Shaun Abrahams, the national director of public prosecutions, decides again to drop the charges (but on different legal grounds). The judgment also contains scathing criticism of the National Prosecuting Authority and its senior leadership.

It raises questions about the integrity of senior National Prosecuting Authority leaders and of the independence and impartiality of the prosecutions body. The judgment also notes that it was illegal for Zuma’s legal team to obtain and share the intercepted communications – the so called spy tapes – which raises questions about why no one (including Zuma’s lawyer, Roger Hulley) was ever charged for breach of the law.

What happens now?

Zuma’s lawyers will probably make another submission to Abrahams to argue that the charges must be dropped. This may include arguments that too much time has passed since the alleged crimes were committed or that new evidence has come to light that raises questions on whether the NPA has a winnable case against the President.

The Appeals Court left open whether Abrahams has the legal power to review a decision by the National Director of Public Prosecutions or not. If Abrahams does have this power, and if he again drops the charges, it will probably be the end of the matter.

If the charges are not dropped, the NPA will proceed with the prosecution, at which point Zuma’s lawyers will almost certainly approach the court to ask for a permanent stay of prosecution. It is not practically possible for Zuma to appeal to the Constitutional Court as his lawyers already conceded before the Supreme Court of Appeal that the decision to drop the charges was invalid.

What are Zuma’s options?

As the Supreme Court of Appeal points out in its judgment, Zuma and his lawyers have done everything in their power to prevent a situation where the president would have his day in court and would have to answer to the charges levelled against him.

This is why the president and his lawyers will continue to try to stop the prosecution by submitting new arguments to the National Prosecuting Authority on why the charges should be dropped. And, if that does not work, to try and convince the court that his prosecution must be stopped permanently because for some or other reason he could not receive a fair trial.

Can a sitting president be put on trial? Does South Africa have a precedent for it?

South Africa’s sitting president can be charged. There is no provision in the country’s constitution – or in ordinary legislation – that stands in the way of this happening.

The South African parliament could pass a law that changes this and protects a sitting president from criminal liability. But this wouldn’t get very far as such a law would be unconstitutional. It would be breach of the Rule of Law as developed by the South African Constitutional Court and it would also be in breach of section 9(1) of the Constitution which states that:

Everyone is equal before the law and has the right to equal protection and benefit of the law.

No sitting president has ever been charged with a criminal offence in South Africa. President Nelson Mandela was required to testify in a civil (as opposed to a criminal) case, after which the Constitutional Court imposed limits on when a sitting president would be required to testify in a civil case.

The ConversationIt would be unprecedented for a sitting president to face criminal charges and be prosecuted.

Pierre de Vos, Claude Leon Foundation Chair in Constitutional Governance, University of Cape Town

This article was originally published on The Conversation.

Thursday, October 12, 2017

South Africa needs to revamp its new public transport system

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Over the past eight years the South African government has spent more than 130 billion rand on public transport projects in the country’s main cities. The projects included the refurbishment of rail services and the establishment of a new rapid rail and Bus Rapid Transit (BRT) systems.

This is a lot of money by any standards. As a percentage of gross geographic product, South African cities devote about twice as much money to transport as other developing countries, and as much as four times more than some regions of the world.

The country should by now be celebrating the success of this investment. But sustaining the systems, especially the BRT systems, is proving to be difficult.

Even high ranking government officials have expressed doubts about the way things are going. The MEC for transport in Gauteng province, Ismail Vadi, recently asked whether government was getting value for money from the BRT systems. His concerns have been echoed by Joe Maswanganyi, the national minister of transport.

Maswanganyi suggested that it was time to rethink and redesign the systems to “stop draining money from the fiscus”. The BRT has been called a “mammoth flop” and “a white elephant” in some media.

Those are exaggerations. But there are serious problems with the BRT.

Fixing them must focus on reducing costs and growing income. Running costs should automatically decline as the system matures. But to raise revenue levels, BRT must become better integrated with housing and other transport services so that more people use them and help pay for them. In particular, the BRT should work with minibus-taxis to help widen the net of BRT usage. The country needs better planning and funding to make this happen.

Benefits and costs of BRT

BRT systems represent a significant improvement compared to traditional metro transport systems. They use dedicated lanes and stations, modern buses, and smartcard payment systems to speed up public transport and give passengers a better quality service.

This comes at a price. BRT ticket prices are typically higher than Metrorail but are set to be competitive with the minibus-taxi offering.

South Africa’s BRT systems are currently transporting more than 120,000 passengers (one-way trips) every day. Surveys show that passengers generally prefer the comfort and speed of BRT to other modes like minibus-taxis. So, based on passenger numbers alone, BRT is not a failure.

Passengers walk from the Johannesburg Bus Rapid Transit system in Johannesburg. The system is proving to be unsustainably expensive for the South African government.

But the BRT systems in the country’s main cities, Johannesburg, Cape Town and Tshwane, are performing worse financially than was expected.

Between 2005 and 2016, a total of about R35.7 billion was allocated for the planning, design and construction of integrated public transport networks countrywide. Costs are pushed up by national government’s commitment to bring minibus-taxi operators into the system in such a way that they are no worse off than before.

This was partly driven by political pressure from taxi organisations, and partly to help bring an upgraded taxi industry into the formal transport network.

Despite these extra costs, South Africa’s spending on BRT systems is, per kilometre of busway, on par with many systems in Latin America and Asia. This suggests that the country has not overspent on infrastructure.

The problem is that fewer people than forecast are using the systems. Fare revenues are lower than expected.

Take Rea Vaya, the BRT in the main economic hub of Johannesburg, as an example. Demand grew by about 6% a year on average in the five years to 2016.

In 2016 Rea Vaya catered for about 50 000 passenger trips a day. This equates to about 1 100 daily boardings per kilometre of busway, but it’s far less than the average of 8 000 for comparable systems in Africa, Asia and Latin America.

The productivity of each bus is low. Travel distances are long because of apartheid spatial planning and low densities. Seat turnover along the route is low and most passengers use the buses at peak times. The result is that Johannesburg and Cape Town have had to subsidise their BRT systems much more than planned.

Subsidy expectations came from using some Latin American cities, which operate with zero subsidy, as a benchmark. Planners expected fare revenues to cover direct operating costs. For Rea Vaya, the direct cost recovery ratio is only about 30% and for Cape Town’s MyCiTi just over 40%.

Subsidies in itself is not the problem. Subsidies for public transport are widely accepted as a way of making cities work better and protecting the environment.

The issue is that South Africa’s BRT subsidies are too high and haven’t produced the desired results. One senses from the minister’s comments that government’s appetite for subsidising what are seen as underperforming systems is waning. Unless the entire public transport system makes a better impact, the programme is likely to stall.

What can be done

Cities have relatively little room for growing revenues by raising fares. Recent research has shown that BRT demand in the Gauteng cities of Johannesburg, Ekurhuleni and Tshwane is very sensitive to fares. Higher fares would also exclude the poorest passengers, which would not help to make the transport system more equitable.

The solution is to improve passenger numbers by bringing BRT closer to where people live, work and play. South African cities have lower population densities than cities in Latin America. The demand for transport in South Africa is lower per square kilometre.

One way to bring people and BRT closer together is to develop housing along transport routes. This is already happening to a limited extent in Johannesburg’s Corridors of Freedom initiative. Mixed land use should also improve the productivity of buses and infrastructure.

Precincts served by BRT should also be made easier for pedestrians to use and more attractive to investors.

Bringing quality public transport within reach of more people requires more than just BRT. Recent studies show that existing and potential BRT users in Johannesburg value frequent, easily accessible transport and low fares more than short travel times. They want short walks to public transport. In other words, they want what minibus-taxis are already providing.

Bringing upgraded minibus-taxis into the formal network could greatly expand the number of people benefiting from investment in public transport.

South Africa should be putting more energy into integrating BRTs better with other public transport systems, including municipal buses, minibus-taxis and e-hail services like Uber. It should be working towards common cashless fare systems and easy transfers. Extending the special BRT corridors could follow at a slower pace.

Lastly, cities will have to find ways to raise additional revenues for public transport. These might include charging for the use and parking of cars in congested areas, or partnering with property developers to help build transport interchanges as commercial ventures. Pulling this off will require a wider conversation around whether South Africa wants the benefits of better public transport, and how it will pay for that.

The ConversationThe expansion and operation of bus rapid transit systems in South African municipalities can’t continue as it is. Government may withdraw its financial support unless cities can do three things: reduce costs, increase revenues and make the system work for more people.

Christo Venter, Associate Professor in Transport Engineering, University of Pretoria and Gary Hayes, PhD Candidate in Transportation Planning, Council for Scientific and Industrial Research

This article was originally published on The Conversation.

Wednesday, October 11, 2017

Fears of more school disruptions in Limpopo

Threats of another shutdown in Vuwani as matric exams near

By Sune Payne
12 October 2017
Photo of Parliament
The visitors’ entrance to the Parliament of South Africa. Photo: Ashraf Hendricks
A top-level Committee meeting at Parliament on Tuesday heard that another shutdown could happen soon again in the volatile region of Vuwani, Limpopo.

Members raised concerns about the implications for learners, especially matriculants who are nearing the start of their final examinations. Vuwani has 1,579 matriculants. Matric learners have fewer than 20 days until the start of final examinations.

The Portfolio Committee on Basic Education had called a joint meeting with the Departments of Basic Education, Safety and Security, Cooperative Governance and Traditional Affairs (COGTA) and Intelligence to discuss a status report on protests in Vuwani

Sporadic protests have been ongoing since 2016 when residents shut down the area and held protests against plans to incorporate Vuwani into the Lim345 municipality. Protesters have made it clear that they wish to remain part of the Makhado municipality.

Minister for Basic Education, Angie Motshekga, said protests in Vuwani were about municipal demarcation and had nothing to do with education. But because of the implications for learners, the Department would do its best to accommodate learners who have missed school due to the unrest, she said.

Also at the meeting was COGTA Minister Des van Rooyen, who serves as Chairperson of the joint Inter Ministerial Task team on the Vuwani unrest set up by President Jacob Zuma.

Van Rooyen agreed that the root cause of the ongoing Vuwani protests is demarcation and that the Demarcation Act of 1998 needs to be reviewed.

However, the Committee’s immediate concern was the effect that further violence would have on schooling, which has been disrupted repeatedly by community protests. Shortly before last year’s matriculation exams, a number of schools in the area were torched.

Beauty Mutheiwana, head of the Limpopo Department of Education, said plans were in place for learners to make up the time they had missed following the latest protests.

Matric learners have already missed 19 days of trial examinations, but the province had a plan to make them up and complete trial examinations between 9 and 20 October, said Mutheiwana.
The DA’s Ian Ollis questioned how learners would be able to prepare for their final exams if the trial exams ended on the 20th, and final examinations are due to start on the 24th.

Mutheiwana told the committee that a Spring School had been held for affected Vuwani learners and there will be Saturday schools throughout October.

Department of Basic Education Director General Mathanzima Mweli told the committee, “It is a bit difficult, but that is the situation we find ourselves in.”

Major General Zeph Mkhwanazi, the head of Public Order Policing (POP), told the committee that “deploying national police, especially for examinations” would be looked into.

He responded to MPs concerns about safety by confirming that the local police and POP officials are monitoring the situation. In its presentation, the police (SAPS) confirmed that four suspects were arrested during the shutdown this year. SAPS conceded that if a solution was not found to address the demarcation issue in Vuwani, the threat remained of further teaching and learning disruptions which would affect final examinations.

Although there were no incidents of schools being burnt during the most recent Vuwani protests in September, MPs recalled that 29 schools were burnt during last year’s unrest and wanted to know what SAPS was doing to ensure this did not reoccur.

The Committee also considered the report and recommendations of the South African Human Rights Commission (SAHRC), which conducted its own investigation. Motshekga agreed to implement its findings where possible.
Produced for GroundUp by Notes from the House.

Published originally on GroundUp .

Freak storm in Gauteng leaves residents without electricity, water and toilets

I am just glad to be alive, says 70-year-old

By Ihsaan Haffejee
11 October 2017
Photo of a flattened house
A young boy stands in the remains of a home after the freak storm hit Mayibuye near Krugersdorp, west of Johannesburg. Photo: Ihsaan Haffejee
When fierce winds started to lift the roof of her home, Isabella Dikupe grabbed her two children and fled. “We ran out of the house into the open field across the road and waited out in the open until it was over,” said Dikupe.

She made it out just in time. Seconds later the roof was ripped off by the wind. “I just saw huge sheets of metal flying in the air like they were paper. It was terrifying,” she said.
The roof of Isabella Dikupe’s home was ripped off by fierce winds in the storm that hit Mayibuye near Krugersdorp. Photo: Ihsaan Haffejee
Dikupe, of Mayibuye near Krugersdorp, was among hundreds of people affected by the freak storm that hit Gauteng on Monday, killing one person. Homes, shopping malls, hospitals and schools were severely damaged on the West Rand.

Jonas Pholo, Dikupe’s neighbour, said it was a miracle that no one on the property was hurt or killed. “Just look at this,” he said pointing to a pile of rubble. “There used to be a house here. Luckily, the people who live here were at work when the storm hit.”

“Now my worry is that we have no electricity and the water supply has also been affected. These massive trees were uprooted and landed on the power lines, and I think some of the water pipes have been damaged as well,” said Pholo.

Stranded without electricity, the residents collected firewood from the trees that had been blown over.
Elizabeth Tsotsete, who is 70 years old, was forced to spend Monday night outside as her roof was blown off during the storm. Photo: Ihsaan Haffejee
Elizabeth Tsotsete also lost the roof of her home. The 70-year-old spent the night out in the open and kept warm by making a small fire. “I am just glad to be alive … My house can be repaired and my things can be replaced, but a life can never be replaced,” said Tsotsete. A neighbour has offered his garage to her as temporary accommodation.
Patricia Mariben shows the remains of her outside toilet. Running water and sanitation has become a problem for a number of residents. Photo: Ihsaan Haffejee
Several residents said their outside toilets were destroyed, leaving them without proper sanitation.
Twenty-year-old Griffis Seokwang hid under some furniture during the storm. “I was so relieved when it was all over. So happy to have not been killed. But later that night I had difficulties falling asleep,” said Seokwang.
Laerskool Protearif in Krugersdorp was extensively damaged and has had to be closed. Photo: Ihsaan Haffejee
Laerskool Protearif in Mayibuye suffered extensive damage. MEC for Education Panyaza Lesufi said the school would have to be closed for the rest of the school year. “We have asked parents to accommodate our interim arrangement which is to relocate these learners to two schools nearby in the area.”
Lesufi said other schools were also affected in Muldersdrift and Ekurhuleni.

Published originally on GroundUp .