Thursday, June 29, 2017

Gupta-owned company blocks improved health-care in Mpumalanga

This story exemplifies how state capture affects poor people

By Nathan Geffen
28 June 2017
Photo of clinic
This clinic in Hendrina, Mpumalanga, is 95% complete according to a report. The failure of a Gupta-owned company to pay the company responsible for building the clinic means that it is not clear when it will open. Photo supplied
Kwazamakuhle clinic in Hendrina was supposed to open in April. This 24-hour facility will improve health-care for approximately 20,000 people living in this Mpumalanga Province township. But three months later it remains unfinished with no indication of when it will be ready.

The clinic is incomplete because Optimum Coal, a company owned by the Gupta family, failed to pay the company responsible for building the facility. The building of the clinic is part of Optimum’s social and labour commitments in terms of the Mining Charter. All this was explained in a GroundUp article published in December.

Now court documents obtained by GroundUp show Optimum’s cavalier approach to its contractual obligations. Yet there appears to be not the slightest effort by the Department of Mineral Resources (DMR) to take action against Optimum. Another story of Gupta shenanigans might leave readers jaded, but this story exemplifies how state capture affects poor people.

As described in our previous article, Optimum committed to paying for the new clinic. Three amounts had to be paid to the company building the clinic, Re-Action Consulting: R5.6 million on 7 January 2016, another R5.6 million on 16 March 2016, and R3.8 million in August 2016. The first two tranches were paid while Optimum was owned by Glencore. It was then bought by Gupta-owned Tegeta, which failed to make the August payment as well as additional management fees owed to Re-Action.

Nevertheless Re-Action continued to build the clinic using its own funds. However, it has drawn a line in the sand that the finishing touches to the clinic will not be completed nor the facility handed over to the health department until it is paid the money it is owed.

Following months of demands for payment, Re-Action initiated litigation against Optimum in the High Court in Johannesburg. It is asking for Optimum to be wound up on the basis that it is unable to pay its debts.

The court record shows how Optimum has stalled the payment by insisting on documentation from Re-Action and then, upon receipt of this documentation, requesting additional documentation.

Optimum’s own consultant says pay

Presumably in preparation for the defence of its court case, in March Optimum hired Accura Development Management to assess the “general quality and outstanding work” of the Hendrina clinic. The report confirms Re-Action’s view of things. It found that the clinic was 95% finished and of acceptable quality. The report contains a list of unfinished items, but these appear minor and could certainly not have been expected to have been ready by the time the August 2016 payment was due to Re-Action.

The Accura report further makes it clear that the payment due to Re-Action in August 2016 was not dependent on the clinic being complete. Accura recommends: “Optimum should withhold 5% of the project value as retention which must reduce to 1.25% on practical completion and 0% on final completion.” The 5% retention has already been deducted from the amounts that Re-Action has invoiced Optimum, and for which it is now litigating.

At first Optimum did not make the Accura report available to Re-Action. Optimum quoted from the report in its correspondence with Re-Action in order to justify its non-payment. In the court papers Re-Action describes these quotes as “selective” and “misleading”. To eventually get the Accura report, Re-Action had to make a discovery application under the Uniform Rules of Court (download it here).

Is Optimum solvent?

It is unclear why Optimum has failed to pay Re-Action. Its court papers offer a series of excuses that are “spurious” as described by Craig Assheton-Smith, Re-Action’s attorney. Assheton-Smith says Optimum’s actions are “clearly designed to delay” a payment that is contractually clear. He says there is no “bona fide” dispute, and concludes that Optimum is unable to pay.

In Optimum’s court papers it denies that it is unable to pay its debts and claims to have placed the disputed funds in its attorney’s trust account, but it provides no evidence for this. In fact in a letter dated 19 January 2017, Optimum’s attorney states that there is no obligation to maintain the funds in the trust account.

We asked Optimum if it was solvent, as well as several other questions, but the company’s attorney merely responded: “The matter is currently the object of litigation. In light thereof we do not intend to respond to your queries.”

A mining expert told GroundUp the amount of money at stake here was “small change” in this industry. In an industry where transactions in the millions of rands are common and the completion of a public clinic would be a much needed PR win for the Gupta family, it is unclear what other explanation there can be for the non-payment other than Optimum having a serious cash-flow problem.

No enforcement from Government

Last year President Jacob Zuma threatened to remove Lonmin’s mining rights if it did not hurry up with the implementation of its housing plan. Optimum appears to be under no such pressure.
On 7 February representatives of the DMR, Optimum and Re-Action met at Optimum’s offices to try to resolve the impasse. Optimum’s executive, George van der Merwe, once more said that the company required documents from Re-Action before payment could be made, but he was unable to say what documents these were. It was agreed that Optimum would supply these within seven days. It did not, and the DMR took no action. (Later, in March, Optimum sent a request for a list of documents, irrelevant to the payment due, which Re-Action nevertheless for the most part says it provided.)

We emailed a short list of questions to the Ministries of Mineral Resources and Health on Tuesday morning. Despite extensive follow-up efforts, neither had commented by the time of publication, more than 26 hours after our initial enquiries. No one answered the switchboard line of the Mpumalanga Department of Health.

Re-Action’s lawyers asked for the case to be heard urgently, but this was denied by the court. It is therefore likely to be years before this matter is concluded, Re-Action is paid, and the clinic is handed over.

In a nutshell, Optimum, perhaps because it is short of liquid assets, is unable or unwilling to pay for the clinic. It is in effect being protected by the DMR. (It’s a matter for speculation what has happened to Optimum’s money.) This is state capture at work. And the people of Hendrina are the victims.
Correction: The article originally gave the incorrect population for Kwazamakuhle (the township at Hendrina).

Published originally on GroundUp .

Understanding the OGOD judgment

The role of religion in public schools is not settled quite yet

By Safura Abdool Karim
29 June 2017
Photo of street names
Image copied for fair use from <a href="">The Centre for Public Education</a>.
On Wednesday the Gauteng High Court handed down a judgment on the role and place of religion in public schools.

The case was initially brought by the Organisasie vir Godsdienste-Onderrig en Demokrasie (OGOD), an association that deals with constitutional violations concerning religion and public schools, against six public schools in Gauteng and the Western Cape. However, the relief sought by OGOD was to apply to any public school within South Africa, not just the six listed in their application. The Ministers of Education and Justice were also joined in proceedings. Also, a number of civil society organisations, including CASAC (Council for the Advancement of the South African Constitution), the trade union Solidarity and Afriforum were joined as friends of the court.

CASAC, represented by SECTION27, argued that some of the practices adopted by schools are inconsistent with the Constitution. Other amicus, Cause for Justice, the South African Council for the Protection and Promotion of Religious Rights and Freedom and Afriforum argued in favour of maintaining a place for religion within public schools over a secular approach.

In essence, the OGOD’s application asked the court for a declaration confirming that certain types of activity are breaches of the National Religion Policy and also unconstitutional. These include promoting only one religion, associating the school with a particular religion and requiring a learner to disclose adherence to a specific religion. OGOD also sought interdicts against seventy-one different kinds of conduct by schools, including “having a value that learners strive towards faith”, referring to any deity in a school song and prayers dedicated to a specific God, on the grounds that this conduct did not comply with national policies and legislation. OGOD also attempted to interdict the teaching of creationism.

The schools relied on section 15(2) of the Constitution. Under section 15, religious observances may take place at state and state-aided institutions if they are conducted in an equitable manner and that attendance is free and voluntary. The Schools Act makes a similar provision for religious observance provided that it is in line with the Constitution.

The schools argued that they were entitled to the right to freedom of religion under the Constitution and to have an ethos that referenced a particular religion. Also, the schools argued that section 15(2) allowed for religious practices and observances to be conducted at schools, if students and staff attendance is free and voluntary as opposed to compulsory or coerced.

The court found that the interdicts sought by OGOD could not be granted on procedural grounds, namely that the application had been incorrectly formulated to rely directly on the Constitution rather than the specific school policies and rules as formulated by the School Governing Bodies (SGBs). Also, the court found that the provincial governments should have been joined as parties to the application. So the court did not rule specifically on whether the conduct highlighted by OGOD, including the teaching of creationism and the handing out of Bibles was unlawful.

Despite finding that the interdicts could not be granted, the court did decide on a narrower issue, where a public school endorses one religion to the exclusion of others. The six schools joined in the application all based their ethos on Christian values. The question the court considered was whether this adoption and endorsement of Christianity by public schools was in line with the Constitution and the recognition of diversity.

The court found that there was no law or provision in the Constitution which gave public schools and SGBs the right to adopt an ethos from one religion to the exclusion of others. All that the laws provided for was that SGBs could make rules that provided for religious policies and observances to be conducted on an equitable basis. This means that schools must treat different religions with an “even-hand”, which includes not favouring one and excluding other religions.

The court held that public schools may not adopt one religion to the exclusion of all others. The court made a declaratory order confirming that a public school cannot promote that it adheres predominantly to only one religion to the exclusion of others or hold itself out as promoting the interests of one religion over others.

In essence, this means that public schools may still conduct religious observances and promote religious values provided that these observances and values recognise a diversity of religions (including atheism or an absence of belief) and do not place one religion above all others. How this practically impacts the formulation of a school’s ethos remains to be seen.

Published originally on GroundUp .

Tuesday, June 27, 2017

White farmer evicted by heavily armed Zim riot police VIDEO

Under ZUNU PF rule white farmers have been the source of many misfortunes, evictions, land grabs and killings. The latest forceful eviction of another white farmer is reminiscent of the brutal, ugly and often violent removal of white farmers during the 2000 Mugabe land grabs.

Robert Smart, a farmer outside Rusape town, was forcefully evicted from his farm. Several workers and villagers stood in solidarity with the threatened farmer and reports indicate that the police used teargas, and live ammunition to disperse crowds. There are reports of police assaulting people, although no serious injuries are reported.

The police and ZANU-PF youth ransacked the house, and massive looting occurred. The defiant police also instructed laborers to slaughter a goat and prepare a meal for them, while they removed goods from the residence.

At the end of the day, there was nothing left and the life of yet another white farmer ruined through the actions of the obnoxious and defiant Mugabe regime.

While in South Africa farm murders are devasting and on the increase, can the same dreadful and often brutal evictions or land grabs be on the agenda.


Published on South Africa Today

The Fall of South Africa – VIDEO

The mere mention of South Africa in a discussion provokes deep images of institutional racism, discrimination and violence. Stefan Molyneux is joined by Simon Roche for an in-depth look at the controversial history of South Africa, the untold story of Apartheid, rising criminality, an astronomical murder rate, President Jacob Zuma’s reign of terror, the epidemic slaughter of white farmers, Afrikaner land confiscation and the growing possibility of civil war.

Simon Roche is Head of the Office of the HQ of the world’s largest non-state civil defense organization, Suidlanders of South Africa. Once an ANC activist, Simon Roche now works with Suidlanders to prepare for impending catastrophe in the Rainbow Nation.


Published on South Africa Today

Newly repaired community hall torched

City officials to meet with Joe Slovo Park leaders in a bid to end protests that started after shack demolitions

By Barbara Maregele
27 June 2017
Photo of fire debris
Joe Slovo Community Hall was torched by protesters on Monday night. Photo: Barbara Maregele
Joe Slovo Park community leaders and representatives from the City of Cape Town are expected to meet today over the recent spate of protests in the area.
On Sunday afternoon, a group of protesters torched a MyCiTi bus after the City’s Anti-Land Invasion Unit demolished about 20 shacks.

At about 8pm on Monday, protesters burnt the community centre and a small hall on Democracy Way which was being used as a local clinic and church. The Joe Slovo community hall was also gutted.
By Tuesday, City officials had cordoned off the community hall to assess the damage and clear debris. Inside, charred rubble and melted plastic chairs were scattered across the floor; the kitchen was gutted, and the bathrooms badly vandalised.

A female firefighter, who asked not to be identified, said she is traumatised after being caught in a tense standoff between protesters throwing stones and police firing tear gas.

“I was so scared, because it was the first time I experienced this. At one point, I was separated from my team and my eyes started burning. Later, I found out that it was teargas. I’m still coughing,” she said.

Loyiso Nkohla, the City’s community liaison officer, said he could not comment on the matter until officials had met with community leaders. He said for safety reasons a closed meeting would be held at Milnerton police station.

Community leader Cowen Banjatwa said the people whose shacks were demolished are from Ward 4 and that they cannot afford the rents in the area.

Banjatwa said he woke to the sound of people shouting and the smell of teargas. “My eyes and my wife’s eyes were burning in our shack. Now, people don’t have places to stay and they are angry. I don’t encourage what happened, but we need to sit down and discuss with the City to find solutions before this continues.”

“There is a great need for housing here and nothing has been done about it for years,” he said.
Phoenix resident Gavin Williams, whose formal house is directly behind the torched Democracy Way hall, said he feared for the safety of his family on the night of the protest. “We heard something happening outside, people shouting and going on. Then we smelt the smoke and the teargas. The neighbours all came out and started throwing buckets of water on the hall because the fire was about to jump over to our houses.”

“We had to take our four-month-old baby away because of all the smoke. Even the fire brigade was scared to come … We had to go and fetch them. The police also only came when everything was done,” he said.

Lorenzo Hutchinson said protesters started to stone them when he and his neighbours were trying to douse the flames. “We were trying to save our homes, but they started throwing us with stones. We have nothing to do with what they are protesting about, but they attacked us. That’s not right,” he said.

Mayoral Committee Member for Safety and Security JP Smith said the City has spent years transforming the hall into “one the community can be proud of”.

“The hall has been severely damaged and will be closed until further notice. The fire damage is extensive, resulting in almost all of the ceiling boards in the main hall being destroyed. This is hard to swallow when [on Monday] the Recreation and Parks Department finished extensive repairs to all ceilings boards and doors in this facility after years of motivating for funding,” he said.

“The nearest community halls are the Summer Greens Hall and the Milnerton Hall, and the City’s Recreation and Parks Department will accommodate users of the Joe Slovo Hall,” said Smith.
A small hall used as a local clinic and a church on Democracy Way were completed gutted. Photo: Barbara Maragele

Correction: The headline of this article was changed. Originally it incorrectly said the newly repaired hall was on Democracy Way.

Published originally on GroundUp .

Monday, June 26, 2017

How South Africa can stop political interference in who gets prosecuted

File 20170626 304 14dqqh2

Shaun Abrahams, Head of the South Africa’s National Prosecuting Authority.
Reuters/Siphiwe Sibeko

South Africa’s National Prosecuting Authority has been embroiled in an almost decade-long battle over the prosecution of President Jacob Zuma on 783 charges that include fraud, racketeering and corruption.

The charges are related to controversial post-apartheid arms deal.

Why has the prosecuting authority failed to prosecute? The reason is that the law has struggled to create the independence necessary for prosecutors to pursue charges against prominent members of the executive. South Africa isn’t alone in this. The US has struggled too.

The real problem is that political pressure can get in the way of prosecution. Members of the executive, including the president, can interfere with the head of the prosecuting authority - the National Director of Public Prosecutions. Two examples stand out: the case brought against South Africa’s former police commissioner Jackie Selebi which eventually resulted in a trial and a prison sentence. The second is the Zuma arms deal case.

My suggestion is to establish a separate special prosecuting office that deals only with political cases – that is, those involving members of the executive and the legislature. The usefulness of a special prosecutor was stress tested in 1973 during the US President Richard Nixon debacle. The purpose is to create a greater measure of independence, although the Nixon case also showed that it can be subject to political interference. He had three removed.

Watergate nevertheless illustrated why a separate prosecuting capacity targeting the executive arm of government is important.

But how would a special prosecutor be appointed in South Africa? There are various options. It could, for example, be left to the Chief Justice or Parliament to decide when a matter demands the appointment of a special prosecutor.

A system like this wouldn’t completely remove the potential for interference, but it would ensure it was minimised. It would also free the director from being embroiled in political battles, enabling them to concentrate on their core job which should be to increase the overall effectiveness of the prosecuting authority as well as public confidence in its abilities.

Room for political interference

In South Africa the efficacy of the entire criminal justice system rests on the ability of the prosecuting authority to do its job properly. This is because it enjoys a monopoly over the prosecution of crime. The constitution mandates it to be the gatekeeper – it alone decides which criminal cases go to trial.

Every year the prosecuting authority receives hundreds of thousands of cases prepared by the South African police service. The bulk of them are ordinary offences, like murder, robbery and assault committed by ordinary people against other ordinary people. Very few involve prominent state officials.

The prosecuting authority does receive cases against members of the executive. But the number of political cases are a drop in the ocean compared to ordinary cases. They nevertheless risk derailing the proper and effective functioning of the prosecuting authority.

In reality, the prosecuting authority is only quasi-independent. This is for two reasons.

The first is that the language describing the independence of the prosecuting authority in the Constitution isn’t very clear.

In terms of the constitution, the Minister of Justice and Constitutional Development has final responsibility over the prosecuting authority. Case law has held that the minister can’t instruct the prosecuting authority to prosecute or not, but is entitled to be kept informed about cases that the public might be interested in or that involve important aspects of legal authority.

Despite this innocuous clarification, ministerial oversight leaves open a gap for interference.

The other major flaw in South Africa’s system is that there’s room for political interference in the way in which the director is appointed. The director is appointed by the president. The president can make the decision without any consultation.

The director is the embodiment of the institutional independence of the prosecuting authority and the incumbent is meant to play an executive role rather than a political one. The director is responsible for determining prosecution directives and prosecution policy. He or she may intervene in decisions to prosecute and may review decisions to prosecute – or not to prosecute – after consulting with provincial directors of public prosecutions.

But given that the president appoints the director, the prosecuting authority is in a difficult position. To perform its functions effectively, it must assert an independence it doesn’t enjoy.

Interference with the director

The office of the director has been the subject of controversy over the past 18 years, with the appointment and subsequent removal of four directors. Some of this controversy has centred on whether the prosecuting authority would, or wouldn’t, prosecute certain political cases. Vusi Pikoli was removed by then President Thabo Mbeki for prosecuting Jackie Selebi.

The fact that these types of cases are within the purview of the director provides grounds for political interference over the office. This interferes with its overall performance.

So far the debate about increasing the independence of the director has centred on how the appointment is made, and how an incumbent can be removed. One suggestion has been that a properly constituted committee made up of different stakeholders does the interviews and shortlists candidates. On the removal of an incumbent, there’s been a suggestion that the president’s right to suspend a director without consultation is removed.

The ConversationBolstering the appointment and removal procedures are important and should be done. But it’s not enough to focus on the individual director. South Africa needs to remove the incentive for political interference over the director. That’s the only way the efficacy of the prosecuting authority can be enhanced.

Jameelah Omar, Lecturer in Criminal Justice, Department of Public Law, University of Cape Town

This article was originally published on The Conversation.

The iPhone turns 10 – and it's isolated us, not united us

File 20170626 27196 1fa0am3

It was supposed to bring us all together.
Rokas Tenys/

Sometime around 2011 or 2012, it suddenly became very easy to predict what people would be doing in public places: Most would be looking down at their phones.

For years, mobile phones weren’t much to look at. The screens were small, and users needed to press the same key several times to type a single letter in a text. Then, 10 years ago – on June 29, 2007 – Apple released the first iPhone.

“Every once in a while a revolutionary product comes along that changes everything,” former Apple, Inc. CEO Steve Jobs said during the iPhone’s introductory news conference.

Within six years, the majority of Americans owned a smartphone – embracing the new technology perhaps faster than any other previous technology had been adopted.

Today, smartphones seem indispensable. They connect us to the internet, give us directions, allow us to quickly fire off texts and – as I discovered one day in spring 2009 – can even help you find the last hotel room in Phoenix when your plane is grounded by a dust storm.

Yet research has shown that this convenience may be coming at a cost. We seem to be addicted to our phones; as a psychology researcher, I have read study after study concluding that our mental health and relationships may be suffering. Meanwhile, the first generation of kids to grow up with smartphones is now reaching adulthood, and we’re only beginning to see the adverse effects.

Sucked in

In the beginning, sociologist Sherry Turkle explained, smartphone users would huddle together, sharing what was on their phones.

“As time has gone on, there’s been less of that and more of what I call the alone together phenomenon. It has turned out to be an isolating technology,” she said in the 2015 documentary “Steve Jobs: The Man in the Machine.” “It’s a dream machine and you become fascinated by the world you can find on these screens.”

This is the new normal: Instead of calling someone, you text them. Instead of getting together for dinner with friends to tell them about your recent vacation, you post the pictures to Facebook. It’s convenient, but it cuts out some of the face-to-face interactions that, as social animals, we crave.

A 2007 ABC News segment on the iPhone.

More and more studies suggest that electronic communication – unlike the face-to-face interaction it may replace – has negative consequences for mental health. One study asked college students to report on their mood five times a day. The more they had used Facebook, the less happy they were. However, feeling unhappy didn’t lead to more Facebook use, which suggests that Facebook was causing unhappiness, not vice versa.

Another study examined the impact of smartphones on relationships. People whose partners were more frequently distracted by their phones were less satisfied with their relationships, and – perhaps as a result – were more likely to feel depressed.

Nevertheless, we can’t stop staring at our phones. In his book “Irresistible,” marketing professor Adam Alter makes a convincing case that social media and electronic communication are addictive, involving the same brain pathways as drug addiction. In one study, frequent smartphone users asked to put their phones face down on the table grew increasingly anxious the more time passed. They couldn’t stand not looking at their phones for just a few minutes.

iGen: The smartphone generation

The rapid market saturation of smartphones produced a noticeable generational break between those born in the 1980s and early 1990s (called millennials) and those born in 1995 and later (called iGen or GenZ). iGen is the first generation to spend their entire adolescence with smartphones.

Although iGen displays many positive characteristics such as lower alcohol use and more limited teen sexuality, the trends in their mental health are more concerning. In the American Freshman Survey, the percentage of entering college students who said they “felt depressed” in the last year doubled between 2009 and 2016. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention reported a sharp increase in the teen suicide rate over the same time period when smartphones became common. The pattern is certainly suspicious, but at the moment it’s difficult to tell whether these trends are caused by smartphones or something else. (It’s a question I’m trying to answer with my current research.)

Many also wonder if staring at screens will negatively impact adolescents’ budding social skills. At least one study suggests it will. Sixth graders who attended a screen-free camp for just five days improved their skills at reading emotions on others’ faces significantly more than those who spent those five days with their normal high level of screen use. Like anything else, social skills get better with practice. If iGen gets less practice, their social skills may suffer.

Smartphones are a tool, and like most tools, they can be used in positive ways or negative ones. In moderation, smartphones are a convenient – even crucial – technology.

The ConversationYet a different picture has also emerged over the past decade: Interacting with people face to face usually makes us happy. Electronic communication often doesn’t.

Jean Twenge, Professor of Psychology, San Diego State University

This article was originally published on The Conversation.

Joe Slovo Park residents torch MyCiTi bus after shacks demolished

Land occupation followed removal of school classrooms

By Barbara Maregele
26 June 2017
Photo of a woman
Parent Noxolo Mayeki, seen here standing on the site left vacant at Khozi Primary, says her seven-year-old is also not in school. Photo: Barbara Maregele.
It has been two weeks since the Western Cape Education Department (WCED) removed prefabricated classrooms from an unregistered school – Khozi Primary – in Joe Slovo Park, Milnerton.
Since then, people took the opportunity to erect shacks on the vacant land which belongs to the City of Cape Town.
On Sunday afternoon, a group of protesters torched a MyCiTi bus after the City’s Anti-Land Invasion Unit demolished about 20 shacks.
The City has condemned the attack in a statement, saying that “the bus driver thankfully escaped unharmed” and that attacks on the City’s public transport system limited its financial resources. “Destroying what has already been achieved deprives the communities who are dependent on public transport. The MyCiTi buses operating along Route 261 are being deviated until further notice,” the City said.

Overcrowded school

Meanwhile, Marconi Beam Primary, the only primary school in Joe Slovo Park, has been dealing with overcrowded classes – with 47 learners per classroom, according to school principal Bukelwa Plaatjies.
“We have taken in most of the children who were at that school [Khozi] as the Department’s plan B. I understand the parents’ frustrations and their reasons for wanting another school. Every year, my school is overcrowded and there are kids who remain on the waiting list until the following year,” said Plaatjies.
On 7 June, dozens of parents demonstrated outside Khozi Primary when the education department, with the help of private security, removed several prefabricated classrooms.
That same evening, Plaatjies’ office was torched. The blaze gutted her office and destroyed important information about learners.
In May GroundUp reported that the school, which accommodated nearly 400 learners, was opened by the community after children were turned away from Marconi Beam. Parents wanted the school registered, and for the WCED to provide essentials such as chairs, desks, and crayons. But the Department said its lease on the land had ended and the mobile classrooms were needed at other schools.
Thabisa Dyantyi lives in a one-room shack with her five-year-old daughter, a road away from Marconi Primary. Her daughter used to go to Khozi, but has now been at home for the past two weeks.
“There is no space for Grade R at Marconi, and I don’t have money to send her to a school in Dunoon. I can’t send her back to creche so she’ll have to stay at home for the rest of the year if the [WCED] doesn’t find her a space,” she said.
Another parent, Noxolo Mayeki, said her seven-year-old Liyema, is also not in school. “Since Khozi, my child had a place to go to and learn during the day. Now, he just plays outside,” she said.
Mayeki said Marconi had taken in some of the learners, but she was not prepared to send Liyema to an overcrowded school. “I won’t endorse children going to that school because it’s already so full. How can they learn like that?” she asked.
Plaatjies said the education department had given three mobile classrooms to accommodate Khozi’s learners at Marconi Beam and Tygerhof Primary [also in Milnerton], but some parents were opposed to this. “Some parents waited until the day the classrooms were removed to bring their children to Marconi. A week ago, we accommodated almost all of those learners. At least now the learners are settling in and we are working out ways to make this work,” she said.

Education department responds

WCED spokesman Paddy Attwell acknowledged that Marconi “was under pressure.” Attwell said that their district offices had arranged for the Khozi learners to be placed at Marconi Beam, Tygerhof, Silverleaf and Du Noon primary schools.
“Unfortunately, certain parents have ignored guidelines that officials provided on where to place learners. Some parents have ignored requests to move children into mobile classrooms at Marconi Beam,” he said.
Attwell said that at the request of Minister Debbie Schäfer, officials met with community representatives on Friday morning to investigate the need for another school in the area.
Photo of empty land
Vacant City land where the classrooms once stood. Photo: Barbara Maregele

Published originally on GroundUp .

Sunday, June 25, 2017

How a South African company turned constraints into global strengths

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SAB’s resilience has allowed it to become a key player globally.

On 28 September 2016, the shareholders of South African born international brewer, SABMiller, approved the company’s acquisition by Anheuser-Busch InBev for $104 billion (R1.5 trillion). The deal paved the way for the creation of what is now by far the world’s largest brewing company.

For a company that started out selling beer to miners in Johannesburg during the gold rush of the late 1800s, it’s been quite a journey. But how did a brewing company from a developing country rise to compete with the multinational brewing behemoths from the developed world?

A series of interviews with senior executives and managers who presided over the growth of what was then South African Breweries’ (SAB) rapid expansion during and after the 1990s are revealing. After building up a monopoly-like position in the beer market in South Africa, the company went in search of new markets. It used its experience in South Africa in its entry strategies abroad.

SAB’s path reflects the differences between multinationals from developed and emerging markets in terms of location choices, sequencing, time horizons and motivation.

A two-phased expansion path emerges to explain the remarkable success story. The first pillar to SAB’s international expansion was a focus on developing markets. Coming from a developing country itself, the company would cope better with emerging market conditions than brewers from the developed world. These ventures became a powerful base for SAB to take on developed markets.

The second was to expand into developed countries. This became necessary as it became clear the company was over exposed to emerging markets.

The first phase of expansion

After a few early forays into South Africa’s neighbouring countries prior to 1993, SAB executives realised that the company could exploit its knowledge of institutional shortcomings in its home country. It would use this experience to adapt more easily than its competitors to conditions in developing countries.

And so began the first part of its internationalisation strategy: a rapid expansion into emerging markets worldwide.

Through a series of acquisitions and joint ventures throughout the 1990s, SAB gained a foothold in various countries in Africa, Eastern Europe and Asia. Although many were geographically distant (like Hungary, Czech Republic, China and India), they echoed South Africa in terms of their socioeconomic development. Eastern Europe, for example, was still emerging from political reform in the wake of communism, and infrastructural, institutional and economic weaknesses persisted.

By expanding into countries that shared socioeconomic characteristics with South Africa, SAB was able to make use of its experience to turn a perceived drawback – institutional weakness – into a strength. As one respondent explained:

To be quite frank, we actually accepted that we would live with the political risk and poor institutions. We didn’t really shy away from high-risk countries unless, of course, there was a raging civil war that we would have to wait to subside.

Once it had established this expansion plan, SAB diversified into developed markets such as Italy and the US. As one interviewee put it:

Investors became sceptical of companies whose only business was in emerging markets.

In 2002 it took a step closer to consolidating its position as a multinational brewing giant when it acquired US-based Miller Brewing Company. It became SABMiller.

Turning weakness into strength

The advantages that SAB gained from its experience in its home country are many. One was employee aptitude.

SAB employees had built up an extraordinary resilience, flexibility and entrepreneurial spirit through their exposure to the unsteady South African environment of the 1980s. As one executive said:

They survived labour trouble, survived interest rates at 25%, inflation at 16% to 17%, survived political disorder, political violence… That toughened you, toughened us.

This robustness, combined with an ability to connect with many different cultures, gave the company a valuable flexibility in its risk, location and investment choices.

Another strength was its ability to turn around neglected breweries and businesses. The experience it gained in South Africa, with its large rural population and pockets of poor infrastructure, meant that finding innovative ways to overcome challenges was embedded in the company’s DNA.

Another advantage the company gained was brand development and marketing ability. SAB was developed into a major operation without reliance on strong, globally-recognised brands. Using its home experience the company took brands it acquired in distant countries and built them into powerful national brands.

These became a base from which it launched into premium brands such as Grolsch and Peroni through acquisitions. This offset being over-invested in domestic brands.

SAB also had a philosophical edge over many competitors. It’s risk appetite was much bigger. By comparison a company like Anheuser-Busch had a conservative approach to risk and international expansion.

For example, Anheuser-Busch didn’t react to the rapidly changing global brewer consolidation until it was too late. And when it did, it realised that it had little emerging market experience.

This weakness meant that in 2008 Anheuser-Busch was unable to avoid a hostile takeover by InBev. This gave rise to AB Inbev, then the world’s largest brewer. AB Inbev, in turn, was compelled to make an offer for SABMiller to acquire complementary emerging market presence.

SABMiller’s long journey from the mine heaps of Johannesburg to global brewing colossus may appear to have come to an abrupt end after its acquisition by Anheuser-Busch InbevAB Inbev in 2016. But what’s clear is that its extraordinarily successful approach continues to hold many lessons for aspiring global companies from the developing world.

The Conversation_This piece was adapted from an academic article by John Luiz, Dustin Stringfellow and Anthea Jefthas that first appeared in the February 2017 issue of Global Strategy Journal, Volume 7, Issue 1 (83-103).

John Luiz, Professor of International Business Strategy & Emerging Markets, Graduate School of Business, University of Cape Town

This article was originally published on The Conversation.

Can we predict political uprisings?

Forecasting political unrest is a challenging task, especially in this era of post-truth and opinion polls.

Several studies by economists such as Paul Collier and Anke Hoeffler in 1998 and 2002 describe how economic indicators, such as slow income growth and natural resource dependence, can explain political upheaval. More specifically, low per capita income has been a significant trigger of civil unrest.

Economists James Fearon and David Laitin have also followed this hypothesis, showing how specific factors played an important role in Chad, Sudan and Somalia in outbreaks of political violence.

According to the International Country Risk Guide index, the internal political stability of Sudan fell by 15% in 2014, compared to the previous year. This decrease was after a reduction of its per capita income growth rate from 12% in 2012 to 2% in 2013.

By contrast, when the income per capita growth increased in 1997 compared to 1996, the score for political stability in Sudan increased by more than 100% in 1998. Political stability across any given year seems to be a function of income growth in the previous one.

When economics lie

But as the World Bank admitted, “economic indicators failed to predict Arab Spring”.

Usual economic performance indicators, such as gross domestic product, trade, foreign direct investment, showed higher economic development and globalisation of the Arab Spring countries over a decade. Yet, in 2010, the region witnessed unprecedented uprisings that caused the collapse of regimes such as those in Tunisia, Egypt and Libya.

In our 2016 study we used data for more than 100 countries for the 1984–2012 period. We wanted to look at criteria other than economics to better understand the rise of political upheavals.

We found out and quantified how corruption is a destabilising factor when youth (15-24 years old) exceeds 20% of adult population.

Let’s examine the two main components of the study: demographics and corruption.

Young and angry

The importance of demographics and its impact on political stability has been studied for years.

In his 1996 book, The Clash of Civilizations and the Remaking of World Order, US academic Samuel P. Huntington explained how youth are agents of change.

Several examples can be found throughout the early 2000s. Young people were particularly active in Yugoslavia’s Bulldozer Revolution, (2000), Georgia’s Rose Revolution (2003), the Ukraine’s Orange Revolution (2004), the Iranian Green Movement of the post-2009 presidential election, and finally during the Arab Spring (since 2011).

But a bulk of population being under 25 years old in a given country does not necessarily lead to revolution. It’s when leaders of such countries deceive and fail their younger citizens through systematic corruption, for instance, that the risk of upheaval is much higher.

Enter corruption

Political corruption allows non-democratic leaders to build political support through networks of dependency, extending the duration of their regimes.

A 2014 study by political scientists Natasha Neudorfer and Ulrike Theuerkauf, suggests the contrastability effects of corruption: the beneficiaries increase their income while a larger portion of the population feels the inequality as economic growth and investment stagnate. It particularly affects the youth population who are not yet inserted in the system and have fewer economic opportunities.

Autocratic corrupt states also allocate a larger portion of their budget to military and security fores, under-spending on education and health. This situation might stimulate youth adhesion to anti-establishment movements, including radical ones.

According to NIgerian scholar Freedom C. Onuoha, political corruption is behind the formation and durability of terrorist groups in Iraq, Syria and Nigeria. These groups succeeded in attracting the marginalised parts of the population that are mainly from the youth bulge.

But corruption alone, like age, is not creating political unrest. A combination of the right amount of youth within the overall population suffering from corruption is necessary.

The case of Iran

A good example is Iran. The country experienced one of the most significant political changes of the 20th century when the 1979 Islamic Revolution ended its monarchy and has been thriving on oil revenues since.

Oil revenue-dependency was less than 1% of total economy from 1970 to 1973. Substantial increase in oil prices from the mid-1970s led to a massive increase in the Iranian economy’s dependency on it – from 0.3% in 1973 to 31% in 1974 according to the World Bank.

In 2009, youth protested for months in support of the reformist Mousavi, creating the ‘Green Movement’.
Ahmed Jadallah/Reuters

Based on my calculations of the World Bank’s Health Nutrition and Population Statistics, the share of 15 to 24-year-olds among the overall adult population has been higher than 20% from 1960-2016 (with an exception of 19% in 2016).

For this time period, we observed a continuous increase in the youth bulge in Iran from 33% in 1970 to approximately 36% (one of the highest in Iran’s demographic history) in 1979 (World Bank Population Estimates and Projections, 2017).

With oil income growing along with a diversity of activities linked to its production and circulation, corruption – for which we do not have data before 1985 – has emerged as a way of life.

In 1997-98, the share of Iranians aged between 15 and 24 in the adult population reached 36% (World Bank Population Estimates and Projections, 2017). At the same time, Iranian politics experienced a significant change with the presidential election of Mohammad Khatami whose main support base was the youth.

Incidentally we observed that Khatami’s government was one of the most factionalised period of politics in Iran with frequent political crisis. In 2004, The New York Times noted that :

During his tenure, President Khatami complained that ‘a crisis every nine days’ made it hard to get anything accomplished.

This did not lead to a revolution but civil unrest has regularly affected political life including in 2009. World Bank Population Estimates and Projections show that the share of youth in Iran will drop to 11% by 2050, reducing the political risk of demographics in the presence of corruption in the future.

Additional factors

Using cases such as the Iranian one, we tried to understand how corruption and youth could lead to crisis.

We also took into account other drivers of conflict such as inequality, economic growth, investment rate, inflation, government spending, military spending, oil rents, trade, education, fertility rate, and democracy.

We controlled for specific differences between the countries we studied, such as geography, geopolitical situation, cultural and historical heritage, and religion. International attention and intervention of external powers were also taken into account. And we included events such as the 2008 global financial crisis and the 2003 Iraq war.

Table 1 illustrates the marginal effect of corruption on internal stability at different levels of youth bulge.
Mohammad Reza

Figure 1 illustrates the marginal effect of corruption on internal stability at different levels of youth bulge.
Mohammad Reza Farzanegan

Based on our main results, Table 1 and Figure 1 show average marginal effects of corruption on political stability at different levels of youth bulge. We are 90% confident that a youth bulge beyond 20% of adult population, on average, combined with high levels of corruption can significantly destabilise political systems within specific countries when other factors described above also taken into account. We are 99% confident about a youth bulge beyond 30% levels.

The ConversationOur results can help explain the risk of internal conflict and the possible time window for it happening. They could guide policy makers and international organisations in allocating their anti-corruption budget better, taking into account the demographic structure of societies and the risk of political instability.

Mohammad Reza Farzanegan, Professor of Economics of the Middle East, University of Marburg

This article was originally published on The Conversation.

It's hard to get rid of the governor of a central bank. Here's why

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South Africa’s former finance minister Pravin Gordhan chats with Lesetja Kganyago, governor of the country’s Reserve Bank.
Reuters/Siphiwe Sibeko

With the continued harassment of South Africa’s Finance Minister Pravin Gordhan, it has become patently clear that no institution will be spared in the wave of state capture that is sweeping through the country.

The finance ministry has been at the centre of this wave for nearly a year. The latest move against Gordhan comes against a backdrop of efforts to wrest control of this particular portfolio. The most spectacular was President Jacob Zuma’s decision in December 2015 to fire then Finance Minister Nhlanhla Nene and replace him with someone more agreeable to his plans.

That plan backfired. President Zuma had no option but to reappoint Gordhan, the previous Minister of Finance. But Gordhan is now back in the firing line after refusing to give ground to Zuma on some crucial issues. Rumours persist that the finance minister is about to be fired or charged – possibly even arrested – by the elite police unit, the Hawks.

Is the Governor of the SA Reserve Bank next? This consideration comes on the back of political attacks directed at the country’s central bank by senior members of the governing African National Congress (ANC) aligned with Zuma.

The Deputy Secretary General of the ANC Jessie Duarte has raised questions about the central bank’s role. She is suggesting that the bank serves partisan interests because it has private shareholders.

It has also emerged that Mosebenzi Zwane, the Minister of Mineral Resources, tabled a working paper to the Cabinet recommending that the power to issue banking licences should be taken away from the SA Reserve Bank and given to the minister of finance.

But can the Governor be removed as easily as a minister of finance? My reading of the SA Reserve Bank Act is that the answer is no. The current legislation makes no provision for the President to dismiss the central bank governor.

Holding central bankers to account

Central banks’ governors need security of tenure once appointed. Security of tenure allows them the opportunity to conduct monetary policy in the interests of the whole country without fear of dismissal.

Imagine a scenario in which a central bank governor was dismissed every time he or she took a monetary policy decision that the government disliked - for example by raising interest rates. This would render the job unworkable.

Because of this, the appointment of central bank governors has been designed to ensure that they can get on with their mandate without political interference.

The Governor of the SA Reserve Bank is appointed by the President of the Republic after consultation with the Minister of Finance and the Board of the South African Reserve Bank. Appointments are for an initial five years. Once the first term is served, the President can reappoint the Governor for an unlimited number of further terms, each of a maximum period of five years.

So much for the appointment. What about getting rid of a governor?

The SA Reserve Bank Act lists conduct that will render the Governor unsuitable to complete any term of appointment. Other than on these grounds, no provision is made for the dismissal of the Governor.

So how would a governor would be removed if he or she was considered to be unsuitable for office? This is open to some debate, but it seems that there might be at least two possibilities:

  • The government (including Parliament) or any other party can take legal action to have the governor declared unfit to hold office. The governor and his deputies serve as directors of the central bank. As such they are bound by rules which demand that they remain fit and proper to serve. The act sets out in some detail what fit and proper entails. It includes avoiding conflicts of interest between personal interests and the interests of the central bank and not working for a bank. If the incumbent falls short of any of these requirements, there is recourse to taking legal action against them.
  • Parliament can amend the South African Reserve Bank Act to give the President power to dismiss the Governor.

My understanding is therefore that the President cannot simply remove the Governor of the SA Reserve Bank. It would require - at a minimum - legal action or a parliamentary process.

Central banks with shareholders

Duarte’s main point of contention is that South Africa’s central bank has private shareholders which means that it cannot act independently. This is not true.

South Africa isn’t the only country with a central bank owned by private shareholders. While most central banks in the world are publicly owned, there are a handful that aren’t. These include Belgium, Greece, Japan, Switzerland and Turkey. In the case of the US and Italy, only shareholding by commercial banks is allowed.

In none of these instances is there evidence that private ownership affects the institutions’ independence. In fact, it can be argued that a private ownership structure adds to the transparency and accountability of central banks. For example, the SA Reserve Bank publishes a comprehensive annual report for distribution to shareholders. In addition it has to hold an annual ordinary general meeting of shareholders at which the Governor responds to questions about the business of the central bank and the conduct of monetary policy.

The link that Duarte tries to make between the central bank’s shareholding and its approach to exchange rate policy simply does not exist. The SA Reserve Bank made this point clearly in a statement it issued shortly after Duarte’s salvo. This points out that shareholders play no role in the formulation and implementation of monetary policy.

On its approach to exchange rate policy, South Africa’s central bank takes a stance similar to most central banks in the world: namely, that any attempt to influence the value of a currency by intervening in the market is futile. China is an exception to this rule. It has a controlled economy and has substantial foreign currency reserves with which to support the yuan in the open market.

The ConversationThe SA Reserve Bank serves the best interests of all South Africans. The Governer’s security of tenure supports the efforts of the central bank to contain inflation. At the same time a structure of private shareholders in the central bank helps to improve monetary policy transparency.

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

This article was originally published on The Conversation.

South Africans don't know much about science. Why this is a problem

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Most South Africans don’t visit places where they can learn about science such as zoos and museums.
Reuters/Siphiwe Sibeko

From the microchips in smart phones to the largest jumbo jets, science and technology influences the way people interact with the world around them. It brings them closer to friends and family, enhances health care, secures assets and keeps the world moving forward.

Traditionally, people have turned to science for certainty and confirmation. But in a sea of social media and allegations of fake news, it has become increasingly harder for people to distinguish fact from fiction. As a result, science’s authoritative place in society is being questioned more and more. This has the ability to erode the value and importance of science and technology in general.

One way to tackle this is to monitor people’s understanding of the scientific areas that are trending to establish what their understanding of science is.

We set out to measure South Africa’s understanding of science by conducting a survey looking at how much people know about different areas of science, what their attitudes are, what interests them and how they get their information.

Not surprisingly people know more about areas of science that influence them directly. Personal health, for example, takes precedence over astronomy. But at least 40% of the people we asked had no interest in any area in science. And few people are doing activities where they could learn about science.

Unless these gaps are bridged, South Africans will not see the value that science and technology adds to their daily lives. And the country will not be able to use the power of science to find innovative solutions to its problems.

Where the interests lie

To measure how people understood science, we did six exercises with our respondents.

In one, for example, we gave them nine true or false questions to see how much they knew about science. In another exercise we asked them which areas of science they were more interested in. We gave them a list of sevens areas:

  • technology and the internet
  • climate change
  • economics
  • politics
  • energy
  • astronomy, and
  • medical science

The respondents were more interested in areas such as technology and the internet but less in climate change, economics and energy.

Although most of the respondents had a positive attitude to science, nearly 40% were ambivalent. This is concerning because it means they could be open to questioning valid science in the future.

We also wanted to know how people learnt about science. We gave people 11 options of places they could find information about science. Radio (69.4%) was the primary source of information, followed by free-to-air TV (65.0%) and word of mouth. Surprisingly, online-based information sources like social media, blogs, institutional websites and news websites were at the bottom of their list of information sources.

A scientific way of thinking

Science should be considered as a systematic way of thinking to build knowledge and test experience through factual observation. Not just as a career or qualification.

Rüdiger Laugksch from the University of Cape Town, a researcher in scientific literacy and education in South Africa, argues that improving scientific literacy in South Africa is important for three reasons.

Firstly, it will lead to the country having a pool of people who can drive innovative and smart ways of doing things.

Secondly, it will mean that citizens will have a certain level of proficiency in science and technology. This will help them to make knowledge-driven decisions.

Thirdly, scientific literacy can help people make informed and effective decisions about public policy and nation building.

The ConversationThe products of science – like knowledge, technologies and innovations – can all close the gaps in development and infrastructure. But first, South Africa needs to get to the point of valuing and understanding the contribution science makes to daily life.

Dr Saahier Parker, Chief Researcher at the Centre for Science, Technology and Innovation Indicators, Human Sciences Research Council

This article was originally published on The Conversation.

South Africa's Jacob Zuma is fast running out of political lives

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South Africa’s President Jacob Zuma isn’t blinking despite suffering another resounding loss in the Constitutional Court.
Reuters/Mike Hutchings

Like the proverbial cat with nine lives, South Africa’s scandal-ridden president, Jacob Zuma, may well have escaped yet again with his political life. This despite another resounding loss in the country’s highest court.

The Constitutional Court ruled that there was no constitutional bar to the Speaker of the National Assembly, Baleka Mbete, opting to employ a secret ballot in a no confidence vote in parliament. She’d originally asserted that she didn’t have the authority to make this decision, prompting several opposition parties – furious at Zuma’s increasingly dictatorial project of “state capture” – to take the matter to court.

South Africa’s judicial system continues to hold firm. This is despite the fact that there appears to be a concerted and well coordinated campaign by a group of politicians and businessmen to undermine the integrity of state institutions as well as to exploit their weaknesses to prosecute a project of self-enrichment and rent-seeking. The campaign is pivoted around the now notorious Gupta family.

Zuma has been brought to book repeatedly by the courts. In March last year, the Constitutional Court found that Zuma, as well as parliament, had violated the Constitution. It did so by failing to defend and uphold the constitutional authority of South Africa’s ombud – it’s Public Protector – who had conducted an investigation into the president’s private homestead, Nkandla. She found that Zuma and his family had unlawfully benefited. He was required to pay back nearly R8 million to the state. Yet, following a half-baked apology, Zuma held onto power.

In parliament he’s survived a number of no confidence votes mounted by the opposition. He also dodged two such attempts in the national executive committee of his own party, the ruling African National Congress (ANC) – one in November last year and most recently in late May. He’s been backed by an increasingly slender yet sufficient number of loyalists and nationalists for whom Zuma provides political cover for their populist and self-serving call for “radical economic transformation”.

Tipping point

The tipping point for the latest legal skirmish was Zuma’s reckless and apparently self-interested decision to fire South Africa’s widely respected minister of finance, Pravin Gordhan, on 30 March this year.

Despite a cold war with Zuma, Gordhan had held the line against “state capture” for 15 months after his reappointment in December 2015. And so as night follows day, Gordhan’s removal precipitated an immediate ratings’ agency downgrade. The downgrade added further pressure to an already weak economy, undermining any prospects of economic growth to address the high levels of unemployment and inequality that threaten its precarious social stability.

Once again, in response to Zuma’s ill-considered cabinet reshuffle, the largest opposition party, the Democratic Alliance, tabled a motion of no confidence in the national assembly. There has been an apparent shift in attitude in the ANC’s parliamentary caucus suggesting that the no confidence vote might have a chance of succeeding. Many ANC MPs are now anxious about the party’s prospects at the 2019 national election and their own political future.

But there’s also concern over Zuma’s apparent hold over many backbench MPs. Many of them fear retribution and expulsion should they vote against the president. If an MP ceases to be a member of the party on whose list they stood at election time, they automatically lose their seat in parliament.

Because of this one of the smaller opposition parties, the United Democratic Movement, requested the speaker to use a secret ballot to enable MPs to vote with their conscience. Mbete, who is also the national chairperson of the ANC, refused. She claimed that she did not have the power to make the decision.

The Constitution is unclear. It provides for the president and the cabinet to be removed by the national assembly by a bare majority following “a vote”. In the secret ballot case, the court could have interpreted “a vote” to mean “a secret vote”. Equally, however, the failure of the Constitution to specify a secret ballot in the case of a no confidence vote could mean an open ballot was intended.

So on June 22, the Constitutional Court took neither route. It held that,

the Constitution could have provided for a vote by secret ballot or open ballot. It did neither.

Rather it held that,

the national assembly has … in effect empowered the Speaker to decide how a particular motion of no confidence in the President is to be conducted.

Accordingly, the Court set aside the Speaker’s decision that she lacked constitutional power to order a secret ballot. Notably, Zuma had entered the proceedings to argue, like the Speaker, that there was no power to order a secret ballot and no need to do so.

The court pointedly observed that Mbete has “an enormous responsibility” to ensure that when she decides whether on a “situation specific” case-by-case basis a secret ballot should be employed. She should do so on a “rational and proper basis”, with due and careful regard to a purpose of the no confidence vote. Importantly, the court noted that the primary duty of MPs is to the Constitution and not to their parties.

The implication is that the ability of MPs to vote with their conscience in such a situation is clearly a factor that the speaker should take into account when making her decision. Some critics will regard the court’s “guidance” as insufficiently precise. But the court was clearly anxious not to encroach on separation of powers – perhaps mindful of the virulent claims from some quarters of “judicial over-reach”.

Mbete will have to choose between her loyalty to her president as one of the ANC’s “top six” leadership and her duty to the Constitution as speaker.

Zuma unperturbed

Later on the same day of the judgment Zuma was answering questions in parliament. Judging by his typically thick-skinned signs of confidence, the president is not unduly perturbed by the court’s ruling.

While the court stated the power to decide on whether to hold a secret ballot or not should “not be exercised arbitrarily or whimsically”, Zuma has already made it clear that he expects Mbete to decide that a secret ballot is inappropriate or unnecessary.

Parliament returns after its current mid-year winter recess in August. If Mbete once again declines to hold a secret ballot, her decision will, in turn, then be subject to judicial review application. In due course the court could be forced to order her to hold a secret ballot.

So despite the Constitutional Court judgment, and the lucidity of it’s reasoning, a no confidence vote held with a secret ballot is still some way off. Until then, Zuma lives to fight another day.

But with every day passing, December’s ANC national elective conference gets closer. Then Zuma’s term as president of the ANC expires. Then his power will decline potentially decisively.

The ConversationOne way or another, Zuma is running out of political lives.

Richard Calland, Associate Professor in Public Law, University of Cape Town

This article was originally published on The Conversation.

Friday, June 23, 2017

Alien animals and plants are on the rise in Africa, exacting a growing toll

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The larger grain borer beetle attacks crops like maize and cassava, threatening food security.

This article is the first in a series The Conversation Africa is running on invasive species.

Let’s say you’re travelling from Uganda to South Africa for business. You finally arrive at your hotel after a long day and decide to change before dinner. You unlock and unzip your luggage, but there’s something in your bag that you didn’t pack. As you reach for a clean shirt, a moth flies out. Did that come with you all the way from Uganda? It’ll be fine, right? Surely, something so small won’t cause any harm.

Species are intentionally or accidentally transported by humans between continents to regions where they are not native. With the help of humans or by natural means like flight, these alien species can also spread within continents.

Their spread within continents can be rapid, affecting both the ecology as well as societies and the economy. Unfortunately, it’s really challenging to prevent species from spreading. Given the vast amount of people and goods that are transported between and around continents they can easily be moved across oceans as well as between countries.

The spread of alien species within Africa is increasing. Since 2000 more alien insect pests of eucalyptus trees have spread to other African countries from South Africa, than have been introduced to these African countries from other continents. To manage the spread of these alien species countries need to co-operate, communicate and share information and skills..

The spread of alien species

Many alien plants and animals have been introduced to Africa from other regions and then have spread from country to country, often having devastating effects.

Take the larger grain borer beetle, (Prostephanus truncatus) which is thought to have arrived on the continent in imported grain from Mexico and central America. The beetle was introduced to Tanzania before 1984, Togo before 1981 and Guinea before 1987. It then spread across the continent and within 20 years could be found further south in South Africa.

The beetle attacks crops such as maize and cassava, threatening food security and the livelihoods of the poor. Infestations often destroy maize that’s been stored by farmers, forcing them to buy maize as well as lose income they could have earned from selling any excess.

But alien species don’t just arrive from abroad. Many that are native to parts of Africa have also spread to countries on the continent where they are not native.

An example is the fish commonly known as the Mozambique tilapia (Oreochromis mossambicus) which is native to rivers on the east coast of southern Africa. Fishermen have transported the Mozambique tilapia to other areas and it is now found in river systems in southern and western South Africa and Namibia.

The Mozambique tilapia is a popular species for fishing but it can pose a threat to native fish and has been responsible for the disappearance of native species in some regions.

The spread of alien species within Africa is by no means a new thing. For instance, the bur clover (Medicago polymorpha), a plant from northern Africa, might have been accidentally transported by humans to South Africa as early as 760 AD.

A high and increasing threat

Recently a number of alien species have spread extremely rapidly across the continent, posing a particularly high threat to food security and livelihoods.

The fall armyworm, native to the Americas, was first recorded in west and central Africa in early 2016 and then in South Africa in January 2017.

One is a caterpillar known as the fall armyworm (Spodoptera frugiperda). The species, native to the Americas, was first recorded in west and central Africa in early 2016 and then in South Africa in January 2017.

The moths of the armyworm are strong fliers and the species may have spread through flight to South Africa from other African countries. Although the species attacks a wide range of crops, it poses a particularly serious threat to grain farmers. It is extremely difficult to manage.

Another example is a wasp known as the bluegum chalcid (Leptocybe invasa), which is native to Australia. In 2000 it was detected in Israel and shortly afterwards it was reported in Uganda and Kenya. From there it spread rapidly to many African countries including Zimbabwe, Mozambique, and Tanzania and was finally detected in South Africa in 2007. The insect probably reached Israel on live plant material and spread into Africa the same way, or was carried by people travelling between countries.

The wasp causes swelling or growths on eucalyptus trees, which can lead to decreased growth and tree death. As eucalyptus trees are an important source of income and fuel, this species could have an impact on the livelihoods of locals in these countries.

Preventing the introduction and spread

Once a species is introduced to one African country it’s highly likely it will spread to others on the continent because borders checks are weak.

The introduction and spread of species could be reduced if countries introduced biosecurity systems. These are used extensively in countries like Australia and New Zealand and involve using technology to check for alien species when people and goods enter a country. In Australia this involves inspecting goods, vehicles and luggage before they enter the country.

But even these systems aren’t a guarantee that species won’t spread. African countries would need to work together and share information and skills. This would also allow countries to prepare for the arrival of species, and to draw up plans to reduce their impact.

The ConversationThis is a tall order. But as a country’s defence against alien species introductions is only as strong as that of its neighbours, such action would benefit all of the countries involved.

Katelyn Faulkner, Postdoctoral research fellow, University of Pretoria; Brett Hurley, Senior Lecturer Zoology and Entomology, University of Pretoria, and Mark Robertson, Associate Professor Zoology & Entomology, University of Pretoria

This article was originally published on The Conversation.