Christopher Vandome

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People walk in front of the National Ballot results board showing live voting results at the IEC National Results Center on May 30, 2024 in Johannesburg, South Africa. (Photo by Chris McGrath/Getty Images)

As expected, the African National Congress (ANC) has lost its electoral dominance in South Africa after 30 years. Its vote share dropped from 57.5 per cent in 2019 to 39.7 per cent, and it now holds only 159 seats out of 400 in the national assembly, a fall of 71. But it is still the largest party and the biggest political force in the country.

Parliament must sit within the next two weeks to elect a president, who will then form a cabinet. The ANC’s challenge now is to form a government with another party, either in a formal coalition or through a confidence and supply agreement.…  Seguir leyendo »

Two women give their identity documents to Electoral Commission of South Africa (IEC) officials to be registered as voters ahead of the 2024 general elections at a voting station in Soweto on 18 November 2023. Photo by LUCA SOLA/AFP via Getty Images.

South Africa’s 29 May election has been tipped as the most important since the first democratic poll in 1994 and an important inflection point. Most polls have indicated that the ruling ANC will lose its majority but retain a leading role in national government and most of the provinces.

The results could be close. In particular, there could be marginal differences between smaller parties and independent candidates who are able to run for the first time in this election. Small margins could be the difference between getting access to political resources – and economic resources – or not. As with elections across the world, losers will look to blame the process.…  Seguir leyendo »

Political parties (Isanco, DA, IFP, FF Plus, ActionSA, UIM, ADCP and SNP) during the Multi-Party Charter at Birchwood Hotel on November 28, 2023 in Boksburg, South Africa. (Photo by OJ Koloti/Gallo Images via Getty Images)

South Africa’s ruling ANC party launched its manifesto last week, but the background for the event was worrying for party leaders.

Polls indicate that 2024’s general election, scheduled for 29 May, could see the ANC get below 50 per cent of the vote for the first time since 1994 – bringing about multi-party government for the first time. That will be a significant inflection point for South Africans, and for the region.

But progress towards democratic pluralism would be a fulfilment of South Africa’s constitution, which imagined a more diverse political landscape, and is intentionally structured around quasi-federalist political institutions and consociationalism.…  Seguir leyendo »

South African President Cyril Ramaphosa with fellow BRICS leaders President of China Xi Jinping and Prime Minister of India Narendra Modi. (Photo by Per-Anders Pettersson/Getty Images)

South Africa’s Police Minister, Bheki Cele, compared hosting BRICS to the World Cup in 2010 – perhaps the last time the country felt like it was the centre of the world’s attention. Fighter jets screamed over the city at regular intervals as if to remind its residents that important matters were taking place.

The message that BRICS represents 40 per cent of the world’s population and a growing share of its GDP was echoed across marketing banners at the airport and venue, and across media. These statistics seem to serve as the central justification for why the group exists, and why South Africa would want to be a part of it.…  Seguir leyendo »

US vice president Kamala Harris and Zambian president Hakainde Hichilema at the State House in Lusaka after a press conference. Photo by SALIM DAWOOD/AFP via Getty Images.

African governments are rightly resistant to polarizing views of geopolitics that seek to pigeonhole them into being aligned with the West versus China and Russia.

President Hakainde Hichilema of Zambia provides an important example that non-alignment or ‘positive neutrality’ can be more than just rhetoric and can bring genuine economic benefit.

Hichilema welcomed US vice-president Kamala Harris as part of a charm offensive across the continent to counter perceived Chinese influence. She arrived only one day after US secretary of education Dr Miguel A Cardona led the US delegation to co-host the second Summit for Democracy, an initiative of President Biden.…  Seguir leyendo »

Zambia's president Hakainde Hichilema addresses the 76th Session of the UN General Assembly in New York. Photo by MARY ALTAFFER/POOL/AFP via Getty Images.

At his inauguration one year ago this week, Zambia’s president Hakainde Hichilema inherited a country with a heavily indebted economy and a reputation for fiscal unreliability.

He has secured, for now at least, Zambian citizens’ buy-in and patience for what he is seeking to do – with future debt-repayment austerity lurking on the horizon.

Hichilema’s predecessor Edgar Lungu consistently harassed – and some would say persecuted – Hichilema, casting him in the role of a perpetual loser who was destined never to win the presidency with five failed previous efforts.

At the same time, Lungu embarked on an ambitious but recklessly-financed programme of both prestige and infrastructural projects, relying greatly on foreign liquidity particularly from China, and on commercial borrowings by way of the issue of Eurobonds – upon which his administration defaulted.…  Seguir leyendo »

The transition to ‘just’ energy has posed an economic challenge for many African governments, particularly those reliant on their vast hydrocarbon resources.

Though many African countries are feeling the impact of climate change, reconciling the loss of revenue and employment incurred by moving away from old models of energy production has proved difficult at a time when the continent faces increased pressure from rising youth unemployment and deepening poverty.

The challenge of jobs

Many political leaders are sceptical of the numbers of green jobs forecast by international consultants and investors. Much of the discourse around the ‘just’ energy transition has been about securing funding for renewable energy projects, without sufficient attention to the reskilling necessary for the absorption of existing local labour into these projects.…  Seguir leyendo »

Botswana president Mokgweetsi Masisi, Zambia president Hakainde Hichilema, and South African minister of minerals and energy Gwede Mantashe at the 2022 Mining Indaba in Cape Town. Photo by RODGER BOSCH/AFP via Getty Images.

Zambian president Hakainde Hichilema – affectionately known as HH – used his speech at the annual African Mining Indaba held in Cape Town in May to sell to the international investment community his vision for the nation’s vital mining sector.

The country is well-positioned to capitalize on the global drive for the minerals critical to green transitions. The ambition is to more than treble the country’s copper production to three million tonnes per year.

The speech was well-received by industry players who have long waited for the country’s political and regulatory regimes to match the nations resource potential. Promises of a transparent, predictable, and fair regulatory environment created a hopeful buzz among investors.…  Seguir leyendo »

King Mswati III of Swaziland (now Eswatini) at the closing ceremony of the 37th Southern African Development Community (SADC) Summit in Pretoria, South Africa. Photo by GULSHAN KHAN/AFP via Getty Images.

Protests in the kingdom of Eswatini which first started back in May 2021 – and in which scores of citizens have died – have continued into 2022, creating increased domestic pressure to address longstanding demands for democratic reforms.

But critics are sceptical that the announced ‘sibaya’ – a process by which citizens’ views are collated by traditional leaders before a national gathering at the king’s own ‘kraal’ – will be a genuine platform for discussion, and instead see it as just a means for the monarch to reassert authority.

Although the primacy of domestic stakeholders in national political processes must be sacrosanct, given the context in Eswatini of a polarized political landscape and a significant trust deficit, the international community must play an important role in supporting a constructive and meaningful process.…  Seguir leyendo »

A barricade in the road that is on fire is seen in Mbabane, Eswatini, on 29 June 2021. Demonstrations escalated radically in Eswatini this week as protesters took to the streets demanding immediate political reforms. Photo: AFP via Getty Images.

Mounting pressures for democratic reform in eSwatini have led to the arrest of two pro-democracy MPs on suppression of terrorism charges and a brutal crackdown by security forces which have left dozens dead. Hopes for an ‘emaSwati spring’ are unlikely to be realized as the country now faces a protracted stalemate between its young urban population and an entrenched absolute monarchy.

Protests began in May following the death of 25-year-old law student Thabani Nkomanye, allegedly at hands of the police. The violence further intensified after the then acting prime minister, Themba Masuku, banned citizens from submitting petitions to MPs calling for reform.…  Seguir leyendo »

The quarry near Carletonville, west of Johannesburg, known as 'Africa's best mineral' quarry. Photo by MARCO LONGARI/AFP via Getty Images.

Mining unquestionably remains one of South Africa’s most important economic sectors, contributing 8-10 per cent of national GDP and, on average, each of its almost half a million strong labour force providing income for nine dependents.

But South Africa’s share of the global mining exploration expenditure dropped a staggering 20.5 per cent in 2020 to rank only sixth in Africa and represent less than one per cent of the global exploration spend – its lowest place in decades and a devastating position for a country whose geological attractiveness should protect its status as a top global player.

Despite still being valued at $77.4 million, this huge reduction in exploration has adverse knock-on effects for the pipeline of planned investment in brownfield, mid-stream and downstream mineral value chain projects, and the supply chain, all of which will shrink the industry at least for the foreseeable future.…  Seguir leyendo »

An information poster on preventing the spread of COVID-19 in Hanoi, Vietnam. Photo by MANAN VATSYAYANA/AFP via Getty Images.

While we must wait for the final reckoning of most successful national coronavirus responses, it does still appear those countries with memories of MERS and SARS - such as Singapore, Taiwan, Hong-Kong, and South Korea – led the way in being best prepared for COVID-19, with strong contract tracing and isolation measures.

Experience of previous outbreaks informed the containment strategies adopted by countries in East Asia in response to COVID-19. Vietnam reported its first case of COVID-19 in January but, over the following four months with rapid targeted testing, contact tracing and successful containment, only around 300 additional cases with no deaths were confirmed.…  Seguir leyendo »

President Nelson Mandela of South Africa addresses an audience at an event co-hosted by Chatham House, the CBI and COSAT on July 10, 1996.

As with any history, Chatham House has a long and complex one. Progress has come in fits and starts, sometimes driven by wider social change, but often led by individuals within the institute. When examining the institute's work on Africa, five seminal moments from the history really stood out.

The Founders

Lionel Curtis is credited as the founder of the institute, having proposed the idea at a meeting at the Hotel Majestic while attending the Treaty of Versailles talks.

Curtis served in South Africa during the Second Boer war and subsequent period of unification. He was one of the cohort of officials that served under Lord Milner, later dubbed ‘Milner’s Kindergarten’.…  Seguir leyendo »

Cyril Ramaphosa at NASREC Expo Centre in Johannesburg where facilities are in place to treat coronavirus patients. Photo by JEROME DELAY/POOL/AFP via Getty Images.

In the COVID-19 crisis so far, Cyril Ramaphosa has been widely praised for displaying the decisive leadership so many hoped for when they cast their ballot for him in May 2019. Buttressed by others such as health minister Dr Zweli Mkhize, and on a simple objective to prevent transmission, South Africa has been a lesson to the world. Act fast. Act hard.

Former president Thabo Mbeki’s disastrous response to the HIV crisis cast a long shadow over his legacy, and Ramaphosa has taken note. South Africa has had one of the tightest lockdowns in the world. No exercise. No cigarettes. No alcohol.…  Seguir leyendo »

Supporters of the Namibian incumbent president and ruling party South West Africa People's Organisation (SWAPO) presidential candidate Hage Geingob cheer and dance. Photo by GIANLUIGI GUERCIA/AFP via Getty Images.

Swapo’s victory in Namibia two weeks ago was the last in a series of recent ‘end of decade’ elections that have returned dominant parties to power across Southern Africa. However, the “enduring appeal of liberation” is wearing thin.

Experiences across the region show that if governments are to deliver on their electoral promises, they must empower institutions, actively promote a culture of accountability and transparency within their party ranks and pursue economic reforms that untangle the web of party-state-business alliances. Such actions are critical for the survival of national liberation movements as the dominant force in the politics of Southern Africa – but will be difficult to implement.…  Seguir leyendo »

On 25 May, Cyril Ramaphosa will be inaugurated as president of South Africa, having dragged the African National Congress (ANC) over the line in the 8 May election. The ANC gained a 57 per cent majority, its lowest vote since 1994, its status as national liberator deeply eroded by successive corruption scandals. Only Ramaphosa’s personal popularity stopped it haemorrhaging more support.

His sustained action against corrupt public servants and promises of job-creating economic growth has attracted support from beyond the ANC’s base, including a significant minority of white voters, and generated significant international goodwill. Ramaphosa now has a short window of opportunity to reset social democracy in South Africa before the political cycle of municipal, party and national elections from 2021 to 2024 forces his attention back to party politics.…  Seguir leyendo »

Cyril Ramaphosa during the announcement of new party leadership at the 5th African National Congress (ANC) national conference. Photo by Alet Pretorius/Gallo Images/Getty Images

Ramaphosa ran for the leadership of the ANC on a platform of party renewal, economic recovery, and building the capacity of the state. But Jacob Zuma remains the President of South Africa and, under the constitution, can stay in office until elections in 2019. Therefore, meeting expectations on economic recovery will depend on Ramaphosa taking the presidency – and he has a number of political battles to face before that becomes reality.

To begin with, Ramaphosa and his supporters did not win a total victory at the elective conference.  The presidency was only one position in the senior cadre – the co-called ‘top six’ – that was elected.…  Seguir leyendo »

Departure lounge at OR Tambo International Airport near Johannesburg. Photo: Getty Images.

South Africa’s status as the ‘gateway to Africa’ is under serious threat. Its companies continue to flourish, but complex relationships at home and abroad constrain government capacity to match its economic dominance with political reach and influence.

South Africa’s policies towards the rest of the continent are often accused of being inconsistent and incoherent. It has been a development partner to the region and to international donors; a moral leader, championing human rights and exporting its own model of transition; and an advocate and representative for the continent in international forums. However, it has simultaneously been accused of exploiting its economic dominance at the expense of its neighbours; handicapped by the political debts owed by the ANC to other liberation movements for their assistance in the struggle; and criticized for its arrogance in seeking to position itself as the ‘legitimate’ voice of Africa.…  Seguir leyendo »

Rob Davies. Photo: Chatham House.

This interview was conducted during the speaker's visit to Chatham House for an expert roundtable on 23 January 2017.

What do you see as the trajectory for the historical and strategic trade and investment relationship between South Africa and the UK post-Brexit?

Our trade with the UK over the last three years has expanded, and there’s a small surplus in our favour. Of course there are opportunities to move further, but I think our first priority is to make sure there is no interruption. I think that the way our conversations have gone so far[…] is that the Economic Partnership Agreement (EPA) that we have signed recently with the EU ought to be the basis on which we continue our relationship [with the UK], at least in the immediate future.…  Seguir leyendo »

Michael Elion's sculptural tribute to Nelson Mandela at Sea Point Promenade in Cape Town, South Africa. Photo by Nardus Engelbrecht / Gallo Images / Getty Images

South Africa’s local election results have humiliated President Jacob Zuma—and for the first time since coming to power more than 20 years ago, the African National Congress (ANC) looks vulnerable.

But rather than a new dawn for South Africa, the elections look like the start of a new era of coalition government, policy compromise, party factionalism, and weak leadership that will stifle hopes of economic advancement ahead of the next national elections in 2019.

President Zuma has been chastened by the August 3 local elections. For the first time since the end of apartheid in 1994, support for the ANC has fallen below 60 percent, with the party gaining just 53.9 percent of the aggregate national vote (down from 61 percent in 2011).…  Seguir leyendo »