T.O. Molefe

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The South African Parliament went on recess last month after a raucous final session saw sanctions handed down to representatives of the country’s newest and third-largest political party, the Economic Freedom Fighters. Twenty of the party’s representatives were found guilty of “conduct constituting contempt of Parliament” and some were suspended without pay for as long as 30 days. But if anyone has treated Parliament with contempt, it’s President Jacob Zuma and his African National Congress.

They have used their majority to shield Mr. Zuma and his administration from accountability for lavish spending on upgrading the president’s private residence, ostensibly for security-related reasons.…  Seguir leyendo »

Two years ago, when Jyoti Pandey, a 23-year-old Indian physiotherapy intern, was gang-raped and fatally beaten by six men on a bus in New Delhi, there was a moment of soul searching among South Africans.

We knew such brutal acts are commonplace here, yet could not recall the last time we reacted with anywhere near comparable outrage. The sad truth is that many of us had been hardened by the daily news reports of violence committed by men against women and the perfunctory moments the government officially sets aside to reflect on them. The overwhelming visceral response from Indians shook those of us who heard about it from our stupor.…  Seguir leyendo »

When America’s housing bubble burst and the subprime loan market tanked in 2007, banks around the world found themselves exposed to subprime debt through an array of complex and opaque financial arrangements. But here in South Africa, financial institutions and government regulators puffed out their chests in pride.

The regulations they’d put in place left the banking system largely unaffected and insulated local investors from much of the subprime fallout. But South Africa’s government failed to take heed of a similar credit bubble, precipitated by the business practices of micro-lenders, growing right under their noses. This was because the government was blinded by good intentions and an unquestioned belief in a market-based path to socioeconomic development.…  Seguir leyendo »

During South Africa’s transition to democracy, a bafflingly small number of people were actually held accountable for crimes committed in defense of apartheid; of those who came forward, many killers received amnesty in exchange for honest testimony at the Truth and Reconciliation Commission. And prosecutors have dragged their feet on prosecuting those who did not testify.

But now, 20 years later, the few that were tried and are still in jail have become eligible for parole, igniting a debate about what this means for the country’s much-vaunted reconciliation project.

The debate is especially frenzied because the racial hierarchy these men were defending when they committed their barbarous acts is still largely intact, even if the lives of many black people have improved since 1994.…  Seguir leyendo »

It’s the soccer off-season in South Africa these days. Cape Town’s huge Green Point Stadium — purpose-built for the 2010 FIFA World Cup — sits dormant, an imposing but vacant sentry blotting the sweeping ocean views once enjoyed by the area’s wealthy residents. The $600 million, 55,000-seat behemoth was, for the past three seasons, home turf for Ajax Cape Town, the city’s only representative in South Africa’s premier soccer league.

But that status hasn’t earned the club any freebies. The City of Cape Town, which owns the stadium, allowed Ajax to use the stadium under a fixed-term rental contract that expires this year, returning the club for the moment to its training ground and spiritual home 12 miles away, in the working-class suburb of Parow.…  Seguir leyendo »

Many a political obituary has been written for South Africa’s president, Jacob Zuma. Even as he began his second term last week in the Union Buildings, there were murmurs that he might not see it through, owing to the multitude of fires — many of them perilously close to home — that he’ll need to put out.

The first of these is a damning report prepared by the public protector, Thuli Madonsela, South Africa’s equivalent of an ombudsman or inspector general. The report found that Mr. Zuma had benefited unduly from a $22 million project to upgrade his private home in rural KwaZulu-Natal Province and that his administration’s profligacy and lack of oversight caused the project’s cost to quadruple.…  Seguir leyendo »

With just a few weeks to go before its fifth democratic election, South Africa is in the throes of a crisis.

From news reports, opinion columns, and press releases from opposition parties, outsiders could be forgiven for believing the country’s dearth of democratic accountability begins and ends with President Jacob Zuma, who is assured a second five-year term in office despite the trail of scandals he has left in his wake.

The propensity to blame Mr. Zuma for all the country’s ills is especially high at the moment, following the release of a damning report by the Office of the Public Protector, a watchdog institution tasked with investigating improper conduct in government affairs.…  Seguir leyendo »

South Africa’s government has come under fire from opposition parties and activists for failing to condemn a new wave of homophobic laws in Uganda and Nigeria that mandate jail time for same-sex spouses or those affiliated with gay organizations.

Instead of denouncing fellow African nations for cracking down on their gay citizens, the South African government has decided to use diplomatic channels to “seek clarification” from Uganda and Nigeria. This is the government’s way of saying it wants to use existing diplomatic relationships to quietly talk these countries down from their positions, which have hardened in the face of the widespread condemnation.…  Seguir leyendo »

This year’s parliamentary elections in South Africa will be the first in which the first children born after the 1994 transition to democracy become eligible to vote. Glibly dubbed “born-frees,” these children have been dealt vastly different fates in the years since the dismantling of apartheid, calling into question South Africa’s constitutional promise of equality.

Wealth has given some the privilege of a good education. The rest, mostly poor black students, have been corralled into what Steve Biko, the murdered anti-apartheid activist and founder of the country’s black consciousness movement, once described as lives of perpetual servitude.

The country’s two-tiered education system — a functional one for the wealthy and a dysfunctional public system for poor blacks — is to blame.…  Seguir leyendo »

There’s a reason photographers like to take pictures of Cape Town, South Africa’s second largest city, from out over the Atlantic Ocean. From this vantage point, cerulean waters give way to a long line of luxurious sea-facing apartments that hug the Atlantic seaboard. Others nestle on the cliffs of Bantry Bay and overlook the sandy beaches of Clifton. To the left, the harbor, city center and manicured parks nestle at the foot of city’s most famous peak, Table Mountain.

At the end of October, this picturesque scene was disrupted by an incursion from the real Cape Town, hidden from view behind the mountain, where the vast majority of the city’s 3.7 million inhabitants live.…  Seguir leyendo »