South African Defense Forces and police check a minibus driver who violated the lockdown in Johannesburg, on March 27. (Jerome Delay)

The World Health Organization last month praised South Africa’s decisive coronavirus action, combining mass screening with one of the world’s strictest lockdowns. Media reports also noted a side benefit — an apparent drop in homicides and “miracle” gang truces.

But that’s not the full story. My research with gangs in Cape Town suggests these reports are misleading. Media reports in fact may be masking how harsh policing and the economic strain of lockdown are making gangs stronger.

The problem of militarized policing

South Africa’s army has been deployed to help enforce curfews and lockdown rules, but this has raised concerns over the “militarization” of policing.…  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 »

It was a rare moment of national unity in a country that in the past decade has become increasingly fractious and fraught with racial and ethnic tensions. But it did not last long.

To widespread local acclaim, South African president Cyril Ramaphosa last Monday announced that a 21-day national lockdown to combat the spread of the novel coronavirus would start at midnight that Thursday. The government’s measures mean that the country’s borders are now closed except for transportation of fuel and essential goods. Inter-provincial travel is banned. Public transport is restricted, and only business providing essential services can remain open. Solitary exercise is not permitted, and alcohol and cigarette sales have been stopped.…  Seguir leyendo »

Builders work on an outside yard at the Nelson Mandela Children's Hospital in Johannesburg in 2016. Photo: Getty Images.

At the United Nations general assembly in September, all countries, including South Africa, reaffirmed their commitment to achieving universal health coverage by 2030. This is achieved when everybody accesses the health services they need without suffering financial hardship.

As governments outlined their universal health coverage plans, it was noticeable that some had made much faster progress than others, with some middle-income countries outperforming wealthier nations. For example, whereas Thailand, Ecuador and Georgia (with national incomes similar to South Africa) are covering their entire populations, in the United States, 30 million people still lack health insurance and expensive health bills are the biggest cause of personal bankruptcy.…  Seguir leyendo »

Zulu residents wave batons in Johannesburg, South Africa, on Tuesday after the city was hit by a new wave of anti-foreigner violence. (Michele Spatari/AFP/Getty Images)

In Pretoria and Johannesburg, there’s been xenophobic violence and looting over the past week. The violence, targeting foreign-owned businesses and foreign residents in these two South African cities, has led to at least 10 deaths, including two foreigners, and more than 400 arrests. National and provincial governments have dispatched police in riot gear with tear gas and rubber bullets.

Protesters and looters destroyed thousands of dollars of private property, leaving businesses and homes burned and city streets littered with burning tires. Looters have targeted shopping centers.

Xenophobic violence has been a persistent problem in South Africa, but the recent clashes prompted an international diplomatic fight between two of Africa’s regional powers: South Africa and Nigeria.…  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 »

African National Congress (ANC) supporters cheer while they wait for the speech of President-elect Cyril Ramaphosa of South Africa outside the ANC's headquarters in Johannesburg, on Sunday. (Wikus De Wet/AFP/Getty Images)

Just 15 months ago, South Africa’s democracy faced the gravest crisis in its 25-year history. The governing African National Congress (ANC), the party of Nelson Mandela, scrambled to oust President Jacob Zuma, whom many accused of fostering a sprawling, deep network of state corruption. So dire was the crisis that a new term entered the national lexicon — “state capture” — when those in power systematically subvert public institutions and divert public resources for political and financial gain.

So what happened in the May 8 national elections? The ANC and its reformist presidential candidate, Cyril Ramaphosa, received 58 percent of the vote.…  Seguir leyendo »

Cyril Ramaphosa waving at supporters in Ellis Park Stadium in Johannesburg on Sunday.CreditCreditMarco Longari/Agence France-Presse — Getty Images

South Africa goes to the polls on Wednesday in its fifth general election since the advent of democracy in 1994. I will hold my nose and vote for the African National Congress, once the party of Nelson Mandela.

I once passionately supported the A.N.C. I abandoned it a decade ago because of its arrogance, its muddle-headed policy and the way it turned my country into a kleptocracy, so soon after it delivered us so stunningly into democracy. In the past three elections I have voted for opposition parties because of the need to break the A.N.C.’s corrupting stranglehold on power. But the situation facing South Africa’s president, Cyril Ramaphosa, has brought me back, at least for now.…  Seguir leyendo »

It was 25 years ago today when South Africans of all races went to the polls to mark the end of apartheid government and over three centuries of institutionalized white supremacy. In 2019, with democracy under threat in various countries around the world, South Africa offers a surprising counterpoint: Once mired in bitter conflict, democracy has taken root with substantial success.

Understandably, many contemporary analysts focus on what’s gone wrong. South Africa is still reeling from the disastrous presidency of Jacob Zuma, who served from 2009 until his resignation in February 2018. There have been corruption scandals, power outages, problems with education — along with unemployment and low economic growth.…  Seguir leyendo »

Farm workers harvest cabbages at a farm in Eikenhof, near Johannesburg, South Africa 21 May 2018. REUTERS/Siphiwe Sibeko

U.S. President Donald Trump touched off a diplomatic row with South Africa by repeating an erroneous broadcast about land reform there. In this Q&A, our Southern Africa Senior Consultant Piers Pigou sets the record straight about the land ownership and expropriation debates that are really underway in South Africa today.

What happened to start the row?

On 22 August, U.S. President Donald Trump tweeted that he had instructed Secretary of State Mike Pompeo to investigate land seizures and the “largescale” murder of (white) farmers in South Africa. President Trump apparently was responding to a Fox News report that claimed that the South African government had changed the constitution to enable land expropriation without compensation.…  Seguir leyendo »

In 2000, U.N. Security Council Resolution 1325 emphasized that women’s “equal participation and full involvement” is important to promoting peace and security. More than a decade of research since then supports the link between gender equality and peace — and has helped drive reforms aimed at increasing the number of women in security institutions, as well as embracing gender diversity.

There is also considerable evidence that security sectors dominated by men tend to undermine women’s security. So where do things stand, and why is revising the security sector’s approach to gender — “regendering” it, if you will — proving difficult?

Here’s what happened in South Africa

Our recent research on the South African Army shows that high hopes about gender integration in the military aren’t enough to make change.…  Seguir leyendo »

Algunas de las cartas Credit Fundación Nelson Mandela

Hace algunos años, la escritora Nikki Giovani me dio unos consejos para escribir sobre la vida de figuras públicas; la mayoría de ellos los entendí y anoté en un cuaderno. Sin embargo, uno de ellos me dejó perplejo: “Si recibes una carta de alguien en prisión, asegúrate de responder”. Me sentí confundido pero también algo culpable. Me había llegado algo de correspondencia con la dirección del remitente en alguna penitenciaría y no había respondido. “Hazlo”, me dijo. “No sabes lo mucho que significa una carta para alguien en prisión. No puedes imaginar lo que tienen que hacer para conseguir tan solo la estampilla”.…  Seguir leyendo »

Pages of Mandela's letters.CreditThe Estate of Nelson Rolihlahla Mandela and the Nelson Mandela Foundation

Some time ago, the writer Nikki Giovanni offered me guidance on writing about the life of a public person. Most of her advice I understood and dutifully jotted into a small notebook. However, one of her dictums confused me: “Whenever you receive a letter from a prisoner, make sure you write him back.” I frowned, confused but also a little guilty. I’d received a few letters with penitentiary return addresses and hadn’t responded. “Write them back,” she repeated. “You don’t know how much mail means to people in prison. You can’t imagine what they have to do just to get the stamp.”…  Seguir leyendo »

People refill water bottles at the Newlands spring tap, a fresh mountain spring that runs through Cape Town, South Africa, on Feb. 14. (Charlie Shoemaker for The Washington Post)

It’s Earth Day 2018 and taps in Cape Town, South Africa, are still running — a water crisis deferred, but not resolved.

The city’s “Day Zero” projections have pushed back to 2019, after officials implemented significant agricultural and personal water restrictions. Cape Town, a city of nearly 4 million, still faces the prospect of running out of water.

How did Cape Town reach this brink? Most analysts point to the technical challenges of keeping the water flowing, in an era of severe drought and a growing urban population. It’s a familiar story elsewhere in the world — contaminated water supplies in communities in California’s San Joaquin Valley; millions of people in rural areas outside of Mumbai facing drought and water rationing.…  Seguir leyendo »

Manifestation du Economic Freedom Fighters devant le tribunal de Bloemfontein, avril 2018. © CHARL DEVENISH

C’est un sujet explosif qui a été évoqué pour la première fois au parlement sud-africain le mois dernier: l’expropriation des terres «blanches» sans compensation! Toute l’Afrique du Sud est en état d’ébullition. Il faut dire que l’exemple du Zimbabwe n’est pas pour rassurer les fermiers blancs, ni l’élite noire sud-africaine qui profite de la croissance économique, ni le roi des Zoulous qui possède des terres. Une guerre civile pourrait éclater, comme l’a prophétisé l’ancien fermier Terblanche, assassiné il y a quelques années. Pourtant, les Noirs argumentent à bon droit depuis deux siècles: «Quand les Blancs sont arrivés, ils avaient la Bible et nous les terres.…  Seguir leyendo »

Winnie Madikizela-Mandela, the estranged wife of African National Congress leader Nelson Mandela, raises her fist as she arrives at a polling station in the east Johannesburg township of Katlehong to vote in South Africa’s first elections by universal suffrage on April 27, 1994. (Harold Gess/AFP/Getty Images)

Winnie Madikizela-Mandela died Monday at age 81. As she is eulogized, there will be many who point to her perceived failures. They will call her a “firebrand” and point to her “radical” political views. Most damning, they will say she was a convicted kidnapper, a corrupt politician and an adulterous, violent woman. Many will compare her with her ex-husband, Nelson Mandela. He will be cast as an angel, while she will be painted as the she-devil who almost took him down.

Hers was a life marked as much by racism as sexism. That she was able to meet both head-on is a testament to her fierce spirit.…  Seguir leyendo »

Cyril Ramaphosa, nouveau président de l’Afrique du Sud, après la démission de Jacob Zuma. Cape Town, 16 février 2018. © RUVAN BOSHOFF / AP Photo

Il est important de rendre hommage à deux figures du syndicalisme en Afrique australe tant leurs parcours politiques se ressemblent, même si leurs destins divergent. Il s’agit de Morgan Tsvangirai, du Zimbabwe, mort d’un cancer à 65 ans dans un hôpital de Johannesburg le 14 février, et Cyril Ramaphosa, ancien syndicaliste, 65 ans également, devenu président de l’Afrique du Sud après la démission forcée de Jacob Zuma. Morgan Tsvangirai a lutté toute sa vie pour la démocratie et le multipartisme. Bête noire de Robert Mugabe, que ses sbires ont emprisonné à plusieurs reprises, il a été torturé et menacé de mort.…  Seguir leyendo »

Supporters hold up a poster of Morgan Tsvangirai during a memorial service in Harare. Photo: Getty Images.

The death of Movement for Democratic Change (MDC) leader Morgan Tsvangirai is a loss for Zimbabwe. In nearly three decades of speaking truth to power, Tsvangirai helped to change his nation and the region.

Southern Africa’s new politics

His death marks a period of transition for regional governments and opposition parties alike. The Zuma era has ended in South Africa while Mozambique, Namibia and Angola have also seen political transitions, pushing modernization agendas to appeal to young citizenries that increasingly see politics in separate terms from the liberationist struggles of the previous generation.

Regional opposition movements also face winds of change: the longstanding opposition leader in the Democratic Republic of the Congo, Etienne Tshekedi, passed away in 2017, and Mozambique’s Afonso Dhlakama and Kenya’s Raila Odinga are both aging.…  Seguir leyendo »

“I would not look to the U.S. Constitution, if I were drafting a Constitution … I might look at the Constitution of South Africa. That was a deliberate attempt to have a fundamental instrument of government that embraced basic human rights, and had an independent judiciary … It really is, I think, a great piece of work.”
— Supreme Court Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg, speaking in an interview in 2012

Politicians faltered. Commerce was compromised. National values were subverted. But in the end, institutions held, and engaged citizens prevailed. And so Jacob Zuma, who had boasted that his political party would rule South Africa until the second coming of Christ, did not make it to the end of his second presidential term.…  Seguir leyendo »

Jacob Zuma gave a televised address to South Africans yesterday. Credit Kim Ludbrook/European Pressphoto Agency

Jacob Zuma resigned 0n Wednesday as the president of South Africa, after his party, the African National Congress, pressured him to step down a year and a half before his second term would end in the summer of 2019. Cyril Ramaphosa, the anti-apartheid leader, businessman and deputy president, who was elected A.N.C. president in December, succeeded Mr. Zuma as president on Thursday.

Mr. Zuma’s nine-year tenure was marked by corruption, mismanagement and numerous scandals, and the country’s reputation and economy took a battering.

He retrofitted state institutions to divert resources to his family and his business partners. At current estimates, the amount of public money that has been appropriated runs into billions of dollars.…  Seguir leyendo »