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.”

Since then, I’ve heeded her advice.…  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 »

On Tuesday, South Africa’s ruling African National Congress party recalled President Jacob Zuma. After months of uncertainty and years of corruption allegations, the next step may be a parliamentary vote of no confidence, which could happen this week. In a Feb. 14 interview, Zuma maintained he had done nothing wrong.

The ANC chose Zuma’s deputy and rival, Cyril Ramaphosa, by a narrow margin, to be the party’s 13th president in December. This choice indicated that South Africa’s majority party is ready to move beyond the embattled Zuma. For many analysts, Ramaphosa represents a new era of clean government and market-friendly reform.…  Seguir leyendo »

Cyril Ramaphosa in Davos on 24 January. Photo: Getty Images.

With Cyril Ramaphosa’s election as African National Congress (ANC) president, President Jacob Zuma’s highly controversial reign in South Africa is coming to an end. Under Ramaphosa’s leadership, change has been immediate: in the first few weeks of 2018 talks are already afoot for President Zuma to step down, serious steps have been taken to undo corruption in state-owned enterprises like Eskom (South Africa’s dominant energy supplier), and Ramaphosa (not Zuma) was South Africa’s representative at the World Economic Forum in Davos.

One of the issues that requires immediate attention is South Africa’s continued involvement in an international institution that it was instrumental in building, the International Criminal Court (ICC).…  Seguir leyendo »

People line up for water at a natural spring in Cape Town, South Africa, on Jan. 23 after the drought-stricken city tightened water restrictions in a bid to avoid what it calls “Day Zero,” the day in mid-April when it might have to turn off most taps. (Associated Press)

Officials in Cape Town, South Africa, recently announced that the city will run out of water, perhaps as soon as April. On “Day Zero,” Cape Town will turn off the taps, leaving some 4 million people without basic access to water. Residents are bracing for the worst, with many fearing a breakdown in public order amid rising social tensions.

But Cape Town isn’t the first or only major city to face the risk of running dry. In 2015, Sao Paulo, Brazil, faced a similar drought-driven disaster, with officials warning residents they might need to leave the city limits to find enough water to bathe.…  Seguir leyendo »

La victoria de Cyril Ramaphosa en la contienda de diciembre para liderar el Congreso Nacional Africano (CNA), el partido gobernante de Sudáfrica, fue un repudio contundente al presidente Jacob Zuma. Ahora, casi con certeza, Ramaphosa será electo presidente de Sudáfrica en 2019 -si no antes-. Ha prometido estimular la moribunda economía del país e implementar una agenda anticorrupción de amplio alcance.

La cuestión clave, sin embargo, es cuánto impacto tendrá el cambio en la cima en la turbulenta democracia de Sudáfrica.

Es poco probable que Ramaphosa pueda hacer milagros. Primero, enfrenta el desafío de reformar su propio partido. La identidad del CNA como el partido que liberó a Sudáfrica del flagelo del apartheid en 1994 le ha permitido ganar cada elección desde entonces.…  Seguir leyendo »

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 »

Last Monday in Johannesburg, Cyril Ramaphosa, one of South Africa’s wealthiest men, narrowly won a party election to succeed the corrupt and compromised Jacob Zuma as president of the ruling African National Congress (ANC). This puts him in line to become the country’s fifth democratically-elected president. Many think he should have been the second: he was Nelson Mandela’s preferred heir, but was displaced by Zuma and his predecessor, Thabo Mbeki, in 1994. He has been playing the long game ever since.

Zuma’s term as president of the country does not end until mid-2019. But Ramaphosa could unseat him within weeks—and get him prosecuted and, potentially, put behind bars.…  Seguir leyendo »

Protesters outside the Gupta family compound in Johannesburg in April. Credit Joao Silva/The New York Times

South Africa’s ruling African National Congress will meet on Dec. 16 to elect a new party president. It will do so in the throes of a debilitating crisis. A decade of President Jacob Zuma’s leadership has seen Africa’s oldest liberation movement become a caricature of corruption and factionalism.

The A.N.C.’s electoral support is in steep decline. In the 2016 municipal elections it lost control of the capital city Pretoria, as well as South Africa’s economic powerhouse, Johannesburg. Its historical alliance with the South African Communist Party is all but dead. The Congress of South African Trade Unions, its other partner, is in deep crisis.…  Seguir leyendo »

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 »

Hace unos meses, el Tribunal Constitucional de Sudáfrica anuló una moratoria al comercio de cuernos de rinoceronte, que databa de 2009. Fue un golpe devastador para los grupos conservacionistas, que habían celebrado la moratoria porque alineaba a Sudáfrica con la prohibición global de dicho comercio, vigente desde 1977.

Mientras va haciendo efecto el fallo del tribunal, los criadores comerciales y los grupos de defensa de los derechos de los animales se enfrentan a una pregunta crucial: ¿puede la creación de un mercado legal para cuernos de criadero poner freno a la caza furtiva, una pandemia que se cobra unos 1500 rinocerontes salvajes al año?…  Seguir leyendo »