Los herederos de Mandela enfrentan su mayor prueba electoral

Hace poco Sudáfrica celebró el 30.º aniversario de su primera elección democrática, que llevó al poder al Premio Nobel de la Paz Nelson Mandela. «Padre fundador» de la Sudáfrica post‑apartheid y sumo sacerdote de la reconciliación, a Mandela se lo reverencia en todo el mundo como a un santo secular. Pero también se lo acusa, cada vez más, de haber exonerado a la rica minoría blanca de 350 años de crímenes de tiempos coloniales y del apartheid sin obtener una compensación adecuada para las víctimas, mayoritariamente negras.

Cuando el 29 de mayo los sudafricanos vayan a las urnas, el legado de Mandela (y el de sus herederos políticos) enfrentará su más difícil prueba.…  Seguir leyendo »

Nelson Mandela Square at Sandton City in Johannesburg. (Gulshan Khan for The Washington Post)

At a time when the world seems sorely lacking in global statesmen — larger than life figures who manage to shape world events, transcend national borders and become universally admired — I always hark back to Nelson Mandela.

The South African anti-apartheid stalwart emerged from 27 years in prison eschewing bitterness and counseling a policy of reconciliation and racial unity. He used his moral suasion to build a “rainbow nation” in a country then teetering on the brink of an all-out civil war. He was elected South Africa’s first Black president in 1994 and served just one term — a rare example of humility on a continent where “Big Man” leaders are often loath to relinquish power.…  Seguir leyendo »

South African President Cyril Ramaphosa and Russian President Vladimir Putin in St. Petersburg in June 2023. (Evgeny Biyatov/AP)

On a recent trip to South Africa, I traveled to Sharpeville, site of the infamous 1960 massacre of 69 Black protesters that became an early catalyst for the anti-apartheid movement. President Cyril Ramaphosa was reminding an audience that the country’s fight for full equality remains incomplete.

I was surprised when Ramaphosa intoned, “If we are to build a society of equals, a South Africa that belongs to all who live in it, we must end the discrimination and intolerance directed at people because of their sexual orientation or gender identity.

“We must resist the efforts of those who want to take us backwards”, he said, “who express reactionary and hateful views directed at members of the LGBTQI+ community”.…  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 Africa Sees Its Moral Conscience in a Genocide Case

Earlier this month, I went with my 18-year-old daughter to see the South African singer Thandiswa Mazwai perform with her band at a music festival in Manhattan.

Many of my fellow South African expatriates were in the audience. As we took our seats, my daughter, Rosa, noticed concertgoers waving South African flags. You rarely see such displays outside political or sporting events, but many South Africans seem to be having a moment of self-assertion and patriotism now that our government has brought a genocide case against Israel to the International Court of Justice in The Hague for its actions in Gaza, solidifying its place on the world stage in solidarity with Palestinians.…  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 »

A restaurant owner counts money by candlelight during a power outage in Johannesburg on Feb. 13. (Leon Sadiki/Bloomberg News)

In one of Africa’s most developed economies, the energy system is in meltdown.

On Feb. 9, South Africa’s president, Cyril Ramaphosa, declared a “state of disaster” as people in some parts of the country experience planned blackouts for up to 12 hours a day. Last week, the power outages reached a new nadir amid mudslinging between the ruling African National Congress party and André de Ruyter, outgoing chief executive of the electricity utility Eskom.

Nearly all of South Africa’s power is provided by this one company, now operating at less than half its installed capacity. This story isn’t just one of aging coal plants.…  Seguir leyendo »

South African President Cyril Ramaphosa in Johannesburg, December 2022. Sumaya Hisham / Reuters

On December 13, South Africa’s embattled president, Cyril Ramaphosa, survived a vote in Parliament on whether to impeach him over misconduct allegations. Less than a week later, on December 19, he won a second term as head of the ruling African National Congress (ANC). It was a remarkable turn of fortunes for a leader who, a month earlier, in the wake of a lurid scandal involving a cash-stuffed sofa, appeared to be confronting the end of his presidency. But Ramaphosa now faces the challenge of his political career. Although the recent ANC leadership race exposed, once again, the fragility of Ramaphosa’s grip on his party, his ultimate success in that race may finally have given him the mandate he needs to tackle the deep-rooted corruption that is eroding the state and strangling the economy.…  Seguir leyendo »

King Charles III has conferred a signal honour on South Africa’s president, Cyril Ramaphosa. He has invited him on a state visit to Britain this month, the first by a foreign leader since the king came to the throne. That is in spite of South Africa’s refusal to condemn Russia’s merciless war in Ukraine. In October the country abstained in a UN vote on a resolution demanding Russia reverse course on its illegal annexations of occupied areas of eastern and southern Ukraine. Just 34 other countries abstained and five voted against the resolution; 143 countries voted in its favour. The youth league of Mr Ramaphosa’s party, the African National Congress (ANC) even sent a delegation to observe the rigged referendums on annexation.…  Seguir leyendo »

A memorial to Desmond Tutu at St George’s Cathedral in Cape Town, South Africa, 28 December 2021. Photograph: Nardus Engelbrecht/AP

Under a 1986 newsletter headline, “Ubuntu, Abantu, Abelungu”, Black Sash, the anti-apartheid organisation founded as the vanguard of white liberal women’s opposition in South Africa, reported surprising findings from a white fieldworker in their programme against forced land removals – Black people of the land do not consider white people to be people. That is, we do not consider them to be Abantu. Instead, they are abelungu.

“Ubuntu, Abantu, Abelungu” appeared a few years before the late archbishop Desmond Mpilo Tutu thrust Ubuntu – the African philosophy best understood through the proverb found in Bantu languages across the continent, “umuntu ngumuntu ngabanye bantu” (a person is a person through other people) – into the global imagination as he presided over post-apartheid South Africa’s truth and reconciliation commission (TRC).…  Seguir leyendo »

A mourner brings flowers to St. Georges Cathedral, where a Wall of Remembrance for South African anti-apartheid icon Archbishop Desmond Tutu has been set up after the news of his death. (Rodger Bosch/AFP/Getty Images)

Archbishop Desmond Mpilo Tutu, one of South Africa’s greatest citizens, has gone to his eternal rest at age 90. I grew up in the township of Soweto, in Johannesburg, home to another global icon, Nelson Mandela. Tutu and Mandela were neighbors and it was a source of much inspiration to have two Nobel laureates in the area.

But it wasn’t always like this. To understand Archbishop Tutu, we must return to the dark period of South African apartheid. Fear and despair hung like an albatross around our necks. It was a time of unprecedented bloodshed. The townships, where Black people lived, were on fire and the police and army ruled the streets through the barrel of a gun, killing and maiming many.…  Seguir leyendo »

Sir Bob Geldof with Archbishop Desmond Tutu at the One Young World summit in London, February 2010. Photograph: Zak Hussein/PA

I am lucky that in my life I knew Desmond Tutu, one of the greatest men of our time. This tiny giant, this impish little priest, had the dangerously insane courage of the gods. And it was through his God that he found the voice to unremittingly challenge oppressors and speak endlessly, eloquently for the beaten down, the trodden on, the innocent and poor of this world. And later, when the righteous justice of his rhetoric had come to pass, he – along with his great friend Nelson Mandela – proposed the national dignity that only forgiveness of the past and the vanquished can bestow.…  Seguir leyendo »

Revoke the Omicron Travel Ban Against African Countries

Not long after scientists in South Africa discovered the Omicron variant of the coronavirus that causes Covid-19, a number of Western countries — including the United States — imposed travel bans on people traveling from southern African countries. The U.S. ban exempts American citizens and permanent residents.

Notably, Omicron has been identified in many other countries around the world, including the United States. Some data even suggests that it may have been circulating in Europe even before it was identified in southern Africa. Yet the bans remain.

President Biden acknowledged that the American travel ban was unlikely to stop the virus.…  Seguir leyendo »

South African passengers arriving in Munich on December 1, 2020

On November 24, the Network for Genomic Surveillance in South Africa identified a new coronavirus variant of concern, dubbed Omicron. Since the variant's initial identification in South Africa, it has been discovered in a number of countries spanning multiple continents, and on Wednesday, the first case of Covid-19 caused by this variant was reported in California.

Two days after news of Omicron's existence was announced, after it had also been detected in Hong Kong and Botswana, the UK issued a travel ban on all foreign travelers from South Africa and a handful of neighboring nations with more than 20 countries, including the US, following suit in some form.…  Seguir leyendo »

South Africa Deserves a Big, Fat Prize

South Africa is paying a heavy price for its good deed of telling the world about the Omicron variant of the virus that causes Covid-19. Many countries, including Britain and the United States, are restricting air travel to and from the nation. That will do more damage to an economy already weakened by the pandemic.

We are setting a bad precedent. In the future, dangerous new variants of the virus could spread farther if countries hide evidence of them — or simply don’t search very hard for them — to avoid the economic repercussions.

What’s the solution? One possibility is to minimize the harm to South Africa by refraining from placing travel bans on it and other nations in southern Africa.…  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 »

A man fired a handgun in the air in the Vosloorus township of South Africa to disperse suspected looters on July 14. The events of the past weeks demonstrated a bleak truth about the country. Credit Guillem Sartorio/Agence France-Presse — Getty Images

In the past few weeks, South Africa was gripped by the biggest explosion of unrest in decades. Shopping malls and warehouses were looted, supply trucks attacked and businesses destroyed. At least 337 people died.

Initially, as families loaded up consumer goods they would otherwise be unable to afford, the tumult seemed like an organic expression of popular discontent. After all, with unemployment over 30 percent, hunger widespread and inequality spiraling, there’s ample cause for anger. But far from a spontaneous social revolt, the rioting seems in fact to have been politically orchestrated.

After Jacob Zuma, the country’s former president, was arrested on July 7 — to serve a 15-month sentence for contempt of court — his supporters and allies vowed to make the country ungovernable.…  Seguir leyendo »

A protester runs near a burning building during a protest on 12 July 2021 against the imprisonment of former president Jacob Zuma, in Johannesburg, South Africa. Timothy Barnard / Sputnik via AFP

What happened?

Following the arrest of former President Jacob Zuma on 7 July, mobs rampaged through shopping malls and industrial parks throughout South Africa’s two most populous provinces, KwaZulu-Natal and Gauteng, looting nearly a thousand shops and warehouses as an overwhelmed police force largely stood by. The riots also ravaged large parts of the port city of Durban, forcing the country’s largest refinery on the city’s outskirts to shut down temporarily, while roads to its harbour – sub-Saharan Africa’s biggest – also closed, disrupting fuel and food deliveries as well as key exports.

While the nation has since settled into an uneasy calm, it will take some time to repair the damage caused by its deadliest period of unrest since the end of white minority rule in 1994.…  Seguir leyendo »

A woman cleans debris outside the Dube Village mall in Durban, South Africa, on July 17, after several days of looting and unrest. (Guillem Sartorio/AFP/Getty Images)

Former South African president Jacob Zuma’s imprisonment for boycotting an inquiry into high-level corruption has triggered protests and looting on a scale not seen since the apartheid era. The army is in the streets, and more than 200 people are dead.

Zuma was forced to resign the presidency in disgrace in 2018 when he lost the backing of his party, the long-dominant African National Congress (ANC), amid widespread allegations of corruption and abuse of power. The last Afrobarometer public opinion survey conducted during his tenure revealed growing popular disaffection with his rule — his approval rating dropped sharply, to 34 percent, as more and more South Africans perceived that levels of corruption were on the rise.…  Seguir leyendo »

Looters outside a shopping center alongside a burning barricade in Durban, South Africa on July 12. (Andre Swart/AP)

South Africa is a tinderbox marked by extreme inequality. And last week, the country’s ruling party lit the match.

Anarchic scenes of violence and large-scale looting engulfed the populous provinces of Gauteng, the mining and financial heartland, and KwaZulu-Natal along the east coast. Nine days of mayhem left at least 200 people dead, 40,000 businesses affected, 100 shopping complexes looted, 1,400 ATMs and about 300 banks and post offices vandalized. In KwaZulu-Natal, an estimated 150,000 jobs are at risk with a $1.3 billion impact on the province’s economy.

All this was started at the behest of organized groups, some reportedly with links to the country’s spy agencies, who targeted economic infrastructure, with a well-organized social media campaign.…  Seguir leyendo »