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 »

A worker sits in a looted shop in Soweto, Johannesburg. Photograph: Siphiwe Sibeko/Reuters

‘It feels qualitatively different this time.” There are few people I know in South Africa who don’t think this about the carnage now engulfing the nation. Violence was institutionalised during the years of apartheid. In the post-apartheid years, it has rarely been far from the surface – police violence, gangster violence, the violence of protest. What is being exposed now, however, is just how far the social contract that has held the nation together since the end of apartheid has eroded.

Many aspects of the disorder are peculiar to South Africa. There are also themes with wider resonance. Events in the country demonstrate in a particularly acute fashion a phenomenon we are witnessing in different ways and in degrees of severity across the globe: the old order breaking down, with little to fill the void but sectarian movements or identity politics.…  Seguir leyendo »

Two members of the South African Police Service try to disperse alleged looters outside the Chris Hanni Mall in Vosloorus on July 14. (Guillem Sartorio/AFP/Getty Images)

Over the past few days, scenes of looting and violent protests have emerged from South Africa following the jailing of former president Jacob Zuma. Yet it is a mistake to interpret what is unfolding as a sign of massive political support for Zuma. It is also an error to see the gross acts of criminality and theft as inexplicable.

On the contrary, the scenes of violent destruction playing out in the provinces of Gauteng and KwaZulu-Natal are the logical and foreseeable consequences of the moral decline, and technocratic failure, of the African National Congress-run state. These deeper roots of this week’s violence should not be obscured with hasty moralizing about the antisocial behavior of people living on the margins of South African society.…  Seguir leyendo »

Members of the South African National Defense Force patrol the streets after the looting of local department stores in Soweto, South Africa, on Tuesday. (Kim Ludbrook/EPA-EFE/Shutterstock)

On July 7, former South African president Jacob Zuma surrendered to police and was arrested. Local protests, centered on the Zuma family compound, have been ongoing since late June.

Since Zuma’s arrest last week and the high court’s denial of his appeal on Friday, protests have spread to major cities and townships in South Africa. Online hashtags call for #FreeJacobZuma, and in Durban, protesters threatened to shut down the KwaZulu-Natal province unless authorities released Zuma, South Africa’s first Zulu president.

Over the weekend, police arrested hundreds of people as the protests turned violent. By Tuesday, at least 45 people had died, many of them trampled as crowds began looting.…  Seguir leyendo »

Jacob Zuma at a press conference on 4 July 2021. He handed himself in to police three days later. Photograph: Shiraaz Mohamed/AP

On Wednesday night, at 45 minutes to midnight, Jacob Zuma blinked. In what was the most consequential moment for the rule of law in post-apartheid South Africa, the former president handed himself into police.

Zuma was, in fact, three days late. The apex constitutional court ruled last week that he must surrender himself by Sunday on a charge of contempt of court, after repeatedly refusing to appear before a statutory commission looking at allegations of corruption made against him. If he did not voluntarily turn himself in, the police minister was set to arrest him by midnight on Wednesday. For the past week, Zuma and his supporters – gathered outside his rural redoubt near Nkandla in KwaZulu-Natal – threatened resistance and even war against the state if the authorities tried to enter the compound, while his lawyers engaged in futile litigation to try to get him off the hook (a judge dismissed Zuma’s application this morning).…  Seguir leyendo »

Prince Misuzulu Zulu, center, flanked by fellow warriors in traditional dress at the KwaKhangelamankengane Royal Palace, during a ceremony, in Nongoma on May 7. (AP Photo) (AP)

The succession battle within the royal family of South Africa’s 11-million-strong Zulu nation kicked into high gear this month. After a reign that lasted half a century, King Goodwill Zwelithini kaBhekuzulu died March 12. The king, or Ingonyama, chose one of his six queens, Queen Shiyiwe Mantfombi Dlamini-Zulu, as his regent.

This smooth transition of power was upended after Queen Mantfombi died April 29, which precipitated a succession battle. Multiple branches of the royal family have laid claim to the throne, alleging the illegitimacy of the king’s heirs and lodging accusations of forged wills and poisoning attempts. This isn’t just royal family drama — here’s what’s at stake.…  Seguir leyendo »

South African President Cyril Ramaphosa appears on behalf of the African National Congress at the Zondo Commission of Inquiry into state capture and corruption, held in Johannesburg on April 29. (Kim Ludbrook/Pool/EPA-EFE/Shutterstock)

In late April, South African President Cyril Ramaphosa, the head of the African National Congress (ANC), announced that this year’s much-anticipated local government elections would take place on Oct. 27.

Just hours later, ANC spokesman Pule Mabe spoke with reporters about the upcoming elections, but the context was quite different. Mabe expressed shock at the arrest of ANC party member and local councilor Lucky Mbuzi in connection with the killing of a fellow ANC member, Mduduzi Madikizela.

Madikizela’s death isn’t a tragic aberration. Political violence is a regular feature of local politics in post-apartheid South Africa, part of a broader phenomenon of competition and conflict at the heart of the ANC.…  Seguir leyendo »

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 »