Tag Archives: South Africa

South Africa’s Baxter: ‘We can’t give the country hope’

British manager has taken Bafana Bafana to the last eight of the Africa Cup of Nations despite chaotic preparation and underfunding

South Africa head coach Stuart Baxter, centre, celebrates with his players after the win over Egypt. Photograph: Hassan Ammar/AP

There are times when Stuart Baxter surveys the agonies surrounding South Africa’s football team and asks himself whether the benefits really add up. “It’s not one of those you get used to,” he says. “You’re constantly wondering if it’s worth it. Constantly.”

It is easier to answer that question during a week when, against all odds, Bafana Bafana have hauled themselves back among Africa’s elite. Baxter calls South Africa “a country of extremes” and he should know, given that he is two years into his second spell managing the national team. On Saturday night the dial swung to paroxysms of euphoria as they outplayed Egypt, host country of the Africa Cup of Nations, in front of a baying home crowd and reached the last eight with a 1-0 win. For the 65-year-old Baxter, taking South Africa through to next Friday’s final would be the pinnacle of a globetrotting career that has never been defined by his Anglo-Scottish upbringing.

“Winning this would be the biggest,” he says, with Nigeria posing the next challenge in Wednesday’s quarter-final. “Without sounding egotistical I think this would represent a massive personal victory for me, partly because it’d be coming far more quickly than it should and partly because this is such a big tournament.”

Africa Cup of Nations: Hosts Egypt stunned by late South Africa strike

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It was 1996 when South Africa, only four years out of a lengthy Fifa suspension and still buoyant in the early stage of Nelson Mandela’s presidency, won their first and only Cup of Nations. Baxter has brought Mark Fish, their defensive cornerstone back then, into his backroom staff to maintain a connection but he is at pains to point out that so much has changed since then. At that time Bafana Bafana, managed by Clive Barker, could ride the wave all the way home; these days they face a smothering pall of negativity that he believes places unrealistic demands on the sport’s role.

“The whole country was full of optimism in ’96,” he says. “Full of hope and belief in the future. I think the team reflected that hope. When we beat Libya to qualify this time, the sports ministry wrote to me and said: ‘You’ve given the country hope’, and for me that’s where all this negativity stems from.

“If the country is dependent on a result by the national team to give it hope, we fail. We can give it hope for five minutes, but every defeat is met with such negativity because on wider level those hopes and dreams have been flattened. There’s too much going wrong in the country: getting the electricity shut down every day, the water shortages, the unemployment, you name it. The country’s not hopeful and they’re in a mental stage of depression; I think that gets reflected. They cannot accept any more negativity so one bad result is met by a tirade.

“We can’t give the country hope. We can’t. Only temporarily. I’m just happy we can give them a night off where they can wear the shirt proudly.”Sign up to The Recap, our weekly email of editors’ picks.

South Africa lost to Ivory Coast and Morocco during the group stage, squeaking past lowly Namibia in between, and only reached the knockouts on goal difference as one of the best third-placed sides. The dissenting voices were deafening at that point; Bafana’s early matches had been turgid, although Baxter points out that their preparation for this tournament verged on the disastrous, with funding issues seeing their schedule decimated and only one friendly, against Ghana, eventually being played. An already young, reconstructed squad arrived in Egypt badly undercooked and Baxter says their performance against the hosts, in which they obeyed his instructions to play an aggressive, attacking game to the letter, was the kind that banishes any weariness.

“That’s basically why I’ve hung in there, because the players have shown such an interest in wanting to be better, such a genuine pride in themselves when they get it right,” he says. “They’ve been so loyal and patriotic that I’ve always gone that extra mile.”

Baxter is used to doing that. His story is well told by now but a quick refresher course in his life and times underlines what a journey it has been. He has coached in eight countries, won titles in Sweden with AIK and South Africa with Kaizer Chiefs, bitten his lip when fired after two games in Turkey and contributed significantly to football’s explosion in Japan. Were it not for the Midlands inflection – Baxter was born in Wolverhampton – it would feel like a chat with Roy Hodgson, as much for his urbanity and unaffected studiousness as for his winding road here. But unlike Hodgson he has never heard a loud clarion call from home, despite a few offers earlier in his career.

South Africa celebrate during their win over Egypt. Photograph: Samuel Shivambu/EPA

“As it’s moved forward there hasn’t been the opportunity, and that’s because I fall between two stools really,” he says. “I’m not the exotic foreigner and I’m not the big-name English knight in shining armour; I’m neither the José Mourinho nor the Frank Lampard, and the game in the Premier League has become about perception.Advertisement

“I’m not saying that’s the alpha and omega of it, but it’s why I’m realistic to know I’m not going to have a queue of people saying: ‘He’s won leagues all over the world and he’s a Brit, let’s bring him back.’ I’ve become a little, not exactly cynical, but non-expectant. When the phone rings it’s from other places: I’m exotic and attractive there but back home I’m not.”

He fancies another crack at the Champions League, in which he competed with AIK, but feels confident in his capacity to set down roots anywhere in the world and describes himself as “pretty easily transportable”, moulding himself to the project at hand. “I’m not this instructor going round the world teaching football according to the theories of Stuart Baxter,” he says. Perhaps there is an extent to which, in an era where philosophies and grand visions tend to seduce more than sheer practicality, that has held him back too.

Not that there will be any sense of regret when South Africa walk back out at Cairo International Stadium, the venue stunned into dumbfounded silence by Thembinkosi Lorch’s 85th-minute winner those few short days ago, to face Nigeria. “We have to do it as underdogs again,” he says. “They are one of the best, but if we can put together a gameplan that gives them the problems we gave Egypt then we have a chance. At this stage it sometimes takes on its own life. The difference in the squad now, the belief they have, is absolutely night and day.” Dawns like that are why, for all the brickbats and moments of doubt, Baxter comes back again and again.

SOURCE: The Guardian, UK

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Ramaphosa wins fo ANC, maybe for the last time

The African National Congress (ANC) will govern South Africa for another five years. But this sixth victory of the democratic era since 1994 was hard-won. For the first time in a national election its share of the vote dropped beneath 60% to come in at 57.5%. This means that it will have 19 fewer representatives in the 400-seat parliament. This suggests both a normalisation of South Africa’s electoral landscape and an increasingly competitive multi-party democracy.

By: Richard Calland, University of Cape Town

File 20190510 183077 10d4m8y.jpg?ixlib=rb 1.1
Cyril Ramaphosa has led South Africa’s African National Congress to its sixth electoral victory. But he’s got his work cut out.
EPA-EFE/Yeshiel Panchia

On arrival at the national results centre in Pretoria on Thursday, with around 60% of the votes counted, the party’s chair Gwede Mantashe expressed his anxiety to me about the outcome: “We need 60%”, he said.

I responded by saying that the evidence suggested the ANC was heading for 57% or 58% and that this represented an upturn of their fortunes after the dramatic dip to 54% in the 2016 local government election. It was, I said, therefore a very good result. He appeared to accept my logic. Mantashe is a supporter of President Cyril Ramaphosa and is currently the minister of mineral resources.

The pivotal issue for Election 2019 was whether the outcome would give Ramaphosa more political space within the ANC to drive his reform programme forward. Since he ousted Jacob Zuma from power in February 2018, having won a very tight race to succeed Zuma as leader of the ANC at its five-yearly national elective conference the previous December, Ramaphosa has begun to execute a complicated turnaround strategy.




Read more:
South Africa’s poll is more about battles in the ANC than between political parties


But the job is half done. So far he’s appointed several commissions of inquiry to expose the rot of what he called “nine lost years”. This paved the way for the appointment of competent, honest men and women to lead key state institutions such as the SA Revenue Service and the National Prosecuting Authority that had succumbed to the Zuma-enabled project of “state capture”.

Yet the Zuma faction within the ANC has not been vanquished and so Ramaphosa has had to drive with at least one eye on the rear-view mirror. His own party has been a drag factor. Would Election 2019 deliver a sufficiently big victory for Ramaphosa to shake them off?

The optimal outcome

Some have argued that were the ANC to win 60% or more in this election, it would have given the party a blank cheque for further larceny. But a below par score beneath 56% would have weakened Ramaphosa and provided ammunition for his opponents within the party to attack him and undermine reform plans. These include the much-needed unblundling of the state-owned power utility, Eskom, which represents a major risk factor for South Africa’s sluggish economy and its beleaguered public fiscus.

A 57% or 58% outcome for the ANC could arguably represent an ideal outcome for the country. The people would have reprimanded the party for its reprehensible conduct over the last decade and, as many of its leaders were conceding yesterday, its failures to deliver good public services. At the same time it would give Ramaphosa the opportunity to claim a victory and, thereby, the fresh mandate he needs.

This indeed appears to have been the outcome.

More popular than his party for the first time since Nelson Mandela in 1994, and more trusted than the leaders of the opposition, Ramaphosa can claim to have saved the ANC’s bacon.

How the opposition fared

Election 2019 was also a referendum on South Africa’s appetite for the sort of populist politics that has prospered around the world in recent years. The local version is Julius Malema and his militant Economic Freedom Fighters (EFF).

The exponential growth that the party promised on its campaign trail has proved elusive. The six million young (18-29) people who chose not to register to vote certainly represent a potential untapped market for Malema, to build on the 1.5m or so who voted for the EFF this week. But for the time being South Africa has rejected a populist alternative in favour of more of the devil it knows.

The biggest opposition party, the Democratic Alliance (DA), had a very poor election. It lost votes from its right flank to the Freedom Front Plus – an Afrikaans party – and failed to gain them from the middle ground. As a result, overall it has stagnated. Its share of the vote overall may even drop – despite the fact that the conditions for challenging the ANC were so conducive.

Questions will inevitably be asked of the DA’s leader, Mmusi Maimane. Was he tough enough to cope with the existential ambivalence that undermined its ability to define a clear value proposition to the electorate?

The DA had hoped to add to its progress in the local elections in 2016 when, with the help of the EFF, it drove the ANC out of city hall government in Pretoria and Johannesburg. Both fall within the Gauteng province, South Africa’s economic hub. In the national poll the DA appears to have failed to prove its case in the region where the ANC looks set to hang onto its majority – albeit by its fingernails.

ANC decline

The ANC’s domination has been in decline since 2009. In four successive national and local government elections since Zuma entered office that year, the ANC’s share of the vote has fallen.

The party’s leaders know it, but find it hard to accept. As Mantashe moved on from my conversation he turned back for a second:

But we would still like 60% – it’s an ego thing.

The ANC’s ego may not have been stroked by South Africa’s electorate on this occasion. On the contrary, it has fired a shot across the bows of Nelson Mandela’s party. A quarter century after Mandela became South Africa’s first black, democratically elected President, the ANC’s hold on power has weakened. Now it must continue to cleanse the body politic of the contamination of the Zuma years.

Ramaphosa will need to use the victory to turn the reform platform he has built over the past year into a springboard for economic growth and job creation. Both are urgently needed.

Otherwise, the lesson of Election 2019 is clear: next time the electorate will say enough is enough and turn away from the ANC.

Richard Calland, Associate Professor in Public Law, University of Cape Town

This article is republished from The Conversation under a Creative Commons license. Read the original article.

SOURCE: The Conversation

Race still overshadow South African politics 25 years after end of apartheid

It would be surprising if race played no part in South African elections.

The country’s colonial and apartheid past ranked alongside the America’s Deep South as among the most racist social orders in the world. If religious polarisation is also considered, South Africa often compared with Northern Ireland and the Israel-Palestine conflict.

The slogan “rainbow nation” seems to have retired along with Anglican archbishop emeritus Desmond Tutu. Personal racist incidents still make the headlines and class remains hued by colour at the structural level. Although slightly over half of the country’s middle class is now black, deep poverty is an almost exclusively a black experience.

Race continues to divide. Take just the best-known parties among the four dozen contesting the country’s general election this month. They all represent radically different perspectives on the race issue. And – at the extremes – there is no crossing the colour line.

For example, almost no black Africans will vote for the minority Freedom Front Plus. Almost no whites will vote for the Economic Freedom Fighters (EFF), the third-largest party. Strident racial rhetoric from some EFF leaders. And its election manifesto envisages for massive tax rises, a proviso that’s alienated white voters. For its part, the Freedom Front Plus’s campaign to defend minorities against affirmative action and black economic empowerment doesn’t attract many black voters.

But, when moving towards the leading parties of the centre, the governing African National Congress (ANC), and the official opposition, the Democratic Alliance (DA), are making serious efforts to reign in racial rhetoric among their leaders and members. They also have manifestos that promote non-racialism.

Non-racialism

The ANC and DA documents and speeches have repeated their long-held goals of non-racialism. Both try to ensure that people of all colours are represented in their executive structures.

Recently, ANC veterans condemned a statement by their powerful secretary-general urging a vote against “whites” and for “blacks”. And the party’s election campaign, particularly in Gauteng and the Western Cape, chooses issues and rhetoric which include white voters.

The DA too has more than once disciplined leaders, or got members to resign, because of racial comments on twitter or elsewhere

At a deeper level, the DA is attempting a strategy so difficult that it has only been accomplished twice before in South Africa’s history. The party seeks to change from an overwhelmingly white party to a predominantly black party. The South African Communist Party achieved this during the 1920s. The Liberal Party followed a similar path during the 1960s.

Historically, the ANC’s Freedom Charter affirmed that

South Africa belongs to all who live in it, black and white.

The ANC’s alliances from the 1950s included organisations centred on coloured – people of both European (white) and African (black) ancestry – , Indian, and white members. It incrementally opened its own membership to supporters of all colours before 1990.

At times, a few commentators have criticised the ANC as being dominated by either isiXhosa speakers or Nguni language speakers, but these complaints found little traction. The ANC’s membership embraced a nation-wide representivity among black Africans, and included activists from all of the race-based definitions entrenched during apartheid.

Strategically, the ANC is the only African nationalist party that has had to accommodate – in policy and rhetoric – a significant white minority.

More than nine-tenths of white settlers fled Algeria after independence in 1962; the same in Angola and Mozambique following independence in 1974. This also happened in Zimbabwe between the 1980s-1990s. White Algerians had the right to French citizenship; white Angolans and Mozambicans had the right to Portuguese citizenship. Over half White Zimbabweans had the right to either South African or British citizenship.

By contrast, the overwhelming majority of white South Africans have no rights to other citizenships.

The people

White South Africans are only make up 7,8% of the population. But they remain strategically important. They still own most capital and most companies. They constitute a significant proportion of management and in most of the professions.

The western powers, investors, and media remain sensitive to their concerns and anxieties.

Interestingly, statistics show that white living standards have risen higher than anyone else’s since 1994. That is not exactly the “genocide” proclaimed by the global alt-right.

There is a wide range of black views on colour and race relations. Some activists in the Rhodes-must-fall and Fees-must-fall movements expressed total alienation from whites and “whiteness”. Simultaneously, there are many interracial friendships and some interracial marriages.

Tensions bound to remain

The world’s oldest democracy, the US, and the world’s largest democracy, India, also have to grapple with the contradictions between nonracial or non-caste ideals in their constitutions, and affirmative action and preferential procurement laws and regulations.

In South Africa, the issue has the subject of a host of by a range of institutions in the country. These range from the Human Rights Commission, to the Equality Court and similar quasi-judicial entities, in addition to test cases decided by the Constitutional Court..

Given that the country has the world’s largest white minority living under black rule, colour line tensions will remain a fairly permanent feature of the country’s political landscape. The same can be said of the US, where the world’s largest black minority lives under white rule.

South Africa really need to start taxing it’s wealth citizens

It’s well-established that South Africa has one of the most unequal income distributions in the world. Despite significant efforts by the State to stimulate inclusive growth, the income gap between the rich and the poor has continued to widen in post-apartheid South Africa.

A less explored topic is that of wealth inequality and, relatedly, the potential use of wealth taxation to reduce wealth inequality while also further diversifying the sources of much-needed government revenue.

An important consequence of a highly unequal distribution of wealth in society is the undermining of social, political and economic norms. For instance, high wealth inequality creates an imbalance of political power between citizens as the wealthy can potentially influence the political process unfairly. This can, in turn, reduce the optimum workings of a democracy.

At the same time, the concentration of a society’s wealth in the hands of a few reduces the mobility of wealth. This, in turn, limits its productive use in society.

Given that there are direct benefits from the holding of wealth (over and above the income streams which it generates which are already taxed via the income tax system), we argue that wealth is a legitimate tax base in its own right.

Why a wealth tax

Wealth inequality in South Africa is not only intolerably high, with Gini coefficients of 0.93 in 2010/11 and 0.94 in 2014/15, it is also not reducing. Wealth inequality is much higher than income inequality (which has a Gini coefficient of about 0.67) and significantly higher than global wealth inequality.

In 2015, the wealthiest 10% of South Africa’s population owned more than 90% of the total wealth in the country while 80% owned almost no wealth. These findings resonate with more recent findings documented in reports produced by Oxfam (2018) and the World Bank (2018).

There’s a clear racial dimension to this inequality with an average African household holding less than 4% of the wealth held by an average White household.

It’s a challenge to economic development when the bottom 80% of the population own no wealth, especially when a vibrant middle-class is a key ingredient in economic progression, as evidenced in advanced economies.

Thomas Piketty in his book Capital in the 21st Century indicates that much of the economic success experienced in advanced economies in the 20th century has been as a result of increased ownership of assets among the middle-class. This is certainly not the case in South Africa.

Piketty also stresses that wealth inequality is by no means an accident but a product of patrimonial capitalism.

The case of South Africa is unique. In addition to patrimonial capitalism, the prevailing extreme levels of wealth inequality and low inter-generational mobility of wealth are also a result of the structural inequities created by apartheid. These disparities being passed down from generation to generation.

Evidently, effective measures of redress would strongly warrant the intervention of the state.

We therefore propose that the South African government should consider creating an annual net wealth tax with three objectives. The first would be to collect reliable wealth data. This will reveal what people own and enhance the integrity of the income tax system by allowing SARS to compare people’s income and wealth. The second would be to contribute towards curbing wealth inequality, albeit imperfectly. The third would be to generate government revenue, though we stress that international evidence suggests this is generally low.

The how

The process of creating a net wealth tax in South Africa should ideally begin with a simple form of an annual net wealth tax. We would suggest that the net wealth tax rate should initially be at a low rate (possibly even zero).

This will allow an assessment of who owns what by making wealth disclosure mandatory for all citizens.

This will create an environment of transparency and over time will provide a much clearer picture of the net wealth tax base in South Africa. It would also allow further analysis to help set an effective wealth tax rate that does not promote tax migration and capital flight.

If a non-zero wealth tax rate were to be applied, it should be progressive in nature, for example, by providing a high threshold below which no tax is payable. In turn, this data would provide the South African Revenue Service with improved data to test whether high net worth individuals are being taxed correctly within the income tax system.

The valuation of assets has often ranked high among the list of challenges when creating an effective net wealth tax that keeps costs low. In fact, net wealth taxes have been ineffective in many countries. This has been due to poor or complex methods of valuation, or simply the high costs of administration.

Assets which lend themselves to easy valuation and which could be taxed under a net wealth tax include fixed property. This is already taxed at local government level but could attract an additional national tax. The OECD also supports the idea of taxing property because taxing property has less distortionary effects when compared to other wealth taxes.

Municipal valuations (albeit of varying quality) already exist to provide a good starting point for a national property tax. A national property tax would require a concerted effort to improve the quality of valuation rolls across all municipalities and district councils to avoid the horizontal equity legal challenges seen in other countries (as was the case in Germany).

Cash and some financial assets such as defined contribution retirement funds are easy to value and are thus an easy target for a wealth tax. We would suggest, however, that in an initial net wealth tax, retirement funds should be excluded because of possible distortionary pressures on savings. Currently the retirement of many South Africans is severely underfunded. In addition, it would be inequitable to tax defined-contribution pension funds but not defined-benefit funds (such as the government employees pension fund).

We would also suggest that personal assets such as luxury vehicles, works of art and jewellery be excluded because of valuation difficulties. Worldwide, such assets are under-reported, undervalued and/or hidden.

Conclusion

It’s evident that economic inequality is rife in South Africa. Income and consumption inequalities are high and wealth inequality is even higher – much higher than global wealth inequality. Persistent high wealth inequality has the potential to undermine social, economic and democratic values.

A net wealth tax imposed in a society with notorious levels of inequality and a pattern of class overlaid with race, may not be a panacea for the need to generate sufficient revenue to reduce the deficit before borrowing. However, apart from the revenue collected, it would add considerable legitimacy to the overall tax system. Such a tax policy should accommodate a revenue-neutral shift from taxes on employment to taxes on capital and investment income.

It is not our argument that tax is the only available instrument to address the inequities of income and wealth. Other methods of redress include land reform, the provision of infrastructure and increased access to quality health and education.


The chapter was written by Samson Mbewe, Ingrid Woolard and Dennis Davis. It appears in The state of the nation: poverty & inequality: diagnosis, prognosis and responses edited by Crain Soudien; Vasu Reddy; Ingrid Woolard published by HSRC

Some unfinished businesses to note as South Africa freedom day approaches

South Africans celebrate Freedom Day on April 27 every year to mark the country’s first democratic elections in 1994. A quarter of a century later, though, questions remain: how much and whose freedom is to be celebrated?

The differing answers among voters might affect the results of the national elections on May 8.

South Africans can still not celebrate freedom from want. They are painfully aware that one cannot eat democracy. Formal political equality is rightly celebrated as an achievement by those who suffered under dictatorship, minority rule and other forms of oppressive regimes that denied them basic rights. But democracy doesn’t put food on the table. Nor does it provide decent shelter or secure a dignified living.

Former US President Franklin D.

Roosevelt’s famous 1941 speech to Congress identified four freedoms: those of speech, of worship, from want and from fear.

Freedom from want, [as he explained], means economic understandings which will secure to every nation a healthy peacetime life for its inhabitants – everywhere in the world.

Acutely aware of this, the drafters of the Freedom Charter – which was adopted in 1955 by the African National Congress (ANC) that now governs South Africa, among other anti-apartheid activists – included far more than just political freedoms. It also has the sharing of the country’s wealth among all people as a fundamental principle.

But these ideals, still considered a basic blueprint for the country, have – to a large extent – remained remote goals.

The South African Constitution is among the very few to recognise socio-economic rights as human rights – including the right to food, health care, shelter, water and education. But there is a huge gap between setting norms and implementing them.

Today, South Africa is one of the most consistently unequal countries in the world. More than half the population lives in poverty, while a staggering 27% of people are unemployed.

According to Eunomix, which advises some of the biggest mining companies in the country, the past 12 years saw the country suffer more declines in its socio-economic and governance performance than any other nation that’s not at war.

This is thanks largely to worsening corruption and policy paralysis during former President Jacob Zuma’s nine years in office. And, things are not about to get any better soon.

The country’s Reserve Bank has painted a gloomy picture of the country’s prospects for growth. This is thanks to rampant corruption, whose effects have been acutely felt at Eskom, the electricity utility, crippling the country’s power supply and hobbling economic growth.

Discontent and disruption

Freedom Day should be a forceful reminder of the democratic rights enshrined in the Constitution. These include the right to free speech and to protest, basic human rights which were suppressed under centuries of colonial and apartheid rule.

The problem is that South Africa’s political culture today does not live up to the ideal the Constitution enshrines. There is a massive gap between declared norms and actual realities.

For example, in early April protesters from Alexandra township, one of Johannesburg’s poorest black settlements, were prevented by police from marching to Sandton, the adjacent, affluent suburb. In the same week rogue elements of the African National Congress (ANC) Youth League disrupted a book launch in the posh suburb. They tore up copies of a book by an investigative journalist exposing the network of corruption allegedly overseen by the governing party’s secretary-general Ace Magashule, while he was the premier of the Free State.

The Youth League was later forced to abandon plans for a public burning of the book after the ANC intervened. The party implored its members to

protect the values and reputation of the ANC, by practising political tolerance and defending the rights enshrined in the Constitution.

Such noble words, however, only point to the governing party’s inability to walk the talk. For example, when the ANC’s deputy secretary-general Jessie Duarte was confronted with questions she did not like from a journalist who works for eNCA, an independent TV station. The question was about the party’s controversial proposed list of MPs. Duarte attacked the reporter, fuming you don’t even have a right to exist as a TV station in this country.

Much more to do

On Freedom Day, South Africans might or should celebrate the fact that they have covered some distance on the road to freedom. But it will remain a long and winding road. As Raymond Suttner, an ANC liberation struggle hero who spent years in solitary confinement, says

even though elections with all people entitled to vote for the first time was a massive victory, freedom is never finally realised. … It needs to be seen as a concept with an indefinite scope and meaning.

Where there is no fight for it, there is no freedom. The end of minority regimes does not equate freedom. Liberation movements as governments are no guarantee of good governance ensuring equal rights and benefits for all.

New regimes often just create space for privileges to a new elite in cohorts with earlier vested interests.

They do not live up to the promises made to the ordinary people. Rather, they disclose the limits to liberation.

The old slogan that the struggle continues – a luta continua – is as valid today as it was during the struggle for liberation. The difference is that others now have to carry the torch.

Maybe Freedom Day can serve as a reminder of such unfinished business.

The deadly implications of illegal gold mining in South Africa

On the outskirts of Durban Deep, an abandoned mining town with a labyrinth of underground tunnels long since abandoned by the big gold companies, Elizabeth goes rhythmically about her work.

Grinding piles of rough stones into white, gold-flecked silt on a large concrete slab, the 40-year-old is one of the ghostly dust-covered zama zamas – artisanal miners, mostly illegal – who have turned to scavenging in disused gold and diamond mines across South Africa.

It can be deadly work: more than 24 people died when an abandoned gold mine flooded in neighbouring Zimbabwe in January this year.

Nonetheless, Elizabeth is one of a growing number of women driven into this dangerous world, earning less than £10 a day for crushing up to 20kg of rock retrieved from Johannesburg’s disused mineshafts. The threat of sexual violence is all too common.

“This work is very hard. It’s not a good job,” says Elizabeth, showing her calloused palms. “But in Zimbabwe things are worse, so we have no choice. Now there are more women than before coming to South Africa from Zimbabwe to do this.”

Together with her husband and one of their four children, she came here from Harare in 2015 to search for work. But South Africa has an unemployment rate of 27% and opportunities are scant.

Elizabeth crushes small stones into white, gold-flecked silt. This can cause silicosis, a chronic lung disease. Photograph: Shaun Swingler

Elizabeth crushes small stones into white, gold-flecked silt. This can cause silicosis, a chronic lung disease. Photograph: Shaun Swingler

According to a 2015 report by the South African Human Rights Commission, the country’s burgeoning illicit gold trade has been fuelled by the formal mining industry’s collapse combined with the failure of the ruling African National Congress to regulate the informal mining sector. Political and economic turmoil in a number of neighbouring countries has only compounded the problem.

The report estimated 30,000 illegal miners were operating across South Africa; about 75% are believed to be undocumented migrants, primarily from Zimbabwe, Mozambique and Lesotho. Hundreds have died due to collapsing mine shafts, gas explosions and turf wars between the criminal syndicates that have seized control of the illegal industry.

On Johannesburg’s outskirts, cut off from support networks and services, women are bearing the brunt of the violence and lawlessness associated with illicit mining.

“Mining is innately male-dominated,” says Kgothatso Nhlengethwa, a Johannesburg-based geologist and researcher on informal mining.

Nhlengethwa says there is a dearth of research on the precarious role of migrant women and the risks and challenges that they face in an industry worth almost £400m a year.

Gang-rape and other forms of sexual violence are common, says Elizabeth. “A lot of women are being raped,” she says. “You hear stories about what happens to them when they go home.”

In December a small group of women marched on the local police station, carrying placards bearing the slogan: “Sick and tired of rape” and demanding greater police protection for the 800-strong community at Durban Deep. Others, though, are simply too afraid to approach the authorities.

Alan Martin, a researcher with the Global Initiative against Transnational Organised Crime, says women have “little negotiating power” with the criminal syndicates in terms of their wages or ability to choose “where to work and what kind of work they do”.

Martin says the same applies when they are “shaken down for bribes” by notoriously corrupt police.

Women are frequently coerced into exchanging sexual favours with men, who earn considerably more, in return for a better cut of the takings.

Health is also at risk. “They are crushing a type of rock that is silica based,” Nhlengethwa says. This can cause silicosis, a chronic lung disease that has claimed the lives of thousands of mine workers since the 1960s.

Monica, a 33-year-old Malawian, has been crushing in Durban Deep since she arrived in 2016, working in a small clearing near the mine’s crumbling former staff houses.

“When you are crushing, you often get sick,” she says, fine dust clinging to her skin and clothes as she works. Sometimes, she makes as little as £3 for a full day’s toil.

“It’s small money,” says Monica. “It’s not enough to put food on the table.”

People queue for food parcels at an animal welfare clinic in Durban Deep, Johannesburg. Photograph: Shaun Swingler

People queue for food parcels at an animal welfare clinic in Durban Deep, Johannesburg. Photograph: Shaun Swingler

On an overcast Saturday morning, a queue of women and small children forms in the car park of the Claw animal welfare clinic, a longstanding institution in Durban Deep. A scheme, run in tandem with the Johannesburg branch of Food Not Bombs, provides free hot meals every Saturday.

“There are at least 80 to 100 women coming every week for food,” says Lara Reddy, Food Not Bombs’ coordinator. “Sometimes it’s much more than that. There’s so much need.”

Claw was founded by Cora Bailey, who has witnessed the steady deterioration of Durban Deep since it ceased formal operations in 2001. Gangs, murders and rape have become commonplace in the sprawling surrounding informal settlements, with the violence so widespread that Bailey claims almost every child here will have witnessed rape or domestic abuse.

With the vast majority of people in the area living off the proceeds of illicit mining, fear of arrest or deportation prevents many women from going to the police or seeking help at overstretched local medical clinics.

“Many of them are undocumented, and there’s a lot of xenophobia towards them,” Bailey says.

Jessica, 30, first moved from the small Zimbabwean town of Lupane to Matholesville, a ramshackle informal settlement about 2km west of Durban Deep, in 2016.

After briefly returning home last year, she returned to Durban Deep in February, pushed by Zimbabwe’s spiralling economic crisis.

“It’s hard to find jobs in South Africa,” says Jessica as she makes her way to work on a busy crushing site behind densely packed rows of corrugated zinc shacks. “This is the only job that I can do because there are no requirements – no passport or ID necessary. All that’s required is my strength.”


SOURCE: The Guardian, UK

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South Africa’s women team make history

A semi-final victory for South Africa at the Women’s Africa Cup of Nations means Banyana Banyana will play at the World Cup finals for the first time.

Desiree Ellis coach of South Africa celebrates during the 2018 TOTAL African Womens Cup of Nations semi final match between South Africa and Mali on the 27 November 2018 at Cape Coast Stadium, Ghana / Pic Sydney Mahlangu/BackpagePix

They celebrated in fine voice with captain Janine Van Wyk tweeting, “We have done it. We made history.”

They will face Nigeria on Saturday in the Ghanaian capital Accra.

This means the Super Falcons will be defending their title – and will look forward to an eighth appearance at the World Cup.

They needed penalties to beat Cameroon after a goalless 120 minutes, while South Africa beat Mali 2-0.

Cameroon and Mali must now lift themselves for Friday’s third-place play-off that has a World Cup place on offer for the winners.

South Africans want delivery, not party loyalty

Voters line up in South Africa’s last election. Their concerns are shifting. Photo: EFE-EPA/Kim Ludbrook


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The attention of South Africans has recently been firmly fixed on issues of good governance – or more specifically on its failures. This is due partly to several exposés of scandals involving former President Jacob Zuma and the Gupta family. The allegations are that members of the family and a network of individuals close to Zuma were involved in corruption and efforts to weaken key state institutions.

But does the public outcry reflect actual changes in the hearts, minds, and loyalty of the nation’s voters? And what does this mean for the incumbent government, led by the African National Congress (ANC), when the people return to the polls in 2019?

New research suggests that major shifts are beginning to happen in the country. For example, in past elections, loyalty to the ANC – the party that led the struggle for freedom and democracy – mattered more than government performance and trust in government institutions. This is no longer the case. The research shows that the performance of institutions such as parliament, the Courts, the South African Police Services, the South African Social Security Agency, the Department of Social Development and the media are now as important a predictor of voters’ preferences.

In fact, issues of good governance – reflected in trust in institutions, the implementation of the socio-economic rights enshrined in the Constitution and perceptions of corruption – matter significantly.

This is clear from the two major findings of the study. The first is that the number of people supporting the ANC is down significantly. The survey found that 53% of those interviewed said that they would vote for the ANC in 2019. The percentage may be slightly higher as 11% of respondents said they wouldn’t vote and the remainder refused to answer the question. This is significantly lower than the 70% the ANC got in 2004 and marginally lower than the 54% in the 2016 local government elections.

Secondly, perceptions of good governance are becoming more important for the average voter, and that party loyalty – while still significant – is on the decline.

These first findings are part of a three-part national study into the drivers of voting preference and influence.

What matters

Perceptions of who and how decisions are made, how resources are managed and implemented, and the extent to which public institutions meet the needs of the population (rather than a select group of people) appears to be holding sway among potential voters. This is pertinent given the prevalence of service delivery protests, increasing concerns about safety  and the daily exposure by various commissions of enquiryof the magnitude of corruption.

The study clearly shows that perceptions of good governance, corruption as well as social and economic well-being are the key factors likely to influence how people vote in the 2019 national general elections.

We also found that:

  • 75% of the respondents believed that corruption had increased in the country.
  • Voting for the party of “liberation” was still the most important reason for 35% of all respondents. But this was not a key driver of voting behaviour in our statistical model. This is a clear shift from the past two decades.
  • Many respondents expressed fairly high levels of trust in institutions (such as the courts, media, South African Social Security Agency, and the Department of Social Development). But, former President Jacob Zuma fared poorly: only 26% of potential voters expressed trust in him.
  • Voters who expressed strong trust in institutions were nearly four times likelier to vote ANC than those who had strong distrust in institutions.
  • Voters who believed that corruption had increased since 2014 were half as likely to vote for the ANC than those who thought that corruption had decreased.

Contradictions

The research revealed that while potential voters in the poor and middle-income brackets are not oblivious to how public institutions conduct their affairs, just over half of the respondents were likely or extremely likely to trust the South African Social Security Agency and the Department of Social Development. These two departments are directly engaged in poverty reduction through the payment of social grants to almost 17 million beneficiaries and the delivery of welfare services to vulnerable individuals and families.

Figure 1: How likely are you to trust in the following institutions?

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However, the survey found lower levels of trust in the South African Police Service (44%). This comes as no surprise in view of high rates of crime and violence in the country.

Trust in Parliament was 45%, indicating less favourable public opinion about the failure of parliament to hold political office bearers to account. Similarly, corruption is highly likely to be the reason for the low levels of trust expressed in former President Zuma (26%).

Looking ahead

These findings, when read along with concerns about corruption and service delivery failures, suggest that good governance matters significantly to voters. These perceptions and the extent to which public institutions meet the needs of the population appear to be holding sway among potential voters.

This is pertinent given the persistence of service delivery protests in communities all over the country and the exposure to corruption on a daily basis.

Whether the recent changes in ANC leadership, which saw Cyril Ramaphosa become party president and leader of the country, will once again shift voter perceptions is a question that we hope to answer when the results of the 2018 study are released.


This first set of data was collected through a nationally representative survey, at the height of the contestation for leadership in the governing party in 2017. It’s the first set of findings released in a three-year study. The next findings – to be released in the first quarter of 2019 – will help to show patterns over time, particularly where voters hold contradictory views.