'Polokwane spring' gives the left a lift


Almost two decades after the fall of the Berlin wall, the Communist Party are back in business. Forget Volga sedans and vodka rations – that’s for the historical materialists. Marxist-Leninism South African style is a little hipper than that. It also should be said that South Africa’s communists are a tad more idealistic than were the fading Stalinists of the Soviet order.?


This time the Communists have pinned their colours to the mast of the ANC’s Jacob Zuma, a man not known for left-wing or trade union sympathies. In fact, Zuma earned his spurs in the ANC as a ruthless intelligence chief rooting out dissidents and ultra-leftists.?


The ANC’s leftist allies now refer to the period after Jacob Zuma’s election as ANC president as the ‘Polokwane Spring’ which they say will usher in the ‘national democratic revolution’. “We are at the crossroads in the history of our revolution” said SACP secretary general Blade Ndzimande. There is “the potential for the movement to make a significant leftward shift”, he added. Cosatu chief Zwelinzima Vavi agreed: “The change of direction in policy is now urgent.” Whether Zuma can deliver that change is another matter. As Nzimande and Vavi roar into Zuma’s left ear, corporate South Africa is whispering into his right. Bobby Godsell, executive chairman of Eskom and former CEO of AngloGold, said the financial crisis is an opportunity for emerging markets, with their growing middle classes and development potential.?


Godsell said the post-Mbeki ANC is showing a new openness about engaging in dialogue with business and civil society groups on how best to address South Africa’s development challenges of crime, health, education and job creation.


For now, it will be President Kgalema Motlanthe running South Africa’s ‘national democratic revolution’, and his steadiness and political acumen have impressed so much that some have demanded that he stay as national president while Zuma keeps the party presidency. But both men face the same charge of ‘talking left and acting right’.?


Motlanthe’s choice of cabinet ministers matched skills to the relevant portfolios. The minerals and energy portfolios may be separated and there may be some radical changes as the ANC seeks to assert control over the country’s resources. SACP spokesman Malesela Maleka is said to be keen on overseeing the creation of a state mining company – that at least will be music to the ears of the comrades.


Back to South Africa, The death of unity

Niger Delta crisis comes full circle


Resource-rich but mismanaged, the Niger Delta encapsulates Nigeria’s national political and economic problems. The occasional well-meaning initiative is quickly sunk by corrupt local barons. The crisis has been costing 500,000 barrels of oil per day – that is about $20bn a year at average oil prices in 2008.?


On taking office in May 2007, President Umaru Yar’Adua said his government would give the Delta special attention. Vice-President Goodluck Jonathan, who hails from the oil-bearing Bayelsa State, initially persuaded the militant gangs in the region to call a ceasefire, and to suspend their attacks on oil installations and kidnappings of oil workers. Two of the region’s new governors, Timipre Sylva of Bayelsa and Rotimi Amaechi of Rivers, made extravagant promises about new jobs.


?The initiatives turned out to make little difference as sporadic militant attacks resumed in 2008. Then, grand plans for a landmark conference were grounded when people objected to its chairman, Ibrahim Gambari – who had been Nigeria’s ambassador to the UN when Ogoni activist Ken Saro-Wiwa was hanged by General Sani Abacha’s junta in 1995. Delta citizens also harbour scepticism about the government’s commitment to the rule of law when they see no action taken against former governors James Ibori (Delta State) and Peter Odili (Rivers State), previously under investigation for corruption and money laundering, but who now claim immunity.?


Promises of military assistance in the Niger Delta from French President Nicolas Sarkozy and British Prime Minister Gordon Brown in support of Yar’Adua’s campaign against stolen or ‘blood’ oil provoked the militants to call off any further pretence of a ceasefire. Within 18 months of Yar’Adua taking power, events in the Delta had come full circl. 


Back to Nigeria, A change in need of belief

Helping women in Africa's battle against HIV/AIDS


The world is increasingly calling for justice and peace for women, pleading for equality and denouncing violence against them. But as all this unfolds, we are still faced with startling facts about the vulnerability of women to HIV infection, especially in Sub-Saharan Africa, where 61% of adults living with AIDS are women.?


Women bear the bulk of the burden of care, even though they may themselves be infected with HIV or indeed ill. We know that these efforts largely go unnoticed, unrecognised and unrewarded. These heroic contributions by women have been a significant factor in the prevention of the further spread of HIV. Women have taken steps to seek information for themselves, their families and communities, through involvement in home-based care services, peer education and widow support groups. ?


However, women need to do much more to mobilise their communities to change those aspects of culture that put them at risk of infection. This can only succeed with the full participation of all community members – traditional leaders and all other agents of socialisation, including men.


?One of the prime drivers of the epidemic is gender inequality and violence against women. One in every four women will experience sexual violence at the hands of an intimate partner. Although this issue is increasingly claiming space at national, regional and international forums, countries are not developing indicators to measure progress in this area. This is what women should demand. ??


Violence against women is also fuelled by the language used to describe it. Reframing communication is crucial. It is somewhat ‘acceptable’ to ignore violence against women if it is labelled a ‘domestic dispute’ because people feel that there would be an element of intrusion if they intervened. This attitude is often demonstrated when women report violence that has taken place at home: often law enforcement agencies attempt to ‘reconcile’ instead of prosecuting the perpetrator. The solution lies in a communication strategy that speaks to women as well as men. Women must be empowered not to tolerate violence and men must realise that they do not have to be violent in order to be men.


?Poverty fuels the spread of HIV in many ways. Women must hold governments to invest more to ensure that significant progress is made towards achieving the Millennium Development Goals to reduce poverty. Its alleviation, and women’s economic empowerment, have the potential to enable women to negotiate safer sex and contribute to the reduction of the spread of HIV.


?Women also need to demand tools that they can use to protect themselves against infection. They must call for more accessibility of female condoms, which can be used by women living with HIV who do not wish to fall pregnant and also to protect non-HIV partners. ?


What can be done? Imposing recommendations that promote gender equality as conditionality for grants goes against the tenets on which the Global Fund was created. When it comes to influencing patriarchal systems and gender equalities, it can only give out information and guidelines in proposal application forms on the availability of funds to target women and girls. However, the challenge is for countries themselves to put women’s issues at the centre of their programmes against AIDS, tuberculosis and malaria. ?


In the short term, countries can support women providing care in Africa by compensating them for taking on a disproportionate burden of the HIV/AIDS epidemic. This is not too far-fetched. Nutritional and financial support is already being given to the families of orphaned and vulnerable children as a response to the HIV/AIDS crisis. A study done in Zambia and Malawi shows that approximately 70% of the beneficiary households of social cash-transferring schemes seem to be HIV/AIDS-affected, even though the schemes do not use HIV/AIDS as a criterion. Targeting households where women are the care-givers may bring more success than attempting to reconstruct gender roles and sexual independence in the first instance. Changing the mindset is a long-haul problem.

It is critically important that society create an environment for women to be supported in their efforts to demand their basic human rights and freedom from acts of violence. In this effort, the joint contribution of men, institutions and all agencies should be marshalled for maximum results.


Elizabeth N. Mataka is Vice-chair, The Global Fund to Fight AIDS, TB and Malaria


New look for Carthage revamp


The latest projects in Tunis specialise in being creative. Their ingenuity lies in the manner in which they have been woven into a pre-existing urbanisation project begun in the 1990s, around a reclaimed lagoon near the seafront in Tunisia’s capital city.


?Located between the airport and the city centre, the ‘Berges du Lac’ is fast becoming a vital business district, and it provides its own affluent suburbs. The ‘Sports City’ of the Bukhatir Group, and the ‘Century City’ of Sama Dubai (see model on previous page) are both centred around the lakeside, and these are also planned to form a complex of offices, housing and leisure sites.?


Beyond the ‘dawn of a new Mediterranean’ hype, the development should anchor Tunis as a financial hub to rival the growing power of Casablanca and its stock exchange, and capitalise on Tunisia’s long-established track record in tourism. With the ‘baby boom’ generation beginning to reach retirement in Europe, there are plenty who will be wanting some winter sun, and the location could even be taken up by those who specialise in providing ‘surgery safaris’.


Back to Pumping in the Petrodollars

Investment in ports falls behind trade growth


Although huge developments have been taking place in North Africa and to a certain extent in South Africa, Sub-Saharan Africa’s (SSA’s) port capacity has been lagging, both in investment and in making essential management changes. The evidence shows that while SSA’s container and general cargo traffic has more than doubled since the mid-1990s, the region has not seen a corresponding development of its port infrastructure, except in a handful of countries.


A study recently undertaken by UK-based Ocean Shipping Consultants for the World Bank provides a comprehensive insight into the status of both primary and secondary ports in SSA and a platform from which to implement positive industry change. “The study is a valuable step in digging down to Sub-Saharan Africa’s real needs in this sector,” says Andrew Penfold, Ocean Shipping Consultants’ director.?


Focusing on 17 countries and over 70 maritime ports, the study measures traffic growth, infrastructure development and institutional arrangements. The most striking factor is the strong growth that has been achieved in both container and general cargo traffic. In both categories and across all regions, traffic easily more than doubled in the period of 1995-2005.?


As regards infrastructure development, relatively few major new port development projects were identified. Several projects were at the proposal or planning stage, but a number of them had not moved beyond this point for quite some time. On the positive side, seven countries were undertaking new national port master plans as a preliminary step to delivering new port capacity.


?Institutional reform was also found to be slow. Only two countries have adopted the modern ‘landlord port model’, a major feature of which is the withdrawal of the public sector from front-line cargo handling operations. Out of the 17 countries analysed, eight retain the old-style ‘service port model’, where the public sector is both manager and operator.


?As with the urgent need for more infrastructure works, the pace of institutional reform needs to be accelerated and to be coordinated with road, rail and other major infrastructure works. This will particularly facilitate the development of the transport corridors designed to meet the needs of landlocked countries. 


Back to Infrastructure, Sustaining the momentum for modernisation

Profile: Morgan Tsvangirai, Prime Minister of Zimbabwe

Tsvangirai's path to the prime ministership has been long and difficult. He was arrested in both 2000 and 2003 on unsuccessful treason charges and, in 2007, was badly beaten while in custody. Even his most bitter enemies and detractors acknowledge his courage.


Born on 10 March 1952 in Masvingo, Tsvangirai never attained the educational qualifications required for university study. He always felt defensive about this and his reading remains undisciplined. He has a liking for political biographies, particularly the one by Nelson Mandela.


Robert Mugabe was an early hero but when Tsvangirai began his career as vice-president of the Associated Mine Workers Union in the 1980s, and then as secretary-general of the Zimbabwe Congress of Trade Unions from 1988-2000, he began disputing Mugabe's implementation of adjustment programmes that badly affected his members. He was beaten by Mugabe's thugs, most spectacularly in 1997 when assailants tried to throw him out of a skyscraper. They failed to intimidate him and, by the late 1990s, he had become a formidable opponent of Mugabe's ZANU-PF.


Tsvangirai played a leading part in the National Constitutional Assembly and was its chair in 1997-98. This was a convention of civil society groups that fought for constitutional liberalism. However, his decision to help found the Movement for Democratic Change (MDC) in 1999 decisively tilted the struggle from one between civil society and government to one that was based on a contest between political parties. Even now, it is impossible to say how deeply this divided independent groups, and some never forgave Tsvangirai for marginalising them.


The rapid growth of the MDC shook ZANU-PF, and Mugabe lost the 2000 referendum because of MDC opposition. The president's response with the farm invasions was meant to assert his authority and to fulfil his life's dream of a completed nationalism. Mugabe accused Tsvangirai of being a puppet of the West, and fought on the negative platform of avoiding the return of colonialism, with Tsvangirai as the frontman of the old powers. But he also cheated, and the rigging of the 2002 elections was sufficient to deny Tsvangirai victory.


The Tsvangirai of those days was not impressive to African leaders. Nigeria's Olusegun Obasanjo was scornful and South Africa's Thabo Mbeki never fully overcame his early views on Tsvangirai's lack of leadership capacities. This was stubbornness on Mbeki's part, as Tsvangirai rapidly matured as a political figure.


The intensity of events surrounding the 2008 elections saw stalemate and finally a compromise. Mugabe and ZANU-PF had been certain they would win and the extent of MDC support surprised even Tsvangirai. Most objective analysts agreed that he took sufficient votes to become president, but the process of counting allowed the scaling down of the figures to force a run-off. The build-up to the run-off was one of increased state violence, forcing Tsvangirai to withdraw and allow Mugabe to claim victory.


That 'victory' convinced no one, and previously tolerant African presidents soon began turning against Mugabe. Against this backdrop, Mbeki's mediation led to the sort of compromise achieved in Kenya.


\The challenges facing Tsvangirai are immense, and many, even within the MDC, question whether the courageous opposition leader can muster the capacity to restore a complex, broken nation. Many blame the 2006 MDC split on his heavy-handed approach to internal quarrels about his leadership; and it is also thought that, had he been more generous by way of political concessions to the breakaways, he would have won the 2008 election by a large enough margin to make the subsequent scaling down of the figures more difficult, if not impossible.


Tsvangirai is often considered a person who makes decisions too swiftly and then feels unable to carry them through. If he gets to act as prime minister, he will have to tame his impulsiveness and learn the protracted art of tip-toeing through a minefield of different agendas in a coalition of so many checks and balances that, without goodwill, any progress is impossible.

Profile: Raila Odinga, Prime Minister of Kenya

Odinga cartoon

When Kenya attained self-rule in June 1963, every expectation was that the working arrangement between the new prime minister, Jomo Kenyatta, and the colonial governor, Malcolm MacDonald, would be difficult. Having been detained for eight years until 1961 (wrongly suspected of leading the Mau Mau insurgency), Kenyatta was expected to go on an avenging mission, dispossessing settlers of most of the arable land in the country. Settlers began emigrating in droves, leaving behind a haemorrhaging economy and a country in the grip of uncertainty. ?It came as a surprise therefore when a different reality began to take shape. Kenyatta, already in his 60s but showing few signs of his age or the trauma of detention, proved to be a pragmatic leader. He was a tireless worker and an effective administrator willing to learn from the colonials while managing his own team of ministerial novices. Even more surprising was his good relationship with the governor. ??


To many of Raila Odinga’s supporters, drawing comparisons between Kenyatta and Raila, who is only Kenya’s second prime minister after Kenyatta, would be shocking, to say the least. It was, after all, Kenyatta who betrayed Raila’s father, Jaramogi Oginga Odinga, his most vocal supporter while he was in detention. Kenyatta engineered Oginga’s isolation from mainstream Kenyan politics, then detained him and thus created the historical enmity between Odinga’s Luo community and Kenyatta’s Kikuyu.


?With the formation of the coalition government in April this year, however, history may be repeating itself. After only six months in government, Raila Odinga, 63, has won over critics in government and among the Kikuyu in much the same way Kenyatta did with the settlers 45 years ago. With all the uncertainty and suspicion within the coalition following the disputed December 2007 presidential election, Raila Odinga’s sheer drive and determination has kept the coalition together. Coming into a docket that had a vague job description, as Prime Minister he has carved out a niche, taking charge of daily government business and giving what many had expected would be a bloated and noisy coalition a semblance of direction. He has developed cordial working relations with cabinet ministers of President Mwai Kibaki’s Party of National Unity, while effectively holding the line for his Orange Democratic Movement. More importantly, his refusal to whinge even after his party was shortchanged in the distribution of government jobs has given the country some stability after the crisis of January and February 2008.


?Raila Odinga’s relationship with Kibaki has confounded both supporters and critics. Like Kenyatta and MacDonald, the two seem to have cultivated a warm relationship, frequently meeting in private to discuss government business.


?Like Kenyatta’s all those years ago, Odinga’s campaign for the presidency in 2007 generated fear, this time among the Kikuyu bourgeoisie who control much of the economy. The alarm was not unfounded. As a political activist in the 1980s, he was implicated in the abortive 1982 coup against Daniel arap Moi and detained for eight years. Calling himself a social democrat in the 1990s, he flitted between parties trying to forge an ethnic coalition to unseat Moi. In 2002, he midwifed the coalition that brought Kibaki to power.


?None of these repeat encounters with history was more telling than when, late in 2007, the Nairobi Stock Exchange (NSE)began to nosedive when it seemed Odinga could win. Having run his election campaign on an equitable wealth distribution platform, he found it hard to convince the business community that he would not be bad for business. That September, he visited the NSE and was confronted by angry officials. One demanded to know if he was a communist. When Odinga, whose family has extensive interests in molasses and petroleum, explained that he too had a personal interest in the NSE, it really did feel as if history was repeating itself. In the early 1960s and just out of prison, Kenyatta was confronted by angry settlers demanding to know whether he was a communist. He, too, answered in the negative.

Most popular

  • Latest

  • Most read

News & Analysis



Subscriptions Digital EditionSubscriptions PrintEdition










Music & Film



Keep up to date with the latest from our network :


Connect with us