South Africa’s political landscape is shifting almost by the hour. The gloves are off in a power struggle that pits President Jacob Zuma against a group of reformers, led by Finance Minister Pravin Gordhan. It is a high-stakes drama that has profound, long-term implications for the country’s beleaguered economy at a time when the international rating agencies are circling, smelling blood.
This week, former president Thabo Mbeki admitted to having co-authored the HIV-Aids denialist Castro Hlongwane booklet in his “Monday missives” – letters to South Africa which apparently seek to “set the record straight”. Mbeki also defended his denialist position, which hampered the roll-out of anti-retrovirals (ARVs) to ordinary South Africans and, is said to have unnecessarily claimed the lives of over 330 000 people.
On Thursday evening, President Jacob Zuma will stand at the front of Parliament with his hand on his heart as the military band plays the stirring notes of Nkosi Sikelel’ iAfrika, the 21-gun salute thunders and fighter planes roar overhead. It is a poignant moment at the Opening of Parliament every year, a brief moment of unity and patriotism. This year, the national salute will be taken by a man unworthy of the honour of leading the Republic of South Africa. He shamed himself and he shamed the Parliament he will enter.
Sometimes silences speak volumes.
In his seminal book The Anti-Politics Machine Stanford University anthropologist James Ferguson criticised the World Bank’s 1980s understanding of Lesotho as a “traditional subsistence peasant society.” Apartheid’s migrant labour system was explicitly ignored by the bank, yet remittances from Basotho workers toiling in mines, factories and farms across the Caledon River accounted for 60% of rural people’s income:
A sensational prison interview with M&G reporters uncovers new evidence linking Madikizela-Mandela to the murder of Dr Abu Baker Asvat.
One of the two men convicted of the killing of Dr Abu Baker Asvat at his Soweto surgery on January 27 1989 described this week how they were contracted by Winnie Madikizela- Mandela to carry out the assassination to cover up the beating of the murdered activist Stompie Seipei.
Since the rising of the sun of democracy upon the magnificent Drakensberg, none of the other sons of the soil on whom we have bestowed the title of president has come close to Thabo Mbeki in speechwriting. I predict that in the year 2100, students of post-apartheid South African rhetoric the world over will continue to recognise his 1996 “I am an African” speech as a remarkable text and superbly delivered speech.
Current developments in South Africa are reminiscent of events in 1985. In that year South Africa experienced high costs from currency depreciation and adverse political developments. At the time the country faced increasing international sanctions and isolation, while the exchange rate of the rand remained under severe pressure, recording sharp falls in the international value of the rand.