Category Archives: Southern Africa

South Africa – Peter Hain, the sports boycott and ending apartheid

Peter Hain, Outside In, London:  Biteback Publishing, 2012

Product Details

Review – by Keith Somerville

Peter Hain was one of the faces, one might say the most notorious face, of the campaign to stop apartheid South Africa’s cricket and rugby teams from touring Britain and Australia and then of the campaign to boycott South African sport globally.  For this he was a hate figure for many in the cricket and rugby establishments in Britain as well as South Africa – he was viciously attacked in right-wing newspapers like the Daily Mail and was on the receiving end of hate mail, death threats and attempts to frame him for crimes to end his role in the campaigns and discredit them.

He writes how the  blinkered right-wing editor of the Daily Mail, Sir John Junor, said that “It would be a mercy for humanity if this unpleasant little creep were to be dropped into a sewerage tank. Up to his ankles. Head first.” (p,42).  This was typical of how the conservative, pro-apartheid press treated those who sought to oppose apartheid and the application of racism to sport.

In this review, I will stick to South Africa, though in his autobiographical account Hain deals fascinatingly, though from his own viewpoint (rather than dispassionately) with  his political career in the Young Liberals and then  the Labour Party,becoming a cabinet minister under Blair and Brown. His depiction of Brown as “well-intentioned, superhumanely dedicated and decent,  by dysfuncional” is the most acute observation of the former Prime Minister I’ve read.

His account of growing up in apartheid South Africa in a family fighting racism and willing to put themselves in the firing line is fascinating.  What is most chilling, and this reminds my of all that I read about many ordinary Germans in Nazi Germany when I was writing a book chapter on German propaganda, is the way that decent, intelligent and otherwise reasonable white South Africans accepted apartheid with all its evils and violence because they could somehow distance themselves and say it was someone else’s idea while demanding racial  loyalty from all whites..  Hain talks of how family members could not accept the way that his parents fought on behalf of the black majority and stood out against, as they saw it, white interests and survival.

He wrotes of his family’s forced move to Britain and then his own development into an activist. His main field – before being active in the anti-racist Anti-Nazi League – was in opposing and organizing boycotts of South African sports tours to try to highlight the racism inherent in South African sport and to oppose apartheid itself.  There has been much discussion of this campaign and whether it merely punished South African sportsmen without affecting the longevity of apartheid or whether it helped bring down apartheid.

I would side with Hain and fully support his actions and his reasoning for doing it. This is not just because I was active in the Anti-Apartheid Movement in the 1980s and wrote for its newspaper, but because on trips as a BBC journalist to South Africa between 1990 and 1995 I spoke to politicians and sportsmen from the white community, visited rugby clubs and saw the near desperation of the white, sports-mad community to be part of world sport.  Under apartheid, especially after the mid-80s, white South Africans felt isolated and knew in their hearts that apartheid was responsible.

I remember sitting in the office of Renier Schoeman, a leading figure in the National Party, in March 1990 and seeing framed on his wall the certificate you got when to subscribed to National Geographic. It was up on his wall along with pictures of him in office and other important reflections of his public lfe. That was how much white South Africans wanted to be part of the wider world. The sports boycott had its effect.  Their acceptance back into the sporting world after 1994 and the reaction among white South Africans to Rugby World Cup victory and Nelson man dela’s presence at the final showed that.

This is a fascinating and personal account by Hain of the campaigns and of the way that the British sporting and conservative establishment (including a series of right-wing judges) tried to stop him.  It adds to the growing literature from the inside of the fight within and without to end apartheid.

The Libyan Sandstorm – a story of Libyans, Gaddafi and revolution: book review

By Keith Somerville

Lindsey Hilsum, Sandstorm: Libya in the Time of Revolution

It’s all too common that when leading reporters and correspondents write their accounts of events, they become the key player, the focus of the action and their feelings, responses and interpretations become the prism through which the reader is invited to view events. One need only to think of John Simpson in his burqa and his personal liberation of Kabul to realise how the main story can be forgotten. So, it was refreshing as well as enlightening to read Lindsey Hilsum’s thorough, informative and, dare I say it, entertaining account of the Libyan revolution. This is not a whimsical or satirical account in the style of Bill Bryson or P.J. O’Rourke, it’s just that the elegance, pace and sheer quality of the writing make it not only a comprehensive account of events and, most importantly of all, of their context, but one written in a way that now again brings a wry smile to the reader’s face. A good example is when Hilsum discusses the Libyan revolution as part of the Arab Spring. She explains that “while the governments of Tunisia, Egypt, Bahrain, Yemen, Libya and Syria might be similar to each other in corruption and nepotism, and might employ the same brutal tactics…Every country was unhappy in its own way” (p. 19). Neat, concise but also incisive and avoiding the simplistic accounts you get of the Arab spring.

The book starts with the brutal, vengeful beating, sodomising and killing of Muammar Gaddafi. The account pulls no punches. The fate meted out to him was violent and hate-filled, but the writer neither descends into a stock condemnation of human rights abuses nor an apologia for the perpetrators, rather she sets out why it happened. The act is explained but not justified, as is the public display of his body. As a good journalist, Hilsum conveys atmosphere, feeling and explanation, placing Libyans at centre stage, not herself. We find out why these things happen, rather than their effect on the journalist.

The book is well-structured, moving from the death of the Brother Leader to an account of the strange, massively contradictory and bombastic nature of the man – a man who could denounce the West and all its manifestations on the one hand and, at the height of his denunciations, fund a Hollywood style film about a Libyan hero, Omar Mukhtar, in which the hero is played by Anthony Quinn. She captures his fascination but effective contempt for women but also some of the positive effects of his fascination – the allegations of his womanising are detailed but this is accompanied by a detailing of the progress women were able to achieve under his rule in terms of education and employment. The strangest of all the revelations in the chapter on his Strange World are those concerned with his crazed message to Madeleine Albright, the USecretary of State, to wear green when she’s on TV to show that she loves him or his obsession with Condoleezza Rice, who he referred to as his “African Princess”.

There follows a well-researched narrative of the rise and consolidation of the Gaddafi regime – with its rejection of parliaments, formal state structures and its interwoven system of Revolutionary Committees to both mobilise and watch over the population. Hilsum also charts the rise first of the secular and then the Islamic opposition to Gaddafi and his brutal suppression of the revolts, with first-hand accounts from witnesses of killings and of the infamous Abu Salim massacre, in which 1,270 political prisoners were killed.

From an Africanist’s point of view, the King of Kings of Africa is one of the most fascinating chapters. Again, we see the contradictory, almost schizophrenic, nature of his policies. But behind it all there is a logic and that is based on his view of the interests of his regime and his standing in Africa. He supported liberation movements in southern Africa when they most needed funds, weapons and training –for this he earned the undying gratitude of Nelson Mandela. For those bordering Libya or within what he saw as his sphere of interest in Central and West Africa, gratitude is not the word most would use for their feelings towards him – hatred, bitterness and contempt for his high-handed and mercenary policies would be nearer the mark. Here was a man who thought nothing of seizing the territory of neighbouring states (Chad), fuelling but then helping extinguish revolts by movements according to narrow self-interest and helping build up brutal killers like Foday Sankoh in Sierra Leone and Charles Taylor in Liberia, not to mention his support for Idi Amin in Uganda. Gaddafi’s manipulation of the Tuareg, of the revolt in Darfur and of movements like Polisario show the way that his self-interest perverted popular or resistance movements, undermined African governments and complicated the already tangled legacy of colonialism.
Of key interest to readers now, will be the clear, empathetic but balanced account of the rising against Gaddafi, its progress, its dynamics and the challenges that now face the Libyan people. There’s no wide-eyed excitement and optimism that with Gaddafi gone all will be golden. The splits, rivalries and fault lines of the rebel movement (if it can even be called a movement) are revealed, providing an understanding of the clashes and fracturing of alliances now taking place. What is fascinating, too, is the account of why the West intervened (with guilt over Rwanda and Srebrenica mixed with less compassionate motives) and the role of Gulf states, particularly Qatar in that intervention – with nothing held back on why those states supported intervention in the hopes of averting intervention to stop the suppression of their own popular uprisings.

This is a compelling and comprehensive account of the uprising, its context and its complexity, uncluttered by jargon or the “big I am” tendency that mars many first-hand accounts by journalists of the chapters in history they have witnessed and reported.

Lindsey Hilsum’s Sandstorm: Libya in the Time of Revolution is published by faber and faber, London, 2012. ISBN 978-0-571-28803-8

Africa 2012: A year of opportunities and threats

Keith Somerville

A week into 2012 is a good point at which to stop and consider what the year is likely to hold for Africa, with of course the caveat that what holds for one state or region does not automatically hold for another state or region.

The continuing political evolution in Libya, Egypt and Tunisia may encourage popular movements in other north or sub-Saharan states, as people bereft of control over their futures and with detatched, distant, unresponsive and often rapacious governments decide that they too can bring about change.  Though as is developing in Egypt, that change may not be what protestors thought they had brought about or is more long-drawn out and violent than they hoped at the start of their “spring”.

In 1989 and the early 1990s, there was, to steal from Harold Macmillan, a new wind of change blowing through Africa – brought about b y many factors including the end of the cold war, the withdrawal of aid from socialist or western countries or the loss of strategic salience for some areas, and also a result of a slow build-up of anger among populations at the excesses and inadequacies of their leaders.

The results of that wave of change in Africa were patchy.  The USA and EU, often using aid or the threat of its withdrawal as a lever, sought above all else to encourage free market economic reforms and the holding of Western-style elections on timetables that were unrealistic and favoured incumbents who still had their hands on the levers of power.  President Omar Bongo of Gabon said in 1990 that the ‘wind from the east is shaking the coconut trees’.  He bent with the wind a little and survived with his auocratic rule intact – it is is still intact following his detah with his son in power and able to ensure victory in elections through his entrenched power, control of key media and immense powers of patronage.

But in other areas of Africa more change continues – Ghana holds regular, fiercely contested but generally fair and trusted elections.  Senegal is approaching elections with the prospect of a serious and popular challenge to President Wade.  Zambia saw elections in which a fierce critic of corruption, Michael Sata, came to power and set about rotting out corruption and challenging some of the excesses of Africa’s new best friend, China, in its unbalanced relations with African partners.

Effective political processes like those are needed rather than what we’ve seen in recent months in DR Congo, Cameroon and other states, where the popular will is not seriously reflected through votes – either through outright fraud or use of state power, wealth and political clientism to ensure the victory of the sitting leader.

There will be crucial elections, though, this year elsewhere in Africa.  Kenya‘s, due in December, could be key to the country’s ability to escape from political corruption, cronyism and the use of communal violence for political ends.  The last vote there, in 2007, was not fair and EU and other observers found that Kibaki’s victory was not a true reflection of the voting.  Violence on a huge scale followed the annoucement of the “results” and the indecently fast swearing-in of Kibaki.

Much of the evidence available from commissions of inquiry (Wako and Krielger) and from human rights groups shows that elements on the governing PNU side and in the opposition ODM, had no great faith in elections to ensure their access to power and had planned violence prior to the announcement of the result.  groups within the ODM had plans in place to make areas of Kenya ungovernable if Raila Odinga did not win.  PNU leaders had co-opted the Mungiki gang/sect on to their side and were ready for violence.  The police and security forces were used initially to crush with extreme violence the first demonstrations by ODM supporters.

What followed was political gangsterism that took on the appearance of ethnic violence, as pro-ODM Kalenjin in the Rift attacked Kikuyu and Kisii, and Kikuyu attacked Luo and carried out revenge raids against Kalenjin.  This was violence led by politicians greedy for power and the wealth that flows from it at all costs – it was not, as it was too often depicted in the Western media, an ethnic war fueled by long-held, primeval “tribal” hatred.

Six key figures accused of fomenting that violence (three from the PNU headed by Uhuru Kenyatta) and three from the old ODM alliance (chief among them William Ruto) will hear within three weeks whether they are to be tried.  The six are charged with a number of crimes including murder, forcible transfer (effectively ethnic cleansing), persecution and rape.  None are personally acussed of committing these crimes but of planning and implementing violent political cmpaigns using these crimes as instruments. They all deny the charges.

The ICC cases will have a huge effect on Kenyan politics.  Ruto and Kenyatta both intend to run for the presidency in 2012.  If they are on trial in the Hague they can hardly campaign strenuously or hold together coalitions of diverse groups and interests.  Their influence over Kenyan politics will be considerably reduced during the key election year and they may be taken out of the equation altogether.  Some feel this will lay the field open for Raila Odinga to beat whoever becomes the candidate for the Kibaki camp – as Kibaki cannot stand for another term.

Much will depend on whether Kenyatta and Ruto can exert influence and patronage from afar, what sort of alliances among individuals and communities emerge.  Manoeuvring is already underway, with the key Masaai leader William Ole Ntimama, throwing his weight (initially and possibly for tactical/bargaining reasons), behind a leading Masaai figure, Education Permanent Secretary James ole Kiyiapi.  He has standing among his community but hardly the stature of an Odinga, Musyoka or Kenyatta.

Personalities and the ability of rich and powerful individuals to put together strong but short-term coalitions have been at the heart of Kenyan election politics.  The ICC trials could break this mould or at least change the balance of power to weaken the power of individuals who have dominated the political scene for decades.  It is unrealistic to hope that the light the ICC could shed on the role power, wealth, corruption and violence in Kenyan politics will lead to permanent change on its own, but it is an opportunity for Kenyans to seize the initiative from the rich and powerful few who have used government as their personal playground since independence.

In South Africa, there is not a national election but there will be conferences and internal ANC elections that are just as important. The ANC holds a major policy conference in June, followed by its five-yearly elective congress in December.  The latter conference will choose the ANC’s leadership for the next five years and decide who runs for president on behalf of the movement in April 2014.

This year will see an intensification of the battle for the leadership and the soul of the ANC.  President Jacob Zuma – himself gaining power after a bitter fight with incumbent Thabo Mbeki in which dirty tactics and party factionalism were used by each to undermine the other – is fighting for his political life.  Always on the backfoot as a president personally because of the rape trial and corruption investigations, he rapidly came into conflict with his important support base in the Youth League as the league’s loose cannon, Julius Malema, tried to carve out  his own power base.  When Zuma tried to keep him in order they became bitter enemies with Malema repteadly embarrassing the government domestically and internationally and mocking Zuma personally.

Malema is still fighting to overturn his suspension from thr party and showed there is residual support for him, when he was elected to the ANC  provincial executive committee in Limpopo province.  He is unlikely to lie down and be quiet in such a key year for the ANC.  The question  is whether he can still command populist support and win g blocks of votes in the leadership contest, as his stature and credibility have been damaged.

Malema and his supporters in the Youth League are likely to fight Zuma tooth and nail and appear to favour the candidacy of  Deputy President Kgalema Motlanthe and Sports Minister Fikile Mbalula.  Motlanthe is a likely alternative to Zuma but doesn’t seem to want at this stage an open fight with Zuma, mirroring the one at the ANC Polokwane leadership election conference at which Zuma outflanked Mbeki with support from the Youth League.

An interesting political figure in the leadership struggle is Human Settlements Minister Tokyo Sexwale.  He is an  astute politician with a history of leadership in the Johannesburg townships, authority and respect within the ANC, and  experience as a successful businessman.  He was critical of the ANC over the Malema affair and called on the movement not to use disciplinary measures to settle political scores.  He could use his position to act as a peacemaker and kingmaker or could even emerge as an acceptable alternative to Zuma and Motlanthe.

However the factionalism and personality struggle pan out, it will be a fascinating but vital year from South Africa and the ANC.

Somalia is facing a tough year with the conflict between the transitional government and al Shabab now involving not just an AU force but also the Kenyan incursion (seemingly bogged down in the south and lacking a clear objective) and Ethiopian forces in the Ogaden.  As Mary Harper makes clear in her forthcoming book, foreign intervention and foreign-spawned peace conferences and artificial government have not solved but have usually exacerbated and prolonged conflict in Somalia.  It is time to leave Somalia to Somalis.  Developments in Somaliland suggest this can lead to innovative and positive progress.

Nigeria enters the year saddened and split by the growing violence in the north-east and repercussions at Christmas represented by the bloody attacks on churches in Abuja.  President Goodwill Jonathan declared a state of emergency, put tanks and troops in the street in areas of north-east Nigeria and threatened to crush to  the Islamist Boko Haram movement.

Amid what appears on the surface to be a Christian-Muslim split threatening a virtual civil war, there are complex social, communal and economic factors at play – as demonstrated by the widespread protests against the withdrawal of fuel subsidies, which threatened to get rolled into the whole Boko Haram conflict when protests took place in early January 2012 in Kano.

Boko Haram is a militant Islamist group formed in 2002.  It has carried out a series of attacks against both Muslim and Christian targets (as well as the military and police) in north-east Nigeria; starting in the town of Maiduguri, which has a history of violence by Muslim splinter groups dating back to the Maitatsine riots in the mid-1980s.  The attacks and bombings of churches have caused havoc and widespread fear in Nigeria, leading to Christians pledging to defend their churches and fellow-believers.

Boko Haram says its aim is to  overthrow the government and set up an Islamic state.  It is critical of what could be termed moderate Islamic leaders and politicians from the mainly-Muslim north, who it sees as too willing to compromise and to cexist with Nigeria’s Christians and secular system.  It has fed on poverty, resentment at the failure of successive governments to deliver basic services and it has used northern  and Muslim resentment or alienation at being ruled by a Christian southerner to generate support.  Some analysts have suggested that major Muslim politicians in the north, including former military officers, publicly condemn the group but have contacts with it and are not unhappy to see it undermine the current government.  It is not clear from where the movement gets its weapons and explosives.

Boko Haram proclaims an interpretation of Islam which makes it haram, or forbidden, for Muslims to take part in any political or social activity associated with Western society or Christianity.  Prohibitions include voting in elections, receiving secular education and dressing in a Western style.  According to the BBC’s Farouk Chothia, Boko Haram regards the Nigerian state as being run by non-believers, even when the country had a Muslim president.

The movement’s full name is is Jama’atu Ahlis Sunna Lidda’awati wal-Jihad, meaning “People Committed to the Propagation of the Prophet’s Teachings and Jihad”.  It was formed by charismatic Islamic cleric, Mohammed Yusuf, formed in Maiduguri in 2002.  Coming into conflict with successive governments, the movement carried out a major attack on Maiduguri’s main police station in 2009 – hundreds were killed in the clash.  Mohammed Yusuf was captured and died while in police custody – giving him martyr status among his followers.  Attacks by the movement had esclated since then in Maiduguri, Damaturu and then most sensationally in the Christmas Day bombings in Abuja.

President Jonathan and the security forces are committed to destroying the movement, though whether the army is totally unified in this remains to be seen.  The government has to tread a very careful line in its fight – avoiding a crusading Christian approach and ensuring that this does not become a war against the north-east or against Muslims.  He may not be helped by a US congressional report identifying Boko Haram as a potential threat to US interests. The last thing Nigeria needs is to be dragged into the American war on terror in a US election year.

Overall, Africa as a whole and not just Nigeria needs a year where it is allowed to deal with its own problems in its ways rather than by being roped into US or other external campaigns or plans.    External intervention – of whatever kind short of humanitarian aid in emergencies – in Egypt’s political evolution, the conflict in Nigeria or muddled, uninformed and ill-intentioned interference in Somalia will not be in the interests of those states, Africa or international relations.  The only exception I would make is the ICC process relating to the Kenyan post-election violence.  The inability of the Kenyan political or judicial system to seriously undermine the impunity of leading politicians means that the ICC could help bring about change in this vital area.

Zambia: Sata demands and gives apologies to Malawi and Angola

Keith Somerville

In keeping with his reputation for speaking his mind, in his first weeks in office President Michael Sata has issued a trenchant demand for an apology from Malawi for his deportation from there in 2007 and, now, has fulsomely apologised to Angola for Zambian support in the past for the UNITA rebel movement.

Sata is so angry over the deportation and Malawi’s failure to go beyond revocation of the order to a proper apology that he refused to attend last week’s Comesa (Common Market for Eastern and Southern Africa) summit in Malawi.  But so keen is he to mend fences with Angola that he has apologised to the Dos Santos government and sent former President and frontline states doyen Kenneth Kaunda to Luanda as a sign of his desire for better relations.

Sata v Mutharika

Soon after winning the presidential election, Michael Sata called on Malawi to revoke the deporation order against  him AND to apologise for deporting him in the first place.   He was kicked out of Malawi unceremoniously in 2007, when as Patriotic front opposition leader in Zambia he went to Malawi for talk with opposition parties there.

The new Zambian leader has described how he was stopped by immigration officers when he arrived by air, “bundled into a Land Cruiser” and driven 300 miles back to the Zambian border.

Following his complaint, he was expecting a swift Malawian response and an apology or explanation.  What he got was a revocation with no other comment. This has angered him even more, thus his refusal to visit his neighbour to attend the Comesa summit.

Prior to the summit, the Malawian High Commissioner in Lusaka, David Bandawe, had audience with Sata to hand him and official invitation to the summit from president Bingu wa Mutharika.  The diplomat said the deporation order had been revoked but stopped short of giving an apology.

Angered by this, Sata has told Bandawe, “Your government has not apologised to me or my lawyer in Malawi and therefore I find it extremely difficult to go to Malawi,” Sata told the Malawian high commissioner to Zambia David Bandawe.

He went on to make abundantly clear his exasperation, saying,”You are fully aware of the dilemma in which I am in with your government. Your government for no apparent reason declared me a prohibited immigrant when I went to visit an opposition leader”.  he said to the Malawian high commissioner that he thought he would be bringing not just the invitation but an apology.

The Nyasa Times in Malawi has reported a stonewalling response by Mutharika – his spokesman, the saturnine former Foreign Minister under Kamuzu Banda, Hetherwick Ntaba said that President Mutharika had not apologised – making clear the Malawian intention not to give in even at the expense of prolonging the dispute.

In recent months, Mutharika has become increasingly argumentative with friends and neighbours – cntinuing the row with Zambia, refusing to apologise for his expulsion of the British High Commissioner and ignoring domestic and international criticism of his promotion within the cabinet of close relatives.

Former diplomats and opposition  figures have criticised the president for his intransigence. Malawi’s former ambassador to Japan, Dr John Chikago, criticised Mutharika on the way he handled the row with Sata, saying he should have sent an envoy to explain the country’s position.

Sata, for his part, is adamant that he won’t visit Malawi unless he gets an apology.

Apology to Angola to oil wheels of relations

Sata has accused his Malawian counterpart of lacking the courage to apologise.  The Zambian leader couldn’t be accused of that when it comes to relations with Angola.

Aware of the importance of his economically more powerful neighbour to the Zambian economy, Sata has issued a very fulsome apology to the government of President Jose Euardo dos Santos for Zambia’s backing for the UNITA rebel movement during Angola’s three decade civil war.  He has sent former President Kenneth Kaunda to Luanda to deliver the apology as a sign of his country’s contrition.

This is an important shift in Zam,bian regioal policy and one that Sata hopes will bring economic as well as diplomatic benefits.

Under President Fred Chiluba, Zambia had been closer to the UNITA movement and Jonass Savimbi than to the government in Luanda – as late as 1999 (three years before Savimbi’s death and UNITA’s defeat) Angola accused Zambia of support for UNITA and allowing arms to get to the rebels via Zambia.  Chiluba denied this, but was clearly closer to Savimbi than Dos Santos. Levy Mwanawasa, Chiluba’s successr, did little to change relations despite the death of Savimbi in 2002.

Even Kenneth Kaunda had far from easy relations with the Angolan government. During the liberation war against the Portuguese in the 1960s and early 1970s, Kaunda had supprted UNITA, only dropping that support when the movement attacked the Benguela Railway and cut one route for Zambia copper exports.  Kaunda  then swapped to supporting Dos Santos’s MPLA and was a co-leader of the Frontline States with  him.  But relations were never close or warm.

Sata, as part of his reorientation of Zambian domestic and foreign policies wants to change that.  He is aware that oil revenues, Western and Chinese investment, the construction of refineries, rebuilding of Angola’s shattered transport infrastructure (including the Lobit Corridor and the Benguela Railway) could all transform Angola into a powerful and infuential regional economy, good relations with which would be great benefit to landlocked and energy-poor Zambia.

Sata said on 19th October to Angola’s new ambassador, Balbina Malheiros Dias da Silva, at a meeting in Lusaka that, “As I am talking, our first president, Dr. Kenneth Kaunda, is in Angola. I have sent him as my envoy to go and personally apologise to the president”.

Zambia is heavily reliant on importing oil from the Middle East and would like to cut this dependency and reduce import costs by benefiting from the building of an $8bn refinery in Angola.  Sata would like a deal to import oil more cheaply from Angola.  The new government would also like to benefit from the improvement in Angola’s road and rail infrastructure t provide an alternative route to the far from dependable TanZam railway for copper and other mineral exports.

It is easier for Sata to apologise to Angola and Mutharika to Zambia, as Zambia’s support for UNITA was under Sata’s political opponent Chiluba and the MMD rather than under his own Patriotic Front.  This has enabled him to go as far as to say that the MMD “was very treacherous during your struggle”.

Earlier this year, it was announced that the Lobito rail line project which could connect Zambia to the port at Lobito in Angola was to receive an US$18 million in funding from the African Development Bank (ADB) to facilitate regional and international trade for bulk cargo such as copper. Access to this route would open up new and cheaper transport options for Zambia.

The project would rehabilitate the Benguela Rwailway, which runs from Lobito, though Angola and Zambia’s Copperbelt to Dr Congo’s copper and mineral-rich Shaba province.

China angle

Better relations with Angola could also help smooth over Zambia’s relations with China. Sata has been very critical of China’s business, trade and labour practices in Zambia and relations are cool as a result. he has talked of tenogotiating investment and mining deals.
Angola is China’s most important supplier of oil and China has invested heavily in the Angolan economy.  Good relations with Angola could not only help Zambia’s biletral relations with Luanda but enable Zambia to benefit from Chin ese funded and built infrastructure and perhaps piggyback on transport projects, while mending fences with Beijing.

Archbishop’s Anger: Tutu slams South African government over Dalai Lama

Keith Somerville


Archbishop Desmond Tutu, an iconic figure in South Africa, ranking second only to Nelson Mandela in reputation for integrity and trust has always been a man of passion, strongly-held and strongly-expressed opinions.  But he rarely shows his passion in the sort of anger he displayed to journalists yesterday, when he accused the Zuma government of being worse than the apartheid government in the way it refused a visa to the Dalai Lama.


Speaking in Cape Town, the Archbishop made no attempt to hide his furious anger at the government’s failure to give the exiled Tibetan leader a visa to attend the 80th birthday celebrations of Archbishop Tutu, something the government denies.

In a tirade against the government, he said you would have expected such a ban from the apartheid regime but not from the ANC;  Nelson Mandela had after all invited the Dalai Lama to South Africa in 1996 as his guest.

But under Zuma’s presidency, the Dalai Lama has now failed to get a visa twice running to visit South Africa.  Desmond Tutu and the opposition Democratic Alliance have attacked the government for bowing to pressure from the Chinese government in delaying the visa process to prevent the Dalai Lama attending Tutu’s birthday celebrations.

The Zuma government denies acting under pressure from China. It is perhaps not coincidental, though, that the visa was held up so that the Dalai Lama felt he had to abandon the bid just as a South Africa’s Deputy President Kgalema Motlanthe was visitng China.  He was in China for four days in late September signing bilateral trade and investment deals. He made no public mention of the visa issue while in China and both the gov ernment and governing ANC deny any link.  Motlanthe has denied Tut’s version of the events and said the Dalai Lama would have eventually been given a visa.

The ANC has been shaken and angered by Tutu’s attack.  Its spokesman, Jackson Mthembu said that it was very unfortunate that, before even hearing government’s side, the former Archbishop of Cape Town had decided to attack the government and the ANC.  Mthembu added, “In his anger he decided to be economical with the truth.”

The ANC and the government emphasise that they did not refuse a visa – which is what they feel Tutu is accusing them of, but that visa applications take a long time.  The Foreign Affairs  ministry has been quoted as saying the visa application was only made on 20th September and applications can take up to two months – a statement in itself which seems a little economical with the truth and to delibrately ignore the prominance of the people involved and the issue at stake.

In his scathing attack, Tutu warned that ANC had a large majority but so did Mubarak.  he also repeated the warning he gave the apartheid government that “one day we will pray for the defeat of the ANC government”.

A vehement and effective critic of the apartheid system, for which he was awarded the Nobel peace Prize, the former Archbishop has been just as willing to criticise successive ANC governments for failures over AIDS policy, poverty alleviation and other national issues.  In an interview with me a year after the ANC took power, Desmond Tutu said that he would be as trenchant a critic of an ANC government as of any other government if it did things that were wrong.  He has been true to his word.


See also:  ANC pleads with Tutu to ‘calm down’, let the state explain –


Motlanthe: SA would have granted Dalai Lama a visa –


‘King Cobra’ warns China to respect Zambia’s laws

Mail and Guardian

Zambia’s newly-elected President Michael Sata has warned Chinese investors to respect the country’s labour laws.

“Your investment should benefit Zambia and your people need to adhere to local laws,” Sata told Chinese ambassador Zhou Yuxiao, who paid a visit to the new president at State House on Monday.

“If they adhere to local laws, there will be no need to point fingers at each other,” Sata said.

Sata, who was elected last week, is known for his tough stand against the influx of Chinese investment into the country, particularly in the mining sector, which he says does not benefit the locals.

China has invested an estimated $6.1-billion into the southern African nation since 2007, equivalent to more than one third of gross domestic product last year.

Sata told Zhou that China had been instrumental in developing Zambia during the relationship between the two countries that began in the 1960s.

“Through the visit of President [Hu] Jintao we were given two gifts, and that is a stadium in Ndola and the hospital in Lusaka,” Sata said.

Chinese banks and markets have opened on Lusaka’s streets, but poor Zambians accuse Chinese companies of importing their own workers and mistreating the locals they do employ.

In 2010, two Chinese mine managers were charged with attempted murder for shooting at 11 Zambian workers who protested about poor pay and work conditions.

Zimbabwe: Knives out for V-P Mujuru

Keith Somerville

Factions within Zimbabwe’s ruling ZANU-PF party are out to get rid of of Vice-President Joyce Mujuru, according to the rumour mill in Harare.  The Standard newspaper has said that groups to president Robert Mugabe want to have her sacked following reports that she has met American government officials without permission and discussed with them reforms in ZANU-PF, better relations with Morgan Tsvangirai’s MDC and the succession.

Mugabe is 87 and is reported to be suffering from prostate cancer.  For years there has been speculation about who will succeed him.  This is hotting up as the years pass and his health declines.

Succession is always a big issue in political parties – just look at the factional struggle within Britain’s Labour Party between Blair and Brown – but all the more so in a country where politics is rarely conducted in the open, where violence is part of the political mix and “accidental” deaths are all too common among the ruling elite.

For a long time, it was presumed that Emmerson Munangagwa was the hot favourite to succeed.  A man who had been among the first Zimbabweans to be trained as a guerrilla and to return to start the liberation struggle,  he told me in an interview 2o years ago that he was the first guerrilla to kill a white Rhodesian during the war.  Munangagwa has been a key figure supporting Mugabe for years and has played a major intelligence and security role.  But his fortunes went into decline after 2004, when he failed to get the post of Vice-President, following the death of Smon Muzenda.

The post went instead to Joyce Mujuru who, with the backing of husband and former head of ZANU-PF’s guerrilla army and of the Zimbabwe’s national army Solomon Mujuru, was seen as a rising star.  She had been a guerrilla fighter during the war and a minister since ZANU-PF came to power in 1980. She had the backing of the ZANU women’s league and, through the kingmaking role of her husband, of important sections of the party and the all-important military.

When this faction outflanked Munangagwa in 2004, it was seen as a sign that the former security chief was out of favour.  It was rumoured that an abortive coup attempt by a small group of arm officers in 2007 was intended to put Munangagwa in power, though this was never discussed in the open.  There were also stories that Munangagwa had differed violently with Mugabe over the deal with Tsvangirai’s MDC in 2008, leading to a further worsening of relations.

Now, the content of Wikileaks cables about contacts between Zimbabwean government ministers and American diplomats suggest that both Mujuru and Munangagwa have had clandestine talks with the Americans and have been promising changes and a more cooperative attitude towards both the MDC and the international community once Mugabe goes.

These stories have added to the fast mounting rumours about plans to get rid of Mujuru ever since her husband died in an unexplained accident at his farm in mid-August.  He burned to death and his body was said to have been charred beyond recognition.  The police and ZANU-PF have said it was an accident, but many Zimbabweans, including it is now said Joyce Mujuru, are not convinced.

Many senior Zimbabwean politicians have died in accidents – ZANU military leader Josiah Tongogara in 1979, just before independence (clearing the way for Mugabe’s absolute dominance of ZANU), Mugabe’s own brother and then head of the Zimbabwe Congress of Trades Unions (found drowned in his own swimming pool).

And there are more – others who died in “accidents” on Zimbabwe’s hazardous roads include former deputy defence minister and war-time head of operations of ZANLA William Ndangana. He died in a car crash after offering a lift to ZANU dissident Edgar Tekere. In August 1994, Sidney Malunga, a fiercely independent ZANU-PF member, died in an unexplained crash. Others died in mysterious ways: former ZANU-PF deputy army commander Lookout Masuku from a serious but unexplained illness after being released from detention by Mugabe; Maurice Nyagumbo allegedly committed suicide after a corruption scandal.  The list is a long one.

Solomon Mujuru’s death – accidental or not – has seriously weakened his widow’s political clout.  The Standard says that loyalist factions in ZANU-PF want Mugabe to sack Mujuru and replace her with women’s league head Oppiah Muchinguri.   If Mujuru goes, the succession is wide open again, especially if    Munangagwa has had his chances dented further by the Wkikileaks reports of his meetings with the Americans.

There aren’t other obvious front-runners, but given the up and down fortunes of Zimbabwean politicians close to Mugabe, it could be all chance again well before he is removed from the equation by death, ill-health or in a political coup of some sort – constitutional or otherwise.



South Africa: ANC to appeal against “shoot the boer” ruling

Keith Somerville


The governing African National Congress (ANC ) in South Africa is to appeal gainst the court verdict banning  the singing of the liberation song “shoot
the boer”.  The case follows the controversial singing of the song by firebrand ANC youth leader Julius Malema.


The announcement was made by ANC Secretary General Gwede Mantashe on 9th September.  The ANC leader  told journalists in Johannesburg that, “The NEC re-affirmed its commitment to protect its heritage by appealing the court decision that bans our struggle song ‘ayesaba amagwala’.

A week ago,  in his verdict in  case brought by the Afrikaans AfriForum,  Judge Colin Lamont declared some of the words of the song to be hate speech.  His
verdict means that singing the words could lead to a contempt of court charge.

This was after ANC Youth League president Julius Malema sang the song  in public following the death of the racist AWB leader Eugene Terreblanche.

The ANC Youth League has already announced that it would appeal against the judgement.  The ANC’s national executive has now stepped in to add its weight, fearful of being outflanked by the radical and populist Malema.

The ANC would probably have preferred this to be quietly forgotten, but the very public positions taken by Malema – still awaiting the outcome of an ANC disciplinary case against him over his call to unseat the elected Khama government in Botswana – are forcing the ANC leadership to act or be seen by many young, black South Africans to be out of touch.  This is the second time he
has been hauled before the leadership in the last 18 months – the last time for
his outright opposition to President Jacob Zuma.  Malema had been a strong Zuma supporter, but is now seen as his possible nemesis.

Zuma and his supporters within the leadership havea long and tough battle on their hands for the soul of the movement ahead of next year’s ANC leadership elections – whic h are likely to decide whether or not Zuma can run for a second term in office as President as the ANC’s candidate.


China’s stake in Zambia’s election – BBC

By Louise Redvers BBC News, Lusaka

A man runs past a Bank of China billboard in Lusaka, the capital of Zambia

If you want proof that China has
arrived in Africa, look no further than Zambia, which is gearing up for
parliamentary and presidential elections on Tuesday.


Read more…

See also wider election piece:



Banda ahead of Sata in close Zambian election race



A survey released ahead of the voting in Zambia’s presidential election
on 20 September shows incumbent Rupiah Banda just three points ahead
of his main challenger, Michael Sata.


President Banda, who took power after the death of his predecessor, Levy
Mwanawasa, in 2008, is banking on the positive effect high world copper prices have had on the country’s economic health over the last three years.  This has led to a boom, though not it has to be said to any great improvements for the poverty-stricken majority.  But there has been a surge in foreign investment in the mining sector and the expansion of output and employment at existing mines.


The opposition parties – notably Sata’s Patriotic Front (PF) and the smaller United Party for National Development (UNDP) – have been demanding an election for some time.  Banda and his Movement for Multiparty Democracy (MMD) hesitated but at the end of the July announced the elections.  Banda told the nation in  a radio address at the end of the month that the Electoral Commission had everything
in place and voting could go ahead.   But the centre for Policy Dialogue, an independent political research group, puts Banda 3% ahead of his main rival with 41% support.

 Sata’s challenge

Michael Sata is running again Banda for the second time. In 2008, following
the early demise of Mwanawasa, the fiery and outspoken PF leader hoped to at last gain power after 17 years of campaigning since the end of the one-party state.  An early member of the MMD, having been Governor of Lusaka province under Kenneth Kaunda’s one party rule, Sata failed to become MMD presidential candidate in 2001 when incumbent president Fred Chiluba nominated Mwanawasa to succeed him.
He left the MMD and then set up the Patriotic Front to campaign against the governing party.


Sata is a populist with an abrasive but often inspiring rhetorical style. He tried in August to get the courts to rule that Banda could not stand for election.  Sata’s Patriotic Front tried to use the Zambian parentage clause in the country’s constitution to say that Banda was in fact Malawian and so not eleigible to stand.    In a an application to the courts, Sata claimed that Rupiah Banda’s father was born in  Malawi, which would disqualify him on the grounds that the constitution lays down that both parents of a presidential candidate must be Zambian citizens by birth or descent.


Banda’s own party said the bid by Sata was indicative of the weakness of his policies and his challenge.  The party national secretary Richard Kachingwe was quoted by the BBC as saying, “The court action was malicious”.

The parentage clause was introdued by President Fred Chiluba in 1996. It was seen at the time as an attempt by Chiluba (elected president in 1991 when he defeated long-time presdient Kenneth Kaunda) to prevent Kaunda, who was of Malawiandescent, standing in that year’s elections. Chiluba had swept to
power in 1991 on a wave of enthusiasm for democracy but his government was soon mired in accusations of corruption.  The constitutional change was seen as a way of preventing the still-popular Kaunda from mounting a successful challenge.


Many in Zambia see Sata’s bid as a gamble following the failure of his attempt to build a coalition with the UPND – the two parties had teamed up earlier this year but had split when Sata insisted he had (for the third time in a row) to be the presidential candidate.


Sata has a harder task than ever this year.  The healthy state of the mining sector and copper prices mean that Banda can boast of improving the economy and bringing in foreign investment.  Sata has always been highly critical, not without cause, of the role of the ever more economically powerful Chinese in Zambia’s economy.  China has been an economic partner since Kaunda’s time but in recent years massive
investments have brought China’s entrepreneurs huge business power but also controversy.  

In April this year  two Chinese mine bosses had charges of attempted murder against dropped by the government.  They had been charged b y the police with shooting into a crowd of demonstrating mineworkers. 

Chinese investment in Zambia, particularly in the previously troubled mining sector, now amount to over $400m.  But Zamb ian workers and their strong unions (£250m) in the copper-rich cou have accused Chinese businessman and bosses of abuses of power and say they pay low wages, keeping workers in poverty.

The two Chinese mine bosses, had fired on their employees at a
mine in Sinazongwe in southern Zambia to break up a protest, according to the  police.  Eleven workers were injured during the protests.

Chinese economic influence and their reputation as exploitative employers is a card Sata can play, but it is risky. If he were elected, which seems unlikely on past performance and current surveys, he would then have to deal with those he has been vehemently critcizing in order maintain the smooth working of the all important mining sector.


So, with his coalition in tatters and the economy booming, a gambling man
would most likely put his stake on Banda this time.  he is 41% to 38% up in the polls – exactly the winning margin he had in 2008 – a good omen for him but disappointing again for Sata.