Khanya Institute for Community-Driven Development (Khanya-AICDD) hosted a discussion forum on the topic “Is there a Crisis of Governance in Southern Africa? If so, Whose Crisis and Whose Responsibility” on 29 January 2009 in Johannesburg.
The seminar, which brought together delegates from various African countries, aimed at stimulating debate on whether there is a crisis of governance in Southern Africa.
Rethinking governance practice manager at Khanya-AICDD, Vincent Hungwe, pointed out that the governance crises in Africa can be addressed through African Renaissance.
“Southern Africa needs policies, institutions and systems that are legitimate”, says Hungwe.
Africa is often accused of lagging behind when it comes to addressing the Millennium Development Goal (MDG) of ending poverty by 2015.
Discussions also focused on the problem of African countries that have not yet developed the culture of partnering with communities to improve service delivery. Adding to the problem is that many governments on the continent are not giving people the space to articulate their own interests.
“Are people active and involved in managing their own development?” asked Hungwe.
However, according to Andile Mngxitana, a human rights activist, it is difficult to advance development in Africa because resources are taken out of the continent.
Mngxitana criticised former president Thabo Mbeki’s African Renaissance as “economic” and argued that (referring to African leaders who spend their appealing for aid from institutions such as the International Monetary Fund, the World Bank and high-level forums such as the G8) it only makes Africans “proud beggars”.
Mngxitana warned that Africa should not even look at NGOs as partners because they are funded by the very same companies that benefit from its resources. Mngxitana blamed the European Union of attempting to re-colonise Africa.
There was a general view that developing countries can take advantage of their natural resources, especially minerals, to grow their own economies and to eradicate poverty.
Mngxitana is of the view that this has led to a situation in which mineral rights supersede other rights. He cited the digging of graves, removing communities from their ancestral land and from their ploughing fields by mining companies as examples of rights that were forfeited as a result, mentioning the situation in Limpopo as a case in point.
In 2006, the Land Claims Court ordered mining giant Anglo Platinum to return ancestral land to the Ga-Mawela community in Limpopo. The claim related to restoring the rights of a former labour tenant community which was dispossessed of their land under apartheid.
In light of this, participants argued that giving companies mining rights in South Africa has contributed to government’s failure in redistributing land to its rightful owners.
Some participants at the seminar felt that Africa can learn from fast-growing Asian countries such as Japan and China. Hungwe compared Africa with Asia, where focus is on indigenous languages when empowering their citizens with skills.
Participants also criticised African countries for installing governments which do not operate on the principle of “the people shall govern” and whose political systems do not capacitate people to be involved in governance themselves at all levels, starting at village and community level.
“Political systems must be informed by dialogue,” said Hungwe.