The Open Data and Democracy Initiative (ODADI) coalition is hosting its first 48-hour Code4Democracy Hackathon.
Digital activists, designers, developers and data journalists will kickstart South Africa’s open data movement from 4-5 August 2012 in Cape Town at a 48-hour hackathon to build web and software applications that will help make government more accountable.
The Code4Democracy event is the first public gathering hosted by the new ODADI (Open Data & Democracy Initiative) coalition, and will offer R25 000 in cash prizes and tech support for ideas that have the potential to empower ordinary citizens, make government more transparent, or make public services more efficient and open.
The initiative echos similar campaigns that have revolutionised the way that civic debate and public accountability works everywhere from Kenya and Ghana, to further north in the USA and Europe. ODADI hopes to build on South Africa’s early support for theOpen Government Partnership, by inspiring a grassroots data-driven movement in South Africa, giving ordinary citizens the tools and information they need to make better informed choices about public issues.
ODADI is a broad-based volunteer-led non-partisan movement, that bases its principles on the Constitution, and does not align itself with any political party or other political interest group.
The Code4Democracy hackathon has been made possible via a seed grant from the African Media Initiative’s prototype fund for civic engagement, as well as through logistic support from the Open Society Foundation’s Money & Politics Project (MaPP) and venue and material support from Cape Town’s Ndifuna Ukwazi center for active citizenship.
HacksHackers Cape Town is a founding member of ODADI and a lead organiser of the Code4Democracy hackathon. Other ODADI coalition members assisting with the Code4Democracy hackathon include the Open Democracy Advice Centre, the Parliamentary Monitoring Group, the Right2Know campaign, and the Silicon Cape initiative.
To read the article titled, “Gustav Praekelt to deliver keynote at Code4Democracy,” click here.Source:Google+
- Gauteng Provincial LegislaturePlease note: this opportunity closing date has passed and may not be available any more.Opportunity closing date:Friday, December 9, 2011Opportunity type:Other
The Gauteng Provincial Legislature is the parliament of Gauteng, an institution that oversee the government work in the province. Its main functions are law making, Executive Council and Provincial Government Departments' accountability.
The Gauteng Provincial Legislature is calling for abstracts for the Public Participation Conference (PPP Indaba) under the theme “The People Shall Govern: Public Participation Beyond Slogans”, to be held from 29 February to 2 March 2012 in Johannesburg.
The conference aims to share key insights and knowledge on improving citizens’ meaningful participation in governance processes. Also, the conference will seek to build a body of knowledge on public participation and civic education to benefit the legislative sector.
The specific objectives of the conference are to:
Authors are requested to submit empirical and theoretical abstracts on public participation (including case studies). These may reflect local, regional, national and international dimensions of public participation. Authors of selected abstracts will be requested to submit full papers that will be compiled into a book chapter for publication, following the Conference.
- Build a body of knowledge to benefit the legislative sector;
- Strengthen public participation strategies in governance processes;
- Share knowledge and skills required to facilitate meaningful public participation;
- Bridge the existing gap between theory and practice;
- Invest in public participation initiatives in governance processes;
- Enhance the role of legislatures/parliaments in facilitating public participation.
Below are the themes and sub-themes that guide areas to be covered in response to this call for abstracts:
Theme 1: Public Participation, International best Theme 2: Public Participation, National perspectives
Theme 3: Public Participation at Local Government level Sub-themes: Sub-themes: Sub-themes:
- Public participation in integrated development plans of local municipalities: A case studyMainstreaming public participation in governance processes to inculcate a culture of civic involvement.
- Public participation in budget processes - the power of the purse - A case study.
- Effective petition systems in legislatures.
- Enabling systems, processes and organisational culture for promoting relevant and quality civic education and public reach.
- The doctrine of the separation of powers: examining the integrated and interdependent arms of the State and the missing link in public participation.
- Mainstreaming public participation in governance processes to inculcate a culture of civic involvement
- Public participation in budget processes: A case for meaningful public involvement – the South African experience.
- Effective petition systems in legislatures
- Impact assessment of public participation processes
- Public participation in integrated development plans (IDP) of local municipalities
- Public participation in Budget processes: A case for meaningful public involvement – Community/grassroots experiences
Submit your abstract to J Robertson at JRobertson@gpl.gov.za or post to Gauteng Provincial Legislature, Private Bag X52, Johannesburg, 2000, South Africa. Aslo, you can hand deliver to the Gauteng Provincial Legislature (Corner President and Loveday Streets), Johannesburg (CBD).
Enquiries: E-mail: JRobertson@gpl.gov.za.
For more about the Gauteng Provincial Legislature, refer to http://gpl.gov.za.
To view other opportunities, visit www.ngopulse.org/group/home-
- The level of crime in South Africa has evidently sent government into emotional bewilderment. This is more so as a result of the violent crimes whose perpetrators are apparently merciless and recognise no boundary. Everyone, excluding the perpetrators and those with whom they act in cahoots, is under siege. Obviously any responsible government would want to do something to curb or rid its population of such a scourge. Taking the fight to the criminals! The question is how?
It would seem from the repeated and currently famous utterances by government officials, that the immediate option at hand is that of introducing further amendments to sections 26 and 49 of the Criminal Procedure Act (CPA) 51 of 1977 (as amended by the 1998 Act), so as to afford police officers the clear power to ‘shoot to kill’ criminal suspects who pose imminent threat to them or to other members of the public. A reason given for the proposed amendment was that the Act deprives police of the necessary powers to execute their job. Lately, however, the argument has shifted to say that the Act is not clear to the police and therefore it requires clarification and simplicity. The latter was echoed by Advocate Tseliso Thipanyane, chief executive officer of the South African Human Rights Commission and another panellist during the recent South African Broadcasting Corporation (SABC) discussion and debate programme, Asikhulume.
The killing of Captain Charl Scheepers by a thug, whom he allegedly warned three times to drop his gun; portrayed evidence of the police’s misunderstanding of the provisions targeted for amendment.
Coincidentally and ironically, on the day of the Asikhulume programme, members of public travelling in a motor car fell prey to reckless lethal use of force (shoot to kill) by members of police in Mabopane, near Pretoria. Olga Kekana unnecessarily lost her life in this tragedy.
Given these two incidences, it is evident that there was no threat to neither the police nor the victims. Based on this, one could innocently believe in the claim that the Act is unclear to members of the police. I totally disagree.
Prior to its amendment after being ruled by the Cape High Court and affirmed by the Constitutional Court to be unconstitutional in State v Walters, the Act allowed police and members of the public to use lethal force against criminal suspects. This applied regardless of whether it meant killing the suspect for pinching, for example, a loaf of bread or an apple from a store. What mattered was whether the suspect ran from the alleged crime scene and refused to stop when ordered or warned to do so. The effect of such an open-ended authority to the use of lethal force, was that it deprived suspects their human rights guaranteed in the Bill of Rights, which inter alia, includes the right to the due process of law and the right to life which the Bill of Rights guaranteed and still does. The amendment was applauded by civil society groups and generally by the larger population of the previously oppressed which had been the main victims of the open-ended provisions.
In its amended form, the new provision curtailed the use of lethal force and introduced a requirement of reasonableness and proportionality. This required that other alternative measures be considered and employed before using such force and reserving its use to worst kind situations. An apple or loaf thief would consequently no longer, by mere theft alone, face a possible or imminent threat to life or limb by police or members of the public. This would be so even if the perpetrator ran from a crime scene.
If the suspect produced a lethal weapon and despite being warned to drop it persists and threatens the arrestor, the latter may use the force that is proportionate to the threat. He may have stolen an apple or a loaf of bread, but the act of producing and directing a lethal weapon (e.g. a gun) against the arrestor would warrant an immediate countering. This is so even if it later turns out that the gun was not loaded with ammunition. The same would be the case if the weapon clearly looked like a legitimate gun but later turns out to be only a toy gun.
However, if for example, the suspect produces a knife and is a safe distance away from the arrestor and does not in so doing charge towards the arrestor or does not keep anyone hostage or pose imminent threat to anyone, there would be no need to employ lethal force. The same applies if the running suspect can be later traced through investigative procedures.
To the extent that members of police may not understand the amended provisions, that could in my view be attributed to lack of education and training of police (especially of those who are not-office bound and are patrolling the streets) about its provisions and not as such ambiguities in the Act. Therefore, if it is true that Captain Charl Scheepers gave his murderer three warnings before he was himself shot and because he did not understand when he should apply the necessary force, then that leaves the Police Ministry’s education and training processes wanting rather than alleged defects in the Act. For that, I would implore government to invest more resources in achieving that objective.
The history of the ‘formal’ criminal justice system in this country has shown that no amount of force has ever deterred violent crimes. During the reign of the Apartheid regime, for example, police had all the powers to shoot to kill actual and sometimes imaginative criminal suspects, at times willy-nilly. I am tempted to claim that the government of the time invested more resources in creating an emotive and provocative police force that was meant to counter, then so-called ‘black terrorism’. The police then did not belong to the entire population but to the minority government and for the preservation of interests of a designated minority population. Such police was inevitably bound to gain neither legitimacy nor support from the marginalised part of the population.
The post 1994 police authority is by virtue of the democratic Constitution meant to belong to the country’s population as a whole and to therefore legitimately expect and get its support in crime prevention, investigation and curbing. But does it get such support and if not, why?
What immediately springs to mind as a probable cause is the lack of effective and reliable or trusted witness protection mechanisms. If arrested criminals walk out of courts because witnesses were unavailable or unwilling to testify that should be a serious cause for concern to police authorities, and demoralising to the arresting and investigating officers. Furthermore, since suspects of criminal offences at times include elements within the police service itself, how safe and trusting is it for witnesses to cooperate with the investigators? To assume witnesses’ unsuspecting and unqualified cooperation with investigators would be reckless and tantamount to undermining their intelligence.
Then there are still the language and attitude factors to take into consideration. In my personal experience, I have witnessed police officers who come from communities which seem to consider their languages to be superior above others, even against the clear provisions of the democratic Constitution. In other sectors (e.g. security), members of such communities would foolishly and unashamedly tell you that they do not hear you and that you should explain yourself in their ‘human’ language, as if yours is that of an ape. Come on, come out of the closet and get civil!
In the police sector, however, there are those who would say it indirectly and a few who would openly say that they can’t hear your language – thereby suggesting that you speak theirs. Fortunately for me and knowing my rights and neither feeling inferior nor superior to any language group for that matter, I always persist speaking in my language to the police. The question is how do you entice local community members to work with police whom they consider alien and ‘too superior’ linguistically?
The approach, mannerism and attitude of some police officers only widen their alienation from community members. Imagine walking with your wife and children in the street and all of a sudden a police van pulls up in front of you and a police officer starts fondling you – while also smelling of a fermented substance. This would leave one feeling feel humiliated and degraded. Some of us do not shun committing crimes out of fear of police. We just don’t commit the filths because of the nature of our cultural and religious upbringings. We therefore do not need policing to be our good selves! As a husband and father, how does one wipe the humiliation and degradation by such a police from my own, my wife’s and children’s disturbed memories? In my case, my recipe would be to disown police generally and not come to their aid in the investigation and prevention of crime - by the same measure that I would disown criminals and not come to their aid in their commission and perpetuation of crime. The moral of this is that police must treat law abiding citizens with sensitivity and dignity.
There should also be better control of ports of entry and documentation of all people within the South African borders – these are self-explanatory and in fact, much been said about it before. Lack of all of the latter is probably the reason why some bank or business robbers would look and laugh at the surveillance cameras. One cannot help but assume that they do so because they know that they will not be easily identified.
Returning to the subject, my view is that in the absence of any ambiguity in the CPA above (which as I said there is no substance to such a claim) and the failure of the government to provide serious education and training to police about their entitlement and limitations in terms of the Act, any further public and populist uttering and threats on the use of lethal force, would create a state of uncertainty and tension in the society. Police and members of the public would be isolated from each other. As it is usually said, ‘the more things are changed, the more they remain the same’.
Considering some opposition parties and some members of civil society have always and persistently been calling for a referendum on the return of the death penalty into South Africa’s criminal justice system, with mixed reactions from the ruling party, one cannot help but wonder whether current attempts on amending the Act are not directed towards indirectly reviving the death penalty through blooding the hands of the police and not those of the would be hang man. President Jacob Zuma stated prior to his election that a referendum into the death penalty would not be a problem if South Africans wanted it.
While one understands the frustrations and responsibilities of government to protect law abiding citizens that must not however, come at any cost. Emotional and populist uttering are certainly not a way to go in solving this scourge – in contrast, this may put the lives of the intended beneficiaries (law abiding police and the public) at serious risk even more. Government must more than before, extend more partnerships with some not so formal crime busting civil society structures, who may prove more experienced in detecting and spotting crimes. It is not a sign of weakness to do so – it is making everyone feel relevant and part of the bigger picture.
Alternatively become clearer and tell us that government wants (at any cost) to revive the death penalty; render the Constitution and the Bill of Rights redundant; and multiply police roles further into court orderlies, prosecutors, judges and hang men. So far government has only achieved ‘raising its voice’ and still has to ‘develop its argument’ to persuade right thinking South Africans as to what informs the proposed further amendment of the Criminal Procedure Act.
Lesirela Letsebe, Attorney and Project Manager: Refugee and Migrant Rights Project, Lawyers for Human Rights (Pretoria Office).
- Statistics South Africa has set in motion the operational plans and processes that will culminate in Census 2011, a national priority and the third under the democratic administration.
Statistician-general, Pali Lehohla, says that this is a massive logistical exercise that dwarfs all other nationwide mobilisation.
Lehohla argues that a census is deemed the largest mobilisation in times of peace, adding that even war is dwarfed by a census.
To read the article titled, “Stats SA sets plans in motion for Census 2011,” click here.
Source:<br /> Business Report
- The mood was upbeat this afternoon as the South African Human Rights Commission (HRC) bid farewell to its chairperson, Jody Kollapen.
Kollapen, who will be leaving the commission at the end of this month together with four other commissioners because their term of office has expired, reflected on his chairpersonship. He further said for him, the cases of the African National Congress Youth League chairperson, Julius Malema, and of the Congress of the South African Trade Unions’ Zwelinzima Vavi, were challenging.
Kollapen noted that though South Africans are aware of their rights, there is a lot that still needed to be done to educate the poor and the vulnerable about human rights.
To read the article titled, “Human Rights Commission bids farewell to Kollapen,” click here.Source:<br /> City Press
Who would have thought that in April 2009 South Africans would vote in a national election where the winning presidential candidate, Jacob Zuma, would enter his office under a cloud of corruption? Who would have guessed that the democratic government, led by the African National Congress, would reject a visa application from the Dalai Lama, in effect turning its back on the international human rights solidarity that it relied on 20 years earlier to end apartheid? Given South Africa’s historic struggle for democracy and its progressive constitution, one might think that a strong democracy would be secured, but that is not the case.
Many worrying signs, including increased inequality, growing poverty and flaring violence against foreign nationals, mean that there is still work to be done to build democracy and social justice in South Africa. Social movements and civil society organisations continue to have a role to play in providing a voice for the poor and marginalised on issues of health, education and human rights.
The Mott Foundation began exploratory grantmaking in South Africa in 1988, building on the work of many other foreign donors that had already played a significant role in supporting the anti-apartheid movement in the 1970s and 1980s. Looking back over the past two decades, the two major thematic areas in which Mott has worked in South Africa have been:
- Promoting citizen rights and responsibilities; and
- Strengthening the nonprofit sector, as an important component of civil society.
This brief article is not a thorough overview of building democracy and strengthening civil society over the past quarter century, nor is it a review of all the Mott Foundation’s programming in South Africa, but it does take a look at these two important issues through the lens of someone who spent 14 years at Mott.
It is 1984. It will be another five years before I begin working for the Mott Foundation. I arrive in South Africa to teach at an unusual, multiracial school outside Johannesburg. Bishop Tutu has just won his Nobel Peace Prize and the violence used by security forces against community protestors is more intense than anything since the 1976 Soweto uprising. I often compare the 1980s in South Africa to the 1960s in the US, a period of questioning the social order and pressing for social change. Years before the term ‘civil society’ was in common use, many churches, women’s organisations, youth groups, sporting clubs and civic associations pooled together to form the United Democratic Front to work towards a democratic South Africa.
At that stage, support flowed from European governments and other international donors through local conduits such as the South African Council of Churches and Kagiso Trust. ‘I went to Kagiso Trust in 1985,’ said one of the founders of a Johannesburg-based NGO. ‘[The head of Kagiso Trust] put his hand in his jacket, pulled out a chequebook and gave me a cheque for R10,000.’ Not every NGO had such easy access to money, but the 1980s was a period in which the numbers of community organisations grew. Unlike many other African countries, there was a growing indigenous NGO sector in South Africa and international money was flowing to these NGOs instead of to the government. It was in this context that the Mott Foundation began to explore how best to support these organisations.
It is 27April 1994. I am driving to Soweto to act as an election monitor, spending part of the morning in Diepkloof prison where prisoners have been secured the vote. Later that day, I stand in a queue with my mother-in-law and father-in-law, South Africans voting for the first time at the age of 60. This is the era of hope and excitement about South Africa’s future.
After four years of exploratory grantmaking, Mott decided to establish an office in South Africa, which I helped to open in January 1993. In 1993-94, Mott put close to US$2 million towards grants to South African organisations supporting voter education, registration and monitoring for the elections – the largest contribution by an independent foundation.
Another area of Mott’s work to promote democratic participation was paralegal offices. Often based in isolated rural areas and urban black townships, these offices had a history of working in communities in the 1970s and 1980s to defend people against unlawful detention and abuses by the police. In the 1990s, they played an important role in voter education and in educating communities about new local government structures. Local elections occurred in 1995 and 1996 and citizen participation at the local level was built into local government policy. Paralegal offices also worked to communicate the content and meaning of the country’s new constitution, adopted in 1996.
Mott’s democratic participation work also had a specific focus on women’s participation, both in government and in NGOs. Mott supported participatory budgeting – including a women’s budget project that analysed the impact of public spending patterns on women.
After an evaluation and programmatic review in 1997, Mott shifted from general democracy and voter education to become more focused on citizen participation at the local level, especially in terms of engaging local government around key development priorities.
At the same time, Mott adjusted its programme to strengthen the nonprofit sector, as one component of civil society, including efforts to develop a supportive legal and fiscal framework for the sector. Throughout the decade, Mott joined other international foundations, including Ford, Kellogg and Atlantic Philanthropies, to support a range of initiatives that built an infrastructure for the nonprofit sector. These included the South African National NGO Coalition (SANGOCO), the Southern African Grantmakers’ Association (SAGA), research about the size and scope of the non-profit sector, and organisations that provided training and technical assistance to NGOs.
After the 1994 elections, the pattern of funds flowing directly to South African NGOs and conduits such as Kagiso Trust shifted. Bilateral aid began to flow to the new government rather than to NGOs, thus resembling aid to other developing countries. Many organisations faced financial difficulties, retrenchments and closure as a result. Given these concerns about reduced foreign funding, Mott supported efforts to access South African financial resources for the sector and encouraged local giving. It supported indigenous structures that pooled local resources such as savings clubs as well as efforts to recognise and encourage volunteers. Mott also supported the development of local grantmakers, including women’s funds; a pilot to test the viability of community foundation in South Africa as one way to pool local resources to address local needs; and a campaign to promote tax incentives for giving.
It is October 1999. I am sitting at one end of a large room in parliament with a group of donor colleagues on one side of a heavy wooden table. We are looking to the other end of the room to the parliamentary finance committee on tax. Many NGO colleagues sit expectantly in the gallery. “I am here on behalf of the Northern Donors Forum of South Africa,” I begin, “an informal network of over 30 donor organisations based in Europe, the United States and Japan which have local offices in South Africa.” Our submission, along with those of other local NGOs including SAGA, discussed the benefits of encouraging local giving and the importance of building the non-profit sector in South Africa. As a result of these submissions, part of a broader campaign led by the Nonprofit Partnership, the Minister of Finance announced changes to the law in February 2000. The new tax law came into effect in July 2001, broadening the range of nonprofits that qualify for tax exemption and the range of donations that are tax-deductible.
The new millennium
Looking back at the 1990s, one could be forgiven for concluding that much of the work to strengthen civil society was a failure – despite this support from the government. SANGOCO is a shadow of its former self, with few members and limited influence – though it played a useful role during an important period in South Africa’s history. The community foundations that opened early in this decade have made slow progress in developing local community support and programmes. SAGA closed in 2006, as did several of the organisations focused on capacity-building for the sector, including the Development Resources Centre, Olive and Sedibeng.
Several other national coalitions closed during this period, the Urban Sector Network and the National Land Committee included. Among the complex reasons for their closing, it is clear that national coalitions buckled under the pressure to meet high expectations from donors and often lost contact with their membership base.
The challenges of the community foundation pilot and SAGA’s closure were especially instructive. Sharing ideas and models from the US is fine, but there needs to be recognition when they do not take root. In its 1997 annual report,(1) the Mott Foundation used the metaphor of tending to a garden over the long term. You need to learn about the soil and the environment first. If seedlings already exist in the area, it is best to nurture them rather than investing in a US$1 million, seven ton, concrete pot before planting a few more seeds. You might be very disappointed when they all die or develop an allergic reaction to concrete. Building endowments too early or offering too much money upfront creates complex dynamics and competition for resources as well as problems with management and governance.
The 2002 review and evaluation of the Mott Foundation’s programmes helped to reflect further on the reduced pace of change and the growing emphasis on socioeconomic issues. Unfortunately, improved political rights had not translated into an improved economic reality for most. The effectiveness of the nonprofit sector could thus be measured in terms of giving voice to and advocating for the poor and marginalised.
The growing number of social movements in South Africa – the Soweto Electricity Crisis Committee, the Landless People’s Movement, the Coalition for a Basic Income Grant (BIG), and Jubilee 2000, to name a few – have brought greater attention to South Africa’s priorities in terms of enormous poverty and inequality. Many of these have benefited from support from international philanthropy. Over the years, Mott has supported the Homeless People’s Federation, Khulumani – a group of survivors and families of victims of human rights abuses who made submissions to the Truth and Reconciliation Commission – and the Treatment Action Campaign (TAC). TAC is one of the strongest and most widely known social movements, which brought together a groundswell of support for anti-retroviral treatment for those living with HIV and AIDS.
Looking back over the past two decades and reviewing the Mott Foundation’s efforts to build democracy and strengthen civil society during South Africa’s period of transition, one of the biggest disappointments was SAGA’s closure. SAGA made an important contribution to the nonprofit sector over its ten years of operation, but it never took root in South African soil. Among the problems of management, membership, programmes and governance, SAGA met its demise because it was always seen as an invasive (rather than indigenous) species.(2)
There are two areas related to promoting democracy and strengthening civil society in which Mott made particularly lasting contributions. The first is its support for creating an enabling legal and fiscal environment for the non-profit sector, one of the most enabling and progressive in the developing world. The challenge will be to make sure that civil society remains vibrant and relevant to South Africa’s challenges.
The second area - especially in a context in which more than half of the population lives in poverty - is its support, over many years, to paralegal offices and the national paralegal movement. By partnering with organisations such as the Community Law and Rural Development Centre (CLRDC), the Social Change Assistance Trust (SCAT), Black Sash and the Foundation for Human Rights, Mott helped build the capacity of these community-based organisations, helped build national recognition for their work, leveraged other donor support and assisted with developing links with the justice system.
It is 22 April 2009 - 25 years since the peak of South Africa’s anti-apartheid struggle, 15 years since its first democratic election. Voting on Election Day was peaceful. Despite concerns about political leadership, the electorate voted the ANC back into power with a two-thirds majority. Given the socioeconomic challenges to government, the role of civil society and citizen participation will remain critical in the future.
South Africa’s democracy and civil society are like gardens that need to be tended over the long term. Without ongoing attention and care, they can perish. Local citizens and local organizations make the best gardeners. International foundations should partner with them, keep watch on changing weather conditions, try not to bring in any dangerous herbicides, and make sure not to give too much fertilizer to the weeds.
- With acknowledgement to the 1997 Mott Foundation annual report entitled “A Garden Well Tended: Cultivating Effective Programs through Long-Term Grantmaking.”
- See ‘SAGA – the end of the roller-coaster ride’, September 2006. See www.alliancemagazine.org
- President Jacob Zuma said South Africa was truly blessed to have a compatriot like Nelson Mandela in its midst, as he wished the former president a happy birthday.
He said former president Mandela deserved to be honoured through the 67 minutes of volunteerism campaign, developed by the foundation that promotes his work, because his entire adult life was spent in service of South Africa and for humanity throughout the world.
"It is an honour for us to be able to demonstrate our appreciation to him, and through him, to all our stalwarts and veterans who sacrificed their lives so that we could be free", Zuma said. He described Mandela as a selfless leader "who personifies human dignity and the limitless possibilities of all human beings".
To read the article titled "Zuma wishes Mandela happy birthday", click here.
Source:<br /> The Times
- The roots of Africa Day date back to 1963 when the ‘Day of Africa’ was instituted in Ethiopia during the creation of the Organisation of African Unity (OAU). Since then, 25 May has acquired international recognition as Africa Day, a day when, regardless of their whereabouts or situations, Africans celebrate the notion of African unity.
Africa Day provides the opportunity for those Africans who are separated from the mother continent to reconnect with Africa. For those who remain on the continent, but find themselves outside of their countries of birth, I believe it is a reminder of our connectedness as Africans - of our common struggles, challenges and achievements.
But I do wonder if we - individuals and governments - are doing enough to honour these connections. In a context in which many countries continue to experience civil unrest, civilians have sought refuge in neighbouring countries. The conditions in which they find themselves in some instances are far removed from the notion of African unity. We need only think back to the xenophobic violence that rocked South Africa last year to see this.
So while I certainly enjoyed celebrating at the concert in Mary Fritzgerald Square in Newtown, Johannesburg on 24 May, I could not help wishing for more. The music was great, people were happy, but I wondered how many of them gave a thought to the significance of the day. Surely it should be more than about the music?
The event, which was broadcast live on SABC 2 and to the rest of the continent via satellite, was co-presented by actor and comedian, Kenneth Nkosi and Shane Phure Maja. They made jokes as they introduced the different acts and even at one point sang the now infamous ‘Umshini wam’. While this was highly entertaining, they did not take the time to mention the reason for the celebrations. That they saw fit to occasionally call out the names of great leaders like Kwame Nkrumah, Jomo Kenyata and Nelson Mandela - without any explanation of who they were - constituted a big mistake for me.
It seemed to me that presenters were more moved by artists’ performances than the meaning that the day should carry. I believe they missed the opportunity to utilise the event to educate the youth about African history. For me, it was clear they had no idea who these African leaders were - evident in the fact that the crowd cheered only when Madiba’s name was mentioned. This was extremely disappointing.
I was not the only one who felt this way. Nigerian engineer, Temitope Adewunmi, who lives in Johannesburg, told me rather sadly, that South Africa should rethink how it celebrates Africa Day - bringing musicians from other countries to perform at concerts was not enough. Similarly, my Cuban, German and American friends were also disappointed.
“I am an African
For her people greet me as family
And teach me the meaning of community”
These are the words of a poem titled ‘I am an African’ written by writer and pubic speaker Wayne Visser. Sadly, I think that many of my fellow Africans in the audience did not feel this sense of family.
Maja and Nkosi did not make the effort to greet in languages other than South African ones. They greeted in isiZulu and Sepedi and made jokes about African National Congress Youth League president, Julius Malema - as if millions of Africans watching all around Africa even know who Malema is!
Without denying South Africans the right to love their country, I think it is shocking that South African performers only shouted “viva South Africa viva!... proudly South African” and did not say a word about the rest of Africa, or the continent as a whole for that matter!
“It seems like the rest of Africa is non-existent and meaningless” said Salsa trainer, Leonardo, an Afro-Cuban national who attended the concert, hoping to reconnect with the land of his ancestors.
Is it possible that this lack of consideration contributed towards the 2008 xenophobic attacks in townships such as Alexandra and Diepsloot, which claimed 62 lives and displaced many? In realising our Africaness, we need to transcend skin colour and cultural cleavages.
In his famous speech entitled ‘I am an African’, former South African President Thabo Mbeki, said: “I am an African…the pain of the violent conflict that the people of other African countries is a pain I also bear…the dismissal shame of poverty, suffering and human degradation of my continent is a blight that we share.”
I commend South Africa for doing its best to make Africa a ‘war-free’ continent. It is only through peace that Africans will be able to live together, irrespective of their race or nationality. Africa Day can be used as an opportunity to highlight the importance of working together and supporting each other to confront the socio-economic challenges we face.
I believe in the potential of our continent.
I am an African.
Adam Mukendi is the project officer for the SANGONeT / Hivos Citizen Journalism Africa Programme.
- It is less onerous to prevent conflicts than to attempt interventions aimed at resolving them once they have erupted.
This is more so on our continent, where the under-equipped African Union/United Nations hybrid mission in Darfur, Sudan, remains deprived of much-needed logistical support.
This is also the case in Zimbabwe, where external donors are still reluctant to fully bankroll a fledgling government of national unity, and support the country's uncertain recovery.
Since 2000 and the defeat of a proposed constitution, Africa and the international community have witnessed Zimbabwe go through a series of economic, political and social choices that have infringed on the liberties of a large part of the population.
By adopting the African Charter on Human and Peoples' Rights in 1981, African governments explicitly committed to respecting and fulfilling international human rights obligations.
The African Commission on Human and Peoples' Rights is the main body established to monitor the implementation of the rights proclaimed under its charter, to promote and protect human rights.
The commission also endeavours to regularly scrutinise the situation in countries such as Ethiopia, Chad, Mauritania and Sudan. Thus, in the case of Zimbabwe, why the apathy by many African leaders to condemn the human rights abuses that led to the post-election violence and social crisis in that country?
Human rights violations are among the root causes of most violent conflicts across the globe.
The human rights records of countries singled out by monitoring bodies such as the African Commission can therefore be used as a conflict early warning indicator by political organs of the AU and sub-regional organisations such as the Southern African Development Community.
In fact, the crisis in Zimbabwe, or protracted conflicts in several countries, could have been attended to, mitigated and quite possibly prevented, should the African Commission's conclusions - establishing cases of limited political participation, exclusion of "minorities" from governance, socio-economic deprivation and limited access to resources - been given more attention by African leaders.
For a more proactive response to conflicts in Africa, proximate as well as structural and long-term conflict prevention must be stressed and mechanisms such as the African Commission should be actively involved in peace and security strategies.
Mireille Affa'a Mindzie is a senior project officer in the Conflict Intervention and Peacebuilding Support Project (CIPS) at the Centre for Conflict Resolution. This article was first published in The Sunday Independent and is republished here with permission from the author.
- EISA, a NGO that promotes credible elections and democratic governance in Africa, is hosting a two day symposium on “Strengthening Democratic Governance through the APRM: A Civil Society Dialogue”, from 21-22 October 2008 in Maputo, Mozambique.
The 2008 Annual Symposium will be the third event of its kind organised by EISA. In 2006, the symposium examined the challenges of conflict, democracy and development in Africa. In 2007, it looked at sustainable democratic governance, asking the question whether democracy works in Africa under conditions of entrenched poverty and enfeebled institutions. In 2008, the symposium focuses on the African Peer Review Mechanism (APRM). It will draw upon the experiences of policy makers and civil society stakeholders over the five yeas since its inception in 2003. It will also interrogate the mechanism's impact on African governance around its four thematic areas, namely:
- Democracy and political governance
- Economic governance and management
- Corporate governance; and
- Socio-economic development
The primary goal of the symposium is to interrogate the early successes and shortcomings of the APRM process, draw lessons for future participants in the APRM from early country experiences, and provide an opportunity for key stakeholders in the APRM process at many levels to engage with and debate these issues.
Contact Details: Tel: 011 482 5495, Fax: 011 482 6163
For more information, click here.Event start date:21/10/2008Event end date:22/10/2008Event venue:Polana Hotel, Maputo, MozambiqueEvent type:Conference