African Union’s (AU) chairperson, Nkosazana Dlamini-Zuma, says the union is worried about the growing trend of unconcern towards electoral processes among young people in democracies across Africa.
Speaking at a gala dinner to mark the 160th anniversary of Adams College, Dlamini-Zuma states that it is essential for young people in Africa to become active in shaping the future they are to inherit.
She has encouraged the youth to participate in elections and policy development initiatives aswell as to hold their governments accountable.
To read the article titled, “Growing apathy towards electoral processes in Africa worries AU,” click here.Source:SABC News
The National Anti-Corruption Forum has urged the South African Social Security Agency (SASSA) to be vigilant as the 2014 elections draw closer.
The forum says some politicians are beginning to interfere with the agency's work in a desperate attempt to push their parties' agendas.
The latest SASSA annual report has revealed that over 7 700 fraud and corruption cases were registered with the agency in the past year.
To read the article titled, “SASSA warned to be vigilant ahead of 2014 elections,” click here.Source:SABC News
The South African National Editors Forum (SANEF), an organisation, has recommended: “that once the name of a journalist appears, with his or her consent, on a political party's official list of candidates to the Independent Electoral Commission, such journalist should resign."
SANEF said this resignation should take place regardless of whether the candidate will or will not be guaranteed a seat after an election.
SANEF encourage members of the public or parties who feel aggrieved in relation to a story or stories published, and believe such stories have been written due to political or other influence, to lodge a complaint with the press ombudsman and provide evidence.
To read the article titled, Politician Journos must resign: SANEF, click here.Source:Sowetan Live
- South Africa’s youth is often seen as a ‘lost generation’; one with no causes or political purpose, an apathetic generation. Some, however, have opted out of democratic processes such as elections due to the disinterest of the ruling elite in responding to their interests. Promises of a bright future are weighed against the lived realities of high levels of unemployment, poverty and inequality.
Since young people make up such a large proportion of voters in South Africa, understanding their feelings about voting could provide insight into the way they feel about democratic participation. This in turn provides indicators on the extent to which they believe they have the power to influence the direction the country is taking.
South Africa has a very young population, with approximately 73 percent of its inhabitants under the age of 39. According to Statistics South Africa, an estimated 1.5 million South Africans are 18 or 19 years old. With approximately nine months left until the 2014 national elections, there are about four million first-time potential voters that have yet to register to vote.
On 13 August 2013, the chief electoral officer of the Independent Electoral Commission (IEC), Mosotho Moepya, revealed that only 12 percent (185 025) of South Africans aged 18-19 are registered voters. Among the age group 20-29, only 65 percent (4 909 421) of those who are eligible to vote are registered. With electioneering for the 2014 national elections picking up, understanding what drives those who do engage, and what discourages those who do not, is critical to strengthening democracy.
In the past few years, social media, mobile technology and online news sites have become platforms for young people to express their views on the state of the country. New public avenues are now available for young people to engage in debates about politics and how they see their future. This has allowed for greater understanding of what has largely been hidden from view, given the lack of access to formal power that most young people have. Online social media sites such as Facebook and Twitter host thousands of young South Africans, some of whom do express political awareness. This post on Facebook provides one example: ‘I'm a 18 year old girl in Cape town and in matric, what I want is for the youth to be instilled by youth activism of the era of '76 and stand up against the unfairness the youth face in South Africa.’
Traditional media also provide a platform for young people to air their views. In an article in The Weekly - a newspaper based in the Free State and Northern Cape - interviews with young people highlighted some of their concerns about contemporary politics in South Africa. Thabiso (19) stated, ‘There is no need for me to take part in politics where everyone thinks only of his family and close friends. Being a comrade now is no longer about the development of black people or the country, but is all about personal gain. We still have a long way to go to ensure that the youth gets involved in the preparation of this country’s future. We need to sit down with the leadership and talk about issues that have gone wrong in politics and rectify them. Although unemployment rates are high, we must stop blaming the lack of education. If I am right, we all have equal access to education, but some youth reject the opportunity to learn.’ Kagisho (19) ‘regrets that the challenges that the youth face ultimately drive them away from politics’.
This suggests that some young people do not feel as though they can engage in formal democratic processes. Interestingly enough, however, while many young people feel excluded from formal politics, a relatively sizable proportion of Members of Parliament (MPs) are young. In 2009, 59 of the 400 (or 15 percent) South African MPs were 30 years old or younger when they were elected. However, given the way the party list system works in South Africa, it is debatable whether these young parliamentarians see themselves as having a duty to represent their generation, as opposed to primarily acting in the interests of the party elite. Also, with their high salaries and various perks, it is unlikely that these young MPs will truly be able to represent young people who are unemployed or living in poverty.
Most political parties have youth structures that seek to encourage young people to become active in political processes. Indeed, some political parties are increasingly engaging with the youth on social media platforms such as Facebook in a bid to both understand their views and encourage them to vote.
In the run-up to the 2014 elections and in an attempt to get the approximately four million young people registered and ready to vote, organisations such as the IEC are making every effort to educate the youth on the importance of voting. The IEC has arranged with the Department of Basic Education to have a school ‘democracy week’ in October 2013 to educate the youth. In addition, a national coordinating forum made up of civil society organisation (CSO) members has also been established. This forum will address civic and voter education, which is to be provided by the CSO members.
Young people have an immense opportunity to influence South Africa’s political landscape. It is important to understand what drives them to participate in elections and how key issues impact on their willingness to vote, and for whom. The Institute for Security Studies (ISS) will be undertaking research to explore the views of young, first-time voters in the run-up to the 2014 elections. This project aims to contribute to existing quantitative research by speaking to young people about what influences their participation in democratic processes.
- Lauren Tracey is researcher in the Governance, Crime and Justice Division at the Institute for Security Studies in Pretoria. This article first appeared in the ISS Today.
- Transparency in political party funding, particularly from private sources, remains a divisive topic in South African politics. Recently, Dr Mamphela Ramphele, leader of the newly-formed Agang South Africa, made a bold move and revealed her personal wealth. Her intention was to demonstrate that, unlike many other politicians, she believes in transparency and accountability. While this may be a laudable initiative by her as an individual, she did not divulge who was funding her political party. Interestingly, one of the few issues that all political parties agree on in South Africa is that they should not be forced to reveal their private sources of funding.
South African political parties receive funding from the taxpayer according to the proportion of votes that they receive. This funding is regulated by the Public Funding of Represented Political Parties Act 103 of 1997 and the amounts allocated to each party are publicly available. In the 2012–2013 financial year, for instance, the African National Congress (ANC), as the party with the greatest number of seats in parliament, received R69 million of the R104.8 million earmarked for all 14 political parties that hold seats in parliament. The notice for the 2013–2014 financial year as published in the Government Gazette on 5 April 2013 increased the allocation for all political parties to R114.8 million. However, this is relatively small change compared to the amounts that some political parties potentially receive from private sources.
But why is it important that private funding to political parties be transparent?
The problem is that, as long as private contributions are kept hidden and unregulated, it is possible for narrow private interests, such as those of corporations and wealthy individuals, to exercise undue influence over political parties. It would be problematic if private individuals and companies were to receive government tenders in exchange for such funding, as this puts paid to the ethos of free and fair competitive bidding for government contracts. The consequence is that the state is likely to pay for sub-standard work and those who suffer the most are the poor, who rely on government services.
Some analysts argue that unregulated private funding of political parties is dangerous as it provides avenues for parties to advance the narrow sectoral interests of individuals and corporations, both local and foreign, to the detriment of the wider electorate. In the long-term this leads to voter apathy and democracy suffers. Those who are unable to make large contributions to political parties’ coffers will start to withdraw from participation in democratic activities if they feel that the interests of the wealthy elite are primarily being served.
Democracy thrives when all the eligible citizens of a country are able to vote and participate in a range of political activities. It can be argued that when the law doesn’t compel parties to publicly declare how much they received from private individuals and corporations, the door is wide open to corruption, at the expense of democracy and accountability.
Furthermore, wealthy foreign countries or powerful multi-national corporations could interfere with a country’s sovereignty by funding the efforts of a political party to obtain or maintain power, in exchange for access to natural resources through mining rights, for example. Such a situation benefits a small clique of political and economic elites and is contrary to the interests of the broader electorate, particularly the poor, who depend on the state to protect their interests.
Across the globe, countries grapple with the issue of the governance of private funding for political parties. Some countries compel full disclosure of all amounts, while others require only partial disclosure as to the amount and source of funding. In Mali, for instance, foreign donations are illegal, but the law is silent on issues such as disclosure of local sources. While foreign donations are also banned in Ghana, the law does address the issue of disclosure.
The German constitution requires political parties to publicly account for all sources of revenue and the use of these funds. In Sweden, on the other hand, there is no legal requirement for parties to publicly divulge their sources of funding. Yet, in 1980 there was a voluntary agreement that all parties should, on an annual basis, share their income and expenditure details and make these available to others on request.
South Africa has dropped from a ranking of 38 in 2001 to 69 in 2012 on Transparency International’s Corruption Perceptions Index. This is but one of a number of surveys revealing that South Africans are losing trust in their government and political parties, which is not surprising given that the Public Service Commission estimates a loss of R1 billion to public sector corruption in the 2012–2013 financial year.
Given the gloomy picture painted by these indicators, the country has an opportunity to demonstrate its commitment to tackling corruption by opening political party funding to public scrutiny. A new law to ensure transparency in political party funding would be one option in the long term. Indeed, political parties agreed to enact such a law when the Institute for Democracy in South Africa (IDASA) brought this issue before the Constitutional Court. It is about time that our political parties adhere to their promises if they want to build public trust.
What is required in the short term, however, is a binding commitment to transparency by all political parties and creative approaches to putting funding information into the public domain.
- Hamadziripi Tamukamoyo, Researcher, Governance, Crime and Justice Division, ISS Pretoria. This ISS Today first appeared in The New Age newspaper.
The Southern African Development Community (SADC) says that the fairness of Zimbabwe's election is questionable because the voters' roll was distributed by the national electoral commission too late for it to be verified.
Tanzanian Foreign Affairs Minister and head of the SADC election observer mission, Bernard Membe, points out that, "If the voters' roll isn't made available on time, the fairness of the election is brought into question."
Membe adds that overall however, the polls were free, peaceful and generally credible.
To read the article titled, “SADC questions fairness of Zimbabwe poll,” click here.Source:Times Live
Southern African leaders have called on the West to lift sanctions against Zimbabwe as they rubber-stamped President Robert Mugabe's victory in last month's disputed elections.
The Southern African Development Community (SADC) SADC incoming chairperson, Malawi President Joyce Banda, points out that, "I believe Zimbabwe deserves better, Zimbabweans have suffered enough."
The regional bloc also commended the government of Zimbabwe for the peaceful manner in which elections were conducted and congratulated Mugabe and the ruling ZANU-PF party for the overwhelming win.
To read the article titled, “SADC calls on West to end Zim sanctions,” click here.Source:News 24
An international non-governmental organisation that monitors the performance of the United Nations (UN), UN Watch, has called for a boycott of the upcoming UN tourism meeting being hosted by Zimbabwe this month.
UN Watch monitoring group, which has called for a high level boycott of the UN World Tourism Organisation (UNWTO) General Assembly begins on 26 August 2013, with Zimbabwe and Zambia co-hosting the globally significant event.
The group's executive director, Hillel Neuer, has been quoted as saying that UN is ‘legitimising’ Robert Mugabe regime and they just ended, deeply flawed elections that saw Mugabe re-elected as President.
To read the article titled, “UN watchdog urges international boycott of 'disgraceful' Zim meeting,” click here.Source:All Africa
Scores of NGOs from Southern Africa are stepping up pressure on the regional body, the Southern African Development Community (SADC), to discuss the disputed Zimbabwe elections at a summit scheduled for Malawi this week.
One of the civil society organisations, Action Support Centre, has been quoted as saying that the NGOs are also planning demonstrations across the region, starting with one in Cape Town.
The call from the civic groups comes as President Robert Mugabe has received congratulatory messages mainly from his traditional supporters in Africa, Asia and Eastern Europe.
To read the article titled, “More than 30 regional NGOs petition SADC over Zim elections,” click here.Source:All Africa
- "I have always wanted to represent the people in my area as a ward councillor, but l gave up this dream because I was afraid to contest against men, thinking that I cannot win." Sarah Kulemeka of the Ntcheu district also gave up on this dream because she could not afford the nomination fee.
Many women in Malawi face the same insecurities and financial obstacles, but there is new hope for aspiring female politicians following efforts by the Ministry of Gender, Children and Social Welfare to educate people about the importance of women in political decision-making positions. Even more hopeful is the Malawi Electoral Commission's (MEC) recent reduction of the nomination fee.
Malawi may be the only country in the Southern Africa Development Community (SADC) with a female President, but the number of women in senior political positions remains very low.
Women only hold 22 percent of the positions in parliament and 30 percent in cabinet. Government has continually postponed local government elections; the last held back in 2000 resulted in women receiving only eight percent of the positions. Malawi will hold the next local government elections in 2014 along with the parliamentary and presidential elections.
However, with greater political will and continued commitment to the SADC Gender Protocol, although Malawi may not reach the 50 percent target by 2015, the country could achieve and even surpass a 30 percent representation of women.
This is according to the latest research compiled by Gender Links and the Southern Africa Gender Protocol Alliance, who will launch the 2013 SADC Gender Protocol Barometer at the upcoming SADC Heads of State Summit held in Lilongwe, Malawi this month.
The Principle Secretary of the Ministry of Gender, Children and Social Welfare, Dr Mary Shawa, says the civic education programme aims at encouraging more women to participate and contest in the forthcoming tripartite elections. With the first phase of voter registration closing on 6 August 2013 and the second phase set to start on 8 August 2013, creating awareness is crucial to building confidence among the female electorate.
"We want more women to contest as Members of Parliament (MPs). We hope that through this programme women will realise that they can also become political leaders in their communities and serve the people," explains Shawa.
In another show of political will and commitment to the 50-50 campaign, the MEC has recently reduced the nomination fee by 25 percent for the female candidates. The discount aims to ensure equal opportunity and to encourage more women to contest in both local government and national elections. The MEC has shown great enthusiasm, urging all political parties to bring more women on board to include them in political processes.
Lilian Patel, United Democratic Front (UDF) National Organising Secretary, who will contest as MP for Mangochi South Constituency, applauds the move to reduce the nomination fees. "In the past, many women failed to contest as MPs and councillors because they could not easily raise the nomination fee. This is a big opportunity for women who want to contest in the forthcoming tripartite elections," explains Patel.
Dr Agustine Magolowondo, a political analyst based in Lilongwe gives a thumbs up to the MEC and Ministry's efforts, but points out that these efforts will be ineffective if the political parties do not join the fight for gender equality. The Post electoral system tends not to favour women's participation since women can only be elected into office through their political parties.
"It is a welcome development because this will open doors for more women to contest in the next elections. However, political parties should also participate in the promotion of women by putting them in different decision-making positions. Political parties should put in deliberate policies that will ensure there is equal presentation of women and men in different party positions," explains Magolowondo.
Although there are no legislated quotas, a number of political parties in Malawi have quotas to increase women's representation within their structures; for example, the United Democratic Front (UDF) endorses a 25 percent quota while the Malawi Congress Party (MCP) commits to 30 percent. However, these do not translate into tangible representation, since not one political party in Malawi boasts female representation of 20 percent or more.
In addition, no country in the region has ever substantially increased women's representation without enforcing special measures. Women constitute 16 percent of parliamentarians and nine percent of councillors in countries without quotas, compared to 38 percent of parliamentarians and 37 percent of councillors in countries with quotas.
Having quotas in place, Lesotho has the highest proportion of women in any area of political decision-making in SADC, with 49 percent women in local government, and Mauritius dramatically increased women's representation from six percent to 26 percent in one election, at local level in December 2012.
Creating awareness and reducing nomination fees undoubtedly contributes to increasing the chances of aspiring women like Kulemeka at the local government level, but without wholehearted commitment from political parties to ensure women hold positions of power in cabinet and parliament, achieving gender equality will remain hamstrung.
The clock is ticking toward the 2014 elections and the 2015 SADC Gender Protocol deadline. Hopefully, with the increased efforts and pressure from civil society organisations, political leaders in Malawi will step up to the plate and forge ahead to achieve 50-50.
The upcoming Heads of State Summit in Lilongwe is a great opportunity for the entire region to turn up the heat and ensure governments put gender equality on high priority, and make certain that by 2015, the SADC regional average of women in political decision-making far exceeds the current 24 percent.
- Dyson Mthawanji is a third year Journalism student at University of Malawi (Polytechnic). This article is part of Gender Link's Opinion and Commentary Service that offers fresh views on everyday news.