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  • OUTA Abandons e-Toll Court Battle

    The Opposition to Urban Tolling Alliance (OUTA) says it will not appeal the Supreme Court of Appeal's dismissal of its challenge to e-tolls.
    OUTA chairperson, Wayne Duvenage, states that the organisation will not appeal the judgment as it is constrained by lack of funding.
    Duvenage notes that to appeal, OUTA will need R3.3 million and can no longer afford to appeal, adding that despite that, the organisation will never stop denouncing the e-tolls.
    To read article titled “OUTA abandons e-toll court fight” click here.

    IOL News
  • NGOs Forced to Work With ZANU-PF

    The Community Tolerance Reconciliation and Development (COTRAD) says that ZANU-PF uses memoranda's of understanding to ensure that non-governmental organisations (NGOs) do not have total autonomy when implementing programmes.

    COTRAD programmes manager at advocacy group, Zivanai Muzorodzi, says that while NGOs want to conduct their activities impartially, his experiences in the Masvingo Province have shown that this is not always possible.

    Muzorodzi explains that, "Every organisation that wants to implement a programme in the community is made to sign a memorandum of understanding,” argues that this is a trick that ZANU-PF uses to ensure that all NGOs follow lines of communication crafted by the party.

    To read the article titled, “NGOs forced to work with ZANU-PF structures,” click here.

    All Africa
  • Parliament Slams Reaction to e-Tolls

    Parliament's transport portfolio committee on transport says Congress of South African Trade Unions (COSATU) and Opposition to Urban Tolling Alliance’s (OUTA) call for motorists not to pay for e-tolls in Gauteng defies the Constitution.
    The committee has urged both e-tolling critics to demonstrate their respect for the law by accepting the decision made by the courts.
    "The committee is concerned that these two organisations are encouraging citizens not to abide by an Act of Parliament and thus defy the Constitution of the country," states Ruth Bhengu, committee chairperson.
    To read the article titled, “Parliamentary committee condemns Outa, COSATU's e-tolls reaction”, click here.

    Mail and Guardian
  • Hlophe, Mdluli Cases Highlight Trend of Cover-Ups - FUL

    Freedom Under Law (FUL) says the cases of former crime intelligence head General Richard Mdluli and Western Cape Judge President John Hlophe, though unrelated, have highlighted what it calls “a disturbing trend of cover ups”.
    FUL's former Constitutional Court Judge, Johan Kriegler, says both cases relate to very senior people in very responsible positions being involved in allegations of very serious misconduct.
    “Those charges are then withdrawn against them for reasons that appear to an outsider just weird, inexplicable. We in FUL said these look odd. This cannot be right. We are entitled to know what happened.” - FUL.
    To read the article titled ‘Hlophe, Mdluli cases highlight trend of cover-ups: FUL’, click here.

    SABC News
  • A Case of Selective Accountability

    According to recent news reports, African National Congress (ANC) spokesperson, Zizi Kodwa, has said that the president of South Africa will not answer questions in Parliament until it ‘sorts itself out’.

    Kodwa described Parliament as a ‘circus’. By that he must have been referring to the events of 21 August and the Economic Freedom Fighters’ (EFF) chants of ‘pay back the money’ when it became clear that President Jacob Zuma would not be answering questions about upgrades to his Nkandla homestead.

    The Powers and Privileges Committee is currently conducting its own hearings into what happened that day and it would be premature to pre-empt its findings. However, it is interesting that so far the committee has learnt that there seems to have been an instruction from ‘table staff’ at Parliament to turn down the sound when things got out of hand. This might be a rather extraordinary admission, given that the only purpose of the instruction must have been to spare the president embarrassment and to cut the feed to television.

    A picture starts developing of a democratic institution being used in a partisan fashion. Add to this the Speaker’s own conduct on that day, and this picture begins to look rather bleak. The perception has been that the president needs to be shielded from his constitutional obligation to account to Parliament. The president has come to Parliament only once this year (2014) to answer oral questions. This is an important act of accountability to the legislature, which is representative of the citizens of the country.

    The ANC has said that the president will also be focusing on imbizos to get his message across. We know that Zuma feels far more comfortable in ANC-friendly crowds, doing the song-and-dance ritual and answering ‘soft’ questions, usually orchestrated in advance.

    Like many politicians he is also a master of cunning, visiting areas where he is able to hand out food parcels and promise the earth while knowing he will never be formally held to account.

    But unfortunately for the president, he does not have a choice as to whether he wishes to account to Parliament or not. The Constitution is clear that the legislature must exercise oversight over the executive. Question time is one such oversight tool. Presidential spokesperson, Mac Maharaj, was quick to point out that the president has only appeared before Parliament once in 2014 because of the elections and the curtailed Parliamentary calendar. Yet, even allowing for that, appearing only once before Parliament is not in the spirit of democratic accountability.

    It is part of a broader trend, in which the president seems unable or unwilling to adhere to deadlines. He has been found wanting as far as timeous financial disclosure is concerned and his response to the Public Protector’s report on his private residence in Nkandla was late. It sets a messy precedent if the head of state appears to disregard the rules or bend them to suit his narrow political needs.

    The sooner further dates are set for oral question time, the better. Opposition parties are already suggesting the matter be taken up in Parliament, but of course the ANC in Parliament needs to play ball too and insist that the president faces question time. Whether it is able to do so remains to be seen. If its work thus far on the Nkandla ad hoc committee is anything to go by, it does not inspire confidence.

    And so the failure to account takes on many guises across our society. Also recently, the chairperson of the South African Broadcasting Corporation (SABC), Ellen Zandile Tshabalala, embroiled in a scandal over her qualifications, has engaged the services of an advocate during her Parliamentary hearing rather than simply producing her university degrees.

    This situation has become a farce. Either she has the qualifications or she does not, and that ought to be easily verifiable. Quite why this matter has dragged on for so long is incomprehensible. Perhaps Tshabalala believes that if the SABC chief operating officer, Hlaudi Motsoeneng, can sit tight despite the Public Protector’s damning findings regarding a faked matric certificate, then she can do exactly the same? Motsoeneng seems to enjoy such political cover that he raised his own salary twice, wasted millions of rands without anyone’s authority, and still survives.

    Building a culture of transparency and accountability starts at the top. Once the head of state cherry picks the matters he wants to account on and the fora in which he wishes to do so, it is open season for anyone else to do exactly the same: thereby undermining our ability to build a rules-based society that is fair to everyone.

    - Judith February is a senior researcher for the Institute for Security Studies’ Governance, Crime and Justice Division. This article first appeared in the ISS Today.
    Judith February
  • Voters’ Hope of Resource Growth

    Mozambicans voted in elections on 15 October 2014 in hopes of escaping years of poverty and conflict by tapping into the country’s huge energy resources.
    With more than 10 million voters registered to take part in the elections for a new president, parliament and provincial assemblies, foreign donors and investors hope the ballot will help to bury old animosities still lingering from a 1975 -1992 civil war fought between the Mozambique Liberation Front (FRELIMO) and its old foe, Mozambican National Resistance (RENAMO).
    Ordinary Mozambicans say they want whoever wins the vote to use the country’s newly discovered resources of coal and natural gas to end poverty and inequality and to create more jobs.
    To read the article titled, “Mozambique votes with hopes of resource growth,” click here.

    Mail and Guardian
  • Women Grossly Under-Represented in International Politics

    Strategies to increase women’s participation in politics have been advanced through conventions, protocols and international agreements for gender mainstreaming, but they are yet to prove effective in achieving gender parity in the highest government rankings. The latest data from the Inter-Parliamentary Union show that globally, women account for an average of about 20 percent of parliamentary seats.

    This begs the question why, despite formal movements towards advocacy and implementation of mainstreaming policies, quota systems, gender networks, non-governmental organisations and decentralisation of power, there is still a gross minority of women occupying leadership roles in international politics.

    There is no single answer to this difficult question. Two factors can immediately be identified for discursive purposes and to analyse the general gender imbalance in political leadership: gender stereotypes and lack of adequate support structures to rectify existing codified institutions to include women in political leadership and achieve gender equality in global politics.

    Women are still severely under-represented in governments globally. A 2013 World Economic Forum report covering 115 countries notes that women have closed over 90 percent of the gender gap in education and in health but only 15 percent when it comes to political empowerment at the highest levels of government. Although 97 countries have some sort of gender quota system for government positions, according to the Inter-Parliamentary Union, women hold only 17 percent of parliamentary seats and 14 percent of ministerial-level positions worldwide, most of which are related to family, youth, the disabled, and the elderly.

    The lack of support structures to legitimately implement policy is an issue that needs to be problematised. In this, the quota system becomes an important point of discussion. Abundant lip service is paid to implementation of quotas, especially in the developing world. It must be emphasised that the problem of legitimacy and implementation of the official spaces that women occupy in political leadership is a matter of global concern and is not endemic to the South or under-developed nations. That said, these nations have come under the spotlight for previously lacking the gender-progressive policies enjoyed by Northern nations have.

    Numbers are often misleading. This is especially true of quota systems. South Africa presents an interesting case, especially after the 2014 elections. Enshrined in the Southern African Development Community (SADC) Protocol on Gender and Development is the 50 percent target for women's representation in all areas of decision-making; this was adopted by South Africa in 2008. South Africa has also been heralded for being one of the most progressive constitutions worldwide, second only to Rwanda in terms of female parliamentary representation on the continent.

    The ruling African National Congress (ANC), has recently come under fire for the drop in female leadership at national and local government levels. Women's parliamentary representation in South Africa has dropped from 44 percent in 2009 to 40 percent after the recent 2014 elections. That of women in provincial legislatures dropped from 41 to 37 percent. Following the announcement of the new cabinet, women in cabinet remain at 41 percent. The proportion of women premiers dropped from 55 percent in 2009 to 22 percent in 2014. In the 2011 local elections, women's representation dropped from 40 to 38 percent.

    In 1998, Francis Fukuyama wrote in a Foreign Affairs article entitled ‘Women and the Evolution of World Politics’ (September/October 1998) that women's political leadership would bring about a more cooperative and less conflict-prone world. This is the common world view with regard to female political leadership.

    This essentialist view maintains and perpetuates gender stereotypes and binaries that are arguably incongruent with empirical historical examples of female leadership in government, the military and the diplomatic corps. The likes of Mbande Nzinga, Golda Meir, Margaret Thatcher and Condoleezza Rice, serve as examples of female leaders that break the mould of such feminine stereotypes as ‘nurturer’, ‘mother’, ‘peacekeeper’ and ‘negotiator’. The problem with these stereotypes is mainly that they represent women as a homogenous interest group and equate the existence of women in political leadership with feminised norms: for example, women should be concerned with empowering other women and furthering women’s rights; women innately aim to avoid conflict; women are emotionally driven rather than rational.

    Furthermore, we should be wary of creating unrealistic expectations. The increase of women in political leadership is necessary not because it will lead to world peace but because women are a group, however heterogeneous, previously excluded from formal public spaces like government and the business sector for the mere fact of being women.

    Essentially it is necessary to have quotas in place and to analyse quantitative fluctuations of women in global political leadership. However, further inspection needs to go into the quality of women’s roles in these public spaces.

    While it is important to be concerned with the decrease in numbers, it is also equally and arguably more important to be concerned about the status of gender relations and normative ideas around gender in government spaces. Growth in number is the first phase through which gender parity can happen. More, however, needs to happen: a new phase in both national and international politics in which the structural, systematic inequalities that prevent women from making legitimate strides in political leadership are rigorously scrutinised.

    - Farai Morobane is a SAIIA-KAS Scholar and is currently completing her Master's degree at Wits University. This article was first published in Leadership magazine.
    Farai Morobane
  • Thembelihle and the Criminalisation of Dissent

    “We did not just wake up and throw stones, the protest was planned, then police came and started shooting to disperse us,” says Bhayiza Miya, a community activist in Thembelihle, Gauteng. Miya is referring to the community’s 2011 protest, which led to him being arrested five times. During one of these arrests, the 46-year old father was arrested with his five-year old daughter who was kept overnight in a police holding cell with him.

    During the protest, Miya was singled out as a community leader and was detained as a ‘preventative measure’ to stop protests- evidencing how community activists are targeted, bullied and criminalised by the state.

    The Socio-Economic Rights Institute (SERI) latest research output, An Anatomy of Dissent and Repression: The Criminal Justice System and the 2011 Thembelihle Protest documents the lead up to the protest, including the state’s refusal to engage with the community, the protest itself and how in the aftermath thereof; activists and protesting community members were ensnared in the criminal justice system for participating in a legitimate and effective protest action.

    This highlights the intimate relationship between socio-economic rights and civil and political rights. This is due to the manner in which the community utilised their civil and political entitlements to local democratic participation and protest to assert their socio-economic demands, and was reinforced by the state’s clamp down on the civil and political rights of protestors in an attempt to suppress such demands.

    According to Michael Clark, legal researcher and advocacy officer at SERI, the report tries to understand the protest in Thembelihle specifically, but also rising dissent South Africa more generally. For SERI this is crucial as the existing narratives in relation to protest action in South Africa are almost always informed by the moment of protest and is rarely informed by a more comprehensive investigation into the events leading up to the protest and that take place in the aftermath.

    Clark goes on to note that, “The arrest, detention and failed prosecution of the Thembelihle protestors clearly exposes the way in the state apparatus, and particularly the criminal justice system, is utilised to silence dissent and harass and intimidate communities advocating for socio-economic development.”

    Key findings of the report include:
    • We are facing an increasingly unresponsive and remote state which refers specifically to the failure of formal participatory mechanisms to address the concerns of communities. This frequently leads to communities becoming isolated and frustrated, and means that turning to informal and more direct means of engaging, namely protest;
    • When protest occurs, the criminal justice system is not used for the genuine prosecution of criminal activity, but rather to deter and suppress popular dissent; and
    • Most importantly, the report highlights that without civil and political rights, and specifically the right to protest and mobilise collectively, it will be increasingly difficult for poor communities to assert their socio-economic rights.
    Through this report, SERI hopes that by exposing the state’s repressive stance in relation to protests and community mobilisation, the state would reconsider how it responds to protests. “This can be done by creating more democracy participatory spaces where communities can raise their grievances and creating an enabling environment where protests are encouraged to take place in a peaceful and safe manner as opposed to the current restrictive approach,” notes Clark.

    Through telling the story of this particular community, SERI manages to underscore the fact that communities often have long histories of failed attempts at engaging with different levels of the state. In Thembelihle’s case, there were decades of engagement and struggle which provided little relief to the community.

    Koketso Moeti is the national coordinator of Local Government Action, a loose alliance of organisations working to promote democracy, accountability and delivery at local government level.
    Koketso Moeti
  • Angolan Refugees Return From DRC

    The United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) says that tens of thousands of Angolans living in the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) are set to return home, for some after more than 50 years in exile.

    UNHCR spokesperson, Celine Schmitt, points out that a first group of 500 people left Kinshasa by train and are expected to stay overnight at a transit centre in Kimpese in the southeast on the way to the border.

    Schmitt, who says the rest of the journey will take place by bus, adds that about 48 000 Angolans are estimated to live in the DRC, and some 18 000 of them wish to remain.

    To read the article titled, “Angolan refugees return from DRC,” click here.

    News 24
  • 50/50 by 2015 Remains an Elusive Dream

    It may have been just a four percentage point drop in women’s representation in parliament in the May 2014 South African elections. But that drop sent tremors across a region hoping to at least show some progress on this front by 2015, the deadline year for the Southern African Development Community (SADC) Protocol on Gender and Development, signed here in 2008.

    On 9 August - Women’s Day in South Africa – it is a sobering thought that we not only let ourselves down by failing to reach gender parity in one key area of decision-making: we took all of SADC down with us.

    South Africa is the most populous nation in the SADC and a torch bearer for gender equality. Half the region’s MPs reside in this country.  Achieving 44 percent women in parliament in the 2009 elections shot South Africa to the top of the chart in SADC and to the global top 10. The drop to 40 percent in May 2014 dealt a crippling blow to the 50/50 campaign.

    With less than one year to go until 2015, no country in the 15-nation region has reached the 50 percent target of women’s representation in parliament, cabinet or local government. Over the six years, women’s overall representation in parliament hit its highest at 26 percent in 2014, increasing by two percentage points from 24 percent in 2013.

    However, best predictions in the 2014 Southern African Gender Protocol Barometer  are that even with five more elections by the end of 2015, this figure will at most rise to 29 percent, meaning SADC will not have achieved the original 30 percent let alone 50 percent target by 2015. Women’s representation in local government slid from 26 percent to 24 percent in the last year, and may just claw back to 28 percent by the end of 2015, but will also fall shy of both the 30 percent and 50 percent targets.

    During the 2014 SADC Protocol@Work summits, the Southern African Gender Protocol Alliance held working meetings on the 50/50 campaign and came up with country-specific strategies. The strong message that emerged from these consultations is that without specific measures - quotas and electoral systems - to increase women’s political representation, change will remain painfully slow.

    The 2014 Barometer reflects the global reality that women’s political representation is highest in Proportional Representation (PR) electoral systems (38 percent in parliament and 37 percent in local government) and in countries with quotas (38 percent in parliament and 37 percent in local government). Countries with First Past the Post Systems (17 percent women in national and 14 percent women in local) have the lowest level of women’s representation, as do countries with no quota (17 percent national and eight percent local).

    However, SADC countries with the First-Past-the-Post (FPTP) system have shown innovation over the last few years by following the Tanzania example of adopting to a mixed system, with women able to run for the openly contested seats, and be awarded an additional 30 percent of seats on a proportional representation basis in accordance with the strength of each party.

    The Zimbabwe elections in July 2013 provided a stark example of the possibilities and pitfalls of gender and election strategies. Zimbabwe witnessed an increase of 22 percentage points in women’s representation in parliament from 16 percent to 38 percent thanks to the constitutional quota that created a mixed system and guaranteed women a minimum of 22 percent of the seats in the National Assembly. However, in the absence of similar provisions for local government the proportion of women in this sphere of governance declined from 18 percent to 16 percent in the same election. 

    In South Africa, the ruling African National Congress (ANC) became the first political party in SADC to adopt a voluntary 50 percent quota (the South West Africa Peoples Organisation in Namibia has since followed suit). The danger of voluntary quotas, long raised by activists, is that they are linked to the electoral fortunes of political parties. This proved to be the case in the South African elections. The decline in women’s political participation in the May elections is directly attributable to the decline in the ANC’s proportion of the vote, from 66 percent in the last election to 62 percent in the 2014 elections.

    Malawi had a spirited 50/50 campaign but no constitutional or legislated quotas in FPTP system. The elections took place at a turbulent time, marred by charges of foul play. As often happens in such circumstances – and despite an incumbent woman president contesting the elections - the proportion of women dropped significantly to 17 percent from 22 percent. For a moment too brief, the SADC regions marvelled and celebrated the first female President, Joyce Banda, former president of Malawi. She lost to Peter Mutharika (brother to the late former leader, Bingu Mutharika) during the May 2014 elections.

    With 44 percent women in parliament, Seychelles has come closest to achieving the parity target in this area of political decision-making, while Botswana and the Democratic Republic of Congo (10 percent) are the lowest. Seychelles is unique in that it is the only country in the SADC region to have achieved a high level of women in parliament without a quota, and in FPTP system. The island, which has a long tradition of men leaving in search of work, has a strong matriarchal culture.

    Between August 2014 and the end of 2015, five more SADC countries – Botswana (local and national); Mozambique (national), Namibia (national), Mauritius (national) and Tanzania (national and local) are due to hold elections. Madagascar’s long overdue local elections may also take place during this period.  With primaries already past in Botswana, there is a danger of further backslide in the October 2014 elections. Mozambique (39 percent) and Tanzania (36 percent) already have a high representation of women in parliament. Mozambique has a proportional representation system and the ruling Front for the Liberation of Mozambique (Frelimo) has a voluntary quota. Tanzania has a Constitutional quota, and this is being raised from 30 percent to 50 percent. Gains are likely in both countries.

    There are moves afoot in Namibia to legislate escalate the legislated quota at local level to national level, but it is not clear if this will happen in time for the October 2014 elections. Mauritius is debating a White Paper on Electoral reform that is likely to result in the quota at local level being escalated to national level but not in time for the 2015 national elections. It is therefore likely that only modest gains will be registered in both countries.

    Detailed projections in the Barometer lead to the unavoidable conclusion that by the end of 2015, the region will not make even the 30 percent mark. This should however give impetus to a much more strategic approach to the 50/50 campaign, with emphasis on electoral systems and quotas, accompanied by strong advocacy campaigns, rather than simply training women for political office.

    - Colleen Lowe Morna is Chief Executive Officer of Gender Links and editor-in-chief of the Southern African Gender Barometer. She formerly served as Chief Programme Officer of the Commonwealth Observer Mission to South Africa in the run up to the 1994 elections. This article is part of the Gender Links News Service special series on Women’s Month.
    Colleen Lowe Morna
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