Governance and democracy

Governance and democracy

  • Naidoo Calls for Return to Struggle Basics

    Former communications minister, Jay Naidoo, says major weaknesses exist in South Africa's civil society movements and its citizenry as a result of decisions taken by government in 1994 when it demobilised NGOs and civil society, making people ‘passive bystanders in their own lives’.

    Naidoo, who currently chairs the Development Bank of South Africa, states that now a new challenge exists: to deepen organisation to give communities the power to negotiate improvements in their lives.

    Speaking at the Inyathelo – The South African Institute for Advancement’s three-day conference in Cape Town, Naidoo says that in 1994 a culture was initiated that argued that government will deliver jobs, houses, education, health and basic service to the people. He maintains that NGOs and civil society was effectively disbanded.

    To read the article titled, “Jay Naidoo calls for return to ‘struggle basics’,” click here.
    Times Live
  • ICASA Urged to Support Mobile Broadband Services

    Industry lobby group Global System for Mobile Communications Association (GSMA) has called on the Independent Communications Authority of South Africa (ICASA) to support mobile broadband services in South Africa by making key decisions on mobile spectrum allocation and taxation policy.

    According to a report by analyst firm Analysys Mason, which was commissioned by the GSMA, spectrum allocation and the levying of additional taxes on mobile services are the major barriers to wider mobile broadband deployment and the launch of Long-Term Evolution, the next generation broadband technology in the country.

    The report forecasts that mobile broadband and related industries will generate 1.8 percent of South Africa's gross domestic product and as many as 28 000 jobs by 2015. However, the report says this can only be possible if roadblocks to mobile broadband deployment are removed.

    To read the article titled, “Broadband: Urgent intervention needed,” click here.
  • 2010 Elections: Tanzanians Have Spoken

    Tanzanians headed to the polls in the country’s general elections which was held last Sunday. Despite being declared ‘free and fair, transparent’ by the six presidential candidates including - Jakaya Kikwete (Chama Cha Mapinduzi), Prof. Ibrahim Lipumba (Civic United Front) and Dr Wilbrod Slaa of Chama Cha Demokrasia na Maendeleo (CHADEMA) – few challenges characterised these elections. Some eligible voters could not cast their votes because their names were not appearing on the voter register and the country’s National Election Commission (NEC) did nothing about it.

    Many opposition supporters who protested the NEC’s failure to release the results, especially in opposition strongholds - Mwanza, Mbeya and Mara regions - feared the ruling party would still the votes as this has been the situation in many African countries. The protests overshadowed what was described by the voters as the best organised elections in terms of speed and efficiency. The protests saw police firing water cannon to disperse opposition protesters who had blocked roads and threw stones, empty bottles and some filled with urine at the police officers. One person was reported killed in Mara and other protectors injured in Mwanza regions.

    Despite few problems that have been reported so far, many opposition supporters are happy with initial results which showed that certain ministers have already lost their seats to opposition candidates. Meanwhile, it is becoming clear President Kikwete is heading for another term in office.

    - Sophia Komba is a human rights activist based in Dar es Salaam, Tanzania. 


  • When the Leadership Lost Vision, the Poor Suffer

    I share the fatherly pain in the horrible and horrible, brutal raping and guerilla-type execution of a young girl, a Grade 11 student at David Bezuidenhout School, Magdalena Stoffels. I have the same sorrowful emotion with the members of the family whose child/sister was robbed from their company. I put myself in their shoes; imagine a mother/brother/sister bid farewell to a loved one to go to school and only to be informed that, “Sorry, she is no more”. And not to find out that she got raped and had her throat cut. I understand the messages expressed by the aggrieved people who gathered at the Magistrate Court in Katutura (on 29 July 2010), including classmates, friends, students, neighbours and concerned citizens, when they emotionally shouted: “We are not safe. Give him to us! Hang him! Burry him alive! We have given enough petitions. No more petitions! Action, action! Where were you?” Minister of Gender, Equality and Child Welfare, Doreen Sioka, accompanied by her deputy, Angelika Muharukua, should understand better why the aggrieved group refused to be silenced or listen to be addressed by her. The reason being, “Where were you?” Some people may say that we should not play a blame game at this point in time because we need to be united. But, hey, how many people, especially women and children have to suffer before something is done? Take note that even the young women who were killed and their bodies were mutilated and the parts were found dumped along the road, their cases are still pending. It was very scary that the aggrieved citizens have no shoulders to cry on as the politicians in power, including President Hifikepunye Pohamba, or his officials at the State House, choose to enjoy the comfort zone in their air-conditioned rooms. Mr. President, leave the condemnation to the ordinary nation. Action, action and action! I mean, why were you ‘honorables’ not there in big numbers like the time of election campaigns when you want to be voted into power? Must we still call you our representatives or servants? I doubt it! The people wanted to see the Minister of Justice. Where was Minister Pendukeni Iivula-Iithana? Or has she not heard the sad news, maybe? Where was Prime Minister, Nahas Angula? Where was the Minister of Youth, National Services, Sports and Culture, Kazenambo Kazenambo? Where was the Speaker of the National Assembly, D. Theo-Ben Gurirab, and the MPs? And the Inspector-General of the Police, Lt. Gen. Sebatian Ndeitunga, was no where to be seen. What about the ‘Father of the Namibian Nation’ in this country? Please, we want to know before we believe in rumours that ‘you’ have gone on S&T and allowance-sponsored trips to show off their newly-acquired, bigger and flashy E-Class Mercedes-Benzes (costing N$30 million) which have just arrived from Germany! The Executive Director of the National Society for Human Rights, Phil ya Nangoloh, was there. Those who claim to love the nation and/or are the only ones who are promoting peace and stability in this country were absent. What a farce? What we have in this country is a society that is lost, a nation that has lost its unity of purpose. There is no solidarity at all. The community policing is non-existent. A neighbour or a passer-by does not give a damn to a call for help from another human being. One can hardly tell how many people are in the neighboring house, never mind the names. What about disciplining and caring for the children? A country where a life of a human being is no more respected and protected but worthless compared to a life of a goat, sheep or a cow. A goat convict can get 30 years imprisonment sentence while a killer can get away with murder. The case proceedings will continue long enough to qualify as torture to the already traumatised family. These acts of cruelty among our society should have served as a wake up call to those who are in power, politicians. Preventive measures should have been put in place to curb such criminal activities. Be very afraid that a thug can just find a safe spot where to ambush and target his victims, especially the school-going children. The environment makes it possible. The money is there in State coffers to buy school buses for schools in most urban areas. Billions of Namibian dollars are being squandered and misused in the interest of a few already wealthy individuals. We have already seen these similar crimes committed against the student who attend their classes at high institutions like Polytechnic, University of Namibia, International University of Management, etc. And what happened to a promise made by Iivula-Ithana, during the Tobias Hainyeko Constituency by-elections, that there will be free buses to transport students to and from schools if Councillor, Zulu Shitongeni, wins? The situation in Katutura and other impoverished areas of this country is just terrible. I wonder why some areas are not provided with mobile police stations and a 24-hour police patrol. No wonder, people in Windhoek are now relying on the City Police more than the Namibia of People (Nampol). Nampol is now more of an office where one goes to lay criminal charges, have the copies certified and makes police declarations. The country also lacks accurate statistics of the population, which is the reason why it is not clear whether the authority knows how many Namibians are there and how many are unemployed. And the leaders are in a state of denial of the United Nations report which discovered that 51.2 percent of the citizens are unemployed. Do we know how many qualified Namibians are unemployed? It is therefore difficult to budget for the maintenance and promotion of law and order, not to mention job creation, education and health services. In a true democracy, when violence has gone to such an extent of an intolerable level, politicians who are entrusted for ensuring the people’s safety and security are solely to blame. They can even resign voluntarily if something goes wrong under their supervision. But, alas, in Namibia they defend each other if not themselves. Poverty is rife. Take a trip and visit some areas in Windhoek such as Hakahana and Babylon. You could clearly see poverty and hopelessness in the eyes of the people. And the politicians in power knows this very well; that is why they have moved to the other side of Windhoek for their own safety and that of their children. They are more concerned about naming the street names after themselves or having their mark (identity) on State assets. As if that was not enough, they have recruited or employed the security personnel to provide them with a 24-hour protection. Their houses, offices and businesses are cordoned off by electric fences. It boils down to political, civil, socio-economic and cultural problems in our society. In Windhoek, the incidents such as violence against women and children are common. Many go unnoticed or unreported. Our citizens, just like its leaders, have become more reactionary than pro-active. Had the citizens and or the Namibian Government taken serious the 2009 Human Rights Report by the National Society for Human Rights, which was released in April, they would have understood better as to what the root cause of the problems are/is. Under the sub-headline ‘II. Analysis: General Human Security Situation 2009’, Paragraph 11, found that, “As the period under consideration [between 31 October 2008 and 10 December] drew to the end, a whole paraphernalia of crimes (which manifested itself through inter alia armed robbery, murder per se, abortion, baby dumping, infanticide, suicide, rape, gender-based violence, societal violence and burgeoning human trafficking) also gravely threatened the right to personal security of Namibian inhabitants.” By now, the situation must have gotten worse than before - out of hand! When the public looses confidence in the rule of law, lawlessness (mob justice) takes over. The murder of that 17-year old learner is just but an indicator of a deteriorating human rights situation in the country. - Steven Mvula is public relations officer at the National Society for Human Rights based in Namibia.
    Steven Mvula
  • Open Letter to President Jacob Zuma: Protection of Information Bill

    His Excellency Jacob Zuma President of the Republic of South Africa Union Buildings Private Bag X1000, Pretoria, 0001 South Africa BY FAX: +27 12 323 8246 19 August 2010 Your Excellency, We are writing on behalf of the World Association of Newspapers and News Publishers (WAN-IFRA) and the World Editors Forum, which represent 18,000 publications, 15,000 online sites and over 3,000 companies in more than 120 countries, to express our serious concern at two recent moves by the ruling ANC that seriously threaten press freedom in South Africa. The Protection of Information Bill currently before parliament seeks to replace apartheid-era legislation with far-reaching provisions that would virtually shield the government from press scrutiny and criminalize activities essential to investigative journalism. Under the bill, officials would be empowered to classify any public or commercial data as confidential on vaguely defined "national interest" grounds without having to give any explanation. Such powers could be used to outlaw coverage of such issues as public law enforcement and judicial matters, with political appointees having the final say over which information should be classified. One of the serious deficiencies in the legislation is that there is no provision for a "public interest" defence by journalists and others to support the disclosure of classified information. Anyone found guilty of unauthorized disclosure of official or classified information could face heavy penalties. We are also seriously concerned at an ANC proposal that parliament appoint a Media Appeals Tribunal to adjudicate on complaints against the press. Such a government-appointed agency could be used as an instrument of political censorship, as has happened many times across Africa, and members would inevitably face an inherent conflict of interest. We respectfully remind you that an effective self-regulatory system, including a Press Ombudsman and an Appeals Panel, is already in place and has repeatedly been shown to act with neutrality. We bring to your attention the Declaration of Table Mountain, endorsed at the 60th World Newspaper Congress and 14th Editors Forum in Cape Town in June 2007 and recently signed by Archbishop Desmond Tutu in July 2010. The Declaration of Table Mountain, among other things, calls on African states to promote the highest standards of press freedom in furtherance of the principles proclaimed in Article 19 of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights and other protocols and to provide constitutional guarantees of freedom of the press. We respectfully call on you to ensure that the Protection of Information Bill and the Media Appeals Tribunals proposal are either amended in line with constitutional safeguards for freedom of the press or withdrawn altogether. We ask that you ensure that any future media reform in South Africa fully respects international standards of press freedom. We look forward to hearing from you at your earliest convenience. Yours sincerely, Gavin O'Reilly President World Association of Newspapers and News Publishers Xavier Vidal-Folch President : World Editors Forum ________________________________________ WAN-IFRA is the global organization for the world's newspapers and news publishers, with formal representative status at the United Nations, UNESCO and the Council of Europe. The organization groups 18,000 publications, 15,000 online sites and over 3,000 companies in more than 120 countries. ________________________________________
  • Protection of Information Bill: SA Media Under Attack

    Former South African President, Nelson Mandela, reminded us in 1994 that: “A critical, independent and investigative press is the lifeblood of any democracy.” 16 years into democracy, opposition parties, civil society, activists and other stakeholders are facing new realities associated with our democracy - the proposed Protection of Information Bill and Media Appeals Tribunal (MAT).

    The Alternative Information Development Centre (AIDC) has criticised the African National Congress (ANC) and the South African Communist Party (SACP) for tabling plans to censor and punish the media for reporting on corruption, when they are unable to maintain organisational discipline.

    The AIDC is of the view that instead of striving to extend freedoms and access to information to all South Africans, the ANC-led government is targeting a series of freedoms that will further curtail media freedom.

    “The ‘people shall not govern’ if they are not informed and cannot express their views. There can be no meaningful development or service delivery responsive to the needs of the people without the freedom of expression and information,” states the AIDC.

    Contrary to the ANC's claim that the idea of the statutory MAT will strengthen media accountability, there is a feeling that it will constitute a step towards official media censorship. South Africa already has a self regulatory body in the form of a Press Ombudsman to oversee complaints of violations of the media code of conduct adopted by the Press Council.

    In a recent press statement, 19 civil society organisations (CSOs) called on government to caution relevant authorities against misuse of the power of arrest against those who exercise democratic dissent and to also withdraw the Bill in its present form as it is severely obstructive of people’s right to information. They also want government to take adequate measures to ensure that the right to express freely is protected from encroachments.

    Apart from promoting censorship, activists fear that the proposed Bill and the MAT could also be used to target citizens in the long run. Speaking during the Mail&Guardian Critical Thinking Forum in Johannesburg, Anton Harber, Caxton Professor of journalism and media studies at the University of the Witwatersrand, warned that people and even CSOs will no longer feel free to write news stories denouncing corrupt officials.

    "The minute you give that power to the state or government to make those decisions, it will in the long run have the potential to be used, not only against journalists, but also against other citizens," warned Harber.

    Harber’s view is somehow reiterated by former University of Cape Town chancellor, Dr Mamphele Ramphele, who warned that if enacted, the Protection of Information Bill could well be used to make the society less open and less accountable. Speaking at the recent launch of the Open Society Foundation’s Open Society Monitoring Index, Mamphele maintained that, “Citizens could be deprived of information and, ultimately, freedom of expression would be inhibited, if not choked altogether, for fear of the punitive measures the Bill contains.”

    Botswana and Zimbabwe

    In Botswana, government introduced the controversial Media Practitioners Act. According to CSOs the Act’s right to reply clause threatens the independence of the media in that country. Under the Act, media practitioners are required to register and accredit with the Media Council and allows for stringent fines and imprisonment’ of journalists.

    In Zimbabwe, the imprisonment of journalists and human rights activists after the introduction of the Access to Information and Protection of Privacy Act tells a story of a country with no media freedom. Despite a constitutional provision guaranteeing freedom of the press, the country had deported many foreign journalists.

    We have been reliably informed that journalists are now forced to address President Robert Mugabe as: Head of State and Government, the commander-in-chief of the Zimbabwe defence forces and first secretary of ZANU-PF, Robert Mugabe, when writing news.

    Outside our country, the International Press Institute (IPI), a global network of editors, publishers and journalists, has come to the defence of media freedom in South Africa. In an open letter to President Jacob Zuma, the IPI calls on the country to halt the establishment of a mooted MAT and withdraw or amend the Protection of Information Bill.

    IPI interim director, Alison Bethel-McKenzie, argues that, “...any Media Appeals Tribunal will not be independent. If the MAT is appointed by parliament, it will face an inherent conflict of interest that will skew its rulings in favour of public and party officials and essentially amount to government oversight of the media - which is unacceptable.”

    In conclusion, Reporters Without Borders’ Worldwide Press Freedom Index ranked South Africa in 26th position in 2002 of the countries said to have ‘genuine press freedom’. South Africa was ranked 33rd in 2009, an indication that the country risks reversing the gains it made since the inception of democracy in terms of media freedom.

    - Butjwana Seokoma is information coordinator at SANGONeT.

    Related Links

    Butjwana Seokoma
  • Call for Rwanda to Respect Rights

    Amnesty International (AI) has called on Rwanda to take steps to reverse a climate of fear that is looming over next week's presidential election.

    In a press statement, AI’s deputy director for Africa programme, Tawanda Hondora, points out that in recent months killings, arrests and the closure of newspapers and broadcasters have reinforced a climate of fear.

    Hondora says that the Rwandan government must ensure that investigations into the killings are thorough and reinstate closed media outlets, adding that his organisation condemn the June arrest of opposition leader on charges of genocide and divisionism under what it calls ‘vague laws’ designed to repress dissent.

    To read the article titled, “Amnesty presses Rwanda on rights,” click here.
  • Vote Ruling Party, NGO Tells Voters

    Zambian NGO, the Authentic Advocates for Justice and Democracy (AAJD) has urged voters to vote for the ruling party in the parliamentary by-elections to benefit from economic development through easier links.

    AAJD argues that opposition-controlled constituencies lag behind in development because of the missing link with the Government.

    In a press statement, AAJD general secretary, Laiford Mwanza, says that opposition MPs did not have access to Government which administers development, adding that his organisation believes that voters in Chifubu and Luena constituencies have learnt lessons after voting for opposition leaders who failed to provide leadership to the two constituencies.

    To read the article titled, “NGO urges voters to go with ruling party in by-elections,” click here.
    All Africa
  • Call for Disability Rights in Africa

    A Ugandan lawyer working with the nonprofit group Legal Action for Persons with Disabilities (LAPD), Med Ssengooba has called on Uganda and other African countries to improve opportunities for their disabled citizens.

    Ssengooba says any vision for the future of Africa must include people with disabilities, whom he says constitute a significant percentage of the community anywhere in Africa - almost 10 percent of the population.

    He argues: "People with disabilities have a lot of potential to take part in the development processes of their countries, yet they are in most cases excluded from most of the development programmes."

    To read the article titled, “Disability rights must be part of continent's future, Ugandan says Louise Fenner,” click here.
    All Africa
  • Liberia’s Senate Summons Three CSOs

    The Plenary of the Liberia Senate has voted to summon three CSOs to appear before it this week for making statements the senate describes as ‘disrespectful’ and ‘inciting’ against it.

    The three organisations - Liberia Democracy Watch, Center for Democratic Empowerment and the Institute for Democracy and Development, were complained to the Senate by one of its member for making alleged derogatory remarks against the August body for the passage of a recent joint resolution instead of the threshold bill.

    They are accused of pouring insults on the Legislature, by describing it its leadership as being ‘mentally impoverished’.

    To read the article titled, “Three civil society organisations in trouble with Senate,” click here.
    All Africa
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