Despite a statement from the the Botswana government that President Cyril Ramaphosa had sent Intelligence Minister Ayanda Dlodlo as his envoy to Gaborone, News24 has learnt that the trip has been called off.

The Botswana government said in a statement on Monday that President Mokgweetsi Masisi would meet with Dlodlo on Tuesday afternoon. The statement was further posted on Masisi's official Twitter page.

However, prior to the confirmation by the Botswana government, Ramaphosa's spokesperson Khusela Diko denied that an envoy had been appointed.

"The president has not and has no intention of appointing an envoy to Botswana in relation to the cases involving Bridgette Radebe," she said.

Diko said no minister had been tasked to deal with the matter.

News24 understands the trip was called off after we posed questions to the presidency.

The now cancelled meeting comes as the Botswana government had approached AfriForum to assist it in tracing millions of Pula allegedly laundered from the country.

Botswana's Director of Public Prosecutions (DPP), advocate Stephen Tiroyakgosi, last Tuesday bemoaned the lack of response from South Africa's Department of International Relations and Cooperation (Dirco) after its request for mutual legal assistance in the matter.

Motsepe-Radebe is implicated in allegations of money laundering.

Accusations denied

Last week the Botswana government announced it had enlisted the services of AfriForum's Gerrie Nel to get the Department of International Relations and Cooperation to respond to its request made last September.

The move by Gabarone is expected to cause diplomatic tensions between it and Pretoria.

Speaking to City Press, Motsepe-Radebe had challenged the Botswana government to "produce evidence that such a large amount of money left the country in the first place and how and if the Reserve Bank of Botswana has no records of that".

She also bemoaned the fact that the names of her relatives – Ramaphosa is her brother-in-law and Patrice Motsepe is her brother – come up whenever the case is mentioned.

Motsepe-Radebe has denied the accusations.

She further stated that she would "welcome the South African government assisting the Botswana government with its request for mutual legal assistance … These allegations are harmful to my reputation and to all the other citizens that have been referenced in the affidavit".

Late last year, she was named as a co-signatory in two South African bank accounts holding more than $10 billion (R170 billion) allegedly stolen from the Botswana government.

Nel further told the media that: "Money originating from the Bank of Botswana was illegally laundered through various international accounts and pertinent to this particular account, $48 billion found its way to bank accounts in South Africa."

 

Leaders of Sudan, Ethiopia and Egypt said they were hopeful that the African Union could help them broker a deal to end a decade-long dispute over water supplies within two or three weeks.

Ethiopia, which is building the Grand Ethiopian Renaissance Dam (GERD) which worries its downstream neighbours Egypt and Sudan, said it would fill the reservoir in a few weeks, as planned, providing enough time for talks to be concluded.

Tortuous negotiations over the years have left the two nations and their neighbour Sudan short of an agreement to regulate how Ethiopia will operate the dam and fill its reservoir, while protecting Egypt’s scarce water supplies from the Nile river.

Ethiopia’s water minister, Seleshi Bekele, said that consensus had been reached to finalise a deal within two to three weeks, a day after leaders from the three countries and South African President Cyril Ramaphosa, who chairs the African Union, held an online summit.

Billene Seyoum, a spokeswoman for Ethiopia’s prime minister, said that in Friday’s agreement there was “no divergence from Ethiopia’s original position of filling the dam.”

The Egyptian presidency said in a statement after the summit that Ethiopia will not fill the dam unilaterally.

The Grand Ethiopian Renaissance Dam (GERD) is being built about 15 km (9 miles) from the border with Sudan on the Blue Nile, the source of most of the Nile’s waters.

Ethiopia says the $4 billion hydropower project, which will have an installed capacity of 6,450 megawatts, is essential to its economic development.

Ethiopia’s Prime Minister’s Office said that the three countries agreed that the Nile and the Grand Renaissance Dam “are African issues that must be given African solutions.”

Friday’s round of talks brokered by the African Union, is the latest attempt to move forward negotiations which have repeatedly stalled due to technical and political disagreements. They also signal an intention to solve the issue without foreign intervention.

Ethiopia’s statement said the African Union, and not the U.N. Security Council, will assist the countries in the negotiations and provide technical support.

Cairo had appealed to the Council in a last-ditch diplomatic move aimed at stopping Ethiopia from filling the dam. The Council was expected to hold a public meeting on Monday to discuss the issue.

 

Reuters

South African banks and the government are looking for ways to boost take up of an up to 200 billion rand ($11.58 billion) loan scheme to help coronavirus-hit businesses, two bank executives and a source close to the discussions told Reuters.

Possible amendments being discussed include encouraging banks to ease their lending conditions, the source close to the discussions said.

"There are minor issues around the design," the source continued, including wording in the terms that has led to banks applying their standard credit procedures and rejecting more applications than anticipated.

The scheme, launched in May, was meant to encourage banks to lend more, on more favourable terms, to small businesses struggling with the effects of the pandemic.

But concerns arose that the money -- 40% of President Cyril Ramaphosa's 500 billion rand economic stimulus package -- was not being fully used after big banks approved only a few billion rand of loans in the first few weeks.

Lenders, the treasury and the central bank are in regular talks on the issue, the source said, with finance minister Tito Mboweni keen to announce changes to the scheme in his emergency budget on June 24.

Goolam Kader, business banking managing executive at Nedbank (NEDJ.J), said the lender is working closely with the Banking Association South Africa (BASA) to identify potential improvements.

He added that Nedbank did not apply credit criteria that are different from usual when assessing loan requests made under the scheme, but that various factors affected take up, including its other efforts to help customers.

Standard Bank referred Reuters to BASA, which declined to comment. FirstRand and South Africa's treasury did not provide comment by a deadline.

Jaco le Roux, chief risk officer of relationship banking at Absa's retail and business bank, said it did apply different criteria as well as imposing requirements like a bond over property less often.

Other features being discussed include raising the turnover threshold for eligible companies from 300 million rand, expanding the list of things businesses can spend the money on and the type of loans banks can extend, and lengthening the term of payment holidays, le Roux and the source said.

Take up has already accelerated to around 7 billion rand and could double within days, the source continued. There may have been a lag as businesses considered their options.

Stuart Theobald, chairman of Intellidex, which presented to government on how to design a scheme, said it did not seem to be working as intended, citing issues like the banks often requiring personal guarantees for the loans, as is standard in South Africa.

"This is not meant to be banking as usual," he said. "You want banks to behave as if they are in the best of times ... but the design of it is such that they can't actually do that."

 

Reuters

Crises bring out the best and worst of politicians and populations. Folly, fear and fortitude are on display everywhere. In the main, democracies have fared better than non-democracies in handling the coronavirus pandemic.

But the record is very varied indeed. What explains this? What can be done about it?

Among democratic regimes, at the one extreme we have seen denialism, the denigration of scientific advice and an obsession with putting the economy before lives. This is especially evident in the United States and Brazil. At the other we have witnessed the organised, prudent, empathetic responses of countries such as South Korea, New Zealand, and Finland. South African president Cyril Ramaphosa initially did very well, but some subsequent decisions might damage his good record.

These two extremes of leadership style were evident even before COVID-19.

The USA and Brazilian responses to the pandemic, led by President Donald Trump and President Jair Bolsonaro, have been characterised by secretive, narcissistic, paranoid, hubristic and impulsive decision-making. These actions have endangered the lives and livelihoods of their residents, over which they have a duty of care.

The data bears this out well. Despite having arrived on their shores relatively late, the pandemic has ripped through their populations, with no sign of abating. They lead in infections and deaths.

At the other extreme, a common denominator has been a firm attempt by political leaders to “follow the science” and control the spread of the virus and fake news from the outset. A combination of transparency, prudence, empathy, timing and courage has produced excellent results in South Korea, New Zealand and Finland.

South Africa’s response has been lauded, though it is beginning to attract criticism for heavy-handed policing and some inexplicable decisions.

Democracy and leadership

What becomes clear is that in these fast-moving and life-defining times in democracies a great deal depends on the quality of the elected leadership. Democracies that happen to have leaders who simultaneously engage empathetically with those they govern and are informed by good science are best able to deal with the crisis.


Read more: Pasha 60: The challenges facing African countries testing for COVID-19


They gather clear-eyed knowledge of their countries’ particular circumstances, and display courage and timing in making critical and sometimes unpopular decisions. They are able to overcome many of the challenges that the pandemic throws up.

Democracy helps, but it is not the deciding factor. What matters most is what kind of leader is in place, where his or her priorities lie: the well-being of the populace or the interests of a small group.

Four of the top five performing countries in terms of lives saved and control of the spread of the virus have women leaders: New Zealand’s Jacinda Ardern, Finland’s Sanna Marin, Germany’s Angela Merkel and Taiwan’s Tsai Ing-wen. These women display empathy and firm focus on the well-being of their populations.

Brazilian and American presidents, Jair Bolsonaro and Donald Trump, mishandled the COVID-19 crisis. EFE-EPA

Politicians judge best when they listen to their populations and learn from the science. That is why democracy is uniquely placed to engender good judgements, as the Indian economist Amartya Sen argued with regard to famines, and I have argued elsewhere.

Yet, it would be mistaken to think that democracy guarantees good judgement. If the purveyors of conspiracy theories and exemplars of prejudice are also your democratic leaders, democracy itself cannot resolve things. It only gives citizens the power to remove those leaders at the next election.

Bread, circuses and crises

In the current crisis, Ramaphosa has done a much better job than Trump and Bolsonaro.

Ramaphosa got off to a great start. He acted firmly, quickly, with clear justification and impressive results. South Africans have just emerged from one of the most severe lockdowns imposed anywhere in the world. This kept the infection rate nearly as low as that of South Korea, though it is now shooting up.

During this period, however, there have been at least two problematic decisions that undermine public trust and thus how people may behave.

The first is the decision to ban the sale of tobacco. Even if we could distinguish sharply between basic needs and other needs – something I dispute – the idea that addiction to smoking falls into the latter category, and that, along with the fact that COVID-19 is a respiratory disease, justifies the ban, is misguided. For an addict, the need for a cigarette may often trump even the need for vital nutrition.

The second is the decision to allow religious gatherings to resume under lockdown level 3. Having spent so long restricting gatherings, to now allow larger gatherings seems like folly. It is well known – cases abound from South Africa to South Korea – that, like funerals, large religious gatherings are super-spreading events.


Read more: South Africa's lockdown: a great start, but then a misreading of how society works


Along with the ban on tobacco products and the incorrect assumption that the state could directly meet the basic nutritional needs of the population via the delivery of food parcels, the response to the religious lobby is reminiscent of Juvenal’s comment under imperial Rome some two thousand years ago that all the people really want is “bread and circuses”. This is not what people want or need. They require the power to express their actual needs and interests and the democratic means to ensure that government responds to these.

Ramaphosa’s good leadership has been undermined by a paternalistic attitude to people’s needs and seeming deference to South Africa’s powerful religious lobby.

Lessons to be learnt

Two things can be learnt from the varied responses to the coronavirus crisis.

New Zealand Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern successfully saw her country through the COVOD-19 crisis. EFE-EPA

First, we must use it to find a roadmap for how we can properly make the health and well-being of a state’s population the raison d’être of its government. The first thing to identify is that health is not the “absence of disease” but the status we each have when our ever-changing needs are optimally satisfied. For this, we need a politics that allows us to express and assess our needs, and determine who is best placed to represent us in responding to these needs, all in non-dominating conditions.

Second, given that it is no accident that those leaders who have responded worst to this crisis have also been the main sources of countless conspiracy theories and misinformation, we must learn to keep oligarchs away from political power. Under representative democracy, bar outright revolution, we do not have the power to affect the everyday decisions of our representatives, but we can keep those with exclusive social and economic interests out of positions of political power.The Conversation

 

Lawrence Hamilton, SARChI/Newton Research Professor in Political Theory, Wits and Cambridge, University of the Witwatersrand

This article is republished from The Conversation under a Creative Commons license. Read the original article.

South Africa begins to gradually loosen its strict coronavirus lockdown on Friday, allowing some industries to reopen after five weeks of restrictions that plunged its struggling economy deeper into turmoil.

The lockdown has had a devastating impact on the economy, but a top government adviser on the pandemic said it has slowed transmissions.

"The lockdown has had quite an effect," infectious disease epidemiologist Salim Abdool Karim told AFP.

"We have got quite clear evidence that we have flattened the curve and that the number of cases we are seeing - and the number of infections probably occurring - has declined quite substantially," he said.

The country's number of confirmed infections has risen to 5 647 since 5 March when the first case was detected. It also has recorded Africa's highest Covid-19 death toll, with 103 fatalities.

The economy of Africa's most industrialised nation was already teetering when the lockdown kicked into gear on 27 March to contain the spread of infections.

To combat the economic destruction, the government has adopted a gradual and phased approach to reopen the country from 1 May.

Around 1.5 million workers in selected industries return to work in the next phase under strict health conditions, according to Trade and Industry Minister Ebrahim Patel.

  • Winter clothing, textile and packaging manufacturing are among the industries permitted to reopen factories.
  • Restaurants will also open, but only for takeaway deliveries.
  • Controversial bans on the sale of cigarettes and alcohol will remain in effect.
  • Some outside activities, such as cycling, walking and running will be allowed  - but for just three hours in the morning.
  • Social distancing and wearing masks in public and at workplaces will be mandatory.

Cooperative Governance Minister Nkosazana Dlamini-Zuma warned "companies that breach regulations will be forced to close".

President Cyril Ramaphosa took the decision to stagger the easing of the lockdown restrictions in a bid to strike a balance between protecting public health and the economy.

"Our people need to eat. They need to earn a living," Ramaphosa said.

"Companies need to be able to produce and to trade, they need to generate revenue and keep their employees in employment."

South Africa's economy was in recession and reeling from low growth and high debts before the pandemic arrived.

On Wednesday S&P downgraded the country's credit rating further into junk.

After shrinking in the second half of 2019 due partly to severe rolling power blackouts, "South Africa's already contracting economy will face a further sharp Covid-19-related downturn in 2020," the ratings agency said.

To help cushion companies and individuals, Ramaphosa last week unveiled an unprecedented R500 billion economic stimulus and social relief package, amounting to about 10 percent of the GDP.

Finance Minister Tito Mboweni said the country will seek coronavirus relief aid from the International Monetary Fund and the World Bank, where it is eligible for up to $4.2 billion.

 

An industry body that represents 320 member organisations in the solar PV industry has written an open letter to President Cyril Ramaphosa, in which it calls on him to remove limitations to private power generation as a way of supporting efforts to kick start the economy post COVID-19.

The letter, by the Chairperson of the South African Photovoltaic Industry Association Mr Wido Schnabel was sent this morning (Tuesday 28 April 2020). In his letter, Schnabel writes:

“We are living in unprecedented times when our economic systems, our relationship with nature and our resilience as a global community are tested — all at once. We commend you Mr President, on the leadership you have shown and the difficult decisions taken to delay the spread of Covid-19, hopefully giving our healthcare systems enough time to prepare for a peak in infections.

Tough yet necessary restrictions on trading, social gatherings, and travel have dealt a massive blow to our fragile economy. To recover from the economic impact of the pandemic, we agree with you Mr President that we need a “new social compact” to “forge a new economy”. We agree that “we can no longer work in the way we have before” and it’s time to “adjust to a new reality”. We stand with you in your resolve to build an inclusive economy. In order to achieve this goal, we call on your government to relax certain electricity regulations that have made it difficult for businesses in our sector to grow and create jobs.

Our economic recovery depends on the sustainable, affordable and reliable supply of energy. If we are to –– as you say –– “forge a new economy” then we cannot allow a return to the dark days of load shedding. Since the rolling blackouts of 2008, Eskom’s inability to provide a stable supply of power has throttled economic growth and battered the country’s credit rating to junk status, siting energy as the number one contributing factor.

Mr President, let us use this opportunity to fix yesterday’s problems, starting with our electricity supply woes. As an industry, we support both the state-run utility model and the integration of Distributed Generation methodologies, although the latter delivers electricity at a faster rate with no cost to the Government. The Distributed Generation approach provides additional capacity to the grid, promotes broad-based participation in the energy sector, and aligns with the tenets of a just energy transition. In fact, the Distributed Generation space plays a strategic role in balancing the country’s sustainable development needs with employment security.

To assess the potential of the sector to create jobs, we partnered with the Council for Scientific and Industrial Research (CSIR). According to our study, there are approximately 400 SMMEs (and growing) in the Distributed Generation space with the potential to create more than 100 000 jobs over the next 10 years. Unfortunately, the growth of the Distributed Generation market has been stymied by three factors linked to Schedule 2 of the Electricity Regulation Act (ERA). These problematic amendments came into effect in 2017.

There are three main issues:

  • The Integrated Resource Plan (IRP) does not explicitly spell out the allocation for Distributed Generation projects over the next 4 years. Without a clear allocation, the energy regulator does not have a clear mandate to grant licenses to entities wanting to generate electricity outside of the proposed state procurement process.
  • Schedule 2 imposes a 1MW threshold for licensing exemption, which makes the development of projects up to 10MW impractical for small and medium sized businesses.
  • Projects with a generating capacity of just over 1MW must endure the same onerous application process as large-scale projects. Both require a public participation process and hearings on a per project basis.

Under normal circumstances, NERSA can take more than four months to process applications for registration; licensing can take between six months to a year, despite the 120 day period described in the Act. As a consequence, many companies are incentivized to reduce the size of their projects to avoid a lengthy application process.

Although we support the goals of the ERA, the legislation’s generation licensing requirement does little to ensure that connections to the network are safe and orderly. In fact, there are other legal mechanisms in place to regulate the operation of electricity infrastructure. For instance, over and above the distribution code, most municipalities would have established electricity by-laws to protect their local networks. In addition, the Department of Mineral Resources and Energy (DMRE) has a registration system to determine how many megawatts of Distributed Generation are allowed to enter the network.

The limitations imposed by Schedule 2 of the ERA are weighing heavily on our industry at a time when the country is in the midst of a crisis. Nevertheless, we are confident that by working together with the Government, we will be able to power the economy back to life. This is precisely why we are calling for an urgent meeting with your administration to plot a way forward.

Mr President, we urge you to consider the following proposals:

  • Lift the licensing exemption threshold from 1MW to 10MW.
  • Make it a requirement for projects to register with the regulator by submitting an independent certificate of compliance against which the allocation to embedded generation can be measured, and ensure that the database of installed megawatts is public and updated.
  • Ensure there are clear guidelines on how to obtain a generation license for projects above 10MW in size.
  • Ensure that NERSA has the resources and capacity to process applications timeously and efficiently.

Mr President, we need urgent interventions from your government to drive growth in the energy sector. The Solar PV Industry stands with you to fight the COVID-19 pandemic and commits to positively participate in the recovery of the economy. As an industry we’ll continue to engage with you so that we can get our economy moving again.”

Former President de Klerk's denial that apartheid was a crime against humanity is cause for reflection on Freedom Day.

Freedom Day, celebrated every year on April 27, commemorates South Africa's first democratic election in 1994 - the first time in the history of the country that non-white citizens were allowed to vote.

That election saw Nelson Mandela replace Frederik Willem (FW) de Klerk to become South Africa's first Black president. Mandela's liberation movement-turned-political party, the African National Congress (ANC), meanwhile took the reins from the white nationalist government that had been in power since 1948. All this transpired without the bloodshed many feared would take place.

In the years that led up to those elections, while Mandela was the face of Black forgiveness, de Klerk became the face of white compromise. In 1990, he took the step of unbanning the ANC and freed Mandela from 27 years in prison. He also agreed to the negotiations that would see the peaceful transition from racist rule to democracy.

It was, therefore, shocking to many when, on February 2 this year, de Klerk publicly stated that apartheid was not a crime against humanity in an interview with the national broadcaster, the SABC.

'Treasonous' comments

During the interview, de Klerk said he was "not fully agreeing" with the presenter who asked him to confirm that apartheid - the legalised segregation of and discrimination against non-white people - was a crime against humanity.

Immediately afterwards, the FW de Klerk Foundation supported his statement and published a response that read: "Deplorable as it is, we cannot, from a legal point of view, accept that apartheid can in this manner be made a crime against humanity."

There was an immediate public outcry as well as criticism from the media and other politicians.

Apartheid was so immoral in its conception and so devastating in its execution that there is no South African living today who is not touched by its legacy.

PRESIDENT CYRIL RAMAPHOSA

South African President Cyril Ramaphosa called de Klerk's comments "treasonous".

"Apartheid was so immoral in its conception and so devastating in its execution that there is no South African living today who is not touched by its legacy. I would say that to deny this is treasonous," he said.

Although de Klerk later retracted his statement, the debacle opened old wounds and raised questions about his legacy and the extent to which white South Africans have acknowledged the severity of apartheid.

'We are never seen as human'

"For me and my family, de Klerk's denial of apartheid being a crime against our humanity really hit home quite hard," said Lukhanyo Calata, whose father, Fort Calata, was one of the "Cradock Four" - a group of activists murdered by apartheid security police in 1985.

"[The comments] reinforced our belief that de Klerk has never really seen us as human beings. He's never assigned any human value to our family," he told Al Jazeera.

In its response to de Klerk's statement, the Economic Freedom Fighters (EFF), an opposition party that has called de Klerk an "apartheid apologist" who "has blood on his hands", confirmed it would pursue a murder inquiry into state-sponsored killings that de Klerk had allegedly organised. The organisation also called for de Klerk to be stripped of his Nobel Peace Prize, which he received together with Mandela in 1993, for their collaboration in ending apartheid.

 South African Deputy President F.W. de Klerk, right, and South African President Nelson Mandela pose with their Nobel Peace Prize
In this December 10, 1993 file photo, Nelson Mandela and Frederik Willem de Klerk pose with their Nobel Peace Prize gold medals and diplomas in Oslo, Norway [File: AP]
 

De Klerk, born in 1936, is from a conservative Afrikaner background. His father, Jan de Klerk, was a minister in the cabinet of South African Prime Minister Hendrik Frensch Verwoerd - the man widely regarded as the architect of apartheid.

For decades, FW de Klerk was a committed supporter of apartheid. Elected as a member of Parliament in 1972, he held the ministerial portfolios of mines and energy affairs, internal affairs, and national education and planning. During his time as a cabinet minister, he was considered more conservative than many of his ministerial colleagues.

Ferial Haffajee, a South African journalist, wrote that her abiding memory of de Klerk during apartheid was of the man who passed the university bills that sought to make it more difficult for black people to gain access to white universities.

So it came as a surprise to many when de Klerk announced in Parliament on February 2, 1990, that he would unban the ANC and release Mandela.

The 'myth' of the liberator

In the decades since, many have asked whether de Klerk's U-turn from his conservative past was the result of pragmatism or of a sincere conviction that apartheid was morally wrong.

"De Klerk attempted to hold himself aloof from apartheid crimes against humanity, as did many others who were aware of the illegal and extrajudicial acts of the government," South African journalist Marianne Thamm told Al Jazeera. "By convincing himself he did not know of the gory details, he was able to pass himself off as a relatively 'untainted' and 'progressive' leader."

On the difference between de Klerk and Mandela, Thamm writes: "De Klerk's heart, a heart that has grown the carapace of the consummate pragmatic politician. And that was the singular and unique magic of Nelson Mandela, he revealed his heart while at the same time keeping his head - the mark of a true statesman."

Referring to the "myth" that de Klerk was a liberator, Haffajee writes: "Not then and not now have a generation of us bought into the myth, so his statement, now retracted, that apartheid was not a crime against humanity was hardly surprising to many of us."

Apartheid as an international crime

From 1952 to 1990, apartheid was condemned annually by the United Nations General Assembly as contrary to the Charter of the United Nations.

The 1973 Apartheid Convention required states to both suppress and punish acts of apartheid. At the time of the signing of this Convention, the South African government ignored it.

The inclusion of apartheid in the 2002 Rome Statute of the International Criminal Court was the strongest acknowledgement yet that apartheid was an international crime. It defines apartheid as inhumane acts of a character similar to other crimes against humanity "committed in the context of an institutionalized regime of systematic oppression and domination by one racial group over any other racial group or groups and committed with the intention of maintaining that regime".

Christopher Gevers, senior lecturer at the University of KwaZulu-Natal, is critical of the trade-off that South Africa's democratic government made through the country's Truth and Reconciliation Commission (TRC) because he saw that it meant truth came at the expense of justice.

De Klerk and Mandela
Former South African presidents Nelson Mandela and FW de Klerk, with Archbishop Desmond Tutu, centre [File: AP]
 

"Twenty-six years on, not only have we failed to prosecute those who blatantly refused to prosecute the bargain, but the promised 'truth and reconciliation' is wearing thin," he said to Al Jazeera. Gevers points to the fact that the crime of apartheid has never been prosecuted in South Africa or anywhere else in the world.

De Klerk's comment came at a particularly difficult time for South Africa.

As Nobel laureate and former archbishop of Cape Town, Desmond Tutu, said in his foundation's statement on February 16, South Africa "is on an economic precipice. It is beset by radical poverty and inequity. Those who suffered most under apartheid continue to suffer most today."

Inadequate apologies

February was not the first time de Klerk was criticised for his public statements on apartheid.

He initially apologised for apartheid on April 29, 1993. That apology was widely regarded as inadequate, since it did not disclose de Klerk's personal participation in apartheid crimes.

Subsequently, during his testimony to the TRC in 1997, de Klerk described his initial apology as an "unqualified apology". He pushed back against those who attacked it as an attempt to defend or justify the policies of the past.

Leon Wessels, a cabinet minister during de Klerk's presidency, told Al Jazeera: "The de Klerk that appeared before the TRC was a jurist and an intellectual. De Klerk did not seem to be emotionally present."

Veteran journalist Max du Preez found it particularly disappointing that de Klerk never asked for forgiveness before the TRC.

Political commentator and academic William Gumede believes one reason for the strong outcry after de Klerk's February statement is the opportunism of the populist left, represented by the EFF. He said the current climate is "particularly inflammable". Like Tutu, Gumede also believes the difficult economic situation means poorer South Africans are particularly disgruntled.

"We haven't had an official state apology. An apology would give recognition to suffering," said Gumede.

White denial

Christi van der Westhuizen, an associate professor at the Centre for the Advancement of Non-Racialism and Democracy at Nelson Mandela University, believes the recent outcry is indicative of a reaction to the hardening of white attitudes in recent years.

"These attitudes can, in turn, be relayed to the ANC government's 'lost decade' due to grand scale corruption," she said.

She believes the denial of the severity of apartheid constitutes apartheid denial. "There is an obfuscation of the dehumanisation of marginalised groupings under apartheid," she said.

This history in its fullness has not yet been told. And the damage wreaked on the lives of millions of South Africans over a sustained period of time ... and the ramifications of this on generations, is still here with us.

MARIANNE THAMM, JOURNALIST

Journalist Thamm told Al Jazeera: "The outcry this year is because there is much unfinished business and there will never be resolution. Enough evidence emerged at the TRC of the murder and savagery of the apartheid state."

Thamm believes de Klerk's denial was indicative of a more general unwillingness on the part of white South Africans to recognise the severity of apartheid.

"This history in its fullness has not yet been told. And the damage wreaked on the lives of millions of South Africans over a sustained period of time, to be dispossessed, to be rendered a 'nothing' legally, and the ramifications of this on generations, is still here with us," she said.

'Confusion, anger and hurt'

Two weeks after de Klerk said apartheid was not a crime against humanity, he retracted his statement, after Tutu asked him to.

Speaking through his foundation on February 17, de Klerk declared apartheid "totally unacceptable" and conceded that the UN had previously highlighted that the era was indeed a humanitarian offence. He said he was sorry for causing "confusion, anger and hurt" with his words.

In spite of the subsequent retraction, de Klerk's denial of the grave and systematic abuses of apartheid has left a scar.

According to Calata, who lost his father to the apartheid state apparatus, "an apology should come out of de Klerk's mouth. It should not appear on some lifeless piece of paper that was most probably not even written by him. So, for me, there's no satisfaction, as there was no apology."

As journalist Tony Heard writes: "Doubts linger after such incidents, for anyone interested in the future social stability of South Africa."

 

SOURCE: AL JAZEERA

South Africa’s President Cyril Ramaphosa said on Thursday the government will allow a partial reopening of the economy on May 1, with travel restrictions eased and some industries allowed to operate under a five-level risk system.

Ramaphosa said the National Coronavirus Command Council decided restrictions will be lowered from level 5 - the strictest lockdown stage - to level 4 from next Friday. International borders will remain closed while travel will be only allowed for essential services.

“We cannot take action today that we will deeply regret tomorrow, we must avoid a rushed reopening that could risk a spread which would need to be followed by another hard lockdown,” Ramaphosa said in a televised address.

South Africa has spent nearly month under restrictions requiring most of the population to stay at home apart from essential trips, leaving many struggling without wages and short of supplies.

The country has recorded 3,953 confirmed cases including 75 deaths with 143,570 people tested for the virus. Thursday saw the highest one-day leap in infections with 318 new cases, though the health ministry said this was largely due to intensified screening.

“We have to balance the need to resume economic activity with the imperative to contain the virus and save lives,” Ramaphosa said.

He did not give details, as expected, on the 500-billion rand ($26 billion) rescue package he announced on Tuesday. But in the speech he said it was a priority to get the economy restarted and that testing would continue to be ramped up while social distancing rules remained in place.

Under the “risk-adjusted” system, authorities will identify which sectors can operate under various risk scenarios.

“We will implement what we call a risk-adjusted strategy, through which we take a deliberate and cautious approach to the easing of current lockdown restrictions,” said Ramaphosa.

 

Reuters

South Africa’s President Cyril Ramaphosa announced an R500 billion ($26bn) stimulus package to deal with the devasting economic impact of COVID-19 and a 35-day lockdown.

He said the money would come from its adjustment budget, the Unemployment Insurance Fund and multilateral institutions.

The World Bank, the New Development Bank, the International Monetary Fund and African Development Bank have been approached for funding.

Measures introduced to assist the economy include:

  • R20 billion to assist efforts that address the pandemic.
  • R20 billion for municipalities for the provision of emergency water supply, increased sanitisation of public transport and facilities, and providing food and shelter for the homeless.
  • A six-month temporary COVID-19 grant of R50 billion. This means that child support grant beneficiaries will receive an extra R300 in May and from June to October they will receive an additional R500 each month. All other grant beneficiaries will receive an extra R250 per month for the next six months.
  • A special Covid-19 Social Relief of Distress grant of R350 a month for the next 6 months will be paid to individuals who are currently unemployed and do not receive any other form of social grant or UIF payment.
  • R100 billion for protection of jobs and to create jobs.
  • R40 billion for income support payments for workers whose employers are not able to pay their wages.
  • R200 billion loan guarantee scheme to be introduced to help businesses pay salaries, rents and suppliers. Companies with a turnover of less than R300 million a year can participate.

A phased approach will be taken to reopen the economy of which Ramaphosa said he will address the nation on Thursday.

Credit: CNBC

South African President Cyril Ramaphosa has announced plans to reduce his administration’s fiscal distress, with a decision to cut thousands of telecommunications jobs.

LEFTIST POLICY

Indirectly employed by the government through one of its many state-owned enterprises (SOEs), cutting 3,000 jobs represents the beginning of promised steps to return South Africa to economic sustainability.

Two decades ago, Telkom, South Africa’s state-owned giant, was the largest by infrastructure development and most sophisticated on the continent.

Like power-producer Eskom and many others, Telkom is a shadow of its former self and struggling to make ends meet.

The cause has been a combination of prescribed “black economic empowerment” through the deliberate preference for formerly disadvantaged people and of the ruling African National Congress’ (ANC) leftist policy of cadre deployment.

Often these two processes have overlapped but they have meant that highly skilled people have had to give way to replacements.

While a fair number of such appointments have worked out, many have not.

NEAR-COLLAPSE

This has affected national, provincial and local governance — and is one of the reasons there has been mounting unhappiness in communities lacking basic services, leading to protests.

In the vital SOEs, which dominate the economy and which are effective monopolies, the governance failure and accompanying corruption have run rampant and caused collapses or near-collapses requiring state bailouts.

But there is no more money for such bailouts and South Africa cannot borrow any more without the entire sovereign debt of the country falling into ‘junk’ status.

In an address to the ANC rank and file last weekend, Ramaphosa made it plain that in providing service directly or indirectly through employment in SOEs, accountability would be the watch word.

According to international ratings like the World Bank and IMF, the government and its SOEs are around 10-15 per cent overstaffed.

However, Ramaphosa’s union allies hate the idea of retrenchment.

GROUNDED PLANES

Combined with residual elements involved in former president Jacob Zuma’s “state capture” project of looting, the unions say they will not let Ramaphosa do what he must.

They are trying, through the Congress of South African Trade Unions, to halt any retrenchments. They also want Eskom removed from SOE minister Pravin Gordhan’s control.

However, the unions have the recent experience of South African Airways (SAA) to consider.

Strike action by ANC-aligned unions grounded planes for days — long enough to win the pay increase the unions were demanding, but also to throw the broke airline into a terminal crisis.

SAA is in business rescue at Ramaphosa’s insistence. With a deadline this weekend for it to find $139 million to remain operational, the airline may be liquidated.

If so, thousands of jobs will be lost, rather than perhaps hundreds if rescued.

The unions, having won the battle for an increase, pushed the airline to the edge and may have lost the war in terms of jobs.

SOUL OF ANC

At the core of ANC’s internal disputes about what to do to rescue the economy are divergent views.

The issue lies between the business-friendly lobby in ANC led by Ramaphosa, and those inclined to a hardline socialist agenda.

The result is a war over jobs which has become the proxy battlefield for the real struggle under way, being that for the heart and soul of the ANC — and therefore of the future of South Africa.

This week, Gwede Mantashe — once a leading unionist and currently ANC chairman and a minister — has been saying things directly contrary to Ramaphosa about getting South Africa out of the power-generation crisis.

The country is broke and faces costly ratings downgrades if it does not cut government jobs.

Consequently, Ramaphosa and his team are acting. Some 129 cases related to corruption have emerged from Eskom alone, and have gone for prosecution.

1,000 CASES

More than 1,000 internal disciplinary cases are in the process within the power producer.

The question is whether Ramaphosa can do enough against the backdrop of a weakening global economy to prevent a meltdown.

And then there is a crucial local government election a little more than a year out.

How the struggle for power and for control over ANC — and therefore over South Africa’s destiny — plays out will tell if the country becomes a failed state or emerges as a shining example of a modern developing nation, as Ramaphosa promised.

Erasmus writes from Pretoria. This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.

Credit: Daily Nation

CHRIS ERASMUS
  1. Opinions and Analysis

Calender

« July 2020 »
Mon Tue Wed Thu Fri Sat Sun
    1 2 3 4 5
6 7 8 9 10 11 12
13 14 15 16 17 18 19
20 21 22 23 24 25 26
27 28 29 30 31