When Cyril Ramaphosa succeeded Jacob Zuma as South Africa’s president, he promised a “new dawn” after nine years of misrule that hobbled the economy.
Eighteen months later, hopes have dissipated that the former labor union leader can orchestrate a turnaround. The economy shrank the most in a decade in the first quarter of this year; 38% of the workforce can’t find jobs or have given up looking; and massive bailouts for the debt-stricken state power utility are draining the country’s coffers, putting South Africa at risk of losing its sole investment-grade credit rating.
Ramaphosa himself, a respected 66-year-old lawyer who led the negotiations that brought an end to white-minority rule in 1994, is stuck in a political quagmire. While he won control of the ruling African National Congress by a razor-thin margin in late 2017, members of an ANC faction loosely allied to Zuma remain entrenched in senior positions in the party and the state, undermining Ramaphosa’s authority and limiting his scope to tackle rampant graft and nepotism.
The president has axed several cabinet ministers with tainted reputations, replaced the chief prosecutor and head of the national tax agency, and revamped the boards and management of troubled state companies. His efforts to sweep the government clean helped steer the ANC to its sixth consecutive win in May elections. But his detractors in the party have continued to push back against his anticorruption crusade, which has eroded investor confidence. They’ve demanded changes to the central bank’s inflation-targeting mandate and advocated land seizures to address racially skewed ownership patterns dating to apartheid and colonial rule, when members of the black majority were largely deprived of the right to own property.
“A more forceful leader could have adopted a blitzkrieg strategy straight after the election victory and probably been victorious. But Cyril Ramaphosa is not such a leader,” says Robert Schrire, a politics professor at the University of Cape Town. By moving cautiously, the president may have ensured the stability of his government, but at the expense of his ability to effect change, Schrire says. “The opportunity has passed.”
The president’s political challenges extend beyond the ANC. Powerful labor unions that played a key role in bringing Ramaphosa to power appear intent on derailing efforts to turn around state-owned power utility Eskom Holdings SOC Ltd. They’ve rejected cuts to its bloated workforce and plans to break it into three operating units that would be easier to manage. The president has also been locked in legal battles with the nation’s antigraft ombudsman, who accuses him of failing to disclose a campaign donation.
Despondency over the stalemate is evident in the financial markets. The rand, which jumped to a three-year high after the ANC forced Zuma to quit and replaced him with Ramaphosa, has reversed all of its gains. Meanwhile, government bond yields have spiked over the past month as the cost of a three-year bailout for Eskom ballooned by $4 billion, to $8.6 billion. “The additional support to ease the company’s financial pressures would be credit negative for South Africa because it would be an additional drain on fiscal resources,” Moody’s Investors Service, the only major rating company that doesn’t classify the nation’s debt as junk, wrote in a July 24 report. “The lack of a strategy to return Eskom to a more stable financial situation that would reduce the need for government support exacerbates the problem.”
Morgan Stanley analyst Andrea Masia sees the budget deficit widening, to about 6.4% of gross domestic product in the current fiscal year and 6.6% in 2020-21, from 4.2% in the year ended March 2019, mainly because of the extra money being poured into the utility. Eskom lost a record $1.4 billion in the 12 months through March. The February budget projected a gap of 4.5% and 4.3% for the two years, respectively, though the country’s growth prospects have deteriorated since then.
The government has made mistakes and failed to implement coherent policies, Ramaphosa concedes, while unchecked graft has impaired its ability to fix the country’s problems. Zuma is standing trial for allegedly taking bribes from arms dealers almost two decades ago, but no other high-profile individuals have been indicted—despite a judicial panel having unearthed evidence that staggering amounts of money were looted from the state during Zuma’s administration.
Ramaphosa’s plans to boost the annual economic growth rate to 5% and halve the unemployment rate include luring $100 billion in investment and getting private companies to partner with the government to build infrastructure. He’s targeting a top 50 position in the World Bank’s ease of doing business ranking within three years by reducing red tape and other hindrances to commerce. South Africa currently ranks 82nd out of 190 nations.
Adversaries in the ANC, including the party’s secretary-general, Ace Magashule, appear bent on scuppering Ramaphosa’s initiatives. They insist that priority should be given to securing the black majority a bigger share of the nation’s wealth by redistributing land and changing the central bank’s mandate so it plays a more proactive role in fostering growth and creating jobs. This they call “radical economic transformation”—a mantra popularized by Zuma. —With Nkululeko Ncana
BOTTOM LINE - Ramaphosa’s tenuous hold on the ruling party is making it difficult for him to eliminate graft and turn around the flagging South African economy.
South African President Cyril Ramaphosa is standing his ground in a deepening campaign funding scandal that threatens to scar his reputation and undermine his drive to tackle rampant graft, insisting that he has done nothing wrong.
Busisiwe Mkhwebane, the nation’s anti-graft ombudsman, said Ramaphosa misled lawmakers about a donation to his 2017 campaign to win control of the ruling party and instructed parliament to censure him for violating the constitution and the executive ethics code. While Ramaphosa said he was kept at arm’s length from his campaign fund-raising, Cape Town-based website News24 reported that it obtained verified copies of leaked emails from his camp disproving his assertion.
“This is smoke and mirrors,” Khusela Diko, Ramaphosa’s spokeswoman, said in an interview with Johannesburg-based broadcaster eNCA on Monday. “The president hasn’t committed any crime. None of those donations are coming from anybody whom, from the best of our knowledge, would have obtained that money illegally.”
Mkhwebane initiated an investigation into the president at the request of the main opposition party, the Democratic Alliance, which questioned whether a 500,000 rand ($33,500) payment his campaign received from Gavin Watson, the chief executive officer of services company Bosasa, was above board. Testimony given to a judicial panel has implicated the company in paying bribes to senior government officials to win contracts.
Ramaphosa said he inadvertently failed to disclose the payment to lawmakers and rectified his mistake as soon as possible. He’s challenging Mkhwebane’s findings that he intentionally misled parliament and filed an urgent interdict to postpone any censure until the case is heard. A date for both hearings has yet to be set.
More than 120 people donated money to Ramaphosa’s campaign on the understanding that they should expect nothing in return, according to Diko.
“We stand by our statements that the president was not privy to the day-to-day running of the campaign,” and didn’t know about Watson’s donation, she said. “Yes, there were times where guidance may have been sought from him.”
Credit - Bloomberg
South African President Cyril Ramaphosa on Sunday said he will seek an urgent judicial review of what he described as an irretrievably flawed report in which the country’s graft watchdog said he misled parliament over a campaign donation.
Public Protector Busisiwe Mkhwebane’s report followed an investigation by the watchdog into a 500,000 rand ($35,878.56) donation to Ramaphosa’s 2017 campaign for the leadership of the ruling African National Congress (ANC) from the CEO of services company Bosasa.
Ramaphosa said the report’s findings were not rational, based in fact or arrived at through a fair and impartial process - assertions Mkhwebane refutes - and that he would seek a judicial review of the report, its conclusions and the remedial action it recommended.
“After careful study, I have concluded that the report is fundamentally and irretrievably flawed,” Ramaphosa told a media briefing, adding that it was therefore appropriate the courts make a final and impartial judgment on the matter.
A statement issued on Mkhwebane’s behalf said she welcomes the president’s decision but stands by the report and will seek to assist the courts in arriving at the “correct conclusion”.
“She has no doubt that she exercised her powers and performed her functions without fear, favor or prejudice, as is required by the constitution,” the statement said.
Mkhwebane, who began the investigation after a complaint from South Africa’s opposition, on Friday said that she found the president had “deliberately misled” parliament and violated the executive ethics code in regards to the donation.
The saga has proven a headache for Ramaphosa, who has staked his reputation on cleaning up deep-rooted corruption and reviving Africa’s most developed economy, providing ammunition for enemies including an ANC faction loyal to his predecessor Jacob Zuma.
Ramaphosa initially told parliament that the money received by his son Andile was obtained for services he had provided, but he later corrected this by saying the payment was actually a donation towards his campaign.
The remedial actions Mkhwebane recommended included the speaker of the national assembly to demand publication, within 30 days of receiving the report, of all donations received by Ramaphosa.
She also instructed the chief prosecutor to investigate whether Ramaphosa’s campaign had laundered money in its handling of donations.
Ramaphosa’s supporters accuse her of acting as a proxy for Zuma’s faction, which she has denied.
Public Protector Busisiwe Mkhwebane has said that President Cyril Ramaphosa deliberately deceived Parliament with regard to a R500,000 donation from Bosasa to fund his African National Congress election campaign, Eyewitness News reports.
Mkhwebane said that Ramaphosa breached the Executive Ethics Code by failing to disclose financial interest accrued to him as a result of the donations received for the CR17 campaign, writes News24.
Mkhwebane also found that the means through which the R500,000 donation were funneled - transferred through several accounts before being paid into the president's campaign account - raised suspicion of money laundering, saying: "The allegation that there is an improper relationship between President Ramaphosa and his family on the one side, and the company African Global Operations (AGO/Bosasa) on the other side, due to the nature of the R500,000 payment passing through several intermediaries, instead of a straight donation towards the CR17 campaign, this raising suspicion of money laundering, has merit."
Mkhwebane referred the allegations of money laundering to authorities to investigate. Previously, Bejani Chauke, former CR17 Campaign Manager, said in a statement that there was "no basis whatsoever for even a suspicion of money laundering". Chauke's statement posted on The Mail & Guardian elaborated: "The CR17 campaign was funded by a broad range of individuals from across South Africa who supported the objectives of the campaign. These funds were paid into accounts established for this purpose and were used to cover the costs of the campaign such as stipends, travelling, communications and promotional material, meeting venues and accommodation. In the process, all legal and regulatory requirements were met."
Mkhwebane's statements come after Ramaphosa said that he was "willing and able" to appear before the Zondo Commission into state capture.
South Africa’s four major telecommunications companies have asked President Cyril Ramaphosa to support Huawei in South Africa, reports the Sunday Times.
In a letter dated 7 June, the CEOs of Cell C, MTN, Vodacom and Telkom wrote to the president to ask for help in dealing with the repercussions of an executive order signed by US President Donald Trump against Huawei.
In May, the Trump administration issued an order that could restrict Huawei from selling equipment in the US. Washington also put the company on a blacklist, threatening its supply of American components – from semiconductors, to the Google apps that run on its smartphones.
The CEOs said that blacklisting Huawei in South Africa would hinder the rollout of a new 5G network, as well as impact the country’s existing 3G and 4G networks.
Ramaphosa’s spokesperson Khusela Diko said that the president would align with his Chinese counterpart, president Xi Jinping, and back Huawei in its fight against Trump.
“Huawei provides a strong backbone to our telecommunication sector and is the frontrunner in 5G network,” said Diko. “The advancements made in that sector are largely because of the investment Huawei made in South Africa.
“The president expressed his concern at any efforts to curtail the efforts of Huawei to deliver a comprehensive, and what we believe to be an advanced solution in the telecommunication space.”
Huawei has previously pledged to invest heavily in companies that welcome it with open arms.
“Huawei will invest heavily in those countries where we are welcome,” said global vice president of marketing insights Andrew Williamson
“Restricting competition in 5G infrastructure will have huge costs. Governments and companies around the world will have to address those costs against the supposed risks of national security” .
Williamson added that rolling out 5G technology around the world will be a challenge if the US goes ahead with its sanctions.
Trump eases restrictions on Huawei
After a meeting with Chinese President Xi Jinping, Trump told reporters on Saturday that he would delay restrictions against Huawei, letting US companies resume sales to China’s largest telecommunications equipment maker.
Trump later tweeted that his meeting with Xi was “far better than expected.” He said Chinese President Xi Jinping had promised to buy “tremendous” amounts of US agricultural products in exchange.
After Trump and Xi met at the G-20 on Saturday, the two countries plan to restart trade talks that broke down last month.
Trump told reporters he wouldn’t put additional tariffs on China for the “time being,” and that he would allow US companies to supply Huawei.
“US companies can sell their equipment to Huawei,” Trump said. “We’re talking about equipment where there’s no great national security problem with it.”
Source: Business Tech South Africa
President Cyril Ramaphosa's mission to fix two of South Africa's most troubled state companies, power firm Eskom and South African Airways (SAA), could take longer than planned after their chief executives quit within a week of each other.
Investors say the CEOs' resignations could slow the implementation of turnaround plans seen as critical to shoring up confidence in Africa's most industrialized economy, which has for years struggled to grow and whose last investment-grade credit rating is hanging by a thread.
Since becoming president in February 2018, Ramaphosa has pledged to woo investment, create jobs and tackle deep-rooted corruption.
The roles at Eskom and SAA are some of the most challenging in corporate South Africa, with fierce disagreements over how the companies should operate, meaning it will be difficult to find replacement leaders quickly.
Both have received government bailouts in recent years but executives say that financial support was insufficient.
Eskom is choking under 440 billion rand ($30.3 billion) of debt -- equivalent to around 9 percent of South Africa's 2018 gross domestic product -- and this year implemented some of the worst power cuts in several years. It said last month that CEO Phakamani Hadebe would step down in July for health reasons.
But two sources close to Hadebe told Reuters that another reason for his departure was that he felt frustrated at being excluded from important decisions affecting the utility.
Ramaphosa has appointed a raft of advisors to come up with solutions to Eskom's woes and has preferred to listen to their views rather than consult Hadebe, the sources said.
"The government needs to understand that if it wants these companies to be run properly, then it needs to create an environment where the new CEOs can function," said Pavel Mamai, partner at fund manager ProMeritum.
"The CEO changes make the task of fixing Eskom and SAA more urgent."
SAA CEO Vuyani Jarana wrote in his resignation letter last week that his plans to revive the loss-making airline were being undermined by a lack of state funding and too much bureaucracy.
Jarana, who will leave SAA at the end of August, told Reuters in a May 2018 interview that government funding was critical to fixing the airline.
Hadebe and Jarana had both been in their roles for less than two years when they resigned -- a common trend at South African state firms.
"The revolving-door policy at key state-owned enterprises does little to instil investor confidence," said analyst Shaun Murison at IG Markets.
Hadebe's phone was switched off when a Reuters reporter called on Monday. An SAA spokesman said Jarana was not available for comment.
The search for replacements for Hadebe and Jarana has only just got under way.
But the new Eskom and SAA executives will face monumental challenges, which include navigating the competing interests of different sections of government and society.
Eskom and SAA report to South African Public Enterprises Minister Pravin Gordhan, a close Ramaphosa ally respected by investors for running a tight ship while finance minister but whose management style opponents call interventionist.
Gordhan's aides told Reuters on Monday that the financial and operational crises at Eskom and SAA necessitated close attention from the minister.
They said the scale of the problems facing Eskom, which range from liquidity issues to coal quality, meant it was unrealistic to expect the CEO alone to solve them. Fiscal constraints meant the government had to opt for a "phased recapitalization" rather than giving SAA all the money it wanted in one go, they added.
The new executives will also have to establish a close working relationship with Finance Minister Tito Mboweni, who this year likened giving state funds to Eskom to pouring water into a sieve and last year said SAA should be closed down. The airline has not made a profit since 2011.
A further complication comes from labor unions and sections of Ramaphosa's governing African National Congress party that vehemently oppose efforts to trim the two firms' bloated workforces.
Analysts say job cuts should be a key component of the companies' recovery plans and that the stakes are high if those plans fail. Eskom employs roughly 48,000 people, after hiring about 12,000 additional employees in the past decade. A World Bank research report published in 2016 said it was significantly overstaffed.
"If Ramaphosa does not come up with a solution to this crisis soon, there is a good chance Moody's will remove South Africa's last investment-grade credit rating," said Nigel Rendell, a director at Medley Global Advisors.
"Eskom is the biggest issue hanging over financial markets, and there won't be a happy ending unless there is a significant capital injection from somewhere."
South Africa’s new national government and nine new provincial executives have taken office following recent elections. They all have a huge job to do, and it cannot be business as usual.
The country is at a turning point following the nine years of former President Jacob Zuma’s ruinous administration. It needs strong, principled leaders in all spheres of government to put the country on a path of economic growth and to improve the quality of governance.
Many of the current governance failures are linked to corruption or state capture. This includes malfeasance in state-owned enterprises such as Eskom, the power utility and Transnet, the rail and port company. There are also other serious governance problems in some national government departments and provinces and in most of the municipalities.
The main governance problems are non-compliance with legislative requirements designed to keep the running of government clean and free from corruption. These include the Public Finance Management Act and the Municipal Finance Management Act.
The biggest challenges include a lack of oversight and accountability, poor appointments in key positions, tolerance of corruption, and poor management and technical skills.
All these problems can be fixed if some basic steps are taken. These can be narrowed down to a list of seven. The focus should be on improving governance and weeding out corruption. The list would include: bringing those involved in corruption to book, setting clear targets for each minister, imposing a proper accountability structure and appointing an ethics officer. Accountability will also be improved if the involvement of communities is improved.
The added ingredient is leadership. An important first step would be for President Cyril Ramaphosa and the nine new premiers to show commitment to ensuring integrity and to improve transparency and accountability.
South Africa performs badly in the global governance context. The country scores 43% and is 73rd out of 180 countries on the latest Transparency International’s Corruption Perception Index. The index focuses on public sector corruption. It draws on surveys and assessments by experts.
It’s also gone backwards from last year in the latest Ibrahim Index on African Governance. South Africa is in 7th position with a combined score of 68%, which is slightly down from 2017. Mauritius is in the first place with 79,5%.
South Africa’s weakest score (57,4%) on this index is on transparency and accountability.
The index defines governance as the provision of the political, social and economic public goods and services that every citizen has the right to expect from their state. It also factors in the state’s responsibility to deliver to its citizens.
One of the significant ways of improving accountability and governance would be to ensure that the work of the Zondo Commission of Inquiry into State Capture results in the successful prosecution of perpetrators.
Other practical steps that should be considered are:
Setting clear targets for each of the new ministers and members of the executive councils. This must include regular public reports on their performance;
Adopting a good governance programme that focuses on enhancing integrity, transparency and accountability;
Sourcing the best expertise in the public and private sectors to fill key senior management positions;
Appointing a senior manager as “chief ethics officer”. This could be the secretary to the national cabinet and secretary to the cabinet in each province;
Strengthening the oversight role of the nine provincial legislatures and Parliament. This could be done by ensuring compliance with the accountability requirements in the various pieces of legislation;
Ensuring the effective use of information technology to enhance good governance; and
Creating an enabling environment for more constructive community involvement when it comes to delivering public services.
Practical measures like this would help improve the quality of governance. It would also contribute to improving South Africa’s score on the Ibrahim Index.
Why governance matters
Poor governance compounds the already huge task facing the newly elected executives. South Africa has huge economic and social inequalities. This means that it needs a new pragmatic approach that uses the skills and expertise of all citizens, beyond what the government is able to provide.
This implies the development of innovative solutions to some of the country’s biggest problems. These include a lack of adequate housing, poor education and a lack of safety. And every day ordinary South Africans feel the brunt of dysfunctional municipalities. These need to be turned into well-functioning entities that serve their communities well.
The “co-production” method, which entails using the combined expertise of both the private and public sectors in the design and delivery of public services, should be used on a much larger scale. A good example of successful co-production is Partners for Possibility, which makes a significant impact in improving education.
The African National Congress (ANC) will govern South Africa for another five years. But this sixth victory of the democratic era since 1994 was hard-won.
For the first time in a national election its share of the vote dropped beneath 60%. This suggests both a normalisation of South Africa’s electoral landscape and an increasingly competitive multi-party democracy.
On arrival at the national results centre in Pretoria on Thursday, with around 60% of the votes counted, the party’s chair Gwede Mantashe expressed his anxiety to me about the outcome: “We need 60%”, he said.
I responded by saying that the evidence suggested the ANC was heading for 57% or 58% and that this represented an upturn of their fortunes after the dramatic dip to 54% in the 2016 local government election. It was, I said, therefore a very good result. He appeared to accept my logic. Mantashe is a supporter of President Cyril Ramaphosa and is currently the minister of mineral resources.
The pivotal issue for Election 2019 was whether the outcome would give Ramaphosa more political space within the ANC to drive his reform programme forward. Since he ousted Jacob Zuma from power in February 2018, having won a very tight race to succeed Zuma as leader of the ANC at its five-yearly national elective conference the previous December, Ramaphosa has begun to execute a complicated turnaround strategy.
But the job is half done. So far he’s appointed several commissions of inquiry to expose the rot of what he called “nine lost years”. This paved the way for the appointment of competent, honest men and women to lead key state institutions such as the SA Revenue Service and the National Prosecuting Authority that had succumbed to the Zuma-enabled project of “state capture”.
Yet the Zuma faction within the ANC has not been vanquished and so Ramaphosa has had to drive with at least one eye on the rear-view mirror. His own party has been a drag factor. Would Election 2019 deliver a sufficiently big victory for Ramaphosa to shake them off?
The optimal outcome
Some have argued that were the ANC to win 60% or more in this election, it would have given the party a blank cheque for further larceny. But a below par score beneath 56% would have weakened Ramaphosa and provided ammunition for his opponents within the party to attack him and undermine reform plans. These include the much-needed unblundling of the state-owned power utility, Eskom, which represents a major risk factor for South Africa’s sluggish economy and its beleaguered public fiscus.
A 57% or 58% outcome for the ANC could arguably represent an ideal outcome for the country. The people would have reprimanded the party for its reprehensible conduct over the last decade and, as many of its leaders were conceding yesterday, its failures to deliver good public services. At the same time it would give Ramaphosa the opportunity to claim a victory and, thereby, the fresh mandate he needs.
This indeed appears to have been the outcome.
More popular than his party for the first time since Nelson Mandela in 1994, and more trusted than the leaders of the opposition, Ramaphosa can claim to have saved the ANC’s bacon.
How the opposition fared
Election 2019 was also a referendum on South Africa’s appetite for the sort of populist politics that has prospered around the world in recent years. The local version is Julius Malema and his militant Economic Freedom Fighters (EFF).
The exponential growth that the party promised on its campaign trail has proved elusive. The six million young (18-29) people who chose not to register to vote certainly represent a potential untapped market for Malema, to build on the 1.5m or so who voted for the EFF this week. But for the time being South Africa has rejected a populist alternative in favour of more of the devil it knows.
The biggest opposition party, the Democratic Alliance (DA), had a very poor election. It lost votes from its right flank to the Freedom Front Plus – an Afrikaans party – and failed to gain them from the middle ground. As a result, overall it has stagnated. Its share of the vote overall may even drop – despite the fact that the conditions for challenging the ANC were so conducive.
Questions will inevitably be asked of the DA’s leader, Mmusi Maimane. Was he tough enough to cope with the existential ambivalence that undermined its ability to define a clear value proposition to the electorate?
The DA had hoped to add to its progress in the local elections in 2016 when, with the help of the EFF, it drove the ANC out of city hall government in Pretoria and Johannesburg. Both fall within the Gauteng province, South Africa’s economic hub. In the national poll the DA appears to have failed to prove its case in the region where the ANC looks set to hang onto its majority – albeit by its fingernails.
The ANC’s domination has been in decline since 2009. In four successive national and local government elections since Zuma entered office that year, the ANC’s share of the vote has fallen.
The party’s leaders know it, but find it hard to accept. As Mantashe moved on from my conversation he turned back for a second:
But we would still like 60% – it’s an ego thing.
The ANC’s ego may not have been stroked by South Africa’s electorate on this occasion. On the contrary, it has fired a shot across the bows of Nelson Mandela’s party. A quarter century after Mandela became South Africa’s first black, democratically elected President, the ANC’s hold on power has weakened. Now it must continue to cleanse the body politic of the contamination of the Zuma years.
Ramaphosa will need to use the victory to turn the reform platform he has built over the past year into a springboard for economic growth and job creation. Both are urgently needed.
Otherwise, the lesson of Election 2019 is clear: next time the electorate will say enough is enough and turn away from the ANC.
Even with a decisive election victory for South Africa’s ruling party this week, the country’s President Cyril Ramaphosa could still struggle to push through the tough reforms needed to galvanize Africa’s most developed economy, say analysts and some party insiders.
The former union leader turned business tycoon has promised to introduce major economic reforms and extend a crackdown on corruption if his African National Congress (ANC) party is returned to power in Wednesday’s national election. Ramaphosa’s allies say a result close to 60 percent in this week’s parliamentary vote, which some opinion polls suggest could be possible, would strengthen his hand to deliver on those pledges.
But some analysts and ANC party insiders are skeptical that Ramaphosa would make much progress with reforms, even with a clear election victory. They cite his tenuous grip over the party’s decision-making bodies, where former comrades in the struggle against the brutal apartheid regime are at each other’s throats in a high-stakes battle for power and wealth.
“Ramaphosa needs a united ANC to achieve his agenda, but he doesn’t have that,” said a veteran ANC politician who did not wish to be identified discussing internal rivalries. “His enemies are going nowhere.”
Ralph Mathekga, a political analyst and author of a book on Ramaphosa, echoed the view. “There’s a herd mentality that if Ramaphosa gets a strong majority for the ANC, it will somehow strengthen him. That’s not the case,” he said.
Ramaphosa disputes that his hands will be tied if he is returned to power. At a campaign event last week in Johannesburg he said there would be a “step-change” in the pace of reform and that the economy was ready for lift off. “Our government is now going to open up the valves of our economy and give our people an opportunity,” he said.
Ramaphosa became leader of the ANC in December 2017 after narrowly defeating a faction allied with his scandal-plagued predecessor Jacob Zuma. This will be Ramaphosa’s first national election since taking over as head of state in February 2018, after roughly four years as Zuma’s deputy.
The president is under pressure to address gaping racial disparities in income and wealth that persist 25 years after the end of white minority rule. He also wants to reverse a slide in support for the ANC, which has governed South Africa since 1994 but in recent years has lost support in major cities like the financial and political capitals of Johannesburg and Pretoria.
In the 15 months since he took office, Ramaphosa has been forced into uneasy compromises in key policy areas like land reform and fixing struggling state power firm Eskom, opposition politicians say.
Ramaphosa has vowed to accelerate the redistribution of land to the black majority, endorsing an opposition bill to amend the constitution to make expropriation without compensation easier.
But he also has offered assurances that investments and food security would not be threatened. In doing so, he satisfied neither radical left-wing nor business-friendly factions within his governing alliance and the opposition.
On Eskom, the president has promised trade unions that there will be no layoffs as part of a turnaround plan, even though company management and energy experts say the utility’s bloated workforce is one of its biggest problems.
Getting land reform right and repairing Eskom will be critical to restoring investor confidence in an economy where growth has slowed to a trickle due to a toxic mix of corruption scandals and regulatory upheaval during Zuma’s tenure.
“If you see progress in the clean-up of state-owned enterprises like Eskom that would mean that big headache that investors have would fade away,” said Tilmann Kolb, analyst at the financial services firm UBS Global Wealth Management.
With a crucial election looming, populist and nationalist rhetoric put forward by world leaders like President Trump is making xenophobia in South Africa worse.
The health minister claims they crowd hospitals. The largest opposition party promises to secure the borders against them. Police stop them at random, demanding to see their IDs. And sometimes, their own neighbors violently turn against them, looting their shops, stabbing them in the street, and even burning them alive.
African nationals living in South Africa — whether as undocumented migrants, asylum-seekers, refugees, or citizens — have long struggled for full inclusion in society. But advocates say their situation has worsened as elections approach and that the rise of global nationalism, particularly in the US from President Donald Trump, is to blame.
South Africans will cast their votes on May 8 in the first election since a massive corruption scandal took down the country’s last elected president, Jacob Zuma. Immigrant rights advocates worry not only that politicians will continue to use Africans as scapegoats, but that the acts of violence committed against them will get worse in the so-called Rainbow Nation.
Vusumuzi Sibanda is the chairperson of the African Diaspora Forum, an organization that combats xenophobia by acting as a watchdog whenever public figures make anti-immigrant statements, and by fostering dialogue between South Africans and other African nationals. Sibanda, a Zimbabwean who has been living in South Africa for the past 19 years, told BuzzFeed News from his office in downtown Johannesburg that he believes South African politicians have been influenced by the growth of nationalist politics around the world, especially in countries like the US and the UK.
This populist mentality combined with South African politicians’ refusal to take responsibility for failing public services has made the African immigrant community the target for all the country’s ills, he added. Just as Trump’s immigration policies have demonized people not born in the US under the guise of protecting Americans and giving them better opportunities, South African political parties are capitalizing on the chance to promote similar policies at the expense of Africans who weren’t born in South Africa.
During the launch of the ruling African National Congress party’s manifesto in Durban — a city on the eastern coast of South Africa — in January, President Cyril Ramaphosa talked about the importance of “effective border management” in order to ensure public safety, and promised to come down harder on illegal trading and the selling of counterfeit products, the latter of which is a commonly held perception about undocumented African migrants.
Sumaya Hisham / Reuters
President Cyril Ramaphosa
Two months later, two separate attacks on African migrants took place in Durban. At least six people were killed, and another 150 were forced to flee their homes until the violence subsided. Human Rights Watch and the African Diaspora Forum condemned the xenophobic attacks, and argued that they were a direct result of Ramaphosa’s comments.
But throughout this campaign season, the Democratic Alliance (DA) political party, the official opposition party with 89 of 400 seats in parliament, has been the most vocal when it comes to taking a hard stance on immigration. Its posters promising to “Secure Our Borders” are seen throughout Johannesburg, and the current mayor, DA member Herman Mashaba, is notorious for the anti-immigrant statements he’s made in the past. Last November, in an exchange on Twitter with someone over the potential risks of selling meat in the city, he wrote, “We are going to sit back and allow people like you to bring us Ebolas in the name of small business. Health of our people first. Our health facilities are already stretched to the limit.”
After his comments provoked a backlash, Mashaba apologized the next day.
“The DA says they want the borders to be tight because they’re porous right now, but what are they thinking? Of building a wall? Putting an army at the borders? The US was at a standstill in January because of the money it would take to build a wall, so what can South Africa do?” African Diaspora Forum’s Sibanda asked, referencing the 35-day US government shutdown that resulted from Congress being unable to agree on whether or not to fund a $5 billion wall along the US–Mexico border.
Conversations around African migration focus on those who embark on the treacherous journey from North Africa across the Mediterranean Sea and into Europe. But the truth is, there is significantly more movement that happens within the continent than outside of it. And South Africa has historically been one of the bigger recipients of foreign nationals, beginning in the late 1800s when people from Mozambique, Botswana, Lesotho, Swaziland, Angola, Zambia, and Tanzania came to the country seeking work as miners shortly after Dutch settlers discovered, and then exploited, gold there.
Like black South Africans, these migrants were also later forced into townships and bore the brunt of a violent apartheid regime that lasted half a century. More recently, political and economic instability and civil wars in countries as close as Swaziland (which is located inside of South Africa, along with Lesotho) and as far away as Ethiopia, caused citizens there to flee in search of a better life, and for many of them, South Africa was the destination of choice. The multiculturalism that resulted from communities representing every region on the continent — along with those from Asia and Europe — led to former South African president Nelson Mandela, echoing the words or Archbishop Desmond Tutu, naming the country the Rainbow Nation in a speech following the abolishment of apartheid.
Similar to the US paradox of the “melting pot,” South Africa’s history is interwoven with migration and multiculturalism, yet it still struggles to ensure equality not only among its own citizens, but for the immigrants who literally built the country. The reactions to and treatment of African newcomers has grown increasingly antagonistic in recent years, and has gotten markedly worse during election season.
One of the biggest challenges African migrants face in seeking justice for mistreatment by South Africans is law enforcement itself. Migrants and human rights groups have reported instances of officers simply looking on while foreigners were being assaulted in the streets. And the hope for protection shrinks even further when authorities publicly express their own feelings toward other African nationals.
In July 2017, Deputy Police Minister Bongani Mkongi claimed, without evidence, that foreigners made up 80% of the population in a Johannesburg neighborhood of Hillbrow, known for its high crime rates, and that South Africans were surrendering their land to them. But the most recent census data is from 2011, and only provided gender, race, and language statistics for Hillbrow. And a provincial survey from 2016 only gave the numbers on foreign nationals in the entire city of Johannesburg. While African migrants composed 80% of all foreigners in the city at that time, they only made up about 14% of the total city population.
Last November, South African Health Minister Aaron Motsoaledi said during a nurses summit that foreign nationals were overcrowding hospitals. His statement was proven false, but Sibanda said comments like that from officials fuel the dangerous stereotype that immigrants drain the country’s resources, and effectively put them more at risk for violence.
“The government knows people are frustrated,” Sibanda said. “Clinics are known for opening late and closing early, and employees take two-hour lunch breaks. It’s hard to get seen when you go in.”
Sunday Times / Getty Images
Democratic Alliance supporters during the party's manifesto launch in February
But this blame is not meted out among all of South Africa’s immigrant groups; it’s aimed directly at people from other African countries, not those who come from Europe, Asia, or North or South America. Because of this, many people reject the use of the term xenophobia in favor of a more specific one to describe the situation in South Africa: Afrophobia, the fear of other Africans.
Daniel Dunia, a Congolese refugee who’s lived in South Africa for 13 years, has experienced the discrimination and violence directed at African nationals in his personal and professional life. As the secretary general for the nonprofit Africa Solidarity Network, the 44-year-old facilitates conversations between South Africans and African migrants in order to debunk stereotypes and build peaceful relations among them.
As a foreign national himself, Dunia has lived through the violence perpetrated by South Africans against immigrants. He told BuzzFeed News over coffee in downtown Durban that in 2015, local South Africans led an attack on him and thousands of other African immigrants in their neighborhood, a town called Isipingo. At least seven people were killed — Dunia said that some were thrown inside a stack of tires and burned alive, a replication of the “necklacing” tactic employed by some ANC supporters against suspected traitors in the struggle for freedom during apartheid — and dozens had their shops and homes broken into and looted. Dunia, his wife, and their three children fled their home and lost all of their most valuable possessions. They, and about 5,000 others between March and May that year, were displaced and made to live in what essentially amounted to refugee camps built by the government. Dunia and his family, who came to South Africa seeking asylum from the war in the Democratic Republic of Congo, lived in the camp for six months before returning to Isipingo.
Dunia, 44, says that a lot of progress has been made in Isipingo since the 2015 attacks to mend the relationship between native South Africans and African immigrants, but ultimately, he doesn’t expect significant change to happen in the country until the government actually acknowledges xenophobia.
“Action only happens when there’s been an attack, or if someone has been killed,” he said. “The government is in denial. They don’t want to project a negative image of the country.”
The violence foreign nationals face from South Africans comes specifically from black South Africans, according to Dunia. When asked whether he believed this was because they are disproportionately affected by high rates of crime and unemployment, which could make them feel even more animosity toward other black Africans whom they perceive as having “made it,” Dunia said that didn’t add up.
“I don’t think they’re attacking us because they’re poor,” he said. “If someone has taken your privilege, you should be attacking them. If that were true, they would be attacking white South Africans, not the people who came to this country with less privilege than them.”
And the negative sentiment toward foreigners goes beyond a person’s ID card. Sometimes, foreign nationals who gain South African citizenship still deal with discrimination because they weren’t born in South Africa.
Rogan Ward / Reuters
Supporters of the Economic Freedom Fighters carry a poster after leader Julius Malema.
Somali businessman Ahmed Mohamed came to South Africa in 2001, seeking asylum. He was granted refugee status, eventually became a citizen (which refugees can do after 10 years), and has lived in the country ever since. Four of his six children have never even been to Somalia.
But Mohamed told BuzzFeed News from his office in the wholesale warehouse he owns that while he now has the same green ID card all other South African citizens have, he is still seen as and treated like a foreigner.
“I’m a South African citizen, but I’m not welcome here,” said Mohamed. “Practically, I’m Somali, and that’s the problem. I go to public institutions and they won’t turn me away, but the stigma of being a foreigner is still there. I can still feel it.”
Like Dunia, Mohamed was also targeted in the 2015 attacks. Five of the small shops he owned were completely destroyed. Just before speaking to BuzzFeed News, he held a meeting with some of his employees to discuss how to respond to threats that one of them had received in a nearby neighborhood.
There are a few parties that have publicly defended African migrants and advocated for better treatment of them — namely, the Economic Freedom Party, known for its pro-black stance on political issues — but Sibanda has no real hope that the situation African migrants face will improve anytime soon. And while the EFF is supported by members of the African foreign national community, it has routinely come under fire for issues ranging from allegations of members abusing women in the party to controversial statements about killing white Afrikaners.
“As long as South Africa trails ahead of other countries in terms of development, there will continue to be problems,” Sibanda said. “People will want to come to a country where the standard of living is better. The government needs to recognize that.”●
Source: BuzzFeed News