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Orgy of looting and corruption has destroyed Mandela’s dream PDF Print E-mail
Written by Administrator   
Saturday, 17 July 2021 17:33


Orgy of looting and corruption has destroyed Mandela’s dream


After decades of crony capitalism and misrule by the ANC, South Africa is sliding into anarchy, the poor are plundering what the can and pointing the finger at their leaders – who have stolen much more, says R W Johnson in Cape Town.


RW Johnson, Friday July 16 2021, 5.00pm, The Times


In 1994 the world greeted the new South Africa under Nelson Mandela with euphoria: apartheid abolished and a harmonious non-racial state determined to build an inclusive economy and society. Last week looting and destruction rolled across its economic heartland of Gauteng (including Johannesburg and Pretoria) and KwaZulu-Natal, which includes the country’s two biggest ports, Durban and Richards Bay.


So far 117 people have died, many hundreds are injured and hundreds of shopping malls, supermarkets, warehouses and factories have been burnt down. Armed vigilantes guard many suburbs. Old schoolfriends from Durban tell me they have reverted to fishing at the beach as the only way to feed their families. Those with money wouldn’t dream of investing anything to restore the damage: their money is heading straight offshore.


This huge failure can only be laid at the feet of the African National Congress (ANC), now in power for 27 years. The party is deeply corrupt, its ministers inept and incompetent, and many of its policies are damaging the economy. The party is riven by factionalism with President Ramaphosa’s moderates opposed by the former president Jacob Zuma’s left-wing kleptocrats. The explosion of violence followed the jailing of Zuma for his flagrant contempt of court, after he had refused to co-operate with the inquiry into the looting of the state under his presidency. Nobody seriously doubts that Zuma stole millions, probably billions, of rands and he still faces charges of racketeering, money-laundering and sundry other crimes. But Zuma, still supported by his Zulu followers, threatened to make the country ungovernable if the government dared to jail him.


The rioting began as Zuma’s followers, urged on by his children and, doubtless, by Zuma himself, sought to fulfil this threat. Former members of the state security services who played such a key role in his presidency helped plan the sabotage campaign — they are now on the run. Zuma has always had strong connections into criminal networks via his relatives in the taxi industry, and these have clearly been active too.


The campaign began with the hijacking and burning of lorries. The police, scared and ineffective, watched but did nothing. Next came the looting and burning of a few shops. Again the police did nothing. Word spread that you could go “shopping without money”, creating huge excitement among the ranks of the millions of poor and unemployed Zulus who inhabit the townships and squatter camps around Durban and Pietermaritzburg. From there word spread quickly into every small town of the province.


Most of the looters were unconcerned about Zuma’s fate: they simply realised that opportunity was staring them in the face. They flocked to the shopping malls and began to loot them. Quickly the spree spread to Johannesburg, home to many more Zulus, though many others joined in. Most of the looters were poor, on foot and took away their loot in supermarket trolleys, but some arrived in cars, sometimes very expensive cars. Some even came with vast trailers to haul away freezers, fridges and cookers. Huge queues of cars swamped the freeways, all heading for the malls, and other forms of criminality blossomed — protection rackets, attacks on and thefts from other motorists, anything that offered a quick buck.


In reality this had been coming for a long time. When the ANC was first elected in 1994 its posters promised “Jobs, jobs, jobs!” but little heed was paid to that once it gained office. In 1995 the average number of unemployed according to official figures was 1,698,000 or, if the total included those who had given up looking for a job, 3,321,000. That figure has grown steadily to surpass 11.4 million. Since the unemployed have no income, this has also meant a huge growth in both poverty and inequality. Indeed, South Africa is now the most unequal society in the world.


The ANC routinely deplores poverty and inequality but tries to pretend this is part of the “apartheid inheritance”. This is the opposite of the truth: the governing elite is far richer than it was under apartheid and the numbers of the poor have multiplied. Ramaphosa, who started as a trade unionist, is the country’s second richest black man, worth half a billion dollars — the fruits of crony capitalism — a sum surpassed only by his brother-in-law, Patrice Motsepe.


The 11.4 million unemployed have, on average, two or three dependants, so we are talking of households comprising 30 million people — half the population. They are sitting in shacks, cold, hungry, without alcohol (banned under the Covid lockdown), insecure, with nothing to do and with no hope of a job: a picture of pure misery. These are the greatest victims of ANC misrule. Many are young and have never worked (youth unemployment is about 70 per cent) and have given up hope that they ever will. For many young women prostitution is their only income. One looter interviewed on TV admitted that he stole every day because otherwise his 15-year-old sister would “have to sleep with a grandad”.


The unemployed and poor have been largely ignored. The government is more concerned with the “haves” within its coalition — the capitalists of the BEE (Black Economic Empowerment) affirmative action programme, the public sector workers and the trade union bosses. The government’s offer of an extra R18 billion (£900 million) for already well-paid public service workers came only days before the unrest and was a blatant provocation to the unemployed.


Ramaphosa spoke of the “plight” of MPs, who are among the 1 per cent best-paid people in the country.


Surveys show that South Africa’s BEE legislation is regarded by foreign investors as the biggest single obstacle to investing in the country. Effectively it’s a tax on investment — if you set up a company you have, in effect, to give away a quarter of your equity to partners who have nothing to offer by way of skills or capital other than an ability to get ministers to take their calls. This is straightforward crony capitalism. This legislation pushes foreign investment away, at the cost of many jobs, simply to line the pockets of ANC-connected cronies.


A key example is the mining industry, which has been losing thousands of jobs under the weight of BEE constraints. The government is trying to force a Mining Charter, demanding ever-higher quotas, though the mining companies refuse to sign it. The result is that no new mines have been opened in a decade. Mining executives are adamant that even in the midst of a commodity price boom they can’t risk increasing their exposure to South Africa, even though it has the richest mineral deposits in the world. The government has only to adopt the same mining legislation as, say, Canada to produce tens, perhaps hundreds, of thousands of new jobs. But it won’t because it places the interests of a few BEE capitalists higher than those of the unemployed.


Similarly, government is attentive to the trade unions which represent those in work but all it has for the unemployed is crocodile tears. South Africa’s tight labour laws privilege those in work, giving the unemployed little opportunity to compete for jobs. Inept policies and the weight of corruption mean South Africa is in its seventh year of falling real per capita incomes. People are getting steadily poorer and Covid lockdowns have increased the misery, costing many jobs.

If those without jobs or hope are told they can take what they like from the shops without paying, it is not surprising that they respond enthusiastically and in such numbers. They grabbed food, drink, perhaps a new fridge or TV. Ramaphosa, appearing on TV, looked beaten, offering only platitudes and “appeals for calm”. This provoked derision and was ignored.


Criminals flourished amid the looting, organising massive heists of goods and used the mayhem as cover for other crimes. Zuma’s henchmen tried to make the country ungovernable by targeting key pieces of infrastructure — ports and reservoirs were attacked, as were more than 120 electricity sub-stations. Attacks on vehicles on the road leading to the Sapref refinery in Durban (which produces one third of all South Africa’s petrol) forced the refinery to close down, producing a fuel crisis. Shops, warehouses or factories, once looted, were set on fire. Such destruction has cost many jobs. There are many more hungry and desperate people and KwaZulu-Natal faces a humanitarian disaster. Half of all patients in hospitals there are already without medication.


The looting started on a Friday and Ramaphosa said and did nothing until the following Monday. Ministers were silent and invisible. The minister for police, Bheki Cele, who comes from Durban, did not visit the city for nearly a week.

The police, though armed, passively watched the looters and, in many cases, operated protection rackets and demanded “favours” from the public before they would lift a finger. Cele went on TV wearing a cashmere coat and a Louis Vuitton scarf costing about eight times the average weekly wage. No wonder looters, when interviewed, said: “Ministers have been looting for years, so why pick on us?”


Ramaphosa finally ordered 2,500 troops in to support the police. They too stood passively by. The president is terrified of the optics of a black government firing on black people: the shadow of the 2012 Marikana massacre, in which 34 striking miners were killed by the police, still looms. So the looting went on, day after day.


Under pressure from business, Ramaphosa has agreed to increase the troop presence to 25,000. The government is at last pursuing the 12 key instigators of sabotage but it has caught only one. With the economy and investor confidence being destroyed in front of its eyes, the government has opted to let the mayhem burn itself out. The highway between Durban and Johannesburg, the country’s main economic artery, has been closed for a week. The rail line is also cut, so the country’s biggest port, Durban, is severed from the rest of South Africa.


In this law and order vacuum vigilante militias have sprung up as communities seek to protect their suburbs and their shops. Often these vigilante groups depend on white ex-members of the security forces but they include members of all races.


Most of South Africa’s Indian population live in or around Durban and they still have strong memories of the 1949 riots in which Zulus killed hundreds of Indians. This time the Indians saw trouble coming when others didn’t and the Indian township of Phoenix (where Gandhi once lived) was armed to the teeth. When looters arrived to pillage their shops and homes the Indians resisted fiercely and 20 people were killed. But the little Indian settlements to the north of Durban were more vulnerable. Verulam was all but destroyed and the Indian community there, having lost all its shops, retreated to the Indian suburb of Everest Heights and forbade Africans to set foot there. Vigilantes with guns, knives and axes patrol the streets. Africans who attacked one home were hacked with axes, the pictures circulating on social media.


Food and fuel shortages are already acute in KwaZulu-Natal. No one is going to resupply malls that have been burnt or, indeed, any shop that is vulnerable to looting. The resulting hunger crisis could drive people to more desperate acts: the big worry is attacks on private homes. ATMs have been destroyed, pharmacies ransacked and drink shops pillaged so there will be shortages of medical and other supplies. The Covid vaccination programme has stopped and the frantic mixing of maskless looters is bound to produce a fresh spike. The rand has dropped sharply.


The ANC’s standard election slogan is “a better life for all” but what the riots point to is the colossal failure of ANC governance. It has emphatically not brought a better life for poor Africans and one hears on all sides unfavourable comparisons with the old apartheid government: nothing like this occurred on its watch, after all. On radio, TV and social media there is a torrent of angry comment, virtually all of it scornful of the government. Ramaphosa dare not form a government of national unity as so many demand, for the ANC is deeply divided. The Zuma faction would take any coalition as a sign that Ramaphosa was inviting the whites back into power.


There is a national demand for a strong man to restore order with a firm hand. But Ramaphosa is weak, talks in generalities and is very slow to act. In many African countries such a demonstration of government weakness would result in a coup but South Africa’s army has been cut to the bone and is probably not capable of that. So some sort of normality will doubtless resume, ministers will return to their venal ways and there will be a pretence that things are all right again.


But they won’t be. The poor and unemployed are a keg of dynamite waiting to go off. The outlook is for crises of hunger and shortages of every kind. The ANC is more divided than ever and the already weak economy has taken a massive blow. Real incomes will continue to fall.


This is what the ANC has achieved after 27 years in power. No one now believes that it will deliver a “better life for all”. Its ineptitude, cronyism and corruption and its refusal to avail itself of white skills and experience have fatally weakened its ability to govern and it is steering South Africa steadily towards the status of a failed state.

The Times view on the jailing of Jacob Zuma: Hard Graft PDF Print E-mail
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Saturday, 10 July 2021 18:58


The Times view on the jailing of Jacob Zuma: Hard Graft

The former South African president’s imprisonment is a step forward in his country’s battle with corruption

Friday July 09 2021, 12.01am, The Times


As Jacob Zuma was driven to prison, he joked that he hoped to be given back his old overalls from Robben Island. The former South African president may claim he is once again a prisoner of conscience but the circumstances could scarcely be further from those that saw him imprisoned alongside Nelson Mandela.


Once an apartheid hero, Zuma oversaw the ransacking of state coffers for the enrichment of a few but to the impoverishment of the vast majority of black South Africans. After years of impunity, his imprisonment for refusing to testify in a corruption investigation sends a powerful message that no one is above the law.


When his long-delayed bribery trial begins later this month, the former president will travel to court direct from a prison cell. That is a victory for the courts and the constitution that Zuma sought to undermine, claiming them secondary in importance to the ruling African National Congress (ANC) party. Yet it is still only a start. Zuma’s successor, President Ramaphosa, has made only a timid start on cleaning up the party and purging the state of corruption. It is vital he now draws a line under the Zuma era and accelerates those efforts.


The scale of lasting damage Zuma wrought on his country is hard to overstate. During his nine-year presidency, South Africa’s state-owned enterprises were looted on a grand scale, with an estimated 1 trillion rand (£50 billion) or 20 per cent of GDP, siphoned off from state coffers in corrupt deals cut with business cronies. Parts of the state built to prevent such corruption were systematically demolished.


The corresponding damage to national infrastructure, from decaying roads to persistent power cuts and sluggish ports, slashed South Africa’s annual growth by a whole percentage point a year. Under Zuma, per capita income shrank while unemployment surged, crippling the future prospects of the country’s youth. Zuma’s rule hindered not only the economic development but the necessary social reforms for South Africa to move on from its painful apartheid past.


There is irony that it was Zuma’s own effort to evade justice that landed him in jail before his first corruption trial has even begun. His refusal to give evidence to a corruption commission was just the latest effort to undermine his successor’s early attempts to clean up what he and his cronies left behind. In sentencing the former president, the chief justice cited Mandela’s plea at the 1995 inauguration of the constitutional court for the country’s highest bench to “stand guard not only against direct assault on the principles of the constitution but against insidious corrosion”.


Ramaphosa could do worse than to pin those words to the wall for inspiration about what is required to clean up both his country and his party. While he had little to do with Zuma’s imprisonment, the fact of it should strengthen his hand against his predecessor’s supporters and reinforce his grip on the ANC. Corruption and malfeasance did not start with Zuma’s reign and will not end with his imprisonment which, authorities admitted yesterday, could be over in just four months.


By then, Zuma will be on trial for far more serious charges. At 79, he may yet face the rest of his life behind bars, going, not like Mandela from prison to the presidency but the reverse. His fall from grace underlines both the distance South Africa has strayed from its founding ideals and the challenge it faces on the road back to them. The jailing of Zuma is an important step along the way.

Tell our wives we’re in charge, men in Kenya plead PDF Print E-mail
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Sunday, 06 June 2021 10:58


Tell our wives we’re in charge, men in Kenya plead

Tom Collins 04/06/2021


Kenyan men have appealed to the government to help them reassert their role as traditional heads of the household.

Men from Kiriari, a village in Embu county, have formed a self-help group to tell the authorities that their wives and children are mistreating them. They claim they are being physically abused, and also complain that their wives do not follow orders and refuse on “flimsy grounds” to have sex with them.


The group laments that men are no longer at the top of the pecking order. The government has spent too much time empowering women, they say, and men are left on the sidelines.


“We urge the government to empower men and consider balanced treatment of both men and women in the county,” Samuel Muturi, the group’s chairman, said.


Group members say that attempts to seek help from the authorities have failed. “Whenever you try fighting back, the police act very harshly,” Joseph Wega, a group member, said.


The University of Nairobi has found that domestic violence against men has risen in Kenya. An estimated 3.8 women and 1.3 men in every 1,000 are victims of partner violence each year. Violence against men was found to rise when women took over household financial responsibilities. The study also concluded that the ready availability of illicit alcohol had led to an increase in abuse of men.

Smuggler linked to President Mnangagwa had 23 gold bars in a case PDF Print E-mail
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Sunday, 16 May 2021 12:38

Smuggler linked to President Mnangagwa had 23 gold bars in a case

Jane Flanagan – 11 May 2021


Twenty three gold bars worth £555,000 were discovered in the suitcase of a man who arrived in South Africa without papers on a flight from Harare, the capital of Zimbabwe.


Tashinga Nyasha Masimire, 33, appeared in court in Johannesburg and was bailed for £6,000 after scanners picked up his haul of gold.


Media reports in Zimbabwe identified Masimire as an aide to Henrietta Rushwaya, a relative of President Mnangagwa and head of the Zimbabwe miners’ federation who was herself arrested last October for allegedly smuggling gold.


Rushwaya was discovered with gold bars weighing 6kg in her handbag as she checked in for a flight from Harare to Dubai.


Masimire will have to report to police in Johannesburg three times a week. He was not asked to enter a plea.


The discovery raises questions about security at Harare’s Robert Gabriel Mugabe international airport. According to court documents in the Rushwaya case, airport CCTV cameras were switched off while her 6kg in gold went through scanners. A colleague who was arrested with her claimed that she was acting as a mule on behalf of Auxillia Mnangagwa, the first lady and her son, Collins Mnangagwa.


The scandal exposed an alleged elite trafficking cartel that is estimated to cost the state millions of pounds every month. Rushwaya was released on bail but no date has been set for her trial.


According to Zimbabwe’s News Hawks website, Rushwaya confirmed that the arrested man, Masimire, was a former driver. The intended destination of the gold bars was not made public but a picture of Masimire from his Facebook page showed him wearing a red keffiyeh, typically worn in the Gulf.


A report from the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace identified Dubai as a boom country for gold smugglers, where lax policing and deregulation are exploited by corrupt regimes such as Zimbabwe.


Mthuli Ncube, Zimbabwe’s finance minister, has estimated that $100 million of gold leaves its borders illegally each month, often to Dubai, robbing the state of much-needed foreign currency.

Mugabe’s violent youth militia could be ready to march again PDF Print E-mail
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Sunday, 25 April 2021 12:24

Mugabe’s violent youth militia could be ready to march again

Jane Flanagan 19/04.2021


A national youth service programme that spawned a violent militia that carried out some of the worst excesses of Robert Mugabe’s rule in Zimbabwe is to be revived.


Kirsty Coventry, 37, the minister of youth and the only white person in the government, proposed its resurrection to instil patriotism and loyalty among people aged 18 to 35, according to a cabinet briefing note. It has provoked fears that the unit is being readied before a bloody general election in 2023 and has led to fresh criticism of Coventry, a retired Olympic swimmer. Last year she was criticised for taking a lease on a prized farm that was seized during Mugabe’s catastrophic land grab.


Zimbabwe’s national youth service, established in 2001, was repurposed as a private militia for the ruling Zanu-PF party and became known as the “Green Bombers” after its military fatigues. It became synonymous with the vicious targeting of Mugabe’s critics and was linked to “rape camps” where abducted girls were held while the authorities turned a blind eye.


The deployment of youths to opposition strongholds became a key strategy for Zanu-PF retaining power in elections in the early 2000s. Henry Chimbiri, 59, recalled having his leg and knee cap broken by ten Green Bombers in 2005 when he was campaigning for election on behalf of the opposition Movement for Democratic Change. “They were demonic and brainwashed into doing the dirty work for the regime,” he said.


One survivor tweeted: “End of December 2001, these militants beat me to a pulp, left me for dead for not possessing a Zanu-PF card.”


The youth wing was disbanded in 2009 when Mugabe was under pressure to set up a government of national unity. Many of its members have joined the army, police and prison service.


Coventry joined President Mnangagwa’s government after the ousting of Mugabe in 2017. Her failure to condemn or distance herself from atrocities committed by state security forces has cast a shadow over her extraordinary achievements.


Fadzayi Mahere, a spokeswoman for the Movement for Democratic Change, said: “It is sad that an accomplished Olympian and a one-time beacon of youth excellence is advancing the establishment of a militia whose operations before have caused so much terror.”

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