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ideas have consequences

You are here:Home>>Stevie C. Chiakwelu>>Displaying items by tag: South Africa
Displaying items by tag: South Africa


Reserve Bank governor Gill Marcus has again announced interest rates will remain unchanged at 5.5%.


The Reserve Bank will maintain current interest rates, governor Gill Marcus said on Thursday.


It would leave the repo rate unchanged at 5.5% once again.


President Jacob Zuma. (Madelene Cronjé, M&G)


But the bank would continue to closely monitor the situation and stood ready to act in either direction, she said.


The prime rate would stay at 9%.


This was the ninth consecutive meeting where the repo rate remained unchanged, after it was reduced by 650 basis points between mid-2008 and November 2010.


It keeps the rate at its lowest level in over 30 years. The decision followed a meeting of the bank’s monetary policy committee in Pretoria.







South Africa has less than seven weeks to “significantly reduce” its oil exports from Iran, or face possible US sanctions and an oil shortage, Beeld reported on Friday.


The government, oil companies and banks that paid for oil from Iran, had to lodge an official undertaking before June 28 with the USA to scale down on the imports and apply the change visibly.


At least 26 percent of South Africa's crude oil was imported monthly from Iran.


SA Petroleum Industry Association executive director Avhapfani Tshifularo told Beeld: “This is not a business decision for us. It involves a political decision about political pressure.”


If South Africa did not drastically cut its imports, it would have to expedite requests to the USA for a postponement and temporary exemption from economic sanctions.

KhameneiAn Iranian worker rests in front of a huge portrait of Iran's Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei on a wall near a university during Friday prayers in Tehran February 24, 2012   Reuters


Although diplomatic sources in the department of mineral and energy affairs confirmed that “extremely sensitive” talks were underway, a postponement request had not yet been lodged with the USA, it was reported.


“We expect a Cabinet decision by the end of the month, and we will allow ourselves to be guided by that,” Tshifularo said.


The USA has claimed that Iran's banking sector, including its central bank, “finances terrorism”, and through money laundering, poses a threat to the international monetary system. - Sapa


South Africa and Brics

In the by now well known Goldman Sachs report from 2003, Brazil, Russia, India and China (Bric) were identified as the global economic powers of the future.  Last year South Africa joined the club, forcing a name change to the elite club. But the likes of Indonesia, South Korea and Turkey are also biding their time in the wings, keenly anticipating their inclusion into the club.


There is little doubt that this disparate group of rapidly burgeoning economies has the collective clout to influence tangible outcomes at the global level. While the strength of the G-7 economies appears to have slightly dwindled in the morass of the global financial crisis,  Brics’ has grown and South Africa’s membership has become the subject of much debate.


A good many South Africans were outraged by comments by the man who first coined the Bric acronym. Goldman Sachs Asset Management global chairman Jim O'Neill observed South Africa "has too small an economy" to merit inclusion, and that "countries such as Nigeria carry more power now".


South Africans are well aware Nigeria is on course to dwarf South Africa as the largest economy on the continent. Already Lagos is being hailed as the new Johannesburg, but surely the present state of the South African economy merits inclusion among the world’s most vibrant economies? This is South Africa after all – gateway to Africa, home of the rainbow nation, harbinger of hope for a fractured world.


South Africa thus lobbied enthusiastically to join the Bric club. In huddling with Brazil, India, Russia and China, South Africa was alive to the opportunity of forming strategic alliances and helping advance the role of emerging economies in restructuring global political, economic and financial architecture. If the Brics nations are too far apart geographically and too disparate politically to forge a useful alliance, then the ideology of multilateralism has brought together a subversive new power in politics as well as the world economy.


While Brics has offered the ideal platform for South Africa to promote pet causes like United Nations reform, the fact that we are not a “natural” member of the club is seen to leave us in a position of relative weakness.


South Africa, of course, has promoted itself as an integral link to the African continent. It is our status as self-acclaimed gateway to the continent that has afforded us membership into Brics and an opportunity to explore lucrative markets for our goods and services, and to implement the Industrial Policy Action Plan and the New Growth Path framework. There certainly is a wide scope for co-operation in various projects within the Brics structures – membership in Brics will promote trade and investment, enhancing industrialisation and promoting job creation. There is little doubt that South Africa benefits and will continue to benefit from clubbing together with the likes of the Bric countries, but what is being contested is the potential of the South African economy and its political underpinnings to actually take advantage of these possibilities.


South Africa is of course a privileged member of various other global governance clubs like Brics: the G-20 heads of state,  Ibsa (India, Brazil and South Africa) and the Economist Intelligence Unit’s Civets (Columbia, Indonesia, Vietnam, Egypt, Turkey and South Africa) class of emerging economies. South Africa’s inclusion into Brics then follows a trend of South Africa’s membership of these global cliques. Peter Draper, Adjunct Professor of International Business at Wits Business School believes South Africa’s inclusion into these clubs is a legacy of the country’s peaceful transition from apartheid to democracy, coupled with its relative economic weight over the rest of the continent.


Draper, however, warns that this appeal is fast fading: “Those foundations are waning in the face of the African National Congress  government’s growing ambivalence towards democratic norms and the relatively rapid growth and development taking place in sub-Saharan Africa.”


“The ANC government’s own policy choices, particularly its emphasis on state-driven economic policy, and the internecine power struggles racking the party have set the country’s economic policy adrift. Thus investor confidence has been undermined at a time of global economic crisis. Taken together, these trends suggest South Africa’s days as the African representative of choice are numbered.”


Jim O’Neil, the man at the centre of the current furore surrounding South Africa’s inclusion in Brics, notes that it has been more than 10 years since he created the acronym. “In recent years, when quizzed by the growing number of policymakers on what they can do to get their countries included in Brics, my answer is usually one of two things: get more people, or dramatically boost your productivity rate. I have argued that, to be truly ‘Bric-like’, an economy has to be already 5% of global GDP, or demonstrate the potential to be that large in the near future,” he says.


Writing elsewhere last weekend O’Neil notes, “When I first created the acronym ‘Bric’ more than 10 years ago, it was meant to describe those countries large enough today, or which might be large enough in the future, to be literally part of the ‘bric’ or fabric of the modern global economy.” More tellingly, however, he confesses he has been approached by many countries to make space in the acronym for their countries. “There are many other countries larger than South Africa that have approached me and asked me to consider using one of their initials as part of a new, broader acronym, but I find it difficult to see how they can achieve the status of this simple definition,” he says.


South Africa’s inclusion into Brics, then, belies the logic of the likes of Goldman Sachs executives. Our membership of the club demonstrates that this is a club of nations brought together to maximise economic opportunities and challenge the status quo. South Africa’s inclusion into Brics, against the logic and indeed without the behest of the man who seems to have clubbed the nations together, proves that this is a new political and economic block that will forge alliances to cement its own political progress and ensure economic survival, no matter what the numbers say.


Ebrahim-Khalil Hassen, editor of ZAPreneur, a veritable treasure trove of public policy analysis, concludes that South Africa’s inclusion in Brics is valuable for the learning potential it offers. “There are many questions to answer, but focusing on the size of the economy for each of these countries is only part of the story,” he says. “South Africa will hopefully benefit from lessons and failures in the Brics countries, and begin to implement some of the more imaginative and sustainable programmes we have seen in Brazil and India.”


The end of apartheid brought positive economic growth to South Africa. Roger Southall, writing in the New South African Review, notes that the 15 years after the decline of apartheid brought an increase in per capita incomes from R20 214 in 1994 to R25 897 in 2008 and a decline in the proportion of people living in absolute poverty from 4.2% in 1996 to 1.4% in 2008.


And while these numbers are laudable in themselves, for South Africa to justify its inclusion in the Brics club, the potential for intra-African trade and investment must be maximised. But, so too, much needs to be done to restore growth and international confidence in the country. If that’s not a tall order enough, South Africa must also work towards justifying its position in Brics while ensuring the fruits of economic growth are more equitably distributed.


Source: Daily Maverick


Friday, 09 March 2012 16:44

South Africa must fight xenophobia

South Africa must fight xenophobia

THE history of diplomatic relations between Nigeria and South Africa (post-apartheid) has never been easy. Last week, the wobbly relationship was dragged further to the edge when South Africa deported 125 Nigerian passengers who had arrived in the country but were denied entry by South Africa’s immigration officials on the quaint excuse that the passengers did not possess valid yellow fever vaccination cards. Stung by that decision, the Federal Government retaliated on Monday this week by deporting 28 South Africans. The essence of the prompt reprisal, it seemed, was to convey a blunt message to South Africa that it does not have an exclusive right over the way it humiliates citizens of other countries.


The Federal Government’s strategy seemed to have worked effectively because by the middle of this week, South African authorities were already talking in softer tone about resolving the  diplomatic mess caused by their immigration officers in an agreeable manner. This goes to show that sometimes, it is necessary to apply the Mosaic Law of an eye for an eye in order to advance international relations.


When he appeared before the Senate on Tuesday (March 6, 2012), Foreign Affairs Minister Olugbenga Ashiru spoke in no uncertain terms about Nigeria’s readiness to match South Africa’s stubbornness measure for measure or, if you like, to engage them eyeball to eyeball. In a voice that exposed the degree of his anger over South Africa’s belligerent action, Ashiru said: “I find the action as totally unfriendly and un-African. You don’t treat fellow Africans that way and we will not leave any stone unturned to get to the bottom of the matter. They should know that they do not have monopoly of deporting travellers and if we feel that the action against our nationals was discriminatory, we will take action to reciprocate and there are various ways of reciprocating.”


It is reassuring to see a senior government official defending the rights of Nigerian citizens to fair treatment by other countries. Over the years, Nigeria has had a bad record of standing up against countries that treat her citizens unfairly. Indeed, Nigerian diplomats have been accused of failing to protect the interests of their citizens in foreign countries. Of course, this does not include representing the interests of citizens who have clearly committed a crime in the countries in which they reside. All this seemed to have changed last week when South African immigration officials refused to recognise yellow fever vaccination cards presented by Nigerians who arrived in that country, even though some of the passengers claimed they had entered South Africa on previous occasions with the same documents. Now South Africa has been placed on notice that any callous treatment of Nigerians in future will not go unpunished.


The Federal Government and the National Assembly members were clearly embarrassed and baffled by arguments advanced by South Africa’s immigration and Port Health officials who said they did not recognise the yellow fever vaccination cards from Nigeria because, wait for it, they were mostly counterfeits. While Nigeria might have an image problem across the world, while many Nigerians might be involved in criminal activities worldwide, it does not imply that everything and everybody from Nigeria must be fake. While there might be a racket on yellow fever vaccination cards in some issuing centres in Nigeria, this should not be interpreted to mean that every card is fake.


The South African authorities must admit they mishandled this matter that could have been dealt with diplomatically and politely without the need for the two countries to engage in a tit-for-tat. If South Africa’s immigration remains rigid and refuses to recognise yellow fever vaccination cards issued in Nigeria, a simple alternative could be for Nigeria to request all South African passport holders to show valid yellow fever vaccination cards before they are allowed entry into Nigeria. This would be seen as retaliatory but if it would help to end the discriminatory practices by South Africa’s immigration officials, so be it.


When The Guardian (Monday, March 5, 2012) enquired from Foreign Affairs Minister Olugbenga Ashiru about what action the government would take in response to South Africa’s deportation of Nigerians on Thursday last week ( March 1, 2012), the response was robust but measured. Ashiru told The Guardian: “This is unacceptable. It is quite unfortunate. This is an affront to diplomatic norms. The South African immigration officials do not have a monopoly of maltreating other nationals.” The minister said further: “I have directed our mission and the consulate in Johannesburg to launch a first recourse protest. This is strongly worded. Nigeria would get to the root of the matter. We are meeting with the South African authorities on Monday… after which we will take the appropriate action. Nigeria will not stand by and watch Nigerians treated that way. We will take a firm and mature stand on the matter...”


It is somewhat extreme for a country to deport international visitors on the ground that the visitors did not possess valid yellow fever vaccination cards. It is irresponsible. It is inconsiderate. It is harsh. Such a decision failed to take into account the genuine that some passengers had valid yellow fever vaccination cards. You cannot visit on all passengers the sins of a few. Of course, South Africa can claim that passengers are required to be vaccinated at least 10 days prior to arriving in the country but still, some of the deported passengers had valid cards.


Obviously incensed by the action of South African immigration officials, Ashiru said: “We are amazed by the insistence of South Africa on yellow cards before Nigerians can enter that country when Nigeria does not have a yellow fever epidemic. How can some people sit somewhere and say that a card issued by another sovereign country is fake?… We shall also be demanding yellow cards from their nationals in reciprocity... We have made it clear that fair treatment of Nigerians is now a major foreign policy drive by our government. But they (South Africa) do not have monopoly of making life difficult for others.”


It’s gratifying to note that “fair treatment of Nigerians” will become the basis on which Nigeria relates with other countries. This is long overdue. The overbearing behaviour by South African immigration officials seems to have violated international conventions for dealing with this kind of situation. The usual practice, even in a country such as Thailand where non-possession of international yellow fever vaccination card is viewed as a major oversight, is to vaccinate the visitor right at the airport and allow them entry into the country, as long as they have other valid travel documents. But the South African authorities seem to operate on a different platform guided by their laws and regulations that allow immigration officials to make arbitrary decisions about when visitors should be denied entry into their country.


The Minister’s reference to South African immigration officials and their record of abusing citizens of other countries is based on historical facts. There is a history of excessive abuses by South African authorities of Nigerian citizens visiting or residing in South Africa. In 2005, Nobel Laureate Wole Soyinka was denied entry into South Africa by immigration officials despite having been invited officially to speak as a guest at a lecture organised to mark former President Nelson Mandela’s birthday. Anyone with Soyinka’s pedigree would be rightly outraged to be denied entry into a country in which he was officially invited after being delayed for over eight hours at the airport. That was the indignity the South African immigration officials heaped on Soyinka before the gridlock was untangled.


As further evidence of South Africa’s excessive maltreatment of Nigerian citizens, in 2001, the then Aviation Minister Kema Chikwe was detained by South Africa’s Port Health and denied entry into the country on the ground that she did not possess a valid vaccination card. When the authorities persisted that the minister must be inoculated or denied entry into South Africa, the minister told them to go and jump into the river. She maintained her stand and let the authorities know the choice before them was to let her enter the country or she would go back to Nigeria. The matter was eventually resolved.


Nigeria does not deserve to be humiliated by South Africa or indeed any African country. In the 1970s and 1980s, Nigeria led an international campaign against the apartheid government of South Africa. Nigeria invested human and financial resources to fight apartheid in South Africa. Some Nigerian soldiers and civil society activists lost their lives in defence of the rights of Black South Africans to be treated equally as their white counterparts. It seems South African authorities have forgotten so quickly and conveniently the noble role that Nigeria played at the time.


One reason to worry over the maltreatment of Nigerians in South Africa is that it could be an extension of the high level of xenophobia in that country. It is no secret that Nigerians are hated and targeted by official and unofficial groups in South Africa. In fact, on a scale of detestation of foreigners in South Africa, Nigerians rank second only to Zimbabweans. Intolerance of foreigners is widespread in South Africa. Unfortunately, such intense dislike of foreigners is driven by the misleading impression that foreigners are taking over the jobs that South Africans ought to perform.


In South Africa, there is a common term used to describe black African foreigners. It is Amakwerekwere. This term pejoratively and connotatively means “foreigners are taking our jobs”. It is a synonym for xenophobia. South Africa must learn to deal forcefully with the challenges that confront it in its post-apartheid relationship with other African countries.



Sunday, 31 July 2011 04:11

President Zuma Accepts Court Ruling

South African President Jacob Zuma has accepted a Constitutional Court judgment declaring that it was unconstitutional for him to extend now-outgoing Chief Justice Sandile Ngcobo's term of office.

The press release issued from the office of the South African presidency detailed that," The Presidency accepts and respects the judgement of the Constitutional Court in relation to the unconstitutionality and invalidity of Section 8 (a) of the Judges' Remuneration and Conditions of Employment Act of 2001 and will abide by it. The law was valid until today's judgement, and government will now study the ruling to see what directives the Constitutional Court is giving to Parliament for remedial action. vThe President has begun the process of appointing a new Chief Justice and will do so in accordance with the provisions outlined in the Constitution of the Republic."

A South African newspaper reported that, " The Constitutional Court on Friday ruled that it was unconstitutional for President Jacob Zuma to extend now-outgoing Chief Justice Sandile Ngcobo's term of office. The judgment was unanimous.

The court declared Section 8a of the Judges Remuneration and Conditions of Employment Act -- in terms of which Zuma extended Ngcobo's term -- unconstitutional.

The court found that the section allowed the president to "usurp" the power of Parliament and held that Parliament alone had the power to extend a Constitutional Court judge's term of office. Zuma and the Justice Minister were ordered to pay costs.

It was announced on Wednesday that Ngcobo had decided to withdraw his acceptance of Zuma's extension, which leaves the post of chief justice open from August 15 should a replacement not be found by then.

The application against the way Zuma offered Ngcobo an extended term was brought by the Council for the Advancement of the SA Constitution, Freedom under Law, the Justice Alliance of SA and the Centre for Applied Legal Studies."





JOHANNESBURG, July 8 (Reuters) - Tata Motors (TAMO.BO: Quote, Profile, Research, Stock Buzz), India's largest vehicle maker, is looking to set up a vehicle assembly unit in South Africa later this month, the company said on Friday.

"The ... assembly plant in South Africa has been in the planning for a while, and we are at a point that this has now come to fruition," Tata spokesman Debasis Ray said.

Chart for TAMO.BO

He said more details would follow at a formal launch on July 22.

The report comes at a time when demand for new vehicles in South Africa appears to be rising.

South Africa's new vehicle sales were up nearly 13 percent year-on-year in June to 44,880 units, according to statistics by the National Association of Automobile Manufacturers. [ID:nLDE7630GQ] (Reporting by Yumna Mohamed; Editing by Helen Nyambura-Mwaura


Friday, 24 June 2011 15:47

Michelle Obama tours South Africa

Michelle Obama Does Push-Ups With Archbishop Tutu in SA

U.S First Lady Michelle Obama ended her week-long visit to South Africa by meeting the Nobel Peace Prize winner Archbishop Emeritus Desmond Tutu - and getting a bit of a workout. They visited the famous Cape Town Stadium in which some of the 2010 World Cup games were played, where the First Lady encouraged young people to protect themselves against HIV/Aids and use sport to stay healthy.

Earlier U.S First Lady Michelle Obama visited the former President Nelson Mandela and his wife lady Graca Machel, the former Mozambican first lady at their home in Houghton. She also visited Mandela’s charitable foundation and Emthonjeni Community Center in Zandspruit Township, Johannesburg.

"You are VS - very special people," said Tutu in his cheery voice soon after he stepped into the room filled with young people and the media. He encouraged the youth to reach for the stars so that they can be anything they want to be in life.The First Lady began her speech by joking with the Archbishop: "You are also a special person". Obama backed Tutu's words by telling them that one has to be a "VHP" - very healthy person - to inspire very special people.

US First Lady Michelle Obama and her childrenwith Nelson Mandela, at this home, in Houghton SA.

U.S. first lady Michelle Obama does push-ups with Archbishop Desmond Tutu as they participate in youth activities raising awareness for HIV prevention, at Cape Town Stadium in Cape Town

U.S. first lady Michelle Obama does push-ups with Archbishop Desmond Tutu   photo:Reuters

Then she participated in the sporting activities. She dribbled the ball and did push-ups on the floor beside with the Arch while the children cheerfully shouted out president Obama's famous election slogan, "Yes we can!" Former Bafana Bafana soccer star Mathew Booth was also present at the function. He said he was invited by the group Grassroots Soccer to take part in the project that educates, inspires and mobilizes the youth through soccer. "Meeting both Desmond Tutu and Michelle Obama is beyond what words can explain," he said.

Associate Press reported, "Michelle Obama kicked soccer balls Thursday with former Anglican Archbishop Desmond Tutu and flexed her biceps doing push-ups alongside him as she closed out a goodwill visit to South Africa and prepared to head for neighboring Botswana. She also visited a museum that documents the forced segregation of a once racially mixed area of this coastal city. Obama and family members traveling with her, including daughters Malia and Sasha, met Tutu, a Nobel Peace Prize laureate and a leader in South Africa's fight for racial equality, at the new Cape Town Stadium where the World Cup soccer tournament was held last year. She also received briefings from several HIV/AIDS prevention organizations,including some that use the discipline of soccer to teach kids about the disease.

In remarks before the soccer drills and calisthenics, the first lady urged dozens of kids to make safe, healthy choices. HIV/AIDS is a serious challenge to South Africa, where between 5 million and 6 million live with the disease in a country of just under 50 million. An estimated 17 percent of adult South Africans are infected.

"It's hard to have an impact if you're not in the best condition possible," she said. Her morning visit to the District Six Museum replaced a long-planned ferry ride to Robben Island that was canceled at the last minute due to high winds that made the Atlantic Ocean waters too treacherous to cross."


Picture News of Poor south Africans

"When stories are told about African poverty, race often seems to play a large part. Based in Senegal, Reuters photographer Finbarr O'Reilly (previously featured here for his work in DR Congo) traveled to South Africa earlier this year and visited one of a growing number of squatter camps populated mostly by Afrikaners - white South Africans - to document their stories and help show that, despite the fact that impoverished blacks in the region far outnumber whites, poverty is a human issue, not necessarily racial. O'Reilly: "While most white South Africans still enjoy lives of privilege and relative wealth, the number of poor whites has risen steadily over the past 15 years. Researchers now estimate some 450,000 whites, of a total white population of 4.5 million, live below the poverty line and 100,000 are struggling just to survive in places such Coronation Park, a former caravan camp currently home to more than 400 white squatters. Formerly comfortable Afrikaners recently forced to live on the fringes of society see themselves as victims of 'reverse-apartheid' that they say puts them at an even greater disadvantage than the millions of poor black South Africans." (

- Poverty stricken whites of South Africa By




Saturday, 12 March 2011 02:37

Bringing the SKA project to Africa

Africa is bidding to host Square Kilometre Array (SKA)

Africa is bidding to host the world's most powerful radio telescope, the Square Kilometre Array (SKA). When constructed, in 2025, it will have 50 times greater sensitivity than any other radio telescope on Earth. The SKA will probe the edges of our universe, even before the first stars and galaxies that formed after the Big Bang. This telescope will contribute to answering fundamental questions in astronomy, physics and cosmology, including the nature of dark energy and dark matter.

South Africa is leading the African bid and has already legislated to create 12.5 million hectares of protected area - or radio astronomy reserve. This area is also referred to as the Karoo Central Astronomy Advantage Area, offering low levels of radio frequency interference, very little light pollution, basic infrastructure of roads, electricity and ommunication.The human story began in Africa and it can also be the place where we find answersto the story of our universe.

Following an initial identification of sites suitable for the SKA by the International SKA Steering Committee in 2006, southern Africa and Australia are the finalists. A consortium of the major international science funding agencies, in consultation with the SKA Science and Engineering Committee (SSEC), will announce the selected site for the SKA in 2012.

At about 50 – 100 times more sensitive than any other radio telescope on Earth, the SKA will be able to probe the edges of our Universe. It will help us to answer fundamental questions in astronomy, physics and cosmology, including the nature of dark energy and dark matter. It will be a powerful time machine that scientists will use to go back in time to explore the origins of the first galaxies, stars and planets.

The construction of the SKA is expected to cost about 1.5 billion Euro. The operations and maintenance of a large telescope normally cost about 10% of the capital costs per year. That means the international SKA consortium would be spending approximately 100 to 150 million Euro per year on the telescope. It is expected that a significant portion of the capital, operations and maintenance costs would be spent in the host country. South Africa offers a competitive and affordable solution for constructing, operating and maintaining the SKA.

South Africa has already demonstrated its excellent science and engineering skills by designing and starting to build the MeerKAT telescope – as a pathfinder to the SKA. The first seven dishes, KAT-7, are complete and have already produced its first pictures. MeerKAT is attracting great interest internationally – more than 500 international astronomers and 58 from Africa submitted proposals to do science with MeerKAT once it is complete.

If Africa wins the SKA bid, the core of this giant telescope will be constructed in the Karoo region of the Northern Cape Province near to the towns of Carnarvon and Williston, linked to a computing facility in Cape Town. Other countries where stations will be placed include Namibia, Botswana, Mozambique, Mauritius, Madagascar, Kenya and Zambia.

Africa needs science and science needs Africa. After all, Africa is the home of humankind and the place where technology and intellectual activity first developed. Simon Ratcliffe, an astronomer and a member of the South African SKA bid team predicts, "Young people interested in astronomy and that might work on this project in future, are destined to become experts in future technologies that will be in high demand around the globe."

For More Infromation

Mr. Rod Marcel

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F W de Klerk's views on 'Conversations with Myself' by Nelson Mandela

All autobiographies are contrived by their authors to present themselves as they would like to seen by subsequent generations.  Collections of contemporary writings and notes are often more revealing because they were not written with the intention of creating this or that historic impression.   For this reason I found Nelson Mandela’s recently published ‘Conversations with Myself’ more revealing of the man than his autobiography “Long Walk to Freedom” - and in many respects more moving as well.

The book is a relatively unstructured collection of extracts from Mandela’s correspondence,  unpublished writings, interviews and items jotted down in his old Satour Calendars.   The collection includes numerous reproductions from notebooks and correspondence in Mandela’s bold, rounded and confident handwriting - which changes little over the decades of resistance, imprisonment and, finally,  vindication.

Early extracts point to the foundation of Nelson Mandela’s political persona in Xhosa traditional institutions:

“Western civilisation has not entirely rubbed off my African background and I have not forgotten the days of my childhood when we used to gather round community elders to listen to their wealth of wisdom and experience.  That was the custom of our forefathers and the traditional school in which we were brought up.”

They also point to his subsequent political development - including his attitude to communism.  In response to a question whether his attendance of communist party meetings did not make him sympathetic to communism, he replied

“No,  no,  no , no, no, no.  … No it was interesting.  I wouldn’t say it was liberating. And that is why I attacked the Communists, you see, when I became involved politically.  And I didn’t think it was liberating.  I thought Marxism was something that actually was subjecting us to a foreign ideology.”

The extracts clearly reveal that Mandela was one of the leading proponents for armed struggle - against the objections and traditions of the ANC leadership of the time:

The Chief Albert Luthuli, Yengwa and others opposed this (the armed struggle) very strongly.  So we knew of course that we were going to get a position from the Chief, because he believed in non-violence as a principle, whereas we believed in it as a tactic…”

Although there can be no doubt regarding the frustrations experienced by young militant ANC members at that time, I believe that Mandela’s decision to opt for armed struggle was wrong both in principle and tactically.   The armed struggle  had limited military significance - but it did escalate the conflict to another level and inevitably resulted in greater bitterness, recrimination and loss of life on all sides.

Mandela’s decision also led inexorably to his own arrest and trial in which he and his co-defendants expected that they would be sentenced to death.

Mandela lived - but faced with equanimity and courage the prospect of spending the rest of his life in prison.   His writings nevertheless reveal the anguish that he experienced in being separated from his family:

“I have often wondered whether a person is justified in neglecting his own family to fight for opportunities for others.  Can there be anything more important than looking after your mother approaching the age of 60, building her a dream house, giving her good food, nice clothing and all one’s love?”

Mandela eloquently expressed his thoughts when his son was killed in a car accident in 1969:

“The blow had been equally grievous to me.  In addition to the fact that I had not seen him for at least sixty months, I was neither privileged to give him a wedding ceremony nor to lay him to rest when the fatal hour had struck….All these expectations have now been completely shattered for he was taken away at the early age of 24 and we will never see him again.”

In a letter to his wife Winnie in June, 1969, Mandela expresses his views on the indomitable spirit of the true revolutionary:

“Honour belongs to those who never forsake the truth even when things seem dark and grim, who try over and over again, who are never discouraged by insults, humiliation and even defeat.”

This was more than lip service.  In December, 1984, he firmly rejected the prospect of early release when his close relative Kaiser Matanzima offered him refuge in the Transkei.  Instead, he resigned himself to the prospect of spending the rest of his life in prison:

“The ideals which we cherish, our fondest dreams and fervent hopes may not be realised in our lifetime. But that is besides the point.  The knowledge that in your day you did your duty, and lived up to the expectations of your fellow men is in itself a rewarding experience and magnificent achievement.”

As we all know, Mandela’s courage and faith were eventually fully recognised  in 1990 when he was released from prison to play a leading role in the negotiations for a non-racial constitutional democracy.  During the negotiations, our relations were frequently placed under enormous strain by continuing faceless violence.  Mandela did not hesitate to charge me with complicity in the violence - and I always wondered whether this was a reflection of his actual views - or whether he was simply playing to the political gallery.  The extracts from his book indicate that he really thought that the government was, at the very least, doing nothing to stop the violence:

“My experience and that of my comrades in the ANC is that the De Klerk government shows no will at all, of wanting to adequately deal with this crucial problem.”

Mandela launched a vitriolic attack on me after the Boipatong massacre in which he claimed that the ‘unprovoked slaughter of innocent people’ was part of a government plan.  The TRC’s Amnesty Committee subsequently found that IFP hostel dwellers had acted alone and that there had been no government involvement.  Naturally, I never received an apology.

I find Mandela’s views on violence somewhat disingenuous.  He must have known of the ANC’s own deep involvement in the mini civil war against the IFP which accounted for the greatest proportion of the deaths.  He must also have understood the enormous risks that the ANC took in June 1992 when it decided to abandon the CODESA negotiations and sought instead to bring about the collapse of the government through rolling mass action - in what became known as the Leipzig Option.  To his credit, it was Mandela who led his comrades back to the negotiating table after the Bisho massacre

Notwithstanding any criticism one might have, the man who emerges from  ‘Conversations with Myself’ is, by any measure, a towering figure, not only in South African history but in the history of the twentieth century.  He went on as President to play an exemplary role in uniting and reconciling South Africa’s deeply divided people.

About FW de Klerk

FW de Klerk, the last white president of South Africa, is presently is the founder and chairman of FW de Klerk Foundation.

Frederik Willem (F W) de Klerk was born in Johannesburg on 18 March 1936.  After graduating from the Potchefstroom University for Christian Higher Education in 1958, he spent 12 years as an attorney in Vereeniging before taking the decision to enter active politics. In November 1972 he was elected as Member of Parliament for Vereeniging.

In 1978 Mr De Klerk was appointed to the Cabinet.  During the following 11 years he was responsible for numerous portfolios including Mineral and Energy Affairs, Internal Affairs and National Education.  He was elected leader of the National Party in the Transvaal in 1982.  In July 1985 he became Chairman of the Minister’s Council in the House of Assembly and in December 1986 Leader of the House of Assembly.

After his election as State President in September 1989, he initiated and presided over the inclusive negotiations that led to the dismantling of “apartheid” and the adoption of South Africa’s first fully democratic constitution in December 1993.  After South Africa’s first fully representative general election of 27 April 1994 Mr De Klerk became one of South Africa’s two Executive Deputy Presidents in which capacity he served until 1996 when his Party decided to withdraw from the Government of National Unity.  He was Leader of the Official Opposition until his retirement from active party politics in 1997.

Today, Mr De Klerk continues to work actively on the promotion of harmonious relations in multi-communal societies, the future of Africa and South Africa and the challenges facing the world today. In 1999 he established the F W de Klerk Foundation, and in 2004, he brought together a number of respected former national leaders to join him as founding members of GLF Global Leadership Foundation, a non-profit organisation that aims to play a constructive role in the promotion of peace, democracy and development in countries across the world.  In addition, he holds positions at the Prague Society for International Co-operation, the Assembly of the Parliament of Cultures and the think-tank Forum 2000 as well as serving on the advisory boards of the Peres Centre for Peace in Israel and the Global Panel in Germany.

Mr De Klerk has been awarded numerous honours, among them the Prix du Courage Internationale (1992) and, together with Mr Mandela, both the UNESCO Houphouet-Boigny Prize (1992) and the Nobel Peace Prize (1993).

source: Website of the FW de Klerk Foundation





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