Africa has long been considered an attractive alternative asset class for South African institutional investors, offering powerful, risk-adjusted returns over the long term, along with excellent diversification benefits.
In a low growth, low return local environment, including an alternative asset class such as Africa into retirement fund portfolios has the potential to significantly enhance the risk and return profiles of these portfolios.
It is in this context that we consider former finance minister Malusi Gigaba’s important announcement that the limit on offshore investment for institutional investors would be increased from 25% to 30%. Even more importantly, Treasury determined that the additional foreign allowance for investments into the rest of Africa should be doubled from 5% to 10%.
When approached to comment on this increased prudential limit, acting head of Sanlam Africa Investments, Brett Mallen, commented that after having spent the past three years establishing the Sanlam Africa Investments business with his business partner, StJohn Bungey, it was rewarding to see the short-term cycle turn upwards again. It was even more encouraging to see Treasury’s affirmation of the rest of Africa as an investment destination for local pension funds.
Africa’s growth trajectory
“We have always held the view that Africa is on an upward long-term secular trajectory that investors can benefit from. This longer-term trend merely experienced a temporary downward cycle after oil and a number of other commodities collapsed in late 2014. Africa has since disproved its naysayers who believed it was only a commodities play that was short-lived, following the flush of easy money looking for an outlet after the global financial crisis in 2008. I am certain that the increased allocation bears sound testament to the longer term view into which our team have vested their careers”.
There appears to be consensus among economists that there is little risk in increasing the prudential limit on foreign investments within South African institutional portfolios, given the strong flows into emerging markets over the past year. Treasury appears to have expressed a view that they expect this trend to continue into at least the medium term, particularly in the context of a new political landscape in South Africa. Therefore, allowing local pension funds to diversify at a time that rand strength could perhaps be mitigated a little, does make good sense.
However, Mallen believes that there is a further important message which Treasury intends to send with its specific increase of the African allowance from five to ten percent: “For the South African economy to recover to its previous levels, it is non-negotiable for us to co-exist amongst stronger African economies, with deeper capital markets that are more financially inclusive. This will require further investment from South African – and other international – investors.”
The greater Sanlam Group for which Mallen works has identified the strategic imperative of investing into the African economies in which it so actively participates. This can be seen through its significant operations in 34 countries and the recent announcement of the $1bn follow-on investment to acquire the remaining equity stake in Saham Finance.
“There are excellent opportunities to realise the remarkable growth prospects across a number of African economies – across all investment classes – and in so doing, supporting and contributing to the strength and resilience of the rest of the continent”, says Mallen.
Of course there are risks to investing into Africa but diversification across geographies and asset classes, and investing alongside African investment veterans with carefully selected local partners with whom deep relationships of trust have been built, can largely mitigate that risk so that the promised returns can be realised.
Now may be the right time to invest
“It is again exciting to be investing into Africa as it is clear that this is the right time in the cycle to be making at least some allocation to African markets. In no way is this more apparent than from the remarkable performance of the African public equities markets over 2017, delivering a market beta of around 22%. Our portfolio managers are convinced that there is still attractive beta to be realised in the short and medium term (AND that they can repeat the exceptional alpha which they generated in 2017).”
Despite the attractive investment case, Africa as an investment destination has recently been overlooked by South African retirement funds and allocators of capital. Blindsided by the temporary poor performance between 2014 - 2016, few recognised the greater opportunity in utilising their previous 5% allocation to Africa and the associated rand hedge benefits if invested into offshore US dollar denominated African funds.
Now that this allocation has doubled to 10%, it may be a good time to take a fresh look at asset allocation and understand all the levers available to maximise these outcomes.
Facebook has been in the news recently after UK company Cambridge Analytica harvested the data of millions of their users by way of a questionnaire app.
When this was discovered it was thought that 50 million users had been affected, but that number jumped up to 87 million just yesterday. We now know how many of those users are South African, and it’s a thankfully a relatively small number.
We’ve been told by a Facebook spokesperson that there were only 33 users who installed the app in the country. 59 777 South Africa users in total have been “potentially impacted” and have had their details compromised.
The huge difference in those two numbers stems from the fact that the app relied on sharing between friends who may have been in different countries. To patch up this problem Facebook has recently clamped down on what information advertisers have access to. In a addition, all users will now see more about what apps they’re using and what data they have access to, so they can make better decisions about what software they use.
On top of this, those potentially impacted will be given an alert so they can see what data could have been shared. If you’re someone locally or internationally who is more than a little irked by all this, here are the steps to permanently delete your Facebook account.
We also suggest that you put in a personal data request to see exactly what information the site has stored about you.
Source: Htxt Africa
No other woman – in life and after – occupies the place that Winnie Madikizela-Mandela does in South African politics. A stalwart of the African National Congress (ANC), she nevertheless stands above, and at times outside, the party.
Her life has been overburdened by tragedies and dramas, and by the expectations of a world hungry for godlike heroes on whom to pin all its dreams, and one-dimensional villains on whom to pour its rage. Yet perhaps it is in the smaller and more intimate stories of our stumbling to make a better world that we are best able to recognise and appreciate the meaning of the life of Madikizela-Mandela.
In her particular life, we may see more clearly the violence wrought by colonialism and apartheid, the profound consequences of fraternal political movements to whom women were primarily ornamental and, yes, the tragic mistakes made in the crucible of civil war.
Her political power stemmed from the visceral connection that she was able to make between the everyday lives of black people in a racist state, and her own individual life. State power, in all its vicious dimensions, was exaggerated in its response to her indomitable will – and in its stark visibility, personified.
Fearless in the face of torture, imprisonment, banishment and betrayal, she stood firm in her conviction that apartheid could be brought down. She said what she liked, and bore the consequences. Her very life was a form of bearing witness to the brutality of the system.
A life of misrecognition
Many obituaries will outline the broad sweep of her life; few will mark the extent to which her revolutionary ideas were shaped before she even met Nelson Mandela. To most of her social circle in the 1950s, for a long time into the 1980s, and certainly for Nelson Mandela’s biographers, Madikizela-Mandela was a young rural naif who charmed the most eligible (married) man in town.
This way of seeing her as primarily beautiful, and not as an emerging political figure, has coloured both contemporaneous accounts of Madikizela-Mandela (for she was surely too young and beautiful to have a serious political idea) as well as scholarly accounts of the period (which focused on the thoughts and actions of men).
This misrecognition resonated in the ANC, which had no way of accommodating Madikizela-Mandela’s political qualities other than by casting her in the familiar tropes of wife and mother. Astutely, she embraced the role of mother and wife of a political leader and fashioned it into a platform for her own variant of radicalism, drawing on recent memories of the forcible dispossession of land and its impact on the Eastern Cape peasantry, and black consciousness.
She kept those traditions alive in the ANC, especially in the everyday politics of the townships, when the leadership of the party was crafting new forms of non-racialism and at times vilifying black consciousness. Even though she was not part of the inner circle of the black consciousness movement, being older than the students leading it at its height, she was an ally in words and spirit.
In the tumult after the 1976 uprising, she built a bridge between different political factions. In the early 1990s, when Nelson Mandela was urging armed youths to give up violent strategies, it was Madikizela-Mandela they called on (along with the then leader of the South African Communist Party Chris Hani) to defend their change in tactics.
She played a similar role in brokering between moderates and radicals in the ANC and its breakaways up until her death. This was a form of gendered politics made possible by her status as mother of the nation, uniting warring sons and holding together her political family, even if peace was maintained only in her presence.
White power and black suffering
Winnie Madikizela was born in a rural Eastern Cape village called Bizana in September 1936. Her parents, Columbus and Gertrude, were teachers and her childhood was marked by the stern Methodism of her mother and the radical Africanist orientation of her father.
Rural life, with its entrenched gender roles, shaped her childhood. Not only was she aware of her mother’s desire to bear another son, but she and her sisters were expected to care for their male siblings. She was barely eight when her mother died months after giving birth to Winnie’s brother. Her childhood was cut short, and she had to leave school for six months to work in the fields and to carry out, with her sisters, all the daily chores of the household, from preparing food to cleaning. In her large and rambunctious family in which her parents upheld discipline with physical punishment, she learned to defend herself with her fists, if necessary.
Her rural background made her aware of land dispossession as a central question of freedom. By her own account, she learnt about the racialised system of power early in her life. From her father, she learnt about the Xhosa wars against the colonisers, and later would imagine herself as picking up where her ancestors had failed:
If they failed in those nine Xhosa wars, I am one of them of them and I will start from where those Xhosas left off and get my land back.
She was to retain the theme of land dispossession by colonialism throughout her political career. Associated with this was the idea that race was central to colonialism. Taught by her grandmother that the source of black suffering was white power, her framing of politics was defined completely by the ways in which her family understood the relations of colonialism, and by their personal experiences of humiliation.
As with many other ANC members with Eastern Cape roots, she did not think of urban struggles as the only space of resistance, or workers as the only agents of change. She warned, in 1985, that
The white makes a mistake, thinking the tribal black is subservient and docile.
Militant to the core
After six short years together, Madikizela-Mandela’s husband, Nelson, was sentenced to life imprisonment. By this stage, she too was inextricably involved in the national liberation movement, politics with single parenting. She was attuned to the mood of people, and was more of an empathic leader than a theorist or tactician.
She was an effective speaker, and had a gift for winning over an audience. Adelaide Joseph, a friend and fellow ANC activist, recalls that
when she made her first public speech…right on the spot, while she was speaking, the women composed a song for Winnie Mandela. And they started to sing right in the hall.
She joined the ANC Women’s League and the Federation of South African Women, and participated in several campaigns. She was militant to the core. On one occasion, when a policeman arrived at her house with a summons and dared to pull her arm, she assaulted him and had to defend herself in court for the action.
She was far from being a bystander, or a passive wife patiently waiting for her husband’s release from prison. In her autobiography, Madikizela-Mandela credits several other women for influencing her politically. Among these were Lilian Ngoyi, Florence Matomela, Frances Baard and Kate Molale, all leaders of the Federation.
For her, they were the “top of the ANC hierarchy” although at the time no women were in fact in any formal leadership positions in the ANC. The ANC only allowed women to become full members in 1943, and during the 1950s, women were locked in an intense battle for recognition within the movement.
In the ANC Women’s League and in the Federation, she held positions as chairperson of her branch in Orlando, and was a member of their provincial and national executives. In the 1970s, with her close friend Fatima Meer, she formed the Black Women’s Federation. It was a short lived organisation with few campaigns, but signalled an adherence to the new township based politics that was sweeping the country.
Her mode of work in any case was not that of painstaking organisation-building; she was more capable as a public speaker and as someone who could connect with people in the harsh conditions of life in apartheid’s townships. She attended funerals and counselled families, acts of public courage that sustained activists. She offered a form of intimate political leadership, instinctively aligning herself with people in distress.
Gender was her political resource, enabling her to draw on effective qualities to form political communities and providing a mode in which she could enter into the lives of people in the townships. She embraced the role of mother and wife of a political leader and fashioned it into a platform from which she challenged the apartheid state.
Banishment and brutality
If the apartheid state had hoped to break her, they failed. She was fearless in the face of the state’s attempts to silence her. Her home was repeatedly invaded and searched, and she was arrested, assaulted and imprisoned several times. Then, in 1977, in an act of extreme cruelty, she was served with a banishment order to a place in the Free State called Brandfort – a place she had never heard of nor had she ever visited.
It was a horrendous uprooting from her family and community in Soweto, a form of exile that she described as “my little Siberia.” Madikizela-Mandela grasped very clearly the power that could derive from associating actions against her with actions against the nation. As she put it,
When they send me into exile, it’s not me as an individual they are sending. They think that with me they can also ban the political ideas. But that is a historic impossibility… I am of no importance to them as an individual. What I stand for is what they want to banish.
But although the state did not break Winnie, by her own account it did brutalise her. Talking about her long period of solitary confinement and torture in 1969, she told a journalist that
that imprisonment of eighteen months in solitary confinement did actually change me … We were so brutalised by that experience that I then believed in the language of violence and the only to deal with, to fight, apartheid was through the same violence they were unleashing against us and that is how one gets affected by that type of brutality.
The consequences were awful, not just for her but also for Paul Verryn, and especially for the families of Stompie Seipei and Abu Asvat. This period in her life, and in South African politics generally, is one that will not only occupy our moral energies, but also shape the ways in which narratives of violence in the 1980s are written. These were dark times in a country weighed down by states of emergency and militarised control. The exaggerated quality of Madikizela-Mandela’s life had to bear, too, the nightmares of our nation’s struggles to free itself.
The ANC could barely contain the nature of leadership that Winnie represented. Like many women in the movement, she was marginalised from its powerful decision making structures. Unlike male leaders, her personal life was constantly under the spotlight (no doubt aided by a zealous security machinery that kept her under constant surveillance), and she was judged harshly and unfairly for her private choices. Although she was a masterful player of the familial categories of wife and mother, she felt reduced by them too.
Commentators like to use words such as maverick and wayward to describe her, but these tendencies developed because the regular structures of the ANC could not easily accommodate a powerful woman with a radical voice. Stepping outside the agreed parameters of the official party line, as she frequently did, was a form of asserting her independence, a form of refusal of the terms of political cadreship that were available to women in the ANC and in society more generally. It also allowed her to build alliances with the new voices emerging after 1994, from standing with the Treatment Action Campaign against Thabo Mbeki’s policies on HIV/AIDS, to supporting the formation of the Economic Freedom Fighters. It accounts for the tremendous affection for her among young activists who are equally wary of the sedimented power structures in politics.
The endless stream of photographs that picture her in romantic embrace with Nelson Mandela, even now in her death, and despite their divorce, miss this fundamental point: the marriage was only a small part of her life, not its definitive point. To present her simply as wife, mostly as mother, is to erase the many struggles she waged to be defined in her own terms.
South Africa’s new President, Cyril Ramaphosa, is presently receiving numerous plaudits on how he’s handling the transition from the troubled Jacob Zuma presidency.
Zuma’s generals have been scattered, his underlings fleeing the battlefield. Nkosazana Dlamini-Zuma, against whom Ramaphosa fought for the leadership and under whose wing Zuma thought he would be able to shelter had she won, has been brought into the cabinet and safely neutralised.
The ousting of Zuma has also had a dramatic impact on the major opposition parties. Both the Democratic Alliance (DA) and Economic Freedom Fighters (EFF) have been deprived of their strongest electoral attraction.
The DA is now in a state of major disarray, attempting to resolve its various internal squabbles. For the moment at least – it seems to be heading towards a bloody nose at the 2019 election.
The EFF has played the brief post-Zuma moment more skillfully, most notably by getting the ANC to back its motion in parliament, albeit with amendments, in favour of expropriation of land without compensation. But Ramaphosa has responded in kind by subtly extending an invitation to the EFF to rejoin the ANC, a ploy which will continually compel it to justify its continuing existence, especially if the ruling party continues to steal its policy clothes.
Meanwhile, Ramaphosa continues to bask in the admiration of whites and seems likely to bring disaffected elements of the black middle class back into the ANC. He has brought back hopes of better days for a previously despondent South Africa.
He is master of all the surveys, Mr Action and Mr Clean.
Yet the new president is no fool. He knows that his major challenge, after the depradations of the Zuma years, is to work towards making what he termed in his inauguration speech, a “capable state”. This revolves around addressing challenges of governance, the party as well as the economy.
Low hanging fruit
Ramaphosa has had little option but to first turn to addressing immediate problems within the state. The early steps have been relatively easy. The most straight forward task has been to shuffle the cabinet. By doing so he was able to expel or marginalise ministers known for their loyalty to Zuma or their incompetence, while bringing in replacements of known ability and integrity.
He has also moved swiftly to address crises at major parastatals, notably at the power utility Eskom and South African Airways to prevent them defaulting on their loans to banks and other creditors. With new boards now in place, emergency measures have been taken to prevent financial meltdown.
Likewise, Ramaphosa has given notice that he is determined to restore the South African Revenue Service to its former glory. Getting rid of the top brass, notwithstanding the resistance of Zuma’s point man, the commissioner Tom Moyane, should not be too difficult. But, as within the parastatals, it is the problem of what to do with Zuma cronies at lower levels of management that is likely to be more difficult and more time consuming.
Zuma cronies who have been embedded in state organisations for a long time will have set up procurement linkages that will need to be examined closely. This will provoke resistance, some of it overt, much of it covert, for whatever the cronyistic patterns of procurement, they will have been celebrated as black empowerment. Their disruption will be stigmatised as reactionary. Pravin Gordhan, the new minister of state owned enterprises, will probably have to get tough, and the fights could get nasty.
The other set of challenges which Ramaphosa faces have to do with his party, the ANC. His narrow victory at the party’s national conference was only secured because he did a deal with David Mabuza, then Premier of Mpumalanga, now promoted to deputy president.
Ramaphosa will, in time, find that this kind of backing was instrumental. Loyalty will come at a price, and Ramaphosa will have to play his cards carefully.
He may have to make alliances with a lot of party power holders he doesn’t like. This may include ceding control of certain provinces to party barons so that their patronage patterns are left intact.
This is a problem because, as Ramaphosa knows, some provincial governments, such as the Eastern Cape, are grossly inefficient. They are staffed by people who simply lack the capacity to do their jobs – but who have strong connections with local party bosses. Disrupting such networks will take determination and courage, and will meet politically costly pushback. Expect little to be done this side of an election.
Perhaps Ramaphosa’s most formidable challenge is how to kick start economic growth. He has been lauded as the man who, with experience in both the trade union movement and in business, can bring labour and capital together around a new consensus.
It’s a nice idea, and one boosted by Ramaphosa’s smooth talk of convening a summit around the economy. But if it is going to be more than just another talk shop, he is going to have to do an awful lot of arm twisting. Both sides are going to have make concessions.
South Africa’s major corporations have been sitting pretty for years. Despite the horrors of the Zuma years, the stock market has boomed. The country became a low investment, high profit economy, characterised by the power of huge cartels.
Ramaphosa has to convince them that they have to get out of the comfort zone, warning that if they don’t, levels of inequality and unemployment are such that South Africa may explode. Capitalism is going to hit big trouble if they don’t look beyond the short-term bottom line and commit to serious levels of investment, combining this with major commitments to labour-intensive employment and training.
The president is also going to have the difficult job of convincing the unions that they have a greater responsibility to address unemployment. To date their emphasis has been on securing higher wages for their members (that’s what unions do) and they have succeeded in getting the government to implement a minimum wage.
But these wins have come at a cost. For example, central bargaining has resulted in wage agreements with big firms that have imposed massive costs on small and medium sized businesses.
While no one wants a low wage economy, Ramaphosa would need to convince the unions that something has to give if problems like this are going to be addressed.
Ramaphosa’s easiest task will be to win the next election. But history will judge him on his ability to do something much bigger: rendering the South Africa state one that is not only capable, but genuinely developmental.
The Rand Show media launch kicked off in style this morning at the Johannesburg Expo Centre (JEC) at Nasrec, when the host with most and master of ceremonies, Idols star Boki Ntsime, serenaded the media.
The CEO of JEC, Craig Newman, opened the media briefing talking about the longevity and staying power of the Rand Show.
“We’re delighted to have been running for 124 years in such a fast-paced and ever-changing world, and we hope to continue giving Rand Show attendees a phenomenal experience,” said Newman. Newman continued by addressing some of the activities that will take place at the Rand Show, including Home Affairs giving the public an opportunity to apply for smart ID cards, the return of the Naked Scientist presented by 702 (due to popular demand) and, for the first time ever, the House of Horrors powered by 5FM.
Next the South African National Defence Forum (SANDF) Director Defence Corporate Communications, Brigadier General Mafi Mgobozi, addressed the media by talking about the capabilities of the SANDF. “We are demonstrating to South Africans that the SANDF does not only engage in combat missions during wartime, but plays an important role serving communities during peacetime,” said Brig. Gen. Mgobozi.
Brig. Gen. Mgobozi continued by discussing the SANDF’s disaster management programme, where they help families affected by catastrophes like flooding and fires. Visitors can view a full disaster simulation on Terrace 2. “The Rand Show is about family and fun. If you don’t have a family, come to the Rand Show anyway and find one!” added Brig. Gen. Mgobozi.
Nonnie Kubeka, head of the Gauteng Conventions and Events Bureau at Gauteng Tourism Authority, discussed the importance of citizens attending the Rand Show. “We would like for you to spread the word, so more people can come to the Rand Show,” said Kubeka. With visitors from east African countries, the SADC region and even from overseas coming to the Rand Show, Kubeka highlighted the importance of this annual event in creating employment.
“When more people come to the Rand Show, more employment is created and the more wealth is created for the citizens of Gauteng,” said Kubeka.
With the inaugural House of Horrors experience at the Rand Show, the producer Josh Lindberg, gave an enticing presentation about the other worldly and bizarre world he invites you to enter into. “The House of Horrors is an experience that you will never un-see. I like to describe it as ‘a black swan’ moment, which will take you out of your ordinary reality” said Lindberg. “When entering this paranormal experience, you need to come with an open mind,” he added.
From the briefing, the media were escorted by smartly uniformed SANDF personnel to begin their tour of some of the highlights mentioned above. First stop – the SANDF static display, to illustrate the many facets to their disaster management skills, capabilities and equipment. The area featured different exhibits to show how SANDF would operate in the aftermath of a flood. Building bridges (in some cases floating bridges), to enable access to the disaster zone, was the first display, followed by search and rescue, medic tents to stabilise civilians before moving them to hospitals, and then set-ups to clean dirty water to prevent the spread of diseases.
Additional exhibits show how SANDF deals with mine warfare and bomb disposal, while the SA Navy had a presence with some of their high-tech equipment, including boats and diving equipment.
After such serious business, the media were encouraged to blow off some steam at the amusement park, where they were invited to buckle up for a ride on the Skyrider. The spinning swing ride had a twist, as it also ascended up into the sky while rotating. Many queued up for a repeat spin. The amusement park has a multitude of rides on offer, catering for small children as well as adults with a wide range of fear factor tolerances. This year the funfair has also extended its operating hours to 21:00 instead of 19:00, to allow those visitors who come through after work to get real value for their money.
The final stop was the House of Horrors. This feature is a first for South Africa – an immersive theatre experience whereby small, intimate groups of visitors are invited to wander through a fully-interactive, nightmarish dream-scape. Multi-media and special effects combine seamlessly with talented actors, props and many eerie surprises. If you come back to the Rand Show on different days, don’t be (too) scared to enter the House of Horrors again. Because of its interactive approach, the format is dynamic and no two shows will be quite alike.
The sensitive nature of the show’s content means that no under 13s are allowed to enter, and 13-16 year olds are advised to be accompanied by an adult. Fortunately parents don’t have to miss out, as the Kids Expo is next door. Parents can sign their child in to be safely cared for, so they can lose themselves in the House of Horrors and collect them afterwards, once they’ve collected their senses.
Since its establishment in 1894, the Rand Show has become one of South Africa’s largest and most iconic consumer events and a highlight on the annual events calendar, having entertained multiple generations of South African families. Staged annually at the Johannesburg Expo Centre in Nasrec, it serves as an important launch pad for exciting brands and businesses and caters to the entire family. Categories include sport, children’s products and services, wellness, outdoor living, science, technology, government departments, trends, design and home living, as well as world-class exhibits by the SANDF, a unique feature not seen anywhere else. The expo attracts over 200 000 visitors each year, mostly families across all cultures in the middle to upper income brackets. Often referred to as Johannesburg's biggest day out
Matamela Cyril Ramaphosa – forgive me, President Ramaphosa – is self-evidently a private and reserved human being. Since his decision to contest the leadership of the African National Congress (ANC), he has been the subject of an endless series of “think-pieces”, more or less informed including by this author, as well as a year or more of attack videos and smears from those he ultimately defeated at the 2017 ANC elective conference.
His private life has been examined, and people have tried to double-guess every move he has made, or should have made, or is about to make.
The man must be squirming. Worse than the attention, however, is his recent elevation to Messiah status in the media and the popular imagination. He maketh Zuma to bugger off. He maketh the currency to rise and pessimism to fall; he will cleanse where others defiled; and he may lead South Africans towards the promised land – or, for the non-believers, will it be down the garden path?
Messiahs are an expression of the need for the yoke of oppression to be lifted, by a god-anointed action man (there are precious few female Messiahs in history) who does what mere mortals cannot. Nelson Mandela was South Africa’s first Messiah, but was seemingly born for the role, relished it, and given the massive damage to economy and society in late apartheid, almost everything he did was inevitably positive. The economy grew, rainbows were believed in, the national football team Bafana Bafana were football champions. Anything was possible.
In Ramaphosa’s case, the context is horribly similar. The economy has been smashed by the labyrinthine tendrils of corruption and state capture that have insinuated themselves into every aspect of public life, compounding those already present in the private sector.
For every state owned enterprise there is a private sector player like KPMG, and for every bribe that is accepted, someone else offered it. Zuma tended his corrupt garden well, and South Africa feels like it is the early 1990s again: political killings are rife in KwaZulu-Natal, the economy is in tatters, racial tensions are high, the poor are getting poorer, the rich richer, and the country’s sports people seem unable to win a game of tiddly-winks.
What kind of president?
What kind of president will Ramaphosa be? Will he, like Zuma’s predecessor Thabo Mbeki, gravitate towards foreign affairs, the African continent, and playing a global role in various summits and multilateral bodies? Or will he be more Zuma-like, and regard the secret and security forces as his natural base?
The last 10 days should have answered part of this question. Because of Ramaphosa’s chess moves the country has seen the true colours of everyone in the ANC’s top six leadership and beyond. He and all South Africans now know where many of his enemies are. Those desperate to be reborn Ramaphosa-ites have become visible, and he knows (as South Africans do) who can be trusted and who not. He has forced people to play their roles out in public, for all to see and learn, and better to understand the challenges he faces.
More importantly, the state utility Eskom has been completely reconfigured with a new board, and fear has begun to percolate through to all those eating South Africa’s public funds.
But the most significant moves were left to the very end. Zuma’s last day as president – not in any way coincidentally – began with the news that the home of the powerful Gupta family had been raided and arrests had been made.
The second masterstroke was to allow Zuma to show his true colours in a rambling interview on state television to the nation. Everyone was given a taste of what Ramaphosa has had to deal with.
For years the world has been fed several myths about Zuma. That he was steeped in strategy and that he was a master tactician. There was also the fable that he had dirt on everyone and would never be outmanoeuvred, that even a wounded lion is dangerous, that he may be down but never out, and so on.
Instead, the terrible sadness of a crumpled bully was in evidence on SABC TV. He spent 30 minutes spinning silly yarns about the lack of accusations or evidence against him, insisting he was innocent, trying to blame anyone but himself. It laid bare the truth – Zuma is merely PW (Botha) rebooted. Apartheid president Botha, nicknamed the Groot Krokodil (big crocodile), was a hardliner who refused to leave office and alienated everyone even in his own National Party.
Zuma’s incoherent television appearance was an old jackal meeting an old krokodil. Each filled with a sense of victimhood, denying any wrongdoing, both responsible for destroying the economy, the social fabric, and any number of lives. Ramaphosa left Zuma to show all South Africans his overweening vanity, his inability to distinguish right from wrong, and his arrogance. Shakespeare could not have plotted it better. Ramaphosa emerged as the true strategist.
A mere mortal
Ramaphosa is no Messiah, and when the post-Zuma champagne corks stop popping, South Africans need to assess him as a mere mortal. One who is inheriting a country laid almost as bare as the country Mandela inherited in 1994.
Ramaphosa has a massive job ahead of him, in trying to reignite national pride, self-belief, and mutual trust. He also has to salvage the ANC’s reputation and win the next election in 2019, no mean feat in itself. It would also be nice to win a match or two.
The man, rather than the Messiah, has shown he can move multiple chess pieces at once – and win. The last 10 days have seen him completely eclipse his enemies within, having defeated those without when he was elected ANC president in December. This will be a quiet president, in place of Zuma’s inane giggling and braggadocio that has gone. But as the saying goes, always watch the quiet ones…
South Africans are fond of debating whether public or private sector failings are the bigger problem. It does not take too long to realise that they are really talking about race.
This is evident as the country faces an unusual scandal – one involving a private company called Steinhoff. The multinational furniture company is in trouble after German investigators began looking into it, for allegedly doctoring financial information to mislead the markets.
This was not the first time fingers were pointed at a private company. Auditors KPMG have been accused of unethical practice on behalf of the Gupta family who are linked to President Jacob Zuma and are accused of using money to influence government appointments and policies. Media conglomerate Naspers is also facing corruption accusations. Its subsidiary MultiChoice is accused of paying large sums to the formerly Gupta-owned television channel ANN7 in the hope of influencing government decisions.
But Steinhoff stands out because it does most to shake the confidence of one side of the argument and to get the other claiming it is vindicated. For much of the past few years, corruption has been seen almost exclusively as a public sector problem. Attention has focused on Zuma and his relationship with the Guptas. The private sector (Gupta-owned firms excepted) has, by default, been painted as a corruption-free zone.
The KPMG and Naspers cases may involve prominent private firms, but are seen by the national debate as yet another sign of the Guptas’ baleful influence. The villains remain the same and so does the problem: public sector corruption.
Steinhoff is a different matter entirely. The state plays no role at all and the company is a pillar of the private economy. Its leadership is overwhelmingly white and its attitude to the post-apartheid government seems to range from indifference to scepticism.
No wonder that its failings have been gleefully seized upon by people who insist that private sector corruption is as big a problem as its public equivalent. Or that many of the people who usually insist that public corruption is the problem have reacted to Steinhoff with shock.
On the surface, this sounds like the standard debate in most democracies over the past few decades in which one side favours letting business do as it pleases and the other wants it to be reined in by the state. But, in a country in which whites remain dominant in private business while blacks largely control the government, it is really about the country’s racial divides.
Colour of merit
Apartheid was underpinned by strong beliefs in white superiority – these don’t simply melt away because political rules change. People are used to seeing one racial group in skilled jobs, giving orders to the other: inevitably, this becomes seen as natural and so being white is associated with merit, being black with lacking it.
Since 1994, when policies promoting black advancement in business and the professions were adopted, this is often expressed in the view that black people in senior positions are there because they were given a free pass by the system, not because they deserve it.
This way of thinking also shapes attitudes to government and business. For those used to the racial pecking order of the past, government is run by people who hold posts because they are black, not because they are competent. Business continues to be run mainly by people who were judged to be competent in the past and who are therefore assumed now to be honest and to know what they are doing. Calls to assign more government functions to businesses or business people are often a way of saying that white people or black people approved by them should be running the country.
This attitude is particularly evident in how people in the suburbs react to private monopolies or dominant corporations.
Government departments are almost always associated with waiting in long lines for surly officials who have no idea what they are doing. In most cases, this is a caricature; in some, the Department of Home Affairs passport office for example, it is flat wrong. But similar long waits, indifference to customers and incompetence at the dominant digital television corporation or one of the mobile phone companies is accepted cheerfully as normal business practice.
Delighted black voices
Black people are perfectly well aware of these attitudes. This is why those who insist that the private sector is as bad if not worse than its public equivalent are almost always black. And why many black voices are delighted at what has happened at Steinhoff because it shows that a pillar of white business can behave at least as badly as black government.
It also explains why many white people have reacted to Steinhoff with such shock – and why Steinhoff happened in the first place.
The editor of the country’s leading business daily, Tim Cohen, has pointed out that Steinhoff’s failings should not have been a surprise since several market analysts warned a while ago that something was amiss and were ignored. He offered some explanations but, given the realities described here, the most likely answer is that no-one believed the specialist nay-sayers because they assumed that a major white-owned company must know what it is doing and that the critics must have an axe to grind.
Cohen also ran into trouble on social media for suggesting that reduced capacity at state regulators allowed Steinhoff to happen. Predictably, black people felt (wrongly in his view) that they were being blamed for white business failings.
There is another explanation for the regulators’ inaction. It is that they were not eager to look into a large white-owned company because they feared that this would be seen as yet another case in which incompetent black people wanted to bully competent whites. It is standard in the South African debate that any attempt by government, however mild, to intervene in business is branded a threat to the market economy so it would hardly be surprising if regulators feared this.
Correcting wrong perceptions
The Steinhoff scandal would do South Africa a huge service if it made the point that corruption and mismanagement have nothing to do with race. It would also help if it alerted everyone in the marketplace to watch as carefully over private companies as they do over government departments.
But, given how entrenched racial attitudes are, it is more likely that it will be dismissed as a once-off freak by those who assume that white led business is always competent and as further evidence of white prejudice by black people reacting to the label often stuck to them. If that happens, some private businesses will continue to get away with behaviour which would never be tolerated in government.
South Africa and Morocco will resume diplomatic ties more than a decade after Morocco withdrew its ambassador from Pretoria, South African President Jacob Zuma said in a newspaper interview published on Sunday.
Morocco recalled its ambassador from South Africa in 2004 after former South African President Thabo Mbeki recognized a breakaway region in the Western Sahara, which Morocco claims as part of its territory.
"Morocco is an African nation and we need to have relations with them," Zuma told City Press in the interview. "We never had problems with them anyway; they were the first to withdraw diplomatic relations."
Zuma met Morocco's King Mohammed last week on the sidelines of an African Union-European Union summit.
"They felt that even if we differ on the Western Sahara issues, the two countries should have a relationship," Zuma said about Moroccan officials' position at the meeting.
South Africa's official government position - as re-affirmed by Zuma in one of his state of the nation addresses - is to support "self-determination and decolonization for the Western Sahara".
The decision to re-establish ties with Morocco is likely to go down badly with some members of South Africa's ruling African National Congress (ANC), of which Zuma is leader. The ANC - as one of Africa's oldest liberation movements - has long backed those seeking independence in the Western Sahara and has accused Morocco of occupying the region.
The ruling party said in a statement it had "unequivocal support for Western Sahara" but that this did not mean it harbored enmity towards Morocco.
"There is also no ANC policy that says South Africa should isolate Morocco," the statement said.
A spokesman for South Africa's foreign ministry could not be reached for comment on Sunday. Morocco has controlled most of the Western Sahara, which is rich in phosphates and has seen some initial oil exploration efforts, since 1975. A ceasefire in 1991 called for a referendum on self-determination for Western Sahara, but the vote has never taken place.
South African Deputy President Cyril Ramaphosa saw his lead over Nkosazana Dlamini-Zuma narrow in the race for the presidency of the ruling African National Congress as the party’s branch nomination process drew toward a close.
Ramaphosa has secured decisive endorsements from the Eastern Cape, Western Cape and Northern Cape, while Dlamini-Zuma was backed by an overwhelming majority in the North West and Free State, and won by a slim margin in Mpumalanga. The deputy president so far has 904 branches to 708 for Dlamini-Zuma, the former head of the African Union Commission.
The contest has divided the 105-year-old ANC like never before, with court challenges, allegations of rigging and outbreaks of violence marring the process of deciding who will attend and vote at the conference. The election has also paralyzed several government departments as officials delay decisions until they learn who the new leaders will be. The winner of the election at the conference to be held on Dec. 16-20 will be the party’s candidate in 2019, when Jacob Zuma is due to end his second term as President.
The remaining three provinces are due to announce their nominations over the next four days. Ramaphosa is likely to be endorsed by Limpopo and Gauteng, while Dlamini-Zuma has strong support in her home province of KwaZulu-Natal, which has the most ANC members.
Ninety percent of voting delegates will come from the branches, and the rest from the ANC’s leadership structures and leagues representing the youth, women and military veterans. While the branch nomination tallies are the best available indicator of who’s likely to win, they aren’t conclusive because some bigger branches are entitled to more than one delegate and there’s no guarantee members will vote as instructed.
Mpumalanga, which will send the second-most delegates to the elective conference and announced its tallies on Friday, is keeping its options open about who it will back, with almost half of its branches declining to name their candidate yet. It’s unclear how delegates from those branches will vote should no consensus be reached on who should succeed Zuma, meaning they could be a swing vote at the conference.
Dlamini-Zuma won the backing of the North West province as expected on Friday, with 291 branches endorsing her to 45 for Ramaphosa. The region is one of the provinces in a rural bloc known as the Premier League that has helped Zuma, her ex-husband, thwart challenges sparked by multiple scandals that prompted calls from within the party for him to resign.
Most investors favor Ramaphosa, 65, a lawyer, former labor union leader and one of the wealthiest black South Africans, who has pledged to revive the ailing economy, reduce a 28 percent unemployment rate and combat corruption if elected. Zuma’s preferred successor is Dlamini-Zuma, 68, who has echoed his call for “radical economic transformation” to place more of the country’s wealth in the hands of the black majority.
Imports from South Africa grew by $107 million (Sh11 billion) in the first eight months of the year that saw Africa’s most industrialised economy overtake the United States in sales to Kenya.
South Africa sold goods worth $414 million (Sh42.7 billion) to Nairobi in the eight-month period, a 34 per cent growth from $307 million (Sh31.7 billion) in a similar period a year earlier. The faster growth in sales saw Pretoria displace the US to emerge sixth biggest seller of commodities to Kenya.
South Africa is the most industrialised and diverse economy in the continent and is the top seller to Kenya among African countries. It sells to Nairobi goods such as wines and other alcoholic drinks, cars as well as spare parts, oil lubricants and machinery.
Imports from the US grew to Sh40.2 billion in the eight-month window, from $331 million (Sh34.2 billion), slipping one position behind South Africa on Nairobi’s import table, data from Kenya National Bureau of Statistics (KNBS) shows.
But Kenya’s exports to South Africa remain paltry, at less than $48 million (Sh5 billion) in the period with the country not featuring among the top 11 buyers of goods from Nairobi, the KNBS data shows. South African companies with operations in Kenya include MultiChoice, SABMiller, and Massmart (Game brand) while thousands of Kenyans are frequent travellers to South Africa for business and leisure.
Kenya has long expressed discomfort with the many hurdles its citizens travelling to South Africa continue to face with little response from Pretoria.
Ideally, Kenya and South Africa are supposed to be dealing with each other under the principle of reciprocity — meaning that benefits extended by one country are mirrored by the other. The KNBS data shows China remains the biggest seller of goods to Nairobi, having shipped in Sh273 billion worth of goods in the year to August, ahead of second-placed India (Sh117 billion).