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  • Morgan Tsvangirai remembered: brave, heroic, flawed

    By Tony | February 16, 2018

    Morgan Tsvangirai was brave, to many heroic, and a great human rights defender, he also had flaws.

    Morgan Tsvangirai was a miner who became a trade union leader who challenged the economic policies of Robert Mugabe and the ruling Zanu PF in the mid-1990s. The economic policies he challenged was the economic structural adjustment programme pushed on Zimbabwe by the IMF which was causing increasing hardship, reducing employment, weakening public services. Morgan Tsvangirai’s opposition to these policies led him to become increasingly critical of the authoritarian rule of Robert Mugabe who made no secret of his wish for Zimbabwe to be a one party state and for the president to have greater powers. Tsvangirai became a leader of the National Constitutional Assembly (NCA) a civil society body comprising trade unions, churches and ngos which argued for a more citizens rights based constitution and against proposals for a more centralised and controlling state. Out of the NCA a new political party, the Movement for Democratic Change (MDC) emerged and Morgan Tsvangirai became its life-long leader.

    Morgan Tsvangirai and the MDC was the biggest political challenge Mugabe and Zanu PF had faced since independence in 1980. Tsvangirai was badly beaten, arrested, harassed, and attempts were made on his life. He remained steadfast in his support for human rights, a more inclusive, open, fairer Zimbabwe. He was almost certainly deprived of being President of Zimbabwe by electoral fraud, if not in 2002 then in 2008.

    The first round of the 2008 presidential election showed he had a commanding, many thought decisive lead but the announcement of the result was mysteriously delayed for over a week. It was eventually announced Tsvangirai had 48% and Mugabe 43% meaning there would have to be a run-off. Zimbabwe then experienced its worst violence since the massacres in the mid-1980s. The MDC was not allowed to organise or campaign, there were killings, disappearances, arrests and harassment. Tsvangirai felt he had no option but to withdraw leaving Mugabe as the sole candidate.

    Regional mediation by Thabo Mbeki, then president of South Africa, led to the formation of an inclusive government in 2009 with Tsvangirai as Prime Minister and Mugabe as President. Zanu PF used the period 2008-2013 to regroup, re-organise and in government Tsvangirai and other MDC ministers found the institutions of the state were so politicised in support of Zanu PF they lacked real power.

    In 2006 MDC witnessed its first major split. Many blamed Tsvangirai for this saying he initially showed no leadership on a key issue and it was only when the MDC conference decided its position did he come out against and say he would not accept it. He took a majority of members with him and hence the MDC he led became MDC T (the T is for Tsvangirai). Without that split a united MDC may have won the 2008 election so decisively it could not have been stolen from it.  After the MDC lost quite heavily in 2013 Tsvangirai would not countenance stepping aside and further splits occurred. The opposition to Zanu PF became more fragmented and its main challenge became its internal politics.

    In the past year however the three main MDC groupings signed a unity pact and agreed Tsvangirai would be their candidate for President. It was clear though that he was seriously ill. He had cancer but claimed his treatment was working. He was convinced he was the only one who could defeat Mugabe and even after Mugabe was forced from office Tsvangirai thought he was the only one who stood a chance of winning against Zanu PF. He had charismatic appeal especially to youth in urban areas. They admired his bravery, his courage, his willingness to take on Mugabe. In his last few months he would not allow the MDC to discuss and agree on a successor. There is a real risk that the MDC (T) will split into competing factions.

    Morgan Tsvangirai will be remembered, celebrated, for his leadership on human rights, against corrupt and authoritarian rule, for a more inclusive Zimbabwe. There will though also be questions about his leadership style and the unanswerable what if, the MDC had not split? The elections had not been rigged?

    Morgan Tsvangirai changed Zimbabwe. He changed its politics. He refused to accept authoritarian rule. He gave Zimbabweans hope and courage.

    Morgan Tsvangirai born 10 March 1952 died 14 February 2018.

    Topics: Features, News | No Comments »

    South Africa: a new president.

    By ACTSA | February 14, 2018

    The South African parliament will elect a new President on Thursday 15 February following Jacob Zuma’s resignation with immediate effect late on Wednesday 14 February.

    The ruling ANC  decided to recall Jacob Zuma, effectively calling on him to resign,  making it clear if he did they would  table a motion of no confidence in him to be debated in parliament on Thursday 15 February.

    It is clearly upto the ANC who is their leader and candidate for president and it is clearly up to South Africans to decide who is the President of South Africa.

    What is of concern of those who see themselves as friends of democratic South Africa particularly those who supported the struggle against apartheid which was a denial of economic as well as political rights is whoever is President South Africa needs to preside over a government that will reduce poverty and inequality, that will enable more citizens to have a decent job, that improves services.  The government must root out corruption. It must uphold human rights, eliminate discrimination and ensure the institutions of the state serve all its citizens.

    Many of those non-South Africans who supported the struggle against apartheid, led heroically by South Africans feel a stake in democratic South Africa. They have hopes and aspirations for a South Africa which deals with the terrible legacy of apartheid and colonialism. They celebrate with South Africans a free democratic, non-racist and non-sexist South Africa. They hope and want South Africa to reduce poverty, inequality, uphold and improve rights. This is the challenge for Cyril Ramaphosa who will be elected as democratic South Africa’s fifth president.

    Topics: News | No Comments »

    Read our latest article in The South African – Will mine workers with silicosis and tuberculosis finally achieve justice?

    By ACTSA | February 9, 2018

    The campaign for justice for Southern African ex-mineworkers with silicosis and tuberculosis may be coming to an end. But the mining companies involved have proved that they cannot be trusted.

    Read our latest article published in The South African,  written by our Senior Campaigns Officer Sunit Bagree,

    Topics: News, News from ACTSA | No Comments »

    Hugh Masekela 1939 – 2018, A great musician and great man

    By Tony | January 23, 2018

    Hugh Masekela was a great musician. He wrote and performed wonderful and inspiring music. He entertained millions. He was also respected and liked by millions for his music and his humanity. Hugh Masekela typified the best of South Africans. He refused to be classed as inferior to white South Africans. He rejected that the apartheid regime tried to deny him and a majority of South Africans citizenship of their own country. He fought against apartheid through his music, through his rejection of racism and through his support for a democratic non-racist and non-sexist South Africa. His music gave pleasure not only to millions of South Africans but millions more around the world. He also gave a voice to those denied it, to the black southern Africans migrating to work in the mines of South Africa, to those living in Soweto and through his work and example showed a different, better, inclusive and more equal South Africa is not desirable but achievable.

    Hugh Masekela was given his first trumpet by Archbishop Trevor Huddleston who later became the President of the Anti-Apartheid Movement and ACTSA’s founding patron. Hugh never forgot this and one of the last times I saw him perform was in London at St James Piccadilly where Archbishop Trevor once lived and in a benefit for the Trevor Huddleston Foundation. Hugh gave a virtuoso performance. I was glad I was there on the evening and now looking back I am even gladder I went.  It was a wonderful concert. I also saw him perform that year in Glasgow to mark International Mandela Day which was fitting as Glasgow was the first city in the world to award Nelson Mandela Freedom of the City.

    The news of Hugh’s death is a sad one but we give thanks for the gift of Hugh Masekela. He was a great musician, performer and great man. He has enriched the lives of millions. He will be missed, most of all by his family but also by many others but he will not be forgotten, his life, values and his music will continue to be celebrated.

    Topics: Features, News | 1 Comment »

    Lord Hain alleges that UK based companies have aided and abetted money laundering, corruption and state capture in South Africa.

    By Tony | January 18, 2018

    Lord Hain alleges that UK based companies have aided and abetted money laundering, corruption and state capture in South Africa.

    Hogan Lovells a willingly gullible or malevolent accomplice?

    Lord Peter Hain, anti-apartheid activist, supporter of democratic South Africa and ACTSA honorary vice president speaking in the UK House of Lords on the 15 January lamented that firms with their H.Q in the UK have allegedly supported money laundering and corruption in South Africa. Lord Hain mentioned a number of firms but focused his contribution on the law firm Hogan Lovells which he said was either a willingly gullible or malevolent accomplice in their investigation into the Deputy Head of the South Africa Revenue Service (SARS) Jonas Makwakwa.

    In May 2016 the Financial Intelligence Centre, South Africa’s Financial Crime regulator ordered SARS to establish whether several “suspicious and unusual cash deposits and payments” into the accounts of Makwakwa and his girlfriend, Kelly-Ann Elskie, were the “proceeds of crime and/or money laundering”. It is reported R1.7 million (about £200,000) had been paid into their bank accounts over a six-year period. The Head of the South Africa Revenue Service Tom Monyane commissioned an independent review by the law firm Hogan Lovells. In October 2017 Tom Monyane reinstated Jonas Makwakwa saying that Hogan Lovells had cleared Jonas Makwakwa of all charges.

    Lord Hain alleges that in the process of the investigation its terms of reference were significantly narrowed which Hogan Lovell seems to have accepted. Lord Hain also alleges the law firm did not focus on allegations of money laundering and possible corruption, that they did not challenge a report by Price Waterhouse Coopers not being made available to them and they did not include evidence from an investigation by a specialist police unit – the Hawks. Lord Hain has called on the Solicitors Regulatory Authority (SRA) to investigate the conduct of Hogan Lovells with a view to taking action against them.

    Hogan Lovells state that Lord Hain’s accusations against them are without foundation.

    Topics: News | No Comments »

    Angola to replace Kwanza to Dollar currency peg with exchange rate band

    By Robyn | January 17, 2018

    Angola’s central bank have announced plans to ditch the pegging of the Kwanza with the US dollar.  At the close of 2017 the formal exchange rate of Kwanza to US Dollar was pegged at 166:1, however the parallel market rate was nearly triple this this at 495:1. The central bank cited worsening shortages of foreign currency reserves and the imbalance between supply and demand amongst the reasons for the change in policy. Foreign currency reserves have rapidly depleted in recent years, hit hard by the crash in oil prices in 2014 which provided a key source of foreign currency.  Reserves are thought to have halved since 2013 to approximately $14 billion. The currency peg is to be replaced by a trading band which will maintain the value of the Kwanza within a set range. The parameters of the trading band were yet to be announced at the time of printing.

    Topics: News | No Comments »

    Dos Santos family under fire in Angola’s big business: A new path for Angola?

    By Robyn | January 12, 2018

    Since taking presidency in September 2017 President João Lourenço has made several high-level dismissals at a number of state-owned businesses. The most high profile of these saw the removal of his predecessor’s daughter, Isabel dos Santos, from her position as head of state owned oil company Sonangol in November. Ms dos Santos had been at the helm of the state owned oil company since June 2016, after being appointed to the role by presidential decree by her father. The dismissal came as a surprise to many, seemingly including Dos Santos herself as she stated to UK newspaper the Financial Terms that she intended to see out her five year term as President of the board at Sonangol less than a month earlier. She has been replaced by Carlos Saturnino, former Secretary of State for Oil. Dos Santos is regularly cited as the richest woman in Africa, but is generally unpopular in Angola, seen to have gained wealth via her father’s nepotism. Critics of the Dos Santos family’s extensive sphere of influence have praised the move as a bold indication that Mr Lourenço plans to carve out his own path as President. Indeed, her removal was not the only dismissal to effect the former president’s circle of familial influence.

    Lourenço also closed down government communications department GRECIMA, which held lucrative contracts with an enterprise co-owned by Welwitschia dos Santos, another of the former president’s daughters. The business interests of Jose Filomeno dos Santos have similarly come under fire, as the new administration suspended a contract with food testing laboratory Bromangol, a business associated with the eldest dos Santos son. At present Jose Filomeno dos Santos remains head of Angola’s sovereign wealth fund, although Mr Lourenço has suggested this may be subject to change pending the results of an external enquiry into the fund’s performance and governance.

    Given that President Lourenço was seemingly chosen and anointed by his predecessor some critics posited the Dos Santos dynasty would remain untouched by the new President. Consequently the unexpected redistribution of power has been welcomed by many Angolans, and is seen to represent a commitment to campaign promises to tackle corruption and cronyism. However, others are sceptical about the reshuffling of power positions, suggesting this is simply the prelude to the establishment of new patronage networks.  Only time will tell to what extent Lourenço’s actions signal commitment to development or an exercise to consolidate power.

    Topics: Features, News | No Comments »

    Cyril Ramaphosa elected the new president of the ANC

    By Tony | December 18, 2017

    Cyril Ramaphosa has been elected as the new President of the African National Congress (ANC) taking over from Jacob Zuma who stood down but who remains as President of South Africa until national elections in 2019 unless the ANC decides to recall him as it did his predecessor Thabo Mbeki.

    Cyril Ramaphosa will be the ANC candidate for President in 2019. The ANC got 62% in the national elections in 2014 and 54% in local government elections in 2016. Many commentators now expect that Cyril Ramaphosa will become the next President of South Africa. Cyril Ramaphosa came to prominence as a trade union leader in the 1980s and a leader of the United Democratic Front.

    In the earlier 1990s he was a key person in the negotiations for South Africa to become a democracy. It has been widely reported that he was Nelson Mandela’s preference to succeed him as President. The ANC chose Thabo Mbeki and Cyril Ramaphosa left a leading role in politics and became a successful businessman. He was a member of the board of Lonmin at the time of the Marikana massacre. He became Deputy President of the ANC in 2012 and Deputy President of the country in 2014.

    In other elections for the “top six” positions in the National Executive Council (NEC):

    - David Mabuza Premier of Mpumalanga province was elected Deputy President
    Gwede Mantashe, outgoing General Secretary was elected National Chairperson of the ANC
    - Ace Magashule, Premier of the Free State province was elected Secretary General by 24 votes.
    - Paul Mashatile was elected Treasurer General
    - Jessie Duarte was re-elected Deputy Secretary General.

    The ANC elective conference will now elect the 80 person National Executive.

    Topics: News | 1 Comment »

    ACTSA article on Swaziland in The South African

    By ACTSA | December 13, 2017

    ACTSA’s article, ‘Why Bother with a Country Like Swaziland?’ has been published in The South African. It may be accessed here.

    Topics: News, News from ACTSA | No Comments »

    Short video about Swaziland

    By ACTSA | December 6, 2017

    Swazis in Norway, including the pro-democracy political activist Bheki Dlamini, have worked with the Workers’ Youth League (AUF), a Norwegian political youth organisation, to produce a short (3 minutes) video about the situation in Swaziland. The video may be viewed here. The views expressed in this video are not necessarily those of ACTSA.

    Topics: News | No Comments »

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