- Paul Berkowitz
On Tuesday the National Assembly voted to recommend that President Jacob Zuma appoint Vuma Mashinini as the new commissioner on the Independent Electoral Commission. While Mashinini appears to have a strong track record with elections, it’s the fact he has been a special advisor to Zuma that suggests Zuma is likely to assent. The disturbing aspect to this is not so much that Mashinini may be ‘Zuma’s man’ but that all the opposition parties object to this appointment. It could bring us closer to a day when opposition parties may decide to reject election results, or refuse to recognise the legitimacy of the body that runs them. But it also raises other questions, about how should we appoint people who need to be neutral to run the institutions that we need to run our democracy. By STEPHEN GROOTES.
After the State Security Agency joined the long line of spy shops to become a laughing stock, the government is fighting back. On Thursday afternoon, they warned us of an espionage plot hatched by a CIA superspy team comprising Julius Malema, Lindiwe Mazibiuko and Thuli Madonsela. Where did they gather their 'intelligence'? Try a fringe website called Africa Intelligence Leaks, which sports the (perhaps ironic) tagline, 'Always True Post'. RICHARD POPLAK holds his nose and dives in.
Deputy President Cyril Ramaphosa was supposed to be the good guy in the signal jamming fiasco at the State of the Nation Address in Parliament last month. He was the one who intervened and got the Minister of State Security to get someone to switch the scrambling device off. But answering questions in Parliament on Wednesday, Ramaphosa adopted the default government position of evading questions instead of dealing with the issues head-on and moving past them. Now the signal-jamming incident will be yet another issue left to fester, and opposition parties will have yet another stick with which to beat the ANC and government. But perhaps there is more to the story. By RANJENI MUNUSAMY.
We all know how it will end; it is just the plot of the penultimate scene that keeps changing. If Cosatu were a theatre production, the audience would have long left the auditorium and the protagonists would still be on stage engaged in a protracted build-up to the final showdown that will eventually leave the entire cast lying lifeless on stage. At this week’s Cosatu central executive committee, there will be another attempt to boot Zwelinzima Vavi out of the federation – this time with Vavi himself providing the basis for his ejection. The dominant faction in Cosatu is also trying to admit a new metalworkers union as an affiliate to replace the expelled Numsa. This is a story in desperate need of a grand finale. By RANJENI MUNUSAMY.
While the persistent rhetoric from President Jacob Zuma is that government is serious about tackling corruption, the reality is whistleblowers in this country risk their lives and face other dire consequences for doing so. The Open Democracy Advice Centre has documented the harrowing stories of ten South African whisteblowers in an attempt to highlight their experiences and identify key policy and legislative changes necessary to create a safe and just environment for these citizen heroes. By MARIANNE THAMM.
As the Port Elizabeth High Court hears the case against officials at St. Albans Prison, details emerge around highly irregular behaviours in searching procedures. Prisoners accused of “poking” – or hiding knives on their person – were allegedly subjected to grievous torture in order to reveal their weapons. By CAROLYN RAPHAELY.
In the month since of a spate of violence aimed at foreign shopkeepers ripped through Gauteng, South Africans have, once again, been asking whether so-called “xenophobic violence” is on the verge of exploding. The United Nations Refugee Agency (UNHCR) certainly thinks so, warning of “numerous and ongoing attacks on refugees and foreign nationals.” RICHARD POPLAK visited Protea South to see how one Soweto location is dealing with a problem that refuses easy definitions.
Some meanings of the word xenophobia relate it to a hatred of foreigners, something psychological that erupts like a phobia. But those who are targeted are in the main foreign people who often live peacefully and amicably in South African communities, in some cases speaking the language of the communities with whom they stay. It is usually the poorest and most vulnerable who come under attack, but an attack on these people is ultimately an attack on us all. By RAYMOND SUTTNER.
From refusing to make a submission to the Truth and Reconciliation Commission about its complicity in propping up Apartheid to forcing journalists to endorse the National Party as part of their employment contracts, Naspers has remarkably survived its odious past. Not only survived, but thrived, as one of the 21st Century’s biggest global media players. In a recently published book, former arts journalist Gabriël Bothma explores how some writers and editors attempted to navigate the dubious ideology and slavish propaganda. By MARIANNE THAMM.
It must now surely be official. With a whimper rather than a bang, Cosatu is an ex-trade union federation; it has shuffled off its mortal coil. It’s over. Now, all that’s left is the shouting, even if the struggling and noise-making will continue for some time. But not much more than that - shouting. By STEPHEN GROOTES.
From his family home to the national intelligence service, there have been threats and security breaches that have exposed President Jacob Zuma and the country to indefinite dangers. Zuma, the former head of ANC intelligence, was once hyper-vigilant on issues of security and careful whom he entrusted with intelligence and security matters. However, paranoia and ANC factional battles led to a purge of experienced personnel in the security services, resulting in chaos and amateur-grade manoeuvres, some of which have recently been exposed. As Zuma skids towards lame-duck status, the pool of information he relies on is seemingly getting smaller, and the people fewer. By RANJENI MUNUSAMY.
Within the life of our loud and rambunctious democracy, the rules that most countries obey are often ignored. But there are some that still matter; that matter to all of us. And those are mediated, in the end, by the Independent Electoral Commission. Up until this point, it’s been an institution seen as so important, and so critical to our democracy, that there has generally been some sort of consensus on who should be a part of it, with the net result of being a highly respected part of our political framework. The headlines are now screaming two separate and unrelated developments: A ‘Zuma man’ is being nominated as a new commissioner, and an ‘independent member’ is resigning. The truth is, it is probably too early for panic – for now. By STEPHEN GROOTES.
On Friday 27 February GroundUp published a whistleblowers' account of the state of the Free State health system, which was republished in Daily Maverick. Before publishing, GroundUp sent a list of questions to the Free State Department of Health and the office of Premier Ace Magashule. Here is a response written by MONDLI MVAMBI of the health department and MAKALO MOHALE of the premier's office, which, in the interests of fair debate, Daily Maverick is publishing in full.
Doctors working in the Free State public health system have written a devastating indictment of MEC for Health Benny Malakoane as well as Premier Ace Magashule. They describe how through a combination of ineptitude, corruption and neglect the Free State Health system has been brought close to collapse. By GROUNDUP.
Former national director of public prosecutions, Advocate Vusi Pikoli, is accustomed to finding himself in heavy-duty political crossfire. In December he relocated to Cape Town to take up a pioneering position as the country’s first police ombudsman. Pikoli is nobody’s fool and is determined to stake out the independence of his office in spite of charges that his appointment is part of some sort of political payback. By MARIANNE THAMM.
A meeting held by Soweto business owners to discuss foreign-owned businesses operating in the area saw tempers flare as the agenda focused only on how to expel them. When one of the locals received a phone call saying his sister had been assaulted by a Somali shop owners, a mob formed which then rampaged through Snake Park and Braamfischerville, torching foreign-owned stores and setting one man alight. BHEKI C SIMELANE was there.
There’s been a lot of discussion over the course of the week regarding the dramatically named “Spy Cables” [insert own theme music and/or ‘War on Spy Cables’ CNN graphics here]. As they’ve dribbled out via Al Jazeera and The Guardian, we ask, “What do the documents mean?” Every adult South African knows the Deep State spies on citizens as a matter of routine. Well, here’s a little tale from the depths of the Deep State – another reminder that your government is not your brother, but your Big Brother. By RICHARD POPLAK.
Finance Minister Nhlanhla Nene’s maiden budget produced some nasty news for better-off South Africans. In terms of provinces, government departments and entities, though, who gets which slice of the pie? REBECCA DAVIS takes a look at some of the stand-out – or just slightly interesting – facts and figures.
It could not have been easy having to proclaim the end of the good times to South Africans. It was Finance Minister Nhlanhla Nene’s first spin of the Budget wheel, a task performed adeptly by his predecessors as ANC finance ministers, Trevor Manuel and Pravin Gordhan. Unlike Manuel and Gordhan, Nene had to be the bad guy, announcing, among other things, the first tax hike since 1995 and a massive increase in fuel levies. It is clear that fiscal discipline and more squeezing of the taxpayer will have to define his term in office. Nene is not a political heavyweight, and the success of his Budget is entirely dependent on his colleagues and the government system taking him seriously. By RANJENI MUNUSAMY.
Finance Minister Nhanhla Nene announced at a pre-Budget media briefing on Wednesday that he had appointed an “advisory committee” into SARS’ governance headed by a retired judge. The objective is for an independent committee to rise above the factionalism currently afflicting South Africa’s embattled tax-collecting body. This welcome news follows months of scandal plaguing the South African Revenue Service involving high-ranking officials. By RANJENI MUNUSAMY and REBECCA DAVIS.
Though government says an increase in personal taxation will not amount to “too much pain”, the bad news is that income tax rates will be raised by one percentage point for all taxpayers earning more than R181,900 a year. The very bad news is that the total fuel levy will increase by 80.5 cents a litre from April. The exceptionally bad news is that it will be more costly to drown your financial woes as sin taxes are up again. Then there’s a proposed increase in the electricity levy. Despite the tough economic outlook, the 2015 Budget has less austerity talk but tighter fiscal discipline matched with some relief for the poor. By RANJENI MUNUSAMY and REBECCA DAVIS.
On Sunday, it was reported that an ANC politician who chairs the National Council of Provinces committee tasked with dealing with women’s issues is being investigated for allegedly beating up his ex-lover. On Tuesday, it was reported that a DA deputy shadow minister has had a sexual harassment charge laid against him. A leading figure within the EFF caucus in the Gauteng legislature remains a man previously fired from a social justice organisation over a rape charge. When will our leaders start leading by example? By REBECCA DAVIS.
As if Johannesburg’s reputation wasn’t bad enough, we have now learned that it teems with spooks watching spies watching terror suspects watching DStv. The City of Gold is the Eldorado of Espionage, a hive of double-, triple-, quadruple-crossing agents from countries across the world, all trying to make sense of the senselessness that is the Global War on Terror. But why are we reading the Spy Cables now? Who leaked them? And why does it feel like South Africa is a pawn in a much bigger geo-political game? By RICHARD POPLAK.