The African Elections Expert

Democracy in Rising Africa

Coalition government or sleeping with the devil? — August 5, 2016

Coalition government or sleeping with the devil?

What are the compelling asks that the EFF needs to take forward in a coalition with either the ANC or DA?

In a past article comparing the political strategies of the; ANC, DA and EFF Lulu White Raheem illustrated the big 3 as playing different ball games in their courting of public votes. In its emergence as the ultimate kingmaker, the EFF is strategically positioned to give either the ANC or DA the push they require for an outright majority in the battleground metros of Tshwane and Johannesburg. However, in its careful negotiation the EFF needs to be able to draw a line on the following contentious issues;

– Prioritising the vulnerable:

The EFF’s presence in parliament was characterized by it seeking accountability and the representation of working class issues. These have included; seeking legislative reform in the mining, retailing, construction, farming and manufacturing industries that will ensure that workers are compensated decent living wages.

– Real economic equity:

The ANC-led government implanted legislation that attempted to balance the scales on equality such as; Broad Bases Black Economic Equity act for businesses and both the Employment Equity Act and Labour Relations Act for employees. However, this created wealth for the politically connected and elite. The country’s majority is still seen to be poorer and disadvantaged. The EFF’s thoughts on these acts have included a promise to implement better BEE and Affirmative Action (AA). Concrete analysis on how these acts can be improved for better implementation was not offered, however, the fine details will have to be panned out as other political parties court EFF’s powerful position.

– Access to education

2015 ended with widespread student movement protests and the call against an increase in university fees. This has positioned the state of tertiary education as being critical to the country’s development, and perhaps, on a micro level, the ability for political parties to secure the youth vote.

In recognizing that there are gifted individuals, who lack means to access tertiary education, the EFF has promised to; send 15 000 students to the country’s best universities; increase capacity at universities; enroll more students at universities and increase the attainment of tertiary qualifications.

In considering their choice for the local elections, the electorate has shown substantive interrogation of manifestos and the track record of past delivery, the local elections have shown that people have voted on the priorities that impact their livelihoods and improve the socio-economic politics of the country. These elections require the political leaders to account to the populace on how these promises will be delivered and lives systematically improved. People have shown that they are not only voting for their current situation but the betterment of their children and future generation’s situations.

“These elections are going to go down as the most highly contested elections, possibly just as highly contested as the very first democratic elections – the stakes are quite high this time around, people want to hold the seating government and the opposition parties accountable over the last 22 years or so.” – Lulu White-Raheem, African Election Expert, 3 August 2016 CNBC Africa panel discussion

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Youth Day | Robust student movements continue to shape our democracy — June 15, 2016

Youth Day | Robust student movements continue to shape our democracy

As we approach Youth day and look at the role played by today’s youth in current affairs it is, clear that the youth continues to play a critical role in defining the country’s course of democracy.

In celebrating Fort Hare University’s centenary, one is offered an unprecedented opportunity to reflect on the manner in which other tertiary institutions are creating a new chapter of our history. Fort Hare is an institution known for making a significant contribution to the development and shaping of access to tertiary education for the disenfranchised during Apartheid. Similarly, institutions are able to contribute to the development and shaping of democracy, for the currently disenfranchised, during this democratic dispensation.

Fort Hare took pride in extracting the most liberating, enriching and valuable elements from history, the seeds of a more tolerant South Africa that reflected the brown population of South Africa, in the context of racial segregation. The institution has been etched into history as a result of the vibrant and politically active student movement. Fort Hare’s activism and success are symbolised by thought leaders such as; Oliver Tambo, Govan Mbeki, Nelson Mandela, Robert Sobukwe, Herbert Chitepo, Charles Njonja and Robert Mugabe – individuals who made a significant impact in their respective countries.

Currently, student movements continue to highlight political issues. Their ability to raise public attention, when there is an undercurrent of discontent, has the potential to; create, destabilise and even defeat regimes. They are drivers of the change in public discourse.

The relevance of student movements in reform and changing of status quo

The power of the student movement, in South Africa, was evident during the 2015 “FeesMustFall” campaigns that led to a moratorium on all fee increments across public universities. The successful petitioning for various colonial leaders’ statues to be removed from campuses, starting with the “RhodesMustFall” campaign was another prominent example. Students continue to bring to the fore previously side-lined issues such as gender representation in power structures, transformation at previously white universities; the recent introduction of gender-sensitive toilets in Wits university to accommodate transgendered students; better access to NSFAS funding in institutions of higher learning such as Technical Vocational Education and Training colleges are some examples.

The existence and relevance of Student Representative Councils (SRC) and other student structures have forced transparency and accountability in governance. The coming local elections will likely see the voice of the youth becoming a louder and resounding voice of change. It should be every political party to ensure the capture of the youth, thus influencing and aligning to the needs of the youth to their political mandate. Political parties unable to find strategies and techniques that will successfully resonate with the youth voters will lose relevance. Parties need to strongly assert themselves in finding ways to tap into the broader societal grievances that plague the youth.

The student movement of South Africa, through the SRC and other youth structures, has a new role. This is to; redefine, reshape and move forward the narrative of former student leaders.  Instead of fighting for liberation and freedom, the current student movement must seek to reposition itself, as empowered change agents in the political, economic, cultural and social revolution that is unfolding in the country. With the courage and willingness shown by South Africa’s current youth one is given hope that our hard-won democracy, is in good hands and can realise more benefits for our country as a whole.

How effective are transformation efforts at Board of Trustee in Pension Fund and Provident Funds? — June 9, 2016

How effective are transformation efforts at Board of Trustee in Pension Fund and Provident Funds?

More than 22 years ago, South Africa defied expectations and successfully transformed the bitter and nasty legacy of apartheid through the power of the ballot, ushering in a new democratic government that is free of racial injustices.

Despite the country’s significant progress in the provision of socio-economic and essential services such as free housing, access to basic education, access to institutions of higher learning, improved health care, electricity and water etc, efforts to reduce historical imbalances and building a more inclusive economy are still hampered by a lack of transformation specifically in the private sector.

Whilst it is true that one cannot give enough emphasis on the importance of a thriving private sector in order to have sustainable economic growth and development in the country, it is essentially just as important to take note and redress the inequitable ownership and capture of the economy, which unfortunately is still in the hands of minorities.   With the high rate of unemployment in the country, the call for economic freedom and economic redress has started become louder and louder.

Albeit, government has gone to great detail to ensure that transformation takes place through legislation such as Employment Equity Act to correct imbalances in the workplace, Broad Based Black Economic Empowerment to bring about transformation in the business sector, the Pension Fund Act and Medical Scheme’s Act which both advocate for transformation of board of trustees.  In practise, transformation is still very much a dream for many organisations.

In the Pension and Provident Fund sector, for instance, the government placed the responsibility of transformation on the Principal Officers of the Fund, who in practice are still accountable and report to a Chief Financial Officer or Chief Executive Officer of that particular fund.   Due to these workplace dynamics, one may argue, that the limitation of power that Principal Officers may experience in the workplace (the fund), could be a huge hindrance for transformation.

According to the Deputy Dean for Research and Post Graduate studies in the Faculty of Economic Management Sciences at UP, Prof Nkomo, organisational culture in companies are not neutral spaces and are typically formed and shaped by the values of the dominant group.  This means that the continued “hoarding” of positions in boards of trustees and executive directorship at board level could well be an indirect hindrance to the advancement of black executives in these top positions, particularly in the private sector

In fact according to a statement issued by the Department of Labour in June 2015, white male dominance to top and senior management positions, was still firmly at 70%, with the remaining 30% shared among Indians, coloureds and black professionals.  According to the stats the biggest transformation in these senior positions for black professionals still occurred largely in the public/ government sector.

One is inclined to ask the question the type of efforts Principal Officers can make to ensure that the principles of transformation are echoed in the fund and within their different workplaces.

Current legislation which makes provision for transformation is often found in Employment Equity Act which manages Employer and Employee relations and provides a quota system that almost urges private companies to ensure that they at least meet the minimum statistics required to ensure compliance where affirmative action and employment equity is concerned.  However, the same cannot be said about the election or appointment of members of the board of trustees or executive or non-executive directors of the company.   This oversight has left an almost subtle barrier which continues to maintain inequality at that level.

By this factor alone, one can assert that there is no real transformation in the boardroom, where the real decisions are made.  In these board meetings, there are still persistent effects of what may be labelled racism and oppression; and a strict maintenance of the white male dominance status quo, with the only other representative being from a member of a union, if any. This could possibly offer the reason why there is still such a strong dominance of the white male in top management positions in companies.

In conclusion, transformation cannot be effected from the bottom up.  Though one may argue that a more legislated approach the achieving this transformation may be required at that level of leadership, it is important to note that there has to be concerted effort from the executive management and directorship of the company.

Principal Officers are required to be mandated to fulfil the duties and obligations of their roles without the fear of intimidation from their superiors in the execution of the transformation of the board.  Once the board transformed, it is only a matter of time before the top level executive is transformed to reflect the true demographics of the country.

Democracy and governance for Africans, by Africans — May 25, 2016

Democracy and governance for Africans, by Africans

This Africa month, one must consider the possibility of democracy and governance for Africa, determined by Africans. Only Africans can understand the complexities and needs of its electorate, whilst maintaining a democracy that is characterised by changing dynamics.

Democracy is good for the continent. The introduction of multi-party politics has ensured that the appetite for coups has been limited. In addition, elections offer a better and peaceful method in which leadership can change, on the continent, bringing about stability, democratic and economic development. However, this does not mean that democracy, in its current form, is the best alternative for the Africa. Instead, the current brand of democracy is one which has been parachuted into Africa and dictated upon states. It is a democracy that is measured by foreign standards. This is a result of the fact that Africa does not have a barometer which it can use to determine the checks and balances that may be applicable to the African story. Therefore, barometers that are used, such as the Democracy Barometer; which is funded by the Swiss National Science Foundation and is a collaboration between the University of Zurich and the Social Science Research Centre of Berlin, skews the West’s view of democracy as expressed in the African content.

 Democracy under neo – colonial circumstances

As the continent continues to include democracy, the rule of law and good governance in its narrative, it should not shy away from neo-colonial influences that are maintained through the planting and supporting of puppet leaders. For example, in Francophone countries, one can observe how commonplace it is for neo-colonists to support “puppet leaders” who serve their interest more than those of their citizens. Countries such as the DRC, Congo Brazzaville are in the clutches of French influence, whilst the citizens of these countries remain in poor conditions with little infrastructure and limited economic growth. The economy in most of these countries remains in dire straits, with the franc being the currency of choice. The infrastructure is unmaintained and dilapidated. Citizens live below poverty lines, with little hope for economic reform and emancipation. The African Union is expected to monitor these tendencies and take corrective action in ensuring that African countries are released from the controls of neo-colonialism.

Unabated interference of the West in African elections

During both the 2007 and 2013 elections, Western interference in the Kenyan elections was evident in the; financial investment and support towards a particular result. However, failure to garner intended outcomes left the West highly disappointed after the March 2013 elections. This dynamic was also evident during the 2013 presidential elections in Zimbabwe. Despite elections being hailed as free and fair, by the African Union Observers, the West remained adamant, through their various observer missions, that the elections were rigged and not a true reflection of the electorate choices.

Western countries cannot resist the neo-colonial urge of knowing what is good for Africans. Even when the implications are the support of atrocities against citizens through the influence of electing leaders who maintain a neo-colonialist agenda, in return for donor funding. The larger the donations received the bigger the influence and extraction of raw materials. It would be useful for organisations, such as the African Union to create a tool that effectively determines the nature of the donations to the various countries and fully interrogates the purpose those donations would serve, as well as the implications of them.

Unification of the Electoral System for Africa

Reports, such as the Electoral Integrity Report of Harvard and Sydney universities entitled (The Year in Elections 2014) hail South Africa, Tunisia, and Botswana as glowing examples of successful democratic processes that have resulted in free, fair and credible elections.

However, one is inclined to argue that the absence of violence in countries such as like Botswana, Lesotho, or Swaziland does not make an election free and fair, or credible.  There are other factors that should be taken into account, for instance, adequate, unbiased and fair access to the media. The capacity strengthening and democracy building of; professional electoral administrative bodies, deep-rooted civic partnerships with the community, free and unrestricted campaign trails and transparency from the time of elections planning to the announcement of the election results.

In other words, the barometer by which African elections are measured should not depend on whether a particular country is deemed to be a ‘darling of the west’ or not.  If the country dances to the expectations of the West, then no matter how flawed the democratic and election process is, they would always be regarded free and fair.

This requires the continent to set up its own electoral system that is reflective of the conditions and environment in which elections take place in Africa. This African Elections Barometer will be appropriate for the countries within the continent to be measured instead of using one that is adapted from European and American peers.  Such a barometer needs to balance the weighbridges and set the tone for the effective and unbiased in the measurement of free, fair and credible elections.  It would also place the continent on an equal footing as their global peers in elections.  Most importantly, this will limit the amount of interference and meddling in African elections affairs.

Africa must find alternative solutions for the challenges it faces. As a continent, Africa must find its own voice, and dance to its own tune as far as elections, democracy, and good governance is concerned and not be burdened by the requirements and the measurement of what the global north deems to be ‘free and fair’.

Government must protect Institutional Democracy, at all costs — May 18, 2016

Government must protect Institutional Democracy, at all costs

Protecting the Public Protector is protecting institutional democracy in South Africa. The office of the Public Protector was established in order for Government to limit the perversion of integrity and corruption in state departments. Advocate Thuli Madonsela, since coming into office in 2009, has fulfilled this mandate flawlessly.

Under her watch, she has left no sacred cows and has vigorously pursued and investigated various public figures such as; EFF Party Leader Julius Malema and ex- police Chief Bheki Cele.  As a result of her probes, two prominent Ministers were removed from their positions; the late Sicelo Shiceka and Mrs Gwen Mahlangu- Nkabinde. Currently, president Jacob Zuma has been taken to court to enforce recommendations made by Madonsela after an investigation into the president’s private residence in Nkandla.

Despite the sterling work she has done in the office, she has faced heavy criticism particularly around her findings on Nkandla. In a Mail & Guardian article titled “Who protects the Public Protector” (04 Aug 2015), Adv. Thuli Madonsela indicated that the “hysteria and mudslinging” around Nkandla was not only from government or Parliament but rather from all and sundry including the spokespersons of the governing party in and outside of parliament.

Since being in office Madonsela, dubbed the Iron Lady of South Africa by Corruption Watch (08 March 2013), has been under immense spotlight. Her belief is that corruption is an insidious plague that has a whole range of corrosive effects on society such as; undermining democracy and the rule of law; the violation of human rights; erosion of the quality of life; and an enabler of organized crime and other threats to the flourish of human security.

Whilst protecting South Africans and democracy, Madonsela has herself become vulnerable to; an erosion of her quality of life, her work being marred by threats and the sullying of her integrity. In working for Government, it goes without saying that it is the responsibility of Government to protect the work, the integrity and life of any Public Protector.

In addition to that, it is in the best interest of the country and its citizens to ensure that this office which, is highly revered everywhere, is protected and safeguarded by all those who have an interest in sustaining this hard won democracy.  The interest of the Public Protector is the protection of all citizens of the country.  Therefore, it goes without saying, that the office of the Public Protector should also be protected and safeguard by the state and its citizens. By protecting the Public Protector, citizens are protecting and safeguarding the democratic principles by which this country is grounded on.