John Campbell

Africa in Transition

Campbell tracks political and security developments across sub-Saharan Africa.

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Murder and Rape in South Africa

by John Campbell
Police duck bricks thrown during a protest by students over planned increases in tuition fees at the Union Buildings in Pretoria, October 23, 2015. (Reuters/Sydney Seshibedi) Police duck bricks thrown during a protest by students over planned increases in tuition fees at the Union Buildings in Pretoria, October 23, 2015. (Reuters/Sydney Seshibedi)

South Africa’s minister of police reports that the country’s murder rate increased by 4.9 percent from March 2015 to March 2016. That is more than fifty people killed every day. Official statistics show 142.2 sexual offences per day in the same time period, a slight reduction that likely is due to under reporting. South Africa’s population is estimated at approximately fifty-three million. Read more »

The New Architecture of South African Politics

by John Campbell
Leader of South Africa's Democratic Alliance (DA) Mmusi Maimane looks on next to Congress of the People (COPE) leader Mosiuoa Lekota, ahead of a media briefing in Sandton, South Africa, August 17,2016. (Reuters/Siphiwe Sibeko) Leader of South Africa's Democratic Alliance (DA) Mmusi Maimane looks on next to Congress of the People (COPE) leader Mosiuoa Lekota, ahead of a media briefing in Sandton, South Africa, August 17,2016. (Reuters/Siphiwe Sibeko)

Following the governing African National Congress’s (ANC) decline in the August 3 municipal elections, in effect a referendum on the scandal plagued administration of President Jacob Zuma, South African politics looks dramatically different. The big winners were the formal opposition, the Democratic Alliance (DA), and the Economic Freedom Fighters (EFF), a radical party based in the townships. But, minority parties are also more important now. In the elections, in four metropolitan areas and twenty-three smaller local councils, no single party secured the necessary 50 percent plus one majority. A largely monolithic ANC (it had controlled all of the major metropolitan areas except Cape Town and still has a huge majority in the National Assembly), now faces multiparty coalitions in Johannesburg, Tshwane (Pretoria), Nelson Mandela Bay (Port Elizabeth), and Rustenburg. These metros are at the heart of South Africa’s modern economy; Johannesburg is the richest city in sub-Saharan Africa and the country’s economic engine. Of the largest metros, the ANC retains unchallenged control only of Durban. Read more »

After the Vote, It’s “Morning in South Africa”

by John Campbell and Guest Blogger for John Campbell
South Africa's President Jacob Zuma reacts during the official announcement of the municipal election results at the result center in Pretoria, South Africa, August 6, 2016. (Reuters/Siphiwe Sibeko) South Africa's President Jacob Zuma reacts during the official announcement of the municipal election results at the result center in Pretoria, South Africa, August 6, 2016. (Reuters/Siphiwe Sibeko)

This post was co-authored by John Campbell and Allen Grane, research associate for Africa Policy Studies at the Council on Foreign Relations.

Many friends of South Africa’s post-1994 “non-racial democracy” have seen developments within the ruling African National Congress (ANC), especially under Jacob Zuma, as threatening the open political system based on the rule of law. So long as voting was largely determined by racial identity, the 80 percent of South Africa’s population that is black seemed to ensure that the party would remain in power indefinitely. The White, Coloured, and Asian minorities supported the Democratic Alliance (DA), but together they are not large enough to constitute an alternative to the ANC, except on the provincial level. (The DA has long dominated predominately Coloured and White Western Cape.) The Economic Freedom Fighters (EFF), which calls for an assault on White “privilege,” were largely confined to the townships. Read more »

South Africa’s Municipal Elections

by John Campbell
A man casts his ballot during South Africa's local government elections in KwaMashu, north of Durban, South Africa, August 3, 2016. (Reuters/Rogan Ward) A man casts his ballot during South Africa's local government elections in KwaMashu, north of Durban, South Africa, August 3, 2016. (Reuters/Rogan Ward)

“It ain’t over ‘til the fat lady sings,” and at the time of this writing, between 80 and 90 percent of the ballots in South Africa’s 2016 municipal elections have been counted. Most provinces have tallied over 80 percent of the vote, with the exception of Gauteng where Johannesburg and Pretoria are located. Nevertheless, it is likely that current trends will hold. If so, about 53 to 54 percent of the vote will go to the African National congress (ANC), vice 62.15 percent in the 2014 national elections; between 27 and 28 percent to the Democratic Alliance (DA), vice 22.23 percent in 2014; between 7 and 8 percent to the Economic Freedom Fighters (EFF), vice 6.35 percent in 2014; and, between 4 and 5 percent to the Inkatha Freedom Party (IFP), vice 2.4 percent in 2014. (The remainder is split among the myriad small parties.) Read more »

South Africa Votes

by John Campbell
Locals queue to cast their votes during the Local Government elections in Diepsloot township, north of Johannesburg, South Africa August 3, 2016. (Reuters/James Oatway) Locals queue to cast their votes during the Local Government elections in Diepsloot township, north of Johannesburg, South Africa August 3, 2016. (Reuters/James Oatway)

South Africans are voting today, August 3, 2016, in nationwide municipal elections that are widely regarded as a referendum on President Jacob Zuma and the ruling African National Congress (ANC). Economic growth has slowed to near zero, unemployment is sky-high, and the Zuma administration is mired in credible accusations of corruption. There are indications that voter turnout will be heavy; up to 77 percent of eligible voters (or 26 million people) are expected to cast their vote, up 11 percent from the last municipal elections. Nevertheless, an ANC electoral rout is not certain. (High voter turn out is encouraged by the fact that election day is a public holiday in South Africa.) Read more »

Nelson Mandela Day

by John Campbell
Nelson Mandela raises his fist to the crowd in Port Elizabeth, April 1, 1990. (Reuters/Juda Ngwenya) Nelson Mandela raises his fist to the crowd in Port Elizabeth, April 1, 1990. (Reuters/Juda Ngwenya)

Africa in Transition usually runs an update of the Nigeria Security Tracker on Mondays. However, July 18 is Nelson Mandela Day, so the Tracker update will appear on Tuesday, July 19.

Nelson Mandela was born July 18, 1918. He died in 2013; were he living, he would be 98 years of age. Read more »

Update on South Africa’s Nkandla Scandal

by John Campbell
A member of the Economic Freedom Fighters (EFF) stands on the roof of a house they built for an elderly woman, near the homestead of South African President Jacob Zuma (in the background), in Nkandla, January 11, 2014. (Reuters/Rogan Ward) A member of the Economic Freedom Fighters (EFF) stands on the roof of a house they built for an elderly woman, near the homestead of South African President Jacob Zuma (in the background), in Nkandla, January 11, 2014. (Reuters/Rogan Ward)

As directed by the South African courts, the Treasury has determined that President Jacob Zuma owes the state ZAR 7.8 million (US$ 531,024) for work done on his private home, Nkandla. The South African government has spent over ZAR 246 million (US$ 16,747,680) ostensibly on “security upgrades.” Those include underground bunkers, a heliport, and elaborate communications facilities. But, they also include amenities not related to security such as a swimming pool, a chicken run, and a visitors’ center. It is these types of facilities for which the Treasury is seeking repayment. Read more »

Remarks on Morning in South Africa

by John Campbell
Wild flowers bloom on Cape Town's Table Mountain heralding the coming southern hemisphere spring, August 19, 2015. (Reuters/Mike Hutchings) Wild flowers bloom on Cape Town's Table Mountain heralding the coming southern hemisphere spring, August 19, 2015. (Reuters/Mike Hutchings)

The following text is the entirety of John Campbell’s speech delivered as part of the Department of State’s Ralph J Bunche Library Series, on June 8, 2016. 

From a certain perspective, South Africa is a mess. Many South Africans are disappointed by the way the country has seemingly squandered its promise as the ‘Rainbow Nation.’ Under the Jacob Zuma presidential administration, the country is treading water with respect to poverty and addressing the lasting consequences of apartheid. Corruption is rife. You can read all about it in the Mail and Guardian or the Daily Maverick. Read more »

U.S. Congressional Delegation Visits South Africa

by John Campbell
Senator Christopher Coons (D-DE) smiles after being ceremonially sworn in at the US Capitol in Washington, November 15, 2010. (Reuters/Jonathan Ernst) Senator Christopher Coons (D-DE) smiles after being ceremonially sworn in at the US Capitol in Washington, November 15, 2010. (Reuters/Jonathan Ernst)

To commemorate the fiftieth anniversary of Robert F. Kennedy’s “Ripples of Hope” speech at the University of Cape Town, a congressional delegation (codel) visited South Africa the last week of May. It was led by Representative John Lewis, Democrat of Georgia and an icon of the American civil rights movement; Senator Chris Coons, Democrat of Delaware; and Kerry Kennedy, daughter of the late Senator Kennedy and the president of Robert F. Kennedy Human Rights, a U.S. based non-profit organization. Read more »

South Africa’s Land “Expropriation Bill”

by John Campbell
A Muslim man stands next to iftar (breaking fast) meal plates on the first day of Ramadan in India, at the Jama Masjid (Grand Mosque) in the old quarters of Delhi, India July 7, 2016. (Reuters/Siphiwe Sibeko) A Muslim man stands next to iftar (breaking fast) meal plates on the first day of Ramadan in India, at the Jama Masjid (Grand Mosque) in the old quarters of Delhi, India July 7, 2016. (Reuters/Siphiwe Sibeko)

There is less than meets the eye to the South African parliament’s passage at the end of May of a land reform bill, called the “Expropriation Bill.” Ostensibly, the new legislation has some similarity to law of eminent domain in the United States. The new legislation would permit the government to take land for a “public purpose,” but (as in the United States) South African landowners would be compensated with an amount determined by a new ‘valuer general.’ The new legislation replaces the “willing buyer, willing seller” principle of land reform. Read more »