John Campbell

Africa in Transition

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

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Showing posts for "Economic Freedom Fighters"

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 »

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 »

South African President Zuma’s Legal Problems Unlikely to Drive Him From Office

by John Campbell
Protesters call for the removal of South Africa's President Jacob Zuma as the country commemorates the anniversary the country's first democratic elections in Cape Town, April 27, 2016. (Reuters/Mike Hutchings) Protesters call for the removal of South Africa's President Jacob Zuma as the country commemorates the anniversary the country's first democratic elections in Cape Town, April 27, 2016. (Reuters/Mike Hutchings)

South Africa’s High Court has ruled against the president yet again. It has determined that the prosecutor’s decision to drop 783 charges of corruption against Zuma should be reviewed. According to the BBC, Judge Aubrey Ledwaba characterized the 2009 decision to drop the charges as “irrational.” The ruling allows the National Prosecuting Authority to reinstate the charges, though it is unclear whether it will do so. Nevertheless, once again, South Africa’s judiciary has demonstrated its independence from the executive. Read more »

Fissures Within South Africa’s Governing Party

by John Campbell
Supporters of the African National Congress (ANC) wave a party flag during the party's 104th anniversary celebrations in Rustenburg, South Africa, January 9, 2016. (Reuters/Siphiwe Sibeko) Supporters of the African National Congress (ANC) wave a party flag during the party's 104th anniversary celebrations in Rustenburg, South Africa, January 9, 2016. (Reuters/Siphiwe Sibeko)

South Africa’s governing African National Congress (ANC) has long been a big tent, with its membership united by opposition to apartheid and, less salient, support for “nonracial” democracy. Conventional wisdom has seen the ANC membership, policy, and electoral support as revolving around four poles or tendencies:  the “democrats,” devoted to Nelson Mandela’s vision of nonracial democracy and the protection of human rights; the South African Communist Party (SACP), in many ways a Marxist party of a generation ago in Western Europe, but also devoted to a nonracial state; the Congress of South African Trade Unions (COSATU), which promotes the interests of the country’s “labor aristocracy” rather than the unskilled unemployed; and the “Africanists,”  those who want a redistribution of wealth from whites to blacks and an assertion of black identity that recalls the Black Power movement in the United States. (Many of them would drop the nonracial modifiers of democracy.) Depending on the issue, support varies for each of these “tendencies,” and there is substantial overlap. In any event, however sliced and diced, the ANC is likely to remain intact to contest the August provincial and local government elections. Read more »

The Constitution and Rule of Law Reaffirmed in South Africa

by John Campbell
Mosiuoa Lekota (C) of the opposition party, Congress of the People (COPE) celebrates with Kevin Malunga deputy public protector after South Africa's constitutional court ordered President Jacob Zuma to pay back some of the $16 million of state money spent upgrading his private home in Johannesburg, March 31, 2016. (Reuters/Felix Dlangamandla/Pool) Mosiuoa Lekota (C) of the opposition party, Congress of the People (COPE) celebrates with Kevin Malunga deputy public protector after South Africa's constitutional court ordered President Jacob Zuma to pay back some of the $16 million of state money spent upgrading his private home in Johannesburg, March 31, 2016. (Reuters/Felix Dlangamandla/Pool)

On March 31, the eleven justices of South Africa’s highest judicial body, the Constitutional Court, ruled unanimously that President Jacob Zuma and the National Assembly had violated the Constitution. The president, the court ruled, had improperly spent public money on his private estate, Nkandla. The National Assembly had improperly defended the president by refusing to implement the ruling of the public protector, a constitutionally mandated official, when she concluded that the expenditure had been improper. Read more »

South Africa’s Trade Union Federation to Split

by John Campbell
Suspended general secretary of the Congress of South African Trade Unions (COSATU) Zwelinzima Vavi (C) protests with members of the National Union of Metal Workers of South Africa (NUMSA) as they march through Durban, March 19, 2014. (Reuters/Rogan Ward) Suspended general secretary of the Congress of South African Trade Unions (COSATU) Zwelinzima Vavi (C) protests with members of the National Union of Metal Workers of South Africa (NUMSA) as they march through Durban, March 19, 2014. (Reuters/Rogan Ward)

The Congress of South African Trade Unions (COSATU), a federation of labor unions, played a crucial role in the struggle against apartheid. It provided much of the personnel that mobilized voters for the African National Congress (ANC) from the country‘s first “all-race” elections in 1994 up to now. COSATU, the South African Communist Party (SACP), and the ANC form the coalition that governs the country. COSATU and SACP contest elections as part of the ANC. Read more »

Jacob Zuma and South Africa’s Constitution

by John Campbell
A general view of the Nkandla home of South Africa's President Jacob Zuma in Nkandla, August 2, 2012. (Reuters/Rogan Ward) A general view of the Nkandla home of South Africa's President Jacob Zuma in Nkandla, August 2, 2012. (Reuters/Rogan Ward)

The South African government spent about $24 million on “security upgrades” to President Jacob Zuma’s private estate, Nkandla. Those “security upgrades” included a swimming pool, a chicken run, and a football pitch. In 2014, Public Protector Thuli Madonsela investigated the expenditure and found some of it improper, and directed the president to pay back some—not all—of the public money spent on the estate. President Zuma refused, and was supported by his cabinet minister and the governing African National Congress (ANC) majority in parliament. Read more »

South Africa, a King, and the Rule of Law

by John Campbell
AbaThembu King Buyelekhaya Zwelibanzi Dalindyebo speaks to journalists after handing over a memorandum to government officials in Pretoria, July 10, 2013.  (Reuters/Sumaya Hisham) AbaThembu King Buyelekhaya Zwelibanzi Dalindyebo speaks to journalists after handing over a memorandum to government officials in Pretoria, July 10, 2013. (Reuters/Sumaya Hisham)

The alarums and excursions over South Africa’s economy and economic policy do not stop. December saw the discreditable episode of President Jacob Zuma’s hiring and firing multiple ministers of finance in only a few days and a drop in the country’s estimated economic growth rate to perhaps 1.2 percent. The new year kicked off with an apparent standoff with the United States over trade that if unresolved would end South Africa’s participation in the benefits of the African Growth and Opportunity Act (AGOA). But, a BBC news item that appeared New Year’s Eve highlights how South Africa’s commitment to the rule of law makes it well-prepared to weather the multiple crises of the moment. Read more »

South Africa’s Ruling ANC Party Losing Numbers

by John Campbell
President of South Africa Jacob Zuma addresses attendees during the 70th session of the United Nations General Assembly at the U.N. headquarters in New York, September 28, 2015. (Reuters/Eduardo Munoz) President of South Africa Jacob Zuma addresses attendees during the 70th session of the United Nations General Assembly at the U.N. headquarters in New York, September 28, 2015. (Reuters/Eduardo Munoz)

South African President and African National Congress (ANC) party leader Jacob Zuma is complaining that the ruling ANC is losing members. At a party policy forum in early October he announced that party membership had fallen to 769,000 from some 1.2 million three years previously. Read more »

Star Economist Says Black Economic Empowerment in South Africa Has Failed

by John Campbell
France's Prime Minister Dominique de Villepin (L), Finance Minister Thierry Breton (2nd L), Education Minister Gilles de Robien (2nd R) and Thomas Piketty, director of the Paris School of Economics (PSE), attend the inauguration of the school in Paris, February 22, 2007. (Reuters/Benoit Tessier) France's Prime Minister Dominique de Villepin (L), Finance Minister Thierry Breton (2nd L), Education Minister Gilles de Robien (2nd R) and Thomas Piketty, director of the Paris School of Economics (PSE), attend the inauguration of the school in Paris, February 22, 2007. (Reuters/Benoit Tessier)

On October 3, Thomas Piketty, the French economist and best-selling author of Capital in the 21st Century, said in his prestigious Nelson Mandela lecture that South Africa’s “…black economic empowerment strategies… were not successful in spreading the wealth.” He said that 60 to 65 percent of the country’s wealth is held by 10 percent of the population, compared with 50 to 55 percent in Brazil and 40 to 45 percent in the United States. He made the point that out of the wealthiest 5 percent of South Africans  up to 80 percent are white. Read more »