John Campbell

Africa in Transition

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

Posts by Category

Showing posts for "South Africa"

Home Truths About the Size of Nigeria’s Economy

by John Campbell
Traders work at the Nigerian Stock Exchange in Lagos, February 13, 2015. The naira has crashed through the key level of 200 to the dollar this week in a rout sparked by weak oil prices and escalating tension over the postponement of a presidential election in Africa's biggest economy. (Reuters /Joe Penney) Traders work at the Nigerian Stock Exchange in Lagos, February 13, 2015. The naira has crashed through the key level of 200 to the dollar this week in a rout sparked by weak oil prices and escalating tension over the postponement of a presidential election in Africa's biggest economy. (Reuters /Joe Penney)

In 2014, following the first revision of Nigeria’s gross domestic product data in two decades, Abuja announced that its economy had overtaken South Africa’s as the largest in Africa. Using the rebased data, the International Monetary Fund (IMF) reported that that Nigeria’s economy grew at 12.7 percent between 2012 and 2013. Thereafter, there was some triumphalist rhetoric about the size and strength of the economy from personalities in then-president Goodluck Jonathan’s administration in the run up to the 2015 elections and among those promoting foreign investment in Nigeria. However, in 2016, reflecting the dramatic fall in petroleum prices and the value of the national currency, the naira, the IMF concluded that Nigeria’s GDP had fallen behind that of South Africa. The Economist noted that foreign investors are likely to be discouraged by the latest figures. Read more »

Illegal Mining and the Role of “Zama Zamas” in South Africa

by Guest Blogger for John Campbell
A miner is seen underground at Lonmin Plc's Karee mine in Marikana, Rustenburg 100 km (62 miles) northwest of Johannesburg, March 5, 2013. (Reuters/Siphiwe Sibeko) A miner is seen underground at Lonmin Plc's Karee mine in Marikana, Rustenburg 100 km (62 miles) northwest of Johannesburg, March 5, 2013. (Reuters/Siphiwe Sibeko)

Nathan Birhanu is an intern for the Council on Foreign Relations Africa Studies program. He is a graduate of Fordham University’s Graduate Program in International Political Economy & Development.

In recent years, the mining industry has struggled to turn a profit due to a slowdown in demand from China’s economy and an oversupply from producers. South Africa’s mining companies, who export primarily platinum, iron ore, gold, coal, and manganese, have been heavily affected by the downturn. 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 »

South Africa’s Oscar Pistorius Sentenced to Six Years Imprisonment

by John Campbell
Olympic and Paralympic track star Oscar Pistorius leaves the court after his sentence hearing at the North Gauteng High Court in Pretoria, South Africa, July 6, 2016. (Reuters/Marco Longari/Pool) Olympic and Paralympic track star Oscar Pistorius leaves the court after his sentence hearing at the North Gauteng High Court in Pretoria, South Africa, July 6, 2016. (Reuters/Marco Longari/Pool)

The tragedy-as-soap-opera starring Paralympian Oscar Pistorius is over. Or, maybe not. Pistorius, a Paralympian gold medalist who also competed in non-disabled events, was a major media celebrity and hero in sports mad South Africa. In 2013, he killed his girlfriend, Reeva Steenkamp, by shooting her through a closed bathroom door. He maintains that he thought she was an intruder. 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 »

Under the Radar: People with Albinism in Eastern and Southern Africa

by Guest Blogger for John Campbell
An albino girl smiles in Mitindo Primary School in Nyawilimilwa, Mwanza region of Tanzania, November 21, 2009. (Reuters/Katrina Manson) An albino girl smiles in Mitindo Primary School in Nyawilimilwa, Mwanza region of Tanzania, November 21, 2009. (Reuters/Katrina Manson)

Nathan Birhanu is an intern for the Council on Foreign Relations Africa Studies program. He is a graduate of Fordham University’s Graduate Program in International Political Economy & Development.

Albinism is a hereditary condition from birth where an individual, partially or completely, lacks pigmentation in the skin, hair, and eyes. The condition is found in one in every 20,000 people globally. The topic of albinism is of importance in sub-Saharan Africa where rates can reach as high as one in 1,400 people because of a variety of factors. Read more »

‘Brexit’ and South Africa

by John Campbell
A statue of South Africa's former president Nelson Mandela is seen silhouetted after its unveiling in London's Parliament Square August 29, 2007.  (Courtesy Reuters/Alessia Pierdomenico) A statue of South Africa's former president Nelson Mandela is seen silhouetted after its unveiling in London's Parliament Square August 29, 2007. (Courtesy Reuters/Alessia Pierdomenico)

Asmita Parshotam, Cyril Prinsloo, and Elizabeth Sidiropoulos have written a thoughtful analysis of the impact on South Africa should the UK vote to exit the European Union on June 23. Their analysis was published June 21 by the South African Institute of International Affairs (SAIIA). 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 »