John Campbell

Africa in Transition

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

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Showing posts for "South Africa"

AU Vote to Leave the International Criminal Court of Little Consequence

by John Campbell
Kenya's President Uhuru Kenyatta attends the opening ceremony of the 26th Ordinary Session of the Assembly of the African Union (AU) at the AU headquarters in Ethiopia's capital Addis Ababa, January 30, 2016. (Reuters/Tiksa Negeri) Kenya's President Uhuru Kenyatta attends the opening ceremony of the 26th Ordinary Session of the Assembly of the African Union (AU) at the AU headquarters in Ethiopia's capital Addis Ababa, January 30, 2016. (Reuters/Tiksa Negeri)

Led by Kenyan President Uhuru Kenyatta, the African Union (AU) voted by a huge margin in favor of a proposal for withdrawal from the International Criminal Court (ICC). In the aftermath of the vote, President Jacob Zuma reiterated his threat that South Africa would withdraw from the ICC’s jurisdiction: “Our strongly held view is that it is now impossible, under the circumstances, for South Africa to continue its participation…” The AU chairman, Chadian President Idriss Deby, repeated the regular criticism that the ICC is biased against Africa: “Elsewhere in the world, many things happen, many flagrant violations of human rights, but nobody cares.” Read more »

South African Icon Disillusioned with Ruling Party Leadership

by John Campbell
A copy of a combo picture showing Rivonia trialists with their names written by hand is seen on the wall in Maybuye Center in Cape Town, March 10, 2005. From L to R on the top row are Nelson Mandela, Walter Sisulu, Gowan Mbeki and Raymond Mhlaba and on the bottom row are Elias Motsoaledi, Andrew Mlangeni, Ahmed Kathrada, and Dennis Goldberg. (Reuters/Radu Sigheti) A copy of a combo picture showing Rivonia trialists with their names written by hand is seen on the wall in Maybuye Center in Cape Town, March 10, 2005. From L to R on the top row are Nelson Mandela, Walter Sisulu, Gowan Mbeki and Raymond Mhlaba and on the bottom row are Elias Motsoaledi, Andrew Mlangeni, Ahmed Kathrada, and Dennis Goldberg. (Reuters/Radu Sigheti)

On January 24, in London, UK Prime Minister David Cameron honored Nelson Mandela’s three surviving co-defendants at the 1964 Rivonia trial. They were Denis Goldberg, Ahmad Kathrada, and Andrew Mlangeni. Cameron also honored their suriviving defense attorneys, Lord Joel Joffe and George Bizos, who succeeded in avoiding the death penalty for their clients, though not twenty-six years of imprisonment. Read more »

Comedy and Democracy in South Africa

by John Campbell
South African President Jacob Zuma laughs as he delivers his State of the Nation Address after the formal opening of Parliament in Cape Town, February 14, 2013. (Reuters//Rodger Bosch/Pool) South African President Jacob Zuma laughs as he delivers his State of the Nation Address after the formal opening of Parliament in Cape Town, February 14, 2013. (Reuters//Rodger Bosch/Pool)

For most Americans, their first exposure to South African comedy has been Trevor Noah, the host of Comedy Central’s “The Daily Show.” Noah’s January 20, riff on Sarah Palin’s endorsement of Donald Trump is an example of South African standup comedy at its best, with the added dimension of an African “seeing us as others see us.” One example is his comment that America is such a great place because “…presidents might have term limits but Sarah Palin is forever.” Read more »

Some Good News From South Africa

by John Campbell
Early morning smog shrouds suburbs of the coastal South African city of Cape Town as the sun rises June 8, 2006. (Reuters\Mike Hutchings) Early morning smog shrouds suburbs of the coastal South African city of Cape Town as the sun rises June 8, 2006. (Reuters\Mike Hutchings)

It is unduly gloomy in sunny South Africa. The national currency, the rand, is falling; the economy is hardly growing at all; the Zuma administration appears mired in corruption and mismanagement. There has been an upsurge in racist rhetoric. Hence the South African surprise and delight at the announcement that two of the richest South Africans, Allan and Gill Gray, are essentially giving away their wealth to their family foundation. Read more »

Racist Facebook Comments Ignite South African Anger

by John Campbell
People visit the beach on New Year's Day in Durban, January 1, 2014. (Reuters/Rogan Ward) People visit the beach on New Year's Day in Durban, January 1, 2014. (Reuters/Rogan Ward)

Penny Sparrow, age sixty-nine, a white real estate agent in Durban and a member of the opposition Democratic Alliance (DA), in a Facebook post characterized black beach goers over New Year’s as “monkeys.” (For many years, young black South Africans living inland have gathered on Durban’s beaches to celebrate New Year’s.) At about the same time, a bank economist tweeted about “majority (black) entitlement” as a barrier to economic growth. Others, evidently also white, on-line have expressed admiration for certain apartheid and pre-apartheid era political figures, including P.W. Botha and Cecil Rhodes. Black social media response has been fierce, including calls to take action “against all white people to end racism.” 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 »

What to Watch: Africa 2016

by John Campbell and Guest Blogger for John Campbell
Boys play on the roof of the entrance to a football stadium in Gao February 20, 2013. (Reuters/Joe Penney) Boys play on the roof of the entrance to a football stadium in Gao February 20, 2013. (Reuters/Joe Penney)

While western governments are currently transfixed on events in Iraq and Syria, it is important that they do not forget Africa. Boko Haram has become the world’s deadliest terrorist organization and Libya is increasingly becoming a base of operations for the Islamic State. Below, CFR’s Africa program outlines six African issues to watch in 2016. While they could certainly affect the lives of millions of Africans, these issues could also have serious implications for international politics. Read more »

Jacob Zuma’s Hold on Power

by John Campbell
Protesters carry placards as they take part in a demonstration against President Jacob Zuma in Cape town, South Africa, December 16, 2015. ()Reuters/Mark Wessels) Protesters carry placards as they take part in a demonstration against President Jacob Zuma in Cape town, South Africa, December 16, 2015. ()Reuters/Mark Wessels)

Jacob Zuma’s political power is based on his support by the African National Congress’s political apparatus – often called Luthuli House, after the party’s headquarters building in Johannesburg. With support of the party machinery, he has weathered numerous political and personal setbacks ranging from a rape trial to accusations of corruption. However, if the party turns against him, he will not long survive as party leader or chief of state. In 2008, Thabo Mbeki was removed from both positions by a party revolt. The same is possible for Zuma. Read more »

The South African Roller Coaster

by John Campbell
South Africa's President Jacob Zuma speaks during his visit to the Lodewyk P. Spies Old Age Home in Eersterust, Pretoria, December 15, 2015. (ReutersS/Siphiwe Sibeko) South Africa's President Jacob Zuma speaks during his visit to the Lodewyk P. Spies Old Age Home in Eersterust, Pretoria, December 15, 2015. (ReutersS/Siphiwe Sibeko)

On December 10, President Jacob Zuma fired Nhlanhla Nene, the well regarded finance minister, and replaced him with the unknown and inexperienced David van Rooven. Though Zuma is not required by the South African constitution to consult with anybody on cabinet appointments, the fact that he did not inform his cabinet or provide public explanation for his removal of Nene and appointment of van Rooven may have been the last straw. Read more »

South Africa’s Rhino Horn Moratorium

by Guest Blogger for John Campbell
Police officers stand guard next to a part of a shipment of 24 rhino horns seized by the Customs Administration of the Czech Republic during a news conference in Prague, July 23, 2013. (Reuters/David W Cerny) Police officers stand guard next to a part of a shipment of 24 rhino horns seized by the Customs Administration of the Czech Republic during a news conference in Prague, July 23, 2013. (Reuters/David W Cerny)

This is a guest post by Allen Grane, research associate for the Council on Foreign Relations Africa Studies program.

Last week, South African High Court Judge Francis Legodi ruled against the Zuma administration moratorium on the country’s domestic trade in rhino horns. As it is possible to harvest a rhino’s horn without killing the animal, there is discussion about the potential for a regulated trade in rhino horns. In light of the dramatic increase in rhino poaching, the argument that legalizing trade in rhino horn could help save the species has been gaining steam. The high court ruling is a reflection of this thinking. However, the decision from the judge may not actually mean much. Read more »