Jump to navigation

Published 15th February 2008

Vol 49 No 4


South Africa

Divided House in Cape Town

Image courtesy of Panos Pictures

View site

Policy splits deepen within the governing ANC as Thabo Mbeki starts his last full year as the country's President

Pomp, ceremony, fashion parades and backslapping are the usual accompaniments to the state-of-the-nation address with which President Thabo Mbeki opens a session of South Africa's parliament. This time, on 8 February, the mood was sombre and the subsequent party, where journalists, diplomats and politicians once smooched late into the night, was cancelled. Several sobering national crises would have made that inappropriate. There might even have been a power-cut. Since African National Congress members rejected Mbeki as leader of the ANC at its national conference in December, it has seemed that the conflicting demands of Mbeki's and Jacob Zuma's supporters could paralyse the government, especially if economic conditions deteriorate. The ANC contains two centres of power, one around Zuma as head of the party, the other around Mbeki as head of state and government.


The safari talks

Signs of progress, however elusive, are boosting hopes for a deal but the militias are rearming - just in case

The announcement of a political deal on 14 February at talks at a Kilaguni Game Lodge mediated by former United Nations Secretary General Kofi Annan boosted morale but may not chan...


Message from the wazungu

Outsiders have been belatedly increasing pressure on Kenya's feuding politicians as former United Nations Secretary General Kofi Annan moved the negotiating teams to the secluded K...



BLUE LINES
THE INSIDE VIEW

The information revolution would make the rigging of elections impossible, the technology evangelists claimed. Cellphones would enable observers to send information about abuse instantly to headquarters and digital cameras would record voting malpractice and violence. Opening the airwaves to private FM radio stations would allow local journalists to reach communities in their own languages. Internet technology would mean that this digitised data and voting information, along with better informe...
The information revolution would make the rigging of elections impossible, the technology evangelists claimed. Cellphones would enable observers to send information about abuse instantly to headquarters and digital cameras would record voting malpractice and violence. Opening the airwaves to private FM radio stations would allow local journalists to reach communities in their own languages. Internet technology would mean that this digitised data and voting information, along with better informed press reports and political blogs, could be instantly relayed across a country. All this should have led to more political accountability. There is no doubt that the new technology helped ensure better elections in countries such as Ghana, Senegal, Mauritius, Zambia and Botswana. But in the middle of Kenya’s current crisis, the picture looks rather different. Accusations of heinous, electronically-assisted crimes buzz across the internet: militias organising operations by text message via cellphones; hate speech propagated in indigenous languages on local FM stations; and blogs that preach a poisonous message of land seizures and score-settling. New technology may have made it harder to steal elections, but it is also making it harder to deal with the consequences of a disputed poll. Electronic pluralism is good but the judicial and political institutions will have to work much harder to catch up with it.
Read more

Beyond the borders

Chad and Sudan have been meddling in each other's politics for 30 years, and the semi-nomadic peoples who straddle the border (including President Idriss Déby Itno's Zaghawa...


Electrical and political power cuts

The electricity shortage is the immediate issue that makes South Africans question their government's competence. The energy utility Eskom says that underinvestment has left it wit...


In the lion's den

Simba Makoni's decision to challenge President Robert Mugabe has surprised those who suspected he lacked the courage to see it through. The odds could hardly be higher for 58-year-...


The real Makoni stands up

Voters are eagerly waiting to see how many ZANU-PF dissidents back the latest challenge to President Mugabe

This may prove to be the week that Simba Makoni and his backers started to turn the tide in Zimbabwe's politics. On 13 February, Makoni launched his independent candidacy in the pr...


Delays in deployment

As fighting in Chad worsens, Lieutenant General Nash promises all EUFOR troops will be on the ground by mid-May

The European Force in Chad and Central African Republic (EUFOR Chad/CAR) is due to be deployed between March and May, to protect refugees from Sudan's Darfur region and internally ...


Déby – caught between Paris and Khartoum

President Déby's struggle for survival is not over and its outcome will have huge regional ramifications

The 4 February attack on Ndjamena was carefully timed. The rebels and their sponsors in Sudan's National Congress (National Islamic Front) regime in Khartoum had spotted growing di...


Power crisis

The lights are going out all over Southern Africa. It is the first really big mistake in post-apartheid South Africa's economic management and one of the most far-reaching. The bla...


Papers and death merchants

Newspapers in Paris and Brussels have been full of accusations about Chad. French, Belgian and South African companies cooperated in supplying armoured vehicles to President Idriss...



Pointers

The Hillary effect

Zambia's first lady, Maureen Kakubo Mwanawasa, is seen as the power behind the throne of President Levy Mwanawasa, and many believe that he wants a third term in five years' time -...


Indicting Kigali

A Spanish judge has made it unsafe for 40 senior Rwandan officials to travel outside their own country by issuing international arrest warrants against them for crimes including ge...