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COVID-19: South Africa’s response

Klaus Kotzé

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After years of decay and deficiency, South Africa’s Executive has stood up to the COVID-19 pandemic. Its reflexive information campaign has dominated national news cycles; its narrative has sought command over the crisis. The Executive’s approach appears to have calmed the national mood. While its reaction has been determined, there remains an unclear picture of where the nation will emerge once the pandemic has subsided.

The declaration of the State of Disaster on March 15th has placed democratic South Africa in unchartered territory. In terms of its Disaster Management Act, the Executive is afforded sweeping powers. The first regulations issued in terms of the Act on March 18th indicated a bellicose response. Though it included no mention thereof, the regulations paved the way to the national ‘lockdown’ that was declared on March 23rd. South Africa’s would be a securitized path of command and constraint. The Department of Defense was instructed to “release and mobilise any available resources”. The closure of schools, the limitation of gatherings and visits to correctional and other facilities, as well as a ban on the sale of alcohol all contributed to a framework of control. Additional directives are increasingly justified by the narrative of a war on the virus.

Given its turbulent past, war-like analogies and approaches are dangerous. The evasion of war has been central to the democratic state; the national ethic is one of peace and reconciliation. South Africa’s brutalized long-term and corrupted short-term history have resulted in a traumatic and broken present. Today the state, the institutional capacity, the nation is vulnerable. Cyril Ramaphosa has made the goal of his presidency: the capable state. A frail state cannot easily handle the rhetoric and implications of war. Its effects are unpredictable and often uncontrollable.

Because of its global and exceptional nature, the Executive has looked abroad to find ways to dealing with the pandemic. As many others have, South Africa has followed the Chinese path of restriction. But South Africa is not China and while this avenue appears effective epidemiologically, the broader consequences of a strategy based on limitation present compounded implications and begs existential questions. What will lockdown do to its fragile socio-economic situation? The economy has been brought to a stand-still. The resulting broad-based downturn, job losses and bankruptcies will have a dastardly effect on all; the poor will be hardest hit. 

On Thursday April 9th President Ramaphosa declared that the initial 21-day lockdown will be extended by 14 days. Lockdown, especially applied to over-crowded informal areas, cannot be a lasting strategy. However, a simple return to normality will negate all the costly efforts made by South Africans. When it eventually emerges from the lockdown, the battle will not be over. While it helps to curb the spread of the virus, a lockdown can onlyreally buy time for more extensive plans to be put into place. Without these efforts the benefits of lockdown will be short-lived. Extended securitization presents serious questions to the functioning of social order. The lasting effects on law and order, presently unknown, could be devastating.

While the Executive has decisively led the campaign, critical questions have emerged regarding the role of the Judiciary and the Legislature. In true Ramaphosa style, the President has corralled opposition parties to support the efforts of the government. While the State of Disaster is no time for antagonism, opposition parties do hold important roles in asking tough questions of the government’s approach and actions. As for Parliament, its check on the executive has virtually ground to a halt. The Disaster Management Act meanwhile does not impose requirements on the Executive to report its actions to Parliament. The lockdown has come at a time when Parliamentarians are required to work with communities around the country under the scheduled Parliamentarian Constituency Programme. Lockdown must not be used as an excuse not to execute their mandated oversight of the government’s actions. Direct engagement with the people in a safe or even digital realm will afford members of Parliament critical insight into the realities on the ground.

When in terms of the new regulations, he intervened in the functioning of the courts, declaring a partial closure, the Justice Minister arguably encroached upon the powers of the judiciary. In so doing he underscored the need for concordance between the Executive and the Judiciary during the ongoing crisis. In a reported letter from Justice Mogoeng, the Constitutional Court Chief Justice rebuked the Minister. He reportedly asked whether the Executive’s interpretation of the Disaster Management Act does not afford it “more extensive and restrictive powers” than those provided under the more severe State of Emergency. “Even in the case of the state of emergency”, said Mogoeng in an earlier letter to colleagues, “the Constitution, empowers the courts to pronounce on the validity of the declaration…Courts therefore have to stay open”. Herein, the Chief Justice reminds the Executive that all exercise of power remains subject to the law and the review of the courts. The Speaker of Parliament will do well to follow this example. In executing her Constitutional duties, she must ensure that Parliament continues to function not through the haphazard interpretation of its members. But as an institution. For one, as has been widely suggested, Parliament could establish a committed ad hoc committee that overseesthe execution of Disaster Management Act regulations.

In his April 9th speech, President Ramaphosa laid out a three-part strategy to deal with ongoing effects of the pandemic. This includes an “intensified public health response”; “a comprehensive package of economic support measures”; and “a programme of increased social support”. These measures are welcome. Their introduction, however, does not present a new vision but a response to ongoing problems.

While data crunching and statistic modelling are useful tools through which to understand the problem, these remain inside a worldview of control, suggesting what should be avoided. The Executive has not come up with a strategic vision that extends bureaucratic management to chart a path forward. This orientation does not address the transition from containment to liberation. Government’s focus on lockdown as opposed to opening up, threatens the South African economy and democracy. At present the state is simply copying from others who often have different ethical foundations and geopolitical interests. A successful strategy would reside in an honest and thorough comprehension of the national realities; South Africa continues to struggle to define its national interest and character post-Apartheid. Thus far South Africa’s tactics in addressing the pandemic has contributed to a tilt towards authoritarianism. This approach is in direct contradiction to the democratic ethos of its widely praised Constitution.

Klaus Kotzé is the AW Mellon-UCT postdoctoral research fellow, Centre for Rhetoric Studies, Law Faculty, University of Cape Town

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Lavrov, African Union Troika discuss trade and Second Russia-Africa Summit

Kester Kenn Klomegah

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On July 8, Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov held a meeting with the foreign ministers of the African Union troika (South Africa, Egypt and the DRC). It was held to review and continue implementing some of the significant issues adopted in the declaration at the close of the first Russia-Africa Summit in 2019.

It was the first annual consultations with his African counterparts, the current, former, and future African Union chairpersons – Minister of International Relations and Cooperation of the South African Republic Naledi Pandor, Foreign Minister of the Arab Republic of Egypt Sameh Shoukri, and State Minister and Minister for Foreign Affairs of the Democratic Republic of the Congo Marie Tumba Nzeza. The consultative meeting was attended by Russian Deputy Minister of Industry and Trade, Alexei Gruzdev, Deputy Head of the Federal Service for Surveillance on Consumer Rights Protection and Human Wellbeing, Vyacheslav Smolensky and Rosatom State Atomic Energy Corporation, Alexei Likhachev.

According the reports, the Secretariat of the Russia-Africa Partnership Forum (RAPF) was established, a new mechanism for dialoguing aspects of multifaceted cooperation between the two parties. During the consultations, the participants discussed detailed ways of developing efficient cooperation between the RAPF Secretariat set up at the Foreign Ministry, with the foreign ministries of African countries and the secretariats of African regional integration organizations with a view to coordinating joint efforts on preparing for the second regular Russia-Africa Summit scheduled for 2022.

The Secretariat of the Russia-Africa Partnership Forum will, among others, coordinate daily contacts with the foreign ministries of various African countries and the mechanisms of the African Union and other integration associations in Africa. The Secretariat will oversee the organizational and practical preparations of new initiatives for the next Russia-Africa Summit scheduled for 2022 in accordance with the Sochi agreements. As part of the joint declaration in Sochi, the Heads of State decided that it was expedient to hold these summit meetings once every three years. 

The issues formulated by African partners and initiatives on the best ways to develop investment, trade and economic ties were also discussed at the Association of Trade and Economic Cooperation with African Countries. Established in June, by the Secretariat of the Russia-Africa Partnership Forum has large Russian companies are members of this association. They are interested in developing cooperation with African states. In addition to Rosatom, it brings together other companies such as ALROSA, Gazprombank, Transmashholding, and the Innopraktika development institute.

The association serves as a platform for helping Russian companies that want to work in individual African countries or with the integration associations on the African continent. It will review measures to increase industrial cooperation between Russia and Africa, both bilaterally and with the involvement of African sub-regional organizations, as well as to ensure simplified African exports access to the Russian market. It will further lay the roadmap towards the development of common economic, research and cultural roadmaps to promote Russian-African cooperation.

First, the ministers agreed to hold a second political consultation meeting of the Russian foreign minister with the three foreign ministers of the African Union in 2021. Second, it was agreed at the end of the meeting that the second Russia-Africa Summit will be held inside Africa in 2022. The Secretariat of the Russia-Africa Partnership Forum will have to work out specific dates and venues for the next round of political consultations following the election of the African Union chair for 2022.

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War is Not An Option, But the Rule of Law in Nigeria

Kester Kenn Klomegah

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In an early July interview with the President of the Congress of Igbo Leaders in the UK and Ireland, Mazi Obi Okoli, believes that Nigeria has lots of challenges implementing a system of governance that will guarantee the interests of all within the nation. According to him, many of the problems, frictions and issues faced today in Nigeria is a direct result of the defective federal system, the 1979 constitution drafted without consultation and the negative attitudes by majority of politicians toward development in Nigeria.

Why did you choose to write the book “The Lost Igbo Treasure” as part of your life?

Our journey of life must be to add value to human existence. I believe that people have to leave some positive footprints that will allow the coming generations to access truth, information and facts about their history, traditions and culture. I chose to write the book The Lost Igbo Treasure in order to document the facts of history, proverbs, language, culture, tradition and beliefs of the Igbo people of West Africa. It is my resolute belief that an informed generation are the best generation that can make positive impact to the world.

Over the years, there have been discussions about different ethnicity in Federal Republic of Nigeria. How different are the Igbos from Hausas, Yorubas and Fulanis in Nigeria?

It is a huge fact of life that the Igbo people have never been subject to one particular kingdom or caliphate like the Hausa-Fulani and Yoruba tribes who are under the monarchical leaderships of Sokoto and Ife kingdoms respectively. This exposes the reader to the mindset, characteristics, beliefs and understanding of the Igbo people as an egalitarian people. The Igbos like every other human society believe in peace, co-existential continuum of the human race.

However, the Igbos are unique in their thinking, very hard working, strong, communal, resilient, entrepreneurial mindset, freedom seeking, family oriented and peace loving. The Igbos believe in the cosmological belief of the sanctity of human life, respect and fairness in their dealing with all human persons. They hold the sanctitutional belief of “live and let’s live”. They abhor injustice and deceit in human dealings. They believe that religion is and should be a means to an end and not the end of a means. 

All the above distinguishes them from the Hausa/Fulani and Yoruba who are influenced more by religious inclination and a combination of religion/societal belief for the later.

The Igbos are unique in what they do; how they live their lives, what they eat and wear, how to beat their path of existence on earth, the peculiarities and the  songs they cherish, so also are the music, behavior and general attitude to life. It is clear that the Igbos uniquely differ from other ethnicities, in each of the above respects, in Nigeria.

Looking inside your book, what treasures have the Igbos lost in the country’s history?

The effects of colonialism, slavery, foreign religion, the genocide of 1967 have all severely impacted the Igbo society. The cherished Igbo treasures of togetherness, love and culture, tradition, language and ways of life. Our norms, values, belief, character and attitude, communal engagement, proverbs, idioms are treasures which the ancestors bequeathed to us from history have all began to elude our people and nation as a whole. Every society is alive by the presence of their unique values and traits. A loss of any of the above has great impact on the people and their society. Ndigbo must awaken themselves to the gathering storms and begin to see that our treasures are vanishing before our eyes.

How would you interpret and connect ethnicity with the federal system of governance?

This is a very difficult question. I will try not to be very academic so your readers will be carried along. The federal system of government is one that divides or shares the powers of governance between the national (federal), state and local governments. If this is true then it is imperative that this system of governance will guarantee, safeguard and protect the interests of all component parts that make up the federation.

However, over the centuries the experiment of this defective system as practiced in Nigeria has denied many ethnic nationals the opportunity to enjoy or harness the benefit of such a system if any. The travails and struggles of ethnic minority communities in Nigeria has also been that of the rest contending against both cultural extinction, politico-economic marginalization and political participation traumatization by the North with the former contending against economic expropriation, marginalization, exclusion, developmental strangulation and political “oblivionization” of the rest of the country, especially the Igbo people of the Eastern Nigeria.

These negative dimensions and conditions of ethnic minority alienation and discontent in the Nigerian federation has been indeed made worse under the present regime and further tightening of the noose continues unabated.

Therefore, the interpretation and connectivity of ethnicity with the federal system of governance is that of a resultant inherent contradictions and tensions in the evolution and operation of the Nigerian federal system. Many of the problems, frictions and issues faced today in Nigeria is a direct result of the defective federal system; the problematic 1979 constitution drafted without consultation and the negative under-developmental attitude of the Nigerian politicians.

All the above that I have mentioned, it has been made worse by the over-centralization of the governance system; the primitive refusal to recognize the complex ethnic configuration and interest; the pragmatic consensual underdevelopment of some regions, especially the Eastern part of the country; the relatively limited development of accommodative, consensual or power-sharing mechanisms; the absence or weakness of key mediatory or regulatory institutions; and the repeated distortion and abortion of democratic institutions. With the above administrative defects, it will be difficult for the nation to progress in contemporary times and be able to compete with other developing nations of the world.

Do you envisage any challenges and hurdles, for instance, if the Eastern States stand independently from the rest of the Nigeria?

The word “If” is relative. I would rather say “when” … When the Eastern States stand independently from the rest of the Nigeria there will be mountain of problems to face of which the greatest will be the problem of a mindset tabular rasa. For the new nation to triumph, we must clean up the mindset of our people from the retrogressive, corrupt, despotic attitude and character we would have migrated with from Nigeria.

We shall have the challenges of implementing a new functional system of governance that will guarantee the interest of all within the nation. We shall have the hurdles of implementing fast and modern economic policies, manufacturing strategies, progressive and meaningful educational system; effective purpose driven internal and external security measure that will safeguard, protect, defend our people wherever they live in the world.

We shall have the challenges of defining and implementing a robust manufacturing regime that will make us a competitive export oriented nation. The hurdles of corruption transfer, religious dependency on spirituality instead of hard work, the integration of our culture, tradition, norms and values lost in the euphoria of colonialization and sojourn in the plantations of Nigeria shall be hurdle that we must surpass to emerge a strong nation.

How sustainable is the economy, and resources available to support the needed development there?

The economy of the Eastern region is enormous and can definitely support and sustain the development of a new nation. There are abundant and available human, material, agricultural, industrial and technological resource which will be perfectly combined with the positive resilience of our people will catapult our nation in 20 years to a progressive global economic player.

Can it help bridge the development gap and what are future perspectives for the Igboland?

It will help bridge the developmental gaps and we hope to see a positive future prospect not just for the Igbo people, Eastern Nigeria but the world at large. A new nation of Eastern Nigeria will become the pride of all black people globally.

As the President of the Congress of Igbo Leaders in the UK and Ireland, how can you describe the popular sentiments of your fellow members there? Do they support the Eastern States to break away or rather advocate for national integration?

As you would expect in every organization you will have the pessimists, the rational and the progressives. In Congress of Igbo Leaders UK, we have divergent opinions. That is the beauty of such an organization blessed with the best minds, leaders and citizens of Igbo nation.

We endeavor to have healthy conversations, agree to disagree on pertinent issues. Overall, all our people want is to have a nation that all can be free. A nation where equity, fairness, justice, respect for the rule of law, absence of security operative brutality, respect for the fundamental human rights of her citizens, the right of life, education and movement without  hindrances, harassments and intimidation. I must say that if Biafra offers us such an opportunity, there will be no Igbo person who will reject such an opportunity. One thing that is clear from the opinions of some of our members, war is not an option.

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Ethiopian Naval Ambitions

Ankit Malhotra

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Ethiopia is gradually and steadily opening up doors and minds to international relations. Testament to this was when French President Macron sealed a deal with Ethiopian Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed when they met in March 2019. The French signalled plans to invest 2.8 Billion Euros in  hopes of awakening a sleeping African giant that Ethopia is. The agreement also includes a military component which includes provisions air-force cooperation, joint exercises, equipment purchases and as well as, most ambitiously, goals to reconstruct an Ethiopian Navy. But, there is just one problem, Ethiopia is a landlocked nation.

History is witness to Ethiopian naval ambitions and is also witness to the Ethopia’s loss of coastal territories to Eritrea, which is in the north of Ethopia. In a bitter border conflict that resulted in independent Eritrea, also spelled the dissolution of the Ethiopian Navy. Ever since, there was little reason to reconsider a navy but all that started to change in 2018.Sincecoming to office Ethiopian Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed has been putting his country’s affairs in order. He has worked on a peace deal with Eritrea and has been able to integrate Ethopia more closely with Djibouti, Somalia and Sudan. There has been significant process to liberalize parts of the economy, and all this has been doing while maintaining inter-ethnic tensions.

Nonetheless, the country still has a long way to go for Ethopia to rise from the ashes as an African a heavyweight power in East Africa. Their flourishing economy now ranks as Africa’s fastest growing and the vast human population of 102million citizens has grabbed the attention of great powers in line with the emerging role of Ethiopia the Prime Minister who wants to remake his country asa regional hub for commerce and trade. However, in order to reassure investors that the waters around the Horn of Africa are secure, especially considering the incidents of piracy, Adis Ababa feels obliged to step up and protect its maritime trading routes in order to perpetuate feelings of security and trust amongst its investors. This also happens to be one of Ethopia’s long-term geopolitical objectives.

What one can infer from the arguments presented above is that a naval entourage will carve the way forward for Ethopia. Re-establishing a maritime force to its overall drive will allow the country to push itself as a major player connecting Europe and Asia.

If Ethiopia believe they can convince European and Asian business by re-establishing a navy that the Horn of Africa is open for business at first glance it, they are mistaken. That is because a landlocked nation should seek a navy but, surprisingly, landlocked navies exist in many parts of the world. This is particularly relevant in countries where a river or a lake forms a national border. Thus, with the exception of the Caspian nations, landlocked navies operate strictly in major lakes or rivers. What makes Ethiopia’s case unique isthe fact that the State is seeking a blue water fleet to operate along the coast of the Horn of Africa. The Horn of Africa is spread over 727,000 mi².

An Ethiopian Navy would mean a win-win for the regional nations while the current coastal countries enjoy access to the world’s oceans but they lack the capabilities to patrol their waters and facilitate trade. Ethopia, however, has the opposite problem. It possesses the most resources but lacks a shoreline. Moreover, the regional coastal nations do not necessarily see an Ethiopian Navy as a threat but as a complementary force testament to this is acquisition of land in the island of Lamu as part of the Lamu Port-South Sudan-Ethiopia-Transport (Lapsset) project, a $24bn (£18bn) transport and infrastructure plan to link the Kenya and Ethopia. In short, the motivation for Ethiopia’s naval ambitions is it enables her to gain leverage in the regional maritime affairs and improve trading relations.

All things considered, Ethiopians would also have to develop the capabilities of their neighbors to reinforce their coastal entries so Ethiopia’s landlocked Navy would patrol and protect the waters of the Horn of Africa while also investing capital in stabilizing the coastal states. This trade-off would contribute to integrate the region economically and politically while reducing cross-border violence in an area that has been plagued for decades by territorial conflicts.

This geo-political manoeuvring is a welcomed change but we all know, talk is cheap. Constructing a navy from scratch is an expensive undertaking. If, the state of Ethopia could acquire a few dozen patrol boats and call it a day that is in fact what is most likely to occur in the next few years. And the patrol-only boats could be the Navy serving a symbolic purpose.

Eventually Addis Ababa will want a blue water Navy with military capabilities and that is when the real toil starts for it will require the state to train sailors, officers and commanders but also find suitable bases and procure larger vessels. This is a long-term project that will take decades to complete in the meantime the build-up of the Navy will be subject to future political and economic developments. And considering the long term commitment, that is required to construct a navy Ethiopia needs international partners.

The most immediate host for an Ethiopian Navy would be the Republic of Djibouti, the small but strategically important Nation which is already host to military bases from numerous countries including France, China and the United States of America. Djibouti also happens to enjoy close economic ties with Ethiopia. In fact, Ethiopia’s imports and exports go through the port of Doral, which is an extension of Djibouti port. However, the presence of foreign military bases in Djibouti means Ethiopian policymakers and Djibouti may not always have say over its own affairs and that is a security risk so even though Djibouti is where we will most likely see the first Ethiopian vessels set sail.

Adis Ababa would like to avoid putting all its eggs in one basket because if some political development results in the breakdown of relations between Ethiopia and Djibouti the Ethiopian Navy would be placed in a vulnerable position. So eventually, as the Ethiopian blue water navy becomes operational it will require basing rights in other countries convincing Eritrea will be difficult due to the their troublesome history that is still in living memory but basing rights in places like Misawa willbe necessary for the long term.

Nevertheless, in Somalia meanwhile relations between Addis Ababa andMogadishu have improved significantly and the Somalian ports of Kismayo and Pesasso are well suited for large navies. However, the activity of Al-Shabaab and the lack of infrastructure in Somalia impede close cooperation in the near future.

Countries such as Turkey, Saudi Arabia and Iran holding vested interests in the Horn of Africa, and also China and the United States there are however potential allies in the periphery such as France and the United Arab Emirates. France is the most obvious partner as its signed a deal to help re-establish the Ethiopian Navy and by doing so Paris is seeking to expand its influence beyond the francophone sphere into East Africa French multinational firms and a whole host of other defence corporations seeking to capitalize on the growing and liberalizing Ethiopian economy.

Another potential partner is the United Arab Emirates, which currently has a naval presence in Eritrea as well as unrecognized Somaliland. What is interesting here is that France operates a naval base in the United Arab Emirates, and the to maintain a strategic level of military cooperation with them.Since they operate in many of the same areas and if Addis Ababa, plays its cards right it could forge a lasting partnership with France. And the United Arab Emirates which would go along way in developing a capable Navy it goes without saying that Ethiopia’s pursuit of regional power could become a mega power in the region. This in turn would declare Prime Minister Abbey as scrupulous, hyper successful leader. He has embarked on a roadmap for reconciliation and restoration, as of now. But there remain pockets of secessionists across the country and social unrest continues to flare up from time to time as recently as June 2019, when there was a failed coup attempt. The armed forces tried to takeover a regional centre in the country.

The whereabouts of the rogue General who orchestrated the coup remain unknown. Events like these revealed that the central government still does not have full control over the domestic political situation despite all the progress being made. Therefore, beyond the obvious geographic shortcomings for a blue water navy of Ethiopia must stabilize its internal landscape or else the government may face a situation where it would be left with no choice but to hit the brakes on its ambitious naval project.

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