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Archive for the ‘Politics’ Category

Laurie Nathan Comments on Project Veritas and the Vetting of ANC MPs by Intelligence Agents

Falls the ShadowIn 2008 Laurie Nathan, co-editor of Falls the Shadow and director of the Centre for Mediation in Africa, co-wrote a review of South Africa’s security services, which focused especially on the infringement of constitutional rights.

The report “warned of scenarios not very different to Project Veritas,” writes Phillip de Wet in an article for the Mail & Guardian. The project De Wet refers to is an intelligence operation based at the ANC headquarters which includes in its duties the vetting of potential Parliament members, “helping to select those who are to oversee the activities of intelligence agencies for the next five years.”

Nathan tells De Wet that the government was warned of this kind of of problem but did not listen, which he says may be due to in-house nature of the issue: “All revelations about illegal political engagement by domestic intelligence has not been in relation to opposition parties. It has almost always been about the internal factional issue in the ruling alliance.”

In 2008 Kasrils scrambled to make public the so-called Matthews report, to sound the alarm on the excesses of the security services and the urgent need for comprehensive reform. The report, written by former deputy minister Joe Matthews, former National Assembly speaker Frene Ginwala and academic Laurie Nathan, warned of scenarios not very different to Project Veritas.

As far as can be ascertained in the shadowy realms of intelligence, the report has been entirely ignored ever since.

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Podcast: Laurie Nathan Discusses the Problems in State Security Agencies

Falls the ShadowProfessor Laurie Nathan, former parliamentary advisor on security and defense, director of the Centre for Mediation in Africa and co-editor of Falls the Shadow, was interviewed by John Robbie on Talk Radio 702 about the 2011/2012 report by the Joint Standing Committee on Intelligence (JSCI). Robbie says the list of problems goes on and on and that the report tells the story of “a state agency in absolute crisis”.

Nathan explains that the problems in the state security agencies that the report exposes are not surprising: “There are a number of really big problems at the top. The one is the almost complete absence of oversight by civilian bodies. A second big problem is the absence of decisive political leadership from the minute they’re in cabinet. The third is the politicisation of the security agencies, all of which manifests itself in this kind of behaviour.”

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Nicola de Jager Challenges Voter Apathy Ahead of 2014 General Election

Friend or Foe?Nicola de Jager, editor of Friend or Foe?: Dominant Party Systems in Southern Africa says people who believe their vote does not make a difference have an incorrect understanding of the South African electoral system.

De Jager explains that ahead of the first democratic elections in 1994, it was decided South Africa would take on a proportional representation system for elections, meaning that the percentage of votes received by each political party translates directly into the number of seats they are allocated in parliament.

According to De Jager, this system allows smaller parties the chance to participate in the legislative processes of government.

‘Your vote does count,’ says Dr Nicola de Jager from the Department of Political Science.

‘The proportional representation system applied by South Africa at provincial and national level means that your vote does count unlike a majority electoral system where the winner takes all.’

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  • Friend or Foe?: Dominant party systems in southern Africa – Insights from the developing world edited by Nicola de Jager, Pierre du Toit
    EAN: 9781919895567
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Pierre Englebert and Kevin C Dunn Examine the Practice of Power in Inside African Politics

Inside African PoliticsUCT Press presents Inside African Politics, an up-to-date introduction to contemporary African politics.

The book focuses on states as well as citizens across the continent, and examines politics from above and below.

Using an abundance of data and illustrative examples, authors Pierre Englebert and Kevin C Dunn highlight the contributions of African experiences to the broader knowledge of comparative politics and international relations. The straightforward, accessible style makes the book suitable for the general reader interested in current affairs, but Inside African Politics will also serve as an essential text and a long-term resource for students and scholars alike.

The book examines why we should know about African politics; the evolution of African states; people, identity and power; the practice of power; the range of regimes in Africa; the economic dimensions of African politics; the shifting landscape of conflict and security; and African politics in international relations.

About the Authors

Pierre Englebert is Professor of Political Science at Pomona College, in the US. He is author of the award-winning Africa: Unity, Sovereignty, and Sorrow (Lynne Rienner Publishers, 2009) and State Legitimacy and Development in Africa (Lynne Rienner Publishers, 2002).

Kevin C Dunn is Associate Professor of Political Science at Hobard and William Smith Colleges. His recent publications include The Politics of Origin in Africa: Autochthony, Citizenship, and Conflict (Zed Books, 2013).



1 Why Study African Politics?

  • The Object of Inquiry: An Overview
  • Africa?
  • 2 The Evolution of African States

    • Precolonial Politics
    • The Colonial State
    • Postcolonial States

    3 People, Identity, and Politics

    • Ethnicity
    • Religion
    • Social Classes and Class Politics
    • Gender Inequality and Participation
    • Civil Society

    4 The Practice of Power
    Neopatrimonial Rule

    • Political Parties
    • Militaries
    • The Branches and Practice of Government

    5 An Increasing Range of Regimes

    • The Evolution of Regimes over Time
    • Explaining Authoritarianism and Democracy
    • in Africa
    • African Democracy in Practice

    6 The Economic Dimensions of African Politics

    • The Weight of History and Nature
    • The Management of African Economies
    • and the Development Agenda

    7 The Shifting Landscape of Conflict and Security

    • A Typology of African Conflicts
    • Changing Patterns
    • Theories of War in Africa
    • Peacekeeping and Conflict Resolution
    • Human Security and Insecurity

    8 International Relations Near and Far

    • Africa in the World
    • Intra-African Relations
    • External Bilateral Relations
    • International Organizations
    • The Privatization of Africa’s International Relations

    List of Acronyms
    Basic Information on African States
    About the Book

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    Food for Africa Author Jennifer Thomson Consulted on Goverment’s New Bio-economy Strategy

    Food for AfricaJennifer Thomson, author of Food for Africa: The life and work of a scientist in GM crops, was one of the academics and private-sector experts consulted on the government’s proposed R2-billion venture-capital fund, which forms part of its new bio-economy strategy. Business Day’s Tamar Kahn reports that the fund will “support initiatives that aim to extract economic value from South Africa’s rich biological resources”.

    According to Thomson, South Africa is struggling to commercialise the potential of its diverse biological resources and that the biggest problem area is implementation:

    The government on Tuesday released a new bio-economy strategy that proposes setting up a R2bn venture-capital fund to support initiatives that aim to extract economic value from South Africa’s rich biological resources.

    “The vision is for South Africa’s bio-economy to be a significant contributor to the country’s economy by 2030 … through the creation and growth of novel industries that generate and develop bio-based services, products and innovations,” says the strategy, launched in Pretoria by Science and Technology Minister Derek Hanekom.

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    Laurie Nathan, Kristina Bentley and Richard Calland Launch Falls the Shadow

    Richard Calland Laurie Nathan Kristina Bentley

    Falls the Shadow: Between the Promise and Reality of the South African Constitution, edited by Laurie Nathan, Kristina Bentley and Richard Calland, developed out of a lecture series initiated by Nathan, titled “Mind the Gap”.

    “The South African Constitution is a blue-print for human security and against structural violence,” Nathan explained at the launch of the book at The Book Lounge this week. “And yet there is still a chronic lack of security for many South Africans – that is the ‘gap’.”

    Richard Calland, Laurie Nathan and Kristina Bentley Falls the ShadowNathan was joined by co-editor Kristina Bentley in a discussion chaired by Falls the Shadow’s third editor, Richard Calland. Nathan related how they had decided on this title for the book, as an alternative to “Mind the Gap”, seeing as the latter has been overused, even in academic publications. Falls the Shadow takes its title from TS Eliot’s poem, “The Hollow Men”, which reads: “Between the idea / And the reality / Between the motion / And the act / Falls the Shadow”. These lines strikingly describe for Nathan the situation where our Constitution promises so much, but does not deliver all it promises to the people on the ground – and this is what the contributors to Falls the Shadow explore in a variety of essays.

    Bentley expounded on the meaning of “human security”, saying that different definitions exist, but that generally it refers to economic security, food security, health security, etc. The paradox exists that a strong security state – in terms of the old definition of “national security” – undermines human security. She referred the audience to Tseliso Thipanyane’s chapter in the book, “You can’t eat the Constitution: Is democracy for the poor?” for more on the subject.

    Nathan explained that “structural violence” could be a synonym for “massive injustice” such as poverty, gender inequality, racism, xenophobia and homophobia. Although our Constitution is meant to guard against structural violence and promote human security, we all know that the reality is quite different.

    In a constitutional democracy, Nathan said, we purposefully constrain the powers of the state so that power can not be abused to the determent of the citizens, yet in South Africa it seems that the state is more and more free to do as it pleases, creating a dangerous situation for its people. Structural violence often leads to physical violence, Nathan cautioned. He remarked that the massacre at Marikana, where 34 striking miners had been shot dead, had just taken place as they were finishing Falls the Shadow and that, at the news of the tragedy, “the ‘shadow’ seemed to get larger and darker”.

    Nathan spoke in greater detail about his chapter in Falls the Shadow, titled “Intelligence Bound: The South African Constitution and Intelligence Services”. According to him, the military is no long the body with a disturbing level of power in South Africa as it used to be during apartheid, but that now, it is the intelligence community whose disproportionate influence should be questioned. “The intelligence community sees themselves as the guardians of the Constitution. But they also see themselves as above it, which means that they believe they can bend it to suit their purpose.”

    The politicisation of the intelligence service is extremely disconcerting to Nathan. “They seem to be more concerned about political ties than about the provisions of the Constitution. If you are a threat to the President from within the alliance, you can be sure that you will be watched.”

    The Constitution is essentially only a text, Nathan pointed out, and it is up to South Africans to make sure that this excellent blue-print for human security is upheld. Bentley agreed, saying that Falls the Shadow need not be a gloomy book if there are social actors who fight for the Constitution role as a powerful transformative institution.

    The launch was ended with a rigorous question and answer session in which Roger Southall, from the audience, brought up the matter of current discourse suggesting that the Constitution is flawed and the cause of all the problems. Calland said that he can understand skepticism towards something like a Bill of Rights as it comes from liberal politics, but emphasised that there is no evidence for the Constitution being the problem with a lack of transformation – unless you only see transformation as self-enrichment. Calland pointed out that the ANC had been involved in the process and had committed to the Constitution when it was drafted in the early 1990s. “The ANC needs to recover their own commitment to the Constitution,” he said.

    * * * * * * *

    Carolyn Meads tweeted live from the event using #livebooks:

    * * * * * * *

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    Laurie Nathan Comments on Britain Spying on South Africa in 2009 at the Group of 20 Meeting

    Falls the ShadowWyndham Hartley has written a column for Business Day about the discovery that Britain spied on South Africa during the 2009 meeting of the Group of 20.

    Hartley quoted Laurie Nathan, director of the Centre for Mediation at the University of Pretoria and co-editor of Falls the Shadow, who argued “that the interception would infringe the right to privacy where the communication is sent by a South African who is outside the country, since citizens do not forfeit their rights in relation to the state when they are abroad.”

    The revelations of fugitive former Central Intelligence Agency employee Edward Snowden that the British spied on South Africa at a meeting of the Group of 20 in 2009 has brought the practice of eavesdropping by governments into sharp focus.

    It has to be said that it came as no surprise that the British and Americans were interested in what was going on within the South African delegation. After all, president Thabo Mbeki had been ousted in what was effectively a coup and South Africa had elected Jacob Zuma, a man alleged to be corrupt, president.

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    Join Kristina Bentley and Laurie Nathan at the Launch of Falls the Shadow at The Book Lounge

    Invitation: Launch of Falls the Shadow

    Falls the Shadow: Between the Promise and Reality of the South African ConstitutionUCT Press and The Book Lounge cordially invite you to the launch of Falls the Shadow: Between the Promise and Reality of the South African Constitution edited by Kristina Bentley, Laurie Nathan and Richard Calland. Bentley and Nathan will be in conversation about the book.

    See you there!

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    Richard Calland Considers South Africa’s Reaction to the UK’s Espionage

    Falls the ShadowRichard Calland, co-editor of Falls the Shadow: Between the Promise and Reality of the South African Constitution, has written about the espionage carried out by the UK and the US, which was exposed by Edward Snowden.

    Calland writes that “everyone knows that everyone spies on each other, trying always to steal a march on their negotiating positions and a competitive advantage on any front, whether ­economic, military or political”. He says that it’s a pity that the relationship between South Africa and the UK “should be unnecessarily and carelessly harmed, as both have much to gain from its sustenance, and the cultural, economic and political ties are substantial”.

    It’s difficult to know whether to laugh or cry at the latest ­revelations of espionage, committed by the Americans and the British, and exposed through the Guardian’s exclusive coverage of whistle-blower Edward Snowden.

    The (new) middle powers are complaining bitterly. Turkey and South Africa expressed unhappiness earlier this week at the news that British intelligence had used an internet café set up for delegates to the G20 meeting in London in 2009 to gain access to diplomatic email traffic.

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    Richard Calland to Discuss Institutional Leadership at the Townhouse Hotel

    Falls the Shadow: Between the Promise and Reality of the South African ConstitutionRichard Calland, co-editor of Falls the Shadow: Between the Promise and Reality of the South African Constitution, will be discussing Institutional Leadership with Dr Wilmot James MP, Shadow Minister of Trade and Industry for the DA. The discussion is part of the roundtable series on Aspects of Political Leadership in South Africa organised by the Catholic Parliamentary Liaison Office and the Hanns Seidel Foundation in association with The Goedgedacht Forum.

    The event will be held at the Townhouse Hotel on Friday 31 May from 8:30 AM to 1 PM.

    Don’t miss it!

    Event Details

    • Date: Friday, 31 May 2013
    • Time: 8:30 AM to 1:00 PM
    • Venue: Townhouse Hotel,
      60 Corporation Street,
      Cape Town | Map
    • RSVP: Amarone Nomdo Angelique Thomas,, 021 461 1417

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