Archive for the ‘Politics’ Category
Professor 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, 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
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UCT 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
2 The Evolution of African States
- Precolonial Politics
- The Colonial State
- Postcolonial States
3 People, Identity, and Politics
- Social Classes and Class Politics
- Gender Inequality and Participation
- Civil Society
4 The Practice of Power
- Political Parties
- 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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Jennifer 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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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’.”
Nathan 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.
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Carolyn Meads tweeted live from the event using #livebooks:
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Wyndham 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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UCT 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, 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, 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!
- 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, email@example.com, 021 461 1417
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South Africa supposedly has one of the best Constitutions in the world, one which is intended to control and constrain the exercise of power by the state so that it does not threaten the liberty and security of citizens. But, in reality, does the Constitution contribute more to the security of some groups than others? Does it help to ensure certain types of security but not others? And does it have greater impact on some institutions than others? Falls the Shadow: Between the Promise and Reality of the South African Constitution is based on the assumption that the Constitution has a significant impact on the security of South African citizens and communities but that this impact is differential.
The chapters in the book explore what kind of differential impact the Constitution has, explain what accounts for the differences, examine the consequences of the different impact and consider whether there are any general observations and hypotheses that emerge from comparative perspectives.
Chapter 1: Introduction – Mind the Gap! – Dr Laurie Nathan (Research Fellow at the University of Cape Town and the Crisis States Research Centre, London School of Economics)
Chapter 2: You can’t eat the Constitution: Is democracy for the poor? Adv Tseliso Thipanyane
Chapter 3: Access to justice: The role of legal aid and visil society in protecting the poor – Dr Kristina Bentley
Chapter 4: Xenophobia – Whose Rights? Whose Safety? – Judith Cohen (Head of Programme: Parliamentary and International Affairs Programme, South African Human Rights Commission)
Chapter 5: Custom and constitutional rights: an impossible dialogue? – Mazibuko Jara
Chapter 6: Access to social security: miners fighting for their health rights in South Africa – Meryl du Plessis
Chapter 7: Judicial Selection: What qualities make for a good judge? – Susannah Cowen
Chapter 8: Judicial Appointments: Do procedural shortcomings hinder access to justice? – Abongile Sipondo and Chris Oxtoby
Chapter 9: Intelligence Bound: The South African Constitution and Intelligence Services – Dr Laurie Nathan
Conclusion – Things fall apart: the centre cannot hold – Prof Richard Calland (University of Cape Town)
About the editors
Laurie Nathan is a research fellow at the University of Cape Town and the London School of Economics (LSE). At LSE he co-ordinates a research programme on regional security and is a member of the Management Committee of the Crisis States Research Centre. He is a member of the United Nations Mediation Roster and the United Nations Security Sector Reform Experts Roster.
Richard Calland is an Associate Professor in Public Law at the University of Cape Town. His latest book is Anatomy of South Africa: Who Holds the Power? (Zebra Press, 2006). He is co-director of the International School for Transparency, secretary-general of the African Network of Constitutional Lawyers and a senior associate of the University of Cambridge’s Programme for Sustainability Leadership.
Kristina Bentley is Senior Research Officer with the Democratic Governance and Rights Unit in the Department of Public Law at the University of Cape Town. She is author (with Adam Habib) of Racial Redress and Citizenship in South Africa (HSRC Press, 2008 and Assistant Editor of Politikon, the official journal of the South African Association of Political Studies (SAAPS).
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