Private security guards outnumber the police and army in South Africa

South Africa fact of the day:

In 2013, it was reported that there were 400,000 security guards in South Africa – more than the numbers of police and army combined. Some of the people setting up private security companies are ex-police or ex-military, and the guards are often well armed and trained in how to use automatic rifles and handguns.

Also, in case you missed it, here is the video footage of the SABC reporter who was robbed this week on live TV in Jozi outside a hospital.


More on crime in South Africa here.

Residents of Johannesburg also worry about not having enough bike lanes. One wonders whether fixing the security situation by addressing the root causes of crime ought to precede any public expenditure on enabling people to bike outside – it’s easier to rob cyclists than motorists, no?

jacob zuma: why crash so soon?

Update: President Jacob Zuma agrees that he fathered a child out of wedlock with the 39 year-old daughter of one of his friends. Mr. Zuma is 67. In his statement the President said that he had done the “cultural imperative” of admitting to having fathered the child. A few suggestions for Mr. Zuma and those around him:

– having three wives is bad enough. Concentrate on the job. South Africans are looking up to you

– please fire your communications director. You are really bad with PR

– you are embarrassing the entire Continent. Not just yourself and your immediate family but the entire Continent. The whole 700 million of us.

The BBC reports that Jacob Zuma may have fathered a love child last year. The South African president just recently got married for the fifth time (he has three wives). He is estimated to have about 20 children. Recently when confronted about his rather colorful matrimonial situation Mr. Zuma shot back with the claim that anybody who was against polygamy was a cultural bigot.This is total horse manure. Mr. Zuma should know that culture is not static and that an attack on his wayward habits is not an attack on Zulu culture.

Until recently Mr. Zuma had exceeded expectations. His cabinet appointments (i thought) signaled his pragmatism. He stayed clear of the incendiary demagoguery that characterizes the ANC’s youth wing leader, Julius Malema. Even the media had warmed up a bit to the man who had to wiggle out of corruption and rape charges to become president. For a moment I thought that Mr. Zuma was going to be the nice blend of populism and realistic politicking that had so much eluded the intellectually aloof Thabo Mbeki. South African land reform, a fairer redistribution and creation of wealth (through a more transparent BEE and faster job creation), a reduced crime rate, etc etc seemed somewhat doable because the core of his base was the working class. But as is fast becoming apparent, it appears that the man has decided to let his personal life interfere with his job. I hope this latest incident will embarrass the ANC enough for the party to ask Mr. Zuma to go easy on the distractions and concentrate on his job.

Update: This is the last thing that SA and its ailing economy needs. The tabloid-like headings are soiling the SA presidency.

bring him his machine gun

South African voters have spoken, and Jacob Zuma will be their next president. With half the votes in the ANC had over 65% of the votes, its closest rival had 18%. Now the only question that remains is whether the ANC will get more than two thirds of the votes to make it possible for it to change the constitution at will. Most people, in the interest of true democracy (including yours truly), are not particularly enthusiastic about such a prospect.

Now that he is president-elect, Mr. Zuma must clearly let the world know what he intends to do as president. Will he be a respectable statesman or will he be the clown of a leader that he fancies himself as in the eyes of the masses – initial pictures of his election victory celebrations show him on stage dancing with a group of women. (This is not really statesman-like Mr. Zuma, especially given your colorful marital history. The less of this side of you we see in the next few years the better).

Many challenges await Mr. Zuma. South Africa’s high unemployment and crime rates top the list. The other big issue will be land reform. The legacy of apartheid in South African land ownership must be dealt with at some point. Mbeki did not have the spine or the populist touch to do it. Mr. Zuma might be the right man for the job. I hope that the president-elect will not treat his presidency as an exercise in post-apartheid justice as embodied in his favorite campaign song “bring me my machine gun” but that he will do everything that he does within the confines of the law.

He may not be the wise man we would have wanted for the land of Mandela, but he will be president. Because of that I can only wish him success.

zuma may turn out to be ok

Jacob Zuma, the man poised to be South Africa’s next president, has been getting a lot of bad press. This much married man has had to deal with pages after pages of news concerning his corrupt past and his adventures with the South African justice system. The truth be said, he is not a clean man. Where there is smoke, there is fire, and in Zuma’s case there is just way too much smoke for there not to be a flame.

That said, the fact is that he is going to be president of South Africa and by virtue of that become the most powerful man in Africa. I would like to join the few editorial pages out there who in the past week have indicated possible positives of a Zuma presidency. I am not convinced the man is as blindly populist as he wants the South African masses to believe. He is a calculating politician. He knows that he needs a viable South African economy just as much as he needs the masses to sing and dance in his name. It is no coincidence that he matches every populist statement of his with a reminder that he does not intend to radically change South Africa.

But I am not concerned with South African domestic issues. My concern is what a Zuma presidency will mean for the Southern African region and the Continent. And on this front I am hopeful. Eager to please the international community, I think that Zuma might just be the man to bring real change to Zimbabwe and some sort of sanity to the African Union. His predecessor, Thabo Mbeki, was too professorial to deal with the half-wits that run most of the Continent. Most of them did not take his (Mbeki’s) calls for an African Renaissance seriously. But Zuma, being a man of the people, might just be the one that charms them into seeing the light and actually changing the way they run their countries.Wishful thinking? Perhaps.

South African Elections

On the 22nd of April South Africans will go to the polls to elect their new president. There are no prizes for guessing who the winner will be. Everyone expects Jacob Zuma, a man facing corruption charges, to win easily. Despite the much hyped challenge from Cope, a party of ANC dissidents, the ANC with its immense ‘struggle movement capital’ will still win a healthy majority in the South African parliament.

zumaAs I have indicated before, I am not particularly enthusiastic about Zuma’s forthcoming presidency. The much-married man has a predilection for buffoonery. He is a known populist who may mishandle South Africa’s sluggish transition from the insanity of apartheid. Perhaps most worrying is his corruption record. The last thing South Africa needs in these hard economic times is a president who sends the message that it’s OK to be corrupt, as long as you have the right political connections.

That said, it is almost ineluctable that the Continent will have its leader in Jacob Zuma after the April elections. And because of that we are left with no alternative but to search for any positives that might come out of it. For starters, Zuma’s lack of formal education and the accompanying intellectual arrogance may make him more predisposed to alternative views – especially when it comes to the AIDS situation in South Africa (Mbeki strangely refused to admit the link between HIV and AIDS).

Secondly, given that he is coming in with little international legitimacy, he may feel compelled to do the right thing about Africa’s dictators and their many human rights abuses. Lastly, even his populism might be a plus. No sane person would disagree that South Africa NEEDS land reforms. Zuma may just be the one to do it, unlike the Mbeki-ist moderates who instead have chosen to focus on empowering middle class Black South Africans while forgetting the landless masses.

Let’s wait and see……..

will someone please take this mad man away

Robert Mugabe is a delusional mad man bent on destroying himself and his entire country. Ok, may be I am overplaying it, but what do you make of a man who is denying that there is cholera in his country while hundreds continue to die and flee into other countries? A man who continues to cling to power when the economy of his country is a total mess with super-hyper-inflation and no prospect of recovery? A man whose strongman rule and outright thuggery has sent an estimated more than three million people fleeing to neighboring countries and beyond? What do you make of this man than to conclude that there is something seriously wrong with his head?

12 million human beings should never have to suffer because of the selfishness and greed of one man. Humanity has failed and continues to fail in allowing Robert Mugabe to continue being the president of Zimbabwe. It is time someone in SADC or the AU or the UN or the EU or NATO grew a pair and sent this old man a serious message with details about his departure from the helm. Previously, I was of the opinion that he should be accorded amnesty in some country somewhere, far away from Zim but not anymore. This man should be arrested and tried for crimes against humanity. The international community should stop pretending and see the Zimbabwean political, health and economic crises for what they really are  – tools of war being used by this mad man Rob against his own people.

Why is Mbeki not being as serious as he ought to be about this? Where is Kofi Annan? Where is the UN on this? Enough with the toothless resolutions. Do something. Innocent people are dying.

And I am not being delusional myself. I am not in any way insinuating that the departure of Mugabe will be the panacea to all of Zim’s problems. Far from that. The damage has been done and it will take a generation or two to fix it. But the departure of Mugabe will definitely be the beginning of the end of the many ills that have plagued Zimbabwe since the mid 1990s.

zuma wins another battle, more reason for africa to be afraid

Jacob Zuma, the almost certain next president of the most powerful country in Africa, has just had a corruption case against him thrown out of court on the basis that it was politically motivated. While there might be some truth in this, it is still an affront on justice. There is no denying the fact that Zuma’s strategy all along has been one of intimidation of the South African justice system and me thinks that it is a travesty that this court bought into the politics argument against this case.

For the rule of law to prevail, there has to be a perception by all that no one is above the law. The exoneration of Zuma sends the wrong message. A message that political connections elevates one above the law. This is why, the leader of his youth wing is still running around threatening to kill people with impunity. Sad shame. And to think that in a few months this clown of a man who believes that showering after sex prevents aids infection will be the most powerful man in Africa just makes me sick. He is a populist and has absolutely no respect for the law. And worst of all, he may turn out to be the typical African leader – immensely loved by the masses but worth not even a bucket of spit in terms of policy and general vision for the country. Zuma supporters point to his popularity as a reason for his detractors to leave him alone – but they forget that Mugabe, Moi, al-Bashir, Zenawi and many other sub-grade African leaders were at one time populists in the mould of Zuma.

xenophobia in south africa

The images were heart wrenching. Seeing the body of a supposed immigrant on the ground, partly burnt and bleeding made me wonder what got into South Africans this past week. Apparently their excuse for killing and chasing away immigrants is that the foreigners took away their jobs and are fuelling rising crime rates.

But who exactly are the criminals here? I’d say it is the mobs that are necklacing foreigners and burning down their houses and business establishments.  And who exactly is responsible for the lack of jobs? Is it really the immigrants, some of whom have created jobs – like the Kenyan whose supermarket was razed? I would say it is Thabo Mbeki and his men. These are the people that have over the years allowed the immigrants into South Africa to begin with and have failed to create a vibrant economy that provides for all south africans. They are the ones to blame and not innocent Zims and other (Southern) Africans fleeing poverty and tyranny back in their home countries.

And in other stories, I read that there were lynchings of witches in Western Kenya. It is shocking that this type of thinking still exists in people’s heads. African governments still have a long way to go in instilling the rule of law and rational-legal attitudes in their people. It is extremely sad that almost none of them realise just how much they need to do to change the lives of their people and put them on the path to true modernity – the African way.

African Institute of Science and Technology to open in Abuja

Those of you that regularly read my blog know that I have this fixation with the idea of an African hegemon in the form of either Nigeria or South Africa that would provide visionary leadership for the rest of the continent. I was therefore delighted when I learned that the first African Institute of Science and Technology campus will open in Abuja, Nigeria, this coming July. The university will be part of a pan-African alliance of similar institutions that will be bastions of knowledge and research. The AIST will be modeled in a similar way to India’s legendary IIT and will consist of four campuses in the East, West, North and South of the African continent.

The initiative is the brain child of the Nelson Mandela Institution and will focus on the creation of scientific solutions to Africa-specific problems. The core courses offered by AIST will be in science and engineering although I see expansion into the social sciences once the demand builds up; after all, Africa needs all kinds of solutions, not just scientific ones. These are really exciting times……..

It is commendable that Nigeria provided the seed money for the project and that it will be the first host of such a high profile institution. Other potential candidates are South Africa or Botswana for the Southern campus, Kenya (once they get their house in order, if not Rwanda would be the next best thing) in the East and possibly Libya or Tunisia in the North. AIST, on top of being in itself a centre of excellence, will provide competition to other African universities that have been wallowing in mediocrity due to lack of competition and political meddling in the universities.

when will africa get it right?

A few months ago, after the Nigerian election, I read a piece in a leading international newspaper that said that Africa had yet again failed at democracy. The article infuriated me because it was a blanket write off of the entire continent as being undemocratic. I thought about Kenya, Senegal and Botswana as viable democracies that were capable of holding free and fair elections and which had freedom of the press.

But then Kenya happened. A country that was largely peaceful and with prospects of becoming a middle income country in the next decade and a half suddenly imploded and descended into never-before seen chaos. An election was stolen by a man who was viewed as one of the better behaved presidents on a continent infested with autocrats and dictators.

How, after all this, can we convince the world that Nigeria, Zimbabwe, the CAF, Equatorial Guinea, Sudan, Somalia, Chad, the DCR and all the others are isolated incidents? How are we going to convince ourselves that we are capable of running peaceful and prosperous countries when all that exist around us are chaos and murderous wars? Total failure?

It is true that countries like Botswana and Senegal still remain stable and democratic and also headed towards economic prosperity. South Africa is also doing quite well, although I am holding my breath to see what a Zuma presidency has in store for us. But the rest of the countries either have wars, or some form of instability and those that are peaceful have poverty rates that are utterly inhuman, to put it mildly.

It is extremely vital for the continent not to let a working model like Kenya sink into the same pit that has the Somalias of the continent. This is because many countries in East Africa depend on Kenya for their own economic success. A failed Kenya would mean no hope for Somalia and serious problems for Uganda, Rwanda, Burundi, Southern Sudan, Eastern DCR and Northern Tanzania. A failed Kenya will also mean a serious blow to the spread of democracy on the continent and especially East Africa. Besides Tanzania, Kenya was the only other democracy in the region. Uganda, Rwanda and Burundi all have autocrats who would happily use Kenya as an excuse for them to stay in power.

anc endorses zuma for president

Jacob Zuma, the recently elected president of the ANC, is certain to become South Africa’s next president after the party officially announced that it would back him for the presidency in next year’s election. This despite the fact that Zuma is scheduled to appear in court on charges of corruption.

The ANC executive committee said that it was fully behind the former vice president and hinted that it would support his court battle against the corruption charges which many of Zuma’s supporters see as politically motivated.

Zuma has lately been on a charm offensive in his efforts to try and reassure South African businesses that he will not drastically deviate from Mbeki’s economic policies. Many hope that Zuma will not live up to his populist ideals that appear to be anti private business.

african leaders fail, again

While Washington and Brussels have been scrambling to ensure a return to order in Kenya after the disputed presidential election, African leaders have been quiet, only issuing half-hearted statements condemning the violence that has gripped the country.

One would have thought that since Kenya was one of the remaining beacons of peace and stability on the continent, many leaders would come out to seek a speedy solution to its problems. But no. African leaders, in their characteristic style, would never be caught criticising each other. So even after one of them was believed to have rigged his way back to power, none of them had the spine to roundly condemn the rigging and call for dialogue.

Yar’Adua of Nigeria, Wade of Senegal and Mbeki of South Africa are nowhere to be seen. Kofuor attempted to be the mediator but later pulled back because the Kenyan government wasn’t too keen on getting his help. Nigeria, Ghana, Senegal and South Africa, being the four countries that can credibly criticise/influence Kenya, should have acted fast in order to restore peace and order in the country by pushing for negotiations between the president and the opposition leader.

Because of the silence of these African leaders we have been left with a situation in which the US and the UK seem to be more interested in peace in Kenya than Kenya’s immediate neighbors and other countries on the continent. Next time any of these leaders complain of neo-colonialism they deserve to have rotten eggs land on their faces. They have failed the continent and by allowing outsiders “run the show” on the continent gravely dented Africans’ self confidence, again.

It is most deplorable that no single leader on the continent has come out in defense of democracy. It just shows how long Africa still has to go before it can be called a land of democrats.

zuma victory a loss for africa

Even Desmond Tutu, the Nobel Peace Price laureate dubbed as South Africa’s conscience during the apartheid years, could not persuade the delegates at the ANC Congress in Polokwane not to elect Jacob Gedleyihlekisa Zuma as their party’s next president. The eminent Nelson Mandela opted to stay above the fray on this one, citing impartiality but may be also because he saw it as a foregone conclusion. The mistake that was Zuma’s election is the full responsibility of Thabo Mbeki. This is a man who throughout his presidency has remained aloof and insensitive to South African street and village talk. Even at the congress he found it proper to bore the crowd with a more than two hour long speech on policy issues instead of pandering to their populist instincts. This was a vote against Mbeki in the same vein that many reasonable people had hoped that it be a vote against Zuma.

The implication of a Zuma presidency for South Africa is an issue that South Africans will have to deal with themselves. It may even be (hopefully) the era that finally corrects the injustices of the apartheid period. What worries me is how his presidency will pan out in the wider region. Mbeki, like the Ghanaian Nkrumah, was a lousy president at home but a great pan-Africanist. He was a key architect of the African Union and the NEPAD initiative. Mbeki was also an ideologue – of the tempered kind that Africa woefully lacks – who took time to seriously think of solutions to Africa’s problems. Mbeki had the courage to dream of an African Renaissance even as poverty and underdevelopment still plague the continent.

Of course the wishes of the South African people should supersede those of other Africans when they choose their leaders. I am also glad that Zuma’s election happened in a democratic manner. Institutionalization of democracy within the ANC, as I have pointed out before, is important since it is this party that will be electing South Africa’s president for many years to come – barring any major break-up. This said, I think it is important to acknowledge that South Africa, being the regional hegemon, has considerable influence in Africa. Because of this, people in Harare, Dakar or Nairobi have a reason to care and think of how outcomes in South African politics affect them.

Zuma, a man without much formal education, lacks the intellectual abilities that Mbeki has exhibited ever since his heydays as an ANC exile. He has proven to be a populist and to the best of my knowledge has not shown much interest on the region as a whole. If he chooses to be a domestic leader, like he seems he will, his election will indeed end up being a loss to the African people who desperately need visionary continental leadership to correct the evils of poverty, disease, ignorance and bad leadership.