ICC Pursues Bashir and Rattles African Union

The discord between the International Criminal Court (ICC) and African countries would have been comical, were it not so calamitous. How long will it last? At what costs to important international and continental affairs?

Whereas Kenyan President Uhuru Kenyatta has closed his matter in question with the ICC, Sudanese President Omar Al Bashir has engaged the ICC in a run-around trip for six years, and the costs are mounting all around. Those costs were seen in the disarray at the recent African Union summit and the host country South Africa is still picking up the broken pieces. President Al Bashir walked in tall to the AU summit, but left in a not so-glorious exit from South Africa.

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Walking in the quiet streets of Bryanston, Johannesburg
Does he belong, yet every day walk the streets he must
Passing runners and joggers and strollers and their dogs
They reflect proof of ownership in their bearings
Nods and glances exchanged amongst them confirm approval
Of one and each, even if no words are spoken
Coded non-verbal certainty speak tons
Of who is part and who is without
They are in, he is out.

Walking in the quiet streets of Bryanston, Johannesburg
Does he belong, yet every day walk the streets he must
Does he belong to the leafy, quiet streets
Where big homes swallow big cars through stern gates
Flowers and lights form majestic rows alongside wall fences
Bearing electric crowns marked ‘danger’ for emphasis
Protecting valuables whose origins question silence
Trees are part shade part shield, of gleaming sky blue pools within
They have it, he has nothing.

Walking in the quiet streets of Bryanston, Johannesburg
Does he belong, yet every day walk the streets he must
Made stranger by looks of interrogation
Even by owners who yesterday he greeted with large toothy smiles
With whose home staff he shares talks and lunches on street pavements
With whose dogs he grins and laughs loudly in fear when they bark at him
Walking in the quiet streets of Bryanston, Johannesburg
Does he belong, yet every day walk the streets he must

The streets where his ancestors called home but worked as labourers
The streets where his parents worked as child minders and gardeners
The streets where he is gardener to three homes, coming and going
The streets where he hopes his children will drive and not walk; dreaming?

By Bunmi Makinwa

April 24, 2014

The Theatre in South Africa’s Parliament

You can make your choice – either to laugh or to cry. The raucous in the parliament in South Africa is not going to stop anytime soon. It may get worse before it gets better.

In the new multi-racial democratic South Africa, the first and only known serious breach of protocol and rowdiness in parliament was between a ruling party member and an opposition legislator in 1998, four years after the end of a long ignominious apartheid rule in the country.

But that was until August 21 in 2014 when usual decorum of debate in the hallowed hall of legislation disappeared. President Jacob Zuma came to parliament for a scheduled question and answer session in the parliament in Cape Town, but it was not to be. Mayhem overcame the session when members of parliament of the recently-for med Economic Freedom Fighters (EFF) party heckled him. EFF members were dislodged by stern-looking security officers.  EFF wanted President Zuma to answer their questions on “Nkandla” – the name of his country home which has become synonymous with use of public funds for enhancement of personal assets. In a critical report, the public protector had said that official expense to renovate President Zuma’s Nkandla homestead was improper and that such items as swimming pool and amphi-theatre could not be included as security items paid for by government. The report concluded that unaccepted items should be reimbursed to government coffers by the president who was the beneficiary. The president had countered that he had nothing to do with the decision on what was done at his homestead, and the project was handled by designated officials. A committee set up by parliament on the report did not find the president guilty of any wrongdoing and the African National Congress (ANC) party with compelling majority in parliament exonerated the president of any wrong doing.

But business could not go on as usual. EFF, hastily formed as a political party a few months to the election of May 20 2014 and surprisingly garnered 25 seats in parliament at the election, has used its new membership in the house to torment the majority. EFF is the third most popular party with 25 seats in the 400 member house and six per cent of all votes, next to Democratic Alliance (DA), the lead opposition party, with 89 seats in parliament and 22 per cent of votes. The 102-year-old ANC has 249 seats in parliament, 62 per cent of votes and has ruled since 1994. Despite its few members, EFF has made itself a major force to be reckoned with. It made “Pay back the money” its permanent cry in parliament and vowed that President Zuma would have to return monies spent on non-security and un-entitled items at his Nkandla home or no smooth business would be conducted anytime the president showed up in parliament.

Living up to its word, EFF members turned parliament into a fighting field for the second time on February 12 2015 when President Zuma came to read his annual State of the Nation address. Barely had he started the address than pandemonium broke out with shouts of “Pay back the money”. On cue, smartly dressed security persons swarmed on the EFF members and bundled them out. But not without a struggle that left several people injured and bruised. For the second time in six months, South Africa’s democracy was stretched tautly.

The incident of February 12 generated a lot of heat. The Democratic Alliance (DA) and opposition parties walked out of parliament in protest against breach of parliamentary protocol by allowing in security personnel and for the ejection of EFF members from the house. Just moments before the incident, the airwaves were jammed and phone signals were not available, another action seen as strong arm tactic by the authorities to supplant democracy. There was no doubt that security forces were prepared to forestall the expected disruption of the president’s address. What resulted though was that a traditionally celebratory and almost banal event became a historic marker for parliamentary order or disorder and President Zuma had to deliver his address to only ANC parliamentarians.

EFF leader Julius Malema, 34, and his party leaders have not relented. Their cry is that President Zuma should return to parliament to answer questions on “Nkandla” and other matters, or he would be forced to answer questions on the issue at any opportunity in parliament.

“Nkandla” has split South Africa across many lines. Some use the term “Nkandlagate”, a recall of the infamous Watergate scandal of disgraced United States President Richard Nixon, to signal the importance of the subject. “Nkandla” is seen as yet another in a number  of accusations of corruption against President Zuma, even though he has not been convicted of any offence. In counterpoints, “Nkandla” is portrayed as just the latest dirty dress that opponents and critics of President Zuma hang on the line hoping that it would draw attention among several non-issues. The parliamentary committee’s report which did not find the president guilty of any wrongdoing should have closed the issue, they asserted.

Critics of EFF say that the new party has merely tagged on to the “Nkandla” agenda to cultivate publicity. It is advocating anarchy, including in its policy of championing land appropriation and attacking the private sector. Julius Malema was previously a popular leader of ANC’s youth league that played a major role in orchestrating the wrestle for power within the ANC that saw then deputy President Zuma out-manoeuvre then President Thabo Mbeki, to resign abruptly from office. With full backing and support of Malema, President Zuma assumed office in 2009 after a short interim arrangement. But rather the friendship between President Zuma and outspoken Malema fizzled and turned sour as Malema made several pronouncements on economic and political issues that embarrassed the ANC but captivated youths and energized disenfranchised, marginalized people. In 2012, Malema was expelled from the ANC and faced investigations.

In anger, Malema poured strings of accusations on President Zuma and ANC. Malema founded a movement that became a political party called EFF to contest elections in May 2014. That EFF won a respectable percentage of votes and seats in parliament confirmed the resonance of Malema’s message with a sizeable population, mainly among the black majority, erstwhile supporters of ANC who were disenchanted with the party. At the same election, President Zuma won his second mandate and has to deal with the EFF in parliament.

The new strong voice of EFF and its uncompromising position is playing out in the parliamentary chaos that may not be resolved anytime soon. Dressed in red housemaid-style gowns for women and red worker-style overalls for men, EFF parliamentarians stand out as rebels-by-choice in parliament. When they wish, they adhere to parliamentary rules. At other times they put up a mastery display of protests and civil disobedience. Although they were suspended and fined for the first rowdiness in parliament in August 2014, it has not daunted their zeal and they turned the parliament upside down a second time in February this year.

After the first incident, deputy President Cyril Ramaphosa intervened and attempted to negotiate a mutually acceptable solution to all parties. It did not go far and compromise could not find a place over political anger . In a recent interview, former President Mbeki described the situation as a political one where technical parliamentary rules approach would not lead to a solution. President Zuma has said that he wanted people who have the competency to make the decision and advise him on whether he ought to pay for any of the jobs done at his private home. For Malema, despite facing criminal charges and friction within his new EFF, he is unbowed. “We are not scared of the ANC. We are not scared of Jacob Zuma. We are not scared of Baleka Mbete (Speaker of parliament). We were elected by our people to hold the executive responsible.”

The new date for President Zuma to appear in parliament is March 11. Until some way forward is agreed, South Africa’s parliament will from time to time turn into “Sollywood” soap operas, a copy of Nollywood, and a mirror of many legislative houses across the world where rowdiness is part of the parliamentary order.

Makinwa is a communication for leadership entrepreneur based in South Africa and Nigeria. Twitter: @bunmimakinwa

This post fist appeared on Sahara Reporters.

South Africa’s Oscar Pistorius And Guns

Imminently, the judge will deliver a verdict in the trial of Oscar Pistorius, the Paraolympian who shot his girlfriend, Reeva Steenkamp, dead at his home in Pretoria, South Africa, on Valentine’s Day in 2012.

Oscar Pistorius came into global limelight  as a double leg amputee “Bladerunner” using carbon-fiber prosthetics. Pistorius set records – in 2011the first double leg amputee to win an able-bodied world track medal; in 2012 the first double leg amputee to participate in the Olympics; first double leg amputee to win gold medals; world record in 200 metres race and silver in the final.  He became rich and famous. He was entitled to and desired by models such as Steenkamp who said severally that she felt lucky to have Pistorius as “my boo”.

The year 2012 that marked Pistorius rise to glory was the year of his infamous descent. He was just 26 years old.

The many questions of what happened and how were answered in the court during a live broadcast trial which lasted almost one year from Pistorius first court appearance on August 19 2012. At the end, South Africa remained divided as it was at the beginning of the trial.

For one group, Pistorius is a violent, angry, troubled,dangerous, armed, man with a difficult past who is unable to cope with fame and is disrespectful of women. To the other group, he is an unfortunate victim of nature, disadvantaged, sensitive, scared person who is forced by South Africa’s crime-ridden society to seek heightened security for personal protection.

If you accept the view of the first group, Judge Masipa’s verdict is clear – the prosecutor’s charge of premeditated murder stands and Pistorius deserves a life sentence which is 25 years imprisonment. Mitigation may come through pleading of extraordinary circumstance such as first offender, disability of Pistorius, value to society.

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