news analysis advocacy

Support AfricaFocus and independent bookstores!

Make non-profit your first stop for buying books.
See books recommended by AfricaFocus.


Visit the AfricaFocus
Country Pages

Burkina Faso
Cape Verde
Central Afr. Rep.
Congo (Brazzaville)
Congo (Kinshasa)
Côte d'Ivoire
Equatorial Guinea
São Tomé
Sierra Leone
South Africa
South Sudan
Western Sahara

Get AfricaFocus Bulletin by e-mail!

Format for print or mobile

South Africa: Rising Outcry for Zuma to Go

AfricaFocus Bulletin
April 3, 2017 (170403)
(Reposted from sources cited below)

Editor's Note

"We call on Ministers and leaders of the ANC who care about the future of democracy and the Constitution to speak up and call on the President, in the best interests of the country, to step down. We call on the parliamentary leadership of the ANC, supported by all opposition parties, to insist that parliament be recalled immediately to debate a motion of no-confidence, proposed by the ANC leadership in parliament. We call on all members of Parliament to unite and support a motion of no-confidence." - Statement by the Nelson Mandela Foundation and the Ahmed Kathrada Foundation, March 31, 2017

The outcome is uncertain. But political observers are unanimous that the events of last week mark a dramatic public display of lack of confidence in South African President Jacob Zuma, including within the highest ranks of the ruling African National Congress. First came the death of highly respected and beloved liberation icon Ahmed Kathrada, one of those closest to Nelson Mandela in prison and in struggle. This was followed within days by a unilateral cabinet reshuffle by President Zuma, including the ouster of Treasury officials seen as the major barrier to further expansion of corruption and patronage by Zuma and his allies.

This AfricaFocus Bulletin contains (1) the March 31 statement by the Nelson Mandela Foundation and the Ahmed Kathrada Foundation, (2) the short remarks by Kathrada's widow Barbara Hogan, herself a political prisoner under apartheid, who served with distinction as Health Minister in a decisive phase of the battle against HIV/AIDS, and (3) an article noting the potential impact of the cabinet reshuffle on a contested nuclear power deal with Russia, one of many points at which corruption in the Zuma administration has intersected with energy policy.

Several additional articles of related interest from the South Africa press include:

"Stakes for South Africa's democracy are high as Zuma plunges the knife," The Conversation, March 31, 2017

"Steven Friedman on What SA Can Do to Get Rid of Zuma," Daily Vox, April 1, 2017

"Reporter's Notebook: The Day South Africa woke-up," Daily Maverick, April 1, 2017

"Isolated Zuma faces revolt over Pravin Gordhan's axing," Sunday Times, April 2, 2017

"'Choose between Zuma or country' - SACP dares ANC," eNCA, April 2, 2017

For previous AfricaFocus Bulletins on South Africa, visit

In particular, see "South Africa: State Capture & Energy Policy"

++++++++++++++++++++++end editor's note+++++++++++++++++

Media Statement: Honour Kathrada, defend our democracy

Nelson Mandela Foundation and Ahmed Kathrada Foundation

March 31, 2017

The Ahmed Kathrada Foundation and Nelson Mandela Foundation are shocked and deeply saddened by the unilateral announcement by the Presidency that the memorial service in honour of the late Ahmed Mohamed Kathrada has been postponed indefinitely. This decision was without any consultation with his wife Barbara Hogan, the Kathrada family, and the Kathrada Foundation.

We view this conduct by the President, on the anniversary of the humble letter written to him exactly one year ago, by our beloved Isithwalandwe comrade Kathrada, as totally unacceptable. The memorial service would have been the ideal opportunity for the state to pay tribute to the memory of Ahmed Kathrada. For three quarters of a century Ahmed Kathrada, a revolutionary, selflessly sacrificed his life in the interests of the people. He has deservedly taken his rightful place alongside the many giants of our democratic revolution; a symbol who people here and abroad have come to love and adore.

Ahmed Kathrada passed away in the early hours of Tuesday morning, 28 March, and on Wednesday at his funeral, people gathered from all walks of life, young and old, men and women, including stalwarts in their numbers, to name a few:

  • Graca Machel and Winnie Madikizela-Mandela
  • The surviving Rivonia trialists Andrew Mlangeni and Dennis Goldberg
  • The last surviving leader of the 1956 Women's March Sophie Williams De Bruyn
  • The life-long friend of Ahmed Kathrada, Laloo Chiba, who together with others spent time with him on Robben Island
  • Members of the Sisulu and Tambo families
  • George Bizos
  • Former speakers of the National Assembly, Frene Ginwala and Max Sisulu
  • Former Presidents Mbeki and Motlanthe
  • Deputy President Cyril Ramaphosa
  • Chief Justice Mogoeng Mogoeng
  • Religious leaders from all faith communities
  • Leaders of all sectors of business, labour and civil society.

In addition to our dismay at the indefinite postponement of the official memorial in honour of comrade Kathrada tomorrow, we have awoken to the news this morning that five ministers and three deputy ministers have been removed from office. They include Minister Pravin Gordhan and his deputy Mcebisi Jonas, who have worked tirelessly to stabilise our economy in the face of self-induced political instability. They and others, in our view, have been removed for protecting the country from corruption and looting, and speaking truth to power. They were not even shown the courtesy of being informed of their removal and they learnt of their removal through the media. This decision of the President, using presidential prerogative and, as we have learnt, without the support of the Deputy President or the Secretary General of the African National Congress, follows on the heels of

  • the decision of the Constitutional Court in the disastrous SASSA debacle around the continuation of payment of social grants

  • the SABC debacle where the recommendations of parliament were largely ignored

  • South Africa being summoned to the Hague to explain the violation of its obligations at the International Criminal Court

  • The President joining a court application by the Minister of Finance that attempts to interfere with our financial institutions.

We are angered and outraged by the choices, and the consequences, of the decision of the President, including retaining ministers who have been found glaringly wanting in executing their responsibilities, and putting narrow interests ahead of the interest of our country and its people. Contrary to the populist narrative that the President is furthering an agenda of radical economic transformation, the opposite is true. The consequences of last night's announcement have the dramatic result that our scarce resources will be diverted to servicing debt and irrational procurement decisions, rather than delivery of services.

The Foundations call on the leaders and ordinary members of the African National Congress (ANC) across the country, leaders and members of the liberation movements and progressive civil society formations to build a new consensus that brings together all South Africans demanding accountability and ethical governance.

We call on Ministers and leaders of the ANC who care about the future of democracy and the Constitution to speak up and call on the President, in the best interests of the country, to step down.

We call on the parliamentary leadership of the ANC, supported by all opposition parties, to insist that parliament be recalled immediately to debate a motion of no-confidence, proposed by the ANC leadership in parliament. We call on all members of Parliament to unite and support a motion of no-confidence.

We call on the people of South Africa in their mass formations to take to the streets and to make their views known. We support the rallying calls resounding across South Africa for all South African citizens to make their voices heard and take action to safeguard the future of all our children.:

"The people united will never be defeated!"

"Our Country is not for sale!"

Statement by Barbara Hogan at Kathrada memorial service, April 1, 2017

For video of the 7-minute statement, see

"I'd like to pay a special tribute to the Kathrada family, who are sitting here with us at the moment. We felt, both myself and the Kathrada family, that when Mr K was buried on Wednesday it was one of the most fitting tributes, in the style and traditions of our mass democratic movement, that Mr K could ever have been given. And so the enormous spirit that engulfed the country at the time of his passing and his funeral was both calming and comforting, and gave us inspiration about the fighting spirit of our country.

"We welcomed a commemoration service hosted by the Presidency because that is what is befitting of a giant of our country. But let me say that last night, when the news began to filter through, about the dastardly deeds that were being done in dark corners, many of us in the family began to have second doubts whether we would want a commemoration under the auspices of a president who has clearly gone rogue. Who has clearly defied his own party. You have a deputy president saying, clearly and forthrightly today, that the removal of the finance minister and his deputy was based on a dubious intelligence report. You have the secretary-general of the ANC saying loudly and clearly: the list of ministers who are to be replaced did not come from the ANC, it came from another side.

"What does that mean to us? It means that the president is not applying his mind in making a decision about one of the most critical issues in our country, and that is a decision about a team of people who are going to lead our country. Surely that is an indictment on the president, when his own party is rejecting him. His own party rejects what he has done. If this is not a defining moment in our country, nothing will ever be a defining moment.

"Looking to citizens of our country, I think all of us are utterly dismayed. We live in this country, we love this country and we have hopes. The majority of people live desperate lives of poverty and marginalisation. That a president can think to withdraw a finance minister and his deputy from an incredibly important international roadshow, to think that he thinks he could just do that and there is no consequences for the poor, shows what an inept president we have.

"For the ordinary citizens of this country, it is time for your voices to be heard. This is not a time for petty differences amongst us to divide us. Our sworn enemies - and we all have our little fights in the progressive movement - can no longer be enemies. We have to form a broad, mass democratic alliance here to take on the forces of evil, and the rogues, and the thieves who want to steal our country from us. We need to say to people that if there are ANC councillors in their ward, they need to call that councillor and ask them what they are doing. You can no longer say, 'Oh, that's another sphere of government.' You represent the ANC, you've got to be accountable. We need to say to people, 'call on your ANC MPLs. Ask them what they're doing.' And your MPs as well. Call your MPs. When they were sworn in as MPs and MPLs, they swore an oath to the Constitution.

"Party loyalty is important, but when we are in as grave a situation as we are in today, the Constitution that we love and fought for, must take precedence over any lingering notion that party loyalty is above anything. I do not say this lightly. As Kathy said in his letter to the president, he remained silent even though there were many things that worried him. 'But,' he said, 'there is a moment in which you have to break the silence.' And this is the moment in which ANC MPs sitting in Parliament need to look into themselves and ask, 'what is the constitutional duty that is imposed upon us in terms of this Constitution?'

"There are two clauses around the Presidency in this Constitution which deal with a president that is not behaving presidentially. The Constitution provides a basis for remedying that fact. This is not silly issues of factional battles in the ANC, these are greater and grander projects about the accountability of our leadership to the rank-and-file of our people. And so I call on everyone here not to remain silent, not to sit on the fence and not to remain looking after your own narrow, self-interest. The country needs to be taken back. A country united is never divided. And this country is not for sale. Thank you."

Zuma's cabinet reshuffle opens the door for nuclear deal in South Africa

March 31, 2017

Hartmut Winkler, Professor of Physics, University of Johannesburg

South Africa has just witnessed a game changing cabinet reshuffle with the firing of five ministers and several deputy ministers. This included the Finance Minister Pravin Gordhan and his second-incharge Mcebisi Jonas.

The three ministries with the most critical impact on the energy sector have all been affected, significantly increasing the chances of the country opting for a highly controversial nuclear energy programme.

In the energy portfolio, former minister Tina Joemat-Pettersson has been replaced by cabinet newcomer Nkhensani Kubayi. The minister's removal might have been driven by her recent passivity around the nuclear build. The second ministry affected is Public Enterprises, which supervises the state electricity utility Eskom, and has a new deputy minister.

But the most crucial change is in the National Treasury which is now in the hands of two perceived Zuma loyalists. Malusi Gigaba, former home affairs minister, is the new finance minister and Sifiso Buthelezi his deputy.

Former finance minister Gordhan had been under particularly severe attack from Zuma supporters for his reluctance to endorse excessive expenditure demands. He was viewed as a stumbling block by those that stood to benefit from mega-projects. The biggest of these is the R1 trillion nuclear new build.

The cabinet reshuffle can therefore be viewed as a desperate bid by the Zuma faction, and associated beneficiaries such as the Gupta family, to drive the pro-nuclear agenda. The expectation is that the nuclear procurement plan will now receive the National Treasury's blessing and will be given the go-ahead. This is despite the dangerous financial burden it would impose on the country, and the massive resultant debt repayment obligations.

Nuclear versus renewable debate

When the plan to develop a 9.6 GW nuclear production capability was first mooted in 2011, it didn't seem to be a particularly bad idea. But the scheme rapidly became controversial. The Russian nuclear industry with businesses linked to a faction within the ANC started to exert excessive influence on key people in government, and Zuma in particular, to force through the nuclear build. The faction was most visibly represented by "tenderpreneurs" – business people who enrich themselves through government tenders, often dubiously.

The pro-nuclear lobby soon began to attack on a second front, directing their energies at South Africa's burgeoning renewable energy industry. The country could rightfully boast that its renewable energy programme, started in 2012, was hugely successful. Driven by the Department of Energy, it had seen multiple mediumscale wind and solar energy farms springing up all around South Africa.

These early successes led to academic studies as well as the country's 2016 draft Integrated Resource Plan for Electricity recognising the renewable energy potential. They concluded that the country could be energy self-sufficient without nuclear for at least the next 20 years.

But in a surprise move last year Eskom announced that it would no longer sign electricity purchase agreements with independent power producers. This threatened to squash nascent renewable enterprises, which rely on Eskom for their power distribution.

The peculiar objection raised was that the electricity distributor couldn't afford the long-term purchase of renewable energy. These concerns were voiced by former Eskom CEO, Brian Molefe, who subsequently resigned after compromising allegations were made against him, as well as his successor, Matshela Koko.

Their argument appeared to be based on the comparatively high feedin tariffs of R2.60/kWh from the earliest round of solar power station contracts. They chose not to consider that the renewable energy plants in planning or under construction would be delivering power to Eskom at approximately R0.78/kWh. This is cheaper than current electricity production from coal. It's also much cheaper than the projected cost of nuclear energy once loan repayments and decommissioning costs are factored in.

A desperate bid

South Africans should expect a massive public relations campaign claiming that the massive investment in nuclear will repay itself in the long term. Another fallacious key narrative that's likely to be pushed very hard is that there are "base load" requirements that other energy sources cannot address.

It's also now more likely that the final version of the 2016 energy plan, due at the end of March, will be modified to propose an immediate need for nuclear.

The nuclear versus renewable debate has become visibly entangled in the country's political machinations. This means that it's highly improbable that the majority of South Africans would ever support the nuclear option. The contest for control of the government is already leading to street protests and the threatened impeachment of the president.

There's no doubt that attempts to build nuclear plants will be challenged by all sectors of society.

Taking a longer term view, it's not to be expected that the construction projects, which typically take a decade or even longer to come to fruition, will see completion. The projects may well have to be cancelled, as happened in Austria in 1978.

The new more malleable finance minister may also find it hard to effect an expensive undertaking particularly given the massive demands for funds from other sectors such as education and social welfare. The expected rating downgrade could also lead to vastly increased borrowing costs.

South Africa's energy sector is perhaps at its most fluid and unpredictable stage it's ever been in.

AfricaFocus Bulletin is an independent electronic publication providing reposted commentary and analysis on African issues, with a particular focus on U.S. and international policies. AfricaFocus Bulletin is edited by William Minter.

AfricaFocus Bulletin can be reached at Please write to this address to subscribe or unsubscribe to the bulletin, or to suggest material for inclusion. For more information about reposted material, please contact directly the original source mentioned. For a full archive and other resources, see

Read more on |South Africa||Africa Peace & Security||Africa Politics & Human Rights||Africa Economy & Development||Africa Debt|

URL for this file: