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Showing user profile of Bhekinkosi Moyo
Dr. Moyo conducts research on pertinent issues in the field of philanthropy in Africa, with an eye to building and strengthening partnerships with other African foundations. Known for his expertise in philanthropy, civil society, and governance, he holds a doctorate in political science from the University of the Witwatersrand in South Africa. He previously worked at the Africa Institute of South Africa and at the Institute for Democracy in South Africa. He has written and published more than 15 conference papers, journal articles, and book chapters and co-edited What About the Children: The Silent Voices in Maintenance (2004), which explores issues of poverty, abuse, and the social security system in South Africa in the 21st century. His latest collection of edited articles, Africa in the Global Power Play: Debates, Challenges and Potential Reforms (Adonis & Abbey, London, 2007), addresses the current position of Africa in international political and economic relations. He is fluent in English and working on his French.
Friday, July 29. 2011
Revolution has come to North Africa, but can it bring lasting transformation?
Originally published in African Decisions magazine.
One of Africa’s biggest questions remains unanswered. Will the political upheaval sweeping across North Africa lead to sustainable democracy and development?
After all, most revolutions do not. Will the uprisings we have witnessed in Tunisia, Egypt and Libya change the status quo and transform the leadership, economic trajectory and social relations in those countries for good?
At the heart of these protests are issues relating to social justice, equality and dignity. What we have seen in North Africa and beyond are young revolutionaries taking up arms against ‘resolutionaries’ such as Zine el Abidine Ben Ali, Hosni Mubarak and Muammar Gaddafi — long-serving dictators who make a habit of declaring resolutions that are never implemented. Continue reading "Winds of Change"
Monday, March 7. 2011
As early as 2007, TrustAfrica began responding to the political and economic crises in Zimbabwe through projects that sought to strengthen the vibrancy of civil society and its capacity to respond to those crises. So when Zimbabwe Alliance was born, it made sense for us to collaborate with it for a number of reasons. First, to avoid duplication of effort. Second, it was in line with TrustAfrica’s approach of collaboration, dialogue and consultation. Third, it further bolstered what we were already doing in Liberia — another post-crisis country — where we collaborate with Humanity United to strengthen civil society to contribute towards the reconstruction of Liberia.
We saw ourselves playing a critical function in Zimbabwe Alliance. Because of our existing projects in Zimbabwe, we brought knowledge, experience and political consciousness. In addition, TrustAfrica’s staff — from operations, grantmaking and programming – are all involved in the identification and implementation of projects. The Zimbabwe Alliance would thus benefit from a low overhead and be able to disburse most of the resources to its civil society grantees, as TrustAfrica staff are already covered by our core funding. TrustAfrica has also developed and expanded its internal systems so that the Alliance can be assured that its resources are in good hands and will be disbursed after rigorous due diligence. Continue reading "Collaboration and Solidarity in 'Crisis' Zimbabwe"
Wednesday, September 15. 2010
The state of Africa’s roads are a good indicator of its economic strength and political governance
Originally published in African Decisions magazine.
One wouldn’t naturally make a connection between a country’s infrastructure – such as its roads – and its style and state of democracy, including how it governs its economic resources.
But in my travels across the continent I have observed a close relationship between the state of a country’s roads and its governance system. Continue reading "Bumpy ride to human rights"
Monday, May 24. 2010
The response by Africa to the Haitian disaster dispels the myth Africans are only good at receiving aid
African Decisions magazine (view as pdf)
Disasters appeal to the minds and hearts of people. Whether rich or poor, the emotional response is usually the same—people rally to help where they can.
This was certainly the case when Haiti was struck by a violent earthquake on 12 January, resulting in the deaths of more than 200 000 people and leaving over a million homeless. But there was something unique in the response to this particular disaster.
Africa dispelled the usual image of itself as helpless by playing a pivotal role in disaster recovery efforts in Haiti. The poverty levels of the continent and many of its challenges did not hinder it from making aid contributions. It was arguably one of the most important paradigm shifts concerning the continent's efforts towards developmentalism.
The entire world was shaken by the massive destruction of the already poverty stricken and troubled nation of Haiti. The first people to arrive in the disaster zone, such as native musician Wyclef Jean—who carried out rescue efforts through his Yéle Haiti Foundation—could only describe what they saw as 'apocalyptic', reminiscent of Robert Kaplan's 1994 article in the Atlantic Monthly 'The Coming Anarchy’.
But Haiti was only the first of a string of subsequent disasters that occurred in the following weeks. Further havoc was wreaked in Uganda, Chile. Taiwan and Turkey.
With regards to previous disasters—such as floods, tsunamis and hurricanes—in different parts of the world, no African governments moved as swiftly or with such determination as they did this time.
Senegal, for example, offered land and citizenship to Haitians wanting to settle in the West African country. Other African countries offered assistance in the form of donations and rescue missions. Most importantly the Africa for Haiti campaign was created.
This people to people initiative is spearheaded by Graça Machel and a group of pan African institutions which include TrustAfrica, African Monitor. Southern Africa Trust and Civicus, among others. The campaign has spread across the continent and involves all sectors of society—from artists to business people to ordinary Africans, all making some form of contribution.
The campaign's aim is firstly to develop solidarity with the Haitian people and secondly, to rebuild hope and contribute towards the reconstruction of civil society through community projects.
Although different groups have responded in different ways to past disasters, no concerted effort has ever been made to collectively respond as is happening today. This is a different image of the continent as to what is popularly represented in the media: a fragmented continent, chaotic, poor and underdeveloped.
Until the recent leading role played by South Africa in the G20, Africa's position in global relations has been marginal. The response by Africa to the Haitian disaster dispels the myth that Africans are only good at receiving aid. Through this it is clear that Africa is not only giving to other nations but is playing an important developmental role globally.
By nature, all Africans, whether poor or rich, are philanthropic and the Africa for Haiti campaign demonstrates that it is possible for Africans to raise resources from their own shores, not only for their own development, but also to play a significant role in the greater global community, whether through south south of north south co operation.
This is an important shift in Africa's drive to rebrand and reposition itself, to prove what it is capable of in the realm of international trade and politics.
Zimbabwean-born Dr. Bhekinkosi Moyo is an author and director of programs at TrustAfrica, a pan-African foundation based in Dakar, Senegal. He writes extensively on democracy, development, and politics.
Wednesday, March 3. 2010
In order to fight the scourge of poverty, Africa’s states need to realise the value of a bottom-up approach.
African Decisions magazine (view as pdf.)
While the common belief is that poverty is a material condition, it is also a mental one. To tackle it effectively demands tools that address both these conditions.
A fundamental paradigm shift is needed to fully eradicate poverty. For example, a pact between different social institutions needs to be brokered in order to co-ordinate all the efforts and available resources to the benefit of the continent’s poor.
To achieve this, states will have to become developmental in orientation and democratic in practice. They will need to address the twin imperatives of both nation-building and economic development. In so doing many of the continent’s current challenges that limit its developmental potential will be dealt with.
The state will also have to consider its citizens, by promoting a culture of participatory, inclusive and representative democracy. Communities affected by such agreements will have to be consulted and actively participate in the decision-making process.
The fact that some East Asian countries were able to develop and grow their economies under undemocratic conditions, does not mean Africa should be expected to do the same.
In the case of our continent, democratic conditions are the foundation upon which economic growth and poverty eradication should take place. Moreover, the private sector will need to think beyond profit and consider its role in the social system in which it finds itself.
However, there can be no effective state or thriving economy without an empowered society. If there is a lesson to be learnt from the recent global economic crisis, it is that the state and the market cannot be trusted to deliver on development without the involvement of communities; this is where the heart of progress lies and where investment should take place.
Resources need to be funnelled to communities to facilitate an economic revolution from the bottom upwards. In most countries, structures such as community-based organisations (CBOs) are the backbone of society in times of need. It is perhaps only now that their importance to the health of nations is being recognised.
In Africa, a number of CBOs support local communities by addressing and providing aid to development challenges in specific areas. These institutions are increasingly addressing international concerns. Because they are formed, governed and run by local communities, CBOs often serve as focal and entry points for development initiatives at grassroots level. In these instances the private sector can invest in communities by providing CBOs with funding, resources and expertise.
In other instances, corporations have established their own community foundations to tackle local development challenges. Development facilitators then work through these structures in order to grow their local knowledge, culture and experience.
Furthermore, states can easily be linked to their citizens through CBOs in order to identify and address community-specific needs.
If communities are not empowered to develop themselves and hold the continent’s leaders to account, there is no hope that the state can promote development and democracy.
Indeed, without empowered communities, there can be no nation or economic growth, and poverty will forever persist. The time to empower communities for development is now.
Zimbabwean-born Dr. Bhekinkosi Moyo is an author and director of programs at TrustAfrica, a pan-African foundation based in Dakar, Senegal. He writes extensively on democracy, development, and politics.
Thursday, November 19. 2009
A marked increase in the number of disputed African elections has seen a rise in the prevalence of coalition governments. Bhekinkosi Moyo wonders whether they are the happy families they claim to be?
African Decisions magazine (view as pdf.)
Africa is struggling to come to grips with the concept of power sharing, Along with the return of military intervention and the abuse of religion, power sharing arrangements seem to be growing in popularity.
Whether they're called unity governments, governments of national unity (GNU) or inclusive governments — the engineering of consociational administrations following the outcomes of disputed elections is becoming cause for concern.
Proponents of such arrangements often cite South Africa's GNU and its subsequent Truth and Reconciliation Commission as an example of a successful negotiation. What they do not say is that the South African model was crafted and agreed upon before elections were even held. In other instances (Kenya and Zimbabwe being the latest) disgruntled politicians lose elections and resort to violence In order to retain or illegally assume power.
And it's not as complicated as we are led to believe. It's actually very simple: leaders are refusing to subject themselves to their constitutions and the laws governing elections
I could rot have said it better than Ayi Kwei Armah when he wrote in New African: 'For many dreaming of making it into the good life, the power of the incumbent politician looks like the greatest escape of all. As the extractive economy shrinks, while populations and needs increase, African states increasingly resemble crowded chambers losing oxygen. In such an atmosphere, political power becomes the most visible lifeline left. Members of the ruling party are the lucky bozos manning the oxygen tank.'
In the Netherlands, consociationalism has been practiced to deal with divided societies' conflicts since as early as 1917. This phenomenon has been spread across the world, particularly through the works of Arendt Lijphart.
South Africa, Kenya and Zimbabwe are not the only advocates of consociational governments in Africa. Other countries that have resorted to power-sharing include Rwanda, DRC, Sudan, Liberia, Côte d’Ivoire, Burundi and now Madagascar.
What distinguishes them from the rest is their narrow fixation on executive power sharing as opposed to the other broader elements of proportionality, minority veto and segmental autonomy.
Consociational engineers often argue that in divided societies, majoritarian democracy is akin to dictatorship. As a result, power sharing is often posited as the solution — as a way to apportion political power and prevent the violence that normally accompanies disputes.
This is very far from the reality though. In more than 15 peace accords that have been negotiated across Africa, only Burundi can be regarded as stable today. But even so, this could change easily. Critics argue that promoting a consociational governance system is de facto and de jure, creating an incentive for rebels to claim a stake in power sharing settlements. In other words, it pays to be a rebel.
In August, I attended a presentation by a Zimbabwean minister on the challenges facing the country's inclusive government. Listening to him, I could not but conclude that power cannot be shared and managed collectively. Resorting to power sharing does rot address the fundamental causes of conflict. Instead it exacerbates them.
I argue that power sharing is only useful in so far as it stops societies going to hell; however, it cannot take them to heaven. Our aim should be to restructure power rather than share it.
The problem In Africa is rot that of deeply divided societies for which consociationalism was designed — Africa's problems are of governance.
Zimbabwean born Dr Bhekinkosi Moyo is an author and director of programmes at TrustAfrica, a pan African foundation based in Dakar, Senegal. He writes extensively on democracy, development and politics.
Wednesday, August 5. 2009
Bhekinkosi Moyo notes with concern the return of some of Africa’s ghosts and hopes that they can, once and for all, be put to rest
African Decisions magazine (view as pdf.)
Africa has made tremendous political and economic strides over the last years. And yet, rather unceremoniously, there is a resurgence of Africa’s ugly past, particularly in the political and governance arenas.
No doubt there are many challenges confronting the continent (security, the global economic meltdown, environmental concerns and disease, to name but a few), but more disturbing is the return of Africa’s ghosts to hinder the consolidation of development and good governance. Two of the ghosts haunting Africa that need urgent exorcising are the return of the military and the misuse of religion.
The military is back – from Mauritania to Madagascar; Guinea Bissau to Guinea Conakry. The recent months have awakened us to the realisation that Africa’s unhappy spirits were never laid to rest in the first place.
The declaration of a coup in Madagascar by Andry Rajoelina early in January prompted the AU to move their annual Heads of State Summit from Antananarivo to Sirte, Libya. Mauritania is also no stranger to coups – indeed it would appear that the international community’s condemnation and the suspension of the country from the AU has not deterred renegade army generals from staging further coups.
When Lansana Conté – Africa’s veteran strongman – died in December 2008, Guineans thought the worst was over. But no sooner had they breathed a sigh of relief when Captain Moussa Dadis Camara toppled the government and established a governing council that will rule until December 2010. Paradoxically, some sections of Guinean society have pinned their hopes on the military following decades of misrule and underdevelopment.
In Guinea Bissau, the assassinations of the former defence minister, Hélder Proença, and presidential candidate Baciro Dabo – following the gruesome murder of President João Bernado Vieira – upped the political ante. And in Gabon, peace is unlikely to follow President Omar Bongo’s death.
Clearly these are signs of the looming dangers in Africa’s political landscape. If not cleansed, these demons will further damage the image of Africa, with serious implications for the investment and business environment.
A friend once asked if soldiers go to church. I could not answer him. But what I can say is that in some countries, religion – particularly Christianity and Islam – are being abused once again. In some countries there seem to be unwritten rules that if the president is Christian, then the deputy president ought to be Muslim, and vice versa.
The rise of religion in politics manifests itself through different ethnicities. So powerful are these that they decide who gets elected, and who does and doesn’t get appointed to certain positions in government.
Although religion has always been politicised, its influence is on the increase once again. Some churches invite presidential candidates to campaign at their pulpits and, as history will attest, some religions have backed politicians even to the extent of pursuing undemocratic practices.
The return of the military and the dangerous mixing of religion and politics are demons that must be exorcised immediately if Africa is indeed to progress towards sustainable development and a situation where her citizens will be free from fear and want.
Political and religious leaders must rise to the challenge and curb these resurgent forces. The current global economic downturn and governance recession present opportunities for Africa to walk in union towards an integrated value system and work ethic. These living ghosts must die – never to rise again.
Zimbabwean-born Dr Bhekinkosi Moyo is an author and director of programmes at TrustAfrica, a pan-African foundation based in Dakar, Senegal. He writes extensively on democracy, development and politics.
Monday, July 20. 2009
When the trumpeter blew his horn on Saturday afternoon welcoming Obama to the ICC’s stage, he responded rhythmically by saying, “I like this”. He went on to sing very well his own governance melody. But will African leaders—his main targets—like and dance to his music and governance tunes? It does not look likely—the leaders are likely to scratch his music so that it is not danceable. Just a few weeks ago, African heads of state and government gathered in Sirte and decided that their members should not cooperate with the International Criminal Court in the arrest and surrender of Sudan’s President Omar al-Bashir. In short, Obama’s music is sweet indeed, but the dancers are likely to inflict scratches on it.
But was highlighting governance achievements his main reason for his visit? Wouldn’t he have done better to visit one of the conflict-ridden countries such as Somalia, Sudan, Zimbabwe, Guinea or even Kenya to confront real governance challenges head on? There he would not have received applauses but some frowns. To a certain extent, Obama’s administration chose the easiest way to address the theme of governance by opting for the already converted rather than confronting the real culprits. Hence conspirators argue that Obama’s visit was tied to Ghana’s recently discovered oil and Africa Command’s potential hosting by Ghana.
Whatever the main motive for his visit, he generated a lot of excitement in Accra and beyond. When he finally touched down on Ghanaian soil on Friday night last week, his most anticipated trip suddenly became reality. Streets, billboards, music videos, radio stations and various television stations were all beaming with Obama’s face.
This was one of the most important visits for Ghanaians. Obama had an option to visit other bigger states in Africa, such as South Africa, Nigeria or Kenya. He didn’t—he chose Ghana. Ghanaians were made proud. Obama also made it clear that his visit was to showcase Ghana’s democratic credentials. He said to AllAfrica.com, a few days before his trip to Ghana, “by travelling to Ghana we hope to highlight the effective governance that they have in place”. He indirectly snubbed Kenya by saying “the political parties in Kenya do not seem to be moving into a permanent reconciliation that would allow the country to move forward”. In this, he confirmed one political satirist’s cartoon showing Air Force One flying over Kenya dropping a note, “Get your act together”.
“Get your act together” was Obama’s translucent message to African leaders delivered to the Ghanaian parliament last week just before he made an emotional trip to the Cape Coast Castle—a place very instrumental in the trans-Atlantic slave trade. His message was music to many who have suffered under the tyranny of dictators. His sweet melodies connected good governance with development. For sure, Ghana’s performance over the years has shown that good and strong institutions are crucial to stability and sound governance. In the past elections, Ghanaians made peaceful transitions and smooth power transfers without resorting to consociations and power-sharing tactics that have been introduced elsewhere. The last presidential election in Ghana, in which the National Democratic Congress narrowly beat the New Patriotic Party, could have provided an excuse for a consociation in the place of constitutional democracy. The fact that Nana Akufo-Addo and his losing party conceded defeat must be celebrated, but more importantly credit should also be given to former Ghanaian presidents—Jerry Rawlings and John Kufuor—for having transferred power to an opposition party without resorting to violence.
Obama touched on a number of governance issues. The first was that governance is people-centered and each nation gives life to democracy in its own way. Embedded in this is that nations that respect the will of their people are more prosperous that those that govern by force. He put it more eloquently: “This is about more than just holding elections. It’s about what happens between elections”. It is about putting an end to repressions, eradicating poverty, combating corruption, improving the investment climate, upholding the rule of law and building strong institutions, including a vibrant civil society. This was Obama’s strong message to African leaders who trample on the freedoms of their people: “Now make no mistake: History is on the side of brave Africans, not with those who use coups or change constitutions to stay in power. Africa does not need strong men, it needs strong institutions”.
The fact that Africans are responsible for their destiny is a musical note that fits well in his melody. It is important that Obama sings this simple note—for far too many years development agents and Western governments have treated Africa and its people as helpless victims. Never were attempts made to give Africans an opportunity to help themselves. More often, the West, including its philanthropic institutions, tends to view its role as solving a problem from outside. Never has it occurred to these benevolent actors that the real solution to Africa’s problems lies in Africa—where there is a rot therein also is a solution. This is a good foundation for Obama’s administration, for it gives agency to Africans and relegates America to a partner. There is no better place for this than in Africa, where the youth constitutes at least 75% of the population. Most of the problematic octogenarians are very close to death. Investing in governance and the youth is key in unlocking Africa’s prosperity. However, there is a need not to tie aid to the conventional notions of governance. Governance must be defined with reference to context and the specific needs of African countries.
The importance of this is that it also recognizes Africa’s position in global power play. There is no denying the fact that Africa is an important region for the world’s superpowers and emerging powers in terms of natural resources, and geopolitics. Obama is right in observing that the “21st century will also be shaped by what happens in Africa”. Africans must therefore push hard in international platforms for principles of equality, partnership and mutuality. Indeed, the just-ended G-8 Summit in Italy witnessed a re-alignment of global politics with the inclusion of Egypt and South Africa in new G-14.
Although Obama sang very well, his melodies were at times discordant. There was dissonance in his speech. It was difficult to harmonize his emphasis on equality and his elevation to a super instructor. His speech carried a tone of someone giving instructions either to children or a group of tired sport men or women. His constant use of “I” was so powerfully loaded that one could confuse him for a super being. Indeed, the Ghanaian preparations, including the welcome ceremony, had elevated him to another level. However, if he wants his melodies to resonate well with the choreography, Obama needs to change his tone and the embedded superiority in the constant use of ‘I’. At one point he instructed his children, “I want to see Ghanaians not only self sufficient in food, I want to see you exporting food to other countries and earning money. As if he was now talking to tired sports people struggling to cross the winning line, he continued, “You can do that”. Of course he got the loudest applause.
If not addressed, this attitudinal problem may haunt Africans later when Obama makes further trips to Africa. Linked to this, is that I could not help but be confused on the Saturday morning when Obama had breakfast with President Mills at the Castle. The two presidents arrived in the same vehicle—the American car popularly known as the Beast. I have no knowledge of protocol but as an ordinary observer, I could not understand the message being sent. I had lots of questions: First, how did Obama and his delegation pick up President Mills? What was the practical arrangement? Was it, Mr. President, we will pick you on our way? Or was it, Mr. President, let’s all travel in the Beast? What was it? Suppose the two presidents wanted to have a chat on their way to the Castle, why didn’t they use the Ghanaian presidential car? I wondered who was in charge of Ghana at that moment.
Clearly the Americans temporarily took over Ghana. My journalist friends staying at the Protea hotel were threatened with eviction simply because the Americans wanted rooms for Obama’s people. At the La Palm hotel, where I stayed, there were threats as well to many of us who had booked a long time before Obama’s visit. We could not but stay in fear. So hotels preferred Americans over Africans. The airport was also chaotic. On the two days, passengers had to check in at least seven hours before their departure. Roads were at times closed and security was very tight for the ordinary person. All this is discordant to Obama’s melody. But it must serve as a word of caution to future hosts of Obama in Africa, such as South Africa during the 2010 World Cup. His visit should not trample on individuals’ basic rights.
Dr. Moyo is program director at TrustAfrica, a pan-African foundation based in Dakar, Senegal. He was in Accra last week.
A shorter version of this article appeared in the July 17–23 edition of the Mail & Guardian (Johannesburg).
Saturday, February 21. 2009
The Government of National Unity is ... Posted by Bhekinkosi Moyo at 18:10
Inside the Zimbabwean political amphitheatre are scenes of the tired, the old and the uninspiring. These are scenes not too gladly and willingly watched but forcefully shown to the audience. It sounds really absurd, but in reality no one is spared from the ever-disappointing drama coming out of Zimbabwe.
Like many, I have watched with great caution the drama surrounding the swearing in of the Prime Minister, his deputies and ministers in Zimbabwe. I say with caution because I am one of those people who believe that this unity government is built on sand. As you might expect, the structure will soon collapse. It is a matter of time—that is, if my analysis is spot-on. I know this is not palatable to many, but historical and recent developments justify my pessimism. I would rather tread with cautious pessimism than wild optimism. These are my reasons:
First and foremost, the Government of National Unity (GNU) was driven by the desire of both parties (MDC and ZANU PF) to share power equally — after, of course, each failed to secure all the power individually. Given room to assume all the power, each of these parties would have sidelined the other, as we see unfolding now. More critical for these parties was who gets what position in government? Who gets to run what department? Who has the power to appoint whom and how? In other words, the main driver for the GNU was who gets the biggest share of the national resources, and not what would hold the nation together. Continue reading "The Government of National Unity is not the Solution"
Sunday, November 16. 2008
The dirty face of politics in Africa is the abnormal fixation on sharing rather than distributing responsibilities in managing the resources and the sovereignty of states. This seems to be the main underlying problem in the current Zimbabwe impasse, for instance. The same is still true of Kenya, and other hot spots in the continent. Even the current crisis in the Democratic Republic of Congo is an ambition by Laurent Nkunda to be included in the sharing of political power, which in itself is a direct line to state and national resources. One can go on and enumerate all cases in the continent that have gone either to full-blown war or to some civil strife as a result of the politics of exclusion in sharing what my friend calls the ‘national pie’.
I am in my mid thirties and I can barely refer to wars that have not been driven by callous greed on the part of politicians, save for a few liberation struggles. But even then, some of those liberation heroes have blurred the line between the struggle for freedom from colonialism and the struggle to capture state power for their own interests. This is an embarrassment and a complete negation of our human values.
Even in progressive democracies like South Africa, the politics of exclusion drove the formation of a new political party. The current brouhaha about the ‘Shikota Movement ‘or what has come to be known as the Congress of the People in South Africa is nothing but an outcry by those who feel excluded from political power in the reconfigured African National Congress. We are still to be convinced that the new formation will be representative of the nation’s interest. My view currently is that this is a mechanism by which the excluded are getting back into mainstream politics to have a piece of what they left. The Freedom Charter is the last thing in their minds. The arguments presented that the ANC was purging ‘Mbekites’ and the contention that the ANC has diverted from its values are void of substance. To begin with, any new administration brings its own personnel. This is not unique to South Africa: it is a global phenomenon. Just like a new broom, the new ANC is expected to sweep effectively, and so it was given that a few people would be swept away. The second argument is even more interesting given that the very people who are accusing the ANC of deviating from its values were senior leaders themselves for more than a decade. It is unconvincing that they have suddenly had a ‘Damascus experience’. Continue reading "‘Power sharing’ and not ‘shared responsibility’ is the problem with African politics"
Monday, October 6. 2008
Regulation or Strangulation? A Series on the Legislative Environment for Civil Society in Africa
I am introducing a ‘series on civil society laws’ across the African continent. Some may ask, why civil society? It is a subject very close to my heart, but, more importantly, civil society is perhaps the most effective platform we have to further our democratisation and development agenda.
Yet there has been a very negative development over the last few years: a proliferation of laws that govern the activities of civil society organisations in many countries. The most recent is Ethiopia’s Charities and Societies Proclamation (2008). The question that has arisen is whether these laws regulate or strangle civil society? In attempting to explore this question, I decided to undertake a continental scan of civil society laws. It is very interesting to note how some of these laws are crafted, the language they adopt, and the punitive mechanisms.
It is not all gloom and doom, though. A handful of countries have laws that are progressive and provide best practices.
This article is the first of my series on these laws. It forms part of my ongoing research on the following countries: Egypt, Ethiopia, Ghana, Kenya, Liberia, Malawi, Mozambique, Namibia, Nigeria, Senegal, South Africa, Tanzania, Uganda, Zambia, and Zimbabwe.
Because the contexts in these countries are so different and the historical state-civil society relations are also diverse, I decided to present country profiles in this series. The bigger and consolidated report will find its way into academic journals and policy forums.
South Africa has been in the news lately for right and wrong reasons. But one of the things that seems to have caught the attention of civil society leaders is that the Zuma administration is likely to be tolerant and inclusive of civil society. This is still to be tested, though. But I think we must put into context state-civil society relations in South Africa before even attempting to discuss the NPO Act of 1997.
Prior to the advent of democracy in South Africa, much of the 1980s were characterised by a vibrant civil society sector that played key functions in challenging the injustices of the apartheid regime. Further, this sector addressed developmental needs of the communities living under a repressive environment. It follows, therefore, that it was inevitable that civil society actors would find themselves in a collision course with the state. But it was civil society groups that worked jointly with other pro-democracy forces to open up a closed system.
It is for this reason that with the fall of apartheid, the South African government recognised the role that civil society, in all its totality, plays in development, democratisation, governance, and other relevant spheres. This recognition came in the form of an NPO Act in 1997. The Act sought to establish and put in place an enabling environment for the nonprofit sector. Civil society was viewed as part of the solution in transforming people’s lives and moving the country forward. As a matter of fact, some studies have shown that the nonprofit sector is a major force to be reckoned with. As such, it cannot be ignored in the development landscape.
Continue reading "South Africa: The Nonprofit Organisations Act of 1997"
Monday, September 15. 2008
It is supposed to be a landmark agreement ending a decade of political crisis and economic downturn. It is 15th September 2008, and the venue is the Rainbow Towers Hotel in Harare. The politicians have just signed a deal whose details are still to be unveiled. It is supposed to be an inclusive government, a government that will heal the battered nation and revitalise the ailing economy. And yet the signatures took priority over the details. We are expected to congratulate the politicians, the mediator, and Zimbabweans for making this historic and landmark event, in the absence of the details.
Indeed, Mugabe made a substantive intervention on our behalf in thanking President Thabo Mbeki for finally getting the deal signed after many huddles from participating parties. Mugabe detailed the tactics that Mbeki used to get them to sign on the dotted line. At one point, I thought Mugabe was arming Mbeki’s critics in South Africa with evidence that he is ‘sly’. Mbeki is facing a revolt from the ANC; this after the Friday judgement ruling in favour of Jacob Zuma, which also implied that Mbeki abused state institutions to further his political interests.
Under normal circumstances, we should have known the contents of the deal before witnessing the signing ceremony. But again this is part of the tactics that the mediator has adopted over the months: keeping everything secret. But there is every indication that this is a better deal given Mugabe’s utterances that there are things in the deal that he did not like and still does not like.
From some sources, it is rumoured that the deal entails a number of things. The obvious is that Robert Mugabe remains President and head of cabinet while Morgan Tsvangirayi becomes Prime Minister and Chair of Council of Ministers. Mutambara becomes Tsvangirayi’s deputy. The Council of Ministers will supervise the cabinet. We also hear that Tsvangirayi’s group has been granted the ministries of home affairs, foreign affairs, local government, finance, information, and part of the now-split justice ministry.
There is no doubt that the deal exerts a lot more pressure on Tsvangirayi than on Mugabe. For many years, Mugabe has ruled over a poverty-stricken nation. He has not rescued it. Meanwhile Tsvangirayi and his group have argued that, given a chance, they would rebuild Zimbabwe. Hence in their negotiations, they wanted control over key ministries. In their view, this will allow them to address the economy, manage international relations as well as promote the rule of law. And until the signing of the deal, Tsvangirayi’s group has behaved as if there is a ‘bag full of assistance’ just waiting to save Zimbabwe if they get what they want from the deal. Now that they have some of those key ministries, the world will be expecting for a turnaround of the economy and the general governance of the country. Will they step up to the challenge?
Continue reading "As Zimbabwean Politicians Sign a Power-Sharing Deal, Expectations Build for the New Prime Minister"
Monday, September 8. 2008
A Review of:
Rose Lukalo-Owino, A Legacy of Giving: The Story of Mohamedally and Maniben Rattansi Educational Trust, Allavida, Nairobi: 2008.
—In Trust for Tomorrow: Kenya Community Development Foundation, Allavida, Nairobi: 2008.
—One Woman At a Time: The Kianda Foundation, Allavida, Nairobi: 2008.
Connie Ngondi-Houghton, Promoting Philanthropy in Kenya: The Case for Tax Law Reform, Allavida, Nairobi: 2008.
I just finished reading a fascinating four-part series on Trends and Issues in Local Philanthropy in East Africa, published by Allavida. The series was supported financially and intellectually by the Ford Foundation’s office in Nairobi, and features a deep and substantive foreword by Tade Aina, Ford's Representative for East Africa, on the trajectory of philanthropy in Uganda, Kenya, and Tanzania. One book in the series, by lawyer and researcher Connie Ngondi-Houghton, focuses on the need for tax law reform in the area of philanthropy. Because it builds on her past academically oriented work and has been reviewed elsewhere, I’ll concentrate here on the three more accessible texts by Rose Lukalo-Owino.
These narratives follow the evolution of the Kianda Foundation, the Rattansi Educational Trust, and the Kenya Community Development Foundation. I call them narratives because they chronicle the lives and times of the founders of these three foundations. The texts do mention Uganda and Tanzania, but the series is strongly biased in favor of Kenya, perhaps because there are more philanthropic institutions there than elsewhere in the region—or because Kenya is an economic powerhouse that creates opportunities for the emergence of charitable and development-oriented institutions. However, I wonder if a similar treatment might be done for institutions like the Kabaka Foundation in Uganda and other religious foundations in Tanzania.
Told in the form of stories, the narratives are written in a straightforward and user-friendly style that helps demystify the meaning and usage of ‘philanthropy’. In my experience studying philanthropy in Africa, these are probably the easiest texts to read and could be taught in secondary schools. The lack of interest in the study of philanthropy in Africa is partly a function of the absence of curricula on the subject, both at lower and higher levels of education. This series could serve as a module for students at all levels. This is a challenge that we have been throwing at lecturers and custodians of knowledge across the continent. Can we in Africa introduce studies on philanthropy and build centers of excellence that will be dedicated to the study of philanthropy and how it links with development visions of nation states? Continue reading "Trends and Issues in Local Philanthropy in East Africa"
Friday, August 8. 2008
Is Zimbabwe’s Political Settlement Sustainable?
Politicians are like chameleons: they change their skin colour depending on the environment they want to adapt to. This is the case today as it was yesterday with Zimbabwean politicians from all political formations. Suddenly Zanu PF and MDC are bedfellows; they can together mislead the media, agree to a media blackout and even exclude everyone else from the talks.
With a stroke of a pen, Mugabe, Tsvangirayi and Mutambara seem to have turned the tables against citizens and civil society. Whereas yesterday the citizens could have claimed to have been in the trenches with politicians, they cannot say the same today. A line has been drawn between citizens and politicians. The current mediation process has shown politicians to be what they are: selfish seducers who have been riding on people’s sufferings to get to the negotiating table. Now that they are at the negotiating table, they have thrown away their allies in the struggle: the people. This is what political chameleons and seducers are: they only need friends only when it is strategic for them; once the strategic goal has been attained, they discard their friends. This is the mood regarding the current negotiations to resolve Zimbabwe’s crisis. There is a sense that politicians especially those from the MDC have used civil society and other formations to get to the negotiating table; now that they are about to share political positions, it is time to get rid of civil society and side with their type: Zanu PF.
I am not against the current talks on Zimbabwe. I am not happy with them either. I am disappointed at their nature, which doesn’t seem to be designed to find a lasting and sustainable solution to the crisis, but the sharing of positions. Indeed, if media reports are true, the only sticking points concern who becomes what in the new government. It would appear that there is agreement already on substantive issues such as the land reform programme, the new constitution and national healing. How is that possible in such a short space of time? If this is about positions, doomed we are. This is why I am arguing that politicians are dangerous people to be left alone to make such crucial decisions that will either make or break Zimbabwe. Citizens and their formations must be accorded a platform to monitor these developments and make meaningful input to the negotiations. Can chameleons make lasting, binding and sustainable decisions? This is a topic for another opinion piece; save to say, me doesn’t think so.
I have not written on Zimbabwe in a few weeks because, like most people, I have been trying to comprehend fully what the current situation holds for us. The past month or so has been trying in terms of putting into perspective the new developments in Zimbabwe. I decided to revisit all my writings on Zimbabwe, both academic and opinion pieces. I realised that since 2001, I have been a strong advocate for a dialogue between political formations. In one of my earlier pieces I wrote that the only solution to Zimbabwe’s problems is for Zimbabweans to find common ground and work towards resolving their differences and celebrate their diversity. Naturally, therefore, I should be happy that there is a dialogue taking place now and the two main protagonists are talking. I wondered why I had by now not written a dozen articles celebrating that finally, there is a breakthrough in the Zimbabwean crisis. In guess I was torn between not tempering with the process because we desperately need a solution and the need to raise problematic areas about the process just in case we make a mistake we cannot reverse. I have been having these fights til I was invited to attend a continental civil society meeting on transitional governments and processes in Zambia on 7 August. It was at this moment that I realised I could use the meeting to raise some of my concerns about the mediation process. Continue reading "A Dialogue of Chameleons"
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