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Can Cyril Mend Fences?

The ANC is riddled with factional fissures that threaten its stability and prospects for yet another tilt at Mahlamba Ndlopfu. Is Ramaphosa its redeemer? BENSON C SAILI provides a perspective.

It is one of the most bilious and spiteful facial innuendoes ever captured by a video lensman. If looks can indeed kill, then this one qualifies by the truckload. When Cyril Ramaphosa, 65,  was announced as the new ANC President, Jacob Zuma frowned, glowered, scowled, pouted, pulled a face, pursed his lips, turned the corners of his mouth down. Practically every hint of rancour in the book competed for a slot on his now seamed but still telegenic face while those noxious seconds ticked away. If there was such a thing as giving somebody a black look, that was very much it.

But that was what we saw with the naked eye. What was going on in his mind as he trained such an obviously churlish and disapproving eye at his No. 2 who is now No. 1 in the ANC structures and No. 1 designate in the structures of government? Was it a foretaste of his own medicine that he self-seekingly administered to Thabo Mbeki when he staged that famous palace coup of September 2008? If only we could read minds!  

It is no secret that Zuma was rooting for a woman first president of the ANC not that he has that much regard for the honour, dignity, and psychosocial peace of women.  He has married six times, impregnated the daughter of a close friend, and raped yet another daughter of a deceased comrade-in-arms because she came into his presence, so he said, wrapped in a kanga, which to him was a tacit invitation to bed her.  To him, women are no more than chattels, a mere means to satiate an end of sorts, which Nkosazana Dhlamin-Zuma apparently has been of late, and not to genuinely and impassionedly  love.

Nkosazana as we all know is  Zuma’s ex-wife, his third.  He was married to her from 1982 to 1998.  Zuma, who has 22 official children and as a atypically virile 75-year-old counting, has four children with Nkosazana, 68, meaning the two retain a tangible and enduring bond. Recently, they entered into a political marriage which was consummated when Zuma closed ranks with her as his  preferred future president of the Republic of South Africa.

If the truth may be told, Nkosazana was nudged to contest by Zuma, or Zuma’s children with Nkosazana, on behalf of Zuma. Why?  Because in her, Zuma saw his insurance policy against possible, in fact likely, prosecution once he constitutionally stepped down in 2019. With those 783 counts of corruption and fraud ticked against him on the rap sheet, I can swear by Gerrie Nel that at least one will stick fast, like Super Glue, and land him smack-bang behind bars for a lengthy stretch. That, folks, is the reason why Zuma threw his hat into the ANC presidential ring in the guise of Nkosazana and why he eyed Cyril with such glaring malice aforethought at the Nasrec Conference Centre.  

MANDELA’S BLESSINGS FRUCTIFY AT LONG LAST

Addressing the press the day after an election in which only one woman made it in the Top Six of the ANC echelons, ANC Women’s League President Batlabile Dlamini lashed out at the continued patriarchy within the 105-year-old party. She regretted that Kaizana OR Tambo, to whom the 54th National ANC conference was dedicated, must be turning in his grave to this virtual misogyny. Kaizana had in his gentle, mild-mannered way lobbied for women to be put on an equal footing as men in the ANC.   

Maybe Dlamini had a point, but what she overlooked was that there was another departed icon who unlike Kaizana must have been wreathed in smiles from the great beyond for a result that mattered the most at Nasrec. This was Nelson Mandela. It is common knowledge that Cyril was Madiba’s No. 1 choice for the post of vice president and therefore future president when he himself had rode off into the sunset. Madiba had a lot of question marks about Thabo Mbeki’s political rectitude but the factor that principally disposed him toward Cyril was his being a non-Xhosa, whereas he and Thabo both were Xhosas. Mandela was wary that the body politic might view the ANC as a Xhosa fiefdom.  Yet it was not his own rethink that made him sideline Cyril in the final analysis:

it was the powerful voice of the so-called Exiles, who had taken on the apartheid government from the trenches. The Internals, who were rallying communities largely behind the United Democratic Front (UDF) and Cosatu and to whom Cyril belonged, were not seen as having been pivotal enough to the struggle to take pride of place in the corridors of power.

In the event, the political leap forward for which Cyril had poised himself did not materialise, outmanouvered as he was by the shrewder and more calculating  political opponent that was Thabo. Cyril, who was the ANC secretary-general at the time, was so miffed by his losing out to Thabo that he boycotted Madiba’s inauguration ceremony as president in 1994. Ordinarily, that should have politically alienated him from Madiba, but the president took the snub in his stride and even courted Cyril with the foreign affairs portfolio, which Cyril declined so irrevocably disaffected was he.    

That,  now, is water under the bridge. Madiba must have beamed from ear to ear from his perch in the hereafter when Cyril was handed what is without doubt his greatest Xmas present ever at Nasrec. The parcel, however, can only be unwrapped in 2019 and even as many expect it turns out to be the key to   Mahlamba Ndlopfu, the official residence for the South African president,  will it be the magic wand with which Cyril could reinvent the ANC and mould it into a cohesive and harmonious whole? Is Cyril the party’s long-awaited breath of fresh air since the halcyon days of Madiba the Great?

WOULD CYRIL RECALL ZUMA?

There’s no shortage of cynics who aver that with his election to the helm of Africa’s oldest party, Cyril has been handed a poisoned chalice given the factional fault lines that rage within it. That the party is so worryingly polarised was evidenced by the fact of the Top Six, who effectively run the party, being split crisply down the middle. Tony Leon’s barb of a tweet that, “A House Divided Cannot Stand: 3 against state capture versus  3 captured” spoke volumes on this comedy of strange bedfellows.

The captured ones (that is, those infected with the highly venomous Gupta bug and who are fanatically pro-Msholozi) are David Mabuza (Deputy President), Ace Magashule (Secretary-General) and Jessie Duarte  (Deputy Secretary-General). They hail  from the Nkosazana  camp. It does not bear emphasising that the three will exercise significant sway over the NEC’s  decisions.  They are certain to be the maverick executives sworn to see to it that the Cyril camp’s constructive designs to take drastic steps to burnish the image of the party through,  for example,  recalling  the catastrophically corrupt Zupta, are thwarted at every turn.    

To unite  the party, Cyril will have to tread a fine line between pandering to the agenda of either side of the factional divide. The problem is that in order  to radically reformat the ANC and endear it to the broader electorate, Cyril will have to cauterise it of its multiple tumours, which entails spearheading decisive action against the Guptas and upending the system of patronage and clientelism that is abroad in the land. That he cannot do without withdrawing  Zuma from the presidency given that he will be under pressure to demonstrate that he is made of sterner stuff, that he has what it takes to apply shock therapy to restore the country’s long-lost glory. That,  sadly, he cannot do with a neck-and-neck mix of the party’s top-brass.     

Cyril not only  has been presented a poisoned chalice for sure: he’s between Scylla and Charybdis, teetering  precariously between a rock and a hard place. Maybe it is the main reason he shed tears when he was declared the new ANC president as he cut a ponderous figure on the rostrum.

CYRIL’S BLACK MARKS


Coming into the Nasrec contest,  Cyril Ramaphosa had the support of that rarest of all alliances – business, labour,  and the South African Communist Party. It is not that  he was the ideal candidate: he was simply the lesser of the two devils vying for the top job. That Cyril has far from won the hearts of South African was laid bare by the wafer-thin margin by which he edged Nkosazana – only 179 votes.

For all  I care, Nkosazana is hardly electable material. She has no charisma, no glittering  accomplishments to her name as a former minister or head of the African Union Mission, and is far from a rousing speaker. Yet she took a charismatic, well-spoken, and politically stellar opponent that is Cyril if his role in  crafting the constitution of a democratic South Africa is anything to go by right to the wire.

Cyril’s ineradicable stain, which still haunted many  of the delegates at Nasrec, was Marikana. To some people, Marikana has become his middle name.  The spectre  of the Marikana massacre, in which 34 striking mines were shot dead by the police on August 16 2012,  has hovered over Cyril ever since, being a director in Lohmin, the company that owns the mine. The day before the massacre, Cyril had sent emails to the mine management describing the strike as a “dastardly criminal act”, this coming from a former secretary-general of the National Union of Mineworkers. To his detractors,  therefore, Cyril was effectively culpable in the ensuing shootings.

Cyril also has his share of ideological naysayers, who receive him as a capitalist first and foremost and a politician only secondarily. According to the highly respected US-based magazine, Forbes, Cyril has a net worth of just under R6 billion having benefitted from the talismanic Black  Economic Empowerment programme. As much a as he reportedly taps into this wealth to  assist in redressing the plight of the need, he has also been panned for  flaunting it.    For example, he once placed a R18 million bid for a buffalo, a gesture which drew howls of outrage from the masses.  

EYE OF THE NEEDLE FOR CYRIL?

 At Nasrec though, it was not only Cyril who had loads of unsavoury political baggage. David Mabuza presides over a private army in his native province of Mpumalanga. Magashule has been described by the National Education‚ Health and Allied Workers Union as “the Robert Mugabe of the ANC” for his penchant for despotism as the Free State’s ANC chairman, not to mention his shady associations with the villainous Guptas.

Duarte has been expressly implicated in the Gupta scandals. It is a pity that in Africa, we vote on the basis of regionalism, palm greasing, and sheer  blind loyalty as opposed to objective, well-thought-through criteria. In the more archetypal and politically savvy democracies, hardly any of the faces of the Top Six would have featured on the ballot paper.  

Meanwhile, in the chatter over the Nasrec results, it was EFF’s deputy Floyd Chimbavu’s tweet that momentarily transfixed me. It said, “It will  be easier for a camel to pass through the eye of a needle than for you (Cyril) to become president.” Will Zuma mount a spectacular rally and a uncork an explosive  punch that will send Cyril down for the full count? Will he somewhat scupper Cyril’s prospects to replace him at Mahlamba Ndlopfu?

Once when Julius Malema was a vociferous Zuma imbongi, he repeatedly served notice that he and fellow youth leaguers  were prepared to kill for Zuma. Is there someone among   Zuma’s legions of  acolytes who has a similar mindset? Watch your back Cyril. This is not to mention your food, your movements vehicularly,  and your airspace jaunts.  Despite Marikana, I still hold you in reasonable esteem. Don’t say I didn’t warn you.

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Botswana to Become a Vaccinated Nation: Pandemic Anxiety Over?

30th March 2021

OSCAR MOTSUMI

This is a question that should seriously exercise the mind of every Botswana citizen and every science researcher, every health worker and every political leader political.

The Covid-19 currently defines our lives and poses a direct threat to every aspect and every part of national safety, security and general well-being. This disease has become a normative part of human life throughout the world.

The first part of the struggle against the murderous depredation of this disease was to protect personal life through restrictive health injunctions and protocols; the worst possibly being human isolation and masks that hid our sorrows and lamentations through thin veils. We suffered that humiliation with grace and I believe as a nation we did a great job.

Now the vaccines are here, ushering us into the second phase of this war against the plague; and we are asking ourselves, is this science-driven fight against Covid-19 spell the end of pandemic anxiety? Is the health nightmare coming to an end? What happy lives lie ahead? Is this the time for celebration or caution? As the Non State Actors, we have being struggling with these questions for months.

We have published our thoughts and feelings, and our research reviews and thorough reading of both the local and international impacts of this rampaging viral invasion in local newspapers and social media platforms.

More significantly, we have successfully organised workshops about the impact of the pandemic on society and the economy and the last workshop invited a panel of health experts, professionals, and public administers to advance this social dialogue as part of our commitment to the tripartite engagement we enjoy working with Government of Botswana, Civil Society and Development partners. These workshops are virtual and open to all Batswana, foreign diplomatic missions based in Gaborone, UN agencies located in Gaborone and international academic researchers and professional health experts and specialists.

The mark of Covid-19 on our nation is a painful one, a tragedy shared by the entire human race, but still a contextually painful experience. Our response is fraught with grave difficulties; limited resources, limited time, and the urgency to not only save lives but also avert economic ruin and a bleak future for all who survive. Several vaccines are already in the  market.

Parts of the world are already doing the best they can to trunk the pestilential march of this disease by rolling out mass-vaccinations campaigns that promise to evict this health menace and nightmare from their public lives. Botswana, like much of Africa, is still up in the disreputable, and, unenviable, preventative social melee of masked interactions, metered distances, contactless commerce.

We remain very much at the mercy of a marauding virus that daily runs amuck with earth shattering implications for the economy and human lives. And the battle against both infections and transmissions is proving to be difficult, in terms of finance, institutional capacities and resource mobilization. How are we prepared as government, and as citizens, to embrace the impending mass-vaccinations? What are the chances of us  succeeding at this last-ditch effort to defeat the virus? What are the most pressing obstacles?

Does the work of vaccines spell an end to the pandemic anxieties?

Our panellists addressed the current state of mass-vaccination preparedness at the Botswana national level. What resources are available? What are the financial, institutional and administrative operational challenges (costs and supply chains, delivery, distribution, administering the vaccine on time, surveillance and security of vaccines?) What is being done to overcome them, or what can be done to overcome them? What do public assessments of preparedness tell us at the local community levels? How strong is the political will and direction? How long can we expect the whole exercise to last? At what point should we start seeing tangible results of the mass-vaccination campaign?

They also addressed the challenges of the anticipated emerging Vaccinated Society. How to fight the myths of vaccines and the superstitions about histories of human immunizations? What exactly is being done to grow robust local confidence in the science of vaccinations and the vaccines themselves? More significantly, how to square these campaigns vis-vis personal rights, moral/religious obligations?

What messages are being sent out in these regards and how are Batswana responding? What about issues of justice and equality? Will we get the necessary vaccines to everyone who wants them? What is being done to ensure no deserving person is left behind?

They also addressed issues of health data. To accomplish this mass-vaccination campaign and do everything right we need accurate and complete data. Poor data already makes it very hard to just cope with the disease. What is being done to improve data for the mass-vaccination campaign? How is this data being collected, aggregated and prepared for real life situation/applications throughout Botswana in the coming campaign?

We know in America, for example, general reporting and treatment of health data at the beginning of vaccinations was so poor, so chaotic and so scattered mainstream newspapers like The Atlantic, Washington Post and the New York Times had to step in, working very closely with civil society organizations, to rescue the situation. What data-related issues are still problematic in Botswana?

To be specific, what kind of Covid-19 data is being taken now to ready the whole country for an effective and efficient mass-vaccination program?

Batswana must be made aware that the  end part of vaccination will just mark the beginning of a long journey to health recovery and national redemption; that in many ways Covid-19 vaccination is just another step toward the many efforts in abeyance to fight this health pandemic, the road ahead is still long and painful.

For this purpose, and to highlight the significance of this observation we tasked our panellists with  the arduous imperative of  analysing the impact of mass-vaccination on society and the economy alongside the pressing issues of post-Covid-19 national health surveillance and rehabilitation programs.

Research suggests the aftermath of Covid-19 vaccination is going to be just as difficult and uncertain world as the present reality in many ways, and that caution should prevail over celebration, at least for a long time. The disease itself is projected to linger around for some time after all these mass-vaccination campaigns unless an effort is made to vaccinate everyone to the last reported case, every nation succeeds beyond herd immunity, and cure is found for Covid-19 disease. Many people are going to continue in need of medications, psychological and psychiatric services and therapy.

Is Botswana ready for this long holdout? If not, what path should we take going into the future? The Second concern is , are we going to have a single, trusted national agency charged with the  mandate to set standards for our national health data system, now that we know how real bad pandemics can be, and the value of data in quickly responding to them and mitigating impact? Finally, what is being done to curate a short history of this pandemic? A national museum of health and medicine or a Public Health Institute  in Botswana is overdue.

If we are to create strong sets of data policies and data quality standards for fighting future health pandemics it is critical that they find ideological and moral foundations in the artistic imagery and photography of the present human experience…context is essential to fighting such diseases, and to be prepared we must learn from every tragic health incident.

Our panellists answered most of these questions with distinguished intellectual clarity. We wish Batswana to join us in our second Mass-vaccination workshop.

*Oscar Motsumi: Email:oscar.motsumi@gmail.com

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The women you see in the news matter. Here’s why

9th March 2021
Jane Godia

Jane Godia

Today is International Women’s Day – it’s a moment to think about how much better our news diet could be if inequities were eliminated. In 1995, when the curtains fell in one of the largest meetings that have ever brought women together to discuss women in development, it was noted that women and media remain key to development.

Twenty-six years later, the relevant “Article J” of the Beijing Platform for Action, remains unfulfilled. Its two strategic objectives with regard to Women and Media have not been met. They are
Increase the participation and access of women to expression and decision-making in and through the media and new technologies of communication

Promote a balanced and non-stereotyped portrayal of women in the media.

Today, as we mark International Women’s Day, it’s an indictment on both media owners and civil society that women remain on the periphery of news-making. They cannot claim equal space in either the structures of newsrooms or in the content produced, be that as sources of news or as the subjects of reports. Indeed, the latest figures from WAN-IFRA’s Women in News Programme show just one in five voices in news belong to women*, be they as sources, as the author or as the main character of the news report.

Some progress was evident several years back, with stand-out women being named as chief executive officers, editors in chief, managing editors and executive editors. But these gains appear short lived in most media organisations. Excitement has turned to frustration as one-step forward has been replaced with three steps backwards. In Africa, the problem is acute. The decision-making tables of media organisations remain deprived of women and where there are women, they are surrounded by men.

Few women have followed in the footsteps of Esther Kamweru, the first woman managing editor in Kenya, and indeed sub-Saharan Africa. Today’s standout women editors include Pamela Makotsi-Sittoni (Nation Media Group, Kenya), Barbara Kaija (New Vision, Uganda), Mary Mbewe (Daily Nation, Zambia), Margaret Vuchiri (The Monitor, Uganda), Joyce Shebe (Clouds, Tanzania), Tryphinah Dongwana (Weekend Post, Botswana), Joyce Mhaville (Independent Television -ITV, Tanzania) and Tuma Abdallah (Standard Newspapers,Tanzania). But they remain an exception.

The lack of balance between women and men at the table of decision making has a rollback effect on the content that is produced. A table dominated by men typically makes decisions that benefit men.

So today, International Women’s Day is a grim reminder that things are not rosy in the news business. Achieving gender balance in news and in the structure of media organisations remains a challenge. Unmet, it sees more than half of the population in our countries suffer the consequences of bias, discrimination and sexism.

The business of ignoring the other half of the population can no longer be treated as normal. It’s time that media leaders grasp the challenge, not only because it is the right thing to do, but because it also makes a whole lot of business sense: start covering women, give them space and a voice in news-making and propel them to all levels of decision making within your organisation.

We can no longer afford to imagine that it’s only men who make and sell the news and bring in the shillings to fund the media business. Women too are worthy newsmakers. In all of our societies, there are women holding decision making positions and who are now experts in once male-only domains such as engineers, doctors, scientists and researchers.

They can be deliberately picked out to share their perspectives and expertise and bring balance to the profile of experts quoted on our news pages. Media is the prism through which society sees itself and women are an untapped audience. So, as we celebrate International Women’s Day, let us embrace diversity, which yields better news content and business products, and in so doing eliminate sexism. We know that actions and attitudes that discriminate against people based on their gender is bad for business.

As media, the challenge is ours. We need to consciously embrace and reach the commitments made 26 years ago when the Beijing Platform for Action was signed globally. As the news consuming public, you have a role to play too. Hold your news organization to account and make sure they deliver balanced news that reflects the voices of all of society.

Jane Godia is a gender development and media expert who serves as the Africa Director of Women in News programme.  
WOMEN IN NEWS is WAN-IFRA’s ground-breaking programme to increase women’s leadership and voices in the news. It does so by equipping women journalists and editors with the skills, strategies, and support networks to take on greater leadership positions within their media. www.womeninnews.org

Jane Godia, Director, Africa, Women in News

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Why is the media so afraid to talk about sexual harassment?

9th March 2021

MELANIE WALKER

The eve of International Women’s Day presents an opportunity for us to think about gender equality and the long and often frustrating march toward societies that are truly equal.

As media, we are uniquely placed to drive forward this reflection and discussion. But while focusing on the challenges of gender in society, we owe it to our staff and the communities we serve to also take a hard look at the obstacles within our own organisations.

I’m talking specifically about the scourge of sexual harassment. It’s likely to have happened in your newsroom. It has likely happened to a member of your team. It happens to all genders but is disproportionately directed at women. It happens in every industry, regardless of country, culture or context. This is because sexual harassment is driven by power, not sex. Wherever you have imbalances in power, you have individuals who are at risk of sexual harassment, and those who abuse this power.

I’ve been sexually harassed. The many journalists and editors, friends and family members who I have spoken to over the years on this subject have also been harassed. Yet it is still hard for leaders to recognize that this could be happening within their newsrooms and boardrooms. Why does it continue to be such a taboo?

Counting the cost of sexual harassment

Sexual harassment is, simply put, bad for business. It can harm your corporate reputation. It is a drain on the productivity of staff and managers. Maintaining and building trust in your brand is an absolute imperative for media organisations globally. If and when a case gets out of control or is badly handled – this can directly impact your bottom line.

It is for this reason that WAN-IFRA Women in News has put eliminating sexual harassment as a top priority in our work around gender equality in the media sector. This might seem at odds with the current climate where social interactions are fewer and remote work scenarios are in place in many newsrooms and businesses. But one only needs to tune into the news to know that the abuse of power, manifested as verbal, physical or online harassment, is alive and well.

Preliminary results from an ongoing Women in News research study into the issue of sexual harassment polling hundreds of journalists in Sub-Saharan Africa and Southeast Asia indicate that more than 1 in 3 women media professionals have been physically harassed, and just under 50% have been verbally harassed. Just over 15% of men in African newsrooms reported being physically harassed, and slightly less than 1 in 4 reports being verbally harassed. The numbers for male media professionals in Southeast Asia are slightly higher than a quarter on both forms of harassment.

The first step in confronting sexual harassment is to talk about it. We need to strip away the stigma and discomfort around having open conversations about what sexual harassment is and isn’t. Media managers, it is entirely in your power to create dynamics in your own teams that are free from sexual harassment.

Publishers and CEOs, you set the organisational culture in your media company.

By being vocal in recognising that it happens everywhere, and communicating to your employees that you will not tolerate sexual harassment of any kind, you send a powerful message to your teams, and publicly. With these actions, you will help us overcome the legacy of silence around this topic, and in doing so take an important first step to create media environments that truly embrace equality.

Melanie Walker is Executive Director of Media Development of the World Association of News Publishers (WAN-IFRA). She is a creator of Women in News, WAN-IFRA’s ground-breaking programme to increase women’s leadership and voices in the news. It does so by equipping women journalists and editors with the skills, strategies, and support networks to take on greater leadership positions within their media. www.womeninnews.org

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