Update on the Political Situation in Lesotho – By Letlhogonolo Mpho Letshele


The Kingdom of Lesotho has been plagued by persistent political instability since the country gained independence in 1966. Identifying the factors at the heart of Lesotho’s persistent political instability could be an important contribution to attempts to solve the country’s general problems of underdevelopment, insecurity, gross human rights violations, and breakdown of the rule of law. At the center of the current political crisis are the outcomes of the elections that took place in 2007, 2012, and 2015. The involvement of the security sector in the governance of the country has also played a significant role in contributing to the current political instability. Lesotho has a weak state, and state institutions that are highly party-politicised. There are too many political parties, most having been formed for the single purpose of the pursuit of the interests of those who established them.

State of rights

Citizens’ recent opinions indicate that the country still has a long way to go in transforming human rights conventions into the people’s everyday experience and culture. Although Lesotho has ratified and domesticated a number of international conventions that protect basic rights and freedoms, Amnesty International (2018) reported a ‘sharp increase’ in human rights violations as the country experienced prolonged political and security instability. Findings from the latest Afrobarometer survey shows that 75% of Basotho say the police routinely abuse or torture civilians in their custody. Basotho are increasingly terrified of the police, whom they accuse of torturing and killing with impunity.

Governing party

The All Basotho Convention (ABC) came into power through a coalition with the Basotho National Party (BNP), the Alliance of Democrats (AD) and the Reformed Congress of Lesotho (RCL). The coalition had hoped to bring political stability after the 2017 election failed to produce an outright winner. However, recently the coalition has been plagued by personality clashes, political infighting and intra-party struggles for power, which could derail the ongoing reform process in the country, and could potentially have a bearing on the party’s upcoming electoral committee in 2019.

Constitutionalism in Lesotho

The development of constitutional democracy in Lesotho took a turn after the inconclusive 2012 election. The outcome of the election resulted in the first coalition government in Lesotho. Since then, major causes of political instability in Lesotho have been around the formation and running of coalition governments. In fact, the failure of coalition governments has urged Basotho to seek an alternative governing institution. According to a recent study by the Afrobarometer, 69% of Basotho have shown more political trust in the King than any other governance institution in the country.


To an extent, Lesotho’s history of civil-military relations could be blamed for the killings of civilians by the military and the police. After Lesotho transitioned from military rule to democratic rule in 1993, tensions between the ruling Basotho Congress Party (BCP) government and the military were left unresolved. Moreover, democratically elected leaders did not fully reform the institutions when they were in power. During the 2014 political crisis, the security sector was split along party lines. This led to the misuse of the security force by opposing factions. Even though there are a plethora of theories that explain persistent conflict, the security sector’s involvement in the state takes the leading position in terms of reasons why Lesotho keeps falling back into political instability.

At the heart of Lesotho’s current political crisis lies the outcome of the 2012 election. There had been contestations within the coalition over the nature of the executive powers of the Prime Minister. This led to the collapse of the marriage of convenience, which contributed to events that plunged Lesotho into political instability. As a result, Basotho have recently expressed that the constitution should be amended to allow the King more say on issues of national importance, because the constitution has been ineffective in resolving political instability in Lesotho.

International community involvement in Lesotho

SADC has been called upon to curb political instability in Lesotho more than in most member states. Southern Africa Development Community (SADC) recommended the implementation of constitutional and security sector reforms in Lesotho after the political instability in 2014. Reform process becomes a necessity when institutions fall short of their expected effectiveness in addressing economic, social and political needs.

However, Basotho have since expressed dissatisfaction over the reform process, especially on the circumstances surrounding the extradition processes of individuals involved in the security forces’ atrocities in 2014. The reform agreement protects accused persons from prosecution until the end of the reform process.

The main obstacle is that there was no timeline imposed on when the reform process would end. In addition, the reform process undermines the constitution. The process is not clear on a number of issues, such as what would happen to cases that were already set in the court of law. Does this mean the executive will now be forced to impose itself on the judiciary to stop all the processes, because there was an agreement made?  This could bring Lesotho’s justice into dispute.

The African Commission on Human and People’s Rights (ACHPR) also expressed concern over the persistent allegations of police brutality in Lesotho, and called on the government to capacitate the relevant institutions to enable them to investigate the allegations of human rights violations.

The European Union (EU) has rallied behind Lesotho’s reforms process. The EU endorsed the new reform agreement between government and the opposition, for implementing multi-sectoral reforms that are crucial to long-term stability in Lesotho. The EU is also in support of the decision not to prosecute alleged perpetrators of the 2014 atrocities until after the completion of the multi-sector reform process. This agreement would break the recurrent trajectory of violence in the country and usher in a negotiated solution of the conflict.



SADC has played a significant role in promoting peace and political stability in Lesotho. The international community, through the EU, has also supported the reform process as a form of mediation between two opposing sides. With the ABC’s upcoming electoral committee next year, the ‘four by four’ ought to resolve its internal disputes. Failure to resolve the party’s political infighting could cost the ABC votes in the next election in 2022. SADC gave Lesotho until May 2019 to have fully implemented constitutional and security reforms. Should Lesotho’s political instability persist as it has done since 1966, the futures of Basotho and their country could be threatened.




Adams, P. and Nkuebe, M., 2018. Basotho favour multi-sector reforms as support for elections ebbs. Results from 2018 Afrobarometer survey in Lesotho.

Adams, P. and Nkuebe, M., 2018. Rights in Lesotho: Citizen views on police abuse, media and personal freedom, gender equality. Results from 2018 Afrobarometer survey in Lesotho.

Amnesty International. (2018). Lesotho 2017/2018. https://www.amnesty.org/en/countries/africa/lesotho/report-lesotho/.

Pherudi, M., 2016. Governance and Democracy in Lesotho: Challenges faced by SADC intervention 2007-2015. Preflight Books, Pretoria.

Staff Writer, 2018. EU backs reforms deal. Lesotho Times.

Thabane, M. ed., 2017. Towards an Anatomy of Persistent Political Instability in Lesotho, 1966-2016. National University of Lesotho.

Zihlangu, B., 2018. Aggrieved families slam Metsing deal. Public eye.


The World’s First Feminist Government – By Sara Morshedi

Gender equality is a widely discussed topic both nationally and internationally. Women’s rights movements are taking actions worldwide aimed at decreasing and eventually eliminating the financial gap between men and women. Women are taking a stand by letting their governments know that gender discrimination cannot stand if we envision a more democratic and advanced future.

Sweden, a country located in Scandinavia, today calls itself the world’s first feminist government[1]. Gender equality is one of the Swedish government’s most prioritised issues. It is a matter that is of utmost importance to the majority of political parties in Sweden. When governmental decisions are made, equality between the sexes is almost always factored into the decision-making process. The Swedish government states on their official website that there is consensus in government that women and men should receive equal opportunities nationwide. Gender equality is a human right which Sweden wants to uphold at all costs. The government believes that democracy cannot succeed without women becoming an essential part of Swedish society. Sweden also believes that in order to solve financial and societal challenges, women must be integrated into the workforce[2].

The Swedish government is striving to attain gender equality in Sweden, by pursuing the following six goals:

  1. The equal distribution of power and influence between men and women – both should have the right to influence decision-making.
  2. Financially, both genders must be presented with equal opportunities and working conditions.
  3. Women and men must be treated in the same manner in the education sector, this means that they may have the same opportunities to study, and also receive the same opportunities for personal development.
  4. Both sexes must split the housework and care-taking in the home; taking on the same obligations.
  5. Health-wise, both genders must be presented with healthcare on equal terms.
  6. Gender-based violence must come to an end; violence against women has no place in society. Both sexes deserve the same opportunity and right to physical integrity[3].

Swedish women’s status is considered high compared to other EU countries. Sweden is on top of the European Union Gender Equality Index. The highest score one can receive on the index is 100.  Sweden has scored 82,6; while the average for the EU is 66.2[4].  Women also make up 44% of parliament in Sweden while the EU average is 28%[5].  In comparison, gender equality in South Africa is more fluctuating- good in some areas, and poor in others. Women account for 43,8% of total employment, yet only 32% of managers in South Africa are women[6].  However, parliament is a space where women have been notably well represented in South Africa. About 41% of South African MP’s are women, which is positive compared to many European countries.  33,3%[7] of German MP’s are women, while in the UK this figure sits at only 30,8%.

The Swedish government uses many relevant tools to uphold gender equality in their country. At the same time, Sweden is also actively working to raise gender equality within the United Nations and has developed a promising strategy with UN Women aimed at fostering equality between men and women on a global scale. The strategy is intended to be implemented between 2018 and 2022 at a global, regional and national level[8].  The strategy entails developing and putting into action an inclusive and powerful set of international norms, policies and principles on gender equality. It intends to encourage women to lead, engage in and benefit from governance structures, so that they can play a role in decision-making- both locally and globally. The strategy intends to empower women of all ages, and seeks to give young girls of today the opportunity to contribute towards the building of a sustainable future internationally. Women should not feel that they are excluded from peace making processes. Sweden and UN Women have developed this plan together in the hopes of creating a better future for women and girls globally.  Through proper communication, economic donations and hard work on the Executive Board, Sweden will work towards ensuring that their plan is fulfilled and that their goals are met before the project period is over.

I believe that the Swedish government is an inspiring example. Every country should aspire to give their women the best and most equal opportunities in society, as Sweden endeavors to do. Historically, women have always been portrayed as the ‘weaker’ gender, which has resulted in the disastrous gender gaps that many women face in today’s world. This perception of women being the weaker, ‘lesser’ gender is a major contributing factor in the global pandemic of gender based violence.  It is crucial that governments obtain an understanding that women are equal counterparts, and as such should be treated equally in every aspect of life. More women should sit in parliament; more women should be CEO’s and all women should be able to live their lives without fear. I believe in a world where women can lead nations and make impactful international decisions. I also strongly believe that when women are not represented in government, and don’t have the opportunities to impact decision-making, countries suffer greatly. South Africa is a country with immense potential, and I am convinced that by implementing some of the same practices that Sweden is promoting, we can make a significant change not only for South African women, but for South African society in general.

As for the Swedish government’s future; I do not know what will happen, but I’m hoping for the best. Swedish elections took place in September and the results were somewhat worrying, with the Swedish Democrats (one of Sweden’s more conservative and controversial parties) gaining 17,6% – making them the third most powerful party in the country[9]. Conservative parties aren’t always in favour of change, especially for women, and this can result in a potential setback in parliament. I am eagerly waiting to see what will happen, and hoping that the women of Sweden will not be robbed of their rights.












[1] https://www.bbc.com/news/world-europe-39004991


[2]  https://www.government.se/government-policy/a-feminist-government/


[3] https://www.government.se/government-policy/gender-equality/goals-and-visions/


[4] https://www.government.se/press-releases/2017/10/sweden-best-in-the-eu-on-gender-equality/

[5] https://sweden.se/society/sweden-gender-equality/

[6] http://www.statssa.gov.za/?p=11375

[7] https://www.moneymarketing.co.za/the-status-of-women-in-south-africa-a-mixed-bag-of-success-and-failure/

[8] https://www.government.se/information-material/2018/09/strategy-for-swedens-cooperation-with-un-women-20182022/


[9] https://www.express.co.uk/news/world/1015465/sweden-election-result-will-sweden-democrats-coalition-government

Global South: India decriminalises homosexuality through Supreme Court verdict

By Sanya Samtani


On 6 September 2018, after over twenty-four years of litigation, and several more of advocacy, the Supreme Court of India declared section 377 of the Indian Penal Code unconstitutional to the extent to which it criminalised homosexuality. A constitutional bench of the Court, comprising Justices Malhotra, Nariman, Khanwilkar, Chandrachud, and Chief Justice Misra, held that the criminal provision was used to prosecute, harass, and blackmail the LGBTI+ community, including people who engaged in consensual sexual acts with same-sex partners, and it therefore flagrantly violated the equality, dignity and privacy guarantees of the Constitution of India.

In 2009, the Delhi High Court, in a progressive anti-discrimination decision decriminalised homosexuality, only for this decision to be reversed by the Indian Supreme Court on appeal in 2013. The present decision of the Indian Supreme Court is on the heels of the judicial recognition of transgender rights as well as the extensive ruling on privacy, which crystallised the right to privacy as a fundamental right protected by the Constitution, and expanded upon the notion of privacy as personal autonomy, and affirmed the wrongness of the 2013 reversal of decriminalisation.

Section 377, a part of the Indian Penal Code of 1860, is titled “Unnatural offences” and reads as follows: “Whoever voluntarily has carnal intercourse against the order of nature with any man, woman or animal shall be punished with imprisonment for life, or with imprisonment of either description for a term which may extend to ten years, and shall also be liable to fine.

Explanation: Penetration is sufficient to constitute the carnal intercourse necessary to the offense described in this section.”

An inquiry into the history of the provision reveals that this colonial-era law has its roots in the anti-sodomy laws enacted by Henry VIII, and subsequently the British Parliament. The criminalisation of “buggery”, as it was called, was exported to most of Britain’s then-colonies through a charter of Queen Elizabeth I. This continued well into the 1800s. It was against this backdrop that Thomas Babington Macaulay, the drafter of the Indian Penal Code, introduced this section. Although the Sexual Offences Act of 1967 reformed the law in England, and decriminalised consensual sexual acts between adults of all genders, this was not done in its former colonies.

More than 70 years after India’s independence from British rule, artefacts of colonialism in the form of legal, cultural, and social aspects remain, and continue to disentitle and oppress. The Indian Supreme Court’s pronouncement is a step in the long process of decolonisation that extends beyond the singular act of political independence from former colonial powers.

Legal remnants of such discrimination are still prevalent in a large number of African countries, some of which are former British colonies. With the exception of South Africa, the track record that most African countries have in relation to criminalisation of homosexuality is abysmal. Thirty-six countries on the continent have criminal sanctions for engaging in same-sex sexual acts. In Southern Africa, homosexuality is criminalised in Botswana, Malawi, Namibia (a former British protectorate following World War I), Swaziland, Zambia, and Zimbabwe using penal provisions that are similar to section 377 of the Indian Penal Code, given their status as former British colonies or protectorates as the case may be. The judgment of the Supreme Court of India has particular relevance to Southern Africa for this reason.

The five-judge bench of the Indian Supreme Court was unanimous in holding that section 377 contravened the following fundamental rights: the right to equality (Article 14), the prohibition on discrimination on the basis of sex (Article 15), freedom of expression (Article 19(1)(a)), and the right to life and personal liberty, that encompasses dignity (Article 21).

There were several strands of argument that were emphasised by different judges, all of whom held that these rights were violated: the Chief Justice and Justice Khanwilkar highlight the significance of an adult individual’s dignity of choice – in other words, their personal capacity to make autonomous decisions for themselves, which includes sexual preference and orientation. Justice Nariman points out that the distinction between “natural” and “unnatural” sexual acts is entirely arbitrary and has no scientific basis in law or fact. Justice Chandrachud, in adopting a robust anti-discrimination standpoint, highlights the predominance of traditional, fixed gender roles and stereotypes in making and implementing laws, and specifically does so in the use and effect of section 377. Justice Malhotra’s judgment takes a strong position on equality, emphasising that an individual’s sexual orientation and preference are not grounds on which the state may discriminate, and under no circumstances may such discrimination be justified by the state.

Justice Malhotra also acknowledges the historical injustice and prejudice that LGBTI+ individuals have had to face, and in doing so states that, “History owes an apology to the members of this community and their families, for the delay in providing redressal for the ignominy and ostracism that they have suffered through the centuries. The members of this community were compelled to live a life full of fear of reprisal and persecution. This was on account of the ignorance of the majority to recognise that homosexuality is a completely natural condition, part of a range of human sexuality.”

This judgment has thus been hailed as a victory for love – both by the judges themselves, and by the tireless LGBTI+ community activists, organisers, lawyers, campaigners, and supporters involved in this struggle for equality and dignity. Given India’s position in the Global South, this decision as a “rainbow in the clouds” will hopefully bolster the efforts of activists campaigning for equal sexual citizenship across Southern Africa, and the wider world.

Sanya Samtani is a DPhil candidate in human rights law at the University of Oxford, having completed her BCL at Oxford, and her BA LLB at NALSAR University of Law, Hyderabad. She is currently clerking at the Constitutional Court of South Africa as a foreign law clerk.


BRICS and Agenda 2063: Towards a prosperous Africa Based on Inclusive Growth and Sustainable Development

Oxfam Offices and Sunnyside Park Hotel Johannesburg, South Africa
18th & 19th October 2018

On the 18th and 19th of October 2018, the Southern African Liaison Office (SALO) in partnership with FES, Oxfam and the Civil BRICS Steering Committee hosted a multi-stakeholder workshop on BRICS and Agenda 2063: Towards a Prosperous Africa Based on Inclusive Growth and Sustainable Development. The workshop aimed at promoting and defining civil society engagement with BRICS countries and South African civil society partners. Many areas of BRICS – civil society engagement were explored, including a critical discussion on the successes and challenges regarding civil society’s engagement with BRICS.  The workshop sought to evaluate the relationship in real terms, by asking how much of an impact the civil society policy recommendations to BRICS have made during South Africa’s hosting of the 10th BRICS. Some of the key discussions centred around the New Development Bank (NDB), gender and inequality, peace and security, elections in Brazil, inclusive economic development, climate change, civil society engagement and public consultation.

READ FULL PDF HERE: Post BRICS October 2018 Policy Brief – Illustrated

SADC-EU Economic Partnership Agreement: What role for Civil Society?

The opportunity remains for civil society organizations to ensure implementation is development-orientated, and facilitates sustainable development, poverty reduction and regional integration.

Photo: Showers Mawowa, Deputy Director of the Southern African Liaison Office (SALO). Photo by SALO/LensTalk.

The new economic partnership agreement between the EU and the Southern African Development Community has raised concerns among civil society. The deal itself may be finalized, but opportunities remain for grass-roots input and participation with regards to implementation, both in Africa and the EU.

The first regional economic partnership agreement (EPA) in Africa came into effect in February 2018, between the European Union and the Southern African Development Community (SADC), after years of negotiations and in the face of anti-EPA campaigning by SADC civil society since the 2000s.

But the opportunity remains for civil society organizations (CSOs) to ensure implementation is development-orientated, and facilitates sustainable development, poverty reduction and regional integration.

The SADC-EU EPA gives free access to the EU market for 100 per cent of products from Botswana, Lesotho, Mozambique, Namibia, and Swaziland, and 98.7 per cent of imports from South Africa (it does not cover the rest of the 16-country bloc). In turn, the EU will get preferential access to those countries for agricultural products including wheat, barley, cheese and pork, as well as trademark protection.

How should SADC civil society engage with this agreement, if at all? What should be the form and content of that engagement?

Though the agreement has been finalized, mechanisms for its implementation are still being developed. This will entail alignment with domestic priorities, regional trade frameworks and processes. In this, CSOs have a role.

The consensus, it seems, is that in spite of the misgivings, CSOs should engage, firstly to demand for a formal mechanism for engagement with CSOs and secondly to influence the implementation. While the EU has a mechanism for government-civil society engagement on the agreement, SADC countries do not, nor have they demonstrated a willingness to set up one. This is unfortunate, as it goes against the now widely accepted principles of civic participation in global governance. And this is in spite of the fact that both the SADC and AU have otherwise come a long way in providing for engagement with civil society in their processes.

It is useful to point out that though the agreement has been finalized, mechanisms for its implementation are still being developed. This will entail alignment with domestic priorities, regional trade frameworks and processes. In this, CSOs have a role.

There are therefore a number of areas for CSOs to watch out for as the agreement enters into implementation phase.

The SADC-EU EPA represents asymmetrical liberalization in favour of Southern African countries. However, the historical and persistent unevenness of economic power relations may negate this aspiration.

BREXIT presents a dynamic that CSOs must grapple with. Notably, both the UK and the remaining 27 EU states are said to prefer continuing with the EPA post-Brexit, albeit separately. However, it remains uncertain what the impact on SADC exports to the EU would be if Britain leaves the EU with little or no replacement deal in place with the bloc, a scenario known as ‘no-deal BREXIT’ or ‘hard BREXIT’. Also, the two sides of the BREXIT divide may find themselves competing in the search for new markets, especially for agro-business exports, and therefore start negotiating more aggressively. The implementation and interpretation of the agreement could become a new arena for these struggles.

On paper, the SADC-EU EPA represents asymmetrical liberalization in favour of Southern African countries. However, the historical and persistent unevenness of economic power relations may negate this aspiration. SADC countries, with the exception of South Africa, continue to export primarily raw materials and import manufactured products in return.

SADC members and other African nations need to assist local businesses in improving their capacity and competitiveness. […] This must take into account the historical and racial nature of uneven development in the region.

Moreover, supply-side constraints can counter the deal’s elements that are intended to be of mutual benefit. SADC members and other African nations need to assist local businesses in improving their capacity and competitiveness. They must engage the EU more in securing funding that promotes local farmers and other businesses, as well as business training to help with capacity building. This must take into account the historical and racial nature of uneven development in the region.

Another constraint is non-tariff barriers. Firstly, stringent EU standards and food and health regulations can hinder local SADC producers from accessing EU markets as compliance can be difficult. Secondly, reforms reducing the prices of certain food imports into EU under the EU Free Trade Agreement (FTA) may reduce margins of tariff preferences enjoyed by SADC agro-food exporters.

Within the SADC, the new EPA with the EU is only with certain members, increasing the division of the region into blocs rather than building on SADC efforts to increase integration. The rest of the SADC countries are currently negotiating a different agreement. This presents obstacles for harmonization and coordination in a context where building common African positions on some important aspects of EPAs is already a challenge.

There is therefore a need to bring civil society back to the table. In particular links between national and regional CSOs must be strengthened as well as with grassroots movements. The development question must be at the centre of that engagement. In order to strengthen advocacy, CSOs need to bridge the information deficit among themselves by investing in evidence gathering and knowledge sharing.

Civil society, with support from EU partners, must raise their concerns in the public domain particularly within the EU. These concerns will highlight the possible negative consequences of the SADC-EPA and how they affect local markets in Africa. EU civil society groups and EU parliamentary members have an important role and must be engaged to promote mutually beneficial trading agreements.

At SADC level, CSOs must insist on a formal mechanism for engagement. In the meantime, existing platforms like the multi-stakeholder national monitoring frameworks of the African Union’s Agenda 2063 can also be leveraged for engagement with civil society in an EPA context. ###

Showers Mawowa is the Deputy Director of the Southern African Liaison Office (SALO). For more information on the work by FES and SALO and the role of civil society in the EAP context contact FES South Africa.

Civil Society Consultation on the SADC-EU Economic Partnership Agreement

On the 22nd of August, the Southern African Liaison Office (SALO), in partnership with the Southern African Trust (SAT) and Friedrich Ebert Stiftung (FES), hosted a multi-stakeholder dialogue on the role of civil society in the Southern African Development Community (SADC)-European Union (EU) Economic Partnership Agreement. This policy brief provides a summary and recommendations from the dialogue. In Botswana on the 10th of June 2016, after 10 years of negotiation, the EU and six countries of the SADC region – Botswana, Lesotho, Namibia, Swaziland, South Africa and Mozambique – signed an Economic Partnership Agreement (EPA) giving the SADC EPA Group 100% free access (South Africa had 98.7% customs duties removed) to the EU market. The EPA became fully operational in February 2018. The economic partnership is development-orientated with the expectation of facilitating sustainable development, reducing poverty and advancing regional integration. Some of the key issues raised in this dialogue pertained to the developmental and economic intentions of the EPA, the role of civil society within a SADC EPA framework, the post-BREXIT environment, development finance, implications for regional integration of SADC countries belonging to different trade blocs, opportunities and challenges faced by the EPA and possible partnerships available for work on EPAs.

Read PDF here: SADC-EPA PB 19Sept2018 – Illustrated

Men must be active participants in the fight to end gender-based violence By Cormac Smith – 7 August 2018

 Government and Civil Society join together in inaugural 100 Men march for no Violence against Women and Children beginning from Kgosi Mmampuru Str to Union Buildings, Pretoria [Photo: GCIS] 

We have a responsibility in identifying and treating the underlying causes of gender-based violence not just in South Africa but around the world. Recent figures from StatsSA show the murder rate of women increased by 117% between 2015 and 2016/17, a stark reminder of the persistent violence in this country. Then deputy president Cyril Ramaphosa spoke eloquently in 2017, showing us that he understands the core issues, but the above harrowing figures and recent #TotalShutDown march mean now, more than ever, comprehensive action is needed.

In July 2017 then Deputy President Cyril Ramaphosa spoke at a Rhema Bible Church sermon devoted to ending violence against women and children. He stated how gender-based violence (GBV) is not caused by a virus but rather societal and cultural influences. The man who is now President understood that we live in a patriarchal society that is perpetuated by gender norms and an unwillingness to speak out against negative or toxic masculine behaviour. He said: “Each one of us, regardless of our upbringing or social circumstances, has been given the power of free will. We can make a decision, each of us, not to engage in violence, not to perpetrate abuse. We are responsible for our actions.”

We have a responsibility in identifying and treating the underlying causes of gender-based violence not just in South Africa but around the world. Recent figures from StatsSA show the murder rate of women increased by 117% between 2015 and 2016/17, a stark reminder of the persistent violence in this country. President Ramaphosa spoke eloquently in 2017, showing us that he understands the core issues, but the above harrowing figures and recent #TotalShutDown march mean now, more than ever, comprehensive action is needed.

The incidence of rape and sexual violence is staggeringly high in South Africa with a 2016 Rape Adjudication and Prosecution Study (RAPSSA) report found that between 2008 and 2015, 432,834 sexual offences were reported across the country. This figure is seen to vastly underestimate the true population-level incidence of sexual violence and rape due to under-reporting by survivors.

Population-based research found that between 28-37% of adult South African men disclosed having committed rape. Over half of them did so while they were teenagers, and half the men who admitted having raped, did so more than once. Further research shows that approximately one in 10 men have been involved in gang rape where perpetrators can sometimes be children and take part to prove their masculinity to one another. 2011 census data shows that 94.1% of rape survivors were female, 46% of whom were children (under 18). Perpetrators of rape accounted to be 99% male while female perpetrators mostly did so in groups of other men. If there is disagreement on the presence of hegemonic patriarchal systems, surely these figures show that the high prevalence of sexual violence is inherently a male trait.

Chillingly, men who identify strongly with having toxic masculine characteristics or gender-inequitable beliefs are more likely to reveal or report having perpetrated some form of GBV. Certain men essentially brag about having perpetrated acts of sexual violence. This shows disturbing and contrasting attitudes which only reinforce rape stigma where some men feel entitled to talk freely about the crime while women survivors suffer debilitating fear and shame. The situation worsens where some women do not report the crime fearing that the police will not address the claim effectively or simply turn them away. Family and community pressure are also known predicators to under-reporting, a cruel outcome that merely adds to the shame and guilt of the survivor.

Organisations that focus on GBV such as rape crisis centres are sadly underfunded. Despite this, they provide critical protection and support to survivors of sexual abuse while calling out for comprehensive reform that will tackle the root cause of the violence. Short-term interventions are not working as they ignore the core drivers of the issue, something rape crisis centres consistently and painstakingly highlight.

In 2009, at least half of women murdered was done so by an intimate partner (where perpetrators had been identified as a partner) in South Africa. In Ireland between 1996 and 2017, of the 216 women killed, 56% of the killers were current or former intimate partners. In the United Kingdom, 113 women were murdered in 2016, 78 of who done so by current or former partners. Globally, approximately 38% of all murders of women are committed by current or former intimate partners. Femicide and GBV perpetrated by intimate partners is a global issue that bridges all socio-economic, racial, age, religious and ethnic divides.

While there are influential factors associated with GBV, research shows that the predominant cause of the violence points to men’s prescribed gender roles, patriarchal systems and toxic/hyper-masculinity. The latter can be defined as complete disregard or contempt for what are perceived to be “feminine” qualities and/or use of aggression and violence to adhere to pre-conceived male gender normative behaviour. Many men set themselves expectations to be successful, strong and powerful, inhibiting any emotional behaviour they perceive to be weak. A lack of emotional intelligence, combined with toxic masculine and gender normative behaviour, can have debilitating effects on men’s mental health and regularly result in emotional outbursts of aggression and violence. These acts can help men exhibit power in the hope of re-affirming their manhood.

The concept of power and its intrinsic relationship with toxic masculinity is a common output where certain men enable their sense of superiority over women and, in some cases, other men. Focusing on the effects on women, masculine power can be exhibited in many ways and are certain to solicit a response that many women experience: powerlessness. These actions regularly unfold in daily life that many of us have witnessed: unwanted advances in public, being groped at a club, cat-calling, being followed and shouted at while walking home. While not being physically violent, these actions can have negative psychological consequences for women, sparking an immediate sense of fear and unease.

We cannot deny that the above behaviours exist. Advice such as telling women to be more careful or avoid certain streets, while seen as protective, are not solutions as they ignore the fundamental drivers of GBV. Women should feel safe when they walk anywhere and not be shackled by fear. The root causes of GBV must be addressed if we are to make any satisfying progress in combatting the violence.

The values set in the South African constitution assert that no one should be discriminated against based on their gender or sex. Education reform must enshrine these values and consider adopting Unesco’s international technical guidance on sex education. It shows that comprehensive sex education (CSE) has positive effects on young people and their attitudes towards sex, gender, consent, STIs, unintended pregnancies, GBV and gender equality. It also provides a safe space for young people to talk about their feelings and attitudes which will be critical in the emotional development of a child. According to Unesco, children between the ages of five and 13 spend most of their time in a school which provides an opportunity to reach them in their formative years. Teachers and schools must be supported by providing additional resources and training, so they can feel comfortable and confident in teaching robust and accessible CSE.

New focus must be put on crime prevention over crime fighting. Simply increasing the numbers of police officers does not directly result in improved policing outcomesLeading up to 2012, increasing the number of police officers did not seem to have had an impact on reducing serious violent crimes. With quality sacrificed over quantity, the South African government must focus on improving policing standards through community policing and outreach. Punishment for crimes committed must run parallel with rehabilitative measures to prevent recidivism. Male targeted programmes, such as One Man Can show some benefit of masculinity-focused interventions and how they affect male attitudes towards gender-norms and sexual violence. The South African government must embrace new ways of thinking and show a willingness to invest in evidence-based measures that target the source of the problem.

Furthermore, in line with the resolution adopted at the ANC’s December 2017 conference, the government should consider de-criminalising sex work so that sex workers can have more legal protections as well as be able to access essential health care. The continuing criminalisation and subsequent violent intimidation of sex-workers pushes them further underground therefore increasing the likelihood of dangerous practices. De-criminalisation, while providing structural support, has shown to decrease STI prevalence, particularly HIV, and an overall decrease in the risks faced by sex workers.

While incidents of sexual violence can occur within any socio-economic division, rape is “more common in a social context of poverty where unemployment is high”. In this context, interpersonal violence is rife, and men organise into social gangs that can lead to incidents of group rape. In high unemployment areas, chances of marginalisation increase with poorer access to services and care for survivors. In a country where income inequality is at a very high rate, more must be done to mitigate the effects of poverty. Gender-focused labour initiatives must support women by providing sustainable employment and help tackle gender unequal households where women are expected to act in a subordinate role. With the assistance of community policing and outreach, we can reduce gang related incidents of sexual violence by providing more opportunity to young men and women who feel society has left them behind. Alleviating poverty will not solve GBV or domestic violence, but it will certainly help in reducing cases.

With the rise of women’s movements, particularly in the advent of #MeToo, there is a growing perception that men are being attacked and demonised. Not only is this a fallacy, it shows a complete contempt for the abundance of evidence on sexual violence. The women who participated at the #TotalShutDown march, and men who supported it, know the evidence is clear: women disproportionately suffer sexual and domestic violence at the hands of men. It doesn’t happen because of what she wore or how drunk she was. It happens because men make a conscious choice to do so.

As men, we must acknowledge that certain male culture is at the heart of the problem. We can no longer stand by when we see toxic or violent behaviour towards women and must challenge it at every step whether it be an acquaintance, stranger or family member. Toxic masculinity has no place in South Africa or anywhere else. Men must be active participants in shaping the future of masculinity, one that is based on equality and respect. The passion and willingness for positive change will always resonate and enable those who feel they have no power, to be at the forefront. In President Ramaphosa’s own words:

“It’s time for all of us to change our ways. The campaign to end violence against women and children begins with you and me. Let us all take responsibility.” DM

Cormac Smith is a Research and Advocacy Officer at the Southern African Liaison Office (SALO)

Source: https://www.dailymaverick.co.za/article/2018-08-07-men-must-be-active-participants-in-the-fight-to-end-gender-based-violence/


The Morgan Tsvangirai Legacy workshop held on 10 July 2018 sought to provide an insightful overview of Zimbabwean opposition leader Morgan Tsvangirai’s political life as well as his contribution towards democratisation in Zimbabwe. A number of perceptive and important concerns relating to the impact of Tsvangirai’s legacy on contemporary Zimbabwean politics were raised by both the speakers and participants at the workshop.

Read PDF here: PB MT Legacy final – Illustrated

Ramaphosa takes steps to recapture South Africa’s foreign policy ‘glory days’

While it may yet be far too soon to tell what implications this “new dawn” under President Cyril Ramaphosa would have on foreign policy, the initial signs are certainly ones that signal much promise. 

The “glory days” of South African foreign policy were synonymous with the Thabo Mbeki administration. Under Mbeki’s tutelage South Africa’s International standing was second to none, South Africa was a relatively new, small African middle-income country making significant strides in the international political arena. To describe South Africa’s foreign policy successes, commentators and observers alike coined the phrase which suggested that “South Africa was punching above its weight”.

Mbeki managed to craft and articulate a grand vision for not only South Africa in the international community but for the African continent at large. This vision was encapsulated by the so-called African Renaissance, the aim of this vision was to ultimately position South Africa and Africa as formidable actors and interlocutors among their international peers. Renowned foreign policy scholar Professor Adekeye Adebajo observed that Mbeki “encouraged South Africans to embrace an African identity and sought to promote the continent’s political, economic and social renewal. He also sought to integrate Africa into the global economy”. For South Africa, this also cascaded down to the “African Agenda” which would see the African continent being the apex priority of South African policy.

To date the lion’s share of South Africa’s foreign policy spending is dedicated to its diplomatic engagements on the African continent. A study conducted by the South African Institute of International Affairs concluded that a total of 30% of the Department of International Relations and Co-operation’s budget spend is allocated to operations on the Africa continent. This illustrates that the South African foreign policy commitment to Africa is matched by an allocation of resources. The African Renaissance vision was also followed by policy interventions which sought to prioritise the development of the African continent by ensuring that Africa became the primary driver of its own developmental priorities. These priorities included poverty reduction, the consolidation of democratic governance, the attainment of peace, security and political stability and the creation of economic opportunities for the continent’s burgeoning youth population.

Such policy interventions would be overseen by policy frameworks such as New Partnership for Africa’s development (NEPAD) and the Africa Peer Review Mechanism (APRM) to name but a few. To see this vision come to fruition, Mbeki would forge strategic alliances with some of his continental peers. These included Abdoulaye Wade, former president of Senegal, Abdelaziz Bouteflika, former president of Algeria, Olusegon Obesanjo, former president of Nigeria and Benjamin Mkapa, former president of Tanzania, among others.

The emergence of this alliance gave rise to a constellation of what would be known in diplomatic circles as “anchor states” in driving this new post-colonial revival of the continent, described as the African Renaissance. During this period, South Africa also gained a prestigious non-permanent seat on the United Nations Security Council (UNSC), further re-enforcing the notion of the country “punching above its weight”.

What also gave credence to Mbeki’s leadership role on the continent and international stature was South Africa’s domestic political landscape. The South African economy experienced unprecedented levels of economic growth, and the governing party consolidated an overwhelming electoral majority, which saw Mbeki and his governing party garner nearly two-thirds of electoral support. This is notwithstanding the notable and well documented blunders made by the Mbeki administration. This is important to highlight as it underscores the all-important domestic foreign policy nexus, ie how domestic politics inexorably influence foreign policy.

In 2009 Jacob Zuma took over the reins as president of South Africa, this turn in political leadership produced mixed consequences for South African Foreign policy. however, with the benefit of hindsight we can conclude that South Africa lost a significant degree of the international stature it had painstakingly built up during the Mbeki years. The temptation for many observers and analysts alike has been to proffer simplistic explanations of the decline in South Africa’s international standing under Jacob Zuma’s administration and in the process, also ignore key foreign policy achievements accruing to the Zuma administration.

The Zuma administration ably maintained the focus of the African continent as an apex foreign policy priority, maintaining key continental engagements such as contributions to peace keeping operations and continued mediation in the pursuit of peace, security and stability on the continent. Under Zuma’s stewardship, South Africa also saw its accession to the Brazil Russia India China South Africa forum (BRICS), thus opening the country up to trade and other opportunities in alternative markets. South Africa also signed a Comprehensive Strategic Partnership Agreement with the world’s second biggest economy in the form of the People’s Republic of China, which elevated South Africa-China relations to the highest level, an opportunity that China extends to a select few.

The decline of South Africa’s foreign policy fortunes during this period stemmed primarily from domestic factors. There can be no doubt that domestically, Zuma’s administration could be described as nothing short of calamitous, as his administration meandered from one scandal to the next. International credit ratings downgrades, declining economic growth, rising unemployment and public financial malfeasance on an unprecedented scale in democratic South Africa became synonymous with the Zuma administration. This ultimately resulted in well-conceived foreign policy priorities being placed on the back burner as South Africa’s focus became subsumed by the domestic political agenda. That this would carry significant foreign policy consequences would be unavoidable; during this period South Africa was perceived as having withdrawn from the role of being the credible and engaged continental leader and international partner that it once was.

Perhaps the single most considerable development which significantly dented South Africa’s international standing was its mishandling of the visit of president Omar al-Bashir of Sudan to South Africa, under the auspices of an African Union engagement. As was known, al-Bashir had been indicted by the International Criminal Court with an arrest warrant against his name. South Africa’s status as a signatory of the Rome Statute placed an obligation to have al-Bashir arrested and sent to The Hague to answer to charges of war crimes and human rights violations among other things. Ultimately, South Africa did not act on its Rome Statute obligation and al-Bashir left the country under a cloud of confusion, litigation and a cacophony of criticism levelled against the Zuma administration.

This saga ultimately culminated in South Africa announcing its withdrawal from the International Criminal Court. In turn this move courted significant international backlash, tarnishing South Africa’s international image and sent shock waves through the international community.

The recent elevation of Cyril Ramaphosa to the South African Presidency, following his ascension to the presidency of the ANC (African National Congress) in a tightly contested political battle, brought about a sense of new vigour in South Africa’s political life. This injection of optimism became known as the “new dawn” and was accompanied by a promise of a restorative domestic political agenda. While it may yet be far too soon to tell what implications this new dawn would have on foreign policy, the initial signs are certainly ones that signal much promise. Flanked by his newly appointed chief diplomat in Minister Lindiwe Sisulu, President Ramaphosa has begun to craft a restorative international agenda for South Africa which hitherto has been well received by his international peers. Moreover, the messages emanating from Pretoria have engendered a new confidence in the country’s foreign policy machinery.

In her maiden budget vote speech Minister Sisulu reasserted South Africa’s foreign policy priorities, chief among them being the prioritisation of the African continent “as we consolidated our political relations on the Continent by expanding our diplomatic footprint, through 47 Embassies, High Commissions and Consulates General; South Africa has also rapidly advance her economic relations in Africa… South Africa has grown her bilateral trade portfolio with countries on the continent from R11.4-billion in 1994 to the current R429-billion”.

Sisulu underscored the continued serious nature of South Africa’s foreign policy’s approach to engaging with Africa, the commitment of resources and increased trade activity. Moreover, she signalled the intent to confront some of the long-standing internal departmental challenges to ensure a well-oiled foreign policy machine, equipped to meet the country’s international obligations.

On 5 July President Ramaphosa hosted his maiden incoming state visit when he welcomed the President of Ghana, Nana Akufo-Addo. Much like Ramaphosa, President Akufo-Addo is known for championing a restorative political agenda. Akufo-Addo has been at pains to articulate the pursuit of a new continental agenda akin to Mbeki’s African Renaissance. He’s gone to great lengths to call for an African continent that is independent of donor charity as a means to finance its development.

Akufo-Addo has also centered a commercial foreign policy agenda geared towards attracting Foreign Direct Investment and stimulating a continental industrial base that will domesticate industrial value chains. It seems like Ramaphosa has found an ally in Akufo-Addo as Ramaphosa has also set out a similar developmental agenda. At the beginning of his term Ramaphosa announced his bid to attract $100-billion dollars (R1.2-trillion) in Foreign Direct Investment and thus far has managed to secure R857-million of that target on a visit to the United Kingdom and $10-billion from a recent state visit to Saudi Arabia.

That Ramaphosa would first host his Ghanaian counterpart is rather telling, it could very well signal the emergence of a new constellation of anchor states on the continent, which will champion this new African industrialisation agenda also encapsulated in the Blueprint Agenda 2063.

While one would be cautious to definitively conclude that a new dawn is upon us where foreign policy is concerned, one could comfortably say that the steps taken by Ramaphosa thus far certainly bode well for the possibility of a revitalised foreign policy agenda for South Africa. DM

Sambulo Mathebula is an International Relations Practitioner in the Public Sector. He holds a Master’s degree in Political Studies from the University of the Witwatersrand. He has been an international relations practitioner for over 10 years, working across various sectors and organisations such as the Embassy of the Kingdom of the Netherlands, the Southern African Liaison Office (NGO) the Parliament of the Republic of South Africa and SA Human Rights Commission.

Source: https://www.dailymaverick.co.za/opinionista/2018-07-19-ramaphosa-takes-steps-to-recapture-south-africas-foreign-policy-glory-days/