Category Archives: South Africa

South Africa’s Move on ICC Raises Concerns of African Exodus

Christopher Torchia reports for the Associated Press:

Michael MasuthaSouth Africa on Friday reversed its early support for the International Criminal Court and said it will withdraw from it, raising concerns of a possible African exodus that would undermine a human rights tribunal accused by some leaders of unfairly targeting the continent.

The announcement followed a similar decision by Burundi this week and was criticized by human rights groups that see the ICC as the best means of pursuing perpetrators of the world’s worst atrocities. The treaty creating the court entered into force in 2002 after years of efforts by South Africa’s post-apartheid government and others.

No country has ever withdrawn from the ICC. Now, the debate over a mass African withdrawal is expected to be a “hot issue” at an African Union summit in January 2017, said Oryem Okello, deputy foreign minister of Uganda, a critic of the court.

“We think the matter is best decided as a bloc,” Okello said.



Blair and Bush went to war in Iraq despite South Africa’s WMD assurances, according to new book

David Smith reports for The Guardian:

President Thabo Mbeki urged Tony Blair not to invade Iraq but the British prime minister went ahead anyway.Tony Blair went to war in Iraq despite a report by South African experts with unique knowledge of the country that showed it did not possess weapons of mass destruction, according to a book published on Sunday.

God, Spies and Lies, by South African journalist John Matisonn, describes how then president Thabo Mbeki tried in vain to convince both Blair and President George W Bush that toppling Saddam Hussein in 2003 would be a terrible mistake.

Mbeki’s predecessor, Nelson Mandela, also tried to convince the American leader, but was left fuming that “President Bush doesn’t know how to think”.

The claim was this week supported by Mbeki’s office, which confirmed that he pleaded with both leaders to heed the WMD experts and even offered to become their intermediary with Saddam in a bid to maintain peace.


CIA and Mandela: Can the Story Be Told Now?

Fairness & Accuracy In Reporting wrote in December 2013:

Back in 1990, FAIR (Extra!, 3/90) noted that the media coverage of Nelson Mandela’s release from prison failed to mention there was strong evidence that the CIA had tipped off South African authorities to Mandela’s location in 1962, resulting in his arrest.

So with coverage of Mandela’s death dominating the media now, can the story of the CIA’s role in Mandela’s capture be told? Mostly not.

The link between the CIA and Mandela’s capture–reported by CBS Evening News (8/5/86) and in a New York Times column by Andrew Cockburn (10/13/86)–was almost entirely unmentioned in media discussions of his death.

There were a few exceptions. MSNBC host Chris Hayes mentioned it on December 5 (“We know there’s reporting that indicates the CIA actually helped the South African police nab Mandela the first time he was captured”). On Melissa Harris-Perry’s MSNBC show (12/7/13), Democracy Now! host Amy Goodman brought it up.’


The University of Cape Town is right to remove its Cecil Rhodes statue

David Priestland writes for The Guardian:

Cecil John Rhodes statue is removed from the University of Cape Town[…] What should happen to the statues of fallen “heroes” – once respected, now reviled? We’d be looking at a lot of empty plinths if every offender against modern morality were to be removed. And yet statues in public spaces have enormous symbolic importance, for they are erected to promote particular ideals and values. This is why many have welcomed the removal of dictators’ images in eastern Europe and the Middle East in recent years as signs of freedom, while the restoration of Stalinist slogans in the Moscow metro has been condemned as a sign of authoritarianism.

Clearly the current political context is crucial. Statues of Henry VIII – one of our more unpleasant and brutal rulers – are, like 16th-century politics itself, pretty uncontroversial, and it would be absurd to remove them. But in contemporary Cape Town, memorials to Rhodes are very hard to defend. Rhodes was not just personally unscrupulous and venal, making his enormous fortune by cheating and bullying Africans out of their land, but he was also a committed ideologist of British racial supremacy and an important progenitor of apartheid. Even contemporaries saw him as extreme in his imperialist views. Given that apartheid fell so recently and its legacies survive in huge disparities of wealth, education and land distribution, what is truly surprising is that the monument has survived for so long.’


South Africa’s President wanted charges dropped because corruption is a ‘Western thing’

Charl du Plessis and Carien du Plessis report for City Press:

‘One of the reasons President Jacob Zuma believed criminal charges against him relating to the arms deal should be dropped was because corruption is only a crime in a “Western paradigm”.

And even if it was a crime, Zuma’s lawyers apparently argued, it was a crime where there are “no victims”.

These startling insights into Zuma’s 2009 written representations to the National Prosecuting Authority (NPA) are contained in a detailed NPA analysis document, which City Press has obtained.’


Lesotho’s rogue general ‘may trigger civil war’

Basildon Peta reports for iol News:

‘Many fear that [renegade army commander] Kamoli, who staged a coup attempt last week that forced [Prime Minister] Thabane to flee to South Africa, could launch a military attack if Thabane persists with efforts to fire him. Kamoli, who is now officially wanted by the Lesotho Mounted Police Service for high treason, is believed to be in hiding with his loyal special forces at Sedibeng, their training ground in the mountains of Lesotho.

Some of his forces have vowed in interviews with the Lesotho media that they would die for Kamoli. Kamoli has vowed to go down fighting, and his successor, Maaparankoe Mahao, last night called for military intervention from the Southern African Development Community to “avert the worst”. But a similar call by Thabane was rejected at last week’s meeting of the Sadc troika on politics, defence and security, though it agreed that South African police would escort him back to Lesotho last Wednesday and provide protection for him and other key officials.’


Lesotho’s Deputy Premier Takes Reins After PM Flees ‘Coup’

Voice of America reports:

FILE - Lesotho's Prime Minister Thomas Thabane attends a European Union-Africa summit in Brussels, April 2, 2014. ‘Lesotho’s Deputy Prime Minister Mothetjoa Metsing is now running the government after the Prime Minister Thomas Thabane fled the country accusing the army of staging a coup, a minister said on Sunday.

Gunfire rang out in the capital, Maseru, on Saturday, according to witnesses, who said soldiers patrolled the streets, occupied government buildings and surrounded Prime Minister Thomas Thabane’s official residence.

Thabane left with his family for neighboring South Africa after receiving intelligence that he was the target of a military assassination attempt. He said the military action amounts to a coup.’


South Africa: Zuma sworn-in for final term, vows to eradicate corruption

From Star Africa:

A man walks past an ANC party election poster in the Soweto township of Johannesburg - 9 May 2014‘South African President Jacob Zuma was sworn-in for a second and final term of office on Saturday and vowed to eradicate corruption and inefficiency from his government.Zuma was sworn-in at Union Buildings in Pretoria before more than 4,500 invited guests who included several serving and former heads of state. “We will eradicate corruption and inefficiency in the public service,” the President said after taking his oath of office.

Zuma saw his first mandate clouded with corruption charges among his senior officials, including himself, following an official report that his ministers spent US$20 million of state funds to renovate the president’s private home in his village. But amid cheers and sounds of vuvuzelas, the President said there would be consequences where there was a failure to deliver services to the people of the country due to mismanagement and corrupt practices in his government.’


William Blum: Getting your history from Hollywood


William Blum writes:

Imagine a documentary film about the Holocaust which makes no mention of Nazi Germany.

Imagine a documentary film about the 1965-66 slaughter of as many as a million “communists” in Indonesia which makes no mention of the key role in the killing played by the United States.

But there’s no need to imagine it. It’s been made, and was released this past summer. It’s called “The Act of Killing”and makes no mention of the American role. Two articles in the Washington Post about the film made no such mention either. The Indonesian massacre, along with the jailing without trial of about a million others and the widespread use of torture and rape, ranks as one of the great crimes of the twentieth century and is certainly well known amongst those with at least a modest interest in modern history.

Here’s an email I sent to the Washington Post writer who reviewed the film:

“The fact that you can write about this historical event and not mention a word about the US government role is a sad commentary on your intellect and social conscience. If the film itself omits any serious mention of the US role, that is a condemnation of the filmmaker, and of you for not pointing this out. So the ignorance and brainwashing of the American people about their country’s foreign policy (i.e., holocaust) continues decade after decade, thanks to media people like Mr. Oppenheimer [one of the filmmakers] and yourself.”

The Post reviewer, rather than being offended by my intemperate language, was actually taken with what I said and she asked me to send her an article outlining the US role in Indonesia, which she would try to get published in thePost as an op-ed. I did so and she wrote me that she very much appreciated what I had sent her. But – as I was pretty sure would happen – the Post did not print what I wrote. So this incident may have had the sole saving grace of enlightening a Washington Post writer about the journalistic standards and politics of her own newspaper.

And now, just out, we have the film “Long Walk to Freedom” based on Nelson Mandela’s 1994 autobiography of the same name. The heroic Mandela spent close to 28 years in prison at the hands of the apartheid South African government. His arrest and imprisonment were the direct result of a CIA operation. But the film makes no mention of the role played by the CIA or any other agency of the United States.

In fairness to the makers of the film, Mandela himself, in his book, declined to accuse the CIA for his imprisonment, writing: “The story has never been confirmed and I have never seen any reliable evidence as to the truth of it.”

Well, Mr. Mandela and the filmmaker should read what I wrote and documented on the subject some years after Mandela’s book came out, in my own book: Rogue State: A Guide to the World’s Only Superpower (2000). It’s not quite a “smoking gun”, but I think it convinces almost all readers that what happened in South Africa in 1962 was another of the CIA operations we’ve all come to know and love. And almost all my sources were available to Mandela at the time he wrote his autobiography. There has been speculation about what finally led to Mandela’s release from prison; perhaps a deal was made concerning his post-prison behavior.

From a purely educational point of view, seeing films such as the two discussed here may well be worse than not exposing your mind at all to any pop culture treatment of American history or foreign policy.

Emerging Market Financial Crises Raise Concerns About Another Global Recession: Interview with Bill Black

White minority fears ‘anarchy’ in post-Mandela South Africa

Netanyahu skips Mandela memorial. Israelis say ‘are you kidding?’

Credit: Dan Balilty/AP/File

From The Christian Science Monitor:

As VIPs gathered in the rain for Nelson Mandela’s memorial in South Africa, the emcee announced the attendance of world leaders from US President Barack Obama to Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu.

Apparently, no one told him that Mr. Netanyahu couldn’t make it after all.

While the Israeli leader’s absence may have gone relatively unnoticed in South Africa, it has caused consternation in Israel. Detractors argue that missing the memorial of a man who championed freedom and brought down apartheid gives fresh fodder to critics who say Israel, too, has constructed an apartheid system and is insincere about reconciling with Palestinians after decades of conflict.

[…] The reason Netanyahu gave: the cost of the flight. This, coming from a man who budgeted 10,000 shekels ($2,850) for his personal ice cream parlor and spent 6,000 shekels ($1,700) of Israeli taxpayers’ money on scented candles for his homes.

Netanyahu may well have learned his lesson on unnecessary spending, especially after a report last week revealed it costs Israeli taxpayers 3.3 million shekels ($940,000) to maintain his three residences. The trip to Mandela’s memorial indeed would have been expensive; the Israeli government estimated it would have cost about 7 million shekels ($1.9 million) for the flight as well as the security necessary – far more than if Netanyahu had been able to attend the smaller ceremony in Mandela’s home village this weekend, as originally planned. That reasoning sat particularly badly with South Africa’s Jewish community, which long donated more per capita to support Israel than Jews in America, Britain, and Canada.


How South Africa’s apartheid regime saved Israel’s defense industry

From Haaretz:

South Africa under apartheid was the Israeli defense industry’s biggest customer and funded its most ambitious projects. The South Africans were in effect a “captive customer”: The South African army had huge funds at its disposal, but due to the sanctions regime, the West refused to supply it with advanced military systems. Israel, which was cash-starved and suffered international isolation of its own, had no such limitations.

The cooperation reached its peak in the 1980s, which turned out to be apartheid’s dying days. Israel shared with South Africa its technologically advanced systems. Senior officials in the Defense Ministry and Israel Defense Forces had excellent ties with their South African counterparts, led by Defense Minister Magnus Malan, mililtary chief of staff Constand Viljoen and heads of the South African state defense industry.

The largest deal was reportedly signed in the summer of 1988. Israel sold South Africa 60 Kfir combat planes that were no longer in use by the Israel Air Force. These were substantially upgraded and put to use by South Africa’s air force and renamed the Atlas Cheetah. The deal was worth $1.7 billion, an unprecedented sum.


Mandela Led Fight Against Apartheid, But Not Against Extreme Inequality

How the CIA Sent Nelson Mandela to Prison for 28 Years

Nelson Mandela
Photo: Don McPhee for the Guardian

From Chapter 23 of William Blum’s ‘Rogue State’:

When Nelson Mandela was released from prison in February 1990, President George Bush personally telephoned the black South African leader to tell him that all Americans were “rejoicing at his release”.

This was the same Nelson Mandela who was imprisoned for almost 28 years because the CIA tipped off South African authorities as to where they could find him.

And this was the same George Bush who was once the head of the CIA and who for eight years was second in power of an administration whose CIA and National Security Agency collaborated closely with the South African intelligence service, providing information about Mandela’s African National Congress. The ANC was a progressive nationalist movement whose influence had been felt in other African countries; accordingly it had been perceived by Washington as being part of the legendary International Communist Conspiracy. In addition to ideology, other ingredients in the cooking pot the United States and South Africa both ate from was that the latter served as an important source of uranium for the United States, and the US was South Africa’s biggest supporter at the United Nations.

On August 5, 1962, Nelson Mandela had been on the run for 17 months when armed police at a roadblock outside Howick, Natal flagged down a car in which he was pretending to be the chauffeur of a white passenger in the back seat. How the police came to be there was not publicly explained. In late July 1986, however, stories appeared in three South African newspapers (picked up shortly thereafter by the London press and, in part, CBS-TV) which shed considerable light on the question. The stories told of how a CIA officer, Donald C. Rickard by name, under cover as a consular official in Durban, had tipped off the Special Branch that Mandela would be disguised as a chauffeur in a car headed for Durban. This was information Rickard had obtained through an informant in the ANC. One year later, at a farewell party for him in South Africa, at the home of the notorious CIA mercenary Colonel “Mad Mike” Hoare, Rickard himself, his tongue perhaps loosened by spirits, stated in the hearing of some of those present that he had been due to meet Mandela on the fateful night, but tipped off the police instead. Rickard refused to discuss the affair when approached by CBS-TV.

CBS-TV newsman Allen Pizzey did interview journalist James Tomlins on the air when the story broke in 1986. Tomlins, who was in South Africa in 1962, stated that Rickard had told him of his involvement in Mandela’s capture.

On June 10, 1990, The Atlanta Journal and Constitution reported that an unidentified, retired US intelligence officer had revealed that within hours of Mandela’s arrest, Paul Eckel, then a senior CIA operative, had told him:

“We have turned Mandela over to the South African security branch. We gave them every detail, what he would be wearing, the time of day, just where he would be. They have picked him up. It is one of our greatest coups.”

After Mandela’s release, the White House was asked if Bush would apologize to the South African for the reported US involvement in his arrest at an upcoming meeting between the two men. In this situation, a categorical denial by the White House of any American involvement in the arrest would have been de rigueur. However, spokesman Marlin Fitzwater replied:

“This happened during the Kennedy administration … don’t beat me up for what the Kennedy people did.”

The CIA stated:

“Our policy is not to comment on such allegations.”

This is what the Agency says when it feels that it has nothing to gain by issuing a statement. On a number of other occasions, because it thought that it would serve their purpose, the CIA has indeed commented on all kinds of allegations.

While Mandela’s youth and health ebbed slowly away behind prison walls, Donald Rickard retired to live in comfort and freedom in Pagosa Springs, Colorado. He resides there still today.

Nelson Mandela Becomes First Politician To Be Missed

From The Onion:

Following the death of former South African president and civil rights leader Nelson Mandela today at the age of 95, sources confirmed that the revered humanitarian has become the first politician in recorded history to actually be missed. “Today we lost not only an international hero and a symbol of the resilient human spirit, but also the very first political figure ever who people actively wish was still alive and affecting world affairs,” said political historian Wallace M. Delaney of Columbia University, adding that Mandela will long be remembered for enduring 27 years in prison in the fight against apartheid, championing equality across the globe, and standing alone as the only world leader whose passing left the international community grief-stricken and feeling a palpable void in their lives. “Certainly people have felt a sense of sorrow at the deaths of politicians in the past, but Nelson Mandela’s death is the only one on record that people everywhere unanimously agree has left the world notably worse off. I miss him, we all miss him—and that’s entirely unprecedented in the world of politics.” Delaney added that he could not predict who might be the second politician to be missed by humanity, but confirmed there were no viable candidates anywhere out there right now.

South Africa’s far-right

Tony Blair plotted military intervention in Zimbabwe, claims Thabo Mbeki

Tony Blair and Thabo Mbeki in Pretoria in 2007From The Guardian:

Tony Blair and former South African president Thabo Mbeki clashed on Wednesday over claims that Britain had been prepared to use military force to overthrow Zimbabwean president Robert Mugabe.

Mbeki alleged that the former British prime minister pressured him to join a “regime change scheme” as Zimbabwe plunged into a political and economic crisis in the early 2000s. But the claim was strongly denied by Blair’s office.

Both the UK as its former colonial power, and South Africa, its most powerful neighbour, have long played an intimate role in Zimbabwean affairs. But their leaders were divided on how to act when it descended into chaos following the violent seizures of white-owned farms. Blair, who had made a triumphant military intervention in Sierra Leone, was determined that Mugabe should step down whereas Mbeki was ready to accommodate him.


Nigeria Overtakes South Africa as Continent’s Largest Economy

Report Finds Police Worldwide Criminalize Dissent, Assert New Powers in Crackdown on Protests

In a major new report, the International Network of Civil Liberties Organizations details a global crackdown on peaceful protests through excessive police force and the criminalization of dissent. The report, “Take Back The Streets: Repression and Criminalization of Protest Around the World,” warns of a growing tendency to perceive individuals exercising a fundamental democratic right — the right to protest — as a threat requiring a forceful government response. The case studies detailed in this report show how governments have reacted to peaceful protests in the United States, Israel, Canada, Argentina, Egypt, Hungary, Kenya, South Africa and Britain. The report’s name comes from a police report filed in June 2010 when hundreds of thousands of Canadians took to the streets of Toronto to nonviolently protest the G20 Summit. A senior Toronto Police Commander responded to the protests by issuing an order to “take back the streets.” Within a span of 36 hours, more than 1,000 people — peaceful protesters, journalists, human rights monitors and downtown residents — were arrested and placed in detention. We are joined by three guests: the report’s co-editor, Abby Deskman, a lawyer and program director with the Canadian Civil Liberties Association; Anthony Romero, executive director of the American Civil Liberties Union; and Hossam Bahgat, an Egyptian human rights activist and the founder and executive director of the Egyptian Initiative for Personal Rights. (Democracy NOW!)

IMF issues warning on South African economy

From AFP:

The International Monetary Fund warned Tuesday that South Africa is trailing other emerging markets and must quickly implement reforms if it wants to avoid crisis.

The IMF, in an annual report on Africa’s largest economy, pointed to painfully high unemployment and a plethora of other economic troubles staking the country.

[…] Unemployment is officially at 25 percent, but is closer to 35 percent including those who have given up looking for work. Around 50 percent of all young people are without a job.

While South Africa has made “important strides” to correct disparities caused by decades of apartheid rule, the Washington-based institution said systemic problems have “come to the fore” in recent years.


Steve Biko: The most potent weapon in the hands of the oppressor, is the mind of the oppressed.

John Pilger: Mandela’s greatness may be assured, but not his legacy

From John Pilger:

[…] With democratic elections in 1994, racial apartheid was ended, and economic apartheid had a new face. During the 1980s, the Botha regime had offered black businessmen generous loans, allowing them set up companies outside the Bantustans. A new black bourgeoisie emerged quickly, along with a rampant cronyism. ANC chieftains moved into mansions in “golf and country estates”. As disparities between white and black narrowed, they widened between black and black.

The familiar refrain that the new wealth would “trickle down” and “create jobs” was lost in dodgy merger deals and “restructuring” that cost jobs. For foreign companies, a black face on the board often ensured that nothing had changed. In 2001, George Soros told the Davos Economic Forum, “South Africa is in the hands of international capital.”


Meet the Conservatives Who Campaigned for Apartheid South Africa ~ The Nation

The Nation

[…] Republican power brokers such as Grover Norquist, Jeff Flake and Jack Abramoff all launched their careers in the anti-divestment campaign, seeking to keep trade open with apartheid South Africa.

During the Reagan administration, the US government took a position of constructive engagement towards South Africa. Assistant Secretary of State for African Affairs Chester Crocker pushed for expanded trade with Johannesburg under the belief that it was a strong ally in the Cold War. While divestment activists urged the United States to isolate the South African regime, the Reagan administration was pushing for more trade and engagement.


South Africa’s World Cup Legacy: Five Host Cities Want Refunds ~ World Soccer

World Soccer

At least five of South Africa’s 2010 World Cup host cities say they want massive refunds from construction companies because they colluded and inflated prices when building stadiums and other infrastructure for the tournament.

The South African Local Government Association says Johannesburg, Cape Town, Durban, Port Elizabeth and Polokwane were overcharged on World Cup projects and could seek as much as £261 million in total in damages.

The potential claims follow a larger settlement by South Africa’s Competition Commission, where 15 companies have agreed to pay a total of £97 million in fines for ”rigged” projects between 2006 and 2011.

SALGA, which represents the cities, says it estimates that Cape Town may have been overcharged by up to £146 million for its stadium, which it said cost close to £484 million.


Anti-Obama protests dispersed by South Africa police ~ USA Today

obama protests south africaby Zaheer Cassim
USA Today

Police fired rubber bullets and a stun grenade into a crowd of hundreds of protesters before President Obama arrived at the University of Johannesburg on Saturday.

The crowd quickly scattered as police officers walked up the street pushing protesters away with shot guns.

“I feel my rights are being infringed,” said 24-year-old Bilaal Qibr, who was at the protest. “We can’t protest anymore. Personally, I feel like this is an extension of the U.S.”

Protests have been planned at the university over Obama’s visit and the news that he was to receive an honorary doctorate Saturday.