Daily Archives: March 4, 2014

South Africa: What Tlakula’s Alleged Conflict of Interest Means for the IEC and the Elections

We find ourselves between a rock and a hard place. Last year, Public Protector Thuli Madonsela found that Independent Electoral Commission (IEC) Chairperson, Pansy Tlakula, had presided over an ‘unmanaged conflict of interest’ when the IEC entered into a R320 million lease agreement for office space.

The allegation was that Tlakula – who was then the CEO – had at the very least a business relationship with African National Congress (ANC) member of parliament Thaba Mufamadi, Chairperson of Parliament’s finance committee, and that Mufamadi had benefitted from the deal.

Tlakula pronounced that she had recused herself from the decision-making meeting and that she did not personally benefit from the lease deal (although when precisely, and with what effect, she actually recused herself is somewhat unclear).

Again we find ourselves in the tricky area that has so besmirched political ethics in post-apartheid South Africa: conflict of interest, and its interpretation.

Where to start with this inevitably elastic concept? A useful business ethics definition is ‘a situation in which a person has a private or personal interest sufficient to appear to influence the objective exercise of his or her official duties as say, a public official, an employee or a professional.’

So often in these cases, perception is everything.

But there is another issue that raises its head: whether it is at all desirable for someone in Tlakula’s position to be doing business with a senior member of the ANC – or indeed any political party that is contesting the election.

The answer must surely be ‘no’ given that the IEC is tasked with administering free and fair elections, in which the ANC is a dominant player.

Considering that we are about to enter the most contested election since 1994, the argument in favour of ensuring that there is no possible perception of partiality in the running of the election is surely overwhelming.

Tlakula contested the Public Protector’s report, and Madonsela submitted it to audit firm PwC for independent scrutiny. That report has not been released, but it appears as if the findings are even more damning and that criminal charges have been recommended – against as-yet-unknown members or officials of the IEC.

First of all, the report ought to be made public as soon as possible. Shrouding the matter in secrecy will not help and will cast more aspersions on the IEC at a crucial time.

Calls have been made for Tlakula to step down if indeed PwC confirms the Public Protector’s findings, but it is hard to pre-empt the matter. What we do know at this stage is that the perceived ‘unmanaged conflict of interest’ casts doubts over Tlakula’s own reputation.

Given that she is the head of the IEC, this controversy threatens the good reputation of the IEC more generally. Surprisingly, given that South Africa is on the cusp of an election, the Tlakula story has hardly made front-page news, apart from the Council for the Advancement of the Constitution (CASAC) sensibly calling for the matter to be brought into the public arena and resolved.

The IEC has been the jewel in the crown of our constellation of Constitutional bodies, under the helm of the graceful and firm Brigalia Bam, with Pansy Tlakula at her side.

Over the years Tlakula garnered a fine reputation as fair-minded, principled and committed to openness, not least in her role as African Union Special Rapporteur on Freedom of Expression.

Yet, recent allegations against IEC officials have also caused concern. Not too long ago in the contested Tlokwe by-election, an IEC official was accused of bias and there have been allegations of vote-rigging. This chips away at the reputation of the IEC, even if a national election is quite different from a local by-election.

Many who have called for Tlakula to step down do so with more than a tremor of trepidation. One need only look to recent history within the Constitutional Court where constitutional principles were upheld and resulted in the appointment of Mogoeng Mogoeng as chief justice, once it was ruled that the president had unlawfully renewed former chief justice Sandile Ngcobo’s term.

“Can Tlakula then be trusted to make a fair call should she be under the veil of political protection?”

So, if Tlakula resigned or was forced to do so, unlikely as that might be, the risk is that someone far weaker and far more compromised could take the helm at the IEC.

Can South Africa afford to take that risk? Perhaps it is better to stick with Tlakula on the basis that even though her breach of ethics is serious, no one is actually suggesting that she would be overtly biased in her oversight of the electoral process.

Yet, an alternative scenario is perhaps too uncongenial to contemplate: that Tlakula is provided de facto political protection, that the ANC in government turns a blind eye, stymies any action to deal with this matter before the elections, and so Tlakula herself understands that she is beholden to the dominant political master.

Fast forward then to the elections and possible close calls between the ANC, Democratic Alliance (DA) and the Economic Freedom Fighters (EFF) in, say, Gauteng, where the IEC’s credibility will be immediately under scrutiny – and suddenly independence and the perception of it becomes crucial to the political moment.

Can Tlakula then be trusted to make a fair call should she be under the veil of political protection? Neither scenario is ideal, and really one wants to rage against Tlakula’s folly in not staying well away from a conflict of interest.

However, by failing to deal with this openly and decisively, and thereby allowing the perception of it to sully her good name, puts us all in a very delicate and awkward situation.

 – Judith February, Senior Researcher, Governance, Crime and Justice division, ISS Pretoria

SOUTH AFRICAN ECONOMIC HAS REACHED CEILING, NEEDS REVAMP, SAYS FINANCE MINISTER

By: Morafe Tabane

JOHANNESBURG, March 4– South Africa’s current economic model has reached a ceiling and needs a revamp, Minister of Finance Pravin Gordhan says, repeating the call for a structural transformation of the local economy which he made when delivering the 2014 Budget in Parliament last week.

Engaging businesses here Monday on the importance of changing the economic direction to boost growth,
Gordhan reiterated that the country needed extraordinary and creative ways to change the make-up of the economy.

It was only after such a breakthrough that growth can reach 6.0 per cent, instead of muddling through at around 2.0 per cent, he said, adding that would require dynamic and bold leadership from Government, business and labour.

“If we are going to break through this two per cent, three per cent we have and fulfill the ambitions we have set for ourselves as a society and not just as Government, then we are going to require bold leadership from both sectors, and if we don’t get that then we leave for the future generation a very modest economy to inherit,” said Gordhan.

Business people, mostly from the financial services industry, heard how this sector needed to transform and support the economy. This included reducing the cost of savings products for households.

The government also wants to take steps to secure more income for retired people and this could mean a re-look at some of the charges into retirement savings products.

Gordhan added: “On the reform side, our ambition is that possibly over the next five to 10 years we need to move towards mandatory savings in South Africa. We need what we call optimal preservation because we are learning that the South African economy has its own idiosyncrasies in terms of access to retirement and so on but we need to manage it in a way in which you give access on one hand but promote optimal preservation on the other hand.”

For its part, the Treasury says it will focus its attention on better quality of outcomes and better value for money from the 1.1 trillion Rand (about 101.8 billion US dollars) Budget expenditure outlined last week.

SOURCE: SABC

South Africa: Pistorius Witness Stands Her Ground

Pretoria — The first witness in the Oscar Pistorius murder trial endured intensive cross-examination on Tuesday over what she said she heard the night Reeva Steenkamp was killed.

Michelle Burger listened intently as the grey-haired Barry Roux SC, his jaw jutting, waved his spectacles as he pedantically sought to pick apart her witness statement and testimony from Monday.

She told the court she heard screams and shots from the direction of the Silver Woods Country Estate in Pretoria, where it later emerged that Pistorius had killed his girlfriend while she was in a toilet.

Pistorius has pleaded not guilty, saying he shot Steenkamp by accident, thinking there was an intruder.

Burger, wearing a black tailored jacket and pink shirt trimmed with a white collar, spoke in English and with no sign of the halting Afrikaans interpreter she had on Monday.

At times, Burger pushed wisps of her long fair hair over her ears, nodding vigorously to repeat a point.

Occasionally, she paused when seeming exasperated at having to repeat a question that Roux had framed differently.

In response to Roux’s repeated circling over the sequence of the screams and shots she said she heard, she said she had been in bed and “did not have a notebook at the time”.

Pistorius held a silver pen to his temple and listened intently to her recounting of screams she said she heard over the night air from her bedroom at the neighbouring Silverstreams Estate.

Roux said he would prove that it was not possible for her to have heard what she did.

He said Steenkamp had been behind a door in a locked toilet cubicle “almost 200m” away. He said the scene would be reconstructed for her, to prove this.

Burger, a construction economics university lecturer, said the area had changed considerably since the fatal shooting.

At the time, there was a small flat roofed structure between the two estates, they lived near a nature reserve, the area was quiet, and they did not use air conditioning.

Now, there was construction taking place on that piece of land.

The trial broke for tea.

“Protect the Goal” campaign ‘From Soweto to Bahia’ World Tour Kicks-off in South Africa

JOHANNESBURG, South-Africa, March 4, 2014 On 5 March 2014, the United Nations Joint Programme on HIV and AIDS (UNAIDS), in cooperation with the Tobeka Madiba Zuma Foundation (TMZF), a co-sponsor of the “Protect the Goal” campaign, and the South African Football Association Development Agency (SDA), will kick-off the World Tour of the “Protect the Goal” campaign ‘From Soweto to Bahia’ in Johannesburg. The kick-off event provides a unique opportunity to introduce Kweku Mandela and Ndaba Mandela as global spokespersons of the “Protect the Goal” campaign. The “Soweto to Bahia” launch is scheduled to take place at the Soccer City Stadium, the largest stadium in Africa with a capacity of 94 736 on the occasion of the South Africa-Brazil international friendly game. The World Tour will continue its journey through the five African countries — Algeria, Cameroon, Côte d’Ivoire, Ghana, and Nigeria — whose teams have qualified –– for the 2014 FIFA World Cup in Brazil. The global launch of the “Protect the Goal” campaign is scheduled for 9 June in Salvador de Bahia.

Several countries in Africa achieved notable reductions in HIV prevalence among young people aged 15-24. HIV prevalence among young people in Africa fell by 39% from 2001 to 2012. Despite this progress, young people aged 15-24 accounted for 41% of new HIV infections in people aged 15 and older in Africa in 2012. Among all the young people living with HIV in the world, nearly 74% (3.3 million) live in sub-Saharan Africa. Young women aged 15-24, have one and half times higher HIV infection than young men and account for 81% of all new HIV infections in Africa.

First launched at the 2010 FIFA World Cup in South Africa, the “Protect the Goal” campaign aims to raise awareness of HIV and mobilize young people to commit to HIV prevention and related tailored interventions for the youth and to actively participate in national and global AIDS response. While young people remain disproportionately affected by HIV, they are critical in ending the AIDS epidemic.

What: World Tour kick-off press conference

When: 5 March 2014 from 8:00 to 9:30am

Where: Nelson Mandela Foundation, Johannesburg, South Africa

SPEAKERS:

1. Dr Djibril Diallo, Special Adviser to the Executive Director, UNAIDS

2. Madame Tobeka Madiba Zuma, First Lady of South Africa (TBC)

3. Dr Robin Petersen , CEO of the South African Football Association

4. Sello Hatang,CEO of Nelso Mandela Foundation

5. Kweku and Ndaba Mandela, Global spokespersons of the “Protect the Goal” campaign

SOURCE: UNITED NATIONS

Statement by the UN Special Representative for Somalia on the state-building conferences in Baidoa

MOGADISHU, Somalia, March 4, 2014 The Special Representative of the UN Secretary-General for Somalia, Nicholas Kay, is closely monitoring developments in Baidoa, including the outcome of today’s conference, and has taken note of the Federal Government’s response.

“I urge all parties to observe maximum restraint and refrain from any action that could pose a threat to security,” said SRSG Kay. “This year is critical for consolidating a united and stable federal Somalia. The country has overcome many recent challenges through compromise and dialogue.”

“I encourage traditional leaders, politicians and stakeholders in Baidoa to commit to serious, inclusive and continued political dialogue guided by respect for the Provisional Federal Constitution and existing agreements,” he added. “The UN will continue to support the Federal Government of Somalia’s efforts to lead a reconciliation process.”

“The situation in Baidoa highlights the need for the Federal Government to accelerate its work on the state-building process in Somalia in an inclusive manner, including the development of a detailed plan and timetable for the formation of Federal States, a final Constitution and democratisation by 2016,” SRSG Kay noted.

SOURCE: UNITED NATIONS