Ukraine shouldn’t have worn such a short skirt. It invited trouble. It’s Ukraine’s fault that it got raped.
Some of the contextual and historical analysis of why the Russian invasion took place blames Ukraine. It shouldn’t have been so independent, so democratic — or, in some absurd accounts, so “neo-Nazi” — nor should it have aspired to Nato or European Union membership.
It’s a thin line between trying to explain why a war has broken out and what could and should have happened to prevent it, and blaming the victim for military aggression that is causing death and destruction to its people and its cities.
South Africa’s foreign policy, and its position at the United Nations, does not cross this line, despite the gnashing of teeth of certain Western diplomats and politicians. What irks them is a belief that Pretoria is appeasing Vladimir Putin or supports Russia.
This is neither accurate or fair, nor reasonable. To say that it does represents a failure to grasp South Africa’s place in the world and to understand what its diplomatic efforts have been trying to achieve.
But it was fuelled by South Africa’s position at the UN last week when two humanitarian resolutions were debated at the General Assembly. A fair analysis requires an understanding of what transpired and why.
As a first humanitarian resolution was drafted, the “pen-holders” were France and Mexico, whose aim was to achieve wide and diverse support. Most humanitarian resolutions are relatively uncontroversial and are dealt with by the UN Security Council. This one could not because it condemned the military action of one of the five permanent members of the Security Council, which enjoys a veto right. So, it went to the General Assembly. South Africa, with the backing of other countries, wanted the resolution modified to maximise support.
Pretoria neither hoped nor expected to persuade Russia to support the resolution — it couldn’t since its proposed modified resolution also spoke to the need to respect Ukraine’s territorial integrity and sovereignty, as well as to refrain from destroying buildings and infrastructure — in line with Pretoria’s view that Russia is in breach of international law.
The department of international relations and cooperation had spelt this out to the ANC in a briefing days after the start of the invasion, asserting the view that Russia was violating international law by using force without the sanction of the Security Council or without there being a credible and imminent threat of the use of force by Ukraine.
South Africa’s ambassador, Mathu Joyini, was especially busy, encouraged by some EU diplomats to think that there was an opportunity to mould one resolution. Her view was that the best outcome would be a resolution that would attract maximum support and therefore make it harder for Russia to ignore a strong resolution calling for specific action on creating humanitarian corridors.
Pretoria gets that Putin is dangerous; it buys into the idea that Putin would use nuclear weapons if he is pushed into a corner, and recalls his chilling statement shortly after the invasion started that “Why do we need a world if Russia is not in it?” Which is why Pretoria is focusing so much attention on diplomacy that works, rather than grandstanding, and which might succeed in driving Putin towards a peaceful negotiation process rather than more and more dangerous bellicosity.
This may be misjudged, or naive, or may over-reach South Africa’s influence, but it is not ill-intended.
In the event, Ukraine closed the door on further revision of what by then had become its resolution. It wanted wording of condemnation of Russia. It won a clear majority, with 140 in favour, but with 38 abstentions, many of whom might have supported a single resolution that focused on the humanitarian issues rather than on condemning the Russian offensive.
What is harder to understand is why South Africa persisted with its resolution. One answer provided by the department of international relations’ diplomats is that since it had the support of a significant number of countries it was important to table it and have it voted on.
Was this a wise decision, given the blow-back that Pretoria has faced since? Was the harm to its global reputation worth risking?
Probably not, since the argument on the resolution was already lost. It was poor decision-making, perhaps, but not “bending over backwards to serve Russian masters” as some have suggested, and certainly not deserving of any “Mampara” award.
Joyini, along with colleagues such as Ambassador Ndumiso Ntshinga and Zaheer Laher back at HQ, who lead on the UN side, are seasoned diplomats, people of professional integrity.
I wonder how many of those who have passed judgment have looked at the precise wording of the two resolutions, still less troubled to speak to the people at the diplomatic coal-face.
The non-alignment position is consistent with the past two decades of South African foreign policy — with the exception of former president Jacob Zuma’s ex-spook strong-man bromance with Putin. Ramaphosa is still trying to reverse out of the dubious “obligations” that Putin’s embezzlement of Zuma in relation to the unlawful nuclear power procurement process created, and that may have some influence on how Ramaphosa deals with Putin.
But again, I can find no direct link with Pretoria’s UN stance on Ukraine.
It is a question of a difference of worldview, as well as a different set of interests, and it is surprising that so many Western diplomats and commentators cannot recognise this.
It is unreasonable of Western capitals and diplomats, who tend to see Ukraine in binary moral absolutist terms, to expect a country of the Global South, such as South Africa, with a long track record of non-alignment, to jump into line in support of Western unity.
The one time Pretoria did depart from its non-aligned approach in the case of Libya in 2011, it ended in tears when South Africa’s planned abstention on the no-fly zone UN resolution, which led to Western military intervention and the overthrow of the Gaddafi regime, was overridden at the last minute by Zuma, putting South Africa on the wrong side of that history. There is scar tissue from that incident, which may also explain Pretoria’s trenchant non-alignment.
Ramaphosa’s instinct is to try to preserve good economic and diplomatic relations with a diverse range of global players — the US, the EU and the United Kingdom; but also Russia, India and China.
Fair enough. But, early in his presidency, in 2018, he went to Saudi Arabia to raise much-needed investment and returned with a $2-billion commitment in his back pocket, along with the memo on Saudi human rights violations in Yemen that the department of international relations and cooperation had prepared for him but which apparently he chose not to open and raise with Riyadh.
Economic diplomacy prevailed. Since then, International Relations Minister Naledi Pandor has returned to Riyadh and has subsequently welcomed her opposite number to Pretoria. This puts the country on thinner ice. South Africa needs jobs and inward investment, hence the interest in a good relationship with the Saudis.
But it weakens Pretoria’s criticism of the West for lack of consistency in the application of international law. Far harder to complain that “European lives matter more” than Yemenite ones when you yourself are doing business with war criminals.
The geopolitical landscape is shaking. Big questions are still to be answered, such as whether Putin will survive, the US will emerge stronger or weaker, Nato’s relevance will be fully restored and renewed or further questioned, and whether a new post-globalisation era of trading blocs built on the back of new strategic political and military alliances will form.
Regardless, the world order will not be the same again, with profound implications for everyone, including South Africa.
Where, thereafter, and in the longer-term, do South Africa’s best interests lie — not in a narrow trading or development aid perspective, but in relation to what sort of global human society it is desirable to have? One in which autocratic bullies have power and dictate the terms of global security, regimes that behead people and barely recognise women’s rights, control the price of fuel, and nationalist fascists undermine multilateral attempts to address the climate emergency?
It may be simplistic to cast the next era as a battle between liberalism and illiberalism, but South Africa needs to think much harder about where its interests really lie and position itself accordingly.
A new, multipolar world order may seem appealing, but governments must be careful what they wish for.
Zambia’s Fiscal Dilemma, State Compensation Ethics and Treasury Stability, By Misheck Kakonde
The recent judgments overseen by the Attorney General in compensating individuals like Hon. Mwaliteta, Hon. Frank Tayali, Mr. William Banda, and the late Mapenzi a case that should be treated separately raise pertinent concerns. These compensations, while important to acknowledge, have led to substantial payouts from the state treasury, prompting a critical evaluation of their judiciousness.
It is essential to recognize that these compensations do not originate from personal accounts, be it President Hakainde Hichilema’s savings or those of the Attorney General and associated lawyers. They derive from public funds, necessitating prudent management to safeguard the state’s financial health. President Hichilema’s prior observation regarding the nation’s empty coffers adds weight to the significance of responsible fiscal governance.
The present scenario demands intervention from the President to prevent an unchecked depletion of the state treasury. While acknowledging the importance of compensations, there’s a call for the Attorney General to negotiate more reasonable amounts in these consent judgments. The substantial sums being awarded arguably exceeding what’s reasonable ought to be revised downwards, ideally to around K200,000 or lower. Unless in the loss of less of mapenzi, Vespers and many more, their life has no amount to be attached and it is hard even for me to attach a price, may their souls continue resting in peace and those involved are investigated and prosecuted. Such a move would prevent the disproportionate drain of state funds due to payments to a select few individuals.
The Attorney General holds the crucial responsibility of representing Zambian interests and should not succumb to undue pressure from a minority seeking exorbitant compensations. Their role necessitates negotiations for fair consent agreements that safeguard the nation’s fiscal stability.
However, within the confines of consent judgments, wherein both parties cannot appeal, the flexibility for direct alteration is limited. Yet, there exists a possibility for future generations to revisit these decisions through legal means, reassessing their impact on the Zambian treasury. Therefore, the Attorney general and President Hichilema should appreciate this truth.
This situation emphasizes the need for checks and balances to ensure the judicious use of state funds. The Attorney General’s role should extend beyond mere legal representation, incorporating a broader responsibility of safeguarding the nation’s financial interests. President Hichilema’s intervention can steer a course correction, addressing the trend of excessively high compensations that strain the state treasury.
Ultimately, this scenario underscores the delicate balance between honouring just compensations and ensuring responsible fiscal management—a balance that requires prudent negotiation and oversight to protect the interests of all Zambians.
The author is a legal scholar, comparative politics specialist, History and Cultural Studies, expertise in international relations, negotiation, and protocol (ZIDIS).
There is more worth in what is public than in what is private, By Jenerali Uliwengu
A conversation I have been having with my compatriots can suffer some escalation to the regional level, especially because our different countries have had largely similar experiences in many respects.
In the 1960s, Dar es Salaam had a more or less efficient bus transport service, run by the Dar es Salaam Motor Transport Company (DMT) organised along lines not dissimilar to the London metropolitan bus service. The city service once even boasted double-deck buses, immortalised in the Kilwa Jazz song, Kifo cha Penzi ni Kifo Kibaya.
The buses ran on strict timelines, and when a bus scheduled to pass by a stop at 7.15 came at 7.20 people waiting at the stop would be seen impatiently looking at their watches.
Some of us in the media would take the matter up as soon as we got to our newsrooms to ask of the transport company officials why our bus had delayed a full five minutes on a working day.
By 1983, the company had been nationalised and called Usafiri Dar es Salaam (UDA) and soon acquired the distinctive Ikarus articulated buses manufactured in Hungary, but soon even thy ran out of steam because of the usual, multifaceted problems attaching to public owned institutions.
Around that time, then prime minister Edward Moringe Sokoine decided to bring in minibuses operating in Arusha and Moshi to rescue Dar es Salaam “temporarily, while the government is making plans for a permanent solution” to the problem.
From that period, it is only now that Dar es Salaam is beginning to see what looks like that “permanent solution” with the introduction of the Dar es Salaam Rapid Transport (Dart), which was initiated by a former mayor, the late Kleist Sykes.
It was delayed for so many years due to political skulduggery and the inevitable corruption in all our public institutions.
In the meantime, a former transport minister, Harrison Mwakyembe, had the rare presence of mind to remember that the city had had, since colonial times, railway tracks linking different districts but which lay fallow; he took action, and this initiative — which created what has come to be dubbed as “Mwakyembe’s train” — has contributed to the easing of the transit system congestion, but only just, because of issues such as the infrequency of train rides and the lack of security lights, ventilation and so on.
As it is right now, the Dar Rapid Transit is hobbling along, packing the human press the way you would pack cattle if you are not a keen meat seller.
Surely, our people deserve better than that, and the so-called “Mwakyembe train” needs replication in other parts of the city, as I suspect, there are many other fallow railway tracks waiting for some smart alecks to collect them and sell them as scrap metal.
Amidst all this, we have young people with hardly an income to speak of dying to own and drive a personal car, not for anything else but that owning a personal car makes them “somebody.”
What I have been telling them is, you do not have to own a car to be somebody; you are somebody because you are a useful member of society, and, surely, if you are predicating your personality on ownership of material things, you’re not.
What our young people — including not-so-young people, like me — should be doing is to militate for public transport to be expanded, and for it to work well; that is what they do in Europe and the US. The collaborative cries should be for Dar rapid service to improve: This past week, I was in the Coast region and wanted to ride on the service, only to be told by the bored girl at the stop that they had no tickets. Shame!
I understand there is too much red-tape restrictions in the processes attaching to getting more buses run by private operators. If that is so, what are the myriad officials running around like headless chickens doing?
Why are they paid all the big salaries and allowed to drive such luxury cars if they cannot do a repeat “Mwakyembe train,” increase buses, and ensure tickets are available for rapid-transit bus rides?
These should be the issues our young people have to be fighting for not driving their cars, except if they belong to the Diamond Platmuz or Ali Kiba cohort.
With an efficient public transit system, we all become part-owners of our collective means of transport.
The opposite of that is when you forget what a car is for and you begin to think like the backward tribesman for whom the car is a mystical contraption which confers miraculous powers on the owner and driver, a far cry from the evolved, modern citizen.
Unfortunately, I know I am preaching to the unhearing, but this should not discourage anyone.
In the fullness of time, the message will sink home when the hordes of the lumpen motorcar realise they have more important things to seek for their lives to be better and more meaningful, instead of the trinkets that are being dangled before their noses.
I stand ready, as ever, to engage in a conversation.
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