Thapelo Mohapi looks at the mangled and scorched scraps of what were once shacks and reflects quietly that, at 38, twice now have the flames of political violence in South Africa left him without a home.
The first time, as a boy in the 1980s, Mohapi was given shelter by Indian neighbours in the Durban settlement of Phoenix when the brutal last days of apartheid engulfed the nearby black township where he lived. It was part of solidarity that would in time give rise to a multiracial democracy. “The Indian community never said at any stage that you are not part of us,” he says.
The second time was the night of July 14. As riots and looting sparked by a power struggle in the ruling African National Congress swept heartland regions, destroyed businesses and left more than 300 dead, a fire burnt through the homes of Mohapi and hundreds of others in an informal settlement in Durban’s Briardene suburb. “The fire brigade couldn’t reach it in time because of the unrest,” Mohapi says. For now, he is living in a friend’s car and in donated clothes.
What President Cyril Ramaphosa labelled an “attempted insurrection” in Gauteng and KwaZulu-Natal, two provinces that make up half of the gross domestic product of Africa’s most industrial nation and nearly half of its population, was only put down with the deployment of tens of thousands of troops.
The violence had begun as reprisals for the jailing of former president Jacob Zuma for contempt of court — a victory for the rule of law and the country’s democratic principles under Ramaphosa. Zuma had defied a constitutional court order to attend an inquiry examining his role in corruption so widespread that it hollowed out institutions under his presidency, according to the testimony of dozens of witnesses. He was forced to resign in 2018.
After winning the ANC leadership in 2017 by a narrow margin, Ramaphosa stabilised the party’s decades-long grip on power in a 2019 election and has slowly isolated his predecessor’s closest allies. But the unrest signals that he is confronting a faction who in order to avoid jail are prepared to sacrifice a weakened state — and manipulate social divisions.
Phoenix, Mohapi’s old refuge, was also swept up in the fallout. As police vanished amid looting, tragedy unfolded in a microcosm of South Africa’s complex race relations. As street barricades were thrown up against looters, armed vigilantes emerged and “people that had lived side-by-side in relative peace turned on each other”, Ramaphosa said last week. At least 20 people were killed in the clashes in a township that is majority Indian but where many black South Africans live and work.
The looting was a threat without police on the ground but “in the racial profiling of our African brothers and sisters, some took the law into their own hands — and they were gangsters,” Marvin Govender, general secretary of Phoenix’s residents association, says.
The state was absent, failing to stop both the vigilantes and the looting, Govender says. Chris Biyela, the convener of a post-unrest Phoenix peace committee, agrees that “if the government responded forcefully in this manner, many lives would have been saved”.
In the chaos of the ANC’s factional battle, even the fire in Briardene appears suspect. Mohapi is a spokesman for Abahlali baseMjondolo, a movement that represents informal dwellers. With 100,000 members, it is a fierce critic of the ANC and has often received threats. The day before the fire, Abahlali released a statement that blamed “people who are pushing the agenda of the Zuma faction in the chaos”.
The group also fell victim to attempts to stir up a race war when a statement it issued calling for calm in Durban, KwaZulu-Natal’s largest city, was doctored with anti-Muslim vitriol, and then spread on WhatsApp.
With mounds of garbage choking the air and broken sanitation, the state has failed Briardene’s informal settlement dwellers. Mohapi has every reason to be cynical about the country’s post-1994 gains. But after what he sees as an assault from within the ANC “to divide the poorest from the poor” and destroy the basis of South Africa’s freedom and its unfinished racial reconciliation, he is more determined than ever to defend them.
“Nelson Mandela would be turning in his grave. This is not what he fought for,” he says. “We can’t be taken back to where we were. We can’t sacrifice that because one man is in prison.”
A warning from history
South Africa received a prophetic warning as far back as 1997 that one day the difficult transition to democracy might be betrayed from within.
Such an attack, the document said, would involve “setting up intelligence and armed networks parallel to and within the state to sabotage change through direct political activity or aggravation of such social problems as crime”, and erosion of governance through “deliberate acts of corruption driven not merely by greed”.
The prophet was the ANC itself — and while the warning was a reference to those still clinging on to apartheid, it accurately describes how decay of the state under the party has created forces that led to insurrection.
Systematic looting of state institutions during the Zuma presidency is well documented. Less visible has been the culture of impunity that was allowed to grow at the bottom, as police and other authorities were compromised by their political masters.
“The whole state has been criminalised,” Mary de Haas, an expert on KwaZulu-Natal’s political violence, says. “We had corruption, but we have been criminalised in the last 10 years . . . there are all sorts of mafia and criminal networks that would jump on this bandwagon.”
The impunity has spread to threaten investments needed to restart the stagnant economy, particularly in Zuma’s home province. In June, Rio Tinto was forced to suspend mineral sands mining in KwaZulu-Natal after security threats and the murder of a manager. From construction to security, businesses in the region say they are used to gangs with alleged ANC links demanding a cut. Ramaphosa admitted recently that extortion rackets have already begun targeting reconstruction following the unrest.
“There is very little crime intelligence coming from this province,” de Haas says. Intelligence officials “admit that the whole thing is factionalised. Then you get to national intelligence, and that’s even worse. Zuma captured the whole of intelligence, basically.”
An official 2018 report warned of “politicisation and factionalisation of the civilian intelligence community based on the factions in the ANC”, including “serious criminality” in the embezzlement of cash. The state capture inquiry heard this year that a rogue spy unit with a direct line to Zuma was used to target his political opponents.
Such testimony appears to have infuriated the former president. “Every country has its own secrets and things that are not publicly spoken about,” Zuma told supporters at Nkandla, his homestead in rural KwaZulu-Natal, before his arrest for defying the inquiry. His supporters fired off weapons and threatened police, before Zuma was taken into custody by his own state protection in the dead of night.
Senior ANC politicians were still arguing that Zuma should be freed even as the violence spread.
“The politicians and their cronies are attempting to brew and encourage a very, very dangerous politics that is building fear and anger with the aim of dividing people along lines of nationality of origin, ethnicity and race,” the Abahlali group says.
Food as a political weapon
The most chilling part of what Ramaphosa called “deliberate, well-planned and co-ordinated” targeting of infrastructure in the unrest were attacks that seemed tailored to exploit South Africa’s inequality, especially insecurities over food. Truck burnings shut down a major food supply route, the motorway between Durban and Johannesburg, Gauteng’s provincial capital. Supermarkets were attacked and then their distribution centres hit.
“It really dawned on me when I realised that not only were the warehouses being emptied out [by looters], they were also attacking the packaging industry . . . one of the big aims was to bring access to food to its knees,” says Mervyn Abrahams, co-ordinator of Pietermaritzburg Economic Justice and Dignity, an NGO based near Durban. “You are creating conflict between those who are poor and those who are middle class just to access the food that is available.”
Activists in KwaZulu-Natal say soldiers and police reinforcements came just in time to stop the total collapse of the supply chain and prevent an even worse second wave of riots driven by those who might not have eaten in days.
It reflected another facet of South Africa’s absent state, worsened by the pandemic — a hunger crisis that has silently swept the poorest, as social protection has fallen short and the economy has sputtered.
GDP per capita has flatlined since Zuma’s presidency and unemployment has soared, with 43 per cent of the working age population without a job or discouraged from looking for one at the start of this year. Even many of those with jobs are in a precarious position. Around half of the average minimum wage worker’s monthly pay of about 3,600 rand ($247) is eaten up by transport and electricity costs even before food bills, estimates Pietermaritzburg Economic Justice and Dignity. A safety net of welfare grants, covering about 18m people, has also grown threadbare and no longer reflects the cost of living.
In July, a basic nutritious diet for a South African child for the month was estimated to cost about R724, or about $50. The monthly child support grant is R460. Stunting rates in children — an indication of malnutrition — have remained stubbornly high since 1994, at about a quarter or more. The effects are felt decades later, in poor school results, a life on the margins of the job market and long-term health problems. “Each year we reap what was sown 30 or 25 years ago,” Abrahams says.
Saddled with high debts that are approaching 90 per cent of GDP, Ramaphosa’s government bet on riding out a series of pandemic lockdowns with minimal fiscal relief. This only prolonged the agony. In July, the country’s treasury reinstated a temporary monthly grant of R350 for the jobless that it had cut just months earlier. It will last until March.
After the unrest’s wake-up call, civil society is pushing for more permanent transfers. A basic income grant for South Africa’s 11m unemployed would cost R78bn a year if it paid out just enough per month to keep them above the food poverty line of R585, according to the Institute for Economic Justice, a Johannesburg-based think-tank. But the middle class is likely to balk at the tax rises needed to pay for this, or additional borrowing for larger grants.
“We pay for all of this in other ways in the economy,” Abrahams says. Millions have moved to shacks in the midst of major cities to find work. This proximity is part of why the unrest flared so quickly. “Now ‘the poor’ are right on our doorstep. Higher walls and more security are really not going to protect us.”
Had a safety net been in place, even with political instigation of the riots, “would they have been able to get so many people in the townships to support them, just because they wanted to get food?” asks Abrahams. “It would not have happened at the scale it has now.”
‘Crying for bread’
Organisers in communities across South Africa worry that poverty is about to get much worse in the aftermath of the unrest. “Those who did not loot, do not have food now,” Mohapi says. “People are crying for bread.”
Acts of solidarity have helped residents in Briardene. A Muslim charity has delivered bread and milk. Tents provided by Doctors Without Borders and Abahlali house dozens who were displaced by the shack fire. But private initiatives alone cannot replace the state.
“I’m afraid that the solidarity that had been built, particularly at the bottom of our society, will be placed under huge pressure in the context of what has happened,” says Imraan Buccus, an analyst with the Auwal Socio-Economic Research Institute. “We need to be on the lookout. We are at a fragile point in our democratic post-apartheid phase. Our state has not done what it needed to do.”
July also marked the 30th anniversary of Mandela’s post-prison election as leader of a very different ANC, as apartheid was crumbling and a new democracy was being born. Joining Mandela as party secretary-general and deputy to that role were two politicians of the next generation: Ramaphosa and Zuma. One all but destroyed Mandela’s governing legacy; the other is running out of time to restore it.
Ramaphosa’s first term as party leader is now all but over. The next leadership vote is due at the end of 2022. Most agree that he will probably just about secure a second term. If so, KwaZulu-Natal, the region with the most ANC members, is not a province easily defied. Zuma is in prison at least for the next few months and his acolytes who inflamed tensions may soon join him. But his politics of impunity and patronage live on.
“There is a reluctance on the part of the ANC. They are scared. They don’t want to rock the boat in this province,” de Haas says. “There are a hell of a lot of people who have a lot to lose if the ANC cleans up its act.”
Ordinary South Africans lost even more in the unrest. From below, their anger is growing. “The ANC is rotten and it should be removed. It does not represent the ideals of Mandela,” Mohapi says. Otherwise, he fears, “we are heading for disaster. We will have riots after riots.”
Politics Briefing: Meet the new Parliament, same as the old Parliament – The Globe and Mail
With remarkable precision, Canadian voters are sending MPs back to Ottawa in virtually identical numbers to the party standings in August when Prime Minister Justin Trudeau triggered a snap federal election campaign.
Mr. Trudeau’s Liberals were re-elected Monday for a third time and a second consecutive minority government.
As of Tuesday morning, the Liberals were leading or elected in 158 seats, followed by 119 seats for the Conservatives, 34 for the Bloc Québécois, 25 for the NDP and two for the Greens. The People’s Party of Canada did not win any seats and PPC leader Maxime Bernier finished a distant second to the Conservatives in the Quebec riding of Beauce.
The Liberal gain of one will likely change as the 158 seats includes Kevin Vuong in Spadina–Fort York, who currently has a narrow lead over the NDP candidate. The Liberals disassociated themselves from him late in the campaign after a dropped sexual assault charge was revealed. Should Mr. Vuong win, he will likely sit as an independent, but the Liberal Party did not immediately comment on the situation when asked Tuesday morning.
The most dramatic statistics in Monday’s results are the projected seat changes compared to party standings in the House of Commons before the election. As of Tuesday morning, the Liberals are up one seat (including Mr. Vuong), the Conservatives are down two, the Bloc is up two, the NDP is up one and the Greens are down one.
Those statistics do mask the fact that parties saw some incumbents defeated, but made up for that with gains elsewhere.
For instance, two Liberal cabinet ministers were defeated: Fisheries Minister Bernadette Jordan lost to the Conservatives in the Nova Scotia riding of South Shore-St. Margarets, and Women and Gender Equality Minister Maryam Monsef lost to the Conservatives in Peterborough-Kawartha.
Yet the Liberals may have made two notable gains in Alberta, where it had been shut out entirely in 2019. Liberal candidate George Chahal won the riding of Calgary Skyview, while Liberal Randy Boissonnault currently has a very narrow lead in Edmonton Centre.
Given the need for regional representation, at least one of the two Liberals from Alberta would be promoted to cabinet. This would create challenges, however, for Mr. Trudeau’s efforts to have a gender-balanced cabinet.
Unlike past elections, it will take a few more days until final results are known. Elections Canada received more than one million mail-in ballots this year, which is far higher than normal. The option was promoted as an alternative for Canadians who did not wish to vote in person because of the COVID-19 pandemic.
Elections Canada spokesperson Matthew McKenna said the counting of those mail-in ballots will begin Tuesday.
“We expect the vast majority to be counted and posted by tomorrow (Wednesday), but there may be further delays in some ridings,” he said in an e-mail.
- Join The Globe’s Laura Stone and Campbell Clark for a live post-election Q&A today at noon ET.
This is the daily Politics Briefing newsletter, written by Ian Bailey. Filling in today is Bill Curry. It is available exclusively to our digital subscribers. If you’re reading this on the web, subscribers can sign up for the Politics newsletter and more than 20 others on our newsletter signup page. Have any feedback? Let us know what you think.
Canada federal election results: Justin Trudeau’s Liberals win third consecutive election, fall short of a majority: Justin Trudeau’s Liberals won a third straight election on Monday, but fell short of the majority they sought in the snap vote and will return to government with what will effectively be a status quo Parliament.
The Liberal victory left Erin O’Toole’s leadership of the Conservative Party in jeopardy. The Tory leader rose to the helm of the party last year promising to deliver in seat-rich Ontario but he struggled in the campaign with questions on how he would handle the pandemic and wavered on key platform pledges.
Justin Trudeau’s Liberals have a minority again. What now? The new(ish) Parliament explained: After Sept. 20′s election, the balance of power in the House of Commons is largely unchanged between the Liberals, Conservatives, Bloc, NDP and Greens. Here’s what the results show and what leaders say they’ll do next.
After failing to secure majority, Trudeau will face questions within his caucus: Liberal Leader Justin Trudeau took a risky political gamble, triggering a snap election during the fourth wave of the pandemic in pursuit of a new majority mandate. He ended winning another minority mandate instead.
Conservative Leader Erin O’Toole’s ideology shift was not enough to surpass Liberals: Conservative Leader Erin O’Toole steered his party back toward the ideological centre of Canadian politics in 2021 and made this shift a key selling point during the five-week election campaign. But it was not enough to win Canada’s 44th general election as Justin Trudeau’s Liberals will form the next government.
Jagmeet Singh still holds balance of power after 2021 federal election but NDP doesn’t make major seat gains: The NDP under leader Jagmeet Singh will be returning to Ottawa with its balance of power position intact, but the party’s hopes of major seat gains came up short.
PRIME MINISTER’S DAY
Prime Minister Justin Trudeau greeted commuters at a subway station in his Montreal riding of Papineau, where he was re-elected Monday. The Liberal Leader is not scheduled to hold a news conference Tuesday.
Conservative Leader Erin O’Toole is scheduled to hold a news conference at 4 p.m. ET in Ottawa.
NDP Leader Jagmeet Singh is scheduled to hold a news conference at 9:30 am PT (12:30 ET) in Vancouver.
Itineraries for Bloc Leader Yves-François Blanchet and Green Party leader Annamie Paul were not immediately available.
Gary Mason (The Globe and Mail) on Erin O’Toole and the Conservative Party brace for an ugly war over his shift to the left: “There is little doubt Mr. O’Toole is girding for an internal fight, one that could get very loud and very messy and has the potential to lead to a complete fracture of the conservative movement.”
Robyn Urback (The Globe and Mail) If this election was a test of leadership, all of them failed: “None of the front-running candidates in this election campaign ventured to engage with challenging ideas, or dared step offside of politically advantageous positions. That bodes poorly for whatever faith the public should have in the capacity of the next government, whatever its specific composition might turn out to be, to capably deal with whatever crisis comes next – be it climate change, or an aging population, or another pandemic – just as long as the tough but necessary decisions risk political penalty.”
Andrew Coyne (The Globe and Mail) on A battle between fear and loathing that both sides lost: “Consider: Had the election been held on schedule, two years from now, the pandemic would (please God) have been long over, the mass vaccination program, with its associated mandates, a distant memory. Without the oxygen of this approaching “tyranny,” Maxime Bernier’s campaign might never have got off the ground. But call an election in the fevered atmosphere of a public-health emergency; spend the entire campaign insisting on the very policy, vaccine mandates, you had previously rejected as “divisive”; steer your campaign straight at the PPC, literally and figuratively, and who knows what profitable mayhem you can create?”
Campbell Clark (The Globe and Mail) Trudeau had just enough resilience to return to office, but doubts about his intentions remain: “He looks the same, still, at 49. But six years ago the Justin Trudeau of 2015 was a figure who for many seemed to symbolize good intentions, even for some who weren’t sure about his politics or ability. The 2021 Mr. Trudeau pulled through a campaign in which he had trouble convincing folks he had the right motivations.”
John Ibbitson (The Globe and Mail) Erin O’Toole tried to refashion the Conservative movement and deserves another chance to lead: “Moderate suburban voters will support Conservative government. We know that because most provincial governments are conservative, of one stripe or another. Many would vote Conservative federally as well, if they could trust the party: a Conservative Party of fiscal responsibility and individual freedom; a party that takes pride in our country while recognizing where we have fallen short; a party that supports business but understands the vulnerability of workers, that protects property but cares for the earth. Mr. O’Toole bet big that he could build and sell such a party. It didn’t work this time. But he could still be the next prime minister, perhaps sooner rather than later.”
Liberals' bank surtax is 'pandering politics': Former RBC CEO – BNN
A former chief executive of Royal Bank of Canada said the federal Liberals’ plan to slap a surtax on big bank and insurance profits “makes no sense” and called the move a purely “political decision.”
“That type of policy is pandering politics,” said Gord Nixon, who is also chairman of BNN Bloomberg parent company BCE Inc., in an interview Tuesday. “It might sell well in terms of achieving votes but it doesn’t make any sense from a policy perspective.”
The Liberals proposed a three-per-cent additional tax on profits that exceed $1 billion for Canada’s biggest banks and insurance companies as a way to help pay for new program spending, although some Bay Street analysts feel the plan lacks crucial details.
Nixon implied he isn’t necessarily surprised politicians took aim at big banks given his prior experience as RBC’s CEO and president from 2001 to 2014.
“Why the banks? Other than they’re an easy target,” he said. “The banks always deal with political issues.”
He said there are a few sectors, such as technology and grocers, that fared much better than banks and insurers through the COVID-19 pandemic, which suggests the targeted tax has political undertones.
“The banks actually didn’t do very well during the pandemic. You look at the three-year returns on banks, they’re up less than five per cent. The S&P is up close to 15 per cent,” he said. “I’m not suggesting there’s hardship there. But their earnings were very strong the last two quarters, largely because they were reversing a lot of loan losses that were taken when the pandemic first hit.”
Instead of a bank tax, Nixon would rather see policies that help attract business investment and talent, something he felt the campaign platforms proposed by Canada’s major political parties lacked.
“A lot of the issues that needed to be discussed were not necessarily discussed. And I think clearly, the result is that there is no mandate, if you will, given to the Liberal Party.”
Another one of Nixon’s concerns is the ballooning federal debt burden. The Conservative Party was the only major federal party to propose bringing the budget back to balance within a decade.
“We can’t just spend and spend and push that problem down the road. One of the problems of politics – and it’s all political parties – is it’s very easy to spend when you don’t have to live with the consequences of that spending for many years down the road. But there’s always a day of reckoning,” he said. “That day of reckoning is ultimately going to appear whether it’s through higher inflation or anemic economic growth.”
Canada election: Do federal results affect provincial politics? – Global News
A blue wave swept across the Prairies once again.
The Conservative Party won every riding between the eastern Manitoba border and western limit of Alberta, including all Saskatchewan constituencies, with the exception of 11 on Monday’s federal election.
It’s not the total seizure the Conservatives saw in 2019, but Premier Scott Moe, speaking Tuesday, still rejoiced at the result.
“In what I saw in the result last night, 90 per cent of Saskatchewan residents don’t want Justin Trudeau to be their prime minister,” he said, taking care to criticize the Liberal leader for what he said was an unnecessary election.
He began his brief statement with an anecdote — or, perhaps, a joke — about how his nephew said he wasn’t having a good birthday because Trudeau was still Prime Minister.
A University of Saskatchewan political scientist said the results weren’t a surprise, even in the hotly-contested Desnethé—Missinippi—Churchill River and Saskatoon West ridings. But Daniel Westlake cautions that the strong Conservative showing doesn’t necessarily mean support for conservative governments in the same region.
“If I was an Alberta provincial conservative, I’d be a lot more nervous than if I was an Alberta federal conservative right now. And the same for Saskatchewan,” Daniel Westlake said.
Things look very different for the respective legislatures than the do the in House of Commons. Alberta Premier Jason Kenney sacked his health minister for a disastrous response to the fourth wave of COVID-19 on the same day Moe used a 10-year-old’s birthday to take a swing at Trudeau.
And Brian Pallister vacated the premier’s position in Winnipeg after facing similar, severe criticisms over the pandemic and other matters.
Front-line health-care workers in Saskatchewan have criticized Moe for his responses to COVID.
Global News asked him about dissonance between the federal election results and his fellow premiers’ political fortunes.
“I’m not sure I precisely understand the question,” he said, before stating, “we had 14 Conservative seats going into this election. There’s were 14 Conservative seats going out.”
Westlake said the ridings and races affect whether political support overlaps.
Of the nearly dozen seats the Tories lost, all but one were urban and suburban and in major centres like Edmonton, Calgary and Winnipeg.
Conservatives don’t usually do well — or at least as well — in urban centres as they do in rural ridings, Westlake pointed out.
And the fact there are more of those ridings in the more populated provinces provides more opportunity.
Canada election: Trudeau bills electoral win as ‘clear mandate’ in speech to supporters
But the main distinction Westlake makes is in the campaign. Party leaders at different levels talk about different issues.
“The opponents that Erin O’Toole faces in Saskatchewan also have to win ridings in Vancouver and Toronto and places that hold views that are very different from the rest of the province,” he said.
A party leader seeking the broad support needed to garner a plurality of seats at the federal level will (and did, in this case) lose out on seats in specific areas because the broader policies aren’t as appealing, Westlake explained.
He said the Saskatchewan NDP, or any provincial opposition party, can tailor their message to voters in a way federal leaders can’t.
“If I were Scott Moore, I wouldn’t read too much into this,” he said.
“The reality is provincial elections are different than federal elections, especially on the Prairies.”
© 2021 Global News, a division of Corus Entertainment Inc.
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