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Polarized and divided parties leave South African politics in turmoil – The Globe and Mail

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Officers of the South African Police Services intervene to break up scuffles between supporters of the African National Congress in Folweni township, south of Durban, on Oct. 9.

RAJESH JANTILAL/AFP/Getty Images

Just three months after an eruption of violence that left some of its biggest cities in chaos, South Africa is gearing up for an election that is shaping up as the most divisive in its postapartheid history.

The campaign for the Nov. 1 local elections has already been marked by political killings, anti-foreigner rhetoric, racial tensions, factional feuding in the biggest parties and even the rise of a separatist party in Cape Town.

South Africa’s ruling party, the African National Congress, is in serious trouble and at risk of falling below 50 per cent in a nationwide election for the first time since the end of apartheid in 1994. It is heavily in debt, unable to pay its staff and riddled with corruption scandals and criminal charges. And it has been weakened by factional conflicts and a decline in public trust in the party.

Economic stagnation, rising unemployment and social unrest have further damaged the ANC. In July, more than 340 people died in a wave of rioting and looting in several South African cities, ignited by protests against the imprisonment of former president Jacob Zuma on contempt-of-court charges. Hundreds of stores and shopping malls were torched and ransacked.

Despite the arrest of a few suspected instigators in its ranks after the July violence, the pro-Zuma faction continues to be a loud voice in the ANC, stirring up bitter tensions within the party. While Mr. Zuma is on trial for corruption charges and faces dozens of graft allegations at a public inquiry, his supporters still remain influential, leaving the party damaged and adrift as it prepares for the Nov. 1 vote.

In an ominous sign of the ANC’s internal strife, the election campaign has been marred by political violence, including the deaths of several ANC members at party meetings or in targeted attacks. In a separate incident, an anti-corruption whistleblower was shot dead outside her home.

But the two biggest opposition parties – the liberal Democratic Alliance (DA) and the radical left-wing Economic Freedom Fighters (EFF) – have failed to capitalize on the ANC’s woes. Both are increasingly perceived as limited to a narrow racial base, and polls show them far behind. Their lack of popularity has left the ANC as the election favourite by default, although it is likely to lose in several major cities and could be forced into coalitions in others.

Many South African voters, repelled by all of the parties, have responded by tuning out and disengaging. Despite a rising population and a voter-registration drive, South Africa will have about 500,000 fewer registered voters in the municipal elections, compared with the last national election two years ago, reports say. The decline in voter registration is a sign of widespread unhappiness with the options on the ballot, which could further reduce election turnout.

South Africa’s second-biggest political party, the DA, should be poised to make gains from the turmoil in the ANC. Instead, analysts say, it appears to be retreating to its traditional support base in the white, mixed-race and Indian communities. Polls show it in danger of slumping to third place nationally.

In 2019, the DA dumped its former leader, Mmusi Maimane, in a clear signal that it won’t try to expand its appeal to the Black community, who represent about 80 per cent of South Africa’s population. Its top leaders now are white, and it is widely perceived as a white-dominated party, despite its assertions to be non-racial.

Earlier this month, the DA made its most racially explosive move with a series of election banners praising the ethnically Asian-based vigilante groups that allegedly killed dozens of blacks while barring entrance to their neighbourhoods during the July unrest. “The ANC called you racists,” the banners read. “The DA calls you heroes.”

Many South Africans, including some DA officials, sharply criticized the banners. “What makes those posters dangerous is that they fan the flames of racial hatred,” wrote Jonathan Jansen, former vice-chancellor of the University of the Free State.

Lindiwe Mazibuko, the DA’s former parliamentary leader, was equally aghast. “Making political hay out of one of the most devastating waves of racially motivated violence in our country’s democratic history is not just cynical,” she said on Twitter. “It is despicable. Every single decision maker who approved that poster campaign should resign.”

DA leader John Steenhuisen defended the posters at first. But after two days of uproar, the DA apologized and promised to take down the banners.

In a country with a painful history of racism, it was long considered taboo for South Africa’s political parties in the postapartheid era to make racially based appeals. But the DA banners showed how this understanding is eroding.

Mr. Zuma and his faction had begun the trend by attacking “white monopoly capital” – a euphemism for white-owned businesses. And the third-biggest party, the EFF, routinely launches verbal volleys against whites and Asians, along with inflammatory rhetoric about seizing farmland and redistributing it.

Meanwhile, anti-immigrant sentiments are becoming more common, both on social media and in the rhetoric of new political parties such as Action SA, a well-financed party headed by former Johannesburg mayor Herman Mashaba.

Officially, Action SA is opposed only to “illegal immigration” – but Mr. Mashaba’s comments make it clear that he sees foreigners as a threat. “I don’t want to live in a country where foreign nationals come and open hairdressing salons and spaza shops [small informal shops],” he told Daily Maverick, a news website. “Those opportunities are for South Africans.”

The divisive mood is perhaps symbolized most vividly by another new party, the Cape Independence Party, which wants Western Cape province to separate from the rest of the country. The party is running candidates in all 116 wards in Cape Town.

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Politics Briefing: Trudeau visits Tk'emlúps te Secwépemc First Nation after Tofino blunder – The Globe and Mail

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Hello,

Prime Minister Justin Trudeau is visiting a First Nations community in British Columbia today after not responding to earlier invitations as residents there dealt with the discovery of unmarked burial sites of former residential school students.

The Tk’emlúps te Secwépemc First Nation in Kamloops had previously invited Mr. Trudeau to attend a ceremony in the community marking the inaugural National Day for Truth and Reconciliation on Sept. 30.

Instead, Mr. Trudeau went on vacation in the Vancouver Island community of Tofino. He subsequently apologized.

Parliamentary reporter Kristy Kirkup provides a Reporter’s Comment on what’s at stake today – “All eyes will be on Justin Trudeau today for his visit to the B.C. First Nation. Since coming to power in 2015, the Liberals have repeatedly said its relationship with Indigenous people is the most important relationship. Mr. Trudeau has also stressed this thinking comes from him personally. But his decision to travel to Tofino on the National Day for Truth and Reconciliation was met by condemnation from Indigenous leaders, who said they were hurt by his decision and noted the Prime Minister will have to work to rebuild relationships. I will be watching to see how he goes about trying to achieve that today. The event will include other speakers, including new Assembly of First Nations National Chief RoseAnne Archibald, who has stressed the need for concrete action. How does Mr. Trudeau convey that at today’s ceremony? And how long will it take him to repair lost trust?”

The agenda for today’s three-hour event includes remarks by Mr. Trudeau, Ms. Archibald and Tk’emlúps te Secwépemc Chief Rosanne Casimir as well as a media availability. Also scheduled are comments from Indian residential school survivors and community youth.

Ms. Kirkup and B.C. politics reporter Justine Hunter report on today’s events here.

This is the daily Politics Briefing newsletter, written by Ian Bailey. 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.

TODAY’S HEADLINES

LIBERALS DODGING SCRUTINY, OPPOSITION SAYS – The Liberal government’s move to limit House of Commons sitting days this year and delay the return of Parliament until late November is part of an effort to avoid scrutiny, opposition MPs say, amid a needed debate over pandemic economic supports.

FEDS DENOUNCE END TO YEMEN WAR PROBE – The federal government is speaking out after the United Nations Human Rights Council, which includes such countries as Russia, China and Venezuela, shut down the only independent international probe into Yemen’s long and deadly civil war. Story here.

ALBERTA EQUALIZATION REFERENDUM TODAY – Albertans will cast ballots Monday in a referendum that is technically about rejecting equalization, but has morphed into more of a Prairie Festivus airing of grievances.

NDP SEEK SOCIAL MEDIA WATCHDOG – New Democrats are demanding the federal government crack down on social media giants following recent revelations by a Facebook executive.

ANCIENT KNIFE FOUND IN CENTRE BLOCK RENOVATION – An ancient Indigenous knife unearthed during the renovation of Centre Block will be the first artifact found on Parliament Hill to be returned to the stewardship of the Algonquin people who live in the Ottawa region.

CUSTOMERS SUBJECT TO COST HIKES: BANK OF CANADA – Canadian businesses are grappling with labour shortages and supply-chain disruptions, with many planning to respond by raising wages and passing on cost increases to customers, according to the Bank of Canada’s quarterly survey of businesses. Story here.

ELECTORAL REFORM OR I QUIT: DEL DUCA – Ontario Liberal Leader Steven Del Duca says, if elected to government, he will “resign on the spot” if he does not follow through with a commitment to enact ranked ballots in provincial elections. The next provincial election is set for June 2, 2022.

GOVERNOR-GENERAL VISITS GERMANY – Governor-General Mary May Simon has arrived in Berlin for her first international visit on behalf of Canada – a four-day state visit that will include a meeting with Chancellor Angela Merkel. Story here.

PRIME MINISTER’S DAY

The Prime Minister, in Kamloops, B.C., holds private meetings and visits Tk’emlúps te Secwe̓pemc.

LEADERS

No public itineraries were issued by the other leaders.

POLITICAL BOOKS

Another former member of Prime Minister Justin Trudeau’s cabinet is writing about her experience in federal politics.

Catherine McKenna, who served as environment and infrastructure minister, told the Herle Berly podcast last week that she has written Run Like a Girl, which she said was not a tell-all, but touched on lessons in politics.

“It’s just about being a woman and being yourself,” said Ms. McKenna, who served as Ottawa Centre MP from 2015 until this year, when she announced she would not seek re-election.

As she announced her plans to leave politics last June, Ms. McKenna mentioned the phrase “running like a girl” as she encouraged more female participation in elected politics.

Ms. McKenna’s book project comes after recent books from former federal ministers, including Indian in the Cabinet by former justice minister Jody Wilson-Raybould, a memoir about she challenges she faced in Mr. Trudeau’s cabinet. Ms. Wilson-Raybould resigned from cabinet over the SNC-Lavalin affair. Indian in the Cabinet was recently nominated for the inaugural Writers’ Trust Balsillie Prize for Public Policy.

Contacted by The Globe and Mail, Ms. McKenna said in a social media exchange that she had worked on her book over the course of the pandemic. “It’s about politics and women in politics. More to come later.”

OPINION

Campbell Clark (The Globe and Mail) on the challenge Erin O’Toole faces with a handful of unvaccinated Tory MPs as the opening of Parliament looms: “Imagine a new hybrid Parliament, with 330-odd MPs sitting in the House of Commons, live and in-person, but a handful of unvaccinated Conservatives relegated to video participation because they won’t get the shots. Erin O’Toole has about a month to avoid that damaging image.”

Kevin Chan, Rachel Curran and Joelle Pineau (Contributed to The Globe and Mail) on Facebook collaborating to make progress against harms associated with social media: “As three Canadians working directly on public policy and research at Facebook, we take very seriously the opportunity and responsibility to contribute to this effort, and to always strive to do better. Importantly, we hear the calls for more regulation, and we agree. Matters of hate speech, online safety and freedom of expression are some of the most challenging issues of our time, and we have been vocal in calling for a new set of public rules for all technology companies to follow. As Canadian lawmakers seek to construct new frameworks for platform governance, we stand ready to collaborate with them.”

Tzeporah Berman (Contributed to The Globe and Mail) on how the bar for climate leadership is far too low in Canada: “Canada claims to be a climate leader, but it’s time to get clear on what that means. We need a plan to stop the expansion of existing oil and gas projects and to help transition workers and communities involved in the industry into other sectors. We need to step up internationally and work with other countries as we did in the face of great challenges, such as the Second World War and ozone depletion.”

Naheed Nenshi (Contributed to The Globe and Mail) on the crises we are facing: “We are at a crossroads in our country. We have five future-defining crises in front of us, any one of which could bring a lesser society to its knees: a public-health crisis in the pandemic, a mental health and addictions crisis, an economic dislocation like none we’ve seen before, an environmental crisis, and a reckoning on the issue of equity. This is all playing out at political and national levels, but also in every one of our families. It all feels sometimes like too much. Is our country ungovernable? Are the voices of anger and hatred and division simply too loud? Have they won? I don’t believe that. I never have. I can’t. I won’t.”

Mike McDonald (Rosedeer) on the British Columbia election that continues to impact politics in the province 30 years after the ballots were counted: “It was the election of Premier Mike Harcourt’s NDP government and only the second time in B.C. history that the NDP had gained power. The election was hugely significant for the NDP, as they governed for a decade. But its more profound impact was the realignment of the free enterprise vote in B.C.”

Send along your political questions and we will look at getting answers to run in this newsletter. It’s not possible to answer each one personally. Questions and answers will be edited for length and clarity.

Got a news tip that you’d like us to look into? E-mail us at tips@globeandmail.com. Need to share documents securely? Reach out via SecureDrop.

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Politics Podcast: What Makes A Party Or Politician Popular? – FiveThirtyEight

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FiveThirtyEight

 

President Biden’s standing with the public has deteriorated in the nine months since he took office. Now more Americans disapprove of his job performance than approve of it. In this installment of the FiveThirtyEight Politics Podcast, the crew talks about why that is, what the consequences are for Democrats and what they can do about it. They also check in on the upcoming Virginia governor’s race and discuss a FiveThirtyEight report about how Congress may have inadvertently legalized THC — the main psychoactive compound in marijuana.

You can listen to the episode by clicking the “play” button in the audio player above or by downloading it in iTunes, the ESPN App or your favorite podcast platform. If you are new to podcasts, learn how to listen.

The FiveThirtyEight Politics podcast is recorded Mondays and Thursdays. Help new listeners discover the show by leaving us a rating and review on iTunes. Have a comment, question or suggestion for “good polling vs. bad polling”? Get in touch by email, on Twitter or in the comments.

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Tigray forces say air strikes hit Ethiopia’s Mekelle, government denies

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Rebellious Tigrayan forces accused the Ethiopian government of launching air strikes on the capital of Tigray region on Monday, though the government denied the reports.

The reported attack follows intensified fighting in two other Ethiopian regions, where the central government’s military is trying to recover territory taken by the northern province’s Tigray Peoples Liberation Front(TPLF).

Tigrai TV, controlled by the TPLF, said the attack on the city of Mekelle killed three civilians.

A resident of the city told Reuters one strike hit close to a market, behind a hotel. An aid worker and a doctor in the region also said there had been an attack and a diplomat shared pictures of what they said was the aftermath, including pools of blood and smashed windows.

All asked not to be named. Reuters could not confirm the authenticity of the images.

Ethiopia’s government spokesman, Legesse Tulu, denied launching any attack. “Why would the Ethiopian government attack its own city? Mekelle is an Ethiopian city,” he said.

“Terrorists are the ones who attack cities with innocent civilians in them, not government,” Legesse added. He accused the TPLF of killing civilians in fighting in neighbouring regions.

Reuters was not able to verify any of the accounts in an area that is off-limits to journalists.

“I WAS A FEW METRES AWAY”

War erupted in Tigray almost a year ago between the Ethiopian military and the TPLF, the political party that controls the region, killing thousands of people and forcing more than two million to flee.

Tigrayan forces were initially beaten back, but recaptured most of the region in July and pushed into the neighbouring Amhara and Afar regions, displacing hundreds of thousands more.

A week ago, the Tigrayan forces said the military had launched a ground offensive to push them out of Amhara. The military acknowledged on Thursday there was heavy fighting there, but accused the Tigrayan forces of starting it.

Reporting details of Monday’s air attack, Tigray TV said the first strike hit the city’s outskirts, near a cement factory, while the second struck in the city centre.

A doctor in the region said they heard the first attack on Monday morning. “First I heard the sounds of jet and also an explosion from afar,” the doctor told Reuters?

“Then in the afternoon there was another sound, which seemed closer. This one seemed like it happened inside the city,” the doctor said.

A Mekelle resident told Reuters that around noon, (0900 GMT), a strike hit close to a market behind the city’s Planet Hotel, in the city centre.

“I was a few metres away, I thought they had hit our compound,” the resident said.

TPLF spokesperson Getachew Reda tweeted: “#AbiyAhmed’s ‘Air Force’ sent its bomber jet to attack civilian targets in& outside #Mekelle,” referring to Ethiopia’s Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed.

Diplomats are worried that renewed fighting will further destabilise Ethiopia, a nation of 109 million people, and deepen hunger in Tigray and the surrounding regions.

 

(Reporting by Addis Ababa newsroom; Additional reporting and writing by Nairobi newsroom; Editing by Alison Williams, Andrew Heavens, William Maclean)

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