The South African local government elections and the COVID-19 pandemic

tariro-sekeramayi
Author: Tariro Sekeramayi
Centre for Human Rights, University of Pretoria

South Africa’s local government elections, to elect the municipal tier of government, are constitutionally mandated through section 159 of the Constitution of South Africa to take place every five years. These elections were scheduled to take place towards the end of 2021 and have been the subject of great deliberation in the nation. Conducting elections during a pandemic has been the subject of much debate on the continent and worldwide, with certain countries choosing to continue with elections amid the pandemic and others choosing to postpone their elections amid concerns of the risks involved. Nations on the continent that have held elections during the pandemic include Zambia, Malawi, Ghana, Rwanda, Uganda and Côte d’Ivoire. Given the extent of the risks of holding elections during the pandemic and mixed calls on whether to postpone or continue with elections in the nation, the Independent Electoral Commission (IEC) of South Africa ordered an inquiry commission to determine the nation’s capacity to hold free, fair elections during the initially scheduled period in October.

Read the rest of this entry »


Concurrent military deployments in Mozambique and their permissibility under SADC treaty law

Author: Marko Svicevic
Post-doctoral research fellow, South African Research Chair in International Law (SARCIL), University of Johannesburg

On 23 June 2021, the Extraordinary Summit of the Southern African Development Community (SADC) Heads of State and Government approved the deployment of a military force to Cabo Delgado in support of Mozambique’s fight against violent extremism in the province. The approval of the deployment, termed the SADC Standby Force Mission to Mozambique, was a delayed yet surprising response from the bloc to an increasingly volatile situation. The violence in Cabo Delgado is approaching its fourth year now, has resulted in over 3000 deaths, and has internally displaced over 700 000 people.

The SADC deployment seems to be based on the consent of the Mozambican government. What complicates the matter however is that even before SADC was able to deploy, Rwanda has already dispatched some 1000 troops to the province at Mozambique’s request.

Read the rest of this entry »


Is southern Africa entering its own ‘War on Terror’?

Author: Marko Svicevic
Post-doctoral research fellow, South African Research Chair in International Law (SARCIL), University of Johannesburg

What the proposed SADC deployment in Mozambique means for the sub-region

Leaders of the Southern African Development Community (SADC) met again on 23 June 2021 in Maputo to discuss the expanding insurgency in northern Mozambique. It’s the first time the Summit has met since a technical assessment to Mozambique recommended a 3000 strong military deployment. In a communique issued following the meeting, the SADC Summit – its highest decision-making body – endorsed the recommendations made by the technical assessment and approved a mandate for the SADC Standby Force Mission to Mozambique.

From domestic grievances to terrorist acts and foreign aggression

Now approaching its fourth year, the conflict in Mozambique has raged across Cabo Delgado, its northern most province neighboring Tanzania. Initially, the Mozambican government seemed to brush off the violence as local criminality. In the last year and a half however, it has consistently re-framed this narrative as one of ‘foreign aggression.’ Both arguments have merit; there is ample research to suggest the drivers of the conflict are placed with a sense of neglect by the government together with high levels of poverty and unemployment. At the same time, the conflict is being internationalised with some evidence of foreign fighters joining the ‘insurgency’, which has since become known as Ansar al-Sunna. Further yet, the group’s pledge of allegiance to the Islamic State (IS) in 2019 and the US designation of ‘ISIS-Mozambique’ as Specially Designated Global Terrorists may be playing into Maputo’s newfound narrative: that the conflict is not rooted in domestic issues but constitutes an act of aggression against Mozambique’s sovereignty.

Read the rest of this entry »


The Cost of Separating Powers

Chris HimsworthAuthor: Chris Himsworth

University of Edinburgh, United Kingdom 

It was reported on 28 April 2021 that authorities in Lesotho could not appoint a new High Court judge because of a lack of funds. While this might have come as a shock to most people, this will not have surprised the authors of the Report on the Independence of the Judiciary in the Kingdom of Lesotho, published only a month earlier in March. Chaired by Justice Zak Yacoob, former South African Constitutional Court Judge, a Working Group of the Southern African Development Community (SADC) Lawyers’ Association had aired a trenchant critique of the current condition of judicial independence in Lesotho.

Read the rest of this entry »


Using evidence in the time of COVID-19 to reduce health inequalities for Persons with Psychosocial Disability in South Africa

Linda-AjembaAuthor: Linda Ajemba

LLD candidate, Centre for Human Rights, Faculty of Law, University of Pretoria

The ongoing coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic has had an unparalleled impact on all spheres of life globally. As with other disasters, evidence shows that while the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic threatens all members of the society, it disproportionately affects persons with psychosocial disabilities. Persons with psychosocial disability refers to individuals suffering from a spectrum of mental conditions that influence their feelings, perceptions and behaviors. A psychosocial disability arises when someone with a mental health condition interacts with a social environment that presents barriers to their equality with others. Persons with psychosocial disabilities are greatly impacted by diverse response measures employed by governments across the globe to curb the pandemic.

Read the rest of this entry »


When policy isn’t enough: Examining accessibility of sexual and reproductive health rights for displaced populations in South Africa

Author: Lidya Stamper
Research Fellow, Centre of Human Rights, University of Pretoria

The right to sexual and reproductive health services (SRHS) is a fundamental human right for all, guaranteed under international human rights law. Legal protections outlining these rights have been recognised in South Africa through international, regional and domestic instruments. More specifically, these protections are highlighted and specified in documents such as the ‘Convention on the Elimination of all Forms of Discrimination Against Women’ (CEDAW), the Protocol to the African Charter on Human and Peoples’ Rights on the Rights of Women in Africa (Maputo Protocol), and the 1996 Constitution of the Republic of South Africa. Despite the presence of these legal frameworks, outlining equality and non-discrimination, persistent inequalities continue to act as barriers to exercising SRHS. Legislative and policy advances in SRH have been undermined by a lack of successful implementation and improvements in service delivery, service accessibility, and service availability. Implementation challenges combined with a fragmented health sector have resulted in various obstacles including a lack of standardised care, gaps in the dissemination of information, overburdened health facilities, and provider opposition. Social conditions such as gender inequality, poor access to health services, and provider attitudes continue to reinforce these barriers, undermining many of the intended outcomes of the existing legislative and policy advances in the SRH realm.

Read the rest of this entry »


The ISIS threat against South Africa: preliminary questions, considerations and the potential for a regional response

Author: Marko Svicevic
Post-doctoral research fellow, South African Research Chair in International Law (SARCIL), University of Johannesburg

Introduction

The recent threat issued against South Africa by the ISIS-affiliated insurgency in Mozambique has once again signaled a growing reality facing the country – an ever-increasing terrorist presence in the SADC region. While the insurgency in the Cabo Delgado province has been around for several years, it is the first time that South Africa has been the target of an open threat. Not unexpectedly, a number of questions have arisen. This post serves to highlight some preliminary questions and considerations relating to the insurgency in Mozambique and the potential threat to South Africa. These include among others: links the current insurgency holds with ISIS, the credibility of the threat issued against South Africa, probability and capacity for the insurgency (or ISIS) to follow through with the threat, and the potential for a regional response.

Read the rest of this entry »


Has the COVID-19 pandemic exposed the fragility of South Africa’s constitutional democracy?

Author: Paul Mudau
PhD Candidate and Researcher, School of Law, University of the Witwatersrand

On 15 March 2020, and while owing to medical and scientific advice and with the aim of controlling and managing the invasion and the spread of the invisible enemy, the Coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic, the President of South Africa Cyril Ramaphosa introduced extraordinary legal measures, placed the country under a nationwide lockdown and sealed its international borders. The lockdown took effect from 27 March 2020. The President simultaneously declared a national state of disaster in terms of section 27 of the Disaster Management Act (52 of 2002). Apart from the 1996 Constitution, the Disaster Management Act is applicable during lockdown together with other relevant statutes such as the Criminal Procedure Act 51 of 1977 and Prevention of Combating and Torture of Persons Act 13 of 2013. This, was followed by a series of announcements and impositions of numerous lockdown Regulations and Directives that require hygienic practices, physical and social distancing, quarantine, and isolation measures.

Read the rest of this entry »


A dark cloud or the promise of rain: Section 25 and the fate of land restitution in South Africa

Author: Ross Booth
Third year LLB student, University of KwaZulu-Natal

In recent years, there have been growing calls for land reformation and a fairer distribution of property in South Africa. Many have called for what is known as the expropriation of land without compensation, while others view this as an extremely dangerous and radical procedure. Despite the differences of opinion, we are currently observing what could become one of the most significant changes to land reform in the history of SA’s democracy. Seemingly given the backseat in light of our current struggle against the COVID-19 pandemic, an amendment to section 25 of our Constitution is on the cards and could result in a variety of changes to the current state of land restitution.

As it stands, section 25 is a far-reaching provision of the Constitution that deals with security of tenure, property rights, and restitution for those previously discriminated against under colonial and Apartheid land practices. Section 25(1) begins by offering some assurance to property owners by stating:

“No one may be deprived of property except in terms of law of general application, and no law may permit arbitrary deprivation of property.”

Read the rest of this entry »


Afro-digital ethics, law and online hate in Africa

Author: Thompson Chengeta
European Research Council Fellow on Artificial Intelligence Ethics and law, University of Southampton

Introduction

Across the globe, there is a general increase in online hate and sharing of hateful messages on online platforms. The past weeks saw hateful and xenophobic hashtags trending in South Africa. As noted by some commentators, online hate “can pollute civic discourse, inflict harm on targeted victims, create and exacerbate social divisions, and erode trust in the host platforms”. Online hate should not only be dealt with in terms of the law but also afro-digital ethics. With increased internet penetration in Africa, advent of smartphones and digital platforms, many people spend most of their time online. In this digital age, the virtues of our lives are beginning to be shaped and influenced by our virtual lives. Yet, not much has been done to guide our lives – particularly those of young people – in this new virtual world. The African saying “it takes a village to raise a child” denotes communitarian ethos relating to duties of the elderly in the community to instil African ethics in young persons. But does such an African village exist online? While digital technologies are undoubtedly impacting our African utopias or dystopias on what it means to be humane, the elderly who usually enforce and instil African ethics and morality in young people are offline. For parents who are online, they rarely have access to their children’s online platforms for many reasons including the use of ghost accounts. I also contend that a failure to respect African ethics online is a result of the breakdown of African communitarian ethos in the real world. For example, the spread of hateful content against fellow Africans has its genesis in economic failures of African leaders, most of whom are selfishly and corruptly enriching themselves.

Read the rest of this entry »