When he was seven Dikembe Muamba* became a soldier on the orders of his uncle, a chief in the Democratic Republic of Congo’s (DRC) North Kivu Province.
“I stole my first gun, when I was 10. It was a flintlock. By the time I became a captain at 14, I had many guns. I led 50 people, both children and adults. There were about 30 children in the unit. The youngest was 10,” Muamba, now 17, told IRIN.
When IRIN met him at one of the “half-way houses” for former child soldiers in the town of Kiwanja in Rutshuru Territory, Muamba was enjoying his first month of “comfort” in a basic brick and mortar house after a decade of bush living.
“I am still angry with my uncle. Those 10 years feel like a waste of a life,” he said. “It was very difficult. There was no school. I had only completed two years of schooling [before being forced into child soldiering].”
The “half-way house” - which provides counselling, parental tracing services and tutoring in preparation for a return to school - is run by mother-of-nine Afiya Rehema*. Her own children are aged 7-19 and in the past nine years she has cared for more than 50 former child soldiers.
“At the moment there are children from Mai-Mai Nyatura, FDLR [Democratic Forces for the Liberation of Rwanda] and PARECO [Alliance of Resistant Congolese Patriots] staying here. When they arrive some can be disrespectful, but they soon become like other children. There has never been any violence towards me,” she said. “Only one ever stole, and then left.”
“I do get some financial support [from local NGO Union pour la paix et la promotion des droits de l'enfant au Congo (UPDECO)]. But I do this as a parent. Maybe one of my kids will be taken by an army. And if that happens I hope another parent will be there to look after my child [if he/she escapes from an armed group].
Muamba spent his first few years as his uncle’s bodyguard before being enlisted into PARECO, which emerged in 2007 from a variety of diverse North Kivu communities, including Hunde, Hutu, Nande, Nyanga, and Tembo.
With a barely discernable pencil moustache indicating the onset of adulthood, he knows exactly how many battles he has fought and replies without hesitation: “It was 45, but I don’t know how many people I killed… The youngest was a girl about six. She was shooting at me.”
Muamba was wounded twice during his decade as a child soldier.
“The first battle I fought in was against the FDLR [an anti-Rwandan armed group that had an informal alliance with PARECO]. I fought against ADF-Nalu [Allied Democratic Forces - an Islamist armed group opposed to the neighbouring Ugandan government] in Beni, and M23 [23 March Movement, an alleged Rwandan proxy armed group].
In the end, it was his rank and a chance meeting with members of a local child activist NGO that allowed him to walk away from soldiering.
“As a captain, I was free to go where ever I wanted. By chance in Lubero, I met people from UPDECO. They told me they could give me demobilization papers and then I could leave PARECO forever,” he said.
A girl sergeant’s testimony
Eshe Makemba*, 17, rose to the rank of sergeant in the FDLR, but enjoyed no such freedom of movement. Being “discriminated” against for being a Congolese national by the FDLR’s Rwandan officers prompted her desertion, she says. “I could not speak out as they told me Congolese were no good.”
After seven years as a soldier for the armed group she ran for two days through the forest evading a search party, which she says would have executed her had she been caught.
She was 10 when she and four other girls were kidnapped near Kisharo, in Rutshuru Territory, by the FDLR. She was the youngest of the captives and the only one to survive a river crossing shortly after her abduction. She then did three months of military training.
“I stole and killed people for nothing… killing people was my way of saving my life,” she told IRIN. She was involved in operations against Ntabo Ntaberi Sheka’s Ndumba Defence of Congo (NDC) and M23. At other times she was raiding farms and homesteads.
Four months after her escape and dressed in her only set of clothes, the former child soldier said she did not think about her time with the FDLR, but acknowledged that the gun she carried gave her access to “material [plundered goods].”
“I felt OK after the battle. I enjoyed the battle because I knew that afterwards there would be clothes, money and food,” Makemba said.
“One day I was with a group [of FDLR soldiers] that raped a woman. But I did nothing. I did not fear being raped as I had a gun and I could defend myself. But I could not do anything to stop the rape [of the woman],” she said.
Call for effective prosecutions
An October 2013 report by the UN Stabilization Mission in the DRC (MONUSCO) entitled Child Recruitment by Armed Groups in DRC From January 2012 to August 2013, said in the past five years about 10,000 children had been separated from armed groups, but in the period under review nearly a 1,000 more were recruited and the use of children by more than 25 armed groups remained “systemic”.
Three armed groups, the FDLR, Nyatura and M23 accounted for about half of the child recruitment in the review period.
*Not their real names
Source: Irin News
Washington, DC — Only 10 years ago, Liberia began to emerge from a quarter-century of instability, punctuated by what Liberians call World Wars I and II. The names reflect the lived realities of two generations - widespread atrocities by feuding factions, child soldiers drugged and forced to fight, women raped and dismembered, and nationwide destruction of infrastructure. More than 250,000 people are thought to have died, out of a population of less than three million. Two-thirds of the population was in near-constant flight. When President Ellen Johnson Sirleaf took office in 2006, there was hardly a bridge, power line, dam, factory or paved road. Now, many of the children who grew up on the run - including those who had a chance to build lives elsewhere - are back in Liberia, where a sense of purpose is replacing the trauma they experienced.
Gyude (pronounced ju'-day) Moore has found his place in the office of the president, where he is deputy chief of staff and head of the President's Delivery Unit. In a recent interview with AllAfrica, he talks about the chance to attack the poverty still dominating the lives of most Liberians.
Liberians who were alive during the war years have so many stories - and sometimes those stories explain who they are now. What's one of yours?
I'm from Cape Palmas, the southeastern-most cape of Liberia; very beautiful and very nice. All the kids - thinking back, it was an amazing time. It sounds boring, but it was a great time!
During the war we fled to Cote D'Ivoire. The first time we left, my mother had just given birth to set of twins - a boy and a girl - and we walked a very long distance. I carried the boy, she carried the girl, and we reached the village where we were going to hide. I saw thousands of people on the road, just walking, and it was dark. I was calling out to my mom, and she heard my voice and answered. I took the second baby from her. But the second baby, the girl, was frail.
I have told this story a couple of times but…[pauses]. We were sleeping in a dark hut, and my mom was crying because the baby, my sister, had passed away. My mom was trying to cry quietly so she wouldn't wake the other kid. There was a sense of helplessness, because I was the oldest boy - might have been 14 or 15 at the time - and there was this sense of responsibility that I could not protect my mother.
The next morning, we walked through the bush to go and cross into Cote D'Ivoire, and I made a decision, but it was pretty vague, that someday I will be a big man and I will make sure that other kids and their mothers do not go through that experience. So when I came to the U.S. to go to school, that's what drove me. Now looking back, it seems that I have always been coming back.
And now you head the President's Delivery Unit. Give an example of what you do.
We set out to monitor and track development projects happening in the country - ranging from ports, to roads to energy infrastructure. Once we began to monitor progress, it became necessary to remove bottlenecks that occurred, and the job merged into driving delivery. So on behalf of the president, we do not simply monitor the progress of development projects, we drive delivery. Every two weeks, we brief the president and the vice president, and whoever they decide to invite, on the progress of these projects. All have definite cut off dates, and our responsibility is to ensure that nothing takes away from those dates.
Restoring electricity is one of Liberia's many development goals, along with providing jobs, education and health care. Where does power fit into that set of aims, and is there meaningful progress?
If we are going to rebuild our country, we have to provide energy that is affordable and reliable. The core of that is the restoration of the hydro-plant at Mount Coffee. Before the war, it was 64 megawatts, but we've done enough optimization so that now it's going to be 80 megawatts.
The plan is by December 2015 the first power will flow from Mount Coffee. It means we have to keep a tight schedule. Before some of the works can begin, we have to pay resettlement for people's properties and crops that are affected. As long as that money is not paid, the work cannot go forward. There was a point where, during the war, the basin at the hydro plant got emptied, and people planted rubber trees in the basin. Now we're going to flood the basin again. You can't just cut down people's trees; you have to repay them. You have to give them something.
The initial price set by the ministry of agriculture was so high we were going to be paying somewhere around $27 million. There was no way we could have afforded that. So we worked with the PDU, worked with the Ministry of Agriculture to say that in instances where these crops occur illegally, either on private lands or on public lands, here is the range of what you will be paid. By adjusting that figure, it became affordable. That's part of what we're doing that allows the project to move forward.
Before the interview began, you mentioned a Japanese-funded road as an example of PDU intervention to move projects to completion. Would you say something about that?
Yes, sure. So Madame President visited Japan, and one of the commitments we got from the Japanese government is to pave 13 kilometres of road from the Freeport of Monrovia to Redlight [a peri-urban commercial area].
One of the things the Japanese government required is that because this road goes through a heavily populated area, there's about 416 structures that have to be demolished - and all of those 416 families or owners have to be reimbursed. As the time drew closer, we had to find a way to get the ministry of finance to give public works the money needed to do this. So a part of it is: public works is going to go to the ministry of finance and say, "We need the money to be able to pay for this". Well, the ministry of finance has many demands from all over the government.
So the PDU arises and says, "Public works is going to need that money because of the implications. This is about $60 million that the Japanese government is going to be spending, and we cannot have any action that impedes progress of this work. Stuff like that. In other instances, we arrange a meeting with the president and two ministers, because we believe that those two ministers meeting with the president will enhance the operation of government.
Even though Liberia hopes to produce much of its domestic energy needs from renewable sources, exploration for exploitable deposits of offshore petroleum is underway. Does this risk being a curse rather than a blessing, because of potentially large earnings that distort the economy and fuel corruption?
Yes, it does. But I think we are going about this the right way.
So, first, there was a petroleum policy developed that was endorsed by the cabinet, and then a draft petroleum law was done. There was a wide range of consultation by the government on this. NOCAL went around the country. They went to the US and other places in West Africa to consult the Liberian diaspora. There was one trip to Europe. The legislature also went around the country consulting with the people on what to do.
Mainly the intent is, we recognize that someday this resource is going to run out. When it does, what next? And in the exploitation of this, how do we protect our habitats? How do we protect the environment? We believe these wide-ranging consultations will help us with a law that may not be perfect but closest to best practices. If you were to come to Liberia today, you go to Nimba, you go to Bong Mines [location of iron ore mining], you'll see these massive holes where mountains used to be.
We cannot allow the same thing to happen with these new resources.
That's what we are trying to avoid.
OK, that's for the future. But can you point to things the government is delivering now?
Definitely some benefits have started to spread. We went to West Point - West Point in Liberia is a slum area. People are just jam-packed living together. My unit goes out into the neighborhood and does presentations on what the government is doing. How many roads we are doing, hospitals, whatever it is. And after we talked about the roads, a guy was like," Well, I can't cook roads. I can't eat roads." And I'm like "Yeah, you can't eat the road. But one of the three killers of infants is respiratory diseases. Every time we pave the road, we reduce the amount of dust particles in the air, and that's less money you spend taking your kids to the hospital. That's money that is available for you to do something else with it. And every time we pave the road, we change the cost of transportation, because it's cheaper now to move across. That's money saved. Every time we pave the road, people who live there, there's less money they have to spend on maintenance of their cars and their motorcycles. So by paving the roads, we immediately increase the value for people who own any property in that area, so now when they sell their property, they get way more than they would have otherwise.
When we started connecting people to the electricity grid, we started with low- income families, because it was always understood that people in the middle-income bracket could buy generators. Low-income people couldn't buy a generator. And in instances where they did, it was killing them. Because they're afraid it'll get stolen, they will put the generator in the house with them and carbon monoxide was killing whole families. So it made sense to us that if we were going to connect anybody first to the grid, it had to be people who lived in poorer communities.
We're not simply putting electricity in the cities and towns. We are also doing min-hydro projects to provide energy for rural schools, for rice mills for farmers. We've done a hydrological survey of the whole country to find sites where we can do mini-hydro. We've found 15. We're going to try to do at least two a year.
When President Sirleaf took over, there were about six doctors in the country. Are we where we want to be? Absolutely not, but we aren't where we used to be. There are now at least two doctors in every county. Dr. [Walter] Gwenegale, the health minister, is executing a plan where every Liberian will not have to go more than five kilometres to get to a health center. That is the benefit of having peace - a government that is providing services for its people.
The intent is to continue to expand our health and education system.
When President Sirleaf took over, we made primary education free and compulsory. Well, enrollment skyrocketed, and it was like, "Oops! Who are going to teach these people?" So we opened rural teacher training centers. Peace Corps came back to Liberia and as of today, there are Peace Corps volunteers in high schools across the country.
So yes, benefits are accruing to the people, and over time they will accrue much faster and much better than they are now.
Do the challenges wear you down - especially when you hear complaints like "We can't eat roads"?
It gets frustrating, but I have come to understand that the frustration of the average person is understandable. It's been ten years since the war ended. People want peace dividends. I go to work in a government-issued car. For the man out in the street who still has to send his kid to school, still does not have a job, has to provide for his family, it's like, "Look, there is no war going on anymore, how come I'm not getting the benefits of all this?" And then he sees me passing, going to work, and of course, there is understandable resentment - a feeling that this peace only delivers benefits to a certain class of people.
So it's understandable, but that's why we do what we do. That's why at 75 years old, the president leaves office at 10:30 - 11pm at night.
That's why on a Friday night I'm still in office at 10:30, 11 pm.
Sometimes 12 midnight, 1am we are in the office. Ultimately it's like a construction project. You spend an annoying amount of time on the foundation that you expect to build a big and steady structure on, and that's what we are doing. But in our case, we have to tear down an old foundation. After a long period of war, people adapt to conflict, rather than to cooperation. Warren Buffet says something like - I don't know word for word - "Regardless of the amount of the talent and efforts, some things just take time." And this is one of those things: to rebuild the country, to reorient the minds of people towards living in peace.
Do you worry about the fragility of Liberia's post-conflict democracy? Your president is the subject of constant attack - from media and from politicians - that often appear to hinder the delivery of progress that you're after.
Democracies aren't perfect. I haven't heard anybody argue that their democracy is perfect. It's just that their dysfunctions are way better than others.
Ultimately, for democracies to work, you need an informed population.
And if we have been able to do what we have, with the level of understanding that the people have at the moment, I can only imagine that it's going to get better as time goes on. Like now, one of the things you will notice during every election, people running for office are not simply coming back and promising stuff. Before the elections, they are building libraries. They are fixing roads. They're providing scholarships. They're doing it to say, "Hey, when you vote for me, I'll do more than what I'm doing right now. And so sometimes, what we as the executive see as a belligerent legislature is simply people reflecting the aspirations of the people they represent. And that healthy tension - as much as the executive will find it annoying! - is what keeps democracy healthy.
And then there's the press, my goodness! I mean, we've erred on the side of caution. We've erred on the side of freedom on the radio and newspapers. And it's difficult - but what else? There's been a time in Liberia when people couldn't say anything about the government. They were put in jail.
And honestly, there are things happening in the government that we will not find out about if it was not for the press. The government is not perfect. The constant scrutiny of civil society and the press allows us to perform better. Finally, the government is not the sole repository of good ideas. There are other members of society who are not in the government who have good ideas. It's awesome to go on radio and have somebody say. "Everything you just said makes no sense, and let me tell you why". And then I'm forced to defend why we're doing the policies we are doing. For me, that's democracy. So the Liberian democracy is nascent, it's pretty young. But I think it's going to grow from strength to strength.
Source: All Africa
South Africa's latest HIV survey finds boys having sex earlier, plummeting condom use and that unmarried couples living together are more at risk of HIV than married or single people.
These are some of the findings of the 2012 South African National HIV Prevalence, Incidence and Behaviour Survey, released yesterday by the Human Sciences Research Council (HSRC).
Based on a representative national sample of almost 29 000 people, the report found that 12,2 % of the population was HIV-positive - almost 2 % more since the last survey in 2008.
HIV infection was highest in women aged 30 to 34 years old (36%) and men aged 35 to 39 years old (31,6%).
HSRC head Professor Olive Shisana said the increase in HIV prevalence was both because of new infections and because antiretroviral treatment was keeping people with HIV alive longer.
Those most at risk of HIV were African women aged 20 to 34 years living in KwaZulu-Natal informal settlements.
"We have made considerable ground in terms of treatment, but we have some way to go with prevention," Science and Technology Minister Derek Hanekom told Health-e.
About 469 000 people were infected with HIV in 2012, but there was a "steady decline" of new infections in young people aged 15 to 24 years, said Shisana.
In addition, the HIV rate in babies infected by their mothers has been slashed. A decade ago, about 70 000 babies a year were infected but this was down to about 8 600, according to Health Minister Aaron Motsoaledi.
Condom use plunges, could "Choice" be uncool?
The rate of infections in young women between the ages of 15 and 24 years of age was over four times higher than young men (2,5% new infections in 2012).
This is despite the fact that young men were far more likely to have started having sex at an early age and to have multiple partners.
In 2008, about one in ten boys had sex before the age of 15, whereas by 2012 this had jumped to 16,7%. Boys were three times more likely to have had sex before 15 than girls, with boys from the Eastern Cape most likely to lose their virginity early.
Shisana said relatively high condom use among young men was likely to be curbing their infection rates.
However, condom use has plunged since 2008. Less than 68% of young men aged 15 to 24 used condoms at last sex in comparison to 85% four years previously. A dismal 36% of men aged 25 to 49 used condoms (down from 44% in 2008).
Acknowledging that the government's Choice condoms "may no longer be cool", Motsoaledi said the health department was about to launch condoms that were "flavoured, coloured and are smelling very nice" at universities and FET colleges.
The rate of men reporting multiple partners has more than doubled in a decade, with close to one-fifth (23%) of men reporting multiple partners.
Putting a ring on it
People living with sexual partners who were not married were more than five times more likely to get HIV than married people, with 3% of those in "vat en sit" relationships becoming HIV-positive in 2012 as opposed to 2,3% of single people and 0,5% of married people.
"Married people were less likely to have multiple partners," said Shisana, adding that there were significant racial differences in marriage trends. Only a quarter of African people of marriageable age were married while over 70% of whites were married.
On a positive note, the blood samples revealed that almost one-third of people with HIV had been exposed to antiretroviral treatment.
Welcoming the report, Health Minister Aaron Motsoaledi said it "confirmed the good news about the scale-up of antiretroviral treatment" and that "people with HIV were living longer, mothers could spend more time with their children and there was a decline in orphans."
But Motsoaledi said it also identified "worrying trends - the increase in multiple sexual partners, decreased condom use and decreased knowledge about HIV transmission."
Dr Fareed Abdullah, head of the SA National AIDS Council (SANAC), said the report's findings supported SANAC's decision to target HIV in young women, particularly those living in informal settlements.
By Kerry Cullinan
Health-e News Service
President Goodluck Jonathan on Saturday said African leaders should prioritise the structural transformation of African economy if they must achieve regional industrialisation initiative.
Jonathan said this in Abuja at the 7th Joint Annual Meeting of the Economic Community of African Conference of African Ministers of Finance.
He said: "the theme of this conference, industrialisation for inclusive and transformative development in Africa is of special relevance to Africa at this time.
"Here in Nigeria it corresponds with the transformation agenda and ongoing programme of national renewal.
"The structural transformation of African economy must continue to be a core priority to close the poverty gap and industrialisation must be key for transformation."
He said African economies in the 1980s and 1990s had gone through many challenges and saddled with high foreign debts.
According to him, the GDP growth of most countries was about two per cent on the average but has reversed recently.
"Our foreign debts are in decline and the foreign direct investments are positively coming up in the continent.
"In fact, African Diaspora are also investing robustly in our economies and in the past decade African economy has grown to about five per cent," he said.
He noted that the benefits of the positive economic growth had been restricted by inequality, noting that countries must work together for the benefits to spread to the grassroots.
He said that although many of the African economies had been classified as middle income, frontiers and MINT economies, they still shared common challenges.
He noted that some of the challenges which needed to be fixed included job creation, industrialisation and building social safety nets.
"We need to focus on industrialisation as a backbone for our structural transformation," he added.
Jonathan noted that the impact of industrialisation in countries such as Malaysia, Taiwan, and Brazil among others remained relevant adding that Nigeria had continued to learn from them.
He added that the launch of the industrial plan was to boost the sector from four per cent of GDP to 10 per cent by 2017.
He said the plan focused on four areas of light manufacturing, agro business, petrochemicals as well as solid minerals and metals.
This, he said, might not take off until the nation's infrastructure was fixed adding that same would be applicable for the continent.
He said Nigeria had made infrastructure core priority and had transparently done the power sector privitiasation and the launch of the construction of N117 billion second Niger bridge.
He called for effort to ensure that positive economic growth in the region was translated to jobs to change the lives of Africans.
"As we grow our economies it's our obligation that we carry everyone along; we can learn from some of the social programmes introduced by Latin American countries.
It was no big surprise that President Jacob Zuma chose not to respond in detail to the serious findings Public Protector Thuli Madonsela made against him and his government relating to the security upgrades at his Nkandla residence. He kicked the matter into touch, meaning that a few months down the line he will revert to it (and perhaps create further obfuscation). It is now quite clear that the President of the Republic treats constitutional institutions, Parliament and the people of South Africa with disdain. His latest move shows that he does not even care about the impact this scandal has on his own party. And as Zuma prepares for five more years in office, the situation is not just shocking, but plain disturbing.
When the corruption charges were finally withdrawn against President Jacob Zuma in 2009, a few weeks before the national elections, an alliance leader made a remark that was quite chilling. “After the rape case and this, nobody will ever believe any charge against Baba. He can actually shoot someone and he will never go to jail,” the leader exuberantly proclaimed.
The remark exposed that leader’s fundamental misunderstanding between the rule of law and political invincibility. The fact that it was said by someone in Zuma’s inner circle is possibly an indicator of the thinking of people who have influence over the president. Such sentiments, along with Zuma’s own predilection to defer responsibility to others, could explain why the president is under the impression he is accountable to nobody, no matter what he does.
Over the past two weeks that Zuma had to contemplate the report by Public Protector Thuli Madonsela, one wonders whether he or anyone in his legal or government entourage considered that this was the worst indictment against the head of state in post-democracy South Africa. If they did, they surely would have realised that a nonchalant letter to the Speaker of Parliament, suspending a full response to the Public Protector’s report to a later, yet undetermined, date, is an inadequate reaction.
On Wednesday, Zuma met Madonsela’s deadline to respond to her report through Parliament. She had asked that the president report to the National Assembly “on his comments and actions” on her report within 14 days. Zuma, however, simply wrote to Speaker Max Sisulu saying he was aware he was accountable to Parliament, and noted that there were “stark” differences between the reports of the government task team and that of the Public Protector’s.
In the letter to Sisulu, Zuma states that the Special Investigating Unit (SIU) is also investigating the Nkandla upgrades and he has written to the unit’s head Vas Soni for an update on that probe. Zuma said he would therefore give full and proper consideration to the matter once he received a report from the SIU.
The SIU indicated to the media on Wednesday that they expected to complete the investigation by the end of May. If all goes according to the presidency’s plan, this neatly takes the Nkandla matter off the formal agenda until after the elections and establishment of a new government.
The problem, though, is that it does not expunge the matter from national discourse. In fact, Zuma’s response only adds fuel to the already raging fire. There is no relationship between the SIU investigation and the Public Protector’s report. In fact, with Zuma pointing to an “anomaly” between the government task team and Madonsela’s report, it is almost as if there is an expectation that the SIU investigation can reconcile the contradictions. It cannot. And the SIU definitely cannot deal with Madonsela’s findings of ethical breaches by the president.
There is in fact no need for Zuma to delay responding to Madonsela’s findings against him. If he had any appreciation of the seriousness of her conclusions and respect for the Public Protector’s office, a constitutional institution, and for Parliament, the president would have been eager to clarify these findings. More than that, if he took seriously his own constitutional obligations as president and his image, he would have immediately wanted to give an explanation to the nation.
But it seems Zuma is unruffled and happy to let the matter ride for as long as possible.
What about the damage to the ANC and its election campaign? Zuma seems just as unperturbed about that. ANC secretary general Gwede Mantashe made it clear that the ANC had a “short” discussion about Nkandla at its weekend national executive committee meeting, and the party decided it would not demand an explanation from the president or interfere with government processes.
Why the ANC feels it cannot hold its presidential deployee accountable is worrying. But the fact that Zuma did not feel the need to take his own party into his confidence and also relieve some of the pressure and negative publicity in the heat of the election campaign shows that his only concern is his own protection. Had Zuma provided some reasonable explanation for his role in the Nkandla upgrades, the ANC would not be in the untenable position it is in now, trying to justify the unconscionable and indefensible.
But Zuma failed the “reasonableness” test long ago.
From the moment the Mail & Guardian broke the story in December 2009 that the president’s Nkandla home was to undergo a multimillion rand facelift, it should have rung alarm bells in the Zuma household and in government that this project would be under constant scrutiny. It should have alerted everyone involved that any potential wrongdoing would be exposed. Yet neither Zuma nor any of the ministers and officials involved exercised any caution. On the contrary, processes and prescripts were manipulated and violated.
Madonsela noted this in her report: “The earliest concerns regarding opulent or excessive expenditure at the private residence of President Zuma were expressed on 04 December 2009 by the Mail & Guardian in an article titled ‘Zuma’s R65 million Nkandla splurge’. Apart from the release of a statement by the Presidency on 03 December 2009, denying that government was footing the bill, nothing seems to have been done by government to verify the 2009 allegations or attempt to arrest the costs which the article predicted would continue to rise.”
It is on this basis that Madonsela made the grave findings against the president that he violated the Executive Ethics Code and acted inconsistently with the Constitution. “It is also not unreasonable to expect that when news broke in December 2009 of alleged exorbitant amounts, at the time R65 million on questioned security installations at his private residence, the dictates of sections 96 and 237 of the Constitution and the Executive Ethics Code required of President Zuma to take reasonable steps to order an immediate inquiry into the situation and immediate correction of any irregularities and excesses,” the Public Protector’s report states.
But Zuma did not think it was necessary to take these “reasonable” steps. And for the same reason, he did not find it necessary to explain to the Public Protector during her investigation, to Parliament, to the nation or to his own party why he allowed his home to become a national scandal.
Next month, Zuma is set to be re-elected as president of South Africa. He will stand in the Nelson Mandela Amphitheatre at the Union Buildings, hold up his right hand and take the oath of office. In the oath he will swear to “be faithful to the Republic of South Africa, and will obey, observe, uphold and maintain the Constitution and all other laws of the Republic”.
He will also “solemnly and sincerely promise” to “discharge my duties with all my strength and talents to the best of my knowledge and ability and true to the dictates of my conscience”. Zuma will do all this while there are findings hanging over him that he violated the Executive Ethics Code and acted inconsistently with the Constitution.
The situation would be almost comical if it were not so serious. The most solemn of moments in any democracy, the presidential oath of office, will be a pre-violated farce. The institutions which uphold our democracy such as Parliament and the Office of the Public Protector are being undermined by the one person who takes a solemn oath to “devote myself to the well-being of the Republic and all of its people”.
And then, for the next five years, this same person will continue to preside over South Africa, in all likelihood still accountable to nobody. It is the redefinition of democracy before our eyes. Brace yourself, South Africa, for the Age of Zumocracy. DM
Opinion by Ranjeni Munusamy
Source: Daily Maverick
Public policy expert Anne-Marie Slaughter made waves with her 2012 article, "Why women still can't have it all." But really, is this only a question for women? Here Slaughter expands her ideas and explains why shifts in work culture, public policy and social mores can lead to more equality — for men, women, all of us.