What price a life

The death of 34 rioting miners killed by police at a Lonmin mine in Marikana South Africa is in stark contrast to the 17 police injured by rioting youths at Amiens in northern France.

The South African police say that their response was in self defense, yet only one officer sustained minor injuries. Video footage reveals a panicked response, with the police firing live rounds at the onrushing crowd. The police in Amiens were armed with non-lethal rubber bullets.

Ultimately, if anyone is held accountable for the deaths, it will probably be the police officers who fired the shots. But this is really an issue of poor preparation and inadequate training exacerbated by bad management. Besides those who fired the bullets, senior government officials are also responsible should be held accountable.

One of the reasons Senegal elections this year were peaceful, disproving predictions ofviolence, is the police’s professional handling of the pre-election demonstrations. This was very different their poor handling of the demonstrations only months earlier, when voters objected to President Wade’s attempt to change the constitution.

 

The Senegalese police’s interim training paid dividends as they showed discipline and order in the face of clear provocation. Conflict was avoided, resulting in a smooth transition of power.

 

 

 

South Africa deserves better, and that will only start when the people in power start being held accountable for the deaths that they cause.

More at:
Zuma announces inquiry into Marikana shooting
Peace organisation blames Zuma, ANC for Marikana killings
Liberté, égalité, fermeté?
Violence flares

New:
Will South Africans’ anger boil over?

Cause to celebrate

Africa is the troubled continent. Somalia, Sudan, Mali, DRC, Nigeria – all riven by conflict. Many of the countries covering the Sahel are suffering starvation.

The appointment of Nkosazana Dlamini-Zuma, South Africa’s most capable politician, to head the African Union (AU) commission brings hope.

A minister since 1994, she headed the ministry of health under Mandela, then foreign minister for 10 years, earning kudos for her quiet diplomacy, with her biggest success coming as minister of home affairs. Prior to her taking the portfolio, the ministry had been consistently ranked the worst in government. Last year, under her guidance was the first time in 16 years that it received an unqualified report from the auditor general.

She’s a great choice to turn the AU into a body that can resolve Africa’s many challenges.

More at:
If Dlamini-Zuma leaves, who will steer home affairs?
Cabinet Report Cards: An Unbalanced Seesaw
Dlamini-Zuma elected to head AU Commission
The AU’s new chief: Who is Nkosazana Dlamini-Zuma?

Escaping the poverty trap

South African politics has a bizarre arrangement that is a legacy of the apartheid era. The ANC, the federation of trade unions (COSATU), and the South African Communist Party (SACP) have an alliance born out of the battle that they fought to overcome the former regime.

Zwelinzima Vavi, the head of COSATU, is quoted as saying that the education system is keeping apartheid alive. He’s right to attack the education system, but he adds nothing constructive to the discussion.

The poverty trap, including poor education standards affects countries round the world, developing and developed. It’s part of the poverty trap, and escaping it is challenging. Esther Duflo, the joint author of Poor Economics is the foremost expert on the subject. In the book she describes how poor parents are forced to decide which child has the best prospect of being the success in the family, and the whole family places its bets on the early developer. The other children are relegated to menial labour. Those not picked eventually succumb to the belief that they are inferior. Paradoxically, scientific studies prove that the best prospect is often not the child the family elected.

Ms Duflo has also come to the conclusion that hope, believing that escape from poverty is possible, is the most influential determinant to making the escape possible.

In other research there are signs that the charter school system can improve education for the poor. The results are promising.

Perhaps everyone would benefit if Mr Vavi spent a little more time reading and a lot less time talking.

More at:
A 20-year lesson
Unions – part of the solution or not
Hope springs a trap
The audacity of hope
SA education: The poorest choice
Vavi: Dysfunctional education system keeps apartheid alive

Unions – part of the solution or not

Trade unions can be their own worst enemy. In South Africa, during the apartheid years, they were the only political voice for the majority of the population. Job done.

After 1994, they lost the plot. The top union leaders moved into senior positions in government. The new union leaders were not prepared for the move from being political to representing workers rights. Employers were not ready for the transition either. Destructive power negotiation ruled. Some industries were decimated.

That kind of negotiating makes finding mutually beneficial solutions in difficult times unlikely. These are difficult times.

Now, as public servants pensions are being exposed as being underfunded and so the biggest threat to the solvency of towns, cities, states and countries, the unions are being challenged. Teachers are getting a raw deal.

Bankers and traders get million dollar bonuses for looking after other people’s money. The money doesn’t do drugs. Doesn’t fight with the other money. Does not interrupt when you’re talking to it. Pretty much does what you tell it to. Teachers get a lot less looking after other people’s kids. There aren’t any algorithms for teaching kids. And the pay is not quite as good.

Reading the recent literature about the success of charter schools, one gets the feeling that being non-unionized is a big part of the reason that they work.

Having seen teachers go for months without pay in some of the poorest parts of the world makes me believe that teachers are not the problem.

The people doing the negotiating are. Both sides. The unionists are doing their constituency a disservice. The politicians are doing everyone a disservice.

Another brick in the wall.

More at:
A 20-year lesson
Testing the limits
Charting a better course
The long turnaround

Insanity is ………

The South African police have a tough job. The crime rate it high, and the criminals are violent. Meeting the challenge requires good leadership. A recent article in The Economist revealed how badly that’s being handled:

AT TIMES South Africa’s police force seems rotten to the core—riddled with corruption, crime, dirty tricks, political machinations and even murder. On June 12th General Bheki Cele, the police chief, was “relieved of his duties” by President Jacob Zuma amid allegations of graft and dishonesty. His predecessor, Jackie Selebi, a former head of Interpol, was also fired after being found guilty of corruption and jailed for 15 years. Now the head of the police crime intelligence unit, Richard Mdluli, has been suspended, for a second time, after charges of murder and fraud. He had apparently hoped to get Mr Cele’s job.

Some had expected Mr Mkhwanazi, a respected career officer, to succeed Mr Cele. But during his eight-month stint as acting police chief he apparently proved too independent and outspoken. In an interview last month he declared “war” on the extensive rot he claimed he had found within the police ranks. “I am cleaning out the house and will not stop until all the bad apples, regardless of who they are, are removed, once and for all,” he said. “I will prove that there are people strategically operating like the Mafia and I will deal with these people.”

Just over a month later he finds himself back in his old job as head of the police Special Task Force after the surprise appointment of Riah Phiyega, a businesswoman with no experience of policing, intelligence or security, as the country’s new police chief.

Zapiro, the cartoonist, had the last say: