It’s been 25 years since the South African Broadcasting Corporation (SABC) transitioned from a State broadcaster into a public broadcaster.
Prior to 1994, the National Party government used it as a propaganda tool, censoring dissenting voices and programmes.
Today the company boasts policies that safeguard public interest, diversity and journalistic integrity in accordance with legislative acts and the constitution.
Transformation of the SABC began in 1990 when Nelson Mandela was released from prison and political parties, including the African National Congress (ANC), were unbanned.
The broadcaster relatively managed to steer clear of political interference for several years after 1994.
In 1999, government became its sole shareholder, in a move meant to give the state more oversight on the public broadcaster’s finances to avert financial problems.
Things have, however, not penned out the way they were intended to.
Watch full report on SABC’s 25 year journey as a public broadcaster:
This week in 1994: Democracy 25
24 July 2019, 2:45 PM
This week we are focusing on former President Nelson Mandela’s first visit to a foreign country as a head of state.
Nine weeks after taking an oath as South Africa’s first black and democratic President, Madiba headed to neighbouring Mozambique.
Political Analyst Imraan Buccus says democratic South Africa‘s decision to pick Maputo as the first country to strengthen relations with is understandable, considering the “gallant solidarity” Mozambique showed to the oppressed people of South Africa during apartheid.
Mozambique’s ruling Frelimo party often risked the country’s security and citizens to assist exiled South Africans.
Maputo hosted anti-apartheid activists after the country gained its independence in 1975.
Threatened by the relationship between Frelimo and members of the ANC’s military wing, Umkhonto Wesizwe, P.W Botha’s government launched an attack against the ANC military base in Maputo in 1981, killing 16 people.
The ANC fought back and killed two state security officials.
The onslaught continued and in 1982, Botha’s security forces killed South African Communist Party (SACP) founding member who was also Joe Slovo’s wife, Ruth First.
Retired Constitutional Court Justice Albie Sachs survived a car bomb attack in 1988. He lost his right arm and was blinded in his left eye during the incident.
Tanzania, Angola, Zambia and Zimbabwe are other neighbouring countries that assisted South Africa’s exiles.
South Africa’s gratitude debt
However, Buccus feels South Africans haven’t treated the Mozambican people with the courtesy they deserve.
Recalling the 2008 xenophobic attacks and the 2013 killing of Mozambican, Mido Macia, by police who dragged him behind a van in Daveyton on the East Rand – the political expert believes government needs to do more to end prejudice against the country’s neighbours.
Buccus believes South Africa owes Frelimo and Mozambicans a great deal for the hospitality they showed to the country’s freedom fighters.
Former President Jacob Zuma, ANC veteran Pallo Jordan and former Trade and Industry Minister Rob Davies are some of the anti-apartheid activists who were exiled in Mozambique.
Watch related video after the sentencing of Macia’s killers:
On July 20 1994, Mandela and his Mozambican counterpart Joaquim Chissano signed a Joint Permanent Commission for Co-operation (JPCC), which entailed the legal framework for bilateral relations between the two countries.
More than 20 agreements in various spheres of co-operation were signed following the JPCC. The deals included co-operation at ministerial, presidential and parliamentary level. It also resulted in the Maputo Development Corridor and a Joint Water Commission.
Since then – relations between the two neighbours have grown from strength to strength, especially in the area of economic cooperation and investment.
The two countries currently have more than 70 bilateral agreements. There’s also a memoranda of understanding that covers various sectors, including energy, defence and security; education, immigration and tourism.
Watch video of President Cyril Ramaphosa’s visit to Mozambique:
Plight of the homeless under the spotlight
24 July 2019, 1:01 PM
The cold front gripping the country has once again brought the plight of the poor, who also have no place to call home, under the spotlight.
The lack of affordable housing, addiction, family problems, migration and joblessness are some of the issues that remain a headache and are said to be contributing to the growth of the community that lives on the streets.
Research numbers on the homeless vary, but the Human Sciences Resource Council (HSRC) has put it to at least 200 000, including people without homes who live in rural areas.
According to the Council, homelessness is not only confined to people who have no roof over their heads, but also refers to low income earners who live in an informal structure that is not safe or secure.
“Homelessness is defined by the patterns of time that individuals or families spend being without, or outside of, conventional shelters or housing. Homelessness may be temporary, episodic (over a short period), or chronic (permanent).”
The homeless say they live in perpetual state of fear and uncertainty.
Women are even more vulnerable, with researchers saying, some even end up exchanging sex for safety.
SABC News caught up with Quinton Wellington and Elvis (his preferred name), who live on the streets of Melville, in Johannesburg.
During filming – the owners of the building they had been sleeping outside of called security guards to chase them away.
They were given two days to find another spot to lay their heads, something which the group of friends say is an impossibility as some of them have lost their identity documents (IDs) and they don’t even make enough money to pay rent anywhere.
They say they don’t know any shelters around Melville – a preferred area of residence for them at the moment in the city.
Watch their story below:
Watch related video:
This week in 1994: Democracy 25
17 July 2019, 4:00 PM
25 years ago this week, democratic South Africa severed defence ties with Israel.
Then Defence Minister Joe Modise issued a statement – announcing the end of the decades long special relationship with Tel Aviv on 14 July 1994. Modise compared Israel’s Palestine policy with that of the apartheid regime.
Afro-Middle East Centre Executive Director Na’eem Jeenah says government’s decision was guided by the nation’s values.
South Africa advocates for a just and equitable world order that values all human life.
Israel ties with apartheid regime
The ANC government’s move was seen as a natural progression in some quarters as Tel Aviv was in bed with Pretoria at the height of apartheid, snubbing the international community’s concerted effort to put an end to the administration’s discriminatory and brutal policies.
The two countries’ controversial military collaboration began around 1976 and reportedly blossomed into a force to be reckoned with in the international arms trade. Despite a United Nations arms embargo against apartheid South Africa, Israel went ahead and worked together with Prime Minister John Vorster’s administration. They sold military hardware to each other, collaborated in intelligence services and shared nuclear weapons technology, among other things.
South Africa voluntarily ended its nuclear weapons programme in 1989.
ANC’s solidarity with the Palestinian struggle
The governing ANC’s relationship with Palestine is historic and the party has always been vocal about its support for the struggle of the Palestinian people. ANC leaders, including Nelson Mandela and Chief Albert Luthuli, are on record expressing grave concern over the Israel-Palestine issue.
Mandela once referred to the Palestinians struggle as the greatest moral issue of our time, while Luthuli at the opening conference of the ANC in 1953 declared that; “Our interest in freedom is not confined to ourselves only. We are interested in the liberation of all oppressed people in the whole of Africa and in the world as a whole … our active interest in the extension of freedom to all people denied it makes us ally ourselves with freedom forces in the world.”
Watch video of Mandela explaining the ANC’s position on Palestine and Cuba at a meeting in New York in 1990:
The South African government is supporting the Palestinians call for an independent state, with East Jerusalem as its capital.
Jeenah says despite this however, government’s has over the years been sending mixed messages on the matter. “One on the one hand that was the attitude and on another – diplomatic relations between the two countries (SA and Israel) remained strong from 1994 through the 2000. Trade relations were static and began to increase from around 2003 when Israel and South Africa signed a trade agreement and it has been growing since then.”
However, Jeenah adds that the governing party seems to have since realised its mistake, a move evident with its 2017 decision to downgrade the Israeli embassy into a liaison office.
Watch discussion on current relationship between Israel and South Africa:
The office is currently operating without a political mandate, a trade and development cooperation one. Consular services are, however, still in place.
Time to shine again
Jeenah says while President Cyril Ramaphosa’s administration has its work cut out to restore government’s credibility – South Africa’s refusal for its foreign policy to be influenced by Israel’s staunch ally and the world’s superpower, the United States, on the Middle East conflict is commendable.
The Afro Middle East Expert believes South Africa’s international image had been illustrious until at least the past decade.
Watch related video on the withdrawal of the SA ambassador from Israel:
President Cyril Ramaphosa answering questions on the downgrading resolution of the ANC:
This week in 1994: Democracy 25
10 July 2019, 2:57 PM
This week marks 25 years since South Africa signed an agreement with the Commonwealth Development Corporation (CDC).
The deal was sealed on 11 July 1994 – a little more than a month after South Africa rejoined the Commonwealth of Nations.
Pretoria had withdrawn its membership from the group after becoming a Republic. It was also amid backlash from some Commonwealth countries over the country’s discriminatory policies.
Owned by the UK’s Department of International Development, the development financial institution was partially privatised in 2004 and renamed the CDC Group PLC.
It is the UK’s version of the Industrial Development Corporation of South Africa (IDC), but operates on a global scale. The CDC helps companies grow in challenging business environments with the aim of creating jobs.
South Africa is among the top 10 countries the CDC has financial interests in. The financier injects money in health, manufacturing, construction and education sectors, among others.
The Executive Director for economic research non-profit organisation, Trade and Industrial Policy Strategies Saul Levin says the 1994 agreement with the global development fund marked the welcoming of South Africa back into the Commonwealth fold.
The former chief director in the Economic Development Department says it also granted South African firms access to global markets.
The CDC has invested almost R4.5 billion in the country over the past 25 years – helping create more than 60 000 jobs.
Levin says after the UK has left the European Union (EU), it could use mechanisms like the institutional vendor to improve its relationship with developing countries.
The economic researcher is urging small and medium enterprises not to rest on their laurels and approach the CDC for funding to grow their businesses.
During her three-day tour of sub-Saharan Africa in August 2018, British Prime Minister Theresa May announced the country’s 2022 intention of becoming Africa’s top investor.
Speaking in Cape Town, May announced an additional £4bn programme of UK investment in African economies that will pave the way for at least another £4bn of private sector financing.
“This includes for the first time an ambition for the UK government development finance institution CDC to invest £3.5bn in African nations over the next four years.”
President Cyril Ramaphosa has welcomed this, expressing hope for Pretoria to get the chunk of the financial boost.
SA, UK ties
The UK is a historical and strategic trade and investment partner for South Africa. While the history between the two countries has not always been rosy – Britain remains one of South Africa’s key trading partner. Their trading history dates back to the late 1950s.
In 2017, 46% of South Africa’s global investment came from Britain.
During a state visit to the UK in 2010, then President Jacob Zuma said the strength of the relationship between the two countries is best captured in London’s Parliament Square, where the statues of anti-apartheid activist Nelson Mandela and Jan Smuts stand among those of British Prime Ministers.
London also became a home for some of the country’s anti-apartheid activists, including former President Thabo Mbeki, Ruth Slovo and Mac Maharaj, who set up home there and mobilised grass roots support against the brutal apartheid regime.