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In the third week of November 2020, 45 people were killed in Uganda when protestors clashed with the military. Unfortunately, this is not an isolated incident which demonstrates the inability of the Ugandan military to protect civilians. This incident is one of many deadly events which come as a consequence of the damaged and ineffective civil-military relations in Uganda. The civil military relations in Uganda have resulted civilians unprotected by their own military, and lead to atrocities such as the deaths of the 45 people in November this year. These strained civil-military relations are not novel and will not be remedied overnight, long-term action and commitment to reform is required.

In order to understand the evolution of the civil-military relations in any post-colonial country in Africa, it is important to first understand the civil-military relations that were enforced before independence. Colonial rule is intrinsically undemocratic and coercive therefore, the military was primarily used as a tool against resistance and to confine the people under colonial rule to remain as subjects, absent of liberties and freedoms.  The use of force by the military against civilians was acceptable if it protected the colonial state.

Independence provided African leaders with a crucial choice to either maintain the colonial military tradition of narrowly protecting the state’s interest or to recreate a new military with novel institutions, doctrines and ethos focused on broader societal interests. Julius Nyerere of Tanzania was among the few leaders who opted to dismantle the colonial army and moved toward total subordination of the military. Contrastingly, elsewhere, the majority of African leaders, including in Uganda, chose to continue the colonial role of the military as a coercive tool. Milton Obote, the Ugandan independence Prime Minister, demonstrated this role of the military to protect the governing power, when he used the military to defend his position from political opponents such as the Secretary General- Grace Stuart Ibingira. This not only solidified the military’s role in domestic politics but demonstrated the consequences this has on civilians. During the political contest between Ibingira and Obote, members of the Armed forces shot civilians and were not held accountable nor punished. This demonstrates the potential danger to civilians of politicisation of the military. Obote not only utilised the military as a tool for political success, he also provided the military with more direct influence on the population for example by legislating the ability for the military to arrest and decide what constitutes evidence. 

In 1971, Idi Admin lead a coup which subjected Uganda to a “military-facist dictatorship” followed by failed coup attempts and rigged elections. This period of instability and politicisation of the military greatly undermined its ability to act as an autonomous, professional, and effective state institution.  However, in 1986 Museveni launched a 5-year guerrilla campaign gaining him power and providing the Ugandan population with hope. Museveni set out to reform the national force, renaming it the Uganda People’s Defence Forces (UPDF), emphasising the renewed focus on the military for the people and not for maintaining power. On paper, Museveni was able to solve the civil-military problematique which questions how to build a sufficiently strong and effective military to protect civilians from threats but not allow the military to grow too strong that it becomes a threat to the civilians themselves. Huntington’s liberal model has long dominated the solution to this problem, purporting that professionalising the military will lead to autonomy, neutrality and subsequently subordination of the military to the civilians, preserving their safety from the military itself. Museveni employed Huntington’s suggestion and aimed to professionalise the military. This was seemingly successful in the early 2000’s, the UDPF maintained peace and security in most of the country, participated in official peacekeeping missions and engaged in non-official interventions in neighbouring countries. Hence the first part of the problematique was resolved, the military was able to protect the civilians from threats. Did professionalising the military solve the second part of the problematique concurrently? Are the civilians safe from their own military? 

Unfortunately, despite the seeming success of Museveni’s professionalisation of the military partially solving the civil military problem, the latter half is still very much unresolved. The historical entrenchment of the military as a political tool in Ugandan politics undermines a key factor in Huntington’s solution: neutrality. The recent example of civilian’s deaths at the hands of the military introduced above, demonstrates the lingering politicisation of the military and its devastating consequences. The protests erupted after a popular presidential candidate, Bobi Wine, was arrested at a campaign. Wine is challenging Museveni who has maintained power for over 30 years. Once aware of the arrest, many Wine supporters took to the streets in a protest which erupted in chaos and resulted in the military shooting at unarmed civilian protestors. International organisations have condemned the actions of the military. Human Rights Watch accused Museveni of attempting to weaken and repress the opposition by the use of the military. 

This incident demonstrates that although the military reform implemented by Museveni has improved the security and effectiveness of the military to protect the civilians from outside threats, the military is far from neutral. In order for the civilians to truly be safe from the military, depoliticisation of the military is desperately needed to undo the partiality of the military which has been ingrained throughout Ugandan history.

Laura has a degree in BPolSci International Studies from the University of Pretoria and is currently completing a level 4 NALP paralegal diploma. She hopes to complete her honors in International Relations and pursue a career in the field of Public International Law and Human Rights. Laura is one of the permanent members of the writing staff at The Art of Politics.


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Ever so often we read headlines centered around “the rich get richer, and the poor get poorer”. The COVID-19 pandemic has changed much more than just the way the world views health and social interactions. Small businesses have gone under with very small percentages of survival, whilst large businesses have dominated markets and made some of their biggest profits yet. Amazon is the world largest e-commerce platform, on which sales skyrocketed in 2020. Amazon’s CEO, Jeffrey Bezos, has accumulated a net worth just short of $200 billion. In 2020, Bezos was faced head-to-head with Tesla’s Elon Musk to become the richest man alive. Meanwhile the lower 99% of the world, faced the struggle for survival. A quick glace at where capitalism began, can help us see what has led to the concept of economic extortion and how capital began to grow in the hands of the few. 

In an interview with Michael Brooks, the economist Richard Wolff describes the process of capital accumulation. We understand that, to ‘accumulate’, businesses and individuals need to invest profit back into the business, so as to gain more profit. As theoretical thinkers however, we need to think about how such profit was made in the first place. In simple terms, how did one person come to have more than another in the first place? 

This process is called primitive accumulation- the original accumulation of profit. Of course, the foundation of our thinking in this sense, is Marxist. We are assuming that at the beginning of the process, around the 16th century, everyone was equal. Everyone had the ability to feed their family by means of the common meadows, where the animals could graze and people could hunt and farm for themselves. By seizing property, one removes the people’s means of living. Often times this could happen by court ruling or merely in an illegal ‘grabbing’ manner. By taking the property from one part of the population, the other part of the population become the upper class, as they not only have the property but also have those under them, who are now desperate to remain alive and so become cheap labour. Labour drives profit. 

It is interesting to draw possible parallels between what happened when Karl Marx was describing primitive accumulation, and what has led to people such as Jeffrey Bezos amassing extreme amounts of capital. Let me begin with the argument taken from the magazine ‘Pacific Standard’: “Bezos is so rich precisely because his workers are so poor.” Amazon has been faced with charges of underpaying yet overworking their employees. Whilst a liberal theorist might defend capitalism in saying that this society provides the most jobs for people and that those with such wealth have earned it through hard work and talent, the breakdown of value versus wages proposes a contradiction of liberal’s claims. The multinational corporation has over 500 000 employees internationally, with an annual turn-over of $125 billion, and yet they pay wages of $15 per hour. Do the maths. Businesses such as these thrive on cheap but high value-adding labour. The rise of unemployment and shutting down of businesses during the COVID-19 pandemic has proven to catapult corporations, allowing them to dominate markets to an even further extent. The lockdown in many countries has led to an even larger rift between upper and lower classes. There is a clear trend that capitalism proves to profit those that can best extort. Primitive accumulation has had its second wave of infection. 

Jeffrey Bezos might be an intelligent and hard-working man, but his success is far to be attributed to this. The struggle of the working class and employees of Amazon exposes the situation of many multinational corporations of today. Dear Liberals, tell me, do Amazon employees work so much less than Mr Bezos to be earning so much less? Or could it be that the ‘Big Bosses’ of these firms have been able to take full advantage of capitalist structures and use the backs of the labouring class to build their success upon? 

Mara, grew up in a German household, living in South Africa she has been confronted with many identities and sees the study of Politics and International Relations as a way to categorise and analyse how she is being shaped by the world around her. 


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This week, the former president of South Africa (SA) Jacob Zuma, decided that he will not appear before the Zondo Commission to testify on allegations of state capture. In a letter delivered by his lawyer Eric Mabuza, it was emphasised that his refusal to appear in the commission need not be seen as an act of defiance. This comes after the former president’s request for Deputy Chief Justice Zondo to recuse himself from the commission was denied. He accused both the judiciary and the commission of being politically compromised. Furthermore, he has said that he is even ready to be jailed, thus posing a direct challenge to the highest court in the land, the Constitutional Court.

This is the third time that Zuma is refusing to obey a summons which was issued under Section 6(1) of the Commissions act. The act makes the refusal to testify a criminal offence. The Deputy Chief Justice can now instruct the secretary of the Zondo Commission to ask the Constitutional Court to find Zuma in contempt of the court.

In this article we aim to analyse two issues. What are the consequences of Zuma challenging legal authority? Is there validity of Zuma’s claim that he is a target of propaganda and vilification?

The consequences of Jacob Zuma challenging legal authority

Constitutionalism in SA is dependent on a system of checks and balances where even the courts that enforce legal rules are accountable to the public. What this means is that a court decision can be challenged at a higher court. For example, the Supreme Court of Appeal can overturn the decision of the High Court and in turn, the Constitutional Court can challenge the decision of the Supreme Court. 

The decisions made by the Constitutional Court cannot be overturned. Zuma, who an experienced criminal chooses which rules he wants to obey. The effects of this is that the rule of law is undermined and this might reduce public confidence in the legal system. On 16 March 2018, it was confirmed by the director of public prosecutions that Zuma would face 18 charges of corruption including more than 700 counts of fraud and money laundering. 40 witnesses have implicated Zuma in corruption, while he has in the past denied the allegations, claiming that he is innocent. Why then, is he afraid of testifying? A commission of inquiry is not a court per se. The purpose of a commission of inquiry is to inquire and establish facts. Criminal liability can only be established after the inquiry.

In an instance where one is presumed to be innocent until proven guilty, Zuma is creating suspicion around himself by evading court orders. This makes the public wonder what he could be hiding. Why is he scared of telling his side of the story? The commission of inquiry is meant to be an impartial space and if he is as innocent as he claims, why he is not making use of this platform to set the record straight.

It is also interesting to note that there are Zuma sympathisers like the uMkhonto weSizwe Military Veterans Association (MKMVA) who are reiterating Zuma’s allegations about a white monopoly controlled media that is targeting Zuma. If the Constitutional Court does not arrest the former president this statement will ring true ‘all are equal some are more equal than others’. The ordinary citizen will believe that while it is claimed that we are all equal before the law, there are different laws for people in power. SA would be in a state of anarchy.

The validity of Zuma’s claim that he is a target for propaganda and vilification as well as the judiciary being compromised 

Factually speaking, as far as the constitutional court is concerned the ideals of the African National Congress (ANC) manifest themselves through court judgements. Several Constitutional Court judges are affiliated with the ANC. Technically speaking that makes the bench politically compromised, because one may find that a judgement can be biased as a result of adjudicating using ANC values. An example of this is the transformation agenda. 

Kim Heller, a political analyst suggests that the Zondo Commission is not investigating state capture in its entirety. She claims that the Zondo Commission is making black politics look like politics of distraction, while amplifying white voices. This is in line with the allegations made by Zuma and his sympathisers about a white monopoly capital that has key ANC members serving its interests.

Black Economic Empowerment (BEE), which is the state’s main means of economic redistribution, pushes the rhetoric that the ordinary black person is now a big business owner yet the reality on the ground is that there is political gate keeping. It seems that social mobility is tied with criminality.

The CR17 campaign was a source of controversy where leaked emails started a conversation around the source of the CR17 campaign funding. Opposition parties called for a critical discourse around the matter. Mmusi Maimane was quoted as saying that the CR17 campaign scandal mirrored most ANC corruption deals where a company heavily invests in a candidate knowing it will pay off multiple times over when the candidate is selected. President Cyril Ramaphosa had received R500 000 from Bosasa, a logistics company and this payment was not declared to the public.

The Zondo Commission should have a deeper investigation into why Zuma is making bold statements and implicating other people. Is it a case of a bitter former president who is evading accountability because he does not want to spend his retirement in jail? There could be some truth in what he is saying because we have evidence from other sessions of state capture inquiry that points us to this.

In 2019, former Bosasa COO Angelo Agrizzi dropped some bombshells about the relationship between the ANC and Bosasa. One of these being that Bosasa gave the ANC its top 6 donations of up to 12 million Rands. This reveals that Zuma might have been a pawn in a bigger game. While he is no stranger to controversy the public should pay more attention to what he says and how it fits into the bigger picture of state capture in SA.

Where corruption is the order of the day it is expected that people will deny allegations made against them especially where testimonies are done by word of mouth and some monies are explained away as payments for valid jobs.

Rorisang Moyo is a third year BA Law student at the University of Pretoria. She has interests in international relations and is also a passionate blogger. She hopes to practice corporate law after completing her LLB.


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In early February 2021, the British communications regulator – Ofcom revoked the broadcasting license of CGTN (China Global Television Network) an English language news channel based in Beijing. This came after an investigation concluded that there was no oversight of the media output by Star License Media Limited which was the license holder in the UK for CGTN. A request to transfer the license to an entity called China Global Television Network Corporation (CGTNC) was also denied on the basis that the majority shareholder is controlled by the Chinese Communist Party (CCP) which is in violation of the United Kingdom’s (UK) regulations, as channels in the UK are not allowed to be controlled by political parties. A few days later China banned the BBC (British Broadcasting Corporation) World News channel because the organisation failed to broadcast news that is fair and impartial and the channel undermined China’s national interests and ethnic solidarity.

This exchange between the British regulator and Chinese state could be reduced to a diplomatic spat between two global powers. It has however, highlighted an important conversation around news independence and credibility. The independence and impartiality of news media and media outlets is considered a key pillar of any democratic society. At the heart of journalistic integrity is the ability to report on issues without favour and to hold those in power accountable. In fact, news broadcasting is viewed as a key mechanism to keep everyone in check, from political elites to large corporations. 

When discussing the freedom of media, the conversation tends to focus on the relationship between broadcasters and the state. Most media freedom indexes analyse traditional forms of media and indicators such as the level of involvement of governments, the safety of journalists, and the level of censorship. These are very important aspects to consider when trying to evaluate the degree to which news remains impartial to political interest groups. In Zimbabwe, journalist Hopewell Chin’ono, who has been outwardly critical of President Emerson Mnangagwa and the local police, was arrested 3 times in a space of 6 months. This is a clear illustration of when the state is able to use government resources to try and limit the participation of critical voices in its society. These events are definitely a cause for concern. When states can imprison journalists or ban news agencies and channels at will, the ability to report the news neutrally and fairly becomes compromised. 

Despite these obvious barriers which can inhibit independent and impartial news broadcasting and publication, what happens when the media is trusted to be free and autonomous? In the last 5 years the United States (US) would represent a good case study of this with many of its major news outlets accused of being either pro-Republican or pro-Democrat. It is commonly accepted that journalists and the media in the US can operate in relative freedom without fear of suppression or violence. Why then would a particular outlet favour a political group over the other? To understand this, critical questions must be asked about the context in which news is produced. There are many aspects to this, like questioning who decides what stories go on the bulletin this week or what inherent bias does the reporter covering the story have? These may seem like unimportant details or irrelevant when discussing news media, because what does it matter if journalists are able to freely report on issues and regulators exist to ensure the independence of news agencies?

While most major news broadcasters have gained reputable reputations for independent and fair reporting, they are not immune to the bias and unconscious prejudices which exist in society. There are clear differences in reporting standards when race or ethnicity are involved, for example the discrepancies between the representation of right-wing groups and terrorism in news media. Terrorism is often linked to black or middle eastern identities and religious affiliations – the use of the term “Islamist” has become synonymous with terrorism. Conversely the ethnic and religious origins of right-wing groups are hardly ever investigated in news reports. That is not to say we should start essentialising such characteristics, but it is worth highlighting the intrinsic associations made when these news stories are reported. 

There are many aspects to consider when analysing the independence of media, some are obvious while others may be more subtle. Increasingly the debate around fair and unbiased reporting is starting to include the “non-traditional” indicators. The conversation around media freedom and independence must expand to consider the role that non-state actors and society itself, plays in the framing of the news and news reports. It is always important to read a news report with a critical mind and ask yourself questions about who the experts being quoted are. What images have been included? What does the use of certain language and terms convey about the story being covered? Many African leaders and academics have led the call for freedom and independence of the press. It is important that those traditions are kept alive on the continent.

Kaamillah Soeker has recently completed a Masters Degree at the Wits School of Governance, in Public and Development Management. She is interested in Policy Analysis of South Africa and the African continent.


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Despite being an overarching sustainable development goal, gender equality is a priority area that has been widely neglected by many states on the African continent. While several initiatives have been taken to address this cross-cutting issue on the continent, African women still battle with tearing down structural and institutional barriers that prohibit their emancipation. Poverty, sexual violence and exploitation, discrimination in public offices and gender-based violence (GBV) (including female genital mutilation) only reflect a few of the challenges that are faced by women. It is noteworthy that while the focus of this article is gender inequality on the African continent, it is a widespread issue that needs to be tackled globally as well. This article aims to address the reasons behind the pervasiveness of gender inequality on the African continent by (i) defining gender (in)equality, (ii) addressing the structural and institutional barriers faced by women and (iii) discussing the lack of legislation in the battle for equality on the African continent. 

The European Institute for Gender Equality (EIGE) denotes gender inequality as the “legal, social and cultural situation in which sex and/or gender determine the different rights and dignity for women and men”. These differences are widely reflected in their unequal access to basic human rights and income opportunities. For example, women only earn 77 cents for every dollar that men earn, for the same work. A United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) report revealed that only two thirds of developing countries have achieved gender parity in primary education. Several organisations such as the United Nations (UN), have aimed to address gender inequality through its sustainable development goals and several other initiatives aimed at achieving women economic empowerment, because ending all discrimination against women and girls is crucial for a sustainable future. Despite these initiatives being undertaken, women are still systematically denied equal access to fundamental rights. As aforementioned, sexual violence and exploitation, poverty and discrimination in public office all remain huge barriers in the battle for equality. 

Gender inequality on the African continent is perpetuated through structural and institutional barriers. Despite some improvements made, inequality is still seen in education systems, especially in countries such as Kenya and South Africa (SA). The education sector has failed to develop and harness the capabilities of many women and young children which continues to curtail their ability to meaningfully contribute to society and the economy. In both Kenya and SA, there has been some progress within both the legal and social settings, however, women still encounter challenges due to the lack of implementation of policies meant to address these challenges which are encountered. 

Inequality is also seen in health facilities across the continent. A study revealed that a women’s life expectancy is longer that of a man’s and yet women spend fewer years in good health. This is largely due to the gender bias that exists in several healthcare facilities across the continent. Gender bias is broadly denoted as “prejudice in action or treatment against a person on the basis of their sex”. This is a challenge encountered by many women on the African continent whereby they are inaccurately diagnosed and the medical treatment which they receive is of a lower level of quality, than that of man. It is noteworthy that inequality in this regard is also as a result of racial prejudice. This is a challenge faced by many women as there are several dangers associated with gender bias in healthcare facilities across the country. 

While gender inequality is an institutional challenge, it is also a challenge that has been upheld by cultural norms enabling misogyny and patriarchy to pervade. Studies have revealed that gender inequality has existed, and still continues to exist in modern society. Several cultural processes maintain gender differences across the continent. The role of a women in society was (and still is) that of a nurturer and child-bearer. Moreover, women were unable to vote in, nor were they considered full citizens. Due to this norm being upheld in several cultural and belief systems, and several political and social institutions, disparate gender representation exists today. A UNDP report revealed that only 24 percent of national parliamentarians were women as of November 2018, and this was a small increase from the 11.3 percent in 1995. Today, the African continent only has six countries that have a high percentage of women in ministerial positions. These figures show that gender inequality has prohibited the full representation of women in several sectors and this is largely due to patriarchal norms being upheld by several political institutions. 

While several strides have been made in the attempt to address gender inequality on the African continent, the lack of legislation and its inadequate implementation thereof has played a significant role in upholding these barriers that exist. Gender discrimination is encoded into law in countries across the globe. For example, globally, 113 countries do not have laws to address the gender pay gap between men and women, and 104 countries make certain jobs off-limits to women. This is an issue that is experienced both globally as well as on the African continent. The lack of legislation and the lack implementation of several policies have resulted in the failure of states to adequately address issues pertaining to gender inequality across the continent. 

Despite these challenges faced, the UNDP has made remarkable progress in its attempt to address gender inequality. On the continent, there are more girls in school now, compared to 15 years ago and most regions have reached gender parity in primary education. Addressing institutional and structural barriers is an important measure that needs to be taken, in the tearing down of barriers. It is vital to provide women with equal opportunities for sustainable growth and development to be achieved on both the continent and globally.

Nirvaly Mooloo has a degree in International Studies and Political Science from the University of Pretoria. She is an activist and feminist at heart. Her interests strongly lie in academic fields specialising in Politics and International Relations. Her dream is to one day be the leader that brings change to the livelihoods of others. Nirvaly is one of permanent members of The Art of Politics writing staff.


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Consumerism by and large has contributed to economic growth in the current linear economy. This “take-make-waste” model has now led to a problem of overconsumption, overproduction and of course, waste. To give some perspective and context, more phones exist than people, all the plastic ever produced since the 1940s still exists, and it is suggested that 99% of goods purchased are discarded within six months without the material thereof ever being recovered. Let’s consider this overproduction problem through an analogy of bathwater. What does one do when they run a bath and the water starts overflowing? Use buckets to empty the bath? No, you simply turn off the tap. The water here represents the goods and waste produced. A circular economy is thus “redefining”  production and consumption into a more sustainable and socially responsible economic model, by turning off the tap and using as much of the “water” available as possible. No overflow, no waste. 

Consumerism is a direct result of capitalism; a for-profit political and economic model driven by private partners. Consumerism encourages the accumulation of goods to feed the belief that the more you own, the happier you will be. The most pressing consequence of this overconsumption and the resulting waste is climate change. But, the responsibility to combat this issue does not fall on the individual alone. Only 100 companies are said to be responsible for 71% of greenhouse gas emissions. The top 10 companies are in the fossil fuel industry, namely coal and oil. Businesses and corporations need the individual to purchase their goods in order to make a profit. Naturally then, once they were exposed for their environmental wrongdoings, their marketing campaigns and business models changed; sometimes for the wrong reasons. BP, a fossil fuel giant, was accused of “greenwashing” by misleading the public with the impression that they are transitioning to cleaner energy. The motive being, to maintain or maybe even increase sales while masking their true environmental damage.  

Africa is hit the hardest when it comes to climate change and experiences dumping and resource extraction as a result of the linear economy and consumerism. The circular economy could undo this. It aims to design waste out of the production process and recycle, remanufacture, and repurpose products in order to conserve the Earth’s finite resources. Yet, as more developed countries are aiming to rely less on raw materials, it is a concern for developing countries as they could be eliminated from the supply chain almost completely. Furthermore, developing nations have less access to the knowledge and technology that would make a circular economy possible. Be that as it may, many African countries have already experienced resource deficits and have developed innovative ways to use what is available to them. These methods could prove advantageous for developed countries who may adopt certain aspects in exchange for labour relations and contracts. For example, Ghana connects stakeholders and encourages partnerships to provide waste management data and reduce policy implementation gaps through their Waste recovery Platform. Thus, inclusivity in the circular economy should be at the top of the agenda to ensure the safeguarding of the well-being and growth of developing nations. 

Admittedly, this model is not perfect. A circular economy could potentially have an adverse effect on manufacturers who would need to overhaul their processes of design, logistics, and waste recycling. Consideration will need to be given to the quality of products. Plastic for example, becomes brittle after being recycled too many times, therefore the materials used will need to be designed to last. In order for these ideas and solutions to come to fruition and have a circular economy be fully functional, transformational and reform policies will be at the forefront. In developed nations such as Spain, France, and Sweden policies such as energy efficiency standards, recycling targets, and emissions trading are being implemented. They do, however, need strengthening. 

There are countless other factors involved in making a circular economy possible. With this, it will take many years, perhaps decades before the damage done by the linear economy can begin to be reversed. Major strides in the right direction have already been made by companies, individuals, developed, and developing nations alike. It starts with informed decision making of purchases at an individual level, fair and ethical practices at the corporate level, and inclusivity in policy formulation in the national and international arena. COVID-19 has shown us that it is possible to bring about swift change, especially environmental, if all actors participate and work together. It is now necessary to keep the momentum going and make as many improvements as possible, every day for a more sustainable future. 

Selycia considers herself a jack of all trades, with her interests and abilities widespread. She wants to pursue as many of them as she can in her lifetime. She believes life is not meant to be a straight “normal” line but a beautiful journey of segues. Selycia is one of the permanent writers on The Art of Politics team.


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According to the United Nations (UN), approximately 200 million girls have undergone Female Genital Mutilation (FGM). Since early 2020, East and West African countries have witnessed an increase in FGM as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic which puts another 2 million girls at risk.

What is FGM and why is it dangerous?

Female Genital Mutilation (FGM), or female genital cutting (FGC), is a widely practiced ritual that involves the complete or partial cutting of and/or removal of the external female genitalia of young girls usually between infancy and the age of 15, for non-medical purposes. 

The World Health Organisation (WHO) has classified four types of FGM. Type I refers to clitoridectomy, which is the partial/complete removal of the clitoris. Type II is clitoridectomy plus the partial/complete removal of the labia majora and labia minora. Type III, the most fatal and invasive type, is infibulation where all external genitalia is cut off and the vaginal opening made smaller by sewing the labia majora together, leaving a small opening for urination and menstruation. Type IV includes other excision techniques including piercing, incisions and cauterisation. 

The United Nations Population Fund (UNPF) notes that the origins of this practice are not tied to any specific religion or region. Traces of FGM have been found on Ancient Egyptian remains before the spread of Christianity and Islam which expels the notion that FGM is performed for religious reasons. Forms of FGM have been practiced in parts of Europe and the United States (US) as early as the 1950s to “treat” ailments specifically related to women including “hysteria” and “nymphomania”. 

If one examines the etymology of “hysteria” and “nymphomania”, they will find that these medical terms were created to associate disease or unwellness exclusively with female biology. The root word “hystera” means “uterus”, a common understanding of the word hysteria or hysterical is that someone (with a uterus) is crazy. The root “nymph” of nymphomania refers to the labia minora, a term used to describe ‘sex-crazed’ women. It is clear that the rationale for FGM, even in assumed progressive societies, is rooted in misogynistic beliefs about women’s sexuality and genitalia as something that must be controlled and regulated.

Plan International, outline some of the beliefs that surround and encourage the practice of FGM. These beliefs are related to controlling female sexuality or ‘preserving’ the family’s honor, ‘saving’ the girl for marriage, or fetching a higher bride price for a ‘chaste’ girl. Therefore, FGM takes place in a socio-cultural context with certain beliefs and circumstances that are often grounded in gender inequality and misogyny. It is important to note that FGM has no medical benefits, but increases the chance of complications with childbirth, cyst formation, keloid scarring, painful sexual intercourse, and psychological trauma of undergoing the practice. Most of the reasoning behind upholding these practices are based on the constructed social value by every member of the community except, the individual girls on which the practice is performed. 

Why has COVID-19 caused an increase in FGM in East and West Africa?

A report by the Orchid Project states that FGM has been on the rise in East and West Africa since the outbreak of COVID-19 in March 2020. As a consequence of the spread of the coronavirus, girl children remain at home because schools are closed. Widespread economic hardship due to job losses has made parents decide to marry off their daughters in exchange for a bride price. In many East and West African societies, female circumcision is often a prerequisite for marriage and determines higher bride prices. According to a 2018 brief lead by the Population Council, a direct link between FGM and child marriage is found in Ethiopia and Somaliland. Girls that undergo infibulation (FGM-type III) literally have the seal of virginity so that it is guaranteed that they are ‘pure’, they must also be deinfibulated on the wedding night in order to consummate the marriage. FGM occurs under the radar because most justice and social services are occupied with implementing COVID-19 regulations. Humanitarian aid and organisations that fight against FGM were slowed down by the lockdown and curfew orders and having their funding deprioritised or reduced. Many ‘reformed cutters’ who used to perform the circumcision returned to carrying out the practice as a last resort to earn an income during the pandemic. 

The UN set the goal of ending FGM by 2030. Kenya ambitiously aimed to end FGM by 2022 but has been one of the countries that experienced one of the highest increases in FGM during the pandemic. According to a paper by the BMJ, 2800 girls from the Kuria community in south-west Kenya, had been mutilated in October 2020 alone. Ghati Alfons, the founder of an anti-FGM community group called Safe Engage Foundation, highlights that FGM is particularly prevalent in Kuria because of the high levels of poverty and FGM began increasing earlier in the year, because of school closures. She also notes how other girls are drawn into the practice because of the incentive of gifts which make it seem as though they possess ‘agency’ and are participating by choice. However, it must be reiterated that victims of FGM are children, who cannot consent and that the practice violates their human right to bodily autonomy and puts their wellbeing at risk. 

The reason that FGM and other forms of violence against women and children have increased during the pandemic is that emergency policy planning and implementation completely lack a gender lens. This should serve as a painful lesson for the future and a basis to demand gender sensitivity.

Nirvana Govender is a postgraduate student at the University of Pretoria completing her Honors degree in International Relations. She is a tutor in the Political Sciences Department. She is also the co-creator of the grassroots community organisation, Get Involved. Please follow her page (@getinvolved_gbv) on Instagram to help support her organisation.


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COVID-19 has plunged the world into an unprecedented health and socioeconomic crisis. At the same time, it has captured the attention of scholars and leaders alike, due to the consequential, dramatic and emotionally charged nature of crises which often reveal frailties and vulnerabilities in policies and decision-making units. In particular, this article concerns itself with the lens which COVID-19 has provided, a lens which has exposed both the successes and shortcomings of South Africa’s foreign policy. Applying this lens allows for an appraisal of one of the core tenets of South Africa’s foreign policy, namely: South-South solidarity.  In the past, South Africa (SA) has frequently faced criticism for its highly aspirational and dubiously idealistic foreign policy; however, COVID-19 has also hinted at the successes of South Africa’s engagement with South-South solidarity in praxis. As such, this article sets out to discuss two things: firstly, the manner in which South Africa’s engagement with Cuba, India and the African Union (AU) reflects its successes in South-South solidarity; and secondly the constraints which despite its relative successes, nonetheless impinge on any further more ‘meaningful’ successes. 

South-South solidarity

South-South solidarity refers to the promotion of solutions via the exchange of skills, resources and technical expertise between countries of the South. Complementary to the North-South dimension, South-South cooperation aims at promoting equality amongst peoples. Informed by the 1955 Bandung Conference, South-South solidarity has both historically and contemporarily played a central role in South Africa’s foreign policy. As imparted in the 2011 White Paper, “South Africa therefore accords central importance to [its] immediate African neighborhood and continent; working with countries of the South to address shared challenges of underdevelopment; promoting global equity and social justice”. The centrality of South-South solidarity in South Africa’s foreign policy has been illustrated by South Africa’s engagements with Cuba, India and the AU during the COVID-19 pandemic.

South-South solidarity: Cuba, India and the AU

The quintessence of South Africa’s success with South-South solidarity during the pandemic is its bilateral relations with Cuba. The arrival of a 216-member Cuban medical assistance brigade signified the exchange of skills, resources, and technical expertise between Cuba and SA in an attempt to combat the COVID-19 pandemic. Cuban doctors, health technologists and epidemiologists were deployed to various parts of the country, assisting SA in the fight against COVID-19. More so, despite the shortage of medical supplies in SA at the time, in an act of diplomacy honouring its longstanding relations with Cuba, the South African government sent back a plane full of medical supplies to Cuba. This bilateral relation is one example demonstrating that in moments of crisis, South-South solidarity can be utilised as an effective means to overcome obstacles. Similarly, so, South Africa’s engagement with India further hints at the operationalisation of South-South solidarity.

SA and India have called on the World Trade Organization (WTO) to temporarily suspend intellectual property (IP) rights, which if successful, would ensure that drugmakers in poorer countries can produce effective vaccines sooner. The proposal was initially opposed by wealthy nations such as the United States (US), Britain and the European Union (EU), who argued that pharmaceutical companies would be robbed of the incentive to make monumental investments in research and development. This sentiment expressed by wealthy nations clearly contrasts the principle of Batho Pele (putting people first) which is a central feature of South Africa’s foreign policy. SA has opposed the exploitative humanism emanating from the West’s ‘vaccine nationalism’ by utilising South-South solidarity to challenge this inequality. Essentially, the actions of India and SA provide a further demonstration of how South-South solidarity has been operationalised to promote global equality and social justice. 

A final demonstration of the successes of South-South solidarity has been South Africa’s role (as the chair of the AU) in coordinating a continental effort with the African Centre for Disease Control (ACDC), the WHO and the AU Commission. The establishment of a COVID-19 Response Fund, regional task forces and the African Task Force for Coronavirus all contributed to increasing the continent’s readiness and capacity in the fight against the spread of the virus. These efforts testify to the success of South-South solidarity and have, perhaps, pointed to the benchmark of South-South solidarity against which South Africa’s leadership. However optimistic the above-mentioned examples are, this article in an attempt to provide a balanced overview and not to ‘jump the gun’, points to some of the constraints which nonetheless impinge on South Africa’s ability to advance the successes of the South-South solidarity mentioned above.

Constraints and vulnerabilities 

South Africa’s engagement with other countries during the COVID-19 pandemic has affirmed the fact that “under unstressed conditions nations appear autonomous, but crisis quickly highlights the extent of international financial interdependence”. This point alludes to one of the structural constraints which hamper South Africa’s ability to use South-South solidarity more effectively, namely its economy. This is to say, that although SA has shown large degrees of success in operationalising South-South solidarity (as discussed above) it nonetheless faces structural constraints which point out its distinct vulnerabilities, especially in terms of its largely stagnant economy. 

Apart from the plethora of palpable domestic constraints such as poverty, unemployment, corruption and xenophobia (to name a few), SA faces the structural constraints which severely limits its agency. A case in point is the price that SA has had to pay for the COVID-19 vaccine. SA has had to pay almost 2.5 times more for the vaccine than other European countries since it had not initially invested in the vaccine research and development like other high-income countries had. Although South Africa’s failure to secure a sufficient supply of the vaccine has been blamed on its haphazard approach, it must also be noted that SA, as a developing country, does not have the same ability to invest in vaccine research as other wealthy high-income countries which immediately points out uneven playing fields. 

The global economy consists of profound wealth disparities caused in part by historical, structural inequalities. From the perspective of dependency theories, South Africa’s inability to better challenge the current vaccine distribution inequality stems from the fact that SA finds itself constrained in a paradigm of economic dependency. This dependency becomes more evident in moments of crisis and as such it must be questioned whether South African President Cyril Ramaphosa’s aim to “forge a new economy in a new global reality” is mere rhetoric and reflects an unfeasible goal?.

Lastly, the extent to which South Africa’s South-South solidarity is truly able to bring about change at a meaningful level has further been limited by the role that new transnational actors play. Pharmaceutical companies, wielding significant political influence, have opposed the IP waiver proposed by India and SA. As such, despite this attempt of South-South solidarity to oppose the current inequalities as manifested in ‘vaccine nationalism’, the glaring systemic global inequality has rendered this attempt nugatory. Wealthy countries have bought more than half of the confirmed vaccine doses leaving the developing world behind. SA has been left at the mercy of laissez-faire economic principles, whereby the decisions on who gets the vaccine has been largely left to big pharmaceutical companies. 

Undoubtedly, South-South solidarity has played a central role in combatting the COVID-19 pandemic. SA has demonstrated the successes of South-South solidarity in promoting solutions amongst countries in the South. It has fallen short is in transcending the structural confines of the deeply entrenched paradigms of dependencies. As such, an appraisal of South Africa’s utilisation of South-South solidarity concludes that whilst SA is using this solidarity to treat the symptoms of a disease, it has failed in using solidarity to eradicate the underlying causes. The question should thus not be whether SA uses South-South solidarity, but rather the extent to which South-South solidarity can be used to transform the global system of governance into a just and equitable global order.

Daniela is a 3rd year of BPolSci International Relations at the University of Pretoria. Daniela hopes to pursue her honours in 2022. Her passions are in the fields of foreign policy and philosophy. 


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Presently, there is an ongoing human rights crisis on the high seas. The scarcely monitored regions of the sea provide an area in which gross human rights abuses are perpetuated on fishing vessels against those working aboard them. Moreover, the activities of said vessels, namely overfishing not only constitute unethical fishing practices which adversely affect marine ecosystems, but also economically hamper local fisheries. Thus, it is the intention of this article to assess the extent of forced labour in the fisheries sector and in doing so, highlight the link between forced labour, human trafficking and fisheries’ crime. Furthermore, the article will highlight the economic and environmental implications of illegal fishing. Finally, the article will provide recommendations on how best to tackle this ever-growing threat.

In recent years international media has shone a light on forced labour aboard fishing vessels, however the extent of these activities is largely unknown. The International Labour Organisation (ILO) defines forced labour as “all work or service which is exacted from any person under the menace of any penalty and for which said person has not offered themselves voluntarily”. Within the fisheries sector, forced labour (slavery), debt bondage, poor working conditions and restriction of movement are increasingly recognised as human rights violations. Fishing vessels suspected of transporting victims of forced labour are classified as high-risk vessels, these vessels manifest certain key behaviours. These indicators include, vessels which travel further from ports, vessels which log more fishing hours per day, those which spend more time fishing on the high seas as well as take fewer fishing voyages annually, in comparison to other vessels. The areas of open ocean (international waters) beyond the territorial jurisdiction of any nation, provide high-risk vessels with a way to work in the shadows and obscure from view, the inhumane treatment occurring on the high seas. It is economic migrants, refugees and desperate individuals in need of money who fall prey to modern day slavery. Fishers are particularly vulnerable to human traffickers and forced labour. Many of these workers face an even greater danger out on the open seas without access to functioning means of communication with those on land, nor the ability to disembark and return to shore. These workers, the victims of slavery, remain trapped on the high seas at the mercy of their ‘employers’. They are subjected to poor working conditions, little to no pay as well as physical and sometimes sexual abuse. Human traffickers cater to the demands of illegal fishers by providing them an unwilling labour force, many of whom are constrained by the lack of alternatives available to them. This continuous cycle of abuse facilitates the growth of illegal fishing and further endangers the livelihoods of individuals and communities.

The unchecked growth of slave labour in the fisheries sector has fuelled not only human trafficking, but also fraud, corruption, money laundering, tax and customs evasion as well as illegal fishing and the extraction of marine resources. Fishing vessels often engage in other maritime crimes such as smuggling drugs, firearms, as well as conducting piracy or terrorist attacks. Much of the illegal global multi-crime activity within the fisheries sector takes place on the east coast of Africa as well as off the coast of South Africa and Namibia. Fishing vessels operating in these regions need not dock in the respective harbours, rather they carry out their transhipments offshore. Drastic fluctuations in global fish stocks are not only attributed to the loss of biodiversity, but also illegal fishing. The multi-crimes affect not only the global fisheries sector, but also local fisheries, small-scale fishers and small island developing states (SIDS). Small fishing communities rely on fish for commerce, trade as well as for consumption. Furthermore, these communities are dependent on the marine economy and environment for sustenance and other resources. Illegal, unregulated and uncontrolled (IUU) fishing adversely impacts small island developing economies, as it deprives them of taxes and marine exports. Overfishing and the illegal extraction of marine resources in particular, adversely affect the sea ecology, thus causing further harm to marine life already at risk due to coastal degradation, continuous oil spills and other forms of marine pollution. Furthermore, unchecked, the practice of overfishing not only threatens food security, but also hampers efforts to improve conservation and environmental sustainability.

The crisis on the high seas consists of several interrelated challenges, each one feeding into the next. The major task remains the protection of the oceans and seas as well as the protection of habitats below the surface and the livelihoods of those living and working above the surface. That is, so long the push-conditions of poverty behind those forced into these circumstances persist. There is an urgent/pressing need to improve fisheries regulation and management in order to ensure ethical practices and sustainable harvests. In addressing the multi-crimes occurring on the high seas, greater cooperation among states and equitable burden-sharing is necessary. Moreover, an improvement of ocean monitoring and policing would serve to deter illicit economic activity, harmful environmental practices as well as gross human rights violations. The United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea (UNCLOS) provides the framework for the governance of the ocean. It creates obligations to protect and preserve the marine environment, while also encouraging cooperation among states. Given that IUU fishing is transboundary in nature, it is the responsibility of all states as well as international organisations to cooperate in ensuring the sustainable use of the oceans, but also in addressing the continued exploitation of labourers in the fisheries sectors.


The oceans connect people to each other, whether geographically, historically or commercially, and the rapidly accumulating challenges pose risks to the international community at different levels and across several sectors. Thus, a coordinated effort through multilateralism is necessary to address the barriers to ensuring maritime safety and security. There is an urgent need for increased maritime surveillance, enforcement, and intelligence sharing through coordinated efforts of national navies, coastguards and private maritime security agencies. Given that human trafficking, forced labour and fisheries crimes are cross-cutting (interrelated) issues, they require concerted efforts by states, international organisations and non-governmental organisations. Collaboration across several sectors at the national, sub-regional, regional and global levels is essential to combatting gross human right violations and environmentally harmful practices. Furthermore, significant considerations must be given to vulnerable communities plagued by persisting socio-economic issues and the effects of climate change. Those living and working under such conditions are easy targets for human traffickers, thus it is crucial to address these environmental and socioeconomic issues as the starting point in tackling the much larger issues. What is needed, is a three-pronged strategy, with an immediate plan of action of deterrence, an intermediate strategy of enforcement and finally a long-term strategy comprised of preventative measures to remove push factors which drive individuals into the clutches of human traffickers. This is not to say the strategy should be implemented sequentially, but rather simultaneously through a sustainable and developmental framework. 

Tshegofatso Ramachela is a certified paralegal and has an undergraduate degree in International Studies, Political Sciences and History from the University of Pretoria. She is a humanitarian, an intersectional postcolonial feminist and an aspiring international development and peace worker, who hopes to one day be a Doctoral student. Tshegofatso is a permanent member of The Art of Politics writing staff.


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What is the problem?

Globalisation has given corporations the ability to have complex international supply chains. This provides the opportunity for corporations to cut costs and maximize profits. Unfortunately, it also allows corporations to choose to operate in countries with low levels of law enforcement or protection of human and environmental rights. Some companies also hide behind a ‘corporate veil’ by acting through subsidiaries which they control. There are many cases of multinational corporations disrupting communities and ecosystems with little-to-no repercussions. 

One example is the Shell oil production in Nigeria. In 2008 a group of Nigerian farmers launched a court case against the Royal Dutch Shell for losses suffered to health, livelihood and land caused by two oil spills in 2008 and 2009, Shell admitted that their subsidiary was liable for the spills. There have been many reports of the negative impacts these spills have had and continue to have on the community. One study showed that a baby born within close proximity to the oil spill is twice as likely to die in their first month. 

In January 2021, the Royal Dutch Shell was ordered to pay compensation to farmers who claimed their farmland and fish ponds were poisoned from the oil spills. Although this judgment has been claimed as a victory because it may open a floodgate of more litigation against Shell and other corporations involved in oil exploration in the region, it took 13 years to receive this ‘victory’. How many decades will it take for individual cases, such as this, to be ruled against multinational corporations to create precedence? More efficient and reliable legal solutions are, reformed regulations which legally compel corporations to ensure their productions and supply chains do not cause damage to individuals, nor the environment. Mandatory Corporate Human Rights Due Diligence could provide such an obligation and prevention.

What is Human Rights Due Diligence?

The concept of Human Rights Due Diligence (HRDD) was first introduced in the United Nations Guiding Principles on Business and Human Rights (UNGPBHR) which was unanimously supported by the United Nations Human rights council (UNHRC). These guidelines provided, for the first time, a globally recognised framework for governments and businesses to prevent and address the adverse impact on people and the environment from their activities. Governments and businesses are encouraged by the guidelines to identify and assess risks, not only from their direct actions but indirectly through their supply chain. 

Why are reforms needed

Unfortunately, these guidelines are voluntary and enforced only by international norms and the hope that corporate image can persuade businesses to choose human rights over revenue. Only a few companies actually abide by these guiding principles. Corporations that choose not to abide by these guidelines may have more growth opportunities. This leads to unfair competition in the market between those who do their HRDD and those who do not.

Considering the following statistics, it is clear that voluntary corporate due diligence is not effective enough. Firstly, fifty percent of the biggest corporations in Europe have been linked to adverse human rights and environmental impacts. Secondly, forced labour generates annual profits of $150 billion. According to the 2019 Corporate Human Rights Benchmark, half of the 200 largest listed companies from agricultural, apparel, extractives and information technology sectors fail to meet any of the five basic criteria for HRDD.

How close are the reforms?

Mandatory Corporate HRDD is not an unachievable goal. France has already legislated HRDD for their biggest companies. The French 2017 law on the duty of vigilance requires all French companies with more than 5000 employees in France and over 10 000 employees globally to undertake due diligence. Non-compliance with this law leads to sanctions and payment of damages. 

Additionally, the European Union (EU) has passed due diligence rules for the import of minerals from conflict areas. This falls under Regulation EU 2017/821 which changed the certification scheme from voluntary to compulsory. It applies to EU importers of tin, tantalum, tungsten, ores and gold which originate from conflict or high risk areas. These importers must check that these minerals and metals do not contribute to conflict, forced labour or illicit activities. This regulation entered into force in January 2021.

The EU has tabled a proposal for mandatory Corporate HRDD. This legislation would not only decrease the abuse of human rights and the negative impact on the environment but it would also level the playing field among all companies which operate in the EU market, improve legal clarity, establish effective enforcement and sanction mechanisms which would improve the access to remedy for those affected. Access to remedy for affected persons is important but not currently easy as evident in the 13 year case against Shell outlined above.

Impact on Africa?

The tabled EU Mandatory Corporate (mHRDD) policy would apply to all EU companies and external companies which operate within the EU market. This would make it much easier for those affected by actions such as oil extraction by EU companies to claim remedy without needing to wait for case precedence to do so. Currently, domestic justice systems are preferred to deal with complaints by communities against the actions of international corporations, within Africa, many of these domestic justice systems face legal and procedural challenges and do not often result in justice. If the EU passes mHRDD,  these cases can be taken directly to the court of the corporation headquarters and justice would be more prevalent as the legal right to remedy for non compliance with mHRDD would exist and just need to be proven.

Unfortunately, EU corporations are not the only ones whose supply chains operate in Africa and pose a threat to communities and the environment. More countries or multilateral groupings need to pass HRDD into legislation to ensure the cohesive protection of people and the environment. This would also prevent companies from simply relocating to avoid these restrictions.

The African Continental Free Trade Agreement (AfCFTA) has recently begun its implementation stage.Considering how this agreement will increase intra-African trade and increase the number of Intra-African value chains, it would be advisable that signatories to this agreement consider agreeing on mHRDD in preparation for these evolutions. This would not only prevent future damage to communities and the environment and provide a pathway to remedy for any violations, but it would also create a level playing field between African corporations who operate in Africa. 

Laura has a degree in BPolSci International Studies from the University of Pretoria and is currently completing a level 4 NALP paralegal diploma. She hopes to complete her honors in International Relations and pursue a career in the field of Public International Law and Human Rights. Laura is one of the permanent members of the writing staff at The Art of Politics.