Lesotho’s political impasse –  A case of déjà vu?

Stuck in a rut

“If we can just get to the next scheduled elections in 2022, that will be an achievement.” – Lesotho political commentator

After barely a year in office, Prime Minister (PM) Moeketsi Majoro finds himself in an all too familiar predicament that also bedevilled his predecessors. No Prime Minister has served out a full five-year term over the past decade. Now it appears Majoro and his ruling coalition may not be able to escape this chaotic political cycle.

Lesotho’s former Prime minister Thomas Thabane (L) with the current Prime Minister Moeketsi Majoro, during the swearing in ceremony at the Royal Palace in Maseru in the morning of May 20, 2020. Thabane resigned, ending a months-long political crisis that engulfed the kingdom after he was accused of playing a conspiratory role in the 2017 murder of his estranged wife. Photo: Molise Molise/AFP 

The major parties that make up the ruling coalition are the All Basotho Convention (ABC) (Majoro’s party) and the Democratic Congress (DC). Majoro’s appointment was met with much optimism, as he is a seasoned economist and former Finance Minister. However, while a competent technocrat may be able to examine data and formulate efficient policies, he may not be able to soothe existing tensions between rival political factions. This ongoing political malaise does not bode well for the strengthening and entrenchment of good governance in the mountain Kingdom of Lesotho.

To constitute a government, a party or coalition must enjoy a simple majority in the 120-seat parliament, which equates to a total of 61 seats. Before the recent political developments, detailed below, the ruling coalition had 66 seats.

Majoro recently fired Justice Minister Professor Nqosa Mahao, Police Minister Mamoipone Senauoane, Forestry Minister Motlatsi Maqelepo and Deputy Health Minister Nto Moakhi. This move is seen as an attempt to purge his cabinet of potential defectors. In response, the axed former Justice Minister and deputy leader of the ABC, Professor Mahao, formed a new party called the Basotho Action Party (BAP).

The formation of the splinter party from the ABC caused some consternation, as Mahao claimed Majoro lacked the parliamentary majority he needed to continue governing. Mahao further claimed that 20 parliamentarians have agreed to join his BAP. As floor crossing is allowed, the defectors will cross with their parliamentary seats. If Mahao’s allegation proves true, the coalition would only have 46 seats, leading to a hung parliament.

The BAP has threatened to table a motion of no confidence in Majoro once the defecting parliamentarians have officially crossed over to his party. If Mahao does indeed manage to secure sufficient backing to create a hung parliament, it would be the third change of administration in the past five years.

Majoro, meanwhile, has tried to assure his supporters and the international community that his party remains stable and has the required majority to remain in power. In a show of solidarity, Deputy Prime Minister (DPM) Mathibeli Mokhothu (DC) expressed his party’s commitment to the ruling coalition.

The uncertainty regarding the stability of the ruling coalition and deteriorating political situation has led to a preventative intervention from the Southern African Development Community (SADC). This came in the form of  Special Envoy former, Minister Jeff Radebe, being deployed on behalf of President Cyril Ramaphosa, the SADC Facilitator to the Kingdom of Lesotho on 3 May 2021.  The Special Envoy was tasked to gain a better understanding of the political situation. President Ramaphosa is fulfilling his mandate to work closely with all parties to finalise the Reform Programme.

As has become the norm, the Special Envoy paid a courtesy visit to His Majesty King Letsie III and PM Majoro. To better understand the political developments, he also met with the leader of the DC and DPM Mokhothu; Professor Mahoa in his new role as leader of the newly-formed BAP; Monyane Mleleki, leader of Alliance of Democrats (AD); Mr Mothetjoa Metsing, leader of the Lesotho Congress for Democracy (LCD) and Former DPM of Lesotho.

During the closed-door engagements with the various stakeholders, one can only assume the tone and content of the deliberations:

  • King Letsie III – called for the PM and DPM to remain united and to not collapse the government before the elections in 2022.
  • The PM – expressed his displeasure at the defectors and justified his decision to remove them from his cabinet.He reassured the Special Envoy he and the DC still has the requisite majority to govern and that there will be no mass exodus from the ABC to the BAP and how Lesotho was on track to implement any outstanding reforms.
  • The DPM – reiterated the DC’s commitment to the coalition government as long as ABC stay united and discussed issues related to the reform process.
  • The BAP’s Mahao – blaming the ABC and its leader for a litany of problems and his expulsion and how, in his opinion, his removal from government would be a loss for the reform process.

While the new political developments playing out in Lesotho may involve new actors, the root causes remain the same. Weak institutions and a deficit of good governance persist, coupled with selfish political interests for economic gain at the expense of the citizenry. Can we really, therefore, be surprised that the kingdom finds itself in this situation again, and so soon? If reforms are not expeditiously implemented, we cannot be surprised if the country arrives at a similar junction after the 2022 election.  The formation of coalitions based solely on gaining access to power and influence are doomed and Lesotho has demonstrated this time and time again.

In short, the SADC Facilitator should ensure he has a dedicated team focussing on Lesotho to assist all parties in the kingdom to preserve and secure all progress made towards attaining the goal of implementing the much needed reforms. All efforts should be made to ensure the ruling coalition does not collapse before the general elections in 2022. This will assist in reducing the trust deficit while also creating a conducive peaceful environment during the upcoming election period and the holding of free, fair and credible elections.

This article appeared in Mail & Guardian on 12 May: https://mg.co.za/opinion/2021-05-12-lesothos-political-impasse-a-case-of-deja-vu/

Dr Craig Moffat is Head of Programme: Governance Delivery and Impact at Good Governance Africa.






Good governance and the rule of law matter now more than ever for South Africa

South African politics is certainly more intriguing than fiction. Behind the drama, though, is the reality that twenty-seven years into our fragile democracy we are at a critical juncture. Critical junctures are major events that disrupt existing political and economic equilibria. Two recent and highly disruptive events have occurred in rapid succession that require examination.

First, Chief Justice Mogoeng Mogoeng has taken long leave from his preeminent position at the head of South Africa’s Constitutional Court. His term is due to end in September this year. The Presidency has not provided reasons for his departure, which comes at a moment of unprecedented political attack on the judiciary and raises questions about the timing of Mogoeng’s decision, though he is indeed entitled to take long leave.

Chief Justice Mogoeng Mogoeng. Photo: Mike Hutchings/AFP

Former president Jacob Zuma, who has had a fractious relationship with a judiciary that has largely ruled against him without fear or favour, recently refused to appear before the Zondo Commission. He then ignored a Constitutional Court order to do so, for which an arrest warrant was subsequently issued. Zuma questioned South Africa’s constitutional foundation and defied Mogeong’s directive that Zuma submit a 15-page affidavit outlining a suitable sanction for being in contempt of court (for which the commission had asked for a two-year prison sentence). Instead of complying, Zuma wrote a lengthy letter complaining of judicial dictatorship.

Mogoeng has been silent since, and it’s unclear what his game is. Speculation, however, that this – and his leave decision – has to do with Mogoeng not wanting to get caught up in questions around Zuma’s arrest appear unfounded. Mogoeng was not on the court panel involved in the decision to issue the warrant.

Of concern, though, is that Mogoeng recently used hearings of the Judicial Service Commission to suggest that during 2016, while Pravin Gordhan was the finance minister, Gordhan had sought to influence him in favour of appointing a friend to the Supreme Court of Appeal. Gordhan has denied the allegations but they do not help South Africa’s reputation for increasingly blurry lines where there should be a clear separation. Nonetheless, Zuma’s attack on the judiciary appears to be baseless; the only public evidence for impropriety on behalf of judges is that Western Cape judge president John Hlophe had tried to persuade Constitutional Court justices to rule in favour of Zuma.

The story is of course far more nuanced than the picture of state capture and lawlessness (Zuma and his rent-hungry acolytes) against the judiciary. Jessie Duarte, the ANC’s deputy secretary-general, in a leaked recording, is alleged to have accused Deputy Chief Justice Raymond Zondo (of Zondo Commission fame) of having a prosecutorial, antagonistic attitude towards Zuma.

Second, and connected, is the peculiar tit-for-tat between Ace Magashule and President Cyril Ramaphosa. The ANC, at the highest level, has suspended Magashule because he is facing criminal charges for corruption. Never one for obeying orders – and closely connected to Zuma, who apparently advised Ace to defy the suspension – Ace responded by stating that he had in fact suspended the president. He also noted that Jessie Duarte (mentioned above) did not have the requisite authority, as his deputy within the party, to issue him with the suspension letter. But only the National Executive Committee or the National Working Committee of the ANC could take a decision of this nature, so it appears that Magashule is simply playing silly politics.

South African ruling Party African National Congress Secretary General Ace Magashule. Photo: Gianluigi Guercia/AFP

Either way, the fact that Duarte issued the letter, in the wake of her own comments allegedly attacking the judiciary, is significant. It suggests that in the interminable internal political machinations of the ruling party, even those aligned with the former president and Magashule, are now jumping ship. They appear to be hinging their lifeboats to Ramaphosa, including the rest of the ‘top six’, a number of whom do indeed possess their own ‘smallanyana skeletons’ and may soon face criminal charges.

These two events coalesce to potentially disrupt our political economy equilibrium. Political attacks on the judiciary are, as recently indicated by former president Thabo Mbeki, tantamount to abandoning ‘the principle that the constitution is the supreme law of the republic.’  He goes further, rightly, to point out that ‘the argument that a constitutional democracy is a threat to democracy itself and a subversion of the will of the people makes no sense and is not supported by any evidence.’

South Africa’s constitution acts as a source of constraining, independent external authority. Far from subverting the will of the governed, it prevents governance itself from becoming arbitrary and relativised. It is the foundation on which the formative principles of the rule of law and the separation of powers rests. In what has essentially become a relatively choiceless democracy with a dominant party, it is critical that a non-politicised bulwark – the constitutional court – should stand firm against an executive that – for ten years under former president Zuma – systematically looted the country. Without such a bulwark, the rule of law becomes a nonsense concept. Constraints against executive abuse have to be credible if South Africa is to escape the economic malaise that its politics have landed us in.

This is not mere opinion. The empirical evidence is compelling that countries with strong institutions – the social systems that motivate regular human behaviour – do far better in the long run than their unhinged, autocratic peers. In a 2019 article in the Journal of Political Economy, which requires far more global attention, scholars Acemoglu, Naidu, Restrepo and Robinson demonstrated with robust econometric modelling that “democracy does cause growth”. It is not – as some would have it – that growth creates the space for democracy to flourish. On the contrary, democracy – defined by a constitutional order that upholds the rule of law – creates the space for growth. These are mutually reinforcing structural dynamics.

The good news, of course, is that judge Sisi Khampepe has been appointed to take Mogoeng’s place. She brings fearless independence and forty years’ worth of experience to the role. That we can draw on this kind of talent is something we should be proud of as a nation. It is nonetheless critical that civil society band together to prevent a constitutional crisis and uphold the rule of law, preferably with high-profile elite lawbreakers in prison soon. Without it, the disruption to our already-fragile political economy equilibrium may prove irreversible.

Dr Ross Harvey is Director of Research & Programmes at GGA. Ross is a natural resource economist and policy analyst, and he has been dealing with governance issues in various forms across this sector since 2007. He has a PhD in economics from the University of Cape Town, and his thesis research focused on the political economy of oil and institutional development in Angola and Nigeria. While completing his PhD, Ross worked as a senior researcher on extractive industries and wildlife governance at the South African Institute of International Affairs (SAIIA), and in May 2019 became an independent conservation consultant. Ross’s task at GGA is to establish a non-renewable natural resources project (extractive industries) to ensure that the industry becomes genuinely sustainable and contributes to Africa achieving the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs).Ross’s task at GGA is to establish a non-renewable natural resources project (extractive industries) to ensure that the industry becomes genuinely sustainable and contributes to Africa achieving the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs)


SADC technical deployment to Mozambique

Has Zimbabwe changed SADC’s messaging approach?

It has been two weeks since the Southern African Development Community (SADC) Extraordinary Double Troika Summit was held in Maputo, Mozambique, on 8 April 2021. The meeting “directed an immediate SADC Organ technical deployment to the Republic of Mozambique”. The technical deployment team is expected to report back to an Extraordinary Meeting of the Ministerial Committee of the Organ by 28 April 2021, who in turn will report to the Extraordinary Organ Troika Summit to be held in Mozambique on 29 April 2021.

All this may seem fairly straightforward, but as has been the norm, SADC has again failed to share details of the exact purpose and composition of the technical team deployed. What has been shared is they have “affirmed that such heinous attacks cannot be allowed to continue without a proportionate regional response”.

As has become the norm, one has to read between the lines of the communique issued at the conclusion of such “close-door” meetings. As most analysts and political commentators know, the value of a communique is that it allows a slight peek into the meeting room. As it is only a slight peek into the deliberations, we are left to assume and draw our own conclusions as to the discussions that led to specific decisions being adopted. At best, the communique corroborates certain public opinions, without much real evidence. This practice often leads to undue speculation, resulting in many unsubstantiated claims being made by experts with no direct access to the “closed-door” meeting. The SADC leaders and the Secretariat should be cautious, as this practice of only providing a slight peek into the decisions adopted more often tends to drive a wedge between them and their citizenry. This is exacerbated by the many unsubstantiated speculative claims presented by various experts with no SADC mechanism in place to offer verification and clarification leading to undue confusion and growing mistrust.

A woman sits on the floor while waiting for her son to arrive in Pemba on April 1, 2021, from the boat of evacuees from the coasts of Palma. – More than a thousand people evacuated from the shores of the town of Palma arrived at the sea port of Pemba after insurgents attacked Palma on March 24, 2021. Photo:  Alfredo Zuniga/AFP

When reading recent statements by the SADC Chair of the Organ, President Mokgweetsi Masisi of Botswana or President Emmerson Mnangagwa, it is clear that there appears to be a change in the regional leaders’ diplomatic tone and language with regards to the insurgency in northern Mozambique. As I have claimed before, this change in language can be traced back to the 27 November 2020 Extraordinary Organ Troika Summit communique. Previously, the language used in earlier communiques tended to be more measured and expressed with a more diplomatic tone. However, this older approach seems to have lost momentum. As expressed in the 27 November 2020 communique, the heads of state again “directed an immediate SADC Organ technical deployment to the Republic of Mozambique”, calling for immediate action as opposed to leaving it up to the prerogative of Mozambique to consider the next step. This change in language could be sterner diplomatic speech from the regional leaders, expressing their frustration at the lack of action to remedy the situation and are not prepared to continuing waiting on Mozambique to lead the effort in finding a lasting solution to the insurgency.

An interesting development that took place immediately after the 8 April Extraordinary Double Troika Summit was the curious and unexpected utterances from President Mnangagwa. He tweeted about the outcome of the meeting even before SADC had released their communique. This behaviour can be considered out of the norm as decisions are rarely, if ever, openly discussed by any SADC leader at least not before the release of the communique. He then went further and stated in an interview that:

“First, we had the Troika itself, which sat and adopted the recommendations of the Ministers of Defence and Security which, in the main, included the need to have SADC take responsibility in dealing with the threat in Cabo Delgado, in the sense that SADC, through its Force Intervention Brigade — our SADC force — should be resuscitated and capacitated immediately so that it can intervene … Later on we had the Double Troika, which then brings on board the outgoing chair, Tanzania, and the incoming chair, Malawi. The Troika submitted its report to the Double Troika, and the Double Troika endorsed the decisions of the Troika. Yes, what is happening now is that the defence and security chiefs have the responsibility of implementing the decisions of the Double Troika.”

President Mnangagwa’s declaration is remarkable in that it may be the first time the public has been granted more than a slight peek into the inner workings and decision making processes of closed door SADC meetings. He revealed in more detail than the communique the approach SADC leaders considered in formulating a regional response to the insurgency. It sheds more light on what “a proportionate regional response” may look like in addressing the insurgency threat in northern Mozambique.

The FIB was first conceived as an arm of the United Nations Organisation Stabilisation Mission in the DRC (MONUSCO) and is composed of troops from South Africa, Tanzania and Malawi. During the November Extraordinary Organ Troika Summit, SADC “accepted the proposal by the United Nations to realign the current Force Intervention Brigade (FIB) troops strength to create the headroom for the Quick Reaction Forces (QRFs), and generate two QRFs from the SADC Troops Contributing Countries”. Therefore, one can assume a deployment of this nature may be on the table for discussion during the Extraordinary Organ Troika Summit on 29 April 2021.

Going forward, President Mnangagwa’s revelations, may have provided analysts and political commentators with a source of information, which in turn may curb the tendency to publish wild unsubstantiated speculative opinions pieces which do not bode well for building trust. Whether his actions were deliberate or not, the consequence of it are positive as it may go some way in decreasing the trust deficit between SADC and its citizens. Inadvertently, his utterances may also have shed new light on the ability of our SADC leaders to formulate well thought out regional responses to curb the insecurity. The main regional implication of non-action is the very real threat that the insurgency may expand and gain a foothold in neighbouring states. Having shared SADC’s response plans at hand, it may be something the SADC Secretariat should learn from and to adopt an approach of sharing more in their communication with the public.  As SADC citizens we can breathe a sigh of relief knowing that our regional leaders are indeed formulating and will soon to be implementing a proportionate regional response to the insurgency in northern Mozambique. We can only hope the Extraordinary Organ Troika Summit on 29 April 2021 will provide us with more information than simply a slight peek.





South Africa’s COVID-19 vaccine roll-out – a dream deferred?


A Johnson & Johnson vaccine against the COVID-19 at the Klerksdorp Hospital, as South Africa proceeds with its inoculation campaign on February 18, 2021. Photo: Phill Magakoe/AFP

On Tuesday 13 April, Health Minister Dr Zwelini Mkhize announced the suspension of the Johnson & Johnson (J&J) vaccine roll-out to healthcare workers over fears of blood clotting. The decision comes after the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) in the United States suspended its use of the vaccine and J&J’s delay in further shipments.  Over 1.5 million South Africans have been infected with COVID-19 and the variant B1.351, causing the loss of over 53 000 lives. After an incredibly difficult year for South Africans, the arrival of the COVID-19 vaccine roll-out brings new hope for life returning to some degree of normality. The pandemic has highlighted the socio-economic and healthcare inequalities found across South African communities. Effectively administering the COVID-19 vaccines will be vital in the quest to halt further socio-economic decline and give South Africans a brighter outlook for 2021.

Despite facing serious challenges in Personal Protective Equipment (PPE) and oxygen availability, and overwhelming hospital admissions, South African healthcare workers must be commended for their efforts in combatting the virus thus far. Their efforts have translated to a recovery rate of about 95% among COVID-19 patients. It is hoped that the vaccine roll-out will begin easing pressure on our healthcare system, because there are many other important healthcare crises that need our healthcare workers’ attention.

Progress for Phase 1

Source: Department of Health, 15 April 2021. *Announced on 24 March 2021

South Africa was the first country on the African continent to receive the AstraZenca COVID-19 vaccine in February. Since then, Minister Mkhize presented a three-phase plan to inoculate healthcare workers, essential workers, vulnerable groups, and the public. The first phase of the vaccine roll-out runs in conjunction with the Sisonke Study, which is a clinical trial of the single-dose J&J COVID-19 vaccine. The clinical trial allows the government to make the J&J vaccine available to healthcare workers while it processes the licensing of the vaccine. The target set for the Sisonke trail is to vaccinate 500,000 healthcare workers.

Since vaccinations began in February, about 292,623 healthcare workers have received their dose. This slow rate of inoculation has raised concerns. The daily vaccination rate is too low to meet the proposed target of 1.25 million healthcare workers by 17 May. However, at the current rate we will only vaccinate just over 500,000 healthcare workers. When President Cyril Ramaphosa addressed the nation before the Easter weekend, he indicated that the government were on track to complete healthcare worker vaccinations within three months. However, there is confusion as to whether he is referring to the Sisonke trial or the 1.25 million targets. In Minister Mkhize’s cabinet statement, he refers to 1.5 million healthcare workers, whereas on the National Institute for Communicable Diseases (NICD) website, the number is 1.2 million healthcare workers. That would leave around 650,000 healthcare workers remaining, to be carried over to Phase 2, placing an additional burden on the roll-out process. Strengthening our primary healthcare infrastructure is vital if we are to vaccinate 67% (~41 million people) of South Africa’s population.

Source: Department of Health, Government Communications 2021

Reflections from healthcare workers

In an attempt to ascertain the vaccine roll-out’s progress, we interviewed some healthcare workers – doctors, administrative staff and biokineticists. Experiences varied and were mostly positive. The electronic vaccination data system (EVDS) was complimented for its ease of use in both registering and booking their vaccine appointments. In some cases, doctors were turned away if doses had run out before the end of the day, requiring them to reschedule for another day. When queuing for their vaccination, social distancing protocols were not strictly followed, which were a concern for those we spoke to. They all described having the expected post-vaccination symptoms for 48-72 hours.

A repeated concern raised was the hesitancy among some healthcare workers to register for vaccination. There are myths and misinformation circulating amongst communities about the safety of the vaccine. If healthcare workers are hesitant, rallying citizens to register could be a challenge. The government has released a ‘myths and facts’ page addressing some of this misinformation. The government implemented mask-wearing campaign is a good example of a positive initiative adopted by the public and private sector. Continued communication from government and civil society to remote communities is equally important to build positive vaccine sentiment.

Minister Mkhize has also proposed a post market surveillance system study to ensure medical authorities closely monitor the deployment of both J&J and Pfizer.

Three phase roll-out strategy – the devil is in the detail

Phase 1 roll-out facts and challenges

The first phase of the government’s roll-out plan proposed 18 centralised sites which have now expanded to 58.  During the expansion there was confusion around certain sites being listed as open but were in fact closed and vice versa. For a venue to be utilised as a vaccination site, the South African Medical Research Council (SAMRC), the Department of Health (DoH), Desmond Tutu Health Foundation, Centre for Aids Programme of Research (CAPRISA) and Janssen Pharmaceuticals must be consulted. This makes the coordination of opening a vaccination site somewhat complex. The process of approving venues creates a bottleneck. The sites need constant updating on the EVDS where registration occurs. There is little information yet on how the government plans to overcome this process when Phase 2 begins next month, which could add to the already strained roll-out process.

Phase 2 roll-out plans

The government plans on increasing the number of vaccination sites to 1,750 and they will range between small, medium and large sites. Small sites will likely be community clinics or pharmacies and general practitioner offices. Medium sites include hospitals, medical centres and retail locations that may be fixed or temporary. Large sites are venues such as stadiums and conference centres.

A massive scale-up effort is needed for site approval if they are to reach this target and vaccinate up to 300,000 people a day. To reach that number per day we will need to mobilise at least 6,250 vaccinators (per day) and they’ll need to do 48 inoculations a day. If South Africa enters a third wave it could mean that some sites would have to de-escalate vaccination efforts to open facilities for COVID-19 testing, slowing down the roll-out further.

Vaccine procurement

Source: Department of Health 2021

Before the end of April, an additional one million doses of J&J are expected to arrive, after which two tranches of 900,000 doses will arrive in May and June. 31 million J&J (single dose) and 30 million Pfizer (two dose) vaccines have been secured by the DoH. Just under two million Pfizer doses are expected to arrive in May. In total South Africa is expected to have 46 million full vaccine doses, which should be sufficient to cover the necessary 40 million needed to obtain herd immunity.

The J&J vaccine will be particularly important for the roll-out in rural areas and remote communities. The J&J vaccine is easier to store, with only a single dose and can be frozen and kept for up two years (refer to the table below). Its efficacy against the B1.351 variant is 95% and is very effective in preventing severe disease or death associated with COVID-19. Unopened vials can be kept for up to three months at fridge temperatures of between 2˚C and 8˚C. If they are drawn into syringes, they will need to be administered within six hours.

Source: Department of Health, National Institute of Communicable Diseases 2021

The Pfizer vaccine on the other hand requires colder storage -20˚C for up to 14 days, and 2-8˚C up to 5 days, with two doses required and can be frozen for up to 6 months (refer to table below). The second dose should be administered between 21-42 days after the first dose.  As yet there is no substantial clinical evidence that the Pfizer vaccine protects against the B1.351 variant. A recent study concluded that the B1.351 variant was, to some degree, able to break through’s the Pfizer vaccine’s protection. The government will need to confirm veracity of this study before administering the vaccine. Coordination amongst pharmacists, vaccinators, researchers, and medical administration staff is vital to ensure jabs are not wasted, so as to avoid any impediments to the roll-out process.

Supply chain governance

Proposals for storage and distribution of the vaccine will be done on an open-tender basis. The Biologicals and Vaccines Institute of Southern Africa (Biovac) and the SAMRC have helped distribute the J&J vaccine but the government is yet to announce who will distribute the Pfizer vaccine. Minister Mkhize has said the department have identified storage capacity across the country but no further details on where these facilities are located.

When vaccines reach their destination, they will need to be signed off by a pharmacist on delivery. The World Health Organization (WHO) recommends at least one pharmacist for every 2,300 people, in South Africa we have one for every 3,837 people. The distribution of pharmacists across provinces is not equal and may pose a problem when delivery is made to areas without these specialists. Measures should be implemented to ensure the adequate placement of pharmacists across provinces is finalised so as to mitigate challenges that may arise.

Local vaccine manufacturing

The government has partnered with Biovac, Aspen and ImmunityBio to develop localised manufacturing of a COVID-19 vaccine that will offer long duration immunity against multiple variants of COVID-19. President Ramaphosa has called for the continent to use its existing skills and capacity to manufacture its own vaccines. Rwanda’s President Paul Kagame said that “vaccine equity” cannot be guaranteed by “goodwill alone” and that Africa should produce its own vaccines and pharmaceuticals products. The COVID-19 pandemic presents an opportunity for African countries to collaborate and promote continental (and local) innovation within the pharmaceutical industry.


  • Government to continue sharing relevant information learnt from Phase 1 to grow public trust and confidence in the vaccination roll-out process.
  • Finalise the sites and required number of healthcare workers to be placed to administer vaccines per site.
  • Formulate measures to overcome potential internet connectivity concerns for vaccine registration.
  • Finalise registration process for undocumented migrants without passports or identification documents.
  • Government to continue sharing the vaccination roll-out progress.

[1] Current population estimate for South Africa is 59.6 million according to StatsSA data from 2020.

Dr Craig Moffat is Head of Programme: Governance Delivery and Impact at Good Governance Africa.
Monique Bennett is a senior researcher at Good Governance Africa. She has a keen interest in data science, data visualisation and statistics using the R programming language. Throughout her studies, research topics such as development, democracy and the environment within the context of developing countries have been her focus areas.

Call for a National Dialogue in Zimbabwe

Reviewing the foundation for a meeting of minds

A recent op-ed by Dr Ibbo Mandaza, director of the SAPES Trust, called for a paradigm shift to achieve reform in Zimbabwe, a country clearly in deep crisis. One of the options he proposed was a call for a National Dialogue process. The purpose of this piece is to expand on factors to consider for calling for such a process. National Dialogues are defined as “nationally owned political processes aimed at generating consensus among a broad range of national stakeholders in times of deep political crisis, in post-war situations or during far-reaching political transitions”¹. They may also be defined as broad-based, inclusive and participatory negotiation platforms involving all sectors of society brought together to negotiate and strengthen the social contract between citizens and the state.

Ibbo Mandaza is a Zimbabwean academic, author and publisher. He is convenor of the SAPES Trust Policy Dialogue Forum; and co-convener (with Tony Reeler) of the Platform for Concerned Citizens (PCC).

In recent years, we have witnessed several attempts to conduct National Dialogues as critical tools in the prevention of conflict and for managing political crisis and transitions. However, while there may be wide ranging inclusive buy-in amongst the different stakeholders, a limitation regarding conceptual clarity persists which in turn limits the likely success of the process. Agreeing on the objectives of a National Dialogue may seem like a straight forward exercise but if the foundation of the process is not correctly laid there will be fissures of concern later in the process.

According to the National Dialogue Handbook: A Guide for Practitioners the objectives of National Dialogues tend to be context dependent: “They may focus on a more narrow set of specific or substantive objectives (i.e., security arrangements, constitutional amendments, truth commissions, etc.), or on broad-based change processes, which may entail (re)building a (new) political system and developing a (new) social contract.” It is for the Zimbabwean stakeholders to decide and agree on the objective before the process commences. If this part of the process is not carefully considered it may result in contestation over who the included stakeholders are leading to mistrust, fear, nefarious agenda setting etc. The Handbook distinguishes between two main types of National Dialogue, identified according to the function they seek to fulfil:

  • A shorter-term endeavour, undertaken strategically as a means to resolve or prevent the outbreak of armed violence
  • Key aims: breaking political deadlocks and re-establishing minimal political consensus, while further reform and steps toward change can be negotiated
  • Key characteristics: with more limited mandates, these tend to be smaller in size and shorter in duration. They are often easier to manage due to the restricted number of actors who may be involved, but also may reflect a less inclusive structure, whereby broad-based societal buy-in for desired changes can be difficult to generate.

Zimbabwean President Emmerson Mnangagwa (3rdL) shakes hands with leaders of political parties who contested him in the last presidential elections after a dialogue meeting hosted at the State House in Harare on February 6, 2019. Photo: Jekesai Njikizana/ AFP

National Dialogues as mechanisms for fundamental change

  • Efforts with a longer-term trajectory, envisioned as a means to redefine state-society relations, or establish a new ‘social contract’
  • Key aims: far-reaching institutional and constitutional changes
  • Key characteristics: broad mandate and often fairly large in size. Seeking to include large strata of society and generate widespread support. They are confronted with the challenges of managing large-scale processes.

In the case of Zimbabwe, it may be wise to adopt a more hybrid model incorporating elements from both approaches as it may be more relevant for a longer sustained political solution. As stated, the political context in which the implementation of a National Dialogue takes place has a direct impact on the success of the process. Huma Haider, an independent research consultant, lists the following as factors to be considered:

  • Political will: the greater the level of political will and elite agreement on the way forward, the greater the likelihood of successful outcomes and implementation.
  • Links to other transitional processes: National Dialogues need to be embedded in larger change processes in order to promote real structural change. If disconnected to other political processes, such as constitution-making, they are likely to be counter-productive.
  • Common ground among parties: the absence of diametrically opposed political camps can make it more likely to arrive at a common view or shared objectives in dialogue, allowing for the process to move forward. In contrast, drastically different views can exacerbate distrust and stall the process.
  • Public buy-in: public support or lack thereof can enable or constrain progress in the National Dialogue process. The degree of buy-in is influenced by the availability of public information, good communication, and media engagement – all of which affect the level of transparency and understanding of the process.
  • Learning from past experience: National Dialogues have benefitted from dialogue expertise and learning from past National Dialogues.
  • The role of external actors and national ownership: support (e.g. political, financial and technical support) or resistance of external actors can influence the degree of success of national dialogues. It is important to strike a balance between external support and national ownership. The latter can increase the likelihood of public buy-in, perceptions of legitimacy – and chances of implementation.

Haider also states that in conjunction with political context factors, design or process factors are important, as these play a role in influencing the likelihood of reaching sustainable agreements. Key process factors include:

  • The degree of inclusion and participation: the vast majority of literature on this subject emphasises that the transformative potential of national dialogues can only be realised if they are genuinely inclusive of society. In order to be truly inclusive, it is necessary to help balance power asymmetries and ensure actual decision-making power. Highly inclusive and participatory national dialogues may render discussions unwieldly, however, and make it difficult to resolve key political questions. The success of national dialogues can depend in large part on finding the right equilibrium between efficiency and inclusiveness.
  • Representation and selection criteria: established selection criteria and procedures for participants in national dialogues can support or hinder the broad representation of different social and political groups. Transparency in the criteria is significantly important.
  • Objective and scope-setting: it is important to avoid overburdening mandates and agendas. It can be challenging to strike a balance between the breadth of the mandate, efficiency and independence. While a narrower mandate can be more manageable and efficient, it can limit the room for change and may contribute to the persistence of an elite-led process. Clarity and relevance to local populations are key characteristics to adopt in deriving a suitable mandate and agenda. Addressing development issues and peace dividends at the outset can be important to the success of national dialogues.
  • Institutional framework and support structures: a comprehensive support structure of important actors close to competing parties can help participants to be prepared (with the necessary expertise and tools), to compromise and to build coalitions, allowing them time to agree on common positions. Such structures do not, however, necessarily improve the quality of participation or guarantee implementation.
  • Role of authority figures: a credible, broadly accepted, independent, respected and charismatic convenor, mediator or facilitator can significantly affect the strength of the national dialogue, indicating seriousness and trust in the process.
  • Decision-making procedures: these can enable or constrain the ability of national dialogues to reach an agreement and implement it. While consensus can help to expand agendas and to include often excluded voices, an inability to reach consensus can benefit the more established forces, as the absence of movement can mean preserving the status quo. Consensus-based decision-making needs to be complemented by other pragmatic mechanisms where deadlocks can be broken, such as the use of working groups.
  • Confidence-building measures: national dialogues must be accompanied by a series of steps to attenuate tensions, in order to establish a level of “working trust” to engage in a meaningful dialogue. Trust-building is important throughout all phases in order to ensure that agreements are also implemented.
  • Provision for implementation: it is necessary to ensure that sufficient funds for implementation, expertise and accountability mechanisms are in place, such that key actors may feel bound by what has been agreed. Transitional bodies and/or new institutions are often set up to implement the outcomes. Implementation can be tough if participants have made unrealistic decisions, if political will is absent, or if external actors fail to provide necessary support.

It is important to emphasise that even with all the above factors in place, the process can still fail if the commitment from those in power are merely a means to “demonstrate” a willingness  to participate in the process but are not fully vested as seen in previous efforts:

“They want to say put in place electoral reforms that will ensure that you lose and we win. And we’re saying no. That will never happen anywhere in a modern constitutional democracy, that a political party that has come into government on the back of a new negotiated constitution, on the back of a new negotiated Electoral Act, comes up with reforms that will reform it out of power. Because the reforms they’re talking about are clear codes to say come with reforms that will ensure that you’re out.” – Former Politburo member and Cabinet Minister, Professor Jonathan Moyo.

This is the difficulty, and at times immovable challenge, in setting up National Dialogues. If Zimbabwe is to succeed, it may require certain difficult conditions to be agreed upon before the process is implemented. This may be a stumbling block too heavy to move across the start line. Otherwise, it may end up being merely a process of going through the motions without a chance of real reforms being formulated and agreed on.

In short, if the National Dialogue process is to succeed, the following foundation strengthening factors must be applied:

  • if there is no trust in the stakeholders the process will fail before it starts
  • a neutral convenor must be accepted by all parties
  • the process must be insulated from undue political or external influence
  • insisting on transparency at all levels of the process
  • outcomes from the process must be acted on and directed to their relevant streams – policy, legislation or strategy.

¹ Marike Blunck et al., National Dialogue Handbook: A Guide for Practitioners; Berghof Foundation, 2017

Dr Craig Moffat is Head of Programme: Governance Delivery and Impact at Good Governance Africa.

SADC extraordinary summit on Cabo Delgado

Crisis meeting on the insurgency in Cabo Delgado

The Southern African Development Community (SADC) held an Extraordinary Double Troika Summit, in Maputo, Mozambique, on 8 April 2021 on measures to address terrorism in Mozambique.

The country’s northern province of Cabo Delgado has been plagued by about 300 insurgent attacks by extremists since 2017, culminating in the seizure in late March of the  town of Palma, threatening a multi-billion dollar Liquid Natural Gas (LNG) project.

Botswana President and Chairperson of the Organ on Politics, Defence and Security Cooperation, Dr. Mokgweetsi Eric Keabetswe Masisi, has described recent attacks as “an affront to peace and security, not only in Mozambique, but also in the region and the international community as a whole”.

The Extraordinary Double Troika Summit was preceded by the Extraordinary Organ Troika Summit and the following communique was issued afterwards.

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Below is an interview with GGA’s head of Governance Delivery and Impact on SADC’s role in the unfolding events in Mozambique.

Dr Craig Moffat is Head of Programme: Governance Delivery and Impact at Good Governance Africa.
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