Editorial: Focus on Southern Africa by Prof. Gloria T.
Emeagwali, chief editor of AfricaUpdate
After about three hundred and fifty years of Dutch-Afrikaner
and British domination, under the guise of various white supremacist
ideologies, Black South Africans were able to vote - between April 26th
and 28th this year.
The Afrikaner Resistance Group, a right-wing neo-Nazi
organisation planted over 17 bombs within the voting period, killing
at least 21 persons, but that did not stop the elections. Nor were they
prevented by Buthelezi of the Inkatha movement. In the wake of the global
pro-democracy movement and persistent armed resistance, de Klerk and
his cronies had little choice but to come to a negotiated settlement
and put to rest the nefarious policy of apartheid.
South Africa has only entered a new phase in the liberation
struggle. Decolonisation and true independence do not come easily. Here
in the United States we know that voting rights do not guarantee the
end of racism and elections do not automatically eliminate centuries
of discrimination and white supremacy. In fact, racism and discrimination
are still alive and well here in the United States. Mandela and his
new government will no doubt have to introduce the principle of Affirmative
Action, at least in the short term, and consider issues related to the
redistribution of land holdings and so on in order to redress the balance
and level the playing field and, by so doing, transform democratic voting
processes into egalitarian realities. The struggle continues and this
is only a phase in the liberation struggle for justice, human rights
and human dignity, a struggle which continues here in the United States
In this issue of Africa Update we focus on the
South African elections to a large extent but we also pay attention
to developments and issues from other parts of Southern Africa including
Namibia and Mozambique.
In a future issue of AfricaUpdate, we hope to
examine the crisis in Rwanda, Central Africa, and the extent to which
Belgian-French rivalry and imperialism, colonial policies of divide
and rule, and pre-colonial Tutsi-Hutu nationalistic and class antagonisms,
have contributed to the crisis. For now. however, let us enjoy the first
phase of victory of the Southern Africans.
Return to Table of Contents.
Heaven Is Smiling by George C. Springer,
Connecticut State Federation of Teachers
We are rolling up our sleeves to began tackling
the problems our country faces. We ask you all to join us go back to
your jobs in the morning. Let's get South Africa working. For we must,
together and without delay, begin to build a better life for all South
Africans. This means creating jobs, building houses, providing education,
and bringing peace and security for all This is going to be the acid
test for the government . . .
Thus spoke Nelson Mandela on what he described as "one
of the most important moments in the life of [South Africa]" in
an election victory speech addressing supporters and the nation in what
he called a "joyous night for the human spirit." The seventy-five
year old man who Frederick W. de Klerk called "a man of destiny,"
smiled broadly and danced with his supporters.
"Isn't freedom beautiful?" asked
Lacy Mnguni, 54, of Soweto. "Heaven is smiling on South Africa,"
shouted Esther Puza, 48, also from Soweto, swaying with fourteen family
It was my first day back from South Africa, having spent
an unforgettable eleven days and flying high. The counting of the votes
continued, but the election that ended 342 years of white rule in South
Africa was over. Portuguese explorers, British administrators, French
Legionnaires, and Afrikaners took turns dominating the black majority
population. President de Klerk had concluded that apartheid's scheme
of separating South Africa's six million whites and thirty-four million
blacks into white and black "nations" would not work. A new
culture of reconciliation has launched, for a period of at least five
years, a government of national unity designed to provide blacks and
whites a chance to overcome the bitter legacy of white rule by building
a new multiracial nation.
Unions that had worked with the African-American Labor
Center asked the AFL-CIO to send American unionists to South Africa
as observers to witness the process to see whether or not it was free
and fair. Over one hundred of us were recruited from a number of international
unions. Shortly before our departure date, a state of emergency was
declared in Natal province as one powerful chief sought to obstruct
the elections. Nightly television coverage revealed daily confrontations
and killings. Fortunately, a few days before we left for South Africa,
that chief agreed to support the election.
Those of us making the trip gathered at JFK International
Airport in New York on April 20 for an orientation prior to our flight
to Johannesburg later in the day. There was excitement about participating
in this historic event, and anxiety over the possibility of violence.
The two-hour briefing conducted by Washington-based staff of the African-American
Labor Center was followed by a fourteen and a half hour flight, affording
us plenty of time to meet and get to know one another.
We were welcomed at Jan Smuts Airport in Johannesburg
by Africa-based staff of the African American Labor Center, who assisted
us in getting settled in our hotel. After a brief meeting, we were free
until the next morning. The next morning we were given a thorough briefing
that included advice on security by the officer in charge of security
at the United States Embassy in South Africa, a presentation on the
spirit of the labor movement, a history of the thirty-six year relationship
between the AFL-CIO and Africa, a description of an AALC staffer's experiences
with voter education, and a presentation by the only U.S. member of
the Independent Electoral Commission. [Their task was awesome. In
a short four months they had come up with a process that would include
three million who had voted in previous elections, and nineteen million
who had never voted. There was a forty percent illiteracy rate and a
fifty percent unemployment rate. The election would include people of
all races, classes, religions, and sexes. Provisions were made for voting
in eighty other countries including sixteen cities the United States.]
In the afternoon we visited COSATU (Congress of South
African Trade Unionists), where we were briefed by leadership of the
three largest unions in South Africa. Organized labor represents about
one-fourth of all South African workers, and the trade unions have been
deeply involved in the liberation movement. One union was supporting
the ANC (African National Congress), but the other union's leadership
had decided not to endorse any of the twenty-four parties competing
in the election.
Compared to their U.S. counterparts, the South African
trade unionists were quite young. Veterans of the struggle for liberation,
they had seen comrades killed, and lived with the real possibility of
their own premature deaths. They were grappling with thoughts of unity
and thoughts of the transformation of their unions as they deal with
the realities of the new South Africa. Will they continue to get the
same kind of support from members that they received during the struggle
to end apartheid? Will their mission be as clear? Will their friends
in the new government pressure them to lighten up on their demands?
How do they continue to grow and improve the wages and working conditions
for South African workers? How do they help the new government meet
its new targets for jobs, housing, and education?
That evening they held a reception, thanking us for responding
to their invitation and letting us know how important to them were these
elections and our presence. They wrapped up their presentation by leading
us in the song, "We Shall Overcome."
Saturday's highlights included a drive through Soweto,
an ANC rally, and a reception hosted by the African-American Labor Center,
at which the U.S Ambassador to South Africa and his wife stopped by.
Travelling on the highways of Soweto dramatized for us the stark contrasts
between the affluence and squalor of South Africa the breathtaking landscapes
and as dilapidated housing as you'll ever see. We were a part of the
excited crowd at the stadium for the ANC rally. There were souvenirs,
pulsating rhythms, queues on the field, and dancing in the stands. The
highlight was Nelson Mandela walking around the stadium waving at supporters
and denouncing violence, reviewing his program, chiding de Klerk for
religious exclusivity, expressing annoyance at Inkatha for its unreliability
and attempts to obstruct the elections and wooing of the coloreds. We
left the stadium knowing we had participated in something very special.
Sunday was a day of relaxation, before the eighty-nine
of us from the United States would be split into teams and sent to Pretoria,
Johannesburg, Kimberly, Durban, Capetown, Port Elizabeth, and East London.
I went with others to an outdoor market and a gold mine not currently
in operation. At the market we were able to examine and purchase native
art work and crafts. We were not only able to go down into a gold mine
as part of a guided tour, but we learned about gold mining and how it
influenced life in South Africa.
Monday through Friday was spent in and around East London,
a city on the Indian Ocean about an hour's flight away from Johannesburg,
in between Port Elizabeth and Durban. Our task there was to observe
elections in the area in four teams of three: two unionists from the
United States and one from South Africa. Our team worked mostly in townships
that were between one to two hours away by car, south and west of East
London. Monday was a day of preparation, while Tuesday, Wednesday, and
Thursday were the days of the election. Those days began at 5:00 A.M.
and ended at about 10:00 P.M. They included observing at the voting
stations, and meeting in the evening for debriefing and further planning.
The three days of voting will not be forgotten. There were a few glitches,
such as the polls not opening on time the first day because of materials
not yet distributed, but the process we observed was impressive.
The first day was set aside for individuals in special
circumstances - the sick, aged, election workers, security workers.
We went to prisons and hospitals to observe the voting. It was difficult
to contain one's emotions as we witnessed long lines of the aged, infirm,
and pregnant waiting hours to cast their first votes. The caring of
election workers, as evidenced in the assistance provided, was a sight
to behold. There was no campaigning in or around the voting stations.
Security personnel were present, but unobtrusive. We met other observers
from the United States (lawyers and members of church and other civic
groups), and from Canada, the European Parliament, and the United Nations.
We were treated with utmost courtesy by the election officials.
Much credit must go to the government, political parties,
the Independent Election Commission, and election officials for their
commitment to make sure that anyone over the age of eighteen who was
willing to vote would have the opportunity to do so. There was training
for election workers full-page newspaper ads, televised instructions,
and buses to transport voters to the stations. The army was involved
in the process and delivered voting materials. Voter registration was
conducted on voting days, voting days were made nonworking days, polls
were kept open beyond scheduled closing times, and an additional day
of voting was added for places where there was not enough time to complete
the election process. Traveling to and from the voting stations allowed
us to see more of the country and learn from its people.
On Friday we wrote reports and shared our experiences
before returning to Johannesburg. Friday evening we dined with a delegation
from SADTU (South Africa Democratic Teacher Union). As we completed
our dinner, a white couple approached us and inquired whether or not
we were election observers, then thanked us for our contributions to
free and fair elections in South Africa. For the rest of Friday night,
and much of Saturday night, we exchanged our memories of the events
of the past week with our brothers and sisters who had served in other
parts of South Africa. There was substantial agreement that we had been
a part of a great historical movement.
A few of us visited a game reserve on Saturday, and all
of us spent Sunday afternoon at the Pretoria residence of the United
States Ambassador to South Africa. There was great music, good food,
and lively conversation. Later we left for the airport, where we connected
with many other Americans who had also witnessed the elections. There
was unanimity that we had a lot to learn from this democratic election
in which ninety percent of eligible voters participated.
These elections, hopefully, will be the dawn of a new
era. Reconstruction will involve healing, struggle, and hard work. There
are huge questions concerning the future actions of those who profited
from apartheid. Where will the money come from for the jobs, homes,
and schooling that the new president seeks? Will there be a level playing
field? A fairer distribution of wealth? A restoration of peace?
Return to Table of contents.
Under the chairmanship of Dr. Segun Odesina
of the Technology Unit, the Dinner/Lecture Series of the African Studies
Committee was launched on April 23rd, 1994. Delivering this year's lecture
was the visiting Fulbright scholar, Dr. Ambrose Monye, who is Director
of the Division of General Studies at the University of Benin. He spoke
quite eloquently on aspects of Nigeria's literary tradition in an address
that constituted the first of the occasional publications of the Committee.
In attendance were members of the ASC, the Geography Club, and several
members of the New Britain-Hartford community. Dr. Odesina offered welcoming
remarks, while Dr. Tim Rickard, Director of the International Studies
Center, introduced Dr. Monye and set the tone for a most enjoyable evening.
Following the meal and Dr. Monye's presentation, Dr. Odesina showed
slides on aspects of the Nigerian culture.
CCSU Recognizes South Africa's Free
by Jackson Morgan III, C.C.S.U. student
On Wednesday, April 27, 1994, Central Connecticut State
University (CCSU) experienced a program in honor of the South African
elections. The Prayer Vigil, sponsored by The Coalition of 100 Black
Women and the CCSU chapter of the National Association for the Advancement
of Colored People (NAACP), was held in the CCSU Student Center Ballroom
Barbara DeBaptiste, President of The National Coalition
of 100 Black Women and Mistress of the Ceremony, introduced the program
by talking about togetherness and how being there that night was a substitute
for not being in South Africa. She kept the audience entertained with
her humor and made the night enjoyable for all.
Following DeBaptiste's introduction, Reverend George Gay,
President of the New Britain NAACP Chapter and Pastor of New Jerusalem
Free Will Baptist Church, lifted the crowd's spirit with deep prayer
while everyone held hands.
There were many guest speakers who participated in the
event, but that was not all that kept the audience entertained. Jessica
Hammond, a vocalist specializing in gospel, spirituals, and jazz, sung
with sweet ebony harmony as her voice filled the air with joy, while
CCSU's own Ebony Choral Ensemble, led by Mr. Jimmy Knight, sang several
gospel selections. Despite the absence of all the male tenors, Ebony's
seven coordinated beautiful women created a gospel harmony that lifted
the hearts and spirits of all in the room.
Others who were present to speak were: Dr. Gloria Emeagwali
and Lindiwe Mismang, a junior at St. Joseph College, who delivered a
personal speech that brought tears to the eyes of many. She spoke about
her life as a survivor of the apartheid system.
Nomathemble Shephard, a Hartford resident who is also
from South Africa, spoke on the meaning of the vote. She believed that
the vote was significant "because so many people died to get it."
Lisa Wimbraly, CCSU student and member of the NAACP, came up to the
front, but this time she was not singing. She read a prepared statement
written by CCSU's own Director of African-American Studies, Dr. Felton
Best, who was unavoidably absent.
Gerri Brown-Springer, President of the New Britain Coalition
of 100 Black Women, was responsible for putting the Prayer Vigil program
together. She spoke briefly on how she felt about the voting in South
Africa, and then did not continue to talk in fear that she might begin
To conclude the program, Father Kenneth Ornell and Reverend
Gay offered prayers and concluding remarks.
Return to Table of contents.
CCSU Facilitates Somali Dialogue
About 40 Somalis from the New Britain/Hartford area met
at CCSU in May to exchange views about current developments in their
homeland. The meeting lasted for four hours at DiLoreto Hall and undoubtedly
marked another step in the reconciliation process amongst the various
interest groups in the local Somali community.
Although members of the African Studies Committee at CCSU
did not participate in the deliberations, in her welcome remarks the
Coordinator of African Studies wished the participants a fruitful meeting.
Return to Table of contents.
How does it feel?
POTSHERDS (For Winnie Mandela)
How does it feel
To mould a pot,
With love and care
And attendant fire,
That water the eyes
And choke the throat?
How does it feel
To hold a pot,
With charm and glee,
And have it dashed
To Two Point Eight clear Billion bits?
Pieces of Robben Island,
Count more than Two
Point Eight clear Billion.
And the pieces grow
New Shapes and colours,
New plants and flowers,
Of new days and times.
(May 28, 1992)
CROW AFTER HEN
Like crow after hen,
They descend on her.
Cats sniffing rats.
Ants puffing chests.
Flies tickling sores.
Others weave webs,
As spider for pest.
Still as arrows,
Fly straight from source,
In silent dance of death.
Ogini* shakes its shoulders,
Adjusts its boiling black skin,
Fashioned from bug and beetle,
Resumes its dance.
*Zebra rat noted for its beauty
FOR ARTHUR AT CORONATION
(on the eve of Mandela's inauguration)
Spirits of father's children
Scatter in unholy grounds,
Flutter like bodies unburied,
Unwedded with final rites
Of passage to abode of night.
Still filled with smoke
of that grim place,
Where he has no rest.
Still sings with zest
"Chase them bald heads
Out of, out of di town."
Still prays for the day,
When Mother's children
Will shout with one voice,
"We are free! We are free!"
Still Shaka pases the veld
That mar his lofty plans.
Then comes this child
of our Sharpvilled womb,
born of centuries of labour
In Island robed with burden.
Where he cut stones,
With Shaka's zest,
And Marley's haste.
Fed fully with fears
of a new May,
This tenth that comes
With eyes mirthful
Rest well Arthur Notje.
Rest Marley and King.
Rest dear Shaka,
And Sharpvilled ones.
May no khakied sound
confuse your sleep.
And not pregnant box,
Fill your eyes with sand,
And ballot papers red and hot.
* Arthur Notje, author of At Rest from this Grim Place,
committed suicide when about to be deported to South Africa.
by Chinyere Okafor
University of Benin, Nigeria
Return to Table of contents.
HOUSEHOLD SURVEYS OF WOMEN IN URBAN
MOZAMBIQUE: A STATISTICAL OVERVIEW
by Rosemary Galli, Senior Policy Advisor, Mozambique
The recent publication of the results of the first round
of the Household Budget Survey of the provincial capitals of Mozambique
conducted by the National Directorate of Statistics (DNE) enables one
to have a comparative picture of the status of women and men in urban
areas. The first module contains information on housing, employment,
education, possession of consumer goods, expenses and income as well
as demographic information. The "household" was defined as
the people living in the same house whose expenses were partially or
totally supported by the unit. A similar study was completed of the
capital city in 1993. Together they present a rather comprehensive statistical
portrait of urban society. Another study of households in the greater
urban area of Maputo and Matola was conducted by a Cornell University
team in collaboration with the Department of Food Security of the Ministry
of Commerce. One of the preliminary papers from the study will be referred
to for purposes of comparison and cross-checking.
It is important to call to mind that, although urbanization
in Mozambique is secular in origin, there was rapid growth especially
from the 1980s onwards caused by an almost continuous state of war.
It must also be remembered that the war caused between 1 - 2 million
refugees to flee to neighboring countries. The process of resettlement
of the millions who crowded into urban areas and the refugees is hardly
reflected in the studies because it has been slowed by a continuing
state of insecurity. The following is an extract of the three studies.
In both Maputo and the provincial capitals, women are
more numerous than men, especially in the age group of 20--29. This
must be seen as one of the consequences of the war, although in southern
areas of the country especially there is a 'tradition' of temporary
male labour emigration. Sahn reports an abnormal prevalence of women
over men in the over 45 year olds in Maputo, which cannot be explained
by the emigration pattern, but this abnormality was not found in the
surveys conducted by the DNE in either Maputo or the provincial capitals.
A recent study on women and food security noted a striking absence of
adult males in a sample of poor households in both rural and urban areas.
See Centro de Estudos Africanos, Department of Women and Gender, O Direito
a Alimentos e a Mulher em Mocambique: Estudo de Casos na Regiao Sul,
Single people abound in the provincial capitals. Counting
only those over the age of 15, it was found that 54.8% of the population
in provincial capitals is single as opposed to only 39.5% in Maputo.
On the other hand, Maputo has higher percentages of divorced, separated
and widowed people--8.7% as opposed to only 6% in the provincial capitals.
Household size in the provincial capitals is smaller than in the capital
city: 5.8 people as opposed to 6.7 in Maputo.
One of the most striking features of the capital city
is the high percentage of children attending school. In the age group
7--14, 82.7% go to school with attendance rather equally divided between
girls and boys. As to be expected, however, these percentages drop significantly
in subsequent age groups while the gender bias rises radically. Unfortunately
school attendance was not reported in the provincial capitals. Tables
on educational levels in the provincial capitals show a much higher
incidence of illiteracy and lack of access to education. While only
14% of Maputo's population have never had instruction, 27.3% of the
people in provincial capitals never went to school. Twenty-three percent
of all women in Maputo and 38.2% in the provincial cities have never
been to school. The illiteracy rates for women are even higher: 25%
in Maputo and 45.2% in the provincial capitals.
The way employment is defined structures the results
of the surveys. In the DNE surveys, all those economically active in
the week before the interview were considered employed. Inactive persons
were defined as students, housewives, retired people, the infirm and
young people without work of any kind. Housewives participating in parallel
markets were considered employed. In the Cornell--Food Security study,
employment was any income-earning activity. Both studies showed unemployment
to be low in the economically active age group (15--59) in Maputo. The
DNE study reported only 12.9% while the Cornell Study disaggregated
the figures by gender showing 6.8% unemployment for men and only 1.7%
for women. In provincial capitals, the population is similarly active
with an overall unemployment rate of only 7.9% affecting 8.6% of men
and 6.9% of women.
Both the DNE and Cornell studies underline the significant
levels of underemployment concealed by these results. Sahn defined underemployment
as working less than 15 days per month and estimated this as 4.9% for
men and 10% for women in Maputo. The DNE study noted that in the provincial
capitals 58.7% of women worked 32 hours or less.
The types of economic activity are notably different
between capital and provinces. Government service predominates in Maputo
employing 34.5% of the people, predominantly males (46.2% of men and
17.2% of women). The next largest employer in Maputo is self employment
accounting for 30.9% of the jobs. Here women are in the majority: 54.4%
of working women and only 15% of men. Self employment is associated
above all with commerce, particularly in the informal trade sector.
According to the DNE study, 48% of all women in Maputo are engaged in
this sector. Agriculture is another important activity for them while
construction is for men in the informal sector.
In provincial capitals, agriculture predominates employing
42.7% of all people with women in the majority (66% as opposed to 24.5%
of men). Commerce is also important employing 20% of working people
divided almost equally between the sexes. For women, the informal sector
predominates: 83.7% of women either work for themselves or in ╩family╦
businesses for no pay. Sixty percent of all working men have salaried
employment. This is comparable to the findings for Maputo. Sahn reports
that 72.8% of all male workers are wage workers.
Only the Cornell study attempted to record remuneration
for employment according to gender. This was only in regard to wage
employment in Maputo. The only certain conclusion that could be drawn
from the rough data presented was that remuneration increased significantly
as educational levels increased. The authors of the study promised further
research into the subject.
As to be expected, the DNE surveys showed a significant
difference in the levels of receipts between male and female headed
households. In Maputo, 75.8% of all households were said to have a male
head while 24.2% were female-headed. The average receipts of the latter
is 75% that of the former. The female-headed household group also included
a more privileged group which received transferences from abroad. This
group representing almost one-third of the total female-headed households
received on average 65% more than the average male-headed household.
In the provincial capitals, the DNE study showed 81.4%
of families to have male heads and 19.6% with female heads. The latter
received 76% of the average receipts of the former. It is to be noted,
however that the female-headed households were more likely to receive
free products than their male counterparts. A comparison of the average
monthly allocation of resources between male and female-headed households
showed similar total allocations. Differences occurred in categories
of expenditures with male-headed households spending more on drink and
tobacco and female-headed households spending more on clothing.
It is obvious that statistical analyses conceal as much
as they reveal and have to be complemented by research that examines
in depth the distinct qualities of life or various groups within the
urban and rural settings. Nonetheless, there are some interesting generalizations
that can be drawn even from this brief survey of the surveys. The first
is the striking rural quality of urban life, particularly for
women, living in the cities of Mozambique. This is most obvious in the
provincial capitals where a large percentage of men as well as women
are still engaged in agriculture as their primary occupation. In Maputo,
less than 10% are in agriculture. However, if one combines this with
commerce then the figure can rise to as many as 40%. The justification
for this is that the two activities tend to be combined for many women,
particularly the fruit and vegetable vendors which have taken over the
streets and market places. Rural realities are also reflected in the
large number of illiterates, especially women, in the provincial capitals.
Yet even in Maputo as many as one-fourth of all women are illiterate.
The study on women and food security makes explicit the connection between
the rural quality of women's lives and their lack of education. "Among
the most noteworthy activities of the target group, besides housework,
are activities related to the informal sector of the economy. Fundamentally,
these comprise the buying and selling of products and subsistence production
also destined for sale. Both are realized in informal markets called
'dumbanenges.' The importance of these activities for the target group,
just as for the great majority of women in cities and countryside, lies
in the fact that they are practically the only activities to which women
have access in order to obtain the means of survival." Another
statistic which reveals this ruralization of the cities is that almost
one-fourth of Maputo's population and nearly 50% of the households in
the provincial capitals lives in cane dwellings.
A second generalization concerns the informality of economic
life in the urban areas. Whereas the DNE study was very cautious in
its first collection of economic data, it was very firm in its conclusions
on economic activity in provincial capitals: "...the informal sector
is the predominant sector of the economy." As indicators it used
the non-possession of a work permit (almost two-thirds did not have
one) and the percentage of workers in firms with less than 10 members
(70.5%). In Maputo, the category of self employment was more or less
synonymous with the informal sector. This sector employed 31% of all
The feminization, ruralization and informality of the
urban economy in Mozambique are consequences of the war and structural
adjustment. Large nubile female populations are the result of the removal
of young men through mortality, migration and military service. Ruralization
has occurred in large part by the forced dislocation of entire villages
due to the war. Informal sector activity has been influenced by the
progressive removal of the State from economic life. All three have
meant the search for alternative forms of income.
Return to Table of contents.
REGIONAL ELECTIONS IN NAMIBIA: SOME
GOOD NEWS FOR A CHANGE
by William A. Lindeke, Chairman of the Political Science
Department, University of Massachusetts at Lowell, and
Winnie Wanzala, Professor of Political Studies, University
Some researchers have rightly criticized the overly statist
and centralized orientation of African politics since the early days
of independence. However, little notice has been paid to elections that
are sub-national events. Namibia's 1992 Regional and Local Authority
Council elections are a good case in point. While they are clearly not
as important as the 1989 elections (supervised by the United Nations
under UNSCR 435) that led to independence, nonetheless they do have
significance for civil society and grassroots democratization and deserve
more attention than they have received thus far. Furthermore, they represent
some much needed good news about democratization in Africa.
The 1992 elections took place from Nov. 30 - Dec. 3. At
the regional level, new constituencies had been established by a Delimitation
Commission. Thirteen new Regional Councils were created. Additionally,
the Regional Councils each select two of their members to form the new
National Council, a second chamber of the Namibian Parliament called
for in the 1990 constitution. This new regional structure of majority
rule replaces the abandoned apartheid structures of the colonial era
(districts based largely on the eleven ethnic administrations - similar
to the so-called homelands in South Africa). At the local authority
level, numerous new towns were proclaimed and others conducted their
first ever one-person, one-vote elections.
Regional and Local Government in Namibia
Although Namibia adopted a unitary state model in the
1990 constitution, some provisions were also anticipated for a degree
of decentralized responsibilities at the regional and local level. These
efforts reflected some understanding of the diversity of the population
and the development and political needs of Namibians. They also reflected
a recognition of the limited capacity of the central authorities to
respond effectively to that diversity.
The National Council, as the upper chamber, has primarily
a consultative constitutional role except on specifically regional matters
where it can initiate legislation. It is given powers to carry out national
policy through their Management Committee for executive functions, while
one of their number becomes the region's governor. The regional authorities
do not have independent sources of revenue. It is clear that the current
government does not want to devolve too much of its hard won power to
lesser officials. This is especially true because the state bureaucracy
remains largely populated with former colonial officials (protected
by Article 141 of the constitution), which already constitutes a restraint
on government power as does the continuing neocolonial influence of
The Local Authority Councils also have a Management Committee
and a mayor, but have somewhat more defined tasks and dedicated revenue
streams. The principle limitations here involve the underdeveloped character
of most towns relative to the needs and limited qualifications and experience
of the officials. In this case the Ministry of Housing and Local Government
retains considerable oversight functions (especially in budgetary matters
and the appointment of town clerks). In the larger cities the difference
made by majority rule and local control will be significant in terms
of overcoming the legacy of apartheid in the distribution of services
and development in such things as housing, roads, sewerage, policing,
employment and the like.
In the view of a member of the Delimitation Commission
and an advisor on local government issues to the Ministry, "The
national government ... is reluctant to part with its policy-making
powers ...". At the other end there are also conflicts with the
traditional leaders, especially over issues such as land allocation,
which are complicated by the unevenness of legitimacy for traditional
leaders due to collaboration with colonial authorities in some areas.
The 1992 election results continued some expected trends,
but also presented some surprises. Voter registration, though hampered
by a short preparation timetable, exceeded 80%, as did the actual turnout.
Thus, we can see the continued commitment to ╩freedom and democracy╦
in the emerging political culture of independent Namibia. SWAPO (the
governing party) expanded its base of support in the South to include
gains into previous opposition strongholds in the South. This reflects
in part the freer migration of people from the former homelands to urban
areas. Overall, SWAPO achieved a greater than 2/3 vote (which had eluded
then in 1989), while DTA (the official opposition) gained about the
same percentage at 27. SWAPO also carried almost all the major towns
and cities and 9 of the 13 Regions. One observer has expressed fear
that a de facto one party state may be forming. Clearly, the independence
honeymoon from 1989 is still on and the official opposition has become
In the 95 Regional Council constituencies SWAPO carried
71 seats to 21 for the DTA and 3 for UDF. These results include two
by-elections held at a later date. SWAPO thus dominated 9 Councils (including
some with a clean sweep), while DTA controlled three and one was mixed,
having UDF as the swing vote. On the National Council, SWAPO holds a
veto-proof 19 seat majority to 7 for the DTA and none for UDF.
In Local Authority Council results, SWAPO won control
of 32 authorities gaining 199 total seats. DTA won 11 councils and 138
seats. UDF controlled two councils and won 23 seats. Six Local Councils
recorded mixed results with no clearly dominant party. Nineteen of the
towns had a 4:3 ratio between the major parties indicating a degree
In all, the process and results of these elections confirm
the peaceful and democratic trends evidenced earlier in Namibia's independence
process. While these elections are still in the context of the liberation
struggle, for instance, in finally turning over local government to
majority rule, they have set the stage for a broadening and deepening
of democratic practice and expectations in the country.
Political Women in the Local and Regional Elections
One very important aspect of the 1992 elections was the
role of women candidates, especially at the local level. The proportion
of women candidates elected at both levels was roughly the same. Considering
the low proportions of women candidates at the regional level, and the
single member district system applied, women do not seem to have fared
badly. However, women constitute 31.49% of elected local councillors,
and only 3.16% of elected regional councillors. It should also be noted
that although the party list system was used for the national legislature,
there are only five women MPs in the 72 member chamber (6.9%). Of the
26 members elected by Regional Councils to the National Council, only
one is a woman (3.8%), showing a weaker success rate at higher levels
of government. How can we account for this difference?
The party list system helps get women elected. Also an
affirmative action provision accompanied the party list system at the
local level. The Local Authorities Act required party lists with twelve
members (Windhoek only) to field at least three women candidates, and
those with seven members (all others) to field at least two. It did
not stipulate the position women would have on the list; however, parties
were not required to allocate seats in order of appearance on the list.
Of key significance is the fact that all six contesting parties exceeded
the 26% (approx.) minimum of women candidates.
In the Namibian context, the reasons given for such overwhelming
compliance by political parties may be linked to campaign strategy --
widening of the party's appeal to women voters. It should be noted that
the 1992 Exit Poll Survey suggests that men do not feel more inclined
toward participation in politics as candidates than women.
The survey also suggests that there is a discontinuity
between attitudes toward women in general, and attitudes toward women
candidates. Discrimination on the basis of gender is unconstitutional
in Namibia; however, the combined impact of Western cultural values,
indigenous traditions and apartheid impose a triple oppression on women,
on the basis of their race, gender and class. The gender equality ideal
is not yet understood fully by a significant proportion of both men
The survey results indicate that the majority of Namibians
did not find it difficult to vote for a woman (78%). The majority of
men and women who rejected a woman's candidacy (22% of respondents)
gave as a reason, "Women are not suitable to hold political office."
It seems that voters were not entirely put off by the presence of women
candidates on the party list. The study found, however, that voting
on the basis of party loyalty was stronger than support for individual
candidates at both the local and regional levels.
Nonetheless, women participated in greater numbers at
the local than at the regional level. This may be explained by the affirmative
action provision, and the common perception that women participate differently
in politics than men --specifically in grassroots community service
or associations at the mass level, rather than in formal politics. Local
authorities are perceived to be involved with social and community issues
associated with women, rather than "politics" which is associated
with men. Clearly, factors such as potential job distance from family
duties, the perception that regional and national politics detract from
the traditional gender role, may explain women's overwhelming candidacy
at the local authorities level. Thus, woman's candidacy at all levels
of government will have an important impact on raising and resolving
the issues that are most important to women.
Electoral change should be completed by social programs
aimed at transforming the sex role and socialization system that develops
different orientations toward power in men and women. Some efforts are
already under way in terms of legal reforms such as in traditional inheritance
practices, which, if changed nationwide, could facilitate women's access
to land. This in itself would be empowering to peasant women, who do
so much of the agricultural labor in communal areas.
Both the procedures and outcomes of the 1992 Namibian
elections confirm a continuing pattern of democratic participation in
national life. The results show gains for Namibian self-governance,
majority rule and gender equality over the prevailing colonial experience.
The exit poll survey reinforces this as respondents saw voting as an
expression of "freedom and democracy." Bringing some measure
of local control to towns and cities has long been seen as a reinforcement
to democratic practice. Although the relations between central government,
local authority and traditional leaders is yet to be established, a
promising start is in evidence.
Return to Table of Contents.
The Regional Editors of AfricaUpdate
- Zenebworke Bissrat served for several years
as Senior Management Expert at the Ethiopian Management Institute,
Addis Ababa. She is at present associated with the CMRS, Ethiopian
Catholic Church, Addis Ababa, Ethiopia.
- Donald Chanda teaches at the University of Zambia,
and he is also Special Assistant to the President of Zambia on Economic
and Development Affairs.
- Maimouna Diallo is an economist and also a consultant
to the United Nations Development Program. She resides in the Ivory
Coast, West Africa.
- Julius Ihonvbere is a Professor of Government
at the University of Texas, Austin. Among his books are Nigeria, the
Politics of Adjustment and Democracy (New Jersey: Transaction, 1993)
and The Political Economy of Crisis and Underdevelopment in Africa
(Lagos: Jad Press, 1989).
- Paulus Gerdes is the Rector of Mozambique's
Higher Pedagogical Institute, Maputo, Mozambique. He has extensive
publications on African mathematics, including A NumerašŃo em Mošambique
(Maputo: Instituto Spector Pedagˇgico, 1993) and Geometria Sona (Maputo:
Istituto Superior Pedagˇgico, 1993).
- Mosebjane Malatsi is a Senior Policy Analyst
at the Development Bank of Southern Africa, based in Johannesburg.
He is a leading member of the Pan-African Congress.
- Alfred Zack-Williams is from Sierra Leone. He
teaches in the Department of Historical and Critical Studies at the
University of Central Lancaster, UK. He is also a member of the Editorial
Board of the Review of African Political Economy (ROAPE), United Kingdom.
Return to Table of contents.