Vol. I, Issue. 3 (Summer, 1994): Focus on Southern Africa

Table of Contents

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 as well.

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.

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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 members.

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?

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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 Elections
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 Annex.

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 cry.

To conclude the program, Father Kenneth Ornell and Reverend Gay offered prayers and concluding remarks.

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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.

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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)


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


(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.

Arthur Notje,*
Still filled with smoke
of that grim place,
Where he has no rest.

Bob Marley,
Still sings with zest
"Chase them bald heads
Out of, out of di town."
And King,
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
Chases invaders
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
And zestful.

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

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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, Maputo, 1992.

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 workers.

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.

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by William A. Lindeke, Chairman of the Political Science Department, University of Massachusetts at Lowell, and

Winnie Wanzala, Professor of Political Studies, University of Namibia

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 foreign capital.

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.

Election Results

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 more marginalized.

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 of competitiveness.

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 and women.

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.

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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.

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