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Out of the frying pan into the fire

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President João Lourenço has steered the Angolan ship calmly through stormy waters, while the presidents of South Africa and Zimbabwe have significant challenges to address, that is if they survive their terms. Image credit: The independent Uganda

The article was written in February 2018 two months after Ramaphosa won the NEC election at Nasrec to become president of the ANC, and soon after Mnangagwa came to power in Zimbabwe, as a result of a military coup. João Lourenço became president of Angola just before that.

Cape Town February 2018 – New presidents in South Africa, Angola and Zimbabwe is reason to be optimistic, however, South African’s, Zimbabweans and Angolan’s should now be more vigilant and vocal than ever before.

Besides their mineral wealth and great economic potential, these three countries have a few other common denominators. Bad governance, corruption and kleptocracy have plagued development and constrained economic growth after independence. Moreover, there are serious questions about all three these presidents.

João Lourenço, president of Angola, was handpicked by, and is a close ally of, José Eduardo dos Santosone of the longest serving dictators in Africa. Zimbabwean president Emmerson Mnangagwa has been accused of having interests in the notorious Marange diamond fields just too many times for it not to be true. But the real albatross around his neck is his alleged involvement in the Gukurahundi massacre in Bulawayo in the 1980’s, and it might come back to haunt him. As the Marikana killings might haunt Cyril Ramaphosa in South Africa, who served on the Lonmin board when 34 miners were shot by the South African Police.

Ramaphosa has a long history in the mining industry and owned several mining companies during his career as a businessman. He helped establish the National Union of Mineworkers (NUM) and the Congress of South African Trade Unions (COSATU) and was one of the first Black Economic Empowerment (BEE) beneficiaries. But the Ramaphosa tentacles runs more than just skin deep in South Africa. He is married to Tshepo Motsepe, younger sister of mining magnate Patrice Motsepe (owner of African Rainbow Minerals). Motsepe’s older sister, and thus Ramaphosa’s sister-in-law, Bridgette Radebe, is a mining mogul in her own right, and is the owner of Mmakau Mining, a company that produces platinum, gold, uranium, coal and chrome. Radebe is also the president of the South African Mining Development Association, or the Junior Mining Chamber, and has, on numerous occasions, called for a 51% black ownership in mining companies.

Radebe, of course, is the wife of South African Minister in the Presidency Jeff Radebe – a family affair if ever there was one. The Ramaphosa, Radebe and Motsepe business empire is so intertwined with government and other interests, that it becomes extremely difficult to connect the dots, as Pravin Gordhan was so fond of saying.

The hope of Zimbabwe, Angola and South Africa rests on the shoulders of these three men, let’s hope they live up to expectations.

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AgricultureEnvironmental Management & Climate ChangeEnergyESGInfrastructureMiningPolitical EconomyTourism and ConservationWater Management