Three Ministers of Finance in the space of four days, chaotic scenes in Parliament and aggressive student demonstrations, 2015 was among the most dramatic years in post-independence South Africa. CAJ News Africa looks at the major political events of the year that is drawing to a conclusion.
As in previous years, political and business leaders from around the globe converged in South Africa, a regular host of international events.
Among these were the fifth the Ordinary Session of the African Union Assembly of Heads of State and Government, the Summit of the Forum on China-Africa Cooperation (FOCAC), the latter held for the first time in African soil, as well as the Africities Summit.
SA continues mediating in the Lesotho crisis.
On May 10, a new era dawned in local politics as Mmusi Aloysias Maimane was elected the leader of the Democratic Alliance at the opposition party’s 2015 Federal Congress in Port Elizabeth. He defeated party chairperson Wilmot James to first black South African to lead the DA, as well as its youngest leader to date. He succeeded Western Cape Premier Helen Zille, who stepped down after eight years at the helm of the opposition party.
In August, Social Development Minister, Bathabile Dlamini, was elected as the new African National Congress Women’s League president. Dlamini defeated incumbent Angie Motshekga at the influential league’s long-awaited elective conference held in Pretoria.
In the early hours of March 15, Minister of Public Service and Administration, Collins Chabane was killed, aged 55, in a traffic accident on the N1 near Polokwane.
Student protests took centre stage during the year, starting with the #RhodesMustFall campaign. Statues throughout the country were vandalised. There were more pronounced protests around the #FeesMustFall campaign as students protested against the high cost of education. Violence characterised the campaigns, education was disrupted and some students arrested.
It has been a challenging year for the Congress of South African Trade Unions. In March, the Central Executive Committee of the labour body voted unanimously to expel longtime General Secretary, Zwelinzima Vavi for “gross misconduct and failure to perform his duties.” He had been at the helm since 1999. Vavi and the National Union of Mineworkers have failed in their attempts to have their expulsion reversed.
In October, President Jacob Zuma suspended National Police Commissioner, Riah Phiyega, pending an inquiry into her fitness to hold office. She became the third Commissioner, in succession, to be suspended for misconduct after Jacob “Jackie” Selebi and Bheki Cele.
Selebi, a convict, died in January after suffering a stroke.
The country made global headlines for the wrong reasons for failure to arrest Sudanese President Omar al-Bashir in June when he attended the AU conference. A local court initially al-Bashir from leaving the country pending a decision on whether he should be arrested. He flew out of the country in defiance of a court order. He is wanted for alleged crimes against humanity in Darfur and according to the International Criminal Court (ICC), South Africa, as an ICC signatory, had to arrest him.
Parliament was the scene of some unmemorable incidents.
In February, parliamentarians from the Economic Freedom Fighters disrupted Zuma’s State of the Nation Address. Police were deployed to forcefully remove the Members, prompting to the other opposition DA to stage a walkout.
In October, as the student protests intensified, riot police hurled stun grenades at unarmed protesters who had broken through police barriers at Parliament. Students hit back with bricks and garbage cans. Several students were injured and others arrested.
In March, Zulu King Goodwill Zwelithini sparked a storm when he asked that “foreigners” return to their countries than cause inconvenience in the country by competing with locals for scarce economic opportunities. Some foreign nationals were killed as the aftermath of the comments that have been described as “xenophobic” and “highly irresponsible.”
Earlier this month, Zuma relieved Finance Minister Nhlanhla Nene of his duties, replacing him with little-known David van Rooyen. Within four days, after the markets react negatively and outrage within the economic and political circles, he removed van Rooyen and replaced him with Pravin Gordhan.
Author: Tintswalo Baloyi