South Africa’s African National Congress (ANC) is mired in a serious leadership crisis, and President Jacob Zuma faces an ignominious end to his political career. The 74-year-old has refused to take responsibility amid corruption and conspiracy charges. Having been replaced as party president by Cyril Ramaphosa in December 2017, he faced the choice between resigning or taking his chances with a no-confidence vote in parliament. After days of mouting pressure, he finally walked.
The whole episode carries more than an echo of recent events in neighbouring Zimbabwe, where a bloodless military coup removed President Robert Mugabe but left his ruling ZANU-PF party in power, while the coup’s leaders were rewarded with cabinet posts.
The global public seems glued to every move in South Africa’s political drama. But is the attention actually warranted? Is the country really at one of its most momentous crossroads yet? That will only be clear with hindsight.
Perhaps Zuma’s removal will help transform South Africa’s political culture and regenerate the ANC, which is still stuck in its old anti-apartheid/Mandela mode. If it revives the ruling party and ends the era of old men clinging to power and acting with impunity, Zuma’s departure will be one of the great Rubicons in South Africa’s post-apartheid history.
Just before the 1994 elections, ANC activist Albie Sachs declared that the ANC had at best two terms in power to bring electricity and running water to the majority of South Africans and to address the inequality in educational, health and infrastructural services. Any longer, he said, and young South Africans would start to challenge its authority.
To give the party its due, what has been achieved is remarkable. It is easy to forget just how momentous the country’s problems were when the ANC took power in 1994. Given it started with one of the world’s largest gaps between the wealthy (at that time almost exclusively “white”) and the poor (almost exclusively of colour), post-apartheid South Africa has been tremendously successful in creating a stable and solid black middle class.
The party had to try and refashion the country on all levels – political, economic, social, cultural – and in some ways, it has made great strides. While it has its many critics, the Truth and Reconciliation Commission of the late 1990s helped the nation start to move on from one of the most intense protracted experiences of racial discrimination in recent history.
But some of the deep problems apartheid wrought are anything but solved: millions still live in poverty, and levels of violent crime (notably sexual violence) are strikingly high. All the while, many among the ANC’s elite (not least Zuma himself) have conspicuously accrued tremendous wealth, and their extravagance has become a significant problem for the party’s legitimacy. But instead of cleaning house or changing its ways, the ANC has over and over again chosen to fall back on its victory against apartheid and the memory of its most famous member, Nelson Mandela.
Behind the figleaf
In 2013, a month before Mandela passed away, the South African High Commission in London hosted the exhibition “We Love Mandela”, which included a painting by South African artist Simon Dean entitled “The Last Supper”. It portrays Mandela as Jesus, surrounded by an astonishing cadre of “disciples” – from Desmond Tutu, Mohandas Gandhi, Martin Luther King, and the Ethiopian Emperor Haile Selassie.
This sort of Mandela-worship has been the party’s figleaf, and a useful device for silencing opposition, criticism, and calls for change. For far too long, it kept the party safe enough from electoral humiliation that Zuma remained secure in his office. But underneath it all, the political crisis that now confronts both the ANC and South Africa writ large has been brewing for years, and Zuma’s demise is long overdue.
To judge by the coverage outside South Africa, with the global public glued to every turn in this political drama, one might think Zuma’s demise had come from nowhere, and that it is guaranteed to change the country for good. But in reality, nothing new has come to light in some time. The latest investigation into his connections with corrupt interests began with exposés by the South African Mail & Guardian newspaper in 2013. Most of the assorted corruption charges against Zuma predate his presidency, as does the controversial rape case against him in 2005-6.
Zuma’s presumptive successor, Cyril Ramaphosa, is not exactly the embodiment of radical change. But Ramaphosa will have the chance to finally seize the impetus for a true political transformation – to find a way of tackling poverty, violence and discrimination while reforming the ANC from top to bottom.
Only if that happens will the end of Zuma really turn out to be the moment of transformation much of the world thinks it is guaranteed to be. – Written by Heike Schmidt, Associate Professor in Modern African History, University of Reading
This article was originally published on The Conversation.
Southern African Countries Won’t Manage Disasters Unless They Work Together
Cyclone Idai, which recently devastated Mozambique, Zimbabwe and Malawi, was one of the worst natural disasters to hit the southern African region. It killed at least a thousand people and caused damages estimated at US$2 billion.
The response from the Southern African Development Community (SADC) member states, civil society, the private sector and individuals in the region points to the need for a collective, regional approach to addressing natural disasters – rather than individual countries working alone.
Idai also showed, once again, just how unprepared SADC is to respond to major natural disasters. It doesn’t seem to have learnt much from earlier ones.
In 2015, floods and torrential rains associated with the tropical storm Chedza, and Cyclone Bansai left about 260 people dead and 360,000 homeless in Madagascar, Malawi, Mozambique and Zimbabwe.
About a year earlier, flash floods killed, displaced and left thousands homeless in Zimbabwe. However, the storm that remains most vivid in many people’s minds is the one that hit Mozambique 19 years ago in 2000, killing 700 people and leaving two million homeless.
Disasters of this kind know no boundaries. That’s why they require thinking beyond the narrow view that individual governments should respond to crises alone.
Responses to Idai
The first regional response to Idai came from the South African National Defence Force and South African disaster relief NGO, Gift of the Givers. These responses followed a request by the Mozambican government.
The United Nations responded with aid operations in the affected countries a few days later. Other SADC countries, NGOs, the private sector and ordinary citizens also donated to the relief efforts.
For its part, however, SADC’s voice was conspicuously absent for at least a week after the devastation. Ordinarily, it should have led relief operations.
It was disconcerting to see UN Secretary General António Guterres appeal for help and outline a plan to respond to the disaster at a Security Council stakeout, while SADC remained missing in action.
SADC has a dedicated Disaster Risk Reduction Unit. It coordinates regional preparedness and responses to trans-boundary disasters and hazards. But, as South Africa’s Foreign Affairs Minister Lindiwe Sisulu said, the regional body was completely unprepared for the disaster.
Of SADC’s 16-member states only Angola, Botswana, Tanzania, Zambia and South Africa contributed to the relief efforts. This reflects the prevailing preference for a bilateral approach to regional challenges within the SADC.
At the heart of this are narrow nationalistic interests and a preoccupation with sovereignty. The member states are unwilling to surrender control over policies to be administered by the regional body for the collective good.
But, natural disasters like Idai doesn’t respect national boundaries. Their very regional scope requires solutions that integrate domestic actions into a regional governance framework to address them effectively.
When SADC eventually responded, it pledged US$500,000 for relief efforts towards a disaster that cost over US$2 billion in damages to infrastructure alone.
Instead of acting individually, SADC countries need to work together to pool resources and mobilise disaster relief efforts and resources to be more effective. This could be done through the SADC Secretariat.
Funds for immediate humanitarian assistance and the rebuilding of infrastructure should be held in a preexisting, dedicated facility, like a regional disaster risk fund.
This would provide southern Africa with risk financing for climate-related and other disasters. Funds that are often donated by SADC member states, private sector, NGOs, and ordinary citizens for relief efforts can also be pooled and placed in the permanent regional mechanism.
But, there are challenges.
The major challenge to establishing a sub-regional disaster fund probably lies outside SADC, and even Africa. The idea might not sit well with some governments. For example, an attempt to create an Asian Monetary Fund after the 1997/98 Asian financial crisis failed because the US strongly opposed it, and China didn’t support it.
But, SADC could work with global financial institutions to surmount this challenge. The World Bank, for example, already runs disaster risk programmes. SADC could approach it for support and partnership in making the facility a reality.
Cushion against harm
Cyclone Idai has once again shown that natural disasters are capable of wreaking havoc across southern Africa. It’s also shown that affected countries are too poor to respond to the devastation of their infrastructure and the accompanying humanitarian disaster.
It is thus necessary for countries in the region to work together to devise sound contingency plans, including a permanent regional disaster fund, to help cushion them against the effects of natural disasters.
-Chris Changwe Nshimbi; Director & Research Fellow, University of Pretoria
Here’s How The US Claims The Assange-Manning Conspiracy Worked
The U.S. government has disclosed more of its case against WikiLeaks cofounder Julian Assange. It hinges on a claim he and Chelsea Manning worked together to crack a password for a computer storing sensitive government files.
An affidavit unsealed Monday outlining the case against Assange said he conspired with Manning when they discussed working together to crack a password “related to two computers with access to classified national security information.” More specifically, the password belonged to a user called FTP (not to be confused with an FTP server) on two Windows computers that Manning could access from a base in Iraq, the government said.
The FTP account wasn’t associated with any specific individual, and the government alleged that if Manning had used it to pilfer files and hand them over to Wikileaks, she could have foiled investigators looking into who was behind the leaks.
“Although there is no evidence that the password to the FTP user was obtained, had Manning done so, she would have been able to take steps to procure classified information under a username that did not belong to her,” the affidavit read. “Such measures would have frustrated attempts to identify the source of the disclosures to WikiLeaks.”
The alleged conspiracy to crack the password took place in March 2010, two months after she’d walked out of the Iraq base with classified war reports from Iraq and Afghanistan. She was later convicted and served seven years in jail for downloading tens of thousands U.S. military documents and diplomatic cables.
How passwords are cracked
The reason any password had to be cracked in the first place was the use of what’s known as a “hash.” Microsoft’s Windows operating system doesn’t store passwords in plain text. That’s to prevent hackers who find a way on to the computer from seeing and stealing them. Instead, Microsoft makes life harder for cybercriminals and snoops by turning that plain text into scrambled code. That string of letters and numbers is known as a “hash value” and it’s created when an algorithm is applied to the plain text of the password.
For an attacker to get at the plain text it’s possible to do a so-called “brute force attack.” The process for this is basic: The hacker creates a huge list of guessed passwords through the same hashing algorithm used by Windows to find a matched hash value for the hidden password. Once the same hash value is calculated, the password has been found.
Sometimes a password will be too complex for guessing to work in a short enough time frame. That’s where “rainbow tables” come in. These contain a massive number of hash values for previously calculated passwords. Hackers use them to do a quick comparison of the hash they have with the ones in the table, in the hopes that it’s already been seen before and a match is available.
“In computing terms we call this a time/memory trade-off. Rather than spend time on a task, we pre-calculate parts of it and store them somewhere, essentially trading time for memory,” says Tom Wyatt, senior penetration tester at cybersecurity provider Bulletproof. “These tables can be calculated or downloaded from various online sources, and it simply boils down to paying for storage for it all; even in 2010 this was fairly cheap and entirely possible.”
But Microsoft goes one step further in protecting those hash values by splitting them in two, storing the parts in separate files. Here’s where a little trick comes in handy: A hacker might be able to recover those two separate pieces by rebooting a Windows PC using a CD with the Linux operating system. Back in 2010, it was possible to do that and recover the full hash value.
Ken Munro, a penetration tester with Pen Test Partners, told Forbes the technique still works, as long as there’s no additional layer of security over it, such as full disc encryption. “Whilst the technique still works, it’s quite rare to find systems that don’t now have full disc or similar encryption,” he added. (Microsoft hadn’t responded to a request for comment at the time of publication). According to the government’s telling of the story, evidence suggests Manning tried, and very possibly failed, with this technique. In a footnote in the affidavit, the government said Manning hadn’t provided Assange with the full hash, only one of the two halves required.
It’s alleged Manning passed what she thought was a hash value to Assange. The Wikileaks chief then said he would pass it on to a specialist in cracking, according to chats over the Jabber encrypted communications app, as provided in the affidavit. But, as per the investigators’ claims, there was some confusion: Manning said she wasn’t even sure what she handed to Assange was the hash value they wanted. Assange messaged Manning to ask if there were “any more hints” about the hash and that he’d had “no luck so far,” according to the government account. From there it’s unclear what happened. The government admits it didn’t know whether the password was ever cracked.
Not that it changes much for Assange: The charge is that of conspiracy. If he did offer assistance to help Manning gain access to U.S. government systems and encouraged the then intelligence analyst to leak files, the charge still stands. Manning, who served seven years in jail before being pardoned by President Barack Obama, is back behind bars for refusing to testify in the investigation into Wikileaks. Her lawyer had not responded to a request for comment at the time of publication.
Assange’s lawyer, Jennifer Robinson, couldn’t be reached for comment at the time of publication. She told Sky News yesterday that the indictment against her client showed “the kinds of communications journalists have with sources all the time.” Following Assange’s arrest, however, various journalists have said on Twitter that any incitement to hack organizations or steal documents was far from normal and risked breaking the law.
Meanwhile, the fallout from Assange’s arrest continues. According to Reuters, Ecuador’s telecommunications vice minister Patricio Real said the government’s networks had been hit by a mass of cyberattacks after it decided to revoke Assange’s asylum status. He claimed various government websites had been slammed by 40 million hacking attempts per day, double the number it typically sees.
-Thomas Brewster; Forbes Staff
Boeing CEO Dennis Muilenburg Faces Mounting Pressure From 737 MAX Crashes
Dennis Muilenburg has earned a reputation as a high-energy CEO, bicycling 140 miles a week, sometimes taking groups of employees along for high-speed bonding sessions. The 55-year-old may need every ounce of energy he’s got as he faces one of the worst crises for Boeing in over 50 years: two crashes that killed 346 people, linked to the automated flight controls of the 737 MAX and leading to the grounding of the company’s bestselling plane.
The stakes for Boeing, and its CEO, are huge. The 737 accounts for 33% of Boeing’s revenue and almost 50% of its profit, according to Berenberg analyst Andrew Gollan. Deliveries have been halted since the plane was taken out of service worldwide after the March 10 crash of an Ethiopian Airlines plane, airlines are demanding compensation, and the company faces scrutiny from Congress, a Department of Transportation inquiry and a federal criminal probe. The stock (BA) has fallen 10%. Lawsuits filed by relatives of the dead and shareholders could take years to conclude.
Over the past few weeks, the 34-year Boeing veteran has been traveling heavily to shore up support from airline customers and investors. An aerospace engineer by training, Muilenburg has kept a close eye on the Boeing team rewriting the faulty flight control program; last week he went up in a plane that tested out its effectiveness.
But many observers are giving Boeing and Muilenburg poor marks for their public handling of the crisis. Until late last week, Muilenburg was largely invisible and the company’s public statements, while expressing sympathy for family and friends of the deceased, were short on substance.
“I give them a B,” says Jeffrey Sonnenfeld, a professor of leadership at the Yale School of Management. Muilenburg needs to put a human face on Boeing, he says, and get out in public and engage with the media to try to correct misperceptions and address the many questions about what went wrong, even if he doesn’t have ready answers to offer.
Muilenburg hasn’t shown the media sophistication of his predecessor, Jim McNerney, who’d previously helmed GE’s prized aircraft engine division and 3M. “He’s got a catastrophe as his training ground,” says Sonnenfeld.
Preliminary reports from the investigations into the crashes of Lion Air Flight 610 in October and Ethiopian Airlines Flight 302 last month suggest that the pilots of both planes struggled to counter a flight control program called MCAS that erroneously pushed the planes’ noses down due to malfunctioning angle-of-attack sensors. After Ethiopian investigators released their report last Thursday, Boeing put out a video statement by Muilenburg in which he said Boeing accepted responsibility for the role that MCAS played as one of the “chain links” in the two accidents.
Aviation regulators in other countries have questioned the Federal Aviation Administration’s certification of the MCAS system and its initial reluctance to pull the 737 MAX out of service; several have said they won’t just take the FAA’s word that it’s safe to fly again, making it uncertain when the plane will return to the skies worldwide.
With the prospects of a quick resolution fading, Boeing announced last Friday it would throttle back 737 production to 42 a month from 52—a sharp reversal from its plan to raise output to 57 by the summer.
Analyst Richard Epstein of Bank of America/Merrill Lynch downgraded the stock to neutral Monday, estimating that Boeing likely won’t be able to resume deliveries for six months and won’t get back on pace until 2021, reducing earnings through 2023 before interest and taxes by $13.7 billion.
Whether Muilenburg’s job is threatened or not may depend on the stock price, says Richard Aboulafia, an aerospace analyst with Teal Group.
The board is loyal to Muilenburg, observers say, and his record so far has given them little reason to doubt having signed off on then-CEO and chairman McNerney’s decision to promote him to the top job in 2015 at age 51.
Engineer With Focus On Financial Discipline
The hard-charging, detail-oriented engineer presented a strong contrast to McNerney, a liberal arts major at Yale and Harvard M.B.A. who rose up through the ranks at General Electric when it was a star factory under Jack Welch. Native to Iowa, Muilenburg grew up milking cows every morning on his family farm and graduated from Iowa State before going straight to work at Boeing. Health-conscious and rail thin, he drinks Diet Mountain Dew to get a calorie-free caffeine fix and has been known to order turkey sandwiches with no mayo.
Though he’s cut head count, Muilenburg has cultivated a more positive relationship with the workforce than McNerney, who clashed with the machinist’s union and infamously joked of workers “cowering” from him.
However, Muilenburg has followed in McNerney’s footsteps with a laser focus on financial discipline, including boosting profits by wringing discounts from suppliers. Muilenburg has even gone a step further, moving to make more components in house and aiming to more than triple sales from lucrative aftermarket maintenance and services to $50 billion a year.
Like his two predecessors, Muilenberg has continued to sweeten the pot for investors, devoting roughly 95% of operating cash flow to the company’s steadily rising dividend and share buybacks.
The stock has taken off, climbing fourfold from February 2016 to a peak of $446 at the beginning of March, compared with a 63% rise for the Dow industrials over the same period. The March selloff has only pushed the stock back to where it stood at the end of January.
But to Aboulafia, the flawed design of the MCAS flight control system, combined with the continuing problems with the KC-46 tanker and delays in the crewed space-launch program are further evidence for criticism he’s leveled at Boeing for almost two decades: that the company’s focus on shareholder rewards has come with a “deprioritization and perhaps under-resourcing of engineering.”
Boeing says it’s maintained R&D spending at a steady level and has a healthy corps of 56,000 engineers.
The question of how MCAS was certified has raised concerns over whether Boeing has gained too cozy a relationship with the FAA; a wildcard going forward is whether any evidence of wrongdoing will emerge.
If whistleblowers had any damaging information we likely would have heard it by now, says Mark Dombroff, an aviation attorney at LeClairRyan and former head of the Department of Justice’s aviation division. He expects that the DoJ will seek to determine within 90 to 120 days whether there’s a case to pursue.
Aviation experts are optimistic that Boeing’s software patch and training revisions will solve the 737 MAX’s safety problems. Boeing’s disclosure this week that it logged zero orders for the MAX in March generated negative headlines, but with a whopping 15,000 total narrow-body orders placed over the past seven years, there aren’t really any airlines left with sizable needs, says Aboulafia, with the notable exception of Chinese carriers. Any trade deal between the U.S. and China that would change the balance of trade will likely include Boeing sales.
Boeing’s last major crisis came in 2013, when the 787 was grounded for three months due to battery fires, two years after the plane entered service following years of production snafus and spiraling costs. While the financial stakes were large, no lives were lost. The last time Boeing faced a safety crisis of a comparable nature to the current one was the mid-1960s, when four new 727 jets crashed in a span of four months.
Like then, Boeing faces the task of convincing a fearful public that the MAX will be safe to step into again. Sonnenfeld says Muilenberg needs to take a page from James Burke, the late CEO of Johnson & Johnson, who pulled off the tall task of convincing Americans that Tylenol was still safe after seven people were killed by cyanide-laced capsules in 1982. “It’s going to take the CEO to be out there.”
-Jeremy Bogaisky; Forbes Staff
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