Top of the Blogs 2019 #11

A weekly compilation of independent voices from the African blogosphere

To keep you updated on the issues discussed in the continent's blogger scene, we publish a "Top of the Blogs" at the end of each week - interesting new blog posts commenting on media, culture, politics and news from all over Africa.

Overview: 2 – 9 August

Tomorrow isNational Women’s Day in South Africa! With this day in mind, we begin our Top of the Blogs with a look at the past 25 years of feminist politics in democratic South Africa. Meanwhile in Uganda, the trial and conviction of the feminist scholar Dr. Stella Nyanzi have drawn sharp criticism from civil rights organizations. Ethiopia recently broke the international tree-planting record, by planting 350 million trees in 12 hours. What does this feat mean for a country – or a continent – that has lost most of its forested land in the last few decades? Land is also a big topic in South Africa, where the Black First Land First (BLF) party sparked controversy with its racially exclusive membership policy.

South Africa: Has the feminist momentum ground to a halt?

Do South African women have something to celebrate this Women’s Day? Professor Amanda Gouws argues that “little is left of the feminist agenda that swept South Africa 25 years ago”. According to Gouws, who teaches Political Science at Stellenbosch University, feminists made huge strides in the early stages of democratic transition. Gouws points out that they drove the building of institutions, such as the Commission for Gender Equality, helped pass laws on domestic violence and abortion, and negotiated gender representation quotas in politics. On the downside, the academic thinks that the presidencies of Mbeki and Zuma, as well as wide-ranging corruption have reversed a lot of these gains – along with the ANC Women’s League that has promoted a traditional image of women.

Uganda: 18 months of jail for offending the President on Facebook

Dr. Stella Nyanzi is no stranger to controversy. The medical anthropologist has already been arrested in April 2017, for having called President Museveni “a pair of buttocks”. A social media campaign to free her, under the hashtag #FreeStellaNyanzi, was successful in the short term, liberating Nyanzi the following month. However, she was convicted on August 1 to 18 months of jail on new charges, under the 2011 Computer Misuse Act. In a detailed blog post, Ugandan civil liberties activist Masake Anthony argues that the trial was far from fair.

Ethiopia: Fighting deforestation, tree by tree

Following Ethiopia’s record-breaking tree-planting on July 29, Ugandan journalist Charles Onyango-Obbo muses on the state of the environment in Africa. He points out that the 350 million planted trees represent more than a stunt for Ethiopia. In contrast, Obbo thinks that the act was vital for the Ethiopian state. Furthermore, Ethiopia has set an example for countries like Ghana and the Ivory Coast, where forests are said to be disappearing. The author stresses the link between welfare of the environment and of the state: where there are high levels of corruption, money for seedlings tends to disappear. “Growing trees depends on the two things most African governments struggle with: First, you need to have low to zero levels of corruption. Second, you need trust or sufficient levels of political credibility.”

South Africa: Defending the right to exclude

The Independent Electoral Commission de-registered The Black First Land First (BLF) party on 15 July, declaring its exclusion of White members unconstitutional. The party represents a radical fringe in South African politics. It gained less than 1% of the national vote in this year’s elections. Its central claim is for “expropriation without compensation” of land owned by White South Africans. However, the de-registration by the electoral commission was criticized by some commentators, such as academics Steven Friedman and Jacques Rousseau. On AfricaBlogging, the philosopher Rousseau – not to be confused with the 18th century Enlightenment figure – lays out his arguments why BLF should be allowed to compete as a political party. According to Rousseau, the incident should make South Africans consider revising their Constitution. ”Documents are framed for and by their time, and while the spirit and motivation of the Constitution might remain sound, we can over time learn that its desired outcomes can be achieved through different or revised laws.”