A shallow anatomy of SA’s political and electoral structure

I am becoming increasingly aware that most South Africans don’t full understand the structure of Government in South Africa and how our electoral system works. Below I have attempted to summarise this as best I can.

Government in South Africa comprises 3 separate but related spheres:

  • Local Government = Municipalities and the elected Public Representatives (politicians) are councillors.
  • Provincial Government = Provinces and the Public Representatives (politicians) are MPL’s (members of the provincial legislature)
  • National Government = South African Government and the Public Representatives (politcians) are MP’s (Members of Parliament)

In Local Governments, half the councillors are directly elected to represent the people living in municipalities’s wards and the other half are “Proportional Representation” or PR councillors and are chosen by the party on the basis of the % the political party won. Thus there are twice as many councillors as there are wards in a municipality. Usually PR councillors are “deployed” to shadow the ward councillor in another ward with a view to winning the voters of that ward over in the next election.

Only in Local Government is any politician elected directly – ie. you vote for a person. In the rest of the spheres the political parties choose who will be appointed.

Thus, if a politician must be replaced in the Provincial or National spheres, the party just replaces them.

In the local sphere however, because ward councillors are directly elected, a by-election must take to allow the community to elect a new person to represent their community.

All SA reps are elected for 5 year terms.

20 (+19) things you may want to do in Durban

My Original List

1.    If you can make it up to Ballito (45km), there is a restaurant there called Moz-am-bik (I’ll be more than happy to escort you there! :P) which serves the best Peri-peri chicken and seafood in the world – Promise.
2.    Goundens Curry – is a *very* authentic and working/middle class curry house in Umbilo.  I will gladly take you here for a egte bunny chow.
3.    The new stadium (Moses Mabhida) information office on Walter Gilbert Rd.
4.    A tour in the harbour with Sarie Marais or similar.
5.    A meal at Buds on the Bay at the dodgy end of Bayhead Rd – must try the Caprese Salad starter.
6.    uShaka Marine World must be done I suppose – I do miss Water World though!  Definitely a beer or similar at the Moyo bar on the beach.
7.    A Sunday afternoon concert in the Botanic Gardens.
8.    A Thursday 7pm KZN Philharmonic Orchestra concert in the City Hall.
9.    Go to the beach.
10.    Go on a rickshaw ride.
11.    Get a kayak at vetchies pier (uShaka).
12.    Watch something at the Elizabeth Sneddon Theatre (University of KZN).
13.    Watch something at The Playhouse (opposite the City Hall).
14.    Drive through the Canelands north of Durban.
15.    Drive through the Valley of 1000 Hills West of Durban.
16.    Watch a Rugby Match at ABSA Stadium (King’s Park).
17.    Go gambling on the blister on the face of Durban, Suncoast Casino and Entertainment World.
18.    Go to Spiga D’Oro on Florida road for Durban’s most popular Italian Food.
19.    Go to night racing @ Greyville Racecourse.
20.    Sushi / Thai at The Green Mango in 9th Avenue near the Greyville Racecourse – Roger’s Tuna Carpaccio is something quite unique!

A few Several bunch more contributed by readers

21. Johnno chunk dog burger at Billy the Bums, Windermere Rd. – imsmith
22. Cricket (and beer!) at Castle Corner, Kingsmead Cricket Stadium. – imsmith
23.  A jump off new pier (into the sea). – imsmith
24. A 4am Johnnies Chip ‘n Triple Cheese Roti (Sunrise Chip ‘n Ranch – Sparks Rd). – Blake Davidson
25. The Vodacom Durban July. – Blake Davidson
26. The Sardine Run. – Blake Davidson
27. Laze a Sunday afternoon away at Joes Kools (Damn I miss home). – Blake Davidson
28. Ice Skating at the newly refurbished Ice Rink down by the beach! (After which you can get some karma free food at Vrushniks next to the Spar which is parallel to the Ice Rink). – Kath Fourie
29. Take the alternate route to Pietermaritzburg, drive from KwaMashu to Inanda Dam, Inanda to Nagle Dam and Nagle to PMB without ever seeing the N3 or M13. On the way check out the Shembe Village, Msinsi Reserve, a shebeen or two and countless spectacular views. – Andrew McGill
30. Row in the harbour at sparrow’s, watching the sun rise over the sea, behind the city skyline. Best way to see Durban City. – Rienzo Colpo
31. Take a drive right to the end of the Bluff (ex-recce base, YES it is now open) and enjoy an unparalleled 360 degree view of the city and the sea. – Rienzo Colpo
32. Watch the sun set from your surfboard at Snake Park. – Rienzo Colpo
33. Enjoy a sunrise launch from the Mkomazi River to go and dive on Aliwal Shoal. – Rienzo Colpo
34. Hear a Fish Eagle’s call over Shongweni Dam. – Rienzo Colpo
35. Take a stroll along the entire beach front, stopping at uShaka, Wimpy North Beach and Sun Coast as you go for a coffee or something cold. – Rienzo Colpo
36. Stop at the Cube on Innes Road to take in one of the best views of the city. – Carine Gill
37. Hit the sunrise trail run at Giba Gorge. – Jenni Ainsworth
38. Visit the tea garden at Marianhill Monastery – A step back in time. – Jenni Ainsworth
39. Do Roma Revolving, one of the 36 revolving restaurants in the world – Kath Fourie (her review)

Good Luck Jacob Gedleyihlekisa Zuma, Mr President.

There is something about Jacob Zuma which makes me feel genuine hope for the ability of the ANC to do good on the promises they have made for the coming 5 years.  At the same time, I am confident that someone who has gone to the lengths he has to stay out of court, must have something to answer to, but we would not be the first country in the world to have a head of state with a cloud above their head – Italy’s Silvio Berlusconi has been the subject of several criminal allegations and court cases.

So, while still firmly seated in the opposition camp and convinced he should have the charges against him tested in a court of law, I wish Jacob Zuma well as he embarks on his new challenge as President of the Republic of South Africa.

Sir, your political responsibility is a privilege and opportunity afforded to very few.  Execute your duties well and in the interests of all South Africans.  Show us what it means to be a civil servant.  Indeed, usher the return of “civil” back to “civil servant” and your term will have been one well spent.

– Msholozi ushaya isqueakie takkie

A POEM FOR JZ by Mark Berger

O JZ dear JZ
Our new leader you are
From humble beginnings
You’ve really come far.

And now is your time
To shine and be strong
And make a real difference
And prove them all wrong.

We hope you will show us
The man that you are
With the mind of a politician
And the voice of a rock star.

The ladies will swoon
And many will say
That you use much less botox
Than Zille of the DA.

You’ve shrugged off the charges
You’ve given us hope
You even have managed
To fight off the COPE.

We hope you are firm
We hope you are fair
We hope you will never
Put colour in your hair.

We hope you can calm us
When voices are shrill
We hope you get along
with Patricia de Lille.

As well as the opposition
Who will question you so
And challenge your decisions
To ensure that we grow.

For we really do need you
And you really need us
But who really needs
The Freedom Front Plus?

Our politicians are many
Their ideas are too
But it’s not what they say
It’s about what they DO!

We want you to solve
The serious dilemma
Of that very strange man
Called Julius Malema.

And also the Taxis
Who break all the rules
And endanger our lives
And drive like real fools.

We need lots of jobs
And houses and things
And maybe in our parks
For the kids, some swings?

We need much less crime
And violence and fear
And much less of those who
Make corruption their career.

We want service delivery
And efficiency and speed
And competent people
We do urgently need.

To run the departments
Which impact the lives
Of our sons and our daughters
And our parents and wives.

And Africa she needs us
To show her the way
Out of gradual decline
And rapid decay.

But don’t try to fix Africa
By neglecting the South
As was tried by Mbeki
With his pipe in his mouth.

Our economy is strong
And it can still get stronger
If the minister of finance
Could just stay a bit longer?

Cause we want this to work
And we need you to win
And make better lives for those
Who voted you in.

Without grabbing the farmland
Without calling for war
Without making the mistakes
Of Mad Bob next door.

We’re a Banana Republic
I’m hearing some say
But I think we are more like
A Choc Nut sundae.

With some white and some brown
And some nuts in between
And a warm, rich black topping
With a dollop of cream.

So we hope you’re a fighter
Who will fight the good fight
For the blacks and the coloureds
And indians and whites

We hope you will lead us
With vision and grace
So we can become
A much better place.

Yes you are our leader
And we wish you the best
As the next few years
Put you to the test.

So we send you best wishes
And hope you do well
And as they say in the classics

Good Luck Msholozi!

INDIASOFT 2009 Speech: “Looking Ahead – From an African Perspective”

Delivered as part of Panel Discussion, 27 February, 2009 – INDIASOFT, alongside:

  • Her Excellency Madame Ana Vilma Albanez de Escobar, Vice President, Republic of El Salvador
  • Her Excellency Mrs Lamia Chafei Seghaier, Secretary of State, Computer Science, Internet and Software, Tunisia
  • Mr Rene Mangin, Vice President in charge of Economic Affairs, France
  • Mr Siddharth, Secretary to the Government of West Bengal
  • Mr N Krishnan, Director General, Software Technology Parks of India
  • Dr Pradeep Ganguly, Director, Department of Economic Development, Montgomery County, Maryland, USA
  • Dr Peter Del Fante, Chief Executive Officer, Adelaide Western General Practice Network
  • Mr Oshim Somers, Director, ESP Enterprise Solutions Provider Pty Ltd, Australia


Transcript of the speech follows, with the visuals used in delivering the speech available in Microsoft PowerPoint format here. The text is included in the notes attached to each slide:


Honoured guests, delegates, I am here today to outline my thoughts on the opportunities presented to the Indian IT and software development community by the developing economies on my continent of Africa. 

I live in Durban, South Africa, which, aside from the Kingsmead cricket ground and beautiful beaches, is known for several things, but two of them noteworthy to this audience are:

1. the fact that Durban’s population includes the highest concentration of Indians anywhere in the world outside of India; and

2. an interesting culinary invention called the “Bunny Chow”.  A Bunny chow is a half or quarter loaf of bread, with the centre removed and the resulting cavity filled with a generous helping of mutton, chicken, beef or bean curry. 

South Africa was also home to an early friend and participant in the liberation movement in South Africa, the Mahatma – Mohandas Gandhi.  Gandhijee arrived in South Africa in 1893 to practice as a lawyer and was virtually immediately a victim of the racial discrimination that became the oppressive nationalist regime of Apartheid.  For the rest of his time in South Africa, he fought for the rights in the many Indian nationals living in South Africa.

Africa’s post-independence history is possibly one of the greatest tragedies in the history.  From the first post-colonial era independence of Ghana in 1957 to South Africa’s final transition to democracy in 1994 and beyond, the opportunities of a free Africa have regularly been dashed by a plague of what the world has come to refer to as “failed states”.  Even in 2009, well into the 21st century, Zimbabwe provides the most recent example of failed state.

There is however, promisingly, a growing commitment to democratic rule, good governance, clean governance, service delivery and ultimately economic growth on the continent.  The current spell of liberalisation in governments and leadership across a range of African states is reminiscent of Indian efforts during the 1990s to stimulate the growth of your economy.

From the early 1990s, the leadership of Prime Minister Rao and his Finance Minister Manmohan Singh, now your Prime Minister, is credited with the starting the liberalisation of the Indian economy which finally produced the growth rates needed to begin lifting your nation out of poverty and developmental stagnation.  Since then India’s Economy has blossomed, driven by a hard working, technical and intelligent workforce who are all the more relevant in the information-heavy world economy of the 21st century.

This history is relevant, but I was not invited to INDIASOFT to deliver a history lesson – I am, instead, here to talk about the opportunities that the growth being experienced in African economies provides to the Indian IT and software development community.

One of the key sets of the challenges facing African governments in the early 21st century is the shortage of skills available to the growing economies.  Most serious is the shortage of technical skills, such as those in engineering and technology.

I don’t believe Africa’s problems are uniquely complex.  Like so many such cases in the past, the problems are almost always simple but the people involved make can them complex.  I believe Africa’s problems, when broken down into manageable chunks, are simple problems which need to be approached in a well considered and practical fashion and in the overall context of a liberal market economy.

Build relationships with your African clients; consult, build trust, consult, communicate and then consult again.  Consult with your client on a regular basis to ensure the solution remains relevant to the local requirements.

Creating practical solutions to simple problems is a key factor in producing sustainable advancement and development.  This means deploying the right solution, not overselling and not deploying solutions which produce an unrealistic skills requirement for maintenance post deployment.  Skills development and skills transfer are two key priorities for Africans in any engagement with professionals brought in from other parts of the world.

Another approach to the shortage of skills, and one which my business has based an entire product on, is to design solutions which reduce unused functionality and flexibility – or bloat – in the interest of keeping the skills requirement low.

I think of the 80-20 rule often used by economists to describe phenomenon such as 80% of conference delegates are listening 20% of the time, and suggest that when it comes to software, at very most, 80% of software users utilise 20% of available functionality – though I think this might be more like 95% of users utilise only 5% of functionality – think of all of that functionality in Microsoft Word which you have never touched.  Why not then cater to that 80 or 95% by delivering software with less bloat and more simplicity and practically lower their costs of deploying and managing what would otherwise be a complex, and possibly multi-tiered solution.

Since I have mentioned the concentration of conference delegates, I should tell you that this morning, while trimming my beard, I was thinking of the recent success of Slumdog Millionaire, and decided to trim my beard such that I best resemble Anil Kapoor – I hope you approve and moreover, I hope I absord some of the Slumdog success as a result.

Speaking specifically of South Africa, it is important to understand that while South Africa is fairly unique in Africa by virtue of its wealth, infrastructure and peaceful transition to democracy, we also share many common challenges with the rest of the countries in Africa and indeed the rest of the developing world.

My business, THUSA, based in Durban, South Africa has already a growing partnership with a software development business from Gurgaon, Haryana and I have little doubt we will in time built further relationships with other such businesses in other parts of India.  One of our personal challenges, however, and one not yet solved by your offering, is access to specific niche resources which are no doubt difficult to find anywhere in the world, but the development of said resources in any country can only be an asset to that country.

Specifically in my case, I am talking of rare resources such as developers skilled in the same language used by Google, called Python, and with an intimate knowledge of open source network systems running on the Linux operating system.  This sort of resource would require:

1. not only a knowledge and experience of software development and a specific language, but;

2. because they are not simply developing a pure application atop an already prepared stack, but an interface between a wide range of open source network systems, the operating system and the user, they are required to have a working knowledge of

a. those systems

b. platform

c. how to present to the user

Additionally, I firmly believe that open source software has a cemented role in supporting the growth of developing economies the world over and I know African governments are legislating for the use of OSS where it provides a practical and sustainable alternative to proprietary software.  Not only does using OSS provide opportunities to reduce foreign outflows of capital, but it increases openness, freedom and flexibility.  By this I mean that as a function of the open availability of the source code, solutions can be freely customised, extended or focused to the requirements of the government, state, corporate, small business, or even individual involved.

So, in summary, Africa needs the significant wealth of skilled resources in your IT-focused economy:

1. to provide sustainable solution and software development with a focus on local resource empowerment though skills development and skills transfer – you must create a win-win scenario;

2. to provide solutions which achieve a balance between functionality and maintainability – vendor-lockin through the tactics of fear, uncertainty and doubt – FUD – are a thing of the past.  Build a partnership with your African clients and deliver solutions which meet their needs and empower them to maintain those solutions themselves.

3. to provide specific niche technical skills which would otherwise only be available from the USA, Japan or European countries; and

4. to provide open source-based solutions where you are certain they can be provided and truly lower the total cost of ownership while getting the job done.  The opportunity save costs and improve openness which are presented by OSS can only be realised if the deployment is done in a manner which is sustainable.

In closing, I would like to say that this, my first visit to India, has been a truly wonderful experience.  In India I have found a people proud of their achievements and invigorated by the pace of progress, yet at the same time filled with humility and friendliness.  During this trip, I chose to stay with Indians in their homes here and in New Delhi over the past week and have been privileged to be a guest and recipient of the most generous hospitality I have ever experienced.  

A new Indian friend of mine recently said that Indians, and specifically, Bengali’s, will feed you until you are fed up.  Literally speaking, I cannot disagree – I have been significantly fed on this trip – but figuratively I must disagree – I am most certainly not fed up; my eyes are opened and my spirit soaring.

India, thank you for your spirit.  Thank you for hospitality.  India is great.  I will be back.