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South Africa rejects African Peer Review Mechanism report

Summary & Comment: The South African government issued a response rejecting all but one recommendation included in its African Peer Review Mechanism report. Below are some comments from the government response on issues such as judicial reform, affirmative action, and illegal migrants. Experts expressed concern over the government's reaction to the report, which is "deeply damaging to the nation's reputation and the APRM." The South African government's reaction may influence other governments to dismiss their APRM reviews, thereby undermining the success of the APRM process. BF

Author: Brendan Boyle Date Written: 13 May 2007
Primary Category: AU/NEPAD Document Origin: The Sunday Times
Secondary Category: Southern Region Source URL: http://www.suntimes.co.za
Key Words: AU, APRM, South Africa

Printable Version

South Africa rejects African Peer Review Mechanism report

South Africa has rejected a damning report on the country by the African Peer Review Mechanism. In a blistering response that attacks the ideology and integrity of the APRM system that was largely President Thabo Mbeki’s idea, the South African government’s response reveals that the country tried and failed to persuade the panel of seven eminent Africans who carry responsibility for the report to re-draft parts of it. The panel report, the government’s response, and the country’s Programme of Action to deal with its challenges will be presented to the 26 participating heads of state in Ghana at the end of June and must be made public by the end of the year.

The government response, which is dated January 18 and could be revised, argues that South Africa’s challenges are unique in the world and dismisses all but one of the APRM’s 150 recommendations. It calls the report contradictory and inconsistent and says it does not take adequate account of the country’s apartheid past. “In all respects, South Africa has, for the past 12 years, already embarked on what the APR Panel has recommended,” the government says. Only one of the 154 paragraphs of the response refers to crime, saying the government is working on a community participation campaign to bring it down. “Although it is true that crime poses a serious challenge in South Africa, an impression should not be created that the government is not taking steps to curb it,” the government says.

In other comments, the government response says:

  • On figures used by the APRM panel: “The risk is that general perceptions, often essentially racist, about the hopelessness of the African situation are all too easily confirmed by statistical constructs that have a very tangential relationship to the actual universe.”

  • On controversial judicial reform proposals opposed by many judges: “The report appears to have relied on its interaction with certain stakeholders who have interpreted the draft Bills incorrectly ... there is no threat to the independence of the judiciary.”

  • On the contention that affirmative action has driven whites out of the public service: “It is true in some instances that people have left the public service as they were at odds with the spirit of transformation in the country.”

  • On the panel’s conclusions after visiting the Lindela Repatriation Centre: “The assertion that illegal migrants are subjected to brutal and inhuman treatment is strongly disputed.”

  • On the suggestion that Parliament should be given more powers: “What stops Parliament from exercising its current powers more vigorously?”

  • On the motives of the reviewers: “Embedded in [the] discourse are ideological and value-laden propositions.”

    The peer review panel, headed by eminent Nigerian economist, Adebayo Adedeji, said in a secret report revealed by the Sunday Times in December that South Africa had made significant gains since the defeat of apartheid, but had failed in many respects, including the security of its children. The 300-page report listed 15 key threats to South Africa’s stability, ranging from violent crime to unemployment, unintended consequences of black economic empowerment and the gap between the incomes of the rich and the poor.

    Ross Herbert of the South African Institute for International Affairs — one of four technical support agencies that helped process the APRM research — said the government’s response appeared to be “churlish and quibbling”. “The government should wake up to the fact that its conduct in the peer review process is deeply damaging the nation’s reputation and the APRM,” he said. Alison Tilley of the Open Democracy Advice Centre, which also contributed to the review, said the rest of Africa would look to Pretoria for a lead. She said that if this country dismissed the review, others would feel at liberty to repudiate negative findings about them.

    The response was to have been presented by Mbeki at a meeting of the 26 participating African heads of state in Addis Ababa in January. The session was called off when South Africa tabled a revised Programme of Action — the key product of the process — at the last minute and leaders said they needed time to study it. Now civil society delegates to the APRM governing council, which is chaired by Public Service and Administration Minister Geraldine Fraser-Moleketi, are demanding an urgent meeting of the body this week to assess the changes.

    Zanele Twala, a delegate representing the South African NGO Coalition, said she had written to Adedeji recently and to Fraser-Moleketi this week expressing concern about the finalisation of the report without consulting civil society. The South African Council of Churches general secretary, Eddie Makue, yesterday endorsed the call, which was also supported by Cosatu. The founding memorandum of the APRM requires members to “ensure the participation of all stakeholders in the development of the national programme of action”. But a spokesman for Fraser- Moleketi said NGOs had been consulted on the first draft and there was no obligation to consult them on the final version. He said no request for a meeting of the council had been received by yesterday.

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