LGBTQ Issues in South Africa

A very sobering and difficult article about LGBTQ rights in South Africa. Don’t know if people know, but at least compared to many Western countries, South Africa has been fairly progressive, in that it it banned discrimination against gay people in 1996 and has had legal same sex marriage since 2005. Unfortunately as this article shows, a lot of discrimination still remains.


Apartheid in Israel?

Interesting article in yesterday’s New York Times written by someone who left South Africa as a teenager for Israel – and now feels that Israel is on its way to becoming an apartheid state.  It’s less so that the practices that existed in South Africa under apartheid rule exist there today, but that Israel is letting people think that they do through its actions.


Preserving SA’s Wildlife

Inspiring me to write this post was the recent story about Dallas hunting enthusiast Corey Knowlton bidding $350,000 for a permit to hunt a black rhino in Namibia. After some research, it became apparent that less publicly known is the fact that thousands of rhinos and other species are illegally poached across Africa each year. Specifically in South Africa there has been increased levels of illegal poaching throughout the national parks.

In 2012, four Kruger National Park workers were arrested in a Rhino poaching scheme. Rhinos in particular are hunted because their horns are thought to contain medicinal powers and are therefore highly valued in certain cultures.

How South Africa protects these species moving forward has been a hot topic. Interestingly, even Google is getting into the mix to protect endangered species. They’ve purchased the technology to send drones overhead to monitor hunting activity. Additionally, patrols have been stepped up on safari locations to monitor hunting activity (be forewarned if you are going to Kruger!). Finally, an interesting proposal being put forth by the state is the option to (legally) sell its existing inventory of rhino horns to help fund anti-poaching efforts. The counter argument is that making the purchase of rhino horns legal will only spur demand and thus promote poaching (sounds similar to an argument we are having in the United States right now!). Below is a link to a short video with a great overview of the subject:




Put those Dancing Shoes on!

To avoid missing a beat upon arriving in South Africa, I thought it might be useful to review some of the most famous and influential South African dancers and singers from the 1960s through today. Consider this just a starter post…I’ll keep researching and digging around for the latest and greatest in the South African music industry.

When I studied abroad in Mali in college, music and dancing was a form of welcome and story-telling. When we would travel to the rural villages, the villagers would immediately form a wide circle, inviting the Toubabous (white people/Americans) to join in and dance to the beat. Needless to say, tensions immediately eroded as awkward, gangly limbs shimmied next to the practiced, graceful villagers. Music in Mali was a means of telling the history of the tribes and a form of protest against dictatorships.

Music also played a quintessential role in South Africa’s fight for equality and civil rights during the 1960s and 70s. Mariam Makeba, otherwise known as “Mama Africa,” was an incredible leader in the anti-Apartheid movement. Gaining traction as a singer on the world stage after appearing in an anti-apartheid documentary, Mariam Makeba moved to the United States to release her self-title album. Later that year, she testified against the Apartheid regime at the United Nations. In response, South Africa revoked her citizenship and refused her entry when she attempted to attend her mother’s funeral in 1960. Ghana, Belgium and Guinea, in addition to six other countries in her lifetime, issued her passports and granted her honorary citizenship.

Makeba left the United States and lived in Guinea after marrying a Black Panther and Student Non-Violent Coordinating Committee member, Stokely Carmichael. The United States cancelled her tours and record deals, effectively boycotting Mariam from returning to the United States. Her music career, however, was not diminished and after twenty years, she connected with Paul Simon. Their collaboration led to a very successful Graceland tour.
International pressure to release Nelson Mandela for his 70th birthday resulted in the Apartheid government reversing key laws banning the anti-apartheid organizations and his release. Mendela persuaded Makeba to return to South Africa in 1990, after thirty years in exile.

Awarded many medals and honors for her work to end the apartheid region, Mariam Makeba was heralded an international hero. In 1998, she died of a heart attack after performing her most famous song, Pata Pata, on behalf of a persecuted Italian musician. You can see Mariam Makeba and her little dance partner, swinging to Pata Pata in her music video filmed in the 1960s


Indian South Africans

I’ve just finished reading We Are the Poors: Community Struggles in Post-Apartheid South Africa by Ashwin Desai. I picked up the book seeking insights into the continuation of apartheid-era struggle in segregated communities (which the book chronicles in detail). My great take-away, however, has been the extent to which South Africans of Indian descent (alternatively categorized at one time or another as Non-White, Indian, Asian, Malay, Colored, and Black) shared in the history of apartheid.

Desai’s focus of the book is to describe the entire social movement in Durban, which includes all “Non-White” ethnic groups. Durban, however, is considered to be the biggest “Indian” city outside of India for its large Indian population. Desai himself belongs to this heritage, and is a born-and-bred Durbanite. The story of social change in Durban is largely the story of groups coming together, factions competing for ideological supremacy, and government retaliation that results in more violence and hardship. While South African Indians are not the sole focus of Desai’s work (or his current political activism and journalism), I encourage everyone to explore the history of this marginalized group through this book.

Before researching South Africa for IE, my understanding of apartheid was limited to white v black. It has been eye-opening to read about the experiences — indeed to learn about the existence — of other large ethnic groups who struggled under apartheid.


South African Billionaire Patrice Motsepe

Patrice Motsepe, one of the richest people in South Africa, recently pledged to donate $10 million to South Africa’s fight against HIV/AIDS.

This isn’t the first time Motsepe has splashed headlines with his giving. Last year, Mostepe joined Warren Buffett and Bill Gates in the Giving Pledge by promising to donate half of his wealth (net worth valued at $2.65 billion) over the course of the lifetime. Motsepe is the first African to join the Giving Pledge. Motsepe declared that the “bulk of the money given to the Motsepe Foundation will be channeled towards issues affecting South Africa’s poor, including education, health, unemployment and advancing women.”


An American at UCT

One of the MBA students at UCT, who we actually met on our visit to the GNAM partner school, wrote a nice piece for FT on her decision to go there.


South Africa’s Economy

In the spirit of Macroeconomics, here is a quick and dirty on South Africa’s economy. Most numbers are from 2012 data and pulled from the sources provided below.

Table 1 South Africa At-a-Glance – numbers are estimates

  • 51.8 million
  • $380 billion
Top Regional Contributors to GDP
  • Gauteng 34.7%
  • KwaZulu-Natal 15.8%
  • Western Cape 14%
GDP by Sector
  • Agriculture 2%
  • Industry 28%
  • Services 69%
Labor Force
  • 18.06 million
  • 25%

Also, South Africa’s Finance Minister, Pravin Gordhan, recently just discussed at the World Economic Forum in Davos, Switzerland how the country should report its economic growth potential using other things besides GDP . For more, see


South African Unions – follow up

In the spirit of following up on Mr. Martz’s amazing from-the-ground reporting, a new article this morning from  Reuters that indicates half of global world supply of platinum is about to be stopped.  The article is especially interesting – it goes a little bit into the living conditions of most workers  (apparently the average number of dependents is EIGHT) and touches on the social tensions with the government.  Also, the Rand is at a 5 year low (so change all your money now?).