News and views on SA


‘Newtown was rough round the edges, but I felt right at home’

When I first moved into Newtown, Johannesburg, people either said I was brave or mad, writes the Guardian’s Africa correspondent, David Smith.

The majority of middle-class expats congregate in the city’s northern suburbs, living between an English-style house and garden, European-style cafe and American-style shopping mall. Why did I have to be different?

Newtown appealed to me as the city’s self-declared cultural precinct. It has a bookshop, dance space, galleries, jazz club, street market, nightclubs, restaurants, theatres and museums on everything from African culture to science to beer. It also bears the scars of history and, like a good character actor, has an “interesting face”.

For the full article, visit The Guardian

Fifa delighted with SA progress

Fifa is delighted with the progress at next year’s World Cup venues after completing a six-day inspection tour.

A delegation from football’s world governing body and the World Cup Organising Committee ended a tour of six South African venues on Wednesday.

“Overall, we are very impressed with the achievements made,” said Ron DelMont, who heads up Fifa’s South African office.

The inspectors visited the five stadiums newly-built for the World Cup.

They spent time looking at the venues in Port Elizabeth, Cape Town, Nelspruit, Polokwane and Durban, as well as the heavily-refurbished Soccer City in Johannesburg.

For full article, visit BBC Sport

South Africa: Life with a contradictory character

After working for seven years in the UK, Tyron Whitley last year made the move back home to South Africa with some trepidation. But 18 months on, his company– the South African Car Import Agency, which helps other returnees ship their vehicles back from émigré destinations – has been a success and the 34 year old now feels pretty positive about his native land.

“When we first came back, we wondered what we were doing. Crime was a concern and initially power cuts meant that we found ourselves sitting in the house with candles studying how generators worked,” he says. “But doing business here has been a breeze.”

His experience illustrates the contradictory character of South Africa as a place to work. On the one hand, its legal system, banking and financial facilities and road infrastructure compare favourably with those of the developed world. On the other, the supply of electricity can be as erratic as it is in the country’s poorer African neighbours. And the incidence of crime, especially violent crime, is among the worst anywhere.

A glance at this year’s tables measuring the ease of doing business and prepared by the International Finance Corporation – the business arm of the World Bank – highlights South Africa’s advantages. Of the 30 countries clustered at the bottom of a league table of 183 nations, more than two-thirds are from Africa.

For the full article, visit FT.com

HIV treatment reaches 4m

The number of people on treatment for HIV in developing countries rose during 2008 from 3m to 4m, according to the latest assessment from the United Nations Aids Agency.

Two-fifths of people who need it now receive it, UNAids said.

There was also a jump in HIV testing and in pregnant women receiving preventive therapy for their children.

But in a sign of the potential rising threat of drug resistance, the report cited studies from 13 countries showing that only 62 per cent of those who began treatment continued to take their drugs after 2 years, with just 57 per cent of those from south and east Asia still doing so after 4 years. About 40 percent of those who stopped taking treatment had died, primarily because they started taking the therapy too late, but 56 percent of the cases had stopped taking the drugs.

Michel Sidibe, head of UNAids, said he welcomed the progress, while cautioning that annual new infections of 2.7m continued to exceed the rising numbers on treatment, and increasing costs combined with the effects of the financial crisis risked stalling further advances.

For the full article, visit FT.com

South Africa’s president still on a roll

When Jacob Zuma came to power in May, there were doubters aplenty. Some said the populist former goat herd, with scant formal education, was not up to the job. South Africa, they thought, would lurch to the left. He would undermine judicial independence and curb press freedom. Graft and patronage, already rampant, would spread. Under President Zuma, South Africa’s democracy would erode. Africa’s biggest economy would go the way of others to the north.

In fact, after four months in office, Mr Zuma has been notably pragmatic. He has respected South Africa’s democratic institutions and made no apparent shift to the left. He has refused to dish out plum jobs only to loyalists. There has been no witch hunt of those who opposed his elevation. Indeed, he has given senior cabinet posts to several friends of Thabo Mbeki, Mr Zuma’s predecessor and bitter rival. The press, which had often been wary of Mr Zuma, seems enamoured by the way he has encouraged debate.

This week Mr Zuma passed a litmus test, in the doubters’ eyes, when John Hlophe, a much-criticised head of the Western Cape’s judiciary, was rejected as a candidate for the Constitutional Court. Many had feared that, as a well-known Zuma ally, he would not only win a seat on the court but might even end up as the country’s chief justice. But his name has been left off the shortlist of seven candidates, all respected judges, drawn up by the Judicial Services Commission. Mr Zuma will now pick four of them to fill seats that fall vacant next month when four of the court’s 11 justices retire.

For the full article, visit The Economist