Five years ago today members of the South African Police Service (SAPS) shot dead 34 mineworkers and injured 78. Some of the injured are permanently disabled.

The shooting of the 112 miners took place during a poorly planned operation to disperse, disarm and arrest around 3 000 striking mineworkers at the Lonmin Marikana mine. No action has been taken against the police officers involved despite evidence of unlawful acts; nor have the victims and families of those killed received compensation.

The ruinous Zuma administration doesn’t seem to have learnt anything from the most shameful episode of policing since the advent of democracy. However, Cyril Ramaphosa – the country’s deputy president and ANC presidential contender – has, at last, planned to visit Marikana to apologise.

Ramaphosa has come under fire for not using his authority as a non-executive director on the Lonmin board to ensure that mine management negotiated in good faith with the striking miners, who had legitimate grievances about poor salaries. Despite various attempts in the run-up to the massacre to get negotiations going, Lonmin management showed callous disregard for their employees and refused to engage with them.

Everyone in South Africa needs to know what happened that day and in the days leading up to it. Very few have read the full report of the Farlam Commission of Inquiry, or know the facts. Many people, police included, still believe that shooting the miners was a legitimate act of self-defence by the police. This is partly due to the television footage of ‘scene one’ of the massacre that was taken from a police point of view, and partly from the police’s version of the shooting at the time, and before the Farlam inquiry.

No action has been taken against the police involved in Marikana despite evidence of unlawful acts

However the Farlam inquiry, in its June 2015 report, didn’t find that the strikers were attacking the police at this point.

Many people also don’t know that the entire operation was unnecessary. An earlier police plan that would probably have avoided bloodshed but could only have been implemented a day later was discarded by top SAPS management.

Instead, on the evening of Wednesday 15 August, a small group of police generals under the leadership of former national commissioner Riah Phiyega, and probably with the support of then police minister Nathi Mthethwa, decided that an operation would be launched to end the strike the next day. This was in line with the earlier promise made by then SAPS North West commissioner Lieutenant-General Zukiswa Mbombo to mine management that if the strikers didn’t capitulate, the police would ‘kill this thing’.

On the morning of 16 August, SAPS spokesperson Captain Dennis Adriao was quoted as saying, ‘Today, unfortunately, is D-Day.’ Prior warnings from more experienced operational officers that trying to confront a large number of miners would result in bloodshed were ignored. Officers on the ground were ordered to forge ahead with the operation despite its unacceptable risks. Heavily armed paramilitary units were brought in, along with about 4 000 extra rounds of ammunition and four mortuary vans.

The Farlam inquiry found that the striking mineworkers posed no imminent threat to the police or anyone else on the afternoon of 16 August.

An earlier police plan that could have avoided bloodshed was discarded by top SAPS managers

In the operation, the police initially shot dead 17 miners who, it was argued later, were attempting to go home to their nearby settlement. The Farlam inquiry couldn’t make a conclusive finding on the intention of the miners, but found that although there was no objective evidence of the need for self-defence, some police officers may have mistakenly believed they were under attack.

The miners who survived the shooting at ‘scene one’ turned and fled into a nearby rocky outcrop called the ‘small koppie’. The police chased after them and surrounded the koppie. They shot dead another 17 miners who were hiding among rocks and bushes at what later became known as ‘scene two’. During the Farlam inquiry, the police failed to provide any evidence that most of those who were killed at ‘scene two’ were attacking them, or posing any threat.

A new future South African president who cares about truth, justice and accountability must ensure that the victims and their families receive proper compensation. He or she must also ensure that all those implicated in the killings, including police officers, are held accountable.

Additional resources must be allocated to the Independent Police Investigative Directorate so that thorough credible investigations can be undertaken against the police. An internal police investigation ‘cleared’ 87 police officers of any misdeeds that occurred at Marikana.

Many people, police included, still believe the shooting was a legitimate act of self-defence

The findings and recommendations of the Farlam inquiry must be integrated into the police’s basic and operational training as a case study of what can go wrong if proper planning within the law isn’t undertaken. A panel of experts was established by the minister of police in 2016 to reform public order policing in line with Farlam’s recommendations. Once its work is finalised, the recommendations must be implemented as a priority.

To improve policing overall, the recommendations of the National Development Plan regarding the appointment of the SAPS national commissioner and deputies must also be implemented.

Unless action is taken to show that government has learnt the lessons of Marikana, 16 August will remain a day of perpetual shame for all South Africans. However, if Marikana results in better accountability and policing, over time this day could become a reminder of how South Africa can learn from tragedy and can craft a better future.

In the Western Cape a parent stabbed a principal and then later returned to the school to ‘finish him off’, HeraldLIVEreported last month. In Mali, Intel reports that schools are being shut down because of extremist threats.

Schools in Africa are not regarded as safe. Reports of murder, torture, suicide and rape of students and teachers are common. Perhaps the most widespread form of school-related violence is bullying – physical, sexual and emotional. More subtle forms involve discrimination, including name-calling and personal insults; and teachers being excluded from work on political or ideological grounds.

To restore safe, effective learning, strategies need to be focused primarily within the school environment, the site of the violence. Until school-related violence is eliminated, African countries can’t achieve the United Nations’ Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) to provide safe and supportive work environments, and to end violence against all children.

Reports of murder, torture, suicide and rape of students and teachers are common

All school-related violence is life-changing: it has physical and mental health outcomes, further violent effects, and educational and financial consequences – all of which can continue throughout life, according to the Good Schools Toolkit2013. 

School-related gender-based violence can be defined as acts or threats of sexual, physical or psychological violence occurring in and around schools. These are perpetrated as a result of gender norms and stereotypes, and enforced by unequal power dynamics. Until this type of violence is curtailed, SDG 5 – to achieve gender equality and end violence against women and girls – won’t be achieved. 

The multiple causes of sexual and gender-based and broader school-related violence are linked to ethnic, political, military and religious divisions. The types of discrimination related to gender, culture, race, class and ability that underpin school-related violence are also associated with the local and national environments in which schools are situated – for example violent communities or political situations.

The solutions, too, are found ‘in context’, with most successful strategies taking place in the school community setting with a focus on child-centredness and participation.

School-based clubs and spaces have proven successful in Ghana, Kenya and Mozambique

Recently, positive strategies in the school environment, such as participatory mapping, codes of conduct and school clubs, have helped to mitigate the violence. Some strategies have been researched separately, like in Kenya, Ghana and Mozambique, Uganda and Tanzania. Many other interventions have been collectively reviewed by the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organisation (UNESCO) and UN Women to form the basis for their Global Guidanceto end sexual and gender-based violence.

The research shows that while laws, policies and educational institutions need to be reformed, the strategies that work are those focused within the school community. 

An example is participatory mapping that has taken place in schools in the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC), Ghana, Malawi and Zimbabwe. In the DRC, girls and boys in separate groups made drawings of their school and paths leading to it; they placed green dots in the ‘safe areas’ and red in ‘unsafe areas’. Girls generally had more unsafe areas than boys. However while the maps were informative, it is still unclear whether school-related gender-based violence has been reduced.

The Walking Bus mapping initiative in Cape Town, South Africa, where kids walk in a group with adult marshals to and from school, has also created safer spaces for children. 

A key challenge is that none of these strategies has dealt directly with violence against teachers, so far unacknowledged in most countries.

Research in the DRC schools established codes of conduct for students and teachers. The codes detail acceptable standards of behaviour underpinned by recognisable values, and protect both students and teachers and hold them accountable. The codes for teachers are often endorsed as national codes, as was the case in Sierra Leone.

A UN Children’s Fund evaluation found that clear codes of conduct and reporting mechanisms were the main features that designated schools as child-friendly. UNESCO and UN Women used these positive outcomes of codes of conduct in African schools to outline and present their Global Guidance for developing a code of conduct for teachers and students.

Clear codes of conduct and reporting mechanisms are the main features of child-friendly schools

School-based clubs and spaces have proven successful in Ghana, Kenya and Mozambique in the ActionAid project Stop Violence Against Girls in Schools (SVAG). The clubs provide safe spaces for girls to hold debates, drama camps and visits to other communities to discuss violence and advocacy. Clubs for boys were also introduced for them to discuss experiences and attitudes around SVAG.

Girls involved in clubs showed more knowledge and confidence to deal with violence than those who weren’t. They were also twice as likely to report sexual violence than other girls.

These positive interventions show that the broad social environment in and outside the school is implicated in both the production and resolution of violence in schools. Violence in schools needs to be consistently addressed by students, teachers, parents, family and community members using the above strategies.

In recognising the success of these locally based, school community initiatives, governments must formulate policies that ensure their nationwide implementation. And international agencies must continue to fund, support and showcase national outcomes.

Only then can schools in Africa be re-established as safe spaces for teachers and students in the learning process. And only then can we say the Sustainable Development Goals are being achieved in Africa.  

President Uhuru Kenyatta recently announced that if re-elected on 8 August, his government would provide freesecondary education by 2019. Kenyatta believes that secondary education at no cost would increase the transition rate from primary to secondary school. 

Indeed, primary school enrolment and attendance improved vastly after free primary education was announced in 2001 and rolled out from 2002. Net primary enrolment, according to the International Futures modelling system, stands at 85% today (up from 65% in 2000) and is forecast to reach over 93% by 2030. The number of enrolled primary school pupils making it to the final grade has also risen from 70% in the early 2000s to about 93% today.

Ensuring that more students make it into primary school and stay in school long enough to reach the last grade of primary school is crucial to increasing the pool of students who advance to successive levels.

The quality of Kenya's education has lately come under a lot of scrutiny

But access to education may not be the real issue plaguing the education sector – high enrolment rates and full classrooms don’t necessarily translate into knowledge or quality. What Kenyatta’s government really should be focusing on is the quality of Kenya’s education, which lately has come under a lot of scrutiny. 

The annual learning assessment report of 2010 released damning findings of the progress of students across the education spectrum. These included revelations that Std 8 pupils couldn’t solve Std 2-level mathematical problems and concepts, and were incapable of reading and writing to their required level.

Furthermore, former education cabinet secretary Jacob Kaimenyi lamented in 2014 that the teacher-student ratio had declined to its worst levels since free primary education was rolled out in 2002.

Despite the findings of the assessment report, in 2014 the transition rate from primary to lower secondary was 98%. However, only about 67% of students progressed to upper secondary and only 50% of those students graduated from upper secondary school. 

Poverty, low academic achievement, and indiscipline have been cited as some of the causes of the high drop-out rates in secondary school – but they aren’t the only challenges. The quality of primary education is a big part of why pupils aren’t completing the secondary level. 

Net primary school enrolment in Kenya stands at 85% today, up from 65% in 2000

There are established methods for raising the quality of education. For one, the teacher-pupil ratio currently ranges from a low of 42:1 – which is well above the 23:1 global average – to an appalling 85:1. This ratio needs to be addressed – more teachers are needed for the number of pupils.

Employing better-qualified teachers and improving teacher training in line with international standards should also be one of the priorities, and would undoubtedly boost the quality of education.

The Kenya Education Sector Support Programme report released in 2013 revealed that although the ratio of pupils to permanent classrooms in public primary schools decreased from 50:1 to 46:1 in 2009, it didn’t reach the target of 40:1. Improved infrastructure like classrooms and better availability of learning supplies could also help raise the quality of education.

Kenya’s government has not adequately addressed these concerns. The government consistently runs into teacher strikes, and each time a less-than-satisfactory solution is found. Secretary-general of the Kenya National Union of Teachers Wilson Sossion expressed happiness after an agreement was reached with teachers during the 2016 strike, but the negotiations on the employment of more educators to address the teacher shortage were not concluded at that time.

Similarly, proposals to improve teacher training, provide more supplies and structures to aid capacity and curriculum reform largely remain empty rhetoric. 

The current politically charged climate and euphoria around election time certainly afford the president opportunity to make unrealistic promises. And the timing of the free secondary education announcement raises questions.

The quality of primary education is a big part of why pupils aren’t completing the secondary level

But the lack of transparency surrounding financing and the pile of unresolved and pressing issues within the education sector, especially at the primary level, makes this sound more like hot air than a carefully thought-out plan. Kenyatta’s promise comes amid a looming budget deficit.

The president has made similar promises in the past. For example, during the 2012 election campaigns, he announced the laptop project, which was criticised by many economists and education experts. They said it lacked any underlying research to show the impact that laptops would have on learning outcomes for students, and came at a high cost to the taxpayer (KES53 billion, or US$600 million, at the time).

Coupled with a lack of procurement mechanisms and confusion about which ministry would be responsible, the project to deliver over 1.3 million laptops had many false starts. It bolsters the notion that the promise of free secondary education may well be empty talk.

Regardless of whether he keeps this promise though, attention should shift to the quality of primary education rather than enrollment to curb the deterioration of Kenya’s education system.

Ahead of the 1994 elections, the ANC was dependent on the Congress of South African Trade Unions (COSATU) to provide it with a national election machine. Since then, labour has effectively framed South Africa’s broad economic policies and options to the detriment of employment creation.

Although COSATU in 2017 is a mere shadow of its former self, it is unlikely that the ANC will break the stranglehold that organised labour continues to exert over economic and migration policy unless COSATU itself also changes.

The most likely presidential candidate on the Reformist side, Cyril Ramaphosa, is dependent on the active support of organised labour for his presidential campaign – the organisation that first came out in support of him. But only 28% of workers belong to unions.

The other likely candidate, Nkosazana Dlamini Zuma, is not handcuffed to labour in this way, but she has her own issues. She has earned respect for being technically proficient, although she is publicly uninspiring as a leader. However, she is tainted by the association that the Traditionalist faction generally has with the Guptas and their efforts at state capture. 

Nkosazana Dlamini Zuma is generally considered hostile towards the private sector

Generally considered hostile towards the private sector, she is essentially a black nationalist and ideologically not orientated towards growth and enterprise.

A highly political labour movement serves to protect those in employment but at the cost of growing employment more broadly. This trend can be reversed only by a shift in vision or by ending the hold that organised labour has on government economic policies. Recent years have seen an expansion of employment in the public sector to the extent that the associated wage bill is squeezing out capital investment in infrastructure.

Meanwhile the private sector, which accounts for 80% of production and employs 86% of the 13.5 million of the country’s working population, has largely lost confidence and doesn’t invest domestically despite their large, positive balance sheets.

Eventually only two political options present themselves. The first is the break-up of the Tripartite Alliance or the complete implosion of COSATU, essentially freeing up a Reformist ANC to pursue employment-intensive growth. The second is the transformation of COSATU into a union federation that mobilises and champions poor people, stepping away from its current focus on middle-class government employees as the bulwark of its membership. But even then the ANC would need leadership that would take South Africa forward, not backward.

SA’s private sector employs 86% of the 13.5 million working population

The employment compact that Anthony Black and his co-authors write about in their recent book Towards employment-intensive growth in South Africa is to be built on three pillars: strong pro-employment policies, including subsidies and direct state support; macroeconomic stability; and limited labour reform.

Black offers four examples of employment-intensive growth – first, large-scale employment incentives for unskilled workers subsidised through tax breaks or a wage subsidy. Second, an aggressive strategy aimed at rapid expansion of labour-intensive light manufacturing as an explicit policy and pillar of industrial strategy. (This, he warns, would require specific interventions and subsidies, and much more than merely deregulating markets. It would also require competition on the basis of wages.)

A third example is expanding labour-intensive tradeables (such as in the garment sector) by exploiting regional variations in wages, and making a concerted effort to deal with the non-labour costs of private-sector employment, such as transport, training, workers’ housing and infrastructure.

Fourth, employment creation in labour-intensive crops in the agricultural sector and the processing of these for domestic and international markets. This, he argues, requires stepped-up support to reverse the decline in spending on research and development in the agricultural sector, and fast-tracking infrastructure, such as irrigation.

Cyril Ramaphosa is dependent on the active support of organised labour for his presidential campaign

To this we can add a fifth point: to ascend the value chain, South Africa must significantly increase state spending on research and development (which is a large driver of growth) from the current level of 0.71% of GDP to 3 or 4%. This should include renewed investment and support for a domestic arms industry, which is often the incubator for technological innovation, and is exempted from requirements for trade liberalisation.

There are many things that can and should become possible under new leadership, such as greater efforts at import substitution and to ‘buy South African’ – both of which should be pursued to the maximum extent possible that is compatible with our international legal obligations.

There is no magic solution to employment creation and there have been some efforts by the government, such as the Jobs Fund, that have been able to make headway despite the difficult circumstances. But efforts to improve employment in the longer term will succeed only if South Africa manages to consistently grow the private sector over successive decades.

Combating human trafficking has become one of the biggest global challenges, attracting high-level pledges of support from world leaders, especially in the West.

Barack Obama and Pope Francis both urged universal commitments in the fight against it; the UK has enacted a modern slavery act; and in 2016, the United Nations (UN) Security Council held its first-ever thematic debate on human trafficking. Targets to end human trafficking have been included in the UN’s Sustainable Development Goals and the UN Special Rapporteur on trafficking in persons has called for new approaches to the problem, particularly in conflict settings.

In February, US President Donald Trump promised to bring the ‘full force and weight’ of the US government to combat the ‘epidemic’, and in March the UN Security Council said that ‘at a time of division in so many areas, this [fight against human trafficking] should be an issue that can unite us’.

Yesterday, on World Day against Trafficking in Persons, the UN Office on Drugs and Crime (UNODC) called on all to ‘act to protect and assist trafficked persons’. This is an important message, but how much impact can it have in Africa where the international definition of the problem doesn’t always fit the context?

What the West sees as human trafficking is, in Africa, simply a quest for a better life

Human trafficking is a crime that reduces a person to a commodity to be bought, sold, exploited and abused. It is an umbrella term that includes a variety of criminal practices, including forced labour and modern slavery, sexual exploitation, organ trafficking, child labour, child soldiering and child marriage.

African responses to the issue have been ambiguous. Despite ratification by all but two African nations of the UN Convention against Transnational Organized Crime’s (UNTOC) protocol on trafficking in persons, the issue is rarely high on the agenda. While the African Union (AU) Commission did, in 2010, launch its Initiative against Trafficking (AU.COMMIT), the issue remains low on the list of priorities for the regional bloc.

From the narrative of international reports on Africa, however, trafficking presents a scourge on the continent’s development, affecting every region.

In Central and West Africa, traditional practices of poor or rural families sending their children to live with city-based relatives or unknown families for education in exchange for household chores are widespread. Lack of oversight can of course lead to this situation being abused. Children from Benin, Guinea, Mali, Togo, Burkina Faso, Cameroon, Liberia and Sierra Leone are housed by rich families in capital cities sometimes in modern slavery-style conditions.

North African children work in agriculture, artisanal gold mining, water collecting, construction and mechanics. Some reports suggest organised gangs force street children to serve as thieves, beggars and drug mules in Algeria and Tunisia, while Sudanese and Egyptian children have been trafficked to Saudi Arabia and Italy for forced begging.

In Africa, efforts to counter trafficking are almost all linked to the control of irregular migration

In Southern Africa, men, women and children are exploited in brick-making, domestic service, agriculture, artisanal mining and fishing. Reports of forced and exploitative labour have increased as the mining, manufacturing and agricultural sectors expand in countries such as Zambia, Malawi, Mozambique and Botswana.

However the definition and analysis of a problem depends very much on perspective, and the question is: Does internationally accepted terminology around human trafficking adequately capture the reality that fits the African context? Often what the international community labels as human trafficking are in fact locally acceptable labour practices that offer the only meaningful employment available.

Children can be viewed as potential economic earners, either through their labour, particularly as domestic servants for girls, or through early marriage of daughters, which has the dual advantage of providing a dowry and protecting familial reputation. While those practices shouldn’t be condoned, anti-trafficking programmes rarely offer long-term sustainable alternatives for equal prospects for economic or social advancement, nor options to abate it or stamp out its drivers.  

Moreover, despite the fact that human trafficking is a borderless crime, and that the UNODC estimates that 90% of sub-Saharan Africa trafficking flows are short distance, in the African context there is a strong propensity to link human trafficking and irregular migration.  

With the rising rates of migration towards Europe, new life has been breathed into regional initiatives on managing irregular migration, such as the Khartoum Process in East Africa and the Rabat Process in West Africa. And it is increasingly here where anti-human trafficking initiatives are couched, alongside efforts to counter the smuggling of migrants.

This makes the situation for African governments even more complex.

Anti-trafficking programmes rarely offer long-term alternatives for economic or social advancement

Yes, migrants and refugees are extremely vulnerable to exploitation and abuse, and the smuggling of migrants often leads to situations of forced labour. But migration and the contexts in which it occurs are vastly different to those envisaged by the authors of UNTOC. The terminology used in the convention and its protocols, and the neat distinctions provided between human trafficking and smuggling, are increasingly incapable of capturing the complexity of human movement in 2017. 

Individuals with divergent histories, experiences and reasons for movement are travelling together along the same routes. While there are some who do not consent to the travel (or at least aren’t fully informed of the purpose of the travel), most move fully aware that they will face bribes, threats, violence and abuse along the way. Still others enter ‘transport for work’ agreements with their smugglers. Often this results in protracted periods of forced and bonded labour.  

For many Africans, migration to the Gulf, Europe or North America – no matter how this is achieved – is an exceedingly positive economic and development proposition for themselves, their families, and through remittances paid later, their communities and their nations. African economies benefit from more than $35 billion annually in remittances. The risks and abuses of the journey are seen as the price to be paid for generational return. 

When viewed from the perspective of African states and their people, more often than not what the West deems as human trafficking is simply a quest for new opportunities and a better life.  And vocal international campaigns are perceived as an effort to restrict those opportunities.

So it is no wonder that some African governments do little more than pay lip service to a discourse that is largely shaped outside of Africa.

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