Newsletter 03/11

Democratic issues: the backdrop to the France-South Africa summit on 2nd and 3rd March in Paris

The two Heads of State, Nicolas Sarkozy and Jacob Zuma, met in Paris to address a full agenda. Reform of the international monetary system, regulation of raw materials prices and renewable energy were the main items. Closer cooperation on all these points was initiated.

The ever-present backdrop to the discussions, however, was the question of democratic governance as it affects a number of countries south of the Mediterranean, particularly in Tunisia and Egypt and, with the added threat of armed violence, in Libya.

Mayor of Paris Bertrand Delanoë, speaking at the Hôtel de Ville, recalled the example set by South Africa in setting up measures to support the transition to democracy.

Finally, the climate conference to be held in Durban, South Africa, in December 2011, in the wake of earlier events in Copenhagen (2009) and Rio (2010), will be a major challenge for both countries, which are committed to combating the social inequalities that aggravate the impacts of climate change.

Climate change to blame for dramatic flooding in France and South Africa

The February 2011 issue of Nature blames climate change caused by greenhouse gas emissions.

Human activity is thus singled out as the primary cause of catastrophes that cost the lives of dozens of victims in France in 2010, in the Vendée (in February) and in the Var (in June).

The heavy rains that hit South Africa in February 2011 left a death toll of over a hundred in their wake.

Unprecedented levels of rainfall affected the whole of Southern Africa.

The December 2010 issue of campaigning magazine Water Front had already shed light on the link between global warming and flooding caused by ocean surges or extreme rainfall.

Death of Kobus Pienaar, Regional Director of the Legal Resources Centre

Kobus Pienaar, who passed away on 4th February 2011, dedicated his legal skills to defending those dispossessed of their land by the apartheid laws.

From 1994 onwards, he was able to rely on rights written into the constitution to uphold their defence.

He was unflagging in his efforts to achieve concrete results and brought honour to the action of the Legal Resources Centre as its Regional Director in Cape Town.

He was a passionate, talented and effective force in the new South Africa.

“Cinq ans avec Mandela” by Joëlle Bourgois, Éditions Laffont, April 2011

Madame Joëlle Bourgois, France's Ambassador to South Africa during the transition period (1991-1995) offers in this book a lively, first-hand account of the negotiations that led to the dismantling of the institutions of apartheid.

As a diplomat, she worked with Nelson Mandela and with the main leaders of the process of change in South Africa.

“Berlin 1885, la ruée sur l'Afrique” by Joël Calmettes (DVD Arte)

The excellent documentary by director Joël Calmettes, screened on TV channel Arte on 23rd February 2011 and now available on DVD, reveals the workings of the Berlin Conference of 1884-1885, during which the colonial powers divided up the continent of Africa among themselves.

The 1919 Paris Peace Conference that followed on from the First World War was subsequently to confirm the division of Africa into spheres of influence, taking no account of the right to self-determination it had itself enunciated but which it was to apply exclusively on behalf of newly created European nations.

Fishing in South Africa

Fishing is a key activity in South Africa, a country with a coastline that extends over 3,000 km from the Indian Ocean to the Atlantic, and from Namibia in the West to Mozambique in the East, and is home to an extraordinary diversity of marine life. Some 10,000 species of marine plants and animals have been identified in these waters, equivalent to 15% of the world's marine species. There are also numerous lakes and rivers, set in mountain landscapes that provide protection for wild species

While fishing plays an important role in South Africa, it still accounts for only 1% of GDP. The main catches are anchovy, sardine, hake, squid and Cape lobster, while line-fishing catches include tuna, snake mackerel and kingfish. Subsistence fishing remains widespread on the coast, while commercial fishing is expanding rapidly. Since 1994, fisheries have undergone a process of industrialisation and the sector is now dominated by a handful of companies that lead the market. Small-scale fishing is therefore in need of protection.

It is also worth noting that over 90% of the high value species caught (lobster, squid) are destined for export.

In order to avoid overfishing, the industry is subject to strict rules setting catch quotas, closed seasons and minimum size limits for fish and crustaceans.

Fishing also has to be reconciled with environmental protection. 23% of South Africa's coastline consists of protected marine reserves, of which 9% are totally protected, i.e. no fishing at all is permitted. The fishing industry also poses risks to protected migrant species such as whales, which regularly find themselves tangled in fishing nets. The subject is deeply rooted in South Africa's collective conscience; 2006 saw the founding of the South African Whale Disentanglement Network (SAWDN), a body of volunteers trained in rescuing whales. A successful rescue operation carried out on 5th January 2011 by SAWDN, with government help, received massive media coverage at the time.