Omar Al Bashir: South Africa, makes a necessary African choice !

– Fixing with this choice a history of suspicious African diplomacy –

The AU gathering organized for the eve of the historic June 16, 2015 South African student-uprise celebrations is drawing swiftly to its end. This gathering is historic for it brought together African leaders on a necessary agenda paving the way to sever the umbilical chord of colonial and imperial influences that has many tentacles entrenched in Africa even long after African countries have claimed their independence. However, this historic occasion in my assessment was hijacked  if not marred by the ICC instruction of an arrest warrant of Omar Al Bashir a sitting President of a sovereign Sudan.

As the court ruling was expected the chattering class of which I am one was debating and analyzing on the ramifications and implications of this threat of an arrest. The issue that divided South Africans along the centre split remains : South Africa is a willing signatory to the Rome Statute that gives credence to the existence of an ICC, however the challenge of what this treaty in signatory means in praxis for an enmeshed reality of ICC cases terribly skewed to have already had 40 African Leaders indicted when Europe and the West is not present in such large numbers or significance. As we all know the reality of George W. Bush and Tony Blair, who ensembles the case of treason committed by the ICC for not having indicted  both these former leaders of USA and Britain respectively.

The debates raged that South Africa betrayed itself as a signatory of this convention and thus casts a long shadow of uncertainty on its actual seriousness of the ICC.

Let me then in the beginning make it clear, I am all for the arrest of and trying of a Omar Al Bashir for the crimes he committed. However, as important as that is, we dare not confuse matters. I do not think South Africa and the AU summit should have been the place or space for this threat of arrest be actualized.

Perhaps the pertinent question question in my mind was whilst this this is a legal case which found a legal court in declaration after Bashir winged out, it was not just a legal case but a very politically loaded case. It became a very difficult choice yet a necessary choice.

Let us now therefore explore why South Africa with good conscious could have made this tough decision:

I call it the choice between present even future Western reprisal and a choice for a fragile African Unity.

  1. When South Africa decides on this choice not to arrest Al Bashir it stands in the line of a questionable diplomacy for African unity for it started of on a back-foot when our entry into African policy articulation as was evidenced with the Mandela pronouncements of the Nigerian poet Kenneth Sarawiwa. The unintended consequences of SA entering into this fray, plausibly may have sped up the process of the actual execution of the poet.
  1. In that same tradition again on the Zimbawe elections outcome there was a time when pressure was exerted on South Africa to arrest Mugabe the elected leader of a sovereign State of Zimbabwe. SA refused and opted for what is now called quiet diplomacy. We need not forget the COSATU and SANGOCO Coalition’s attempt to exert pressure on Zimbabwe when they were stopped at Beit-Bridge thus abandoning their attempt to have an observer mission in Zimbabwe. One may assert that the outcome of SA involvement in Zimbabwean elections is in this season evidenced in Mugabe as African Elder Statesman.
  1. When we make this choice today it is out of a very consciousness of the time Kenya  a Sovereign State blew up in 2007. This occasion saw Archbishop Desmond M. Tutu showing up to legitimize the indecent haste for the induction of Kibaki as president when the signing-off of the election results still proved questionable. This same moment saw the ANC delegation led by Cyril Ramaphosa being asked to leave because our model of government of national unity and negotiated settlements were found not workable. (This model however worked for us in the IRA and Britain setting which has matured into a working relation context)
  1. When South Africa makes this choice it is thus a confirmed necessary one, for we have never so glaringly been here before as with the adoption the UN Resolution 1973 that found South Africa and Nigeria lending credence to the invasion of Libya and ultimately the murder of Muammar Gaddafi. It is also not coincidental that South Africa and Nigeria at this very AU gathering was clearly reminded of this collective  African compromise by a rejuvenated and politically relevant if not resuscitated statesman none other than Robert Gabriel Mugabe. South Africa thus shares a fragile relations context with other African states notwithstanding its critical role in African context.
  1. It must be understood and accepted that the ICC lost its credibility and therefore SA registers this protest in calling the International Community to say as important as a ICC may be, it cannot be a compromised one when the measures for indicting presidents shows a clear ambivalence and truculence in charging George W Bush and his counterpart Tony Blair for having committed the same crimes for which it shows Al Bashir and other African Leaders out as having contravened  therefore  worthy of indictment.
  1. When SA chooses to ‘violate’ this treaty as a signatory it does so less in ignorance but in a clarion consciousness of the demands for the need for a non- compromised, fair, transparent and equitable International Court of JUSTICE.
  1. South Africa’s choice can thus be appreciated as one for African Unity. It is a choice South Africa makes because the Unity of Africa regardless to how fragile it portends warrants in this season to be the predominant aspect if Africa has any hope of truly untying the proverbial Mary-Mary shackles of colonialism and victimology thus accelerating an African democracy model.
  1. On another level South Africa’s choice is proving that contrary to the temptation of those who want to separate South Africa in convenience for their personal self-interest from Africa, as distinct in an only form of exceptionalism having a proverbial space above other sovereign Africa an states, that South Africa is an African State.
  1. We as South Africans are beginning to act in that knowledge whilst we claimed before yet we have never so categorically shown in worldview stance our Africanness. This moment is historic perhaps this is what was needed when we succumbed to undue pressure to an adoption of the UN Resolution 1973 that butchered an African leader and destroyed a thriving Libya leaving blood on our hands. South Africa thus unequivocally says, never, never yes never again will the unity of Africa be sacrificed at the altar of Western Appeasement.
  1. When South Africa allows Al Bashir to leave SA it cannot be assumed SA with this it is  condoning what Al Bashir did and what he must account for. However SA is aware it cannot be an extension of a colonial sheriff role to do the work of those who have shown an unwillingness to bring Bush and Blair to account for their roles in Iraq on the sophistic claim of weapons of mass destruction.
  1. South Africa thus refuses to be a part of those who disrespect as non-signatories the very ICC of which it claims a custodianship of credibility thus forcing all but themselves to adhere and obey.
  1. When South Africa proves conscious to make this choice it proves a good host for even affording the court case that sought to actualize the arrest to go ahead, confirming SA a constitutional democracy that respects the judiciary as a crucial cog of its democracy.
  1. South Africa understands that the Sudanese President Omar Al Bashir was not visiting SA on holiday or some excursion but he was here as a member of the AU representing his Sovereign State, who was called here by a gathering only hosted by South Africa. South Africa therefore cannot be jeopardising the intentions of the African Union in exerting itself as uniquely empowered to bring the legitimate gathering of duly constituted AU members in disrepute.
  1. South Africa with allowing Omar Al Bashir to leave our shores proves matured to accept that whilst it may in this season of FIFA scandal be the convenient centre of gravity for claims of corruption it dare not prove soluble but must stand its ground and take its stands in its natural African kaftans.
  1. South Africa is not raising the issue of the imbalance of the ICC as an institution in its preoccupation with African leaders as its target here in June 2015 for the first time, for that debate was raised long ago. The consequence of the justice meted out in the ICC is now culminating in a due protest as now registered by South Africa, choice in this season. It is thus the second coming of the murmuring of an uneasiness in the fulcrum of a moment of defiance and due protest.
  1. South Africa in allowing Al Bashir to board his plane, makes it emphatic that it is not in the business of making history in having a sitting president and AU member attending a AU gathering be arrested in a host country only because the host country is a signatory of ICC legal framework.

In conclusion I dare assert as difficult as the choice was for South Africa to make, it was made easier by the very ICC whose practices of an ambiguity in meting out justice seeking for the victims of those who rule with impunity proved itself not a trustworthy entity.

 

Therefore as Al Bashir arrives safe home today South Africa says unequivocally let the ICC find the necessary means to arrest him and make him account for the crimes but not at the hand of South Africa who merely hosted the AU gathering duly constituted to entertain a due agenda which was consciously hijacked by typical narrow interest.

I sleep tonight better because South Africa is an African State and finding comfort in its kaftans of Africanness attuned to make tough decisions and having learned from the outcome of the decisions now defined as the travesty of a Libyan experience.

I am a proud South African and the African Renaissance dream lives, regardless to how a lusty western media may present this.

Clyde N. S. Ramalaine

A Political Commentator

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Blatter – Announcement: A stroke of brilliance in a time of being wounded !

Tonight, the football world is shocked, hardly five days after the FIFA elections which confirmed its serving Sepp Blatter as its preferred and elected president. This Tuesday night he announces he will step down. It is my submission that not all are reading what is happening as this moment unfold. Most are consumed with a CNN and Sky News bias diatribe of reporting that uses certain words deliberately confusing the masses less in honesty.

These report ‘Blatter resigns’, what they do not tell us is Blatter announced he will step down over a protracted period which will stretch 6-9 months. They don’t tell us Blatter remains the FIFA elected president therefore unhindered in executing his plan for reform as tabled at the last elective conference of May 2015.

It is here that I see the brilliance of Blatter the strategist, playing a master stroke. He has just won his 5th Term and less than a week later he announces he will step down. Let us therefore unpack the claim of a master stroke:

Firstly, Blatter was duly and democratically elected at the elective conference of last Friday. This means he is the democratic, legitimate, legal and due president of FIFA. No one will ever be able to argue he lost any election for the presidency. That means despite the uproar it is his determination. Even if he steps down it will not be because he lost any election.

Secondly, the announced special congress for the election where a new president may or can be elected does not exclude any current leader of FIFA including Blatter to be that candidate. Please note Blatter never said he will not stand in the next special congress where a new leader may or can be elected.

Thirdly, Blatter took a brave decision and he may appear shaken yet he proves leadership, he says with this announcement I am owning up to the state FIFA finds itself in, its leadership and FIFA members cannot but see his confirmed leadership.

Again do not forget Blatter remains the current FIFA President, and in that position he now announces the convening of a special elective conference for FIFA. It is he who calls the special congress.

In the fourth instance Blatter states the reason for his decision to step down and FIFA convening an elective congress. When he states the reasons key among that is not the financial state of FIFA, key among that is not the fact that football is embraced in the developing countries as a reality brought to them by a FIFA who had foresight to opt against the tide for this upstream intent. Upstream because it was never Europe’s aim to see football outside its control.

Blatter says I have heard them from politicians to even member-federations and regions who have murmured and vocally stated that their challenge with his leadership. He thus throws down the gauntlet, firstly to those in FIFA whom I shall call the spineless ones who ensembles the Michel Platini’s who simply do not have the capacity or courage of convictions to challenge an election but wants to influence the outcome. It is interesting that in the case of Platini, France did not even support his call to upstage Blatter, and they voted for Blatter. (it should tell you how weak Platini and his cohorts are).

In the fifth instance the period for him stepping down is crucial. Blatter before and at his election made it clear that he will work for reform and change in FIFA. He was asking for time to fix the wrongs in FIFA and they heard him and expressed their confidence in him and gave him a legitimate 5th term. Thus, Blatter with this genius stroke gets his period of fixing the wrong leading his change mandate and he will do so unfettered.

In the sixth instance perhaps the most important aspect of this stroke of brilliance is the fact in all this reporting and commenting and chattering the most important group of FIFA members (federations) and regions are quiet. We must not deceive ourselves to think anybody but these will elect its president. Or even confirm that there may be a need for a new one.

The powerbrokers regardless how powerful in geopolitical context they may portend will not decide who the next president of FIFA is. Key to this is the fact that, the 209 FIFA Members have already voted less than five day ago and they may stick to their decision come March 2016.

Blatter knows this and he must have that quiet confidence that a drastic decision in break of the last elective conference is not in the offing particularly if these along with him produce the desired change in FIFA over the next year before the special congress.

This interference of powerbrokers may just backfire when FIFA’s 209 members hardened their stance in saying you will not direct us for your interference does not bode well for FIFA as an entity and its strategic thrust.

What many who now jump around simply do not afford themselves to hear is Blatter saying: I will remain responsible as mandated president of FIFA and discharge my duties. This means as difficult as this moment is for now it needs a let -up. Shrewd leadership is to understand how a moment is deflated in impact and comment how the pressure valve is becoming functional in releasing air by the skilled hand of one who had withered many storms before. I call it riding the storm.

Powerbrokers such as David Cameron of Britain on the back of his most recent election proved brave to call for a Sepp Blatter to step down. Angela Merkel from Germany did the same although not as vocal and overt as a Cameron. These sought to influence the outcome of the last election. The outspokenness of political leaders on football, does two things it shows how far we have progressed to have people external (politicians) publicly stating their personal or nation stance. Yet on the other hand it asks if and when governments and political leaders can so directly influence the outcome of a democratic process of electioneering in the life of an independent entity such as FIFA, should we expect the same political influence to be exerted in their domestic politics contexts by external groups such as FIFA or others.

The master-stroke is that Blatter is essentially and effectively in charge of FIFA and I dare argue that. It is Blattter who needs not to convene this special conference, yet he does it, he is saying I am in charge. It is Blatter who says FIFA needs massive restructuring, it is Blatter who at the time of his election less than a week ago who said, we must work to cleanse FIFA. It is Blatter who now says we will “convene a special congress where a new leader can be elected”. He is thus not stepping down, he is not abdicating and his stepping down if it will happen is not within this moment but essentially over a year.

For the record, Blatter has not resigned CNN will mislead us to use terms like “Blatter has resigned”. Blatter is the de- facto and elected president of FIFA duly elected as the world observed. Be not confused to assume Blatter is of the scene he is in control of this scene and has just confirmed his power leverage in saying to his detractors including of a what I call scared Michel Platini and a list of Europeans ‘bangbroeke’. He knows the traction of these claims and investigations would have blown away.

What will all those do when March 2016, come and the 209 FIFA gather in recommitting itself to its present leadership thus giving absolute credence to its decision to have FIFA led by Blatter as mandated a few days ago.

This investigation is not without malicious intend as it relates to South Africa. It is alarming that SA is drawn into this in what I choose to call snapshot-analysis, we are told the centre of the investigation is the SA bids of 2006 and 2010. This we all know is a convenient point of entry for these investigations. The investigation of the FBI and even Zurich itself is not looking at how the USA and Germany bids were secured, we not sure if we to accept that these bids unlike, SA, Brazil, Russia and Qatar were attained as under different circumstance whilst Blatter’s was also in charge.

If we for a moment accept the position of the detractors of Blatter is correct, can we also ask if FIFA received its red card as issued by a boisterous FBI investigation leadership, is it not time to issue the same red card to entities such as the UN – Security Council, IMF and World Bank who no different to FIFA operates and is run no dissimilar to a FIFA in the interest of a few.

South Africa in my assessment should take this debate of reform to all the structures upheld as authoritative forward. We dare not allow others to cast aspersions on our credibility and thus must place this debate where it belongs. For too long those who claim to have civilized the world have been allowed to uphold this ambivalent practices where they act as referee and player.

We also cannot discount the most recent reconnaissance fact-finding mission conducted by a FIFA delegation of which South Africa’s Tokyo Sexwale was a part. This took place since there is a proposal that the Israeli Football Association warrant being sanctioned for the conditions under which the Palestian footballers have operate. The FIFA delegation visited Israel a week before the FIFA elections of last week Friday. We dare not allow these investigations to denigrate our sovereignty and credibility with this glaringly orchestrated aim of denigrating SA as corrupt when the bids of USA and Germany among others remain not susceptible to investigation – not even mentioned in the least.

We must ask did Sepp Blatter and FIFA become corrupt because of its association with Madiba?

Tonight we again know Europe is a fragile and threatened cohort hamstrung by its own intrinsic fear of having lost the control of football to pungent developing world. The USA is prepared to be the policeman or the bullet for the interest of Europe with a promise of a bigger hand in football one of the levers it never had control over. What these do not know is that football will never again belong to Europe alone. Hopefully soon we we will say the same about the UN Security Council, the IMF and the World Bank.

We the masses from the developing world tonight again knows this has nothing to do with football, even corruption this is about the economic power of football and the loss of control of some who have always believed they will control football.

In the end, I hold this is a brilliant and strategic move on the part of Blatter, because he will be in charge at least until March 2016 and will have the opportunity to make all the restructuring and necessary change agent activities.

He will do this with less heat as is currently the case, for many other political activities in our ever shifting geopolitical context may completely overrun this current focus on FIFA and Blatter.

His announcement today evidences the fact that him stepping down over a year renders the FBI investigations into a cul-de-sac since the actual head of FIFA targeted though conveniently not implicated as yet, is effectively driving the change strategy of FIFA. It is immaterial as to who and what caused the need for change, when change is happening.

Blatter has in my view played a master-stroke, he has just given new meaning to the term -riding the storm-. This is allowing the proverbial wave to crash however at your own pace.

In the end football or soccer will win as it has been winning when Blatter decided to take soccer / football to the masses the underdeveloped world and those who have always been disenfranchised.

In conclusion perhaps the words of Sepp Blatter’s daughter are more important when she asserted as late as this past weekend, ‘this is a storm in a tea cup, it will blow over’. Yes I agree it’s a storm in a tea cup and this announcement tonight of Sepp Blatter confirms his brilliance in a time of being wounded.

Clyde N.S. Ramalaine

Commentator.