It was a watershed moment for South Africa last night as embattled President Jacob Zuma faced a vote of no confidence in parliament, while rallies took place across the country demanding his removal in light of mounting charges of corruption and state capture. Despite President Zuma’s narrow escape, political commentators have labelled this a “pyrrhic victory” that has ruptured the unity of the ANC and will have significant consequences for the upcoming party leadership race, the 2019 general election, and the political future of South Africa.
In these politically tumultuous times, we reflect on the state of democracy and human rights in South Africa and the wider region, and the ongoing mission of the Canon Collins community to promote a more open and just society. Our partners at the Legal Resources Centre (LRC) are currently involved with an inquest into the death of Ahmed Timol, seeking answers for the family of the young schoolteacher and anti-apartheid activist who died in police custody over 40 years ago. Depressingly, more than twenty years since the advent of democracy, the South African prison system is still failing to safeguard the fundamental rights of prisoners. Our partners at Wits Justice Project continue to uncover severe miscarriages of justice and maltreatment of prisoners in facilities that are overcrowded, unfit for purpose and rife with physical and sexual violence. We recently spoke to Canon Collins alumna, Chiedza Chinhanu about the endemic problems plaguing prison systems in the region and her important work using drama as a tool for rehabilitation and reintegration in South African and Zimbabwean prisons.
In London, we were delighted to catch up with the UK-based scholars last week at our annual summer gathering. We were deeply impressed by the passion and clarity of these young academics and professionals as they presented their innovative research on topics ranging from evolutionary genetics in South Africa to maternal health in Malawi. These scholars will undoubtedly go on to play a vital role in advancing social justice and development in the southern African region, whatever the political future holds. It is in them that we should be placing our vote of confidence.
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