The Vice President of South Africa, Kgalema Mothlante, stopped by NYU for a public lecture co-sponsored by Africa House. As with most events, the really interesting things happen during the Q & A. One questioner asked why it seems South Africa has been flip flopping so much on Ivory Coast. (The Economist described SA’s foreign policy as “All over the Place” , focusing on SA’s stance on Libya).
The VP’s response was revealing – and went something like this. The electoral commission, made up of representatives of all the political parties, declared Ouattara the winner, as has most of the international community. The constitutional council, made up of the incumbent Gbagbo supporters looked into Gbagbo’s claim that two of the areas had irregularities. After studying this, it was realized that those two areas would not tip the balance in favor of Gbagbo. The constitutional council then decided to look on their own into even more areas, clearly to keep looking until they could nullify enough votes to change the outcome. However, by law the constitutional council only has the mandate to reject or accept an election. It was the constitutional court which declared Gbagbo the winner – which was unconstitutional.
So there you have it. SA says Outtara won, and Gbagbo lost!
Why is this important? Many of my closest friends support Gbagbo as a man of the masses standing up to western domination. They invoke the believed support of the likes of South Africa’s Zuma and JJ Rawlings of Ghana to suggest that Gbagbo may have actually won the election.
A few other comments. What a humble man. He had a soft personality, and a pleasing charisma and charm to him. He is the one responsible for SA’s 2010 World Cup. He big request for help is in the area of education and skills development and also infrastructure (does anyone have a few billion dollars spare?)
Perhaps the funniest moment was when he was talking about Soweto. An Afrikaans rugby team had to find a substitute stadium to play in at the last minute. Soweto has been recently upgraded with paved roads everywhere, nice parks and gardens, and now a destination point for many middle class suburbanites. The team, with some players who had never set foot in a township before, seemed to love Soweto – one important bonus was that the beer is much much cheaper than in their usual Pretoria digs.
Other people on the trip were the Higher Education Minister Blade Nzimande, the Economic Development Minister Ebrahim Patel, and several other ministers, the SA Ambassador and Consul General to the US.