News Roundup

Free & fair elections
  Dr Mbithi wa Kivilu (left), director, and Mr Yul Derek Davids, a research manager in Socio-Economic Surveys in the Knowledge Systems unit, present their findings at an IEC news conference.

The Independent Electoral Commission (IEC) contracted Socio-Economic Survey (CSES) in Knowledge Systems to conduct an exit poll on Election Day, 22 April 2009 to indicate voters' experiences during the election.

The contract is an indication of the confidence the IEC has in the ability of the CSES to conduct such a mammoth project in one day and to deliver quality data, said Dr Mbithi wa Kivilu, CSES director. ‘KS had the task to provide empirical evidence that the elections were ‘free and fair'. This can only add value to the good work being done by the IEC in managing the elections.

According to Wa Kivilu, the CSES deployed 400 fieldworkers, 36 sub-supervisors and ten supervisors over 400 voting stations countrywide. The training of the fieldworkers started on 16 April in Pretoria and then moved to the provinces from 17 to 21 April. CSES staff members were deployed in all the provinces to conduct the training and monitor the data-collection exercise on 22 April 2009. ‘We had one fieldworker per voting station who was expected to interview 35 voters and six election observers,' he said.

The data collection exercise went smoothly despite a few problems that were sorted out in the morning session. Supervisors collected all the completed questionnaires from the fieldworkers. The data capturing of the 14 000 voter and 2 400 election observers had started on Saturday 25 April, and was completed on 30 April 2009. The CSES submitted a draft report on 2 July and is now incorporating the Commission's comments.

Apartheid and colonialism alive and well in occupied Palestinian territories

An HSRC study indicates that Israel is practising both colonialism and apartheid in the occupied Palestinian territories (OPT). The 300-page draft, titled Occupation, Colonialism, Apartheid?: A re-assessment of Israel's practices in the occupied Palestinian territories under international law, represents 15 months of research and constitutes an exhaustive review of Israel's practices in the OPT according to definitions of colonialism and apartheid provided by international law.

  Dr Virginia Tilley, the project coordinator of the Middle East Project and chief research specialist in the Democracy and Governance research programme.

The research team included scholars and international lawyers based at the HSRC, the School for Oriental and African Studies (London), the British Institute for International and Comparative Law, the University of KwaZulu-Natal (Durban), the Adalah/Legal Centre for Arab Minority Rights in Israel and al-Haq/West Bank Affiliate of the International Commission of Jurists.

Consultation on the study's theory and method was provided by eminent jurists from South Africa, Israel and Europe. The project was suggested originally by the January 2007 report by respected South African jurist John Dugard, in his capacity as Special Rapporteur to the United Nations Human Rights Council, when he indicated that Israeli practices had assumed characteristics of colonialism and apartheid.

Regarding colonialism, the team found that Israel's policy and practices violate the prohibition on colonialism which the international community developed in the 1960s in response to the great decolonisation struggles in Africa and Asia. Israel's policy is demonstrably to fragment the West Bank and annex part of it permanently to Israel, which is the hallmark of colonialism. Israel has appropriated land and water in the OPT, merged the Palestinian economy with Israel's economy, and imposed a system of domination over Palestinians to ensure their subjugation to these measures. Through these measures, Israel has denied the indigenous population the right to self-determination and indicated clear intention to assume sovereignty over portions of its land and natural resources. Permanent annexation of territory in this fashion is the hallmark of colonialism.

Regarding apartheid, the team found that Israel's laws and policies in the OPT fit the definition of apartheid in the International Convention on the Suppression and Punishment of the Crime of Apartheid. Israeli law conveys privileges to Jewish settlers and disadvantages Palestinians in the same territory on the basis of their respective identities, which function as ‘racialised identities' in the sense provided by international law. Israel's practices are corollary to five of the six ‘inhuman acts' listed by the Convention. A policy of apartheid is especially indicated by Israel's demarcation of geographic ‘reserves' in the West Bank, to which Palestinian residence is confined and which Palestinians cannot leave without a permit. The system is very similar to the policy of ‘Grand Apartheid' in apartheid South Africa, in which black South Africans were confined to black Homelands delineated by the South African government, while white South Africans enjoyed freedom of movement and full civil rights in the rest of the country.

The draft study is available  below:
    Read the Executive Summary  [900KB]  
    Download the full report now  [3MB] 

Reporting from Bergen, Norway

The HSRC had a prominent presence at the International Social Science Council's first World Social Science Forum that took place from 10-12 May in Bergen, Norway. The Forum under the theme One Planet - Worlds Apart?, brought together approximately 800 participants from 85 countries to demonstrate the global presence, impact and authority of the social sciences.

The HSRC exhibition table at the WSSF Conference.   Mr William Blankley, director of the Centre for Science, Technology and Innovation Indicators at the HSRC, and Dr Neo Molotja, a research specialist in the Knowledge Systems unit, HSRC chairs a session at the World Social Science Forum in Norway, in May.

Several institutions and universities from South Africa took part, most notably the National Research Foundation of South Africa, Rhodes University and the Universities of Cape Town, the Witwatersrand, Johannesburg and the Western Cape.

The HSRC hosted two sessions: ‘The science of science and innovation policy', sponsored by the HSRC and the European Cooperation in the Field of Scientific and Technical Research, and ‘Rethinking social policies in light of the response to the financial crisis: How to turn crisis into opportunity for social development and policies?', sponsored by the HSRC and UNESCO's Management of Social Transformations (MOST) programme.

In both sessions speakers from various countries, ranging from India to Jordan, presented papers, resulting in rich discussion and debate.

The science of science and innovation policy

The mantra for modern knowledge economies is innovation. It is pursued through education policies designed to foster a flexible work force, but also through research policies that promote innovation and adaptability and flexibility. Speakers addressed questions such as: What is the social science evidence base for different innovation policies and regimes? How can policy-makers evaluate the investments made in science and research? What communities linking scientists, firms and policy-makers can be built to address the complex dynamics in today's global, high-tech society? What new institutional arrangements may be needed?

Rethinking social policies in light of the response to the financial crisis

The world is trapped in the worst financial and economic crisis since the great depression of the 1930s, spreading fast and affecting all countries. The situation creates unemployment for millions of people, with subsequent increases in poverty, hunger, less remittances, etc., and threatens to seriously reverse progress towards international development goals, including the Millennium Development Goals. The situation is especially affecting the most vulnerable population groups.

Social policies were for long developed in the context of neoliberalism and the ‘trickle down theory'. The crisis has shown the need to rethink social policies and for a real ‘Global New Deal' and welfare states with a social contract in which social justice, solidarity and the enjoyment of human rights for all is promoted, especially for women, who are the backbones of the family. There is a need for cooperation between policy-makers, researchers, NGOs and the private sector, and that the world's developed countries respect the Monterrey Consensus to donate 0.7% of their gross national product (GNP) to the economic development of poor countries.

HIV survey among Gauteng provincial workers

Prof. Geoffrey Setswe, who leads the research project on HIV incidence, prevalence and behavioural risk among employees of the Gauteng provincial government.

The Social Aspects of HIV/AIDS and Health programme (SAHA) has been awarded a contract to do an HIV incidence, prevalence and behavioural risk survey among employees of the Gauteng provincial government. The support of union leaders and other stakeholders will be obtained in the first phase of the study.

The research will be led by Professor Geoffrey Setswe, a director in SAHA. HIV/AIDS impact studies spell out the future risks of AIDS to the sustainability of government services in Gauteng. In 1998 the Gauteng government leadership initiated an internal workplace AIDS programme, but the need was felt to conduct an HIV survey to guide future planning for human resources and the workplace response to HIV and AIDS for the period from 2004 to the year 2014. Union leaders support the survey.

Setswe said the study will determine the HIV prevalence among employees, to provide reliable projections of HIV and AIDS with cost implications for human resource management until 2014, and to identify interventions for groups of employees at high risk of contracting HIV. It will also involve the promotion of HIV prevention among managers, union leaders and employees, and education on survey methodology.

The study will be completed before the middle of 2010.