Jean-Jacques Cornish

Japanese host singing off the same song sheet as President Cyril Ramaphosa

With President Cyril Ramaphosa out of the country attending the G7 summit in Biarritz and the Tokyo International Conference on African Development in Japan there’s been political and economic tension in South Africa.Taxi drivers brought the heart of the administrative capital Pretoria to a standstill after they blamed foreign drug dealers for shooting dead one of their colleagues.The protests yet again descended into xenophobic attacks on foreign businesses.

Q: What sparked the conflict between the taxi drivers and the foreigners in Pretoria?

A: Locals claim the taxi drivers were  confronting foreign drug dealers selling nyoapi – a particuarly dangerous form of crack cocaine-  to local youths.The drug dealers – many of them believed to be Nigerian – struck back. One taxi driver was shot dead.The streets are quiet in the capital today but there is a heavy police presence 

Q: How much damage was done and how has the South African  government explained it?

A: Seventeen arrests were made after  several foreign owned shops were torched and there was widespread looting.   A  task team has been set up to find the root cause of the violence.Police say they will control the criminal element that was the cause of the taxi drivers’ anger.

Q: It seems President Cyril Ramaphosa and his host at the Tokyo International Conference on African Development are singing off the same song sheet on the question of agriculture. Could this really provide  the economic boost so badly required South Africa and the rest of the continent?

A: Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe says they will double Africa’s rice output by 2030 to 50 million tonnes a year. This will be using technology and innovation – the key to agriculture. He urges farmers to move from growing crops to eat to cultivating crops to sell. When agriculture grows more profitable the youth will find it an attractive career path. He’s convinced young people can transform agriculture.

This is music to the ears of Cyril Ramaphosa who is faced a faltering economy and massive  youth unemployment. 

His finance minister Tito Mbooweni in a strategy paper released yesterday says agriculture and tourism are two pillars on which South Africa can  hang economic recovery.

The paper has raised the ire of the trade union arm of the ruling triple alliance.

COSATU is angry Mboweni did  to consult them before issuing the strategy which they want him to withdraw.

The minister’s strategy  does not mention expropriation of farmland without compensation which is a cornerstone of policy for the ruling ANC but which is credited with destroying the agricultural sector in Zimbabwe under ousted President Robert Mugabe.


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Jean-Jacques Cornish is a journalist and broadcaster who has been involved in the media all his adult life.

Starting as a reporter on his hometown newspaper, he moved briefly to then Rhodesia before returning to South Africa to become a parliamentary correspondent with the South African Press Association. He was sent to London as Sapa’s London editor and also served as special correspondent to the United Nations. He joined the then Argus group in London as political correspondent.

Returning to South Africa after 12 years abroad, he was assistant editor on the Pretoria News for a decade before becoming editor of the Star and SA Times for five years.

Since 1999 he’s been an independent journalist writing and broadcasting – mainly about Africa – for Talk Radio 702 and 567 Cape
Talk, Radio France International, PressTV, Radio Live New Zealand, Business Day, Mail & Guardian, the BBC, Agence France Press,
Business in Africa, Leadership, India Today, the South African Institute for International Affairs and the Institute for Security Studies.

He has hosted current affairs talk shows on Talk Radio 702 and 567 Cape Talk. He appears as an African affairs pundit on SABC Africa and CNBC Africa.
He lectured in contemporary studies to journalism students at the Tshwane University of Technology and the University of Pretoria.

He speaks on African affairs to corporate and other audiences.
He has been officially invited as a journalist to more than 30 countries. He was the winner of the 2007 SADC award for radio journalism.

He’s been a member of the EISA team observing elections in Somaliland, Democratic Republic of Congo, Madagascar, Zimbabwe, Egypt and Tunsiai.

In October 2009 he headed a group of 39 African journalists to the 60th anniversary celebrations of the Peoples’ Republic of China.

In January 2010 he joined a rescue and paramedical team to earthquake struck Haiti.

He is immediate past president of the Alliance Francaise of Pretoria.

Jean-Jacques is a director of Giant Media. The company was given access to Nelson Mandela in his retirement years until 2009.
He is co-producer of the hour-long documentary Mandela at 90 that was broadcast on BBC in January 2009.