Category Archives: Africa – International

South Africa – public sector workers in dispute over stalled pay talks

Reuters

Dispute declared in South Africa’s public sector pay talks

(Blank Headline Received)
 

By Wendell Roelf

CAPE TOWN (Reuters) – South African public service unions and the government have failed to reach an agreement on workers’ pay, a government official confirmed on Saturday, raising the prospect of a major strike in Africa’s most advanced economy.

Any strike action by the 1.3 million nurses, teachers and police officers will hurt investor sentiment and hit economic growth, forecast at 2 percent this year, as South Africa struggles to escape the effects of a wave of strikes in its key mining and manufacturing sectors.

Unions, including those affiliated to powerful federation Cosatu, are demanding above inflation pay rises of 10 percent across the board, in addition to significant increases in housing and medical aid allowances.

They are in deadlock with government which is offering a CPI-related 5.8 percent increase in a three-year deal that will replace an existing agreement which expires on March 31.

“We have opted for conciliation as we believe that this route will succeed in bringing the parties closer towards finding an agreement,” Brent Simons, spokesman for the Public Service and Administration ministry, told Reuters.

“Not all options to find an amicable solution to the benefit of all parties have been exhausted (and) we therefore remain hopeful that an agreement can be reached,” he said.

But unions were perplexed at the move to declare a dispute, suggesting it enhanced the likelihood of labour strife.

“This is unprecedented … The employer is usurping the powers of labour by declaring a dispute so it means they will be going on strike,” said Mugwena Maluleke, spokesman for Cosatu’s public sector unions.

“And therefore we will reply with a strike,” he told Reuters.

“The likelihood of strike action has increased two-fold and that is the problem. This has been done at the initiative of the employers and I don’t understand why,” said Leon Gilbert, spokesman for the independent Public Servants Association.

Five years ago, just after South Africa hosted the Soccer World Cup, hundreds of thousands of public sector workers shut down schools and hospitals in a protracted and violent strike, the last major industrial action in the public sector.

Bowing to double-digit wage rise demands could call into question Finance Minister Nhlanhla Nene’s fiscal commitments to rein in spending and cap borrowing costs. It may also trigger credit rating downgrades.

The public sector wage bill has risen more than 80 percent over the last decade with an average annual growth rate of more than 6 percent above inflation.

South Africa – Vavi says he won’t resign as COSATU head

Mail and Guardian

Cosatu’s Zwelinzima Vavi will not be resigning and says he will return to the trenches to try and mobilise workers.

Zwelinzima Vavi says he wants to mobilise workers on the ground, but won't easily give back Cosatu. (Madelene Cronje, MG)

Embattled Cosatu general secretary Zwelinzima Vavi is not resigning from Cosatu and has instead announced that he has “come to the end of the road”.

Addressing journalists on Sunday, Vavi explained that this meant he refused to “hand over Cosatu on a silver platter” and has now resolved to “go back to the trenches” and mobilise workers.

When Cosatu’s central executive committee (CEC) meets on Monday – it will meet without its general secretary and seven of its unions.

This is not the first time the CEC met under these fractious circumstances- however, the agenda for the two day meeting is to have Vavi respond to a litany of accusations against him with insiders predicting it would almost certainly lead to his suspension from the labour federation.

His side of the story
Vavi used Sunday – the day before the special CEC meeting – to give his side of the story and to formally announce that he won’t be attending the meeting.

He said his conscience would not allow him to participate in a meeting that expulled metalworkers union Numsa from Cosatu.

At the same time he seems fully aware that his days as Cosatu general secretary are numbered.

“If my refusal to attend the special CEC is used as a pretext to fire me, then so be it,” Vavi said.

His plan now includes boycotting boardroom engagements and instead he would take to mobilising workers on the ground.

“Masses on the streets are yearning for Cosatu to be relevant. The masses are saying to us, forget about suspensions and about disbandments. Forget about the dismissals. What is at stake is a country that is not able to solve the most important challenges facing the working class,” Vavi said.

So why isn’t Vavi resigning from Cosatu?

He believed that his resignation is exactly what his detractors want.

“I am refusing to make it easy for those who are trying to hijack the organisation, and those (who) want to take control of the federation out of the hands of members,” he said.

While Vavi appears to be the proverbial “gatvol”, he is open to a change of heart if things turn around within Cosatu.

His next move would be prompted by the out come of Monday’s meeting.


Nigeria – vote count starts after voting delays

BBC

Nigeria election: Counting under way after close poll

An official of the Independent National Electoral Commission retrieves on March 29, 2015 documents from ballot boxes from the presidential election
The hotly-contested election has been marred by problems with its voting system

Counting is underway in Nigeria’s presidential election, with the incumbent Goodluck Jonathan facing a strong challenge from former military ruler Muhammadu Buhari.

The election commission (Inec) said it hoped to announce the winner on Monday.

The UN has praised the poll despite technical hitches, protests and violence linked to Boko Haram.

Voting spilled into a second day in some parts of Nigeria after problems with new electronic card readers.

President Jonathan was among those unable to cast his vote using the technology, which was introduced to prevent fraud.

Security forces stand in front of protesters against the recent election in Port Harcourt , Nigeria, Sunday, March 29, 2015
Opposition protesters in Rivers State took to the streets, demanding a recount

His Peoples Democratic Party (PDP), who had opposed the card readers, called it a “huge national embarrassment”.

The Inec chair, Attahiru Jega, stressed that only a fraction of the 150,000 card readers being used nationwide had failed.

The vote had been delayed by six weeks because of the insurgency by Boko Haram militants.

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Nigeria at a glance:

A Nigerian voter poses for a photo with a newly acquired permanent voters card - February 2015
  • Two main presidential candidates: Muhammadu Buhari, All Progressives Congress (APC), Muslim northerner, ex-military ruler, fourth presidential bid, and Goodluck Jonathan, People’s Democratic Party (PDP), Christian southerner, the incumbent.
  • Years of military rule ended in 1999 and the PDP has been in power ever since
  • Nigeria is Africa’s largest economy and leading oil producer
  • With a population of more than 170m, it is also Africa’s most populous nation

Unpredictable poll

Nigeria decides 2015: Full coverage

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The Islamists attacked polling stations in north-eastern states, with a curfew declared in Bauchi State after fighting between the security forces and the group.

The UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon praised the “determination and resilience” of Nigerian voters, despite the reports of attacks by Boko Haram and others.

He said in a statement voting had been “largely peaceful and orderly”.

His comments have been echoed by the regional bloc Ecowas, who urged Nigerians to accept the result.

Nigerians attend Palm Sunday service and pray for peace around the outcome of presidential elections at a church service in the oil rich Niger Delta
Nigerian churchgoers on Sunday prayed for peace

But there has been tension in the southern Rivers State, where thousands protested against alleged killings of opposition workers and voting irregularities.

Inec said it was “concerned” by the complaints, adding that one of their offices was set on fire during the unrest.

Results of the voting are expected to pour in through Sunday night but so far there is no official indication of which party is in the lead.

The PDP has dominated Nigerian politics since 1999, but Gen Buhari’s All Progressives Congress is viewed as a serious challenge.

Voters are also electing members of the house of representatives and the senate.

Nigeria – INEC’s Jega says president-elect will be known today

Punch

President-elect to emerge today –Jega

INEC Chairman, Professor Attahiru Jega

The Independent National Electoral Commission has said that despite the extension of Saturday’s elections till Sunday in some parts of the country, the results of the presidential poll will be declared on Monday(today).

INEC Chairman, Prof. Attahiru Jega, gave the assurance   as some of results from wards, local government areas and states continued to emerge on Sunday.

For instance, results from Osun and Ogun states showed the All Progressives Congress Presidential candidate, Maj.Gen. Muhammadu Buhari, defeating President Goodluck Jonathan.

But in Ekiti State, Jonathan had an easy ride as he beat the APC candidate.

Jega, who gave journalists an update on the conduct of the polls in Abuja, said that as of Sunday evening, results of the elections had only been completely collated in two states, one of which was Ekiti.

He said, “Some people assume that when I said 48 hours( for the release of the results), it starts from the morning the elections commenced. It is 48 hours after elections have ended, like yesterday(Saturday).

“You start counting 48 hours from yesterday (Saturday) when substantial majority of the polling units ended elections.”

The INEC chief expressed satisfaction over the conduct of the   polls, which he said held in a substantial number of polling units across the country, including the troubled North-East zone   where   internally displaced persons   voted in   Adamawa, Yobe and Borno states.

“We are pleased that the elections went on smoothly in a substantial number of polling units across the country, including the North-East where the commission was also able to conduct voting for Internally Displaced Persons in the three states of Adamawa, Yobe and Borno,” Jega said.

He said that out of more than   150,000 card readers used for the conduct of the polls , only 300   failed, representing   about 0.25 per cent of the total number of machines.

“It is also gratifying to note that the card readers worked well in the majority of polling units, even though there were areas where difficulties experienced necessitated additional guidelines to allow for manual accreditation of voters, as announced yesterday (Saturday),” Jega said.

He stated that manual accreditation was done in some polling units in   Osun, Kebbi, Ekiti, Adamawa, Borno, Jigawa, Anambra, Akwa Ibom and Ebonyi states.”

Jega said the elections were extended and   concluded on Sunday in nine states and the Federal Capital Territory.

Taraba State has the highest number of 116 polling units where the polls were extended.

Other states where the number of polling units where the elections were extended are Lagos (90), Kebbi (16), Adamawa (25), Niger (six ), Yobe (37), Borno (eight), Jigawa (37), Kano (13) and FCT (two).

He also rejected the claim by the spokesman for the PDP Presidential Campaign Organisation,   Femi Fani-Kayode, that his party had won in certain number of states.

Jega, who said Fani-Kayode should be asked the source of his figures, stated that as of the time he was addressing the journalists on Sunday evening, collation had only been concluded in two states. He said that   the results from the two had yet to arrive Abuja in the manner that it could be announced.

The chairman said, “You said somebody in one of the parties said the PDP is winning in 23 states. I don’t know the sources of his information. I know result have not been collated in 23 states.

“May be you should direct the questions to him and let him explain.”

He   advised journalists “to be careful about reporting this kind of information that is being put out there by people who are clearly partisan.”

He also debunked speculation that he was under pressure to declare results of the presidential election inconclusive.

“We are not under any pressure to declare inconclusive elections. In fact, I wonder who will be interested in declaring the election inconclusive. I think candidates will be interested in being declared winners and not to have the election declared inconclusive,” Jega said.

The INEC boss said his office had on Sunday morning received petitions from the APC in Rivers State calling for outright cancellation of the elections   in the state.

He assured the petitioners that the commission would consider all the complaints, including the allegation of presence of some underage voters and substitution of some members of the commission’s ad hoc staff with untrained partisan persons in Rivers and Lagos states.

However, results from Osun State showed that Buhari recorded   victory in 22 out of the 24 Local Government Areas   so far announced by the state INEC. He had 264,734 votes.

Jonathan,who won the remaining LGAs – Ife Central and Ife East – scored 192,288 votes.

The   results were announced in Osogbo by the returning officers for each of the LGAs on Sunday.

Also in Ogun State, the APC presidential candidate defeated Jonathan in 13 out of the 20 LGAs whose results were announced by INEC.

He polled 308, 290 votes while Jonathan scored 207,950 votes.

The APC candidate for the Ogun Central Senatorial District,   Lanre Tejuoso, defeated   PDP’s Abisola Sodipo-Clark, the wife of an Ijaw national leader, Edwin Clark.

Tejuoso scored 115, 197 votes while Sodipo-Clark had 30,036 votes. The sitting senator for Ogun Central and Social Democratic Party’s candidate, Olugbenga Obadara, got 15,124 votes.

Jonathan, however, had it easy in Ekiti State where he polled 176,466 votes from 16 councils in the state. Buhari garnered 120,331 votes.

The result was announced by the state Returning Officer, Prof. Adebiyi Daramola, to party officials on Sunday.

It was also a sweet victory for the PDP as it won all the three senatorial and six House of Representatives seats in the state.

Impliedly, by implication two of the APC   senators – Anthony Adeniyi and Olubunmi Adetumbi – who contested the poll   will not join their colleagues in the eight National   Assembly.

Gbenga Olofin, the third APC candidate for Ekiti Central was defeated by Fatimat Raji-Rasaki, wife of a former Lagos State military administrator, Brig.-Gen. Raji Rasaki of the PDP.

Those elected for the House of Representatives seats are Kehinde Agboola, Ayotunde Oladimeji, Thaddeus Aina, Olamide Oni, Akin Awodumila and Segun Adekola.

In Kogi State, Buhari was leading by polling 108,817 votes from six LGAs as against Jonathan’s 84,555 in five LGAs.

The APC candidate also won in Dekina, the LGA of Governor Idris Wada with 18, 819 votes to Jonathan’s 13,885 votes. He also won in Amadu Alli’s LGA of Idah with 10,445 votes to Jonathan’s 6,113.

But there was a mild tension in parts of Imo State on Sunday as armed officials of the Department of State Services, the Police and the Army barred journalists from collation centres in the state.

At the collation centre in Owerri Municipal Council Secretariat, journalists were turned back from the gate by stern looking security operatives who asked them to go back   and wait until the results were announced.

All efforts to reach the Resident Electoral Commissioner, George Ada, were abortive as his telephone was switched off.

Copyright PUNCH.

Nigeria – PDP and APC clash over Lagos vote count delay

Punch

PDP, APC clash over Lagos poll results delay

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The agent of the Peoples Democratic Party for the presidential election collation in Lagos State, Mr. Wahab Owokoniran, and his All Progressives Congress counterpart, Senator Tokunbo Afikuyomi, on Monday morning hotly disagreed during the collation exercise at the Independent National Electoral Commission Lagos office.

The quarrel began immediately the Collation Officer for Lagos State, Prof. Isaac Adewole, announced the suspension of the collation of the presidential poll till 8am.

Before Adewole suspended the collation of the result at 1.48am, electoral officers of four local government areas had submitted the results of their respective council areas, while the results for the remaining 16 local government areas had yet to be returned to the INEC office.

But immediately after Adewole, who is the Vice Chancellor,  University of Ibadan, announced the suspension of the collation of the result, Owokoniran flared up and protested the decision, asking the state collation officer to explain the rationale behind the shift.

Owokoniran raised issues concerning non-arrival of the result of the election that was conducted on Saturday.

He said the result ought to have been brought to the INEC office.

According to him, result of many polling units, where PDP won, were manipulated in favour of APC.

Owokoniran also alleged that election did not take place in no fewer than 30 polling units in Epe Local Government Area of the state and yet result was declared for them.

“In some local government areas, election had been concluded two days ago. What could have delayed the collation? I suspect there are some discrepancies somewhere.

“We will not accept any result different from the one we have,” he said.

Owokoniran, however, submitted two petitions to the Resident Electoral Commissioner, Mr. Akin Orebiyi, questioning the electoral body’s collation process.

But Afikuyomi dismissed the claim, saying only INEC had the authority to announce the result of any election.

He asked Owokoniran to speak by facts, rather than making issues that could generate controversy.

Describing himself as one of those who framed the Electoral Act, Afikuyomi said, “Before we begin to make allegations about results being tampered with, without any substantial evidence or a single shred of fact, I think we must speak to facts and records.

“For instance, with regard to the result for Apapa Local Government Area, I have issues, but I will wait for us to get there. I think we watch the way we make claims because it can have serious implications.”

Guinea declares state of emergency as ebola cases increase again

BBC

Guinea declares Ebola ‘health emergency’ in five regions

Children come forward to get their feet disinfected in Guinea
Red Cross workers spray bleach in Forecariah – one of the affected regions – in January

Guinean President Alpha Conde has declared a 45-day “health emergency” in five regions in the west and south-west of the country over Ebola.

The restrictions include the quarantining of hospitals and clinics where new cases are detected, new rules on burials and possible lockdowns.

The Ebola outbreak began in Guinea in December 2013.

In January, the World Health Organization reported a steady drop in cases in the three epicentre countries.

But renewed concern has been triggered by fresh setbacks in these countries – Liberia, Sierra Leone and Guinea.

Map showing Guinea, Sierra Leone and Liberia

Mr Conde said he was declaring “a reinforced health emergency for a period of 45 days in the prefectures of Forecariah, Coyah, Dubreka, Boffa and Kindia” in a statement published in national media.

The focus of the virus “has shifted to our country’s coastal areas,” he said.

He added: “Wherever the need may be, throughout this period, measures of restriction and confinement will be taken.”

It is a first for the country since the outbreak began, Reuters reported.

On Friday, Sierra Leone began a three-day nationwide lockdown sparked by fears the virus was making a comeback in some parts of the country.

A usually busy street deserted during lockdown in Sierra Leone
A lockdown has been imposed in Sierra Leone until Sunday leaving many usually busy streets deserted

The southwest region of Guinea borders northern districts of Sierra Leone that are focus areas for the lockdown there.

On Friday evening Guinea deployed security forces to its south-west in response to reports Sierra Leoneans were crossing the border to flee the operation, an official told Associated Press.

Sierra Leone government spokesman Theo Nicol said the two countries had agreed to police the border so people with Ebola symptoms did not cross.

Since the Ebola outbreak began more than 24,000 people in nine countries have been infected with the virus, and over 10,000 of them have died.

Kenya corruption – what does “stepping aside” mean?

Standard

They’ve stepped aside, but what does it mean for Kenyan Government officials implicated in corruption?

By Nzau Musau

Updated Sunday, March 29th 2015 at 10:05 GMT +3

NAIROBI: The real meaning of “stepping aside” is on the spotlight once again with Thursday’s Presidential order.

In his address to Parliament, President Uhuru Kenyatta directed all officials of the national and country governments adversely mentioned in corruption “to immediately step aside pending conclusion of investigations of the allegations against them”.

The term “stepping aside” gained currency in the first term of President Mwai Kibaki when former cabinet ministers Kiraitu Murungi and George Saitoti introduced it as a novel political terminology as they buckled under public pressure over the Anglo Leasing scandal.

“The legal theory behind the Public Officer and Ethics Act presupposes this concept of stepping aside. Besides, law also grows from traditions and customs. We have done this before,” Abdikadir Mohamed, the president’s advisor on constitution and legal affairs, explained yesterday.

He said the requirement to step aside is different from “interdiction” which is by and large a civil service measure usually taken after officers are charged in court of law or at conclusion of a disciplinary action.

“Essentially, the requirement to step aside is in and of itself a suspension pending conclusion. If you are told to step aside, you step aside,” Abdikadir explained.

According to the president’s advisor, the stepping aside concept is a function of a particular cadre of executive officers whom the president has direct responsibility over and whose offices are expected to meet high standards of probity established by law.

VAGUE CONCEPT

According to Prof Ben Sihanya of the University of Nairobi’s School of Law, the concept of stepping aside is vague: “Technically, in public service terms it sounds like interdiction but it’s not it. It’s not very clear what it means.”

Sihanya describes “stepping aside” as a game of musical chairs where the affected officers always bounce back but long after the public pressure has eased. He says it’s a gimmick the political class have learned to play on the people.

Dr Francis Owakah, a culture and value analyst at the University of Nairobi, says that ideally, “stepping aside” ought to be a moral decision taken when one is pricked by their conscience. ”It cannot therefore be forced on someone by another”.

Former Law Society of Kenya chairman Okong’o Mogeni says the objective of the first cases of “stepping aside” was to scuttle the influence of the office holders during the period of investigations. He, however, admits that more often than not, such officers tended to retain their trappings of power and they always bounced back.

Lawyer Harun Ndubi agrees. “It was created by the Narc regime to avoid the embarrassment that comes with the suspension of senior state officers who also happened to be political confidantes of the then president. One would argue they served their purpose then. Things are quite different now because the Cabinet does not consist of politicians.”

MEANINGLESS

According to Ndubi, the concept is “meaningless, hollow and manifestly contradictory”. He says the requirement to have the officers step aside presupposes that it is not a voluntary act.

“A conditional discharge from ones duty can only be forced on one by the authority above that person. One cannot purport to suspend himself,” Ndubi explained.

He said “resignation by half” cannot be the solution to massive graft afflicting the Kenyan government at all its levels.

However, Abdikadir reiterates that the concept should be taken in good faith and as good measure of enforcing accountability and integrity in government.

He said that other than the requirement of officers to step aside, the Presidency is taking multiple actions to weed out corruption in government.

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