Category Archives: Africa – International

South Africa – ANC Chief Whip Mthembu says NEC should resign for failing

City Press

2016-10-23 06:00

ANC chief whip Jackson Mthembu.

ANC chief whip Jackson Mthembu.

ANC chief whip Jackson Mthembu has made a shocking proposal: the party’s top leaders should step down for having failed members as it moves from one crisis to the next.

Currently the ANC is divided over the pending prosecution of Finance Minister Pravin Gordhan whose fraud case is set down on November 2nd.

Two highly placed sources said the National Prosecuting Authority (NPA) had assured Berning Ntlemeza, head of priority crimes unit the Hawks, that it would not back down on the decision to charge Gordhan.

Mthembu said he raised the call for the national executive committee (NEC) to resign in subsequent meetings of the party following its dismal performance in the August 3rd local elections.

He said that the current leadership “reduced the governing party to something that leaves a bitter taste in the mouth”.

Going public for the first time about his call for the leadership to step down, Mthembu told City Press that he was deeply hurt to witness an ANC government using instruments of state to pursue its own minister.

He said his target was not President Jacob Zuma and he was “not interested in any position but to save the ANC”.

He said he would not be availing himself for a position in the ANC come December 2017, when the party’s national elective conference takes place.

He would rather go back to his branch and make a contribution through political education, he added.

Two weeks ago, National Director of Public Prosecutions Shaun Abrahams announced that Gordhan would be charged with fraud related to signing off on his former Sars deputy Ivan Pillay’s early retirement.

Mthembu and ANC secretary-general Gwede Mantashe, were among senior party leaders and stalwarts who offered Gordhan moral and political support ahead of his appearance in court on November 2.

Their support has been interpreted as a tacit vote of no confidence against President Zuma by some in the ANC and government – blaming Zuma for trying to taint Gordhan’s “good name” through trumped-up charges.

Other high-ranking ANC officials who have declared their support for Gordhan include Deputy President Cyril Ramaphosa, Zweli Mkhize, Aaron Motsoaledi, Enoch Godongwana and Joe Phaahla.

But ANC structures such as the youth and women’s leagues, and the Umkhonto weSizwe Military Veterans’ Association, have all said Gordhan must answer to the charges, like any other citizen.

Support for the beleaguered finance minister continued to grow this week as business leaders from the country’s 80 largest companies pledged their support for him, saying the charges were “without factual or legal foundation and not in the public interest”.

“We stand against the damage this has caused to our economy and to the people of South Africa, especially the poor,” read the pledge. (See the full text on page 16.)

The signatories represent mining companies, major banks, clothing retailers, grocery chain stores, private hospital networks and audit firms including the JSE, Anglo American SA, Barclays Africa, Goldman Sachs, KPMG Southern Africa, Naspers, as well as Business Leadership SA and the Black Business Council.

It was widely speculated that, following the outcome of the August elections, some senior ANC members wanted to resign en masse over the ANC’s poor showing.

Excessive state expenditure on Zuma’s private home in Nkandla in KwaZulu-Natal was cited as one of the main reasons for the ANC’s nosedive result of 54%.

The NPA’s decision to charge Gordhan, who was preparing to deliver the medium-term budget policy statement – known as the mini budget – this Wednesday, was the final straw for ANC members such as Mthembu.

It followed a litany of scandals that happened under the watch of the ANC’s NEC, including the removal of former finance minister Nhlanhla Nene.

“Why should we not step down, given that we have messed up? All these things happened under our watch. The ANC is losing support at 54%. Unless the party starts doing things differently, we will not be in power in 2019,” Mthembu charged.

“He [Gordhan] is pursued in a manner that is anti-democracy and anti-ANC, and some of us will stand against it. How can instruments of state be used to pursue our own minister? It goes beyond political bankruptcy. What’s more worrying is how our people have lost confidence in us. “When you see these things being done by a democratic state, your heart jumps. We are not only equal to the apartheid state, we are worse – because they never treated their ministers like this.”

Mthembu said ANC stalwarts such as Nelson Mandela, Oliver Tambo and Walter Sisulu would be in his corner – “standing for what is right and supporting Gordhan”.

He shouldered blame for having kept quiet this long, but said he hoped that his speaking out would encourage other NEC comrades.

“Speaking out against what is wrong is the only way to save the ANC, or we will continue to guillotine one another.”

Mthembu said he would use the next NEC gathering to pose these questions: “After messing up, are we fit and proper to lead the ANC? Should we not look at others to lead to get the ANC out of this morass?”

He added that the NEC owed Nene an apology for having all kept quiet and believed Zuma when he said Nene was recommended for a job at the New Development Bank – a multilateral development bank established by the Brics states (Brazil, Russia, India, China and South Africa) – which never materialised.

“That must be interrogated. Why was Nene removed?”

Mthembu said he hoped Gordhan’s case would be struck off the roll. Since his appointment as chief whip in March, Mthembu has vowed never to make mistakes akin to the manner in which the Nkandla issue was handled.

In related developments this week, Abrahams assured Ntlemeza that his invitation to Gordhan to make representations to the NPA was only procedural and he would still be ploughing ahead with the prosecution.

Abrahams had invited Gordhan to make representations for the charges against him to be reviewed, but the finance minister declined.

In contrast, his two co-accused – former SA Revenue Service commissioner Oupa Magashula and Pillay – complied.

At least two sources privy to the details of the Hawks investigation said Abrahams told Ntlemeza that the process was merely a procedure that had to be followed.

“He assured the general [Ntlemeza] that the process was just procedure which had to be followed after the receipt of the representations,” said an insider.

Gordhan’s lawyer, Tebogo Malatji, and Magashule said they had heard nothing from Abrahams by end of business on Friday.

The civil rights body Freedom Under Law had given Abrahams a deadline of Friday afternoon to withdraw the charges against Gordhan or face going to court.

But on Friday, Abrahams wrote to retired Judge Johann Kriegler, who chairs Freedom Under Law, saying he needed more time as he had “directed further investigations to be conducted to assist me in reaching a decision”. He said the legal representatives of Magashula and Pillay made “verbal representations” on Monday, followed by “written representations” on Tuesday.

“As such, I am reviewing the decision to prosecute Mr Magashula, Mr Pillay and Mr Gordhan,” said Abrahams, adding that he “regarded this matter as urgent and will be in communication with the legal representatives of Mr Magashula and Mr Pillay to advise them of the outcome of their representations once I have received the additional information requested and have considered the same”.

An urgent application to get Abrahams to drop charges against Gordhan was likely, according to Kriegler, following the letter from Abrahams on Friday.

Last week, a senior ANC NEC member sympathetic to Zuma accused Mthembu of using his position as ANC chief whip in Parliament to undermine Zuma and to create confusion. “There is a parallel NEC in Parliament led by Jackson. He has created his own faction there,” he said, adding that the strategy by the anti-Zuma group was to “paralyse the NEC”.

“If you take decisions this side at the NEC and we defeat them, they go to Parliament to create confusion.

He said they had identified a group in the NEC that wanted to resign in numbers at a particular time to create a crisis, and it was likely the trigger would be the removal of Gordhan as finance minister.

“But we are still strong as the NEC.”

Zimbabwe – Mugabe skirts retirement issue at funeral of friend


Zimbabwe’s Mugabe skirts retirement talk at burial of friend

By Cris Chinaka | HARARE

Zimbabwe’s veteran President Robert Mugabe on Saturday avoided the controversial subject of his future as he buried a senior political colleague and friend who had been pressing him to retire.

Mugabe, 92 and one of Africa’s longest serving leaders, is eligible to seek re-election at the end of his current five-year term in 2018, but has increasingly looked frail, stoking a scramble in his ruling ZANU-PF party to succeed him.

In an hour-long speech on Saturday at the state funeral of Cephas Msipa, a former cabinet minister and ZANU-PF member, Mugabe, in power since independence from Britain in 1980, largely dwelt on his comrade’s role in the 1960s-70s liberation struggle.

Msipa, regarded as one of Mugabe’s closest friends, died aged 85 after retiring from government about 10 years ago. In recent years, he told media he had tried but failed to persuade Mugabe to step down.

“I feel sorry for him as a friend. He really needs a rest. It’s good for him, good for his family and good for the party,” Msipa said in a newspaper interview earlier this year.

Mugabe has never publicly commented on his friend’s views.

But on Saturday he told thousands of mourners that “Msipa was always an honest man and he always spoke his mind fearlessly.”

Splits have developed in Mugabe’s ZANU-PF over who will take over from him, with one faction said to be manoeuvring to impose his wife Grace as a possible successor against Vice President Emmerson Mnangagwa, a longtime political fixer who has the backing of war veterans.

In an unprecedented attack in July this year, the veterans of Zimbabwe’s war against white minority rule called Mugabe a dictator, highlighting rising tension over the succession issue and mounting economic woes which critics blame on his mismanagement.

Political analysts say Mugabe has manipulated Zimbabwean politics to tighten his grip on power and set himself up as a president for life.

He is however facing increasing dissent, with opposition and social movements staging a series of protests in recent months.

With speculation also rising over his health, Mugabe has denied suffering from prostate cancer, and says his regular visits to Singapore are for routine medical checks and eyesight problems.

Analysts say Zimbabwe could suffer political instability if Mugabe dies in office before the matter of his successor is resolved.

(Editing by Stella Mapenzauswa/Jeremy Gaunt)

Somalia – 26 Asian sailors released by priates after four years

Al Jazeera 

Twenty-six Asian sailors, held captive in a small fishing village since 2012, were released on Saturday.

The sailors were held in Dabagala, northeast of the capital Mogadishu [Farah Abdi Warsameh/AP]

Somali pirates have freed 26 Asian sailors held captive in a small fishing village for more than four years, an official and a maritime expert said on Saturday.

The sailors – from China, the Philippines, Cambodia, Indonesia, Vietnam and Taiwan – were seized when the Omani-flagged FV Naham 3 was hijacked close to the Seychelles in March 2012.

Their period of captivity is one of the longest among hostages seized by pirates in the Horn of Africa nation.

“We are very pleased to announce the release of the Naham 3 crew early this morning,” said John Steed, East Africa region manager for the Oceans Beyond Piracy group.

“The crew is staying overnight in Galkayo. They will arrive in Nairobi at 18.30 local time tomorrow.”

He said they were in the hands of authorities in Galmudug, in central Somalia, and would be repatriated on a UN humanitarian flight before being sent back to their home countries.

Mayor Hirsi Yusuf Barre told Reuters news agency the “crew did not say if ransom was paid”.

Steed said one member of the crew had died during the hijacking while two succumbed to illness. Among those released, one was being treated for a gunshot wound to the foot and three were diabetic.

The sailors were held in Dabagala near the town of Harardheere, about 400km northeast of the capital Mogadishu.

Harardheere became known as Somalia’s main pirate base at the height of the crisis.

The Oceans Beyond Piracy group said the crew were brought ashore by pirates when their ship sank more than a year after its hijacking.

Piracy off Somalia’s coast has subsided in the past three years, mainly due to shipping firms hiring private security details and the presence of international warships.

The wave of attacks had cost the world’s shipping industry billions of dollars as pirates paralysed shipping lanes, kidnapped hundreds of seafarers and seized vessels more than 2,000km from Somalia’s coastline.

Source: Agencies

Somalia Abductions Africa

Malawi – President Mutharika denies ill health reports

Al Jazeera

President says he is in “excellent health”, dismissing speculation of illness in first remarks after extended US trip.

Mutharika was elected in 2014 for a five-year term [File: Mabvuto Banda/Reuters]

Malawi’s President Peter Mutharika, 76, has dismissed rumours of ill health after being away from the country for a month, saying doctors told him his vital organs are like those of a 30-year-old.

Mutharika flew to New York in mid-September to give a speech at the UN General Assembly later that month, but there had been no sight of him until his return on Sunday, prompting widespread speculation that he was critically ill or even dead.

Speaking for the first time after his extended trip to the United States, Mutharika said on Friday he was in “excellent health”.

“I am not sick. I am still alive and I have more than nine lives,” he told reporters jokingly.

Malawi celebrates 50 years of independence

‘Nothing to worry’

Mutharika entered the press conference in the administrative capital Lilongwe waving both hands to an audience of media, cabinet ministers, supporters and diplomats.

Last Sunday, when he disembarked from his plane from the US, his right arm appeared stiff and he instead used his left arm to wave and to shake hands with officials, raising more speculation among Malawians who are scrutinising every detail for clues about his health.

He told the press conference he was unable to use his right hand then because of “slight rheumatism”.

“It’s getting better now. I am really fine and there is nothing to worry. I hope that puts to rest the rumours about my health,” he added to wild applause and dancing from supporters.

Mutharika said if he was sick, he would have been “crazy” to leave the US and fly home.

‘Absence without leave’

When Mutharika extended his stay in the US for two weeks after the UN gathering, his office condemned rumours that he was critically ill as “baseless, malicious and sickening”.

It threatened legal action against anyone responsible for “damaging rumour-mongering”.

Politicians in Malawi have called on Mutharika to disclose all expenses incurred on his tour, including those of his entourage, as well as explain what critics called his “absence without leave”.

But the president refused to discuss the money spent on his trip, saying he does not have to explain “every minute of what I am doing.”

Mutharika, a former lawyer, was elected in 2014 for a five-year term.

Source: Al Jazeera News And News Agencies

Cameroon – over 50 dead and hundreds injured in train accident


Fifty-three people were killed and nearly 300 injured on Friday when a packed passenger train travelling between Cameroon’s two largest cities derailed and overturned, the transportation minister said.

Speaking on state radio, Edgar Alain Mebe Ngo’o said the figures represented a provisional toll from the accident, which occurred near the train station in the town of Eseka, around 120 km (75 miles) west of Yaounde.

(Reporting by Anne-Mireille Nzouankeu; Writing by Joe Bavie; Editing by Larry King)

Nigeria – Niger Delta Avengers tell Buhari that the military option won’t work


Ovie Okpare, Warri

The Niger Delta Avengers has warned President Muhammadu Buhari that the threat to use military option to resolve the Niger Delta crisis will not work vowing to resist any form of ‘modern colonisation’ of the oil-rich region.

The militant group, in an open letter addressed to the President by its spokesman, Mudoch Agbinibo, on Thursday, condemned what it described as disparaging remarks by Buhari since its (Niger Delta Avengers’) strike force suspended hostilities and attacks on oil facilities in the region.

It described as unacceptable attempt by the Federal Government to engage in dialogue with the people of the region through the military and representatives of oil multinationals, noting that such motives remained undemocratic for a civilian government.

He said, “The High Command of the Niger Delta Avengers is constrained to write you, Mr. President, General Muhammadu Buhari, on your continuous disparaging remarks, since the cessation and suspension of hostilities by our fighters for the liberation of the Niger Delta from economic colonialism of Nigeria.

“We are curious of comments like: ‘Niger Delta militants’ objective is to colonise Nigeria economically’, ‘Niger Delta militants are sponsored by economic looters’, where you personally issued misleading statements and threats of decisive military action, if necessary, to deal with the Niger Delta agitation because you have purportedly opened up channels of talks through security agencies/agents and the multinational corporations.

“Mr. President, do democratically elected governments open channels for talks in situations like we have in the Niger Delta through security agencies/agents or you are assuming the Niger Delta as a conquered colony in your 1984 era?”

The group, which has since ordered cessation of hostilities to allow the Chief Edwin Clark-led Pan-Niger Delta Stakeholders commence dialogue with the Federal Government on its behalf, maintained that the people of the region remained resolute to control their resources.

The statement further said, “We are not in the trenches for the sake of arm struggle. The people of Niger Delta; our forefathers have always resisted the colonisation and exploitation of the land. Since antiquity, even without weapons against all forms of occupation by (the) army, as such we wonder how your desire for decisive military action is going to win this war in your four-year term to end our legitimate objective of controlling our resources for posterity.

“Mr. President, you continue to emphasise on the charade you called “the flag-off process to the cleanup of Ogoniland” as part of your government’s programmes to salvage the ravaged environment.  We are disturbed by the type of rhetoric and politics you are degenerating your age and authority (to) as President of (the) Federal Republic of Nigeria on issues concerning (the) Niger Delta since you came into office.

“You continue to live in pretence and blind to the history of the Niger Delta agitation because of some sycophants around (who are) advising you. As far as you are concerned, you are as white as the snow!”

While accusing the present administration of politicising the Ogoni cleanup exercise, the militant group said “basically, some other factors fuelling the Niger Delta conflict are corruption engendered by successive governments that you served since oil became the commonwealth of the nation.

“Whilst you start the Ogoni cleanup process; what is wrong in reviewing the Sir Henry Willink Commission Report (of) 1958? The Ogoni Bill of Rights, The Kaiama Declaration document of the Ijaw Youth Council, The General Alexander Ogomudia Committee Report, and The Leedum Mitee-led Niger Delta Technical Committee Report?”

Copyright PUNCH.      

Burkina Faso – pro-Compaore coup plot reportedly foiled


ousted Burkina Faso leader, Blaise CompaoreAFP Former President Compaore fled Burkina Faso in 2014 following a mass uprising against his rule

Burkina Faso has foiled a coup plot by forces loyal to ousted President Blaise Compaore, the interior minster says.

At least 10 of the plotters had been arrested, but the top suspects were still on the run, the minister said.

The coup was to have been staged on 8 October, with an attack on the presidential palace, he added.

Forces loyal to the ex-president staged a coup in September 2015, but surrendered a week later after protests and opposition from top generals.

French-educated banker Roch Marc Kabore was elected president in November, ending a turbulent period since Mr Compaore’s overthrow in a popular uprising in 2014.

The latest coup plotters had also planned to attack a prison to free those held over last year’s coup, Interior Minister Simon Compaore said at a press conference in the capital, Ouagadougou.

A man gestures as he stands in front of burning tyres on 19 September 2015 in Ouagadougou, Burkina Faso's capital.AFP Street protests followed the September 2015 coup

Gen Gilbert Diendere, the head of Blaise Comapore’s presidential guard, was detained for seizing power in September 2015.

He has been charged with 11 crimes including threatening state security, murder, collusion with foreign forces, voluntary assault and wilful destruction of property.

Blaise Compaore, no relation to the interior minister, is exiled in neighbouring Ivory Coast.

He was driven out of power by crowds opposed to his bid to change the constitution to extend his 27-year rule.

He was accused of committing widespread abuses during his rule.