Category Archives: Southern Africa

South Africa – Gordhan still Finance Minister, for now!

Mail and Guardian

Gordhan's appearance in court is interpreted by officials close to him as a message to the public saying that he has not been kicked out of his job. (David Harrison, M&G)
Gordhan’s appearance in court is interpreted by officials close to him as a message to the public saying that he has not been kicked out of his job. (David Harrison, M&G)

Pravin Gordhan has dismissed reports that he resigned as finance minister during a meeting with President Jacob Zuma and other top six officials at the ANC’s headquarters on Tuesday.

The Gupta family-owned ANN7 news outlet quoted anonymous sources in a report that claimed Gordhan had resigned.

An NEC member, who did not want to be named, earlier confirmed to the Mail & Guardian that Gordhan had not resigned, and when asked by journalists outside the high court in Pretoria if he is still the minister of finance, Gordhan reluctantly said “yes.”

Gordhan and the director general of the national treasury, Lungisa Fuzile, spent most of the morning at Luthuli House in Johannesburg after being instructed to return from an approved international investor roadshow “immediately”

Former African Union chairperson Nkosazana Dlamini-Zuma was also seen at Luthuli House this morning, fueling speculation that she would replace Gordhan in an imminent Cabinet reshuffle.

After leaving the meeting with ANC bosses, director general Fuzile told journalists that he has still not been provided with reasons about why the treasury delegation had to return.

Gordhan has since arrived at the high court in Pretoria where he is seeking a declaratory order from a full bench of three high court judges on whether he is allowed to intervene in a bank and client relationship.

The minister entered courtroom 8E along with his deputy Mcebisi Jonas on Tuesday afternoon around 3.15pm.

Gordhan’s appearance in court is interpreted by officials close to him as a message to the public saying that he has not been kicked out of his job.

This comes after Gupta TV channel ANN7 broadcasted over several hours that Gordhan has either resigned or been kicked out by the ANC.

South Africa – Zille unrepentant over colonialism “statement of fact”

News24

News24

2017-03-28 18:11

Helen Zille. (File)

Helen Zille. (File)

Cape Town – An unrepentant Helen Zille believes a debate on colonialism should not be shut down.

The Western Cape premier was the last speaker in a snap debate in the provincial legislature over her recent tweets, which were seen to be lauding aspects of colonialism.

Zille is facing an internal party process over the tweets.

In a series of tweets on her way back from Singapore, the premier tweeted about colonialism, and ended off with: “Getting on to an aeroplane now and won’t get on to the wi-fi so that I can cut off those who think every aspect of colonial legacy was bad.”

AS IT HAPPENED: Helen Zille takes on critics in debate over tweets

On Tuesday, the premier bemoaned the reaction to “her statement of fact”.

She said she was glad that her tweets had led to a debate, and again apologised “if anyone genuinely thought I was praising, defending or justifying colonialism”.

She had never supported or justified, praised or promoted colonialism, she said.

Her visit to Singapore and Japan was eye opening, she said.

“It seemed to me that the colonised has overtaken the coloniser on the world stage, and I thought it was worthwhile asking why,” she said.

Religion and colonialism

She said if she were to state that the worldwide legacy of colonialism was causing an average of 3 287 human deaths daily, people would be outraged if anyone suggested the benefits might outweigh the costs.

“I am talking about the motor car. Today in South Africa, this colonial leftover is not only a means of transport, but the ultimate status symbol,” she said.

She also made an example of religion in relation to colonialism.

“To be consistent on the principle, if people believe the price was too high to acknowledge any advantage, then they mustn’t drive a car or visit most houses of religious worship,” she said.

She questioned the “political tsunami” over what she had said about colonialism, when textbooks in schools also talked about the positive effects of the time.

“If people believe that South Africans may say things that others may not, then the police must draw up schedules of what can be said by whom, and make sure this is in line with the Constitution,” she said.

‘You must now resign’

This was impossible and undesirable, Zille continued.

During the debate, the African National Congress and the Economic Freedom Fighters called for Zille to resign over her tweets, while the African Christian Democratic Party called for the premier to be forgiven.

The Democratic Alliance focused on the “sins” of the ANC, with MEC Beverly Schafer outlining how President Jacob Zuma and Social Development Minister Bathabile Dlamini had “breached the oath of office”.

She said Zille’s tweets did not amount to a breach of her oath of office.

DA MPL Masizole Mnqasela pulled out files of Zille’s struggle credentials, referring to the premier as “honest, trustworthy, humble, and a humanitarian that has helped countless people”.

The ANC’s Khaya Magaxa said Zille was close to being a raving racist, while the EFF’s Bernard Joseph said it was time for her to do the right thing.

“You must now resign,” he said.

Nigeria – Buhari vows terrorists will never again seize territory

Premium Times

Nigerian Army in Sambisa Forest

Nigerian Army in Sambisa Forest

Never again will terrorists take over and occupy any part of Nigeria’s territory, President Muhammadu Buhari vowed in Sambisa Forest on Monday.

The President made the vow when he declared the 2017 Nigerian Army Small Arms Championship, NASAC, opened.

Represented by the Minister of Defence, Mansur Dan-Ali, Mr. Buhari noted that holding the championship in the forest was an affirmation that government was “resolved to stamp out all activities and operations of the Boko Haram insurgents from our territory.”

Mr. Buhari said: “This championship is a showcase of the clear effect and degradation of the Boko Haram terrorist group with the destruction of Camp Zairo in the heart of the famous Sambisa forest.

“I can say categorically that never again will Boko Haram occupy any of our land.

“I want use this opportunity to congratulate the Nigerian Army for this achievement and reiterate at this point by noting that it is a case of professional training that brought the Nigerian Army to this length.”

Mr. Buhari restated that through the Presidential Committee on North-East Initiative, PCNI, government would reconstruct facilities and structures destroyed by the terrorists so that the people of the region could enjoy the dividends of democracy.

Earlier, the Chief of Army Staff, Tukur Buratai, said the championship was held at the forest to consolidate on the gains achieved by troops in the north-east so far.

“This championship is therefore held here at the heart of the Sambisa forest as part of Nigerian Army’s plans to effectively dominate all hostile territories in the North East”, Mr. Buratai said.

NASAC was held seven years ago, at Armed Forces Command and Staff College, Jaji, in Kaduna state.

According to Mr. Buratai, the championship could not be held since then due to numerous operational engagements by the army.

Meanwhile, the Federal Government has named the newly established Nigerian Army shooting range at the Sambisa forest after the late lieutenant colonel, Abu Ali.

Mr. Ali, who was the commander of an army formation at Mallam Fatori in Borno east, died in a battle on November 4, 2016 when Boko Haram terrorists attempted to invade and take the town.

The News Agency of Nigeria, NAN, recalls that the army routed the terrorists and took over Sambisa on December 23, 2016 at about 1.35 p.m. after it overran Camp Zairo, their last strong hold in the forest.

(NAN)

Malawi – electoral reform long overdue

The Conversation

Malawi faces the biggest overhaul in its electoral system since the 1990s. Shutterstock

Malawi is set for a major overhaul of its winner-takes-all electoral system with far-reaching implications for the country, if ongoing efforts to reform the system bear fruit.

Any changes in the voting system will represent the biggest overhaul of the country’s electoral system since it became a multiparty state in the mid 1990s. This followed the end of one-party dictatorship under Kamuzu Banda, the country’s first post-colonial leader and “president for life”.

A special Malawi Law Commission was given the task of reforming the country’s electoral laws. Following a year of investigation, it recently held a two-day multi-stakeholder conference to discuss the planned reforms. Its main proposal is that the current first-past-the-post (FPTP) system of electing the president should be abolished.

I believe that the proposed new system would help reduce the toxic politics of regionalism in Malawi. It would also enhance national stability, which is the bedrock of any successful nation. But it isn’t without challenges, and would need the serious allocation of state resources to bring it about.

Proposed changes

The proposed new system – absolute majority – to replace the FPTP will require the winning candidate for president to get at least 51+ percent threshold of the national vote.

Political scientist at Catholic University, Nandini Patel, a participant at the conference, has explained the proposal thus:

In a situation where no presidential candidate secures the threshold, the recommendation is that there should be a runoff or double ballot where the top two candidates contest in the second round and the one who secures more votes is declared winner.

On the face of it, the proposal is straightforward and makes logical sense. Yet, this is complex than it appears and if adopted it would revolutionise the way local politics is done.

The FPTP has been been in place since 1994, when Malawi embraced multiparty politics after doing away with Kamuzu Banda’s 30 years of dictatorship. Since then, a presidential candidate from a high-populated region is more or less assured of electoral victory because the FPTP system.

In the case of Malawi, the country’s Southern Region has always had a higher population than the Central and Northern administrative regions. Thus, all the country’s presidents since the dawn of democracy have come from that region; Bakili Muluzi (1994 – 2004), Bingu wa Mutharika (2004 – 2012), Joyce Banda (2012 – 2014) and the incumbent, Peter Mutharika, Bingu’s young brother, from 2014.

This may yet be a coincidence given that there is no study to back the hypothesis. But, the fact that the sitting President, Peter Mutharika, won the election with only 35% of the national threshold strengthens the hypothesis.

All things being equal, it should not matter where the state president comes from. Yet, as I have previously argued: the trend in Malawi is for the incumbent president to concentrate government development efforts in their own regions and districts of origins.

This makes those from other parts of the country feel aggrieved and short-changed. It’s for this reason that some members of the political elite in the country lodged serious calls for federal system of government, barely two months after Mutharika’s electoral victory in 2014.

Of course the late President, Bingu wa Mutharika initially came into office in 2004 with only 36% of the national threshold but managed to get a 63%of the national threshold in 2009 to win his second term.

He got votes in all regions other than only the Southern Region where he comes from.

The proposals to end the advantage the FPTP gives to candidates from highly populated districts are already facing resistance from some in the governing party. Heatherwick Ntaba, President Mutharika’s special advisor has argued ca the proposed new system of electing the president is “unrealistic and wasteful.”.

there is no way we can attain legitimacy of people are talking about. Let us talk about the costs. In reality we are already struggling to conduct by-elections [in areas where MPs and local government councillors have died].

Challenges

The proposed absolute majority system will certainly have its own problems. But, Ntaba’s fears are self-serving as the current system benefits his political party. Given the country’s regionalism voting pattern, the new 51+ winning threshold would require presidential candidates to reach out to regions beyond their own regions in order to win the presidency. No single region can produce enough votes for 51+ winning threshold.

Presidential candidates will thus be forced to consider forming alliances with candidates from other regions. This would have a good unintended consequence as politicians would be forced to extend government developmental programmes beyond their owns regions.

This would also introduce Malawi to the dynamics of alliance politics, with all its unpredictability and possible infighting within the governing alliance, given that it leaves a room for alliances of convenience, that are not necessarily in the interest of the country.

Yet, the bigger picture is that the new policy would reduce grievances and the feelings of unfairness. In the past, these fuelled calls for the country to adopt a federal system of government.

South Africa – Gordhan recall from trip heighten fears he will be replaced

BD Live

The Presidency gives no explanation for move as fears grow Brian Molefe may replace the finance minister

28 March 2017 – 05:52 AM Natasha Marrian
Jacob Zuma and Pravin Gordhan. Picture: SIYABULELA DUDA
Jacob Zuma and Pravin Gordhan. Picture: SIYABULELA DUDA

The nation was on tenterhooks on Monday after President Jacob Zuma abruptly “instructed” Finance Minister Pravin Gordhan to return from a scheduled international investor road show.

The move by Zuma fuelled speculation of a Cabinet reshuffle and that the long-awaited showdown between him and the minister was imminent.

It has long been speculated that Zuma was intent on appointing Brian Molefe as the next political head of the Treasury, a suspicion supported by the former Eskom boss’ hasty swearing-in as an ANC MP in February. Molefe resigned from power utility Eskom under a cloud last year after being fingered in a “state capture” interim report by former public protector Thuli Madonsela.

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South Africa – ANC Rivonia trial veteran Kathrada dies

News24

‘Tower of strength’ Kathrada has fallen

2017-03-28 07:22

Johannesburg – One of the last remaining Rivonia Trialists has fallen.

Eighty-seven-year-old Ahmed Kathrada, affectionately known as “Kathy” by those close to him, has died after suffering complications from recent surgery for a blood clot.

The stalwart, who spent about 26 years behind bars for trying to overthrow the apartheid regime, will be remembered as an ardent supporter of human rights, a patriot and as someone with a special love for young people.

Whenever he found himself around youngsters, he would always use the opportunity to delve deeper into their lives, find out who they were, what they liked, and what plans they had for the future.

Kathrada was the poster child for what a patriotic South African was meant to be, always keeping in touch with current affairs and offering his wisdom, advice or words of caution where necessary or needed.


Ahmed Kathrada, left, with fellow Rivonia trialists Andrew Mlangeni and Denis Goldberg in 2016. (File, Netwerk24)

Kathrada will be remembered, for the most part, as one of the eight iconic men – including Nelson Mandela, Govan Mbeki, Walter Sisulu, Andrew Mlangeni, Ray Mhlaba, Dennis Goldberg and Elias Motsoaledi – who were found guilty on charges including conspiracy and sabotage during the famous Rivonia Trial held at the Palace of Justice in Pretoria in 1963.

Kathrada was one of those sentenced to life in prison and hard labour on Robben Island.

At the time, the sentence was welcomed by Kathrada and his fellow co-accused, as the alternative was a death sentence by hanging.

The group was arrested at Liliesleaf, a farm in Rivonia owned by the SA Communist Party, where they were having their last uMkhonto we Sizwe meeting before moving to a new hiding place.

The farm was set up as a front for the underground military wing of the ANC movement.

‘All you people are going to die’

In an interview with Forbes Africa in 2012, Kathrada described how he had noticed a white delivery van pulling up outside the farm on July 11, 1963, the day police swooped in and arrested the men. This was not unusual, as the farm grew and sold vegetables, as part of the front.

However, on that fateful afternoon, not long after noticing the van, he looked out of the window to see uniformed policemen jump out with dogs and batons in hand.

“Sisulu and I, instinctively, without thinking much – we didn’t have time to think – jumped out of the window and we couldn’t go a few metres and the police were there armed with dogs, there was no point in our running forward and we were arrested.

“The first words the policemen said when they arrested us were, ‘All you people are going to die’,” he said.

This was Kathrada’s 18th arrest on political grounds. Although he was then no longer a member of the MK’s Regional Command, he was tried with the others.

In 1964, at the age of 34, he was sentenced to life imprisonment on Robben Island, where he spent the next 18 years with the others in the isolation section, known as B Section, of the Maximum Security Prison. His prisoner number was 468/64.

B Section was the section where those considered by the then-apartheid government as influential leaders or members of banned political organisations were kept. While he was still serving his sentence, the ANC bestowed on him the Isitwalandwe Award, its highest possible accolade.

‘Source of inspiration’

In October 1982, Kathrada was moved to Pollsmoor Maximum Security Prison in Cape Town to join Mandela, Sisulu, Mhlaba and Mlangeni who had been moved there a few months before. He was released on October 15, 1989, at the age of 60. On his release, Kathrada had spent 26 years and 3 months in prison, 18 of which were on Robben Island.

On his release, he was given a hero’s welcome in Soweto where he addressed a crowd of 5 000 people. Kathrada remarked, “I never dreamed I would be accorded such status.”

Walter Sisulu wrote of him, “Kathy was a tower of strength and a source of inspiration to many prisoners, both young and old.”

Kathrada was born on August 21, 1929 in the small town of Schweizer-Reneke in the North West province. He was separated from his family at the age of eight and sent to attend an Indian school in Johannesburg because he was not permitted to attend a white or a black school due to the Group Areas act.


With Michelle Obama in the District 6 Museum in Cape Town in 2011. (File, Netwerk24)

While in Johannesburg, he came under the influence of Dr Yusuf Dadoo and the Cachalia brothers, who were leaders of the freedom movement in the former Transvaal, now known as Gauteng.

His political career effectively began when he was merely 12, as a member of the Young Communist League in the Transvaal.

His volunteer work for the SACP led him to meeting ANC leaders Nelson Mandela and Walter Sisulu in the 1940s.

He enrolled as a student at the University of the Witwatersrand in 1951, but dropped out to pursue his political activism full-time.

In 2012, the institution granted Kathrada an honorary doctoral degree. During his address, his humility shone through.

He thanked the university for “the surprising honour to bestow an honorary doctorate on me”.

“I am ashamed to confess that about 60 years ago I had a brief association with Wits. I spent all of three months of my life as a student. Thereafter, at the age of 22 I succumbed to the attraction of an overseas visit, and I abruptly abandoned my student life to descend into the army of drop-outs. It had to take 19 years to redeem myself,” Kathrada told a hall filled with young and eager graduates.


Ahmed Kathrada and Barbara Hogan with Cape Town mayor Patricia de Lille and city manager Achmat Ebrahim when Kathrada received the Freedom of the City in 2015. (File, Netwerk24)

Private life

Very little is known about Kathrada’s private life with his life partner and fellow ANC veteran, Barbara Hogan, who served as Health Minister between 2008 and 2009, and as Public Enterprises Minister between 2008 and 2010.

Hogan was the first white woman to be charged and convicted of treason in October 1982 and sentenced to 10 years in Pretoria Central Prison.

In an interview with Daily Maverick’s Ranjeni Munusamy in 2014, Kathrada said he met Hogan soon after she was released in 1990.

“We struck a relationship and it is still there,” he said at the time.

He noted their common experiences of prison as a binding factor.

Their morning ritual was to have a conversation about what was in the news. Then they would go for a walk around Zoo Lake, if they were staying at their Johannesburg home, or along the promenade if they were in Cape Town at Hogan’s home in Simonstown.

“It is very peaceful there. No unexpected knocks on the door. I can spend the whole day in my pyjamas,” Kathrada said of Simonstown.

The couple was together for decades, and although there are rumours, it is still unclear whether they ever officially got married. They have no children together.

In his later years, Kathrada shied away from commenting on contemporary politics, choosing to only get involved at the branch level.

“I’m quite happy being a branch member. I avoid getting into the controversies as they arise,” he told Munusamy at the time.

Letter to Jacob Zuma

However, this soon changed in 2016 when Kathrada penned a letter to President Jacob Zuma asking him to “submit to the will of the people and resign”.

The letter began with the following words, “Dear Comrade President Zuma. I have agonised for a while before writing this letter to you.

“I have always maintained a position of not speaking out publicly about any differences I may harbour against my leaders and my organisation, the ANC. I would only have done so when I thought that some important organisational matters compel me to raise my concerns.”

He then set out to outline some of the major events that the country had seen, including the Constitutional Court’s ruling on Zuma benefiting unduly on security upgrades made at his Nkandla homestead, former Finance Minister Nhlanhla Nene being sacked from his job, which sent the rand plummeting, to current Deputy Finance Minister Mcebisi Jonas publicly announcing that he was approached by members of the Gupta family, who allegedly offered him Nene’s job.

“… Comrade President, are you aware that your outstanding contribution to the liberation struggle stands to be severely tarnished if the remainder of your term as President continues to be dogged by crises and a growing public loss of confidence in the ANC and government as a whole,” Kathrada’s letter read.

“I know that if I were in the President’s shoes, I would step down with immediate effect. I believe that is what would help the country to find its way out of a path that it never imagined it would be on, but one that it must move out of soon.”

In August last year, both Kathrada and Hogan also came out in support of Gordhan during a Hawks investigation against him.

Deteriorating health 

After that, the 87-year-old returned to his private life and made headlines again on March 4, when he was admitted to hospital for dehydration. Doctors later picked up a blood clot on his brain, which they needed to remove.

The Foundation’s Neeshan Balton said Kathrada was stable and recovering well after the operation. Eleven days later, Bolton admitted that Kathrada’s recovery was “going slower” than they had hoped, but by March 20, he was described as being in good spirits.

On March 27, the foundation sent a statement saying Kathrada’s condition had become serious, and by the evening it had deteriorated. The Foundation announced early on March 28 that he had died.

Read more on:    barbara hogan  |  ahmed kathrada

South Sudan – gunmen kill six humanitarian aid workers

Reuters

GENEVA Six aid workers were killed in an ambush in South Sudan on Saturday while travelling from the capital Juba to the town of Pibor, the United Nations said on Sunday, without specifying if they worked for the U.N. or giving other details.

It was the highest number of aid workers killed in a single incident since the country’s civil war began in December 2013, a U.N. statement said. At least 79 aid workers have been killed since then. This year, at least 12 have died and at least eight humanitarian convoys have been attacked.

“I am appalled and outraged by the heinous murder yesterday of six courageous humanitarians in South Sudan,” U.N. humanitarian coordinator for South Sudan Eugene Owusu said in the statement.

“I implore all those in positions of power to step up to their responsibilities and stop this, as they are ultimately accountable for what happens under their watch. There is no safety when attacks are met with silence and inaction.”

U.N. monitors have found President Salva Kiir’s government is mainly to blame for the catastrophe in his country which – in less than six years of independence – has collapsed into a chaotic ethnic war, with an epidemic of rape and a famine in parts of the country.

It was not clear if Saturday’s ambush was linked to recent violence in Pibor, where youth groups belonging to the Lango and Kurene clans clashed on March 21-22, prompting armed civilians to take up defensive positions near a U.N. base.

The U.N. said on Saturday that 800 to 1,000 civilians ran from Pibor town to the U.N. site for protection on Thursday. Indian peacekeepers shielded them and two U.N. helicopters and a civilian aircraft that were offloading at the airstrip.

The local governor later held a peace meeting and tensions subsided, the U.N. said.

(Reporting by Tom Miles; Editing by Andrew Bolton)

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