Africa’s growth will be boosted by recovery in commodity prices



NEW DELHI Africa will see a lift-off in economic growth this year and next on the back of a rebound in global commodity prices, an annual report predicted on Monday.

The African Economic Outlook, co-authored by the African Development Bank, the OECD and the United Nations Development Programme, expects the continent’s economy to grow by 3.4 percent in 2017 and 4.3 percent in 2018, up from an estimated 2.2 percent last year.

The report was released as the African Development Bank began its annual meeting, this year being hosted by India in the capital of Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s home state of Gujarat.

Modi invited African leaders to a summit in 2015 and has sought to promote ‘south-south’ economic ties with a continent that has a large Indian diaspora but has seen far larger inward investment from China.

The report said that a decline in commodity prices starting in mid-2014 had a devastating impact on several commodity-exporting African economies. Nigeria, for example, which has the biggest share in Africa’s GDP, slipped into recession.

Africa has been worryingly dependent on commodities to power economic growth. The fall in raw materials prices inflicted a significant shock on sub-Saharan Africa as fuels, ore and metals account for more than 60 percent of the region’s exports.

However, commodities have staged a comeback since late last year, buoyed by an improvement in the world economic outlook together with the return of risk appetite among global investors.

If the rise in commodity prices is sustained, the report said, it would trim the continent’s current account deficit to 5 percent of GDP this year from 6.5 percent in 2016.

Africa is expected to witness a marginal improvement in external inflows that are estimated to inch up to $179.7 billion in 2017 from $177.7 billion a year ago.

The report urged the countries in the region to diversify their exports to reduce their exposure to commodity-price shocks and take measures to boost trade within Africa.

(Reporting by Rajesh Kumar Singh; Editing by Douglas Busvine)

Nigeria – 82 Chibok girls reunited with families


Media captionThere were jubilant scenes as families were reunited

A group of the “Chibok girls” freed from Nigeria’s Boko Haram militants have been reunited with their families.

The 82 girls, who were part of a huge group kidnapped from their school in 2014, are in the care of security services in the capital, Abuja.

Their parents travelled by bus through the night to meet their daughters.

More than 100 of the 276 girls, taken from the town of Chibok, are still being held by the militant group. Their whereabouts are unknown.

The reunion in Abuja had a celebratory atmosphere, with music and dance.

The BBC’s Alistair Leithead says the girls were already dancing when their parents got off the bus and raced towards them, in an emotional reunion.

The 82 young women were only freed two weeks earlier in exchange for five Boko Haram militants.

The most recent group freed was supposed to have 83 girls – but one refused to leave, saying she was happy and had found a husband, a Nigerian government spokesman said.

The freed girls remain in government care – under the eye of security services who are questioning them about their time spent as captives.

Media captionMr Nkeke saw his daughter earlier than most last week

After the girls were abducted from their school in April 2014, a massive global awareness campaign began, using the Twitter hashtag #BringBackOurGirls.

The Chibok girls represent a fraction of the women captured by the militant group, estimates for which number in the thousands.

UN specialist worried about human rights and press freedom in Sudan

Sudan Tribune

May 21, 2017 (KHARTOUM) – The United Nations independent expert on the situation of human rights in the Sudan, Aristide Nononsi Sunday has expressed concern over detentions of civil society activists and continued the crackdown on the press and religious minorities.

The UN expert is visiting Sudan from 11-21 May to carry out his fourth mission to the country so as to continue his engagement with the Sudanese authorities and discuss the implementation of his recommendations

In a press release held at the end of his visit in Sunday, Nononsi said he is still “concerned about a number of human rights issues in the country that have not been dealt with very much”, adding “I am aware of incidents that appear to be harassment and arrests targeting representatives of civil society organizations.”

“I’d like to urge the Sudanese authorities to release Dr Mudawi Ibrahim and Hafez Idris, whom I believe have been held solely for legitimate actions to protect and promote human rights in Sudan,” he added

Ibrahim, university professor and Chair of the non-governmental organisation Sudan Social Development Organisation (SUDO) was arrested on 7 December 2016 by the National Intelligence and Security Services (NISS).

Nononsi pointed out that the suspension of Al-Jareeda newspaper in December 2016 by the NISS contradicts the interim national constitution and the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights ratified by Sudan, saying “I raised this issue with the Sudanese authorities.”

The UN expert added that he urged the authorities to make the necessary amendments to the Voluntary and Human Work Organization Act of 2006 to bring it into line with the constitution and international human rights standards and to repeal all provisions of this law that adversely affect the work of civil society organizations and allow civil society actors to carry out their activities in an open, safe and sound environment.

He stressed the need to ensure the protection of freedom of religion, saying “I refer here to the destruction of churches and places of worship by the NISS, which was also used to intimidate, detain and arrest Christian religious leaders.”

He pointed out that he discussed this issue with government officials, describing it as “legitimate concerns” that the Sudanese government should address them, given the importance of freedom of religion in any democratic society.

Earlier this month, Khartoum State authorities demolished a church in Soba Al-Aradi suburb, 19 km from Khartoum, despite pledges by Sudanese government officials to stop Churches’ demolition.

Sudanese authorities earlier this year delayed a plan to demolish some 27 churches including Soba Al Aradi church, pointing they are not officially recognised as churches.

However, church leaders say the authorities refuse to give them building permits when they submit an application for the construction of a church. They stress this situation force them to resort to these houses of prayer in the far suburbs of Khartoum.

Nononsi noted that the unilateral cease-fire from government and armed movements in Darfur is largely holding, but pointed to “continuing threats of violence and attacks against civilians in other forms, including inter-communal violence, sexual violence and the abduction of civilians.”

He called on the government to focus on implementing provisions of the Doha Document for Peace in Darfur (DDPD) pertaining to dissolution and disarmament of militias so that protection issues can be addressed in the region.

The UN expert pointed to some positive developments made by the Sudanese government in the human rights file compared to his previous visit in February, welcoming the decision of the Sudanese President Omer al-Bashir issued on March 8 granting amnesty to 259 members of armed movements who were captured during the fighting with government forces in Darfur.

He also praised al-Bashir’s decision to appoint the head of the National Human Rights Commission (NHRC) on May 16, stressing the importance of the role that an independent national human rights institution can play.

Nononsi appealed to the Sudanese authorities to fill the remaining vacant posts of the commissioners in a transparent and representative manner and to support national human rights institutions with the necessary funding to enable them to carry out their functions effectively.

He further thanked the Sudanese government for its cooperation and for giving him access to all the places, persons and institutions to which he requested to meet.

The independent expert is expected to present his findings and recommendations to the U.N Human Rights Council in September 2017.


South Africa – ANC wants powers of the Presidency increased


2017-05-21 12:47

Johannesburg – The Presidency must be strengthened to ensure it best runs the heart of government, the ANC NEC’s legislature and governance subcommittee said on Sunday.

“Given the scale and complexity of government’s delivery across three spheres of government and the SOEs, the strategic centre of power in the Presidency must be strengthened,” said the subcommittee in a statement.

The subcommittee noted that “some of the SOEs [State Owned Enterprises] are plagued by issues of poor governance and allegations of corruption.

It said the finalisation of “governance and oversight protocols” for the SOEs was in process.

Furthermore the ANC said it was reviewing current systems of traditional leadership, suggesting that the roles and responsibilities of these leaders needed to be fully clear.

“Intense engagements and consultations with key role players in the traditional governance system is underway.”

A conference on the matter was also planned for the future.

Central African republic – 22 reported dead in new violence


ABIDJAN Fighting this week between rival Christian and Muslim militias in the Central African Republic town of Bria killed at least 22 people, including 17 civilians, and forced some 10,000 others to flee, the country’s United Nations mission said on Saturday.

The clashes come amid a week of intense violence between mainly Muslim fighters from the former Seleka rebel coalition that overthrew President Francois Bozize in 2013 and anti-balaka Christian militias who oppose them.

“The fighting between armed groups in Bria and elsewhere in eastern CAR must stop,” Diane Corner, the deputy head of the peacekeeping mission, MINUSCA, said in a statement.

“These appalling acts of violence committed by armed groups over the last week have killed scores of innocent Central African men, women and children, deprived families of their homes and citizens of their livelihoods,” she said.

The rival factions fought over the northeastern town of Bria’s airstrip on Friday and looting forced humanitarian workers to seek refuge inside the MINUSCA base there.

In addition to the dead, some 36 people were injured in the clashes, the U.N. mission said.

U.N. soldiers have also reinforced their positions in the towns of Bangassou and Alindao, which have been hit by violence this week as well.

Red Cross workers said on Wednesday they recovered 115 bodies in Bangassou, a diamond mining hub, after several days of fighting there.

(Reporting by Joe Bavier, editing by Louise Heavens)


South Africa’s Watergate – Zuma friend nets huge cash advance

City Press/News24

2017-05-21 05:51

KwaZulu-Natal tycoon Philani Mavundla stands outside his homestead in Greytown. (Gallo Images)

KwaZulu-Natal tycoon Philani Mavundla stands outside his homestead in Greytown. (Gallo Images)

A close friend of President Jacob Zuma was paid an R81m advance on a R1bn tender by an entity of the department of water and sanitation.

Philani Mavundla (49), a construction magnate who once offered to pay Zuma’s portion of the security upgrades to his home in Nkandla, is involved in a joint venture which was awarded the R1bn contract to build an acid mine drainage plant in Springs, east of Johannesburg.

However, documents City Press has obtained show his joint venture company was paid the R81m advance before he even broke ground on the plant – which is expressly forbidden by the Public Finance Management Act (PFMA).

Yet, a spokesperson for the department’s entity insists the advance payment was regular.

Mavundla, the former mayor of Greytown in KwaZulu-Natal, was awarded the contract by the Trans Caledon Tunnel Authority (TCTA), which falls under the department of water and sanitation. It is tasked with managing and delivering bulk water-supply projects around the country.

A senior TCTA official told City Press this week: “The media has neglected this organisation, but the rot that is here is enormous. The acid mine drainage projects alone are worth R12bn. Companies have received projects which did not go out via public tender. People are carrying money out of this institution in bags.”

This is the latest instalment of City Press’ Watergate investigation, which has previously exposed the scale of corruption in bulk water delivery projects, as well as how Water and Sanitation Minister Nomvula Mokonyane’s young companion has been effectively running her department, and how Phase Two of the Lesotho Highlands Water Project was stalled by Mokonyane in apparent efforts to ensure that businesspeople close to her got a slice of the R26bn deal.

Last month, City Press also reported that Treasury shot down Mokonyane’s attempt to consolidate the TCTA and the Water Trading Entity into a parastatal with its own board, budget and balance sheet.

The TCTA has also been implicated in further alleged wrongdoing after it paid another company, Intelligent Water Solutions (IWS), R12m before a contract was even signed. Invoices that City Press has obtained show that IWS started submitting invoices from June last year, but the contract with TCTA – for the “maintenance and operations of another acid mine drainage purifying plant” in Germiston, eastern Johannesburg – was only signed in August. The remainder of the R36m they initially billed for was paid by TCTA at the end of August.

The entire 36-month contract awarded to IWS is worth R234m. IWS claims the advance payments were agreed to by TCTA.


Meanwhile, copies of paid invoices and email exchanges between TCTA officials show that in June 2014, the TCTA advanced R81m to a joint venture involving Mavundla and Italian construction giant CMC.

The joint venture, known as CMC-PG Mavundla EB JV, built the R1bn Eastern Basin acid mine drainage purifying plant, which cleans the water filling disused mines and makes it fit for domestic use.

The invoices and emails show that:

  • Mavundla’s joint venture was paid the advance, despite officials initially informing them they would not receive an advance payment.
  • Even though it had completed and commissioned the plant in June last year, the joint venture continued to submit monthly invoices for the plant’s construction until three months ago.
  • The company was paid a further R42m for an “operations and maintenance” contract at the same plant which did not go out to tender and seems to have been extended irregularly.
  • The joint venture was paid R93m in unspecified variation orders, but requested an additional R144m for more unspecified variation orders. It is unclear if this amount has been paid.

TCTA spokesperson Wanda Mkutshulwa confirmed that for the main contract, the joint venture was paid R956m, excluding variations, value-added tax and contingencies. She insisted it was all above board.

But a senior Treasury official, who spoke on condition of anonymity, told City Press that “there was no place and space for advance payments in the PFMA”.

“The normal way is that you supply the goods and the services, then we pay – not the other way round. The bidding process is meant to eliminate those who do not have resources and those who do not have the capacity to do the job,” the official said.

“If you can give a tender to anyone and then assist them to do the job, what is the point of procurement policies? Advancing payments means you can give a tender to anyone, without regard to whether they have the resources or capacity to deliver.”


Mavundla found fame in 2014 when he offered to pay back Zuma’s debt following former public protector Thuli Madonsela’s Nkandla finding that the president should personally pay a portion of the R246m security upgrades to his Nkandla home.

One of his companies, PG Mavundla Engineering, was involved in large construction projects in KwaZulu-Natal, Lesotho and Gauteng – including Durban’s Inkosi Albert Luthuli International Convention Centre, Sibaya Casino and the R250m John Ross Highway Bridge in Richards Bay. It is also involved in Eskom’s R20bn Ingula hydro-electricity scheme, near Ladysmith.

In 2011, Mavundla was elected mayor of Greytown’s Umvoti Municipality but declined to draw the R700 000-a-year salary, diverting the money to development projects instead.

He owns a palatial property outside the town, which features a triple-storey mansion with 28 bedrooms, 12 lounges and a gym for him and his immediate family.

By October 2014, he had three wives and 18 children.

He is listed as an active director of 15 companies and owns four more properties, including the Propaganda Hotel and the Mavundla Square Shopping Mall in Greytown.

In 2005, he helped establish the Friends of Jacob Zuma Trust to raise funds for his fraud and corruption trial.

In 2008, Mavundla slaughtered 20 cattle to celebrate Zuma’s ANC presidency victory at Polokwane in Limpopo.

In June last year, Durban’s Daily News reported that “financial constraints” forced PG Mavundla Engineering to cede a R20m Durban housing contract to another company.


Mkutshulwa said the advance paid to Mavundla’s joint venture was provided for in the contract.

“It is not true that TCTA refused to pay; neither is it true that this was against the PFMA. The upfront payment was provided for under the International Federation of Consulting Engineers’ conditions of contract. The contract allowed for an advance payment of 10% of the contract amount, in return for an advance payment guarantee.

“An advance payment serves to fund initial site establishment costs and payment for long lead items. It is repaid by the contractor over a predetermined fixed period during the life of the contract.”

Although the contract was concluded in June 2016, Mkutshulwa said such projects had a standard three-month trial period to ensure the plant operated well.

“Further payments were for an extended period for the operations of the plant and for noncritical work done during the 12-month defects liability period, which was part of the original contract,” she said.

Mkutshulwa said Treasury approved the extension of the contract for another year for operations, which was not included in the contract which ended in August last year.

She said the company would be paid R98m for operations, adding that this figure excluded R48 million in variations. Variations for the original contract amounted to R150m.

Mkutshulwa said there was no tender for the IWS contract as no other company could do the work.

She said the company was paid before the contract was signed in August because there was an “interim contract” between April and July. The invoices paid before then were for the “interim agreement”.

About the IWS contract, she said: “Only a letter confirming the conclusion of negotiations was sent to IWS on July 28 2016, but because of internal processes, the relationship for the 36-month contract was terminated in December 2016 before a contract could be signed.

“Although we had terminated the 36-month contract, we renegotiated a six-month interim contract while we went on an open tender, which was approved by the board in December 2016.”

IWS boss Dumi Luthuli also said there was an “interim three-month agreement”, adding that the money paid before the contract was signed was for management, personnel, maintenance, repairs, quality management and chemicals.

After initially being by told CMC-PG Mavundla EB JV lawyer Nicqui Galaktiou that her client would only be able to answer the list of questions sent to them on Friday morning by Wednesday, we received a detailed response after City Press had already gone to print.

Below is the detailed response:

1. When was PG Mavundla appointed to handle this project?
PG Mavundla was NOT appointed. Following a Two Envelope Tender submitted and evaluated the  Joint Venture between CMC SA Branch  and PG Mavundla Engineering (Pty) Ltd was appointed as per the Letter of Acceptance dated 21 May 2014 received from TCTA (the Employer) on 23 May 2014.

2. How much was PG Mavundla’s contract worth?
Once again for the sake of clarity we record that the contractor duly appointed was CMC / PG Mavundla Engineering Eastern Basin Joint Venture(“CMC PGM JV”). The accepted contract amount was R956,141,123.68 (Nine Hundred and Fifty Six Million, One Hundred and Forty One Thousand, One Hundred and Twenty Three Rand and 68/100), excluding VAT, escalation and contingencies.

3. For how long was the contract supposed to be?
The duration of the contract on conclusion of same was expected to be 18 months (15 months for the  construction works followed by 3 months of plant trial operation) and thereafter a one year maintenance period which is the defect notification period.

4. PG Mavundla was paid an upfront of R81 million, despite the TCTA’s refusal to do this due to the fact that this is not in line with the PFMA. Why was PG Mavundla paid an upfront fee of R81m?
The above was forseen in the Tender Documents available to all tenderers specifying that same will be a condition of the Tender on Award. The advance payment was accordingly duly provided for in the contract entered into with  CMC PG JV.  The contractual condition for payment of the advance payment was that the contractor would provide a Guarantee in favour of the Employer before payment. The Guarantee was duly issued prior to payment being effected. An advance payment was contractually necessary so as to  to enable the contractors to place the order for the deep mining submersible pumps (long lead items). The Employer was not prejudiced in any way in light of the Guarantee requirement.

5. Who approved the advance payment?
As per above mentioned point, an advance payment was foreseen in the Tender documents and on Award became a contractually binding obligation. As per the  usual contract procedure and conditions (FIDIC 1999) the advance payment was certified by the Employer’s consultant (“the Engineer”).

6. This plant was completed and declared operational and commissioned in June last year. But the company continued submitting invoices until, at least, February this year. What was the company invoicing for?
It was agreed between the Parties by way of a duly concluded addendum that CMC-PG JV’s  operation of the plant would be extended until August 2017, in addition to certain necessary additional works related thereto to ease the plant operation and to dispose of the sludge. This is currently being implemented.

7. As far as City Press is concerned, PG Mavundla was contracted to build the Acid Mine Drainage purifying plant. But it appears that, from documents we have received that the TCTA paid  about 7 invoices “Maintenance and Operations” invoices to the company, to the tune of over R40 million. This was from September last year. Did PG Mavundla receive a “Maintenance & Operations” Tender?
Refer to response in paragraph 6 above.

8. If yes, when did the company receive the tender?
Addendum 3 was concluded on 2nd February 2017.

9. How much was the tender worth?
The final cost is not yet determined as the additional work is not yet completed.

10. Was the tender ever advertised?

11. If yes, when was it advertised?
The Tender documents were available for collection from 23 July 2013.

12. In which media outlets was it advertised?
Our client is not in a position to indicate the list of media outlets. The Employer will be in a better position to do so. Our client can however confirm that it, as with most other companies, monitors Tenders advertised in newspapers on a daily basis including on line subscription services such as ‘On line Tender SA” and the CIDB website.

13. Please send us all minutes of all the tender processes.
Our client was not involved in the Employer’s Tender adjudication process, which is something you would know. Kindly refer this request to the Employer.

14. PG Mavundla claimed about a further R93m in variations orders. And this was paid. However, according to documents received by City Press, the company further claimed about R144m in variations orders. What was this R144m for?
The total amount of variations certified as per the conditions of the contract by the Employer’s representative , AECOM (the Engineer) as at IPC in 2017, amounts to R152 701 982.27.  In light of your unreasonable timeframes our client cannot confirm what portion of these certified amounts have in fact been received to date. The main variations relate to the realization of an Eskom sub-station to provide power to the plant and improvements to the electro-mechanical components of the plant.

15. Why did the TCTA paid this R144m as it had already paid R93m?
The cumulative amount of variations certified is reported above.

President Macron visits French troops in northern Mali

Al Jazeera

Macron and his Malian counterpart discussed the fight against armed groups in the West African country.

19 May 2017 14:56 GMT

President Emmanuel Macron visited French troops fighting armed groups in the West African country of Mali on Friday, during his first official visit outside Europe.

At the end of his first week in office, Macron flew into Gao, a city in Mali’s north, where political unrest and ethnic strife have raged for more than five years.

He was met by Malian President Ibrahim Boubacar Keita with whom he held talks on the fight against “terrorism”.

He also met some of the 1,600 French soldiers stationed there, on the largest French military base outside of France.

Macron called on the Malian government to implement the 2015 peace deal, which has repeatedly faltered in the face