Africa Media Review for February 21, 2018

South Africa’s Strategic Priorities for Reform and Renewal
South Africans have high hopes that Cyril Ramaphosa will be able to deliver change to systemic state capture. However, sustained reforms in South Africa’s most important national institutions are required if those hopes are to be met. Cyril Ramaphosa has come to power in South Africa as the head of a party and government deeply divided between reformists and those with a vested interest in maintaining entrenched patronage relationships. Under Jacob Zuma, corruption and abuse of office reached alarming levels, sapping public trust and costing the ruling ANC significant support. Zuma faces 783 counts of fraud in connection with a 1999 arms deal. A judicial inquiry is also underway to investigate how the Guptas—wealthy Indian immigrants with close ties to him—became a “shadow state” that influenced appointments and removals of ministers and directors of state-owned enterprises for private gain.   Africa Center for Strategic Studies

Zuma’s Political Victims to Return to South Africa Cabinet
Former South African ministers banished to the political wilderness under Jacob Zuma’s presidency are set to make a comeback as his successor prepares to revive the stagnant economy. The ruling African National Congress’s top-six officials, including President Cyril Ramaphosa, will meet on Friday to discuss changes to the cabinet, according to three people who asked not to be identified because they aren’t authorized to speak publicly on the matter. Finance Minister Malusi Gigaba, who Zuma appointed on March 31 when he had no experience in economics, tax, or banking, is among those who will be affected in the shake-up that’s expected to be announced next week, they said. Gigaba will deliver his first full budget to lawmakers on Wednesday. Bloomberg

South African Rights Group Challenges Zuma Rule on Influence-Peddling Inquiry
Civil rights group AfriForum wants South Africa’s highest court to quash a rule signed by former president Jacob Zuma that says evidence produced at a judicial inquiry into allegations of influence-peddling cannot be used in a criminal case. The clause is part of a list of regulations signed into force by Zuma on Feb. 8 before he stepped down from office last Wednesday to be replaced by President Cyril Ramaphosa, who was sworn in the day after. The regulations will govern the inquiry that will focus on allegations that Zuma’s friends, the businessmen and brothers Ajay, Atul and Rajesh Gupta, had influenced the appointment of ministers and the award of contracts by state firms. Zuma and the Guptas have denied any wrongdoing. AfriForum aims to bring private prosecutions of cases in the public interest and said on Tuesday it had filed an application at the Constitutional Court on Friday to set aside that clause, which it termed “unlawful and unconstitutional”. Reuters

Six People Killed in Overnight Attack on South African Police Station
Five South African police officers and an off-duty soldier were killed Wednesday during an attack on a rural police station. A police spokesman says an armed gang stormed the outpost in the southern village of Engcobo shortly after midnight local time and killed three of the officers. They stole a cache of weapons and abducted two other police officers as they escaped in a police van. The soldier was shot and killed as the gang fled. The bodies of the two abducted officers were later discovered dumped on the side of a road. Police Minister Fikile Mbalula called the attack “a national tragedy.”  VOA

Congo’s Kabila Replaces Interior Minister amid Declining Security
Democratic Republic of Congo President Joseph Kabila appointed the head of his political party as interior minister on Tuesday to oversee security in the face of rising militia violence and unrest over delayed elections. Henri Mova Sakanyi, secretary-general of Kabila’s People’s Party for Reconstruction and Democracy, replaces Emmanuel Ramazani Shadari, another senior PPRD official, who had served in the post since December 2016. The reason for the change, announced in a communique read on national television, was not immediately clear. Ramazani is considered a staunch Kabila loyalist and has overseen the security forces’ deadly crackdowns on protesters who have demonstrated against repeated delays to a presidential election meant to choose Kabila’s successor. Reuters

Congo: Thousands Flee amid Surge in ‘Horrific Violence’
The United Nations has warned that the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC) is facing a “humanitarian disaster of extraordinary proportions”, as violence and mass displacement is rapidly rising in the country’s southeast. A spokesperson for the UN’s refugee agency (UNHCR) said on Monday that entrenched intercommunal conflict between several ethnic groups in Tanganyika province was “triggering spiraling displacement and human rights abuses”. “Moreover, fierce clashes between the Congolese armed forces and militias have continued since the end of January, while new armed groups threaten to wreak more havoc in the province,” Andrej Mahecic said in a statement. The surge in violence in Tanganyika – an area that is home to about three million people – was largely between the Twa, Luba and other ethnic groups. Al Jazeera

Ethiopia Foreign Minister Defends State of Emergency, More Prisoners Released
Ethiopia’s foreign affairs ministers has defended the recently declared state of emergency to diplomats in the capital Addis Ababa, even as many Ethiopians continued to organise defiance strikes. Dr Workneh Gebeyehu told diplomats the move was necessary to restore calm in the country following months of violent protests which, he said, had threatened the country’s stability and economy. The Council of Ministers on Friday last week declared a state of emergency that bans demonstrations and publications that incite violence, following the surprise resignation of the prime minister, Hailemariam Desalegn. Several allies of the country including the United States and the European Union have criticised the state of emergency, saying it risks sabotaging the recent progress made by the country through reforms like the release of political prisoners. Africa News

Zimbabwe: Succession Wrangle at Morgan Tsvangirai’s Funeral
Morgan Tsvangirai,who died in South Africa after a long battle with colon cancer, was laid to rest on Tuesday (February 20, 2018) at his rural home in Humanikwa Village in Buhera, 200km (124 miles) southeast of the capital Harare. Thousands of people from all walks of life, including his long time rivals, came to pay homage to the opposition icon. However, the funeral ceremony was earlier interrupted after scuffles broke out between supporters of different factions of Tsvangirai’s MDC-T party. According to the online site of the Zimbabwean Times, senior party officials were chased away by angry youths. Immediately after Tsvangirai’s death, Nelson Chamisa, one of the party’s vice presidents, took control of the MDC-T. While endorsed by the late leader’s son, Morgan Tsvangirai Jr., Chamisa’s attempt to succeed the late leader is contested by two other deputies, Thokozani Khupe and Elias Mudzuri. Deutsche Welle

India to Build Major Military Facility in Seychelles amid Growing China Influence
India is preparing to build a military base in the Seychelles as part of the country’s ongoing contest with China for influence in the Indian Ocean. Last month, India signed a 20 year pact with the Seychelles to build an airstrip and a jetty for its navy on Assumption Island. The Seychelles are of high strategic importance to India, as the island chain lies close to key global shipping lanes. It came after China inaugurated its first overseas military base in Djibouti last year, near one of the world’s busiest shipping lanes, deepening Indian insecurities and pushing it to gain a foothold in the region. The Independent

US Designates Ansarul Islam as Terrorist Organization
The U.S. State Department says it is designating the group Ansarul Islam as a global terrorist group because of its history of launching attacks in Burkina Faso near the border with Mali. Ansarul Islam’s attacks include a December 2016 attack on members of Burkina Faso’s military that killed 12 soldiers, one of the deadliest attacks ever against Burkina Faso troops. The group is also believed responsible for a February 2017 strike on two police stations and the March 2017 murder of two men, one a school director, in the Burkina Faso village of Kourfayel. VOA

Nigerian Court Orders Separate Trial for Pro-Biafra Leader
The treason trial of Biafran separatist leader Nnamdi Kanu resumed on Tuesday but the defendant again failed to turn up in court. The former London estate agent’s populist rhetoric has tapped into lingering separatist sentiment for a breakaway state among the Igbo people who dominate the region. Prosecutor Shuaibu Labaran told the Federal High Court in Abuja that the absence of the head of the Indigenous People of Biafra (IPOB) movement was “frustrating the trial”. Judge Binta Nyako ordered the trial of Kanu’s three co-defendants without him on March 20 and prosecute him separately. Kanu, who also runs Radio Biafra, was first arrested in October 2015, sparking a wave of demonstrations calling for his release across southeast Nigeria. AFP

Togo to Free 45 Opposition Supporters from Custody
Nearly half of the opposition supporters arrested during a wave of anti-government demonstrations in Togo will be pardoned, Ghanaian mediators have said as talks to end a six-month political crisis got under way in Lome. Togo’s President Faure Gnassingbe “has decided to give a presidential pardon to 45 of the 92 people detained … following their participation in protests,” said Ghanaian delegation spokesperson Daniel Osei late on Monday. “Togo’s courts will look at the situations of the other detainees on a case-by-case basis,” he added in a statement. A coalition of 14 opposition parties had made the release of those arrested during the protests a condition of its participation in talks with the government. AFP

Over 5 Million List to Vote in Controversial Burundi Poll
More than five million people have signed up to vote in Burundi’s controversial constitutional referendum in May and elections in 2020, which could allow President Pierre Nkurunziza to remain in power until 2034. By the end of the inscription process on Saturday, “a total of 5,000,742 people” signed up, including Burundians living abroad, Pierre-Claver Ndayicariye, the chairman of the Independent National Electoral Commission (Ceni) was quoted as saying Tuesday by local media. The figure was higher than Ceni’s estimate of 4.5 million earlier. This includes those who will be of voting age in time for the referendum as well as people who will become adult by the 2020 general elections, Ndayicariye said. AFP

Egypt Puts Prominent Islamist Critical of Sisi on Terrorism List
An Egyptian court put former Islamist presidential candidate Abdel Moneim Abol Fotouh on a terrorism list on Tuesday, state news agency MENA reported, following his arrest for alleged contacts with the banned Muslim Brotherhood. Abol Fotouh was arrested last week a day after returning from London, where he had given interviews sharply critical of President Abdel Fattah al-Sisi ahead of next month’s presidential election. The Interior Ministry said at the time that Abol Fotouh held secret meetings with leaders of the Muslim Brotherhood while in London to implement a plot to stir unrest and instability in the country, accusations he denied. Reuters

U.N. Refugee Agency Says Donors Withhold Funds until Uganda Numbers Checked
The United Nations refugee agency UNHCR said on Tuesday its donors would withhold funding for Ugandan operations until refugee numbers were verified, after accusations that officials inflated the figures to steal aid. Multiple investigations are under way by the Ugandan government, the United Nations and the European Union into accusations that aid has been stolen. Investigators are looking into whether food and other relief items intended for refugees were sold off, bribes paid and refugee girls trafficked. Last week the Ugandan government, already investigating possible culpability by its own officials, said it was widening the probe to see whether staff from U.N. agencies UNHCR and the World Food Programme had connived with corrupt state employees. Reuters

Migrant Deported by Israel Back to Africa Recounts Ordeal
Inside the immigration office in Tel Aviv, Yohannes Tesfagabr considered his options. He could not dare return to his native Eritrea, a country he risked his life to flee in 2010. He also hoped to avoid the fate of compatriots who languished in a notorious desert jail for illegally staying in Israel. So in an emotional confrontation with immigration officials one day last November, the 29-year-old sous chef accepted what Israeli authorities were offering: $3,500 in cash and a one-way ticket to Uganda or Rwanda. Two weeks later he was on a flight to Uganda, together with five other Eritrean migrants he did not know. “They told me, ‘If you don’t leave you are going to jail,’” Tesfagabr recalled. “It’s forced. They tell you to say you are going voluntarily, but it is not voluntary. They force you to deport yourself.” His case highlights the predicament of tens of thousands of Africans in Israel who face jail if they do not accept an offer, allegedly without further assurances of safety, to relocate to an unnamed African country. Both Uganda and Rwanda, widely presumed to be the likely destinations, have denied the existence of any agreement with Israel’s government even though scores of migrants are believed to have already settled in the East African countries. AP

Illicit Financial Flows Outpace Development in Africa, OECD Says
Through medication and narcotics smuggling, ivory and people trafficking, oil theft and piracy, Africa is, by conservative estimates, losing about $50 billion a year in illicit financial flows — more, in fact, than it receives in official development assistance. A report by the Paris-based Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development offers a bigger look at the illegal economy behind the losses and how African and richer nations can fight it. The OECD report zooms in on West Africa, and one sector in particular stands out. Catherine Anderson, who heads governance issues as the OECD, said 80 percent of illicit financial flows from West Africa are generated from the theft of natural resources, principally oil. VOA

Tanzania’s New Mining Law Will Compel Foreign Companies to Boost Local Financial Firms
Tanzania is set to overhaul its extractive industry after the government passed a new law that posits strict guidelines for foreign companies. The new law gives companies three months to comply with the regulations, while also making them apprise the government of how they are enacting these changes. As part of reform, the government wants to enhance the competitiveness of local mining and financial institutions by setting minimum employment levels and in-country spend for foreign firms, while also providing a structural monitoring and reporting system that ensures companies deliver on these objectives. The passage of the legislation is part of president John Magufuli’s promise to fix the mining sector. The populist-leaning president has been leading an effort to tackle corruption, squeeze mining companies for higher revenues, and ensure that processing takes place within the country. Quartz



Photo: Adam Jones