Africa Media Review for May 23, 2024

South Africa: Zuma Lashes Out at Judges after Election Ban
In his first interview since the ban, [Former South African President Jacob Zuma] told the BBC the Constitutional Court was wrong to decide he was unfit to run, based on his 2021 conviction for contempt of court…The electoral commission argued that the constitution bars anyone who was sentenced to more than 12 months in prison from serving as a lawmaker – a view backed by the Constitutional Court judges. Mr Zuma was convicted in 2021 for refusing to testify at an inquiry investigating corruption during his presidency…Mr Zuma’s MK party had previously voiced its desire to change South Africa’s constitution, which was drawn up 30 years ago at the birth of the country’s democracy following decades of white-minority rule. Asked about this in the light of his election ban, Mr Zuma reiterated that the historic document needed to be changed…After Mr Zuma was jailed for contempt of court in 2021, angry supporters sparked days of deadly riots. More than 300 people were killed in the clashes. On Wednesday Mr Zuma said this violence demonstrated the scale of public support for him. “This must tell you that the masses of this country loves Zuma – that’s why we had that,” he said. BBC

South Africa Election: How Mandela’s Once Revered ANC Lost Its Way with Infighting and Scandals
While the end of apartheid gave every South African the right to vote and other basic freedoms, the challenge for the ANC was to convert that into a better life, especially for the Black majority who had been systematically repressed. That has been difficult for the ANC government to sustain after some early success in raising living standards in its first 10 years in power…[T]he most pressing problems for many South Africans in 2024 boil down to a failure of basic government services, with communities across the nation regularly protesting against the lack of electricity in their neighborhoods, broken or nonexistent water and sewage systems, garbage piling up on streets, and a shortage of proper housing that leaves millions living in shacks…The ANC has been hampered by infighting since Mandela stepped down as president in 1999 after one term and handed over to a younger generation…From a dominant position when it once commanded 70% of the vote, the ANC has seen people gradually desert it, especially among a new generation of South Africans who don’t remember apartheid. AP

Thirty Years after the End of Apartheid, Equality Eludes South Africa
The World Bank reported in 2022 that South Africa was the most unequal country in the world, based on the Gini metric, a statistical distribution of welfare indicators commonly used to measure inequality…South Africa’s joblessness rate, among the highest in the world, is the number one concern for many voters, though the problem is far more acute for the Black majority than for the white minority…A series of government interventions have failed to narrow the gap, with the unemployment rate last year standing at 36.5% for Black people and 7.7% for white people…The number of South Africans on state benefits for old age, disability or child support has increased significantly over the years, straining the country’s budget with more than a quarter of social development funding earmarked for social grants…South Africa’s publicly funded health sector, which serves over 80% of the population, is overburdened and run-down, while a privileged minority have access to better treatment through private insurance. Reuters

Boosted by Gaza War, South African Muslim Party Open to Deal with ANC
South Africa’s small Muslim political party Al Jama-ah is gaining support due to the conflict in Gaza and sees itself as a potential coalition partner for the African National Congress after next week’s vote, its leader said on Wednesday. Solidarity with the Palestinians is a popular position in South Africa, where many people liken their treatment by Israel to the plight of its own Black majority during apartheid — a comparison strongly rejected by Israel…Al Jama-ah is already in a coalition government with the ANC and the leftist Economic Freedom Fighters in Johannesburg, where the current mayor Kabelo Gwamanda is a member of Al Jama-ah. Reuters

Tunisia Sentences Journalists to a Year in Prison for Criticizing the Government
A Tunisian court on Wednesday sentenced two TV and radio journalists to one year in prison for criticizing the government on their programs and on social networks. Borhane Bsaïs and Mourad Zeghidi were each given six months’ imprisonment for disseminating “fake news” and an additional six months for “making false statements with the aim of defaming others,” in reference to Tunisian President Kaïs Saied, court spokesperson Mohamed Zitouna said. The sentences come less than two weeks after both were arrested. They are among a broader group of journalists, activists and lawyers charged under Decree 54, a law criminalizing the dissemination of “fake news” aimed at harming public safety or national defense. The law, passed in 2022 to fight cybercrime, has been widely criticized by rights advocates who say the offenses are vaguely defined and are being used to crack down on the president’s critics. AP

Biden Plans to Visit Africa in February If He Is Re-elected
U.S. President Joe Biden said he plans to make an official visit to Africa in February after the U.S. presidential election, an announcement that presumed he will defeat Donald Trump. “I plan on going in February after I am reelected,” Biden said as he greeted Kenyan President William Ruto on his arrival at the White House for the first of two days of meetings and a lavish state dinner. Biden, a Democrat, is seeking another term in the Nov. 5 election against his Republican rival, former President Trump…Biden has drawn attention for not visiting the African continent despite underscoring its importance on global issues. More than two dozen senior Biden administration officials, including Vice President Kamala Harris and Treasury Secretary Janet Yellen have visited various African countries. Reuters

The Africa Report Interviews President William Ruto
The Africa Report and Jeune Afrique sat down with Kenya President William Ruto to discuss Haiti, and the regional battle over security in the eastern DRC…While he pushed for the use of Kenyan troops on the ground for Haiti, he advocates a diplomatic solution for the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC)…He says that when he attended head-of-state talks on the issue, there was a discussion about whether the M23 was Congolese or Rwandan. “The DRC told us: ‘They are Congolese.’ End of the debate. If they are Congolese, how does this become a Rwandan problem? How does this become a Kagame problem?” he says, adding that the M23 want to be involved in the dialogue “I don’t find any better outcome than a citizenship that has grievances, that have issues with their government, who are willing to engage their government in a discussion so that they can sort out their grievances.” Ruto’s comments contradict several UN reports and public comments by the Congolese government, which accuses Rwanda of funding the militant group. The Africa Report

Congo Lawyers Say They Have New Evidence on Apple’s Minerals Supply Chain
International lawyers representing the government of the Democratic Republic of Congo said on Wednesday they had new evidence gathered from whistleblowers, which deepened concerns that Apple could be sourcing minerals from conflict areas in eastern Congo…Congo’s lawyers notified Apple CEO Tim Cook on April 22 of a series of concerns about its supply chain, and also wrote to Apple subsidiaries in France, demanding answers within three weeks. The Amsterdam & Partners LLP law firm has been investigating allegations that minerals mined in Congo by several companies and armed groups are being smuggled out through Rwanda, Uganda and Burundi…[A] lawyer from Amsterdam & Partners LLP, Peter Sahlas, told Reuters that people who worked on Apple’s supply chain verification in Congo had come forward to say that their contracts were terminated after they flagged concerns that “blood minerals” were in Apple’s supply chain. Reuters

Rwanda Opposition Presidential Hopeful Turns to Regional Court to Fight for Civic Rights
A prominent Rwandan opposition leader has moved to the East African Court of Justice (EACJ) seeking the re-establishment of her civic rights including the right to vote in the July election. Victoire Ingabire Umuhoza, a fierce critic of President Paul Kagame, wants to be granted a chance to vie as an opposition presidential candidate in this year’s polls. In her application dated April 30, 2024, through her lawyers, Lumumba & Ayieko Advocates, Ms Ingabire is seeking orders to permit her to register a political party that she can use to vie and vote…Ingabire left Rwanda for The Netherlands in March 1994. She founded a political party in 2006 and returned to Rwanda in January 2010, after years of exile, to participate in the presidential elections scheduled to take place later that year. Instead, she was arrested and sentenced to 15 years in prison on charges of inciting divisionism and conspiring against the government…After serving eight years in jail, five of which were spent in solitary confinement, in September 2018, she was released on a presidential pardon. The EastAfrican

DRC Parliament Elects Speaker in Delayed Vote 
The Democratic Republic of Congo’s national assembly elected Vital Kamerhe, whose home was violently attacked on Sunday, as speaker in a delayed vote, a key step towards installing a government five months after a presidential election. The role of speaker makes Kamerhe, a close ally of President Felix Tshisekedi, the Central African country’s number two authority. Of the 407 members of parliament who cast ballots on Monday, 371 voted in favour of Kamerhe’s candidacy for speaker. MPs were also set to vote on candidacies for six other positions in the lower house. The vote clears the way for Congo to name a government, which it has not had since the December 2023 presidential election that handed Tshisekedi a second term. Tshisekedi named Judith Suminwa as Congo’s first female prime minister on April 1. The vote had been scheduled for May 18 but was delayed by Tshisekedi. Reuters

RSF Accused of Atrocities in Fresh Attack on El Fasher Camp
Volunteers have reported that the Rapid Support Forces (RSF) committed severe abuses against residents of an overcrowded camp for displaced persons in El Fasher, before being forced out by a joint force of armed movements and the Sudanese army. The RSF’s attempts to seize control of the city continue despite international and regional calls for de-escalation. Abdel Hafiz Al-Ghali, a member of the Abu Shouk Camp Emergency Room, reported to Sudan Tribune that “RSF militias stormed the camp, committing brutal crimes against unarmed youth, including beatings, torture, detention, and looting”…This is not the first time the Abu Shouk camp, home to over 400,000 displaced persons, has been targeted. Its location in the conflict zone has resulted in over 50 deaths and the destruction of numerous homes. Sudan Tribune

At International Energy Conference, Delegates Push to Make Clean Cooking Accessible to All
The Paris-based International Energy Agency’s 9th annual conference on energy efficiency brings together ministers, CEOs and thought leaders from around the world to discuss how to speed up progress on energy efficiency, which experts say can drastically reduce planet-warming emissions. On the agenda is how to deliver affordable clean cooking, which involves using electricity, solar and other solutions instead of more polluting fuels like charcoal, wood and kerosene…This year’s conference, which is being held in Nairobi, focuses on accelerating progress towards doubling energy efficiency progress by 2030 as agreed by governments at COP28…Rashid Abdallah, the executive director of the Africa Energy Commission, said at a panel discussion on Tuesday that “clean cooking should be part of any energy policy” or socio-economic development plan…[I]n Africa, more than 900 million people use biomass as their primary energy source. These energy sources release harmful toxic fumes and smoke that leads to illnesses and deaths and contribute to climate change. AP

Droughts and Floods Threaten ‘Humanitarian Catastrophe’ across Southern Africa
Droughts and floods in southern Africa stemming from El Niño have left millions of people food insecure, warns World Food Programme (WFP) Executive Director Cindy McCain during a recent visit to Zambia – the epicentre of the crisis. The droughts have destroyed harvests in areas where 70 per cent of the population depends on agriculture for survival…Though the latest El Niño weather pattern is nearing its end, droughts caused by the weather-changing cycle will have repercussions for months ahead…According to WFP, Zambia, Zimbabwe, and Malawi have been impacted the hardest and have all declared states of drought disaster. They risk significant crop loss with 40 and 80 per cent of their maize harvests decimated. UN News