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‘The People Want Action’

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A plethora of people are gathered inside the Nasrec Expo Centre in Johannesburg, all draped in regalia of the 106-year-old African National Congress (ANC), South Africa’s ruling party.

The crowd of more than 5,000 moves like a multi-headed beast, chanting South Africa’s struggle songs. The head of this beast can be found in a song that keeps creeping up in many parts of this crowd.

Unity maqabane, ixesha lisondele,” goes the song, which loosely translates to “unity comrades, the time has come.”

This is moments before the African National Congress, the oldest liberation movement on the continent, makes one of the biggest decisions in more than a century of struggle and campaigning in Africa. It is about to elect who is going to lead it out of its most difficult time in democratic South Africa.

In a few moments, the ANC will choose who will replace President Jacob Zuma, a man who has ruffled feathers from the boardrooms to the streets.

Even before he took office, Zuma faced 783 counts of corruption. Around $20 million of taxpayers’ money was used to upgrade his private home in Nkandla, even though he is paying back some of it. His relationship with the Gupta family has cast a shadow over his presidency. The economy has undoubtedly taken a huge dip under his leadership, with unemployment rising and investments falling.

READ MORE: Lessons for South Africa’s Jacob Zuma in Robert Mugabe’s misfortunes

At Nasrec, as the mood of the people swirls in different currents, dark uncertainty is visible on their faces. Factionalism is at its worse within the ANC, with the party split between two candidates.

The first is business-minded ANC Deputy President, Cyril Ramaphosa, who many believe should be next in line, claiming it is party tradition. The unions, however, say he is too capitalist.

The other is Nkosazana Dlamini-Zuma, a veteran parliamentarian and former chairperson of the African Union Commission. She is the first female ANC member gunning for the party’s top position. Many however say she is too close to President Zuma, her former husband.

Months of campaigning, factionalism, infighting and party slates have all boiled down to this moment. After a period of uncertainty and songs blaring from every corner, EleXions Agency, the facilitators of the voting process, take to the stage to put the masses here out of their misery.

Ramaphosa emerges as the new ANC president by a whisker. A mere 179 votes separates him from Dlamini-Zuma, after almost 5,000 delegates cast their votes.

READ MORE: ‘Zuma The Thief Must Voetsek’

The top six positions of the ANC National Executive Committee (NEC) are also closely contested, with the outcome split between supporters of Ramaphosa and Dlamini-Zuma. Is this the unity outcome that’s often crept up in songs here, or will this cause further division within the self-confessed corruption-riddled party?

“It’s an interesting outcome but it’s an outcome that’s organizational. I think that’s what the ANC needs, where we pull everyone together under one roof and make it a point that people work together as a collective, cohere and move forward,” says recently elected ANC Eastern Cape Chairman, Oscar Mabuyane.

Fikile Mbalula, the newly-elected NEC member, and staunch supporter of Dlamini-Zuma, preaches unity after the battle.

“The conference is over, we have one president and not two. Cyril Ramaphosa is my president and we are going to work nicely together,” says Mbalula, who is also South Africa’s Minister of Police.

Some, however, aren’t taking kindly to the outcome. Bathabile Dlamini, the President of the ANC Women’s League, lambastes the new leadership. The Women’s League had thrown its weight behind Dlamini-Zuma in the hope that she’d become the first woman to lead the ANC in its history.

“This is an attack on women’s struggles. We have been dealt a blow and want to call on all women to stand together,” says Dlamini.

READ MORE: The ANC has a new leader but South Africa remains on a political precipice

Jesse Duarte is the only woman in the top six – coincidentally contesting for her position against another woman.

Business tycoon and former Gauteng Premier, Tokyo Sexwale, who is also concerned by the lack of women in the top six, gave words of warning on tackling corruption within the ANC.

“When you become president of the country [one day], make sure you have the long arm of the law reach out to criminals. Start with criminals who are trying to hide under Cyril’s umbrella, because that’s how they corrupt the situation. Before you steal from Eskom, SAA and so on, you’ve got to corrupt the ANC. So deal with them decisively first,” says Sexwale, who was once named alongside Ramaphosa and Mathews Phosa in a plot aimed at toppling then president, Thabo Mbeki, in 2001.

A thorny issue for the new ANC leadership, which includes the 80 NEC members, are the growing calls to recall outgoing ANC president, Zuma, from the presidency of South Africa.

In his closing speech at the conference, Ramaphosa, emphasizes the need for a public office that wouldn’t serve vested interests, but build a truly developmental state.

“Our people will judge this conference not only by what we have done here over these past five days, but perhaps more importantly, they will judge it by what we do next. The people of South Africa want action.”

Will Ramaphosa be able to deliver this action? Time will tell.

Politics

Botswana’s President Denies Report Of $600 Million Loan To Zimbabwe

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Botswana’s president on Friday dismissed a report that the country had offered Zimbabwe a $600 million diamond-backed loan and said his government had only offered to guarantee a $100 million private credit line for Botswana companies to invest in their troubled neighbor.

Zimbabwe’s secretary in the ministry of foreign affairs was quoted in the state-owned Herald newspaper on Tuesday saying Botswana had offered to lend Zimbabwe $500 million to support its diamond industry and another $100 million for the local private firms.

“I want to clarify these reports that we are giving Zimbabwe hundreds of millions in loans. That is totally untrue,” Mokgweetsi Masisi told reporters in Gaborone, a day after visiting Zimbabwe for business and trade mission.

“We are not giving them a single loan. The only thing we gave them yesterday were medical supplies made in Botswana and supplementary feeding worth 2.1 million pula ($197,600).”

There is $100 million credit from private banks in Botswana and Zimbabwe to help Botswana private companies, Masisi added.

“What we have demanded, which we are waiting for, is a letter of guarantee from the Zimbabweans to counter our own guarantee,” he said.

Masisi also said Botswana, which is the largest producer of diamonds by value, would help Zimbabwe with its diamond trade because “it would be useful and strategic for Botswana” as it aims to become a global center of diamond trading.

Venezuela’s Guaido heads home to lead protests
Zimbabwe’s diamond sector has struggled since the government kicked out private companies from the eastern Marange fields in early 2016 after they declined to merge under the state-owned mining company.

Relations between Zimbabwe and Botswana have improved following a strained period when Botswana’s ex-President Ian Khama, who stepped down in 2018, routinely criticized Zimbabwe’s Robert Mugabe for holding on to power for too long.

A military coup in 2017 forced Mugabe to resign, ending his 37-year rule. -Reuters

Brian Benza

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Twists And Turns Of Nigeria’s Election Campaign Trail

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The political atmosphere in Nigeria leading up to the February polls is tense. Challenging the status quo are new and younger contenders promising hope and change.


As the 2019 elections draw close in February in Africa’s most populous country, Atiku Abubakar has emerged the presidential candidate of the People’s Democratic Party (PDP) while President Muhammadu Buhari has been affirmed for the ruling All Progressive Congress (APC) ticket.

Abubakar, a former vice president of Nigeria, has begun his campaign against president Buhari by highlighting the popular frustration of Nigerians over the rise in unemployment and poverty (two of the biggest voter concerns) on Buhari’s watch,as well as growing insecurity in central Nigeria.

Nigeria was recently voted the world’s poverty capital by the Brookings Institution. Consequently, the handling of the economy has already emerged as a major issue at the start of the election cycle.

In 2016, the country entered its first recession in 25 years due to a slump in oil prices and attacks in the Niger Delta oil-producing region. Although emerging out of recession in 2017, growth still remains tardy and inflation is just above the central bank’s single-digit target range.

Investor sentiment in the country is also low especially with leading telco giant MTN Nigeria being ordered by the Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN) to return $8.1 billion to the country claiming it was illegally repatriated from Nigeria.

 Atiku Abubakar.  Picture: Pius Utomi/ AFP/Getty Images

“If the fine is found to be unjustly imposed, it would have a negative implication on the image of Nigeria as a destination for foreign investors. Investors only invest in environments that have laws that protect them. If people are punished when they have not done anything wrong, that destroys investor confidence,” says Bismarck Rewane, CEO of Financial Derivatives, an economic think tank in Lagos.

This will be the fourth attempt by Abubakar to win a presidential election mirroring Buhari’s 2015 elections win. He defected from the ruling APC party and re-joined PDP to win the presidential ticket. In a speech in London, Abubakar unveiled his plans to offer a matching grant of $250 million each to the 36 states of the federation to challenge them to enhance their internally generated revenue (IGR).

Meanwhile,just as the election was shaping up to be a contest between two male political veterans, Obiageli Ezekwesili, a woman with a strong track record in economic leadership has announced her presidential candidacy for the Allied Congress Party of Nigeria (ACPN).

Ezekwesili,who is the co-founder of the #bringbackourgirls movement, is perhaps the most prominent woman to challenge for the top job.

Her campaign for the return of the 276 Chibok girls kidnapped in northern Nigeriain 2014 by Boko Haram sparked worldwide support and led to the return of more than 100 girls to their families.

Ezekwesili also served as the country’s education minister and Vice-President of the World Bank. In a speech to her party, Ezekwesili said the two men she faces represent a “mediocre political class that bumbles from one crisis to another”. Her campaign strategy is to position herself as the candidate bringing hope back to Nigeria by challenging the status quo.

Also as part of her strategy, Ezekwesili, 55, is trying to appeal to Nigeria’s youth by highlighting the lack of understanding of technological advances happening in the country by her challengers, Buhari, 75, and Abubakar, 71.

However, in spite of her immense appeal, perhaps the youth might just need a candidate of their own who understands their needs and can speak for a nation where more than 50% are under the age of 30.

They may just have their wish. A welcome development to this election is the reduction of the age by which Nigerians can contest the election for public office.

The bill, popularly referred to as the Not-Too-Young-To-Run Bill, reduces the age qualification for president from 40 to 35; governor from 35 to 30; senator from 35 to 30; House of Representatives membership from 30 to 25 and State House of Assembly membership from 30 to 25.

Bukunyi Olateru-Olagbegi, a 27-year-old entrepreneur and an up-and-coming political leader, has taken advantage of this new window to register his own political party, Modern Democratic Party. The party is putting education at the top of its agenda and calling for the youth of Nigeria to stand together and have a unified voice.


Bukunyi Olateru-Olagbegi. Picture: Supplied

“We offer hope. Ours is a generation that is young, bold and open to possibilities. We believe that if hope can be returned to the heart of the common man/woman, they may once again start to believe in things becoming better. Right now, a lot of parties sing the word ‘hope’ and yet their internal democracy itself is hopeless,” he says.

“The masses are not blind. They see the internal wrangling in these political parties on the pages of newspapers. How then can they truly believe in a message of hope by these same people? Our youthfulness and firm grasp of the complexities and blistering pace of the world we live in today, easily make us,in our opinion, fit to lead. We understand the power of flexibility and we understand what ‘change’ really means. The world needs the youth right now, and we are finally ready to step up.”

He says his party is committed to building a structure capable of winning elections across all political spheres and levels with a resolution to put a spotlight on the downtrodden in society, a society that, according to Olateru-Olagbeji, is in critical need of deliverance from bad leadership.

“As a party, we hope to correct the present for the sake of the future; we hope to harness the mental and resources of my generation with fresh ideas and innovation because this generation is not tied to the prejudices and biases of the ones before us, we don’t see tribe, religion and even gender; we are united in our hunger for success. We hope to inspire a generation of young Nigerians and Africans to work at building our nation and continent, community by community, till we become the leading and ruling party,” he says.

The political atmosphere leading up to February is extremely tense.

No matter who is contending for the top job, one thing is certain,Nigerians need a new economy, one that provides them with opportunities for growth and prosperity, and they need that, yesterday.

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Politics

US President attacks SA’s land expropriation intentions, rand slides

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South Africa’s land expropriation without compensation intentions have caught the attention of United States President Donald Trump.

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