Tuesday, 12 December 2017

SOUTH AFRICA: Race tightens in the ANC's 'make or break' leadership vote due on 16 December

This week we start with the frenzied preparations for leadership elections which could change the shape of South Africa's politics – whoever wins. We have further reports from Kenya, Congo-Kinshasa and Zimbabwe.

SOUTH AFRICA: Race tightens in the ANC's 'make or break' leadership vote due on 16 December
The rhetoric and the stakes are rising steeply this week before some 5,000 members of the African National Congress gather at the Nasrec stadium near Soweto for the party's elective congress on Saturday.

With Deputy President Cyril Ramaphosa and former chair of the African Union Commission Nkosazana Dlamini-Zuma dominating the race for the ANC presidency, the party has become increasingly factionalised. Both sides promise to unify the ailing party but the prospects of a surprise win by a third candidate such as ANC Treasurer Zweli Mkhize are improving.

With Ramaphosa's supporters going to town on President Jacob Zuma's patronage network and his ties to the Gupta brothers – suggesting also that his ex-wife Dlamini-Zuma would try to protect him from prosecution if she wins – this election is about personal interests as much as political directions.
Increasingly, Ramaphosa supporters are suggesting that a Dlamini-Zuma win could split the party and threaten its chances of winning a national victory in the 2019 elections.

KENYA: Opposition postpones swearing-in of people's assembly after warnings from diplomats and government
Pulling back from a plan to inaugurate Raila Odinga as the 'people's President' on Jamhuri day on 12 December, the National Super Alliance said it would continue with its plans for 'people's assemblies' but wanted to keep the campaign as peaceful as possible.

Accordingly, NASA officials such as Musalia Mudavadi emphasised that Odinga's inauguration has been postponed rather than cancelled. The swearing-in was meant to have taken place in Mombasa under the aegis of Governor Hassan Joho, a staunch Odinga ally. But the ruling Jubilee party had insisted the plan amounted to treason, prompting concerns of another confrontation between oppositionists and police.

NASA leaders had to weigh up the damage to their credibility from postponing the swearing-in against the risks of more violent clashes and loss of lives if they went ahead. Alongside state security officials, several foreign diplomats had warned NASA against going ahead.

This raises questions about whether the party will continue with its campaign for electoral reform, and especially its establishment of people's assemblies in counties controlled by NASA-supporting governors.

So far, NASA's commercial boycott of Safaricom telecoms company (for its role in the elections) and President Kenyatta's Brookside dairy farms seem have proved more effective than its political protests. The World Bank forecasts that Kenya's economic growth rate could fall by 2% next year, partly as a result of the political confrontation.

CONGO-KINSHASA: Suspicions grow about state involvement as UN calls for full probe into killings of 14 peacekeepers
Such is the state of political turmoil and suspicion in Congo-Kinshasa, there is little agreement about what lay behind the murderous attack on a United Nations base at Semuliki, in Beni, North Kivu on the night of 7 December.

The attackers were said to have been fighters from the Allied Democratic Forces, a militia initially backed by Sudan's government to destabilise Uganda over a decade and a half ago. At least 14 UN peacekeepers were killed, more than ever before in the UN's 18-year-old deployment in Congo-K. The UN also reported that five Congolese soldiers were killed in the ensuing three-hour firefight at the base.

Curiously, Congo's government denies this and says only one of its soldiers is missing. It also insists that its soldiers killed 72 fighters in the attacking force, a claim that no other source has substantiated. Some sources believe that the attack needs to be seen in the context of Congolese politics, and elements of the opposition may have been involved in the attack. The next issue of Africa Confidential will carry a report.

ZIMBABWE: Harsh spending cuts ahead of next year's elections raise doubts about the Mnangagwa government's first budget
Finance Minister Patrick Chinamasa, a close ally of new President Emmerson Mnangagwa, promised bold spending cuts and concessions on Indigenisation Act rules in his budget speech on 7 December.

With a pledge to cut the budget deficit to 3.5% of GDP from its estimated level of 9.4% this year, Chinamasa has set a tough target for the ruling party which has to face an election in eight months' time.

Chinamasa may be gambling that a clear break with the fiscal indiscipline of the past could entice new capital flows into the economy and restart business and even create some jobs in the short term. The government's foreign reserves are said to be dwindling dangerously.


LIBERIA: Supreme Court rejects electoral fraud claims but wants checks on voters list before next round of elections

NIGERIA: Ex-Vice-President Atiku Abubakar stars at opposition congress, calling for united front against President Buhari

EGYPT: Presidents El Sisi and Putin sign $20 billion deal for Russia's Rosatom to build nuclear power stations by 2028

LIBYA: Oil production boosted after meeting between heads of government, state oil company and central bank on 9 December

CAMEROON: Renowned bilingual writer and poet Patrice Nganang held in Yaoundé after lamenting political trends

Wednesday, 6 December 2017

ZIMBABWE: President Mnangagwa to announce policy changes after swearing in cabinet of loyalists

We start in Harare where the new cabinet and its policies are coming under scrutiny. To the south, the contest for the leadership of the African National Congress is heating up with Cyril Ramaphosa in the lead, for now. And in Nigeria, veteran politician Atiku Abubakar is joining the presidential race with all guns blazing, and Kenyan oppositionists are accusing the Kenyatta government of reverting to the tactics of the one-party state.

ZIMBABWE: President Mnangagwa to announce policy changes after swearing in cabinet of loyalistsThis week, new President Emmerson Mnangagwa will offer more detail about his strategy for an emergency rescue of Zimbabwe's ailing economy. Top priority will be boosting the country's foreign reserves to shore up the monetary system – a complex and dysfunctional mix of United States dollars, South African rand, state-backed bond notes and 'virtual money'.

In the wake of Robert Mugabe's resignation, some countries and financial institutions are offering to reopen discussions on bridging finance to allow Zimbabwe to repay its arrears to the International Monetary Fund and the World Bank. Patrick Chinamasa, the new finance minister, started those negotiations in league with Reserve Bank of Zimbabwe governor John Mangudya but his allies complained that he was being stymied by the Mugabe camp.

Bankers in Harare were highly sceptical about the plan, but they say that the Mnangagwa takeover could win new backing for an arrears deal from Western states. They cite a vague promise from British Foreign Secretary Boris Johnson to offer a 'bridging loan' if the new government passes some unspecified democratic tests.

We hear there has already been an offer of support from Beijing, which sent its deputy Foreign Minister Chen Xiadong to see Mnangagwa last week. That signal seems to have encouraged states such as Britain and France to talk up their own role. Officials from both countries have told our correspondent that they do not see the shape of Mnangagwa's cabinet – three ruling party military officers–as a deal-breaker.

SOUTH AFRICA: Winning in the provinces, Ramaphosa edges ahead in ANC leadership battleA week ahead of the conference which picks the new ANC leader, Deputy President Cyril Ramaphosa has stolen a march on rival Nkosazana Dlamini-Zuma with backing from 1,862 party branches against her 1,309, a strong but far from unbeatable position.

The results will depend first on whether all the provincial delegates to the conference vote as they have promised. The high stakes – which could affect the fate of President Jacob Zuma, his myriad allies and his favoured projects – mean they will come under heavy pressure. One insider suggested that as many as a quarter of the delegates might switch sides at the conference.

The other factor is the 10% of votes from the ANC's affiliated organisations, such as its Youth and Women's Leagues and the veterans' organisation. Dlamini-Zuma is reckoned to have almost unanimous backing from the first two, with Ramaphosa being supported by the veterans. Meanwhile, the threat of the conference being postponed has receded. Backers of the two main candidates are confident there will be a final decision next week.

NIGERIA: Former Vice-President Atiku Abubakar joins opposition to run against President Buhari in the 2019 electionsIf the opening salvos of the next presidential election campaign are an indication, it will be a no-holds-barred contest. A day ahead of announcing his return to the People's Democratic Party on 3 December, Atiku Abubakar launched an attack on President Muhammadu Buhari, accusing him of 'religious extremism'. He claimed that Buhari had been barred from entering the United States for 15 years because of his theological views, which the president immediately denied.

This attack follows claims from the governing All Progressives' Congress that Atiku has been embroiled in corruption, including a scandal that snagged US Congressman William J Jefferson, who was found by the FBI to have hidden US$90,000 his freezer.

Although Atiku's name was never mentioned in court, his opponents claim that Jefferson had intended to use the cash to bribe him. Atiku was Vice-President in President Olusegun Obasanjo's government at the time. The government's anti-corruption agencies have been investigating Atiku's business affairs, particularly his company Intels, for several months.

With Buhari's support in northern Nigeria remaining strong, Atiku is hoping to win substantial support in the Middle Belt and the south, where criticism of the President and governing party are growing. If Atiku were able to peel off some senior figures in the APC, his campaign could represent a serious threat.

But already, two key figures – Senate President Bukola Saraki from Kwara in the Middle Belt and Bola Tinubu from Lagos in the south-west – have pledged themselves to Buhari. Both men, however, would be among the top candidates to succeed Buhari if he decided not to run for re-election after all.

KENYA: Opposition leader due to inaugurate 'people's assembly' as militants claims over 200 killed by police in election clashesOpposition activists say the arrest over the weekend of David Ndii, top opposition strategist, and several other activists shows the government's determination to shut down their plans for a 'people's assembly'. The assembly, headed by opposition leader Raila Odinga is due to be launched on 12 December.

Opposition campaigners also claim that at least 215 Kenyans have been killed by 'trigger-happy' police in street clashes since the presidential elections in August.

Ndii was the chairman of the steering committee to organise the 'people's assembly', which is to campaign for reform of the electoral laws. Odinga and his National Super Alliance (NASA) have rejected the presidential elections of August and October, claiming widespread fraud and mismanagement. Ndii was released on 4 December on police bail but is still said to be facing charges. Civic activists have lambasted police tactics, saying that they represent a return to the days of one-party rule.


GHANA: Akufo-Addo wins wide backing for aid critique
'Beyond aid' campaign launched in Accra wins growing support after meeting President Emmanuel Macron

MOROCCO/SOUTH AFRICA: Pretoria and Rabat to re-establish diplomatic ties
President Zuma's deal with Morocco suggests a cut in historic support for Polisario in the Western Sahara

EGYPT: Wobbles over next year's presidential election
Former premier Ahmed Shafik might still change his mind again and run against President Abdel Fattah el Sisi for the presidency next year

Thursday, 30 November 2017

Coups against constitutions

African and Western ambivalence about military interventions in politics were drawn into sharp focus this week by arguments over whether Zimbabwe's Robert Mugabe had been ousted by a coup and a revival of claims that France had backed a coup against Thomas Sankara, the popular leader of Burkina Faso, in 1987.

The Mugabe military conundrum has immediate resonance as his successor, Emmerson Mnangagwa, tries to convince international finance agencies and their Western shareholders that he came to power constitutionally, despite outward appearances. Alpha Condé, Guinea's President and current chair of the African Union, asked some awkward questions, which could have proved disastrous for Mnangagwa and his allies. If the AU had classified Mugabe's exit as a coup, that would have triggered Zimbabwe's suspension from the organisation, perhaps even sanctions. But far from rushing to label the Mnangagwa succession as a coup, Asian and European governments, including Britain, have endorsed the new government's rise to power as innovative political management, even down to the organisation of mass protests against Mugabe.

France's President Emmanuel Macron was reminded of the complexities of coup politics when he chose to make a speech in Ouagadougou 30 years after Blaise Compaoré overthrew Sankara's government. He offered to open his government's secret files on the case. That could set a powerful precedent.

Monday, 27 November 2017

ZIMBABWE: President Mnangagwa to appoint new cabinet ahead of key ZANU-PF congress due on 12 December

We start in Harare where Zimbabweans wait for news about the people and policies of their new government. Their southern neighbour, South Africa, is being assailed by more bad economic news alongside deepening ructions in the governing party. Kenya's President Kenyatta is preparing for his inauguration tomorrow (28 November) as well as a tough opposition protest campaign against him. Ugandans are discussing whether their president could face the same fate as Robert Mugabe.

ZIMBABWE: President Mnangagwa to appoint new cabinet ahead of key ZANU-PF congress due on 12 DecemberThis week, newly-inaugurated President Emmerson Mnangagwa is to set out more details about his plans to revive the economy and to appoint the ministers to do that. Having told the packed sports stadium in Harare last Friday (24 November) that he has to 'hit the ground running' he will probably announce most of the new cabinet this week.

Although opposition politicians, business people and diplomats have been urging him to appoint a broad-based transitional team which would draw on talents from outside the Zimbabwe African National Union-Patriotic Front, sources inside the ruling party suggest this is unlikely. Mnangagwa has confirmed that he wants to go ahead with national elections next August which will give his new government just six months to boost the economy.

So, most attention is focusing on the new finance minister, whose job it will be to restart talks on the country's debt impasse and tackle the chronic shortage of foreign exchange. The new minister also needs to reopen discussions on settling the arrears with the International Monetary Fund and the World Bank, and bring in emergency funds to pay the public sector wage bill as well as boost agricultural and industrial production.

A strong contender would be Patrick Chinamasa, who led the discussions with international financial institutions as finance minister until President Mugabe sacked him in October. Reserve Bank of Zimbabwe governor John Mangudya is a strong ally of Mnangagwa's, as is Chinamasa, and he is likely to stay in his post.

Outside the party, opposition politicians such as Tendai Biti and Simba Makoni have done the job previously, and there is a corps of impressive technocrats in Harare's banking sector who know the current international payments crisis from the inside.

Other key posts will be the ministers of Justice, Defence, State Security, Home Affairs and Foreign Affairs. Some suggest that General Constantino Chiwenga, the commander of the Zimbabwe Defence Forces that put Mugabe under house arrest, could move across into civilian politics. That might put him in the running for Defence Minister. He and Mnangagwa, seen as the architects of Mugabe's exit, will want to consolidate control over the armed forces and security services in the coming weeks.

The choice of Justice Minister will send a signal on the nature of Mnangagwa's promised new democracy. The police and security services have already been criticised for their harsh treatment of figures such Ignatius Chombo, Mugabe's finance minister, who has been charged with corruption after ten days in custody.

SOUTH AFRICA: Pressure mounts on Zuma government from more ratings downgrades despite promises to cut state spendingWith just under three weeks before the African National Congress elects its new leader, President Jacob Zuma's government has to contend with the sharply rising cost of servicing the country's debts. Local economists project the national debt will balloon to 3.4 trillion rand (US$247 billion), or about 60% of gross domestic product, by 2020. Yet there has been little debate during the ANC's leadership contest about which of the leading candidates – Nkosazana Dlamini-Zuma, Zweli Mkhize, Cyril Ramaphosa or Lindiwe Sisulu – might be best-placed to manage the country's deepening economic crisis.

Latest verdicts by the international ratings agencies raise big questions about the role of the 'presidential fiscal committee' which can override budgetary decisions by the treasury team at the Ministry of Finance. Although the treasury team has announced it will raise some R40 bn. by 2019 through higher taxes and cuts in state spending, recent policy announcements from the presidency on nuclear power and tertiary education imply much bigger budgets over the next two years.

An announcement by S&P Global Ratings last Saturday (25 November) cutting its assessment of South Africa's local currency to junk status, and taking down its foreign currency debt one grade could trigger more capital outflows. It will certainly raise borrowing costs for the government as it searches for funds to finance the widening budget deficit.

S&P strongly criticised government policies, arguing that they were holding back growth and undermining international competitiveness. Moody's ratings agency is keeping its assessments on South Africa's local and foreign currency debt on its lowest investment grade but is putting both of them on review for a possible downgrade in the coming months.

KENYA: Uhuru Kenyatta's second presidential inauguration due on 28 November but the opposition is due to step up protestsOne conspicuous absence from Uhuru Kenyatta's inauguration tomorrow (28 November) for a second presidential term will be opposition leader Raila Odinga and the senior officials of the National Super Alliance (NASA). Odinga has rejected Kenyatta's victory with 98% of votes cast in the re-run presidential election as 'a sham' as the opposition had called for a massive boycott of the vote and turnout sank. NASA has also pledged to organise a People's Assembly as a rival to the new government next month.

This follows street protests and clashes between police and oppositionists in which over ten lives have been lost in the past week. Musalia Mudavadi, a former finance minister and Odinga's ally, said the People's Assemblies would discuss the country's 'political destiny' and the abuse of citizens' rights by the governments.

The plan is to get the opposition-supporting counties – at least twelve county governors have agreed – to organise the assemblies, which Kenyatta's government has condemned as illegal. NASA and its allies are also organising economic boycotts of Safaricom and Brookside Dairies, in which the Kenyatta family has an equity stake, as part of their protest against the conduct of the election.

UGANDA: The 'Mugabe effect' looms over Kampala as President Museveni seeks to extend his term beyond 2021Supporters of President Yoweri Museveni, who has been in power for 31 years, are energetically dismissing comparisons with Zimbabwe, where the military put President Mugabe under house arrest two weeks ago. Despite President Museveni's long stint in power, there are some critical differences: he is almost two decades younger than Mugabe and in better health and has a much stronger grip over his soldiers.

Yet the parallels remain. Museveni's reluctance to organise or even discuss a succession is the most obvious. His supporters are attempting to change the constitution to allow a presidential candidate over 75 to contest; Museveni will be 77 when the next elections are due in 2021.

More immediate are Uganda's economic problems, which have prompted increasing discontent with the government. The national economy has been hit badly by the crisis in South Sudan, Uganda's biggest market in the region, but also by delays on big road and rail projects, as well as the postponement of oil production which is frustrating several international investors.

EGYPT: Terror attack on North Sinai mosque killing over 300 triggers reprisals against Islamic State militants and others Islamist groups
NIGERIA: Over-subscribed $3 billion bond sale boosts borrowing and next stage of the Buhari government's expansion plan
EQUATORIAL GUINEA: Obiang government to launch s $2 billion refinery project with Venezuela's state oil company in January

Wednesday, 22 November 2017

ZIMBABWE: Robert Mugabe's long goodbye

We start in Harare where President Robert Mugabe's exit and the takeover by Emmerson Mnangagwa are dominating the news across the continent. It is particularly important for politics and business in neighbouring South Africa. As political violence intensifies in Kenya, rights groups are calling on the government to do something about the high number of shootings by police. And a bribery case in New York is raising uncomfortable questions for the Chadian and Ugandan governments.

ZIMBABWE: Robert Mugabe's long goodbye. A week after the military moved against the President's faction of the ruling party, he steps down
Celebrations in the streets of Harare and Bulawayo yesterday (21 November) nearly matched those of Independence day in 1980 as news of President Robert Mugabe's resignation spread across the country. This time, hope for genuine political change is qualified by the harsh lessons of the last 37 years and the deep political divisions in the country.

At the heart of concerns about the future will be Emmerson Mnangagwa, who is due to be sworn in as Zimbabwe's new President on Friday (24 November). Although the ruling Zimbabwe African National Union-Patriotic Front, which stands to be strengthened by the change of leader, is calling on Zimbabweans and outsiders not to pre-judge Mnangagwa and his agenda, there is strong scepticism about his support for wider political change.

Civil rights activists point to Mnangagwa's role as Chairman of the Joint Operations Command which led the mass repression of the opposition of the Movement for Democratic Change and its supporters after its presidential candidate Morgan Tsvangirai won the first round of the presidential elections in 2008. The brutality was so severe that the MDC withdrew from the second round of the elections. Months of political stalemate was followed by a power-sharing government between the MDC and ZANU-PF.

Given that the opposition was comprehensively out-manoeuvred in that power-sharing arrangement, few expect such a deal to be repeated. But the opposition is expecting Mnangagwa, as the hard man of ZANU-PF, to make some concessions on political freedoms, land rights and the establishment of an independent electoral commission.

The street parties greeting Mugabe's exit and the mass demonstrations last weekend have unleashed a popular energy that will make it difficult for the new government to bring back the police state.
Zimbabwe's army is basking in its popularity as engineer of the 'second liberation' and for putting the police in their place. Mnangagwa's call for Zimbabweans of all political colours to join the reconstruction effort suggests that he could offer a political breathing space on Friday.

Tsvangirai has suggested that Mnangagwa has the opportunity be the Deng Xiaoping to Mugabe's Mao Zedong. The comparison is not so far-fetched. Deng was a stern authoritarian but a pragmatist on ideological debates coining the slogan: 'It is doesn't matter what colour the cat is as long as it catches mice.' Another Deng slogan: 'To get rich is glorious' might also find favour with the Mnangagwa team.

Mnangagwa and the people around him are businesslike, with close ties to big companies and banks in the region. Over the past year, they have met diplomats from China, Europe and the United States to discuss the importance of stabilising the country after Mugabe's exit and getting investment flowing again. Whether this will mean a credible and broad-based transition is another matter.
The agenda and duration of that transition, and the extent of opposition participation in it, will emerge in the coming days. If it can gain national support, the possibility of the country bringing back millions of its well-educated and entrepreneurial people and some of their capital looms large and will hugely boost the recovery effort.

SOUTH AFRICA: The first signs of the Mugabe effect are bad news for President Jacob Zuma
Robert Mugabe's resignation letter to Zimbabwe's parliament on 21 November cheated South Africa's President Jacob Zuma of a chance to play the role of mediator in Harare. Zuma's expected trip the following morning was quickly cancelled.

It could be that Zuma will see wider effects from the fall of Robert Mugabe after the failure of his plan to shoo in his wife as the candidate to succeed him as leader of the African National Congress. Zuma's opponents in the ANC are already drawing parallels between his campaign for his ex-wife Nkosazana Dlamini-Zuma to succeed him and the failure of Mugabe's bid to position his wife Grace as his successor.

The ANC Chief Whip, Jackson Mthembu, has called on Zuma to step down as soon as the party's presidential elections are over next month to allow internal reforms.

He added that the party must emerge with a new image from the December elective conference if it is to win the next national elections in 2019.

Mthembu also keenly supports Vice-President Cyril Ramaphosa, the leading rival to Dlamini-Zuma in the party elections, who is calling for wide-ranging reforms in the party and government.

A new opinion poll by the South African Institute of Race Relations, based on a survey in the ANC's branches suggests that Ramaphosa is well ahead of Dlamini-Zuma in the leadership race. However, insiders say the race remains wide open in the remaining three weeks before the critical vote.

KENYA: Rights activists accuse police of targeting opposition in shootings as Britain endorses Uhuru victory
Two major human rights organisations, Amnesty International and Human Rights Watch, are urging President Uhuru Kenyatta's government to rein in the police which they accuse of involvement in 67 killings last month, mostly shootings of opposition activists.

They also raised alarms about shots fired at opposition leader Raila Odinga's car on 17 November as police tried to disperse his supporters welcoming him home at the airport. As clashes between Odinga supporters and police continued into the city centre and surrounding townships, local journalists reported that 15 bodies, mostly with gunshot wounds, were brought to the Nairobi mortuary the following day. Many more wounded were taken to hospital. The latest death toll is over 20. Police insist they are using non-lethal methods of crowd control and blame the deaths on clashes between supporters of Odinga and President Kenyatta.

This escalation of political violence comes just as Britain's Foreign Secretary Boris Johnson became one of the first international politicians to congratulate Kenyatta on his victory in the second round of the presidential elections which Odinga had boycotted.

CHINA/UNITED STATES: Chinese company officials arrested in the US over attempts to bribe top Chadian and Ugandan officials
Chadian President Idris Déby Itno and Uganda's Foreign Minister Sam Kutesa are reported to have been the target of a bribe scheme run by Chi Ping Patrick Ho, former Home Secretary of Hong Kong, and Cheikh Gadio, former Foreign Minister of Senegal, who were arrested in New York last Saturday (18 November). They are accused of organising for $400,000 to be transferred to President Déby and $500,000 to Kutesa in a scheme organised during the United Nations General Assembly in New York in 2014. Kutesa was chairing the UN General Assembly that year. So far there has been no comment from the governments of Chad and Uganda.


ANGOLA: More reshuffles predicted after President João Lourenço dismisses more Dos Santos' security chiefs

NIGERIA: Finance team floats $3 billion in Eurobonds as new borrowing programme takes off

MOZAMBIQUE: US Justice Department probes Russia's VTB and Credit Suisse for role in secret debt deals

Thursday, 16 November 2017

A blow against personal rule

The end of President Robert Mugabe's reign in Zimbabwe – whatever else it presages – sends a clear message to other power families in the region. As Southern Africans were musing over the fin de règne in Zimbabwe, the new President in Angola, João Lourenço sacked Isabel dos Santos from her position as head of the state oil company, Sonangol. Ms Dos Santos, described as one of Africa's richest women with a personal fortune of over US$2 billion, is the daughter of former President of Angola, José Eduardo dos Santos. Even before her father left office, some in Angola's military were calling for an investigation into Isabel's business affairs. That could still come, as could a probe into her brother Zenu's management of the country's sovereign wealth fund.

After Zimbabwean military officers put Mugabe and his wife Grace under house arrest, South Africa's President Jacob Zuma thoughtfully telephoned to inquire about their welfare. After being reassured, Zuma went on national television to update South Africans on the change of the guard in their northern neighbour. The ousting of a long-standing president and his wife, mired in political and corporate corruption, may have given Zuma some twinges of anxiety. Just as Mugabe was trying to promote Grace, Zuma has been energetically backing his ex-wife as his successor to lead the African National Congress. This won't help Nkosazana Dlamini-Zuma's campaign.

Tuesday, 7 November 2017

LIBERIA: Supreme Court puts election on hold and tells electoral commission to fix registration lists and vote-tallying

This week we start with a Kenya-style election-on-hold in Liberia and the sacking of one of President Mugabe's oldest lieutenants for disloyalty in Zimbabwe. In South Africa, Jacob Zuma's spies have reverted to apartheid-regime tactics to ban a critical book and in Abuja, we hear President Muhammadu Buhari is going to run for a second term in the 2019 elections.

LIBERIA: Supreme Court puts election on hold and tells electoral commission to fix registration lists and vote-tallyingClaims by defeated candidate Charles Brumskine of wide-ranging mismanagement in the first round of Liberia's presidential election were enough to persuade the Supreme Court to postpone the second round until the issues are resolved.

The decision will frustrate the front-runner, George Weah, who won 38.4% of the votes in the first round, because he could lose momentum during the delay. It gives a boost to Vice-President Joseph Boakai, who got 28.8% in the first round and faces Weah in the run-off.

Liberia's Chief Justice Francis Korkpor shied away from the nuclear option chosen by Kenya's Supreme Court of annulling the elections completely. Instead, he ordered the Electoral Commission to review its operations and hold discussions with the candidates. That lack of precise guidance could prove tricky for the Commission. Ultimately, the Court may have to rule again on whether enough changes have been made to comply with its order.

The Court gave no opinion on claims by some in Boakai's camp that President Ellen Johnson Sirleaf had intervened with the Electoral Commission to favour Weah. Last week, she rubbished the claims, dismissing them as 'hate speech'. But an advisor to Johnson Sirleaf told Africa Confidential that Vice-President Boakai had been 'captured' by business interests in Monrovia, which could explain her apparent coolness towards his campaign.

ZIMBABWE: Reports of deepening political crisis after President Mugabe sacks Vice-President Emmerson Mnangagwa and Zimbabwe Defence Force chief Constantine ChiwengaIt was her clearest statement yet of her plans for when her husband dies. On 4 November, Grace Mugabe told Zimbabweans that she could become President if people wanted to work with her.

She was throwing down the gauntlet to Emmerson Mnangagwa, known as 'Ngwena' (crocodile), on the day before her husband sacked him as Vice-President for plotting. The reality is that most of the hierarchy of the governing Zimbabwe African National Union- Patriotic Front (ZANU-PF) spend inordinate time plotting against each other as well as the President.

There is no question that Mnangagwa wants to take over from Mugabe as soon as possible, and could win substantial backing from local and foreign business. Britain's Foreign Office has been accused by oppositionists in Harare of secretly backing Mnangagwa, who has cultivated strong links with the country's security chiefs. Some think he offers a good prospect of stability in a post-Mugabe world, even though he is unpopular in the ruling party. His business associations with multi-millionaire John Bredenkamp might help in the next stage of the power struggle.

Until recently, many senior politicians didn't take Grace Mugabe's political ambitions very seriously. But she seems confident that Mugabe would name her Vice-President this week. For Mnangagwa that could be a provocation too far.

Some Zimbabwean satirists are accusing President Mugabe of trying to keep up with the Zumas: that's a reference to South Africa's President Jacob Zuma, who has been spending much time and resources to ensure that his ex-wife Nkosazana Dlamini-Zuma wins the presidency of the African National Congress at its elective conference next month.

SOUTH AFRICA: Government uses apartheid-regime measures to ban book exposing criminal networks around President ZumaVeteran investigative journalist Jacques Pauw might weigh the truth of the adage that there is no such thing as bad publicity. His latest book, The President's Keepers, about Zuma's business allies, has been flying off the shelves of bookshops across South Africa.

Pauw introduces readers to a cast of criminal businessmen and gangsters, all of whom are thriving from their connections to the President. For good measure, he adds that Zuma hasn't filed any tax returns since becoming President and that his ex-wife Nkosazana Dlamini-Zuma's ANC leadership campaign has benefited from contributions from cigarette-traders accused of serial tax evasion.

The State Security Agency wrote to Pauw's publishers, warning them to 'cease and desist' publishing and promoting the book, which they said breached national security laws. Invoking arguments and statutes from the apartheid era, the securocrats failed to get the book banned. Now, it is circulating on social media and other internet platforms and the clumsy attempt at censorship has had the opposite effect to that intended.
NIGERIA: A whispering campaign insists that President Buhari will run for a second term in 2019 as party dissenters quieten downThis week, President Muhammadu Buhari will paint a much more upbeat picture of Nigeria's economic prospects when he reads the 2018 budget in the National Assembly. Together with his Vice-President, Yemi Osinbajo, Buhari is backing a Keynesian-style spending boom to reinforce the country's economic recovery after the oil crash of 2015-2016.
The budget will outline bold plans to borrow billions of dollars for new roads, ports, power stations and transmission lines as part of the country's 'technology revolution'. Buhari and Osinbajo insist the money will be used productively as they answer sceptics. Last week, the International Monetary Fund reported that Nigeria was spending over 60% of state revenues on servicing local and foreign debt after the value of oil exports halved.
This spending spree could set up the government for the 2019 elections and we hear that President Buhari will seek a second term on the ticket of the governing All Progressives' Congress. Buhari's advisors believe that he has conquered his health problems after months of treatment in London this year and is up to the rigours of another four years at the top. The plan has been run past some senior diplomats in Abuja who have commented that they think a Buhari-Osinbajo ticket would be a better option than the obvious alternatives at the moment.

So far, we have heard nothing from other contenders in the party such as Atiku Abubakar or Bola Tinubu. For now, such dissenters are keeping quiet, monitoring developments at Aso Rock.


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