Wednesday, 10 August 2016

ZAMBIA: Presidential candidates trade claims on violence and vote-rigging as gap narrows in 11 August elections

This week we have important election stories – before and after – in Zambia, South Africa and Congo-Kinshasa. And there are new international efforts to get the two sides in South Sudan to implement their peace agreement ,while Nigeria's finance officials prepare to launch a big fundraising campaign.

ZAMBIA: Presidential candidates trade claims on violence and vote-rigging as gap narrows in 11 August elections
The two main rivals are accusing each other's parties of using violence as political tensions ratchet up before the presidential and parliamentary elections on 11 August. As the race tightens, the outcome this week could be as significant as Zambia's pioneering multi-party election which unseated founding President Kenneth Kaunda in 1991.

Presidential challenger Hakainde Hichilema of the United Party for National Development (UPND) has slammed the governing Patriotic Front (PF), claiming that it is using the state apparatus to ban opposition rallies and its party supporters to intimidate Zambians (AC Vol 57 No 16, Racing to the finish). Hichilema told Africa Confidential last month that a student wearing an opposition T-shirt had been beaten to death by PF activists.

Countering such claims, President Edgar Lungu told a local radio station on 1 August that opposition supporters were running riot and threatening national security. He added that he would be willing to take 'draconian measures' – including the suspension of some democratic rights – to restore order.

Some of the most serious clashes between government and opposition supporters have been on the Copperbelt, a mining region that has strongly supported the PF in recent elections. But there are signs that some voters there may switch to the Hichilema's UPND because of falling living standards. Mining companies have cut 10,000 jobs and ministers have been struggling to convince sceptics about the benefits of President's infrastructure investments.

The PF is using its well-financed election campaign machine to mobilise support in the biggest cities. After Lungu won by just 27,000 votes against Hichilema in January 2015 many activists believe the result could be even closer on 11 August.

SOUTH AFRICA: ANC mulls coalitions and falling city votes after local election losses
Top officials in the African National Congress face tough decisions about its loss of control over some of the richest and politically important local authorities in the country. Last week's local election results confirmed the ANC's declining support in towns and cities, which was identified over six months ago in an electoral report commissioned by the party's national executive committee (AC Vol 57 No 4, The ANC heads for the hills). The report warned of the dangers of the party abandoning the black middle class and urban youth and becoming too reliant on the rural vote.

After municipal elections on 3 August, the ANC controls just three of the country's eight biggest metropolitan areas.  Critically, it lost its majority in the commercial capital Johannesburg, the political capital Tshwane (Pretoria) and the Nelson Mandela Bay metropolitan authority which includes Port Elizabeth in Eastern Cape. Along with the erosion of its political support and networks, the ANC will lose control of important sources of patronage, such as appointments to local authorities and the award of service and procurement contracts. Now the ANC controls just over 150 local authorities in smaller towns and the countryside, and is the biggest party in another 50 authorities.

Although the ANC has worked in coalitions alongside the centre-right Democratic Alliance (DA) in Cape Town, similar deals are unlikely now. Senior ANC officials have said they are open to working in coalitions but the offer looks unlikely to be reciprocated.

Before the 3 August elections, the Economic Freedom Fighters, which is led by Julius Malema and got an average of 10% of the vote, said it would not go into coalition with the ANC. The liberal and pro-business DA has little in common with the radical EFF beyond a visceral distrust of the ANC and its leader Jacob Zuma (AC Vol 57 No 15, ANC unruffled by DA surge).

CONGO-KINSHASA: Tshisekedi and opposition alliance step up calls for elections this year
President Joseph Kabila faces growing pressure to hold elections this year after veteran Etienne Tshisekedi wa Mulumba and the new opposition alliance threatened to organise strikes and boycotts at a mass rally on 1 August. Tshisekedi returned to Congo-Kinshasa at the end of July after a long absence in Belgium.

He immediately called on the government to convene the Commission électorale nationale indépendante on 19 September and ensure that elections are held on time to ensure that President will leave office this year, as scheduled on 20 December.

The call for mass action across the country was no idle threat according to veteran oppositions Tshisekedi who said that his Union pour la démocratie et le progrès social (UDPS) was starting to mobilise on the issue across the country. The UDPS led a determined campaign against the late dictator Mobutu Sese Seko.

Opposition activists are also calling on the African Union to replace its facilitator, Edem Kodjo, the former prime minister of Togo, because they claim he is too close to President Kabila. The next big event could be the return to Congo-Kinshasa of Moïse Katumbi Chapwe, the former governor of Katanga province who is now part of the opposition alliance. After some government officials charges against Katumbi on financial and security offences, there are concerns that police may try to arrest him on return. However, in an interview with Africa Confidential last month, Katumbi insisted he was undaunted and would return to Congo-Kinshasa imminently (AC Vol 57 No 15, A gathering storm).

SOUTH SUDAN: US pushes tougher intervention force and sanctions against rivals factions
Regional and international officials are going ahead with plans for a strong intervention force and sanctions despite President Salva Kiir Mayardit's latest changes in the Juba government designed to isolate his rival and former Vice-President Riek Machar Teny Dhurgon.

On 7 August, the United States circulated a draft resolution for the UN Security Council to authorise a 4,000-strong intervention force and an arms embargo on Salva's and Riek's factions. The African Union has also voted in favour of an intervention force but no clear details have emerged about how it will be organised and its relations with the UN force.

Meanwhile, Riek refuses to recognise his replacement as Vice-President by his former chief negotiator with the government, Taban Deng Gai, on 23 July. Riek also insists that he will not return to Juba until an international intervention force is in place (AC Vol 57 No 16, Riek rival boosts Salva).

NIGERIA: Treasury team eye bond markets and development banks for funds
A team from Abuja under Minister of Finance Kemi Adeosun is preparing to raise at least US$4 billion over the next three months with $1 bn. coming from a new eurobond issue and $3 bn. of new loans from the African Development Bank and the World Bank. Negotiations are expected to be easier following the government's removal of the peg fixing the exchange rate at 197 naira to the dollar and the effective end of fuel subsidies.

Businesses complain that the new flexibility in exchange rate policy is yet to produce inward investment from Nigerians with funds overseas or foreign companies. Adeosun's fundraising campaign could begin to change that picture. Last week in London, Babatunde Fashola, the Power, Works and Housing Minister, told Africa Confidential that the government was paying off arrears on public sector contracts which would bring some money back into the system.

For the government, the priority is restore growth, held back by crashing oil prices and attacks on oil and gas production. The priority will be a N1.75 trillion (US$5.6 bn.) plan for investments in roads, water and power stations this year in a bid both to improve services for people and companies and create much-needed economic dynamism (AC Vol 57 No 16, Juicier carrots, heavier sticks).

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