Tuesday, 18 October 2016

NIGERIA: Cacophony in the cabinet ahead of fund-raising trip

Some local difficulties have broken out in Abuja ahead of another investment roadshow by Nigeria and there is new and dramatic twist in the trial of strength between South Africa's President Jacob Zuma and his Finance Minister, Pravin Gordhan. The crisis in Ghana at Obuasi, one of the biggest gold mines in the world, is getting worse with over 18,000 illegal miners operating there. The UN has condemned an attempted putsch in Tripoli which it says will set back its attempts to broker the formation of a national government in Libya.

NIGERIA: Cacophony in the cabinet ahead of fund-raising trip
First Lady Aisha Buhari's criticism of her husband's government in a no holds-barred interview with the BBC on 14 October has deepened concerns over policy as Abuja's economic team continues its fund-raising tour with an investment conference in London set for Friday (21 October).

Mrs Buhari told the BBC Hausa service that unless things improved she would not campaign for a second term for him. Anonymous government officials tried to downplay the interview as a 'family affair'. That didn't work.

Then, President Muhammadu Buhari, questioned at a press conference in Berlin with German Chancellor Angela Merkel, tried to make light of it by saying, 'I don't know exactly what party my wife belongs to. Actually, she belongs in the kitchen, the living room and the other rooms in my house.' That put the President in a deeper hole. His press office passed it off as banter.

Although Nigerians have been enthusiastically debating Mrs Buhari's comments, poor economic conditions dominate much media comment. Budget Minister Udo Udoma said the government plans to sell off some $15 billion worth of state assets when he opened discussions on the 2017 budget in the National Assembly last week. Finance Minister Kemi Adeosun, who is set to address the London conference, plans to raise some $4.5 bn. in the markets over the next 18 months.

SOUTH AFRICA: Reports of the Guptas' $480 million payments raises stakes in Zuma's legal battle
The Treasury may have scored a palpable hit in the latest battle with President Jacob Zuma and his business allies in the Gupta family. On 14 October Finance Minister Pravin Gordhan filed a Financial Intelligence Report, which questioned some $480 mn. of transactions by the Guptas, with the Pretoria High Court. The affidavit, first revealed by the amaBhungane Centre for Investigative Journalism, has now obtained wider circulation (a certified copy of Gordhan's affidavit is appended here for your interest).

Gordhan is asking the court to issue an order declaring that he cannot interfere with the decision by commercial banks to close down the accounts of the Guptas' holding company. Zuma's allies, including Mineral Resources Minister Mosebenzi Zwane, have been trying to pressure Gordhan to compel the banks to reopen the Guptas' corporate accounts.

This follows days of tension leading up to Public Protector Thuli Madonsela's planned release on 14 October of an investigative report on the Gupta family's political and business influence in South Africa. A last-minute court application by President Zuma delayed the publication of the report. Zuma's lawyers were insisting that he should be able to question witnesses and see any evidence that might implicate him in wrongdoing.

However, several senior African National Congress figures are calling for the release of Madonsela's report as soon as possible. Over the weekend, Deputy President Cyril Ramaphosa came out with his strongest endorsement of Gordhan to date.

GHANA: Claims of election link to Obuasi gold-miners
Over 18,000 illegal gold-miners are working at the Obuasi mine in central Ghana, despite repeated requests by the owners, AngloGold Ashanti, to the government to stop them. Hundreds of illegal artisanal miners have been killed or maimed so far this year in their hazardous operations.

In May, AngloGold Ashanti registered a case against Ghana at the International Centre for Settlement of Investment Disputes in Washington after the government withdrew security guards from the mine as part of a politically-inflected dispute with company.

The Ghana Minerals Commission gave the illegal miners, known locally as galamsey, until 10 October to leave the mine. But the order was not backed up by any state security officials.

Mining industry officials say that the governing National Democratic Congress fears the potential impact of any mass eviction of miners on the national elections, which are due on 7 December. Some officials claim that the illegal miners are sponsored by senior politicians, from all parties, seeking seeking to raise money for campaigning. Yet none of the political parties have produced plans to create alternative work for the illegal miners. So the crisis, along with its injuries and deaths, drags on.

LIBYA: Would-be putschists target UN-backed government in Tripoli
The United Nations suffered another setback to its bid to broker a political settlement in Tripoli when the Government of National Accord (GNA), which it supports, was the target of an attempted coup in the capital on 14 October.

The coup-plotters, led by former premier Khalifa Ghwail, took over the Rixos Hotel in Tripoli, where the GNA's state council was meant to establish itself. Ghwail accused the GNA of forfeiting the right to rule because of its repeated failures.

For now there is a stand-off in Tripoli with some militias backing the GNA and others Ghwail. MPs elected to the parliament based in Tobruk, eastern Libya, who are expected to meet on Monday (17 October), are watching developments in the capital closely. Forces loyal to the eastern-based army commander, Khalifa Haftar, have captured most the country's oil ports in recent weeks.

No comments: