Monday, 31 October 2016

SOUTH AFRICA: Pressure mounts on ANC leaders as Prosecutor wobbles on case against Finance Minister

This week we start in the South African courts to watch the latest round of the proxy political battle between Finance Minister Pravin Gordhan and President Jacob Zuma; the Kenyan economy gets a vote of confidence from the World Bank; results in Côte d'Ivoire's constitutional referendum are expected early in the week; and the biggest foreign investor in Guinea's Simandou mine, Rio Tinto, is selling its 46% stake to Chinalco, one of the biggest resource companies in China. Finally, the chairwoman of Ghana's Electoral Commission, Charlotte Osei, is in Europe this week to discuss her efforts to ensure credible and peaceful elections in December.

SOUTH AFRICA: Pressure mounts on ANC leaders as Prosecutor wobbles on case against Finance Minister
The governing African National Congress faces another week of turmoil as State Prosecutor Shaun Ibrahim looks set to back down on his widely criticised attempts to lay fraud charges against Finance Minister Pravin Gordhan. Several senior ANC figures are giving strong support to Gordhan, questioning the motives behind Ibrahim's threatened prosecution.

Many political insiders believe that Ibrahim, an ally of President Jacob Zuma, is part of a campaign to stop the Finance Minister's probe into state corruption and patronage. Unless Ibrahim calls off the case, Gordhan is due in court on 2 November to face charges of fraud for approving an early retirement deal for a senior staffer at the National Revenue Service.

As the Gordhan case plays out this week, ANC leaders are mulling a new report prepared for the party's National Executive Committee which calls for President Zuma to resign. The report includes trenchant criticism from party's branches of the leadership's lack of accountability, in particular Zuma's close personal relations with corporate interests.

KENYA: Mixed signals as Kenyatta tries to boost economy ahead of next year's election
Against the trend of slowing economies in much of the rest of Africa, Kenya's farming and tourism sector are growing faster and bringing in more foreign investment. On 31 October, the World Bank announced that Kenya's economy should grow this year by 5.9% against an earlier forecast of 5.6%.
President Uhuru Kenyatta's government says the final growth figure should be 6% for this year and will rise to 7% next year. Facing a tough election next August, with veteran oppositionist Raila Odinga among the leading challengers, Kenyatta is keen to claim economic successes.

Although Kenya is Africa's fastest growing retail market and one of the region's most diversified economies, its tea production is falling short of the government target – 500 million kilograms – because of a regional drought. Kenya is the world's biggest tea exporter. Coffee production has also been hit by the drought.

And despite big investments by France's Carrefour and the United States' Walmart into Kenya's retail sector, two local supermarket chains – Nakumatt and Uchumi – are restructuring after hitting serious financial problems.

COTE D'IVOIRE: Opposition boycott undermines constitutional referendum
A proposed new constitution which dilutes the nationality qualification for presidential candidates and strengthens executive powers is likely to go through after the 30 October referendum. But the organisation of the referendum and the drafting of the new constitution have been lambasted by civic activists and opposition parties which boycotted the referendum.

They are eagerly waiting to see what percentage of the country's 6.3 million registered voters turned out on 30 October. Critics say the new constitution was rushed through – Ivorians had just two weeks to debate its provisions before the referendum – and serves the interests of President Alassane Ouattara, above all else.

The new constitution allows  a candidate with just one Ivorian parent to run for the presidency; the previous constitution of 1999 stipulated that both parents should be Ivorian. This created problems for Ouattara as his opponents claimed that at least one of his parents came from neighbouring Burkina Faso.

Opposition parties insist that Ouattara's election as President in 2010 and 2015 was illegitimate. They add that the new constitution is designed to weaken the power of parliament.

Under the new constitution Ouattara will be able to appoint a Vice-President who will succeed him should he resign. It also allows the President to appoint a third of the members in the Senate, and establishes a national house of traditional rulers which might further weaken the power of the elected chambers.

GUINEA: Rio Tinto sell stake in world's biggest ore mine to China
After two decades of political fights and lawsuits, Rio Tinto is leaving Guinea, having sold its 46.6% stake in the Simandou iron ore mines for an estimated US$1 to 1.3 billion to Chinalco, one of China's biggest resource companies.  The development of Simandou, the world's biggest iron ore mine, could double the size of Guinea's economy but investors have struggled to raise funds to build a 1,000 kilometre railway linking the site to a seaport.

The decision to quit was made by Rio's new managing director Jean-Sebastien Jacques who said his company was struggling raise money for the project. Company officials could take another six months to finalise the deal under which Rio would be able to recoup much of its estimated $1.4 bn. investment in the project.

The sale will not directly affect the complex three-way legal fight between Rio and its erstwhile partners in Guinea, Brazil's Vale and Swiss-based Beny Steinmetz Resource Group in which each side accuses the other of fraudulent practices.

GHANA: Appeals from disqualified candidates could delay presidential election due on 7 December
Charlotte Osei, the chairwoman of Ghana's Electoral Commission, is due to address a meeting of the Royal African Society in London on 2 November, as 13 opposition candidates are protesting their disqualification from the elections. The two leading candidates – President John Mahama and Nana Addo Akufo Addo of the New Patriotic Party – are the front runners in the presidential elections on 7 December and have not got involved in this latest controversy.

The Commission ruled that the 13 presidential candidates would be ineligible because of mistakes and duplications in their applications forms. The disqualified candidates include Nana Konadu Agyeman Rawlings, wife of former President Jerry Rawlings, and Paa Kwei Nduom, an Nkrumahist candidate who leads the Progressive People's Party.

Rawlings and Nduom, along with some of the other candidates are contesting their disqualification in a petition to the High Court. Although the Commission insists its decision is final, it agrees that the Court appeal process must be completed before the elections are held.

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