Monday, 7 November 2016

UNITED STATES ELECTION: What's in it for Africa?

We start off with a look at the increasingly bizarre United States elections tomorrow (8 November), quickly followed by a report on President Jacob Zuma's tough week ahead in South Africa. Then there are fresh doubts about the strategy and money for the African Union mission in Somalia while disqualified presidential contenders get a reprieve in Ghana. Fresh proposals in the talks between the Frelimo government and Renamo opposition are due on 10 November, and many Zimbabweans have already made plain their opposition to the government's plans to start issuing bond notes this week.

UNITED STATES ELECTION: What's in it for Africa?
The lack of enthusiasm in Africa for the US presidential election is palpable: partly because of the candidates, partly because of the lack of attention to Africa, or indeed any foreign policy matters apart from migration and terrorism, in the campaign.

That said, opinion in Africa's media and among political activists overwhelmingly favours Hillary Clinton against Donald Trump. Zimbabwe's former Finance Minister, Tendai Biti, pointed out that Trump's claims of rigging in the US elections gives succour to autocrats everywhere who want to undermine democratic principles. After a year of bad and highly-contested elections in Africa, there is waning enthusiasm for political competition.

African businesspeople interviewed by Africa Confidential share activists' misgivings about Trump for more pragmatic reasons: that he would be likely to cut Africa's quota-free access to the US market and ramp up immigration restrictions.

SOUTH AFRICA: Madonsela's report shakes up the President
The damning findings of newly-retired Public Protector, Thuli Madonsela, in her 355-page report on President Zuma's relations with the Gupta family will reverberate across the political scene this week.
First off, the opposition Democratic Alliance has tabled a motion of no-confidence in parliament on 10 November. There is growing pressure for that vote to be held under secret ballot – as such votes are held in Germany — to allow MPs from the governing African National Congress to vote according their consciences, not party diktat. Given the number of senior ANC officials and supporters who have called for President Zuma's resignation in recent weeks, the vote could be a closer this time. It may also reinforce pressure for Zuma to stand down voluntarily and hand over to Deputy President Cyril Ramaphosa before the ANC's elective conference, due before the end of next year.

Zuma is yet to react publicly to Madonsela's report, other than when speaking to his base in KwaZuluNatal over the weekend he remarked that the courts were undermining democracy in the country.

But Zuma's office will have to respond to Madonsela's recommendations to him and Chief Justice Moegoeng Moegoeng that a Judicial Commission should be set up to examine in detail the claims that Zuma's relations with the Guptas have contravened the law. Moegoeng will need little encouragement: after the Constitutional Court ruled in March that Zuma would have to repay part of the costs borne by the state for the upgrade of his homestead in Nkandla, Moegoeng commented: 'Public office bearers ignore their constitutional obligations at their peril.'

In attempt to prevent the matter dragging on, Madonsela proposed the judicial commission should complete its report within 180 days. The next move is Zuma's but it is difficult to see how he could reject the call for a judicial probe, given his personal involvement in the matter.

SOMALIA: Jihadist attacks derail election timetable and raise questions on future of peacekeeping units
Regional governments with troops in Somalia – Ethiopia, Kenya and Uganda – together with Western powers are reviewing their options following the brief seizure of Qandala in Puntland by Islamic State, or Da'ish, in the week ending 5 November. This follows wider concerns about cuts in European Union funding for the African Union Mission in Somalia (Amisom) and pressure on Britain (which is due to leave the EU after this year's referendum) to step its funding for the mission. Britain will be hosting another international conference on Somalia in the first quarter of next year, its Minister for Africa, Tobias Ellwood, told Africa Confidential.

This week strategists will decide whether to co-ordinate an offensive against the Da'ish contingent in Somalia, which is also at loggerheads with the Al Qaida-affiliated Al Shabaab. We hear that the options US airstrikes against the Da'ish positions, a ground offensive, or both. Puntland President Abdiweli Mohamed Ali Gas has 'declared war' on ISIS. Morale in Amisom is low partly due to financial constraints as the European Union cuts funding, and partly due to a series of deadly attacks launched by Al Shabaab to derail the elections.

Ethiopia has been withdrawing some of its troops in Somalia to help deal with its internal crisis but it insists it will not withdraw the troops assigned to Amisom for now.

This comes a particularly bad time for the elections for a new legislature and president which are running several weeks behind schedule. It's now looking unlikely that there will be a new parliament in place to elect a new President on 30 November as the current timetable dictates.

GHANA: Disqualified presidential candidates given a second chance
The High Court in Accra ruled today that 12 of the 13 presidential candidates who had been disqualified due to errors in their nomination forms are to be given another two days to correct them. Speaking in London on 4 November, Charlotte Osei, Chairwoman of the Electoral Commission, said she didn't think that a short extension of the nomination period would mean a postponement of the presidential elections due on 7 December.

Timing of the presidential election could prove a sensitive matter, especially given the opposition candidates' shortage of funds and their problems in sustaining a longer campaign.

MOZAMBIQUE: As economy stutters, another round of political talks
Despite the 8 October assassination of Jeremias Pondeca, a member of the Renamo negotiating team with Frelimo, the efforts of the mediators continue. On 10 November, they present their plans for some form of regional powers for Renamo, to the joint commission.

Last week, financial ratings agencies judged Mozambique to have the most unsustainable debt obligations in the world, worse even than Venezuela's.

ZIMBABWE: Detested bond notes on the streets this week
President Robert Mugabe's government is due to go ahead with the issue of $200 million worth of 'bond notes' – backed by the Reserve Bank but not convertible in international currencies – this week.
Opposition parties led by the Movement for Democratic Change are due to organise protests against the notes, describing them as a covert means of reintroducing the Zimbabwe dollar.

There are questions about the timing of the move as the supply of US dollars in the market continues to shrink. There were hopes that more use might be made of South Africa's rand as an alternative currency following a meeting between Presidents Mugabe and Jacob Zuma in Harare last week.
But there has been no official comment about a new agreement to boost the use of the rand in Zimbabwe. Currently less than a tenth of sales in Zimbabwe use the rand.

Despite its reported support for the bond notes issue, Afreximbank, an affiliate of the African Development Bank has made no public statement on the launch of the notes. Rumours of counterfeit bond notes in circulation have not increased confidence in the issue.

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