Monday, 10 July 2017

KENYA: Row between President Kenyatta and judges heats up after election ballot ruling

We start with another election ruling by Kenya's High Court which is pitting the Chief Justice David Maraga against President Uhuru Kenyatta. Then we look at the row in Zimbabwe over a US$120 million maize subsidy scheme and the latest multinational company to get embroiled in scandals around President Jacob Zuma in South Africa. Finally, to Algiers where President Abdelaziz Bouteflika is trying to garner backing for economic reforms and Kinshasa where the head of the electoral commission says he thinks it will be impossible to organise presidential elections this year.

KENYA: Row between President Kenyatta and judges heats up after election ballot ruling
The governing Jubilee party has reacted with fury after the High Court in Nairobi's decision to 7 July to nullify the electoral commission's award of 2.5 billion-shilling ($24 million) contract to print ballot papers for next month's national elections to Dubai-based firm Al Ghurair. The court said the Independent Electoral and Boundaries Commission's (IEBC)'s award broke the new rules on contract transparency.

Complaining it was not consulted about the procurement of ballot papers for the 8 August elections, Raila Odinga's opposition National Super Alliance (Nasa) launched a legal case to block the contract award. Several newspapers claim that there are business links between President Uhuru Kenyatta's family and the Al Ghurair company. Websites which carried photographs of Al Ghurair officials visiting State House were told by government lawyers to remove them.

This is the second court major legal victory for the opposition in the past month and it leaves less than a month for the electoral commission to find a new supplier to print the ballots. Officials in the Jubilee government insist there is no question about delaying the election.

This latest court ruling prompted any angry outburst from President Kenyatta: 'I want to tell those in courts, we have respected you. But do not think respect is cowardice. And we will not allow our opponents to use the courts and to intimidate the IEBC, thinking they will win using the back door.' A few hours after Kenyatta spoke on 9 July, Chief Justice David Maraga shot back with a statement on the implications of the President's remarks: 'When political leaders cast aspersions on the administration of justice based on a misinterpretation of my statements, it has the potential to impair public confidence in our courts, and this concerns me a great deal.'

ZIMBABWE: Opposition lambasts government on Command Agriculture and maize subsidy scheme
A politically-loaded plan to subsidise the country's maize farmers could cost the treasury almost US$120 million, say independent agricultural experts and opposition politicians. President Robert Mugabe, currently in Singapore for medical treatment, says the scheme will make the country self-sufficient in its key staple and boost local farmers. Mugabe faces a tough election next year against the backdrop of mounting economic woes.

Opposition politicians argue that the subsidy scheme is a blatant attempt to shore up support for the ruling Zimbabwe African National Union-Patriotic Front from small-scale farmers, its key support base in the countryside. It adds that previous subsidy schemes have been undermined by corruption and turned into mechanisms to enrich local party officials.

SOUTH AFRICA: McKinsey is latest multinational to get embroiled Gupta saga
One by one, leading multinational companies have been dragged into the growing political scandal over the business  links between President Jacob Zuma and the Gupta family.
The pattern is similar each time. At first, there is a blanket denial of any wrongdoing or any improper dealings with Gupta family or Zuma's other allies.

Then the company expresses concern about the possibility that some mistakes were made, and accordingly launches an investigation. Details of the investigation then emerge in the media after which some of the multinational company's local directors are suspended or resign.
International lobbying firm Bell Pottinger, which had a contract with the Guptas has now made a formal apology for its operations in South Africa. International auditors KPMG, which had also been hired by the Guptas, are being probed by South African regulators for failing to sound warnings over the company's management of a massive agricultural subsidy from the Free State provincial government.

The latest company going through this drama is McKinsey, one of the most high-profile global consultancy companies, which has specialised in advising governments how to boost efficiency and cut corruption and mismanagement. The matter turns on McKinsey's relationship with the Trillian group of companies, which are in turn close to the Gupta family.

Outgoing Chairman of Trillian Tokyo Sexwale appointed top South African lawyer Geoff Budlender to look at whether Trillian may have commercially benefitted from insider information about government decisions, such as President Zuma's sacking of finance minister Nhlanhla Nene in December 2015. McKinsey was advising the state power company Eskom which had been paying tens of millions of rand to Trillian without following procurement rules. After Budlender concluded that McKinsey had made misleading statements about its dealings with Trillian, the consultancy company has launched its own investigation into the matter, helped by an outside law firm, Norton Rose Fuller.

ALGERIA: President Bouteflika tries to clear way for tough economic reforms and subsidy cuts
President Abdelaziz Bouteflika used his Independence Day speech on 6 July to try to rally support for economic reforms as the government tries to adjust to an era of lower oil and gas prices. In a rare public statement, the ailing 80-year-old whose current term expires in 2019, told Algerians that the reforms were not being imposed from outside but were in the country's 'sovereign interest'.

Until now the government has been using a system of social grants to help the poorest. It fears widespread unrest if subsidies on basic consumer products are cut back. The reform plan envisages a much closer targeting of the subsidies.

Over the past three years, the country's foreign reserves have dropped to $108 billion from $178 bn. and state officials said the government's current dependence on oil and gas exports for 60% of state revenues is unsustainable. Much of the implementation work for the reforms will be carried out by a team under Prime Minister Abdelmadjid Tebboune who plans a series of consultation meetings with local people and political parties.

CONGO-KINSHASA: Presidential vote not possible this year says election chief
Opposition parties in Kinshasa have denounced as a 'declaration of war' a statement from Chairman of the electoral commission Corneille Nangaa suggesting presidential elections cannot be held this year. Nangaa's statement flies in the face of an agreement signed between President Joseph Kabila's government and the opposition on 31 December.

Should the commission be unable to organise elections this year, this will add to the climate of crisis in the country. Opposition politicians believe there is a conspiracy between the commission and the government to find a way to extend President Kabila's term in office. His second term formally expired at the end of last year.

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