Why removal of South Africa's tax boss is key to Ramaphosa's chances of success

1 day 12 hours ago
Tom Moyane has been fired as South Africa’s tax boss on the recommendation of a commission of inquiry. Sunday Times/Masi Losi

South African President Cyril Ramaphosa has changed the country’s political landscape significantly since he came to power in February 2018. This has strengthened his position to carry out his “renewal agenda”.

Immediately after his inauguration, he replaced ten cabinet ministers. He also moved those closely allied to his predecessor, Jacob Zuma, to other portfolios.

Since then, he has moved to fix the leadership of the criminal justice system institutions (such as the National Prosecuting Authority and crime intelligence) which were weakened under Zuma. Shaun Abrahams has lost the key position of National Director of Public Prosecutions; this contributes towards bringing Zuma’s hold on the country’s criminal justice system to an end. Zuma faces multiple charges of corruption, fraud and money laundering.

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South Africa's commissions of inquiry: what good can they do?

5 days 16 hours ago
Former South African Deputy Finance Minister Mcebisi Jonas gave damning evidence at the State capture commission. Sunday Times/Alan Skuy

South Africans might be forgiven for expecting two key commissions of inquiry currently underway to change the country. Some of these expectations, however, are unrealistic, as a look at the commissions’ functions and powers show.

Some expectations might be met, but only if the commissions achieve public buy-in and generate enough pressure for change.

Whether they can do that depends not only on their powers but also on how they are run.

The probe into tax administration and governance at the South African Revenue Service – headed by Judge R Nugent – and has already led to the axing of Tom Moyane as head of the tax collection agency. The other inquiry – headed by Deputy Chief Justice Zondo – is looking into allegations that the South African state has been captured by private business interests allied to former President Jacob Zuma. It’s expected to run for two years.

Unrealistic expectations about what commissions can achieve comes from the fact that they’re often confused with courts of law. This isn’t surprising given that they seem to function like courts. For example, they’re often chaired by judges, affected parties are often represented by lawyers and witnesses take oaths to tell the truth.

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Biya needs to devise a monumental shift if Cameroon is to turn the corner

6 days 15 hours ago
Cameroon President Paul Biya during the presidential elections in October. EPA-EFE/Nic Bothma

Cameroon’s Constitutional Council has declared Paul Biya the winner of the October 7 presidential election. Even though observers from organisations such as the African Union pointed to severe irregularities, the results were affirmed – 71% of the votes for Biya and 14% for his main competitor Maurice Kamto.

What’s most alarming has been an intense militarisation of parts of the country since the results were proclaimed. In Douala, protest activities were blocked. Opposition leaders and followers were harassed. And the terror in Anglophone cities which predated the elections multiplied. The latest of these is the kidnapping of 79 pupils, the headmaster, a teacher and driver from a Presbyterian boarding school in Bamenda in the Northwest Region.

Consistent with past practice, Biya has resorted to strongman tactics rather than working with different ethnic and regional groups to find solutions to urgent problems.

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Can the centre hold, or will South Africa get its own Bolsonaro?

1 week ago
South Africa's President Cyril Ramaphosa faces the daunting task of fighting corruption and winning votes for his party. GCIS

Present indications are that South African voters are not gearing up to “do a Brazil” in the face of a mounting economic crisis and high levels of corruption within the ruling party. Polls indicate that they are unlikely to totally abandon the African National Congress (ANC), which has governed the country since the end of apartheid in 1994, for existing political alternatives.

The reasons are familiar. Although the ANC has lost prestige, ground and voter loyalty, many South Africans continue to cleave to their memories of its past virtues and hope for it to return to better ways. Furthermore, President Cyril Ramaphosa will make copious and not unconvincing promises of tackling corruption.

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How Ethiopia's progressive premier is levelling the gender playing field

1 week ago
Ethiopian President Sahle-Work Zewde (left) and Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed. EPA-EFE/STR

Since Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed took over from Hailemariam Desalegn in April 2018, Ethiopia has experienced a rapid pace of political reforms. So far, save for the unfortunate incidents of ethnic violence across the country, the changes made by the new administration have been nothing short of breathtaking.

Under Abiy’s leadership, a historic peace deal was reached with neighbouring Eritrea. At home, his administration has freed all political prisoners while also promising to reform some of the country’s harsh laws.

In addition, the new premier has also vowed to transform the country’s state-led economy by outlining a proposal for the partial privatisation of Ethiopia’s state enterprises. Privatisation would open up opportunities for competition, and raise funds for the country’s major development programs.

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South African voters are moving beyond party loyalty: they want delivery

1 week 6 days ago
Voters line up in South Africa's last election. Their concerns are shifting. EFE-EPA/Kim Ludbrook

The attention of South Africans has recently been firmly fixed on issues of good governance – or more specifically on its failures. This is due partly to several exposés of scandals involving former President Jacob Zuma and the Gupta family. The allegations are that members of the family and a network of individuals close to Zuma were involved in corruption and efforts to weaken key state institutions.

But does the public outcry reflect actual changes in the hearts, minds, and loyalty of the nation’s voters? And what does this mean for the incumbent government, led by the African National Congress (ANC), when the people return to the polls in 2019?

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ANC will go to the polls with only one major asset: its president Ramaphosa

2 weeks 2 days ago
South African President Cyril Ramaphosa is now more popular than his governing party, the ANC. EFE-EPA/Stringer

It is common cause that the performance of South Africa’s government, led by the African National Congress (ANC), has been worse than abysmal. Under former President Jacob Zuma, ANC functionaries pillaged numerous institutions of state. They enabled state owned institutions to be looted, mismanaged the provision of basic services and presided over an alarming downward spiral of the economy.

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Why the clamour for a referendum in Kenya is ill- timed and ill-advised

2 weeks 2 days ago
Supporters of Kenya's draft constitution attend a "Yes" campaign rally ahead of the 2010 referendum. EPA/Dai Kurokawa

Political manoeuvring in Kenya is picking up steam again. It’s most evident in the controversial clamour and debate for yet another national referendum ostensibly to help the country fix governance and constitutional weaknesses.

But will it?

The call for a referendum is coming principally from the party defeated in last year’s bruising electoral battle – the National Super Alliance. Their legal challenge resulted in unprecedented court annullment of Uhuru Kenyatta’s presidential win. This precipitated a rerun, with the outcome leaving a lot of big winners and sore losers. Kenyatta, the eventual victor, was confronted by a vanquished but defiant Raila Odinga hell bent on settling his political grievances on the streets and stoking political tensions.

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Nigeria's Ezekwesili: minister turned activist who wants to be president

2 weeks 6 days ago
Obiageli Katryn Ezekwesili is a candidate in Nigeria's upcoming 2019 elections. Flickr

Many Nigerians are currently debating the country’s 2019 presidential election. Attention has been focused on the two dominant political parties – the ruling All Progressive Congress, and the opposition’s Peoples Democratic Party. The ruling party candidate is incumbent Muhammadu Buhari, and the opposition candidate is former vice president Atiku Abubakar.

The smaller parties haven’t received as much media attention. But one party, the Allied Congress Party of Nigeria, has come onto the radar by virtue of its female presidential candidate - Obiageli Katryn Ezekwesili. She is one of only two women on the presidential ballot. The other is Eunice Atuejide of the National Interest Party.

Ezekwesili, who comes from Anambra State in South Eastern Nigeria, is well known in Nigeria, having served her country and the world in various roles over the past 25 years. But possibly her most prominent role has been as an activist: one of the more visible leaders of the #BringBackOurGirls campaign.

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How Ethiopia's new cabinet fits into Ahmed's reform agenda

3 weeks 1 day ago
Ethiopian Prime Minister, Abiy Ahmed, has created a peace ministry to stabilise the East African nation. Yoweri Museveni/Flickr

Ethiopia’s ruling coalition has re-elected Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed as its chairman. This means that Ahmed will continue as prime minister until the next party congress. It is with this certainty that he has taken the opportunity to reassemble his cabinet for the second time this year.

The latest reshuffle has downsized cabinet departments from 28 to 20. Ten of the new ministerial appointments are women, meaning that Ahmed has achieved a 50% gender balance in his new team.

This is a significant milestone. But perhaps of more importance is the creation of a ministry of peace. Ahmed has made it clear that peace is central to his reforms agenda. The new peace ministry is therefore an effort to ensure that this agenda remains on course. The question is: how effective can it be in the long run?

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Why journalists in South Africa should do some self-reflection

3 weeks 4 days ago
Media should be held to the same accountability standards they demand, especially from public representatives. EFE-EPA/Kim Ludbrook

It is fitting that the apology by the editor of Sunday Times, South Africa’s biggest newspaper, for its serious lapses in editorial independence and judgement came at the start of a week in which the country celebrates Media Freedom Day.

Also known as “Black Wednesday”, the event commemorates the day, in 1977, when the apartheid government arrested, detained and banned anti-apartheid activists and shut down three newspapers. The attack on the media was sustained throughout the 1980s, including two States of Emergency which severely curtailed freedom of speech.

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Mnangagwa's been wooing Zimbabwe's white sports heroes. Here's why

3 weeks 6 days ago
Zimbabwean Olympic gold medallist swimmer, Kirsty Coventry, with President Emmerson Mnangagwa after taking the oath of office. Aaron Ufumeli/EPA

Sport in general, and particularly gifted sports people, have been known to rouse feelings of national unity. In the process, they instil a sense of patriotism and pride in their countries. Good examples include George Weah, the soccer legend from Liberia now the president of his country and Imran Khan, the cricketing star from Pakistan, now its prime minister. Notable sports figures have managed, to some extent, to unify their troubled nations. In the process they have shown how powerful a force sport can be.

This salient observation has not escaped Zimbabwe’s newly elected president, Emmerson Mnangagwa. In a bid to restore and paper over the badly damaged relations between the governing Zanu-PF party and the country’s white community both inside and outside Zimbabwe, Mnangagwa has appointed the former swimming sensation, Kirsty Coventry as Minister of Youth, Sport, Arts and Recreation.

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