JOHANNESBURG - Greater policy effort to avoid currency overvaluation in South Africa "is warranted", a new Organisation for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD) report argues. In fact, the inaugural OECD Economic Survey of South Africa, released in Pretoria, states that, despite the potential pitfalls associated with a more activist approach to currency management, there could be "net benefits from a range of actions designed to ease upward pressure on the real exchange rate". Using the Fundamental Equilibrium Exchange Rate approach, the survey quotes an estimate suggesting that the rand was about 15% overvalued in real effective terms in March 2010. It notes, too, that there has been further appreciation since that date. Secretary-general Angel Gurria argues that South Africa's weak export volume growth can be partly attributed to the strong rand.
JOHANNESBURG - Former African National Congress Youth League (ANCYL) Limpopo chairperson Lehlogonolo Masoga has been expelled from the league for a range of infractions, which include impeding the proper functioning of the league, creating divisions, engaging in an act calculated to undermine the effectiveness of the organisation and taking part in factional activity that threatened the league's unity, according to a statement. "Comrade Masoga is, therefore, expelled from the ANCYL, and any appeals will be entertained through the appropriate platforms as provided for in the Constitution and Rules of Disciplinary Procedures of the ANCYL," the league's spokesperson, Floyd Shivambu says. The offences he committed were considered "grave" and "serious". Masoga had initially tried to interdict the disciplinary process against him, but agreed to withdraw it, issuing a statement saying that the courts are not the places for such matters. He also says that the "pain and humiliation" he felt over the way he was being treated were not good enough reason to take the league to court.
PRETORIA - A poor response from government departments on tackling xenophobic violence is "frustrating", the South African Human Rights Commission's (SAHRC's) chairperson Lawrence Mushwana says. Government departments have simply not responded to recommendations contained in a xenophobia report released by the SAHRC in March, Mushwana says to Parliament's portfolio committee on justice. "When the report was launched, all various departments were there. They made an undertaking that, in a month's time, they were going respond. They were going to tell us what steps they were taking to implement some of the recommendations so that, come another outbreak of xenophobia, we would be ready. But we had to write every time. It was only in my last attempt during June, that was when we started receiving the first response. This makes things difficult for us." Mushwana says that the commission's task is to see whether the government has "put systems in place" to prevent an outbreak of xenophobic violence similar to 2008, but that the responses had been apathetic. "We compile some of the reports. We make recommendations. We bring them here. We write. But no one answers." Mushwana says that he has asked one director-general to provide feedback on the SAHRC's recommendations, but he is still waiting. "When I briefed the security cluster, I raised the same issue "It is frustrating on our part. We can only monitor. We check what government has done." Mushwana, says National Police Commissioner Bheki Cele, who has sent individuals "at a low level" to try find out what is causing the violence, tells Mushwana it has been found that "unfair competition" among businesses is one of the major factors. He adds that the SAHRC is glad however, of the action taken by police and military to quell the violence, which has convinced people the government is serious about the issue.
JOHANNESBURG - About 180 000 workers in South Africa's public service sector will strike on July 29 after wage negotiations with the government became deadlocked, a union official says. "We have been issued a certificate to strike and the strike may be much larger if Congress of South African Trade Unions- (Cosatu-) affiliated unions join us," says Public Servants Association spokesperson Manie de Clercq. State workers including nurses, teachers, policemen and immigration officers rejected the government's 6,5% wage offer and are demanding an 8,6% increase as well as a R1 000 monthly housing allowance. The strike could hurt the economy as it recovers from its first recession in 17 years. Salary negotiations with the country's largest labour umbrella group, Cosatu, have also become deadlocked and the federation is balloting its members on whether to join the strike. "We are hoping that the employer will revise its offer but, in the event that they don't, we will also strike by next week," says Sizwe Pamla, spokesperson for the National Education, Health and Allied Workers Union - a Cosatu affiliated union. If Cosatu joins the industrial action, about as many as 1,3-million State employees could walk off their jobs.
Africa & the world
KHARTOUM - Sudan's security forces systematically torture detainees and enjoy immunity from prosecution, Amnesty International says, urging Khartoum to reform a law that grants security agents wide powers. A 66-page report by the rights group includes accounts from survivors of torture and testimony from human rights defenders. It says rights abuses have increased since elections in April and are of concern ahead of a January 2011 southern referendum on secession. A source within Sudan's National Intelligence and Security Services (NISS) says that the NISS is aware of the report but could not immediately comment. The NISS mostly denies torture allegations. Amnesty, which has been denied visas to visit Sudan since 2006, says arrests, torture and intimidation increased during times of high political tension, such as after a Darfur rebel attack on the capital and after the International Criminal Court issued an arrest warrant for President Omar Hassan al-Bashir. "The NISS rules Sudan by fear. The multipronged assault on the Sudanese people by the security services has left the critics of the government in constant fear of arrest, harassment or worse," says Amnesty's Erwin van der Borght.
KIGALI - Racked by genocide over a decade ago, Rwanda, whose President is Paul Kagame, is investing in innovative agriculture, methane gas, fibre optics and ice tea in a bid to become a middle-income economy by 2020, Foreign Minister Louise Mushikiwabo says. The east-central African country has invested in new agricultural production to raise food and export output to try to push economic growth ahead of rates in neighbouring countries. "Agriculture in the last three to five years has been the driver of our economy," Mushikiwabo says. "For years, Rwanda had been farming in a very traditional, primitive way, but we have now introduced some policies that involve farming crops that work in particular areas. We have moved from just planting and producing coffee to producing gourmet coffee." Agricultural output has been the main engine of the economy, expanding 7,1%. Rwanda's economic growth is forecast to slow down to 6,5% in the 2009/10 fiscal year, from 8,6% in the previous period, owing to a drop in commodity prices and the global recession.
MOGADISHU - United Nations (UN) humanitarian activities in Somalia are severely underfunded, hurting Somalis outside areas controlled by Islamist rebels, a senior UN official says. Humanitarian coordinator Mark Bowden says that health, water and sanitation assistance for Somalia's massive population of internally displaced people, who fled conflict zones across the lawless Horn of Africa nation, is now "seriously underfunded". "The lower funding that Somalia receives affects not only the al-Shabaab-controlled areas, but also has affects nonfood programmes across the country." Somalia has been deprived of an effective central government and mired in violence since warlords toppled dictator Mohamed Siad Barre in 1991. More than 40% of Somalis - 3,4-million people - need humanitarian assistance, including 1,4-million uprooted by a three-year insurgency waged by Islamist a-Shabaab rebels who are targeting the government and African Union peacekeepers. So far, this year's UN humanitarian aid appeal for some $596-million has generated $335-million, just over half, the UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs says. Only 25% of the nearly $50-million requested for water, sanitation and hygiene aid has been supplied, it says. The US, Canada, Britain and Australia have reduced or frozen aid to Somalia, according to UN figures. The US has only provided $15,2-million this year, compared with $86-million last year and $211-million in 2008. The main reasons for the decline in aid, diplomats and UN officials say, are the ongoing violence and concerns about whether aid is being diverted to al-Shabaab and other groups.