JOHANNESBURG - The "swallowing" of the Independent Democrats (ID) by the Democratic Alliance (DA) is not a threat to the African National Congress (ANC), a spokesperson for the ruling party says. "There can never be a true merger between forces that are unequal in political strength," says Jackson Mthembu in a statement. "The DA has, indeed, outsmarted and outwitted the ID in this instance. It is very unfortunate that the pluralistic political voices obtained in the political terrain have now been reduced," it says. The spokesperson adds that the ANC represents the aspirations of millions of poor South Africans, who were victims of colonial and apartheid rule. "These millions of South Africans fully understand that the DA and the ID, in its belly now, have not represented and will not represent their interests as evidenced by their repeated onslaught on the ANC policies of affirmative action and the black economic empowerment policy, amongst others." Mthembu adds that no amount of "swallowing" of another organisation by the DA will erase the credentials of the ANC from the minds of South Africans. "It is very unfortunate that the ID allowed itself to be elbowed out of the South African political landscape by the DA. We make a call to all those former members of the ID who are outraged by this sell-out act on the part of their leadership, to join the ANC in pursuing a South Africa that belongs to all those who live in it and a better life for all South Africans."
JOHANNESBURG - The African National Congress Youth League (ANCYL) has welcomed the outcome of a probe by the Public Protector, who could find no irregularities in contracts awarded to SGL Engineering Projects, with which ANC Youth League president Julius Malema is involved. "These findings altogether overturn the allegations spread by the media and rumour mongers that the ANCYL president was involved in improper dealings with municipalities through SGL," ANCYL spokesperson Floyd Shivambu says. "Despite spirited and recurrent clarifications, the media continued to portray the ANCYL president as corrupt and someone who flouted processes in municipalities to get tenders," he says. In a statement, Public Protector Thuli Madonsela says that her office "could not determine" whether tenders awarded to SGL by three municipalities "complied with the relevant procurement legislation and other prescripts, owing to poor procurement record keeping by the said municipalities". One of the contracts was awarded to SGL by the Makhado local municipality, four were awarded to the company by the Greater Sekhukhune district municipality and one by the Lepelle-Nkumpi local municipality. The protector's office says that investigations into awarding tenders to SGL by other municipalities found that the procurement processes "generally complied" with the Constitution, the Municipal Finance Management Act and supply chain management regulations.
JOHANNESBURG - The South African Institute of Race Relations (SAIRR) says that some of South Africa's current policies are at odds with greater economic growth going into the future. Currently, banks and economists are predicting economic growth of between 2,5% and 3,5% for 2010, and growth of around 3% to 4% for the 2011/12 year. However, SAIRR CEO Frans Cronje says that a 3% average growth rate could result in a rocky political future. He adds that, even though South Africa has some excellent macroeconomic policies in place, some of its microeconomic, and political policies are letting it down. "Failure in the country's educational system, the ineffectiveness of its labour markets and racial preferencing policies are the more likely culprits for South Africa's failure to reach higher growth rates than roughly 3% over the past 15 years." Sairr predicts that, with an average growth rate of 3% over the next 10 to 20 years, a host of social and political risk factors will become prominent, with government further retreating from growth-led development to interventionist and redistributive policies. "The fact that a public sector union can go on strike to demand double the rates of inflation, in a country with an unemployment record of 20 percentage points lower than most developing countries, proves that our labour markets do not work. "In addition, the country's affirmative action policy seems to be oblivious of failures in its labour market. The gatekeepers of affirmative action had done a sterling job of protecting the policy from scrutiny, playing on past fears and insecurities, and we are regularly warned about the risks of inherent high levels of inequality. However, the institute points out that if South Africa's ruling party, the African National Congress, are able to stand up against trade unions and break the power of those unions, address the nature of labour market regulation, and radically amend the concept of affirmative action to provide "real opportunities" to disadvantaged people to reach their potential, a higher growth trajectory can be achieved.
JOHANNESBURG - The US has joined the chorus of disapproval of proposed changes to South Africa's media laws that some campaigners have likened to the draconian press curbs of the apartheid era. Speaking at the South African Institute of International Affairs, US ambassador Donald Gips urges the African National Congress (ANC) to maintain the commitment to openness that has marked its rule since the end of white-minority rule in 1994. "The overturning of apartheid offered South Africans opportunities to come together to create a constitution that is a model, both in terms of citizen responsibility and for its protection of the freedoms so many fought to achieve. "South Africa must not turn away from that history now," Gips says. "America still believes that a free press serves as the front line in the defence of democracy." Under apartheid, journalists were prevented from writing about security forces' actions, and often arrested and jailed for being in black townships where anti-apartheid riots were the order of the day. Washington is the latest in a long and diverse line of critics of the two proposals - a government media tribunal and an information bill now before parliament that carries up to 25 years in jail for publishing classified information. The ANC argues that the bill, which allows for a broad interpretation of national security, is designed to protect State secrets, and that the media tribunal will prevent "irresponsible reporting".
Africa & the world
ABUJA - Nigerian President Goodluck Jonathan's chances of winning vital support from the Muslim north for a 2011 election bid have suffered a setback after two rival northern candidates declare that they will run against him. Former military leader Ibrahim Babangida, known by his initials IBB, has announced that he will seek the ruling People's Democratic Party (PDP) nomination, a quarter century after first coming to power in a bloodless coup. Former Vice-President Atiku Abubakar, who ran unsuccessfully for President as the opposition Action Congress candidate in the last polls in 2007, has also declared that he will seek the ruling party ticket. Both men are from Nigeria's Muslim north, meaning that they are in a stronger position than Jonathan, a Christian from the southern Niger Delta, to win support from PDP traditionalists who believe that a "zoning agreement" must be upheld. The unwritten pact says that power should rotate between north and south every two terms. Under the deal, a northerner should run next year to complete what would have been the second term of the late northern President, Umaru Yar'Adua. "There's a dominant view that it's the turn of the north . . . that the north has to serve out eight years. That's what turned Atiku to the PDP and what's making IBB come out," says Abubakar Momoh, politics professor at Lagos State University.
LONDON - Afghanistan and nations in sub-Saharan Africa are most at risk from shocks to food supplies, such as droughts or floods, while Nordic countries are least vulnerable, according to an index released. "Of the 50 nations most at risk, 36 are located in Africa," said Fiona Place, an environmental analyst at UK-based consultancy Maplecroft, which compiled the 163-nation food security risk index. Maplecroft says that it hopes the index can help in directing food aid or to guide investments in food production. Upheavals in 2010 include Russia's grain export ban, from August 15, spurred by the country's worst drought in more than a century. Afghanistan's food supplies are most precarious, based on factors such as rates of malnutrition, cereal production and imports, gross domestic product per capita, natural disasters, conflicts and the effectiveness of government. It is followed by the Democratic Republic of Congo, Burundi, Eritrea, Sudan, Ethiopia, Angola, Liberia, Chad and Zimbabwe, all of which suffer from poverty and risk ever more extreme weather because of climate change. At the other end of the scale, the survey says that Finland has the most secure food supplies, followed by Sweden, Denmark, Norway, Canada and the US. Among nations with unreliable supplies, Pakistan - which ranked 30th most at risk on the list - is struggling with floods that have killed 1 600 people and badly damaged its agriculture-based economy. "Pakistan and sub-Saharan Africa which, are dependent on food imports are going to be all the more vulnerable," Alyson Warhurst, head of Maplecroft, says.
KHARTOUM - Sudan says that it will publish daily production figures and conduct a full independent audit of the oil industry since 2005, a move that analysts say could help prevent future conflict over oil. The pledge is designed to remove a potential bone of contention ahead of a referendum in southern Sudan on whether the semiautonomous region - where much of the oil lies - should become an independent State. Sudan's oil industry has long been opaque. Western firms mostly pulled out during a north-south civil war and the sector is currently dominated by Asian companies. The bulk of Sudan's estimated six-billion barrels of oil reserves are in the landlocked south, but most of the pipelines, the refineries and the port are in the north. "We hope to comfort all the Sudanese people that there will be transparency, even if there was none in the past," says new Energy Minister Lual Deng, who is from the former southern rebel Sudan People's Liberation Movement (SPLM). "The audit is basically to look at the production since 2005 - it will be done by an independent firm," Deng saiys. "Our preference is to accelerate the process so that the results are made available before the referendum," he adds. Under a 2005 peace accord that ended Africa's longest civil war, the south was granted the right to vote on independence from the north, a ballot scheduled for January 9 2011.