JOHANNESBURG - Trade numbers between two of the world's most ambitious developing countries, India and South Africa, are on the rise, with bilateral trade reaching $2,75-billion in the first quarter of this financial year, spurring hopes that the $10-billion trade target can be reached before the set date of 2012, says India's Commerce and Industry Minister, Anand Sharma. He adds that, even though bilateral trade took a dip in 2009, reaching around $7-billion, all indications are that, if trade continues on its current trend for the next three quarters, the $10-billion target can be reached as soon as March 2011. Speaking at the India Show, in Johannesburg, South African President Jacob Zuma says that it is clear that South Africa's relationship with the world's largest democracy is starting to "bear fruit", especially after his official State visit to India in June. During the visit, over 200 business delegates accompanied Zuma and three different memorandums of understanding aimed at strengthening trade ties were signed. Also speaking at the event, Confederation of Indian Industry president Hari Bhartia agrees, saying that India is one of South Africa's top ten investors, and that a further target of $25-billion has been set for bilateral trade by 2015.
JOHANNESBURG - The African National Congress Youth League (ANCYL) wants the ANC to nullify the disciplinary action taken against ANCYL president Julius Malema. It will make the call at the ANC's national general council (NGC) in Durban, at the end of September, ANCYL spokesperson Floyd Shivambu says. "It is because there is no disciplinary issue there," he says. "Comparing the current President with the previous President . . . can't be a basis for disciplinary action." Shivambu says that it is, in any event, not illegal to make a comparison. "It happens in the ANC that we always make comparisons with previous leaders." Earlier this year, an ANC disciplinary committee found Malema guilty of "behaving in such a way as to provoke serious divisions or a breakdown of unity in the organisation" for unfavourably comparing President Jacob Zuma with former President Thabo Mbeki. Malema pleaded guilty to a charge of bringing the party into disrepute. He was instructed to make a public apology to Zuma, the ANC and the public, in general, to attend anger management classes and the ANC's political school, and was fined R10 000, which was to go to a youth development charity. At the time of the hearing, the ANCYL was upset at the disciplinary process, but agreed to abide by the sentence. However, in a declaration made at the ANCYL's national general council, it tasked its delegation to the ANC NGC with calling for the "nullification of the irregular and regrettable disciplinary hearing of [the] ANCYL president". It adds: "The NGC is convinced that there is nothing wrong that the president of the ANCYL did that warranted disciplinary action." In the declaration, delegates expressed their "displeasure" with moves to "undermine the autonomy of the ANCYL by isolating the president from the organisation".
JOHANNESBURG - Striking public service unions have rejected the government's latest wage offer without knowing its details, a government official says. "[Minister of Public Service and Administration Richard Baloyi] started communicating the offer to public before we even went to our members," National Education, Health and Allied Workers' Union (Nehawu) spokesperson Sizwe Phamla says. Congress of South African Trade Unions (Cosatu) leaders, he says, should not have gone to media and discussed the offer as "they would have never been given enough time to explain the entire thing". The union had received cellphone text messages from its members saying they rejected the government's new wage offer, without knowing its details. "Some leaders used media reports and made pronouncements." The government is offering a 7,5% wage increase and a R800 monthly housing allowance. Phamla adds that the government has also committed to setting up a housing scheme for its workers as part of the deal. Cosatu general secretary Zwelinzima Vavi had announced that unions had rejected the offer. "The overwhelming majority [of Cosatu unions] have rejected the offer," Vavi says. Phamla says that, as a result of the "flawed process" of informing members, union leaders were given until Friday to go to all regions and "thoroughly" explain what government is offering. "We were naive in giving ourselves one day [to decide]."
CAPE TOWN - President Jacob Zuma is again accused by the opposition on Wednesday of covering up the involvement of senior African National Congress (ANC) officials in a scandal that saw companies pay bribes to the regime of Saddam Hussein to secure contracts under the United Nations (UN) Food-for-Oil Programme. Zuma says, in reply to a Parliamentary question, that he will not extend the lifespan of the Donen Commission, which probed the role of South African companies in the so-called Oilgate scandal, nor will he release its findings. He says that local companies, which allegedly paid illicit surcharges to the Iraqi regime, cannot be prosecuted under South African law and, therefore, the final recommendations of the commission "will be academic because no individual or companies will be held criminally liable". "I have been advised that, in terms of our domestic law, these nationals cannot be prosecuted." The Donen Commission's report was handed to then President Thabo Mbeki four years ago and detailed the alleged knowledge senior officials had of shady oil deals with Iraq. The Sunday Times reported last year that the commission had fingered Deputy President Kgalema Motlanthe and Human Settlements Minister Tokyo Sexwale. It says that the commission found that Motlanthe, who was ANC secretary-general at the time, was privy to "material information" relating to businessman Sandi Majali's deals with the former Iraqi regime. The newspaper reports that the commission also cast doubt on a submission by Sexwale that he did not know that Imvume Management, of which he was codirector, had paid money to the Iraqi government. Zuma says that, instead of extending the probe, he will ask the Justice Minister and the South African Law Reform Commission to review the Donen Commission's report, along with the international Independent Inquiry Committee that probed the abuse of the programme, and consider changing the law.
Africa & the world
ABUJA - Biofuel demand is driving a new "land grab" in Africa, with at least five-million hectares acquired by foreign firms to grow crops in 11 countries, a study by an environmental group says. The contracts by European and Asian companies for land to grow sugar cane, jatropha and palm oil to be turned into fuel will involve clearing forests and vegetation, taking land that could be used for food and creating conflicts with local communities, Friends of the Earth says in the study. Proponents of biofuels argue that they are renewable and can help fight climate change because the growing plants ingest as much carbon dioxide from the air as the fuels made from them emit when burned. Critics say that there is a risk of the crops infringing on land that could be used for growing food and that destruction of rainforests to make way for palm oil and sugar outweighs any carbon benefits gained from the use of such fuels. "The expansion of biofuels . . . is transforming forests and natural vegetation into fuel crops, taking away food-growing farmland from communities, and creating conflicts with local people over land ownership," Mariann Bassey, a Friends of the Earth Nigeria activist, says. Kenya and Angola have each received proposals for the use of 500 000 ha for biofuels and there is a similar plan to use 400 000 ha in Benin for palm oil.
WASHINGTON - World trade continues to rebound strongly in the first half of this year, rising by over one-quarter from year-ago levels, with emerging economies showing particularly powerful export growth, World Trade Organisation (WTO) figures show. Trade typically grows and contracts at much faster rates than the overall economy, but the WTO data confirms the strength of the global recovery in the first half of this year. Global exports of merchandise goods, measured by value in current dollars not adjusted for price changes, were 25,8% higher in the second quarter than a year earlier, after a 25,7% rise in the first quarter, WTO statistics show. That meant that trade in the first half of the year was about 25% higher by value than a year earlier, but still below its mid-2008 peaks. The second-quarter rise in Russia and other former Soviet republics was 43,9% and, in Asia, 37,5%. Even North America, including Mexico, outpaced the global figure, with a rise of 28,5%, but export growth in Europe at 13,2% grew at only half the overall global rate. The figures are based on monthly statistics from about 70 economies representing about 90% of world trade. They show that merchandise trade actually declined in April and May, then rose in June. However, such monthly figures are highly volatile because of seasonal factors for which they are not adjusted. Global exports in the second quarter were 7% higher than in the first quarter of this year, the WTO says. Global exports contracted in value terms by 23%, in 2009, to $12,15-trillion. The WTO expects that they will grow by over 10% in volume terms this year, after shrinking by 12% in 2009.