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News this week

4th March 2011

By: Bradley Dubbelman


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South Africa

JOHANNESBURG – South Africa's ruling African National Congress (ANC), which espoused nonracialism in its fight against apartheid, is now spilt in a racism row that has laid bare a generational rift in the party. Political analysts say there appears to be an increasing divide in the ANC between the veterans of the anti-apartheid struggle and those looking to make money from programmes set in place by the party once in power to give blacks a bigger slice of the economic pie. One of the country's most influential economic dailies, Business Day, says in an editorial that the race charges went to the heart of the ethos of South Africa's liberation movement and exposed what it sees as "a battle for the soul of the ANC". Nic Borain, an independent political analyst, says that: "The struggle now is about getting rich and the way to do that is to leverage every advantage you have." The worry for investors is fewer checks on deals benefitting those with political connections as the generation less concerned about ideals asserts authority in the ANC, which has enjoyed virtual one-party rule since Nelson Mandela led it to victory in South Africa's first democratic elections in 1994. The row started on Wednesday when economic Planning Minister Trevor Manuel, an old-guard ANC member, said in a letter that the new government spokesperson, Jimmy Manyi, part of the younger generation, brought shame to Nelson Mandela's dreams by making disparaging remarks about a mixed-race group of people classified as "coloureds".


JOAHNNESBURG – South Africa’s business process outsourcing and offshoring industry has significant potential to boost employment numbers in line with the country’s New Growth Path, but could be paralysed by the proposed amendments to labour laws, says industry body Business Processing enabling South Africa (BPeSA). Speaking to Engineering News Online at this year’s National Outsourcers Forum, BPeSA CEO Bulelwa Konyana says that the association has been working closely with the Department of Trade and Industry to position the sector for international growth. The department has launched a R1-billion incentive scheme over the next five years to increase South Africa’s competitiveness in the international market. Central to the initiative is a tax-free subsidy of R112 000 for every full-time job created by companies able to create 50 or more offshore opportunities over the next three years. By the fifth year, the incentive would taper down to R88 000 for each new employment opportunity created. Additional bonuses will also be paid to companies able to create more than 400 jobs. Konyana says that South Africa’s services will be about 70% cheaper than those of the UK, which would enable the sector to add another 30 000 offshore jobs in the next five years.

RUSTENBURG – South African President Jacob Zuma has promised to create jobs, improve social services and fight corruption in government as he appealed for support in municipal elections. At the launch of the ruling African National Congress’s (ANC’s) election manifesto, Zuma also called for the need to fight racial inequalities, still present in the country 17 years after apartheid ended. “While we’ve achieved a lot, there is clearly much more that needs to be done,” he told thousands of supporters gathered in the Royal Bafokeng stadium, in Rustenburg. He appealed to the country’s poor to vote for the ANC despite the slow pace of government’s delivery of improved infrastructure and services and promised that government would step up its efforts to improve their lives. The ANC has faced violent protest for failing to deliver running water, electricity, basic education and healthcare to the poor in the years the party has been in power since the end of apartheid. Zuma said that the party would ensure officials put in place in local government were “accountable . . . efficient and competent” and that he would fight corruption in government ranks. Job creation took centre stage in his speech as he called on every government department to help create jobs in Africa’s biggest economy, in which unemployment has lingered at about 25% for years. With municipal elections in the second quarter, the Budget plan underlines the heavy pressure faced by the ANC to spend more on job creation and social welfare.


Africa & the world

ABIDJAN – The United Nations (UN) is investigating suspected arms transfers from Zimbabwe to Côte d’Ivoire incumbent leader Laurent Gbagbo in violation of UN sanctions, according to a report obtained by Reuters. The report emerged after a week of gun battles between forces loyal to Gbagbo and his rival Alassane Ouattara, almost universally recognised as winner of a November 28 poll, that risk pushing the top cocoa grower back to full-blown civil war. Diplomats on the UN Security Council say the possible transfer of weapons to Gbagbo was a serious matter. They say his forces could use them against UN peacekeepers – Unoci, who recognise Ouattara as Côte d’Ivoire’s President – or Ivorian civilians who support Ouattara. Unoci's confidential ‘Embargo monitoring’ report January 2011’, obtained by Reuters, says that the mission is gathering more information on "the arrival of light weapons cargoes from Zimbabwe." UN officials told Reuters that arms from Zimbabwe would have been intended for Gbagbo and not Ouattara. In January, Gbagbo sent a special envoy to Harare to meet with and enlist the support of Zimbabwe's President Robert Mugabe, who like Gbagbo has been accused by his opponents of election fraud and is under US and European Union sanctions.

TUNISA – Tunisia will hold an election on July 24 to choose a "constituent council" that will rewrite the constitution and chart the country's transition after the ousting of its veteran leader, the interim President says. In a televised speech late on Thursday, interim president Fouad Mebazza said that he and the current caretaker government would stay in power until the election was held. "We are proclaiming today that we are entering a new era . . . and a new political system which definitively breaks with the ousted regime," Mebazza says. A source close to the President says that, once elected, the constituent council could either appoint a new government or ask the current executive to carry on until presidential and parliamentary elections were held. Tunisia has struggled to restore stability since mass protests ousted veteran president Zine al-Abidine Ben Ali on January 14 after 23 years in power. Interim authorities initially promised to hold a presidential election by mid-July but persistent street unrest and a wave of resignations from the caretaker government threatened to derail the fragile transition.

LIBYA – The United Nations Security Council has unanimously imposed travel and asset sanctions on Libyan leader Muammar Gaddafi and close aides, ratcheting up pressure on him to quit before any more blood is shed in a popular revolt against his rule. It has also adopted an arms embargo and called for the deadly crackdown against anti-Gaddafi protesters to be referred to the International Criminal Court for investigation and possible prosecution of anyone responsible for killing civilians. The 15-nation council passed the resolution hours after Gaddafi’s police abandoned parts of the capital, Tripoli, to join the revolt that has swept Libya, and the US bluntly told him he had to go. In the oil-rich east, around the second city of Benghazi, freed by a disparate coalition of people power and defecting military units, a former Minister of Gaddafi announced the formation of an “interim government” to reunite the country. To the west, in Tripoli, the 68-year-old Brother Leader’s redoubt is shrinking. Reuters correspondents found residents in some neighbourhoods of the capital barricading their streets and proclaiming open defiance after security forces melted away. Western leaders, their rhetoric emboldened by evacuations that have sharply reduced the number of their citizens stranded in the oilfields and cities of the sprawling desert State, spoke out more clearly to say Gaddafi’s 41-year rule had to end now.

HARARE – Zimbabwe President Robert Mugabe has threatened to pull out of a process to draft a new Constitution, accusing his coalition partners of delays designed to avoid holding elections this year. Mugabe and his Zanu-PF party, forced into a unity government with Prime Minister Morgan Tsvangirai’s Movement for Democratic Change (MDC) after a disputed election in 2008, are pushing for early Presidential and Parliamentary elections this year. The MDC has warned Mugabe to drop his party’s plans for an early election, saying it could lead to a bloodbath. Tsvangirai has threatened to boycott the elections if they are called this year. “We would want to get to elections as soon as possible within the process but, if others [delay] the process, we will get out of the process,” Mugabe said at a party to celebrate his eighty-seventh birthday.

TUNISIA – Tunisian Prime Minister Mohamed Ghannouchi has resigned after violent protests over his ties to the North African State’s toppled former leader, triggering street celebrations in central Tunis. Analysts say that the move could add legitimacy to an election to replace President Zine al-Abidine Ben Ali, ousted on January 14, but could also encourage further opposition demands. Police fired shots in the air and used tear gas to disperse hundreds of youths breaking shop windows in a commercial district of Tunis shortly after the announcement, while thousands gathered near Parliament to celebrate.


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