Africa News blog
African business, politics and lifestyle
Nelson Mandela, a global symbol of reconciliation after the end of apartheid in 1994, appeared at the ruling ANC’s last election rally before Wednesday’s vote, delivering a last minute campaign boost for party leader Jacob Zuma.
Wearing a Zuma t-shirt, he sat beside the ANC leader, who has been fighting corruption allegations for eight years. The case was just dropped on a technicality and some South Africans still question his innocence.
It’s the second time Mandela has appeared at an ANC rally in the run up to the election, seen as the ANC’s toughest test since it came to power – it is still set to win by a big margin, but perhaps by not as big a margin as before.
After the first campaign appearance, some of the ANC’s foes suggested Mandela had been unfairly exploited and even that his health had been put at risk. But he certainly looked happy enough on Sunday – if as frail as might be expected for a 90 year-old.
Corruption charges against Jacob Zuma have been dropped, as expected. It’s not an acquittal, the prosecutors said. The ANC leader will have to go back to court for the charges to be formally withdrawn.
Even when they are, critics make the point that a cloud will still hang over the man expected to become South Africa’s next president.
Before Nicolas Sarkozy was elected president in 2007, he made clear he wanted to break with France’s old way of doing business in Africa – a cosy blend of post-colonial corruption and patronage known as “Françafrique” that suited a fair few African dictators and the French establishment alike.
“The old pattern of relations between France and Africa is no longer understood by new generations of Africans, or for that matter by public opinion in France. We need to change the pattern of relations between France and Africa if we want to look at the future together,” Sarkozy said in South Africa early last year.
South African prosecutors are considering a legal request by ruling ANC leader Jacob Zuma to drop the graft charges against the man who is expected to be the next president after the elections in April. Zuma has always denied any wrongdoing and his followers say the charges were politically motivated.
A decision to drop the charges would give the African National Congress a big boost ahead of what is expected to be the most closely-contested poll since apartheid ended in 1994. It would also remove a major distraction for Zuma in office and the prospect of court appearances that could tarnish South Africa’s standing abroad.
Earlier this month, Zambian economist Dambisa Moyo argued that Africa needs Western countries to cut long term aid that has brought dependency, distorted economies and fuelled bureaucracy and corruption. The comments on the blog posting suggested that many readers agreed. In a response, Savio Carvalho, Uganda country director for aid agency Oxfam GB, says that aid can help the continent escape poverty – if done in the right way:
In early January, I travelled to war-ravaged northern Uganda to a dusty village in Pobura and Kal parish in Kitgum District. We were there to see the completion of a 16km dirt road constructed by the community with support from Oxfam under an EU-funded programme.
A new book on corruption in Kenya is considered so explosive there that copies are only being sold under the counter in Nairobi by some book sellers too nervous to display them openly.
“Within these pages, we stand eyeball to eyeball with corruption. The book is an ironclad tell-all that mercilessly bares all to the light,” said the local Sunday Nation newspaper in a review of Michela Wrong’s book. “It feels dangerous to just read, let alone write.”
Nigeria’s main militant group, the Movement for the Emancipation of the Niger Delta (MEND), has not so far carried out any major attacks on the country’s oil and gas industry since announcing last month it was ending a five-month-old ceasefire. But the level of insecurity in the vast wetlands region is so great that the industry is feeling the pinch nonetheless. Royal Dutch Shell, Nigeria’s longest-standing foreign oil partner, has warned that “logistical challenges” caused by the insecurity mean it may not meet all of its oil export obligations for this month and next from its key Bonny export facility. Shipping agents and industry sources say security measures at loading platforms mean shipments of crude are being delayed, while some smaller oil services firms have started openly questioning whether to scale back their presence in Nigeria because of high levels of piracy.
On Tuesday, gunmen loyal to militant leader “Kitikata” opened fire on Shell facilities in Bayelsa state. They delivered a letter to the security guards at the site demanding they be given a contract to guard facilities at Nembe Creek, a hotspot for criminal raids, or else they would carry out further attacks.
Far from being all bad news for Africa, the global financial crisis is a chance to break a dependence on development aid that has kept it in poverty, argues Zambian economist Dambisa Moyo, who has just published a new book “Dead Aid”.
Moyo’s book, her first, comes out at a time when Western campaigners, financial institutions and some African governments have been warning of the danger posed to Africa by the crisis and calling for more money from developed countries as a result. The former World Bank and Goldman Sachs economist spoke to Reuters in London.
Long-suffering Kenyans have once again had their hopes dashed of a new era of political progress freed from the depredations of their notoriously venal politicians, after a wave of high-level corruption scandals and factional squabbling inside the government.
President Mwai Kibaki first won power in 2002 riding a wave of popular support for his promises to end the corruption and misgovernment of his predecessor, Daniel arap Moi. Disillusion soon set in with massive graft scandals that mirrored the worst of the Moi years tarnishing Kibaki’s image as a reformer.
Then hopes rose again last April when a “Grand Coalition” was formed between Kibaki and opposition leader Raila Odinga to end two months of brutal ethnic bloodshed after a disputed election, in which at least 1,300 people died and 300,000 were forced from their homes. Despite the formation of the biggest and most expensive government since independence to pander to the interests of both sides in the election dispute, there was optimism that a wind of change was blowing after decades of abuse by politicians pursuing only narrow tribal and regional interests as well as lining their own pockets.
Kenyans sick of the old political class had swept away more than 60 percent of parliament in a powerful vote for change. The new law-makers were said to be of a different cloth, more professional and educated and interested in the welfare of the nation .
Early signs were promising with Kibaki and Odinga reported to have struck up a strong and productive relationship and cooperating on policies that brushed aside the protests and pressures of powerful political pressure groups.
But the early optimism generated by the post-election settlement has dissipated less than a year later. Squabbles between Kibaki’s PNU party and Odinga’s ODM, who accuse the president’s close supporters of bypassing them to force through controversial decisions they oppose, are so bad that a new 12-member committee has been set up to mediate within the government. The MPs, already among the world’s best paid, refused to back down on voting themselves fat tax-free allowances despite heavy criticism and pushed through a media bill seen both at home and outside Kenya as a blatant infringement of the rights of the country’s vibrant press – a powerful democratic force.
But worst of all, the recent revelation of a string of scandals ranging from the tourist authority to the theft of millions of dollars of petroleum products are a clear sign that not much has changed. The sheer scale of the accusations of graft has shocked many Kenyans. The most damaging is over the diversion of precious reserves of maize, Kenya’s staple food, to bogus millers while almost a third of the population are facing famine because of a long drought. As myriad scandals came to light, the heads of the cereals, petroleum and tourism authorities were all sacked. “In one year only, Kenyans have been treated to a magnitude of corruption they have never seen,” said Okong’o O’Mogeni of the Law Society of Kenya.
Foreign analysts say the coalition government is likely to survive its many disputes and will probably last until the next elections scheduled in 2012. None of the parties benefitting from the bloated coalition government are thought likely to want to precipitate a political crisis before then and much manoeuvring is focused on who will make a run for the presidency when Kibaki has to step down after his second term. The relative stability, unexpected when the post-election crisis ended in April, has encouraged positive forecasts for Kenya’s growth by 2010 in contrast to many other frontier markets.
But when will Kenyans get the honest politicians so many of them yearn for, so that this country can develop its full potential as a gateway to a wide swathe of central and eastern Africa and meet the government’s goal of turning it into a prosperous, well-governed country by 2012?
A court ruling that effectively reinstates corruption charges against African National Congress leader Jacob Zuma could hardly have come at a worse moment for him and the party that has dominated South Africa since the end of apartheid.
There appears little doubt that Zuma will be the party’s presidential candidate ahead of elections expected around April, but the ANC now faces its toughest electoral test yet with hefty graft charges hanging over its man.