Thursday, 20th June 2019

Southern Africa

Former Zimbabwe first lady Grace Mugabe owns 16 farms

Grace Mugabe, the wife of Zimbabwe former president Robert Mugabe, owns 16 farms, in what is against the country's land policy which allows ownership of one farm per family.

This was revealed by President Emmerson Mnangagwa during a radio interview in Harare on Friday.

Using Grace Mugabe's monicker, Mnangagwa said, "I know of one lady "Stop It" who has about 16 yet the law says one family one farm."

Zimbabwe went through a land redistribution exercise from 2002 which affected approximately 4,500 white farmers.

While thousands of black Zimbabweans were given pieces of land, most of the prime land went to high ranking political elite, who amassed more than one farm.

The seizure of white-owned farms was adopted by Mugabe's government, in a process that triggered the country's economic woes.

The land take overs, which were at first violent, did not only attract sanctions from western countries, but also resulted in the collapse of local industries which depended on agricultural produce.

Mnangagwa said the land audit conducted by the government revealed that "multi-ownership of farms continue to happen especially with high ranking officials."

"Land audit is on, the final report is coming. About eight provinces have been done and once its complete, I will share it with you."

Mnangagwa recently prevented one of his provincial ministers from taking over a vibrant coffee producing farm from a white farmer.


Malawi's Mutharika narrowly wins presidential race with 38.57 % of the vote

President Peter Mutharika won Malawi’s presidential election with 38.57% of votes, the electoral commission said on Monday, narrowly securing another five-year term after delays over suspected tampering.

Voters in the southern African nation cast ballots for a president and parliament last Tuesday in a bruising race between Mutharika and two former allies, Lazarus Chakwera and Deputy President Saulos Chilima, with results due at the weekend.

But on Saturday a court granted the opposition an injunction after the electoral commission (MEC) received 147 cases of irregularities, including results sheets with sections blotted out or altered with correction fluid.

Reports of tampering sparked protests in some opposition strongholds.

The court lifted the injunction of Monday, and the electoral commission confirmed Mutharika’s narrow victory.

“I hereby declare Arthur Mutharika as the winner of the presidential election held on 21 May,” chairwoman of the MEC Justice Jane Ansah said.

Chakwera, of the opposition Malawi Congress Party, scored 35.41% of the votes, while Deputy President Chilima won 20.24%, the electoral body said.

Former law professor Mutharika, 78, came to power in 2014 and is credited with improving infrastructure and lowering inflation, but has recently faced accusations of corruption and of favouring rural regions where his support is strongest.

Malawi won independence from Britain in 1964, and after an initial period of economic and social stability, fuelled in part by tobacco and tea sales, has seen government debt climb and poverty deepen as its reliance on foreign donors increased.

“We always knew that we were going to win because of the development President Mutharika has done in the last five years,” said Nicolus Dausi, member of ruling Democratic Progressive Party (DPP) and former homeland minister.

“We have another mandate for five years of development, peace and stability.”


South African carbon tax finally becomes law

South Africa’s long-delayed carbon tax has been enshrined in law, the treasury said on Sunday, as one of the continent’s worst polluters transitions to lower emissions in its efforts to meet agreements on global climate change. 

The tax was first mooted in 2010 but has been postponed at least three times after mining companies, steelmakers and state-owned power utility Eskom said it would erode profit and push up electricity prices.

The first phase of the tax is from June 1 to December 2022, with a tax rate of 120 rand ($8.34) per tonne of carbon dioxide equivalent.

Allowable tax breaks will reduce the effective rate to between 6 rand and 48 rand per tonne of CO2, National Treasury said in a statement after the tax was signed in to law by President Cyril Ramaphosa.

“A review of the impact of the tax will be conducted before the second phase and will take into account the progress made to reduce GHG (greenhouse gas) emissions in line with our National Determined Contribution,” the treasury said.

The second phase will run from 2023 to 2030.

Big energy users including Sibanye-Stillwater and ArcelorMittal’s South African operation had previously opposed plans to enact carbon tax laws, saying the levies are unaffordable and should be scrapped or delayed.

Local and overseas climate activists, however, believe the tax response falls short of emissions targets the country signed up for in the 2015 Paris Agreement. The tax is considered “highly insufficient” by the Climate Action Tracker group.

The treasury said it does not expect the tax to push up electricity prices.

Ailing state power company Eskom, which has implemented nationwide blackouts this year, was granted a near 10 percent tariff increase for 2019 by the regulator but has complained that the increase will not solve its deep cash crunch.


South Africa's newly-elected Ramaphosa promises to work for all

South African lawmakers elected Cyril Ramaphosa president on Wednesday, and he promised to create jobs and work for the interests of all citizens, not just members of the majority African National Congress (ANC).

The ANC won South Africa’s May 8 general election, enabling the party to pick the country’s president, but its share of the vote fell to a post-apartheid low — reflecting anger at corruption and cronyism under Ramaphosa’s predecessor Jacob Zuma.

Many voters were also dismayed at the racial inequality that remains entrenched a generation since the former liberation movement took power.

“Only one candidate has been nominated. I accordingly declare the honourable Cyril Matamela Ramaphosa duly elected president of the Republic of South Africa,” Chief Justice Mogoeng Mogoeng said.

Ramaphosa, who is also the leader of the ANC, was elected without contest and will be officially inaugurated on Saturday.

The election of the former trades union boss turned businessman was greeted by clapping from a packed public gallery and opposition benches, including the far-left Economic Freedom Front, which had a fractious relationship with Zuma.

“I will be a president for all South Africans and not just a president for the African National Congress,” Ramaphosa said. “We have been given this responsibility on an overriding basis to revive our economy, to create jobs.”

Since replacing Zuma, Ramaphosa has pledged to reform struggling state-owned companies and revive a sclerotic economy. But opposition by party rivals has frustrated efforts to enact several reforms.

If he manages next week to trim a cabinet comprising more than 30 ministers and deputies, as he wants to do, that would be an early sign his mandate has put him in a stronger position to overhaul South African politics.

South Africa’s economy grew an estimated 0.8% in 2018 after recovering from recession. Growth is forecast at 1.5% this year, but hitting that target could depend on how successfully the government manages the restructuring of debt-laden power utility Eskom.


Ramaphosa’s influential deputy David Mabuza unexpectedly postponed taking up his seat to address accusations he had brought the ruling party into disrepute, owing to graft allegations. Mabuza denies any wrongdoing.

A former premier the coal-producing northeastern province of Mpumalanga, Mabuza played a pivotal role in ensuring Ramaphosa’s election as ANC leader in a tight contest in Feb. 2018.

His failure to take up his seat for now recalled the scandals that have damaged the ANC’s popularity and which brought down Zuma. He was removed Zuma from power last year by the party and faces prosecution for graft, though he denies any wrongdoing.

Analysts said development reflected Ramaphosa’s strengthened authority to tackle reforms.

In an ANC statement Ramaphosa said: “The deputy president has indicated he would like to have an opportunity to address... these allegations.”

“The ANC ... should advance the electoral mandate in an environment of public trust,” it added.


Angola to re-bury body of rebel chief Savimbi

The exhumed body of Angolan rebel chief Jonas Savimbi, who was killed in 2002, will be reburied in his hometown next month, authorities said after DNA tests confirmed the identity of the remains.

The charismatic warlord, who fought Angola's socialist government in a 27-year civil war, was killed in a battle against the People's Movement for the Liberation of Angola (MPLA) forces on February 22, 2002.

His death paved the way for a peace deal that brought an end to one of Africa's longest and bloodiest conflicts, which erupted after independence from Portugal in 1975.

He was buried the day after he died in Angola's eastern Moxico province. 

Six weeks after his death, his Unita movement signed a peace treaty with the MPLA government.

DNA tests, conducted by laboratories in South Africa, Argentina, Portugal and Angola, confirmed that the body was Savimbi's.


"All tests agree," Minister of State Pedro Sebastiao told reporters on Monday.

The rebel leader will be re-buried in his hometown Lopitanga on June 1.

"It is a relief to know that it is his body, and that we will bring him back where he wanted to be buried," one of his sons, Alleluia Sakaita-Savimbi, told AFP.

Unita has campaigned for Savimbi to be given a dignified funeral, and President Joao Lourenco last year set up a commission to exhume and rebury his remains.

Lourenco came to power in 2017 as head of the MPLA party, succeeding Jose Eduardo dos Santos, who ruled for 38 years.


Malawians vote in tough election for President Mutharika

Malawians headed to polling stations on Tuesday for presidential and legislative elections seen as a tough test for President Peter Mutharika, who is facing challenges from the deputy president and a former pastor who heads the opposition.

Malawi is heavily dependent on foreign aid and is frequently beset by droughts which threaten the lives of thousands of people.

Former law professor Mutharika, 78, oversaw infrastructure improvements and a sharp reduction in inflation in his first five-year term, but critics accuse him of corruption and cronyism.

Mutharika refutes those accusations.

Reuters reporters saw voters casting ballots in Blantyre and Lilongwe, two of the largest cities in the southern African country.

“I have a strong feeling that the choice I made will carry the day,” said Tima Nyirongo, a 31-year-old mother of two who voted at Chirimba School in Blantyre.

Polling stations opened at around 0400 GMT. Some 6.8 million registered voters will cast ballots for president, parliament and ward councillors.

Analysts expect a tight presidential race between Mutharika, Deputy President Saulos Chilima and Lazarus Chakwera, who heads opposition group the Malawi Congress Party.

Chilima, a 46-year-old former telecoms executive, quit Mutharika’s Democratic Progressive Party last year and formed his own party to run against Mutharika.

He has targeted the youth vote with a vibrant social media campaign featuring hip-hop videos.

Chilima and Chakwera, 64, have both promised to crack down on corruption.

Chakwera lost out to Mutharika in 2014 elections and has formed an alliance with Mutharika’s predecessor, Joyce Banda, this time.


South Africa's Ramaphosa appoints head of anti-corruption unit

South African President Cyril Ramaphosa followed up his election pledge to tackle corruption by appointing a veteran lawyer to lead a newly formed anti-graft unit, his office said on Friday.

Ramaphosa has promised to root out corruption, cited by ratings agencies and investors as a major obstacle to economic reforms needed to turn around growth, which flatlined in the last decade under former president Jacob Zuma.

Anger over allegations of widespread corruption during Zuma’s 2009-2018 presidency propelled Ramaphosa into office in February last year. 

His African National Congress won last week’s parliamentary election, but its majority slipped to the lowest in 25 years, with voters turned off by revelations of corruption that have gone largely unpunished.

The presidency said Advocate Hermione Cronje would take the helm of the Investigating Directorate, an arm of the National Director of Public Prosecutions, which is tasked with investigating serious, high-profile or complex corruption.

In effect it replaces the Scorpions, a unit dismantled a decade ago in a move analysts said weakened the state’s ability to fight graft. 

An ongoing inquiry into corruption by government officials and others during Zuma’s presidency has so far heard months of testimony. Zuma has denied any wrongdoing.

“The unit will be focusing on the issues that emanate from the state capture commission of inquiry” and other commissions, said National Prosecuting Authority spokeswoman Bulelwa Makeke.


Malawi's president makes final plea for re-election in tight race

Malawi’s President Peter Mutharika made a last-ditch bid to win re-election on Saturday as candidates for next week’s hotly contested election wrapped up their campaigns at rival rallies across the country.

Former law professor Mutharika, 78, is trying to secure a second five-year term in Malawi, a southern African country heavily dependent on foreign aid which has experienced severe droughts in the past decade.

Addressing thousands of supporters in his stronghold in Blantyre, the nation’s commercial capital, Mutharika highlighted the country’s relative economic stability during his government and said he wanted to win “without trickery and in peace”.

“I found a broken economy. And I have fixed it,” he told the crowd, many of whom were dressed in traditional bright blue clothing emblazoned with the symbol of his Democratic Progressive Party.

While there are no reliable opinion polls to forecast the outcome of Tuesday’s election, analysts expect a tight race between Mutharika and two leading opposition candidates — Deputy President Saulos Chilima and Lazarus Chakwera, who heads the second-largest party in parliament.

“I’m confident we’re winning this on Tuesday,” said Doris Dika, a Mutharika supporter who sells clothes and shoes in Blantyre and attended Saturday’s rally.



Voters will also elect a new parliament and local government councillors.


On the outskirts of the city of Lilongwe, Mutharika’s former ally-turned-foe Chilima told supporters the president was corrupt and should not be allowed to stand, vowing to tackle graft and lower fertiliser prices if elected.

Mutharika denies his government is corrupt and says he has achieved important successes improving infrastructure and lifting agricultural output since he took office in 2014.

Chilima said on Saturday he would grant a temporary amnesty to anyone who had looted public money in the “Cashgate” graft scandal which was uncovered in 2013, prompting some donors to cut off critical budget support.

Chilima, 46, who has targeted young voters with a vibrant social media campaign featuring hip-hop videos, also said he would set up a fund for young entrepreneurs.

Yotham Phiri, a civil servant at Chilima’s rally, said he wanted to see a younger man take over who would halt corruption.

Pastor Lazarus Chakwera, 64, who leads the Malawi Congress Party, the second-largest party in parliament, has also made corruption-fighting a key campaign message.

He told his closing rally on Saturday he wanted to change the law so the head of the country’s anti-corruption bureau would no longer be appointed by the president.


Cyclone Kenneth batters Comoros and heads to Mozambique

Violent winds of up to 140 kph (87 mph) lashed the East African island nation of Comoros overnight, killing three people, authorities said on Thursday, as Cyclone Kenneth swept towards flood-battered Mozambique.

In Comoros, the winds caused widespread power outages in the northern part of the main island, Grande Comore, and the capital Moroni as well as on the island of Anjouan, residents said.

By Thursday afternoon, the cyclone was making its way to Mozambique, just over a month after Cyclone Idai tore through central Mozambique, virtually flattening the port city of Beira, flooding an area the size of Luxembourg and killing more than 1,000 people across the region.

Kenneth may strengthen before it makes landfall on the continent, said Dipuo Tawana, forecaster at the South African Weather Service.

It could bring seven- to nine-metre waves and a three-metre storm surge, she said, and was likely to linger over Mozambique, dumping rain until late Monday evening, bringing a risk of intense flooding.

“The rainfall that we forecast for the next four days in the northeastern part of Mozambique - we have between 500 and 1,000 millimetres (19.5 to 39 inches) of rain,” Tawana said. 


In Comoros, a Reuters correspondent saw fallen trees and debris from homes scattered over streets, and houses with their roofs torn off.

President Azali Assoumani told reporters that three people had been were killed and several others injured.

A few taxis were driving around the centre of Moroni on Thursday morning as police and soldiers cleared blocked roads. Government offices and schools were closed.

In Mozambique, authorities said on Wednesday that five rivers as well as coastal waterways could overflow, putting over 680,000 people at risk from the storm.

Antonie Beleza, deputy national director of Mozambique’s Centre for Emergency Operations, said the centre had been telling people for days to move out of 17 at-risk districts.

“There were some people, they didn’t want to move as of yesterday, so now we are just taking them out,” he said by phone from the northern port town of Pemba. At least 5,000 people had moved out.

The energy firm Anadarko, which is developing large natural gas fields off Mozambique, said it had suspended air transportation in and out of the site as a precaution.

Exxon Mobil , also involved in the fields, said its operations were normal for now, but that it was monitoring the situation.


Land compensation: I am simply following the Constitution, says Zim president

Zimbabwean president Emmerson Mnangagwa has dismissed claims by his critics and supporters that his government has sold out by agreeing to pay compensation to white former commercial farmers.

Early this week, his government budgeted RTGS$53m (about R238m at current exchange rates) as part payment for the estimated 4 500 white farmers who lost their farmland in the chaotic land reform programme in 2000.

Critics, including EFF leader Julius Malema, have castigated Mnangagwa's decision to allow farmers to be compensated for farm improvements.

'Sell out'  

Said Malema, “It’s a sellout position. The way he is going about it, he is not going to finish his term."

“That country (Zimbabwe) is swimming in a pool of poverty; they can’t afford basic things like primary health, proper education and infrastructure. He gets money and goes to give it to people who are not deserving. He is reversing the gains of the revolution struggle. It’s unsustainable.”

But Mnangagwa said his government was simply following the country's constitution which provides for the compensation of improvements made on the farms and not on the land.

Section 72 of the Zimbabwe Constitution stipulates that where land is acquired for public purpose, no compensation is payable in respect of its acquisition, except for improvements effected on it before its acquisition.

The provision is contained in Zimbabwe's new constitution which was voted for by 95% of voters in 2013.

It was crafted through a collective effort with senior opposition leaders as part of the legal leading team.

'Government will meet its obligation'

Addressing the ruling party's Youth Assembly in Harare, Mnangagwa said, “In agriculture, the land reform is irreversible and Section 72 of the Constitution is very clear in this regard. However, the same Constitution provides that no compensation is payable in respect of its acquisition, except for improvements effected on the land before its acquisition.

“For a long time Government has provided through the fiscus for such payments in respect of the said compensation on improvements of the land. Government will meet its obligation as outlined in the Constitution," he said.

“For the avoidance of doubt, we fought for land and there is no way we will retract our position with regards to the land reform."


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