Zimbabwe’s anti-corruption agency said Thursday it had detained Environment and Tourism Minister Prisca Mupfumira, the first high-profile arrest since it was overhauled by President Emmerson Mnangagwa this month.
According to state-owned daily The Herald, the minister is being held over the alleged disappearance of millions of dollars at the country’s pension fund when she was social welfare minister.
The Zimbabwe Anti-Corruption Commission (ZACC) said in a tweet: “we can confirm that the Minister of Tourism is currently in our custody for questioning and possible due processes”.
Mupfumira was fired as social welfare minister by ex-president Robert Mugabe weeks before a military-led coup that toppled the long-time ruler in November 2017.
She was reappointed after the putsch, in a new portfolio.
Mupfumira is the first sitting minister of the ruling Zanu-PF party to be arrested for graft under Mnangagwa’s new administration.
The ZACC was created during the Mugabe era but was criticised for being ineffective. Mnangagwa appointed a new team on July 15.
Critics had expressed doubts over the new commission because it was led by High Court Judge Loice Matanda-Moyo, the wife of army general Sibusiso Moyo who was involved in the coup that ousted Mugabe and is now foreign minister.
Manangagwa has identified endemic corruption as a major contributor to the country’s economic woes and vowed to root it out.
Zambia’s President Edgar Lungu has fired Finance Minister Margaret Mwanakatwe, a statement from the presidency said Monday, as the economy grows at its slowest rate in 20 years.
Mwanakatwe, 57, was appointed only last year but was removed on Sunday without any reason given and replaced by central bank deputy governor Bwalya Ng’andu.
“I hereby terminate your appointment as minister of finance,” Lungu stated in his letter to Mwanakatwe according to the statement.
Ng’andu was sworn in on Monday, in a move welcomed by international investment markets with Zambia’s Eurobonds rising sharply. The price of its $750 million of securities due in September 2022 rose 5.2 percent on Monday, according to Bloomberg News.
The head of Boeing’s embattled 737 MAX program plans to retire, the company said Thursday, just as it gears up to persuade regulators to return the plane to the skies after two deadly crashes.
It was the most high profile departure of a senior executive since the aircraft was grounded in mid-March following two crashes that claimed 346 lives.
Eric Lindblad, who has led the MAX program since August 2018, will step down and work with his successors on a transition, Commercial Airplanes President Kevin McAllister said in a staff memo.
Boeing apologized following the two crashes and acknowledged falling short in communications with regulators. But top officials, including chief executive Dennis Muilenburg, have kept their jobs amid the crisis.
“These are unprecedented times for us, as our primary focus remains the safe return of service for the 737 MAX and driving quality and safety in all that we do,” McAllister said.
The company has been widely criticized over its development of the 737 MAX, which included a flight handling system called the Maneuvering Characteristics Augmentation System that has been seen as a factor in both crashes.
McAllester praised Lindblad for “strong leadership and timeless drive” since assuming the 737 program less than a year ago.
Lindblad “shared with me his desire to retire last year, and we will now begin to embark on a thoughtful and seamless transition plan,” McAllister said.
Mark Jenks, a 36-year company veteran, will replace Lindblad. Jenks has been leading Boeing’s effort to develop a new midsized commercial plane. The memo did not specify the timing of the transition.
McAllester also said Boeing executive Mike Sinnett, an executive in product strategy and future airplane development, will assume Jenks’ duties while continuing work to restore the MAX to service.
Sinnett “will also continue to play a pivotal role in our stakeholder and customer outreach efforts on the MAX certification and return to service efforts,” McAllister said.
Boeing has developed a software upgrade for the MCAS. But the jet has not yet been cleared by regulators to resume flights.
The Federal Aviation Administration late last month identified a fresh problem during simulator testing, further clouding the outlook for the plane’s return to service.
US job creation had another blockbuster month in January, blowing past the government shutdown, but that disruption helped to push the unemployment rate higher, the Labor Department reported Friday.
Employers added 304,000 net new positions last month — the highest in nearly a year and almost double what economists had predicted — while growth in worker pay held steady just above inflation, according to the report.
The new numbers were welcome news for President Donald Trump, whose already-low public approval rating suffered in the wake of the longest government shutdown in US history.
“Those numbers were very impressive,” he said at the White House. “Other countries in other areas are not doing well and we are doing fantastically well.”
The construction, health care, hospitality and retail sectors added tens of thousands of workers, another sign that the robust labour market remains a fundamental source of strength with the US economy expected to slow in 2019.
However, the five-week government shutdown — the result of an impasse between the president and Congress over his plans for a wall on the US-Mexico border — was at least partly responsible for an uptick in the jobless rate to 4.0 per cent, the highest in seven months.
And hiring in December was revised sharply downward to a still-strong 222,000, but far lower than the 312,000 positions initially reported.
While the partial shutdown of the federal government between December and January idled 800,000 government workers, the Labor Department still counted furloughed employees — who would receive back pay — as employed, leaving the monthly job creation numbers unaffected.
Shutdown boosts unemployment
But the shutdown was also a driver of the rise in the unemployment rate since the separate survey of households used to determine the joblessness counted furloughed workers as well as contractors as unemployed.
Meanwhile, the increase in unemployment also was the result of more workers coming off the sidelines to join the job hunt.
That increased the size of the labour force, driving the closely watched labour force participation rate up to 63.2 per cent, its highest level in more than five years.
The shutdown also drove about a half million people into part-time work, swelling this group to 5.1 million, its highest level in 16 months.
Hourly pay grew a token 0.1 per cent over December but was up 3.2 per cent over January of last year, well above consumer inflation of 1.9 per cent in the same period, leaving American workers with greater purchasing power.
Employment in leisure and hospitality grew by 74,000 jobs for the month, with restaurants and bars adding 32,000, while construction added 52,000 workers and hospitals and ambulatory care centres together added about 41,000 net new positions.
Economists said the robust job growth was likely more than strong enough to keep the unemployment rate heading downward.
This could put pressure on the Federal Reserve to resume raising interest rates later this year, even though markets now expect no more Fed hikes this year.
Wall Street breathed a sigh of relief this month as policymakers sent strong signals they intended to pause, meaning investors could be in for an unwelcome surprise.
“We expect the labour market to gradually cool in 2019 but the combination of solid payroll gains, rising wages and the falling unemployment rate will continue,” Oxford Economics said in a client note.
“Barring further tightening in financial conditions that would negatively impact economic activity, the very strong labour market picture supports our expectations that the Fed will keep a tightening bias this year.”
Wall Street rose following the report, with stocks boosted by the jobs numbers and a rosy report on activity in the US manufacturing sector.
The Dow Jones Industrial Average was up 0.4 per cent shortly before 1800 GMT.
The Kaduna State Governor, Nasir El-Rufai, has said the Federal and State Governments should reduce the number of personnel that duplicate functions in Ministries, Departments and Agencies (MDAs) in workers’ salaries.
El-Rufai stated this on Friday during an interview on Channels Television’s Sunrise Daily, following the controversy trailing the new minimum wage across the country.
“I think there is a need to merge Ministries, Department and Agencies (MDAs) that have similar functions to reduce the number of people.
“I believe that not just the state governments, even the federal government needs to scale down, merge duplicating agencies,” he stated.
The governor’s comments come on the heels of the approval of N27,000 as the new minimum wage by the National Council of State three days ago.
Following the Council’s approval, the Minister of Labour and Employment, Doctor Chris Ngige, stated that the Federal Government is topping the approved amount by N3,000 to 30,000 for its workers.
While welcoming the development, the Governor El-Rufai faulted a situation whereby some state governor would still harbour and pay many aides whose roles were similar in governance.
He said that the new minimum wage of N27,000 agreed upon by the Federal Government would instil discipline in some governors to be prudent with the resources at their disposal.
“I think there is a need for a major surgical operation on the structure and machinery of government. When we came into office, we found out that the former government in Kaduna had 23 or 24 commissioners for the simple reason that we have 23 Local Governments in Kaduna State.
“That is senseless. We merged ministries, reduced the number of ministries from 24 to 13. I agree that some state governments have Special Advisers and thousands of Special Assistants and that will go down. I think that this new minimum wage will actually induce that change,” he stated.
El-Rufai also advised the nation’s leaders to think beyond oil by diversifying the economy to better the lots of Nigerians.
Defiant Sudanese President Omar al-Bashir said Monday that ongoing protests will not lead to a change in government, as he addressed a rally of cheering supporters in war-torn Darfur.
“Demonstrations will not change the government,” Bashir told crowds of supporters gathered in Niyala, the capital of South Darfur state, where just a day ago police had broken up an anti-government demonstration.
Gabon’s prime minister announced a new government in a video message recorded thousands of miles away in Morocco, where ailing Gabonese President Ali Bongo is recovering from a stroke.
Recently appointed PM Julien Nkoghe Bekale gave details of the reshuffle in footage broadcast late Saturday on state television, less than a week after the country foiled an attempted coup.
Gabon has been without effective government for months since Bongo suffered the stroke in October during a visit to Saudi Arabia.
A new cabinet was also announced on Saturday evening by presidential secretary Jean-Yves Teale in another video missive recorded in Morocco. No significant changes were made to either the cabinet or the government.
Gabon’s constitution states that ministers must take their vows before the president — but in Bongo’s lengthening absence it is unclear how, when and where the ceremony will take place.
On Monday renegade soldiers stormed a state radio station to call for an uprising while Bongo was abroad.
Security forces captured the rebel chief and killed two of his men at the broadcasting offices in the capital Libreville, restoring calm to the city after hours of upheaval.
However, questions remain over the balance of power in the West African nation where political change has been negligible for more than half a century.
Brice Laccruche Alihanga, head of the cabinet since 2017 who is reportedly close to first lady Sylvia Bongo, retained his post in the new line-up.
Ali Bongo, 59, is the son of Omar Bongo, who became head of state in 1967 and died in June 2009, leaving a legacy of corruption allegations.
An inquiry is underway into the disappearance of newly printed bills worth nearly 100 million US dollars destined for Liberia’s central bank, the government of the impoverished west African country said Tuesday.
“This government will leave no stone unturned to find those responsible for the act,” Information Minister Lenn Eugene Nagbe told AFP.
“It is confirmed by the investigation that the amount of the total money is 15 billion,” Liberian dollars ($97 million, 83 million euros), he said.
The investigation was launched August 8, the justice ministry said, following “information surrounding the arrival of containers and bags of money” at the port and the international airport of the capital Monrovia.
The government said initial findings indicate the cash arrived between November 2017, when Ellen Johnson Sirleaf was still president, and August this year. The current government led by President George Weah took over in January.
“The current administration was not informed about the arrival of the containers and bags of money into the country,” the ministry statement said.
Online daily Frontpage Africa reported that the containers were taken from the port around the end of March by central bank staff but never arrived at their destination.
The ministry said that apart from tracing the money, investigators are also are trying to work out how many Liberian dollars the previous administration had printed overseas and how much was injected into the economy where both US and Liberian dollars are in circulation.
Former football star Weah has vowed to crack down on corruption and unveiled in July a series of monetary and fiscal measures to prop up the local currency and tackle inflation.
He announced the central bank was injecting 25 million US dollars into the economy to mop excessive liquidity of Liberian dollars.
In March, Weah said he had “inherited a country that is very broke, depleted by political malfeasance”.
Mr Mohammed made the appeal in a statement by his media aide Segun Adeyemi, to mark the 2018 World Press Freedom Day with the theme “Keeping Power In Check: Media, Justice and the Rule of Law.”
He said that as an important pillar of democracy, the media must purge itself of all prejudice in order to be able to hold all the levels and arms of government to account.
The minister, however, commended the role of the media so far in promoting democracy in Nigeria, adding that they should strive to operate above political influence and interference.
He noted that as the political parties and the nation in general prepare for another electioneering process, the media must ensure the transparency of the entire political process through unbiased and objective reporting.
Mohammed was worried about how some vested political interests were allegedly exploring the media to promote divisions along ethnic and religious lines in the country, saying such unpatriotic conduct would not augur well for the nation’s unity and progress.
He stressed that the government was not unaware of the effort of mischief makers to use the social media, in particular, to undermine it and promote ethnic and religious crises, especially ahead of the forthcoming general elections.
The minister further restated the commitment of President Muhammadu Buhari’s administration to press freedom in the country.
He added that the present administration would continue to ensure that journalists are able to carry out their duties unfettered.
At least nine civilians were killed Tuesday in Syria’s Eastern Ghouta as fresh regime air strikes and clashes shook the rebel enclave outside Damascus, a monitor and AFP correspondents said.
Regime airstrikes killed nine civilians in the town of Jisreen early Tuesday, the Britain-based Syrian Observatory for Human Rights monitor said.
With the latest deaths, 95 civilians have been killed in regime bombardment of the battered enclave since early Monday, it said.
Russian-backed regime troops have advanced steadily since launching an assault on the last major rebel stronghold near the capital on February 18.
As of early Tuesday, they controlled around 40 percent of the enclave after seizing a further area overnight, the Observatory said.
It reported clashes Tuesday in the northeast, centre and southeast of the enclave.
In total, more than 780 civilians — including 170 children — have been killed in Eastern Ghouta since February 18, according to the Observatory.
The enclave’s 400,000 residents have been living under siege since 2013, facing severe food and medicine shortages even before the latest onslaught. Aid deliveries on Monday had to be cut short amid the continued fighting.
Regime warplanes pounded other areas of Eastern Ghouta including the main town of Douma early Tuesday, as well as the towns of Sabqa and Hammuriyeh overnight, the Observatory said.
The strikes on Douma reduced homes to piles of rubble on the sides of roads, an AFP correspondent there said.
An AFP reporter in Hammuriyeh said air strikes overnight targeted the town, with only a few residents emerging from the safety of their cellars after day broke.
Late Monday, the Observatory reported 18 people suffered breathing difficulties following a strike by a military aircraft in Hammuriyeh, without being able to specify the cause of the illnesses.
More than 340,000 people have been killed in Syria since the start of the civil war in 2011 with the brutal repression of anti-government protests.