South Africa Governing Political Party Suspends Top Official In Graft Scandal

South African President Cyril Ramaphosa (C) arrives on day 2 of his appearance on behalf of the ruling party African National Congress (ANC) at the Zondo Commission of Inquiry in Johannesburg, South Africa, on April 29, 2021. PHOTO: Kim Ludbrook / POOL / AFP

 

South Africa’s governing African National Congress (ANC) party has suspended its Secretary-General, Elias “Ace” Magashule, over graft charges in a move seen as a political victory for President Cyril Ramaphosa in the divided party.

But a defiant Magashule, who is the first top party official to be temporarily forced out under a new policy aimed at turning the page on a litany of graft scandals, said he was not going anywhere.

Instead, he said he was suspending Ramaphosa from his position as ANC president.

Magashule, 61, was given a 30-day ultimatum on March 30 to step aside after being charged with embezzling public funds while he was premier of the Free State province.

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He ignored the deadline and refused to resign voluntarily, forcing the party to suspend him.

“You are hereby temporarily suspended with effect from 3 May 2021 until the final outcome of your court proceedings,” his deputy Jessie Duarte informed Magashule of his suspension in a letter.

The letter, dated Monday and leaked to the media on Wednesday, said the decision to suspend him would be “in the best interest of the organisation”.

But Magashule, countered in a letter Wednesday night sent to Ramaphosa and Duarte, saying he was “appealing this unconstitutional suspension” and that until the appeal was heard he would keep his job.

In a dramatic and strange outburst, he said he was invoking powers vested in him as the Secretary-General of the ANC, to “summarily” suspend Ramaphosa.

But the ANC immediately issued a statement saying its resolution stands and asked Magashule to “respect” the party’s decisions and “subject himself to the discipline of the organization”.

Magashule has been indicted on charges of corruption and fraud, or theft and money laundering, along with around a dozen other co-accused.

The ANC of Nelson Mandela, which has been ruling the country since the end of white minority rule in 1994, has been at pains to clean up its image, marred by years of graft.

 

– ‘Turning point’ –

David Lewis, head of the Corruption Watch NGO, hailed Magashule’s removal as the “first really strong sign that the ANC is prepared to clean up its own ranks”.

The suspension is a “turning point” for the ANC, setting a “serious precedent” that will be difficult to ignore in future, said political analyst Mcebisi Ndletyana.

“It is a win for the ANC as a whole,” Ndletyana told AFP.

Magashule is to be paid his salary during his suspension but not permitted to represent the ANC or speak publicly about the party.

Charges against Magashule relate to public funds that were set aside to vet government-built housing with asbestos roofs in 2014 when he headed the provincial government, dubbed a “gangster state” in a book by investigative journalist Pieter-Louis Myburgh.

The hazardous roofs were never removed, and investigators believe that the equivalent of over $12 million (10 million euros) was pocketed.

Magashule was briefly arrested in November and granted bail on graft charges. He is next expected to appear before a high court in August.

His removal is seen as a first major political score for President Cyril Ramaphosa who first came to power in 2018 vowing to fight corruption when he succeeded the scandal-tainted Jacob Zuma.

“The suspension will bring some credibility to the president’s longstanding pledge of addressing corruption within the ANC,” said Aleix Montana, analyst at risk intelligence firm Verisk Maplecroft.

But analysts note that Magashule, a renowned political infighter with a permanent scowl, a Zuma confidant with an entrenched following within the party, will deepen the factionalism woes in the ANC.

The historic party has been suffering a decline in support in elections in recent years. The country goes to local government polls in October this year.

John Steenhuisen, leader of the main opposition Democratic Alliance party, said it was not enough to just suspend Magashule, demanding that the party makes sure that “he is put behind bars.”

AFP

South Africa’s President Condemns Local Police Brutality At Anti-Racism Rallies

In this file photo taken on March 22, 2020 South African President Cyril Ramaphosa (C) conducts a media briefing at the end of a meeting with various business leaders and political party leaders on matters relating to the COVID-19 outbreak at the Union Buildings in Pretoria. Phill Magakoe / AFP
In this file photo taken on March 22, 2020 South African President Cyril Ramaphosa (C) conducts a media briefing at the end of a meeting with various business leaders and political party leaders on matters relating to the COVID-19 outbreak at the Union Buildings in Pretoria. Phill Magakoe / AFP

 

South Africa’s President Cyril Ramaphosa on Friday said he “deeply regretted” the unjustified use of force by security forces enforcing lockdown rules during anti-racism rallies, drawing parallels to the killing of George Floyd in the United States last week.

Dozens of people showed up at a small handful of anti-racism protests called across South Africa in solidarity with Floyd, whose death has sparked widespread demonstrations in America and movements across the globe.

The ruling African National Congress (ANC) party launched an anti-racism campaign on Friday, calling on citizens to wear black in a show of support.

“Racism is a dehumanisation of others,” Ramaphosa said at a virtual launch of the campaign.

“It is true of the experience of black and indigenous communities of many countries across the world where racial profiling by law enforcement authorities… is common,” he added.

“But I would argue a similar process of dehumanisation is at work where those in positions of power violate the rights of vulnerable people in all societies.”

The president referred to the recent death of Johannesburg resident Collins Khosa and ten other South Africans “reportedly at the hands of our security forces” as an example of “unjustified” violence.

Khosa was allegedly beaten to death by security forces in April after they reportedly caught him drinking a cup of alcohol over dinner — the sale of which was banned at the start of a coronavirus lockdown.

A court has since ordered the suspension of all soldiers and police officers present near Khosa’s home when he was killed.

“The death of Collins Khosa and ten other South Africans… is something that I deeply regret,” Ramaphosa said, vowing that perpetrators would “face the full might of law”.

“While they do not have the obvious racial dimensions of the murder of George Floyd, they do rely on a similar contempt for the intrinsic human worth of the victim,” the president added.

“Such acts must be condemned just as vehemently and must be combatted with equal intensity.”

South Africa rolled out one of the world’s strictest lockdowns on March 27 to limit the spread of coronavirus, which has infected more than 43,400 people and killed at least 908 to date.

Military soldiers were deployed to help police enforce confinement measures, which have been particularly taxing on poorer overcrowded neighbourhoods.

Alleged heavyhandedness by security forces has drawn widespread condemnation and scepticism over the ANC’s new anti-racism drive.

“Why are South Africans being called upon by our government to support a movement on the other side of the world, when this same government of ours has killed poor black people with callous regard for decades?” asked former Johannesburg mayor Herman Mashaba in an opinion piece on Thursday accusing the ANC of “hypocrisy”.

The protests were sparked by a US police officer kneeling on Floyd’s neck for almost nine minutes as he pleaded for his life.

COVID-19: South Africa Virus Cases Fast Rising, Jump To 116

A man sprays commuters with hand sanitiser as a preventive measures at Wanderers taxi rank in Johannesburg CBD, on March 18, 2020. – African countries have been among the last to be hit by the global COVID-19 coronavirus epidemic but as cases rise, many nations are now taking strict measures to block the deadly illness. Michele Spatari / AFP.

 

South Africa on Wednesday recorded its highest 24-hour increase in coronavirus infections to date, with 31 new cases taking the country’s tally up to 116, government announced.

Africa’s most industrialised economy is the most affected in sub-Saharan Africa and second-most impacted on the continent after Egypt, which has recorded 196 cases.

The country’s first coronavirus infection, confirmed on March 5, was detected in a man who had arrived from Italy — the new centre of a pandemic that has infected more than 19,000 people worldwide and killed over 7,800.

“As of this morning, 18 March 2020, South Africa now has 116 confirmed cases of COVID-19,” Health Minister Zweli Mkhize said in a statement.

Of the new cases announced this week, six were children aged five or under.

Most of the people who have tested positive in South Africa had recently travelled to highly-affected countries in Europe and the Middle East.

But at least 14 internal transmissions were detected this week, raising fears the novel virus could spread into overcrowded townships with poor access to sanitation and little scope for self-isolation.

“Now we are seeing transmission between people in South Africa,” said Lynn Morris, a senior executive at the country’s National Institute for Communicable Diseases.

“What we are trying to avoid is seeing those clusters spreading into the community,” she explained on local radio, adding that the “true rate of transmission” was still unknown.

President Cyril Ramaphosa declared a state of national disaster after numbers more than tripled over the weekend.

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“It is spreading, so it is necessary that we close ranks as we stand together,” Ramaphosa told reporters after meeting with opposition political party leaders on Wednesday.

Yet he warned that the impact on the economy would be “quite devastating” and described the situation as “unprecedented”.

South African Airways — the country’s debt-ridden national carrier — cancelled 162 flights scheduled to depart this month in response to low demand for air travel.

AFP

Zulu King Wants His Land Excluded From S.Africa Reform

Amabutho (warriors) dressed in Zulu attire chant and sing praising the founder of the Zulu Kingdom, at The Moses Mabhida Football Stadium in Durban on October 7, 2018, during Umkhosi Welembe, an annual commemoration of Zulu King Shaka ka Senzangakhona, a revered military strategist who united the tribes to form the Zulu Nation. PHOTO: RAJESH JANTILAL / AFP

 

South Africa’s Zulu King Goodwill Zwelithini has called on President Cyril Ramaphosa to exempt nearly three million hectares of royal land from the government’s redistribution plans.

Land reform has become a hot topic in South Africa after Ramaphosa vowed that the country’s constitution would be changed to explicitly allow for the expropriation of land without compensation.

The policy is designed to redistribute land to poor black people to tackle severe inequality 24 years after the end of apartheid, but it has attracted sharp criticism.

“He (Ramaphosa) must come here… and say it, write it down in an agreement and sign off that the land of the Zulus will not be touched,” Zwelithini said in speech on Sunday.

“As the Zulu leader, I am trying to ensure that your things are protected and go well,” he told cheering crowds.

Zwelithini is the sole trustee of 2.8 million hectares (6.9 million acres) of land through the Ingonyama Trust.

He has previously warned that “all hell will break loose” if the trust’s ownership was challenged.

Land reform is set to be among the fiercest political battlegrounds at elections next year, when Ramaphosa will try to revive fading support for the ANC, which has ruled since the end of apartheid in 1994.

Ramaphosa has vowed reforms will be within the law and not threaten stability, but many landowners and investors remain alarmed by the policy.

Kings have no official power in modern South Africa, but still command loyalty among millions of people.

They are recognised in the constitution as traditional leaders and receive government funding.

AFP

Killing Of Nigerians In South Africa Is ‘Criminally Motivated,’ Says Ramaphosa

South African President Cyril Ramaphosa has described the killings of Nigerians in South Africa as criminally motivated.

He said this on Wednesday when visited he visited President Muhammadu Buhari at the Presidential Villa in Abuja.

Ramaphosa while addressing journalists, after a meeting with President Buhari said criminal elements are behind the killings and the South African government will bring them to book.

“There are many other social factors that have contributed to the high levels of crime and criminality is something we are focusing on. We are doing everything to bring it down. In the course of everything else, people in various part of the country do get engulfed in acts of criminality, the majority of them are South Africans.”

He, however, noted that he hopes South Africa and Nigeria will deepen both economic and political ties for the benefit of the people.

Xenophobia attacks in South Africa have led to the death of many Nigerians, in recent years including 39-year-old Uchenna Eloh and 35-year-old Clement Kalu, who was allegedly tortured to death by the South African police,

Nigeria’s Minister of Foreign Affairs, Geoffrey Onyeama, in his reaction to the Xenophobia attacks early this year, said South Africa has the highest crime rate in Africa. The Minister said the level of Xenophobia attacks in South Africa is unacceptably high.

“The crime situation in South Africa is very high, probably the highest in Africa. So there is a high level of crime, it is not just that Nigerians are victims of crime in South Africa.”

Onyeama further blamed the Xenophobia attacks on trust deficit between the Nigerian Union of South Africa and the South African police.

Ramaphosa’s visit is his first visit to Nigeria and also the first outside the borders of South African development community countries since he took over leadership of South Africa.

Ramaphosa’s Reshuffled Cabinet Gets Cautious Welcome In S.Africa

Cyril Ramaphosa Photo: Glyn KIRK / AFP

 

South Africa on Tuesday cautiously welcomed President Cyril Ramaphosa’s sweeping cabinet reshuffle which put reformers into key economic posts but retained several scandal-tainted ministers to promote unity.

After just 11 days as president, Ramaphosa stamped his authority on his government by clearing out several ministers seen as loyal to his predecessor Jacob Zuma.

The most significant appointments were those of Nhlanla Nene who becomes finance minister and Pravin Gordhan who will oversee the country’s vast but troubled state-owned enterprises.

Nene’s promotion is particularly symbolic as Zuma sacked him in December 2015, replacing the respected minister with an unknown novice causing the local rand currency to tank as markets went into free-fall.

Four days later, Gordhan was appointed to the role to calm the markets.

Nene’s return to the finance ministry was a clear repudiation of Zuma’s reign, and was warmly welcomed by local business and international investors.

The rand gained as much as 0.8 percent against the dollar on reports Nene was to be appointed.

It continued to strengthen on Tuesday, trading at 11.64 rand to the greenback by 1000 GMT.

Ramaphosa’s controversial pick for deputy president David Mabuza, the current premier of Mpumalanga province who has faced allegations of ties to political violence but has never been convicted, caused concerns among some observers.

– ‘Cabinet is clearly a compromise’ –

“The whole cabinet is clearly a compromise because he had to keep some of the people in the ANC happy. This was probably the best he could do,” said political analyst Mari Harris.

Ramaphosa described it as “a transitional cabinet” on Tuesday.

“We’ve got some really good people,” he said.

Ramaphosa made a total of 30 changes to ministerial and deputy ministerial positions after graft-tainted Zuma was forced to resign by the ruling ANC party earlier this month.

Several Zuma allies were demoted or sacked — but Zuma’s ex-wife Nkosazana Dlamini-Zuma was appointed minister to the presidency, responsible for planning, monitoring and evaluation.

Ramaphosa narrowly beat Dlamini-Zuma in a fierce contest to be elected the new leader of the ANC in December.

Dlamini-Zuma was seen as Zuma’s favoured candidate to succeed him as president.

Mining, which is vital to South Africa’s economy, received a new minister — Gwede Mantashe — who was eagerly welcomed by the industry.

“(He is) a man of integrity and dignity… who brings with him a sound and fundamental knowledge of the industry,” said the country’s Chamber of Mines in a statement.

Following the reshuffle, Ramaphosa vowed to begin talks on a new mining charter to replace the document that was largely seen as having been forced through by Mantashe’s predecessor, Mosebenzi Zwane.

Zwane was seen as close to the Guptas, an Indian business family that had enjoyed warm ties with Zuma but is now the subject of a police corruption investigation.

During Zuma’s nine-year tenure, South Africa grappled with corruption, weak growth, ballooning national debt, depressed investor confidence and record unemployment.

– ‘Ticking time-bomb’ –

Amid falling popularity with voters, the African National Congress (ANC) party which took power in 1994 under Nelson Mandela, had threatened to oust Zuma with a parliamentary no-confidence vote.

Zuma ultimately resigned, claiming he had received “very unfair” treatment.

Ramaphosa must now galvanise the ANC ahead of key national elections due in 2019.

“He needs to keep the public happy and he needs to keep the party together, so it is a very difficult balancing act,” said Harris, the analyst.

Mabuza’s appointment as deputy president has caused concern due to his reputation as a hardliner.

“That is a big gamble,” said Peter Fabricius, an analyst at the Pretoria-based Institute of Security Studies.

“I hope he is not going to prove to be another Zuma. I hope he is not a sort of ‘ticking time-bomb’ in cabinet.”

The radical opposition Economic Freedom Fighters party rejected the new cabinet line-up.

“(Ramaphosa) has bowed to factional pressure in the ANC,” said party spokesman Mbuyiseni Ndlozi who accused the president of keeping corrupt ministers in government.

Ramaphosa, 65, is a former trade unionist who led talks to end apartheid in the early 1990s and then became a multi-millionaire businessman before returning to politics.

AFP