Daily Archives: March 3, 2014

Zimbabwe: Tsvangirai Facing Axe?

Following defeat in the July 2013 elections, Roy Bennett, the treasurer general of the Movement for Democratic Change (MDC), made a direct call for the opposition party leader, Morgan Tsvangirai to step down and make way for new blood. Tsvangirai responded by dismissing Bennett’s remarks as ‘irresponsible’. Troubled by threats of violence against him and racist abuse, Bennett pulled back.

Shortly after Bennett made his remarks, another senior party apparatchik, Elias Mudzuri, implicitly asked Tsvangirai to step down. Mudzuri bears the scars of the MDC leader’s power plays. In 2010, he dramatically lost his cabinet post when Tsvangirai, then prime minister in the coalition government, dismissed underperforming government ministers in an apparent purge of alleged rivals. For this reason, Mudzuri’s manoeuvre was dismissed as being driven by vengeance. With sparse support, his leadership ambitions were waved away.

The huddling against Tsvangirai has not only been confined to those at the heart of the MDC’s political establishment, but also officials such as Ian Kay and John Robertson; white politicians who have always felt a special sense of alienation in the non-White dominated opposition group. This group’s bid to reinvigorate the leadership renewal debate collapsed as their calls for Tsvangirai to step down were either disregarded or dismissed as racist. Establishing their outsider views was always going to be an uphill task.

It looked like the embattled MDC leader had survived the tidal wave that followed his heaviest defeat yet, until two weeks ago, when another senior official in the party, Elliot Mangoma, penned a document he argued was offering Tsvangirai an exit strategy. Frantic to keep control of the party against this latest episode of elite discontentment, in response, Tsvangirai’s allies instituted a series of punitive measures (including banning party officials from discussing the succession issue) that ultimately resulted in the MDC leader’s loyalists resorting to the reproduction of the tried and tested strategy of silencing opponents; violence. Mangoma, together with the MDC’s secretary general, Tendai Biti and the party’s youth leader, Solomon Madzore were amongst senior officials who were either beaten or roughed up outside the party’s headquarters in Harare.

Mangoma, who has since made a complaint to the police, alleges the violence was at the instigation of the MDC party leader. ‘He led me to the slaughter. I was beaten straight in his face’, the party official explained to the local media. To make matters worse, Tsvangirai did not immediately condemn the violence. Following pressure from advisors and colleagues he eventually did, but tersely and with little conviction. The party leader insists that his hands are clean and that the violence was the work of overzealous party supporters. Either way, it is a sordid event that has tarnished Tsvangirai’s reputation as a democrat.

Why Violence?

Tendai Biti is seen as the second most powerful politician in the MDC. The popular conception of him is that of a steady intellectual party anchor – the brains behind the brave face of Tsvangirai. It is a public secret that he harbours leadership ambitions of his own. However, Biti has been determinedly silent on this front – depending on political operatives on the fringes of the party to push for his undeclared leadership interest.

Mangoma is largely viewed as Tendai Biti’s consigliere. Besides being a founder member of the party whom Tsvangirai entrusted with the ministry of Energy and Power Development following the banishment of Mudzuri, Mangoma has also held other important roles within the MDC such as being the party’s chief negotiator and strategist, and deputy treasurer general who until recently controlled the financial levers. Thus, by using Mangoma, a very senior official, Tsvangirai’s allies interpreted this move as a fratricidal ambush by the MDC’s secretary general. Violence was employed both as an effective way to deal with it and also a gesture that further disquiet would not be tolerated. Tendai Biti has been diplomatic about the incident, condemning violence and avoiding finger pointing even against attempts to petrol bomb his house.

Tsvangirai vs. Biti

The schism between the co-architects of the MDC, Tsvangirai and Biti, has been there since the earliest days. The pair vehemently dislike each other, but they have an implicit agreement that open conflict is to be avoided as it is detrimental to the party. However, the inability of Tsvangirai’s allies to keep the promise, and more importantly, Tsvangirai’s continued reluctance to make way for his rival, means that cosy co-existence might be history.

The MDC leader’s supporters admit that maintaining Tsvangirai as leader is not necessarily democratic but is the only hope that the opposition party has. Realpolitik, according to Tsvangirai’s allies, means that strategic dictatorship is better than quixotically embarking on a crusade to renew leadership at the expense of popular support which the current leader enjoys. These allies of the MDC leader are mostly former students and workers’ union leaders. They are suspicious of technocrats such as Mangoma and Biti whom they view as forces devoid of loyalty.

On the other hand, the constituency pushing for Biti to take over is not content with the current order. This group argues that though he does not yet command the same level of grassroots support as Tsvangirai, Biti has the political instincts required to snatch power from the ruling party. This political tribe is constituted of corporate managers and professionals such as senior lawyers and engineers and the remnants of the white community. Devoid of the militancy that characterises Tsvangirai’s group, this clan forms an interlocking directorate of power elites that controls much of political life within the MDC due to their technical expertise, connections to the outside world and access to donor funds.

Despite his falling stock among the elites, Tsvangirai has indicated that he is not serving his last days as party leader. Instead, he is seeking to consolidate his authority in the face of growing revolt.

Splitting the party?

In 2005 when Welshman Ncube and Trudy Stevenson were assaulted after challenging the MDC leader, they bolted from the party. Though the violence against Mangoma and Biti has widened the fault lines within the party as rival groups become more self absorbed, insistent and increasingly radical, threatening to overwhelm what used to be a relatively disciplined outfit, the MDC is not about to be sundered into two groups. Biti’s group has showed little interest in splitting the party. If defeated at the 2016 congress, they might be driven into outer darkness or even defenestrated entirely.

Undemocratic Party

Tsvangirai made democracy a signature issue when he started his political career back in 1999. This message struck a chord with his supporters. But that was then and this is now. Today, exhausted from several defeats, and paranoid following challenges to his leadership, Tsvangirai has wrapped himself in an authoritarian mantle. Instead of facilitating leadership renewal, he has chosen to tighten his grip on the leadership at a time when doubts about his abilities are increasing.

In an attempt to consolidate his authority, the opposition leader has found himself in an embarrassing position in which he has to resort to undemocratic means to control insurgents. Threats to suspend or expel rebellious officials have been made, and discussions on the succession issue have been banned, strengthening doubts about the sincerity of his calls for debate on leadership renewal. Dissent is treated as betrayal and those who question his leadership are treated as ZANU-PF infiltrators.

Not only is this undemocratic behaviour crystallising deep resentment of Tsvangirai’s leadership, but it is also tarnishing the party image. Today, what used to be seen as a pro-democracy movement is now drawing cynicism and criticism, and the story of Tsvangirai as a democrat is increasingly giving way to that of an arrogant leader. Has the democratic project run aground? Tsvangirai doesn’t think so. He still proclaims interest in achieving true democracy in Zimbabwe, but it appears he aims to do so by emptying it from his party.

Violent party Since the 2005 assault on the MDC leadership, the use and threat of violence hasbecome something of a habit. What might turn out to be Mugabe’s greatest achievement against his rival aren’t his electoral victories, but the manner in which it has changed the way the MDC does politics and also convinced many Zimbabweans that in spirit they are the same.

But the strategy of violence has guaranteed throwbacks against Tsvangirai’s leadership. Mangoma and his allies have already indicated that they will not be easily bullied. The violent strategy also risks inviting an uglier fight to topple him. By resorting to violence, the MDC leader has taken a course that is probably more dangerous to himself than to his rivals.

Lonely

Undemocratic and violent practices sit badly with the West. By opting for this course, the MDC leader threatens to tarnish the most cherished fruit of his leadership, at least in the eyes of his supporters; an alliance with most Western countries. To date, the West’s political elite and media have been patient with Tsvangirai’s inability to deliver transition and also his increasingly undemocratic tendencies. This patience will not last forever.

Indeed, unnoticed, the MDC leader’s reservoirs of international support have been slowly drying. For example, the West has allegedly stopped funding Tsvangirai, and has been channelling moneyto Biti’s group. Also, the once hagiographic depiction of the MDC leader in the international media is quickly being replaced by silence or critical reporting. The West is also distancing itself from the MDC by a notable discourse towards ZANU-PF, especially the lifting of sanctions and promises to provide the first loan to Zimbabwe since the seizure of white owned farms in 2000. Most worrying, international isolation will give ZANU-PF the opportunity to annihilate the MDC leadership with impunity.

Not only is the MDC leader isolating the party from the international community, but also from the local media and civil society. The opposition party has largely benefitted from the strong support of the civil society movement, in particular, human rights groups, and in recent years the two made a coherent pair that shared the same political goal of advancing democracy in Zimbabwe. This strategic alliance is under threat – the civil society movement recently issued a statement condemning violence within the MDC. Also, the informal alliance with the independent local media is a fragile construction. The independent media, which largely accepted the MDC leader as a democrat, is becoming increasingly critical.

The absolute control that Tsvangirai once had amongst those considered his political servants is also cracking. For example, behaviours and statements by a triumvirate considered to be in his orbit indicate that this group might be adjusting their loyalty. Charlton Hwende, the militant loyalist has been known for long to be privately plotting the MDC leader’s ousting. Worryingly, Tsvangirai’s apparent protege, Nelson Chamisa, has been cited by Wiki-leaks describing his boss as ‘weak and [having] failed to play a co-ordinating role of government ministries.’ And Obert Gutu, another militant loyalist, has in the past criticised the MDC leader for his ‘tendency to listen to the wrong people’. It appears the man who not long ago seemed to have many friends, now stands alone.

It is not easy to judge the extent to which Tsvangirai recognises his loneliness. In public he seems to be retreating into denial by embarking on a series of sparsely attended public engagement meetings in an attempt to convince supporters that there is no alternative in the party and also display to his rivals how much he is adored by the grassroots. This move suggests that the MDC leader, just like his nemesis, Mugabe, has no understanding that there is always an alternative, and also that politicians are generally disliked.

Weak

The outcome of the elections shows that the trade unionist has lost significant support and will struggle to regain that same level of support given his personal scandals, party corruption, violence and undemocratic behaviour. Questions about his legitimacy will loom even larger than before if he decides to extend his tenure beyond 2016. In other words, he has less authority and more problems to deal with than at any point in his career.

Time to go?

Tsvangirai is an accomplished opposition politician. Apart from the scars, he has the international accolades and most importantly, the admiration of thousands of men and women in and outside the country to show for it. His leadership of the MDC touched the collective conscience of many people.

But the MDC is in bad shape and its leader has moved away from what he told supporters in 1999 when he helped found the opposition group. Most importantly, the growth of the insurgent movement within the party, and the routing in last year’s elections, have severely weakened his authority. Faced with such a scenario, it is crucial to be realistic; a leader who cannot defeat his own party, has a long shot at defeating ZANU-PF.

Sooner rather than later, the MDC will need a democratic and at the same time strong leader who can stop the chaos and refurbish the party in preparation for the 2018 elections.

Simukai Tinhu is a political analyst based in London.

South Africa: Pistorius Trial Sees Dramatic Testimony

Pretoria — Dramatic testimony about a woman’s terrified screams marked the first day of the murder trial of paralympian Oscar Pistorius on Monday.

A witness told the High Court in Pretoria four shots followed the woman’s cries the night Pistorius’s girlfriend was shot dead in his Pretoria home.

The testimony by Michelle Burger, an economics lecturer at the University of Pretoria, made for a gripping start to the paralympian’s high-profile trial a year after the shooting.

Burger was the first witness called by prosecutor Gerrie Nel, and appeared to contradict Pistorius’s denial of the State’s claim that the couple had a row just before Steenkamp died.

Earlier, a sombre, soft-spoken Pistorius told Judge Thokozile Masipa “not guilty, My Lady”, when he was asked to plead to the murder charge and a range of other, lesser charges relating to alleged contraventions of the firearms act.

The State said since there were no eye witnesses to the event, it would therefore rely on circumstantial and forensic evidence to convict the 27-year-old athlete nicknamed “Blade Runner”.

“There were only two people in the house, there were no eye witnesses,” Nel said.

“The State’s case is based on circumstantial evidence… and on what the neighbours heard…and lead ballistic and forensic evidence.

Pistorius, in a statement read out by his attorney, insisted that he had believed he was shooting at an intruder hiding behind his locked toilet door and said it was “unfair and incorrect” to say Steenkamp died after a domestic row.

But by calling Burger, Nel clearly set out to show the disabled athlete was lying.

Burger lives in the Silverstreams security estate, at a distance of 177 metres from Pistorius’s home in the neighbouring Silver Woods complex.

Testifying in Afrikaans, she told the court she was woken up that night by the “blood-curdling screams” of a woman, followed by four gunshots.

Burger said she and her husband woke up just after 3am when they heard the noise, and her husband rushed to the balcony.

“She called for help. She screamed terribly and shouted for help. Then I heard a man also call for help. He called for help three times.”

Burger said she believed she was hearing the sounds of a robbery in progress and her husband called security guards and asked them to investigate.

“Then I heard her screams again,” said Burger. “It was like a climax. I heard her anxiety. She was very scared.”

Burger then heard shots, with a longer pause between the first and second shot than the rest.

“It was bang…..bang, bang, bang,” she said.

After the court’s lunch break, Burger was aggressively cross-examined by Pistorius’s advocate Barry Roux who tried to show that she was biased against his client and that her recollection was confused.

At one point, Roux put it to Burger that when Pistorius became anxious his voice rose to sound like that of a woman, and that at a distance of just under 200 metres she possibly could not hear the difference.

He also questioned why she did not hear Pistorius breaking down the locked door with a cricket bat after the shooting.

“You come from an attitude … when you heard Mr Pistorius’s version at the bail application you immediately decided it cannot be true.

“You decided if he said Reeva was not screaming, he was lying. In your view, he cannot be telling the truth.”

Burger insisted that she could not understand how she could unmistakably have heard the cries but Pistorius never heard it.

Roux retorted: “What you believed… was a woman screaming.”

Nel objected to Roux’s line of questioning more than once, pleading for fairness to the witness.

The trial started 90 minutes late as justice officials had to locate an interpreter to allow Burger to give testimony in Afrikaans.

While the opening arguments of the State and the defence were broadcast live on television, her face was not shown as she had requested to testify off camera.

It remains unclear whether Pistorius will take the stand in what has been dubbed the trial of the decade.

Burger could be followed by more than 100 other State witnesses as the seasoned prosecutor sets out to do so in the glare of intense media scrutiny.

More than 300 reporters have vied for space in the court room and an overflow court and a scrum of local and foreign photographers have set up watch outside the court.

South Africa: Toward a More Resilient Energy System

South Africa is supposed to be a developmental state yet the intentions that inform our national energy policy are at odds with the lived reality of most citizens.

President Zuma’s 2011 promise to deliver electricity to every home in the country by 2014 will not be met. More importantly, despite free electricity allowances, many of those connected to the grid find this power unaffordable.

South Africa’s approach to electrical power supply remains monolithic and inflexible. Policy has historically been dominated by the parastatal Eskom, one of the world’s largest power companies, informed in turn by the interests of its major customers, the Intensive User Group.

On the other hand smaller users like municipalities, medium and small businesses and private households remain marginalised despite the significant role they can play to address energy shortages, costs and supply.

Our energy policy is mired in old paradigm thinking. While renewable energy has started to penetrate the market, its impacts are limited through compliance with the preferential tender system, rather than open market competition. Additionally, our grid remains dumb while smart grids are the way of the future.

The global energy market is entering what is referred to as phase change. This is a situation where, due to the complexity of the underlying dynamics, massive changes remain un-noticed until they become so overwhelming they are inescapable.

While our energy market is headed toward a phase change, those driving local policy remain blithely unaware of the fault-lines shifting.

This month should see the publication of the most recent update to the Integrated Resource Plan (IRP) for electricity, an overdue revision of the 2010/11 IRP.

The IRP effectively underpins our national energy policy as it feeds significant updated engineering, economic and comparative data into the political decision-making sphere.

This is important for a number of reasons, not the least of which are the inherent limitations of our current generating system which remains under serious pressure due to under-capacity, exacerbated by breakdowns and routine service demands. These shortcomings are worsened by ongoing delays in bringing the new Medupi power station online.

Medupi was originally meant to begin generating power in 2011. Because of labour disputes, fabrication problems and contractual wrangling, its first units may come on stream this year.

It remains unlikely that this controversial project will become fully operational before 2016, despite promises by politicians and a bewildering turnover of Eskom spokespeople. Medupi epitomises the shortcomings of our outdated monolithic central planning paradigm.

Yet, despite these challenges an important change to our regulatory system has been shelved. The Independent System and Market Operator Bill was meant to enable independent power producers to enter the market to help address supply limitations. Now this legislation awaits re-consideration when the new administration has settled in after the forthcoming elections.

This bill would have been augmented by amendments to the Electricity Regulation Act that, while it would not have entirely curbed the dominance of Eskom, would have further deregulated the energy market, enabling a more responsive energy supply chain. It is unacceptable that such critical policy initiatives are unilaterally withdrawn from legislative agendas.

Against this background we must consider the implications of embarking on a massive new nuclear power station build programme. While the nuclear programme is apparently in conflict with our National Development Plan 2030, certain interests in government insist it must proceed.

There are profound consequences attached continuing to pursue this deeply questionable investment of up to a trillion Rands. This would be by far our largest ever infrastructure purchase.

A trillion Rands is more than the entire current annual South African national budget. Cost and indebtedness represent only one aspect of this risky path.

Couple these to the institutionalised corruption and the long lead times inherent to such a deal and nuclear appears to be a really daunting choice.

Viewed against the unresolved questions around the relationship between Medupi’s Hitachi consortium and Chancellor House, effectively an arm of the governing party, we have every reason to be concerned. Is this why Eskom has not pursued defaulting contractors, including Hitachi? The nuclear industry must be rubbing its dirty little paws in anticipation.

The Finnish Olkiluoto power station began in 2005. It was scheduled for completion in 2010. Today it is nearly three times over budget and may begin operation in 2016, doubling its original timeframe.

The Finnish energy operator and the French builder Areva are engaged in multi-billion Euro disputes over who is responsible for delays and costs.

The Areva power station in France is also approaching double its cost and delivery timeline. Similar concerns halted new nuclear build in the USA due to cost implications.

So we go with the alternative of the Russians and Koreans, with all the related baggage? Or perhaps the Chinese? Nukes are clearly a false solution to our power woes, even ignoring the unquantifiable safety, disposal and operational costs and risks.

To consider building a nuclear fleet in the face of these realities represents no more than a politically expedient marriage between de facto institutionalised corruption and an outdated and inflexible national energy policy. But what alternatives have we?

First, South Africa needs to fast-track the more progressive aspects of the IRP. These should certainly include a shift from coal toward gas as a transitional source toward a cleaner energy mix.

Secondly we must legislate in order to prise open the Eskom dominated electricity market. Thirdly, energy policy must be transparently revisited, including resilience, phase change and real sustainability. Our fixation on big coal and nuclear must go.

A smarter grid must be prioritised. A breakup of the Eskom monopoly is one option of devolving the grid. Eskom is either incapable or unwilling to change or modernise the grid.

In order to accommodate a broader supply base, household, business and other co-generation plants need to be able to supply the national energy pool, a shift that is partially addressed in the stalled Independent Operator Bill.

Facilitating faster and easier market penetration by developmental energy suppliers will level the playing field for these labour intensive businesses.

Most renewables can already compete head to head with coal and nuclear, especially if the destructive externalities of the latter are considered. It is worth noting that the most recent wind energy tender was heavily oversubscribed by investors willing to enter the market at their own cost.

South Africa Inc. also urgently needs to leverage some quid pro-quo from the unfair partnership between the privileged Intensive User Group members and Eskom. These users enjoy preferential tariffs in exchange for reducing demand during our increasingly regular power crises.

Primary producers of steel, aluminium and other minerals ought to supply our market at prices below the international benchmark given the massive indirect subsidies they enjoy.

Billiton pays less than a third the rate of most households, getting some of the cheapest energy on earth. Eskom remains the problem, instead of providing solutions.

The global electricity supply market faces a phase change in how the business works. If South Africa is to become internationally competitive it must build on its strengths.

This requires more than just a cleaner energy system; we need a mix which provides far more resilience and adaptability than our present reliance on fossil fuels and nuclear power is able to provide.

This must be guided by a far more transparent energy policy which recognises the shift toward a smarter, more responsive system. It is doubtful whether Eskom, in its present form, can play a positive role in this transition.

Ashton is a writer and researcher working in civil society. Some of his work can be viewed at www.ekogaia.org.

Read more articles by Glenn Ashton.

The Africa Finance Corporation (AFC) secures First International Credit Rating Moody’s assigns A3/P-2

The second highest investment grade rated multilateral financial institution on the African continent

LAGOS, Nigeria, March 3, 2014 The Africa Finance Corporation (AFC or the Corporation) (http://www.africafc.org), a multilateral development financial institution headquartered in Lagos, has today secured its first International credit rating from Moody’s Investors Service (Moody’s).  Moody’s has assigned the Corporation an A3 (long term) /P2 (short term) foreign currency debt rating, making the AFC the second highest investment grade rated multilateral financial institution on the African continent.  Moody’s rationale for this investment grade rating is based on a sound capital adequacy position, high asset quality and strong prudential framework that supports a high degree of liquidity, supported by an excellent profit margin and profit retention.  Additionally, the Corporation’s strong liquidity framework and position which is in excess of the requirements of Basel III Capital Accord  on liquidity risk management, will mitigate against external economic shocks, and help support planned growth. The outlook on the rating is stable.

Logo: http://www.photos.apo-opa.com/plog-content/images/apo/logos/afc.jpg

AFC was established in 2007 as a private sector-led Pan African multilateral development finance institution, with an initial capital base of USD1.1 billion, to be a catalyst for private sector infrastructure investment across Africa.  AFC was established to help fill a critical void in providing project structuring expertise and risk capital to address Africa’s infrastructure development needs.  AFC not only provides access to finance, deal structuring and sector technical expertise, but also advisory services, project development capacity, and funding to bridge the infrastructure investment and access deficits, in the core infrastructure sectors of power, natural resources, heavy industry, transport and telecommunications,  all critical pillars for economic growth across Africa.

Commenting on the International rating, Andrew Alli, President  & Chief Executive Officer, AFC said “attaining an investment grade International credit rating, only six years after inception, is a tremendous achievement.  It is a major milestone in the Corporation’s history.  This rating, together with AFC’s strong capital position and the quality of its portfolio, will enable AFC to grow its balance sheet, broaden its asset base and expand its geographical footprint.  It is a further endorsement of the Corporation’s rigorous investment process, innovative approach to infrastructure investment on the continent, world-class corporate governance and solid shareholder support. The Corporation is poised to assist in further driving economic growth and industrial development in Africa.  We are extremely pleased with the rating.”

Distributed by APO (African Press Organization) on behalf of the Africa Finance Corporation (AFC).

About AFC – http://www.africafc.org

For more information, contact:

Dr Adesola Adeduntan, FCA

Director & Chief Financial Officer

Africa Finance Corporation, 3a Osborne Road

Lagos, Nigeria

Tel: + 234 1 279 9600

Email: adesola.adeduntan@africafc.org

Banji Fehintola, CFA

Senior Vice President & Treasurer

Africa Finance Corporation, 3a Osborne Road

Lagos, Nigeria

Tel: + 234 1 279 9600

Email: banji.fehintola@africafc.org

Ayotunde Anjorin

Vice President & Controller

Africa Finance Corporation, 3a Osborne Road

Lagos, Nigeria

Tel: + 234 1 279 9600

Email: Ayotunde.anjorin@africafc.org

Lucy Savage

Vice President, Communications

Africa Finance Corporation, 3a Osborne Road

Lagos, Nigeria

Tel: + 234 1 279 9600

Email: lucy.savage@africafc.org

SOURCE: Africa Finance Corporation (AFC)

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PRETORIA, March 3– The South African Weather Service has warned KwaZulu-Natal Province to prepare for possible flooding over the next few days.

Weather Service Spokesperson Kvololo Mahlangu said Sunday: “Forecasters are closely monitoring a cold front moving over the province. Northern KwaZulu-Natal will be most affected by heavy rain.

“The cold front is one thing to monitor. Tomorrow [Monday] we will monitor it again to see which direction it’s moving to.

“There is nothing over Mozambique. There is a chance of heavy rain and thunder showers later in the day. And tomorrow (Monday), we are looking at the most cloudy condition where we are expecting thunder showers especially in northern parts of KwaZulu-Natal.”

SOURCE: SABC