Daily Archives: April 23, 2018

Angolan President Sacks Armed Forces, Spy Bosses in Latest Purge

Angolan President Joao Lourenco sacked the chief of staff of the armed forces and the head of the foreign intelligence agency on Monday, his latest moves against officials tainted by graft allegations or links to his predecessor, Jose Eduardo dos Santos.

Lourenco succeeded Dos Santos last September, pledging to tackle an endemic culture of corruption and bring economic reforms to Angola, Africa’s second biggest producer of crude oil, which is marred by widespread poverty despite its oil wealth.

General Geraldo Sachipengo Nunda, the head of the armed forces before his sacking, was named by prosecutors last month as a suspect in an investigation of a scheme to negotiate a fraudulent international credit line of $50 billion.

Changes announced during radio address

Andre de Oliveira Sango, a long-time Dos Santos loyalist, was made foreign intelligence chief over a decade ago.

Their sackings were announced in a presidential decree broadcast on the national public radio station. Neither could be reached for comment.

Jose Filomeno dos Santos, the son of Angola’s ex-president, was charged last month with fraud relating to a $500 million transaction out of an account belonging to the central bank, a clear sign that the former first family has lost its grip on power.

Source: Voice of America

Former Malawi President Joyce Banda Returns from Exile

Former Malawi President Joyce Banda will return home Saturday after spending more than three years in self-imposed exile because of graft allegations, a spokesman for her political party said Monday.

Cashgate, a corruption scandal in which senior government officials siphoned millions of dollars from state coffers, was uncovered in 2013, while she was president. Donor countries cut off aid, hampering development in Malawi, one of the world’s poorest and most aid-dependent countries.

Banda, Malawi’s first female president, lost elections to Peter Mutharika a year later. Facing allegations of abuse of office and money laundering, which she denied, she left the country, and has not been back since.

“I can confirm that, as a party, we have received communication from the office of the former president that she arrives back in Malawi on Saturday to stay,” said a People’s Party deputy spokesman, Ackson Kaliyile.

Last July, police issued an arrest warrant against Banda, saying her alleged offenses were part of Cashgate. But early this year, the Anti-Corruption Bureau said it had no solid evidence against her, partly clearing her of wrongdoing.

Police have not publicly said whether charges had been dropped. A police spokesman said on Monday the police would make no comment on the matter until Banda was back in the country.

A former justice minister and attorney general were convicted over Cashgate, along with a number of former high-ranking government officials and business people.

Banda has been living in the United States, serving as a distinguished fellow at the Woodrow Wilson Center and the Center for Global Development in Washington, D.C.

Source: Voice of America

Zimbabwe Police Vow Zero Tolerance for Election Violence

Zimbabwe is just months away from important nationwide elections. On Monday, the police force announced several changes aimed at ensuring the polls are free of violence.

Erasmus Makodza is heading the new election command within Zimbabwe’s police force.

We are saying no to political violence,” he said. “We want free, credible, transparent elections. That is what every Zimbabwean is wishing for. That is what everyone in the region is wishing for. International observers are wishing us the same thing. So we are going to put into practice what I have just talking about. We are going to make sure that there is no violence.

He told journalists in Harare that his new unit aims to prevent violence by monitoring political gatherings and swiftly moving in if they receive a complaint or a tip. He said perpetrators of politically-motivated violence risk spending up to ten years in jail if convicted.

Zimbabwe’s past elections have been marred by violence, with the opposition accusing the police of bias toward the longtime ruling party, the ZANU-PF.

Asked about that Monday, the police spokesperson, Charity Charamba, said those days are gone.

Something was not being done in the way that you expect police officers to do their work,” she said. “This time around, the leadership has made it very clear that it is no longer business as usual Police officers have been given guidance, and there is a vision to deal with all cases. And when I say all cases, that is irrespective of your political party.

Zimbabwe will go to the polls in July or August. The elections are seen as a key test of the country’s transition, and future stability.

President Emmerson Mnangagwa took over last November after military pressure forced Robert Mugabe to resign, after 37 years in power.

One of the first things Mnangagwa did upon taking over was to send the police chief Augustine Chihuri into retirement. The Mugabe ally had long been accused of not taking action when the opposition complained of violence orchestrated by ZANU-PF officials.

Source: Voice of America

Labour roadshow on system options for employers seeking exemption

Department of Labour NMW roadshow told about system options for employers seeking exemption

The system will give one of the three outcomes on the employer’s application for exemption. It will either grant exemption, reject or refer your application for audit review, Kekulu Padi, Assistant Director, Employment Standards in the Department of labour told employers during National Minimum Wage Road show in Bethlehem today, April 20, 2018

Employers were further told that in instances that they are referred for audit review, they will be given no more than 7 days to furnish the Department of Labour with the required additional information. The Department will then analyse the application and provide a response to the affected employer within 30 days of the date of application.

In terms of the new regulations giving effect to the National Minimum Wage (NMW) Act, one of the set criteria is that employers should comply with other pieces of labour legislation such as Unemployment Insurance Act, Unemployment Insurance Contributions Act as well as the Compensation for Occupational Injuries and Diseases Act. Failure to comply with the afore-mentioned laws will result in the application being automatically rejected.

Employers were also made aware that exemption can only be granted for the period not exceeding 12 months. Approval may be withdrawn should it be found that the employer falsified or incorrectly captured his/her information on the system. Other conditions upon which the exemption certificate may be withdrawn include instances where it is found that the employer’s financial position has improved to the extent that they are able to pay the NMW.

The system will also respond to some of the challenges and frustrations shared by employers that their applications for exemptions as per the current Sectoral Determinations are responded to very late, as employers will get a response immediately after the submission of the application.

Consultations with employees and trade unions is one of the critical components of the process through which any employer who wishes to apply for exemption must go through.

We want to make it unequivocally clear that bargaining council has no jurisdiction on the wages below the national minimum wage, and on the same token, the Department of Labour has got no jurisdiction on wages above what is prescribed by the NMW, concluded Mr Steven Rathai � Director for Employment Standard.

The last meeting in a series of national road shows on National Minimum Wages, with particular focus on exemptions, which were rolled-out throughout the whole country by the Department of Labour will take place at Ngwenya Hotel in Klerksdorp, North West on April 24.

Source: Government of South Africa

US Builds Drone Base in Niger, Crossroads of Extremism Fight

On the scorching edge of the Sahara Desert, the U.S. Air Force is building a base for armed drones, the newest front in America’s battle against the growing extremist threat in Africa’s vast Sahel region.

Three hangars and the first layers of a runway command a sandy, barren field. Niger Air Base 201 is expected to be functional early next year.

The base, a few miles outside Agadez and built at the request of Niger’s government, will eventually house fighter jets and MQ-9 drones transferred from the capital Niamey. The drones, with surveillance and added striking capabilities, will have a range enabling them to reach a number of West and North African countries.

Few knew of the American military’s presence in this desperately poor, remote West African country until October, when an ambush by Islamic State group-linked extremists killed four U.S. soldiers and five Nigeriens.

The $110 million project is the largest troop labor construction project in U.S. history, according to Air Force officials. It will cost $15 million annually to operate.

Citing security reasons, no official will say how many drones will be housed at the base or whether more U.S. personnel will be brought to the region. Already the U.S. military presence here is the second largest in Africa behind the sole permanent U.S. base on the continent, in the tiny Horn of Africa nation of Djibouti.

The drones at the base are expected to target several different al-Qaida and Islamic State group-affiliated fighters in countries throughout the Sahel, a sprawling region just south of the Sahara, including the area around Lake Chad, where the Nigeria’s Boko Haram insurgency has spread.

As the U.S. puts drones at the forefront of the fight against extremists, some worry that civilians will be mistaken for fighters.

“We are afraid of falling back into the same situation as in Afghanistan, with many mistakes made by American soldiers who did not always know the difference between a wedding ceremony and a training of terrorist groups,” said Amadou Roufai, a Nigerien administration official.

Civic leader Nouhou Mahamadou also expressed concerns.

“The presence of foreign bases in general and American in particular is a serious surrender of our sovereignty and a serious attack on the morale of the Nigerien military,” he said.

The number of U.S. military personnel in Niger has risen over the past few years from 100 to 800, the second largest concentration in Africa after the 4,000 in Camp Lemonnier in Djibouti. About 500 personnel are working on the new air and drone base and the base camp is marked with an American and Nigerien flag.

Intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance are crucial in the fight against extremism, U.S. Africa Command spokeswoman Samantha Reho said.

“The location in Agadez will improve U.S. Africa Command’s capability to facilitate intelligence-sharing that better supports Niger and other partner nations, such as Nigeria, Chad, Mali and other neighbors in the region and will improve our capability to respond to regional security issues,” Reho said.

The intelligence gathered by the drones can be used by Niger and other U.S. partners for prosecuting extremists, said Commander Brad Harbaugh, who is in charge of the new base.

Some in Niger welcome the growing U.S. military presence in the face of a growing extremist threat in the region.

“Northern Mali has become a no man’s land, southern Libya is an incubator for terrorists and northeastern Nigeria is fertile ground for Boko Haram’s activities… Can Niger alone ensure its own security? I think not. No country in the world can today alone fight terrorism,” said Souleymane Abdourahmane, a restaurant promoter in the capital, Niamey.

Threats include al-Qaida-linked fighters in Mali and Burkina Faso, Islamic State group-affiliated fighters in Niger, Mali and Nigeria and the Nigeria-based Boko Haram. They take advantage of the vast region’s widespread poverty and countries’ often poorly equipped security forces.

Foreigners, including a German aid worker kidnapped this month in Niger, have been targeted as well.

The U.S. military’s use of armed drones comes as its special forces pull back from the front lines of the fight. The focus is changing to advising and assisting local partners higher up the chain of command, said U.S. Special Command Africa commander Maj. Gen. Marcus Hicks.

Ibrahim Maiga, a Mali-based researcher for the Institute for Security Studies, said more needs to be known about the U.S. military presence in the region.

“The U.S. military footprint in the Sahel is difficult to grasp, just as it is not easy to assess its effectiveness,” he said. “There isn’t nearly enough information in the public space on this presence.”

Mud homes line the barbed wire fence at the edge of the main airport in Agadez. Residents watch the U.S. forces come and go with curiosity.

Shebu Issa, an assistant at a Quranic school, stood in one doorway as goats and children roamed the sandy roads.

“It’s no big deal to us, they come and they don’t bother us. We appreciate they want to help in the fight,” he said. “We live a hard life, and don’t make much money, so we hope maybe this will help us get more.”

Source: Voice of America