Analysis and reporting on key policy issues from Southern and Central Africa
v21/03 10 February 06
Fears for election security amid mass mutiny and widespread fighting in the east
[© SouthScan v21/03 10 Feb 06] For the past two weeks clashes inside the Congolese government’s military force have caused turmoil in the eastern province of North Kivu and have led to widespread skepticism that the military can provide security for the upcoming elections.
Contradictory versions of what is happening are circulating but the common denominator is that hundreds of mainly KinyaRwanda speakers have defected from the 83rd FARDC - Armed Forces of the DRC - brigade and have joined troops believed to be under the command of the dissident Tutsi general, Laurent Nkundabatware, in the Sabinyo volcano area. ...
Indian and SA supportLast month the governor of Katanga, Urbain Kisila Ngoy, admitted publicly that the army units hunting the Mai-Mai leader General Gedeon lacked food, ammunitions and the logistical means to carry out their task.... >>>Full report
UN force delayed by impounding of arms shipment
[© SouthScan v21/03 10 Feb 06] The hard-pressed UN force in the eastern Congo has been further obstructed through Equatorial Guinea, fearful of a possible coup, impounding a shipment of military equipment. The shipment was released last month, but it has meant a substantial delay in the deployment of the Beninois battalion in a region where the UN force MONUC badly needs reinforcements.
Oil-rich Equatorial Guinea and its neighbour Sao Tome are both on edge about possible coups and last year signed a security pact. Both have been hit by attempted coups, and both are of key security interest to the US (SouthScan v20/18). ...
Elections may be postponed as Kabila fails to step to the mark
[© SouthScan v21/03 10 Feb 06] It is growing likely the elections will have to be postponed after the president failed to promulgate the new constitution on Friday.
In principle the electoral law should have been approved on that day by parliament but the vote was postponed because this pre-condition was lacking. The view is gaining ground in Kinshasa that it was a deliberate manoeuvre by the president and his entourage to buy time. ...
Candidates to pay ...
60 presidential hopefuls ...
Tshisekedi likely to stand ...
Xenophobia concerns ...
BHP Billiton sets in motion giant aluminium smelter project
[© SouthScan v21/03 10 Feb 06] The giant BHP Billiton mining company and the government of the DR Congo have signed a memorandum of understanding for the feasibility studies for the construction of an aluminium smelter in the Bas-Congo region.
According to BHP Billiton’s director, Xolani Mkhwanazi, the company would invest up to US$2.5bn in one of the New Economic Partnership for African Development’s flagship projects. The total capacity of the plant would be 650,000 tons of aluminium and there are plans to expand it by more than 325,000 tons accordingly. It is expected that the total value of exports would reach $2.2bn per annum, according to Congolese Minister of Energy Salomon Banamuhere. ...
IMF critical of mega-projects ...
Zambian expulsion indicates regional decision to marginalise Tsvangirai
[© SouthScan v21/03 10 Feb 06] The action of the Zambian government in expelling the leader of the Zimbabwean opposition may indicate a regional consensus that Morgan Tsvangirai’s wing of the Movement for Democratic Change should be marginalized and his MDC opponents urged into a deal with the ruling Zanu-PF party.
This appears already to be the position taken by the South African government, as indicated by its security pact late last year (SouthScan v20/24) and other governments in the region may also be falling into line, say analysts. On Monday Zimbabwe’s national security minister, Didymus Mutasa said, “We are grateful to Zambia, and we hope other countries in the Southern African Development Community will act like that in the future.”
Fluctuating fortunes ...
Zambian sensitivity ...
EU extends sanctions ...
IMF issues hardline report, dashes hopes for short-term fix
[© SouthScan v21/03 10 Feb 06] Hopes that the International Monetary Fund would provide a soft landing for the Zimbabwean economy were effectively dashed when a visiting team issued a hardline report last week (SouthScan v21/02). At the same time Zimbabwe has had its SA Eskom power intermittently cut, a reminder of its dependence. The power utility, under increasing pressure at home, is due to increase prices for exports in April, guaranteeing more and longer blackouts.
The Zimbabwe government sought to play up the results of the IMF visit, but the team spelled out baldly that drastic reforms had to be undertaken before Zimbabwe could hope for a rescue. Since these would undermine the hold of President Robert Mugabe and his Zanu-PF patronage system it is most unlikely the advice will be followed. ...
Same IMF calls ...
Power cuts ...
SA confirms flow of illegal aliens
[© SouthScan v21/03 10 Feb 06] South African authorities have confirmed reports that the massive influx of illegal immigrants into the country shows no signs of abating.
About 2,386 illegal immigrants were arrested by the South African police in January, according to police, and an average of 100 per day. It is uncertain what the proportion is of illegals who get through, and the flow decreases during the rainy season, when the Limpopo river is in flood. However, the total numbers are likely to far exceed the official projections for the number of illegal Zimbabweans arriving and living in SA. ...
Fall in tobacco crop output predicted
[© SouthScan v21/03 10 Feb 06] In a further blow to Zimbabwe’s hopes for increasing its foreign exchange reserves, a tobacco crop of around 50 million kilograms is expected when the selling season starts in April, a drop of 23m kg on last year.
The drop from a 73.4m kg crop in the previous season is blamed largely on a lack of funding for inputs such as fertilisers. The crop brought in US$203m in foreign currency last year.
Mines ownership law may unlock investment
[© SouthScan v21/03 10 Feb 06] Zimbabwe is introducing a new law to clarify ownership rules for mines, where foreign investment has dried up. President Robert Mugabe last year warned that the government would take a 50 percent stake in all mines. Until certainty returns about ownership platinum giant Zimplats has put on hold a US$2 billion expansion plan. This and other minerals investments could be aimed to the longer term, after Zimbabwe returns to stability and expansion.
Under current laws, locals are entitled to a 15-percent stake in foreign-owned mining ventures but few have sufficient capital. A group of Zimbabwean businessmen have been battling since 2004 to raise over US$30m to purchase shares in Zimplats. ...
Price-fixing rumour clouds the air ahead of tobacco sales
[© SouthScan v21/03 10 Feb 06] Next month the tobacco sales open in Malawi amid concerns that the two major international companies buying the leaf have been fixing prices. These stories have been fuelled by the local farmers’ association probe into two giant US companies, Alliance and Universal, the main competitors on the auction floors. They deny any collusion.
The claims come in the midst of a battle between the opposition and the president over the operations of the Anti-Corruption Bureau - ACB. This week they accused President Bingu wa Mutharika of using the ACB to “persecute” his opponents. But it has not escaped notice that to launch a probe into two international companies would divert attention from local adversaries, whatever the rights and wrongs of the situation. ,,,
Uganda’s move towards SA alienates Libya
[© SouthScan v21/03 10 Feb 06] President Yoweri Museveni’s move to get close to SA President Thabo Mbeki on African issues may have ruined his chances of financial backing from Libya for his presidential bid.
Libyan leader Muammar Gadaffi has reportedly withheld US$5m that should have been released to Museveni to back up his campaign. Instead, the two Ugandan ministers sent to Libya recently to solicit funds returned with just $200,000....At this stage hanging close to the SA side in pan-African matters could be Museveni's best bet. Yet it may not help him in his bid to prolong his presidential term - this week Mbeki again said that he would not seek a third term in office.
Official glee as Pudemo supporter confesses
[© SouthScan v21/03 10 Feb 06] The Swazi government is gleeful that one of the 16 political activists on trial for high reason in connection with a series of petrol bombings against government targets has pleaded guilty at the High Court in Mbabane. But members of Swaziland’s leading, if outlawed, political organisation, the People’s United Democratic Movement (PUDEMO), are questioning whether the plea was genuine or coerced. And a police camp was fire-bombed early last Friday, in the latest attack against government outposts and the homes of officials, indicating there is still no end to the campaign.
Mduduzi Dlamini, 30, admitted guilt, said he was a sympathiser of the People’s United Democratic Movement (Pudemo) and received a relatively light sentence. He is a university graduate employed as a water and sanitation officer for the UN Children’s Fund (UNICEF) in Swaziland. Another UNICEF employee is also a defendant in the case. ...
SA ‘regrets’ shift of Iran issue to the UN
[© SouthScan v21/03 10 Feb 06] The International Atomic Energy Agency’s (IAEA) decision to send all its reports and resolutions on Iran to the UN Security Council was a “regrettable turn of events”, SA Foreign Affairs Minister Nkosasana Dlamini-Zuma told parliament on Wednesday.
She believed the dispute with Iran over its atomic facilities could be resolved through negotiation and dialogue, she said. ...
Zambia seeks oil shock aid ...
Turkey looks to military cooperation with SA
[© SouthScan v21/03 10 Feb 06] Turkey is moving to closer military cooperation with SA after an official visit this week and a defence cooperation agreement between the two countries is being finalised. Areas of cooperation involve the Airbus A400M troop carrier, that SA has a stake in. Turkey is one of the seven European Nato countries which have ordered the A400M while SA has ordered eight of the planes with first deliveries due to start in 2009. The sides are examining defence technology, training for peace-keeping, and other joint ventures.
Cartoons seen as major challenge to liberal constitution
[© SouthScan v21/03 10 Feb 06] The issue of the cartoons of the Muslim prophet Muhammed published in a Danish newspaper and subsequently igniting fury among Muslims worldwide is challenging key elements of the SA constitution and its liberal underpinnings.
The SA Human Rights Commission, a statutory body established to oversee the rights entrenched in the constitution, said the cartoon issue posed a huge challenge to SA’s young democracy. The commission’s chairman, Jody Kollapen, said the challenge was to balance the two important rights at stake in the matter, the right of the media to freedom of expression and the right to dignity on the part of the Muslim community.A Pretoria-based Muslim advocacy group, Media Review Network, has engaged IT specialists in trying to find a way to remove the 12 offensive cartoons from the internet. The Muslim Judicial Council is to approach Google with a request to remove access to the cartoons through its popular Internet search engine....
Preemptive court banIn total the political class has been quite unprepared for this. Recent history has been concentrated on the race issue and the political and social groups in the largely conservative Muslim community has been viewed through this prism....