Ramaphosa outlines stimulus plan for ailing South Africa’s economy

South Africa’s president announced a multi-billion-dollar stimulus programme on Friday, earmarking funds for job creation and infrastructure development as plans to revive the country’s ailing economy.

Speaking a day after the central bank declined to cut interest rates, Cyril Ramaphosa told reporters in Pretoria that the government needed to put the funds at its disposal to better use.

“We have to resort to reprioritising our budget,” Ramaphosa said, adding that there was no room to increase spending or borrowing.

He said 50 billion rand (3.5 billion dollars) of “reprioritised expenditure and new project-level funding” would be used to boost economic growth and create jobs.

He said the government would also launch a 400 billion rand “medium-term” infrastructure fund.

“The central element of the economic stimulus and recovery plan is the reprioritisation of spending towards activities that have the greatest economic effect,” he said.

When he took over in February from Jacob Zuma, whose term of office was plagued by scandal, Ramaphosa staked his reputation on economic revival.

He received a warm welcome from investors in part due to his strong ties to the business community.

But South Africa’s economy having stagnated for a decade, slipped further in the second quarter into recession for the first time since 2009, while the rand has weakened.

The local currency briefly extended gains after Ramaphosa’s speech before slipping back to trade 0.31 per cent firmer against the dollar.

Some analysts were underwhelmed by the stimulus plan.

“This was a political speech. There was very little economics in it.

“It was a balancing act, although the market and other observers would have been looking for something more decisive. The real details will come in Nene’s budget in October,” said Nic Borain, an independent political analyst.

Warren Landgridge, a grain option trader at Riddermark Capital, said investing in agriculture would be a good move.

“It could only be beneficial for the country in the long term if money can be allocated to helping and equipping farmers,” he said.

Ramaphosa said the infrastructure fund would attract finances from development institutions and banks, private lenders and private sector and ordinary investors.

Finance Minister Nhlanhla Nene told the same event that the 50 billion rand fund would come from under-performing government programmes.

He gave no detail and it was also not clear how much of the money would be new funding and how much would be shifted from other projects.

South Africa needs faster economic growth to reduce its 27 pe rcent unemployment rate and alleviate poverty and inequality, which are stoking instability ahead of national elections next year. (Reuters/NAN)

– Sept. 21, 2018 @ 18:49 GMT |

S.African President appoints Panel on land reform

SOUTH African President Cypril Ramaphosa, on Friday announced the appointment of a Panel on land reform amid rising concerns over the government’s bid to expropriate land without compensation.

The panel will advise the Inter-Ministerial Committee (IMC) on Land Reform chaired by Deputy President David Mabuza in regards to policy matters associated with land reform, including restitution, redistribution, tenure security and agricultural support, Ramaphosa said.

Subsequently the panel would deliver alongside 10 members who are eminently qualified by virtue of academic background, professional experience, social entrepreneurship or activism related to the agricultural economy and land policy.

The panel will enrich the IMC’s deliberations on land reform as an enabler for a united, cohesive society and an inclusive, efficient and globally competitive economy, the president said.

Besides providing perspectives on land policy in the context of persisting land inequality, unsatisfactory land and agrarian reform and uneven urban land development, the panel is mandated to review.

According to Ramaphosa, the panel would equally research and suggest models for the government to implement a fair and equitable land reform process that redresses the injustices of the past, increases agricultural output, promotes economic growth and protects food security.

“Although the members of the panel are drawn from very different backgrounds, with different areas of expertise and perspectives, they are united by a shared vision of a just and equitable future for all South Africans,’’ Ramaphosa said.

On Thursday, Ramaphosa and his deputy Mabuza met with the panel members in Pretoria, inviting them to provide the IMC with critical and independent inputs that will facilitate sound policy making and effective implementation.

South Africa’s Parliament is in the process to amend Section 25 of the Constitution to cater for land expropriation without compensation.

This has prompted AfriForum, an association of South African white farmers, to call on the international community to get Ramaphosa to stop the proposed plans.

AfriForum argued that land expropriation without compensation would drive away white farmers, kill jobs and threaten food security.

Ramaphosa has repeatedly assured that land expropriation without compensation should be pursued without destabilising the agricultural sector, endangering food security in the country, or undermining economic growth and job creation.

Since taking power in 1994, the African National Congress (ANC) has made land redistribution from whites to blacks without compensation one of its priorities.

But land remains predominantly in white hands more than two decades after the end of apartheid, sparking growing discontent among South African blacks. (Xinhua/NAN)

 

– Sept. 21, 2018 @ 18:05 GMT |

Partnerships, Collaboration essential for Development of SADC’s Blue Economy

SOUTHERN African countries need to collaborate more in their quest to exploit opportunities presented by the blue economy, a ministerial high level roundtable agreed Wednesday.

Premdut Koonjoo, Mauritius’ minister for Ocean Economy, Marime Resources, Fisheries and Shipping; Marie Joseph Noel-Etienne Ghislain Sinatambou, Minister of Social Security, National Solidarity, Environment and Sustainable Development; Jean Richard Payendee, Commissioner for the Environment, Forestry, Tourism, Marine Parks and Fisheries; and Ambassador Chanfi Ismael of Comoros, sat on the roundtable.

They agreed that given the importance of the sustainable use of coastal and marine resources, all southern African states – islands, coastal and landlocked – should focus on regional cooperation to ensure the untapped wealth of its oceans is exploited for the social and economic benefit of its people through the exploitation of regional value chains along all activities.

“We must also collaborate in the development of infrastructure in skills, improve skills training and research, development and innovation around the blue economy activities,” said Mr. Sinatambou.

They emphasized the need for political will in the region to develop laws that protect the sustainable exploitation of coastal and marine resources, in particular the need for nations to implement agreed programmes for the benefit of the region’s citizens.

Mauritius and Comoros were hailed as success stories in working together to develop their blue economies and other developmental programmes.

Ambassador Chanfi emphasized the need for the sustainable management of the blue economy resources as there has been a rapid decline in recent years.

Overfishing, pollution and climate change are all putting unprecedented stress on marine ecosystems and affecting the services they are able to provide.

“As you have seen from the video, overexploitation and poor management of marine resources have resulted in lost opportunities for our people and can heighten food insecurity and diminished economic opportunities,” he said.

“We need to conserve and sustainably use the oceans, seas and marine resources for sustainable development.’’

The region’s blue economy should help provide social and economic benefits for current and future generations hence the need for collaboration and partnerships between member States, the ministers agreed.

They emphasized the need to protect and effectively harness the region’s ocean resources saying this was central to the emergence of the blue economy as oceans and seas now define a new frontier of development.

How the region’s oceans are managed, and how transboundary dynamics are shaped to govern and manage these shared resources, will be critical to building a more sustainable regional future under a common regional vision for the blue economy, they agreed.

The blue economy refers to an ocean-based economic model which employs sustainable technologies and infrastructure to secure growth while at the same time protecting oceans.

The roundtable was part of the 24th Session of the Inter-Governmental Committee of Experts (ICE) of Southern Africa. The four-day meeting, which is being held under the theme ‘Blue Economy, Inclusive Industrialization and Economic Development in Southern Africa’ ends Friday.

 

 

– Sept. 20, 2018 @ 17:50 GMT |

ECOWAS Commission calls for Energised Regional Leadership on Meteorogical, Hydrological, Climate Services

The Commission of the Economic Community of West African States, ECOWAS, has called for an energised leadership that can strengthen meteorological, hydrological and climate services to meet the aspiration of the over 300 million people of West Africa.

Making the call at the start of a three-day regional hydromet forum and a Disaster Risk Reduction, DRR, platform in Abidjan, Cote d’Ivoire, September 19, Siga Fatima Jagne, ECOWAS commissioner, Social Affairs and Gender, said it has become imperative for the regional leadership to have “a collective focus of undivided attention” in this regard.

Director, Florence Iheme moderating the session
Director, Florence Iheme moderating the session

The twin event is organized by the ECOWAS Commission in collaboration with the government of Cote d’Ivoire, the World Bank and other relevant partners to engender a safer, healthier environment and a greater capacity for resilience of the citizenry in the face of prevalent natural upheavals.

Jagne submitted that the collective approach to environmental best practices and shared knowledge has to be understood as embodying “a global public good” for climate risk management, climate adaptation and disaster risk management.

All efforts, she noted further, should be made to coordinate and integrate better to achieve the desired impact of building and strengthening the resilience of nations and communities to extreme events and disasters triggered by climate change.

Commissioner Siga Fatima Jagne (m), flanked by Djime Adoum,Joseph Mukabana,Michel Laloge,Pierre Laporte and Soro Bakari
Commissioner Siga Fatima Jagne (m), flanked by Djime Adoum,Joseph Mukabana,Michel Laloge,Pierre Laporte and Soro Bakari

She was supported at the forum by her counterpart in charge of Agriculture, Water and Environment, Commissioner, Sékou Sangare, who pledged best exertions by the ECOWAS Commission in meeting the challenges of hydromet services.

Also, Jagne held that in order for the prevailing vulnerability not to constitute a major threat to growth and jeopardize recent economic development gains, the coordination, planning and policy advisory capacity for DRR of the African Regional Economic Communities and Member States must be strengthened.

According to her, the challenge of limited resources at the disposal of Member States “is further compounded by the absence of adequate and reliable real time disaster and climate related data and information and their effective integration into national and sector level public investment strategies and early warning systems”

To exit the gloomy times, Jagne recommended on behalf of the President of the ECOWAS Commission Jean-Claude Kassi Brou, the modernization and improvement of hydrological and metrological services in Member States of the regional Community to spearhead innovative and customized solutions to the identified challenges.

Full session of participants
Full session of participants

Dignitaries, experts and heads of institutions also took turns during the opening ceremony to update participants on the hydromet state of affairs. Pierre Laporte, country director, World Bank in charge of Cote d’Ivoire, Benin, Burkina Faso, Guinea and Togo,  alerted that by 2010, more than 180 million people in Africa will be prone to disaster even as more than 85 million of them are already living in risk prone areas.

Urging a review of hydromet services on the continent, he disclosed that the 54 hydromet Centres currently functioning are underfunded with deteriorating facilities. The scenario, he stressed requires a modernization of the hydromet systems while prioritizing building of the capacity of the hydromet services as part of the paradigm shift.

On his part, Antony Nyong, director, Climate Change and Green Growth, of the African Development Bank, AfDB,  told the participants that if the national governments and the regional community are not planning with climate change in mind, then “they must be planning to fail” He said it was for this, and among other reasons that the bank put in $30 million towards strengthening the five regional climate Centres on the continent.

Declaring the forum open, the Ivorian Minister of Transport Amadou Kone who was represented by Director of Cabinet Soro Bakari called for a consolidation of the current efforts aimed at improving hydromet services in the region.

The Forum featured high level sessions, presentations, panel discussions and technical presentations on themes relevant to the objectives of the exercise.

– Sept. 20, 2018 @ 12:25 GMT |

Buhari, 87 other Presidents to address UN General Assembly Sept. 25

PRESIDENT Muhammadu Buhari and 87 other Presidents are expected to address the 73rd Session of the United Nations General Assembly Tuesday, Sept. 25 at the UN headquarters in New York.

The News Agency of Nigeria (NAN) reports that Buhari is expected to deliver Nigeria’s National Statement on the date, which is the first day of the general debate of the General Assembly high-level events.

NAN reports that the Nigerian leader was initially placed as the number 20 on the list of the speakers out of the 193 world leaders that would address the Assembly.

However, the revised list obtained by NAN showed that Buhari is now the number 18 on the list of the speakers, now speaking before the leaders of Japan and the United Kingdom.

He would deliver the address to the General Assembly during the afternoon session on the first day between 7.00 p.m. and 8.00 p.m. (between 12 midnight and 1.00 a.m. Nigerian time).

The President of Brazil would be the first world leader to present his address to the 73rd session followed by the U.S. President, Donald Trump, the traditional second speaker, being the host country.

UN Spokesperson, Mr Stephane Dujarric, said the number of participating Heads of State and Heads of Government in 2018 are higher than that of 2017.

“In advance of the plenary session, 88 Heads of State and 45 Heads of Government have confirmed that they will attend this session, which is up from 77 Heads of State and 37 Heads of Government last year.

“Regarding other events, as of today, the Department for General Assembly and Conference Management has received 342 requests for meetings during the high-level week. Compared to the same time last year, 343 requests had been received.

“As of today, the UN has received a total of 741 requests for bilateral meetings amongst Member States.

“This number will increase during the next week. Later in the week, the number of bi-laterals for the Secretary-General will be announced,” the UN spokesperson said.

UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres, in his remarks at the opening of the 73rd session of the UN General Assembly, told the Member States that they would have a busy session ahead of them.

Guterres said that the UN needed action for peacekeeping, financing for the 2030 Agenda, empowerment for the world’s young people, urgent steps to end poverty and conflict, and much else.

The Secretary-General encouraged the Ambassadors to tell their leaders to come to next week’s high-level week ready to be bold, ready to cooperate, and ready to forge solutions. (NAN)

 

– Sept. 19, 2018 @ 8:49 GMT |

ECOWAS meeting of Experts of Regional Organisations on the Sahel Opens in Abuja

The Meeting of experts of the regional organisations on the Sahel being convened by the Commission of the Economic Community of West African States, ECOWAS, opened in Abuja, Nigeria on Monday, September 17, 2018.

Organised by the ECOWAS Commission in collaboration with the African Union, AU, and the United Nations Office for West Africa and the Sahel, UNOWAS, the meeting is meant to stakeholders on recent institutional development in the Sahel, Identify priorities and opportunities for joint projects and their implementation challenges, while developing both a framework for effective resource mobilisation and a pathway for their efficient execution.

Speaking at the opening ceremony, Kofi Konadu Apraku, the ECOWAS Commission’s commissioner for Macroeconomic Policy and Economic Research, noted that the Sahel region is inhabited by over 300 million people across while seven of its 10 countries are Member States of ECOWAS with the consequence that negative developments in the Sahel directly impact on all states of the community.

The commissioner itemised the challenges of the Sahel to include economic weaknesses leading to extreme poverty, frequent food and nutrition crisis, political instability, conflicts, high population growth rates, weak public institutions, irregular migration and related crimes such as human trafficking and migrant smuggling, also violent extremism which is now posing serious security challenges with the potential spill-over effects growing beyond the frontiers of the region.

He stated that the ECOWAS Commission is convinced that “an integrated approach is needed to deal with the issues of peace and security, governance, and economic development” hence it is continuing in its efforts aimed at improving social, economic, political and security situation in order to improve the living conditions while enhancing the sustainable development of the people of the region.

According to Apraku, it is the firm belief of ECOWAS that an integrated “multi-focused development strategy involving several development actors and organisations has the best chance of succeeding in the Sahel region.”

Thus, he maintains that, the essence of cooperation by the regional organisations is “to build a much broader framework of support and synergy with other actors in the execution of the task ahead.”

Apradu especially stressed that the need to strengthen inter-institutional and regional cooperation has arisen from the fact that the situation in the Sahel remains fragile despite the numerous efforts and strategies to improve security, promote good governance and socio-economic development in the area.

In his presentation, Ibrahim Thiaw, the United Nations Secretary-General’s special adviser for the Sahel drew attention to the opportunities that exist in the Sahel which calls for a change of dynamics with more focus on disrupting the current trajectory.

He cited Energy as a critical game changer in the reality check on increasing productivity while remaining conscious of the international geopolitics that is being played in the Sahel.

The ECOWAS Sahel strategy is structured around the three main pillars of infrastructural development, sustainable agricultural productivity and food security and accessibility to education based on affordability and quality which estimated project cost for these and other themes such as peace and security and good governance has been put at about $4.7 billion.

The ECOWAS heads of state and government had at their Ordinary Summit of July 2013 in Abuja, Nigeria, adopted the Sahel strategy for the stabilisation and development of the Sahel Sub-Saharan region.

– Sept. 18, 2018 @ 18:05 GMT |

2017 Member States Macroeconomic Convergence on Agenda of 40th WAMZ Council Meeting

The 40th statutory meeting of the Council of Ministers of Member States of the West African Monetary Zone, WAMZ, was held on September 14, in Abuja, Nigeria, and attended by central bank governors, the representative of the President of the Commission of the Economic Community of West African States, ECOWAS, and several other dignitaries.

During the meeting, the ministers reviewed the macroeconomic convergence situation in member states for 2017 and discussed the achievements and challenges relating to the introduction of the common currency by 2020.

The meeting also considered the report of the 37th session of the WAMZ committee of Central Bank Governors and the status of implementation of previous decisions.

On behalf of the President of the ECOWAS Commission, Jean-Claude Kassi Brou, the Commissioner for Industry and Private Sector Promotion, Mamadou Traoré, lauded the collaboration between ECOWAS and WAMZ.

He outlined the progress made by the Commission of the regional organisation in the area of energy, road infrastructure, financial market integration, and private sector promotion.

Traoré also highlighted the introduction of a regional payment system, the ECOWAS investment guarantee mechanism, the promotion and liberalisation of trade in the region, the consolidation of the customs union, the implementation of the Common External Tariff by 14 Member States and the creation of a free trade area through the establishment of a trade liberalisation scheme within ECOWAS.

He nevertheless noted that significant challenges remain to be addressed, particularly with regard to the choice of exchange rate regime, the monetary policy framework and the right choice of the central bank model for the future common monetary area.

For his part, the representative of the Nigerian Minister of Finance urged members of the Council to create a robust framework for the implementation of the Community currency to ensure economic growth and well-being of West African people.

“We must strive to strengthen macroeconomic indicators, ensure sustainable growth and place particular emphasis on investment and diversification of our economies,” he stated.

He indicated that Nigeria will continue to play its leadership role in the process leading to the implementation of the ECOWAS single currency.

It should be recalled that the 37th session of the Committee of WAMZ Central Bank Governors was held the day before in the auditorium of the Central Bank of Nigeria, also in Abuja.

Aside from the Governors, delegates from the Commission of the West African Economic and Monetary Union, UEMOA, the West African Monetary Institute, WAMI, the West African Monetary Agency (WAMA) and the representative of the ECOWAS Bank for Investment and Development, EBID, also attended the meeting.

The ECOWAS Commission was represented by Kofi Konadu Apraku, commissioner for Macroeconomic Policy and Economic Research.

– Sept. 18, 2018 @ 16:52 GMT |

South Africa to continue to put African agenda on BRICS – Ramaphosa

President Cyril Ramaphosa on Friday said South Africa like in the past will continue to put African issues on the BRICS agenda.

Ramaphosa said this in Pretoria while addressing members of the diplomatic corps. South Africa has always said its membership to multilateral institutions is guided by its pursuit of putting the African continent first.

“Since joining BRICS, South Africa has sought to strategically position Africa on the agenda of BRICS and will continue to garner support from the BRICS partners for African industrialisation and infrastructure development,” said Ramaphosa.

Ramaphosa said, “One of the most significant achievements of the first decade of BRICS was the establishment of the New Development Bank and its Africa Regional Centre, which fills a critical gap in project funding.

As we enter the second decade of BRICS cooperation, we are determined to further expand the Bank’s role in economic and social development.”

Ramaphosa mentioned that the 10th BRICS summit was attended by some African countries and other developing countries of the South in the BRICS-Plus format.

He stated that it is vital to ensure that the countries of the South continue to shape the agenda of every significant global formation. (Xinhua/NAN)

– Sept. 14, 2018 @ 16:35 GMT |

African Agric Ministers, Private and Public Sector Leaders push for More Investment, Less Talk

Several African agriculture ministers joined public and private sector representatives calling for more investment in agriculture at a Leadership4Agriculture event held at the African Green Revolution Forum, AGRF, in Kigali, Rwanda.

Organized by the African Development Bank, the Leadership4Agriculture session facilitated partnerships between policy makers, private investors, institutions and offered participants opportunity to learn more about the Leadership4Agriculture network’s agenda to drive action-oriented, growth enabling investments.

Several ministers at the event criticized what they said was a culture of talk without action.

“Too many of the same declarations are made but are never carried out at the African Union level,” said Côte d’Ivoire Minister of Agriculture, Mamadou Coulibaly.

The African Union’s Comprehensive African Agriculture Development Program in 2003 set a target for African governments to allocate ten percent of national budgets to agriculture. According to AGRF, only 13 African nations have reached or surpassed this goal.

Jennifer Blanke, African Development Bank Vice-President for Agriculture, Social and Human Development, and the Rockefeller Foundation’s Managing Director for Africa, Mamadou Biteye, earlier set the tone for the session. They charged their organizations to advance the Leadership4Agriculture mission..

“With [Bank] partners the Rockefeller Foundation, now we have funding for a Secretariat for Leadership4Agriculture, which will allow us to track progress,” said Blanke. “Let us all, together, make Africa shine,” she added.

Agriculture ministers from joined Coulibaly across the continent, including from Zambia, Nigeria, Uganda, Kenya, Gabon, Mozambique, South Sudan, Togo and Mauritius. Rwanda’s former Minister of Agriculture and Animal Resources, who now serves as President of the Alliance for a Green Revolution in Africa, AGRA, said ministers need to campaign harder for increased budget funding for smallholders.

“[Agriculture] is a government’s most important industry,” AGRA President Agnes Kalibata told the audience. “Nobody is going to give you money because you are Minister of Agriculture – there are 20 other ministries competing for money. It is [an agriculture minister’s] responsibility to make the case,” she said.

AGRF research indicates farming remains a key source of income for 60 to 65 percent of the labor force in sub-Saharan Africa and will continue to be a major source of employment for a decade or more. Leadership4Agriculture session attendees said the mentality that agriculture is more of a traditional career for those who don’t have alternative r work options, has to change.

Edward Mabaya, Manager of the African Development Bank’s Agribusiness Development Division, said government leaders and farmers should replace the word “agriculture” with “agribusiness.”

Vice-President Blanke announced that the next Leadership4Agriculture event will be held during the African Development Bank’s historic Africa Investment Forum, to be held from November  7 – 9, in South Africa.

Five African Ministers of Agriculture and Finance, the Rockefeller Foundation and the African Union Commission established Leadership4Agriculture, or L4Ag. The African Development Bank secured support from the Rockefeller Foundation for the establishment of the platform.

– Sept. 14, 2018 @ 14:22 GMT |

Zimbabwe’s opposition leader postpones mock inauguration after cholera outbreak

Zimbabwe’s main opposition leader has postponed plans for a mock inauguration on Saturday following a police ban on public gatherings as the country battles to contain a cholera outbreak that has killed 26 people.

Nelson Chamisa, leader of the Movement for Democratic Change (MDC), claimed he was cheated of victory by President Emmerson Mnangagwa in the July 30 election, the first since Robert Mugabe was removed in a coup last November.

Chamisa’s critics accuse him of trying to copy Kenyan opposition leader Raila Odinga, who took a symbolic presidential oath in a challenge to President Uhuru Kenyatta in January.

The mock swearing-in was set to coincide with the MDC’s 19th anniversary rally at a stadium in Highfield township, which is near Glenview in Harare, the epicentre of the cholera outbreak.

“The anniversary rally will go ahead at a later date to be advised and the venue will remain the same, Gwanzura stadium,” the MDC said.

Nearly 4,000 people have been infected with cholera, which has been declared a health emergency in Harare.

Zimbabwe’s new Finance Minister Mthuli Ncube has set up an emergency crowd fund to raise money to fight the outbreak.

The World Health Organisation and the Red Cross said on Thursday they were ramping up their emergency response to Zimbabwe’s deadliest cholera outbreak in a decade, with politicians trading blame over contaminated water and collapsing infrastructure.

NAN reports that the International Red Cross in Zimbabwe deployed more than 1,000 volunteers to contain the outbreak.

Residents in Harare were dealing with a “double punch” after a recent outbreak of typhoid.Also, Zimbabwe’s biggest university said it had postponed a graduation ceremony set for Friday due to the cholera outbreak.

The latest cholera outbreak hit the city of 1.5 million people after burst sewers in the Budiriro and Glenview suburbs contaminated water in boreholes used by residents. Harare’s population draws water from one lake originally meant for 300,000 people, while a new dam first mooted in the 1990s is still to be constructed due to funding problems.

New Health Minister Obadiah Moyo blamed the opposition-controlled city government. (Reuters/NAN)

– Sept. 14, 2018 @ 12:42 GMT |

Zimbabwe opposition calls off mock presidential inauguration

Zimbabwe’s opposition MDC party Friday called off plans to hold a mock inauguration to name its leader Nelson Chamisa as the country’s president after public gatherings were banned due to a cholera outbreak.

The MDC had planned the event to highlight its claims that the July 30 election was rigged and that Chamisa was the rightful president, rather than President Emmerson Mnangagwa of the ruling ZANU-PF.

The MDC accused the government of using the cholera outbreak, which has claimed 25 lives, to stop the mock inauguration at the party’s 19th anniversary celebrations.

Authorities have banned public gatherings in Harare as a health measure.

“The Movement for Democratic Change has postponed its 19th anniversary celebrations,” party spokesman Jacob Mafume said in a statement.

“It is clear that the government is abusing the cholera epidemic for political purposes and puts into serious doubt that the ban of our commemoration event was out of genuine concern.”

The cholera outbreak, first detected in the township of Glen View outside Harare earlier this month, prompted the health ministry to declare an emergency in the city after at least 3,000 cases were reported.

The disease has since spread to other towns as well as rural areas across the country.

Cholera outbreaks have occurred regularly in Zimbabwe’s cities as authorities struggle to provide potable water and sanitation facilities.

Zimbabwe, which was ruled by Robert Mugabe from independence in 1980 until his ousting last year, suffered its worst cholera outbreak in 2008.

A total of 4,000 people died and at least 100,000 people fell ill.

Mnangagwa has pledged to tackle the current outbreak.

Zimbabwe’s largest university postponed its graduation ceremony on Friday.

A World Health Organization situation report revealed that first-line antibiotics were struggling to treat the disease, which has spread to five of the country’s 10 provinces. (AFP)

– Sept. 14, 2018 @ 12:05 GMT |

President Kenyatta defies parliament, rejects bill delaying unpopular fuel tax

PRESIDENT Uhuru Kenyatta of Kenya defied parliament by rejecting a finance bill that sought to postpone a widely unpopular tax on fuel that has triggered strikes and public anger.

Parliament will hold a special sitting on the bill on Tuesday to reconsider the finance bill “together with the reservations of the president”, said the gazette notice signed by Justin Muturi, the speaker of the national assembly.

It did not say why the president rejected the bill as passed by parliament in late August.

Kenyatta’s acting spokesperson Kanze Dena told Reuters the president would address the country on the matter on Friday.

His government faced a strike by some fuel dealers, anger among commuters and a lawsuit after it triggered a hike in transport and fuel prices by imposing the 16 per cent value added tax on all petroleum products on Sept. 1.

The finance bill that was returned to parliament had also retained a cap on commercial lending rates, after lawmakers amended a move by the finance minister to repeal it. (Reuters/NAN)

– Sept. 14, 2018 @ 9:15 GMT |

U.S. sanctions to remain until Zimbabwe demonstrates reforms -official

THE U.S. government will not lift sanctions against Zimbabwe until the new government of President Emmerson Mnangagwa demonstrates it is “changing its ways,” a senior U.S. economic official told a congressional panel.

Manisha Singh, the U.S. Assistant Secretary of State for Economic and Business Affairs, told a House of Representatives hearing there were 141 entities and individuals in Zimbabwe, including Mnangagwa and former president Robert Mugabe, that are currently under U.S. sanctions.

“Our pressure on Zimbabwe remains in place. We are trying to use this pressure to leverage political and economic reforms, human rights observations,” Singh said.

“We want to see fundamental changes in Zimbabwe and only then will we resume normal relations with them,” she added.

Mnangagwa was sworn in as Zimbabwe’s new president on Aug. 26 after the Constitutional Court confirmed his July 30 election victory, dismissing a challenge by opposition leader Nelson Chamisa.

Mnangagwa has called for the lifting of U.S. sanctions against officials from the ZANU-PF ruling party, top military figures and some government-owned firms, which were imposed during Mugabe’s rule for it called violations of human rights and democracy.

The EU lifted most of its sanctions in 2014, but has maintained those against Mugabe and his wife Grace.

The July ballot was touted as a crucial step toward shedding the pariah reputation that Zimbabwe gained under Mugabe as well as securing international donor funding.

Rep. Karen Bass, a Democrat from California, said Zimbabwe was “trying to reach out to us now and I want to know where we are with that.”

`We are always open to conversations. We are open to a demonstration from the government that it is changing its ways, that it is observing human rights,” Singh added. (Reuters/NAN)

– Sept. 14, 2018 @ 9:15 GMT |

ECOWAS strategises to curb Effects of Climate Change

THE Scientific and Technical Consultative Group on Climate Change, STCGCC, of the Economic Community of West African States, ECOWAS, have commenced a three-day meeting on September 12, in Abuja, Nigeria, to develop strategies which will ensure the coordinated and effective use of scientific research to address the challenges of climate change in the region.

Members of the STCGCC will also validate the Terms of Reference for the development of a comprehensive regional programme on climate change and the study on its impacts and adaptation costs in agriculture, water resources and the coastal zones in West Africa.

In his opening remarks during the meeting, Bougonou Djeri-Alassani, ECOWAS head of Division for Environment Policies and Regulations, who represented Sékou SangareCommission’s commissioner for Agriculture, Environment and Water Resources,  stated that in West Africa, more than 75 percent of the population are affected at least once every two years by natural phenomena that are increasingly violent and devastating due to climate change.

Djeri-Alassani highlighted that this has led to desertification, the degradation of natural resources and food insecurity which has had an adverse effect on the economy and the quality of life of Community citizens.

He stated that in order to address this situation, several initiatives are being carried out around the world under the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change and the Paris agreement which was adopted in December 2015 to find sustainable solutions that will protect the environment.

‘At the regional level, institutions for climate research are working to identify the dynamics of these changes in order to better guide the fight against climate change’, he said.

This is the 2nd meeting of the STCGCC. The first meeting of the group which held in February 2017 initiated discussions for coordinating climate related actions among regional institutions.

– Sept. 13, 2018 @ 16:30 GMT |

President Mnangagwa calls for improved sanitation amid cholera outbreak

PRESIDENT Emmerson Mnangagwa of Zimbabwe on Thursday urged the Harare city council and other local authorities to work on improving sanitation to prevent water-borne diseases.

The president spoke as a cholera outbreak in the capital Harare has so far killed 25 people and infected more than 3,000 others.

The president said the government was mobilizing resources to contain the disease and urged the private sector to chip in with financial and material support to fight the epidemic.

“What is more important is for the councils to make sure that sanitation in their area is up to date and that water is clean.

“That is a responsibility which the municipalities must make sure is taken care of,” the president said.

Mnangagwa reassured the nation that the health and well being of citizens will remain a priority under his administration.

Government has since declared the cholera outbreak a state of emergency while police have banned public gatherings in the capital to contain the disease.

The outbreak is confined in Harare’s high density suburbs of Glen View and Budiriro but isolated cases stemming from the two suburbs have also been reported in other parts of the country.

The Harare outbreak has been caused by burst sewers that contaminated borehole water used by the residents.

Some residents in Harare rely on water from community boreholes and open wells due to intermittent potable water supplies from the council.

The worst cholera outbreak in the country in 2008 killed 4,000 people.(Xinhua/NAN)

– Sept. 13, 2018 @ 14:20 GMT |