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The Africa Confidential Blog

  • 14th November 2018

CONGO-KINSHASA: Martin Fayulu enjoys a brief triumph as presidential candidate on a unity ticket before the opposition coalition splinters

Patrick Smith

We start in Geneva but the real story is in Congo-Kinshasa as the opposition parties argue over who should represent them as presidential candidate in elections next month. It's an action-packed week in South Africa, with one minister resigning and two others accusing the former President and his business friends of collusion. In Mozambique, there are new legal twists to the hidden loan saga, and the second round of the Madagascar election on 19 December promises to be a photo-finish.

CONGO-KINSHASA: Martin Fayulu enjoys a brief triumph as presidential candidate on a unity ticket before the opposition coalition splinters
The leader of one of Congo's smallest parties, Martin Fayulu, was the surprise pick  of opposition factions meeting in Geneva on Sunday (11 November) to decide who should represent them in elections due on 23 December. Fayulu, whose career in business includes 20 years as an executive with ExxonMobil in the United States, is little known outside Kinshasa.

Less than a day after that meeting one of the front-runners for the opposition, Félix Tshisekedi, had withdrawn from the coalition under pressure from grassroots activists in his Union pour la démocratie et le progrès social (UDPS). The other front-runner, Vital Kamerhe, leader of the Union pour la Nation congolaise (UNC), will probably follow suit. Both men are set to pursue their own campaigns, splitting the opposition vote.

Fayulu was a surprise choice although he has a strong record of activism – he has marched at the head of columns of demonstrators in Kinshasa. That may have helped his cause in Geneva. He also benefitted from support from Jean-Pierre Bemba and Moïse Katumbi – two other potential contenders who were disqualified by President Joseph Kabila's government.

In telephone polls in September, the Congo Research Group based at New York University found that Félix Tshisekedi was by far the best-known opposition politician, with 36% of voter support, and the one to most likely to beat Kabila or his chosen dauphin, Emmanuel Ramazani Shadary. Kamerhe scored 17%, with Fayulu in fourth place with 8%.

Fayulu will struggle to bring together all the opposition groupings on the platform known as Lamuka. And with less than six weeks to polling day, he has little time to build up momentum.

There are technical issues to be resolved. The most important is the opposition's refusal to accept the use of sophisticated voting machines imported from South Korea. Fayulu opposes them, unless clear safeguards are put in place. Negotiations between the opposition and the electoral commission on the issue have been stalled for several weeks.

SOUTH AFRICA: Home Affairs Minister Malusi Gigaba goes as two key ministers – Pravin Gordhan and Barbara Hogan – testify at the 'state capture' commission
It is shaping up to be a bad week for ex-President Jacob Zuma and his allies.

On Tuesday (13 November), Home Affairs Minister Malusi Gigaba resigned his post without a public explanation. Gigaba, who was one of Zuma's finance ministers and regarded as close to the Gupta family, was under pressure after the Public Protector ruled that he should be disciplined for lying under oath about a bid by the Oppenheimer family, the wealthiest in South Africa, to open a private immigration facility near Johannesburg's airport.

Although Gigaba's appointment as finance minister was much criticised, he had developed some sharp political survival skills and was very active on social media.  After Ramaphosa took over the presidency in February, he decided to keep Gigaba inside the tent, but give him a portfolio – home affairs – more suited to his skills.

Meanwhile, the Zondo Commission investigating 'state capture' enters a critical stage. In what is set to be the strongest testimony so far, Pravin Gordhan, currently Public Enterprises Minister and a former finance minister, will unveil the inner workings of Jacob Zuma's presidency.

A leaked version of Gordhan's statement to the Commission says 'state capture' was a system which sidelined honest officials and promoted reckless and corrupt apparatchiks for the benefit of a few families and individuals. Of all the senior officials who worked in Zuma's government, Gordhan is one of the most outspoken critics of the Gupta family's ties to the ex-President.

At the end of his statement, Gordhan advises the Commission to intensify its probe into the Guptas: '… it should follow the money and request a full account of all transactions by any Gupta-related company and related individuals that have gone through bank accounts. By doing so it will be better placed to determine which activities were related to criminality and malfeasance. This will assist state enterprises and taxpayers to recover funds lost in this process.'

MOZAMBIQUE: British regulators weaken their investigation into Credit Suisse's role in the $2 billion hidden loan scandal but US and Swiss authorities press ahead with criminal probes
International regulators are divided over how – or even whether – to hold international banks responsible for their role in the $2 billion hidden loan scandal, which has saddled the country with onerous foreign debt, enriching a small group of state and security officials and financial speculators. The two banks in question – Credit Suisse and the Russian state-owned VTB – have been investigated for their role in structuring and arranging loans for heinously expensive fees and which offered the country minimal economic benefit.

Britain, where financial surveillance is regarded as among the most lax in Western economies, has dropped its criminal investigation into the Credit Suisse role in Mozambique. Had the authorities successfully prosecuted the case, some of the banking officials might have been jailed.

Instead, under the downgraded investigation, Credit Suisse faces a possible fine or a ban from doing business in London. However, the United States Department of Justice is continuing a criminal investigation into the Credit Suisse, BNP and VTB roles in Mozambique, as are the Swiss authorities.

Despite all this, Credit Suisse still represents some of the investors in the hidden loans to Mozambique. Last week, Mozambique made a deal with another group of investors who own about 80% of the $726 million in bonds on which the government defaulted in January 2017. The government has offered to pay an interest rate of 5.9% but stretch out the maturities until 2033.

The creditors will be paid out of future revenues from the export of natural gas which had originally been earmarked for social investment to boost health and education services for the poor.

MADAGASCAR: Ravalomanana and Rajoelina head into second round of high-tension presidential election as the military watches from the shadows
After 36 candidates vied for the presidency in the first round of voting last Wednesday (7 November), the field is now down to two former presidents for the run-off on 19 December: Marc Ravalomanana and Andry Rajoelina. It is a weird rematch. In 2009, the military ousted Ravalomanana, allowing Rajoelina, then better-known as a nightclub DJ, to take the presidency. Ravalomanana then fled into exile until 2014.

Now, the financial and media advantage is with Rajoelina, who had a less than three-point lead over Ravalomanana in the first round (with 70% of the votes counted). Ravolamanana has been running an energetic but less visible campaign. The outcome of the second round will depend on where the votes of the supporters of the other 34 candidates go. Some predict the two candidates could almost tie in the second round, triggering demands for a recount and investigations into the poll. The biggest worry is that the military may see this as invitation to step back into the ring.


ETHIOPIA: Arrest of top security officers and head of leading military company after extended investigations have revealed rights abuses and grand corruption

SUDAN/UNITED STATES: Washington and Khartoum start formal negotiations to remove Sudan from the list of states sponsoring terrorism as its local currency crashes and prices skyrocket

GABON: Government claims that bedridden President Ali Ben Bongo's health is improving but sceptical citizens demand evidence