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The Africa Confidential Blog

  • 14th August 2018

SOUTH AFRICA: Fillip for anti-corruption drive as Ramaphosa chooses new chief public prosecutor after court sacks Zuma's ally

Patrick Smith

This week we start in Johannesburg with the Constitutional Court order to dismiss the top prosecutor and then to Harare where Zimbabwe's Constitutional Court is considering the opposition's petition against last month's presidential election. Then, to Mali for the second round of the presidential election and finally to Nigeria where the fight between government and opposition in the National Assembly risks spinning out of control.

SOUTH AFRICA: Fillip for anti-corruption drive as Ramaphosa chooses new chief public prosecutor after court sacks Zuma's ally
A ruling by the Constitutional Court ordering the dismissal of National Prosecuting Authority head Shaun Abrahams after it found he had been appointed improperly by former President Jacob Zuma in 2015 gives a much-needed boost to the government's reform efforts. Until this week, there was a growing sense that President Cyril Ramaphosa's government was losing momentum and was being outmanoeuvred by its opponents, especially allies of Zuma.

With the exit of Abrahams and several of Zuma's top security aides, as well as the suspension of tax chief Tom Moyane, officials can accelerate their restructuring plans and prosecution of top officials accused of corruption.

Ramaphosa will probably appoint an acting chief prosecutor in the next few days as he consults within the African National Congress. Top of the new prosecutor's agenda will be to accelerate the 'state capture' probe targeting the Gupta and Zuma families and their business ties. To date, the probe has progressed little, with the Guptas now in Dubai protesting their innocence.

ZIMBABWE: ZANU-PF to respond as opposition petitions court claiming fraud and constitutional breaches in the elections
President Emmerson Mnangagwa has urged the country to move on after two weeks of deadly street clashes, detentions and beatings of activists, but the ruling party, backed by state security, remains locked in conflict with its opponents on the streets and now in the courts.

The Zimbabwe African National Union-Patriotic Front says it will respond tomorrow (15 August) to the opposition's petition to the Constitutional Court claiming extensive fraud in last month's elections and calling for their annulment. However, a memo circulating within government this week calls for Mnangagwa to be inaugurated on 26 August, suggesting absolute confidence that the court will find in his favour.

Lawyers for the opposition Movement for Democratic Change Alliance filed a 32-page petition with the court on 10 August, listing breaches in electoral law by the Zimbabwe Electoral Commission (ZEC) and citing widespread arithmetical errors and inconsistencies in the final results. The petition argues that hundreds of thousands of votes were misallocated to Mnangagwa by the ZEC, which announced that he won with 50.8% of the vote.

In theory, the bar for annulling the result is much lower. If the opposition can prove categorically that 40,000 votes – that's the margin by which Mnangagwa passed the 50% threshold – were misallocated, then the court would have to cancel the vote or at least order a second round for the presidential election. The key words are 'categorical proof' and few expect the court to accept the opposition's arguments or its data. But state security operatives are taking no chances.

Accompanying the petition are several annexes detailing election abuses at ward and constituency level. Rights activists say that polling agents for the MDC Alliance have come under attack from security agents, claiming that some of them have had their houses burned down and others have been abducted.

Foreign observers have asked the ZEC to supply copies of the voting data from each polling station. The manner in which judges at the Court adjudicate on the opposition's petition will be a key part of the observers' final verdict on the elections.

MALI: Challenger Cissé cries foul after second round of Presidential elections but fails to unite opposition
Incumbent Ibrahim Boubacar Keïta, 73, is set to emerge victorious from the second round of the presidential elections, held on Sunday (12 August), which were tarnished by security threats, the forcible closure of some polling stations in the central region and a poor turnout of around 27%. Heavy rains throughout the day also deterred voters.

However, Keïta's rival in the second round, Soumaïla Cissé, 68, also lost out badly because of his failure to garner support from the other opposition contenders, especially Aliou Diallo and Cheick Modibo Diarra.

It looks unlikely that Cissé's call for a mass protest against electoral fraud by Keïta will attract much support. It was able to muster just about 100 supporters in the capital calling for fair elections on the eve of the presidential vote. The electoral commission is expected to announce results by the end of the week.

NIGERIA: Ruling party steps up bid to impeach defecting Senate leader as battles rages for control of the National Assembly
A bid by the All Progressives' Congress to impeach Senate President Bukola Saraki, who has rejoined the opposition People's Democratic Party, will dominate politics in Abuja this week. It is complicated by arguments between the parties over the legal requirements – in terms of numbers of voting senators – for an impeachment.

It has practical importance. Just as the APC plans to impeach Saraki, many in the opposition want to impeach President Muhammadu Buhari and have already prepared the text of a motion. Although neither impeachment motion is likely to be passed before next year's elections, the attempts will further gum up the workings of the national assembly.

A key test of that will be a session due tomorrow (15 August) at which the senators will consider expenditure on the electoral commission.

Adams Oshiomhole, national chairman of the APC, has published a lengthy diatribe against Saraki, accusing him of involvement in armed robberies and serial political corruption. But Saraki's defection to the PDP, alongside three state governors, has cast him as a hero for the opposition and rebuilt his support base.

The question is whether that will be enough to shield him against the judicial and political onslaught called for by Oshiomhole.

The week ahead in brief

ANGOLA: Congo-Kinshasa tops the agenda in special regional summit to be hosted in Luanda by President Lourenço

AFRICA/BRITAIN: Premier Theresa May sets for South Africa, Mozambique and Angola in late August to raise British profile

SUDAN: Omer el Beshir gets backing from ruling party to run again in 2020 despite breaking constitutional term limits

COTE D'IVOIRE: Ex- President Bédié takes his party out of ruling alliance amid signs that Ouattara plans to run for third term in 2020

KENYA: Public prosecutor launches anti-corruption case on land deals for Nairobi-Mombasa railway but keeps away from terms of contract with China

ETHIOPIA: Land disputes and political plotting are driving are driving clashes on border of Somali and Oromia provinces