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The Africa Confidential Blog

  • 19th June 2018

SOUTH AFRICA: Questions are asked about the goals of President Ramaphosa's purge of security agencies

Patrick Smith

We start in South Africa where President Ramaphosa's motives in reforming the security sector are being questioned, and then to Uganda where a big budget increase laying the ground for oil infrastructure includes a controversial proposal to tax social media. In Congo-Kinshasa, mining companies face adversity in-country, from new taxes, and internationally, from increased scrutiny. And then to Morocco and Nigeria which have just agreed on a new gas pipeline project, and finally to Cameroon where there are moves to postpone this year's presidential elections.

SOUTH AFRICA: Questions are asked about the goals of President Ramaphosa's purge of security agencies
A fight between Setlhomamaru Dintwe, Inspector-General of Intelligence, and former head of the State Security Agency (SSA) Arthur Fraser is raising doubts about whether President Cyril Ramaphosa is set on reforming these agencies and making them more accountable.

Before Ramaphosa became President, Fraser, a close ally of ex-President Jacob Zuma, had revoked Dintwe's security clearance after he had launched an investigation into the SSA. Fraser has been accused by investigative journalist Jaques Pauw of running an illegal network of agents and transferring classified data to his private computer. His activities were said to have cost the state 1 billion rand (US$73 million).

Although Ramaphosa has restored Dintwe's security clearance, the government is not backing a court order to stop further interference in the Inspector-General's work. Ramaphosa is also under fire from the opposition Democratic Alliance for transferring Fraser to a senior post in the Department of Correctional Services, rather than suspending him and launching an investigation into his record in Security.

UGANDA: A bumper budget as Museveni targets the tweeters In his 2018-19 budget
Finance Minister Matia Kasaija says he will increase spending by 13%, boosting security spending by 60%. About 15% of the budget is to go on roads and communications linked to the oil development schemes near Lake Albert. President Yoweri Museveni also wants a tax on social media use.

CONGO-KINSHASA: Tough times for mining companies as Kabila mulls succession plan
Mining companies have had a bad, certainly expensive time in Congo-K in the past month. Apart from the new, increased revised taxes and royalty payments just passed into law, some are also facing the long arm of international regulators.

Glencore, the world's biggest commodity trader, had a couple of costly problems. The first was to settle with its dispute with the Kinshasa government over finance and equity shares in the Kamoto Copper Company which is to produce 300,000 tonnes of copper and 34,000 tonnes of cobalt next year. Reluctantly, Glencore agreed to write off $5.6bn of debt in the project.

Glencore's other problem was to pay off Dan Gertler, its erstwhile business partner in Congo, who was suing it for $3bn for unpaid royalties owed on another mine. After talking to the United States government, which has  imposed sanctions against Gertler accusing him of grand corruption, Glencore hopes to circumvent Washington's penalties by paying royalties to him in Euros, rather than US dollars.

Meanwhile in Kinshasa, President Kabila's call on parliament to draft a law that would protect former presidents from prosecution is being taken as more evidence that he may consider leaving office this year, as scheduled.

MOROCCO/NIGERIA: Losing the World Cup, gaining a pipeline
Clumsy diplomacy may have cost Rabat its chance to host the 2026 World Cup – 11 African countries voted against it – but it is having more success on the business front.

Although Nigeria had opposed Morocco's bid to join the Economic Community of West African States, the two countries have initialled an agreement on a 5,660 kilometre pipeline which takes a circuitous offshore and onshore route via Mauritania. Announcements about the plan followed President Muhammadu Buhari's meeting with King Mohammed VI Rabat last week.

CAMEROON: Biya tries to postpone elections for a year
As the country's political crisis deepens, it has emerged that President Paul Biya has written to the Senate asking it to consider postponing presidential elections scheduled for October. The ostensible reason is that the crisis in the Anglophone regions have had very low voter registration.

Although 20% of Cameroonians are Anglophone, only 3% of the voters registered this year come from their community.


ETHIOPIA/SOMALIA: Premier Abiy and President Farmajo propose plan to invest in four ports on the Red Sea
KENYA: With its 26 million users, Safaricom wants to push back against higher taxes on mobile money payments
CENTRAL AFRICAN REPUBLIC: Tennis star Boris Becker accused of taking Bangui envoy post to dodge London bankruptcy case