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The Africa Confidential Blog

  • 12th December 2017

SOUTH AFRICA: Race tightens in the ANC's 'make or break' leadership vote due on 16 December

Patrick Smith

This week we start with the frenzied preparations for leadership elections which could change the shape of South Africa's politics – whoever wins. We have further reports from Kenya, Congo-Kinshasa and Zimbabwe.

SOUTH AFRICA: Race tightens in the ANC's 'make or break' leadership vote due on 16 December
The rhetoric and the stakes are rising steeply this week before some 5,000 members of the African National Congress gather at the Nasrec stadium near Soweto for the party's elective congress on Saturday.

With Deputy President Cyril Ramaphosa and former chair of the African Union Commission Nkosazana Dlamini-Zuma dominating the race for the ANC presidency, the party has become increasingly factionalised. Both sides promise to unify the ailing party but the prospects of a surprise win by a third candidate such as ANC Treasurer Zweli Mkhize are improving.

With Ramaphosa's supporters going to town on President Jacob Zuma's patronage network and his ties to the Gupta brothers – suggesting also that his ex-wife Dlamini-Zuma would try to protect him from prosecution if she wins – this election is about personal interests as much as political directions.
Increasingly, Ramaphosa supporters are suggesting that a Dlamini-Zuma win could split the party and threaten its chances of winning a national victory in the 2019 elections.

KENYA: Opposition postpones swearing-in of people's assembly after warnings from diplomats and government
Pulling back from a plan to inaugurate Raila Odinga as the 'people's President' on Jamhuri day on 12 December, the National Super Alliance said it would continue with its plans for 'people's assemblies' but wanted to keep the campaign as peaceful as possible.

Accordingly, NASA officials such as Musalia Mudavadiemphasised that Odinga's inauguration has been postponed rather than cancelled. The swearing-in was meant to have taken place in Mombasa under the aegis of Governor Hassan Joho, a staunch Odinga ally. But the ruling Jubilee party had insisted the plan amounted to treason, prompting concerns of another confrontation between oppositionists and police.

NASA leaders had to weigh up the damage to their credibility from postponing the swearing-in against the risks of more violent clashes and loss of lives if they went ahead. Alongside state security officials, several foreign diplomats had warned NASA against going ahead.

This raises questions about whether the party will continue with its campaign for electoral reform, and especially its establishment of people's assemblies in counties controlled by NASA-supporting governors.

So far, NASA's commercial boycott of Safaricom telecoms company (for its role in the elections) and President Kenyatta's Brookside dairy farms seem have proved more effective than its political protests. The World Bank forecasts that Kenya's economic growth rate could fall by 2% next year, partly as a result of the political confrontation.

CONGO-KINSHASA: Suspicions grow about state involvement as UN calls for full probe into killings of 14 peacekeepers
Such is the state of political turmoil and suspicion in Congo-Kinshasa, there is little agreement about what lay behind the murderous attack on a United Nations base at Semuliki, in Beni, North Kivu on the night of 7 December.

The attackers were said to have been fighters from the Allied Democratic Forces, a militia initially backed by Sudan's government to destabilise Uganda over a decade and a half ago. At least 14 UN peacekeepers were killed, more than ever before in the UN's 18-year-old deployment in Congo-K. The UN also reported that five Congolese soldiers were killed in the ensuing three-hour firefight at the base.

Curiously, Congo's government denies this and says only one of its soldiers is missing. It also insists that its soldiers killed 72 fighters in the attacking force, a claim that no other source has substantiated. Some sources believe that the attack needs to be seen in the context of Congolese politics, and elements of the opposition may have been involved in the attack. The next issue of Africa Confidential will carry a report.

ZIMBABWE: Harsh spending cuts ahead of next year's elections raise doubts about the Mnangagwa government's first budget
Finance Minister Patrick Chinamasa, a close ally of new President Emmerson Mnangagwa, promised bold spending cuts and concessions on Indigenisation Act rules in his budget speech on 7 December.

With a pledge to cut the budget deficit to 3.5% of GDP from its estimated level of 9.4% this year, Chinamasa has set a tough target for the ruling party which has to face an election in eight months' time.

Chinamasa may be gambling that a clear break with the fiscal indiscipline of the past could entice new capital flows into the economy and restart business and even create some jobs in the short term. The government's foreign reserves are said to be dwindling dangerously.

THE WEEK AHEAD IN VERY BRIEF

LIBERIA: Supreme Court rejects electoral fraud claims but wants checks on voters list before next round of elections

NIGERIA: Ex-Vice-President Atiku Abubakar stars at opposition congress, calling for united front against President Buhari

EGYPT: Presidents El Sisiand Putin sign $20 billion deal for Russia's Rosatom to build nuclear power stations by 2028

LIBYA: Oil production boosted after meeting between heads of government, state oil company and central bank on 9 December

CAMEROON: Renowned bilingual writer and poet Patrice Nganang held in Yaoundé after lamenting political trends