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The Africa Confidential Blog

  • 13th February 2018

SOUTH AFRICA: Zuma chooses the messiest exit after marathon executive committee meeting

Patrick Smith

This week we start, inevitably, in South Africa with the latest scenes from the seemingly unending drama of President Jacob Zuma's departure. Then to Nigeria where the government is belatedly acknowledging calls for sweeping constitutional changes. In Tanzania, President John Magufuli's resource nationalist campaign continues to hobble a gold mining company. Ghana's Finance Minister is in Asia drumming up interest in another Eurobond issue. Finally, a security chief once detained for coup plotting returns to favour in Sudan's Islamist power structures.

SOUTH AFRICA: Zuma chooses the messiest exit after marathon executive committee meeting
Choosing to prolong the agony, Jacob Zuma has rebuffed the latest bid to edge him out of the presidency after ignoring a formal demand to quit by the African National Congress. The call was made after a 13-hour meeting of the ANC's National Executive Committee which only ended in the small hours of 13 February.

Although there is no formal deadline, party insiders say that unless Zuma publicly accedes to the party's recall motion – essentially a sacking – the ANC will organise a no-confidence vote against him in parliament within days. This could trigger the most disruptive – and perhaps the most humiliating – departure for Zuma.

Beyond the resignation drama, Zuma is also likely to hear more news about whether he will face prosecution on a raft of corruption charges linked to the government's US$5 billion arms deal with Western companies in the late 1990s.

*We will publish a full analysis on the Zuma exit and its political implications on the website today.

NIGERIA: Buhari backs call for state police forces as herder-farmer clashes spread in the Middle Belt
Concern about the worsening security problems in the Middle Belt and northern states have boosted calls for sweeping amendments to the constitution, including allowing the creation of state police commands. Currently, the Nigeria Police Force is under strict federal control. Politicians in the centre have jealously guarded their power over the police, arguing that allowing state governors to establish their own police forces could balkanise the nation.

Now, both major parties, the governing All Progressives Congress and the opposition Peoples Democratic Party, are tabling their own plans to restructure the federation. How much these plans are a bid to win votes in next year's national elections remains an open question. Any serious constitutional reform is unlikely to get through parliament in less than a year. The popular demand for such changes is increasing.

Last week President Muhammadu Buhari's office came out for the first time in favour of establishing state-level police forces. He has come under growing pressure to respond more effectively to the brutal clashes between cattle herders from the north and settled farmers in the Middle Belt. It has become the dominant security issue in Nigeria and Inspector General of Police Ibrahim Idris has been widely accused of favouring the herders and acting too slowly to protect farmers.

TANZANIA: Acacia's dispute with President Magufuli enters its second year, cutting gold production
The row between the government and the gold-mining company Acacia Mining, an affiliate of Canada's Barrick Gold, is slowing the local company's operations. Acacia's revenues dropped by almost a third last year after the government banned the export of gold and copper concentrate. It's the latest evidence of the effects of President John Magufuli's resource nationalist campaign, which has resonated throughout the region.

Acacia's biggest headache is the confrontation with Magufuli over his accusations that it connived with local officials to under-report the value of its exports. After a specialist panel Magufuli set up reported back, Acacia was presented with a $190 billion tax bill late last year.

The company denies all wrongdoing. Parent company Barrick has taken the lead in the negotiations with the government, offering a settlement of $300 million late last year. But since then there has been little movement in a dispute which is depriving both company and government of substantial revenues. Acacia's new Tanzanian managing director, Asa Mwaipopo, is leading efforts to improve relations with the government.

GHANA: Finance Minister tests appetite for bond sale in Asia ahead of President Akufo-Addo's state visit to China
Although he still has to get backing for a major bond issue from parliament, Finance Minister Ken Ofori-Atta is in Singapore and Hong Kong this week to drum up interest for Ghanaian paper in the Asian markets. He plans to float the bond in April.

It will be a vital part of the government's efforts to raise funds for programmes such as universal free secondary education and the One Factory, One District plan. Officials in Accra told Africa Confidential that there was already substantial interest from big Asian economies in Ghana's industrialisation plans.

Ofori-Atta is travelling with executives from three local banks, Ghana Commercial Bank, Fidelity and Standard Chartered. Although Ghana's debt is running at over 60% of gross domestic product, which the government inherited from its predecessor, its bonds remain popular with international investors who regard it as one of the most stable countries in the region.

SUDAN: President el Beshir reappoints Salah Gosh as spy chief five years after he was accused of coup plotting
The return of Salah Abdallah Mohamed 'Gosh' as director of the National Intelligence and Security Service (NISS) raises fresh questions about the direction of the National Congress Party (aka National Islamic Front) regime after a wave of protests over worsening economic conditions.

President Omer Hassan Ahmed el Beshir sacked Gosh as his security advisor in 2011 amid signs of growing rivalries within the Islamist regime. A year later, Gosh and several other top intelligence and military officials were arrested after being linked to a coup plot. Some of the soldiers were sentenced to gaol terms but Gosh was released without charge after eight months in detention.

Director of the NISS until 2009, Gosh was held responsible for planning behind the government's military campaign in Darfur, in which over 300,000 people, mainly civilians, died, according to the United Nations. Despite being subjected to sanctions and a travel ban for his involvement in what the International Criminal Court classifies as a genocide, Gosh was able to establish effective relations with intelligence agencies in Britain and the United States.

On one occasion he was smuggled into London for urgent cardiac treatment. It may be partly those ties, as Khartoum tries to make the most of Washington's decision to drop sanctions, that have brought Gosh back to the centre of national security. The move may also signify the regime's growing concern about internal coherence as rivalries intensify to succeed President Omer.