Monday, August 31, 2015

South Africa Economy is Ill, Admits Zuma
August 31 2015 at 07:30am
By Dineo Faku

Johannesburg - President Jacob Zuma on Sunday acknowledged that the South African economy was “sick” as he launched the first unit of Eskom’s new Medupi power station in Limpopo.

Zuma threw down the gauntlet to labour and business to put the country first as the domestic and global economies faced headwinds. “Should we not come together and recognise the economy is sick? You cannot say it is business as usual when the economy is sick… Should we not talk about business and labour tightening the belt?” asked Zuma.

The country’s economy moved close to recession, which is a drop in gross domestic product (GDP) in two consecutive quarters, in the second quarter with GDP contracting by 1.3 percent after growing by 1.3 percent in the previous quarter.


Two of South Africa’s partners in the Brics group of five countries, Russia and Brazil, are both already in recession. Statistics SA figures showed that only the government, transport and retail sectors had grown in the second quarter while agriculture, mining and manufacturing declined.

The mining and manufacturing sectors, in particular steel, have announced plans to cut thousands of jobs amid declining commodity prices and subdued demand from China.

The rand’s decline, which saw the unit hit record lows to the dollar last week, is also a headache for the economy.

“If the private sector says let us cut labour because the economy is not doing well, I don’t think it is good,” Zuma said.

“With regard to labour, for it to say we don’t care what happens, we want higher wages. This will impact on the government,” he added.

The first Medupi unit, known as unit 6, will add 794 megawatts of power to the national grid and is the first new power station to open in South Africa in 20 years. Its planned operational life is 50 years. Once completed it would be the fourth-largest coal-fired plant and the largest dry-cooled power station in the world, the government said.

Zuma said that while energy shortages remained a “serious challenge” for South Africa, the opening of the Medupi unit showed progress was being made. “Shortage of energy does not only cause enormous inconvenience, it is a serious impediment to economic growth,” Zuma said.

“Pressure is being alleviated. There is light at the end of the tunnel,” Zuma said.

“There’s no time to waste,” Zuma said, adding that the utility appreciated the need to bring the rest of the station online without further delay. “We must move faster as a country.”

The first of six units at the plant will help Eskom address blackouts that have hobbled South Africa’s economy for 99 days this year. Its launch also came after 22 days of no power cuts at Eskom despite the Koeberg power station being shut for maintenance.

However, South Africa is not yet out of the woods.

“We are not saying there will be no load shedding. We will keep load shedding to a minimum,” Eskom acting chief executive Brian Molefe told journalists yesterday on the sidelines of the launch.

The utility would adhere to strict project management principles to avoid delays and cost overruns that saw Medupi power station’s price tag swell to R105 billion, he added.

The increase in the budget is due to labour disputes and construction delays and mean that the project was now due for completion in 2019, seven years behind schedule.

“We will ensure that timelines are adhered to,” he said.

Medupi, which saw construction start in May 2007 to address power shortages, was delayed by a seven-week long unprotected strike last year over bonuses, which threatened to prolong load shedding.

Abram Masango, Eskom’s executive for group capital, blamed under-estimation for the escalation of costs at Medupi. Masango noted that only 10 percent of the costs at Medupi had increased as a result of cost overruns, adding that it was normal for costs to escalate in capital projects.

* Additional reporting by Bloomberg and Reuters
Zuma in China for WWll Celebrations
31 August 2015 at 05:25
by ANA

President Jacob Zuma will attend the 70th anniversary of the end of the occupation of China and WW ll, in Beijing next week, the presidency said on Sunday.

President Jacob Zuma will attend the 70th anniversary of the end of the occupation of China and WW ll, in Beijing next week, the presidency said on Sunday.

Zuma had been invited by Chinese President Xi Jinping to participate in the celebrations in Beijing on September 3, the presidency said in a statement.

Apart from participating in the celebrations, it was anticipated that presidents Zuma and Xi would hold bilateral talks on the sidelines of the event.

Zuma and his delegation were expected to assess the status of progress on key areas identified under the Five-to-Ten-Year Strategic Programme for Co-operation, discuss preparations for South Africa’s hosting of the Forum for China-Africa Co-operation (FOCAC) summit on December 4 and 5, and provide an update on developments pertaining to the African Regional Centre (ARC) with regard to the Brazil-Russia-India-China-South Africa (BRICS) New Development Bank. China hosts the headquarters of the recently launched BRICS Development Bank, based in Shanghai.

South Africa’s relations with China were at the level of a comprehensive strategic partnership (CSP), with the bilateral relationship being among the most vibrant and strategic, the presidency said.

During Zuma’s state visit to China in December last year, the two countries concluded the Five-to-Ten-Year Strategic Programme for Co-operation between South Africa and China.

Six priority areas were identified as the focus of the strategic relationship for 2015.

These were alignment of industries to accelerate South Africa’s industrialisation process, enhancement of co-operation in Special Economic Zones (SEZs), enhancement of marine co-operation, infrastructure development, human resource co-operation, and financial co-operation.

Zuma would be accompanied by International Relations and Co-operation Minister Maite Nkoana-Mashabane, and Deputy Energy Minister Thembisile Majola, the presidency said.
German Media and Celebs Rally for Refugees After Ugly Protests
By Eloi Rouyer
August 29, 2015 8:25 PM

Refugees celebrate with leftist sympathizers at a shelter for asylum seekers on August 29, 2015 in Heidenau, eastern Germany

Berlin (AFP) - Germany may have witnessed violent anti-refugee protests this week -- but the message from the country's media and celebrities is a loud and determined welcome for people fleeing the horrors of war.

The tabloid, which has launched a high-profile charity campaign to assist refugees, also ran an editorial by Nobel-winning writer Herta Mueller titled: "I was also a refugee."

The editorial recalled how hundreds of thousands of Germans fled their country during Nazi rule.

"Everyone who fled into exile from the Nazis was saved... Germany must do what other countries had done earlier for the Germans," wrote Mueller.

"We have the responsibility given the past. But beyond that, sympathy is an act of humanity. Those who no longer know that have a brutal concept of homeland that once drove Germans out of Germany," she wrote.

Refugee children play in the courtyard of their shelter for asylum-seekers at the former Wilmersdorf …
Germany is expecting an unprecedented 800,000 asylum-seekers this year as Europe grapples with its biggest migration crisis since World War II.

While many believe that Germany's wealth -- combined with the dark legacy of its Nazi past -- mean it has a unique responsibility to provide safe haven to the persecuted, not everyone has been happy to see refugee centres springing up across the country.

A spate of arson attacks have hit these shelters, and far-right protesters have organised noisy and sometimes violent demonstrations against refugees.

Hostility is strongest in the former communist east, which still lags behind the west in terms of jobs and opportunities a quarter-century after reunification.

In that context, the eastern town of Heidenau has become a symbol of Germany's struggle to absorb the massive arrivals, with dozens injured in clashes last weekend between police and extreme-right activists opposing the opening of a new refugee centre there.

View galleryAnti-racism protesters hold a banner reading "Refugees …
Anti-racism protesters hold a banner reading "Refugees welcome" during a rally on August 2 …
When Chancellor Angela Merkel visited the centre this week to show her support, she was booed by a crowd who called her a traitor.

Many media outlets have added their voices to Bild's.

News magazine Der Spiegel ran two different covers this week: the first, titled "Dark Germany", showed a refugee centre in flames; the second, titled "Bright Germany" bore a message of hope, with migrant children releasing balloons into the sky.

"It's up to us to decide how we're going to live. We have the choice," the magazine said.

In Munich, the Sueddeutsche Zeitung newspaper offered its readers a practical guide for how to donate clothes and food to the new arrivals.

'Germany is rediscovering itself'

A slew of celebrities, too, have come out in support.

"Dear refugees, it's good that you're here," German Real Madrid player Toni Kroos said in comments reported by the press, "because it allows us to test our values and show respect to others."

The actor Til Schweiger is among the most prominent pro-migrant voices in German showbiz, while rock singer Udo Lindenberg is hoping to organise a major Berlin concert against anti-migrant hate, slated for October 4.

This is not the first time Germany has seen a jump in racist crimes -- nor the first time it has witnessed an outpouring of calls for tolerance in response.

In 2000, then chancellor Gerhard Schroeder called for an "uprising of decent people" after a synagogue was burned down in the western city of Duesseldorf.

Germany is "a tolerant and open country", Interior Minister Thomas de Maiziere insisted in a weekend interview with the newspaper Die Welt, blasting those who "believe they represent the silent majority when they prey on foreigners".

In an editorial entitled "Who we are", the paper said that in spite of the xenophobic attacks, the positive response from ordinary Germans is "changing the face of Germany", a nation that is "in the process of rediscovering itself" by welcoming large numbers of people in need.

In January, a survey by the non-profit Bertelsmann Foundation found the German public largely sympathetic to the refugees; 60 percent said they were ready to welcome the newcomers, up from 49 percent three years ago.

But the study noted that the country remains divided on whether immigration is an opportunity for Europe's economic powerhouse, or a burden.

In Dresden -- capital of the eastern Saxony state that has borne the brunt of the anti-migrant violence -- thousands took to the streets on Saturday to take a stand against the xenophobic attacks.

"Say it loud, say it clear, refugees are welcome here," they chanted.
Court to Rule If California Death Penalty Is Cruel, Unusual
LOS ANGELES — Aug 31, 2015, 2:11 AM ET
Associated Press

No one would argue that California's death penalty provides swift justice.

More prisoners have died of natural causes on death row than have perished in the death chamber.

More than 900 killers have been sentenced to death since 1978, but only 13 have been executed.

The question a federal appeals court will consider Monday is whether years of unpredictable delays from conviction to execution resulted in an arbitrary and unfair system that violates the Constitution's Eighth Amendment barring cruel and unusual punishment.

The hearing at the 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals in Pasadena, California, comes as support for the death penalty wanes in parts of the country. The Connecticut Supreme Court recently ruled that it served no legitimate purpose, and Nebraska eliminated it this year.

U.S. District Judge Cormac Carney ruled in the case of a Los Angeles rapist and murderer that the state's death penalty was dysfunctional and offered an empty promise seldom leading to executions while jamming up death row.

"Inordinate and unpredictable delay has resulted in a death penalty system in which very few of the hundreds of individuals sentenced to death have been, or even will be, executed," wrote Carney, a President George W. Bush appointee.

While death penalty opponents cheered the ruling, Attorney General Kamala Harris appealed.

Prosecutors argued in court papers that the state can't be faulted for having a procedure that protects the interest of everyone with a stake in a case. Even if some cases move faster than others, it doesn't create a dysfunctional system resulting in arbitrary executions.

"The court mistook its policy critique as a proper basis for legal judgment," Supervising Deputy Attorney General James Bilderback II wrote.

The case involves a particularly heinous crime.

Paroled rapist Ernest DeWayne Jones raped and murdered his girlfriend's mother in 1992. The body of Julia Miller was bound, gagged and had been stabbed 14 times, including a chest wound that penetrated to her spine. Two kitchen knives were sticking out of her neck and pieces of three other knives were on or around her body.

Jones, 51, led police on a chase the next morning in Miller's station wagon and then shot himself in the chest with a rifle, though he survived.

His DNA connected him to the rape, and he admitted stabbing Miller.

He's been in prison for 20 years.

Jones said in his appeal that the state didn't provide a fair and timely review of his case, the delay exceeded that in other states and death row's conditions constituted torture. He also said the uncertainty of his execution inflicts suffering and, if it ever goes forward, it will serve no legitimate purpose for retribution or deterring other criminals.

"As the district court concluded, the dysfunctional nature of California's death penalty process has ceased to provide any semblance of a rational and constitutional punishment," attorney Michael Laurence wrote.

No executions have been carried out in California since 2006 after another federal judge ordered an overhaul of the state's procedures for lethal injection.

The Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation is drafting new lethal-injection regulations after Gov. Jerry Brown said the state would switch from a three-drug mixture to a single-drug lethal injection. No executions can occur until the new rules are adopted and other legal challenges are resolved.
Challenged on Left and Right, the Fed Faces a Decision on Rates
New York Times
AUG. 30, 2015

JACKSON HOLE, Wyo. — Conservative activists who want the Federal Reserve to raise interest rates distributed chocolate coins in golden wrappers at the local airport last week as Fed officials arrived for their annual policy retreat.

Liberal activists in green “Whose Recovery?” T-shirts formed a receiving line at the resort hotel in the heart of Grand Teton National Park where the meeting was held, to personalize their argument that the Fed should wait.

Sometime soon — possibly as early as mid-September and probably no later than the end of the year — the Fed plans to raise its benchmark interest rate one-quarter of one percentage point, a mathematically minor move that has become a very big deal.

Investors, who always pay attention to the Fed, are paying particular attention now. The central bank has held short-term rates near zero since December 2008; the impending end of that era is one cause of recent financial market turmoil.

But the Fed’s plans have also become the latest point of contention in a broader debate about the government’s management of the American economy, pitting liberals who see a need for more aggressive measures to bolster growth against conservatives concerned that Washington and the Fed are already doing much too much.

More than seven years ago the Federal Reserve put its benchmark interest rate close to zero, as a way to bolster the economy. But that policy is about to change.

“There shouldn’t be this intense interest in a quarter-point increase, and there shouldn’t be this intense interest in whether it comes in September or December,” said Alan S. Blinder, a Princeton economist and the Fed’s vice chairman in the mid-1990s. “But the Fed remains the center of the financial universe. People stare at it like they stare at the North Star.”

And so, as Fed officials conferred with other central bankers and academics, the liberal activists held two days of “Fed Up” teach-ins in a room directly below the main conference, while the conservatives convened a “Jackson Hole Summit” at a nearby dude ranch.

In the decades before the financial crisis, policy makers generally agreed that central banks should focus on moderating inflation. Now, both that goal and the best way to achieve it are subjects of debate. Liberals argue that the Fed should aim more broadly to lower unemployment and encourage rising living standards. Conservatives want to strengthen the focus on inflation by requiring officials to follow rules in making policy.

With the critics lining up outside, central bankers found no escape inside the main conference, where a series of academics warned policy makers that their view of inflation was oversimplified, and that their policies were less effective as a consequence.

“The conference was more about what we don’t know, about a candid willingness to analyze what we don’t know,” said Lucrezia Reichlin, a professor at London Business School and former director general of research at the European Central Bank. “It did not really inspire confidence” in monetary policy.

The formal program, on “Inflation Dynamics and Monetary Policy,” was devoted to the vexing reality that inflation in recent years has not behaved as economists predicted. The basic paradigm, known as the Phillips Curve, is that inflation falls as unemployment rises, and rises as unemployment falls. But inflation did not fall as much as expected during the Great Recession, and it has remained surprisingly weak during the recovery.

Over the course of two days, the invited academics argued that the real story was more complicated. One study, for example, presented evidence that prices fall more slowly during recessions because cash-short firms actually tend to increase prices in the face of declining demand for their products.

“Once you integrate all these dynamics, it may turn out that life is not that simple,” said Eric M. Leeper, an economist at Indiana University and co-author of a paper arguing that central banks need better economic models.

Central bankers, however, have shown little interest in paradigm shifts. Several said that the basic understanding of inflation, while obviously imperfect, remains more functional than any alternatives.

“I don’t think the folks at the Fed are of a mind to redesign monetary policy just because of what happened during the crisis,” said Jon Faust, a professor of economics at Johns Hopkins University and a former adviser to the Fed’s chairwoman, Janet L. Yellen, and her predecessor, Ben S. Bernanke.

Indeed, Vítor Constâncio, vice president of the European Central Bank, said the euro area was currently experiencing “a renaissance of the Phillips Curve.”

Stanley Fischer, vice chairman of the Federal Reserve, painted a somewhat more complicated picture of inflation, arguing that the role of labor market slack is easily overstated, and that exchange rates play an important role.

But his bottom line, too, was that the Fed understands inflation well enough to predict its movements. While domestic inflation has been surprisingly sluggish for years now, Mr. Fischer said on Friday that his confidence in an eventual rebound remained “pretty high.”

The organizers of the fringe conferences acknowledged the odds against their more radical proposals.

“Fed Up” is mostly funded by the foundation of a Facebook co-founder, Dustin Moskovitz, which said: “Our best guess is that the campaign is unlikely to have an impact on the Fed’s monetary policy, but that if it does, the benefits would be very large.”

Jim DeMint, president of the Heritage Foundation, spoke at the conservative conference of “a long and difficult battle that we can and must win.”

The Center for Popular Democracy, which organized the “Fed Up” campaign, wants the Fed to keep rates near zero even as overall unemployment falls, to spur wage gains and help members of minorities, in particular, find jobs. It brought about 50 people to Jackson Hole as part of an effort to engage community groups that generally focus on civil rights or local issues like minimum wage laws.

Dawn O’Neal, 48, makes $8.50 an hour as a day care worker in suburban Atlanta; her husband has not found regular construction work in a year. When Ms. O’Neal needs a refill on her asthma medication, she cuts back on food, buying hot dogs instead of beef and canned vegetables instead of fresh vegetables.

“I don’t feel like anyone at the Fed has ever had to make a decision about whether to eat or get medication, and so when I hear that they’re going to raise interest rates in September, it angers me and it scares me,” Ms. O’Neal said.

The protesters struck a chord with some officials at the main meeting. Jason Furman, President Obama’s chief economic adviser, went downstairs and delivered an impromptu speech. “We don’t comment on monetary policy, but what I can say is that monetary policy matters,” he told the activists. The prosperity of the late 1990s, he added, resulted in part from “a set of decisions made by the Federal Reserve that allowed that to happen.”

Other officials, however, said the push for low rates was misguided.

“The biggest risk for those that are less fortunate is that we would go back into recession,” said James Bullard, president of the Federal Reserve Bank of St. Louis, who said he leaned toward raising rates in September. “I’m hoping my policy would lengthen out the expansion longer.”

The conservative conference was aligned with efforts by congressional Republicans to impose new restrictions on the Fed’s conduct of monetary policy. A leading proposal would require the Fed to choose a formula for setting rates and stick with it.

This view has few fans among the central bankers, who see their own judgment as an essential part of policy making.

Mr. Blinder said part of the disconnect between the officials and the activists may reflect that broader concerns motivate liberals and conservatives. Conservatives see the Fed as enabling the growth of the federal debt, while liberals see the Fed as contributing to the rise of inequality.

Mr. Blinder said the central bank had little power to reverse either trend. “They overstate the importance and power of the Federal Reserve,” he said. All it can do, he added, is “address these problems around the edges.”
Saudi Credit Default Swaps Fall Sharply on Oil Price Recovery
Aug 30

The cost of insuring against a Saudi Arabian sovereign debt default has dropped sharply in the past few days because of the rebound of global oil prices, market data showed on Sunday.

Last Monday, five-year Saudi credit default swaps soared as high as 120 basis points, from around 60 bps late last month.

At their high, CDS implied the world's top oil exporting country had a probability of default during the next five years of close to 10 percent, roughly the same as the Philippines - a dramatic sign of how the plunge of oil prices since mid-2014 has eroded investor confidence in the Saudi economic model.

But in the last few days, oil prices have rebounded sharply and Brent, the global benchmark, finished Friday up $2.49 or 5 percent at $50.05 a barrel. It gained 10 percent on the week.

This has left Saudi CDS quoted at 84 bps - about 30 bps below the Philippines' current level and 14 bps below Spain . Saudi Arabia has not, however, returned all the way to the area of South Korea, at 65 bps.

With oil prices at $50, Saudi Arabia is still running a state budget deficit estimated by analysts at around 15-20 percent of gross domestic product, but it has huge fiscal reserves which could cover such a deficit for at least several years.

Saudi stock prices surged 4.2 percent early on Sunday in response to oil's rebound, bringing them 15 percent above last week's low but still down 13 percent month-to-date.

One-year U.S. dollar/Saudi riyal forwards have not dropped sharply, however, and were last quoted at 300 points, not far from last week's 12-year highs - suggesting there is still significant demand to hedge against the risk of riyal depreciation due to low oil prices. (Editing by William Hardy)
Oil Down With Markets Off to Shaky Start
Eric Yep
Wall Street Journal
Aug. 31, 2015 1:53 a.m. ET

Oil prices fell in Asian trade Monday, reversing some of the gains made late last week amid concerns the latest rally in the oil and commodities markets would be difficult to sustain.

Investors are bracing for another week of volatile trading, with a focus on China as well as the timing of a U.S. interest-rate increase. Oversupply concerns also remain persistent as seasonal summer demand for oil fades and oil refineries slow operations.

On the New York Mercantile Exchange, light, sweet crude futures for delivery in October traded at $44.36 a barrel at 0351 GMT, down $0.86 in the Globex electronic session. October Brent crude on London’s ICE Futures exchange fell $1.03 to $49.02 a barrel.

In highly volatile trading Nymex crude and Brent crude gained 11.8% and 10.1%, respectively last week. In the same week, oil prices had slipped to multiyear lows, but clawed back gains to rise 16%-17% over the final two trading sessions.

On Monday, oil took cues from a softer start by Asian markets, with the Shanghai Composite Index down around 2% after Beijing placed a 16 trillion yuan ($2.506 trillion) cap on local government debt over the weekend, the latest move to address a slowing economy.

“It is now widely accepted that China is in the midst of a major slowdown in both economic growth and energy demand,” price-reporting agency Platts said in a report, adding that the near-term outlook for China’s crude imports is slightly more optimistic than widely expected.

“We are still not out of the woods despite the hike in oil prices. Technical indicators still showing bearishness,” Phillip Futures analyst Daniel Ang said. He said he remains wary of a volatile week ahead, and with bearishness still in play, expects a price support at $44 and $48.50 for WTI and Brent crude, respectively.

In addition to concerns about the Chinese economy, the large surplus in the oil market is also preventing a sustained price recovery.

“Crude oil prices continue to reflect weak fundamentals,” Barclays analyst Miswin Mahesh said in a report. “New uncertainties on the horizon” have also been exposed in the past month, he said, including a slowdown in China’s economy, the resilience of U.S. shale-oil producers, the strengthening U.S. dollar and new Iranian oil supply.

Moreover, if global oil production doesn’t decline in line with slowing refinery operations, the surplus oil that goes into storage could pose a barrier to a Brent-price recovery to the $60 range, Mr. Mahesh said.

Nymex September diesel traded at $1.5545, 219 points lower. ICE gasoil for September changed hands at $475.00 a metric ton, down $2.50 from Friday’s settlement.

Write to Eric Yep at
Oil Prices Fall on Profit-taking, Rate Hike Uncertainty

Oil prices fell in Asia on Monday as traders took profits, snapping gains last week that saw the biggest two-day rally in six years.

Brent crude futures for October delivery LCOc1 slipped more than $1, or 2 percent, before recovering although that still put the benchmark on track for its fourth straight monthly decline, having risen in only two of the past 14 months.

"There is definitely a lot of profit-taking going on," said Daniel Ang, an analyst at Singapore's Phillip Futures.

"There is some readjustment in the positions taken by traders."

The fall came after Brent climbed 10 percent last week, while U.S. crude finished the week up 12 percent.

Brent fell 76 cents to $49.29 per barrel as 0500 GMT after rising $2.49, or 5 percent, in the previous session. It fell more than $1 to $48.95 earlier in the session.

U.S. crude for October delivery CLc1 fell 63 cents to $44.59 per barrel after settling up $2.66, or 6.3 percent, in the previous session.

Mixed signals by U.S. financial policymakers last week on whether the U.S. Federal Reserve would raise interest rates next month was weighing on sentiment, Ang said.

Some Fed policymakers left the door open to a September interest rate hike at an annual central bankers meeting on Friday in comments that appeared to contradict those by the New York Fed president earlier in the week who said a rate increase seemed "less compelling".

The comment came after turmoil in global markets in recent weeks following China's currency devaluation and concerns over its slowing economy.

Investors are eyeing a slew of economic data, including key U.S. non-farm payroll data, later this week that could give direction on a possible U.S. rate hike when Fed policy makers meet on Sept. 16-17.

A rate hike is expected to support the U.S. dollar, making commodities including oil more expensive for users of other currencies.

"We believe that bearishness is still in play," Phillip Futures said in a note on Monday.

Prices could test technical support at $48.50 a barrel for Brent and $44 a barrel for U.S. crude.

"If prices hold above these levels, there is a chance that prices could move higher this week, which should hinge on optimistic non-farm payrolls," Phillip Futures said.

The market is also watching the outcome of planned United Nations-brokered talks later this week between Libya's warring factions aimed at forming a unity government.

Libya posted a budget deficit of 4.5 billion dinars ($3.3 billion) in the first seven months of 2015 as oil production fell and weak oil prices weighed, the Tripoli-based central bank said on Sunday.

(Reporting by Keith Wallis; Editing by Richard Pullin and Gopakumar Warrier)

Sunday, August 30, 2015

Ghana Strike Ends But Election Campaign to Test IMF Deal Further

Ghana faced down the first major challenge to an IMF austerity program on Monday when doctors suspended a three-week strike but a bigger test of President John Mahama's commitment will come next year as he fights for reelection.

The International Monetary Fund deal is designed to restore fiscal stability and kickstart growth in a country that recently lost its reputation as one of Africa's strongest economies after years in which its GDP grew at around 8 percent thanks to exports of gold, cocoa and oil.

The end of the strike by the Ghana Medical Association makes it easier for the government to honor the $918 million IMF program in the short-term. It also strengthens Mahama's hand should other disaffected unions stage industrial action, political analysts said.

But the decision by doctors to suspend their strike for better working conditions makes it harder for other civil servants to win redress for inequities and declining wages, potentially storing up grievances against Mahama's government.

The moment of truth will come next year when he faces opposition leader Nana Akufo-Addo in an election in December expected to be a repeat of the tight contest in 2012.

"The pressure on authorities to appease popular demands will intensify as the elections draw nearer," said Cobus de Hart, of NKC African Economics. "The challenge for government will be to prevent the snowball from getting too large."

Recent history shows the risk. Wage growth ballooned in 2012 ahead of the last election, causing a spike in the budget deficit and triggering a fiscal crisis that includes a debt-to-GDP ratio near 70 percent.

To keep to its IMF commitments, the government needs to contain pay agreements with civil servants to under 10 percent in its pre-budget round of talks with unions and ministries, according to Eurasia Group.

That may not be easy for Finance Minister Seth Terkper as he prepares the November budget. Inflation in July stood at 17.9 percent and the cedi currency has fallen sharply this year, undermining the real value of wages.

However, the Fund deal was sanctioned by parliament so both of the main parties should support government measures to keep it on track even as pre-election tensions rise, said John Gatsi, a senior lecturer in finance at the University of Cape Coast.

"The end of the strike provides ample opportunity for government to accommodate all the (labor) issues for the preparation of the 2016 budget process," he said.


The strike by Ghana's 2,800 doctors who were pushing for more clearly defined conditions of service including payments for additional work is not the only possible labor action.

The Coalition of Concerned Teachers said it was laying the groundwork for a strike in September when schools reopen to push for better conditions of service and the National Association of Graduate Teachers has made similar threats.

In particular, the Coalition wants to reform a system under which new teachers can work for up two years before receiving their first paycheck and then only receive a part of their arrears, said Ernest Opoku, president of the coalition.

"We make our own decisions and we have issued threat upon threat. They (doctors) had to strike first, but it doesn't change the way we want to go about it," he told Reuters, adding that the coalition had about 20,000 members.

Despite the threats, the chances of a broad strike that could shake the government are undermined by the fact that there are multiple unions and associations in Ghana even within the same profession and often they compete for membership and funds.

For example, there are at least three associations of school teachers. The biggest and most established, the Ghana National Association of Teachers, has no plans to join CCT action.

As a result, it is difficult for public service unions to achieve a consolidated challenge to government. High unemployment also reduces the leverage of private sector, non-professional unions because employees are easy to replace.

"Professional associations can use their muscle but the threat of strike action leads quickly to negotiation," said Yao Graham, head of the Third World Network, a research and advocacy group. "There is a climate in Ghana to resolve differences quickly."

(Editing by Daniel Flynn and Anna Willard)
SACP Message of Solidarity to the South African Municipal Workers Union National Congress
by Cde Solly Mapaila, 2nd Deputy General Secretary
26 August 2015

Let us work together to unite the working class, our communities, and our movement!

Dear comrades, for and on behalf of the SACP let me express our message of solidarity with your union and its entire membership. The SACP is behind you, dear comrades!

Over the last decade or so the SACP has been concerned about some of the weaknesses and challenges facing the progressive trade union movement and the workers in general. These challenges can only be properly understood from their structural causes and drivers. At the heart of this, is the massive restructuring of the workplace and the working class by the bosses who are interested in nothing but profit maximisation and private capital accumulation. This has had a huge impact on the unity of the trade union movement.

The casualisation, labour-brokering and retrenchment of the working class, even prior to the current global capitalist crisis, was already beginning to weaken workers and the unions in a number of sectors. The impact of this restructuring includes a devastating effect on an uneven scale across all sectors. In particular, the private sector, mining and manufacturing, services and hospitality, and in vulnerable sectors such as agriculture, farming and the domestic sector.

We must go back to the basics of organising. But at the same time, we need new methods to organise the rapidly changing capitalist world of work. The neoliberal restructuring of the capitalist workplace has led to declining trade union density in the private sector corresponding to the levels of insecurity which have increased. On the other hand, relative stability in the public sector has led to increasing trade union density in the. For example, the majority of the members of COSATU affiliates are now in the public sector unions.

Part of the restructuring of the capitalist workplace has also been the increasing ‘regionalisation’ of the working class in certain sectors, among others in agriculture and farming, private security, hospitality and domestic services. In other words, the bosses have shifted to the super-exploitation of vulnerable foreign nationals as a strategy to drive profitability. The answer to this cannot be xenophobic attacks. It is to be the unity of the workers and the working class as a whole independently of national borders!

In the trade union movement, there has been an increasing number of contestations over unions. Some of these appear to be new and strange kinds of contestations. This in itself is partly a reflection of the restructuring of the workplace. Of course, there are other factors as well.  Nowadays, we see business interests backing groupings in the electoral contests within unions and factionalising trade unions.  This phenomenon has been particularly acute in the NUM, SATAWU, CEPPWAWU but as well as in other unions where leadership has increasingly been challenged by moneyed interests in an attempt at corporate capture of these unions. Honest, frank and open analyses are absolutely necessary in order to confront this and other challenges facing our union movement.

A united, independent and militant COSATU is an indispensable part of second phase of our transition!

It is important that we remain focused on the unity of COSATU and our Alliance.  In fact it is during challenging times that we must ensure maximum unity. At no stage should any debate or disagreement within SAMWU or any of the COSATU affiliates be allowed to undermine unity. The unity of our unions is not up for sale, nor can it be recklessly gambled with to satisfy short-term and opportunistic objectives.  Any threats to split the federation or even to form another one must be exposed for what it is, an enemy plot to defeat organised workers and our democratic revolution!

As the SACP we would like to use this occasion to go on record to dismiss with the contempt it deserves any claims or insinuations that the SACP is or wants to divide COSATU. The SACP has a long and proud history of building the progressive trade union movement over its 94 years of existence against exploitation, for national liberation struggle and socialism. We continue to do so today. In fact no political party has contributed to the building of the trade union movement more than what the SACP has done!!

The SACP is firmly of the view that our revolution needs a strong and independent COSATU that is neither a conveyor belt for government and the ANC, nor that of the Party itself. We do not want a COSATU that is an extension of our Party, but we want a robust and militant COSATU that is able to take up the struggles of the workers consistently while remaining part of our national liberation movement.

For instance if SAMWU keeps quiet we can kiss good bye the objective of building and defending a democratic developmental local government. You must flex your muscles and advance workers interests and broader working class struggle within your structural location!

Defend the Unity of our movement, the ANC from corporate capture!

Defeat the so called Premier League, if such a thing exists. We hope the comrades referred to as such will come out and denounce the insinuation. Failure to so will have serious implications.

Dear comrades,

We must fight corruption and break ranks with corrupt leaders!

We must defeat factionalism and the constitutional hijacking and capturing of the movement by anti-working class heroes, who unashamedly if ironically we put to power. The working class must never lower its guards. It must protect its long term interests and fight resolutely to secure its immediate aims. This cannot be entrusted on individuals. It is the task of the class as a whole and its organised detachments!

We must equally uproot patronage and the financialisation of internal processes used to hijack structures.

Declare war on the tigers and smash the flies and pursue the hyenas by satellites!

This means we must resolutely fight the kingpins of corruption; deal with their runners decisively; pursue those who run away; stash corrupt proceeds both in the public sector, the private sector and inside our movements! This we must do indiscriminately, without regard to rank and position if we are interested in the success of our national democratic transformation and a prosperous South Africa.

Let us deepen the unity of our movement!

We must applaud the recent outcomes of the alliance summit on deepening the unity of our movement. We must not allow those who do not want to see a strong alliance to undermine these outcomes. We must defend these outcomes!

Let us combat a partisan political agenda that seeks to hijack our independent democratic institutions in the name of defending them!

Recently, we have seen unelected non-governmental organisations or companies such as “Corruption Watch” and “Freedom Under Law” seeking to assert private control over the National Prosecuting Authority (NPA). The retired Constitutional Court Judge, Johann Kriegler, is reportedly “behind Freedom Under Law”. Judge Kriegler called 702 radio station on Wednesday, 19 August, to denounce an independent decision arrived at by the NPA.

On Tuesday, 18 August, the NPA withdrew charges of perjury against the Deputy National Director of Public Prosecutions (DNDPP), Advocate Nomgcobo Jiba. The NPA said there was no prospect for successful prosecution. In addition, the authority said that the Prevention of Organised Crime Act indemnifies prosecutorial actions taken in good faith, such as the decisions made by the DNDPP. The charges were, partly brought against the DNDPP based on disagreements on those decisions.

The hypocritical agenda represented by the retired judge and the unelected non-governmental organisations that want to assert their authority on our independent state institutions runs in parallel to another strategy. There is a move to have the DNDPP struck off the roll of advocates by the General Council of the Bar.

Our people must not fall to the deception that this agenda is about the law and a fight against corruption. We must all understand this for what it is, a partisan agenda and a politics of opposition to our democratically elected government!

We all know that retired judges remain on the payroll of the state for the rest of their lives, and this for good reasons. Their conduct should therefore be no different from that of the rest of the other judges. A retired judge, for instance, may be appointed to perform a judicial function as and when it becomes necessary. The conduct of some of the retired judges therefore leaves much to be desired.

We also know that many of the unelected non-governmental organisations, which are mostly made up by few individuals operating under the name of civil society, were established to pursue partisan political agendas by other means.

Imperialism has found useful partners in many of such groupings. Not only does imperialism sponsor many of them the world over, in pursuit of its economic and political interests, it has actually been behind their formation. We should equally applaud many who seek to find solutions to our problems than inflame the problems like the not useful posture of the EFF.

It is important therefore to recognise that the scope for political activity has long been widened beyond formal political parties in the name of being “non-political”. It is important for all of us to see when such political action is being played out.

We must also intensify, as the working class, our own programme to build working class power and hegemony in all terrains of struggle.

But the hostile agenda against our struggle is not only embedded in small groupings operating in the name of “civil society”.

The media is not beyond reproach, it not above board!

Such a partisan agenda has a backing in the media, where, it is pursued in the name of the principle of objective, balanced, accurate and fair reporting. These principles have by the way long been discredited by that very same biased media content.

In a country such as ours, where the media, especially the press, is constituted by private monopoly capital, such partisan agendas have proven to be very dangerous.

In particular, the whole of the government, and democratic state institutions which have not been annexed by private corporate capture or by the influence of oppositionism masqueraded as independence are consistently branded as corrupt. This toxic news is being repeated over and over again.

The basic content of this agenda is to discredit national liberation movements that remain anti-imperialist, or that have at least not derailed from the historical mission of the national liberation struggle. The aim is to make people lose confidence in those movements, such as ours as led by the ANC, and then elbow them out of government by “democratic means”. The immediate objective is to reduce their electoral support, to a point where they are unable to govern without coalition partners which are in the opposition. We must defeat this agenda!

Let us push forward with media transformation!

Our immediate strategic tasks include vigorously advancing the struggle to achieve transformation and diversity in the media and accountability, including independent regulation. We must de-monopolise the media industry!

The voice of the people – as defined in the Freedom Charter – must find space in the media, regardless whether they are the working class, poor, township or rural. Presently, this voice is marginalised.

Which is why our struggle to achieve media transformation correctly includes independent regulation!

Another key centre of power our liberation struggle and its second, more radical phase of democratic transition will not succeed without its transformation is the financial sector!

Let us continue pushing to achieve transformation of the financial sector to serve the people!

The financial sector exercises enormous amount of power over the affairs of the rest of society. This through control over and management of our resources, the people must manage their own resources through strong public economy including cooperatives in sectors of the economy not least in industry and the banks.  The state must play an enabling role and also create its own banks to lend the working class cheaply and help fund development. We must also change the way the Development Finance Institutions like the IDC, DBSA operates so that they should vigorously pursue a developmental agenda and not the narrow capitalist projects funding irrespective of social impact and national imperatives.

Presently, there is an estimated 20 billion rands of unclaimed pension or retirement funds which are in the hands of the financial sector. Beneficiaries and their dependents find it very hard to claim their fair or deserved share of this resources. Some have in fact given up, while others are not even aware that they are entitled to claim their money.

It is important to go all out in social mobilisation among our people to build awareness about the resources, for our people to claim their apportionments. The SACP reiterate its call for public administration of the unclaimed retirement funds. These resources must be invested in ways that make them available for the advancement of national development.

The SACP reiterates its call to the National Economic Development and Labour Council to convene the second financial sector summit to review progress since the first summit was held about a decade ago. The banks are unreliable, they have practically reversed many of the gains we gained on the streets because we have lost focus as the working and started fighting internally.

Let us stop the unnecessary fights and face the common enemy that impoverish the working class!

South Africans need affordable financial services, as opposed to the astronomical charges imposed by the banks. The life sentence of 20 years on mortgage bonds and its structure of compounded interest rates must come to an end!

So are unscrupulous and mostly corrupt evictions, and illegal garnishee orders.

We are calling on you, dear comrades, to join our campaign on the transformation of the Financial Sector linked properly with your campaign for decent wage.

South Africans need a new financial sector architecture to drive both transformation and development. Presently, the financial sector is like a self-serving vampire that acts as a predator on our people as its preys!

Our country will not become prosperous while it remains under the yoke of the prevailing financial sector and its predatory practices.

Without democratic public control on the financial sector, we will find it difficult to direct investment to the productive sector of the economy to create jobs.

Without the overall transformation of the financial sector, our second, more radical phase of democratic transition will not become successful.

It is important in the face of the ongoing international capitalist system crisis to close ranks and unite!

It is important for the working class to build maximum unity in order to withstand this crisis, and to take our struggle for socialism to greater heights.

Capitalism is the cause of the crises we are facing, not its solution!

The only solution is socialism!

Since the eruption of this global crisis first in the United States prior to 2008 the world economy has not recovered, including South Africa.

The pre-crisis peak levels in growth and production have not been reached in many sectors of the economy. Millions of workers throughout the world lost their jobs in the aftermath of the crisis, which became a Great Recession. Many workers who found new jobs since then had to face a downgrade in quality, conditions and income.

The bosses’ neoliberal agenda of casualisation involving permanent temporarisation of employment has increased in many economies with devastating consequences for the workers. The bosses do not care about the workers. They care about one thing and one thing only. That is profit. If anything happens that reduces the rate of profit they always and everywhere turn the heat on to the workers.

There have been many capitalist responses to the Great Recession, ranging from:

undemocratic regime change agendas, including military aggression spearheaded by the United States and its European imperialist allies and support for unelected non-governmental organisations operating under the name of civil society but coalescing on opposition and regime change agenda bent against national liberation movements which remain anti-imperialist;

to austerity measures imposed in Europe and elsewhere against the working class.

It is during these multiple crises that we have seen an intensified agenda to divide the trade union movement and tear it apart. The progressive trade union movement in South Africa has been the focus of this agenda.

If the history of all hitherto existing society is the history of class struggle involving the oppressor and the oppressed, then the history of the oppressor and the oppressed is the history of the oppressor establishing connections and securing collaborators among the oppressed in order to perpetuate oppression, including exploitation.

This is the context in which the world trade union movement was divided in the post-World War 2 period, underpinned by an imperialist agenda to destroy the World Federation of Trade Unions.

That is no different from the disunity that the progressive trade union movement has been faced with in our country since the eruption of the Great Recession.

We call on you, dear comrades, to consider positively the re-joining of the WFTU, our class oriented international trade union movement built by the toiling masses in the fight against imperialism.

Let us confront the forces of disunity for what they are!

The forces of disunity against and in the trade union movement have adopted the characteristics of a virus. They have sought to extend their reach and multiply themselves through factionalism in every organisation they manage to infect. The ultimate agenda in the event of failure to capture the whole body organisation is to destroy it and use the rabbles obtained from it to advance separatist organisation.

Revolutionary theory drawn from the historical experience of revolutionary practice taught us that the workers divided they will fall. The workers’ basic weapon of victory in any class struggle is unity. Those who are advancing disunity, division and fragmentations are therefore not serving the historical mission of the workers in particular and the working class in general.

It is only the enemy class that stands to benefit from such reactionary tendencies that might as well be mostly supported by hostile forces. It is important to bear in mind that in class struggle the most dangerous enemy is the enemy within, the one who is wearing the same colours, plans and sings with you, while propagating the enemy agenda.  This should make us vigilant – but we must not start chasing shadows looking for the enemy within.

Let us broaden our unity!

Let us combat sectarianism!

It is important to emphasise that employed workers alone do not constitute the totality of the working class. Play your revolutionary role in our communities. Join the Alliance formations and call on your families and friends to also join and strengthen our revolution. Join the SACP and also pay the due levies so it can truly be funded by the workers and not corporate sponsors.

In the recent period we have come across an agenda that reacts negatively towards our revolutionary theory of broad unity that is based on a revolutionary minimum platform. This agenda has called for our liberation alliance to be dissolved. This destructive agenda has been driven in the name of the Freedom Charter.

Ironically, that very same agenda has been courting anti-Freedom Charter organisations, some of which have openly adopted the so-called free market, with a view to establish a Cosatu rival with them. The same agenda has also been courting other anti-Freedom Charter groupings, with a view to establish the so-called political organ with them, opposed to our liberation alliance. We need not waste any further time on this reactionary tendency. Let us recall the words of revolutionary wisdom by Karl Marx in The Eighteenth Brumaire of Louis Bonaparte when he said:

“As, in private life, the distinction is made between what a man thinks of himself and says, and that which he really is and does, so, all the more, must the phrases and notions of parties in historic struggles be distinguished from their real organism, and their real interests, their notions and their reality.”

The workers must unite among themselves against exploitation, but they must also unite with the rest of the other revolutionary forces to complete the national democratic revolution, whose basic programme is the Freedom Charter. Our liberation alliance remains the best suited and most capable political organisation of our society to take forward this complex struggle.

Let us remember, as we are gathered here today, that the international economic crisis is not over!

A recent fall in Chinese stock market culminated in a big meltdown when we convened in Soweto in July during our SACP Special National Congress. On the opening day of our congress, 8 July, The Daily Mail in the UK reported that: “Almost $3 trillion (£2trn) – more than the entire economic output of Brazil – has been wiped out since markets went into reverse just a few weeks ago, posing a bigger headache for many global investors than even the Greek debt crisis”. Let us recall that $3 equals to R39 at one of the dollar-rand exchange rate of R13 excluding additional cents.
More has been lost since then.

The Chinese economy is South Africa’s trading partner of note. Production slowdown in China, coupled with persistent crisis in Europe, has had a negative impact on the export of our raw materials, especially mining resources since the basic structure of our economy has not been fundamentally transformed. The resource boom has bust, and the prices of mineral resources have plummeted. All of this combined with other factors in the ongoing international economic crisis have impacted on the rand and many other currencies to the extent they have fallen drastically to low levels last seen a decade ago.

With our economy still resource dependent, major crisis often announces itself through the mining sector. Mining bosses have reacted to the crisis by announcing intentions to retrench thousands of workers. Next to mining bosses, they have been joined in this looming jobs bloodbath by steel bosses who also announced intentions to retrench thousands of workers.  

Let us emphasise our message, workers need to maximise unity in the face of this onslaught and all other offensives by the capitalist class. Let us remember what Cosatu has said and says everyday: “An injury to one is an injury to all”. Workers need to stand together regardless of the sectors of the economy in which they are employed!

That is why, as the SACP, we say:

Workers unite! You have nothing to lose but your chains!

Let us unite in defence of our plight!

Let us unite to push forward the second, more radical phase of our democratic transition!

Without the unity of the workers, the unity of the working class, our revolution will discourage!

The industrialisation we seek to achieve as one of the strategic tasks of the second, more radical phase of our transition, to create jobs and reduce inequality, will not be achieved!
Let me for and on behalf of the SACP and our ever growing membership wish you fruitful deliberations and a very successful congress of our municipal workers!

For in your success lies our vested interest as the Communist! We have no separate interests of our own except your success!!!

Dear comrades,

Our struggle is not a narrow national struggle!

It is an international struggle!

We also want to use this opportunity to call on you to express your solidarity with the Kurdish people who are facing merciless attacks by the hawkish Turkish government led by Erdogan. Turkey is indiscriminately killing innocent civilians, women and children, and burning their homes in villages.

The South African government must condemn these senseless attacks.

We should equally commend the peace talks in South Sudan and encourage our comrades to lay down arms and embrace one another and build a prosperous South Sudan.

The SACP says,

Workers of the world unit! You have nothing to lose but your chains!


Long live SAMWU!

Down with Capitalsim!

Forward with Socialism!
Efforts on Gender in Peace and Security Gain Pace
28 AUG 2015 13:24
South African Mail & Guardian

Women's participation in mediation increases the inclusiveness, relevance, implementation and indeed the sustainability of peacebuilding.

The significance of 2015 continently and globally in the drive for women’s empowerment and the achievement of gender equality provides a useful backdrop to assess efforts to use mainstreaming as a tool to bring gender into the equation within peacekeeping and peace and security frameworks in Africa.

This year marks the 20th anniversary of the United Nation’s (UN’s) Beijing Declaration and Platform for Action, aimed at achieving greater equality and opportunities for women, and the 15th anniversary of the adoption of United Nations Security Council Resolution (UNSCR) 1 325 on women peace and security. The obligation to promote the participation of women in all aspects of peace processes is codified in international human rights and humanitarian law (Accord Policy and Practice Brief No.25: 2013). This is a central part of UNSCRs 1325 (2000), 1889 (2010), and 1960 (2010), as well as the Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination Against Women (1979), and the Beijing Platform for Action (1995). The Beijing event with its almost 50 000 men and women representing 189 governments and 2 100 non-governmental organisations (NGOs) represents the tipping point, when gender equality and women’s empowerment issues finally gained prominence and momentum within the UN.

This month, another milestone was reached when 193 countries agreed to a set of UN Sustainable Development Goals (SDG’s), replacing the UN Millennium Development Goals (MDGs), and incorporating strong components on women and gender. At continental level we are at the midpoint of the African Women’s Decade which aims to accelerate the implementation of gender equality and women empowerment commitments; and just over a decade ago the African Union (AU) adopted a Solemn Declaration on Gender Equality in Africa, calling for the implementation of gender parity in the AU and at national level, the protection of women against violence and discrimination, and the ratification by member states of the Protocol to the African Charter on Human and Peoples’ Rights on the Rights of Women in Africa.

Over the last few decades it has become apparent that supporting women’s capacities to actually participate in peace processes is a crucial part of their advancement and ability to contribute to peace, development and security. Women’s potential as mediators has, however, not yet been extensively tapped, and organisations at multi-lateral, regional and national level engaged in peacemaking need to increase support for both women’s capacity to participate in peace processes and their actual participation.

Women remain largely marginalised from participating in mediation in conflicts in Africa, yet their participation increases the inclusiveness, relevance, implementation and indeed the sustainability of such agreements and subsequent peacebuilding and post-conflict reconstruction of the country.  Women’s representation within mediation teams and the number and frequency of consultations between mediation teams and women’s groups have at least been increasing at grassroots levels. What is needed is active and equitable participation in peace processes at much higher levels.

Similarly, within peacekeeping, the emerging view is that the inclusion of gender perspectives is central to the continued credibility of peacekeeping operations, and to the achievement of sustainable peace and security. Thanks to the extensive efforts of many stakeholders over recent years, the relevance of addressing gender issues in peacekeeping is no longer in question. It is increasingly the norm for planners to include gender dimensions in peacekeeping operations whether civilian, military or police. Some studies have attempted to highlight the benefits of women as uniformed peacekeepers.

The experience at the African Centre for the Constructive Resolution of Disputes (Accord) is that at regional level in Africa, practical efforts are being made to focus on gender in line with AU commitments. In 2013, Accord contributed to the launch of the Inter-Governmental Authority on Development’s (IGAD’s) gender milestones and trained women from the IGAD region in conflict prevention, management and resolution.  In 2014, Accord conducted training for the Southern African Development Community (SADC) Regional Peacekeeping Training Centre in understanding gender issues in peace support operations; and trained women from the Republic of Sudan, the Republic of South Sudan and various countries in the Great Lakes region on mediation and peacebuilding for IGAD’s Mediation Support Unit. In 2015, Accord has signed Memoranda of Understanding with both the Southern African Development Community (SADC) and the Common Market for Eastern and Southern Africa (COMESA) that will include elements of gender mainstreaming.

Achievements by the UN in its peace operations work include the institutionalisation of gender mainstreaming with gender focal points and units at headquarter and field levels; a UN system-wide goal of ensuring gender equality in representation; deployment of all-female police units in countries such as the Democratic Republic of the Congo, Haiti and Liberia; gender training for military, police and civilian peacekeeping personnel; and incorporation of gender perspectives in planning and programme budgets.

The AU too has also demonstrated increasing commitment to mainstreaming gender (V. Gounden: 2013), as reflected in the AU’s Constitutive Act; the Women and Gender Development Directorate; the Gender Policy; the Gender Training Manual for peace support operations; and gender offices in missions in Darfur, Mali and Somalia. Nonetheless, successful implementation of UNSCR 1325 in peace operations remains limited and inconsistent. There is need for further reflection on the central role of gender mainstreaming in peacekeeping operations in Africa to increase operational effectiveness.

The field has advanced in the last few decades. Before 2000, there was less reported analysis by international actors engaged in humanitarian and peacebuilding processes of how conflict impacts women and men differently. As a result, the perception of women as victims of conflict rather than agents of change had become embedded in societies and organisations. Now a normative framework has been built and policies at strategic level are slowly being translated into actual implementation. Change is accelerating. Accord is honoured to be contributing to these efforts.

Accord is a non-governmental organisation working throughout Africa to bring creative solutions to the challenges posed by conflict on the continent. Accord’s primary aim is to influence political developments by bringing conflict resolution, dialogue and institutional development to the forefront as alternatives to armed violence and protracted conflict. For more information on Accord’s work, please contact Wolfe Braude, Communications Manager, at
HIV Vaccine Comes to Town
by Harmony Agere
Zimbabwe Sunday Mail
Sunday, Aug 30, 2015

In a development that is likely to turn around the country’s fight against HIV and Aids, a consortium of research organisations will embark on clinical trials of an HIV vaccine, starting with 24 volunteers this coming November.

Announcing the landmark research, Dr Lynda Stranix-Chibanda, who is leading the research team, said the clinical trials will be conducted at Seke South Clinic and will involve 24 volunteers. If all the regulatory approvals are achieved, the trials will begin as soon as November, she said.

“The research protocol is currently under review by the regulatory authorities that govern medical research in Zimbabwe, such as the Medical Research Council of Zimbabwe, Medicines Control Authority of Zimbabwe, and National Biotechnology Authority of Zimbabwe,” she said.

“This review will possibly be completed towards November 2015. In the meantime, the research team continues to prepare the clinic and an intense training course, interacting with regional colleagues who will also conduct the trial and learning best practice from the more experienced vaccine trial sites.

“The trial will be conducted in Zimbabwe at Seke South Clinic. We will recruit from the surrounding community, following information and education sessions for various groups in the area,” she explained.

The trials, to be run under the name HVTN 107, will be rolled out in phases over the next five to 10 years with the initial phase expected to last about three years.

“This is an early phase trial for very few people. Only 24 people will be recruited in Zimbabwe, although we may need to screen three times as many as that to get the 24 people who qualify to enter.”

Dr Stranix-Chibanda went on to say there is need to make sure that the volunteers truly understand the study and the commitment required and willingly give consent to join.

She added that although the vaccine is safe for humans they will screen the health of volunteers to make sure they have no condition that would make it risky to receive new drugs.

“HIV vaccine studies have been happening for about 20 years already, not just in Zimbabwe. This particular kind of vaccine has been used before in humans in the RV144 trial in Thailand where over 16 000 adults received the vaccine safely.

“The Thai vaccine was modified to better suit the kind of HIV strain circulating in Southern Africa – clade C. The vaccines have already passed the pre-clinical phase, being tested in laboratory animals, and are now ready for human trials.”

Vaccination has, in recent history, been one of the most important shields of humans against infectious diseases such as polio, measles and yellow fever. As such, the development of vaccines that prevent these diseases has helped reduce mortality rates by significant margins worldwide.

Sadly, there is yet to be a cure or a vaccine for the endemic HIV virus, which is arguably the deadliest virus of the 21st century. Drugs such as antiretrovirals (ARVs) have been developed to reduce the effects of HIV but the virus remains prevalent in the world and Zimbabwe in particular.

Statistics show that about 15 percent of Zimbabwe’s population is living with HIV while 35 million people in the world have succumbed to Aids-related illnesses so far.

The multi-organisational group that is spearheading the research in HIV vaccines, the HIV Vaccines Trial Network (HVTN), has made inroads in their researches and say the first and much-awaited clinical trial of a possible vaccine in Zimbabwe by November will give hope to many as it brings the world a step closer to finding an effective vaccine. The trial will be conducted by the University of Zimbabwe in partnership with the University of San Francisco.

The vaccine which will be tested in Zimbabwe is an improvement of the Thai vaccine, which after being tested in about 16 000 people in Thailand, reduced the risk of contracting HIV by almost 31 percent. In Thailand, the trial was hailed by researchers as successful since its results gave the first supporting evidence of any vaccine being effective in lowering the risk of contracting HIV.

According to online references a total of 16 402 volunteers aged between 18 and 30 were recruited to participate in the trial in Thailand. The volunteers were randomly placed in double-blind study groups, with those in the experimental group receiving a phase III prime-boost HIV vaccine.

Volunteers were only eligible to participate in the study on the basis that they were HIV-negative prior to enrolment.

After being vaccinated, volunteers were asked to receive HIV testing every six months for three years, as well as receive additional risk-behaviour counselling at every testing visit. During the study, 125 of the 16 402 participants contracted HIV through behaviour unrelated to their study participation.

Immediately after the release of the results, there was controversy and dispute over the significance of these results raised by several researchers, who also questioned the unusual strategy of pre-releasing the conclusion of vaccine efficacy to the Press before publication of the actual data in a peer-reviewed scientific journal.

Chief Executive Officer and Registrar of the National Biotechnology Authority (NBA), Dr Jonathan Mufandaedza, said his organisation is still scrutinising the research protocol adding that the authority’s mandate is to ensure that the trials are safe.

“NBA is one of the regulators that will be involved in the trial to ensure that biosafety procedures are followed before, during and after the trial,” he said.

“To this end, NBA has been working with the researchers to ensure that all bio safety guidelines are being followed. This includes formulation of an Institutional Biosafety Committee as stipulated in the NBA Act.

“NBA has already done preliminary inspections of the trial site (Seke South Clinic) and records. Throughout the trial, the researchers will have to submit progress reports and the NBA will ensure that safety standards are being adhered to.”

Dr Mufandaedza said the vaccine to be used in the HVNT107 study is not the virulent HIV but rather a pox protein engineered vaccine that can elicit an immunological response when injected into a healthy being.

He said timing and completion of the review process is dependent upon the researchers meeting the biosafety and other regulatory requirements.

Efforts to get a comment from the other regulators were not successful as some said they were not aware of the research while others requested questions to which they had not responded to by the time of going to print.

Public health research expert with National University of Science and Technology, Nomathemba Ndiweni, says while it is plausible to receive funding to carry out such trials in Africa, scientists carrying such studies must have deep knowledge and be skilled in HIV/Aids.

“The general problem and failure of most clinical studies in Africa is that they are being carried out by scientists with little capacity in terms of knowledge and experience in the research fields.”
200 Feared Dead as Migrant Boat Sinks Off Libyan Coast
August 29, 2015

TRIPOLI/GENEVA.- A boat packed with mainly African migrants bound for Italy sank off the Libyan coast on Thursday, and officials said up to 200 might have died. A security official in the western town of Zuwara, from where the overcrowded boat had set off, said there had around 400 people on board. Many appeared to have been trapped in the hold when it capsized.

By late in the evening, the Libyan coast guard rescued around 201, of which 147 were brought to a detention facility for illegal migrants in Sabratha, west of Tripoli, the official said, asking not to be named. Another local official and a journalist based in Zuwara confirmed the sinking but also had no information on casualties.

The migrants on board had been from sub-Saharan Africa, Pakistan, Syria, Morocco and Bangladesh, the security official said. The Italian coast guard, which has been coordinating rescue operations with the European Union off the Libyan coast, could not immediately confirm a sinking.

Libya’s coast guard has very limited capabilities, relying on small inflatables, tug boats and fishing vessels. Zuwara, Libya’s most western town located near the Tunisian border, is a major launchpad for smugglers shipping migrants to Italy. Libya has turned into a transit route for migrants fleeing conflict and poverty to make it to Europe. Cross-border smuggler networks exploit the country’s lawlessness and chaos to bring Syrians into Libya via Egypt or nationals of sub-Saharan countries via Niger, Sudan and Chad.

More than 2,300 people have died this year in attempts to reach Europe by boat, compared with 3,279 during the whole of last year, according to the International Organisation for Migration. Hundreds of residents of one of Libya’s most notorious people-smuggling hubs have staged an anti-smuggling protest after the discovery of up to 200 corpses in waters close to the town.

Mohsen Ftis, a representative of Doctors Without Borders (MSF) said many Zuwara residents had delivered a powerful reminder of the human cost of the town’s principal source of income. “Most of the town came out and demonstrated,” said Ftis.

“They said it wasn’t human. They were emotional. They were very angry and they don’t like it.” The incident has highlighted how the death toll in the Mediterranean may be far higher than is believed. Statistics compiled by the UN rely mostly on reports from European rescue missions, but bodies regularly turn up on the shores of both Libya and the eastern Tunisian coast. Owing to the breakdown of the Libyan state and reticence from the Tunisian government they sometimes go undocumented.

But Libya is still experiencing record numbers of departures. An unprecedented wave of people from African countries such as Eritrea, Somalia and Nigeria are still using it as a means of reaching Europe – and thousands are still dying in the attempt. Meanwhile, a truck that was discovered abandoned on an Austrian motorway on Thursday contained 71 bodies including children, police sources said yesterday, adding that three people had been arrested in connection with the deaths.

The refugees likely suffocated in the refrigerated truck abandoned on Austria’s main highway, said Hans Peter Doskozil, chief of police in eastern Burgenland province. The truck, which had arrived in Austria from Hungary, was found by an Austrian motorway patrol near the border just before lunchtime on Thursday, with fluids from the decomposing bodies seeping from its back door.

“Work continued throughout the night, but I expect all the bodies have been removed now,” said Helmut Marban, a police spokesman for the Burgenland province. “Forensic investigators are still at the lorry and trying to establish all the facts.”

Even before the latest incidents, the International Organisation for Migration estimated 2,373 people had died so far this year while trying to reach Europe by sea and 3 573 in the past 12 months. “There are thousands and thousands of dead lying in the Mediterranean whose bodies will never be found, and no one is paying attention,” said Palermo’s Mayor Leoluca Orlando.

Hundreds of thousands, many fleeing war in countries such as Syria and Libya, have made it into the European Union. Germany alone expects 800,000 asylum seekers this year; Hungary is building a barbed-wire fence along its border with Serbia. EU foreign policy chief Federica Mogherini said she hoped the tragedy would push member states to “take decisions and responsibility”.

European Commissioner Johannes Hahn reiterated that Brussels would propose a fresh look at the situation in the next few weeks with a view to sharing responsibility between EU countries. “We will have another go at quotas. I hope that in the light of the most recent developments now there is a readiness among all the 28 (member states) to agree on this,” he said.

Greece’s coast guard says it has rescued 665 migrants at sea in 20 search-and-rescue operations off the islands of Lesbos, Chios, Samos, Agathonissi, Kos and Megisti in the 24 hours from Thursday morning to yesterday morning. The figures do not include the hundreds more who reach the islands’ shores from the nearby Turkish coast each day, most of them using inflatable dinghies. The vast majority of those arriving in Greece are Syrian and Afghan refugees.

The migrants pouring into Greece are hoping to travel north via the Balkans and apply for asylum in wealthy European Union nations like Germany, Austria or Sweden. Greece, Macedonia, Serbia and Hungary have been overwhelmed this summer by the tens of thousands of migrants traveling through their countries.

The Guardian/France24/Reuters.
More Outrage Over Buhari’s Appointments
August 29, 2015
Nigerian Vanguard

*Buhari’s govt is inactive — PDP
*Nigerians deserve what they got — Fani-kayode
*It’s a Buhari country — Abaribe


THE outrage over the appointments made by President Muhammadu Buhari continued yesterday with more Nigerians accusing the President of being ethnically biased. Even though, many who spoke to Vanguard and others who did so on their social media page, were not surprised about the development, there was an apparent consensus that the appointments did not reflect Nigeria’s ethnic diversity.

The Peoples Democratic Party, PDP, in its reaction, said  the appointments should not be  greeted with enthusiasm, saying that it is more concerned about the delivering of good governance. In a text message to Vanguard, the party’s Publicity Secretary, Mr. Olise Metuh, said:  “The PDP  has no official response to the president’s style and  choice of appointees. We are more concerned with the inactivity in governance  and economic matters. On account of lack of ideas, this government is orchestrating drama in delayed appointments  and selective witch-hunt on anti-corruption.”

Similarly, a former Minister of Aviation, Chief Femi Fani-Kayode on his Facebook page, said Nigerians are already witnessing the consequences of his pre- election warning of not voting  for the All Progressives Congress,APC.

He said: ‘’ Nigerians wanted change and now we have got it. No one should complain because this is what our people wanted. Those of us who warned the country that this would happen were insulted and lampooned. Now we have to live with the consequences of our choice for the next four years. Welcome to the new Nigeria. Welcome to change.”

Also reacting, former Minister of Transport, Chief Ebenezer Babatope said: “ Democracy to Buhari is government  of the Northerners by the Northerners and for the Northerners. God bless Nigeria. “

The  immediate past  Senate Majority Leader, Senator Victor Ndoma- Egba, who hailed the appointments, said this is not the first time someone outside the Customs was chosen to head the agency.

Ndoma – Egba said: “They are  competent with proven integrity. It will not be the first time someone will be appointed from outside to head Customs. Dr.Bello Haliru  Mohammed, current  acting Chairman of the PDP Board of Trustees, BoT was appointed to head Customs from outside. “

Senator Enyinnaya Abaribe,  stressed that no one should be surprised at the appointments because the President had allegedly pledged to give priority to those, who voted for him.

He said:  “No one should be surprised over what is happening or the shape of the political appointments made by President Muhammadu Buhari.  To be fair to him, the President said  during his recent state visit to the United States of America, that he will reward those who voted for him.

“Again, it could be the style of the ruling All Progressive Congress (APC). That is to say, that the party has chosen as a style, to run a government that encourages alienation of a sizeable portion of its people, as well as one that promotes exclusivity.

“Every political party has its style, like the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) that adopted its own style of running an inclusive national government, which reflected the true character and national outlook of the Nigerian people. PDP’s style was inclusive not minding the voting pattern of any section of the country or where its support base was derived.

“For any party, there should not be any political barrier or alienation of any constituent part, because after elections the President is the President and father of all Nigerians irrespective of political leaning.

“My hunch is that the appointments so far, which has surreptitiously thrown up the prevailing circumstance, has failed to encourage our people’s hunger and quest to build a nation state out of a heterogeneous Nigeria. The appointments as it were does not also support the effort to weave a more cohesive country that would metamorphose into a nation where unity and love will prevail.

“The founding fathers of our nation had this in mind when the notion of “Federal. Character” was inscribed in the constitution and a commission created for that purpose. That a President of elder statesman status would willfully breach this fibre that holds this country together is highly regrettable.

“My take is that, it is a ‘Buhari country’, it is the reality, so he can play around with his choice as his mind and conscience directs him. After all he did not win election in the South East and  South-South and yet he became President, therefore, the South should be orphaned for not voting for him. Perhaps that is the stark reality that the people of the South in Nigeria should face.

“There is an idiom in Igbo language that says: “20 years or more is not eternity”. The Buhari government will also come to an end one day.

“Nonetheless, it could have been good and politically expedient if President Buhari sees himself as President of Nigeria, which is the hallmark of a statesman and not that of President of a section of the country. “

The Deputy Minority Leader of the Senate, Senator Emmanuel Bwacha, said: “ The President has his reason, that’s all I can say.” (Find the geo-political spread of appointments below).

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Mr President steps on the gas pedal

August 30, 2015
By Babajide Alabi

If there is one thing Nigerians agree with without any acrimony, it is that we do not do things in half measures. We are committed and passionate about whatever we do. We do not take prisoners in expressing our thoughts on the state of affairs in our country. As a result, every Nigerian is a commentator on the state of affairs in the sleeping giant of Africa as they analyse news and not shy to offer opinions.

We are usually emotional when it comes to expectations from our government as we do not pretend to hide our feelings or emotions. This is why we are fanatical in our support or opposition of leaders in the country. As Nigerians, whatever we put our minds in, we usually do with style and panache, even when sometimes it is not in the best interest of the nation.

The news coming from Nigeria in the past three weeks have been sweet and sour combination. It has been sweet because the government of President Muhammad Buhari has finally taken off. In these three weeks, it has shown it not only have teeth, it is ready to use them. With recent events it has also shown to Nigerians and probably to the world that the government would not only bark but ready to bite, if need be.

Even if you are blind, you can still feel the flurry of activities everywhere. The continuous sack of appointees of the former government who might have been heavily involved in the mess the Buhari has inherited is an indication of readiness to break away from the past. The president seem very desperate to replace these set of non-performing appointees with trusted and capable hands.

If there is one thing that really gladens the hearts of Nigerians, it is the sound bite of fighing corruption that has now become the “Songs of Praise” for the government. The improvished Nigerians are able to identify with these moves as they believe their lives are ruined daily by corruption and mismanagement. They feel depressed when they read in the media that so and so amount of money has ben solen by their represemtatives.

The government has signified its intention to treat corruption as the greatest enemy of the state. The activities of the governemtn in the past three weeks have shown that there is not going to be any deviation from the electoral promises made by the President that fighting corruption and mismanagement of the country’s resources shall be his priorities.

Unfortunately, apart from the government’s body language on corruption, and the recent announcement of key appointments, all other plans are still being kept close to the chests of Mr President and his confidants. This little bit is enough to bring hope to Nigerians who have been yearning for something to cheer in this new government.

On the other side of the news coin is the sour bit which has revealed that the beautiful ones are not yet born in Nigeria. As Mr President was busy signing the sack letters of the political appointees, Nigerians also learnt that some highly reverred politicians who we thought were“saints” have actually soiled their hands with “shady and unexplainable” deals. The revelations go beyond unacceptable business practices, but also totally unbelievable payments for jobs that should have cost “peanuts”.

It is no secret that corruption and mismanagement are the majot obstacles to development in the country. These did not start yesterday or last year, they have always been the bane of the largest black populated country in the world. There is an adage that says the bigger the head, the bigger the headaches that worry it. This can be said of the country Nigeria. A big country with over 170 million (unofficial) citizens with aspirations to be rich and live a life of affluence.

While these citizens have legitimate rights to aspire to be rich and comfortable, the governmenats that are supposed to lay the foundations for these are unconcerned with the subjects. As a result of the lack of needed infrastructures and platforms for individual developments, the citizens had no choice than to “loot” the governemnt to achieve their dreams.

No one can blame the citizens, since they were taught in Civics (a popular subject in the Primary School curriculum) that the citizens are the government, and governments are made up of citizens. And by extension, they realised so early in life that democracy is actually a governent of the people, by the people and for the people.

While since independence, Nigeria has been unfortunate not to have uninterrupted democratic rules, this has not deterred the citizens from putting into practice what they learnt in Civics. Either military or civilian rules, the aim of majority of Nigerians is to be part of the government. In other parts of the world, this will be borne out of love and patriotism for the country, but in Nigeria, the desire to be in government is to have a platform for achieving the aspiration to be rich.

The idea is not far fetched, as the citizens have been taught in kindergaten that a country is a commonwealth where nations and citizens can draw from and be satisfied. This brings confidence and satisfaction to people, rather than remorse, when they dip their hands in government till. They need not feel any guilt, as the money belongs to all and no one in particular.

Stealing from government dates back to so many years ago. The propelling factors for these stealings have not been identified as at yet. But many observers have written on this subject, trying to unravel the mystery. However, not most of these observers have identified a particular binding factor that operates in all Nigerians, no matter what tribe or region, religion or dialect. This is the greed DNA. It runs in most Nigerians, especially those in positions of authorities and who have access to public funds.

No matter how glamorous and well paid a public service job may be, the typical Nigerian is most likely to have itchy fingers and desire to pocket the funds that are not his. Public service, unfortunately is no longer public. It has been redefined to be Self Service.

The ones that do not have direct access to government funds, have devised ways and methods they can milk the state and enrich themselves and their generations. Ask the National Assembly members who earn “obscene” wages to the detriment of the masses they are supposed to serve. Unfortunate,y, the glamorisation of these political posts is one of the reasons for why people aspire to them, and not necessarily to serve.

The President must therefore be commended for the bold steps he has taken in identifying the key areas in our polity where corruption seem to have been institutionalised. He needs, however, to show more than political will as he goes about this task.

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