July 30, 2023- August 5, 2023
Economy shows signs of recovery according to finance minister
Minister of Finance Ken Ofori Atta has said the implementation of fiscal adjustments and sustained investments have contributed to the stabilization of the economy. He said that since the 2023 Budget presented to Parliament in November last year, the exchange rate had stabilized, inflation had softened and interest rates had declined, while plans for private investments had been announced due to increased investor confidence in the economy. Presenting a mid-year review of the 2023 budget to Parliament in fulfilment of section 28 of the Public Financial Management Act (PFMA), 2016 (Act 921), Ofori Atta said the government would continue to pursue adjustment and work hard to build and sustain a favourable macroeconomic environment.
After an anxious wait for the Mid-year Budget Review, which was rescheduled twice, Parliament gave the minister the opportunity to address the House. Ofori-Atta delivered a 36-page speech on a motion which sought to inspire hope and rally Ghanaians to support the government. The presentation was characterized by the usual boos and cheers from the minority and the majority sides of the house, a feature that has become associated with the budget presentations in Parliament.
Tinubu writes senate on military intervention in Niger
President Bola Tinubu has written the national assembly about the military intervention in Niger Republic, in the wake of the coup in the landlocked West African nation. Reading the letter during the plenary on Friday 4 August 2023, Senate President Godswill Akpabio said the move to deploy military force was part of the bloc’s conclusions at the meeting held on Sunday in Abuja. The Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS) had given Niger a week from Sunday to reinstate ousted President Mohamed Bazoum or face harder sanctions. “Following the unfortunate political situation in Niger Republic culminating in the overthrow of its president, ECOWAS, under my leadership, condemned the coup in its entirety and resolved to seek the return of the democratically elected government”, the letter reads. In a bid to restore peace, ECOWAS convened a meeting and came out with a communique.
Atiku Abubakar, former vice-president, had advised ECOWAS against “military hostilities” in Niger, and presented dialogue as the most viable option. On Wednesday, an ECOWAS delegation led by Abdul salami Abubakar, former military head of state, arrived in Niamey, capital of Niger, to negotiate with the country’s military junta. Muhammadu Abubakar, the Sultan of Sokoto, and Alieu Touray, president of the ECOWAS Commission accompanied Abubakar. However, the delegation was said to have only met with representatives of the junta.
Government to deploy 1,000 police to Haiti
Kenya says it is ready to lead a multinational force in Haiti and will deploy 1,000 police officers to the strife-torn Caribbean nation once its offer is accepted, the foreign minister said. Gangs control around 80 per cent of the Haitian capital, and violent crimes such as kidnappings for ransom, armed robbery and carjacking are common. UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres and Haitian Prime Minister Ariel Henry have sought international intervention, for nearly a year, to help support the police, but no country had stepped forward. “Kenya has accepted to positively consider leading a Multi-National Force to Haiti”, Foreign Minister Alfred Mutua said in a statement last Saturday. “Kenya’s commitment is to deploy a contingent of 1,000 police officers to help train and assist Haitian police restore normalcy in the country and protect strategic installations”. Its “proposed deployment” still required a mandate from the UN Security Council and approval from domestic authorities, he said.
“An Assessment Mission by a Task Team of the Kenya Police is scheduled within the next few weeks. This assessment will inform and guide the mandate and operational requirements of the Mission”, said US Secretary of State Antony Blinken in a phone call to President William Ruto, according to State Department spokesperson Matthew Miller. Kenya is seen as a democratic anchor in East Africa and has participated in peacekeeping operations in its immediate region including in the Democratic Republic of Congo and Somalia.
Malema and Elon musk tear each other apart over a song
The leader of the South African Economic Freedom Fighters (EFF) Party, Julius Malema, has accused the world’s richest man, Elon Musk, of “pushing genocide”. The war of words between Musk and Malema is part of a controversy over a song inherited from the fight against apartheid titled “Kill the Boer”. Malema has come under fire in the past from the main opposition Democratic Alliance (DA) party for inciting ethnic violence by chanting “Kill the Boer the Farmer” at a rally in Soweto. The Boers are the descendants of the first European settlers in South Africa. “Why should I educate Elon Musk, he seems illiterate. The only thing that protects him is his white skin,” Malema said at a press briefing in Johannesburg.
Singing “Kill the Boer” has long been a thorny issue in South Africa, with its violent lyrics being seen by some as inflammatory. “They openly push for genocide of White people in South Africa,” Musk wrote Monday on Twitter renamed X, the social network he owns, in a message that has gone viral. Musk, born in Pretoria, questioned South African President Cyril Ramaphosa, head of the ruling African National Congress (ANC), about his silence.
A court last year ruled that the controversial chant did not constitute hate speech, but an appeal is pending. “Whether Elon Musk is watching YouTube, there’s a full clip of the court hearing”, Malema said on Wednesday. “This case is closed; we have no time to waste on nonsense”. On Monday, the DA said it was considering filing a complaint against Malema. This quarrel comes less than a year from elections after which the ANC could, for the first time in its history, lose its parliamentary majority and therefore the presidency of the country.
President Weah receives Israel’s prestigious award
President H.E. Dr George Manneh Weah has received the Friends of Zion (FOZ) award – an internationally noted prestigious award – bestowed on eminent personalities who support the virtues and rights of the Jewish State of Israel. Weah received the honour on Wednesday 5 July 2023, at the Friends of Zion Museum in Jerusalem. Presenting the Award, Michael Evans, President of FOZ, recounted Weah’s unwavering stance in support of the Jewish nation, the State of Israel, globally, including at the United Nations and other international forums. “The Friends of Zion Museum is your home just as Israel is your home. If you support Israel, you support the Jewish people”, Evans maintained.
Earlier, the Israeli Foreign Minister Eli Cohen heaped praises on President Weah not only for his support for the Jewish nation but also for the great job being done in Liberia and his advocacy for global peace and security. “You are doing great work for the people of Liberia. You have stood and continue to stand for the rights of the Jewish nation and the world,” Cohen asserted further. “President Weah deserves the award”. Minister Cohen promised Israel’s unwavering commitment to President Weah and the people of Liberia. Responding, Weah thanked the Friends of Zion for the award and reiterated his commitment to the just cause of the Jewish nation and to world peace. “This award is a motivation for me to continue what I have been doing for the Jewish people and Israel”, he said. The Friends of Zion Award, since its inception, has been given to presidents and diplomats who fought and advocated for the rights and existence of the Jewish nation.
Bio calls for dialogue after divisive polls
Sierra Leone’s President Julius Maada Bio has called for “unity” and “dialogue” to overcome deep divisions over the disputed 24 June elections, at the official opening of the new National Assembly boycotted by the government. “In this Parliament where no party has reached a two-thirds majority, the need for dialogue and negotiation resounds with the utmost urgency. We must find common ground across political divides”, said the president who was re-elected at the end of June, in the first round, for a second term. The opposition, All People’s Congress Party (APC), decided not to participate at any level of governance, including the legislature and local councils, judging the results of the presidential, legislative and local elections which it claimed had been ” rigged” for the benefit of President Bio and his party. Only one of the 54 opposition deputies was in the hemicycle on Thursday morning.
With its 81 seats, the ruling Sierra Leone People’s Party (SLPP) only has a majority of 54 per cent of the vote. Even with the expected support of the 14 traditional chiefs sitting in Parliament, it would fall short of the two-thirds majority needed to pass certain types of legislation, such as constitutional amendments or electing the speaker of the House. However, it is not certain that members of the APC who have not taken the oath are taken into account in these cases. President Bio assured that MPs should seek “to put the interest of the nation first, transcend partisan lines and forge alliances beyond political affiliations”.
In addition to “statistical inconsistencies”, international observers condemned the “lack of transparency” in the vote count after the June elections. On Thursday, President Bio admitted to “logistical limits” during these elections. He announced the creation of a committee comprising members of government, civil society and development agencies to review the management of the electoral process and make recommendations.
Government acts to improve elderly financial success
The government is undertaking a raft of measures to raise the population of adult Tanzanians who have access to formal financial services to 85 per cent by the year 2028. Vice President Dr Philip Mpang detailed the measures during the launch of the National Financial Inclusion Framework III (NFIF III, 2023–2028). According to the Tanzania 2023 Survey, Tanzania’s formal financial inclusion is now at 76 per cent, up from 65 per cent in 2017. Mpango advised that achieving the new framework targets is possible if the public and private sectors implement effective strategies to address the barriers to formal financial inclusion. “I think we will do so [achieve the targets], especially if we direct efforts at addressing the financial inclusion needs of the disproportionately underserved segments such as women, youths, micro, small, and medium enterprises (MSMEs), people with special needs, farmers, and fishermen”, he said.
The Vice President said the government, through the Ministry of Home Affairs, will also need to ensure universal access and expand the scope of national identification from birth to facilitate the expansion of access to formal financial services for youth, including those under the age of 18. While the issue of cost of services remains among the key barriers to financial inclusion, the VP has instructed that there is a need to develop a regulatory framework and systems to enhance the use of and expand the scope of access. Dr Mpango said, “We need to increase efforts to extend affordable shared payment infrastructure to enhance the use of formal financial services. In tandem, there is a greater need to enhance universal connectivity, reduce reliance on cash transactions, and expand the efficiency and competitiveness of the financial sector in Tanzania”. The governor of the Bank of Tanzania (BoT), Emmanuel Tutuba, said the current figure of 76 per cent on financial inclusion has exceeded the government target of 75 per cent as implemented through the National Financial Inclusion Framework II (NFIF II 2018–2022). “We need to the strengthen financial consumer protection, particularly against cybercrime and market malpractices, to build consumer trust and confidence in using financial services,” he said.
Minister in contempt of court – law firm
Zweli Jele, a partner in the firm Robinson & Bertram Attorneys, says Minister of Finance Neal Rijkenberg’s statement defending the controversial engagement of the forensic audit company conducting the drugs shortage probe, is in contempt of court. Rijkenberg released a statement on Wednesday defending the controversial engagement of the forensic audit company tasked with finding the underlying cause of alleged irregularities in procurement, acquisition and distribution of medicines to public health facilities. In the statement, the minister said the forensic audit company (Funduzi Forensic Services) was awarded the tender after following a procurement process approved by the government tender board, and assured the public that the company has vast experience and technical expertise. Robinson & Bertram Attorneys represents two civil servants, Sincedzile Dlamini-Magwaza and Fortunate Bhembe, employed by the Ministry of Health under the pharmaceutical services in the on-going litigation, where they are challenging, among other things, this procurement process of the forensic investigation tender.
“The minister has made certain statements that pertain to issues that are still to be determined by the Industrial Court”, said Jele, responding to questions from this newspaper. “It is impermissible for the minister to make definitive announcements on issues that the court is still to decide on. It violates the sub judice principle”, said the veteran legal practitioner. Jele made a case in point with the minister’s comments about Charles Kwezera, an employee of the Funduzi Forensic Services who was allegedly seeking to extort money from some of those involved in the investigation. This is an issue that we have placed squarely before the Industrial Court, and in that connection have made allegations concerning other members of the investigating team,” Jele revealed. “One only needs to read our founding affidavit to appreciate that the statement by the minister is wholly impermissible,” stated Jele. He further complained that the minister put it as a statement of fact that the “remainder of the investigating team isn’t contaminated”.
Rijkenberg clarified the issue of Charles Kwezera, an employee of the company who was, allegedly, seeking to extort money from some subject to the investigation, and said the company pulled the plug on him. He assured the public that the remaining Funduzi team are seasoned professionals, consisting of among others, an advocate of the South African High Court, a medical doctor, a senior pharmacist, senior forensic practitioners and forensic accountants.
Twenty confirmed dead in Uganda boat accident
Twenty people died when a boat capsized in Ugandan waters on Lake Victoria on Wednesday morning, police said as rescuers and local residents searched for survivors. “So far 20 people have been confirmed dead, and nine rescued”, the Uganda police force said on Twitter, which is being rebranded as X. The boat was carrying charcoal, fresh food, and fish when the accident occurred around 5:00 am (0200 GMT), the police said. “The cause of (the) accident is attributed to overloading and bad weather”, they added, noting that around 34 people were believed to be onboard. “We appeal to members of the public who travel on waters to always wear life jackets and not to overload their vessels”.
Africa’s largest lake has witnessed many boat disasters, with the accidents often blamed on overcrowding and poor weather. Thirty-two people died in November 2018 after a pleasure boat sank on Lake Victoria during bad weather, with Uganda police saying the vessel had more than 90 revellers on board. In September of that year, hundreds died when the MV Nyerere passenger ferry sank on the Tanzanian side of Lake Victoria.
With a surface area of 70,000 square kilometers (27,000 square miles), oval-shaped Lake Victoria is roughly the size of Ireland and is shared by Tanzania, Uganda, and Kenya. It is not uncommon for ferries to capsize on the lake and the number of fatalities is often high due to a shortage of life jackets and the fact that few people know how to swim. Boats tend to be the only form of transportation in parts of Africa’s Great Lakes region and are often overcrowded and poorly maintained. Accidents are also common along Lake Albert, which marks the border between Uganda and the Democratic Republic of Congo. At least 26 people died in December 2020 when their boat sank on Lake Albert. That accident was blamed on bad weather.
FIFA investigating national women’s coach
Zambia’s coach, Bruce Mwape, has been accused of rubbing his hands over the chest of one of his players two days before his country’s historic victory over Costa Rica in their final match at the Women’s World Cup. FIFA has confirmed that it had received an official complaint about the alleged incident after Zambia claimed their first win at a World Cup on Monday in New Zealand. It is understood the allegation against Mwape was reported to a FIFA delegate who has been with the squad throughout their stay in New Zealand.
President of the Football Association of Zambia (FAZ), Andrew Kamanga, is believed to be aware of the incident. A FIFA spokesperson said: “FIFA takes any allegation of misconduct extremely seriously and has a clear process in place for anyone in football who wants to report an incident. We can confirm that a complaint has been received in relation to the Zambian women’s national team and this is currently being investigated. We cannot provide further details regarding an ongoing investigation for obvious confidentiality reasons.
“In addition, FIFA offers support and assistance to ensure the safety of those who report a safeguarding issue, including witnesses who come forward and give testimony in Fifa judicial cases. Where guilt is established, FIFA takes the strongest possible sanctions, including removing people from the game for life. Our track record demonstrates this”.
Reuben Kamanga, general secretary of FAZ said, “We wish to state the Football Association of Zambia (FAZ) has not received any such complaint from any of the players or officials in the delegation that travelled to the World Cup. It has therefore come as a surprise for us to hear of such alleged misconduct by the coach as reported in the said online publication. As a matter of fact, all the training sessions for the Copper Queens were filmed by the FAZ media team and offers no such footage as envisioned by The Guardian. Additionally, a FIFA film crew attached to the Zambian team at the World Cup was present at all training sessions”. He added, “We however wish to reassure the public that FAZ maintains the highest standards of integrity and transparency and always demands unwavering ethical conduct of the players and officials on and off the field of play. We therefore would not hesitate to take disciplinary measures and act on any misconduct once we are in receipt of an official complaint or when presented with evidence pertaining to an alleged incident”.
Mwape was appointed by Zambia in May 2018 and helped them qualify for the World Cup for the first time. The FAZ said in September 2022 that it had referred an investigation into allegations of sexual abuse in the women’s game to FIFA. Mwape and the under-17s coach Kaluba Kangwa are understood to have been among the FAZ employees who were investigated. Kangwa has left his post despite no official announcement from the FAZ.
Government warns against overcharging on cement prices
The Malawi Government, through the Ministry of Industry and Trade and Competition and Fair Trading Commission, have warned traders against taking advantage of the scarcity of cement to overcharge for the product. In a joint statement released on Monday evening, the ministry and the Commission say they have noted with concern that, for the past few weeks, some traders have excessively raised the price of various types of cement (both imported and domestically produced) and state that the said exploitative conduct is in contravention of the Competition and Fair-Trading Act. “As such, the ministry and its relevant agencies will not hesitate to take necessary action to deal with traders found engaging in such malpractice”, reads the statement in part, further urging local manufacturers to come up with a sustainable solution to the problem.
According to the statement, the manufacturers have cited limited access to forex, which has affected the importation of raw materials for the production of cement such as gypsum, clinker and coal, as the main cause of the problem. “The ministry has, in this regard, been engaging the Reserve Bank of Malawi to prioritize supply of forex to the cement manufacturers to address the problem. The ministry wishes to indicate that currently the ex-factory prices of different brands and strengths of cement should not go beyond K16, 000. The ministry, therefore, calls on members of the public with information relating to those charging excessive prices for cement, to immediately report to the ministry or the Competition and Fair-Trading Commission,” implored the government and the Commission.