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South Africans Protest, ‘Zuma-must-go’

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South Africans protest
  • South Africans Protest, ‘Zuma-must-go’ 

A day of political shock waves in South Africa put new pressure on President Jacob Zuma,as an official report alleged that one of the country’s richest families influenced cabinet appointments and thousands took to the streets of Pretoria to demand his resignation before his second term ends in 2019.

Commentators called the report the biggest political scandal since South Africa’s transition to democracy and said the allegations, if confirmed, could mark a turning point in a brutal leadership battle within the ruling African National Congress that has pittedMr. Zuma against Finance Minister Pravin Gordhan over control of state finances and the future direction of the ANC.

The tussle has rocked South Africa’s currency, the rand, and other assets at a time when Africa’s most developed economy is already roiling from the commodities downturn and more than a fourth of its workforce is unemployed.

The public protector’s so-called state capture report, which was released Wednesday after court challenges by Mr. Zuma and two of his ministers had blocked it for weeks, said there were worrying indications that the wealthy Gupta family, Indian immigrants who own a business empire, influenced the appointments of ministers in Mr. Zuma’s government.

“It appears crimes have been committed,” the report said, citing cellphone records of Mr. Zuma and several ministers to support corruption allegations.

The 355-page report also said extensive financial analysis suggested that a Gupta-owned mining company in which Mr. Zuma’s son Duduzane holds a significant stake was given lucrative government contracts to finance its expansion. The Gupta family’s attorney said the report “was riddled with errors and subject to rebuttal.”

Mr. Zuma’s office said the president was examining the report. His son has previously denounced the allegations against him as a “sustained political attack.”

The report didn’t make definitive findings, saying its author, then-Public Protector Thuli Madonsela, was denied sufficient resources to conduct a full investigation. It recommended that a full probe of Mr. Zuma’s dealings with the Guptas should be conducted by a commission of inquiry, with the findings published within 180 days.

“This is absolutely devastating for the president. There are several instances where the president is placed directly at the scene of the crime,” said Pierre de Vos, constitutional-law scholar at the University of Cape Town. “[The ANC] will have to decide whether this is such a fatal blow to the president that he must leave.”

Mr. Zuma—a former intelligence chief with the ANC’s military wing during the apartheid era who spent a decade in jail with Nelson Mandela on Robben Island—has spent much of his political career sidestepping scandal. Corruption allegations related to an arms-procurement deal dogged his career for more than 15 years. In 2005, he was charged with raping a friend’s daughter. He was found not guilty the following year and in 2009 the corruption charges were dropped.

Known as a conciliator and party deal maker, he leveraged each scandal into political backing against ANC leaders he said were attacking him. He led a revolt against President Thabo Mbeki as party leader in 2007, becoming president himself in 2009 after leading the ANC to a strong electoral victory.

Yet the seriousness of the revelations in Wednesday’s report could mark Mr. Zuma’s toughest challenge. In one section, Deputy Finance Minister Mcebisi Jonas recounts how in the presence of Mr. Zuma, one of the Gupta brothers, Ajay, offered him the post of finance minister—along with 600,000 rand ($44,100)—during a meeting at the family’s compound in Johannesburg.

Ajay Gupta “asked if Mr. Jonas had a bag which he could use to receive and carry R600,000 in cash immediately, which he declined,” the report says, summarizing Mr. Jonas’s statements to the public protector. Messrs. Zuma’s and Jonas’s cellphone records place them at the Gupta’s residence on the day the offer was allegedly made, the report says.

Six weeks after the alleged meeting, then-Finance Minister Nhlanhla Nene was ousted and succeeded by Zuma ally Des Van Rooyen. Mr. Van Rooyen himself was removed four days later, following a steep drop in the rand and other South African assets.

The report cites evidence it says shows Mr. Van Rooyen visited the home of the Guptas on at least seven occasions, including the day before he was appointed. “This looks anomalous given that at the time he was a Member of Parliament based in Cape Town,” the report said.

Mr. Van Rooyen is now cooperative governance minister and along with Mr. Zuma initially sought to prevent the publication of the report. Messrs. Van Rooyen and Zuma have denied any wrongdoing. Mr. Zuma’s lawyer has said the president hadn’t been given sufficient time to respond to the allegations made in the report, nor the opportunity to question witnesses.

“The president will give consideration to the contents of the report in order to ascertain whether it should be a subject of a court challenge,” Mr. Zuma’s office said on Wednesday.

Opposition leaders have said the findings in the report could lead to the impeachment of the president.

“If Zuma will not resign, we look forward to our Motion of No Confidence being debated in Parliament,” said Mmusi Maimane, the leader of the opposition Democratic Alliance.

The political drama was echoed on Pretoria’s streets, as thousands of antigovernment protesters marched to the Union Buildings—the seat of South Africa’s government—and demanded Mr. Zuma’s resignation. Some demonstrators began throwing rocks and police repelled them with tear gas, rubber bullets and water cannons.

On the grounds of the city’s St. Albans Cathedral, placard-waving demonstrators attended the first assembly held by Save South Africa—a new group of business, civil society and disaffected ANC officials against government corruption.

In nearby streets, South Africa’s two largest opposition parties—the center-right Democratic Alliance and the leftist Economic Freedom Fighters—held their own protests, calling for Mr. Zuma to respect the constitution and to step down.

Each protest had different visions, but they were unified by one theme: dissatisfaction with Mr. Zuma’s leadership.

“For as long as we have Zuma as president of the country it is not possible to turn the country around,” said Sipho Pityana, a former ANC director-general of foreign affairs and current board member at mining giant AngloGold Ashanti. “At the heart of the problem, we have a leader who is without honor or integrity.”

CEO/Founder Investors King Ltd, a foreign exchange research analyst, contributing author on New York-based Talk Markets and Investing.com, with over a decade experience in the global financial markets.

Government

COVID-19 Vaccine: African Export-Import Bank (Afrexim) to Purchase 270 Million Doses for Nigeria, Other African Nations

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African Export-Import Bank (Afrexim) Approves $2 Billion for the Purchase of 270 million Doses for African Nations

African Export-Import Bank (Afrexim) said it has approved $2 billion for the purchase of 270 million doses of COVID-19 vaccines for African nations, including Nigeria.

Prof. Benedict Oramah, the President of the Bank, disclosed this at a virtual Africa Soft Power Series held on Tuesday.

He, however, stated that the lender is looking to raise more funds for the COVID-19 vaccines’ acquisition.

He said: “The African Union knows that unless you put the virus away, your economy can’t come back. If Africa didn’t do anything, it would become a COVID-19 continent when other parts of the world have already moved on.
“Recall that it took seven years during the heat of HIV for them to come to Africa after 12 million people had died.

“With the assistance of the AU, we were able to get 270 million vaccines and financing need of about $2 billion. Afreximbank then went ahead to secure the $2 billion. But that money for the 270 million doses could only add 15 per cent to the 20 per cent that Covax was bringing.

He added that this is not the time to wait for handouts or free vaccines as other countries will naturally sort themselves out before African nations.

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China Calls for Better China-U.S. Relations

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China Calls for China-U.S. Relations

Senior Chinese diplomat Wang Yi said on Monday the United States and China could work together on issues like climate change and the coronavirus pandemic if they repaired their damaged bilateral relationship.

Wang, a Chinese state councillor and foreign minister, said Beijing stood ready to reopen constructive dialogue with Washington after relations between the two countries sank to their lowest in decades under former president Donald Trump.

Wang called on Washington to remove tariffs on Chinese goods and abandon what he said was an irrational suppression of the Chinese tech sector, steps he said would create the “necessary conditions” for cooperation.

Before Wang spoke at a forum sponsored by the foreign ministry, officials played footage of the “ping-pong diplomacy” of 1972 when an exchange of table tennis players cleared the way for then U.S. President Richard Nixon to visit China.

Wang, a Chinese state councillor and foreign minister, said Beijing stood ready to reopen constructive dialogue with Washington after relations between the two countries sank to their lowest in decades under former president Donald Trump.

Wang called on Washington to remove tariffs on Chinese goods and abandon what he said was an irrational suppression of the Chinese tech sector, steps he said would create the “necessary conditions” for cooperation.

Before Wang spoke at a forum sponsored by the foreign ministry, officials played footage of the “ping-pong diplomacy” of 1972 when an exchange of table tennis players cleared the way for then U.S. President Richard Nixon to visit China.

Wang urged Washington to respect China’s core interests, stop “smearing” the ruling Communist Party, stop interfering in Beijing’s internal affairs and stop “conniving” with separatist forces for Taiwan’s independence.

“Over the past few years, the United States basically cut off bilateral dialogue at all levels,” Wang said in prepared remarks translated into English.

“We stand ready to have candid communication with the U.S. side, and engage in dialogues aimed at solving problems.”

Wang pointed to a recent call between Chinese President Xi Jinping and U.S. President Joe Biden as a positive step.

Washington and Beijing have clashed on multiple fronts including trade, accusations of human rights crimes against the Uighur Muslim minorities in the Xinjiang region and Beijing’s territorial claims in the resources-rich South China Sea.

The Biden administration has, however, signalled it will maintain pressure on Beijing. Biden has voiced concern about Beijing’s “coercive and unfair” trade practices and endorsed of a Trump administration determination that China has committed genocide in Xinjiang.

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U.S. Supreme Court Allows Release of Trump Tax Returns

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President Trump Signs Executive Order In Oval Office Of The White House

U.S. Supreme Court Allows Release of Trump Tax Returns

The U.S. Supreme Court on Monday paved the way for a New York City prosecutor to obtain former President Donald Trump’s tax returns and other financial records as part of a criminal investigation, a blow to his quest to conceal details of his finances.

The justices without comment rebuffed Trump’s request to put on hold an Oct. 7 lower court ruling directing the former Republican president’s longtime accounting firm, Mazars USA, to comply with a subpoena to turn over the materials to a grand jury convened by Manhattan District Attorney Cyrus Vance, a Democrat.

“The work continues,” Vance said in a statement issued after the court’s action.

Vance had previously said in a letter to Trump’s lawyers that his office would be free to immediately enforce the subpoena if the justices rejected Trump’s request.

A lawyer for Trump did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

The Supreme Court, which has a 6-3 conservative majority included three Trump appointees, had already ruled once in the dispute, last July rejecting Trump’s broad argument that he was immune from criminal probes as a sitting president.

Unlike all other recent U.S. presidents, Trump refused during his four years in office to make his tax returns public. The data could provide details on his wealth and the activities of his family real-estate company, the Trump Organization.

Trump, who left office on Jan. 20 after being defeated in his Nov. 3 re-election bid by Democrat Joe Biden, continues to face an array of legal issues concerning his personal and business conduct.

Vance issued a subpoena to Mazars in August 2019 seeking Trump’s corporate and personal tax returns from 2011 to 2018. Trump’s lawyers sued to block the subpoena, arguing that as a sitting president, Trump had absolute immunity from state criminal investigations.

The Supreme Court in its July ruling rejected those arguments but said Trump could raise other objections to the subpoena. Trump’s lawyers then argued before lower courts that the subpoena was overly broad and amounted to political harassment, but U.S. District Judge Victor Marrero in August and the New York-based 2nd U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals in October rejected those claims.

Vance’s investigation, which began more than two years ago, had focused on hush money payments that the president’s former lawyer and fixer Michael Cohen made before the 2016 election to two women – adult-film actress Stormy Daniels and former Playboy model Karen McDougal – who said they had sexual encounters with Trump.

In recent court filings, Vance has suggested that the probe is now broader and could focus on potential bank, tax and insurance fraud, as well as falsification of business records.

In separate litigation, the Democratic-led U.S. House of Representatives was seeking to subpoena similar records. The Supreme Court in July sent that matter back to lower courts for further review.

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