Category Archives: Politics

Dirty Zuma exit fight inevitable

By Rafiq Raji, PhD
Twitter: @DrRafiqRaji

It is hard to wonder what the ruminations of South African president Jacob Zuma was as he watched his deputy, Cyril Ramaphosa, take his place on the global stage in late January at the World Economic Forum in Davos. Now president of the ruling African National Congress (ANC) party, Mr Ramaphosa, is nominally Mr Zuma’s boss. Effectively, it is not so simple. A party president is most effective if he or she is also president of the Republic. This refers to the specific South African case, where it is the political party that deploys cadres to government when it secures power. The imperative for Mr Zuma to give way for Mr Ramaphosa cannot be overemphasized. True, Mr Zuma’s tenure as president extends to 2019. And should he decide to hold on, and is not recalled by his party or impeached, he would be able to serve his second and last term in full. Were that to happen however, it would be at the expense of the well-being of longsuffering South Africans. Firstly, Mr Zuma is fighting corruption charges. Secondly, his continued stay would entrench increasingly intractable differences within his party. Thirdly, the ANC needs time to repair the damage done by Mr Zuma if it hopes to be victorious in the 2019 polls.

Get out of jail free card
The primary concern of Mr Zuma is likely how to avoid going to jail. Finishing out his term guarantees he would not have to worry about that for another two years. Of course, he could secure a deal to avoid prosecution by leaving earlier. But that would be hugely unpopular. Even so, such is the strenght of the desire to see him gone that South Africans might not mind overmuch if he is allowed to retire to his Nkandla homestead in peace. What is concerning is that a typically clever Zuma is reported to be obstinately insistent on finishing his term. Local media report Mr Zuma would rather be recalled or impeached than resign. He is not being totally irrational. On the recall, he still has allies in the top echelons of the ruling party, who despite his waning power are surprisingly still loyal to him, albeit they have begun to hedge their bets. ANC secretary-general Ace Magashule, a staunch Zuma loyalist, may not be one of those, though; albeit it may be because he faces scrutiny for corruption as well. Party treasurer, Paul Mashatile, is in the Ramaphosa camp, at least; calling for Mr Zuma to step down as recently as late last week. The positions of the two top men is indicative of the entrenched and sharp divisions within the so-called “top 6” of the ruling party. So, a recall would be difficult but not impossible. But Mr Ramaphosa is believed to be averse to such a move. After the Constitutional Court ruled in late December that clear and precise impeachment modalities be instituted by the legislature, a potential Zuma impeachment should be pretty straightforward; if it ever comes to that. But were it to happen, it could take time. Thus, it would be much easier if Mr Zuma simply resigned. In any case, an umpteenth no-confidence vote is scheduled for late-February. Considering the narrower margin in favour of Mr Zuma in the last vote, there is a greater probability that he might not be so fortunate this time around.

Fickle power
What is potentially pitiable is how Mr Ramaphosa would likely increasingly become undermined the longer Mr Zuma stays in office. Surprisingly, Mr Ramaphosa has thus far been making excuses for his seeming timidity in taking on Mr Zuma frontally. He desires instead that Mr Zuma’s dignity be guarded. Ironically, Mr Zuma was not so gracious when he found himself in a similar position. After winning the party’s presidency in 2007, Mr Zuma moved swiftly against Thabo Mbeki, the country’s president at the time; albeit Mr Mbeki still managed to hold on for another nine months. And even afterwards, Mr Zuma had to wait till after the 2009 general elections before becoming president. It is believed Mr Zuma desires another “Kgalema Motlanthe arrangement” in exchange for leaving office early. (Mr Motlanthe held the fort after Mr Mbeki’s resignation.) Reports suggest his idea of another “Motlanthe” is his ex-wife, Nkosazana Dlamini-Zuma, the candidate Mr Ramaphosa beat to clinch the ANC presidency. Mr Zuma had one advantage back in 2007, though: the table was not as divided as it is today. Should Mr Ramaphosa choose to recall Mr Zuma, he would need to bring the president’s allies onside. There are indications he is beginning to win them over. The problem is that Mr Ramaphosa is not moving fast enough. Worryingly, his momentum may suffer great peril if anybody other than him delivers the state of the nation address (SONA) on 8 February. Mr Zuma knows this. So does Mr Ramaphosa. Because when he was recently asked about the dilemma in Davos by Zainab Bedawi, one of the anchors of Hardtalk, a hard-hitting interview programme by the BBC, his response was a palpable departure from what was a smooth interrogation hitherto: he took a very deep breath before answering; betraying his erstwhile take-your–time rhetoric. It is probable these considerations were put to Mr Zuma when the ANC’s top officials met him this past weekend. Whether they got his attention is another matter.

Also published in my BusinessDay Nigeria column (Tuesdays). See link viz. http://www.businessdayonline.com/dirty-zuma-exit-fight-inevitable/

Ethiopia: Hailemariam must do more to build trust

By Rafiq Raji, PhD
Twitter: @DrRafiqRaji

About mid-January, hitherto incarcerated opposition leader of the Oromo Federalist Congress (OFC), Merera Gudina, was released by the Ethiopian authorities. More than five hundred dissidents involved in unrests in 2015 and 2016 have also been earmarked for release. The imprisoned ones could be said to be the lucky ones. Others died on the streets at the hands of the oft-brutish security forces. Considering the antecedents of the ruling Tigray-dominated Ethiopian People’s Revolutionary Democratic Front (EPRDF) party, Dr Gudina likely never reckoned his release would be so soon or so easy. Mind you, he had already spent more than a year in prison. His fellow comrades who took on the authorities in the more distant past could not have dared hope to be so lucky. Much earlier detainees essentially resigned to their fates. The EPRDF’s sudden magnanimity has pundits wondering what the catch is. Ordinarily, it makes sense that the government finally decided to extend an olive branch to the opposition. There have been perennial agitations by the Oromo and Amhara ethnic groups, who together constitute about two-thirds of the population, over myriad issues from land to the odd marginalisation here and there. To douse the tensions, the authorities certainly needed to do more than a cosmetic fix. A more inclusive cabinet in the aftermath of one of the now many protests by the Oromos and others did not seem to be satisfactory or adequate to placate the agitators. And unlike Meles Zenawi, the former legendary leader of the EPRDF, prime minister Hailemariam Desalegn’s clout in the party structures is weak. Thus, his consensual style is more forced than voluntary. While this would have been a disadvantage in a quasi-communist regime, it is informative when decisions such as the recent amnesty granted opposition leaders are reached. It was likely decided as a collective. Still Mr Hailemariam must be given some credit. He is leader, after all. In my column of 11 Oct 2016 (“Time for Hailemariam to lead”), I did urge Mr Hailemariam to be bolder and allow more room for dissent and political expression and for world powers to take a tougher stance towards a country that still remains dependent on their beneficence. Because even as Mr Hailemariam could not hope to grow in stature to match Mr Meles, the responsibility was now his to ensure that Ethiopia continued to be a trailblazer on many fronts on the African continent. It does seem like he came to that realisation himself. So if anyone should get credit for this recent positive move, it is Mr Hailemariam. There is only one little problem. Many are sceptical about the genuineness of the EPRDF’s reconciliation move. The EPRDF is well-known for its utter dislike of opposition of any kind. Students of politics also know that power is rarely ceded voluntarily. Nor are political moves ever altruistic. Thus, the opposition, as well as pundits, believe the EPRDF has something up its sleeve. A likely explanation for this recent move may simply be self-interest, though; on the part of most of the EPRDF apparatchiks, at least. Something significant needed to be done to stem the tide of increasingly popular antagonism towards the ruling EPRDF elite. But if the motivation is indeed noble, then the onus is on the EPRDF, and Mr Hailemariam specifically, to prove they are genuinely seeking to reconcile with other political groups in the country.

Good ground
Despite the scepticism, the authorities’ reconciliation move adds to what remains a largely positive narrative; on the economic front, at least. Ethiopia continues to churn out good growth figures and it is making significant strides in logistics, infrastructure, and manufacturing. Most recently, economic growth was more than 8 percent; and is expected to remain so for another two years, thereafter slowing to above 7 percent. And when the 6,450 mega watts (MW) Grand Ethiopian Renaissance Dam (GERD) is completed, Ethiopia would not only have abundant power to fire its industrial ambitions, it would have some left to aid its neighbours achieve theirs as well. In this regard, though, the authorities have had to contend with what have now become incessant disagreements with other countries dependent on the River Nile which feeds the GERD. Egypt and Sudan are currently at loggerheads, with speculations that should calm nerves not prevail, an armed conflict might be imminent. Egypt and Ethiopia have, however, demonstrated remarkable maturity despite their differences. They recently entered into development agreements, vowing to not let their differences over the GERD stop them from engaging in friendly and mutually beneficial relations. Credit for the amity must clearly go to Ethiopia, though, in light of the converse situation between Egypt and Sudan. It is thus not unlikely that Mr Hailemariam genuinely desires to smooth relations internally and externally. With outsiders, it is not so difficult to demonstrate the truth of his intentions; as there are markers by which both sides can measure progress. With distrustful compatriots, however, it would take more than the release of prisoners to build trust.

Open politics
So how should Mr Hailemariam prove he really means business? He could promise genuine elections when the next ones are due, for one. That is, all parties would be able to participate and campaign freely without the typical strong-arm tactics of bans, intimidation, imprisonment and result manipulation. There is not a single member of the opposition in the current parliamentary cohort. In the 2015 parliamentary elections, the EPRDF won 500 of the 547 seats. The remaining 47? It went to parties allied with the EPRDF. Surely, it is not because of a lack of interest or a shortage of candidates from the other side. It is by design. Until the EPRDF lets go of its fears and allows plural, free and fair elections, it should not entertain the hope that it could succeed in winning the hearts and minds of its opponents. Thing is, there is yet to be proof that it genuinely gives a darn.

Also published in my BusinessDay Nigeria newspaper column (Tuesdays). See link viz. http://www.businessdayonline.com/ethiopia-hailemariam-must-build-trust/

Rise of the peoples’ assembly

By Rafiq Raji, PhD
Twitter: @DrRafiqRaji

We the people…”; that is how most constitutions start. Of course, the politicians who tend to refer to those words the most are usually the ones who also hold them in contempt the most. It used to be the case that they could actually get away with the disgust they often have for the very people that voted them into office. Aloof and conveniently tone-deaf for most of their tenures initially, their amnesia is miraculously cured at the near-end of their typical four to five-year first term in office, when it dawns on them that should they not now grovel to the same people they cared little about hitherto, they may soon lose the office that has been the source of their ostentation. In other words, as much as they dislike the very people they are supposed to serve, they know they are ultimately vulnerable to their whim. Power truly belongs to the people. Shrewd politicians realise this very early on. And the successful ones are able to hold sway over the affairs of their fellow men and women for as long as the Heavens allow irrespective of whether they hold office or not because they stay close to the people and go with their ever-changing tide of opinion. Inevitably, they are populists. Politicians, even the supposedly altruistic ones, do not like to admit it. But ultimately, it is the desire to rule that really drives them. Power is the end, not the means.

All about power
A person has to have a certain level of hubris to think himself qualified to rule over a multitude. Some do not realise this until they lose an election. Otherwise what would motivate some men to seek political office repeatedly even as they lose with the same frequency. Take Kenyan opposition figure Raila Odinga, for instance, who has been aspiring to be president for almost all of his political life. He probably made his last futile attempt last year. Probably realising he no longer stands a chance, he now seeks to be president of a so-called “peoples’ assembly”. If what has happened since the idea was first mooted is anything to go by, it has not been as successful as he might have hoped. An earlier botched swearing-in as the “peoples’ president” is now supposed to happen anytime soon or never. Perhaps taking a cue from his older fellow opposition politician, longsuffering Ugandan presidential contender Kizza Besigye also called for the establishment of a peoples’ assembly in early January. What instigated his call was the recent enactment of a law that removed presidential age limits, enabling longtime president Yoweri Museveni to run for office again. In both cases, the opposition politician’s frustration made them resort to the people. Had they been more successful, it is hardly likely their reckoning would ever sway towards them. Their evolution lays bare what they wanted all along: power. They are not any different from their supposed antagonists in office. And were they to secure power themselves, they may behave similarly as the politicians they oust or worse.

Yours to wield
This new trend of African opposition politicians drifting towards alternative and mostly informal platforms to wield power after failing to secure it via state institutions is not entirely novel. They are simply latching on to something that already started without their urging. What is a peoples’ assembly? What is it supposed to achieve? Is there somewhere they are supposed to gather? Are they voted for? How long do the members serve in office? The peoples’ assembly is you and I. When Nigerians finally lost their patience with an effective but wayward police commando unit, they raised their voices. Were they heard? You bet they were. Nigerian authorities were finally forced to go after marauding Fulani herdsmen, long maiming and killing innocent farmers with impunity, after the people said enough! South Africans have been unrelenting in their insistence that the “capture” of their state by private persons – who have, in collusion with the very people they elected, been pilfering their commonwealth – must stop and the culprits punished. Did their voices matter? Yes. Now a judicial commission of inquiry is slated to get to the bottom of the matter. But for pressure by Ghanaians on their government during the infamous “dumsor” period of power load-shedding and cuts, they may have suffered a little while longer. Opposition politicians are clearly being opportunistic. A peoples’ assembly is not something you organise per se. It is leader-less. Put another way, all of its members are leaders. Before the advent of social media, people power manifested itself in African countries only on occasion. Now, it can be as immediate as the time it takes to type a hashtag. We all have the power to make a change.

Also published in my BusinessDay Nigeria newspaper column (Tuesdays). See link viz. http://www.businessdayonline.com/rise-peoples-assembly/

#FuelScarcity: Multiple pricing can work

By Rafiq Raji, PhD
Twitter: @DrRafiqRaji

Nigerians are a hypocritical bunch. I am Nigerian. It is curious that fuel suddenly became scarce after signals began to emerge that President Muhammadu Buhari might be interested in seeking a second term in office. Incidentally, former vice president Atiku Abubakar moved to another political party in obvious pursuance of his own presidential ambition at about the same time. Now there is increased violence here and there, gas pipelines supplying power stations are suddenly catching fire and fuel is scarce. Even though intuition should not suffice to attribute causation, it is a little too much of a coincidence that these negative events are happening just as the political cycle changed into a higher gear. Recent killings by criminals in the middle-belt region, who to witnesses looked like “Fulani herdsmen”, can be dealt with by the security agencies; if they choose to. Pipelines can be policed; costly but doable. Besides, many already know to turn on their generators when there is a power cut; which is almost everytime. But how did fuel supply become short all of a sudden? Mr Buhari blames saboteurs. (See? Intuition can be reliable.) Considering the timing – the scarcity started curiously during the Christmas festivities – the president may be on to something. In any case, he would not have made such a pronouncement if his security chiefs did not show strong evidence of sabotage. Even so, the fuel scarcity has a robust economic explanation.

Call it anything but…
Fuel marketers would have had a terrible Christmas if they continued to sell fuel at the current N145 per litre without some support from the government. About a year ago, when the retail price was set, crude oil was selling for less. And the naira was artificially stronger. On those two variables alone, it would not require a stroke of genius to know that should everything else remain the same, it cannot be profitable for fuel retailers to continue selling at that price. To make the point, the marketers likely chose the best opportunity for them to be heard. Well, they succeeded. Most analysts, if not all, suggest it would be politically suicidal for Mr Buhari to increase the price of fuel at just the moment he is trying to woo the citizenry to allow him a second chance at the State House. He did get away with past price increases, though. But now, “the times they are a-changin’.” If for political reasons the Buhari administration cannot now afford to increase the price of fuel like other more sensible countries have done, there is only one option available to it. And there is a word for it: subsidy. Wait a minute, the government does not pay subsidy on fuel anymore. So how have marketers been able to continue supplying fuel for the most part of the second half of last year – when crude oil prices appreciated significantly – without going bankrupt? It has to be that they had been receiving some form of support. We just must not call it “subsidy”; too sensitive.

Multiple choice
But should a temporary solution be again applied to what is a perennially recurring problem? The authorities probably hope they would be able to manage the situation until the mega refinery being built by the country’s richest man Aliko Dangote is completed. But at what cost? During the most recent fuel scarcity period, how were so-called black marketers able to sell their stock? I am not aware that any of them sold for less than twice the official retail price of N145. Their customers were not ghosts. There are many Nigerians who are willing to make the trade-off between price and availability. What could be wrong with having a system where this set of people get to pay a premium for the convenience of shorter lead times and assured supply at private filling stations while those not as endowed buy at the official price at filling stations of state oil company, NNPC? Yes, there are not enough of them. Heard of franchising, anyone? The NNPC could simply approve a number of filling stations per locale to supply fuel it imports and supplies to them at the official price. And as part of the arrangement, the approved filling stations would be branded with its logo. That way, anyone who desires to buy fuel at the official price could simply go to an NNPC-branded filling station. And those who do not want the inconvenience of likely queues at the official stations could simply buy fuel at a likely higher price at the private ones. The authorities should give it a try.

Also published in my BusinessDay Nigeria newspaper column (9 Jan 2018). See link viz. http://www.businessdayonline.com/fuelscarcity-multiple-pricing-can-work/

South Africa: Free higher education is complicated

By Rafiq Raji, PhD
Twitter: @DrRafiqRaji

If you asked university officials whether they desired free education for the poor, they would probably answer in the affirmative. Ask them if it is sustainable under the government’s recently announced plan, they are not likely to be so sunny. What is probably feasible is a system whereby an obviously brilliant and promising student is not prevented from higher education because he or she is poor. If South Africa were abundantly wealthy, free education might not be potentially problematic. Sadly, the country is not. Not at the moment, at least. And if the palpable absence of the finance minister or his representative at a media briefing on the new policy in early January is anything to go by, the fiscal authorities are likely at their wits’ end to fund what was clearly a unilateral pronouncement by President Jacob Zuma.

As the new academic session begins, university authorities have announced they would not allow walk-in registrations. Ultranationalist Economic Freedom Fighters (EFF) party leader, Julius Malema, had urged prospective students to simply turn up at any university of their choice for admission. It is not difficult to see the potential complications that this would cause. The authorities have disabused any such action by learners who just passed their qualifying exams (“matric”) – results for the class of 2017 were released in early January. Hitherto, those who could not afford varsity would have simply sought employment in jobs where a matric certificate suffices. With higher education now “free”, they are now able to pursue their dreams. Because Mr Zuma’s proclamation was impromptu, those who hitherto did not apply to universities due to financial constraints would have ordinarily needed to wait a year if disruptions are to be avoided. Unsurprisingly, the EFF, and understandably, the affected prospective students, would have none of it. To manage the situation, the authorities have instead advised that those who qualify should follow the normal application process; an online portal has been designated for the task.

China works
Free education, whether at the basic or higher level, is not novel. It has been tried in many jurisdictions. Swedes attend university for free, for instance. And their degrees are very competitive. So the policy does work. But Sweden is rich, South Africa is not. In their heyday, communist regimes also provided free higher education to their comrade citizens. They succeeded to some extent. The times were a signifcant motivation, though. There was a cold war between a mostly democratic west and a mostly communist east. To the extent that they were able to compete quite well with the west on many technological fronts suggest free education is not only feasible but does not necessarily stifle innovation. In other words, poor countries can successfully educate their citizens for free. To some extent. Because when you look at how the west and east have evolved, there is a strong case for the clearly more developed west’s capitalist model. What about China then? Well, it realised free higher education was sub-optimal after a while: it abolished the policy in 1985. Instead, poor Chinese who desire a university education compete for scholarships. And those with ample means began to have a choice in the early 1980s, when Chinese authorities allowed the establishment of private universities.

My heart, my head
To be clear, one is not in anyway suggesting that the majority of black South Africans be left out in the cold without the prospect of prosperity that higher education is supposed to provide, eventually; ideally. I recall quite well during my doctoral studies at a top South African university how frustrated, and in fact angry, some black South African students were at the very high fees their sponsors had to scrape to pay. But the success of western universities can be directly traced to students paying the economic cost of their education. And the means through which they acquire the funding are in part responsible for the high value placed on it. A loans system means a student upon graduation is incentivized to find employment or engage in some entrepreneurial venture to clear his or her indebtedness. It also means that employers must pay an economically viable wage. Market forces that have been found to engender optimal pricing for goods and services have also been found to serve the education system quite well. So as a practicing economist, I see how fraught with risks for the economy the new free education policy is. As an African who has witnessed the pains of many black South Africans, however, I desire that they are able to achieve their wildest dreams. I am conflicted.

Also published in my Premium Times Nigeria column. See link viz. https://opinion.premiumtimesng.com/2018/01/05/south-africa-the-complications-of-free-higher-education-by-rafiq-raji/

#NotTooYoungToRun: Lessons from Weah’s triumph

By Rafiq Raji, PhD
Twitter: @DrRafiqRaji

After ex-football star George Weah’s victory in the recent Liberian presidential run-off poll, similarly young aspirants in other African countries have become expectant that they might also be able to pull a similar feat. Trust Nigerians to lead the bandwagon. It is interesting that a man in his early fifties is considered young in the African sense, of course. But considering the many leaders in their seventies and eighties that Africans have had to endure thus far, Mr Weah is an exemplar. And a worthy one. But his accession bears many lessons. There is a consistency in the route to power for young non-establishment figures it seems. Curiously, it does not matter whether the country’s democracy is young or matured. Take France’s Emmanuel Macron; one of the increasingly youthful leaders beginning to take over the world stage. Unlike his other similarly youthful Canadian counterpart, Justin Trudeau, whose father was once prime minister and was already quite known as early as when he was still being held by the hand, Mr Macron had to found his own political party, secure votes and then win his place. Turns out if Mr Weah wanted to be president, he would have no choice but to form his own political party as well. But unlike Mr Macron, he was not so lucky. He did not win the first time, losing to outgoing President Ellen Johnson Sirleaf. After another failed attempt, this time as a vice-presidential candidate, he settled for the Senate to perhaps sulk or as they say, lick his wounds. He used the time well. Clearly the wiser, he chose the ex-wife of former warlord Charles Taylor as a running mate. The move paid off. Former warlords, now influential in the country – as is often the case after a prolonged civil war – rallied round him. It did help, though, that he had a boring and uncharismatic rival this time around for the post. Vice-president Joseph Boakai, with the appropriate epithet “Sleepy Joe” did not just sit by and allow Mr Weah a free pass, though. He made sure to give him some grief. Thankfully, he gracefully conceded defeat after the results showed an overwhelming Weah win.

We too
Is there an opportunity then for a Nigerian case, say? Unlike Liberia, or France for that matter, Nigeria is a more complex country. Ethinic and religious divisions are deeper and wider. And there is the added disadvantage that Nigeria is still largely an ageist society. Incidentally, there is likely not a better place where this is writ large than in how Nigerian political parties are run. In Nigeria, if a young person rises to a position of power, it either occurs by accident (An Act of God) or because the person is the child of a very important person. A meritocratic political system, whereby a young person ascends to an exalted position, is non-existent. Another avenue is via the House of Representatives, where younger politicians tend to gravitate towards. A speaker, if young, could leverage on his national exposure and recognition to aspire to higher office. Unfortunately or incidentally, this tends to be no more than vying for the position of state governor. That is not entirely a bad thing. As governors have become highly influential as a collective, they now determine who becomes president of the Republic. Penultimately, they chose one of their own. President Muhammadu Buhari’s predecessor, Goodluck Jonathan, a former governor, may not be the ideal case, though. By a stroke of good fortune, Mr Jonathan was nominated for the vice-presidency at the age of 50; while an incumbent state governor. Three years later, he became president. The prospects of another so “young” becoming a Nigerian president are not so bright, however: it would be unnatural for his kind of luck to be abundant.

Raise your flag
Point is, it is difficult for a young person to succeed in Nigerian politics or that of other major African countries. Our culture, ways and history do not lend themselves to making it likely that a young person would join a political party, and on his own merits, secure a presidential nomination, and win. If it is going to ever happen, however, it seems it would have to be like Mr Weah’s.

Also published in my BusinessDay Nigeria newspaper column (Tuesdays). See link viz. http://www.businessdayonline.com/nottooyoungtorun-lessons-weahs-trimph/

Judicial activism on Zuma has limits

By Rafiq Raji, PhD
Twitter: @DrRafiqRaji

In ruling on 29 December that the South African parliament failed to hold Jacob Zuma, the president of the Republic, accountable as they should, the Consititutional Court ruled in the majority. But surprise, surprise, there was a minority view. And from who? Chief Justice Mogoeng Mogoeng. He highlighted the need for seperation of powers and the risk of judicial overreach if events continue as they are. Quoting the judgement: “the Chief Justice characterises the majority judgement as a textbook case of judicial overreach – a constitutionally impermissible intrusion by the judiciary into the exclusive domain of Parliament.” Almost everything now is brought before the courts. Mr Zuma disagrees on something? The aggrieved goes to court. Ultranationalist Economic Freedom Fighters (EFF) opposition party does not get its way in parliament? It goes to court. Bit by bit, if care is not taken, the authority of the court may become increasingly eroded. Furthermore, its risks performing the functions of the other arms of government more and more. That would be an anomaly and an injury to the South African polity. Because thereafter, who puts the judiciary in check? Unsurprisingly, when one news agency made it seem like the minority view was the majority one, EFF leader Julius Malema immediately put it to check; evidence of the passions involved. One Twitter follower reacted quite impassionately as well. He made the point that the Justice Mogoeng’s judgement was inconsequential and that he did not think it was an overreach on the part of the Constitutional Court to remind parliament that it failed in its oversight functions or that it had been operating without specific provisions for the removal of a president; a democratic foundation, he adds. In reaction, I made the point that the consequence was not going to be immediate or germane for the purpose of the suit filed by the Economic Freedom Fighters (EFF), United Democratic Movement (UDM) and Congress of the People (COPE) (and later joined by the official Democratic Alliance (DA) opposition party) against parliament speaker, Baleka Mbete, and Mr Zuma at the Constitutional Court. I thought the Chief Justice was right asserting how we should not allow the expediency of the moment overshadow the need to ensure the seperation of powers and the protection of the sanctity of the judiciary itself. My friend, who as it happens is actually Nigerian (I though he was South African until I enquired and found out he was an old friend), stuck to his guns. He was emphatic that the court was right in censuring the legislature for a major operational and legislative lacuna (his words) that could lead to a one party state at the minimum and a dictatorship at the worst. “It was right in prodding parliament to do right.” I agree.

Not enough
But what exactly did the court rule on? The foundation was the earlier Nkandla judgement of the Constitutional Court and Mr Zuma’s failure to implement remedial actions for some time after anti-corruption ombudsman, the “Public Protector”, released her report on it – relates to the use of public money to fund what Mr Zuma deemed security upgrades to his homestead in Nkandla, his birthplace. The Court agreed with the ombudsman that the upgrades constituted more than just repairs to enhance the security of the president. The application by the EFF and others was that the parliament failed to ensure measures and processes in place to ensure Mr Zuma (or any public official for that matter), would not be able to manipulate the system like he did; especially as in addition to the Public Protector’s remedial action, the court also ruled punitively on the matter. As a way of forcing the parliament to institute a process, the EFF and others wanted the court to order it to convene a committee to determine whether Mr Zuma, by his conduct on Nkandla on the one hand and his actions after the court’s earlier ruling on the other, was guilty of any impeachable conduct under section 89 of the Constitution. Problem was that parliament had no process in place to ensure section 89 of the Constitution would be abided by properly and clearly in the event. The legislature’s argument, via its acting speaker at the time of the application, was that the hallowed chambers’ current rules suffice to deal with the section 89 process. The Court disagreed. And it was scathing in its rebuttal. Quoting the judgement: “The Court found no rules were in place governing the section 89 process and that the Assembly was bound by the Constitution to do so.” In a nutshell, all that the National Assembly did, from the motions of no-confidence to the various Question and Answer (Q & A) sessions, were not sufficient for the section 89 requirements. There is a vagueness on how and what constitutes grounds for removing the president.

Act, act, act
So what should parliament now do? It should start by addressing the primary concern raised by the court. It ordered amongst other things that the Assembly should “make such rules regulating the section 89 (1) procedure within 120 days from the date of the order…[and] initiate a process under section 89 (1) in terms of the newly developed rules, within 180 days from the date of [the] order.” On the specific case of Mr Zuma, it remains very doubtful that he would ever leave office via an act of parliament. If Mr Zuma ever leaves office before the expiration of his term in 2019, it would likely either be by resignation or a recall by his party. Or the other thing that must become all our lots at some point; whether we like it or not.

Liberia: Weah’s long wait

By Rafiq Raji, PhD
Twitter: @DrRafiqRaji

George Weah, the famous ex-footballer, must wonder how many more “almost there” moments he would have to endure before clinching the Liberian presidency. Having won the most votes in the first round of the presidential election in October, it should ordinarily have been just a simple next step to proceed to the runoff. Not so quick; his opponents likely wondered with a mischievous smirk on their faces. First, the third place candidate, Charles Brumskine of the Liberty Party, went to the Supreme Court alleging the 10 October vote was besmirched by irregularities and should be declared null and void; and a rerun ordered. Thankfully, the court ruled otherwise. And though the judges likely came to a decision based on law, they most definitely were mindful of American and European urgings about the dangers of delaying the election process in what is still a very fragile country. The Americans were more forceful. And in Liberia, the Americans have a special place. They asserted the October vote was as credible as can be. Whatever motivated the court to uphold the first round vote is not really important. It was the right and sensible thing to do.

Spoiler alert
Curiously, second place candidate in the October poll, vice president Joseph Boakai of the ruling Unity party, joined in Mr Brumskine petition. You would think as he was already qualified for the runoff vote, he would not bother with such distractions. Never mind that he took issues with his principal, President Ellen Johnson Sirleaf, accusing of her of bias and interference. One incident he harped on was a certain meeting Ms Sirleaf had with election magistrates prior to the vote. He was not being entirely troublesome. Ms Sirleaf never hid her aversion to him succeeding her. (In my column ahead of the first vote in October, I highlighted this; see link viz. https://www.businessdayonline.com/liberia-finally-george-weahs-time/). Most of Mr Boakai’s actions thus far suggest he does not see himself winning the runoff vote today (26 Dec). Because even after the Supreme Court ruled on 7 December that the runoff could go ahead subject to a “clean up” of the voter register, he went back to court asserting the clean-up condition had not been met. Thankfully, an ECOWAS team did the task; arriving on the same day the National Elections Commission (NEC) announced the runoff vote date for Boxing Day. In a nutshell, his suit was rightly dismissed. Known with the uncomplimentary epithet of “Sleepy Joe”, Mr Boakai has proved to be anything but sleepy.

Christmas gift
Many of the actors in the 15-year Liberian civil wars that ended in 2003 have managed to permeate decent society; some rich, in politics or have found religion. So it was not entirely surprising that Mr Weah would choose someone influential in those circles. Jewel Howard Taylor, ex-wife of former warlord Charles Taylor, was a smart choice. That is even as memories still run deep about the atrocities her ex-husband and his associates committed. Even so, the levers of power and influence in Liberia are still controlled by them. The choice is already bearing fruit. Former warlord Prince Johnson declared his support for Mr Weah ahead of the earlier scheduled but court-stayed 7 November runoff vote; one of the reasons it is believed Mr Boakai began to get really nervous.

Considering the first vote had as much as twenty presidential candidates, the probability that any one candidate would be able to secure the needed half was predictably low. With only two candidates on the ballot for the runoff, the choice before voters is binary. The more popular man, Mr Weah no doubt, could easily secure victory this time around. But there is a catch. The timing of the runoff is a little weird. It is taking place a day after Christmas; when celebrants would be resting off what tends to be very hectic nights before. So turnout might be low. Besides, during the festivities, people tend to go to the hinterland to celebrate with aged family members. If voters registered elsewhere, in the city, say, where most tend to live, it could be a little difficult for them to participate in the election. The NEC had little choice in the matter. In order to ensure that the victor would be sworn-in on schedule, on 22 January 2018, the runoff needed to be conducted and concluded before the end of the year. Liberians would likely show some understanding.

South Africa: Zuma goes legacy shopping

By Rafiq Raji, PhD
Twitter: @DrRafiqRaji

After much anticipation, the ruling African National Congress (ANC) party’s leadership race started during the weekend (15-20 December). It got off to a slow start. Ahead of the elective conference, I sought the views of fellow Africa economists for an article for African Business magazine on what the implications for the South African economy could be depending on who emerges victorious. (See link viz. http://africanbusinessmagazine.com/region/southern-africa/south-africa-markets-weigh-ancs-next-leader/). I also published my preliminary personal views. (See link viz. https://macroafricaintel.com/2017/12/15/macroafricaintel-south-africa-a-race-of-three/). Although deputy president Cyril Ramaphosa was leading with nominations and expected to win, the race still had an element of uncertainty. There were a few twists and turns, for sure. The national executive committee (NEC) decided in an emergency meeting before the start of the conference – which was actually the reason for the lengthy delay in the first place – that nullified structures of the Kwazulu-Natal and Free State provinces by the courts would not vote, for instance. Incidentally, these were the strongholds of one of the leading presidential contenders, Nkosazana Dlamini-Zuma, ex-wife to outgoing party president, Jacob Zuma; who incidentally gave his own shocker just before the start of proceedings. He announced a free education policy; much to the dismay of market participants. It did reveal one thing, though. President Zuma does not want all that is remembered about his presidency to be the scandals that plagued it. He wants a good legacy. This late in the game, you probably wonder. I actually did think Mr Zuma would do something desperate to secure his postion in the aftermath of the conference. But considering the negative reaction of market participants to finance minister Malusi Gigaba’s mid-term budget and the sharp reaction of the rand to rumours before the conference that Mr Zuma might announce a free education policy and his denial afterwards, whatever potential outrageous move Mr Zuma was going to make, I did not think free education would be it. That said, it was the perfect populist move. Free education is such a popular issue with the masses that no matter the wrongs Mr Zuma may have committed, they could be overlooked on the back of it. That said, it is a negative for the fiscus and the authorities’ oft-touted fiscal consolidation drift. The move also raises fears that earlier denials about potentially negative policies like the declaration of a state of emergency might actually just be another ruse.

Worry about money later
Mr Gigaba, who was delivering a speech at a business breakfast event at the ANC conference when Mr Zuma announced his free education policy, says whatever is done would be done in a fiscally sustainable way. He left the details to the 2018 budget in February. Did he even know about it, though? Because it is highly unlikely he would have known about it without at least mentioning it during his speech. His remarks were made afterwards, when reporters accosted him on his way out of the breakfast venue. Besides, it made naught of the many right things he said in his speech. In any case, S&P Global Ratings’ decision in November to downgrade the country’s rating further into junk territory has clearly now been vindicated. And Moody’s? Well, if this does not move the rating agency, nothing else will. Free education is desirable. But a sustainable model is what is needed, not a populist, financially constraining and unsustainable move like the one Mr Zuma just made.

Factions for nothing and something
One key thing palpable from the conference proceedings are the deep divisions within the ANC. Most are just for mundane reasons. But some are ideological. Take the issue of land expropriation. The party’s youth wing wants it done without compensation. The older cadres reason some compensation would be appropriate. How the party should be structured is also an issue. It was proposed at the conference that there should be two deputy presidents, for instance. The argument proffered in support of this was that it would help unify the party. It was really Mr Zuma’s idea. He had earlier opined that the second position presidential candidate should automatically get a deputy presidency; a development that would have required having two slots available. The proposal did not enjoy majority support and was thus turned down. Take another example. The ANC women’s league’s official position was to support the leading female candidate for president; that is, Ms Dlamini-Zuma. Instead, outgoing party chairperson, Baleka Mbete, a woman and hitherto a presidential contender, chose to support the male frontrunner; Mr Ramaphosa. Her reasons made sense: Mr Ramaphasa was a better candidate to beat whoever the opposition might present for the 2019 elections. But you get the dynamics, at least. As I submit this column, no one could confidently say who would win. In fact, rumours surfaced South Africa might have its first female president this week.

Also published in my BusinessDay Nigeria column (Tuesdays). See link viz. http://www.businessdayonline.com/south-africa-zuma-goes-legacy-shopping/

Call me Mr President

By Rafiq Raji, PhD
Twitter: @DrRafiqRaji

On 12 December, a “president” would have been inaugurated in Mombasa, Kenya. At least, that was the plan. But the president of where or what? Because just weeks before, one was sworn-in. His name is Uhuru Kenyatta. And he looks nothing like the one that could have taken another oath of “office” this week. I have been at my wits’ end trying to fathom what Kenyan opposition leader Raila Odinga was trying to achieve by committing what could on the face of it have been deemed a treasonable offence. Mr Odinga lost to President Kenyatta in the August elections which was annulled by the Supreme Court over irregularities. As he did not participate in the second one, which incidentally was validated by the court, it beggars belief on what legal basis his purported presidential inauguration would have stood upon. With some reflection and after reading commentaries here and there, I came around to an understanding of what he might have been trying to achieve. A man could call himself anything. If I wrote in this column that I am the “president” of this page, who is to query me? Some companies entitle their chief executive “president”, for instance. In Nigeria, the head of the Senate is what again? Mr. President. But is Bukola Saraki, the president of the Nigerian Senate, the president of Nigeria? Surely not. So Mr Odinga might actually be on to something I thought. Since he is almost assured of the support of about half the Kenyan population, designating himself as “president” of some assemblage, a “peoples’ assembly”, say, might just do the trick of getting on the nerves of his rival in the presidential palace. In a nutshell, what Mr Odinga had planned today may actually have passed the test of legal scrutiny. At least, so I thought; until a press release by his party over the weekend postponing the swearing-in stated he would have been inaugurated as “President of the Republic of Kenya.” Say we ignore this about-face. Let us also assume he was not about to be foolhardy to the point of actually declaring himself the President of Kenya. With some creativity, he could actually get away with something close to the real deal.

Much ado about a title
Going around the country as the “president” of “something” that everyone knows represents about half of Kenya could actually be the perfect revenge from the scion of a family forever at odds (and always at the losing end it seems) with the Kenyattas. A good analogy can be found in China a long time ago. While Deng Xiaoping was the de facto leader of China in the late 1970s and for most of the 1980s, he was never officially head of state. At one point, the only title he had was that of honorary chairman of the China Bridge Association. Even then, he was able to wield tremendous power. Mr Deng proved the point that power is not so much about the title as it is about legitimacy. It seems to me Mr Odinga’s plan should be to hold on to the half of Kenya that he is now almost sure would pledge fealty to him if he asked. That way, as he and his party “resist” and ask for electoral reforms, they would be able to sustain the current momentum until the next elections. Mr Kenyatta and his men are not likely to sit idly by while he does this, though. Opposition strategist, David Ndii, was recently arrested by the authorities, likely in the hope that incriminating evidence would be found against him, Mr Odinga and the other principals of the National Super Alliance (NASA). As Mr Ndii recounts after his release on bail, they did not succeed.

Catch-22
Had the “president” been sworn-in today as planned, the president (which one now?) would have had little choice but to arrest and prosecute him for treason. Until the postponement was announced, I came to the resolution that perhaps Mr Odinga reckoned it would not be such a bad idea to be in the news in that manner. After all, he has been in prison before. In the event, attention would be drawn from whatever potential good Mr Kenyatta might be doing for the people towards the likely spectacle of a treason trial. He could still do some sort of oath-taking within the confines of the freedoms of association, expression and so on. But when the swearing-in eventually takes place, if ever, how should Mr Kenyatta respond? If he arrests and prosecutes Mr Odinga, the subsequent drama would be a tremendous distraction. If he does nothing, Mr Odinga would increasingly look presidential. Maybe it should end with the postponement.

Also published in my BusinessDay Nigeria newspaper column (Tuesdays)