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25 years later, South Africans are still not free, Ramaphosa says

Between 2011 and 2015, three million South Africans have fallen into poverty, according to the World Bank.

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freedom day
South Africa President Cyril Ramaphosa (C) addresses the crowd gathered at the Miki Yili Stadium, Makhanda, Eastern Cape Province. (Photo by Michele Spatari / AFP)

A quarter of a century after the end of the apartheid in South Africa many people remain trapped in poverty, in part because of rampant corruption, President Cyril Ramaphosa said Saturday.

“We cannot be a nation of free people when so many still live in poverty,” Ramaphosa said at a ceremony in Makhanda, formerly Grahamstown, in the south of the country.

“We cannot be a nation of free people when so many live without enough food, without proper shelter, without access to quality health care, without a means to earn a living,” he added.

“We cannot be a nation of free people when funds meant for the poor are wasted, lost or stolen (…) when there is still corruption within our own country.”

Ramaphosa was speaking 25 years to the day that black South Africans — who make up three quarters of the population — finally got to vote in the country’s first democratic elections. In South Africa, April 27 is known as Freedom Day.

That election brought to an end three centuries of white rule and the apartheid regime that had been in place since 1948.

“Bound by a common cause, we fought apartheid together and triumphed,” said Ramaphosa.

“We are gathered here to celebrate the day we won our freedom.

“We remember the moment we placed a cross on a ballot paper for the first time in our lives,” he added, paying homage to Nelson Mandela, the anti-apartheid campaigner who was elected South Africa’s first black president in 1994.

But, he added: “Ours is still a deeply unequal country.

“There are great divisions between rich and poor… between those with jobs and those who are unemployed.”

Ramaphosa is head of the African National Congress (ANC), the party that has been in power since the end of apartheid.

He took over as president in 2018 from Jacob Zuma, who was forced to resign as a result of a number of corruption scandals.

Elections looming

Despite the emergence of a middle class in South Africa, the continent’s economic powerhouse, 20 percent of black households still live in dire poverty, compared with only 2.9 percent of white households, according to the Institute of Race Relations.

Between 2011 and 2015, three million South Africans have fallen into poverty, according to the World Bank.

And the unemployment rate in South Africa currently stands at 27 percent, compared with 20 percent in 1994.

“As we celebrate 25 years of democracy, we need to focus all our attention and efforts on ensuring that all South Africans can equally experience the economic and social benefits of freedom,” Ramaphosa told the crowd.

The president was speaking ahead of the May 8 legislative and provincial elections, in which the ANC looks likely to keep its parliamentary majority, according to the latest opinion polls.

But for some in the audience at Makhanda, Ramaphosa’s message hit home.

“There’s no such thing as freedom,” said local resident 31-year-old Vuyiswa. “We’re still in apartheid.

“We are unemployed, no house, no water. We are really struggling,” she added.

“Older women have to go poo in buckets and throw them outside at night. It’s not safe.”

In Cape Town meanwhile, Archbishop Emeritus Desmond Tutu, celebrated the anniversary by attending an exhibition and book launch of notable photographs of his life, which have been turned into paintings.

Tutu won the 1984 Nobel Peace Prize for his role as a unifying figure fighting the apartheid regime.

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Op-Ed

First 100 days in office, what’s in it? (Opinion)

We must not allow ourselves to be distracted or caught up in the noise around the first 100 days.

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The first 100 days

Recently, Nigerians have been pulling out scorecards and more to try and calculate the performances of their governors and the president after their first 100 days in office. Newspaper headlines had these elected officials and those who worked for them sharing achievements of their first 100 days. 

But why and when did the first 100 days become any kind of benchmark? Many of us don’t even know the history behind the concept of the first 100 days. So let’s take a quick trip down memory lane. 

How it started?

The concept is believed to have its roots in France, where “Cent Jours” or hundred days, refers to the period of time in 1815 when Napoleon Bonaparte returned to Paris from exile and his final defeat at the Battle of Waterloo. 

It became a key benchmark in America during the presidency of Franklin D. Roosevelt. Roosevelt became president in 1932, taking leadership of an America that was extremely battered and was attempting to crawl out of the Great Depression, which followed the crash of the stock market in October 1929. 

Jide Sanwo-Olu also celebrates first 100 days in Office
A cut-out portrait of Nigeria’s Babajide Sanwo-Olu (L), and a portrait of his running mate, Obafemi Hamzat, are displayed along a road on March 6, 2019, in the Ikoyi district of the country’s largest city. (Photo by PIUS UTOMI EKPEI / AFP)

Pay Attention: 189 Nigerians repatriated from South Africa after xenophobic attacks

He campaigned and won on the idea of a “new deal” for Americans that would see them through and past the hard times. Now, in order to tackle the issues facing the American economy at the time, he pushed through over a dozen pieces of major legislation during the first 3 months of his tenure. The first measures of the New Deal are referred to as the first 100 days. 

So therein lies the historical background of the first 100 days. But should it still apply in the 21st century? Can the first 100 days really show you the direction and possible outcome of any administration? Those are the questions we must answer individually as citizens. However, the way and manner the first 100 days is bandied about in Nigeria, simply makes you wonder what the big deal is. 

First 100 days records in Nigeria

Let’s start with President Muhammadu Buhari. According to his party, his second term’s first 100 days have gone well. The National Chairman of the APC said appointing ministers earlier than he did in 2015, having the 2020 budget prepared, and even engaging various professional groups have been the achievements of the first 100 days.

In Lagos, Governor Jide Sanwo-olu said the executive order declaring an emergency on traffic management and transportation and rehabilitation of atrial roads were achievements in his first 100 days.

In Oyo State, Governor Seyi Makinde, listed some of his achievements to be cancellation of all levies paid in Oyo public schools, going to Benin Republic for collaborations in the agribusiness sector and also having a 27 year-old commissioner. 

Buhari's First 100 days
Nigerian president Muhammadu Buhari (C) looks on during the African Union summit at the palais des Congres in Niamey, on July 7, 2019. (Photo by ISSOUF SANOGO / AFP)

Pay Attention: Nigerian court upholds President Muhammadu Buhari’s February election win

Each of these gentlemen claim more achievements in their first 100 days, but should we keep the first 100 days as a benchmark along the timeline of an administration?

The 100 days – is it enough?

As citizens of Nigeria and residents of various states, what do we think the first 100 days can tell us about any administration? 

Oftentimes, it appears there is a race to rack up “achievements” or grand gestures on the way to the first 100 days, but what happens after that? Using about 3 months to judge administrations that have 48 months to fulfill their mandate seems a bit pedestrian. 

We must not allow ourselves to be distracted or caught up in the noise around the first 100 days. Governance is a continuous journey, yes, with milestones along the way. But with the way we have elected officials holding programs, writing speeches, etc on their first 100 days, one would think it was more than that. 

The bar in Nigeria many would say has been set low, some would even argue that the bar is underground at this point. What we as citizens need to realize is that the bar is wherever we want it to. When we start to demand better, make those seeking our vote accountable to their campaign promises, and hand out consequences when they don’t meet our expectations, the bar will rise. 

And when the bar rises, we’ll find that the first 100 days loses some of the glamour around it.

The views expressed in this piece are the author’s own and do not necessarily reflect News Central TV’s editorial stance.

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North Africa

2 candidates claim first round wins in Tunisia elections

Turnout was reported by the elections commission (ISIE) to be 45 percent, down from 64 percent recorded in the 2014 polls

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Tunisia elections: 2 candidates claim wins

Two anti-establishment candidates in Tunisia’s election claimed Sunday to have won through to a runoff, hours after polling closed in the country’s second free presidential poll since the 2011 Arab Spring.

In a sign of voter apathy, especially among the young, turnout was reported by the elections commission (ISIE) to be 45 percent, down from 64 percent recorded in the 2014 polls. Kais Saied, a 61-year-old law professor and expert on constitutional affairs who ran as an independent, claimed to be in pole position.

He finished “first in the first round,” he said, citing exit polls ahead of preliminary results expected to be announced on Tuesday. There was also an upbeat atmosphere at the party headquarters of jailed media mogul Nabil Karoui, behind bars due to a money laundering probe, as hundreds of supporters celebrated after he also claimed to have reached the second round.

Other prominent candidates in the first round included Abdelfattah Mourou, heading a first-time bid for Islamist-inspired party Ennahdha, and Prime Minister Youssef Chahed. Ennahdha insisted it would wait for the official results. 

“Only the elections board gives the results,” said Ennahdha MP and Mourou’s campaign director, Samir Dilou. “I do not doubt the work of the polling institutes, (but) it is not their role to impose a certain truth on the public,” he told reporters.

Chahed’s popularity has been tarnished by a sluggish economy and the rising cost of living. The prime minister has also found himself having to vehemently deny accusations that Karoui’s detention since late August was politically inspired.

Tunisia Elections: citizens cast their votes
Tunisian voter queue to cast their ballots at a polling station in Marsa city, northeast of Tunis, Tunisia, to elect the Tunisia’s president in a first-round vote of the presidential elections, on September 15, 2019. (Photo by Chedly Ben Ibrahim/NurPhoto)

Read: Detained but undeterred; Nabil Karoui’s campaign continues in Tunisia

‘Where are the young?’

“Young people of Tunisia, you still have an hour to vote!” ISIE head Nabil Baffoun had urged before the close of Sunday’s vote. “We must leave our homes and vote – it’s a right that we gained from the 2011 revolution which cost lives,” Baffoun added, visibly disappointed by the turnout.

However, he later said that the turnout of 45 percent was “an acceptable level”. At polling stations visited by journalists, there was a high proportion of older voters, but few young people. The election followed an intense campaign characterised more by personality clashes than political differences. 

It had been brought forward by the death of 92-year-old president Beji Caid Essebsi, who died in July and whose widow also passed away on Sunday morning. Essebsi had been elected in the wake of the 2011 revolt that overthrew former dictator Zine El Abidine Ben Ali.

Publication of opinion polls has officially been banned since July. Some of the 24 hopefuls who contested the polls tried to burnish anti-establishment credentials to distance themselves from a political elite discredited by personal quarrels. Another independent candidate was Defence Minister Abdelkarim Zbidi, a technocrat running for the first time, although with backing from Essebsi’s Nidaa Tounes party.

The long list of active runners was trimmed by the last-minute withdrawal of two candidates in favour of Zbidi, although their names remained on the ballot paper. But Karoui’s detention, just 10 days ahead of the start of campaigning, has been the top story of the election. Studies suggested his arrest boosted his popularity.

A controversial businessman, Karoui built his appeal by using his Nessma television channel to launch charity campaigns, handing out food aid to some of the country’s poorest. But his detractors portray him as a would-be Silvio Berlusconi, the former Italian premier who they allege partly owns his channel.

On Friday, an appeal for the Tunisian mogul’s release from prison ahead of the election was rejected, his party and lawyers said. The polarisation risks derailing the electoral process, according to Michael Ayari, an analyst for the International Crisis Group.

Tunisian voter queue to cast their ballots at a polling station in Marsa city
Tunisian voters queue to cast their ballots at a polling station in Marsa city, northeast of Tunis, Tunisia, to elect the Tunisia’s president in a first-round vote of the presidential elections, on September 15, 2019. (Photo by Chedly Ben Ibrahim/NurPhoto)

Read: Tunisia decides: Voters head to polls in test on democracy

‘Divisive’ candidates

Isabelle Werenfels, a researcher at the German Institute for International and Security Affairs, called the vote a democratic “test” because “it may require accepting the victory of a polarising candidate” such as Karoui. Distrust of the political elite has been deepened by an unemployment rate of 15 percent and a rise in the cost of living by close to a third since 2016.

Jihadist attacks have exacted a heavy toll on the key tourism sector. Around 70,000 security forces were mobilised for the polls. The date of a second and final round between the top two candidates has not been announced, but it must be held by October 23 at the latest and may even take place on the same day as legislative polls, October 6.

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North Africa

Algeria’s interim President announces elections on December 12

Demonstrators are demanding key regime figures step down and an overhaul of political institutions before any polls

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Abdelkader Bensalah announces Algeria Elections December 12

Algeria is to hold a presidential election on December 12, five months into a political vacuum since longtime leader Abdelaziz Bouteflika resigned in the face of mass protests, his interim successor announced Sunday.

“I have decided… that the date of the presidential election will be Thursday, December 12,” said Abdelkader Bensalah, who is precluded from standing himself, in a televised address to the nation.

The announcement comes after army chief General Ahmed Gaid Salah, seen as Algeria’s strongman since the fall of the ailing Bouteflika, insisted that polls be held by the end of 2019, despite ongoing protests demanding the creation of new institutions ahead of any elections.

On Friday, Algerian protesters returned to the streets after parliament passed bills paving the way for the announcement of elections.

Demonstrators are demanding key regime figures step down and an overhaul of political institutions before any polls, arguing an election under the current framework would only reinforce the status quo.

Gaid Salah earlier this month called for an electoral college to be summoned on September 15 so as to conduct an election within 90 days, in mid-December. Last week, parliament passed two bills that would facilitate the announcement of the vote. 

Justice Minister Belkacem Zeghmati presented the bills on Wednesday, with both legislative chambers passing them within two days. Opposition parties in the People’s National Assembly boycotted the session in which the bills were passed.

The first bill proposed the creation of an “independent” election authority, while the second text was a revision of Algeria’s electoral law. Presidential polls originally planned for July 4 were postponed due to a lack of viable candidates, plunging the country into a constitutional crisis as the 90-day mandate for Bensalah expired in early July. 

The army’s high command has rejected any solution to the crisis other than presidential elections “in the shortest possible time”.

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