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ANC takes early lead in South Africa’s elections

With just over a fifth of voting districts tallied, the Election Commission put the African National Congress well ahead

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An Independent Electoral Officer (IEC) opens a ballot box as counting begins at the Addington Primary School after voting ended at the sixth national general elections in Durban

South Africa’s ANC surged into the lead in early official results Thursday with 55 percent of the vote in the first electoral test of President Cyril Ramaphosa’s bid to reinvigorate the ruling party.

With just over a fifth of voting districts tallied, the Election Commission put the African National Congress well ahead, with its closest rival the Democratic Alliance trailing with a distant 26 percent.

The Economic Freedom Fighters, founded six years ago by former ANC youth leader Julius Malema, was sitting at eight percent

Ramaphosa, 66, took over last year after the African National Congress (ANC) forced then-president Jacob Zuma to resign after nine years dominated by corruption allegations and economic problems.

The party that wins the most seats in parliament selects the country’s president, who will be sworn in on May 25.

“The outcome of this election will be a major boost for investors… and investor confidence, it’s about confidence and about the future,” Ramaphosa said after voting on Wednesday.

The ANC’s reputation was badly sullied under Zuma.

“We apologise for our mistakes.” 

Support for the ANC has fallen in every election since 2004 with the party taking 54 percent in 2016 municipal elections, compared with 62 percent in 2014’s national vote.

Nelson Mandela and the African National Congress (ANC) were swept to power with a landslide in the country’s first multi-racial polls that marked the end of apartheid in 1994.

Most opinion surveys suggest the ANC will secure nearly 60 percent of the vote, thanks to Ramaphosa’s appeal and a fractured opposition.

Dirk Coetzee, a professor at UNISA’s political science department, said “the higher the percentage for the ANC, the more it will give him (Ramaphosa) bargaining power”.

“If Ramaphosa gets below 50 percent he will be very vulnerable” to challenges from rivals within the ANC, he added.

‘The poor are getting poorer’

The ANC has been confronted by deepening public anger over its failure to tackle poverty and inequality in post-apartheid South Africa.

“We have given them 25 years but the poor are getting poorer and the rich richer,” said voter Anmareth Preece, 28, a teacher from Coligny in North West province. “We need a government that governs for the people, not for themselves.”

The economy grew just 0.8 percent in 2018 and unemployment hovers around 27 percent — soaring to over 50 percent among young people.

Of the 47 opposition parties in the race, only the main opposition centrist DA and the radical-left EFF are major players.

The DA is hoping to shed its image as a white, middle-class party. 

Its first black leader, Mmusi Maimane, is contesting his maiden general election since taking the helm in 2015, and is expected to make modest gains on the DA’s 2014 vote share of 22 percent.

Malema’s EFF was predicted to make major gains, growing from 6.3 percent to a forecast 11 percent. The partial results show it at eight percent.

“The ANC has taken people for granted. There is some arrogance which has crept in,” said voter Mandla Booi, 45, in Port Elizabeth on the south coast.

The EFF, which appeals mainly to young voters and the poor, has campaigned on a policy of seizing land from white owners to give to blacks. 

Enforced land redistribution is also ANC policy — alarming some investors.

About 26.8 million voters were registered to cast their ballots at 22,925 polling stations countrywide.

East Africa News & Stories

Ethiopia mourns death of army chief, top officials after failed coup attempt

Amhara president, Ambachew Mekonnen, army chief and other top officials died from Saturday’s foiled coup attempt

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Ethiopia mourns death of army chief, top officials after failed coup attempt
(File photo)

Ethiopia held a day of mourning Monday, reeling from the murder of the army chief and the leader of Amhara state in two attacks believed linked to a coup bid in the northern region.

Flags in the capital Addis Ababa flew at half mast after a day of mourning was announced on state television.

“All of us will remember the people who lost their lives for our togetherness and unity,” a television announcer said, reading a statement from parliament speaker, Tagesse Chafo.

Related: Ethiopian army chief, regional president shot dead in Amhara coup attempt

“It is a sad day for the whole nation. We have lost people who were patriotic. They are martyrs of peace.”

On Saturday afternoon, the president of Amhara, the second-largest of Ethiopia’s nine autonomous states, was in a meeting with top officials when a “hit squad” attacked, Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed’s office said.

Amhara president, Ambachew Mekonnen as well as his adviser were killed, while the state’s attorney general also died from injuries.

Abiy took to national television dressed in military fatigues and described the situation in Amhara as an attempted coup.

A few hours after the attack in Amhara, army chief of staff, Seare Mekonnen was shot dead in his Addis Abeba home by his bodyguard, in what the government said appeared to be “a co-ordinated attack”.

Amhara, in the northern highlands, is home to the ethnic group by the same name, and the birthplace of many of its emperors as well as the national language Amharic.

The Amhara are the second-largest ethnic grouping after the Oromo, and both spearheaded two years of anti-government protests which led to the resignation of former prime minister, Hailemariam Desalegn.

Abiy, an Oromo, took power in April 2018 and has been lauded for a string of efforts to reform a nation which has known only the authoritarian rule of emperors and strongmen.

He has embarked on economic reforms, allowed dissident groups back into the country, sought to crack down on rights abuses and arrested dozens of top military officials.

However, his efforts have unleashed deadly clashes, with ethnic tensions bubbling to the surface, and the displacement of hundreds of thousands.

Analysts attribute this violence to the releasing of the iron grip of government, stirring bitter rivalries in local politics and prompting a jockeying for power and positions.

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National Oil Company warns that any attempt to disrupt the sector would escalate unrest

“Any deliberate disruption of oil sector operations will severely impact national revenue streams, potentially render NOC in contravention of contractual obligations

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Libya's National Oil Company in the capital Tripoli. The Oil company warns against shutdown as it it will escalate conflict

Libya’s National Oil Company has warned that any bid to tamper with the sector could escalate unrest in the country after the parliamentary speaker called for a halt to production. In a statement issued late Saturday, NOC said it “is concerned by recent calls for the shutdown of national oil production”.

“Any deliberate disruption of oil sector operations will severely impact national revenue streams, potentially render NOC in contravention of contractual obligations, and create further division in the country.” Libya has been in conflict since the 2011 uprising that ousted and killed dictator Moamer Kadhafi, with rival administrations vying for power and to control its oil wealth.

The conflict has been exacerbated since April when commander Khalifa Haftar, who is based in the east of the country where most oil fields are located, launched an offensive against the capital Tripoli. The city is the seat of the internationally recognised Government of National Accord (GNA), while the elected parliament which supports Haftar is based in eastern Libya.

Last week parliamentary speaker Aguila Saleh Issa said oil production must cease, accusing the GNA of using oil revenues to finance the militias fighting Haftar, in an interview with an Egyptian news channel.

The country’s oil company, which is headquartered in Tripoli, has repeatedly insisted on its neutral status and refused to be drawn into the conflict. “This crucial source of income to the state, vital to all Libyans, must remain de-politicised and uninterrupted,” NOC said on Saturday.

But it also called for “economic transparency – including the equitable distribution of oil revenues nationally – to be embraced by all parties as an integral element of Libya’s future stability, and any lasting political settlement”. Libya’s oil revenues are managed by the country’s central bank, which is also based in Tripoli.

Both Haftar and the eastern parliament have repeatedly said that oil revenues are not evenly distributed and accuse the GNA of using the funds to finance its militias. Last month UN envoy Ghassan Salame said that Libya – which produces more than a million barrels of oil a day – was “committing suicide” and plundering its oil wealth to pay for the war.

On Saturday he met Haftar to discuss the Tripoli offensive and ways to “accelerate the transition towards reaching a political solution” in the country, the United Nations said.

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Court in Sudan orders authorities to resume internet services

Internet on mobile phones and fixed land connections was cut across Sudan by the ruling military council

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A Sudanese woman works at a travel agency in Khartoum on June 17, 2019 as businesses struggle to keep their services going after being hit by an internet blackout.
A Sudanese woman works at a travel agency in Khartoum as businesses struggle to keep their services going after being hit by an internet blackout.

A Sudanese court Sunday ordered authorities to end a nationwide internet blockade imposed by the ruling generals after a deadly crackdown on protesters earlier this month, a lawyer said.

Crowds of protesters were violently dispersed on June 3 by men in military fatigues, who stormed a weeks-long protest camp outside the army headquarters in Khartoum where they had camped to demand that the generals step down.

Internet on mobile phones and fixed land connections was cut across Sudan by the ruling military council, with users saying it was done to prevent further mobilisation of protesters.

Lawyer Abdelazim al-Hassan said he had filed a petition against the blockade, and on Sunday a court in Khartoum ordered that the services be resumed.

“I had filed the case 10 days ago and Judge Awatef Abdellatiff ordered the telecommunications department to resume the internet services immediately,” Hassan said. Authorities can appeal the decision.

For the generals the internet and social media are a threat.

“Regarding social media, we see during this period that it represents a threat for the security of the country and we will not allow that,” military council spokesman General Shamseddine Kabbashi said earlier this month.

The internet blockade was an attempt to quell new protests against the generals, who have so far resisted to hand power to a civilian administration as demanded by demonstrators, protest leaders say.

Tens of thousands of protesters were mobilised through online social media apps during the months-long campaign against the now ousted leader Omar al-Bashir.

Protest leaders have resorted to neighbourhood campaigns to keep their movement alive, with activists mobilising supporters in night-time gatherings, witnesses said.

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