Connect with us

Top Story

Ramaphosa announces leaner cabinet in new austerity agenda

Cabinet size trimmed from 36 ministers to 28, with familiar faces remaining

News Central

Published

on

Ramaphosa announces leaner cabinet | News Central TV
South African President, Cyril Ramaphosa. (Photo by RODGER BOSCH / AFP)

South Africa’s President, Cyril Ramaphosa on Wednesday retained Tito Mboweni as finance minister in a new, leaner cabinet, following on from a pre-election pledge to reform and revive an ailing economy and attract foreign investors.

Ramaphosa, who was sworn in as South Africa’s president on Saturday for his first full five-year term, trimmed the cabinet from 36 ministers to 28.

That will serve as an early barometer of his ability to push through change more efficiently, having struggled to implement tough reforms since he succeeded scandal-plagued Jacob Zuma last year.

The leaner cabinet was meant to reduce government spending, Ramaphosa said.

“All South Africans are acutely aware of the great economic difficulties our country has been experiencing and the constraints this has placed on public finances,” he said in a televised national address.

“It is, therefore, imperative that in all areas and spheres of government, we place priority on revitalising our economy while exercising the greatest care in the use of public funds.”

Ramaphosa’s ruling African National Congress (ANC) saw its majority cut in national elections two weeks ago.

His long to-do list includes generating jobs, acting against entrenched corruption in and outside the ANC, resolving policy uncertainty in the mining sector and speeding up reforms of power utility Eskom and other state-owned entities.

Familiar faces –

Markets are likely to welcome the reappointment of Mboweni, a former central bank governor who is well respected by investors. He was first appointed to the position in October and has spoken out about trimming government spending and selling some state companies that are acting as a drain on public finances.

Investors will also scrutinise Ramaphosa’s decision to retain David Mabuza as deputy president.

Last week, Mabuza had requested a delay in his swearing-in to parliament to clear his name before an ANC integrity commission, following allegations of impropriety during his decade-long premiership of the mineral-rich eastern Mpumalanga province. He has denied all wrongdoing.

Mabuza was finally sworn in on Tuesday after he was cleared by the ANC of bringing the party into disrepute, weakening the rand.

The currency extended its losses on Wednesday, in part reflecting worries that Mabuza could taint Ramaphosa’s reform agenda.

Ramaphosa kept on Pravin Gordhan as public enterprises minister. The ministry oversees state-owned companies including Eskom. The management of Eskom’s restructuring is key to reviving the economy after power cuts in the past year undermined broader efforts to kick-start growth.

The president also appointed Gwedwe Mantashe as mining and energy minister after combining the two ministries.

Mantashe previously headed the mining ministry. Naledi Pandor, previously higher education minister, was appointed as foreign affairs minister.

Continue Reading
Click to comment

Leave a Reply

Top Story

Opposition party candidates cry foul over ruling party victory in Mauritania elections

“We reject the results of the election and we consider that they in no way express the will of the Mauritanian people,”

Published

on

Mohamed Vall Ould Bellal, president of the Independent National Electoral Commission, attends a press conference

Mauritania’s ruling party candidate Mohamed Ould Ghazouani has won the presidential election with 52 per cent of the vote, the electoral commission announced Sunday, with opposition candidates crying foul. Ghazouani easily beat main opposition opponents Biram Ould Dah Ould Abeid (18.58 per cent) and Sidi Mohamed Ould Boubacar (17.87 per cent), according to the official figures from Saturday’s polls.

Former prime minister Boubacar, addressing a news conference along with three other candidates, charged that “multiple irregularities…eliminated any credibility” in the election, which was to be the first democratic transfer of power in the country.

“We reject the results of the election and we consider that they in no way express the will of the Mauritanian people,” he said, vowing the opposition would use “every legal means” to challenge them.

The CENI electoral commission said voter turnout was 62.66 per cent. With a clear majority, the 62-year-old Ghazouani, former head of the domestic security service, has won outright with no need for a second-round runoff election.

Appeal to the people

Ghazouani had already declared himself the winner in the early hours of Sunday in the presence of outgoing president Mohamed Ould Abdel Aziz, his supporters and journalists. Second-placed Abeid, an anti-slavery activist, told the opposition news conference: “We are launching an appeal to the Mauritanian people… to resist, within the bounds of the law, this umpteenth coup d’etat against the will of the people.”

Incidents broke out between protesters and police following Ghazouani’s declaration in the capital and in northwest Nouadhibou, the only province where he did not come in first. The opposition said they were planning protests from Monday afternoon.

“We will organise protests, this is our constitutional right,” Mohamed Ould Moloud, who got 2.44 per cent of the vote, told the news conference late Sunday, stressing they would be peaceful. Baba Hamidou Kane, who polled 8.71 per cent, said the four opposition candidates would lodge an official protest with the electoral commission on Monday.

Although the vote is the first in Mauritania’s history that looks set to see an elected president complete his mandate and transfer power to an elected successor, the opposition has raised concerns that the vote could perpetuate a government dominated by military figures.

Some 1.5 million people were eligible to vote in the predominantly Muslim state, which is estimated to be twice the size of France but has a population of just 4.5 million.

Alleged irregularities

CENI advised all candidates “to show prudence and restraint”, and hoped the calm during the campaign and on the voting day would prevail. Both Abeid and Boubacar had complained of balloting irregularities and the expulsion of representatives from some polling stations. However, CENI said no major problems had been reported.

Ghazouani – who campaigned on the themes of continuity, solidarity and security – served as Abdel Aziz’s chief of staff from 2008 to last year. The outgoing president is a general who originally came to power in a 2008 coup. He won elections a year later and was again elected in 2014 in polls boycotted by the opposition.

Abdel Aziz repeatedly warned that the country could fall back into instability if his chosen candidate was not elected. He is credited with reforming the army, clamping down on jihadists and pushing to develop remote regions.

Nevertheless, rights groups have accused Mauritania’s government of restrictions on freedom of expression and assembly, while calling on the nation to do more to counter violence against women and slavery, which persists in the conservative state even though it was officially abolished in 1981.

Authorities rejected an opposition request for foreign observers at the election. All of the candidates promised improvements in the standard of living, though economic growth at 3.6 per cent in 2018 is insufficient to meet the needs of a fast-growing population, according to the World Bank.

The World Bank has welcomed the “macro-economic stabilisation” of the country, where annual growth is expected to average 6.2 per cent between 2019 and 2021. But it has called for barriers to be removed in the private sector, pointing in particular to corruption, as well as difficult access to credit.

Continue Reading

Top Story

Boko Haram attack kills 8 in Chad

Security sources said the seven Chadian soldiers and the guard were killed in an ambush on Friday in Mbomouga in Chad’s Ngouboua area

News Central

Published

on

Seven Chadian soldiers and a local guard were killed in a Boko Haram jihadist ambush in Lake Chad, the latest in a surge of attacks in the region, security sources said on Sunday. Boko Haram militants have been waging a decade-long insurgency in northwest Nigeria, but the conflict has spilt into Lake Chad where Nigeria borders Niger, Chad and Cameroon.

Security sources said the seven Chadian soldiers and the guard were killed in an ambush on Friday in Mbomouga in Chad’s Ngouboua area, and another 13 people were wounded. “The Boko Haram forces lost six of their people and left behind two weapons,” one security source said.

Among the soldiers killed was a gendarme colonel, the source said. Another source said three army officers were killed in the attack. Since 2018, Boko Haram has carried out at least nine attacks on Chad. But the jihadist group has stepped up attacks outside Nigeria after a period of calm last year

Last month, militants killed four people in an attack on a Cameroonian island on Lake Chad and Boko Haram killed another 13 villagers in eastern Chad. In March jihadists killed at least 23 Chadian soldiers in an attack on an army post in the group’s deadliest attack on the country’s military.

Since 2015, troops from Cameroon, Chad, Niger and Nigeria have been grouped into a mixed, multi-national force in a bid to help fight Islamist militants.

Continue Reading

News

Voters in Mauritania look forward to better conditions

The ballot is the first in the nation’s history that looks set to see an elected president complete his mandate and hand over to an elected successor

News Central

Published

on

Mauritania Decides - Voters look forward to better conditions
Mauritanian voters queue in front of a polling station in order to cast their ballot, on June 22, 2019, in Nouakchoot during the presidential election. - Voters in the West African state of Mauritania went to the polls on June 22, 2019 after a campaign dominated by the country's economy and appeals to preserve its hard-won stability. The ballot is the first in the nation's coup-strewn history that looks set to see an elected president complete his mandate and hand over to an elected successor. (Photo by Sia KAMBOU / AFP)

Voters in Mauritania went to the polls on Saturday after a campaign dominated by the country’s economy and appeals to preserve its hard-won stability.

The ballot is the first in the nation’s history that looks set to see an elected president complete his mandate and hand over to an elected successor.

Some 1.5 million people are entitled to vote. Polling stations opened at 0700 GMT and will close at 1900 GMT, with preliminary results expected at the start of next week.

At Nouakchott’s Olympic stadium, where frontrunner Mohamed Ould Ghazouani, a 62-year-old former general, is scheduled to cast his ballot at midday, queues had already formed when polling opened. 

One voter, Elalem Abdelbaqi, said he had come early to fulfil his civic duty. 

“The programme of the person I’m going to vote for promises everything that I’m looking for,” he told AFP, without revealing the name of his preferred candidate. 

Another, Abdellahi Ould Vettah, called for “peaceful change”.

“We want radical change, which is to say: equality, education and social justice,” he said. 

A woman voter, Fatimatou Ahmed, said “renewal is very important for us women”. 

President Mohamed Ould Abdel Aziz, a general who came to power in a 2008 coup, is standing down after winning high marks from many Mauritanians for stabilising the country.

Elected in 2009 and again in 2014 in a vote boycotted by the main opposition parties, Abdel Aziz has reformed the army, clamped down on jihadists and pushed to develop remote regions of the vast Saharan state.

Frontrunner Ould Ghazouani is a one-time head of the domestic security service and chief of staff to Abdel Aziz from 2008 to last year.

Ghazouani campaigned on the themes of continuity, solidarity and security – “the country’s security, first and foremost,” he declared on Thursday at a final rally gathering 10,000 supporters, many of them young people.

Abdel Aziz has given full backing to his loyal lieutenant.

“There’s only two choices — either going backwards, towards extremism, waste and instability, or your candidate, who will continue what has been achieved to build a stable and developed state,” he declared at the rally.

Ghazouani’s main challenger is Sidi Mohamed Ould Boubacar, 62, who was prime minister between 1992 and 1996 and at the helm of a transitional government between 2005-7.

He hopes to win enough support to secure a runoff vote on July 6.

Boubacar is backed by a coalition led by the main opposition movement, Islamist party Tewassoul, and by wealthy Franco-Mauritanian businessman Mohamed Ould Bouamatou, a longtime thorn in the side of the regime who lives in Europe.

Nearly 30 percent said they would vote for Ghazaouani and 23 percent for Boubacar in a poll of 1,300 people conducted in the capital Nouakchott by the Mauritanian Centre for Strategic Studies and Research (CMERS) last week.

The four other candidates are outliers in the race, according to the poll.

Known especially abroad for his media campaigning, anti-slavery activist Biram Ould Dah Ould Abeid, 55, was credited with 9.5 percent of voting intentions, followed by veteran opposition figure Mohamed Ould Moloud, 66, with 3.7 percent.

Journalist Baba Hamidou Kane and political newcomer Mohamed Lemine El-Mourteji El-Wavi, each garnered under three percent.

Courting the vote

Candidates have been travelling around the country with a population to woo voters.

They have also courted the heads of tribes and clans in remote regions, who can mobilise whole communities behind a candidate.

The opposition has warned of vote fraud and accused the Independent National Electoral Commission (CENI) of bias.

The authorities rejected an opposition request for foreign observers.

Rights groups urged candidates to throw their weight behind a rollback of slavery, which persists in Mauritania, and curbing violence against women.

All the candidates promised improvements in the standard of living, though economic growth at 3.6 percent in 2018 is insufficient to meet the needs of a fast-growing population, according to the World Bank.

It has called on Mauritania to give more help to the private sector, where, it says, access to credit and corruption are major problems.

Continue Reading
Advertisement

Newsletter

Trending