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South Africa’s president-elect to be sworn in

His inauguration speech will be scrutinised for clues as to how he plans to tackle the country’s many problems

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A woman sings and dances weaving a South Africa scarf at the Loftus Versfeld Stadium in Pretoria, South Africa, ahead of the inauguration of Incumbent South African President

Cyril Ramaphosa takes the oath of office on Saturday as president of South Africa, facing a brew of expectations and scepticism after vowing to reform the country and revive its economy.

Foreign heads of state will be among 36,000 people expected to witness the ceremony at a rugby stadium in the capital Pretoria.

The 66-year-old leader was unanimously elected by parliament after his African National Congress (ANC) won legislative elections on May 8, winning 230 of the 400 seats.

The victory was earned with 57.5 percent of the vote — the party’s lowest share of the ballot since it overturned apartheid 25 years ago.

Ramaphosa is a trade unionist who played a prominent part in the struggle to end white-minority rule before becoming a successful businessman.

His inauguration speech will be scrutinised for clues as to how he plans to tackle the country’s many problems.

They range from a sickly economy in which more than a quarter of the workforce is jobless to entrenched crime and corruption and land ownership that remains overwhelmingly in the hands of whites.

Many solutions will require him to inch his way across the high wire, balancing leftwing calls for radical change with demands by investors for caution.

In his acceptance speech to lawmakers on Wednesday, Ramaphosa vowed his government was all “about change, and you are going to see the change.”

“We have been given this responsibility on an overriding basis to revive our economy, to create jobs, to not only bring hope to the masses of our people, to actualise that hope and make sure that indeed their aspirations are met.”

Cabinet test

Ramaphosa’s first test as he starts his new five-year term will be choosing a cabinet — a task beset by rival factions within the ANC.

He is expected to name his new cabinet within days after his inauguration, but his choice of vice president hangs in the balance after his deputy David Mabuza said Wednesday he would defer taking his seat as a lawmaker.

An ANC integrity commission report has alleged Mabuza — the party’s No. 2 — “prejudiced the integrity of the ANC and brought the organisation into disrepute”.

Ramaphosa first took power last year when the ANC forced Jacob Zuma to resign after nine years in office, and vowed to root out corruption.

“The clean-up is ongoing, the cabinet will be broadly clean and meet some notional standard or threshold the market is looking for,” predicted Peter Attard Montalto of the British-based advisory service Intellidex.

Stadium ceremony

Breaking with tradition Ramaphosa’s swearing-in ceremony has been moved from the amphitheatre of the Union Buildings — the seat of government, where Nelson Mandela was inaugurated as the country’s first black president in 1994.

All other leaders after Mandela have taken their oaths at the Union Buildings, whose grounds can accommodate only up to 4,500 people.

But this year the event has been moved to the 52,000-seater Loftus Versfeld rugby stadium, a move organisers said is more inclusive and will allow more people to witness the event.

More than 2,500 police are being deployed for security, while a battalion of soldiers will be inside the stadium to perform ceremonial parades.

The opposition Democratic Alliance (DA) has castigated government for what it called “wasteful” expenditure of 120 million rand for the ceremony.

“It is no secret that the South African economy is in dire straits,” said a senior DA lawmaker, John Steenhuisen.

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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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