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  • Angola swears in first new president in 38 years

    By Robyn | September 28, 2017

    On Tuesday 26th September 2017 Angola swore in new president Joao Lourenco. Lourenco succeeds Jose Eduardo dos Santos who has been Angola’s head of state for 38 years. Both men are of the Movimiento Popular de Libertação de Angola (MPLA), the party which has ruled the nation since independence in 1975, with Dos Santos taking the helm in 1979.

    The inauguration follows last month’s elections, in which the MPLA won with 61 percent of the vote. A result notably lower than in previous elections. The outcome has been fervently contested by opposition party UNITA who boycotted the inauguration. However, UNITA’s insistence that the elections were marred by unfair media coverage and queries over vote-counting does not seem to have tainted the inauguration in the eyes of regional powers. President Jacob Zuma of South Africa was one of several African leaders to attend the inauguration.

    Prior to his leadership bid Lourenco was most recently Angola’s defence minister, and prior to this served as the party’s secretary-general for a number of years. He campaigned on the platform of guaranteeing the nation’s development and progress, creating job opportunities and improving health and school systems. He has also vowed to tackle corruption within the MPLA, a promise met with some scepticism by the MPLA’s critics.

    It remains to be seen to what extent Lourenco will be able to carve out a new path as president out of the shadow of Dos Santos. As previously reported in ACTSA’s Angola Monitor, despite stepping down as leader of the country Dos Santos remains leader of the MPLA, and with his two children occupying key positions of strategic and economic power in the nation many believe he will continue to hold considerable influence.

    If you would like to keep in touch with developments in Angola ensure you are signed up to receive the Angola Monitor, published quarterly by ACTSA. 

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    The Future of Demining in Angola: Women Lead the Way

    By Robyn | September 22, 2017

    UK based NGO The HALO Trust earlier this year launched a new project ‘100 Women in Demining in Angola’. The project hopes to train and employ 100 women in Angola as deminers, medics, drivers and mechanics, empowering women and boosting mine clearance in the country. In June HALO began  recruiting the first 20 female deminers from the province of Benguela in Western Angola. The women trained outside of Huambo and following completion of the rigorous training will return to Benguela to begin clearing live minefields and building a future for their home communities.

    The landmines are the dangerous remnants of the protracted civil war which ended in 2002, having consumed the country since independence in 1975. In the aftermath of the conflict it was estimated that 982 square kilometres of land were contaminated, in all 18 of Angola’s provinces. These landmines, laid on roads and tracks, around villages and buildings, have rendered large swathes of land inaccessible, massively impacting the livelihoods and security of the population. 15 years on some progress has been made with an estimated third of the country cleared of mines, but there remains a long way to go.

    Land mine clearance has historically been a male dominated industry in the nation, but HALO are looking to diversify their team and offer training and employment for women in an otherwise hostile climate. It is hoped that the scheme will provide employment and a source of income whilst empowering the women in their communities. Through incorporating the women into demining operations as skilled agents and an integral part of the process, the project repositions women as central to conversations on the future of their communities; thus recasting the limitations that birth and economic status has imposed upon them. Furthermore, looking to the future it is planned the women will be able to take the skills learnt in this role to contribute to the development of Angola in other ways.

    The first cohort of deminers were deployed in their home province of Benguela in August, where, according to HALO there are more than 80 known minefields. Since then the team have found 133 anti-personnel mines and cleared almost 8000 square metres of land. The second round of recruitment will be taking place this month and an additional 20 women will be trained in October.  HALO hope the project will lead the way for land mine clearance in the area, kick-starting both government led and local programmes.

    As ACTSA reported earlier this year,  funding cuts have seen many mine-clearance projects paused in Angola. The UK ceased bilateral aid to Angola in 2011 but with the recent commitment of £100million to mine action globally, Angola might possibly receive funding from this allocation.

    Read more on 100 Women in Demining in Angola at www.halotrust.org/100women

    To keep in touch with developments in Angola ensure you are signed up to receive the Angola Monitor, published quarterly by ACTSA. 


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    STOPAIDS Policy Report states UK Funds for HIV/AIDS Falling

    By Robyn | September 20, 2017

    Southern Africa is the most affected region in the world by HIV/AIDS.

    STOPAIDS, a network of UK NGOS of which ACTSA is a member has last week released report, A Stocktake Review of DIFID’s Work on HIV and AIDS which reviews the HIV and AIDS work carried out by the Department for International Development and states UK government funding on HIV/AIDS is falling.

    At present there has been no HIV/AIDS Strategy since 2015 and the report has been produced in the wake of DIFID’s refusal to carry out a strategic review of its support for work on HIV/AIDS. This is despite strong support for a such a review from both civil society and parliamentarians.

    The report takes into consideration the multiple funding streams for HIV/AIDS work and highlights several key downfalls. These include, notably, that the massive cuts to DIFID’s country office programmes have not been offset by the UK’s contributions to the Global Fund. Claims that reductions in dedicated progamme funding have occurred as the result of a rise in integrated programme funding have also come under question. The report states overall funding is declining, with funding for civil society amongst the worst hit.

    Other key findings include the remarkable absence of HIV from other significant DIFID strategies including the Strategic Vision on Women and Girls and DIFID’s Youth Agenda. Although the report does concede there has been some indication that moving forwards HIV will form a more central part of DIFID’s women and girl’s strategy.

    Looking forwards from a programmatic perspective, STOPAIDS recommends that DIFID formalise and make public their approach to HIV. Given the present absence of an HIV strategy it has been suggested that the report could be used to articulate priorities within global HIV response.

    Overall the reports findings highlight that  DIFID’s commitment to the HIV response has been inconsistent, funding has decreased, and a formalised strategic approach is desperately lacking

    DFID does not have country programmes for the five countries with the highest rates of HIV/AIDS adult prevalence,

    Swaziland, Lesotho, Botswana, South Africa and Namibia.

    When DFID cut its country programme for South Africa a couple of years ago it meant that the Treatment Action Campaign lost 15% of its core financial support.

    Eight countries in the world have an HIV/AIDS adult prevalence rate in double figures. All are in Southern Africa. DFID has country programmes in/for three, Zimbabwe, Zambia and Mozambique.

    The report is available for download from the STOPAIDS website. 

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    Bell Pottinger campaign used potentially racial divisive material says independent review.

    By Tony | September 4, 2017

    Bell Pottinger campaign used potentially racial divisive material says independent review.

    Bell Pottinger accepted a commission from Oakbay Investments Pty Limited (“Oakbay”) a holding company for the Gupta family interests in South Africa. It is alleged the Gupta family have significant influence on South Africa government policy, who gets appointed to key roles and who gets, benefits from large government contracts. Referred to in South Africa as “state capture”. The allegations are denied. The commission was in essence to run a PR and marketing campaign to move attention from the alleged close links between the Guptas and key people in, connected to the South African government. Bell Pottinger sought to do this by putting out a counter story, narrative.
    Bell Pottinger commissioned an independent review of its work on the Oakbay account by international law firm Herbert Smith Freehills which has found that,
    “certain material created by Bell Pottinger…. was potentially racially divisive and/or potentially offensive and was created in breach of relevant ethical principles.
    [Bell Pottinger's] senior management should have known that the campaign was at risk of causing offence, including on grounds of race.”
    “the BP account team used other tactics in relation to the economic emancipation campaign which arguably breached the relevant ethical principles‚ including taking steps which might mislead or undermine journalists who were asking questions in relation to the campaign.
    ….members of BP’s senior management should have known that the campaign was at risk of causing offence‚ including on grounds of race.
    ….In such circumstances BP ought to have exercised extreme care and should have closely scrutinised the creation of content for the campaign. This does not appear to have happened.”
    The Chief Executive of Bell Pottinger although not involved in this account resigned shortly before the report was released.
    The Huffington Post South Africa has put four questions to Bell Pottinger, others have put similar questions.
    1. How much did Bell Pottinger earn from the Oakbay account?
    2. Would Bell Pottinger now consider paying profits from the account toward some charitable organisations, maybe like those working toward reconciliation efforts in South Africa?
    3. Are (ex-CEO) James Henderson and (former BP partner) Victoria Geoghegan going to be the only employees held responsible?
    4. Would there be another apology issued to South Africans affected by the divisive campaigns?
    Others have also asked about other PR and marketing commissions e.g. allegedly for the ANC Youth League Bell Pottinger has run recently in South Africa.
    Bell Pottinger has so far not answered.
    Bell Pottinger gave up the Oakbay account in April 2017.
    Bell Pottinger was accused of running a campaign in South Africa on behalf of Oakbay which was divisive, offensive and stoked racial tensions. It is reported that the Public Relations and Communications Association (PRCA), a UK trade body has found Bell Pottinger guilty of breaching its code of conduct in its work on the Oakbay account and the PRCA should state what measure it plans to take on 5 September.
    The logical conclusion of the independent review and the reported PRCA finding is that Bell Pottinger did indeed run a divisive, offensive PR and marketing campaign in South Africa for Oakbay recognising it may well cause racial tensions.







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    Angolan Elections: MPLA announced as the winner. Opposition parties and activists call foul play

    By Robyn | August 30, 2017

    The CNE (Electoral Commission) in Angola announced that the ruling MPLA party took 61.1% of the vote and the main opposition party UNITA secured 26.7% in the election which took place on 23 August. The MPLA was initially reported to have secured 64.4% to UNITA’s 24.04% of the vote share but this was revised in a later statement. The revised figures are unlikely to change, however the definitive numbers may not be announced until the 6th September.

    The MPLA seems to have secured a relatively comfortable victory although their share of the vote dropped 10%. UNITA has increased its share of parliamentary seats from 32 to 51. In Luanda province the combined support for UNITA and the other main opposition party CASA-CE was 50%.

    There has been some questioning of the CNE conduct due to the fact they have not given detailed explanations as to how these provisional results were tallied. Some critics have called foul play suggesting  it would have been impossible to have tallied votes of Angola’s eighteen provinces beyond polling stations at the time when the initial announcement of an almost 65% majority for the MPLA was declared (later modified to the 61.1%).

    UNITA also claim to have collected notably different results from their own tallies at voting stations to those announced by the Electoral Commission and MPLA. Deputy party leader Rafael Massanga Savimbi  has stated they do not accept the result and have demanded the CNE explain to the Angolan public ‘what it did wrong and why it did it’. UNITA have announced they will release their full results in the coming days, although parallel counts for four of Angola’s eighteen provinces, Huambo, Bie, Cabinda and Luanda, already released by the group have shown UNITA doing better than commission results suggested.

    There have been allegations of misconduct regarding the run-up to the elections, with criticism from national and international rights activists, as well as opposition parties UNITA and CASA-CE. All  critics suggest voter manipulation through depriving opposition groups access to the media. In the run-up to the elections Human Rights Watch claimed the environment was ‘marred by severe restrictions on freedom of expression and assembly’.   Maka Angola has also criticised the international community and media for its role, claiming they had ‘concluded before a single vote was cast, that the MPLA would win comfortably’.

    Yet despite widely published criticisms of the election, CNE,and Southern African Development Community (SADC) Mission have declared the elections free and fair. International observers have reported the atmosphere in the nation’s capital, Luanda, to be relatively calm. Official results will be published by the 6th September.

    To keep in touch with developments in Angola ensure you are signed up to receive the Angola Monitor, published quarterly by ACTSA.

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    Angolan Elections: Angola will change the question is how much?

    By Tony | August 23, 2017

    Angolans are voting today, 23rd August in national elections. Whoever wins one thing is certain Angola will have a new president for the first time in 38 years. José Eduardo dos Santos is stepping down as President of the country but remaining the leader of his party, the MPLA.

    The person most expected to be the next president is the current Minister of Defence João Manuel Gonçalves Lourenço who is the MPLA’s candidate for President.

    While the focus is on the president – who is elected by the national assembly not directly – there will also be a focus on the turnout and the strengths of the various competing parties. Will the MPLA retain its commanding majority? (The MPLA received 72% at the last election), or could their majority drop to below 66%? If it does it will be unable to change the constitution.

    There have been concerns about the fairness of the electoral process and whether it has been significantly skewed in favour of the MPLA who have all the advantages of being the ruling party since independence in 1975. The EU is not sending an election observer team as they say they were not guaranteed access to all polling stations, in all parts of the country. However despite this they have sent some experts.

    Whatever the outcome of the election, with a new head of state, oil at around half its 2013 price and not expected to get anywhere near the 2013 level in the foreseeable future Angola will undeniably see some change. The question is how much and of what nature. Will it be very much a change of some key people, perhaps a change of style but no real substantial change? Or could the change be more far reaching than many currently anticipate?

    Angola suffered from a long and bloody war that left the country devastated. Much has been done to improve Angola’s infrastructure but the wealth and potential of Angola has so far not been used to significantly reduce poverty and inequality, nor improve health and education. All of which are key areas that many Angolans, whoever they vote for, are keen to see addressed. Thus there will certainly be change, but it remains to be seen if this change will lead to substantial and lasting improvement in the lives of the average Angolan.

    To keep in touch with developments in Angola ensure you are signed up to receive the Angola Monitor, published quarterly by ACTSA.

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    Marikana: five years on

    By Tony | August 15, 2017

    Marikana: five years on

    44 people were killed around the Marikana platinum mine, near Rustenburg, about 2 hours north-west of Johannesburg between 11-16 August 2012. 34 miners who had gone on strike were killed by the South African police on the 16 August. 10 people were killed in the days before 16 August, two were police officers.

    The Marikana Commission of Inquiry reported in 2015.  It criticised the police, Lonmin (the mining company that owned the mine), the striking miners and the trade unions.

    Most criticism was directed at the police operation for the killings on the 16 August. The commission found that the police decided to move from an encirclement and containment plan, which in the Commission’s view could have been implemented without significant risk of loss of life on the morning of 16 August or the following day to a plan to demand the striking miners disarm and if not force would be used which would inevitably lead to bloodshed. The Commission also severely criticised the police for not ceasing shooting at scene 1 where 16 people were killed and that at scene 2 where 17 people were killed there was a, “complete lack of control and command”.

    The Commission recommended a full investigation to ascertain criminal liability on the part of all members of the South Africa police who were involved in the incidents at scene 1 and 2. Over a year later in December 2016 President Zuma said criminal charges would be brought against senior police officers involved in the killings. In March 2017 the Independent Police Investigative Directorate identified 72 police officers for prosecution in relation to their roles in the killings at Marikana. These 72 have not yet been formally charged.

    The Commission recommended that there be further investigation into all the killings and assaults that took place between 11 and 15 August 2012 to determine whether there is a basis for prosecution. This has happened in part however the National Prosecuting Authority said it was postponing indefinitely the trial of 17 strike leaders who had been charged in connection to the killings that took place between 12 and 14 August 2012.

    The Commission recommended that there must be an inquiry into the fitness to hold office, of the National Police Commissioner at the time, Riah Phiyega. She was suspended, an inquiry was held which recommended her dismissal from office and she was dismissed following an appeal in June 2017. She continues to contest the findings of the inquiry. Riah Phiyega is one of the 72 police officers identified for prosecution.

    The Commission was critical of the conduct of Lonmin for not doing more to resolve the dispute, not doing more to ensure the safety of employees, not responding effectively to the threat and outbreak of violence and failure to implement social undertakings it had committed to do. There are reports in 2017 that Lonmin has said given the price of platinum it cannot do more to assist those directly affected by the massacre at Marikana e.g. through re-housing.

    The Commission of Inquiry went into the events leading up to and the on the day itself in considerable detail however its terms of reference and its interpretation of them led it to not considering the wider context in which Marikana occurred.

    The Inquiry did not really consider, comment on the mining companies continued use and reliance on migrant labour which has led a considerable number of them having two families one in the area they from and one the area they stay, around the mine. The poor conditions around the mines, especially housing. Why did this and why do other labour and community disputes in South Africa move fairly quickly to violence? Why did the police respond by the use of lethal force rather than containment? What are the implications for this on police and community relations?  Why are a number of  ” corporate social responsibility projects” seemingly more about public relations and company image and not substantial and lasting improvements? Why has the mining industry failed to transform itself more than 20 years since the end of apartheid?

    Many of those affected by massacre at Marikana still feel there has not been justice.  Some groups focus on the 34 killed by the police on 16 August. There were at least 44 killed as 10 were killed in the week preceding. Those individuals who recklessly caused and contributed to the deaths of 44 people in and around Marikana between 9 -16 August should face justice. But as well as holding individuals to account there is the need to address systemic weaknesses and failures in and across the mining industry, in policing and by those engaging in labour and community protests.

    The killings, the massacre at Marikana should never have happened. That they did is a terrible loss to the families involved and a stain on democratic South Africa. The challenge since has been to ensure such events never re-occur but also to transform the mining industry so it treats its workers more fairly and ensure greater benefits flow to the communities and areas where the mines are located.  Five years on it is difficult to conclude the mining industry has or is transforming its practices. More needs to be done and now to provide better support and assistance to those directly affected by what happened at Marikana.

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    South Africa: President Zuma survives eighth no-confidence vote

    By Tony | August 10, 2017

    On 8 August a motion of no-confidence in President Zuma was defeated in the national assembly (parliament) by 198 votes to 177 with nine abstentions. To have been carried the no-confidence motion needed 201 votes (50% +1 of the Assembly).

    This was the eighth motion of no-confidence in President Zuma all of which have been defeated. This was the first conducted by secret ballot. It came several months after President Zuma sacked the Minister and Deputy Minister of Finance and amid increasing allegations of corruption and patronage at the centre of government.  On the face of it seems it was a comfortable victory for President Zuma however after allowing for a couple of vacancies and that a number of MPs did not vote it is estimated between 26-36 ANC MPs voted for the opposition motion of no confidence. The ANC has 249 MPs. The combined opposition in theory has 151. However two smaller parties usually vote with the ANC reducing the opposition to 141.

    Some think that having survived the no-confidence vote President Zuma will be strengthened. Others think the vote shows increasing divisions and tensions within the ANC which will hold its five yearly elective conference in December. President Zuma has said he will step down as President of the ANC at the conference. He may continue as President of the country until 2019 but then will have completed the maximum of two terms allowed under the constitution.

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    Angola Election: Observer missions invited but possibly no EU team

    By Robyn | August 3, 2017

    Angolan President Jose Eduardo dos Santos has invited a number of organisational and individual observers to witness the forthcoming election. Amongst them are the African Union (AU), the European Union (EU) and the Southern African Development Community (SADC) as well as former Presidents from Ghana, East Timor and Mozambique amongst others. Opposition party, the União Nacional para a Independência Total de Angola (UNITA) have appealed to the US government and international community to closely follow the electoral process. However it is uncertain if the EU will send an observer mission. It is understood the EU have requested unfettered access to polling stations which the Angolans are said to have refused. Negotiations as to whether the EU will send an election observer mission were continuing in mid-July.

    The SADC Electoral Advisory Council (SEAC) and African Union (AU) delegations are already in the country evaluating preparations for the elections. Interior minister Eugenio Laborinho spoke following meetings with delegations from both parties, stating that learnings from previous elections had been made and security provisions safeguarded.

    There have been calls from all parties to avoid anti-democratic means, however some critics have questioned their commitment after protests for transparent elections in May were met with the arrest of 7 activists. Angola’s general election will take place on 23rd August 2017.  The largest opposition party UNITA have expressed some concern about the support in the state media for the ruling Movimento Popular de Libertação de Angola (MPLA).

    If you would like to hear more on Angola, ACTSA publishes the Angola Monitor, a quarterly publication covering the latest human rights, aid & development, economic and politics news from Angola.  Sign-up here.

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    Commitment to reducing inequality: Southern African Rankings

    By Tony | July 27, 2017

    South Africa has been ranked 21 and Swaziland 140 out of 152 countries on the Commitment to Reducing Inequality Index.

    Oxfam and Development Finance International (DFI) have developed the Commitment to Reducing Inequality Index which seeks to measure the commitment of governments to reducing inequality. They state the index is work in progress and they welcome feedback. Initially they have focussed on three areas which they believe are critical to reducing inequality, social spending, tax and labour rights.

    193 countries promised to reduce inequality as part of the Sustainable Development Goals agreed in 2015.  They accepted to eliminate poverty inequality had to be reduced.

    South Africa is ranked 21 out of 152 on its commitment to reducing inequality. The best ranking of any African country. The first ten are European countries. Great Britain is ranked 17 and USA 23. Swaziland is ranked 140 the second worst of any African country with Nigeria the only African country ranked worse.

    Namibia is ranked 40, Lesotho 49, Mauritius 48, Mozambique 52, Zimbabwe 53, Malawi 56, Seychelles 63, Tanzania 78, Zambia 84, Botswana 105, DRC 108.

    Click here for more details on the Commitment to Reducing Inequality Index 

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