• Where is the African Peer Review Mechanism Heading?

    Africa may be rising, but its success is primarily measured by economic growth and development, while discourse on democratisation is far less prominent than at the onset of the new millennium. At the same time, many African states are forging ever-deeper ties with emerging powers that seem to place little value on democracy and human rights.

    This begs the question of whether Africa’s leaders are still committed to advancing good governance, accountability and transparency.

    A recent continental meeting to discuss governance matters did not inspire confidence. Only three (out of a possible 35) presidents attended the meeting of the African Peer Review Mechanism (APRM) Forum on 29 January 2015 in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia. This was in spite of the announcement and endorsement of a number of key decisions, which have the potential to revive and strengthen the APRM – the continent’s premier home-grown governance assessment and improvement tool.
    This low turn-out has been a disturbing trend in meetings of the APR Forum – the mechanism’s highest decision-making body, composed of the participating heads of state and government. This time, even the Forum chairperson was absent, although understandably Liberian President, Ellen Johnson Sirleaf, was at home dealing with the Ebola crisis. Apart from South Africa’s President Jacob Zuma, who chaired the meeting, only two other heads of state attended: Equatorial Guinea’s President, Teodoro Obiang Nguema Mbasogo, and Ivorian President Alassane Ouattara. The former country joined the APRM exactly one year ago, while the latter became the 35th state to voluntarily accede. The Forum decided to appoint a deputy chairperson, Kenyan President Uhuru Kenyatta, in absentia.

    The Ivorian leader highlighted successes in his country since he took office in 2011 (after disputed elections that eventually ended the rule of President Laurent Gbagbo). He mentioned legitimate presidential and legislative elections, and polls at municipal and regional levels; economic growth of nine percent per year, and inflation below two percent; increased agricultural exports and growing investments in infrastructure, all of which are improving the lives of Ivorians. However, it is important to note that that an APRM review looks beyond just the tenure of a sitting government and takes a longer, historical and structural view of the governance landscape. It is an opportunity to articulate and diagnose serious governance gaps.

    Despite both Benin and Sierra Leone being scheduled to present progress reports on the implementation of their National Programmes of Action - the remedial action plans that emerge from the review – these reports were not tabled.

    Two new members of the APRM’s Panel of Eminent Persons were announced - former South African Minister of Justice and Constitutional Development, Brigitte Mabandla, and Chief Chinyere E Asika from Nigeria, whose many posts include being a former presidential advisor on the New Partnership for Africa’s Development (NEPAD). This shows continuity and integration between the APRM and NEPAD; the ‘soft’ infrastructure of governance matters as much as ‘hard’ infrastructure like roads, railways and airports.

    In a welcome innovation, there was live tweeting from the Forum by the official @APRMorg Twitter account, enhancing both immediacy and greater transparency, especially because civil society representatives were asked to leave when the closed session started, and thus were not present when key announcements were made.

    A much-anticipated announcement was the appointment of Professor Adebayo Olukoshi as the new chief executive officer (CEO) of the APRM Secretariat based in Midrand, Johannesburg. Since June 2014, the Secretariat has been under the stewardship of Dr Ibrahim Mayaki, who heads up the NEPAD Policy Coordinating Agency, as acting CEO. Dr Mayaki was commended for sterling work in stabilising the APRM by the chairperson. One of the main tasks in this interim period was the recruitment of the new CEO, a task outsourced to a professional South African-based recruitment agency. Reportedly over 200 applications were received for the CEO position.

    OIukoshi is a respected Nigerian academic, who recently was director of the United Nations African Institute for Economic Development and Planning in Dakar, Senegal, and formerly was executive secretary of the Council for the Development of Social Science Research in Africa (CODESRIA). He will need to revive the mechanism’s image and its funding. President Zuma noted that ‘the Secretariat faces a projected [budget] shortfall’, and urged states to pay their dues and contribute more than the stipulated US$100 000 per annum where possible. Contributions from development partners have largely dried up.

    Enthusiasm around the APRM has been declining in recent years, with fewer new countries joining and fewer reviews taking place. What started out as an initiative that could transform Africa became an overly complex and technical academic review, with member states seemingly lacking the political will to implement proposed changes. It will be up to the new CEO and his team to demonstrate that there is still energy and drive in the APRM project, and to demonstrate tangible governance results. He will need to strategise how to re-engage the continent’s leaders to actively participate. And he will have to raise serious funding to fulfil the APRM’s potential aspirations.

    The APRM takes a holistic view of governance, focusing on politics, economic, corporate and development matters. It does not prioritise one thematic area over the other and the 17 country reports which have been published so far provide a balanced and detailed analysis of what’s right and what’s wrong in the country. While economic growth is important, effective political governance is necessary to ensure that its gains are not lost to corruption and maladministration and that development benefits all equally.

    Some African 18 elections are scheduled for 2015, and attempts to extend constitutional terms remains a critical issue - as witnessed in Burkina Faso last year. As citizens become economically well-off, they are also likely to demand more rights and liberties.

    The APRM is the only continental tool that has the potential to improve all governance aspects in its member states, which is why Africa cannot afford for this governance experiment to fail.

    - Steven Gruzd is the head of the Governance and APRM Programme at the South African Institute of International Affairs, and Yarik Turianskyi is the programme manager. They were in Addis Ababa for the APRM Forum. This article first appeared on the South African Institute for International Affairs. 
  • Calls for transparent, Accountable Political System

    The Constitutional Court will hear an application by a non-governmental organisation seeking to determine whether Parliament has failed in its constitutional obligation to get political parties to disclose the source of their private funding.

    Currently, political parties are not obliged to disclose their funders and the applicant in the matter, My Vote Counts NPC, is calling for a more inclusive, transparent and accountable political system.

    Forming the basis of its case is the constitutional right to access information and the right to vote.

    To read the article titled, “NGO calls for transparent, accountable political system,” click here.

    News 24
  • Democracy Under Attack, Says Rupert

    Billionaire businessman, Johann Rupert, says that freedom of speech, transparency and honesty in government and farmers - who put food on the table - are under attack in South Africa.

    Speaking at a conference honouring former President FW de Klerk, Rupert urged the private sector and civil society to work with government in solving its economic problems.

    "We seem to be veering towards the rest of the uncivilised world preferring rule by (a) strong man over the rule of law. You either have constitutionalism ... the rule of law ... or a (Russian President Vladimir) Putin-like situation (in South Africa)," he adds.

    To read the article titled, “Johann Rupert: Honesty in government under attack,” click here.

    Fin 24
  • Helen Suzman Foundation Welcomes Dramat Judgement

    The Helen Suzman Foundation welcomes the Pretoria high court ruling that the police cannot unilaterally suspend Hawks boss Anwa Dramat.

    The foundation took Dramat’s suspension to court, bringing an urgent application requesting that police minister, Nathi Nhleko’s decision to suspend him be set aside.

    Dramat was suspended on 23 December 2015, apparently pending a probe into his alleged involvement in the illegal rendition – the illegal kidnapping and transfer of prisoner from one country to another – of four Zimbabweans in November 2010.

    To read the article titled, “Helen Suzman Foundation welcomes Dramat judgement,” click here.

    Mail and Guardian
  • Eskom Blamed for Electricity Problems

    Earthlife Africa Johannesburg has criticised Eskom for failing to apologise to South Africans for the ongoing electricity problems when it held a press briefing on Thursday, 15 January 2015.

    The group’s energy policy officer, Dominique Doyle, points out that, "The closest the public came to an apology is chief executive officer, Tshediso Matona, stating that Eskom is now opting to do the right thing, thereby acknowledging that Eskom has been doing the wrong thing."

    Doyle argues that instead of apologising, the power utility transferred the blame to the public by threatening higher electricity tariffs and to cut off indebted communities.

    To read the article titled, “Eskom shifts blame to public, says body,” click here.

    Fin 24
  • HSF Challenges Dramat’s Suspension

    The Helen Suzman Foundation (HSF) has launched an urgent application in the High Court in Pretoria to overturn the suspension of the Hawks head, Anwar Dramat.

    HSF executive director, Francis Antonie, says the organisation is acting in terms of its mandate to protect the Constitution and the country's democracy.

    Antonie explains: “We can't let this go without challenging it, because the basis of our challenge is that the Minister acted unlawfully because the Minister may only suspend the director of the Hawks if he had already taken into account Parliament's views on this matter and he hasn't done so because Parliament is in recess.”

    To read the article titled, “Foundation pushes to overturn Hawks boss suspension,” click here.

    SABC News
  • Zuma Criticised Over Nkandla Comments

    The FW de Klerk Foundation says that President Jacob Zuma’s comments regarding the distinction between proper state expenditure and self-enrichment are disturbing.
    In a press statement, the foundation says Zuma’s reported comparison between the construction of George airport and money spent on his Nkandla home raises ‘disturbing questions’.
    “If he is correctly reported, the president’s comments raise disturbing questions regarding his views on the distinction between proper state expenditure on bona fide projects and expenditure that will result in his own enormous and unjustifiable enrichment,” argues Dave Steward, the organisation’s executive director.
    To read the article titled, “Zuma's Nkandla comparison raises alarms,” click here.

    Mail and Guardian
  • 'Person of Integrity' Award for Madonsela

    The Corruption Watch says Public Protector Thuli Madonsela, will be honoured with Amnesty International's 'Person of Integrity' award for 2014.

    Corruption Watch executive director, David Lewis, points out that, "Given the recent attacks on the public protector and her office, one of the crucial anti-corruption institutions in our constitutional democracy, this award represents a gratifying show of support from the global community."

    Lewis states that this achievement is a clear demonstration of the wide-reaching impact of the exemplary way in which Madonsela has maintained the integrity of her office and fulfilled her role in this country.

    To read the article titled, “Madonsela to get 'Person of Integrity' award: Corruption Watch,” click here.

    Times Live
  • Call for NGOs to be Audited

    Nsanje District Commissioner, Harry Phiri, says that the Kalondolondo Social audit programme should start assessing projects implemented by the country's non-governmental organisations (NGOs).

    Phiri says that most of the NGOs in Malawi receive more funds from donors, adding that the funds are not properly handled and therefore need to be assessed.

    His opinion comes at a time when the district is to have its 25 Local Development Fund (LDF) teacher houses project audited by the Kalondolondo programme.

    To read the article titled, “CSOS' projects should be audited - Nsanje DC,” click here.

    All Africa
  • CASAC Criticises Zuma Over Nkandla

    The Council for the Advancement of the South African Constitution (CASAC) says that President Jacob Zuma's failure to account properly on the Public Protector's report on his Nkandla homestead shows contempt for Parliament and for the Constitution.

    In a press statement, CASAC points out that, "The president should be allowed to complete his answers to the questions that had been tabled for answer on 21 August 2014, and to respond to any supplementary questions in the National Assembly.”

    Meanwhile, Public Protector, Thuli Madonsela, wrote that, "I am concerned that the decision you have made regarding the police minister gives him power he does not have under law, which is to review my decision taken in pursuit of the powers of administrative scrutiny I am given... by the Constitution."
    To read the article titled, “CASAC: Zuma showing contempt for Parliament,” click here.

    News 24
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