• 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
  • e-Tolls a Burden to the Poor - Makhura

    Gauteng Premier, David Makhura, says that the e-tolling system placed a disproportionate burden on low and middle income households.

    Announcing the findings and recommendations following a report by a panel which reviewed the socio-economic impact of the e-tolls last year, Makhura stated that, "In its current form, the e-toll system is unaffordable and inequitable and places disproportionate burden on low and middle income households."

    He further states that the e-toll is also ‘administratively too cumbersome’, adding that, "The main recommendation of the panel is that elements of the current e-toll system must be reviewed to address the questions of affordability, equity, fairness, administrative simplicity and sustainability."

    To read the article titled, “’Cumbersome’ E-tolls place burden on the poor, says Makhura,” click here.

    Times Live
  • HSF Fights for Full Access to JSC Deliberations

    Given the core role of the judiciary, the Helen Suzman Foundation wants to know exactly how appointments to the Bench are decided.

    The battle for access to closed-door deliberations over the selection of candidates for the Western Cape Bench continues on 29 October 2014 in the Cape Town high court.

    The Helen Suzman Foundation returned to court to ask for the right to appeal a judgment refusing it access.

    To read the article titled, “Helen Suzman Foundation: Battle goes on for access to full JSC deliberations,” click here.

    Mail and Guardian
  • Aid Workers Chased Away from Church

    Humanitarian organisation, Gift of the Givers, says its aid workers were chased away from the scene of a collapsed building in Lagos, Nigeria, and threatened with arrest if they come near the site where a church building collapsed, killing dozens of people including South Africans.

    Gift of the Givers founder, Imtiaz Sooliman, asserts that, “They [aid workers] tried to go to the church, but they were chased away. The authorities there did not want them to take any information or come near.”

    The two representatives from the organisation argue that it had been difficult to get information as there was no cooperation.

    To read the article titled, “Gift of the Givers chased away from church,” click here.

    IOL News
  • Activist Tackles Abusive Shell Companies

    Charmian Gooch, a co-founder of Global Witness, a group that advocates for financial transparency, is rewriting rules from Washington to Brussels - and changing the way companies do business.

    On 31 October 2013, United Kingdom Prime Minister, David Cameron, took the stage at the Open Government Partnership conference in London and announced a that he was going to introduce legislation requiring all companies based in Britain to disclose who their ultimate owners are in a publicly accessible registry.

    According to the World Bank, more than US$1 trillion is lost to bribery and state looting annually, and according to Mo Ibrahim, whose Mo Ibrahim Foundation has created organisation created the Ibrahim Index of African Governance, “…this is something that needs to be addressed urgently…”

    To read the article titled, “Corruption fighter Gooch tackles abusive Shell companies,” click here.

    Bloomberg News
  • R2K Files Urgent Application Over Tolls

    The Right2Know (R2K) says it has filed an urgent application to open up the court record on tolling in the Western Cape which South African National Roads Agency (SANRAL) wants kept closed.

    R2K spokesperson, Alison Tilley, told the Cape Town Press Club that the organisation wants to make documents public that had been filed from the moment the city of Cape Town took SANRAL to court over the N1/N2 Winelands Toll Highway Project.

    SANRAL applied to the Western Cape High Court to prevent the city from filing its supplementary founding papers in an open court because of commercial confidentiality.

    To read an article titled, “R2K to file urgent application over tolls,” click here.

    SABC News
  • IEC Admits Mistakes During Elections

    The Independent Electoral Commission (IEC) has acknowledged mistakes during this year’s elections, but says like any other organisation in the world, the electoral body was not perfect.
    IEC deputy chairperson, Terry Tselane, points out that, “These elections were not perfect. No election is. In the next coming weeks we will be reflecting and looking at what went wrong.” 
    The IEC has come under enormous pressure from opposition parties, including the Economic Freedom Fighters and the Pan Africanist Congress, who accused the IEC of rigging elections in favour of the ruling African National Congress, particularly in Gauteng.
    To read the article titled, “Election wasn't perfect, but it was free and fair,” click here.

    Mail and Guardian
  • Weaker APRM Bad for Governance

    The African Peer Review Mechanism (ARPM) - set up by former President Thabo Mbeki to tackle the continent's problems - is a shambles.

    According to a report by former mechanism chairman Akere Muna, the institution lacks backing by African leaders and is being ‘driven into the ground’ by its chief executive officer and its secretariat that can barely function.

    The mechanism has in the past served as a reliable indicator of emerging troubles on the continent.

    In South Africa, an ARPM report alerted the government to tensions between locals and foreigners that culminated in 2008's wave of xenophobic violence.

    To read the article titled, ‘Mbeki brainchild 'now a shambles'’, click here.

    Times Live
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