South Africa’s ANC votes to elect successor for party leader Zuma

Winnie Madikizela-Mandela, center, hugs front runner and Deputy President, Cyril Ramaphosa, right, and President Jacob Zuma, left, at the start of the ruling African National Congress (ANC) elective conference in Johannesburg, Saturday, Dec. 16 2017. (AP)
Updated 18 December 2017
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South Africa’s ANC votes to elect successor for party leader Zuma

JOHANNESBURG: Battle lines were drawn on Monday for South Africa’s ANC as voting began to elect a new leader to succeed President Jacob Zuma as head of a party that has ruled since the end of apartheid but faced scandals and corruption allegations.
The vote is perhaps the most pivotal moment for the ANC since it launched black-majority rule under Nelson Mandela’s leadership 23 years ago. With scandal and graft accusations having tainted Zuma’s presidency, the party is deeply divided.
Whoever emerges at the helm of the African National Congress, a 105-year-old liberation movement that dominates Africa’s most industrialized economy, is likely to become the country’s next president after elections in 2019.
A total of 4,776 delegates began casting their ballots in the early hours of Monday, the ANC said, to select between Deputy President Cyril Ramaphosa and Zuma’s preferred candidate, his ex-wife and former cabinet minister Nkosazana Dlamini-Zuma.
Voting was still going on at 0400 GMT.
“Delegates are very exhausted,” an ANC source, who is a voting delegate, told Reuters. “I don’t know how they will run today’s sessions.”
Ramaphosa and Dlamini-Zuma were the only candidates nominated for the ANC leadership at a conference in Johannesburg on Sunday night.
In a boost to Ramaphosa, courts ruled that officials from some provinces seen as supporting Dlamini-Zuma had been elected illegally and were barred from the conference.
The rand currency gained after that news on Friday, extending its gains to more than 2 percent on Sunday. .
“The rand is stronger on the likelihood of Cyril Ramaphosa being elected ANC head,” said Brett Birkenstock, a director at Overberg Asset Management. “The markets favor Ramaphosa and expect him to improve the economy.”
The currency, which is expected to be volatile until the new ANC leader is announced, had trimmed most of its gains early on Monday to trade 0.13 percent firmer at 13.0725 to the dollar by 0416 GMT, off an earlier 3-1/2-month high of 12.7300.
A winner had been expected to be announced on Sunday, but long delays led to the vote being pushed back repeatedly. It was not clear when the outcome would be announced.
On Saturday, Zuma announced plans to raise subsidies for tertiary colleges and universities, a move analysts said was timed to appeal to the party’s more populist members allied to Dlamini-Zuma, the first woman nominated as an ANC presidential candidate.
Zuma has faced allegations of corruption since he became head of state in 2009 but has denied any wrongdoing.
Ramaphosa, a former trade union leader who became a businessman and is now one of the richest people in South Africa, has vowed to fight corruption and revitalize the economy, a message hailed by foreign investors.
Dlamini-Zuma pledged during her campaign to tackle the racial inequality that has persisted since the end of white-minority rule.
Ramaphosa drew the majority of nominations from party branches scattered across the country. But the complexity of the leadership race makes it uncertain he will win the final count.
“The race is extremely close,” said Susan Booysen, a political analyst at the University of Witwatersrand’s School of Governance in Johannesburg.
“Before today we said Dlamini-Zuma could emerge as a winner. Even if there is a strong lead in terms of branch nominations by the Ramaphosa camp, it’s not clear-cut.”


Number of asylum-seekers in Europe plunges in 2017, says EU

Migrants walk behind a police car during their way from the Austrian-German border to a first registration point. (AFP)
Updated 34 min 35 sec ago
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Number of asylum-seekers in Europe plunges in 2017, says EU

  • Over 460,000 people applied for asylum in Europe in 2013. More than 660,000 did so in 2014
  • Merkel now faces the challenge of persuading EU governments to sign up to a common plan on the migrants

BRUSSELS: The EU’s asylum office says the number of people applying for international protection in Europe has plunged but remains higher than before 2015, when more than 1 million migrants entered, many fleeing the war in Syria.
EASO said in an annual report Monday that 728,470 application requests were made for international protection in 2017, compared to almost 1.3 million applications the previous year. It says around 30 percent of the applicants come from conflict-torn countries such as Syria, Afghanistan and Iraq.
EASO says there is a still a backlog: More than 950,000 applications were still awaiting a final decision at the end of last year, almost half of them in Germany.
Over 460,000 people applied for asylum in Europe in 2013. More than 660,000 did so in 2014.
Meanwhile, hard-liners in Chancellor Angela Merkel’s conservative bloc on Monday gave her a two-week ultimatum to tighten asylum rules or risk pitching Germany into a political crisis that would also rattle Europe.
Interior Minister Horst Seehofer’s CSU party at a meeting unanimously backed his call to give Merkel a fortnight to find a European deal on the burning issue by a June 28-29 EU summit, failing which he would order border police to turn back migrants.
Three years after her decision to open Germany’s borders to migrants fleeing war in Syria and Iraq and misery elsewhere, Merkel is still struggling to find a sustainable response to complaints from the CSU, her Bavarian allies, over her refugee policy.
Merkel’s woes come as European Union countries are once again at loggerheads over immigration, triggered by Italy’s refusal this month to allow a rescue ship carrying 630 migrants to dock.
Malta also turned the vessel away, sparking a major EU row until Spain agreed to take in the new arrivals.
Seehofer has been one of the fiercest critics of Merkel’s liberal stance, under which over one million asylum seekers have been admitted into the country since 2015.
He wants to turn away at the border new arrivals who have previously been registered in another EU country — often their first port of call, Italy or Greece.
But Merkel says that would leave countries at the EU’s southern periphery alone to deal with the migrant influx. Instead, she wants to find a common European solution at the EU summit in Brussels.
“How Germany acts will decide whether Europe stays together or not,” Merkel told her CDU party’s leadership at a meeting in Berlin, according to participants.

Popular misgivings over the migrant influx have given populist and anti-immigration forces a boost across several European nations, including Italy and Austria where far-right parties are now sharing power.
In Germany, voters in September’s election handed Merkel her poorest score ever, giving seats for the first time to the far-right anti-Islam AfD.
Several high profile crimes by migrants have also fueled public anger. They include a deadly 2016 Christmas market attack by a failed Tunisian asylum seeker and the rape-murder in May of a teenage girl, allegedly by an Iraqi.
With an eye on October’s Bavaria state election, the CSU is anxious to assure voters that it has a roadmap to curb the migrant influx.
“We must send a signal to the world: it’s no longer possible to just set foot on European soil in order to get to Germany,” a leading CSU figure, Alexander Dobrindt, told the party meeting.
Seehofer had struck a more conciliatory tone, telling Bild on Sunday: “It is not in the CSU’s interest to topple the chancellor, to dissolve the CDU-CSU union or to break up the coalition.
“We just want to finally have a sustainable solution to send refugees back to the borders.”

Merkel now faces the challenge of persuading EU governments to sign up to a common plan on the migrants.
Central and eastern EU nations such as Hungary and Poland have either refused outright or resisted taking in refugees under an EU quota system.
A populist-far right government in Italy and the conservative-far right cabinet in neighboring Austria have also taken an uncompromising stance.
Merkel’s talks later Monday with Italian Prime Minister Giuseppe Conte in Germany could prove crucial if she is to have any chance of forging an agreement in Brussels.
On Tuesday, she will also meet French President Emmanuel Macron in Germany.
Berlin is also reportedly preparing to call a meeting between Merkel and the leaders of several EU frontline nations in the migrant crisis ahead of the EU summit.
“It would be almost a miracle if she emerges a winner from the next EU summit,” Welt daily said.
But the chancellor may have no choice, as Seehofer could still launch the nuclear option of shutting Germany’s borders in defiance of her — an act of rebellion which would force her to sack him.
That “would be the end of the government and the alliance between CDU and CSU,” an unnamed CDU source told Bild.