S. Africa’s top trade union tells Zuma to go

President Jacob Zuma greets supporters during a recent rally following the launch of a social housing project in Pietermaritzburg, South Africa. (Reuters)
Updated 05 April 2017

S. Africa’s top trade union tells Zuma to go

JOHANNESBURG: South Africa’s powerful trade union federation Cosatu, a key coalition partner of the ruling African National Congress (ANC), has called for embattled President Jacob Zuma to resign following a deeply unpopular Cabinet reshuffle.
Bheki Ntshalintshali, union general secretary, said it was time for Zuma to “step down” after his purge last week of Cabinet critics, which included the removal of former Finance Minister Pravin Gordhan.
Gordhan’s sacking contributed to a credit ratings downgrade to junk status on Monday by Standard & Poor’s (S&P) as pressure on Zuma grew over his move to oust opponents within the Cabinet. “We no longer believe in his leadership abilities,” Ntshalintshali said at a media briefing.
“The president was careless and reckless,” he said, adding that the downgrade would “cost the country a lot.”
Cosatu, along with the South African Communist Party and the ANC, was at the forefront of the effort to dislodge white-minority rule in South Africa that led to non-racial elections in 1994.
It has openly backed Zuma’s deputy, Cyril Ramaphosa, who led Cosatu during the anti-apartheid struggle, to succeed him in 2019 when the president must stand down.
“Even if it means marching into the street, we will do that to make our point. We believe in this alliance led by the ANC but we want a reconfiguration of this alliance,” said Sidumo Dlamini, Cosatu president.
Cosatu’s intervention came as South Africa’s new Finance Minister Malusi Gigaba said that Monday’s downgrade to junk status was a setback for the economy.
“We acknowledge yesterday’s announcement was a setback. But now is not a time for despondency,” he told a media conference.
“What these reviews highlight is that we need to reignite our nation’s growth engines.”
S&P said the cut to below investment grade reflects “heightened political and institutional uncertainties” following Zuma's shock purge of critical ministers.
The shake-up has “put at risk fiscal and growth outcomes,” the ratings agency added as it downgraded South Africa to BB+ from BBB-.
Gigaba said that “there has not been a change in governments — there has been a change in executive governance,” adding that he had been working closely with his predecessor at the Treasury.
Mmusi Maimane, leader of the main opposition Democratic Alliance, branded the rating downgrade “a clear vote of no confidence in President Zuma.”
The treasury issued a statement in response to the S&P downgrade saying it showed the need to “accelerate inclusive growth and development.”

The rand fell three percent against the US dollar following Monday night's downgrade. The rand was trading at 13.86 against the greenback at 1045 GMT on Tuesday.
Moody's ratings agency too said it was placing its own South Africa rating -- two notches above "junk" status -- on review for a downgrade, a decision it said was "prompted by the abrupt change in leadership of key government institutions".
Mmusi Maimane, leader of the main opposition Democratic Alliance, branded the S&P downgrade “a clear vote of no confidence in President Zuma”.
The treasury issued a statement in response to the S&P downgrade saying it showed the need to “accelerate inclusive growth and development.”
"Reducing reliance on foreign savings to fund investment and relying less on debt to finance public expenditure will secure South Africa's fiscal sovereignty and economic independence," it added.
The country was granted a reprieve at the end of last year when rating agencies did not drop it to the "junk" category following a series of downgrades.
Zuma's cabinet overhaul exposed deep divisions within the ANC, and DA officials are confident they can recruit enough support from ruling-party MPs to unseat the president.
"There are quite a number of other colleagues and comrades who are unhappy about this situation, particularly the removal of the minister of finance who was serving the country with absolute distinction," Ramaphosa, the ANC deputy president, said after the reshuffle.

Hague hearing offers ray of hope to Bangladesh’s Rohingya

Updated 10 December 2019

Hague hearing offers ray of hope to Bangladesh’s Rohingya

  • International Court of Justice seeks to address atrocities committed by Myanmar

DHAKA: Several members of the Rohingya community in Bangladesh’s Cox’s Bazar expressed optimism on Monday that the International Court of Justice (ICJ) would rule in their favor once it began its three-day hearing against Myanmar on Tuesday.

The case was filed by Gambia on behalf of all Muslim nations from the Organization of Islamic Cooperation (OIC) with the ICJ over the alleged persecution of the Rohingya by the Myanmar military.

On Nov. 18, the court decided to hold the hearings from Dec.10 to 12. Gambia’s justice minister will lead his country during the hearings.

Both Canada and Bangladesh have been supporting Gambia by providing different data and information regarding the atrocities against the Rohingya.

Myanmar’s state councillor and its de facto leader, Aung San Suu Kyi, has already reached  the Netherlands to lead the defense lawyers on behalf of her country at the ICJ.

Bangladesh Foreign Secretary Shahidul Haque will remain present at the courtroom to witness the process.

He will lead a 20-member team, comprising government officials and civil society representatives.

Rohingya at Cox’s Bazar are highly optimistic of securing justice at the ICJ.

“We think justice will be ensured because all international human rights groups, different UN organizations and the international community have got evidence of the persecution on the Rohingya. All of them have visited the refugee camps many times and listened to the plight of the Rohingya,” Sawyed Ullah, a community leader from Jamtoli, told Arab News.

“Also, we have strong evidences of atrocities committed by the Myanmar government to root out the Rohingya from their birth place, Rakhine,” Ullah added.

“Without ensuring accountability, there will not be any safety and justice in Rakhine. Once the accountability is restored,  all of us will be able to go back home.”

Ramjan Ali, another refugee from the Kutupalang camp, said: “Myanmar’s government has forcibly displaced the Rohingya from their own land and that compelled us to shelter here at the refugee camps. Isn’t it enough evidence to justify our allegations against the Myanmar government?”

Ramjan Ali added: “Still the situation in Rakhine is very bad as we receive information from our relatives over there. We need protection from the international forces before any repatriation, and the ICJ’s decision will be helpful for us in this regard.”

Rohingya human rights activist Nay San Lwin, co-founder of the German-based Free Rohingya Coalition described the ICJ’s move as historic.

“It is first ever since we are persecuted. We have been seeking for justice since very long time,” Lwin told Arab News, adding that “finally the case is now at the world court and although it will take several years we are now excited for provisional measures from the court.”

Lwin, along with some 200 Rohingya rights activists from around the world, is set to hold a protest rally at the Hague from Dec. 11 during the ICJ’s hearing.

“We are expecting very much from the ICJ. Regardless whether Myanmar follows the decisions of the court this will have a huge impact. There won’t be any other justice mechanisms if this international court of justice can’t ensure the justice for us,” added Lwin.

Expressing his frustration on the repatriation process, Lwin said that the Myanmar government still had a “genocidal policy” on the Rohingya.

“I don’t think repatriation of the Rohingya will take place soon unless the government is considering to fulfill our demands,” he said.

The ICJ’s final decision will hold strong significance as any decisions taken by the ICJ are binding on member states.

Both Gambia and Myanmar are signatories of the Genocide Convention.