11 Ethiopian Muslims mowed down in the Totolamo village blood bath

A five year old kid, an elderly imam and four teens are among the dead

The small maize and potato farming Muslim village of Totolamo in south west oromiyya near the strategic town of Shashemene is in deep mourning after 11 of her citizens gunned down in cold blood by the genocidal Tigre People Liberation Front/ TPLF federal police commandos on Saturday August 3, 2013.

A five year old kid, an elderly imam and four teens are among the dead according to information obtained from Shashemne general hospital where the bodies are stashed in a tiny morgue. The number of the wounded is still unknown.

The fate of hundreds who took refuge inside the Erob Gebya Mosque in the troubled village and surrounded by the federal police is also not yet known. Several others are in detention at the nearby Kofele town police station and the town along with Totolamo village is under total control of the TPLF gunmen in police uniform. Today August 4, 2013 residents are warned to stay indoors as the situation remain frighteningly tense.

The brutal attack on unarmed and benevolent villagers began at nine o’clock yesterday morning after the faithful gathered for their routine prayer meeting. Then the commandos poured into the village and started firing indiscriminately, causing massive chaos and mayhem.

Although genocide has become synonymous with the ruling minority junta for 22 years, the Totelamo blood bath is the first mass killing for newly appointed federal police commander Assefa Abiyo who is said to be more ruthless and ferocious than his predecessor Workneh Gebeyhu.

Scores of relatives from the town of Shashemene are currently waiting to hear the names of the dead or the wounded at the main gate of the general hospital.

Furthermore, in the latest update posted on Minilik Salsawi’s Facebook account, Federal police commandos are among the dead in the Totolamo blood bath as the people tried to defend themselves by throwing stones at the heavily armed attackers backed by deafening machinegun fire.

In related news coming out of yet another nearby western Oromiyya town of Dodola, federal police rapid intervention force unit members were chased away from the area about fifteen hours ago by residents after they made an attempt to arrest a highly regarded local imam.

According to updates reaching the Horn Times from Dodola, angry residents followed the fleeing police force to the region’s administration offices and the Jarolis (elders) are still locked in negotiations with the authorities.

The Horn Times will post further updates in the coming hours.

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Ethiopia’s “religious abuse” may cause regional destabilization

A US religious freedom group has called on Ethiopian authorities to stop what it said was an emerging religious freedom violations against Muslim minorities in the Horn of Africa.( SudanTribune Report,2012)Scores Killed In Ethiopia Muslim Protests

The US Commission on International Religious Freedom (USCIRF) said that if Ethiopia continues to tighten its control against the Muslims, the ongoing mass protests in the east African nation could turn more violent and might lead to a larger destabilization in the already volatile region.

Ethiopia has recently been a scene of Muslim protests who accuse government of interference in their religious affairs.

“Given Ethiopia’s strategic importance in the Horn of Africa, it is vital that the Ethiopian government ends its religious freedom abuses and allow Muslims to practice peacefully their faith as they see fit”, the Commission’s Chairwoman Katrina Lantos Swett said.

“Otherwise the government’s current policies and practices will lead to greater destabilization of an already volatile region”, she stressed, further calling on the US government to address the issue with the Ethiopia government.

According to USCIRF, escalating violations against religious communities in the name of countering extremism would lead to more extremism, greater instability, and possibly violence.

(Amnesty Report,2012)April 27, 2012- The killing of 5 Oromos and injury of many others at a religious gathering in Asasa,Arsi, Oromia could be seen as more extremism and its a worst violation of human rights. In this case, the TPLF killing squads flagrantly shot and killed innocent civilians. We, Oromos, always raised a question like ”Why Oromo are singled out when the protest is going on all over Ethiopia?”

(CNN iReport,2013)August 3, 2013 – Ethiopian government forces open fire on unarmed demonstrators throughout the country, killing 25 and injuring dozens more, according to Ethiopian activists who took part in the demonstrations. This shows as continuation of human right violation and freedoms.

In recent months Ethiopian Muslims have further intensified their opposition against government’s religious policies by staging protests every week following Friday prayers. For over a year, Ethiopian Muslims have been holding peaceful protests and mosque  sit-ins over the regime’s human rights abuses against their community and interference in their religion.

Therefore, we call upon all international community to condemn this innocent killing at Asasa, oromia, and the late killing, and work together to prevent more killing planned by the regime.

By: Behailu Mengistu

Many Killed and Wounded In Ethiopian Muslims Latest Protest

ADDIS ABABA – Scores of Ethiopian Muslims have been killed and dozens wounded or arrested on Saturday, August 3, when government forces open fire on unarmed demonstrators throughout the country according to Ethiopian activists who took part in the demonstrations.

demonstrations in Ethiopia

demonstrations in Ethiopia

The confrontation began after activists rallied across different cities demanding the release of three Imams; Mohammed Abdalla, Abdulkadir H/Kadir and Mukhtar Safi, arrested in Wabe town earlier this week, OPride website reported on Sunday.

Marching peacefully early Saturday morning from the town of Wabe to Kofele to petition regional administrators for the release of the arrested imams, federal police tried to block protesters near a small town called Totolamo.

Later on, it opened on peaceful demonstrators killing at least six, said one protester who gave his name only as Hussein due to fear of repercussions.

Hussein said the whole area looked like a war zone, describing the scene of the confrontation as “full of panic and blood” clouded with tear gas.

The bloodshed followed a statement in the government media that said the ongoing Muslim protests will no longer be tolerated.

According to a CNN report, witnesses said at least 25 Ethiopian Muslims were killed.

Another witness added that at least one child was among the dead. He also stated government security forces arrested over 1,500 protesters on Friday.

Protests have rocked Ethiopia over the past months over government interference in the religious affairs of the Muslim community.

Muslims say the government is spearheading a campaign in collaboration with the Supreme Council of Islamic Affairs to indoctrinate their community with the ideology of a sect called “Ahbash”.

Muslims say the government move is in violation of the constitution, which prevents the government interference in religious affairs.

Muslims also accuse the Ahbash of launching an “indoctrination program” in predominantly Muslim areas, forcing people to attend “religious training” camps or risk police interrogation and possible arrest.

To quell the Muslim protests, the Ethiopian government launched a major crackdown, arresting scores of Muslim protest leaders.

Troubles

After the clashes, hospitals in Awassa and Shashamane crowded with wounded people, the reports said.

Surrounding towns of Dodola and Asasa were also put under military siege Sunday morning, eyewitnesses said.

Several activists and journalists were also arrested at the notorious Maekelawi prison in Addis Ababa, including Bilal Radio journalists Darsema Dori and Khalid Mohammed.

Bilal Radio on Saturday reported the two journalists were held incommunicado and denied visitation rights even by family members.

Earlier on Friday, a similar sit-in was planned in mosques nationwide. Yet, the event was cancelled at the last minute to avoid what the activists saw as government provocation and to prevent bloodshed.

After the deaths, protests are expected to spread to the nearby towns of Asasa and Dodola towns on Sunday where tensions are already high.

Similar concerns were also expressed over next week’s `Eid al-Fitr celebration marking the end of holy month of Ramadan may see further protests throughout the country.

Last year’s `Eid saw millions of Muslims chanting slogans critical of the government’s interference in religious practices.

Muslims make up about 34 percent of Ethiopia’s population, according to the government’s 2007 census.

But other sources put Ethiopia Muslims at about 50% of the country’s population.

S.Africa: The tax affairs of Julius Malema – SARS

Revenue Service invoked Section 67(5) of Tax Administration Act to refute EFF leader’s false allegations

 

SARS Media Release – Responding to Mr JS Malema

Background

On 27 June 2013 counsel for the South African Revenue Service (SARS), addressed a letter to Mr Julius Malema and his legal representative, cautioning Mr Malema to refrain from making false public statements about the state of his tax affairs and his engagements with SARS.

SARS is still involved in various aspects of litigation with Mr Malema and entities associated with him. Mr Malema was afforded a period of 48 hours to rectify the following false allegations-

  • That there was an agreement in principle between him and SARS to repay outstanding tax liabilities and that the agreement was breach by SARS due to political interference
  • That a request for a compromise was declined by SARS due to political interference
  • That SARS was part of a “concerted effort” to discredit Mr Malema and caused the farm Schuilkraal to be sold to remove all means for Mr Malema to generate an income.

In subsequent weeks, Mr Malema has not only refused to correct his lies, he has in fact repeated such allegations in various news interviews.

Normally SARS would prefer not to allow legal and other processes of engagement with taxpayers to be side-tracked by questionable public campaigns in the media. SARS would also prefer to rather make its case before the relevant legal platforms at appropriate times instead of getting involved in public spats with non-compliant taxpayers. SARS considers the public comments made by Mr Malema and reported on by the media as a serious threat to the integrity of SARS, that it is necessary to respond.

SARS has therefore invoked Section 67(5) of the Tax Administration Act which allows SARS to disclose taxpayer information that would otherwise be treated as confidential, in order to disprove false allegations made against SARS and its processes.

SARS is a state institution and subject to the Constitution and the Bill of Rights. SARS seeks to apply the tax and customs laws it administers with fairness, in a transparent and even-handed manner without any external influence.

No single person in SARS can decide who to investigate, who to audit, who to settle tax debts with and who not to. Case selection for further investigation or audit is subject to oversight from various mechanisms – committees with governance rules exist to consider and execute certain activities. All these committees exist by statute, policy or governance mechanism and have very clear rules. They comprise of persons with the requisite knowledge and expertise and are themselves subject to oversight mechanisms.

SARS is a semi-autonomous public institution with specific statutory obligations. SARS has consistently conducted its work independently and in a non-partisan manner that does not allow for external interference. It is an established principle that the Minister of Finance, the Deputy Minister of Finance nor their respective offices involve themselves in the affairs of any taxpayer, particularly in instances where there is a dispute between SARS and a taxpayer.

HISTORY OF MR MALEMA’S INTERACTION WITH SARS

An analysis of Mr. Malema’s interaction with SARS in public records (media statements, interviews and records before court[1]) will demonstrate the following:

1. In January 2010 Mr Malema claimed to be in possession of an “intelligence dossier” which in his view, proved that SARS had a special unit that was focusing on him and other persons because of their association and support for President Jacob Zuma. It is ironic that Mr Malema is now claiming the exact opposite. At the time he claimed that these documents originated from within the state intelligence agencies. Later this so-called “dossier” was in fact revealed to be a product of a disgruntled former SARS-employee who was dismissed because of his involvement in rhino-poaching. SARS believed it was unfortunate that such a baseless document was used to attack a state institution. SARS even went to the extent of meeting with Mr Malema to take him through the entire “dossier” and to demonstrate to him the fictitious nature of the content. At the time Mr Malema indicated that he accepted SARS’s explanations.

2. In July 2011 Mr Malema publicly invited SARS to audit his tax affairs. He claimed that his tax affairs were in order. In recent media interviews he has suggested that he approached SARS at the start of the process that has led to his predicament now. This is not true.

During 2010 SARS made contact, on its own accord, with Mr Malema after he had failed to submit his tax returns for a number of years.[2] In accordance with SARS’s general procedures he was afforded a reasonable opportunity to make good on his tax obligations and submit outstanding returns.

On the insistence of Mr Malema, SARS attempted to resolve the matter within a month. It should be noted that Mr Malema was represented by lawyers and accountants and a Chartered Accountant from the very first interaction. At a later stage his representative team was broadened to include a legal firm and a member of the Johannesburg Bar Council. Far from complying and resolving his tax affairs within that month, every single time since then, a delay occurred on his part.[3]

Responses in respect of outstanding returns were only received when SARS repeatedly requested such information over many months. At no stage were any responses to SARS at the initiative of Mr Malema or his representatives.[4] It took him a period of more than 18 months to file his outstanding returns.[5] Ultimately he failed to regularise his tax affairs.

3. In relation to the trust under Mr Malema’s control, even after a number of requests from SARS, he still has not registered it for tax purposes. [6]

4. Neither of these situations – his personal income tax affairs and that of the trust – was helpful in demonstrating his willingness to comply with his tax obligations. Such situations do not only speak to the failure of Mr Malema to comply with his statutory obligations, but also the fact that it is not fair for SARS to treat one taxpayer different from another.

5. After eventually receiving the outstanding tax returns, on analysis of the information at SARS’s disposal, it became evident that Mr Malema submitted inaccurate information to SARS for the tax years 2005 to 2011.[7] In respect of the trust under his control, the same was found to be the case.[8] All indications were that Mr Malema was attempting to restructure his asset holdings without informing SARS.[9] This situation left SARS with no alternative but to launch a financial investigation into his tax affairs.[10]

a. At no stage was the Ministry of Finance, the Commissioner or Deputy-Commissioner for SARS in any way involved in the operational aspects of the investigation, nor the decision to commence with the financial investigation. This investigation was conducted in the ordinary course of SARS’s business.

b. The matter was assigned to the Financial Investigations team, who’s Senior Manager at the time was an African male. Since then, even though line managers have changed over time, the new senior manager responsible for the unit is an African male. The project leader, a white male reported to these managers throughout. Two lawyers were designated by SARS to participate in the case, of which one is a white female and the other is an African male. The primary financial investigator in the case is a white female. The suggestion that particular racial groups are “conspiring” against Mr Malema is ludicrous.

6. The outcome of the financial investigation led to the following findings[11]:

a. Mr. Malema failed to register for tax in 2005;

b. Mr. Malema under-declared and mis-declared income in the years 2005 to 2011 and was assessed for an amount of approximately R 16 million;

c. Mr Malema failed to register the Ratanang Trust for tax purposes;

d. Mr Malema failed to submit the tax returns for the Ratanang Trust;

e. Whilst Mr Malema was engaging SARS, he was transferring assets he owned to third parties in a clear attempt to shift assets outside the reach of SARS.[12]

7. Once assessed, Mr Malema failed to pay his tax that was due on the required date. He remained unresponsive to several attempts from SARS to get him to pay. [13] It left SARS with no alternative but to obtain a default judgment for debt against him. Mr Malema, despite having had the opportunity to do so, failed to challenge this judgment.[14] This judgment led to the Sherriff of the Court to attach property in his name. Only at the stage when this occurred, did Mr Malema engage SARS with an offer to settle.

a. It is important to note that a taxpayer at this juncture has several options open to him/her. He/she can object, appeal and take his/her dispute up along the hierarchy of Courts in the legal system. Mr Malema did submit an objection. His objection was denied. He chose not to appeal this decision.[15]

b. An alternative for a taxpayer at this stage is then to consider making an offer to settle. Tax settlements are guided by law and not by the whims and decisions of individuals in SARS. There are no “special deals” for certain types of taxpayers because of their status in society, despite the suggestions made by Mr Malema. He stands misinformed if he believes this to be the case. In fact, to the contrary, SARS has committees who consider these offers that convene on a weekly basis. Neither the Minister of Finance, the Deputy Minister of Finance nor the Commissioner or Deputy-Commissioner for SARS, or any other manager for that matter, can influence decisions by these committees. The considerations applied at the committee meetings are prescribed by statute and are recorded. A taxpayer either qualifies for settlement or does not.

c. A requirement for a settlement to be considered is that the taxpayer must make a full and frank disclosure of his/her financial affairs. Another requirement is that a taxpayer must truthfully disclose all his assets and liabilities, including those held on his/her behalf by third parties.[16] Settlement offers pass through a settlement committee.

d. In Mr Malema’s case, his offer was rejected and the reasons for this were put to him. [17]

8. Mr Malema never made any attempt to pay any amount or portion thereof towards his tax debt. This left SARS with no alternative but to allow the Sherriff of the Court to continue with the sale of his possessions, in order to satisfy his tax debt.[18] In addition, because of the risk of dissipation of assets, SARS obtained an order of Court, preventing Mr Malema from further dissipating assets.[19] It was at this stage that SARS learnt that the National Prosecuting Authority with the Asset Forfeiture Unit had already submitted a claim over the Schuilkraal farm. For that reason SARS relinquished its claim over the farm.

9. Through several act Mr Malema demonstrated that he is either unwilling or unable to pay his tax debts. It left SARS with no alternative but to institute sequestration proceedings against him.[20]Although having indicated his intention to do so, Mr Malema has yet to oppose this application.

CONCLUSION

As outlined, the behaviour demonstrated by Mr Malema has shown a consistent disregard for his obligations as a taxpayer. This is not the sort of behaviour the millions of honest taxpayers in this country should condone. His non-compliance is purely a tax matter – it has nothing to do with past or current political processes in the country.

  • Mr Malema failed to register as a taxpayer and consistently failed to submit income tax returns honestly and on time.
  • He has until now failed to register his trust for tax purposes. SARS had to register it on his behalf
  • Ultimately when SARS reached a conclusion of how much tax Mr Malema owed SARS, and despite him having had, by his own account at least R 4 million available at the time, he opted not to pay one cent towards his tax debt.
  • He accepted that he owed SARS R 16 million in tax, but he did not offer to convert any of his assets towards his tax debt.
  • He did not request any form of payment arrangement. Instead, he attempted to dissipate assets beyond the reach of SARS.

Mr Malema failed the procedural requirements to qualify for a settlement for tax debt through his own design, and not because “somebody decided” so. Mr Malema must, as we all do, face the consequences of his actions. He had ample opportunity to utilise the various mechanisms provided for in law to state his case.

He opted in other instances not to pursue the matters through the legal process. To attempt to politicise his predicament and attack a state institution is behaviour that cannot be condoned in a free, open and democratic society.

Nigeria: APC And Its Spirit Of Doggedness

 

apc logoAt last, the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) has approved the merger of three main opposition parties and their allies to form a new one-All Progressives Congress (APC), ahead of the 2015 elections. DONALD OJOGO takes a look at the tough but successful move seen in many quarters as healthy for Nigeria’s democracy.

“The Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) has approved the application by three political parties – the Action Congress of Nigeria (ACN), the All Nigeria Peoples Party (ANPP) and Congress for Progressive Change (CPC) – to merge into one, to be known as the All Progressives Congress.

“On considering the application, the Commission found that the applicant-parties have met all statutory requirements for the merger, and has accordingly granted their request.

“Consequently, the Commission has approved the withdrawal of the individual certificates of the applicant-parties, and the issuance of a single certificate to the All Progressives Congress.” This statement signed and issued by INEC’s secretary, Abdulahi Kaugama was a document of many effects.

For one, just as the statement confirmed earlier pessimisms and brightened opportunities of some, the development has no doubt, opened many windows of varied debates.

The Rough Ride
For the opposition parties, that is, Action Congress of Nigeria (ACN), All Nigerian Peoples Party (ANPP) as well the Congress for Progressive Change (CPC), the 2015 elections, especially the presidential poll, is the target and the ruling party, Peoples Democratic Party (PDP), must be the victim of the coalescing efforts.

Although similar merger attempts had surfaced in 2010, in the run up to the 2011 elections, it did appear then that personal interests of movers of such were a clog in the wheel of such efforts.

Expectedly, therefore, political observers were unsparing in their description of the emerging political family as ‘a gathering of strange bed fellows’ even as controversy began to trail the ownership of the acronym, especially as the suspicious emergence of another association, African People’s Congress led by Chief Onyinye Ikeagwuonu dimmed smiling faces in the opposition camp.

“This is not the first time they will be making such an attempt to congregate and say they want to snatch power from the PDP; but we are not worried because we did not snatch power, we were voted into office for the benefit of all Nigerians.

“Right now, they are beginning to have problems because they did not put their house in order and the blame of course you know is already being put on the door step of PDP. We are only waiting for them in 2015, but before then they will scatter because of the selfish personal interests of the prime movers of the idea.”

Above was the position of the former national publicity secretary of the PDP, Olisa Metuh, while reacting to the initial waves created by the controversies over the rightful ownership of the acronym, APC. Metuh’s comments came as accusing fingers were in the direction of the ruling PDP as the brian behind the other APC.

Nonetheless, signs that the merger train was on the verge of reality came when ACN effected the required change of name just as it endorsed the APC as a party. The ceremony took the form of a national convention on the 11th day of April at the Onikan Stadium, Lagos where the motion for the change of name was moved, adopted and ratified by the 4, 761 registered delegates from across 36 states of the country and Abuja.

As a preceding step, ACN, ANPP and CPC had convened ‘mid-term conventions’ to dissolve into the APC.

With the conclusion of the mini-conventions of the major merging parties, it did appear then, that a major hurdle had been crossed, even most unexpectedly.

Regardless, later events regarding the registration of the APC pointed to the fact that there were hurdles to be scaled.

To the consternation political pundits, the Chief Onyiye Ikeagwonu-led African Peoples Congress hurriedly unveiled its logo and national secretariat in Abuja. The intention, without pretence, was to pre-empt the progressives’ political convergence and perhaps, create impossibilities on the way of the opposition parties to fuse together.

This is just as news emerged that another political association with a similar acronym, All Patriotic Citizens, had also applied to the Independent National Electoral Commission, INEC, for registration as a political party.

But swiftly, Chief Tom Ikimi, chairman of the merger committee of the defunct Action Congress of Nigeria, ACN, insisted at a press conference in Abuja that the All Progressives Congress will not let go of the acronym.

This is just as he accused the PDP, of masterminding the formation of the African Peoples Congress and All Patriotic Citizens.

He spoke on behalf of the leaders of the other parties in the merger – Annie Okonkwo of All Progressive Grand Alliance, APGA; Ibrahim Shekarau of All Nigeria Peoples Party, ANPP and; Garba Gadi of the Congress for Progressive Change, CPC.

‘’The emergence of opposition party, the All Progressives Congress, strong as it is, is giving jitters to some people,” Mr. Ikimi said.

“They are trying to muddy the waters by establishing all forms of APCs. Apart from the name of the party, it is the names of individuals that make the party. Nigerians are tired of PDP.

“We have it on good authority that the establishment, gravely troubled by the emergence of a united opposition, has set up a high powered team headed by a very high ranking officer of government and furnished with unlimited resources from public funds with a clear mandate to corrupt the democratic institutions and destabilize the opposition,’’ he added.

But just as the progressives’ war with the other APC raged on, INEC in a surprise move cleared the rubles in a letter forwarded to the African Peoples Congress that it was impossible for it to be registered as a political party.

The letter, with reference number INEC/DPPM&L/APC/490/V.1/76, dated March 21 was signed by Abdullahi Kaugama, INEC Secretary.

It read in part: “Your application for registration as a political party dated February 28, 2013 refers.

“The Commission has observed that your Association is in breach of Section 222(a) of the Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria, 1999 (as amended) which stipulates as follows:

“No Association by whatever name called shall function as a Political Party unless: (a) The names and addresses of its national officers are registered with the Independent National Electoral Commission.

“A close observation of your submitted Form PA 1 established that it does not contain the addresses of your national officers as stipulated in the provision above.

“Consequently, the Commission shall not register the proposed African Peoples Congress as a political party.”

But Ikeagwuonu would not let go even hours before INEC forwarded the letter to his political association. He insisted that INEC’s letter was induced by the ‘Lagos Mafia’, vowing to fight on.

Making good its vow to fight on, the African Peoples Congress immediately dragged INEC before a Federal High Court in Abuja challenging the commission’s refusal to register it.

The plaintiffs numbering about 30, who sued on behalf of themselves and the party, sought a declaration that INEC lacked the legal power to refuse the registration of an association as a political party once the conditions stipulated by the said association for registration are met.

In an application filed by their counsel, Ededem Ani of Awa Kalu’s chambers, the plaintiffs asked the court to declare that they have met all conditions of eligibility for the registration of African Peoples Congress as a political party.

The Suspense And Fears

But as the stipulated 30 days required by the law approached, there were again, speculations that the progressives were unlikely to get fused by INEC, citing legal encumbrances.

INEC however, allayed such fears, saying the commission would only make a pronouncement at the end of the stipulated 30 days just as it argued that any speculation before then was pre-mature.

The chief press secretary to the INEC chairman Prof Attahiru Jega, Mr Kayode Idowu, said that there was no basis for the parties to exercise any fear as the Electoral Act was clear on merging processes.

He also noted that there is no court injunction compelling INEC to stop the merger even as he said the electoral body will decide on the APC’s request tomorrow (Thursday).

“The stipulated 30 days after application for registration has not lapsed; so the commission has not broken any law,” Idowu said.

Senior Advocates of Nigeria Intervene
Amidst the suspense however, three renowned constitutional lawyers, Prof Itse Sagay (SAN), Mallam Yusuf Ali (SAN) and Mallam Abubakar Malami (SAN) warned that it was unlawful for INEC to deny approval for the progressives to become APC, averring that the opposition parties have crossed the constitutional hurdles.

Regarding the issue of approving merging parties to form a political party, Section 84 (4) of the Electoral Act 2010 says: “On receipt of the request for merger of political parties, the Commission shall consider the request and, if the parties have fulfilled the requirements of the Constitution and this Act, approve the proposed merger and communicate its decision to the parties concerned before the expiration of 30 days from the date of the receipt of the formal request-

“Provided that if the Commission fails to communicate its decision within 30 days the merger shall be deemed to be effective.”

Prof Sagay warned that anything contrary to the registration of the APC meant a breach of the law.

He said: “The laws are clear and very unambiguous for all to see and discern; as far as the Electoral Law is concerned, the APC as an aspiring party has crossed all necessary hurdles to be registered as a political party.

Ali also advised INEC not to create anxiety, saying; “If the party has met the statutory requirements following the rules, it should be assumed that INEC has sufficient grounds to register the party; the onus is on INEC to register the party rather creating anxiety.”

According to Malami, “the position of the law is clear on this; INEC is expected to make pronouncement on party party’s request for registration within 30 days.

“If the electoral body refuses to make a pronouncement at the end of 30 days, such a party is deemed to have been registered because the operative word is this regard is within 30 days and not otherwise”

Interestingly, INEC’s approval for merger of the opposition parties came barely twenty four hours after the LEADERSHIP Newspaper exclusively reported the counsel of the legal icons.

Stakeholders, Other Nigerians React
Unlike previous times when INEC was made to contend with criticisms the commission’s approval of the APC was greeted with optimism and eulogies.

From the Conference of Nigerian Political Parties, CNPP, to the APC, and thence the CPC, it was commendations.

CNPP, in a statement by its spokesperson, Osita Okechukwu, shortly after the electoral body announced the registration of the APC in Abuja, congratulated INEC for its forthrightness, steadfast and obedience to the rule of law.

Mr. Okechukwu also stated that “it is heart-warming that INEC captured the intendment of the 1999 constitution not to register phony groups or mischief makers as political parties”.

“Nigerians now have a golden opportunity to make choice between two dominant political parties; one anchored on social democracy, pro-people and one anchored on conservative and anti-people programs as is the case in all liberal democracies,” Mr. Okechukwu said in the statement.

On its part, the APC also congratulated INEC “for doing the right thing and for not succumbing to pressures from phantom political associations that sought to force it to circumvent the law”.

The party congratulated Nigerians on the emergence of the new party, saying with the birth of APC, Nigerians now have an alternative to a ruling party “that has taken the people for a bad ride in the past 14 years”.

APC’s Interim National Publicity Secretary, Lai Mohammed, issued a statement to commend INEC.

“We will also be unveiling our plans to turn today’s hopelessness into a time of great opportunities, to reverse the downward slide in our socio-economic development, and to ensure that every Nigerian benefits from the commonwealth, instead of the present situation in which a few fat cats are milking the system dry at the expense of the citizenry,” the APC said.

Speaking to LEADERSHIP Sunday spokesman, of the now defunct CPC, Rotimi Fashakin, said; “This is good news for Nigerians; for the first time we have a situation where three parties will come together to talk of merger to help Nigeria and democracy. It is a big challenge to the continued dominance of PDP.”

“When the history of this nation is written, INEC will occupy a good position for doing an onerous duty to the nation,” he said.

The ruling PDP was not left out as it also congratulated the leadership of the APC on the successful registration of the new party, describing it as healthy development for the nation’s democracy.

The party in a statement signed by its Acting National Publicity Secretary, Tony Caesar Okeke however said the registration of the new party posed no threat to the PDP. The statement said the ruling party still maintains its pre-eminent position and enjoys the widest popularity and acceptance among Nigerians across the country.

The PDP said with the registration of the APC, Nigerians now expect the leaders of the opposition party to eschew all forms of bitterness and desperation and desist from politics of propaganda which characterized their former parties.

Insisting that the APC poses no threat to it, the PDP said it “will continue to maintain its preeminent position in the polity adding that it remained the party with the widest acceptance and popularity among Nigerians across board”.

The approval by INEC that APC is now a political party however means different things to different persons in the House of Representatives.

Although those who spoke on the development applauded INEC for the approval, opinions are divided whether or not the new was a possible challenge to the ruling PDP.

Minority Leader of the House, Mr. Femi Gbajabiamila, said the registration was “long overdue”, praising INEC for standing its grounds against forces he alleged were against the APC.

“The chances of ACN, CPC or any of the other parties alone were even brighter than that of PDP, not to talk of APC as a merger party. It is just that they were not guaranteed a free and fair election.

“That was the reason for the emergence of the APC in the first place; the absence of a free and fair process necessitated the coming of the APC.

“Will the party stay? I know that the prayer and the hope of the PDP is that it will not stay, but they are mistaken.

“It means that they are not in tune with the rest of the country that wants change. PDP will be history with fair and free elections.

“Go and ask Nigerians how they have fared in the last four years and they will tell you that their lives have not improved in any way. The only way to have that change is to guarantee free and fair elections and to have a party like the APC,” Gbajabiamila said.

But even though Deputy House Majority Leader, Mr. Leo Ogor, welcomed the APC, he dismissed his colleagues optimism on the grounds that there were already cracks within the APC; the APC is like a storm in a tea cup; there is nothing special there to give the PDP any cause for concern.

Getting It Right Before 2015
Dr Igiebor Ikpowonsa, a political scientist told LEADERSHIP Sunday that the APC has the greatest challenge than even the PDP as the nation marches ahead of the 2015 elections.

“In all honesty, the new party is a welcome development because the political space will now be more robust and Nigerians will be availed the opportunity of choices.

“I have always advocated that whatever political culture or system should be the initiative of the people like in this case, unlike when the government imposes a particular pattern.

“Without mincing words, the PDP has to brace up to remain in power because Nigerians now have an alternative; but conversely the new party has the greatest challenge to upstage the PDP because they have to let Nigerians know that their doors are open without any form of discrimination against anyone and that their nomination processes will henceforth be more transparent than before; that is the only way they can uproot the PDP,” the scholar said.

On his part, Deputy House Minority Leader, Mr. Suleiman Kawu, stated that the days of the PDP were numbered with the registration of APC.

Perhaps, Ikpowonsa has an ally in a member of the House of Representatives, Sulaiman Kawu who is the deputy minority leader of the Lower Chamber.

“With the coming of the APC, the days of the ruling PDP are numbered; however, I will like the leadership of our new born party to ensure that the culture of impunity and disregard for laid down procedures which characterises the PDP is not replicated in the APC.

“Also, the leadership should instill internal democracy in the party by conducting free, fair and transparent primary elections ahead of the 2015 general elections; as this is the sure way of avoiding the mistakes of the PDP,” the lawmaker told a national newspaper immediately after the approval given by INEC.

The canvassed positions notwithstanding, the ruling PDP now has a great task ahead, especially in view of the myriad of internal problems that the party is currently facing. Even though it has remained in the realm of mere rumours, speculations that some governors elected on the platform of the PDP were already planning to join forces with the APC upon its approval has remained a potent threat.

Via LEADERSHIP

US rejects Mugabe election win, EU expresses concern

Voters queue in last week's Zimbabwean presidential election
Voters queue in last week’s Zimbabwean presidential election
The US has rejected Zimbabwean President Robert Mugabe’s election win while the European Union has expressed concern over the poll.US Secretary of State John Kerry has said the results are the culmination of a deeply flawed process and do not represent the will of the country’s citizens.

EU foreign policy chief Caroline Ashton said the bloc was concerned about irregularities, alleging a lack of transparency.

Mr Mugabe was declared the winner with over 61% of the votes, versus nearly 34% for his rival Morgan Tsvangirai, Movement for Democratic Change (MDC) leader and prime minister.

Observers from the African Union and Southern African Development Community (SADC) which monitored the elections broadly endorsed them as free and peaceful, while acknowledging some minor problems.

Independent domestic monitors have however described the vote as deeply flawed by registration problems that may have disenfranchised up to a million people.

Mr Tsvangirai has called on the African Union and SADC to investigate the vote, calling it “null and void” and “not credible”.”We are going to go to court, we are going to go to the African Union, we are going to go to the SADC,” Mr Tsvangirai angrily told a news conference in Harare. He rejected the result as “fraudulent”.

Mr Kerry called on both organisations to address their concerns with the election.

“In light of substantial electoral irregularities reported by domestic and regional observers, the United States does not believe that the results announced today represent a credible expression of the will of the Zimbabwean people,” Mr Kerry said in a statement.

“There were irregularities in the provision and composition of the voters roll. The parties had unequal access to state media. The security sector did not safeguard the electoral process on an even-handed basis,” he added, also calling on all parties to refrain from violence.

The European Union also criticised the vote, from which Western election observers were barred by Harare.

“The EU is concerned about alleged irregularities and reports of incomplete participation, as well as the identified weaknesses in the electoral process and a lack of transparency,” EU foreign policy chief Catherine Ashton said.

Western rejection of the regional African verdict on the election could stir tensions with the continent but acceptance of Mr Mugabe’s win will be criticised by those who say he is a despot guilty of rights abuses and ruining the economy.

Zimbabwe: Mugabe’s free but unfair win

By Moshoeshoe Monare

For President Robert Mugabe, this victory is against the bully West, but it is unlikely to usher in a better economic outlook for Zimbabweans, writes Moshoeshoe Monare in Harare.4958cf5757574b2ab5867faa9a2fac81

 

For a man notorious for his violent temperament and intolerance for opposition, President Robert Mugabe’s self-portrayal as a democrat almost succeeded in projecting his opponent’s tantrums as the infantile actions of a sore loser.

 

Morgan Tsvangirai, the leader of the main MDC faction, came out as a perennial whiner who was only prepared to accept a favourable outcome.

 

This was Mugabe and the ruling Zanu-PF’s tactic, in an attempt to avoid two crucial mistakes they committed in the 2008 elections – violence and complacency.

 

For someone who used to gloat that he has a degree in violence, Mugabe toned down his war talk during this year’s election campaign, reserving his vicious temper for former UK prime minister Tony Blair and South African facilitator Lindiwe Zulu.

 

Mugabe’s strategy seems to have deceived some observers – who declared the elections free and fair – and the majority of the populace who voted for him (the presidential results were yet to be released at the time of going to press).

 

The absence of violence and Mugabe’s good behaviour created a dilemma for the opposition parties, which were forced into the rushed polls without proper preparations. Zanu-PF pulled off a massive and good campaign.

 

The dilemma of Tsvangirai and of other presidential hopefuls such as the smaller MDC’s Welshman Ncube and Zapu’s Dumiso Dabengwa was that had they pulled out, their supporters and the international community would have punished them. They are equally damned for legitimising what Tsvangirai has now described as “a sham” and “farce”.

 

The opposition could hardly claim that the climate was not conducive for elections as violence has almost evaporated from the streets.

 

Mugabe’s spies, who used to camp in the hotel lobbies, have been confined to the Central Intelligence Organisation’s offices.

 

The blue-helmeted riot police who terrorised Harare at every previous election disappeared until a day after the polls, when a few could be seen outside MDC-T headquarters. The war veterans were conspicuously quiet, other than militant words from a few.

 

The Centre for Community Development of Zimbabwe, an NGO, also admitted that although there were pockets of intimidation such as forcing people to attend meetings, there was no “naked violence”.

 

The intimidating tactics included what appeared to be one-sided enforcement of the electoral code. Police spokesperson Charity Charamba confirmed the arrest of only MDC officials for using “abusive language” and for being in possession of electoral materials.

 

Cab driver Tafadzwa Chinembiri, 49, a staunch Zanu-PF supporter, says they were warned by their leaders not to raise their hands against opponents “even if provoked”.

 

He points to the posters in downtown Harare – with Tsvangirai and a younger Mugabe – as a sign that the electoral playing field has been levelled.

 

“Five years ago, some of those posters would have been torn down. Now, everyone causing violence is dealt with, irrespective of political affiliation,” says Chinembiri, from Mbare, a township outside Harare.

 

While MDC-T supporters were singing and shouting down Mugabe on their way to the final rally on Monday morning, Zanu-PF supporters could only passively mumble insults. Days earlier, police tried to prevent the MDC-T rally, but subsequently backed down. Therefore the 2013 elections can be deemed to be the free expression of the will of the Zimbabwean voters.

 

Tsvangirai admitted, when casting his vote on Wednesday, that there “was a sense of calm” – but declared them “null and void” on Friday.

 

Voting day was peaceful, except for glitches in some polling stations where voters could not find their names and some were turned away.

 

The Southern African Development Community (SADC) and the AU’s Olusegun Obasanjo confirmed that the elections were free, and were at pains to declare the fairness and credibility of the polls.

 

Fairness is dependent on the institutions entrusted with ensuring a democratic climate. Unless Mugabe’s government implements the letter and spirit of the global political agreement, it is implausible to compete fairly with Zanu-PF.

 

First, the state media – still dominant, with a wider reach – are unapologetic in their hatred of Tsvangirai and openly worship “Comrade Mugabe”.

 

Granted, Zimbabweans are not stupid and could laugh off the circus that is ZBC, the state broadcasting corporation. Tsvangirai won in 2008 despite such a hostile state broadcaster.

 

ZBC covered Mugabe’s final rally live, but MDC and other political parties’ rallies weren’t given live coverage, except negative reporting in its bulletins.

 

This is clearly against the electoral laws as espoused in the global political agreement.

 

For a country with a high rural, poor population who rely largely on the state broadcaster for information, ZBC’s broadcasts could be defined as a violent assault on democracy. Its influence and power cannot be easily dismissed.

 

The Herald, the state-owned and largest Harare daily, is competing with ZBC for the prestigious quinquennial propaganda award.

 

One may argue that newspapers such as the Harare-based Daily News – and other privately-owned titles – are the extreme opposite of The Herald, and are therefore balancing the propaganda scale.

 

While The Herald was predicting a landslide for Mugabe, the Daily News reported on Tuesday that Tsvangirai would get 61 percent.

 

Second, the integrity of the Zimbabwe Election Commission (ZEC) – entrusted with determining the loser and the winner – is questionable.

 

Despite complaints from the two factions of the MDC and Zapu, some observers have privately raised questions regarding irregularities in the voters roll, the fundamental tool in determining the credibility of any election.

 

MDC national deputy chairman and transport minister Morgan Komichi was arrested for revealing that some of the ballots cast during special voting on July 25 were found in rubbish bins.

 

ZEC has refused to give the electoral copy of the voters roll to the opposition, while Mugabe admitted that he had received his on Monday.

 

Judge Rita Makarau, head of ZEC, has thus far failed to explain her commission’s incompetence. But the commission has efficiently organised massive, harmonised elections – presidential, parliamentary and local – in the shortest space of time.

 

Zapu has a copy – which The Sunday Independent has seen – that shows duplicated names on the roll, largely in Zanu-PF areas.

 

It is understood that Obasanjo had angrily chastised the ZEC for these irregularities. The commission has in turn blamed the registrar-general, Tobaiwa Mudede, who could not be reached. He cancelled a scheduled press conference on Wednesday evening.

 

It is puzzling that Obasanjo says such irregularities are not significant enough to change the outcome.

 

Mugabe has argued that he has nothing to do with ZEC’s incompetence. Fair enough. However, it was the same ZEC that ensured his controversial victory in 2008 after refusing to release the elections for three weeks when it was clear that Mugabe had lost. He questionably won the run-off.

 

MDC-T spokesman Douglas Mwonzora claims that the ZEC will first give the election results to the joint operations command, a committee of security generals.

 

He could not produce any concrete evidence to support his claim. But the generals’ financial interests and fear that they could be forced to account for Gukurahundi, the massacre of the Ndebele people in the 1980s, are some of the reasons for resisting any transfer of power.

 

This is why Mugabe, at 89, is still looking forward to a seventh term.

 

It is clear that he will keep the State House, the official presidential residency, but what new will he offer the Zimbabwean people? Their choice is to either endure the economic hardships or flee.

 

The five years of unity government saw slight improvements. But will Mugabe on his own pull the country out of the current economic morass?

 

The economy seems to be in fairly good shape when measured against the 2008 conditions, but in reality the Zimbabwean economy is still performing dismally. Finance Minister Tendai Biti – MDC-T secretary-general – has projected a 3.4 percent growth, from an optimistic 5 percent.

 

In his mid-term budget speech last month, Biti said the desperately needed foreign direct investments were “constrained” mainly because of investors jittery over the elections. The investors’ suspicious attitude towards Mugabe means his pending victory could be bad news for the economy.

 

Harare looks much better than it was in 2008, with shelves at retail stores being testimony to a healthier outlook. I was able to buy basic groceries and enjoy a decent dinner. Most products in retail stores are imported from South Africa, an indication that manufacturing has not picked up.

 

The Confederation of Zimbabwean Industries’ 2012 manufacturing survey indicated that the sector decreased its capacity to 44 percent.

 

Media Institute of Southern Africa, a pressure group, says “over 100 companies have closed down during the past year, with Bulawayo, once the country’s industrial hub, being hardest hit”.

 

Mugabe admitted that the country was importing maize from Zambia, confirming two ironies. First, Zambia used to depend on Zimbabwe for maize. Second, some maize farmers in Zambia are former Zimbabwean farmers forced out by Mugabe’s violent land policy.

 

Major banks – except for CBZ – are mainly British and South African. Zimbabwe is still a country without its own money; US dollars and the rand are legal tender.

 

The traffic lights are now functional, there are no queues for fuel and power outages are fewer than five years ago.

 

But water is still a problem, according to Rejoyce Sitholo, 41, a sales manager from Epworth in Harare, “You need a borehole for uninterrupted water supply”.

 

While violent crime is very low, unemployment is at 85 percent.

 

But people like hotel staffer Promise Mazazura, 36, who stayed at home most of 2008 because her salary stagnated behind the skyrocketing inflation and rising transport costs, are now earning a living.

 

She spends a significant portion of her $210 (R2 060) monthly earnings on medical aid and paying for extra lessons for her three children because “teachers are on unofficial go-slow”. “They are poorly paid, they make extra cash from extra lessons. Without medical aid there is no health care. Public hospitals are a joke,” she says.

 

She is, however, better off than millions such as Blessing Khumalo, a 26-year old mother of one who left Bulawayo in 2011 to look for opportunities in Harare. She has “given up” searching for a job, and stays with relatives in Harare.

 

Unemployment is a challenge for whoever wins, especially for Mugabe, who inherited and grew southern Africa’s economic hub (outside apartheid South Africa) and stood by while things fell apart.

 

He blames sanctions and the West for Zimbabwe’s economic woes, and maintains that his people still love him. He is right. But at what cost?

* Monare was in Zimbabwe as a guest of the Media Institute of Southern Africa (Misa)

S.Africa: Jacob Zuma congratulates Mugabe on election win

20130801-ZIMBABWE-embed-slide-15AI-articleLarge

20130801-ZIMBABWE-embed-slide-15AI-articleLarge

President Jacob Zuma on Sunday congratulated Robert Mugabe on his re-election as president of Zimbabwe.

Zuma described Wednesday’s elections as “harmonised” and called for peace in the neighbouring country, the international relations department said in a statement.

“President Zuma urges all political parties in Zimbabwe to accept the outcome of the elections as election observers reported it to be an expression of the will of the people.

“[He] also encourages the people of Zimbabwe to seize this opportunity to collectively contribute towards building their country driven by a common desire for peace, stability and prosperity.”

Zuma said South Africa was ready to continue its relations with Zimbabwe.

Official results showed Mugabe won 61% of the presidential vote and a super-majority in Parliament, routing his long-standing political rival Morgan Tsvangirai, who trailed heavily with 34%.

But 61-year-old Tsvangirai, who has unsuccessfully tried to unseat Mugabe three times, condemned the vote as “fraudulent and stolen”.

US Secretary of State John Kerry issued a statement on Saturday describing the election as “deeply flawed”.

“The United States does not believe that the results announced today represent a credible expression of the will of the Zimbabwean people,” Kerry said.

Tsvangirai vowed to challenge the result in court and said his Movement for Democratic Change (MDC) would boycott government institutions.

“We will not join government,” he said. “We will go to court.”

“The fraudulent and stolen election has plunged Zimbabwe into a constitutional, political and economic crisis.”

He defended the MDC’s decision to enter into an uneasy power-sharing government with Mugabe, who has had him arrested, beaten and charged with treason.

“Our participation rescued this country. Schools had closed, hospitals had closed. We were using the Zimbabwe dollar which was worthless, there were no goods in the shops, everyone was desperate,” he said.

But furious at the alleged scale of rigging this time round, Tsvangirai said the days of cohabitation were over.

The MDC now has until Wednesday to present evidence of fraud to the high court, but finding a smoking gun may prove difficult.

‘Irregularities and illegalities’

Tsvangirai said he would submit a dossier of “all irregularities and all the illegalities” to the influential 15-member Southern African Development Community (SADC) and called for an urgent summit.

Kerry said there had been irregularities in the provision and composition of the voters roll, adding: “The parties had unequal access to state media. The security sector did not safeguard the electoral process on an even-handed basis.”

British Foreign Secretary William Hague added his own “grave concerns” over the conduct of the vote in the former colony.

The European Union, which had been moving toward easing long-standing sanctions, expressed concern about “incomplete participation, as well as the identified weaknesses in the electoral process and a lack of transparency”.

But Emmerson Mnangagwa, defence minister and a key Mugabe lieutenant, hit back at these accusations and argued the result was a game-changer.

“The West will now have to climb down, they must find a ladder and climb down … A democratic election has taken place in Zimbabwe,” he told Agence France-Presse.

Zimbabwe’s neighbours have given the vote qualified approval.

The SADC, which engineered the power-sharing government, said it was “free and peaceful”.

“We did not say it was fair … we didn’t want to jump to a conclusion,” said top SADC election observer Bernard Membe.

However, the poll’s credibility was further called into question by the resignation of one of the nine official electoral commissioners.

In a letter seen by AFP, Mkhululi Nyathi quit over “the manner” in which the polls “were proclaimed and conducted”.

“While throughout the whole process I retained some measure of hope that the integrity of the whole process could be salvaged along the way, this was not to be, hence my considered decision to resign,” she said.

Tsvangirai stopped short of calling his supporters on to the streets, fearing a repeat of the bloody crackdown that followed his win in the first round of 2008 polls.

And in Harare late on Saturday, there was calm, with little sign of protests or pro-Mugabe victory rallies.

“In 2008 we voted in anger, but this time we knew what we were doing, having experienced the two leaders—we now know who has the qualities to be a leader,” said barber Right Chirombe (28).

Even before the official election results, Mugabe followers were planning how to use a parliamentary majority.

“The new Constitution will need cleaning up,” said Justice Minister Patrick Chinamasa, referring to a text overwhelmingly approved in March that introduced term limits and curbed presidential powers.

Chinamasa said Mugabe’s government would also press on with controversial efforts to bring firms under black ownership.

Investors have expressed fears that may mean rolling back the power-sharing government’s efforts to stabilise the economy after crippling hyperinflation and joblessness.

“It’s back to extreme volatility,” said Iraj Abedian, the CEO of Pan African Investments.

“We can expect fairly radical positions that will have populist support, but which will have huge implications.” – AFP