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Africa: Three brothers captured the soul of South Africa

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Atul, Rajesh and Ajay Gupta arrived in South Africa in 1993 just as the country was emerging from the unpopular apartheid regime that saw the legendary Nelson Mandela becoming the first post-apartheid President. The Gupta brothers started business in South Africa with a shoe shop and then progressed to have a computer business, before building an empire in mining and media.

It is easy to link their business successes to the growing democracy of the country that is referred to as the Africa’s most sophisticated economy, as the economy is repositioned after the dark days of the apartheid rule. Unfortunately, the Guptas are now being seen as the symbol of the inefficiencies in the transition from apartheid to a form of democratised oligarchy system, far from the self-touted “rainbow nation” that the country’s leaders ascribe to it.

The growing criticism of the Guptas is their strong connections to the politicians and political appointees in South Africa, especially President Zuma and his family, with which they had had increasing closer ties since 2009 when he became the President of the African nation. The relationship grew to a situation where the Guptas are alleged to be able to influence the appointments into key positions in government, state-owned enterprises and the bureaucracy, thus able to significantly influence the development and implementation of public policy and regulations.

The Guptas allegedly positioned ministers and other political appointees through President Zuma to bring in policies that enhance their businesses in South Africa. The Guptas focussed on major ministries such as Finance, Public Enterprises, and Mines. These helped them to control how public resources are accessed, moved and distributed, including the ability to withstand any changes in the social, political and economic environment of business in South Africa. They literarily created, managed and operated a strong patronage network to facilitate the distribution of benefits to sustain and develop their power.

As expected, to ensure the success of such patronage networks, the network of cronies and sympathizers must be developed and maintained to move resources within their networks and ultimately control the movement and access to those resources. The access to such networks is only made possible through the informal political marketplaces where support is traded through the exchange of information, access to resources and proof of continued loyalty.

It is not surprising, therefore, that the Guptas are alleged to have been behind the removal of some political appointees such as Pravin Gordhan and Themba Maseko who openly resisted the influence of the Guptas. Pravin’s Treasury department publicly opposed the alleged infiltration of public enterprises. Such opposition figures in government were systematically removed, redeployed or pressurised out based on questionable intelligence reports against them.

The recent email leakage from the Gupta company server has exposed the family’s alleged “capture” of the President Zuma’s government by the Gupta family and their cronies. This email leakage has sparked off an anti-corruption campaign against the Gupta family for using their friendship with President Zuma to exert undue influence to win businesses. While the family denies the authenticity of the leaked emails, the British PR firm Bell Pottinger has apologised over the work it did for the Guptas. During the past week, Oakbay, an investment holding company owned by the Gupta family lost a court bid to stop one of their bankers from closing its accounts. This ruling allows the bank to join several other organisations that have distanced themselves from this mess.

The professional group that might be coming worst off from this saga are the bean counters – the accountants. In the recent weeks, several partners and managers of the South African office of KPMG have been exiting the firm in droves, following KPMG’s acknowledgment of shortcomings in its audit work for the Gupta family and the South African Revenue Service (SARS). The firm said its internal inquiry showed that they had fallen “considerably short” of their standards. This incident has cost the firm at least three clients and several other large companies are evaluating their continued relationship with KPMG in South Africa. The South African Institute of Chartered Accountants (SAICA) is also planning to take action against accountants who are proven to have acted unethically based on the professional codes, after “due investigative and disciplinary process.” The South Africa’s Independent Regulatory Board for Auditors (IRBA) is also investigating some former KPMG employees.

This alleged scandal is gradually evolving as a great ethical lesson in the field of corporate political strategy. Corporate Political Strategy is a set of activities performed by firms to influence the development and implementation of government policies and regulations, in order to create an economic advantage for an organisation. Relational strategies are the most recently discussed corporate political strategies, and it is usually deployed through the development of political ties with politicians and government officials. These types of informal networks and relationships are particularly critical in contexts where formal legal and regulatory institutions are underdeveloped or missing, especially in the emerging markets like those in Africa, with weak institutions, political and social instability, and haphazard government interventions in the economy. However, the absence of structured corporate political strategies that exist in developed countries tends to support the view that the use of political and social connections is more for corrupt practices, as is being alleged in this scandal involving the Gupta family.

Oluyemi, a chartered accountant and a doctoral researcher at Cranfield University, is a director at Roedl & Partner.

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Africa

Akwa Ibom Corps Member Slaughters Boyfriend

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Princess Odume

A corps member identified as Princess Odume, was on Monday arrested by the Akwa Ibom police command for the murder of a yet-to-be-identified man.

The young woman, who is said to be a graduate of the University of Nigeria, Nsukka, Enugu State, was stripped naked by neighbours of the victim who caught her trying to skip the fence with a machete.

The Akwa Ibom Police Public Relations Officer, Odiko Ogbeche-Macdon confirmed the victim was the alleged murderer’s lover.
He also said, “The police are investigating. The police have her in custody, she committed the act, but as I speak, an investigation is ongoing as to how and why she did it.”

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Africa

COVID-19 Claims the Life of a House on the Rock Pastor

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Pastor Adeyinka Akinbami

A House On The Rock pastor, Adeyinka Akinbami(61), lost his life to COVID-19 on Friday, the 8th of January, 2021.

The Senior Pastor, of the church, Paul Adefarasin, urged Nigerians to adhere to the COVID-19 protocols.

“Yesterday (Friday), I received the rude and shocking news of someone deeply dear to me and all of the HOTR family. The passing of Pastor Yinka Akinbami has become most painful because if there truly were good men, he was certainly one. To my brother, sleep well till we meet to part no more.

“Family, kindly allow me to solicit your intercession for his dear wife of over 30 years; Pastor Tolu, his children, his children-in-law, and grandchildren. We can only at best imagine how much pain they are feeling. We share the pain of his loss but they will feel it a lot more.

“It’s important to remind the community about the deadly nature of the COVID-19 and its mutant virus strains. Please do your part by following all the recommended precautions. That way, you are able to protect yourself and others who become proximal to you. God bless and keep us all”, Adefarasin Tweeted.

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Africa

Buhari Appointed by ECOWAS to Champion COVID-19 Response

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President, Major General Muhammadu Buhari (retd.), has been appointed the mantle of the COVID-19 response leadership by presidents under the Economic Community of West African States.

A statement by Buhari’s Special Adviser on Media and Publicity, Femi Adesina, in Abuja, said the appointment took place on Thursday, at the Extraordinary ECOWAS Summit on COVID-19, which was held via teleconference under the chairmanship of the President of the Republic of Niger, Mahamadou Issoufou.

During the teleconference, Buhari was said to have called on fellow ECOWAS leaders to look beyond the challenges posed by the COVID-19 pandemic and tap into various opportunities that it presents for the betterment of lives in member states.

Buhari was quoted as saying, “In every challenging situation such as the current one, there are also opportunities. Our region must therefore seek to find those opportunities provided by this gloomy global outlook for its benefit by embarking on the implementation of such critical policies, which, before now, will be difficult to accept.”

While calling on his colleagues to intensify collaboration to save the region from “this deadly pandemic through sharing our experiences and best practices,” Buhari outlined some measures taken by his regime in response to the pandemic.

They include reduction of interest rates on all applicable Central Bank of Nigeria interventions from nine per cent to five per cent and introduction of a one-year moratorium on CBN intervention facilities. The inauguration of a presidential task force to coordinate national efforts to combat the spread of the virus and ensure efficiency and effectiveness in line with the Nigerian Action Plan on Health Security.

The President also stated that unprecedented economic uncertainties, including severe fiscal and foreign exchange constraints, amid a slowdown in global economic growth that most nations are grappling with, had made it imperative for “our sub-region to refocus on accelerating the implementation of our popular vision of ‘ECOWAS of the people’ by adopting progressive regional policies aimed at providing relief to our citizens.”

Buhari added, “At a time of global uncertainty such as this, caused by the devastating impact of the COVID-19, let me convey Nigeria’s solidarity with all the member states as we collectively battle to defeat the pandemic.

“I am greatly saddened by the loss of numerous lives and extend my heartfelt condolences to families of those who have lost loved ones throughout the region. I also wish infected victims speedy and full recovery.”

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Africa

COVID-19: AU on Nigeria’s Behalf Seeks Debt Relief

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The African Union, Nigeria office, has urged China, France, Japan and India to write off Nigeria’s debt or allow two-year abeyance on repayments.

It commended the International Monetary Fund for granting relief to 25 nations under its Catastrophe Containment and Relief Trust to tackle the novel coronavirus.

The AU agency’s Nigeria Representative, Oba Olasunkanmi, in a statement in Abuja on Thursday, explained that as major lenders, they should also grant a reprieve to the Federal Government to contain the COVID-19 pandemic.

It said, “Certainly, this will further assist the benefiting countries to significantly cushion the impact of the dreaded disease on their economies. Nigeria, at this time, needs support to enable it to recover from the financial impact.”

The AU further  noted that it would be difficult for the nation to service the debts in the face of the economic realities imposed by COVID-19 “as the United Nations had projected that the world would need $1 trillion for continual existence.”

It noted, “Nigeria needs China’s support at this trying time, with the long and fruitful bilateral relationship between both countries which has led to Nigerian government owing China the debt of about $3.2 billion.

“We are faithful in payment of service charges. In 2019, Nigeria paid $138.8 million (N53.7billion) to EXIM Bank of China in settlement, the highest amount paid to any bilateral institution for the year.”

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