DIVIDED THEY FALL
South Africa’s ANC holds party conference amid divisions
ANC leader Cyril Ramaphosa will seek to unite South Africa’s divided ruling party when he outlines his plans for the coming year.
Public image is the primary issue facing the ANC. Plagued by corruption scandals brought on by former leader and current South African President Jacob Zuma, the party has been shedding support.
Within the ANC, contention remains over whether to allow President Zuma to finish the rest of his term. Zuma loyalists, who control about half of the party, demand the president be allowed to complete his term. With the 2019 elections in sight, Mr Ramaphosa’s followers believe that the president should be removed immediately to shirk the party’s association with corruption.
As the new year begins, expect Mr Ramaphosa to take a hard-line stance against corruption and attempt to negotiate an exit settlement with President Zuma. As divisions are pushed to their limits, a party split could be possible.
Should the party remain intact, expect its agenda to be critically hampered. The Ramaphosa and Zuma camps will likely continue to clash over key issues, such as increased education funding, wealth redistribution and expropriation of land without compensation.
French president visits China to mull relationship’s future
French President Emmanuel Macron will begin his first ever presidential visit to China today. Starting in Xian and running over three-days, bilateral trade will top the agenda alongside a host of other key issues such as Beijing’s Belt and Road Initiative, climate change, terrorism and North Korea.
In 2016, bilateral trade totalled $47 billion, and now having agreed to push for freer and fair trade relations, reciprocity will be today’s buzzword. Flanked by an entourage of French business leaders, Macron is looking to address France’s $36 billion-dollar trade deficit with its fifth biggest trading partner, despite still lacking a clear Asia policy.
While China has said this concept is not absolute because “different people have different levels of development”, it has pledged to increase foreign firms’ access to its financial sector in exchange for Macron’s support for internationalising the Yuan.
Of the major deals expected to be signed, the creation of a $12 billion Franco-Chinese investment fund.
Former top Vietnamese oilmen to face court on corruption charges
Today, twenty former executives of Vietnam’s state-owned oil and gas conglomerate, PetroVietnam, will be tried in a Hanoi court for embezzlement and mismanagement.
Among the indicted is a former chair of a subsidiary to the conglomerate Trinh Xuan Thanh, who is facing allegations of grafting some $150 million and was abducted from Germany by state agents last year while seeking asylum.
Outwardly, the anti-corruption crackdown forms part of the ruling Communist Party’s propaganda strategy to dispense with officials who tarnished its public image by amassing personal fortunes. However, it more accurately reflects a purge of political opposition to the party’s conservative leadership under chief Nguyen Phu Trong.
Following his win over former Prime Minister Nguyen Tan Dung in 2016’s 12th Congress, political infighting has seen Trong attack Dung’s affiliates to ensure he completes his term ahead of the 13th Congress in 2021.
Given the lack of judicial independence, Thanh will likely face 20 years jail while the other executives may get the death penalty from additional embezzlement charges.