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Tue, 13 Nov 2018

The face of Durban’s public transport changed this week with the launch 150 branded minibus taxis in the city centre that will offer commuter an enhanced service as part of the city’s ambitious GO!Durban project.

The eThekwini Municipality’s mini-bus taxi incentive programme, called “Moja Cruise” kicked off on Monday after months of behind the scenes collaboration between the Ethekwini Metro Taxi Council (EMTC) – the leadership body of the mini-bus taxi industry – and the city.

The roll-out of the 150 taxis part of an innovative pilot programme to “test the waters” for improved public transport system. The programme branded “Moja Cruise” was launched in October 2017, and the various stakeholders have been planning and preparing for the “go live” date this month.

Essentially the pilot programme includes 500 mini-bus taxis that will be branded as “Moja Cruise” taxis, with 150 taxis already enrolled in the programme. These taxis will adhere to certain criteria to offer a clean, safe, efficient, customer-oriented service to the public. The vehicles will be monitored to ensure that these criteria are met in order to qualify for the financial incentive. As part of the transformation of public transport, the municipality started the construction of road infrastructure in its efforts to integrate public transport into a network of eight bus rapid transit lanes and a rail route across the City in its GO!Durban programme.

As part of this programme, and prior to beginning construction in 2013, the city leadership, since 2009, has been engaging with the leadership of the mini-bus taxi and bus industry in an endeavour to bring these current public transport operators into a cohesive operation to provide safe, efficient and reliable transport for all.

The aim has always been to ensure that they continue to have a stake in public transport into its transformation.

Speaking at the “go live” launch, which was attended by the leadership of the eThekwini Metro Taxi Council and participants of the programme, the executive committee member and chairperson for the Human Settlements and Infrastructure Committee, Mondli Mthembu said that the aim of the programme was to proactively empower the mini-bus taxi industry at all levels, to progress their businesses, and to support the development of the industry towards a more formal and scheduled service structure aimed at providing better levels of services and safety to commuters and improving overall public transport in the city.

Commenting on the EMTC’s collaboration with the city, the chairperson of the eThekwini Metro Taxi Council, B M Nzuza said: “Being experienced public transport operators, we understand and acknowledge the need for a more customer-orientated service that meets the needs of the commuters. By working in collaboration with the eThekwini Municipality, we have been able to offer our expertise and understanding in a consultative and collaborative process, to find positive and workable solutions to the challenges that we face as businesses and they as government. We all look forward to seeing the programme work, and to an improved service and business model for our constituents.”

Giving a keynote address, eThekwini Mayor, Zandile Gumede [...]

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Tue, 13 Nov 2018

On Monday 29 October, Ramaphosa held bi-lateral talks with Chancellor Angela Merkel aimed at closer co-operation between the two countries. The Presidency said in a statement after the meeting: “The President and the Chancellor also agreed on the importance of continuing with the G20 Compact with Africa initiative, and committed to an expansion of trade and investment between South Africa and Germany.”

Attending the G20 German Africa Investment Summit on 30 October 2018, a stone’s throw from the iconic Brandenburger Gate, once of a symbol of the divide between East and West, Ramaphosa was one of the three keynote speakers addressing the conference in his position as Co-Chair of the G20-Africa Advisory Group, declaring that “Africa is open for business.” The other speakers were Chancellor Angela Merkel and Rwanda’s President Paul Kagame.

Before the summit on Tuesday morning, Ramaphosa met with some key German business people over breakfast. German business, normally conservative investors and not great risk takers were impressed by Ramaphosa, whom they see as a businessman and “one of us”. There are 600 German businesses in South Africa, creating about 100,000 jobs.

Professor Wolfram Scharff, since 2005 one of South Africa’s honorary consuls from Dresden said after the meeting that: “What he said was solid, it was very convincing and very clear, logical and sustainable. I think everyone sitting at at the table this morning was absolutely excited.”

“It was very clear what he wanted, there were clear statements about the security situation, clear statements on how to ensure security for investments. I think it was convincing,” Scharff who has invested in South Africa and attracted investments from as far away as Kazakhstan to South Africa, said.

A fortnight ago Ramaphosa’s special envoy, former Finance Minister Trevor Manuel was already in Berlin, holding talks to attract investments and allay fears about land expropriation.

Scharff was echoing the sentiments of many participants when he said: “The difficulties facing new investments, down there has to do a bit more with the fear what is happening there. And I think it has already become much better in the last few months. I believe the turnaround is coming, that’s my impression and I think one has every chance of going in a positive direction in South Africa. We have to wait for the election but I’m confident.”

Not everyone in Germany shares his positive view and the German Foreign Office’s new Africa drive policy. At a recent closed-door meeting on South Africa attended by many former German diplomats, there were verbal clashes when some expressed their severe disillusionment with the African continent, including South Africa with one telling me “It is a lost continent”.

For decades Germany was South Africa’s biggest overall trading partner, resisting the call for sanctions of the apartheid state in the 1980’s to keep its companies in South Africa.

In 2010 it lost its prime position to China before last year dropping to its current third place behind the United States.

Most major German international companies are in South Africa which they have for decades seen as the [...]

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Mon, 12 Nov 2018

The reform agenda under Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed, which has received nods and political acclaim globally, has radically broken the mould not only in the Ethiopian context but also in the African and global political spheres. It has indeed been a series of transformative firsts for Ethiopia since Abiy Ahmed took the helm following the resignation of Hailemariam Desalegn in February 2018. At 41, Abiy Ahmed is the youngest head of government in Africa and the first Oromo (the majority ethnic group in Ethiopia) to lead the country.

It all began with the lifting of the state of emergency that had been imposed in February 2018 following waves of anti-government protests in the Oromia region. The lift was followed by the release of more than 2000 political prisoners who had been detained in a government crackdown of protesters and the adoption of a law that ensures amnesty for former detainees. In the same vein, the government also lifted the “terrorist designation” of three groups while promising engagement on reform of the legislative framework including the anti-terrorism laws and an overhaul of the justice system. The protests, which started in 2016, begun in the Oromia region but soon spread to other regions, as the Oromos decried their marginalisation and political exclusion for years at the hands of a Ethiopian People’s Revolutionary Democratic Front (EPRDF) government, which has been dominated by the Tigrayan minority. The prime minister also announced plans to liberalise the economy by opening up major state-run sectors of the economy to private domestic and foreign investment, a significant break from the economic model that has prioritised deep state involvement in the economy.

The reforms extended to the state security and intelligence services in a reshuffle of the heads of the armed forces and the air force with the promise of ensuring a more ethnically balanced security sector. Abiy’s pursuit of Pax Ethiopia culminated in the Eritrean-Ethiopian rapprochement, bringing to an end the two decades-long animosity between the two countries. The Ethiopian government announced that it would comply with the 2000 Algiers Agreement, which had settled the 1998-2000 Eritrean-Ethiopian border war. In July 2018, the Ethiopian prime minister and Eritrean president, Isaias Afwerki, signed a full peace agreement which realised the restoration of diplomatic relations between the two states, the opening of embassies, resumption of flight services, connection of ports and re-institution of telecommunication services. The peace deal has serious implications for the geopolitics of the Horn of Africa as Ethiopia moves to reinforce its status as regional hegemon in light of growing strategic interests of key powers for Red Sea ports and the regional competition for influence among the Middle Eastern axes. Consequently, Ethiopia has employed a delicate balancing act to attract foreign investment while playing a safe foreign policy strategy: courting both the Qatar-Turkey and Arab axes while simultaneously strengthening ties with the United Arab Emirates and Saudi Arabia.

A bold move for gender parity saw the appointment of a new cabinet with half of positions filled by women. The restructuring of [...]

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