Pension fund audits
HANNIBAL CANNOT HELP but wonder when South Africa’s financial shenanigans will come to an end. Public Investment Corporation (PIC) boss Daniel Matjila, who manages the pension funds of state workers, came out in September saying that he was the target of a political cabal and was under pressure to use funds to bail out failing state-owned enterprises like South African Airways (SAA). Finance minister Malusi Gigaba – who said that nothing was amiss – explained that he was authorising an audit of the PIC to make sure that nothing was amiss. The end of September marked another financial hiccup for President Jacob Zuma’s government as Gigaba had to dip into the National Revenue Fund to pay back one of SAA’S loans, as Citibank refused to roll over the financial lifeline.
Oil is opaque
IN OCTOBER IT WAS REVEALED that Nigeria’s oil minister Emmanuel Ibe Kachikwu has complained to president Muhammadu Buhari about dodgy dealings at the Nigerian National Petroleum Corporation (NNPC). Buhari was elected in 2015 on an anti-corruption platform, but Kachikwu says NNPC management signed off on $25bn in contracts without following the proper procedures. The senate has promised to launch an investigation, but previous claims of billiondollar rot in the oil industry have not led to major shake-ups.
WITH AN ELECTION DUE before the end of the month, Kenya’s President Uhuru Kenyatta announced in early October that the government would spend up to $60m to buy maize and subsidise the price of maize flour, a staple food. He said the government would buy “all the maize offered for sale by our farmers during this 2017/18 season.” Such lofty promises may not have been necessary – at least in terms of the electoral calculus – as several days later oppositionist Raila Odinga announced that he was boycotting the re-run of the August presidential election because he does not believe the electoral commission will do its job properly. Odinga had campaigned saying that the cost of living was too high and the government was doing too little about it.
Death spirals and dollars
WITH PRESIDENT ROBERT MUGABE announcing a possible cabinet reshuffle, vice-president Emmerson Mnangagwa claiming he was poisoned and rumours swirling about the potential collapse of the bond notes the government has been issuing to replace scarce US dollars, the situation is getting bleaker in Zimbabwe. Central bank governor John Mangudya has blamed “indiscipline” and “rent seeking” for the fact that people have more confidence in cold hard cash than the government’s word. Knives are out for Mangudya, with more voices in the ruling Zimbabwe African National Union-patriotic Front saying publicly that a new financial man is needed to right the ship before elections in 2018.