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Apr 21, 2006
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  • US, SACU form a joint working programme to address trade differences

  • Namibia now aims at Trans Kalahari rail link across Botswana

  • New Durban port appointments

  • NIGERIA: Delta militants denounce Obasanjo’s plan for oil region, threaten more attacks

  • COMOROS: Court decision may determine election result

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    US, SACU form a joint working programme to address trade differences

    Report by Sello Tang – BuaNews

    Pretoria - The Southern African Custom Union (SACU) and the United States have agreed in principle to form a joint working programme to address their differing views on the expansion of the free trade agreement (FTA) and investment relations.

    This follows this week's trade meeting between the two parties, which stalled mainly due to proposals by the US described by SACU as unfavourable (see News Bulletin report dated yesterday).

    Deputy trade representative Karan Bhatia represented the US during this round of FTA trade negotiations.

    Director General of Trade and Industry Tshediso Matona told BuaNews that SACU members involved in the negotiations had agreed "in principle to establish a framework within which we can be able to negotiate in a fair manner... to negotiate in a framework independent from the normal FTA congress meeting".

    "The contention lies in the new generation trade issues.

    "We have our own internal economic development strategies and policies in addressing challenges facing our people...and we may not want to change them [economic policies] just because that specific change would suit the US trade policies.

    "We do not want to enter into trade deals with the US at the expense of our economic policies," said Mr Matona.

    Matona indicated that failure to reach consensus followed the US proposal that the new FTA agreement should comprise new generation trade elements, which included Intellectual Property Rights, Government Procurement Rights and broadened investment relations.

    Matona said the proposed "new generation trade arrangements were not favourable to SACU members because they had never before traded in such.

    "The US standards and conditions on these (new generation trade arrangements) are such that they reduce space for our governments to get involved in and apply own developmental strategies," he said.

    SACU, which comprise South Africa, Namibia, Lesotho, Botswana and Swaziland, is putting together internal policies to govern these areas of trade, especially trading in intellectual property rights.

    Matona said SACU was now awaiting "a detailed concept draft document" from the US government and its business constituency on how the new framework arrangement would work.

    He however said the new framework would allow SACU members to hold "occasional dialogue meetings", not only with the US government, but also with other private stakeholders.

    "It will allow us to consult with the business constituency there...we will also be able to communicate our own developmental policies to them (US business constituency), said Matona. - BuaNews

    Namibia now aims at Trans Kalahari rail link across Botswana

    Namibia’s President Pohamba has repeated a call for the establishment of a Trans Kalahari railway service between Namibia and Botswana which would link with the Botswana – South Africa railway network near the South African - Botswana border.

    At present the Trans Kalahari Corridor consists of a road linking South Africa’s Gauteng province with Namibia by way of Botswana, which saves a considerable distance on the alternative long-established road that goes via Kimberley and Upington to the south.

    The only existing railway link between South Africa and Namibia is also in this vicinity, and requires trains from Gauteng or Cape Town to go via De Aar before heading west towards the Namibian border.

    Pohamba made his comments during a visit to Walvis Bay of Botswana’s President Festus Mogae, who was visiting the port to witness the commissioning of the floating dock Namdock and to hold talks with his Namibian counterpart.

    The floating dock has been acquired by Durban-based Elgin Brown & Hamer (EB&H) and will be operated as a joint venture between EB&H and Namport, the country’s port operator. Namdock has a lifting capacity of 8500 tonnes and can handle ships up to 150m in length and is similar to EB&H’s Eldock at Durban. It is expected that the dock will benefit from the West Coast oil industry and from the fishing fleets operating on the Atlantic seaboard.

    New Durban port appointments

    The National Ports Authority (NPA) has announced several important appointments and one retirement affecting the port of Durban.

    Captain Mike Brophy, currently Harbourmaster at the port of Durban has been appointed as Chief Harbourmaster in succession to Captain Eddie Bremner. Captain Brophy has enjoyed a long career with the port authority having served in the marine service and later as port captain and harbourmaster at Richards Bay and then at Durban.

    Eugene Rappetti, who has been Acting Marine Operations Manager in Durban has been confirmed as Marine Operations Manager. Over at the Dockyard Thandiwe Ntuli has been confirmed as manager of the Durban dockyard – she had been acting in the position for some time.

    Meanwhile it has also been announced that Yvonne de Kock, Manager: Corporate Affairs has opted to go on early retirement. Ms de Kock has 39 years of loyal and dedicated service with the organisation, having begun her career with what was then known as SAR&H (later SA Transport Services and later still Transnet) when she worked for the rail operator, Spoornet. In 1994 she was appointed as Manager Corporate Affairs at the port of Durban and in the ensuing years has made an invaluable contribution to the organisation. She retires on 28 April 2006 and says she intends remaining active in the Durban area by undertaking work on behalf of the Sailors Society, where she has been a committee member, and with Rotary and other organisations.

    Mrs Jyothi Naidoo will be Acting Manager: Corporate Affairs at the port of Durban until further notice.

    NIGERIA: Delta militants denounce Obasanjo’s plan for oil region, threaten more attacks

    WARRI, 19 Apr 2006 (IRIN) - Militants targeting oil installations in Nigeria’s southern Niger Delta on Wednesday denounced plans unfolded by President Olusegun Obasanjo to redress grievances in the impoverished region, vowing instead more attacks to increase local control of oil wealth.

    Attacks and hostage-taking against oil operations since January by the group which calls itself the Movement for the Emancipation of the Niger Delta (MEND) recently cut Nigeria’s oil exports of 2.5 million barrels a day by more than 20 percent. Earlier this month, the same group released 13 foreign oil workers after a five-week hostage ordeal.

    Obasanjo met with moderate Niger Delta leaders in the Nigerian capital Abuja on Tuesday and unfolded a plan to create 20,000 jobs in the region and invest in roads, education and health for its people. While hard line Niger Delta leaders boycotted the meeting, MEND dismissed Obasanjo’s offer of “menial jobs”.

    “For 50 years the wealth of our people has been looted by the Nigerian government and it believes this injustice can be remedied by providing menial jobs to indigenes of the Niger Delta,” MEND said in a statement emailed to reporters.

    “What we have demanded…is the control of our resources which the Nigerian government has so far ignored,” it added.

    MEND also restated its demands for the release of militia leader Moujahid Dokubo-Asari held on treason charges and former state governor Diepreye Alamieyeseigha who is facing corruption charges. It also wants Royal Dutch Shell, the largest oil operator in Nigeria, to pay USD1.8 billion as damages for pollution to ethnic Ijaw communities in oil-rich Bayelsa state as ordered by a Nigerian court.

    While no new attacks have been carried out by MEND in more than a month, the group is still warning oil companies to end their operations in the Delta, which produces nearly all of Nigeria’s 2.5 million barrels of oil production.

    “Our halt in attacks was more of a tactical suspension which has come to its end,” it said. “At a time of our choosing we will resume our attacks with greater devastation and no compassion on those who choose to disregard our warnings.”

    MEND claims to be fighting for the interests of the impoverished inhabitants of the Niger Delta, who live with no electricity or running water and feel cheated out of the oil wealth by Western oil companies and the government of Nigeria, the world’s eighth largest crude producer.

    [This report does not necessarily reflect the views of the United Nations]

    COMOROS: Court decision may determine election result

    JOHANNESBURG, 19 Apr 2006 (IRIN) - Voters in the Comoros went to the polls on Sunday to select final-round candidates in the race to become President of the Union, but the constitutional court - the highest electoral body - could still determine the outcome.

    The ballot is aimed at breaking the cycle of coups and political strife that has plagued the three islands in the Comoros group since they won independence from France in 1975.

    "These elections are very important, first of all because they are perceived as almost a conclusive step in a long process of national reconciliation, and this is the first election under the new constitution - after the election of 2002 - that really tries to apply what was decided on the rotational presidency," said the United Nations Resident Coordinator in Comoros, Giuseppina Mazza.

    A 2001 power-sharing agreement, brokered by the African Union's (AU) predecessor, the Organisation of African Unity, gave the individual islands of Grande Comore, Anjouan and Moheli their own semi-autonomous government and president, with a rotating presidency for the Union, which now moves from Grand Comore to Anjouan.

    The first-round poll on 16 April, reserved for Anjouan's 117,000 voters, narrowed down 13 presidential hopefuls to three.

    An official announcement was not expected before the end of this week, but "preliminary results indicate that Ahmed Abdallah Sambi, Mohamed Djaanfari and Ibrahim Halidi will go to the next round. Caabi Elyachroutu Mohamed [previously one of the favourites] will not make it," Ali Said Mdahoma, secretary of the National Electoral Commission, (Cnec) told IRIN.

    According to unofficial results published by the Comoran Press Agency (HZK), a 60 percent turnout at the 221 polling stations gave Sambi, a popular Islamic leader referred to as 'Ayatollah' by his supporters, 26 percent of the votes, putting him in first place.

    Djaanfari, a vice-president of the national assembly, and Halidi, seen as the candidate of the poor and reportedly the preferred candidate of the outgoing federal administration, both won around 14 percent.

    According to HZK, Caabi emerged with a mere 11 percent of the votes, a result barring him from standing in the presidential election on 14 May. He has reportedly contested the outcome in the constitutional court, citing irregularities.

    "Mr Caabi has sent an official recommendation to the constitutional court to withhold the votes from 20 polling stations, mainly from the region of Niumakele [on Anjouan]. If these polling stations are excluded, the preliminary results would change, and Caabi would go through. We are still investigating," said constitutional court director Mohamed Jaffar Abbas.

    The African Union (AU) sent a 462-strong force, known as the African Union Mission for Support to the Elections in the Comoros (AMISEC), to oversee the electoral process. Comoran security forces have been confined to their barracks.

    "No violence has been reported but there were terrible delays in Niumakele. In some places there, the elections could not start until one o'clock in the afternoon," Fransisco Madeira, the special AU representative and AMISEC chief, told IRIN.

    "This led to manoeuvres to annul the voting," Madeira said. "Now, the main problem is to see whether the decision made by the constitutional court will change the results and the order of the candidates, because this might cause havoc."

    The court has 72 hours after polls close to confirm the polls or declare them invalid. According to Abbas, "we will officially present the result tomorrow [Thursday 20 April]".

    [This report does not necessarily reflect the views of the United Nations]

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