Thursday, December 01, 2016

For Rio Tinto, Another African Corporate Problem
U.S. authorities examine timing of $3 billion charge in Mozambique, as company investigates Guinea payment

Rio Tinto’s plans to ship its Mozambique coal along the Zambezi River proved unworkable because of problems dredging the river and securing government approvals. PHOTO: GORAN TOMASEVIC/REUTERS

By RHIANNON HOYLE
Wall Street Journal
Dec. 1, 2016 6:56 a.m. ET

SYDNEY—Rio Tinto PLC’s new chief executive faces another regulatory headache, as U.S. authorities investigate the mining company over an impairment booked in 2012.

The Anglo-Australian miner said on Thursday it is cooperating with a probe by the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission, which it said started in 2013. The company was responding to media reports that the SEC is examining the timing of $3 billion in impairment charges on a Mozambique coal deal.

The write-down came as part of $14 billion in charges—including against another ill-timed deal, Rio’s 2007 acquisition of Alcan Inc.—that in early 2013 triggered the departure of Tom Albanese as chief executive.

News of the investigation comes as Rio Tinto pursues a separate internal investigation of payments made to a consultant who helped it acquire mining rights in Guinea. Rio Tinto has said it turned over emails and additional information about the payments to authorities in the U.K., Australia and the U.S.

That probe prompted the company last month to fire one of its most senior operational executives and its head of legal and regulatory affairs, sending shock waves through the executive ranks.

“I take integrity and our code of conduct very, very seriously,” Jean-Sébastien Jacques, who has led the global miner since July, said at an industry event in Melbourne, Australia last week. He declined to comment further on the Guinea situation.

On Thursday, Rio Tinto said it would be “inappropriate to comment further” on the Mozambique probe while the investigation continues. A representative for the SEC couldn’t immediately be reached for comment.

Rio acquired its Mozambique coal business in 2011 through its $3.7 billion takeover of Riversdale Mining Ltd., as coal prices were rocketing on ballooning demand from Asia and supply disruptions in major coal-producing countries. Riversdale projected Mozambique would become one of the world’s big coking-coal exporters.

But coal prices then fell as new mines planned during the boom moved into production.

In Mozambique, Rio Tinto had planned to ship the coal along the Zambezi River. That proved unworkable because of problems encountered dredging the river and securing the required government approvals. The coal’s high ash content also required costly processing, while the miner downgraded estimates on how much coal it could actually recover from the deposit.

When announcing the large write-down, Rio Tinto chairman Jan du Plessis described it as “unacceptable.” Doug Ritchie, who led the acquisition and integration of the Mozambique coal assets, also stepped down at that time.

It turned out to be a costly deal for Rio Tinto. In 2014, the company sold the Mozambique business, which included a majority stake in the Benga mine and other coal projects in the Tete province, to an Indian investment group for $50 million.

—Ian Walker contributed to this article.

Write to Rhiannon Hoyle at rhiannon.hoyle@wsj.com
Rethinking Africa’s Resource Curse: Lessons From Guinea And Mozambique
The Market Mogul

The mining world was rocked earlier this month after swirling corruption allegations stemming from the Simandou iron ore mine in Guinea led to the dismissal of two top-level Rio Tinto executives and cast even more doubt over a project that has languished for two decades.

In a separate development, Mozambique’s government has been tussling with the IMF and its international creditors, after it used state-backed loans to buy several patrol boats to protect its huge offshore gas reserves and rich tuna grounds from illegal incursions.

The Curse Of Wealth

While seemingly unrelated, the two cases are a painful reminder of the many forms the resource curse can take in Africa and show just how hard it is for resource-rich countries to monetise their wealth. In their bid to improve living standards for their populations, the two countries have actually achieved the opposite effect – but for a host of different reasons.

Over two billion tonnes of high-grade iron ore with an estimated value of $80bn and the potential to add $6bn to the country’s GDP sit idle in Guinea’s Simandou, waiting to be collected by Anglo-Australian mining giant Rio Tinto.

The project has been held under license by Rio Tinto since the early 1990s, but Guinea’s deep-rooted corruption prevented it from ever seeing the light of day. In 2008, Rio Tinto lost a portion of the northern tracts to the whims of former dictator Lansana Conté, who sold the remainder to BSG Resources (BSGR).

BSGR then sold half of what it had purchased to Brazil’s Vale. After a review of the leases by current President Alpha Condé in 2014, BSGR was stripped of its licenses by the government, alleging that BSGR obtained its rights by way of corruption.

Enter The Lawsuits

Still reeling from the loss of billions of dollars of easily-harvested iron ore, BSGR was served with a lawsuit by Vale seeking $1.1bn in damages due to losses the firm alleges it sustained from BSGR’s actions in Guinea.

Likely passing Vale’s process server in the hallway at BSGR’s headquarters was a server sent from Rio Tinto with papers notifying BSGR that it was suing both them and Vale for allegedly stealing its concessions in Guinea by using confidential and proprietary information to aid it in pulling off the alleged heist.

Though Rio’s lawsuit was ultimately dismissed for failing to file before the statute of limitations had run, the legal (and possibly illegal) wrangling over ownership rights has caused what has been called the El Dorado of iron ore to waste away. Experts believe it could be up to a decade before any of the high-quality iron ore hits the market and the people of Guinea finally reap a fraction of the benefit of their iron ore resources.

This entire legal kerfuffle was made possible by Guinea’s pervasive climate of corruption. At the same time that Rio Tinto, Vale and BSGR were suing each other, China Hongqiao, the world’s top aluminium company, quietly bought the rights to a massive bauxite mine in Guinea – which is expected to become one of the biggest in the world and create thousands of jobs in the process.

But even here, the resource curse rears its ugly head. Chinese bauxite mining tends to be highly destructive to the environment, leading to the contamination of water sources with radioactive materials and increasing the incidence of cancer cases among the native population. The Boké bauxite mine in Guinea might turn out to be a devil in disguise, harming the country’s population in ways unseen since the Probo Koala toxic waste dump in Cote d’Ivoire.

The Inability To Monetise

Guinea is scarcely alone when it comes to a seemingly chronic inability to benefit from the wealth beneath its feet. However, much of the continent finds itself unable to make full (or any) use of its natural wealth due to environmental and political factors.

Nigeria, Angola, Papua New Guinea (Bougainville), Chad, and Sudan have all experienced internal conflicts in recent years fueled at least in part over control of petroleum resources. Economists have even found a strong correlation between a country’s dependence on the export of commodities (especially petroleum) and the likelihood of civil war.

Mozambique, the other country making headlines, found itself handcuffed by forces beyond its control when it attempted to market its sixteen trillion cubic feet of natural gas, discovered offshore in 2012. The effort at bringing it to market is known as the Coral South Project, an endeavour launched by Italian firm Eni.

The company has invested billions in the project, which was expected to begin production in the year 2018. However, the investment was thrown into doubt after the IMF raised questions over a series of loans taken out by Mozambique aimed at protecting its piracy-prone coastline.

Fighting Pirates

Although not at the frenetic levels of 2010, piracy in the Mozambique Channel is still a very real problem, and it is a problem that the country’s government could not address. A few years ago, Mozambique had a total of one oceangoing vessel capable of occasionally patrolling the area. As a result of budget and equipment realities, the Mozambique navy (such as it was) generally stayed in port until needed, which means its arrival is usually far too late to do anything other than count bodies.

With billions of dollars hidden beneath the ocean floor, Mozambique decided to ramp up the protection of its waters through a series of loans taken out by government-backed agencies, anticipating a spike in piracy once mining operations started.

However, this action was not without its own negative repercussions, as the IMF temporarily cut off funding to the country. Further criticism has also mounted over the use of the assets such as patrol vessels, which remain stationed at the port not being used.

Outside Obstacles

The paradox of the resource curse struck again, this time in a different form: in its bid to create the infrastructure that would improve the population’s living standards, Mozambique was blocked by international creditors. Unlike Guinea, there is a silver lining in Mozambique’s saga: on November 21, Eni’s Board approved the Coral project, which is expected to start shortly.

Africa is already the world’s fastest-growing continent, with consumer spending set to double in the next ten years. By 2050, its population will have doubled (to more than 2.2 billion people), and its GDP could grow from around $2trn today to $29trn, depending on economic trends. The path is, therefore, clear: Africa is set to prosper – the only question is just how zigzagged its road to success will be.
Zambia's HIV 'Warrior' MP Taking on Taboos
By Kennedy Gondwe
BBC World Service, Lusaka
30 November 2016

Princess Kasune is one of Zambia's most outspoken HIV activists and was elected as an opposition MP in August.

She tested positive to HIV in 1997 and the next year went public about her status, defying her husband - and traditional taboos - in doing so.

"I felt like a ray of light had hit me after testing positive and I shouted 'Praise God!'. Such a reaction was not humanly possible even for me to understand but I looked at it as an avenue to change the lives of others," the 40-year-old told the BBC.

"When I realised that I was HIV-positive, I realised that I had a responsibility to spread the news from how it can be contracted, how it can be prevented and also breaking the stigma and the silence."

For most of her life, Ms Kasune has been affected by the virus. Growing up in a rural village, she lost both her parents to Aids when she was 14 years old.

She became the head of the household, providing for her siblings, and was then married off at 18.

Excommunicated

Driven by a passion to see a generation free of HIV, her own decision to go public about her status divided opinion - not at least with her late husband whom she suspects infected her as his first two wives had died.

Ms Kasune's church excommunicated her for being defiant, and going against her spouse's wishes about keeping her HIV status a secret.

Her own family was also against her status being known.

"I have not taken any moment in my life lightly but I have realised that to each one of us, there is a challenge and in this generation, HIV is one of those challenges," she says.

"One day a question will be asked about what we did about HIV and I hope I will be able to answer my grandchildren and many generations to come.

"I long to see an HIV-free generation and hopefully a day without stigma."

And she has travelled worldwide as part of her mission, meeting leaders like former US Presidents Bill Clinton and George W Bush, as well as outgoing UN chief Ban Ki-moon.

Yet it is in Zambia that Ms Kasune, who has authored Warrior Princess - a book chronicling her life, wants to make the biggest impact.

This is what prompted her to run for parliament for the opposition United Party for National Development and become the first publicly known HIV-positive MP.

During her maiden speech, she reminded her fellow lawmakers about the importance of testing for the virus.

"It's important for parliamentarians in particular to go for HIV tests in public or share their HIV status because leaders set the pace in everything that we do in a country," Ms Kasune later told the BBC.

"I think leaders have a big role and many more people will follow when they do that."

'Hiding our status fuels stigma'

Her constituency is located about an hour north of the capital, Lusaka, and her visits are celebrated.

At a school she has helped construct through Fountain of Life, an organisation she co-founded, pupils sing her praises.

Zambia's HIV figures
A sign in Zambia attached to a tree reading: Image copyrightTHINKSTOCK
Number of people living with HIV: 1.2 million
Adults aged 15 to 49, prevalence rate: 12.9%
Aids-related deaths last year: 20,000
Aids orphans, up to age of 17: 380 000
Source: UNAids - Zambia 2015 estimates

"She has inspired a lot of people including myself in the sense that if a person is HIV-positive and has come out openly, that's a good thing because people are dying because of stigma," says head teacher Godfrey Monga.

"When people were voting for her, being HIV-positive was not an issue. Her courage shows that even if one is positive, they can be productive in society."

Zambia is among the countries with the most HIV cases in Africa - about 1.2 million people, out of a population of about 14 million - are believed to have the virus that causes Aids.

And analysts believe that confronting stigma is key in the fight against the epidemic.

"If people were to come out in the open, we would actually break the stigma… fuelled by hiding behind closed doors. Some of us are not even telling our partners, are not telling our friends," says Constance Mudenda from the government-owned Centre for Infection Diseases Research in Zambia (CIDRZ), who is herself HIV-positive.

The Zambian government has employed different strategies in combating HIV, like encouraging male circumcision, preventing mother-to-child transmission and warning against multiple concurrent partners.

Dr Chitalu Chilufya, the country's health minister, says leaders can play a crucial role in fighting HIV.

"By seeing a leader come out in the open, the public will actually ease about the scourge.

"So they will say if our leader can come out in the open, why won't we?"

For Ms Kasune, whose old church has now apologised for excommunicating her, confronting HIV requires all leaders pulling in the same direction.

The MP, who has re-married and has three children who are all negative, compares their role to that of a parent.

"Children are likely to do what we have been doing rather than what we have been saying.

"So I think we need to summon the courage and test publicly or share our results with the public," she says.

But it is not clear if all parliamentarians will be so bold.
Zambian Ruling Party Officials Calls Legal Group Hypocrites
Peter Adamu
December 1, 2016
 
Sunday Chanda PF official Sunday Chanda has branded the organisation hypocrites charging it was politically inclined to champion opposition UPND agenda.

BELOW IS CHANDA’S STATEMENT

LAZ MUST QUIT ITS HYPOCRISY GAME – SUNDAY CHANDA, PF MEDIA COMMITTEE MEMBER

Lusaka, Zambia, 30th November 2016 –

The Law Association of Zambia (LAZ) opposition inclined leadership has once again shown that it will clutch at every straw to openly show contempt towards President Edgar Chagwa Lungu and anyone deemed to be close to him.

This is one sad clear pattern we have noticed ever since President Lungu convincingly won the heavily contested August 11 polls were the man they overtly support Mr Hakainde Hichilema of UPND tumbled for what appeared like the umpteenth time. We feel the pain of LAZ, especially that of its greenhorn leader Ms Linda Kasonde.

We understand LAZ’s shared contempt and bitterness with Mr Hichilema and the UPND after the devastating loss as they continue to lick their wounds but there is something we do not want to allow to continue.

We do not want LAZ and UPND to continue misleading the nation that there is a neutral call for justice and accountability, of President Lungu and those that work for him such as Mr Amos Chanda, his spokesman.

It is unfair for LAZ and UPND to intimate that President Lungu is directly or remotely interfering with the judiciary in Zambia when history is replete with numerous incidents of President Lungu, a friend of the bench abiding with the law even when he could have arm-twisted matters ex officio.

Below are some explicit examples that demonstrate President Lungu’s respect for the law of the land.
• When President Michael Chilufya Sata died on 28th October 2014 (MHSRIP), a scheme by those close to LAZ was hatched to grab power from acting President Lungu. Instead of fighting the hostile take-over and create two centres of power, President Lungu gave up power in order to maintain law and order

• At party level when the party was divided on the mode of adopting a candidate to replace President Sata as the PF leader with the majority wanting President Lungu to take over, the Head of State still chose the hard route of going to a national convention that needed to be attended by no less than 4000 delegates from all ten provinces of Zambia

• When he did not need to after his first popular election of January 2015, President Lungu went ahead and signed a constitution that did not favour him by including the much-dreaded 50 percent plus one vote, albeit through his immense popularity, defied critics and beat the LAZ and Mast (formerly The Post) supported Hichilema hands down again.

• After he won the popular vote with an extra 100,000 votes to spare and got declared winner by the influential Electoral Commission of Zambia (ECZ) on 15th August 2016, President Lungu did not assume office despite direct and indirect intimations for him to assume office. This was in the back drop of receiving an unprecedented flow of international endorsements emanating from Washington, Beijing, Downing Street and Buckingham Palace and the local church to mention but a few that felt the election was fairly won by President Lungu.

• President Lungu waited until the day the Constitution Court returned with a decision that echoed that of the ECZ chief Judge Esau Chulu. Only then did he agree to be sworn in as Sixth President of Zambia on 13th September 2016.

All this time, Hichilema and his running mate Geoffrey Mwamba had refused to accept the legally declared results, casting aspersions on the Judge Chulu led ECZ and the entire international community.

President Lungu sucked it all in and now barely one hundred days after he assumed office, his Spokesman says the judiciary is not above reproach just like everyone else in Zambia, including President Lungu who was taken to the Concourt, the UPND backed LAZ flags are flying relentlessly, airing the LAZ presser live on their page and baying for Mr Chanda’s blood, whom by extension they associate with President Lungu and we feel it is not fair.

What is fair in our view is that Ms Kasonde, UPND and the questionable Mast must come out in the open and state that they are one political front bent on one thing—the opposition of President Lungu.

We have said in the past that we wonder “where Ms Kasonde was the day they taught law in law school” given her open lack of depth and impartiality in dealing with issues and we are going to say it again.

Except this time we are going to add regarding Ms Kasonde that, “there is nothing more dangerous in a game of political chess than a pawn that thinks it’s a Queen.”

Ms Kasonde, Mr Hichilema, UPND and The Mast, collectively and or individually, please wake up and smell the coffee—President Lungu is the President of Zambia, legally elected, legally, sworn in and legally in State House. You have another five bitter years to wait.

Where was Ms Kasonde and LAZ when Mr. Hichilema attacked Judges Anne Sitali, Pallan Mulonda and Mungeni Mulenga whom he likened to the biblical Judas Iscariot who betrayed a cause for pieces of silver?

Where was LAZ when the UPND leader insulted the Judiciary with such impunity that every reasonable Zambian thought he would be cited for contempt of Court! Zambians recall that on 10th September 2016, UPND leader Mr. Hichilema charged that constitutional court judges were paid huge amounts of money to deliberately lapse the UPND petition to nullify the re-election of President Edgar Lungu in the 11th August general elections. Why did LAZ keep quite unless they clapped and nodded in approval of Mr. Hichilema’s lies and insults targeted at the Judiciary! On the date, Mr. Hichilema described the Constitutional Court judges as thugs and criminals who, according to him, had raped the Constitution and were therefore not worth the gowns they wore as they lacked integrity and impartiality. Where were Ms. Linda Kasonde and her LAZ to condemn these insults and label them as contemptuous?!

This is the hypocrisy we must question and LAZ must come out clean. LAZ especially under Ms Kasonde is not above public criticism over its conduct.

Lastly, we challenge LAZ to tell Zambians why Ms. Kasonde’s Press Conference was being streamed Live on Mr. Hakainde Hichilema’s Facebook Page. Could it be that Mr. Hichilema was privy to Ms. Kasonde’s statement? Could it be that LAZ is in liaison with the UPND?

Issued By:
MR. SUNDAY CHILUFYA CHANDA
PF MEDIA COMMITTEE MEMBER
TRANSNATIONAL APOLOGISTS SAY 'TAX RISE IN TANZANIA THREATENS FOREIGN DIRECT INVESTMENT'
Ventures

After the 2015 general elections, Tanzania elected President John Magufuli. He promised to transform an economy hobbled by bureaucracy and corruption and carry out a major building program. To drive this economic growth, higher tax bills have been imposed on companies, therefore, big foreign investors plan to relocate to neighbouring countries.

Adolf Mkenda, Permanent Secretary of trade and investment, said, Mr Magufuli is optimistic about eradicating poverty and wiping out corruption to improve the standard of living. He said his strict tax laws top the list of companies’ complaints; Magufuli’s government imposed tax hikes this year on mobile money transfers, banking, tourism services and cargo transit services. He also warned that the burden should not be passed to consumers.

Magufuli’s administration plans to shake-up the economy because Tanzania is lagging behind its east African neighbours. Recent years saw strong annual growth of about 7 percent but this was attributed to a low base and Kenya still has a bigger economy despite having a small land area and fewer people.

Multinational companies operating in Tanzania include energy firms Statoil, Royal Dutch Shell, Exxon Mobil and Ophir Energy; engineering firms Ferrostaal Industrial Projects and Haldor Topspe; telecoms companies Millicom, Airtel, and Vodacom; mining firms Anglo Gold Ashanti and Acacia Mining and shipping firms such as Maersk.

At most seven companies are rethinking their business and investment plans, according to Reuters interviews with senior executives at a dozen of the biggest foreign firms. Three companies said they could scale back operations in the East Africa nation, two said they planned to set up in other countries on the continent, while one said it was in the process of withdrawing from Tanzania. The companies requested for privacy before the proceeding is concluded.

At the moment, five among seven companies are unaffected. Meanwhile, two of this five are involved in giant projects, a $30 billion LNG plant and a $3 billion fertilizer plant, of which one firm has not responded to the government reforms.

Company executives say the Tanzanian Government risks disrupting its economic plans by turning away key investment and jobs from the developing nation.

Economically, telecoms and mining sectors account for 4 percent of the Gross Domestic Product (GDP). Tanzania is more reliant on foreign direct investment than many other regional countries, given the size of its economy. It received just over $1.5 billion last year, into an economy valued at under $45 billion, according to figures from the UN Conference on Trade and Investment and the World Bank.

This year, the tax revenue is expected to rise above 50 percent (15.1 trillion shillings) from last years’ 9.8 trillion shillings ($4.5billion). Richard Kayombo, director of the Tanzania Revenue Authority (TRA), said increased tax income was needed to pay for new infrastructure in the country. In the past TRA won nine out of 10 recent tax cases in court, which revealed that their bills were fair.
Banana Exporter Jovenel Moise Wins Haiti’s Presidential Election
December 1, 2016 at 2:44 PM EST

Jovenel Moise addresses the media next to his wife Martine in Port-au-Prince, Haiti, after winning 55.67 percent of the vote in the Nov. 20 presidential election, according to the electoral council. Photo by Jeanty Junior Augustin/Reuters

Jovenel Moise, known as “Banana Man” because he exports produce, won Haiti’s Nov. 20 presidential election with more than half of the vote, Haiti’s electoral council announced this week.

The 48-year-old entrepreneur, who was former President Michel Martelly’s handpicked successor, appeared to win among a field of 27 candidates. The vote, however, will not be certified until late December.

Moise won most of the votes during Haiti’s first attempted election in 2015. But he didn’t get a majority, so run-off votes were subsequently scheduled and postponed for various reasons, including accusations of fraud and the effects of Hurricane Matthew.

Martelly was constitutionally required to step down at the end of his term in February, and an interim president, Jocelerme Privert, took his place.

On Nov. 20, Moise won 55 percent of the vote. As president, he will face a divided government and a country that continues to rebuild from a 2010 earthquake and Hurricane Matthew earlier this year.

Moise said in an interview with the Associated Press that he also wants to improve the economic conditions of the rural poor. “It’s really important to change the lifestyle of these people,” he said.


Haiti - News : Zapping Politics...

30/11/2016 11:52:07
Haiti Liberte

Haiti - News : Zapping politics... The victory of Jovenel Moïse acquired ?

Deputy Price Cyprien and Senator Andris Riché (pro Jovenel Moïse) believe that the victory of Jovenel Moïse is acquired and that the challenges will be a waste of time...

The elections were a success

"The elections of November 20 were a success and the results are apparently good. That candidates who want to challenge, contest but do not seek a pretext to engage in violence," said Rosny Desroches, Executive Director of the Civil Society Initiative (ISC)

Edouard Paultre calls for calm

Edouard Paultre of the Civil Society calls for calm and invites the losers to legal challenge and peaceful. http://www.haitilibre.com/en/news-19383-haiti-flash-incidents-and-violence-around-preliminary-results.html

Tributes and sympathies to Fidel Castro

On Monday, de facto President Jocelerme Privert signed on behalf of the Haitian people, a book of condolences open to the Cuban Embassy in Peguy-ville, expressing Haitians' sympathy for towards the Cuban people, which has just lost its emblematic Head of State, Fidel Castro.

On the same day former President Michel Martelly signed the Book of Condolences at the Embassy of Cuba.

Also Monday, the Ambassador of Haiti in London, signed the book of condolences at the Embassy of Cuba in London "Adios Comandante"

On Tuesday, Jovenel Moïse and his wife Martine again presented their sincere sympathies to the Cuban Nation. The couple went to the Embassy of Cuba in Haiti with Ambassador Luis Castillo Campos to pay tribute to Fidel Castro and sign the condolence register http://www.haitilibre.com/en/news-19349-haiti-flash-fidel-castro-passed-away.html

The CFI in Spain

At the invitation of Caribbean Export, Ms. Norma Powell, General Manager of the Investment Facilitation Center (CFI), accompanied by Keren Marcellus, Director of Facilitation Operations and Radley Joseph, Deputy Director of Promotion, participates in the "Mediterranean Free Trade and Special Economic Zones Forum" to be held in Barcelona, Spain, from 30 November to 2 December 2016.

France takes note
At the daily press briefing, the spokesperson of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and International Development declared : France takes note of the preliminary results of the first round of the presidential elections in Haiti, which place very largely in head the candidate of the PHTK, Jovenel Moïse. Pending publication of final results on 29 December, France calls on all political actors to respect electoral rules."

HL/ HaitiLibre 
Militarist Hawk General 'Mad Dog' Mattis Nominated by Trump to Head Pentagon
Mattis would be only the second retired general to become the civilian leader of the military.

By BRYAN BENDER and ANDREW HANNA
Politico
12/01/16 08:46 PM EST

President-elect Donald Trump has picked retired Marine Gen. James Mattis to be his secretary of defense, tapping yet another outspoken ex-military leader who butted heads with the Obama administration to shape and carry out his national security strategy.

If confirmed, the highly decorated battlefield commander would be only the second retired general to become defense secretary — and would require a special waiver from Congress in the form of separate legislation.

“I will not tell you that one of our great, great generals — don’t let it outside of this room,” Trump teased a rally in Cincinnati Thursday night, playing up the drama. “We are going to appoint 'Mad Dog' Mattis as our secretary of defense … but we are not announcing it until Monday, so don’t tell anyone. He’s great.”

"They say he’s the closest thing to Gen. George Patton that we have and it’s about time," he added, referring to the impolitic and aggressive battlefield commander in World War II. "It’s about time.”

Hours earlier, Trump's transition team had denied that he had settled on a defense secretary despite a report in The Washington Post that Mattis was the choice. "No decision has been made yet with regard to Secretary of Defense," spokesman Jason Miller tweeted at 4:40 p.m.

Mattis, 66, so nicknamed for his salty language and obsessive dedication to the military, was the top U.S. commander in Iraq and Afghanistan from 2010 to 2013. He had earlier co-authored a counterinsurgency strategy manual credited with helping to halt some of the worst sectarian violence in Iraq before the U.S. military withdrawal in December 2011.

But as head of the U.S. Central Command he also clashed with President Barack Obama's National Security Council, particularly over Iran, which Mattis has called “the single most enduring threat to stability and peace in the Middle East."

It's a view that aligns more closely with Trump and his pick for White House national security adviser, retired Lt. Gen. Michael Flynn, whom the Obama administration had removed as head of the Defense Intelligence Agency in 2014. Both Trump and Flynn have advocated pulling out of an agreement reached with Iran last year to curtail its nuclear weapons program in exchange for a lifting of economic sanctions and eventually removing the arms embargo.

Yet not all of Mattis' views are so in sync with Trump and Flynn, who have made friendly gestures to Russian President Vladimir Putin. Mattis has expressed deep wariness of Russia's intentions, saying it wants “to break NATO apart.”

During the campaign Mattis did not hold back in criticizing Trump and some of his rhetoric, including the president-elect's comments that NATO was obsolete and that its members don't pay their fair share.

“Some of those allies have lost more troops per capita in Afghanistan than we have,’’ Mattis, who also served as NATO’s supreme allied commander for transformation, told POLITICO in July. “Some of them are spending 20 percent of their national budget on defense.”

On Trump’s call for a ban on Muslim immigrants, Mattis said that such talk prompts U.S. allies to think “we have lost faith in reason.”

“They think we’ve completely lost it," he said. "This kind of thing is causing us great damage right now, and it’s sending shock waves through this international system.

The general has also espoused some views that break with the majority of his fellow military leaders. He has expressed reservations about allowing women to serve in combat, telling the Marines' Memorial Club in San Francisco that "the idea of putting women in there is not setting them up for success." He has also questioned whether the U.S. nuclear arsenal needs to consist of submarines, bombers and land-based missiles. "Is it time to reduce the Triad to a Diad, removing the land‐based missiles?" he asked the Senate Armed Services Committee last year.

The pick was swiftly lauded by the GOP national security establishment.

"He brings a clear-eyed view to the potential adversaries our nation faces, including Russia," Tom Spoehr, director of the Center for National Defense at the conservative Heritage Foundation, said in a statement, calling the general "an outstanding selection for this critically important position."

Mattis has key backers on Capitol Hill, including Sen. John McCain, the Arizona Republican who chairs the Armed Services Committee, which would lead the confirmation process.

"General Mattis is one of the finest military officers of his generation and an extraordinary leader who inspires a rare and special admiration of his troops," McCain said in a recent statement. "He is a forthright strategic thinker. His integrity is unshakable and unquestionable. And he has earned his knowledge and experience the old-fashioned way: in the crucible of our nation's defense and the service of heroes.

“General Mattis has a clear understanding of the many challenges facing the Department of Defense, the U.S. military and our national security," McCain added.

Since retiring from the Marine Corps, Mattis has served on the board of defense giant General Dynamics, as well as Theranos, a Silicon Valley biotech company that came under scrutiny for its business practices — and which Mattis reportedly advocated on behalf of before the military despite agreeing not to.

He's also a fellow at the Hoover Institution, a conservative think tank at Stanford University in Palo Alto, Calif., and has done some private consulting.

Mattis' elevation to Trump's Cabinet would make him a first among equals.

Apart from the president, only the defense secretary has the legal authority to order the military into action. And while the decision to launch a nuclear attack rests solely with the commander-in-chief, the procedures require secondary confirmation from the defense secretary, though he does not get a veto.

But to get the job Mattis will need something highly unusual: a waiver. As a result, his selection is viewed by some as a major departure from tradition.

Mattis is technically ineligible to be Defense secretary because the law requires retired military officers to be out of uniform for seven years before they can become the military's civilian leader. That's in an effort to ensure that civilian control of the armed forces, a bedrock of the American democratic tradition, remains inviolate.

Unless Congress votes and the president signs an exception, "a person may not be appointed as secretary of defense within seven years after relief from active duty as a commissioned officer of a regular component of an armed force," the law says.

"It happened once," Harold Brown, who was defense secretary under President Jimmy Carter from 1977 to 1981, told POLITICO. "And that was George Marshall," the Army's legendary chief of staff in World War II, who went to become both secretary of State and secretary of defense under President Harry Truman. "Congress had to pass a separate law exempting him."

In 1994, President Bill Clinton picked retired Adm. Bobby Inman to be Defense secretary, but he had been off of active duty for the required period and his nomination was ultimately withdrawn anyway.

When Congress passed a waiver for Marshall in 1950, it made clear it did not want to set a precedent.

"It is hereby expressed as the intent of the Congress that the authority granted by this Act is not to be construed as approval by the Congress of continuing appointments of military men to the office of Secretary of Defense in the future," its report accompanying the legislation said. "It is hereby expressed as the sense of the Congress that after General Marshall leaves the office of secretary of defense, no additional appointments of military men to that office shall be approved."

"The Congress' report at the time said it is very unusual," Brown said, "and should probably never happen again. This is a significant barrier, though it is not in insuperable one. The Trump administration would have to make a very compelling case. Mattis doesn't have the standing of George Marshall. They'd have to make the case he is another George Marshall."

Some Republicans think he may be.

Earlier this year, a bloc of GOP hawks who opposed Trump's candidacy tried to persuade Mattis to run for president as a third-party candidate, though he expressed no interest.

Congressional aides say work is already underway to determine the legislative language needed to grant Mattis a waiver.

Arnold Punaro, a former staff member of the Senate Armed Services Committee who helped craft the current statute, said that while Mattis' waiver would need to be approved by both houses of Congress and signed by the president, he does not see it as a major problem.

"He would not in any way undermine or erode civilian control of the military, and it would be hard to find someone who would be less likely to be pushed around by the military and he is now a civilian and would be firmly in charge," said Punaro, calling Mattis a "stellar choice."

One of Mattis' fellow retired generals also doesn't anticipate it will pose much of a roadblock.

"Waivers are waivers," said retired Army Lt. Gen. Mick Bednarek, who until last year was the top U.S. military adviser in Iraq. "In the case of Jim Mattis, that would not be too contentious. The real issue is his views and perspectives."

Mattis is known as one of the most blunt battlefield commanders of his generation. He is mostly revered — but also reviled by some — for his rough edges and controversial comments, traits that have gotten him into hot water.

“You go into Afghanistan, you got guys who slap around women for five years because they didn’t wear a veil,” he said in in 2005. “You know guys like that ain’t got no manhood left anyway, so it’s a hell of a lot of fun to shoot them.”

Also in his rhetorical repertoire: “The first time you blow someone away is not an insignificant event. That said, there are some a------- in the world that just need to be shot.”

But despite his candor, Mattis is also considered a “warrior monk" for the library of books he carried from post to post, ranging from Roman philosophy to Sun Tzu's "The Art of War."

“You are part of the world’s most feared and trusted force," he once told forces under his command. "Engage your brain before you engage your weapon.”

Mattis, who is unmarried, was also known as the rare commander who could be found visiting his troops in their fighting positions, or volunteering to be the watch officer on Christmas so one of his underlings could be with his family.

"His dedication is unparalleled. He is married to the the nation," Bednarek told POLITICO. "He has a 100 percent focus on mission accomplishment. His forte is his leadership and his thoughtfulness."

Retired Adm. William Fallon, who was Mattis' boss early in the Iraq War, said he believes Mattis may be just the right person to run the Pentagon.

While he has vast experience in war, he has also been outspoken in recent years about the need for clearer goals and policies to guide it.

"The most important thing is that Jim's got a really good understanding that you need to have a good policy framework before digging foxholes," Fallon told POLITICO. "He has been urging leadership to focus on coming up with policies before sending troops into action."

"That is what is really needed right now," Fallon added.

Eli Stokols, Austin Wright and Jeremy Herb contributed to this report.
Michael Flynn, a Top Trump Adviser, Ties China and North Korea to Jihadists
By EDWARD WONG
New York Times
NOV. 30, 2016

President-elect Donald J. Trump’s pick for national security adviser, retired Lt. Gen. Michael T. Flynn, has been much more outspoken about militant Islamists than he has about China and North Korea, the two main strategic concerns of the United States in Asia.

That has left scholars and analysts looking for clues about his views on Asia. A book published in July for which he was a co-author, “The Field of Fight: How We Can Win the Global War Against Radical Islam and Its Allies,” offers some tea leaves. The half-dozen mentions of China and North Korea are couched in generalities, but there are glimpses into what the general thinks of the two nations.

General Flynn wrote that the United States needed to confront a global “alliance” between “radical Islamists” and the governments of China and North Korea, as well as Russia.

China and North Korea are officially secular Communist states, and China has blamed religious extremists for violence in Muslim areas of its Xinjiang region. In the book, General Flynn acknowledges that people may find the idea of an alliance between the Communist nations and jihadists to be strange, but asserts that it exists. He does not go into details on the alliance.

General Flynn is about to take on one of the most important foreign policy jobs in the United States government. He will be expected to coordinate policy-making agencies, manage competing voices and act as Mr. Trump’s main adviser, and perhaps arbiter, on foreign policy.

By appointing General Flynn, a former Army intelligence officer, Mr. Trump has signaled that he intends to prioritize policy on the Middle East and jihadist groups, though the Obama administration seems to have stressed to Mr. Trump the urgency of dealing with North Korea’s nuclear program.

General Flynn is an outspoken critic of political Islam and has advocated a global campaign led by the United States against “radical Islam.” He once wrote in a Twitter post that “Fear of Muslims is RATIONAL.”

Based on his book, that campaign is the framework through which General Flynn sees China and North Korea. In the introduction, he wrote that radical Islamists “are not alone, and are allied with countries and groups who, though not religious fanatics, share their hatred of the West, particularly the United States and Israel.”

The introduction continued, “Those allies include North Korea, Russia, China, Cuba and Venezuela.”

The general expanded on his definition of the anti-Western alliance: “The war is on. We face a working coalition that extends from North Korea and China to Russia, Iran, Syria, Cuba, Bolivia, Venezuela and Nicaragua. We are under attack, not only from nation-states directly, but also from Al Qaeda, Hezbollah, ISIS and countless other terrorist groups.”

“Suffice to say, the same sort of cooperation binds together jihadis, Communists and garden-variety tyrants,” he added.

General Flynn mentioned reports that North Korea had cooperated with Syria and Iran on nuclear programs and trade. Iran is the “linchpin” of the global anti-Western network, he wrote.

The general also wrote that there was a common ideology that bound the nations and militant Islamists together. “There are many similarities between these dangerous and vicious radicals and the totalitarian movements of the last century,” he wrote. “No surprise that we are facing an alliance between Radical Islamists and regimes in Havana, Pyongyang, Moscow and Beijing. Both believe that history, and/or Allah, blesses their efforts, and so both want to ensure that this glorious story is carefully told.”

Early in his career, General Flynn served with the 25th Infantry Division in the Asia-Pacific region. He wrote: “This opened up my eyes to the type of enemies we saw across a wide swath of the Asia-Pacific rim. There were many, and still are.”

General Flynn did not reply to a request made via Twitter on Wednesday for an interview.

John Delury, a scholar of Chinese history and the Koreas at Yonsei University in Seoul, South Korea, said in an interview that after reading General Flynn’s book, he was struck by the contrast between the general’s focus on Islam and the Obama administration’s “pivot” to Asia from the Middle East.

“Flynn’s obsession with eliminating radical Islam is likely to color his view of everything else — including key strategic questions facing East Asia, like the rise of China, resurgence of Japan and nuclear breakout of North Korea,” he said. “Running the National Security Council is all about juggling priorities, keeping your eye on the ball while maintaining strategic balance. Flynn doesn’t come across as much of a juggler. For him, there is only one ball out there. If Flynn is able to press his global war on radical Islam, America’s rivals in Asia will seize the opportunity to further their interests.”

Follow Edward Wong on Twitter @comradewong.
Libya Remains in Political Crisis Says Mohamed Dayri
By Michel Cousins.
Tunis, 29 November 2016:

With Libya in political stalemate, the refusal of many in the international community to have any contact with the interim government in Beida has added to problems, not helped solve them says its foreign minister, Mohamed Dayri.

In a wide-ranging interview with the Libya Herald, his first after being reinstated as minister after a six-month suspension, Dayri took to task the UN and a number of normally friendly countries for their decision to have nothing to do with his government and instead recognise the Presidency Council’s “Government of National Accord” (GNA).

Libya was in crisis, he said. It therefore made political sense to be in contact with the interim government led by Abdullah Al-Thinni even though there was a UN resolution recognising not just the Presidency Council but also its GNA. It, he pointed out, had no legitimacy in Libya because it had not been approved by the democratically-elected House of Representatives.

“Irrespective of the legitimacy issue, in view of the prevailing situation, the very painful situation that Libya has seen itself in, I would have expected that some Arab nations and some parties in Europe and elsewhere would reach out to us because we are part of the political spectrum that everybody has to deal with,” he said.

“The situation warrants that we should have been included in some of the very substantive discussions that have prevailed.”

There were not even back channels of communication, he revealed.

“The situation is so bad that Arab, European and other countries in the world should be in contact with us. Back channels should be present. But they’re not there, to our great dismay.”

Yet, he pointed out, when the so-called government of national salvation had been in power in Tripoli after Abdullah Thinni’s legitimate, internationally-recognised government was forced out by Libya Dawn and had to go to Beida, backchannels had been operating.

“We know that many Arab countries and others kept some backdoor channels with the then ‘Salvation government’. So we would have expected that the international community would reach out to us. It ought to do so because we are part of a political side that can contribute to a solution.”

In any event, Dayri indicated hypocrisy in the international community’s stance towards his government. In Yemen, the UN mediator was working with both parties to the conflict, the government and those who used arms to try and force their way to power. “But at least there are two sides involved.

In Libya too there had been two sides: “a side that took to arms and challenged a legitimate legislature and government that had been internationally recognised.”

But in Libya, Dayri points out, the international community then rejected the government chosen by the democratically-elected legislature and included instead individuals who had no real support.

“The Libyan process has seen many participants in the Dialogue Committee who have no influence whatsoever on the ground.”

The international community had, moreover, contributed to the crisis by forcing on the country a government, the GNA, which did not have a vote of confidence from the HoR and as such lacked legitimacy.

“It is something that many Libyans on our side have not been satisfied with, starting with myself.” The GNA, he said, “is perceived with negative implications, a western imposition”.  This translated into a resentment of the west.

Adding to that resentment, he noted, was the view that some in the international community have been trying to impose political Islam on Libya.

There is, he said, “a well-grounded belief that the international community has taken sides and puts too much emphasis on the family of political Islam in Libya”.

The aim of some western nations had been to separate the moderate Islamists from the radical ones.

“We don’t see dividends from that approach, not least because terrorism has been rife and growing in Libya”. Moreover, the Islamists had been overwhelmingly defeated in both general elections held in Libya since the counter-revolution, that for the General National Congress in 2012 and for the House of Representatives on 2014.

Some of the so-called moderates, he said, actually have supported terrorists financially and provided them with weapons. “Some are linked to ISIS and some to AQIM [Al-Qaeda in the Islamic Maghreb] which has been open in its support to some terrorist groups in Libya.”

It was time for many in international community – “and we’re not talking only about the US and the UK which some of my compatriots tend to confine the international community to” – to redress the situation and heed the aspirations of the Libyan people who, he said, wanted security and political stability. These would come from a national army, a police force, security agencies and a functioning and independent judiciary.

“If the international community does not seek to address these legitimate grievances, there will be no option but to seek help from the Arab League and African Union.”

Neither, he noted, had been involved in the negotiations that resulted in the Libyan Political Agreement. “The active participation of the AU and the Arab League would be likely to bring greater credibility to the political process which could lead to a government of national unity.”

In any event, he pointed out, the UN had accepted a tripartite coordination at its meeting in Cairo on 25 October with the Arab League and the African Union (AU).

Not just the Arab League and AU, but regional players, including Saudi Arabia, as well.

“It is of importance that we get Saudi Arabia or the UAE on board as the spearhead of an Arab League effort.”

It was also crucial that the international community reached out to some key regional powers – Egypt, the UAE, Saudi Arabia, Qatar and Turkey – to help in the process.

“I see some relevance in the French government approach which called a meeting on Libya on 3 October in Paris and which aimed at bringing some regional and international stakeholders around the same table.”

But the Saudis would not want to be seen imposing themselves on peace-making in Libya.

“The Saudis have rightly been stressing that Libyans and others agree to their involvement. They also want consensus among the regional powers.”

The wider international community, though, had to take a genuinely impartial stand.

“From the position I’ve been in, I’ve observed that there has been a keen interest in tackling the issue of Libya on the part of some western nations by putting pressure only on Egypt and the UAE.”

The other potential way forward, Dayri notes, is a new government.

“All sides, including our government and Prime Minister Thinni, have talked about the need to bring about a national government – a single government – and end this political divide that has translated into two, and now three, governments in Libya.”

One area where he does agree with the Presidency Council is that of the over-bloated Libyan diplomatic service.

Just over a month ago, the head of the PC, Faiez Serraj, issued a directive on embassy staffing which would result in a considerable reduction in numbers.

“The move has been the right one since Zeidan’s time. We have to cut the number of diplomats abroad,” Dayri said. But the PC was simply following in the Beida government’s footsteps, he said. He himself had already proposed cuts.

“Once diplomatic stability is back to Libya we’ll have to tackle diplomatic overstaffing. It’s of concern to all Libyans.”

But, he added, there was stiff resistance to what was a sorely needed move. “It’s still out there. We have the petty interests of some groups.”

It is an issue that has already caused him personal difficulties.

Even among states that stopped recognising the interim government, Dayri is widely respected and there was dismay, even incomprehension, when earlier this year he was suspended from office. It was the second time. He was suspended in September 2015 just after a successful visit to China. That suspension lasted two months. The more recent ended just three weeks ago.

It had been very frustrating, he said. Libyan public opinion, he believed, had also been frustrated with what had been unlawful and unnecessary moves and which had impacted negatively on the credibility of the ruling political players.

In both cases, he says, it was the result of nepotism and self-interest clashing with his refusal to appoint individuals related to members of the HoR or the government as top diplomats abroad. In the second case, “there was a fallacy put forward that I allowed the GNA to get a seat at the Arab League at the end of May”. Indeed, he stressed, he had taken part in the Arab League ministerial meeting with China in Doha in mid-May, having been invited to do so.

“I have been appalled by small groups in the political spectrum which succeeded in suspending me twice not because of the conduct of foreign policy or shortcomings in it but because of personal interests.

“I have been disenchanted by nepotism and the favouritism of some of the ruling political elite in the HoR or connected to the government.”

Those in positions of power and influence had to understand that Libya, “mired in chaos, with its riven politics, bankrupt economy, and the increased challenges posed by terrorism, requires that we stop this nonsense and we give precedence to the national interests so that we get ourselves out of the hole we’re currently in”.

He added: “We have to be above this. Libya is in deep trouble. We need to put national interests above self-interests.”
Libya's Coastal Cities Are 'Making Millions From People Smuggling'
Islamic extremist groups also said to be among those involved in smuggling business

Samuel Osborne @SamuelOsborne

Refugees jump into the water from a crowded wooden boat as they are helped during a rescue operation in the Mediterranean Sea, around 13 miles (20 kilometres) north of Sabratha, Libya, 29 August, 2016 AP

Libya's coastal cities are making up to €325m (£272m) in revenue each year from people smuggling, the commander of a EU military task force in the Mediterranean Sea says in a confidential report.

In a report to the EU's 28 nations, Rear Admiral Enrico Credendino warns "migrant smuggling, originating far beyond Libyan borders, remains a major source of income among locals in Libyan coastal cities".

The report, which was issued to EU member nations on Wednesday and seen by The Associated Press, provides no details as to how the figure was calculated.

Tens of thousands of refugees leaving Libya in unseaworthy boats have been picked up in the Mediterranean this year, often telling aid workers of the hundreds or thousands of euros they had to pay smugglers.

Mr Credendino also notes that Islamic extremist groups are among those involved in the smuggling business, which sometimes begins far south in Africa's Sahel zone.

"Al-Qaida and al-Qaida AQIM [al-Qaida in the Islamic Maghreb], aligned with the Tuareg tribe in southwestern Libya, are assessed to be financially exploiting these smuggling routes," he says.

However, he adds that there was no evidence extremists were trying to enter Europe via the dangerous Central Mediterranean route that passes from Libya to Italy.

Before risking their lives to cross the sea, refugees and migrants are frequently kidnapped by gangs and forced into "modern slavery".

Others are detained in labour camps or forced into prostitution until they can pay their way out.

With routes out of Libya controlled by militias and many borders closed, the only option open for escape open to refugees are the flimsy rubber boats sent into the Mediterranean Sea by smugglers.

The treacherous passage across the Mediterranean Sea from Libya to Italy has become the dominant route after the controversial EU-Turkey deal aimed to close the shorter and comparatively safer path across the Aegean Sea.

It has claimed the vast majority of over 4,600 lives of refugees lost in attempted sea crossings so far this year — making 2016 the deadliest year for refugees trying to reach Europe.

Charities have also raised concerns over reports of partner authorities in Libya intercepting migrant boats, shooting refugees and beating and torturing those detained.

Libya's internationally recognised government has pledged to tackle people smuggling in the Mediterranean.

Last week, authorities in Italy they had recorded a record number of arrivals by sea this year, with one month still to go in 2016.

Over 171,000 migrants have arrived, which beats the previous annual record of 170,100 from 2014.

Additional reporting by agencies

Wednesday, November 30, 2016

Zimbabwe President Mugabe Pays Tribute to Castro
November 30, 2016

President Mugabe, flanked by Foreign Affairs Minister Simbarashe Mumbengegwi and Health and Child Care Minister Dr David Parirenyatwa (right) addresses the media on arrival at Jose Marti International Airport in Havana, Cuba, yesterday morning to pay his respects to the leader of the Cuban revolution Commandante Fidel Castro Ruz who died on Saturday night. — (Picture by Presidential photographer Joseph Nyadzayo)

From Caesar Zvayi in HAVANA, Cuba
Zimbabwe Herald

PRESIDENT Mugabe has described the death of the leader of the Cuban revolution and founding father of the nation Commandate Fidel Castro Ruz, who passed on on Friday night, as a loss not only for the people of Cuba, but many communities and leaders in Africa where the Commandante’s legacy of liberation and assistance endures.Addressing the media on arrival at Jose Marti International Airport here yesterday morning, President Mugabe chronicled how Cuba, under the leadership of Cde Fidel Castro, was unencumbered by the albatross of an illegal Western blockade to help liberate and develop the human resource capacity of several countries in Africa and South America.

“In short I can just say taking all that he has done, Fidel Castro, and all that Cuba has done under his leadership, your loss is our loss and we could not just stay away and keep away now that he is gone. We could not just keep away without coming to say farewell dear brother, farewell revolutionary,” said President Mugabe.

“We shall always remember you as our own in the same way as Cubans will do so and that is the spirit that brings me and my delegation here, just to be with you, to share a tear with you and assure you that our hearts are with you also.

“But also our hearts are full of courage, and his life that he has bequeathed us, a lot of revolutionary goodness,” he said.

Fidel’s legacy, the President said, transcended Cuba to cover the people of Africa and South America that he sacrificed so much for.

“I, as President of Zimbabwe, have come to join the people of Cuba and mourn with them the loss of our dear brother, and our dear leader Fidel Castro.

“To express our deep condolences to them, and assure them that their feeling of deep loss is shared by us in Zimbabwe, and I happen to know by also a great many communities and leaders in Africa,” President Mugabe said.

“Fidel was not just your leader. He was our leader and the leader of all revolutionaries. We followed him, listened to him and tried to emulate him.

“I used to come several times here and met with him and shared with him our situation in Africa, our struggle in Africa, and there was in him the spirit of a man who identified himself with our struggles,” he said.

Commandate Castro came to power in 1959 after overthrowing the regime of US acolyte Fulgencio Batista after a popular revolution.

He presided over Cuba for 47 years, first as Prime Minister up to 1976, then as president from 1976 to 2006 when he handed the reins to his brother, Raul, the incumbent president.

Cde Castro set up a socialist state right on the US doorstep and launched a people-centred development agenda that drew the wrath of the US establishment which responded by imposing an illegal economic blockade on Cuba on February 3, 1962, including masterminding 638 attempts on Cde Castro’s life, all of which failed as he outlived 11 US presidents till he went out on his own terms on Saturday surrounded by family and friends.

Due to his life of selfless service not only to Cuba but the entire developing world, Cde Castro’s circle of friends and family extended beyond the borders of his tiny Caribbean nation to encompass all who believe in their inalienable right to freedom and self-determination, Zimbabwe included.

Zimbabwe-Cuba relations date from the days of the liberation struggle when Cuba extended material, logistical and moral support to the struggle. They firmed with the establishment of formal diplomatic relations at independence in 1980 and have been manifest in manpower development that culminated in the establishment of the Bindura University of Science Education in 1996.

The university was born out of the localisation of the highly successful science and mathematics teacher training programme that had for 10 years seen thousands of Zimbabweans graduate with science and mathematics education teaching degrees in Cuba.

President Mugabe said of Cde Castro: ´´He was not just a man of words, he was a man of action. And in my country after he visited us during the Non Aligned Movement Summit of 1986 and discussed with me how Cuba could assist, he agreed to establish on the Isle of Youth, a university to train our young men and women in science and mathematics. Overtime he trained over 3000 young teachers of science and mathematics who have done a lot of good work in Zimbabwe.

´´ And besides that, he decided to start a programme on a completely unexpected basis taking into account that Cuba was suffering from sanctions imposed on it by the United States and its allies, a programme of training doctors for countries, Latin American countries, South African, if not African communities, to train doctors for us.

´´We have those doctors in our hospitals to this day, the medical personnel. We have them now as I speak. And this was being done by a Cuba that was in difficulties economically because of the sanctions imposed unfairly on it by America.´´

He thanked Cubans for their resilience in withstanding over half a century of an illegal western blockade saying this connected them with the people of Africa.

´´And we want to thank the people of Cuba for their spirit of endurance, bearing this suffering from sanctions. It is that spirit that has identified the people of Cuba with the people of Africa and has made us one in our struggle,´´ President Mugabe said.

As such it can be said for Zimbabwe apart from holistic independence and democracy, Cde Castro’s legacy lives on in the ongoing STEM initiative pioneered by the science and mathematics education programme, the Look East policy he again pioneered after a fallout with western rabble rousers, and manpower development.

Today many of the beneficiaries of Cde Castro’s vision are members of the Zimbabwe Cuba Friendship Association (Zicufa) that continues to pursue synergies of enhancing the strong bilateral relations between Harare and Havana.

Said Harvard scholar Garikai Chengu, “Fidel Castro is beloved by the free people of Africa, Asia and South America because he always stood with them against the tyranny of Empire.

“While Britain and America were supplying arms to help Africa’s apartheid regimes, Cuba was busy sending its men to fight them.

“America considered Mandela a terrorist, Cuba simply helped arm him.”

Under Castro, Cuba had the best literacy rate in the world because it spent five times as much on education as war – the opposite of what America does. In fact, Cuba achieves the same health care system outcomes as the United States at only 5 percent the cost.

“Lest we forget, Cuba was the biggest single provider of healthcare workers to the Ebola crisis in West Africa, more than all richer nations. Cuba has sent more doctors throughout the world to minister to the poor than even the World Health Organization.

“Cuba has played one of the greatest humanitarian roles in the world, especially given its small size and meagre resources,” said Chengu.

President Mugabe is accompanied by Foreign Affairs minister Simbarashe Mumbengegwi, Health and Child Care minister Dr David Parirenyatwa and senior Government officials.

He was welcomed at Jose Marti International Airport by ambassador to Cuba Ignatius Mudzimba, Cuba´s Justice Minister and embassy staff.
Cuban Teacher Training Program Building Zimbabwe
November 30, 2016

Photo: Zimbabwean students sharing a drink with Cuban lecturers

Christopher Charamba Review  Correspondent
Zimbabwe Herald

Education is an important tool for the development of a nation. A quality education system will in turn produce an educated population which can contribute towards building a better society.

This has been the thinking of leaders such as President Robert Mugabe and the late Cuban leader Fidel Castro, as reflected in their policies. One such policy was the Cuba Teacher Training Programme which facilitated for the training of 2 300 Zimbabwean teachers in its lifetime.

The relationship between Cuba and Zimbabwe stemmed from the colonial period where Cuba supported the liberation efforts of the freedom fighters.

This relationship was further strengthened once Zimbabwe gained independence as Cuba took not only to training Zimbabwean teachers but also doctors to assist the education and health services in the country.

Mr Fananidzo Pesanai, President of the Zimbabwe Cuba Friendship Association, was the chief education officer coordinating the Cuba Teacher Training Programme when it began in the 1980s.

“The programme started when President Mugabe visited Cuba in 1985. He toured the country and was taken to the ‘island of youth’. There he visited schools belonging to many nationalities, including Mozambique, Ghana and Angola where they were receiving training in primary and secondary education.

“President Mugabe then asked Cde Castro if he could send some of his people to address the shortage of teachers in Zimbabwe, particularly in the Science and Mathematics subjects at secondary level,” he said.

Mr Pesanai said Zimbabwe was rebuilding the education system in the post-independence period and this was an opportunity for Zimbabweans to receive quality training abroad.

“Zimbabwe had teachers for primary education but there was a shortage in the Science, Physics, Biology, Chemistry and Mathematics subjects especially at secondary level.

“Cde Castro agreed and in 1986 together with Elijah Chanakira who was the permanent secretary for education at the time we were sent to Cuba to study the education system there and get an idea of how it was structured as we intended to introduce a teacher training programme,” he added.

In September 1986 a memorandum of understanding was signed following a joint commission in Havana and that month, 400 young men and women together with eight lecturers were flown to Cuba on a chartered Air Zimbabwe flight and the programme started.

“The programme was a five-year education degree and the students learnt Science, Mathematics, Biology, Physics, Chemistry and Geography. They were also taught the theory and the pedagogy of education.

“Of the eight Zimbabwean lecturers that were sent, three were to teach English, because Cuba is a Spanish speaking country but the language of instruction in Zimbabwe would be English.

“Two of the lecturers were for cultural studies, so that the students wouldn’t get homesick while they were there and still kept in touch with the Zimbabwean culture.

“The other three lecturers taught theory of education so that they were accustomed to how the Zimbabwean education system operated in order for them to fit in,” Mr Pesanai explained.

He added that every year following from 1986 to 1988 400 students a year were taken to Cuba where they excelled at their studies.

“I remember one year at the University of Enrique Jose Varona, where the students were being educated, Zimbabwean students got 12 out of 15 prizes. Best in Biology, Physics, Chemistry and other subjects. The only subjects they did not get prizes in I think were computers and Marxist education.

“Those who graduated in Cuba have also gone on to do exceptionally well in life. Right now, some 40 of them that I am aware of, have PhDs and are teaching at universities here in Zimbabwe, in the UK, in the US, South Africa and Australia,” he said.

A total of 2 300 Zimbabwean students graduated in Cuba before the programme ended in 1999. It was then relocated to Zimbabwe and became the genesis of the Bindura University of Science Education.

“The programme we now have at Bindura University began with a few lecturers who came from Cuba as well as some local lecturers. Up to now there are still Cuban lecturers at the university,” Mr Pesanai explained.

On Cde Fidel Castro, Mr Pesanai said, the world has lost a revolutionary and progressive individual.

“He was a person committed to helping other nationalities, someone I can describe as selfless. Following the collapse of the Soviet Union, between 1989 and 1992, Cuba went through a difficult economic period. It was known as the “special period”, and if you ask me it was much worse than what we experienced here,” said Mr Pesanai.

“Castro however, made sure that all foreign students continued to receive free education, free health care, transport, entertainment and on top of that an 80 Cuban peso allowance. To put it into perspective the average lecturer was getting 300 pesos.

“I remember at the time he assured 35 000 foreign students, with the words, ‘we are not rich, we do not have much but the little we have, we will share with you’. These are the words of a man who was committed to the cause of others,” he said.

Mr Pesanai further stated that what Castro did transformed many lives in Zimbabwe, some of which he might not have known.

“What he did for the education sector in Zimbabwe is immense. Many people have benefited from the programme either directly as participants or as students of those who received training.”

Mr Misheck Mhishi, a lecturer at Bindura University of Science Education was a recipient of the Cuba Teacher Training Programme in the 1980s and reminisced on his time in Cuba.

“I went to Cuba in 1987 when things with the Soviet Union were still fine. During this time, we received our education and everything was very normal.

“Soon after, however, in the 1990s, when the Soviet Union collapsed, things turned for the worse in Cuba. There were a lot of shortages in Cuba during this time,” said Mr Mhishi.

“Despite this though, the Cuban government did the best to accommodate us. We were given clothing, food and accommodation.

“You could tell that although things weren’t the way that they should be, the Cubans were trying and they made a lot of sacrifices for us to receive an education so that we could in turn educate our own people,” he said.

Speaking on the education they received while in Cuba, Mr Mhishi said it was of exceptional quality and made it possible for them to create a quality education system in Zimbabwe.

“The resources that we had in Cuba were state of the art and this gave us an advantage in terms of learning and also teaching when we came back. Our laboratories in Cuba were always fully stocked and there was ample study material to reference,” he said.

“When we returned to Zimbabwe this was an advantage and provided a solid foundation for how we were to teach and interact with our students,” he said.

Mr Mhishi had praises for Cde Castro and was disappointed to see the negative comments that people have been posting about him.

“People think when a leader stays long in power he is automatically a dictator, but if you see the way that Cde Fidel Castro lived there is no way you could say that he is a dictator.

“Cde Castro is one politician whom I respected because he was humble and principled. He would sometimes go out into the streets and buy from vendors. He interacted with ordinary people regularly and was not aloof.

“I remember how he used to come on TV and explain to people if something was not going well. For example, if there were to be a fuel crisis, he would come on TV and let the people know so that they would be psychologically prepared.

“They knew that their president was with them and cared enough to explain the situation to them. This, I thought, was good because it did not leave room for rumours because people were informed. Even things that some people might consider state secrets he was open about,” he said.

Cuban Ambassador to Zimbabwe, Mr Elio Savon Oliva said relations between Cuba and Zimbabwe had always been excellent and that the education programme was an example of how strong they were.

“Before independence, Cuba supported Zimbabwe during the liberation struggle and once Zimbabwe got its independence, we continued to support in the development of the country.

“Through our efforts, Cuba trained 2 300 teachers on scholarship to strengthen the education system in Zimbabwe. Following the programme in Cuba, we continued to support efforts here in Bindura,” he said.

Ambassador Oliva explained that even though Cuba had the burden of the ‘special period’ where their economy went into a serious depression, president Castro was committed to see through the teacher training programme.

“Despite the economic problems that Cuba faced during the ‘special period’, for president Fidel Castro and his government there was serious political will for the programmes to go ahead no matter what.

“This was a clear decision by Cde Castro because he wanted to sustain the solidarity between the nations but also ensure that development took place in Zimbabwe,” he said.
Cuba’s Education Success Story, What It Can Teach Africa
November 30, 2016
Opinion & Analysis
Clive Kronenberg
Review Correspondent

Cuba takes education very seriously. It became a top priority after Fidel Castro became prime minister in 1959 and this helped the country shake its mantle as the most unequal of the Hispanic Caribbean territories during both the colonial and post-colonial early 20th century periods.

The foundations of Castro’s new social — and socialist — order were premised on the common understanding that only good-quality, empowering education could conquer Cuba’s acute poverty, ignorance and underdevelopment.

Cuba invested heavily to make its education system world class. By the 1980s and 1990s, the country’s educational disbursements as a ratio of gross domestic product were among the highest in the world.

Cuba has much to teach Africa about prioritising and reforming education. Its approach to education has made a unique contribution to social change. There are valuable lessons here for the continent and, as more than a decade of my research has shown, particularly for South Africa.

There are three major methods through which Cuba revolutionised teaching and learning after Castro’s socialist government came to government.

1. Literacy

The first was its celebrated 1961 Literacy Campaign, which marked in concrete terms the importance of education for an embattled society in transition. In the space of barely one year, one million illiterate people were targeted by mobilising 250 000 literacy teachers and thousands of devoted school children.

By the end of 1961, 75 percent of those one million had achieved rudimentary literacy. There were extensive follow-ups concentrating also on adult education.

2. Access for all

While the literacy drive was underway, school enrolments grew rapidly — and more than doubled a decade later. This was largely because education at all levels, including university and college, became free of charge.

The government launched programs for peasant girls, domestic workers, prostitutes and those who had dropped out before finishing school.

These, along with the newly founded Organisation of Day Care Centres, sought to ensure that education was accessible to all. The programmes also targeted those living in remote and isolated rural communities.

Cubans’ hard work has paid off. Since the mid-1990s net primary admission has been 99 percent for both girls and boys, compared to 87 percent in the Latin American region.

At that time, 94 percent of Cuban primary students reached grade five, contrasting steeply with 74 percent in the region. Gross secondary enrolments were 78 percent for boys and 82 percent for girls, compared to 47 percent and 51 percent in the region.

3. Teachers matter

Cuba knows the importance of good teachers. During extensive fieldwork, I discovered that its teacher training institutions use wherever possible only the most-advanced, well-researched scientific teaching methods and strategies.

Students generally are accepted as trainee teachers if they possess the virtues of intellect, good character, a proven commitment to social development and love for children.

At the turn of the millennium Cuba boasted the highest number of teachers per capita worldwide, 1:42. At the 2015 International Pedagogia Conference in Havana I was told by educational officials that the country’s student/teacher ratio as of 2015 is an astonishing 12:1.

Education for social change

Cuba’s methods are respected and applied way far beyond the island’s boundaries. By 2010 its literacy method had been adopted in 28 Latin American, Caribbean, African, European, and Oceanic countries. Its use had qualified millions of formerly unschooled people the world over to read and write.

From my discussions with Cuban education officials during research trips, it is obvious that the country wants struggling countries to learn from its experiences. They say it is deplorable that nearly 800 million people, two-thirds of them women, are illiterate around the world. It is likewise unpardonable that nearly 70 million children do not have access to basic schooling.

Ordinary Cubans and government officials alike argue that people’s minds must be highly developed for them to contribute to a world free of fear, ignorance and disease. Education, ultimately, empowers human beings to become seekers and guardians of progress and peace.

The Cuban government’s steadfast commitment to education is irrefutable. The island’s relatively modest economy makes its educational triumphs all the more astonishing.

This sets the objective basis for more in-depth scrutiny of its methods, particularly by struggling nations. After all, Cuba’s accomplishments are not a miracle or a coincidence. They are the outcome of years of devoted work, sacrifice and meeting crucial commitments on highly effective terms. — Conversation Africa.

Clive Kronenberg works for The Cape Peninsula University of Technology. He has received institutional funding to conduct research, and hereby acknowledges CPUT’s 2015 URF Award.
Great Historical Figure Has Gone to Sleep
November 30, 2016
Opinion & Analysis, Nzenza Sekai
Zimbabwe Herald

When Fidel Castro died last week, my cousin Reuben wiped his misty eyes. I think he was crying. But I am not sure. Then he called our cousin Sam, the one who is married to Lita, a Cuban woman and said, “Hey Bro, the old revolutionary has left us.”They talked for a while and Reuben said on Saturday they would all get together at a bar in the city, smoke cigars and (even though they both do not smoke) remember a man they said helped liberate some African countries from colonialism.

Then on Sunday afternoon, Sam and Lita came over for a visit with the children. They were sad about Fidel’s death.

Lita offered to cook a Spanish dish called paella for all of us.

She boiled plenty of rice in a cooker, cut purple onion separately and fried them with plenty of garlic. Then she grilled two packets of sausages and pieces of chicken thighs.

She fried tomatoes and added paprika, black pepper, green peas and parsley before mixing everything together in a big pot. She placed the paella on a platter for us to serve ourselves.

When invited to the table, Piri picked only the sausages and chicken from the platter, leaving the rice.

Lita, in broken English, because she speaks mainly Spanish, smiled and gently told Piri to take the rice as well. Piri said next time Lita should learn to cook more meat and serve it separately from the rice when serving in-laws like us. Lita smiled gently. She has only been in this country for a few months.

On television, there was a documentary on Fidel Castro’s life. It was a perfect time for us all to relax and follow the history of Fidel. Outside it was raining, nonstop. Mubvumbi chaiwo.

“Who is Fidel Castro and why should we feel so strongly about a man who does not look black at all?” Piri asked, grabbing a beer from the cooler box that Sam had brought into the room.

With a tone of impatience, Reuben said, “Sis, we must learn to understand that in this world we are all related. It does not matter whether you are black or white.”

“Now you sound like a Michael Jackson song,” said Sam, increasing the volume as we sat to watch the remarkable life of Fidel Castro.

An African-looking woman reporter with a very strong British accent presented the story.

She said Fidel Castro was born on August 13, 1926 in Brian, Oriente Province, Cuba.

He was an illegitimate son of Angel Castro Argiz, a very wealthy farmer and landowner who had fallen in love with his mistress Lina Ruz González.

Fidel was sent to a Jesuit school in Havana and in 1945 he began studying law. During his studies, he became politically conscious of the injustice of the world around him. He was a strong critic of the United States’ involvement in the Caribbean and in Africa.

Castro married Mirta Diay Balart, who came from a wealthy family though both their families did not approve of the marriage.

In September 1949, Fidel and Marta had a son called Fidelito. The couple struggled for money while Fidel was increasingly getting involved in politics.

Soon after the start of the Cuban revolution in 1953, Fidel Castro led an attack on Moncada Army Barracks and was arrested and put on trial.

Standing in court, Fidel is remembered for saying these famous words: “You can condemn me but it doesn’t matter; history will acquit me.”

After his release from prison, Fidel formed the 26th of July Movement and in January 1959, Fidel Alejandro Castro, through an armed revolution took over power from President Fulgencio Batista.

Fidel started to adopt more communist thinking. By 1965, through his Communist Party, Cuba clearly entered the Cold War between the Soviet Union and the United States of America.

In 1978, Cuba sent at least 15 000 troops to Ethiopia and helped fight the invasion of Somali troops in Ogaden. But it was in Angola that Fidel Castro gained his popularity and developed what was to be a legacy in Africa.

After Portugal’s Carnation Revolution in April 1974, the country decided to relinquish its colonialist control of Mozambique and Angola. Then there was an immediate power struggle in Angola as three pro-independence movements fought for power.

There was the socialist People’s Movement for the Liberation of Angola and Holden Roberto’s National Liberation Front of Angola, supported by Zaire and Jonas Savimbi’s National Union for the Total Independence of Angola that was backed by the US and South Africa.

Savimbi had been a collaborator of the racist Portuguese dictatorship. He was known for his ruthlessness to the people.

At that time, apartheid South Africa was illegally occupying Namibia, where they had been in control for 60 years.

South Africa had no resistance in that part of South West Africa or in southern Africa.

Zimbabwe was still Rhodesia, under the colonialist rule of Ian Smith and the liberation war for independence was gaining momentum.

Who would challenge the dominant South Africa, supported well by the US?

In October 1975, South Africa simply invaded Angola with support from the US government, who wanted to economically control that part of Africa.

The Popular Movement for the Liberation of Angola (MPLA), which was likely to lead the new independent Angola was overthrown.

Agostinho Neto, the President of Angola then, appealed to Cuba asking for support to fight the South African army’s invasion.

On November 4, Fidel Castro agreed and a few days later, the world woke up to find that the first Cuban special forces had boarded planes for Angola.

They arrived and launched what was known as Operation Carlota. The stage was set for a fierce war between three groups.

Many Cubans continued to pour into Angola. By the end of 1975, there were as many as 36 000 Cuban troops supported by Soviet military advisers.

Cuban soldiers fought hard and in March 1988, during the Battle of Cuito Cuanavale, South Africans were forced to withdraw and admit defeat.

How a poor Caribbean island like Cuba managed to fight South African Defence Forces (SADF), which was backed by the world’s largest superpower at that time remains a remarkable phenomenon.

It was a like the Biblical David and Goliath story.

In Africa, Fidel Castro became a hero for the liberation of Angola.

But such an intervention was not without costs. Cuba lost as many as 2 500 Cuban soldiers in Angola.

In July 1991, after the end of apartheid, Nelson Mandela visited Cuba to mark the 38th anniversary of the Cuban revolution.

Mandela thanked Cuba for her role in supporting the struggle against colonialism and apartheid. Mandela said: “The Cuban people hold a special place in the hearts of the people of Africa.

“The Cuban internationalists have made a contribution to African independence, freedom and justice, unparalleled for its principled and selfless character . . . We in Africa are used to being victims of countries wanting to carve up our territory or subvert our sovereignty. It is unparalleled in African history to have another people rise to the defence of one of us.”

Apart from fighting wars against oppression and racism, Fidel Castro’s Cuba welcomed African people and trained many thousands of doctors, engineers and technicians.

They expected trained and skilled Africans to return home and serve their communities. Among those trained in Cuba were students from post-independent Zimbabwe.

Within Cuba, Fidel Castro’s health system was exceptionally efficient and his educational system was rated to be one of the best in the world.

In sport, Cuban athletes, boxers, basket ballers and baseball players won many Olympic medals, defeating big countries like India, Japan and Brazil.

As a speaker, Fidel Castro was known for making the longest speech of any world leader at the UN General Assembly.

He was also a big figure of the Non Aligned Movement, standing alongside Jawaharlal Nehru, Josef Broz Tito, Gamal Abdel Nasser, Kwame Nkrumah and Sukarno.

Standing more than six feet tall, with a large beard, smoking cigars and always wearing green war-like uniform, Fidel Castro was an imposing figure.

But it would not be right to simply see Fidel as a strong kind supporter of the poor and impoverished. Some people did not like his economic policies and others accused him of dictatorship and authoritarianism.

Many Cubans moved to the US and lived there in exile. When Fidel died last week, some of the exiled Cubans were seen dancing and celebrating in the streets of Miami. But for many in Africa, the Cuban leader has left a heroic legacy.

The documentary ended with some black and white photos of Fidel Castro’s life from his young days to the time when he was looking old, frail and tired.

“We all took a deep breath and I saw Lita wipe a tear. I wondered whether she was crying for Fidel, or was she simply missing home.

“Piri gave her a tissue and with sympathy in her voice she said, “Muhupenyu, hazvina basa kuti tiri ani. Nguva haisi yedu.(It does not matter in life who we are. Time does not belong to us)”.

Fidel Alejandro Castro, former Prime Minister and president of Cuba, a great historical figure, both loved and also hated by the world, has gone to sleep.

Dr Sekai Nzenza is a writer and cultural critic.