SOUTH AFRICAN POLITICS
ANC to proceed with no-confidence vote in Zuma today
Update: it seems Mr Zuma has preempted his colleagues’ efforts to oust him and has resigned effective immediately.
Following South African President Jacob Zuma’s refusal to step down, the country’s parliament will today fold a no-confidence vote in order to oust him from power.
Earlier this week, leaders of the ruling African National Congress party (ANC) ordered the scandal-wrought president to resign, after which Zuma refused claiming they had given no explicit reason in doing so. This came as the South African police raided the home of the Gupta brothers, Indian businessmen accused of abusing their close ties with Zuma.
Subsequently, the ANC has further pressured the president, moving a scheduled no-confidence vote to today in order to expedite his removal. Such a vote would almost certainly succeed with both the opposition and ruling party’s backing. Replacing Zuma would most likely be Cyril Ramaphosa, the recently elected leader of the ANC.
If removed by parliament, Zuma’s whole cabinet must withdraw as well, as opposed to if the president stepped down himself. Regardless, South Africa will likely see a new president by the weekend.
Delve deeper: South Africa’s failing democracy: the crises continues
Military modernisation centre stage amid Chinese festivities
As millions of Chinese begin their New Year celebrations today, government officials will make several military inspections across the country amid an ongoing push to modernise the People’s Liberation Army.
China’s rapid economic growth over the past two decades has placed Beijing in competition with other global powers, a position which demands an updated defence force. The country has since invested heavily in its military in an attempt to keep up with its ever-growing geopolitical importance.
Although still unable to project the country’s power globally, President Xi Jinping has made China’s modernisation effort a priority, ramping up military spending to the $150 billion. China is expected to introduce their first indigenously built aircraft carrier this month, with another in the works.
Aircraft carriers provide Beijing with essential mobile command centres from which to extend their influence abroad. With the expanse of the Pacific next door, this pivot from land to sea power is a vital step in China’s journey to becoming an indisputable global superpower.
Delve deeper: The PLA in transition: in pursuit of the ‘China dream’
Top Myanmar official in Bangladesh to iron out repatriation concerns
Myanmar’s home minister will meet his Bangladeshi counterpart in Dhaka today to discuss the ongoing Rohingya refugee crisis.
Last month, leaders from Bangladesh and Myanmar agreed to complete the voluntary repatriation of some 1,500 Rohingya each week, with the aim of all refugees returning to Myanmar within two years. But human rights groups claim more time is needed to ensure the rights of the Rohingya are protected in Myanmar, where the minority have been denied citizenship, freedom of movement and access to services.
The social and economic costs of housing refugees in camps are significant, straining Bengali communities that compete with Rohingyas for jobs and resources. However, too much premature pressure on the Rohingya to return home could lead to protests and violence on the Bengali side of the border. Given the voluntary nature of the agreement and the extent to which Rohingya rights have been violated in Myanmar, the endgame is ambitious. Consequently, expect the Bengali government to attempt to carefully balance implementing their agreement, reassuring concerned and traumatised Rohingya, and winning assurances from Myanmar’s government that the rights of their fellow Muslims will be protected.
Major port project to feature during Iranian president’s tour of India
Strengthening economic links will top the agenda when Iranian President Hassan Rouhani kicks off three days of dialogue in India today.
Since the lifting of Iranian sanctions in 2015, Delhi has sought to capitalise on Iran’s location at the tip of the North-South Trade Corridor, a 7,200-kilometre network of shipping lanes, rail and roads linking Central and South Asia with Europe.
A key feature of Mr Rouhani’s visit will be talks on the development of Chabahar Port on Iran’s southwest coastline. Having more than tripled its capacity to 8.5 million tonnes of cargo annually, the port will provide India with a crucial access point for trade that bypasses rival Pakistan. With better access to the Afghan market, New Delhi aims to boost trade from $700 million to $1 billion in three years.
Despite great progress on construction, the security of key highways across Afghanistan remains a concern. The Taliban has a presence in 161 of 400 districts across the country and the risk of attack on Indian trade by elements sympathetic to Pakistan threatens to undermine the trade route’s viability.