#035: Watching the watchmen

  • Watching the watchmen

In a classic case of 'quis custodiet ipsos custodes', the Public Protector of South Africa, Busisiwe Mkhwebane, has been accused of lying under oath and acting in bad faith during an investigation of a bank bailout. After South Africa’s Constitutional Court ruled that Ms Mkhwebane lied under oath, the nation's Public Servants Association openly declared her 'hypocritical' and demanded that her office be investigated.

For her part, Ms Mkhwebane has denied any wrongdoing and insists that the court ruling will make it more difficult for the public protector's office to do its work "without fear, favor, or prejudice." As the Public Protector, Ms Mkhwebane's office serves as an anti-corruption ombudsman with the mandate to defend the South African democracy. Since taking office in 2016, she has been in the eye of several political storms - having found President Ramaphosa in breach of the constitution, accused the former Finance Minister of creating illicit units in the national tax agency, and claimed that the current administration failed to follow due process in recruiting a new head of the national revenue service. 

Read for: "Firing the public protector requires the backing of two-thirds of lawmakers, and it is unclear whether the threshold could be reached, given deep divisions within the ruling African National Congress, which holds 230 of the 400 seats in parliament"


  • Seham Sergewa Abducted

Prominent Libyan politician, Seham Sergewa, was abducted from her home in Benghazi by armed militia about 11 days ago. Seham has many times provoked the ire of different militia groups in Libya by openly condemning military attacks and inveighing against gender violence.

According to family members and neighbors, over a dozen armed men stormed Seham's family home at 2am on Wednesday July 20, shooting her husband and son in the legs before finding Seham and kidnapping her. She has not been heard from or seen since; no militia group has publicly acknowledged or commented on the abduction.

Read for:"As [the militia] left the house, they sprayed graffiti on the walls - including the group's name and a warning in Arabic: 'Don't cross the lines of the armies'"


  • More Recycling, More Schools

A piece straight out of sustainability heaven: in Abidjan, plastic garbage collected by a women's group is being recycled into bricks and used to build schools. A group of women, who refer to themselves as the Fighting Women, make a living by picking up plastic waste on the streets and selling them to "middle-men" who in turn sell the plastic to factories who create sustainable furniture. However, within a few months, the women will be able to sell their plastic directly to Conceptos Plásticos, a Colombian plastic recycling company,which converts recycled plastic into useful building material for schools.

The company has already built nine demonstration classrooms in the Ivory Coast, and is opening a factory in Abidjan. Subsequently, the women will be able to sell their plastic waste directly to the factory at a promised higher rate, thus providing them with better wages.

Read for: "Until this year, the children went to school in a traditional mud-brick and wood building. The mud brick eroded in the sun and had to be constantly repaired. But the three new plastic classrooms could practically last forever. The interlocking bricks look like black and gray legos. They are fire retardant and stay cool in hot weather"


  • The Last Potters

Historically, tribalwomen from the Moroccan Rif mountains passed down a traditional art of pottery, which involvedshaping clay pieces by hand, drying them in the sun, placing them in a large open pit filled with wood and polishing them with stone before decoration. However, since the 1990s, the number of potters has fallen dramatically as demand for clay works declined.

With less than a dozen talented potters left, an enterprising 82-year old grandmother affectionately called Mama Aicha, partnered with Sumano, a Spanish artisan organization to promote and revive the traditional art on social media and to offer outsiders the opportunity to learn the dying craft. The response has been spectacular - with workshops sold out for the rest of the year. You might be able to learn the ancient art of Moroccan pottery from Mama Aicha in 2020 though; you can sign up with Sumano here.

Read for:"When I was young, everyone used clay pots and bowls for daily life and my mother sold them at market, but today everyone prefers plastic"


CAPE TO CAPE: Sierra Leone faces challenges over ban on pregnant schoolgirls attending school; Upholding the legacy of Hodan Nalayeh, the Somali journalist among the 26 killed in Kismayo terrorist attack; Meet Sandizile Malindiza, the 16 year old designer who keeps culture alive by designing traditional Eswatini regalia (Eswatini is the small Southern African country formerly known as Swaziland)

You Should Know

Business Roll Call

Yolanda Cuba, former CEO of Vodafone Ghana, has been announced as group chief digital and fintech officer for MTN Group, Africa's largest mobile operator
Maria Ramos and Irene Charnley have been included in South Africa's Public Investment Corporation's interim board

Share announcements to be featured on Business Roll Call here

Nneoma Nwankwo