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Egypt’s lucrative tourist sector under threat, again | News | Africa

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On October 31 2015, a passenger jet operated by Russia’s Metrojet airline took off from Sharm el Sheikh International Airport. It was heading for St Petersburg with a cargo of seven crew and 217 passengers, mostly families returning home from their sunny holiday along Egypt’s Red Sea Coast.

No one on that plane would complete their journey.
After 23 minutes in the air, a bomb exploded in the hold, causing sudden, uncontrolled decompression.
The aircraft disintegrated in mid-air. The Sinai Branch of the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant claimed responsibility for the attack.

Three months later, I visited Sharm el Sheikh, landing at that same airport, which is supposed to be Egypt’s third-busiest, with a capacity to handle 5-million passengers per year. The glossy international terminal was eerily quiet. Just a single conveyor belt was operating, and my fellow passengers were, like me, there for business rather than pleasure.

Sharm el Sheikh itself felt like the setting for a post-apocalyptic movie, its restaurants empty and its markets entirely free from the bustle that usually gives them such character. On the beach, rows and rows of empty sun loungers waited for holidaymakers that would never come, while some of the mammoth resorts which line the coast had shut down entirely.

Sharm el Sheikh’s experience has mirrored that of Egypt as a whole. The country used to be one of the world’s favourite tourist destinations — and why wouldn’t it be, with its abundance of extraordinarily preserved ancient artefacts, its wealth of iconic architecture and religious monuments, its pristine beaches and its world-class diving. In 2010, more than 14-million people visited the country, bringing in revenues of $12-billion.

But the Arab Spring that ousted dictator Hosni Mubarak dissuaded holidaymakers, as did the political instability which followed. In 2013, General Abdel Fattah el-Sisi staged a military coup and installed himself in the presidency, but his strongarm tactics and inability to contain militant activity in the Sinai region did not do much to restore confidence in the country’s struggling hospitality sector. By 2015, the year the Russian plane was bombed, tourist numbers were down to just 5.6-million.

In recent years, things have been looking up, however. Slowly, that confidence has been returning, helped by a massive security presence at airports and key tourist sites — and a brutal crackdown against militant groups in the Sinai. Visitor numbers crept above the 9 million mark last year, suggesting that the government is beginning to bring the political situation under control.

But two recent incidents near Egypt’s most famous attraction, the Pyramids of Giza, once again bring into question the country’s safety for foreigners. In December 2018, a bomb explosion targeting a tourist bus killed four people — an Egyptian tour guide and three tourists from Vietnam. A similar attack on Sunday targeted a bus carrying a South African tour group, wounding 17 people.

It’s not just tourists at risk, of course, despite the headlines in international media that seem to suggest that the lives of some nationalities are more newsworthy than others. Egyptians too have been targeted in violence: both by militants, in horrific attacks on churches and mosques; or by their own government, in crackdowns against protestors and in suspected extrajudicial killings in the Sinai.

Some countries have issued advisories against travel to parts of Egypt, such as the United Kingdom, which said: “Terrorists are very likely to try to carry out attacks in Egypt. You should be vigilant at all times and follow the advice of the Egyptian authorities and your travel company, if you have one.”

The South African government, however, has adopted a more bullish approach – even encouraging citizens to book tickets for the upcoming African Cup of Nations football tournament which begins next month. “We call on South Africans to go in numbers and support their team at the Africa Cup of Nations and believe the Egyptian authorities have the capacity to successfully guard the games‚” said international relations department spokesperson Ndivhuwo Mabaya, speaking toTimesLIVE. “We feel there is no need to panic‚ we have faith in the Egyptian law enforcement agencies to handle the situation and we understand that these types of things do happen.”

Sure, these types of things do happen; but they seem to happen in Egypt with a greater frequency than any other top tourist destination. Until the Egyptian government finds a way to deal more effectively with its political problems, it may prove difficult to fill up those beach loungers.

The bomb which brought down the Metrojet plane is the highest profile – and most deadly – attack on Egypt’s tourist industry, but this is far from an isolated incident.

Egypt’s tourist industry, battered by years of instability, was only just beginning to recover when it suffered yet another disastrous setback on Sunday. The good news is that no one was killed in the latest attack, in which a tourist bus was targeted by an explosion near the Pyramids of Giza (although 17 people were injured — including a number of South Africans).

The bad news is that Egypt can ill-afford to lose even more tourist dollars, and the government seems powerless to protect its foreign visitors.

Sunday’s incident is the latest in a long and deadly series of attacks on tourists and tourist attractions.

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DA goes to council over its future, with Zille placed a…

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The DA determines its future from Saturday as the battle for its heart and soul plays out in the election of the chairperson for its most powerful decision-making body after congress, the Federal Council. It’s tricky, regardless of how the chips fall.

Helen Zille and Athol Trollip went up against each other in 2007 in the contest to succeed Tony Leon as DA leader. Zille won then. And it is widely expected she will win, again, in what is set to be a tight party poll on Sunday.

That the other two candidates — DA MPs Thomas Walters and Mike Waters, respectively Deputy Federal Council Chairperson and Deputy Federal Chairperson — are not really being talked about is indicative of how Zille and Trollip represent the prevailing factions in the DA.

It’s, if you will, akin to a choice between Sarah Palin and Donald Trump.

But in a political party that obscures its often brutal backroom manoeuvres with tightly choreographed public displays, the two-day powwow of the Federal Council takes place against the backdrop of carefully prepared steps. It’s been in the making for four months.

One, a deal was brokered to bring Zille on as contestant in a crucial move that pulled people together, as Daily Maverick is reliably informed. Until her last-moment entry, quite literally just before the 5pm close on 4 October 2019, it was almost a foregone conclusion that Trollip would win.

Two, moves are under way to collect the necessary 5,000 signatures to push for DA leader Mmusi Mamaine’s resignation. It’s the back-up plan, according to DA insiders, if the weekend discussions defeat the early congress and leadership election proposal by the review panel instituted by Maimane following the drooping electoral support to 20.7% in the May 2019 elections from 22.23% in 2014.

The only other way the leader can change in the DA is if Maimane were to resign voluntarily. And that’s not on the cards.

That the DA is at a crossroads was rammed home on Thursday when its longstanding CEO Paul Boughey resigned. He had resisted calls to do so in the aftermath of the poor election results that had elicited the resignation of Jonathan Moakes.

Moakes and Boughey go way back as part of the young Turks brought on then by Leon. And they have been close to Maimane — too close, according to some circles in the DA worried about the influence of those who are effectively administrators.

In his resignation letter released by the DA, Boughey describes working with Maimane as “an extraordinary experience” and how the current self-reflection was necessary to strengthen the party.

I have no doubt that the leadership and broader membership of the DA will rise to this moment, that it will recalibrate and come back even stronger to face the challenges of election 2021 and beyond,” he wrote. “In a country and increasingly global landscape characterised by the rise of competing nationalisms, the DA’s vision and values have never been more important to South Africa’s future.”

Furious campaigning has been happening in this hugely important contest even if it may not look like that from the outside.

Zille has campaigned hard, including sending out a personal video message and various pamphlets under her motto — unity, stability, growth.

If elected, I will work hard to foster unity, to achieve stability and to put the DA back on a growth path,” said one seen by Daily Maverick, while another promises a list of specific immediate tasks and the promise of Federal Council accountability and transparency. Also included in the campaign package are a commitment to “redress and diversity”, pursuing One South Africa for All, a capable state and “a functioning state” with a social welfare net.

We must be unapologetic about our love of individual freedom, no matter the populist pressure brought to bear on us. Our job is to show the voters that only the DA can save South Africa.”

Trollip’s campaign material seen by Daily Maverick seems tame in its emphasis on “Dedication, Loyalty and Discipline. These are the character traits that I have consistently displayed through thick and thin”.

A somewhat, but not completely tongue-in-cheek response from a DA senior was simply — “Mommy’s back!”

The Federal Council chairperson not only is in charge of the DA’s highest decision-making body after its national congress, but also the smaller day-to-day-focused Federal Executive Committee that has binding decision-making powers. The committee can, for example, institute disciplinary steps and does endorse appointments in DA-run government, and approve coalition agreements.

While Maimane has the numbers in the Federal Executive Committee, the Federal Council is a different case. And it has worked against him previously.

For example, before the May 2019 elections, the council defeated the push approved in the committee that provincial leaders, who are largely supportive of Maimane, should be able to double dip in the process of selecting elected public representative candidates.

Daily Maverick understands the numbers in the Federal Council could well indicate an early congress, as recommended by the panel Maimane had appointed some four months ago for the organisational review, possibly any time between December 2019 and February 2020.

The level of disenchantment with Maimane’s leadership is set to cause friction within the DA, even if the Federal Council swats off the proposal of an early elective congress and even if Trollip succeeds in clinching the post.

He does not fill the space,” said a DA insider in reference to Maimane and his leadership.

It emphasises the failure of the opposition party to manage the changed national political dynamics under President Cyril Ramaphosa. Maimane’s broken bus analogy — the ANC is the same old broken bus even with a new driver — in the run-up to the May 2019 elections stalled. Nor did the SMS and email campaigns — questions were publicly raised on how the DA obtained personal details — or the posters urging voters to keep out the ANC and EFF.

And while the messaging may not have been all attributable to Maimane, given the backroom team of pundits, pollsters and planners led by Boughey and campaign manager Moakes, who resigned in May, in the DA it’s the leader who carries the can.

Threading through the weekend DA Federal Council meeting will be considerations of the 2021 local government elections — and how the DA has flatlined in by-elections.

Broadly speaking, the DA has lost wards to the Freedom Front Plus, but also on occasion to the ANC, while even where the DA returns to the seat, it does so with reduced support. Voters turning their backs on the DA across the country is casting a shadow over the opposition party’s much touted “Where the DA governs, it governs best” mantra.

The disillusionment stretches from Tshwane to Cape Town — from tender and appointment controversies to the Day Zero debacle and the gloating about a billions-positive bank balance as residents struggle to pay rates and levies. And, the Nelson Mandela Bay Metro was lost to the DA under Trollip as mayor.

For many in the party this is a worrying indicator with some 20 months ahead of the next local government election. Always good at number crunching and scenario planning, concern in some circles of the DA is the party may lose up to one in four of its 1,500-odd councillors.

Those are some of the considerations, which even if not on the agenda of the two-day meeting from Saturday, are part of the undercurrent.

It’s understood that on the back burner, at least for now, will be the ideological contestation over race and the role this plays in DA policies on diversity. Both Zille and Trollip accept race as proxy for disadvantage and inequality, even if Zille would be more strident in opposing, for example, broad-based economic empowerment.

The writings of Gwen Ngwenya, the DA’s ex-policy honcho who decided not to return as a DA MP after the May 2019 elections, on how race and race-based policies had “poisoned” the DA are regarded as part of a wider libertarian push by the Institute for Race Relations (IRR). Ngwenya joined the DA from the institute.

But the DA seems to have at least temporarily united on the ideological front against the IRR’s #SaveTheOpposition campaign. Its demands to, among others, “stop race based policies”, end the co-operation with the EFF and elect “competent leaders” have been dismissed as “naked opportunism” and “sniping from the sidelines”. DA Chief Whip John Steenhuisen, in a statement on 2 October, made short shrift of the IRR campaign, saying it should “form its own political party and contest elections in its own name”.

This weekend is not just about the contest for Federal Council chairperson, a position held for almost two decades by James Selfe. Or even about the review panel’s recommendations for an early elective congress.

Other recommendations up for discussion are also important, if more structural. This includes the rationalisation of administrative positions, particularly given the drop in donations, the modernisation of the legal commission — it deals with disciplinary matters, for example — and also new fundraising approaches.

In order not to disrupt discussions, the 155-odd members of the Federal Council go to cast their ballots from 7am on Sunday morning.

Zille, a self-described “classical liberal” on her Twitter bio, pushes a fit-for-purpose regime measured largely by electoral growth. Her decade-long track record as Western Cape premier is admired across the DA, but her reputation was tarnished by her 2017 colonialism tweets which raised party hackles and led to her suspension from party activities.

Trollip is representative of what has been scathingly called the DA’s turn to being “ANC-lite”. He has pursued his ambitions for top party officer for more than a decade. He’s been a close confidante of Maimane’s — and has remained so even if it was under his watch that the DA lost Nelson Mandela Bay Metro after the historic opposition win in the economic heartland of the Eastern Cape.

It’s going to be a difficult weekend for the DA. And the contest for the powerful Federal Council chairperson post will in no small measure determine the next twists and turns in the DA. DM

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Bayern play down Lewandowski catching Mueller 40-goal mark

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Berlin – Bayern Munich head coach Niko Kovac cooled the hype over star striker Robert Lewandowski hunting down Gerd Mueller’s record of 40 goals in a Bundesliga season by claiming: “There will be moments when he won’t score like he is doing now.”

“A lot of things would have to come together. He is playing really well and is carrying the team with his goals, but the season is long,” said Kovac.

“There will be moments in the season when he won’t score like he is doing now.”

Lewandowski has also played down smashing Bayern legend Mueller’s record of a staggering 40 goals in 34 league games in the 1971/72 season, preferring instead on equalling a more modest target on Saturday of scoring in the first eight games of a league season.

“It’s great to be scoring, and I hope I can keep it up. Then we’ll see,” said Lewandowski on the subject of catching Mueller.

The 31-year-old Pole has hit 15 goals in 11 games in all competitions this season and has netted in each of Bayern’s first seven league games.

If he scores at Augsburg, Lewandowski will equal the league record of Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang who scored in the first eight games of the 2015/16 season for Dortmund.

There is a strong chance Lewandowski will score on Saturday, having scored 18 goals in 13 games against Bayern’s Bavarian neighbours, including three doubles and a hat-trick in his last five games against them.


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Hello load-shedding, goodbye economic growth

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The South African government has not learnt from Eskom’s 2008 power supply crisis. As such, the country can forget about getting out of its current prolonged low-growth trap. Red lights are flashing at Eskom, but whose heads will roll? Will there be consequences?

What happens in a state where a culture of zero consequences becomes entrenched? You get a political class and an elite that is far removed from the realities faced by an electorate.

You get contradictory messaging and a deep disdain about the plight of ordinary citizens who do not have the means to escape an increasingly unforgiving system. You get a lack of action and a rise in political impunity. In short, sloganeering and a jingoistic posture replace meaningful action.

You get an Eskom that is unable and unwilling to become unstuck from a merry-go-round of its structural, systemic and governance failures. The chickens have, indeed, come home to roost and to make a mockery of what is currently unfolding before our eyes.

It has been more than 10 years since the power utility first encountered its grid and power supply problems. Yet, here we are, again, experiencing load shedding. The power crisis of the era circa 2008 was underpinned by growing electricity demand and an economy expanding at an average annual rate of 5%.

But that was happening against the backdrop of a lack of investment in the grid which manifested in zero new generation capacity. As such, demand outstripped supply by a mile. The upside is that more South Africans were experiencing the fruits of democracy in the form of electricity. On the downside, our politicians failed to plan adequately for this eventuality.

The energy crisis of 2008 and beyond had a devastating effect on GDP and industry and undermined some of the country’s core economic goals. It also put a damper on future investments because South Africa could not guarantee a steady supply of electricity. In the world of macro-economics, confidence can make the difference between below 1% annual growth or scaling the heights of double-digit economic growth.

The lack of confidence in an economy can lay waste to even the most eloquent and sophisticated growth plans because no one trusts that the system works. The consequences of a crisis of confidence are felt immediately, in the medium term and in the long term.

One of the assessments of the 2008 electricity supply debacle is that intensive users who had the scope to expand their manufacturing base could not do so. In other words, the country’s shaky energy security environment eroded investment into the economy.

That could not have happened at a worse time.

Globally, the world was experiencing an economic meltdown precipitated by the US sub-prime mortgage crisis. As a result, the global economy was plunged into recession. Locally, South Africa was the victim of its own poor planning, made worse by Eskom’s failure to meet demand.

Fast forward to 11 years later, the global economy has staged a remarkable recovery and is projected to grow 3.9% in 2019. South Africa will be lucky if it even reaches 1% in 2019.

In fact, the country will not even touch 1% of economic growth in 2019, according to the International Monetary Fund’s World Economic Outlook report released this week. It is likely to post 0.7% growth in 2019.

Eskom is intertwined with the country’s growth trajectory.

The power utility’s performance peaks and troughs correlate with weakened economic performance. It is no exaggeration when the likes of Moody’s Investors Service, S&P Global Ratings and Fitch Ratings characterise Eskom as the biggest systemic risk confronting the South African government, both operationally and fiscally.

President Cyril Ramaphosa gave a rousing inaugural state of the nation address in February 2018. In that speech, Ramaphosa vowed his government would “… seek to reindustrialise on a scale and at a pace that draws millions of job seekers into the economy”.

We are going to promote greater investment in key manufacturing sectors through the strategic use of incentives and a number of other measures that government has at its disposal,” he told the nation.

However, the promise of a new dawn is unravelling, with Eskom as the main source of its undoing. A dysfunctional Eskom is quickly rendering the president’s expressed ambitions and goals meaningless because there is no energy security.

The travesty is, no heads will roll. In the absence of such, we will continue to suffer under a political climate and culture that espouses zero consequences. BM

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