Cabinet reshuffle much bigger than Gordhan - economist

Cape Town – Market reaction to President Jacob Zuma’s instruction that Finance Pravin Gordhan immediately return from a post-Budget investor roadshow in the UK and US, shows that the bigger picture is not taken into account, said emerging market economist Peter Attard Montalto.

In a company note issued late on Monday, Montalto (from the Japanese bank Nomura) said the markets have focused too much on the National Treasury and that a Cabinet reshuffle, which is widely expected, is also about Zuma wanting to assert loyalty and rid the Cabinet of detractors, such as certain SACP members.

“We should not forget that the whole point of a reshuffle is bigger,” Montalto said.

On Monday, markets reacted swiftly to the news, with the rand losing more than 3% to R12.84 in overnight trade in New York. By 21:43 the local unit was trading at R12.82/$. Before the Gordhan bombshell, the rand raced to an almost 2-year-high of R12.31 to the greenback.

“The market focuses too much on National Treasury. If it (a cabinet reshuffle) happens it will be messy. But the markets forget the bigger context.”

Gordhan, who left the country on Sunday to represent South Africa at the roadshow is due to return to the country on Tuesday. His deputy Mcebisi Jonas, who was set to join the delegation in the US later on Tuesday, won't leave South Africa.

Montalto opines that a Cabinet reshuffle would "surely" have been discussed during a meeting of the ANC’s National Working Committee late on Monday, although it was not officially on the agenda.

He is of the view though that it is more likely that Jonas would be removed from his position than Gordhan.

“The risk of a Gordhan exit is still clearly there and I think Zuma is in favour of it, but he is probably testing the market,” Montalto says.

'No rate cut'

Montalto also believes that Monday’s “shock” would give the South African Reserve Bank (SARB) a “perfect reason” not to abandon its “fear narrative” around the rand.

The SARB’s monetary policy committee meets on Thursday to discuss its policy decision regarding interest rates. Analysts have had mixed views as to whether interest rates, currently at 7%, would be retained at the same level or adjusted downwards.

“The market got too ahead of itself in thinking the SARB would cut interest rates,” Montalto says.

“Today is a reminder that risks are there. Although the SARB won't mention this specifically (at its meeting on Thursday) they do worry in my view about political risk that is factored into the currency, as well as about second round effects, such as on

Opposition leader Alexei Navalny jailed for 15 days

EU calls for release of prominent Kremlin critic Navalny, a day after he was detained at opposition protest in Moscow.

Russian opposition leader Alexei Navalny has been sentenced to 15 days in prison after being detained at a major opposition protest that he had organised.

A Moscow court issued the verdict on Monday against Navalny for resisting police orders on Sunday when he walked to the protest in the Russian capital.

Navalny, 40, posted a selfie on Twitter from the courtroom, saying: "A time will come when we'll put them on trial too - and that time it will be fair."

"Even the slightest illusion of fair justice is absent here," Navalny said on Monday at the defendant's bench, complaining about the judge striking down one motion after another.

"Yesterday's events have shown that quite a large number of voters in Russia support the program of a candidate who stands for fighting corruption. These people demand political representation - and I strive to be their political representative."

Tens of thousands of protesters took to the streets across Russia on Sunday in the biggest show of defiance since the 2011-2012 anti-government protests.

The Kremlin has dismissed the opposition as a Westernised urban elite disconnected from the issues faced by the poor in Russia's far-flung regions. But Sunday's protests included demonstrations in the areas which typically produce a high vote for President  Vladimir Putin, from Siberia's Chita to Dagestan's Makhachkala.

Putin's spokesman on Monday criticised the organisers for allegedly inciting illegal acts.

"The Kremlin respects people's civic stance and their right to voice their position," said Putin spokesman Dmitry Peskov.

"We can't express the same respect to those who consciously misled people and who consciously did it yesterday and provoked illegal actions."

Peskov defended the Russian police in riot gear who were seen manhandling protesters, some of whom were minors, calling their response "highly professional and lawful".

Asked about the Kremlin's reaction to the wide geography of the protests, something that has not been seen at least since 2012, Peskov said "the Kremlin is quite sober about the scale of yesterday's protests, and are not inclined to diminish them or push them out of proportion".

Putin "constantly talks to people" and is well-briefed on the sentiment in the country, Peskov insisted.

Peskov also claimed that underage protesters in Moscow were promised cash if they were arrested.

The Council of Europe said the detentions of the protesters raised concerns about freedom of expression and assembly.

Russian authorities should release all those detained, Secretary General Thorbjorn Jagland said.

The European Union and the United States also condemned the detentions.

German government spokesman Steffen Seibert said freedom of assembly, which is "of great importance to democracy," was being tested in Russia.

The resignation of Prime Minister Dmitry Medvedev was the main demand of Sunday's protests that were called for by Navalny after he published a detailed report this month accusing him of controlling a property empire through a shadowy network of non-profit organisations.

Medvedev, who has so far made no comments on the claims, is accused of amassing a private collection of mansions, yachts and vineyards. The alleged luxuries include a house for raising ducks, thus many placards in the protests showed mocking images of a yellow toy duck.

Al Jazeera's Rory Challands, reporting from Russia, said that the breadth and scale of Sunday's protests had likely surprised both Navalny and the Kremlin; solidifying Navalny's position as the pre-eminent opposition voice.

"Navalny's message of anti-corruption has really struck a chord with Russians," said Challands. "And going after Dmitry Medvedev, the prime minister, is pretty canny because - although Putin at the top of the tree is fairly unassailable - Dmitry Medvedev is a different political animal. He is much more vulnerable, much less popular, and putting pressure on him puts pressure on Vladimir Putin."

US-backed Syria forces resume fighting near Tabqa dam

SDF says Taqba Dam is not damaged and fighting will resume, but monitor casts doubt on whether engineers inspected site.

US-backed forces in Syria are resuming an offensive against ISIL fighters at a major hydroelectric dam, saying it is in no danger of collapsing amid conflicting claims over its integrity.

The Kurdish-led Syrian Democratic Forces' (SDF) offensive was briefly suspended on Monday, a day after a senior Syrian government official warned that the Tabqa Dam had been damaged by US-led air raids and cited an increasing risk of catastrophic flooding.

ISIL had also issued warnings that the dam could collapse "at any moment",  releasing pictures showing what it said was the structure's control room after it had been damaged by US air raids.

THE SIGNIFICANCE OF TABQA DAM:

The Taqba Dam, also known as the Euphrates Dam, is seen as a prize to push ISIL out of Raqqa, the armed group’s self-proclaimed capital in Syria.

Located about 40km from Raqqa, the dam is the biggest on the Euphrates. It stretches four kilometres across the river and is one of the few land crossings left as many bridges have been destroyed by fighting.

But the dam has also been damaged.

Last month, the UN warned that if it collapses there could be massive flooding across Raqqa and as far away as Deir Az-Zor, 150km downstream.

The UN estimates about 90,000 people are "trapped" in Deir Az-Zor by ISIL.

The SDF, an alliance of Arab and Kurdish fighters, paused operations for four hours on Monday to allow engineers to inspect the dam, a major target in their campaign to encircle and capture ISIL's self-declared capital of Raqqa, located around 40km downstream on the Euphrates river to the east.

The SDF later said engineers had entered the dam and found no damage or "malfunction".

But it remains unclear whether engineers accessed the site.

The Syrian Observatory for Human Rights, a UK-based monitor tracking developments in Syria's conflict via a network of sources on the ground, denied the SDF's statement, according to news agencies' reports.

It said technicians inside ISIL-held Tabqa did not reach the dam during the ceasefire to reactivate its main power controls. There was no explanation given.

"If the dam had been breached, the United Nations was warning of a humanitarian disaster with thousands caught up in the flooding," Al Jazeera's Alan Fisher, reporting from Beirut, said.

"The SDF says there is no problem - the makeshift ceasefire is over and the battle for Raqqa a step closer."

The dam, which stretches for about four kilometres across the Euphrates, was captured by ISIL at the height of the armed group's expansion in Syria and Iraq in 2014.

The SDF's decision to briefly stop operations followed a request by the Syrian government's water authority, with officials blaming US air raids in the past two days for disrupting internal control systems and putting the dam out of service.


The fight against ISIL – Inside Story
"There was growing concern over the weekend [about the dam's potential collapse]. In fact, ISIL was driving around nearby villages and towns warning them that there was a danger of flooding," said Al Jazeera's Fisher.

Hakam Tawfik, a structural engineer who worked on the construction of the dam, said that it looked like the facility had been critically damaged.

"I've seen the pictures on the internet and the control and operations room had been fully burned, which means there is no control of the water coming into the dam," he told Al Jazeera from Remscheid in Germany.

"This will lead to a real catastrophe, because there is no way from inside the dam to get rid of the water. The situation will escalate because as more cubic metres come in, the situation becomes more dangerous,"  Tawfik added, calling for an emergency operation.

"We need someone to interfere to stop this catastrophe, because water will overcome the dam and we don't know what we could do and how many days it would take to collapse - people living along there along the Euphrates are in danger."



The US-led coalition said on Monday it saw no imminent danger to the dam, unless ISIL fighters planned to blow it up.

"We do not assess the dam to be in imminent danger unless ISIS plans to destroy it," said Colonel Joseph Scrocca, a spokesman for the ISIL, which stands for Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant, and is also known as ISIS.

"The SDF are in control of a spillway north of the dam that provides water to an irrigation reclamation canal which can be used to alleviate pressure on the dam if need be. If the lake reaches dangerous levels the SDF can relieve the pressure through alternative means."

Strategic airbase

Separately, the SDF  announced on Sunday that it captured the nearby Tabqa airbase from ISIL,  a former Syrian military outpost that had been in the armed group's hands since 2014.

The allience said it had met pockets of resistance from ISIL fighters but it had managed to capture the strategically important base with the help of US-led raids.

Earlier this week, US forces airlifted SDF fighters and US advisers behind ISIL lines to allow them to launch the Tabqa assault.

"This is a part of the approach… the [US-led coalition's] assault on Raqqa, and gaining key strategic points, including the nearby airfield and the dam, all become part of the operation," said Fisher.

The SDF launched its offensive for Raqqa city in November, seizing around two thirds of the surrounding province, according to the Observatory.

‘No evidence’ of London attacker link to jihadist groups – police


British police said Monday they had found no link between the man behind last week’s terror attack outside the British parliament and the Islamic State group, which had claimed him as one of its “soldiers”.
Police secure a cordon blocking access to the Houses of Parliament in central London March 23, 2017 the day after the March 22 terror attack.
Britain’s parliament reopened on Thursday with a minute’s silence in a gesture of defiance a day after an attacker sowed terror in the heart of Westminster, killing three people before being shot dead. Sombre-looking lawmakers in a packed House of Commons chamber bowed their heads and police officers also marked the silence standing outside the headquarters of London’s Metropolitan Police nearby.
/ AFP PHOTO
The statement came as 52-year-old Muslim convert Khalid Masood’s mother spoke out for the first time, saying she was “deeply shocked, saddened and numbed, and relatives of the US victim voiced their grief.
“Whilst I have found no evidence of an association with IS or AQ (Al-Qaeda), there is clearly an interest in Jihad,” Neil Basu, deputy assistant police commissioner, said in a statement.
Masood was shot dead after ploughing through a crowd of pedestrians and fatally stabbing a policeman just inside the gates of the British parliament in a frenzied attack lasting just 82 seconds on Wednesday.
Four people were killed and dozens more injured.
Basu said Masood’s low-tech methods appeared to be “copied from other attacks and echo the rhetoric of IS leaders in terms of methodology and attacking police and civilians but at this stage I have no evidence he discussed this with others”.
He also said there was “no evidence that Masood, who was born as Adrian Elms, was radicalised in prison in 2003” as suggested in some media reports.
Basu said he changed his name to Masood in 2005.
Masood served two stints in prison for a knife attack in 2000 and again for knife possession in 2003.
“His last criminal offence was in 2003 and he was not a current subject of interest or part of the current domestic or international threat picture,” Basu said.
The police commander said Masood’s communications on the day of the attack were “a main line of inquiry” and he asked for anyone who had heard from him to come forward so as to establish “his state of mind”.
The government has confirmed that Masood used the WhatsApp messaging service shortly before the attack, saying it was crucial that the security services be allowed to access the heavily encrypted app.
Twelve people have been arrested since the attack and two men remain in custody after nine were released without charge and one woman was let out on bail.
– ‘Do not condone’ –
Masood’s mother Janet Ajao also on Monday released a statement saying: “Since discovering that it was my son that was responsible I have shed many tears for the people caught up in this horrendous incident”.
“I do not condone his actions nor support the beliefs he held that led to him committing this atrocity”.
The family of US tourist Kurt Cochran, who was one of the victims of the attack, spoke on Monday of a “humbling and difficult experience”.
Cochran and his wife Melissa were in London to celebrate their 25th wedding anniversary — their frist trip out of the United States.
She is still recovering from a broken leg, a broken rib and a cut to the head sustained in the attack.
In the first public statement by a victim’s family since the attack, her brother Kurt Payne thanked the emergency services and members of the public for “the outpouring of love and generosity”.
“The most difficult part of all of this is that Kurt is no longer with us, and we miss him terribly,” he said.
“He was an amazing individual who loved everyone and tried to make the world a better place.”

US President Donald Trump announced Cochran’s death last Thursday, calling him “a great American” in a tweet.

Deschamps eyes ‘glamour’ Spain match, Dutch without Blind


A rejuvenated France will take on Spain in a “glamour” friendly on Tuesday as coach Didier Deschamps looks to rotate his squad in a bid to extend a seven-match unbeaten streak.
Fresh from a 3-1 victory over Luxembourg in a World Cup qualifier at the weekend, the Euro 2016 runners-up will line up against a Spanish side that has dipped since winning the treble of two Euros (2008, 2012) and the 2010 World Cup, but remains strong on paper.            

France’s coach Didier Deschamps (L) celebrates with France’s defender Bacary Sagna (R) after winning the Euro 2016 round of 16 football match between France and Republic of Ireland at the Parc Olympique Lyonnais stadium in Decines-Charpieu, near Lyon, on June 26, 2016. / AFP

“It’s a glamour fixture. It’s a neighbouring country and, like against Italy and England, there is a distinctive flavour,” said Deschamps.
“It will be a test. It’s not at all the same style of match as Saturday (against Luxembourg). It’s good to have adversity, to suffer even, and be put in difficulty. It’s more appealing to play matches against opponents like Spain.”
As for any friendly, falling as it does between World Cup qualifiers and a heavy club schedule, Deschamps will likely rotate his squad, notably with the League Cup final between Paris Saint-Germain and Monaco scheduled for Saturday.
“I’ll try to give the maximum number of my players some game time,” he added.
Chelsea striker Diego Costa, scorer of one of the goals in Spain’s 4-1 win over Israel in Friday’s World Cup qualifier, suffered an ankle injury in training on Sunday which could rule him out of the friendly.
“He is staying with the squad but his participation in the game on Tuesday in Paris is uncertain,” the Spanish federation said.
– Blind axed –
The Netherlands take on Italy, who are vying with Spain for top spot in their World Cup qualifying group, at the worst possible time.
Danny Blind was sacked as Dutch coach following a 2-0 defeat by Bulgaria that left the team’s chances of reaching the World Cup finals hanging by the slenderest of threads.
“We were on the right track in Bulgaria, but it’s a pity that it ends like this,” he said, with his assistant Fred Grim to take charge in Amsterdam.
Blind, 55, had been in charge since July 2015, succeeding Guus Hiddink, but Saturday’s loss in Sofia left the Dutch in fourth place in qualifying Group A, six points behind leaders France.
Only the group winners are guaranteed a place in the 2018 finals in Russia.
And in Russia, the home side host Belgium in what will be the first football game played at Sochi’s Fisht arena.
The stadium, which hosted the opening and closing ceremonies of the Winter Olympics in 2014, was then transformed into a 47,600-seat football ground, where four matches of June’s Confederations Cup, including a semi-final, will be played in preparation for the World Cup.
Belgium look clear favourites, with Russia never having beaten them in the post-Soviet era and coming off the back of a first ever defeat to an African team on Friday, when they lost 2-0 to Ivory Coast.
Madeira’s Maritimo Stadium will be packed to capacity as Cristiano Ronaldo returns to his home island, which is hosting a Portugal international for the first time in 16 years, with the European champions facing Sweden.
Fixtures (all times GMT)
Georgia v Latvia (1400)
Albania v Bosnia-Herzegovina (1600)
Egypt v Togo (1600)
Estonia v Croatia (1600)
Macedonia v Belarus (1600)
Russia v Belgium (1600)
South Africa v Angola (1700)
Luxembourg v Cape Verde (1800)
Austria v Finland (1845)
Netherlands v Italy (1845)
Portugal v Sweden (1845)
Republic of Ireland v Iceland (1845)
Cameroon v Guinea (1900)
France v Spain (1900)

Key Liverpool man to snub summer exit: I'm loyal to the club and Jurgen Klopp



Liverpool coach: Pepijn Lijnders won't walk out on Jurgen Klopp
The Dutch coach is higly-rated in his homeland.
Go Ahead Eagles reportedly want Jurgen Klopp’s key backroom figure on board. but he’s not up for a switch.

Swedish football still waiting for next ‘Zlatan’


Swedes have a reputation as level-headed and patient, and it’s just as well: they’ll have to wait a while for a new “Zlatan” to suit up on the national football squad.
Zlatan Ibrahimovic, Sweden’s all-time high scorer with 62 goals, put an end to his 116-cap international career in June 2016.
Since then, the team has had no star player of top international calibre to fill Ibrahimovic’s shoes.
Some young hopefuls have however shown promise, like Emil Forsberg and Alexander Isak.


Zlatan Ibrahimovic

Commentators have repeated the phrase so often it’s almost comical. “The next Zlatan. Or the new Zlatan, Zlatan junior, Zlatan of the North … It’s a journalistic genre that’s existed for almost 15 years,” Swedish Radio sports commentator Johannes Finnlaugsson once joked.
That was back in 2014, when no one came close to Ibrahimovic’s star power on the Swedish squad.
Many young talents have been compared to him over the years, but none have lived up to expectations upon arriving in the big league.
But 17-year-old wunderkind Alexander Isak hopes he’ll be different.
The AIK forward was sold to Borussia Dortmund in January for a reported 10 million euros ($10.7m), just two weeks after becoming Sweden’s youngest ever international goalscorer.
But despite that, Isak was not selected for Sweden’s 4-0 win against Belarus on Saturday, nor for the friendly against Portugal on Tuesday in Funchal in the Azores.
Instead, coach Janne Andersson called on Anderlecht’s Isaac Kiese Thelin to replace striker John Guidetti. Thelin scored.
– Isak ‘making an impression’ –
“I want to play on the national team, and to do that I have to make a good impression,” Isak told football channel Fotbollskanalen in January.
But for now, he’s setting his sights on the Euro Championships for the under-21s, where he’s still a novice having made the team just once.
“I’m really keen. Obviously. This tournament would be my first, because I missed the Under-17 one in 2016 and I’m a little bitter about that. So my goal is to be in Poland this summer,” he said.
Swedish TV4 commentator Olof Lundh says he’s following Isak’s progress with Dortmund, where he’s only played for a few minutes in the German Cup. “It’s clear he’s making an impression so it could go quickly,” he told AFP.
But for now, other, older players are trying to make up for the gaping hole left by Ibrahimovic’s absence.
Wearing Ibra’s old number 10 is 25-year-old offensive midfielder Emil Forsberg, who plays for another Bundesliga club, RB Leipzig. He scored twice in Saturday’s World Cup qualifier against Belarus.
“Together with Victor Nilsson Lindelof, he’s part of a new generation of players who have taken important roles in Janne Andersson’s new team. They can become even better,” Lundh told AFP.
Lindelof, a 22-year-old defender, will feel at home against European champions Portugal on Tuesday — he has played for Benfica since 2012.
Last week he was preparing the game against Belarus when he learned that he had been elected to the Portuguese All-Star team by his peers.

Women's FA Cup: Man City host Liverpool, Chelsea visit Birmingham City


Chelsea Ladies are bidding to win the FA Cup for the second time in their history
Manchester City Women will host Liverpool Ladies in the Women's FA Cup semi-finals, while Chelsea are to visit Birmingham City.
Birmingham, winners in 2012, knocked out holders Arsenal on Sunday in the last eight, while Chelsea beat fellow top-flight side Sunderland.
Current league champions Man City, who have never reached an FA Cup final, earned a late win at Bristol City.
Liverpool have never won the competition but have reached the final on two occasions, in 1995 and 1996, and beat Notts County Ladies 2-0 at home in the quarter-finals.
This year's final will be held at Wembley on Saturday, 13 May.
Man City and Chelsea, the top two sides in the league for both of the past two seasons, had been drawn to face each other in the FA Cup semi-finals in each of the past two years.
The draw for the last four - carried out live on BBC Radio 5 live - guaranteed that the 2017 final cannot be a repeat of any previous final, as Birmingham met Chelsea in the 2012 final.

Women's FA Cup semi-final draw

Birmingham City Ladies v Chelsea Ladies
Manchester City Women v Liverpool Ladies

Happy Family

  Aisha Buhari the wife of Nigerian president with her younger brother and her son are looking bright and beautiful.