Africa’s Only Female President, Gurib-Fakim of Mauritius Resigns amid Credit Card Scandal

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Abimbola Akosile with Agency report

Africa’s only remaining female president Ameenah Gurib-Fakim of Mauritius has resigned, over a credit card scandal, according to her lawyer. Her resignation, which has been speculated, came after the island’s 50th independence anniversary.

The move came after the Prime Minister Pravind Jugnauth accused Gurib-Fakim of back-pedalling on a promise to quit amid allegations of misconduct, and threatening unspecified actions if she did not step down.

The dispute between the two leaders has ratcheted up uncertainty on the Indian Ocean island, which has been politically and economically stable since it gained independence from Britain in 1968, according to reports. The World Bank ranks the country as the easiest place to do business in Africa.

Gurib-Fakim, the country’s first female head of state, on Wednesday denied having any plans to resign and said she was prepared to go to court over allegations she spent money from a charity on a shopping trip. That was just days after Jugnauth said Gurib-Fakim told him during a meeting at State House she planned to step down.

“I am shocked – shocked is not a strong enough word,” Jugnauth told reporters on Thursday in the capital, Port Louis, in a briefing broadcast by Radio Plus. “It’s an attitude which is damaging to the office of the presidency. It’s a behaviour which does not honour our republic.”

“The president of the republic told me that she would resign from office and we agreed on the date of her departure,” Jugnauth told reporters without giving the chosen date. The interest of the country comes first, and I am proud of Mauritius’s image as a model of living democracy in the world.” He added it would take place before parliament returned at the end of the month.

Gurib-Fakim, according to reports, said she “inadvertently” used a payment card issued to her by the Planet Earth Institute in 2016 that was identical to a bank card she already had. After telling the London-based charity she’d used their card for about US$27,000 of “out-of-pocket expenses”, she immediately reimbursed the institute in addition to other expenses incurred on a PEI trip.

“The clash makes a big dent to the reputation of our country as a business friendly and well-managed economy,” said a former governor of the Bank of Mauritius and now an independent political analyst, Dan Maraye.
“Political uncertainty destroys economic development and stability. It brings the whole system to a crashing halt until the matter is cleared,” Maraye added.

Gurib-Fakim, Africa’s only female head of state after the tenure of Liberian President, Ellen Johnson-Sirleaf ended, is a renowned scientist and in 2015 became the first woman to be appointed to the ceremonial position of president of Mauritius

The Mauritian daily L’Express published bank documents purporting to show Ms Gurib-Fakim had used a credit card given to her by the Planet Earth Institute (PEI) in London to buy thousands of dollars worth of clothes, jewellery and other personal items, according to the BBC.

According to the paper, the card was given to her as part of her work as an unpaid director for the charity.
One of the organisation’s directors is Angolan businessman Alvaro Sobrinho who, the paper says, secured a permit to found an investment bank in Mauritius, prompting allegations of favouritism. In a statement to the BBC, PEI London said Ms Gurib-Fakim had refunded the money to its Mauritian sister organisation.

The organisation says it had given her a credit card to cover travel expenses while promoting African science, technology and innovation.

The independence from Britain was granted to the Mauritian people on the 12th of March 1968; an occasion that is marked and celebrated each year.