Monthly Archives:April 2018

Nigeria marks four-year anniversary of Chibok kidnap

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Nigeria on Saturday marked four years since Boko Haram abducted more than 200 schoolgirls from the remote town of Chibok, with renewed calls for their release and that of thousands of others seized in the bloody conflict.

A total of 219 girls were taken from the Government Girls Secondary School in the remote town in Borno state on the evening of April 14, 2014 and have become an enduring symbol of the Islamist insurgency.

Four years on, 112 are still being held.

On Friday night, about 100 people attended a vigil in Nigeria’s biggest city, Lagos, under a busy flyover whose pillars are now adorned with brightly painted murals of the missing girls.

“We are here to show the government that we are still missing our sisters,” Zakaria Galang, a brother of one of the students who is yet to return, told AFP.

Further events are planned in the capital, Abuja, on Saturday.

Nigeria’s president in 2014, Goodluck Jonathan, was heavily criticised for his response to the abduction but the man who replaced him, Muhammadu Buhari, has had more success.

Since 2016, 107 girls have been found, released or escaped as part of a government deal with Boko Haram and the administration has said back-channel talks are ongoing for further releases and a possible end to the wider conflict.

Another activist, Habiba Balogun, said she hoped that would happen after nearly nine years of violence that has left at least 20 000 dead and made more than 2.6 million homeless.

“The government has said that they are ready to negotiate; they want to bring this nightmare to an end,” she said.

Buhari pledged to the Chibok girls’ parents that their daughters “will never be forgotten or abandoned to their fate” despite the time that had passed.

The former military ruler has repeatedly claimed Boko Haram was virtually defeated but while there have been clear army gains, security threats remain.

In February, fighters loyal to a Boko Haram faction headed by Abu Mus’ab al-Barnawi seized 112 schoolgirls and one boy from the town of Dapchi, in Yobe state.

One hundred and seven were returned in mid-March. Five reportedly died, while one girl, the only Christian in the group is still being held.

Buhari said the return of so many students from Dapchi and Chibok “should give confidence that all hope is not lost” and showed the government was “doing its very best”.

There had been “unexpected setbacks” in talks because of infighting within Boko Haram.

But he added: “We will continue to persist, and the parents should please not give up. Don’t give up hope of seeing our daughters back home again.”

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Suspect charged in France over Kardashian gunpoint robbery

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A French court charged an eleventh suspect Friday over the gunpoint robbery of US reality TV star Kim Kardashian in Paris in 2016, a source involved in the investigation told AFP.

The 28-year-old man has been charged with armed robbery, criminal conspiracy and holding Kardashian against her will, the source said.

Ten people had already been charged over the October 2, 2016 robbery at a luxury residence where Kardashian was staying during Paris Fashion Week.

Five men tied her up, gagged her and locked her in a bathroom before making off with jewels worth $10.6 million, including her engagement ring.

The robbery was the biggest of an individual in France in the past 20 years.

One of the robbers fleeing the scene on a bicycle dropped a diamond-encrusted cross worth 30 000 euros, which was found by a passer-by a few hours later.

It remains the only piece to be recovered from the heist.

The suspected ringleader, 60-year-old Aomar Ait Khedache, told investigators he had struggled to find a buyer for Kardashian’s 18.88-carat ring, which she had flaunted on Instagram.

Ait Khedache said it was “too recognisable” and that he had given it to an unidentified third party.

The police believe part of the loot was sold in Belgium.

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Man electrocuted at Joburg construction site dies

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A man died on Friday, when he was electrocuted at a construction site in Fourways, Johannesburg, paramedics said.

ER24 spokesperson Russel Meiring said paramedics responded to the scene and arrived shortly after 3pm.

“Upon arrival, paramedics found a large tipper truck parked beneath some powerlines. A body of a man was found lying next to the vehicle.

Paramedics assessed the man and found that he had sustained serious burn wounds and showed no signs of life,” Meiring said.

“Unfortunately, nothing could be done for him and he was declared dead. It is alleged that the loading bay of the truck made contact with the above powerlines, causing the man to be electrocuted when he apparently touched the vehicles control unit.”

 

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Road closures expected for Mam Winnie’s funeral

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Motorists have been warned to avoid several routes around noon in Johannesburg amid mama Winnie’s funeral procession.

A heavy motorcade is expected to leave Soweto around midday to lay the struggle stalwart in her final resting place in Fourways, north of Johannesburg.

Johannesburg Metro Police Spokesperson, Wayne Minnaar says: “At approximately midday the funeral procession will leave Orlando stadium. It will proceed onto the N17, then go onto the N1 north as far as William Nicole.”

“They’ll go into Witkoppen, then right into Cedar road.”

From there the funeral procession will take a private route to the Fourways Memorial Park.

 

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Spain court rules proposed Catalan leader must stay in jail

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Spain’s Supreme Court on Thursday rejected a request by Catalonia’s pro-independence presidential candidate Jordi Sanchez to be let out of jail and sworn in as regional head.

The Catalan parliament had been scheduled to hold a debate and vote on Sanchez’s candidacy on Friday, but after the court’s ruling Catalan parliament speaker Roger Torrent announced on Twitter he had suspended the session indefinitely.

Sanchez was remanded in custody in October pending charges over his role in last year’s failed Catalan independence bid.

An attempt to appoint him as president failed last month after Spain’s Supreme Court turned down a request for his release from jail.

But Torrent put Sanchez’s name forward as a candidate again earlier this month after the United Nations Human Rights Committee defended his political rights.

In letters sent last month to Spanish authorities and Sanchez’s lawyers, the UN committee requested the state take all steps to ensure he is allowed to exercise his political rights.

Supreme Court judge Pablo Llarena once again turned down Sanchez’s request, arguing there were signs that he could “move in the direction of a rupture of the constitutional order”.

The judge argues it was justified in limiting Sanchez’s political rights given the risk that his release would pose to the collective rights “of the rest of the community”.

Torrent had appealed earlier on Thursday for the judge to agree to let Sanchez, a former leader of influential grassroots independence group ANC who was elected to the Catalan parliament in snap polls in December, leave jail to be sworn in.

“The court has the opportunity to take note of international law and the protection of political rights or write another dark chapter in the history of the Supreme Court,” he said in an interview to news radio station Cadena Ser.

The court ruling comes as Barcelona is gearing up for a huge protest on Sunday to mark the six month anniversary of the jailing of Sanchez and Jordi Cuixart, the leader of another separatist organisation.

Catalonia in political limbo

Catalonia has been in political limbo since Spain’s conservative central government imposed direct rule on the region after it unilaterally declared independence in October.

Fresh regional elections will be triggered if a new leader is not elected by May 22.

Separately, the National Court, which handles terrorism and other top criminal cases, released a woman who was arrested on Tuesday for “rebellion” and “terrorism” in a probe of pro-independence activists in Catalonia.

National Court judge Diego de Egea dismissed those two charges against her, saying she should instead be prosecuted for the lesser crime of causing public disorder, which carries a possible jail sentence of between six months and six years.

The woman is allegedly a member of the radical pro-independence activist groups called the Committees for the Defence of the Republic (CDR) which formed last year before an independence referendum on October 1.

In recent weeks, the groups have protested against the jailing of pro-independence Catalan leaders and the detention of former Catalan president Carles Puigdemont in Germany by blocking major roads in Catalonia, sometimes with burning tires.

At the end of March, the protesters blocked major roads in Catalonia and tried to occupy the central government’s representative office, heavily guarded by police, on several occasions. The resulting clashes left dozens injured.

 

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KPMG top executive suspended

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Audit firm KPMG has suspended Sipho Malaba, a top executive who was in charge of the VBS Mutual Bank audit.

VBS was placed under curatorship by the Reserve Bank after it faced serious liquidity challenges.

Malaba was appointed with the new executive in 2017 in a bid to regain public trust following the audit scandals that blemished the firm’s image.

KPMG came under the spotlight late in 2017 with scandals involving audits for Gupta-linked businesses and over the so-called rogue unit report at the SA Revenue Service.

The audit firm says in a statement that it is investigating the matter in full cooperation with the curator of VBS Mutual Bank. It says Malaba is suspended pending the outcome of the ongoing investigation and would not comment further on the matter.

VBS Mutual Bank is accused of manipulating financial information on its books with close to R1 billion that cannot be accounted for.

The bank was placed under curatorship after it took large municipal deposits and lent them on a long-term basis and could not meet clients’ withdrawals when the money was required.

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Book ‘Divided Country’ revisits history of SA cricket

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When the South African cricket team thrashed Australia recently, it was a victory celebrated by the whole of South Africa. However, that was not always the case.

Professor Andre Odendaal and his fellow authors will launch ”Divided Country” on Friday.

The book tells the history of South African cricket between 1914 and 1950 when there were unbelievably seven Cricket South Africa’s split along racial and gender lines, each playing its own tournaments and leagues and selecting its own national teams.

”Divided Country” is Volume Two of the history of cricket in South Africa – a book written by Professor Andre Odendaal, Krish Reddy and Christopher Merrett.

The first volume was a book called ”Cricket and Conquest” which covered the period from 1795 to 1914.

The book documented colonialism at its worst with Cecil John Rhodes at the helm and how cricket in South Africa had been formed by colonialism, imperialism, racism, the superiority of the English and then segregation through apartheid.

“Today, we know the SA team bats for all cricketers in SA, but it was not always so. In the 1950’s,  there was a white only male SA (team) called Saca; there was a coloured, Muslim, SA (team) called SACB which was forced to become the Malay cricket board; there was the SA coloured  cricket association formed in 1926; there was a SA Indian cricket union; the SA Bantu Union which in the 60’s became the African Union; there was the SA/Rhodesia women’s cricket association for white women only, and finally there was an inter-race SA called SACB, later called SACBOC. It was an absolute jumble with seven different organisations in the same cities and towns each running their own leagues and inter-provincial tournaments each selecting their own national teams. Some of them have never been known about a lot. Now, for the first time, there is a coherent history, statistical appendage of 65 tournaments by these black and omen cricketers. We had to sweat blood in newspapers, old scorebooks, wardrobes and suitcases.We have reasserted people to history where they have been erased not by accident, but as a deliberate part of colonial and apartheid thinking and action,” says author Professor Andre Ondendaal.

The book deals with both World Wars and the hardships it brought; how Indians were discriminated against and how they only became citizens in 1961, 100 years after arriving in South Africa. They were based mainly in Durban and Johannesburg and were not allowed in the Free State.

They were resilient and their love for the game of cricket shone through against all odds. White women started playing cricket in 1952. The gentleman’s game, however, was real and while women were allowed to play hockey, golf and tennis, there was tremendous opposition to women playing the cricket.

African women were also involved in the game, but not in an organised forum. It was only in 2005 that women finally found a place in world cricket when the International Women’s Cricket Council became part of the ICC.

”Divided Country” also tells some amazing cricketing stories about matches and players that affected countries on a global scale.

”Divided Country” is a book that bowls out the existing history in SA cricket. It helps to decolonise the game and creates a past that will never be the same again. It will hopefully help change mentalities and attitudes and the ownership of cricket in South Africa today – a game to be cherished by all South Africans.

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Calls for ANCYL’s Collen Maine to step down

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African National Congress Youth League Deputy Secretary General Thandi Moraka has called on the league’s president Collen Maine to resign “urgently”.

In scathing attacks on Maine at a memorial service for late stalwart Winnie Madikizela-Mandela, Moraka labelled Maine a sell-out, saying he is undeserving of being Youth League president.

She accused Maine of apologising to Ramaphosa to serve his own interest and not representing the league’s stance on the ANC presidency.

Youth League decided to support Nkosazana Dlamini-Zuma to succeed former President Jacob Zuma at the elective conference last December.

Moraka’s attacks come just days after a video surfaced of Maine telling mourners at another memorial of Madikizela-Mandela that he was introduced to the Guptas by North West Premier Supra Mahumapelo.

 

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‘Silent, invisible’ malnutrition seen as threat to generations in Congo

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Starving children are the glaring face of Congo’s humanitarian crisis, but millions more people are suffering slow onset malnutrition which could have harmful effects for generations, the United Nations said on Thursday.

About 13 million of the Democratic Republic of Congo’s 80 million people are in need of humanitarian aid – 50 percent more than last year – since fighting in the central Kasai region and other areas forced millions to flee their homes.

Although violence has subsided in Kasai, fields are still barren and many people have not received food aid due to lack of funding, the United Nations and aid agencies said ahead of a donor conference in Geneva on Friday. Congo’s government has shunned the upcoming aid conference, saying that humanitarian actors are exaggerating the level of need, which will discourage investment.

“The problem with chronic malnutrition is that you don’t really see it. It is silent and invisible,” said Alexis Bonte, country representative of the U.N. Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO).

Between 60 and 70 percent of people in Kasai and Congo’s other conflict zones have chronic malnutrition, which stunts children’s physical and mental development and makes them less likely to attain better opportunities as adults, he said.

Aid agencies are racing to help the 10 to 15 percent of people who need food urgently to survive, but those suffering a long-term lack of nutrients are harder to assist, Bonte said.

“That is one that we cannot handle by ourselves because we don’t have the money and we don’t have the capacity,” he told the Thomson Reuters Foundation by phone after visiting Kasai.

People are starting to re-plant fields, he said, but it will take one to two years to regain normal crop production.

Last year assistance reached only a third of people in need in the massive Central African country as funding fell short, said the United Nations which is seeking to raise four times as much this year – $1.7 billion.

British charity Oxfam said it was forced to half food rations for 90,000 people last year due to lack of funding, and this year cut back even more.

Crises in Kasai and eastern provinces have been aggravated by President Joseph Kabila’s refusal to step down at the end of his elected mandate in 2016 with uncertainty sparking deadly street protests and fears Congo could slide back into civil war.

“The stakes are incredibly high in DR Congo. Continued inaction would be measured in loss of civilian lives,” said Jan Egeland of the Norwegian Refugee Council.

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