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Mahikeng Municipality manager cries foul over ‘media bias’

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The manager of the embattled Mahikeng Local Municipality in the North West Thabo Mokoena has accused the media, including the SABC, of being used to tarnish his reputation, and that of the municipality.

Recent media reports say the municipality has invested R85 million in the VBS Mutual Bank, without following due processes.

The municipality is also reported to be paying R96 000 a month for a non-existent toilet at a local taxi rank following Mokoena’s approval.

Mokoena says the allegations against the municipality are untrue.

“I was told by a certain person, who was the head in the office of the executive mayor… he said to me, the only way to survive reputational damage in Mahikeng, is to give this person at SABC work. He’s a news reporter,” explains Mokoena.

“If you give him work, he’s not going to report bad about you. And that person has sent me the message saying, we’ll be inviting every stakeholder in a hall, where people are going to come, people are going to talk about this thing of VBS or whatever. This is the same person who said I must give him a job,” he adds.

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SA journalists living in fear – Report

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An alliance of civil rights organisation The Right2Know says many journalists in South Africa are fearful that someone is spying on them.

The organisation revealed this in its latest report titled ‘Spooked – Surveillance of Journalists in South Africa’.

The report presents a range of case studies of journalists who appear to have been spied on, with the aim to give them a better picture of the threats they might face so they can better defend themselves.

The Right2Know’s Murray Hunter says the main surveillance law is the RICA Act.  He says the AmaBhungane Centre for Investigative Journalism will soon challenge the law in the Constitution Court.

“What Rica says is that everyone who has a sim card and has registered their identity with the sim card, and that if the state wants to intercept their communications, they need the permission of the judge. But we have seen that it hasn’t done enough to protect people’s privacy against surveillance abuses.

“We have seen whistle-blowers, journalists, activists have been spied on. What we want from this constitutional challenge is more protection for our privacy. If you are spied on, at some point you need to get notified that your information has been handed over. The current secrecy around Rica has meant that when people are spied on illegally, they have no way of detecting it and acting to protect their rights.”

Right2Know says journalists in South Africa are targets of state and private sector spying particularly those uncovering corruption, state capture and in-fighting in the state security agencies.

Meanwhile, the South African National Editor’s Forum (SANEF) says they are not surprised by the contents of this report. SANEF chairperson Mahlatse Mahlase says journalists have been complaining that their communication devices including cellphones have been intercepted.

“Over the years we have heard from journalists complaining that they suspect that their phones have been tapped. We know that many of the journalists that have uncovered corruption in this country have been targets and this is a serious threat to media freedom.

“And whistle-blowers come to journalists because they are gatvol with the corruption within the state. They come to journalists trusting that they will be protected. We have to see action where there are gaps with the Rica laws. And also we are hoping that this review by the President of the State Security will actually look at all of these issues and bring them to an end,” Mahlase added.

President Cyril Ramaphosa has initiated a panel to review the mandate and functioning of the State Security Agency, which has been implicated in a range of abuses relating to its surveillance work.

The Right2Know says surveillance affects all members of society, including whistle-blowers and activists. The report recommends among others increased vigilance from media organisations and more accountability from communication service providers.

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Pamplona assures women its bull-running festival safe after “Wolf Pack” assault

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Pamplona wants to reassure women they will be safe from abuse during the bull-running festival that starts in the Spanish city this week, countering calls to boycott the event in protest at a failed rape prosecution.

Five men, who called themselves “The Wolf Pack”, were cleared in April of raping an 18-year-old woman at the festival in 2016, and convicted of the lesser crime of sexual abuse.

The ruling was met by a wave of protests that was renewed when the men were released on bail last month.

Ahead of Friday’s launch of the alcohol-fuelled event, where mostly men volunteer to be chased by bulls down narrow streets, suggestions of a boycott circulated on social media.

“Faced with calls not to come to the festival, I would make a call to women that Pamplona is a city whose institutions and society have said they will not allow assaults,” said councillor Itziar Gomez.

The municipality, started campaigning for festivals free from sexist assaults in 2014, building an infrastructure which now includes helplines in dozens of languages to deal with incidents.

This year it launched an app that lets people tell police at the touch of a button if they suffer or witness a sexual assault, with a signal for officers to locate them.

“We’ve become a city with an extremely high level of awareness,” Gomez said, adding that women were increasingly reporting assaults such as groping.

Rather than boycotting the bull run, some women plan to show their anger by wearing black instead of the traditional white.

“Now more than ever we women have to fill the streets, fill the fiestas and fill the night, because you will have that assurance that there are women in the street with you,” said former city councillor for equality Laura Berro.

The Wolf Pack case has raised awareness about sexual assault throughout Spain where chants of “I believe you, sister” and “Drunk and alone, I want to get home” ringing out across town squares have taken on a similar weight to the #MeToo hashtag that originated in the United States.

Spain’s new prime minister, Pedro Sanchez, appointed a female-dominated cabinet, reinstated a ministry for equality and pledged gender equality training for judges and a review of the legal definition of sex crimes.

Altamira Gonzalo Valganon of Themis, an organisation of female legal experts, said: “Judges in this country are generally cut off from social reality, have been educated in a patriarchal system, and have more empathy with men than women.”

In Pamplona, bartender Maitane Hermoso de Mendoza, 26, said she hoped some good would come of the Wolf Pack debacle.

“After this case, people are taking all these things more seriously. It’s sad to say, but it has served to make people more aware of what’s going on.”

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Indonesia says at least 29 dead in ferry sinking

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At least 29 people died after a ferry sank near Indonesia’s Sulawesi island, officials said on Wednesday, as rescue teams searched for dozens of missing passengers a day after the country’s latest ferry disaster.

Tuesday’s sinking came a few weeks after an overcrowded ferry sank on Lake Toba, one of the world’s deepest volcanic lakes, claiming more than 200 lives.

The regional disaster mitigation agency said 29 people were confirmed dead in Tuesday’s accident and 41 remained missing. Another 69 passengers had been rescued.

The ferry was carrying an unknown number of vehicles when it began to fill with water and sink. The vessel was close to shore and the captain ran it onto a reef in a bid to help the rescue effort, a transport ministry official told Reuters.

Television images on Tuesday showed dozens of passengers hanging on to the keeling vessel or bobbing in the water wearing life jackets.

Indonesia suffers frequent boat sinkings with basic safety rules often flouted and vessels overloaded.

After last month’s sinking, one of the deadliest in nearly a decade, a two-week search and rescue effort located the vessel at a depth of 450m with victims trapped inside, but technical and logistical challenges forced the recovery to be called off.

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Rome gives Libya 12 boats to ‘fight human trafficking’ at sea

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The Italian government will give Libya 12 boats to help them “fight human trafficking” and curb the flow of migrants into Europe, Rome announced late on Monday.

The announcement comes as several EU nations are pressuring Libya to take charge of migrant rescues in the Mediterranean, with the bloc debating how to handle the influx of migrants to the continent.

The measure, adopted during a cabinet meeting, “aims to strengthen the operational capacity of the Libyan coastguard” to ensure the “proper management” of the migrant situation in the Mediterranean, a government statement said.

The measure “prioritises the need to fight human trafficking, to protect human life at sea and to curb migratory pressure,” the statement added.

The Italian government will also take responsibility for the maintenance of the 12 boats until the end of the year and offer training to the Libyan coastguard and naval authorities.

According to the Italian transport and infrastructure ministry, the total cost of this aid is around $2.9 million.

“We are aware that this is not enough and that we must work to stabilise the situation, strengthen the rule of law and the protection of people’s dignity in the territory of the emerging Libyan state,” Transport Minister Danilo Toninelli said in the statement.

In recent weeks EU leaders have cracked down on charity migrant rescue boats operating at sea.

Several EU leaders have accused NGO ships of indirectly aiding human traffickers, saying they should let the Libyan coastguard coordinate rescue missions and take the migrants back to Libya.

But NGOs argue the migrants would not be safe in Libya, where they have faced abuse and rape in holding centres.

According to figures from the International Organization for Migration, more than 1 000 people have died in the Mediterranean so far this year.

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Helsinki summit is good for global peace, stability

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In less than two weeks, United States President Donald Trump and his Russian counterpart Vladimir Putin will meet face to face at a much anticipated summit in Finland’s capital, Helsinki.

From his utterances during the primaries when he was running to become America’s 45th president, Trump had made it rather crystal clear that he prefers sound relations between Washington and Moscow.

It was going to be one of his foreign policy key priorities once in the Oval office, but claims – albeit untested thus far – that Russia meddled in the US elections that catapulted him to the zenith of America’s political power had undermined the plans.

Eighteen months down the line, however, Trump is following up on an enticing possibility of world peace spearheaded by close working ties between two powerful foes.

The Helsinki Summit, therefore, has on its shoulders a huge burden of expectation that finally, once and for all, both President Trump and Putin could jointly play a leading role in making the world a much safer, peaceful place for indeed they both can and the world expects.

Choruses of disapproval from especially the Democrats in Washington are to be expected since Hillary Clinton lost the 2016 presidential election to Trump. At some point, one can only wish, the Democrats will find it in themselves to turn the page and look to the future than spending so much of their precious time dissecting the past in search of any possible Trump sinker.

Let’s face it, methinks John Bolton, the US national security advisor, captured it quite well when he recently defended Trump’s pursuit of world peace through closer ties with Russia. “I’d like to hear somebody say it’s a bad idea,” Bolton said during his recent visit to Moscow where he was working on the Helsinki Summit preparations.

He further alluded to the appetising desire to take a leaf out of Russia’s book in their preparations for the 2026 FIFA World Cup which the US will co-host with its close neighbours Mexico and Canada.

Although the FIFA World Cup currently underway in Russia is only entering its final stages, pundits and commentators are hailing the event as a truly remarkable spectacle of an era. Bolton is absolutely spot-on: learn from the best.

Bolton himself is a former hawkish politician who has said disparaging things about Russia in the past.

He refused to be drawn on his previous stand-point, saying he was now looking to the future and that his mandate is to work toward achieving truly closer ties with Moscow.

When one looks at the global hot-spots where the US and Russia are playing protagonist roles but on the opposing sides, one can only wonder at the continually lost opportunities to save lives, cities and indeed our planet.

Among the many examples of unnecessary destruction is the on-going bombing in Syria, once a peaceful, prosperous Biblical country now lying in ruins and leaving millions of its citizens either displaced or dead.

If both the US and Russian tanks were fighting in the same side, the scourge of terror groups such as Al-Qaeda would have long been dealt a permanent blow.

One of the oft-made mistakes especially by the powerful in the international order is to assume a misguided sense of insulation from harm. Yet in this globalising world, where like never before the contraction of time and space means that we are interwoven in a global village, and therefore inter-dependent, peace is a much better prospect for us and our children and indeed for many generations to come, regardless of where they are born.

The Helsinki Summit is yet another interval in history which provides an opportunity for some epoch moment to emerge out of a sweltering heat of global despair.

It is time to give peace yet another chance.

 

Opinion by Abbey Makoe, SABC Specialist Editor

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Macron visits Nigerian music legend’s Lagos nightclub

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France’s president on Tuesday visited a nightclub founded by legendary Nigerian Afrobeat star Fela Kuti and announced the launch of an initiative dubbed “Africa culture season 2020.”

Emmanuel Macron arrived at the famous venue, the New Afrika Shrine, in the Nigerian city of Lagos, just hours after holding talks and a joint news conference with President Muhammadu Buhari in the capital, Abuja, at the start of a two-day visit to the West African country.

During an evening in which classic Fela songs were played alongside contemporary artists, Macron told the audience that France will host series of events about African Culture, “for African artists, by African artists.”

The French President also encouraged young people to get in involved in politics, saying Fela Kuti had not just been a musician, but also a “politician who wanted to change society.”

Fela was jailed on dozens of occasions by military rulers in the 1970s and 1980s, including by Buhari during his time as a military leader in the early 80s.

The New Afrika Shrine replaced the famed original venue – created by Fela – which burned down in 1977.

It is managed by the musician’s sons Femi and Seun who continue their father’s musical and cultural tradition.

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Uber, Taxify drivers vow to continue strike action

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Uber/Taxify drivers say they will not be deterred from highlighting their plight. This after they found Uber offices closed as they attempted to deliver a memorandum of grievances in Garsfontein in Pretoria on Tuesday afternoon.

Scores of drivers have shut down their operations nationally.

They’re demanding that the mother company, E-hailing, increase their fare price due to fuel hikes that are killing their profits.

One of the march organisers, Chris Ravhuhali, says their members are being ill treated and intimidated by rival operators.

Ravhuhali says they’ve so far lost seven members in violent attacks.

“These are the issues that we’ve been engaging with the mother body and government. The justice system has been so reluctant, ignorant and arrogant towards what we’ve been saying to them. We’ve lost seven lives, and the is not a single case where a breakthrough was made.”

“No single arrest and no feedback as to how far they are with the investigations,” adds Ravhuhali.

 

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Brics conference aims to advance science innovation

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Science and Technology Ministers from countries in the Brics say the main focus for a two-day Science and Technology conference held in Durban was to identify social problems and find solutions to common challenges.

The conference kicked off on Monday.

They say the forum gave them a platform to exchange perspectives and ideas to generate science solutions.

The ministers have come to a resolution to establish a science innovation hub between countries in the Brics grouping.

Science and Technology Minister Mmamoloko Kubayi-Ngubane says South Africa with other Brics countries are already working on various development strategies to advance science innovation.

“There is quite a number of things that are happening – either in South Africa and in particular countries within the Brics countries – in establishing corporation. We are learning from the work that we are doing as SADC – because we have been able to do quite tangible work since we have seconded somebody from South Africa to SADC to look specifically on Science and Technology.”

“Out of that we are learning that we can do more, co-ordinate the work and implement,” she adds.

 

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Cape Town officials battle effects of severe weather

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The City of Cape Town‘s Disaster Management says technicians are still working to restore electricity in a number of areas across the Cape Metro affected by heavy downpours and flooding.

Trees have been uprooted and power lines damaged in areas including Langa, Parow Valley, Mfuleni and Constantia.

Officials have cleared most roadways and unblocked drains.

The highest recorded rainfall in the City was in Kirstenbosch at 72 millimetres.

The City’s Charlotte Powell says they are still assessing the extent of the damage.

“At this stage, roadways have been cleared and trees have been removed. Community day centres in Ravensmead and Belhar have been flooded and have been referred to nearby communities, electricity has not yet been restored in some areas and technicians are on site.”

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