Mali – investigation of abuse and executions by UN


The United Nations said on Friday it was investigating reports of serious human rights abuses, including the execution of civilians, in northern Mali following clashes this week between northern Tuareg separatist rebels and pro-government militia.

U.N.-brokered peace efforts in Mali’s north are in danger of unravelling because of repeated violations of a ceasefire between the Tuareg-led Coordination of Movements of Azawad (CMA) and the pro-government factions around the flashpoint northern town of Menaka.

The clashes on Thursday killed at least six civilians, including a Malian aid worker, rebels and a local source said.

The U.N. mission in Mali said on Friday it had sent a team of investigators to verify reports of serious abuses and the execution of civilians, possibly including an aid worker in Tin-Hamma, in Gao region.

“These abuses followed as a result of the clashes on May 20 between members of the Platform (pro-government militia) and the Coordination of Movements of Azawad,” the mission said.

The National Movement for the Liberation of Azawad, a member of the CMA coalition, said in a statement that nine people including two who worked for international aid agencies were arrested by pro-government militia and executed. It added that several others were missing.

“The execution took place in public, at the town’s cattle market and the bodies were still exposed in the public square as of 1500 GMT,” MNLA said in the statement, listing the names of the nine.

The Malian government rejected accusations that its troops were involved in the abuses. It said in a statement late on Friday that Malian soldiers had intervened in Tin-Hamma to drive out insurgents who had killed three civilians in the attack.

“The government is surprised by the allegations of abuses on the population attributed to the armed forces following the events in Tin-Hamma,” it said. “The government rejects such accusations.”

The U.N. mission said it was concerned about an alarming escalation of fighting in several areas of northern Mali, which was in violation of the ceasefire and could jeopardise the peace deal.

Separately, it said 12 rockets hit its camp in Ber, about 50 km (30 miles) east of Timbuktu, on Friday. It did not name the attackers but said there were no casualties.

There was a lull on Thursday. On Friday morning, sources within the rebel CMA and later videos that Reuters obtained showed fighting had resumed around the town of Menaka, which the rebels had been trying to take back since last month when pro-government forces kicked them out.

In a separate battle, the rebels also seized the town of Tessit near Gao.

Violence has continued in northern Mali despite a 2013 French-led intervention that pushed back al Qaeda-linked fighters who hijacked the Tuareg-led rebellion and seized two-thirds of the country in 2012.

A ceasefire deal was signed between the government, its allies and northern separatist groups last year, but violations of the agreement have increased since pro-government fighters seized Menaka late last month.

(Additional reporting and writing by Bate Felix; Editing by David Lewis, Andrew Heavens and Leslie Adler)

South Africa – savage truth of Marikana

Mail and Guardian


The savage truth behind the Marikana massacre

22 MAY 2015 00:00 NICK DAVIES


Nick Davies uncovers the story of “the man in the green blanket”, who died trying to broker peace, and reveals the complicity of the powers that be.

 Mambush Noki (green blanket) and Xolani Ndzuzu (centre) speak to the police with the striking Lonmin miners gathered in the background. (Greg Marinovich, The Stand)

On August 16 2012, South African police opened fire on a large crowd of men who had been on strike at a platinum mine at Marikana in North West Province. They shot down 112 of them, killing 34. In any country, this would have been a traumatic moment. For South Africa, it was a special kind of nightmare, because it revived images of massacres by the state in the old apartheid era, with one brutal difference – this time it was predominantly black police officers, with black senior officers working for black politicians, who were doing the shooting.

In response, President Jacob Zuma appointed a commission of inquiry, chaired by retired judge Ian Farlam, which sat in public for a total of 293 days, hearing evidence from miners, their bosses and the police, and reviewing video, audio and paper records of the shooting and of the seven-day strike that preceded it.

At the end of March this year, the commission delivered its report to Zuma, who so far has failed to publish its conclusions. Those who may find themselves accused of colluding in the police action include not only senior figures from the ANC but also Lonmin, the British company that owns the Marikana mine.

In the evidence before the Farlam inquiry, one particular miner came to the fore. In videos of marches and meetings during the strike, this was largely because he wore a bright green blanket around his shoulders. Beyond that, it was because, during those seven days of conflict, he came from nowhere as the leader, making passionate speeches through a loud-hailer, negotiating with police and standing in the frontline as the shooting broke out. He died that afternoon, with 14 bullets in his face and neck and legs.

The name of the man in the green blanket was Mgcineni Noki. He was aged 30, and known to his family and friends as Mambush. This is his story. It may also stand as part of the story of what has happened in South Africa since apartheid was voted into the dustbin of history 21 years ago.

Mambush – a rock-drill operator with no official rank – emerged from the mass of black workers as a rebel leader demanding justice, while some of those who once spearheaded the fight against repression acted as a shield protecting privilege, exploitation and extreme violence. It is a story about power changing hands and changing colour but failing, finally, to change the lives of those in whose name that power is held.


Cathedral of commerce

The Lonmin smelter stands like a cathedral of commerce over a bleak landscape, its chimney reaching for heaven, its conveyor belt shuffling a fortune in unrefined platinum. The miners live in its shadow. Their homes are one-roomed shacks. Some of them are built out of breeze blocks; most are patchworks of rusting corrugated iron tacked on to frames of timber torn from local trees. The shacks huddle together in groups of several hundred. There are no roads, only dirt tracks that turn greasy in the rain. A few chickens peck in the mud. Goats stroll by.

As far as the eye can see, pylons march across the landscape like robot soldiers, bringing electricity to the mines, but most of the shacks have no power – though some steal it on cables that sag among the washing lines. The mines have water, too, to wash the ore. But not the shacks: some of the men share a communal tap, many of which have been broken for months; some drink straight from milky streams that run nearby.

In one of the shacks lives Mbulelo Noki, a lean, fit man in blue jeans and a Levi’s shirt, now aged 35. He has a double bed, neatly made; a small table with a plastic cloth; a metal wardrobe with the torn remains of an old ANC sticker on the door. Mbulelo is Mambush’s cousin – their fathers were brothers. Mbulelo and Mambush grew up together in a tiny village called Thwalikhulu, high on the rim of a pale green valley in the Eastern Cape.

The image of the ‘man in the green blanket’ will always be associated with the Marikana tragedy. This graffiti is by Tokolos Stencil. (Delwyn Verasamy, M&G)

The two boys were close. Mambush’s father died before he was born, and so Mbulelo’s father helped the bereaved family to survive. As they reached adolescence, the cousins went together into the hills to build a hut and to go through the rituals and circumcision that marked their graduation to manhood. Later they worked together as rock-drill operators, battering platinum ore out of the earth, 5km below ground.

Mbulelo recalled that Mambush nearly missed the strike. The two of them were there as it was launched, on Thursday August 9 2012, when hundreds of rock-drill operators gathered on the parched grass of the Wonderkop football stadium, near the administrative buildings at the centre of the mine complex.

They had heard that the rock-drill operators at the Impala Platinum mine, in nearby Rustenburg, had emerged from a long and sometimes violent strike with new pay rates, whereas they remained on R4 000 to R5 000 a month, and they were angry. They demanded R12 500 and agreed they would not turn up for work the next day.

On the Friday morning, the two cousins got a message that their uncle – the younger brother to their fathers – had died of tuberculosis at the Impala mine. On the second day of the strike, they set off to retrieve his body, so they missed the first signs of violence.

It happened on the Friday evening. Small groups of strikers had gone to two of the shafts where some men were still working. The strikers toyi-toyied, urging them to join them. Some waved sticks. Lonmin security men asked police who were watching to disperse the strikers. The police reportedly said the strikers were not causing any trouble. Lonmin security then opened fire with rubber bullets, firing more than 40 rounds at the strikers. Two were seriously injured and hospitalised.

Much later, the Lonmin logbook that contained a record of this event was submitted to the Farlam inquiry – with all reference to the shooting deleted. Another copy was later discovered in police archives, containing detailed references to the shooting. A Lonmin manager later admitted making the deletions.

The previous evening, Barnard Mokwena, then Lonmin’s executive vice-president, had written an internal memo, later disclosed to the Farlam inquiry, advising that the company should not tolerate demands that were “outside the collective bargaining structure”. The strikers were rejecting their own union, the National Union of Mineworkers (NUM), accusing it of supporting the bosses. As the union was not involved, the company could choose not to recognise the strike and not to negotiate. Mokwena urged that, instead of talking, the company should sack the strikers and call in the police to deal with them.

By Friday night, Mbulelo and Mambush were back from Impala and arguing about their next move. Mbulelo wanted to leave to arrange their uncle’s funeral; Mambush was determined to join the strike. That night, Mambush called his wife, Veronica, who was living with their two-year-old daughter, Asive, in Carletonville. This was the town where he had first worked as a miner, in 2004.

In 2008, he injured his shoulder in a rock fall and went to the medical station where Veronica was an administrative assistant. They started a relationship that continued even though Mambush soon moved to Marikana, where the pay was better and the rock was harder and safer to mine than in Carletonville.

Veronica had not known Mambush to get involved in a strike before, though she knew that he was angry with the NUM. Sitting on the old plastic chairs under the tree at the back of her house, he had often talked to her and her father, Ephraim, about how the NUM shop stewards were taken out of the mine and given pay rises, cars and cellphones by the company, and how very soon they stopped speaking up for the people who had elected them.

“The NUM is a sellout,” she remembered him saying. She also recalled one time when she was visiting him in Marikana, when he disappeared for an hour to register with a new breakaway union – the Association of Mineworkers and Construction Union (Amcu).


Striking miners on the march at Marikana. (Paul Botes, M&G)

He had talked often about struggling to get by on R5 000 a month. He was sending most of it back to his family in the Eastern Cape, then paying for rent on his shack and food for himself. Often he would have to borrow to get through to the end of the month, sometimes from friends, sometimes from microlenders who specialise in payday loans at interest rates as high as 50% a month. Veronica had told him not to worry about sending money to her and Asive. She had a brick-built house, and with a college education she was earning enough to get by. “Let’s deal with other issues,” she told him. “I will take care of the baby.”

On the Friday night, he told her the strikers had to hold out. “The money is so little. It’s a must.” Veronica said that there was no way they would get the raise they were demanding, but she was not worried about him. Not just then. Over the following three days, though, the strike tumbled into a vortex of violence.

The koppie

On the morning of Saturday August 11, the strikers gathered in the football stadium and decided to march to the NUM office to protest that union officials had been touring the shacks, urging their members to go to work. Some of the strikers were carrying sticks and chanting aggressively.

The Farlam inquiry later heard that an NUM official gathered 30 union members in their office and gave them long panga knives and at least one gun. As the strikers approached, they heard gunfire and turned and scattered. NUM men pursued them. Some strikers were beaten and cut. Two fell with bullet wounds and were hospitalised. They survived, although at the time the others thought that they were dead.

The strikers abandoned the football stadium as a meeting place, because it was too close to the NUM office, and began to assemble on a koppie that stood on a wide plain of wasteland near one of the settlements. They collected cash and sent for a local sangoma in the hope that he could protect them from violence.

Then others joined the strike – not just the rock-drill operators who had started it, but also other Lonmin workers who were furious when they heard claims that the NUM was colluding with the company and had shot two of their comrades.

One of the new recruits was a friend of Mambush, a short, muscular man named Xolani Nzuza, then 27, who managed a football team in which Mambush played. Xolani had come to Marikana eight years earlier to finish college, aiming to become a social worker, but ran out of money. In 2006, he turned to the mine for income. Like Mambush, he had abandoned the NUM and joined Amcu. He was outraged by what was happening.

As he said later: “The people who should be negotiating for us were shooting at us.” Clever and articulate, Xolani was to become Mambush’s deputy at the head of the strike.

The violence escalated. The following day, Sunday August 12, a group of about 150 strikers marched from their new base on the koppie to the Lonmin office. There were scuffles. A striker threw a rock. A security guard fired a shotgun. The strikers massed forward. Some of the workers were now carrying pangas and used them with deadly force, slashing one guard from armpit to hip and hacking two more to death. One of the bodies was burned beyond recognition. Over the following 24 hours, two miners were killed when they tried to go to work in the hours of darkness.

Looking back at these events, the Farlam inquiry uncovered fault on all sides: the opening violence by Lonmin and the NUM, a complete absence of investigation of that violence by the South African Police Service (SAPS), barbaric behaviour by those strikers who had killed people who defied them, and an apparently callous decision by Lonmin.

As counsel to the Farlam probe put it: “It appears that it was possible for Lonmin to close the mine in order to protect its workers but that for business reasons it elected not to do so.”

Veronica says that Mambush was worried, telling her in phone calls: “This is so messy. This is getting too violent.” She pleaded with him to come and stay with her, but it was at this point that he decided to try to take the lead, to steer the strikers away from violence and back to their real aim, to negotiate a pay rise.

The shacks the workers occupy in the shadow of Lonmin. (Paul Botes, M&G)

By early the next afternoon, Monday August 13, he was at the head of some 200 strikers who marched from the koppie to picket at one of the mineshafts, where they had heard NUM members were still working. When Lonmin security barred their way and told them no one was working there, Mambush simply turned the march around and headed back towards the koppie, only to be stopped by the police who insisted that they must give up the sticks and pangas they were carrying.

Police video caught Mambush, with Xolani by his side, reasoning with them: “Please open the way for us. That’s the only thing we are asking for. We are not fighting with anyone. We just want to go to the koppie.” Soon, the strikers had agreed that if the police would protect them from attack by NUM members they would surrender their weapons when they reached the safety of the koppie. The senior police officer on the scene appeared willing to accept this until – as the video shows – he took a phone call.

At that moment, the provincial police chief, Lieutenant General Mirriam Zukiswa Mbombo (who this week announced her retirement from the SAPS), was sitting with Lonmin managers, monitoring the strikers on closed-circuit television. Mbombo had joined the police in 1980 and had risen quickly through the ranks after the end of apartheid. She set up a joint operations centre in Lonmin’s office, where, according to evidence at the Farlam inquiry, her officers were working not only with the company but also with NUM officials who were helping them to identify strike leaders.

When his phone call ended, the senior officer was no longer willing to compromise. He would count to 10, he said, by which time the strikers must surrender all their sticks and pangas. The strikers replied by chanting in isiXhosa: “No matter how big you make your balls, you are nothing.” And with that, crouching low to show they planned no attack, Mambush at the fore, they began walking slowly towards the koppie.

Police video shows that all was peaceful for several minutes – until some officers lobbed teargas and stun grenades at the strikers. Nobody has ever established whether they were ordered to do this. The result was disastrous. The miners started to run. Police ran after them. Two officers were surrounded by strikers and cut down and killed. Strikers stole their guns.

In the melee, some of the dead men’s colleagues then turned on their own senior officer, blaming him for the deaths and threatening to kill him. Other officers pursued the fleeing strikers. Several miners were shot. Three died. None of them was carrying a firearm. One was shot through the head from an assault rifle at a distance of more than 70m.

That evening, photographs of the hacked bodies of the two dead officers are said to have been circulated among police officers across the country.

When Mambush and the others straggled back to the koppie, his cousin Mbulelo was there. He heard Mambush speak to the crowd, reporting the deaths. That evening, Mbulelo called Veronica and begged her to come to Marikana. “I tried to talk to him, told him he must come back, but he doesn’t want to listen to me,” he said. “He will listen to you. Please come.”

But Veronica could not come. She was working and had no money to get to Marikana. All she could do was warn Mambush: “If police officers are killed, this is a very, very dangerous situation.”

She says she was thinking he would get arrested and put in jail but that he seemed to have something worse in mind, telling her: “If anything happens to me, take care of everything, take care of my family, because I trust you.”

“Why? Where are you going?”

“If anything happens to me, be strong for my baby.”

Power of life and death

When Nelson Mandela took power in 1994, he was backed by the tripartite alliance of the ANC, trade union federation Cosatu and the South African Communist Party. What Mambush and his wife did not know was that his act of rebellion spat in the face of that alliance. Worse, members of the alliance were in contact with two of the most senior police officers in the country, who wielded not only political power but the power of life and death. There was a lot of activity behind the scenes.

On Monday evening – at about the same time as Mambush was talking to his wife – Albert Jamieson, the chief commercial officer of Lonmin, was writing to the minister of mines, Susan Shabangu, urging her to “bring the full might of the state to bear on the situation”. Shabangu had previously been deputy minister of safety and security. Notoriously, in April 2008, she had addressed a meeting of police officers with advice about dealing with offenders: “You must kill the bastards if they threaten you or your community. You must not worry about the regulations. That is my responsibility.”

A family photo of Mambush Noki.

On Tuesday August 14, as hundreds of strikers on the koppie were being given rites to keep them safe by the sangoma’s two sons, Lonmin executives met secretly with the provincial police chief, Mbombo. The meeting was recorded. The transcript shows Lonmin’s Mokwena making the bold declaration that the company’s priority was not negotiating or settling the strike but “getting people arrested”. Even bolder, the transcript shows that Mbombo stepped outside the conventional role of a police chief, encouraging the company to take a hard line.

Central to Mbombo’s thinking was the role of Cyril Ramaphosa – founder of the NUM, one of the founders of Cosatu, a man who had helped to write the new South African Constitution, one of the great heroes of the anti-apartheid movement. Like other ANC leaders, he had also been one of the beneficiaries of black economic empowerment.

By August 2012, through his company, Shanduka, Ramaphosa was reckoned to be worth some $700-million, with shares and directorships in numerous companies –including Lonmin. The former NUM leader’s company now owned 9% of Lonmin’s shares and he sat on its board as a nonexecutive director. National police commissioner Riah Phiyega had given Mbombo a strong hint that she had been coming under pressure from Lonmin representatives.

Mbombo explained to the Lonmin executives that Ramaphosa had been directly involved in expelling Julius Malema from the ANC. Now leader of the Economic Freedom Fighters, Malema had turned up at the platinum mining strike at Impala a few months earlier, and had taken the credit for making peace. If Malema turned up and did the same at Marikana, she said, it would look as though he was in charge of the mines. The situation, she said, “has a serious political connotation that we need to take into account”.

And there was another alliance player to consider. Mbombo advised the Lonmin executives that they must be careful not to favour Amcu over the NUM. Mbombo was worried, she said, that by settling their strike, the Impala management had looked like allies of Amcu, and that generally trouble was erupting because the mining companies wanted to replace the NUM with the new union.

Mbombo was uncompromising. She would give the strikers a chance to surrender their weapons, she told Lonmin executives, and if that did not work: “Then it is blood.” She went on to qualify that, saying: “I do not want a situation where 20 people are dead. This is not what we are here for.” Lonmin’s Mokwena appeared not to understand this. During the meeting, he discussed the resources that were available to police, adding: “The ones that impress me – the snipers.”

But he and the police chief agreed on the central point. “We need to act such that we kill this thing,” said Mbombo.

“Immediately,” replied Mokwena.

The following day, Wednesday August 15, Ramaphosa was busy. From his position on the board of Lonmin he could have argued for negotiation, or even for a better deal for the workers. Instead – as a chain of emails released to the Farlam inquiry disclosed – he argued for the police to move in. In a message to fellow directors, he wrote: “The terrible events that have unfolded cannot be described as a labour dispute. They are plainly dastardly criminal and must be characterised as such … There needs to be concomitant action to address this situation.”

Mambush and the 4 000 men who were then on the koppie knew nothing of this. Indeed, they were hopeful. They had formally elected Mambush, Xolani and three others to speak for them. From the safety of an armoured car, officers had agreed to talk, with Mambush standing on their front bumper and leaning towards the windscreen to make sure they understood the one thing they wanted – negotiation.

Mambush Noki was laid to rest at the family home in Mqanduli outside Mthatha in the Eastern Cape. (Paul Botes, M&G)

Amcu president Joseph Mathunjwa came to the koppie with a welcome message: a Lonmin executive had told him that if they would go back to work, the company would address their grievances. This looked like an agreement to negotiate. The strikers, who had not all joined Amcu, said they needed time to think and agreed that Mathunjwa should return to them at 9am the following morning. Mathunjwa told a senior police officer: “I believe that tomorrow will be a day of joy for everyone.”

That evening, in Johannesburg, the police’s national management forum was made aware of the Amcu leader’s initiative and its potential for peace. Yet, as an official minute recorded: “After deliberations, the meeting endorsed the proposal to disarm the protesting masses and further indicated that additional resources must be made available.” Mbombo’s phone records show that immediately after this meeting, she called two Lonmin executives. If police were ending the strike, Lonmin no longer had any reason to negotiate.

At Marikana that Wednesday night, more than 550 police officers gathered. Their leaders ordered 4 000 rounds of live ammunition and requested mortuary vans with berths for 16 bodies.

Dead end

Early on the morning of Thursday August 16, Mathun­jwa met Lonmin executives to sort out details of his plan for the strikers’ return to work. Unaware of the moves behind the scenes, he ran into a dead end: the company now refused to discuss anything. On the koppie, the strikers saw 9am pass with no sign of the Amcu leader.

At 9.30am, Mbombo held a press conference at which she said nothing about Mathunjwa’s plan and declared simply: “We are ending the strike today.” At 10.30am, still waiting for the Amcu leader, Mambush saw police rolling out barbed wire in front of the koppie and angrily called on them to take it away. At noon, Mathunjwa came to the koppie, told the strikers he was getting nowhere and then went back to try again.

Mambush tried to raise morale, talking to the strikers through a megaphone, his left hand beating the air, urging them to stay until Lonmin agreed to negotiate: “We are tired of being captive. We will decide who will remain here – either the police or us. You cannot have two bulls in the same kraal.” At 1.30pm, senior police met to discuss their plan to “disarm and disperse” the strikers. Ten minutes later, the Anglican bishop of Pretoria, Johannes Seoka, unexpectedly came to the koppie. Xolani says they asked him to send food and to urge Lonmin to speak to them. Xolani took his mobile phone number.

In the Lonmin office, Mathunjwa tried to speak to Mbombo and was told she had left the building. He offered Lonmin a compromise deal on the strikers’ wage demand, but representatives of the company declined to meet him.

At 3.30pm the Amcu leader came back to the koppie and spoke to the strikers with passion, at one point dropping to his knees: “Comrades, the life of a black person in Africa is so cheap … They will kill us, they will finish us and then they will replace us and continue to pay wages that cannot change black people’s lives. That would mean we were defeated and that the capitalists will win. But we have another way. We urge you – brothers, sisters, men – I am kneeling down – coming to you as nothing. Let us stop this bloodshed that the NUM allowed this employer to let flow. We do not want bloodshed!”

As he finished, hundreds of striking miners began to walk down from the koppie. Xolani was at the top and had been watching what looked like preparations for war: firearms being handed out, police vans with racks of coiled barbed wire, three helicopters circling. He called Mambush, who was in a small group at the foot of the koppie, on his phone to warn him.

One of those alongside him was Mzoxolo Magidiwana, known as Mzo, a burly locomotive driver aged 24. He knew Mambush from village football games in the Eastern Cape. He said that Mambush decided to lead the strikers away, saying: “Don’t run. We haven’t done anything wrong.”

Noki’s brother Mbulelo has a moment alone with the coffin before the burial. (Siphiwe Sibeko, Reuters)

Mzo stayed close to Mambush as their group set off on the walk to the nearest shack settlement some 400m across the wasteland. Video of the scene shows hundreds of armed police officers moving around them. As the group approached the settlement, a police van raced across in front of them, uncoiling barbed wire, which blocked their path.

Mambush led them to the left around a small animal enclosure, made of bushes and blackthorn trees. But as they reached the far side, with the settlement in front of them, more police vans blocked their path. There was teargas. A water cannon opened fire. And then bullets, from behind and to their left.

Mzo remembered them running to their right through a small gap between the enclosure and the settlement – straight into yet more bullets, this time from in front of them. He felt three bullets pierce his left side – in the buttock, ribs and elbow. He fell, saw others fall, saw Mambush go down, felt a fourth bullet in his right thigh as he squirmed on the ground. He lay still on his back. He said his legs would not move. The firing had stopped. Then two or three police officers were standing over him.

They started asking him about the sangoma whose sons had performed the traditional rituals for the strikers – who he was, where he was – and when he told them that he didn’t know, he says they shot him again in the right side of his ribs. They asked more questions, and then, he says, one of the officers kicked his legs apart and they shot him twice in the groin. Through the dust he could see Mambush, lying face downwards, the green blanket tangled around one shoulder, his mouth slightly open, dust on his tongue.

From the top of the koppie, Xolani had watched the attack begin. At first he was going to follow Mambush. He remembered hearing the shooting, running into a miner called Liau, saying he could not see Mambush any more and that now they must go in the other direction, where there were a few smaller koppies to hide in. But Liau ignored him and ran towards the settlement. He was shot in the chest – one of 17 men who died there. Xolani went in the opposite direction, tearing off his jacket as he went, in case it identified him as a strike leader and a target.

For 15 minutes, there was no firing. Then two groups of officers closed in on one of the two smaller koppies. Several dozen strikers were now hiding among its rocks and bushes. Police opened an explosion of intense fire – 295 bullets, many aimed from the top of the koppie down at the shapes of men huddling below. Seventeen more men died there. Police in one of the helicopters were lobbing stun grenades at fleeing miners.

As Xolani zig-zagged through the chaos, he pulled out his phone and called the number of the bishop of Pretoria. “Father, they are killing us.”

Green blanket

High over a valley in the Eastern Cape in March this year, 20 of Mambush’s family and friends gathered in a rondavel. They had come to talk to me and Jim Nichol, a veteran campaigning lawyer from London, who travelled to Marikana after the shootings and volunteered to represent the families of the 34 dead men. They talked about Mambush’s funeral, there in the village where he grew up, about how many hundreds came down from Johannesburg in coaches, and how they were joined by the local clan chief and by ward councillors. Even the police had tried to send representatives, but the villagers told them they were not welcome.

Mzo was not there – he stayed in hospital for three months. But Mbulelo was, carrying the coffin, as was Xolani, who was still involved in the strike. It held out for five weeks after the killings before Lonmin finally agreed to negotiate and to pay 7% higher wages. Veronica also came, with Asive. Tucked into her bag, she carried a green blanket stained with blood, which she burned as a kind of sacrament.

Nichol told them the latest from the Farlam inquiry, which not only explored the strike and shooting but also uncovered evidence that, when the killing was done, police officers planted weapons on some of the dead bodies and then set about “reverse engineering” a false story to justify their actions. Counsel for the inquiry accused six senior officers of giving false testimony and found that the police had concealed video and minutes that contradicted their story and fabricated other material to try to support it.

Mambush’s family talked about life in the village and about what has changed since 1994. The ragged old rondavels, which housed the junior school nearby, were torn down and replaced with new brick buildings. The government delivered a new tar road to the village, a new bus to take children to the high school (in his day, Mambush had to walk the 5km there and back) and a new health clinic.

And yet, they said, things have not changed so much. They still live in the three rondavels that formed the heart of their village, most of them sleeping on the ground. They still have no electricity. They cook over wood fires and use paraffin lamps for light. They still have no mains water supply and still drink from the same stream as their cattle. For some reason, they said, the new bus stopped running after less than a year. And the health clinic is too far to reach.

Above all, they said, they still have no real income. Since 1994, they had become better off. They have social grants – modest but nonetheless important state funds for pensioners and the sick. And at school there is a feeding scheme – porridge at the beginning of the day and a proper meal at lunchtime. But the reality is that now, as for decades, they still have to rely on menfolk, like Mambush, to migrate north to work beneath the ground and send home enough to keep them alive. Somewhere along the line, the engine of progress has stalled. – ©?Guardian News & Media 2015

Nigeria – chance of reprieve from Buhari for death row soldiers


Boko Haram crisis: ‘Buhari hope’ for Nigerian death-row soldiers


Court Martial in Abuja. 2 Oct 2014

Femi Falana has been critical of the courts martial, which were held behind closed doors

Boko Haram

Why Boko Haram remains a threat

Boko Haram: What next for the rescued?

Who are Nigeria’s Boko Haram Islamists?

Is Islamic State shaping Boko Haram media?

Nigeria’s incoming president may review the death sentences of 66 soldiers convicted for refusing to fight Boko Haram, a lawyer has said.

Femi Falana told the BBC that Muhammadu Buhari had promised to review all operations against the militants.

He said that he was now confident the soldiers, who said they lacked weapons to take on the Islamist insurgents, would not be executed and face justice.

This week it was revealed another 579 soldiers face trial over indiscipline.
Army spokesman Sani Usman said the courts martial, currently taking place in the capital, Abuja, were to ensure professionalism in the army.

The International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) has said that the Boko Haram insurgency, which began in 2009, had caused “one of the most serious humanitarian crises in Africa”.

‘State negligence’

Mr Falana, who is a prominent human rights lawyer and represented some of the 66 sentenced to death for conspiracy, cowardice and mutiny last year, said the Nigerian government had failed to adequately equip the units fighting the insurgency in the north-east.

“They [the soldiers] did not sign to commit suicide but to fight for their fatherland and since the government did not make weapons available, they were unable to fight,” he told the BBC’s Newsday programme.


General view of school in Yola, Nigeria, where victims are recovering (May 2015)

Hundreds of people have recently been rescued from Boko Haram captivity

“The sentences are awaiting confirmation but we are taking steps to ensure that no soldier, no officer in Nigeria is executed on account of the negligence of the Nigerian state in motivating the soldiers to fight and equipping them.”

He said that outgoing President Goodluck Jonathan “had refused to assist to the request of the convicted soldiers to review their matter”.

“So happily the incoming government of Gen Muhammadu Buhari has promised to review the entire operations in the north-east region and we are confident that the cases of the officers and the soldiers will be reviewed so that justice will be done to them.”

Earlier, he told the Associated Press news agency the courts martial were a “travesty” as they were held in secret and evidence supplied by some of the accused indicated corrupt officers often diverted money meant for salaries and arms.

Despite a state of emergency in three north-eastern state, Boko Haram managed to take over many towns and villages last year.

It was only from the end of January, with military backing from Chad, Cameroon and Niger, that the army began to recapture territory.

However, sporadic attacks and violence have continued.

“Whole communities have fled their villages and endured unimaginable suffering… even if the fighting stopped tomorrow, it will take years of investment and painstaking work to rebuild livelihoods and services,” ICRC president Peter Maurer said after a trip to the north-east.

Help was also needed for the victims of sexual violence, amid widespread evidence the militants raped some of the kidnapped women and girls, he said.

The group is still holding many women, girls and children captives including 219 schools girls it kidnapped from a school in Chibok in April last year.

Chinese oil workers evacuated from Paloch oilfields because of fighting in South Sudan

Sudan Tribune

May 21, 2015 (ADDIS ABABA) – The Chinese government announced it has conducted mass evacuation of its oil workers from Paloch oilfields in South Sudan due to the ongoing fighting around the oilfields in the oil-rich Upper Nile state territory.


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Oil workers at one of petrodar oil fields (photo petrodar)

Heavy fighting between troops loyal to president Salva Kiir and the armed opposition faction (SPLM-IO), led by former vice president, Riek Machar, has continued near the oilfields since Tuesday.

In a statement announced in Beijing on China’s national television(CCTV) on Thursday, it said the decision came due to the insecurity around the oilfields resulting from the advance by the rebel forces towards the oilfields.

It said the Chinese embassies in both Khartoum and Juba with China National Petroleum Corporation (CNPC), a government owned major oil company operating in Paloch, have already evacuated over 400 Chinese oil workers from the conflict area.

“More than 400 Chinese oil workers have been evacuated from South Sudan due to growing violence,” said the statement published by the Chinese government.

Beijing said the evacuated workers will be flown to China in the next few days.

This latest development largely contradicts South Sudan government’s claim on Thursday that oil workers were returning to Paloch allegedly after defeating the rebels.


South Sudanese rebels, however, issued statements claiming their forces captured Tangrial Bil refinery site and besieged Paloch oilfields aiming to capture it.

They urged oil companies to close down and evacuate their workers for safety reasons.

The rebel leader’s spokesman, James Dak said the country’s main oilfields of Paloch, some 200kms north of Malakal, had been besieged and designated priority target.

“SPLM/SPLA forces have converged around Paloch oilfields – Adar (Upper Nile) state – from different directions to capture the oilfields from pro-Salva Kiir forces any time soon,” Dak said.

He said the leadership of the movement also renewed “strong advice” to any remaining oil worker in Paloch to evacuate for safety reasons.

He accused the government of allegedly using some oil workers as human shield and said Juba would be responsible for any harm on them.

“We have learnt with disbelief that the government, out of panic, has prevented some of international oil workers from leaving the area, using them as human shield,” he said.

“We call on oil companies operating in the area to ensure their workers are evacuated.”

The rebels said their counter-offensive aimed to temporarily close down oil production or to cut off Juba from the oil revenues which they said president Kiir’s government had been using to “hire mercenaries and buy weaponry to perpetuate the war.”

This, Dak said, was in response to government’s “full scale offense” which he described as a violation of the cessation of hostilities agreement between the two warring parties.


South Africa – even ANC voters think it is performing badly

Mail and Guardian

An internal report has revealed that ANC voters believe the party is performing poorly in combating crime and corruption, and in creating jobs.
The party blames ineffective communications for its failure to tell supporters of the 'good things' it does in terms of service delivery. (Oupa Nkosi, M&G)

After much soul-searching in the wake of last year’s gruelling general elections, the ruling party is facing another bleak electoral battle – its own research reveals that its voters “think we are performing badly” in combating crime and corruption, and in creating jobs.

The party is defensive in public but an internal election strategy document frankly admits that voters are in a bad mood and are fed up with corruption and incompetence.

“Dysfunctional state services and corrupt leaders and lack of contact lose us hundreds of thousands of votes,” the document’s authors said.

The party will be contesting the local elections next year concerned about the prospect of losing its key metros – Tshwane, Johannesburg and Nelson Mandela Bay.

The ANC conducted a survey in all municipalities over a period of months after last year’s general elections and the outcome of the poll was put together after about five visits to each municipality. The Mail & Guardian has seen a summary of the survey outcomes attached to the party’s elections strategy document.

The ANC remains a behemoth, dwarfing the opposition nationally, and is still in charge of eight provinces and most municipalities, but it is trying to halt the dwindling of its support.

Its national vote was reduced by 4% last year and it won Gauteng, Africa’s economic hub, by a whisker.

Party failures
Repeated violent service delivery protests in townships, a disgruntled section of the black middle class, some disillusioned white voters and a raucous opposition rattled the ruling party during last year’s elections.

The common thread among all these groups is the perception that the party is failing to deal with corruption, crime and high unemployment – three issues highlighted in its internal document.

Almost a quarter of the economically active workforce is unemployed, and the latest crime statistics reveal an increase in murders, house robberies and hijackings, crimes that affect the national psyche. The country was also ranked 67th last year in Transparency International’s corruption index.

The ANC document said corruption and the conduct of leaders could drive away voters, and that the behaviour of some ANC leaders might be affecting its credibility.

The authors said populism is a short-term strategy and that voters want to see a tangible difference in their lives.

“We’re not in touch with the people and we don’t debunk perceptions,” said a senior ANC leader who attended the elections workshop and the national executive committee (NEC) meeting where the document was presented.

Offenders and incompetents
The document advised the party to remove offenders and incompetent councillors “now”. “Select the most credible and trusted candidates,” it said.

In its 2006 local government election manifesto, the ANC introduced a code of conduct for councillors. The code required their work to be “reviewed regularly to ensure that they meet their obligations”. “In that way, the ANC will ensure that councillors remain accountable to you,” the document stated.

But disgruntlement over some councillors has been growing ever since.

On Monday, the ANC fired the Nelson Mandela Bay metro mayor, Benson Fihla, and replaced him with South African Football Association president Danny Jordaan, a move that ruling party insiders say is an attempt to restore its credibility in the Port Elizabeth area.

“[We] need strong council leadership, accountability, strategic budget spending … municipal complaint systems and a three-day response [time] to fix things that are simple and … would make a huge change,” the election strategy document stated.

The party said one of its assets is its “fearsome” election machinery, “recognised as one of the best in the world”.

“Only if we get the right people in charge … teams must each get to an average of 1 100 voters, identify and register strong and weak ANC supporters, [and] persuade with house meetings, leaders and public meetings,” the document said. “[Our] machine cannot be derailed by factional and internal politics. [We] need to build on strengths and minimise weaknesses.”

Ineffective communication
The ANC election machine used to be buttressed by the trade union federation Cosatu, which is now deeply divided, and the National Union of Metalworkers of South Africa, which used to be its largest affiliate, has pulled out of the federation.

But the ruling party blames its own ineffective communication for failure to highlight its “good story”. The ANC has urged its representatives to put voters’ needs “at the centre of all communication” because “people love themselves first and then the ANC”.

The NEC member said the party believes that “we don’t tell people the good things that we do”.

The ANC is concerned that there is a perception it is failing to deal with corruption, crime and high unemployment and that this is eroding its support among the electorate. (Joel Thungren)

“Negativity overshadows positivity. For instance, in South Africa, there’s no government that did well on infrastructure development like the ANC government, but we are failing to ensure that we communicate [that] effectively,” he said.

In the document, the party said it wants to dominate the news with good stories about delivery and to show the electorate that “we are fixing problems”.

If the party implements its election strategy, South Africans will see an enhanced ANC presence on social media and more selfies and personal letters from ANC leaders.

‘Detached from people’
The NEC member said the party “acknowledged that there are some among us who are arrogant, aloof and impatient with people. We are seen to be detached from people. When you start getting a better income, you move [away] from your community,” he said.

The ANC’s unique selling point is its countrywide presence, according to the NEC member, and that is a disadvantage for other parties.

The party has warned its leaders not to underestimate the Economic Freedom Fighters (EFF), which is led by former ANC Youth League leader Julius Malema.

Ironically, the EFF has also conceded that its performance in recent by-elections was dismal, which it attributed to a lack of funds.

But the ANC said its public representatives should not take the possibility of the EFF gaining traction lightly and “provoking conflict with the state (led by the ANC)”.

Given the EFF’s youthful leadership and support, the ANC said it wants to “re-energise our potential young supporters”.

Youth league implosion
Compounding the ANC’s inability to reach young voters is the implosion of its youth league and a weak South African Students’ Congress, which has lost several campuses to opposition parties.

Referring to the Democratic Alliance, the ruling party said the DA’s strategy is to elevate itself as a paragon of good governance.

Out of the country’s 278 municipalities, the DA runs 28, some in coalition with other parties.

A political analyst in the Western Cape, Daniel Silke, said the DA has to build a public relations campaign around its new leader, Mmusi Maimane, in the three targeted metros.

He said, although issues such as Maimane’s perceived stance on homosexuality and veteran journalist Allister Sparks’s controversial comments about Hendrik Verwoerd’s leadership abilities were an electoral flop, they didn’t matter much in local government polls.

DA candidates
The DA has yet to finalise its list of mayoral candidates. The only known candidates so far are the party’s Eastern Cape leader and new federal chairperson, Athol Trollip, who will contest the Nelson Mandela Bay metro, and Western Cape leader Patricia de Lille, who said she wants to retain the City of Cape Town’s mayoral seat.

But the ANC’s worst fear seems to be potential co-operation between the DA and the EFF. While addressing the American Chamber of Commerce in South Africa on Monday, Maimane said “establishing coalitions prior to an election is almost a sin to speak about”.

The ANC said the strategy of the EFF and the United Democratic Movement (UDM) is to discredit the Independent Electoral Commission by creating the impression that it will rig the elections to favour the ANC. “Do not reinforce this with your behaviour,” the document’s authors warned party leaders.

The UDM, the EFF and the DA last year attacked the IEC’s independence following an office-leasing scandal that saw the resignation of Pansy Tlakula as the commission’s chairperson. The opposition successfully mounted a legal battle against her.

The M&G reported last month that the ANC has introduced strict guidelines for selecting candidates for next year’s elections, including the screening of candidates by branch committees.

Selection will begin in August and a conference to finalise the list is scheduled for December.

By-elections show that EFF has a way to go

The EFF dreams of putting up candidates in every municipality and winning wards and, more ambitiously, entire metropolitan councils in next year’s local government elections.

But if the results of by-elections contested by the party so far are anything to go by, the EFF is struggling to make inroads into municipalities.

There were threats of teaching the ANC a lesson when the red berets put up seven candidates in the rural KwaZulu-Natal municipality of Mtubatuba earlier this month, but the EFF failed dismally. In one ward, the party secured a mere 35 of the 2 457 valid votes cast.

It was hardly different in 21 other wards contested in six sets of by-elections since August last year.

When the EFF tested the ground in the Western Cape in February, it scored a paltry 55 of the 1 593 votes recorded. The trend was similar in January in the Free State town of Bethlehem, where the party received 43 of the 1 421 valid votes cast.

It had better luck last November, when it contested 10 wards in Limpopo’s Mogalakwena municipality and received an average of 218 out of about 1 029 votes per ward. A disclaimer worth noting at this point is that by-elections record significantly lower voter turnout compared with ordinary local government elections.

EFF secretary general Godrich Gardee concedes that the party has struggled in by-elections.

“Ordinarily by-elections don’t have the ‘voom-voom’, the excitement, media hype and publicity of local government elections,” Gardee said.

However, he said the poor performance seen so far is “not a measure of how the EFF will do when we go to the playing fields”.

The EFF has not invested much in contesting by-elections, Gardee said. “By-elections are more expensive than ordinary local government elections. We are operating in a shoestring environment and hand to mouth. Capital is hostile to us and we don’t have tenders.”

But he insists this will not deter the party in the 2016 municipal elections.

“We learned our lesson. We have to register our supporters. A lot of our supporters turned up to vote in last year’s election but were not registered,” Gardee said.

Political analyst Ebrahim Fakir said, although performance in by-elections cannot be used to predict voting patterns, the recent results have rubbished the notion that EFF is well organised and can tap into local communities.

“I don’t think the EFF will do terribly well in local government elections because in [municipal] elections there is a test of narrow support in a concentrated area,” he said. Fakir predicted the party will do fairly well on councils’ proportional representation lists. The party was recently allocated one such seat in the Mtubatuba municipality.

At its inaugural conference in December, the EFF said its draft local government elections strategy would be ready by March. Gardee, however, said changes are being made to that strategy because the party has learned from previous by-elections. “We are refining it [the strategy]. We cannot be reckless. It is a war plan. We don’t want our competitors to know.” – Qaanitah Hunter

Nigeria moves Boko Haram survivors


Nigerian army ‘relocates’ 260 Boko Haram survivors

A child rescued from Boko Haram in Sambisa forest is seen at the Internally Displaced People's camp in Yola, Nigeria on 3 May 2015.
Hundreds of people rescued by the Nigerian army are being held at a camp in Yola

The Nigerian army has relocated at least 260 women and children recently rescued from the militant Islamist group Boko Haram, officials say.

They were taken from a camp in the north-eastern city of Yola and flown to an unspecified military facility.

The women will receive medical help and support as part of their rehabilitation process, the BBC has learnt.

The government is said to be worried that some women may have been radicalised while in captivity.

Camp officials said there were suspicions some of the women had been communicating with militants.

They will be housed at the military facility under the Countering Violent Extremism (CVE) Programme which is part of the government’s so-called “soft approach” to combating terrorism.

Backed by soldiers from Chad, Cameroon and Niger, the Nigerian army has managed to liberate a number of towns from the militants since they launched a military operation in February.

However, sporadic attacks and violence have continued, with thousands killed in the last year alone.

‘Serious humanitarian crisis’

Some 275 women and children were brought to Malkohi camp in Yola on 2 May, after their rescue from a Boko Haram camp in the Sambisa Forest.

At the time, the women said some members of their group were killed when the militants pelted stones at them because they refused to run away as the army approached.

While 260 of them have now been moved, some are still being treated in a hospital in Yola, according to the BBC’s Nigeria Correspondent Will Ross.

A spokesman for the government body managing the camp, Sani Datti, told the AP news agency that he was aware soldiers had removed the group. But said he had no more details of what he described as an “entirely military affair”.

Separately on Thursday, the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) said the Boko Haram insurgency had caused “one of the most serious humanitarian crises in Africa”.

General view of school in Yola, Nigeria, where victims are recovering (May 2015)
Recent captives were rescued from what is thought to be the group’s last Nigeria stronghold

“Whole communities have fled their villages and endured unimaginable suffering… even if the fighting stopped tomorrow, it will take years of investment and painstaking work to rebuild livelihoods and services,” ICRC president Peter Maurer said.

He has just returned from a trip to the two north-eastern cities of Maiduguri and Yola, where thousands of people have fled the violence.

He said the charity was seeking an additional $65m (£41m; €58m) to support its operations in Nigeria as well as in Chad, Cameroon and Niger, where the fighting has spread.

Further support was also needed for the victims of sexual violence, he said, amid widespread evidence the militants raped some of the kidnapped women and girls.

About 1.5 million people have been displaced and hundreds more abducted since the group launched their violent uprising in 2009. More than 15,500 people have been killed in the fighting.

The group is still holding many women, girls and children captives including 219 schools girls it kidnapped from a school in Chibok in April last year.

The name Boko Haram, loosely translated from the region’s Hausa language, means “Western education is forbidden”.


Burundi – protests continue to rock Bujumbura

Al Jazeera


By Al Jazeera

Protesters in Burundi have clashed with police in anti-government demonstrations against a third term bid for power by the president, a week on since a failed coup.

At least two protesters were killed and eight were wounded in Thursday’s clashes with police in the capital Bujumbura, the Red Cross said.

They are the latest victims of the unrest prompted by President Pierre Nkurunziza’s bid for a third term, in which more than 20 people have died.

Heavy gunfire was heard all day in suburbs of Bujumbura, with intense bursts of automatic weapons, as protesters in reply hurled rocks from makeshift barricades.

Smoke rose from districts of the city where fighting as heaviest.

The sound of gunfire echoed in Bujumbura as night fell, with no apparent sign of easing in the darkness, especially in the Musaga and Kanyosha districts.

Police in Musaga said they had been sent to restore order “whatever the cost”.

Cholera outbreak

More than 110,000 people have fled the violence in Burundi to neighbouring countries, according to the UN.

Humanitarian agencies are struggling to cope as tens of thousands of refugees stranded on Tanzania’s Kagunga Island face dire medical conditions.

UNICEF officials told Al Jazeera on Thursday that conditions at Kagunga were “tough” and that a cholera outbreak had made conditions even more dire.

At least 33 people have died, with 27 deaths believed to have been cholera related.

The World Health Organisation declared cholera a level 1 emergency in the region on Wednesday.

“It is very, very tough in Kagunga, and our focus now is to try and save those living in these very poor conditions,” said Thomas Lyimo, a health officer at UNICEF.

More than 100,000 people have crossed into Tanzania since political unrest began in Burundi on April 26.

At last count, some 70,000 refugees were still in Kagunga, waiting to be transferred to the Nyarugusu camp outside Kigoma.

The political crisis, which began in late April after Burundi’s ruling party nominated Nkurunziza to stand again in the June presidential election, deepened last week when a top general staged a failed coup attempt.

Emmanuel Ntahonvukiye, the newly appointed defence minister, called for unity in the wake of the abortive coup, which was crushed by loyalist forces after street fighting between rival factions.

“The survival of Burundi as a nation depends on the cohesion of the army,” a military statement read, warning that, should the army splinter, it would result in a situation seen in Somalia.

One of those killed was shot as demonstrators tried to reach the National Assembly, where three ministers were sworn in at extraordinary session.

President’s claims

Nkurunziza, in an address to the nation late on Wednesday, said most of the central African country was secure, and that the upcoming parliamentary and presidential votes would be peaceful.

“Peace and security reign over 99.9 percent of Burundian territory and population are going about normally in their activities,” Nkurunziza said in a broadcast on state radio.

Most of the demonstrations took place in Bujumbura’s suburbs.

One group of protesters briefly reached the symbolic city centre, only to be swiftly chased away by the police.

Opposition and rights groups say that Nkurunziza’s bid for a third five-year term violates the constitution and the terms of the peace deal that brought an end to a 13-year civil war in 2006.

Nkurunziza, a former rebel leader and born-again Christian who believes he has divine backing to lead, argues his first term did not count as he was elected by parliament, not directly by the people.

On Wednesday, his office announced that parliamentary polls set for May 26 had been postponed to June 5, but there has been no mention of rescheduling the June 26 presidential election.

Rights groups accuse Nkurunziza of launching a crackdown on opponents and independent media in the wake of the failed coup.

The presidency has dismissed the claims.

Burundi’s government appears increasingly isolated diplomatically.

Belgium, the former colonial power, threatened on Thursday to end assistance to the country if Nkurunziza presses ahead with a third term.