Category Archives: Africa – International

Liberia – deadly disease outbreak in Sinoe County with over a dozen dead

From Umaru Fofana

There’s a deadly outbreak in Sinoe County, southeastern #Liberia which started at the weekend and escalated on Monday & Tuesday. Sources at the F.J Grante Hospital in Greenville speak of over a dozen deaths – with health officials donning PPEs similar to those worn during Ebola. One expressed total bewilderment to me. Unclear what the outbreak is but blood samples have been taken to Buchanan in Grand Bassa county. Some of the victims are said to be literally dropping dead. The Liberian National Police are using megaphones to warn residents to report all sick cases to the hospital and not to churches/shrines.

 

BBC

Liberia tests mystery disease swabs

Liberia’s health ministry says it is testing the blood samples taken from eight people who have died from an unidentified disease in Sinoe county, 350km (217 miles) south-east of the capital, Monrovia.

Health ministry spokesperson Sorbor George said that efforts to resuscitate those who died unfortunately failed, the BBC’s Jonathan Paye-Layleh reports.

Mr George added that five others, showing similar symptoms of adbominal or stomach pains, have been admitted to hospital for treatment.

State radio has described the illness the victims died of as a “strange disease”.

Nearly 5,000 people died in Liberia from the 2015 Ebola outbreak when the authorities were criticised for not acting fast enough in the face of the deadly virus.

But there is no suggestion that the victims have died of Ebola and reports from the area of what happened prior to their deaths indicate that they did not experience Ebola-like symptoms.

Researcher with a vial of blood

AFP

 

 

South Africa – how to save the Karoo

News24

2017-04-26 07:17

As the Karoo faces increased development, scientists are calling on citizens to help them research this unique landscape. (Ashraf Hendricks, GroundUp)

As the Karoo faces increased development, scientists are calling on citizens to help them research this unique landscape. (Ashraf Hendricks, GroundUp)

Oudtshoorn – “Scientists know very little about the plants and animals in the Karoo, and there is an urgent need to document the indigenous species found in this important part of South Africa,” says the Karoo BioGaps Project, a citizen science initiative which aims to document the Karoo’s natural resources.

But this vast track of South Africa, which contains a wide range of animal and plant life despite its extreme temperatures and low rainfall, is being eyed for development. Shale gas exploration, solar plants and other infrastructure are being earmarked for the Karoo, to boost much-needed development. But without data, scientists and policy makers do not know which areas require additional protection or to be left alone entirely.

“We need to learn which species are widespread, and which are sensitive to proposed future changes in land use and development,” says the newly launched project, GroundUp reports.

There are two ways you can get involved in documenting Karoo biodiversity:

• You can photograph Karoo species and upload your pics to http://www.ispotnature.org/projects/karoo-biogap. There is also a community forum where uploaders can discuss photos and observations.
• Even if you have no plans for visiting the Karoo anytime soon, you can help to transcribe the thousands of historical records at http://transcribe.sanbi.org/. These treasure troves were collected before conservationists and explorers dreamed that a person would be able to take and share photos with anyone in the world instantly.

Historical records

“It is absolutely critical for us to digitise these old herbarium and museum records as they are basically unavailable for use by scientists in their un-digitised format,” says Carol Poole, the South Africa’s National Biodiversity Institute (SANBI) project co-ordinator for biodiversity research.

“The ability these days to crunch large datasets means that including all these historical records along with current fieldwork records is very important.

“They give us a perspective of what species existed where in the past, and we can compare that to where we find these species in the fieldwork being conducted today. So comparing historical and current species records is an important part of assessing species’ distribution and threat status,” she says.

Some of these records date back to the 1830s, and digitising them will make them accessible to anyone who wants to look at them. There are 12 main groups that the Karoo BioGap Project is looking to inventory: plants, mammals, amphibians, reptiles, freshwater fish, birds, bees, spiders, dragon flies, scorpions, grasshoppers and butterflies.

Climate change

Citizen science is the latest trend in resource cataloguing, but researchers say that engaging non-scientists in this way introduces them to a world that usually gathers dust in archives or allow them to discover new things.

There are a number of citizen science projects in South Africa, allowing anyone interested to choose the project that would suit their interests best.

For example, rePhotoSA, an initiative from the Plant Conservation Unit and the Animal Demography Unit at the University of Cape, is collecting photos from around southern Africa to track how climate change and development have altered landscapes. It calls itself a “repeat photography project of southern African landscapes”  http://rephotosa.adu.org.za/

For a more hands-on experience, the miniSASS project aims to create an inventory of life in our rivers and dams. The types and numbers of small animals living in our water bodies tell whether that water is in a good condition or not. Based on the SASS (the South African Scoring System), this initiative is the brain-child of the Water Research Commission, environmental consulting organisation GroundTruth, and the Wildlife and Environmental Society of South Africa (Wessa). This information is then passed on to policy makers.

Digitised records

Asked what volunteers got in return for being part of  the Karoo BioGaps Project, Poole says that they will be helping decision-makers on important national issues, such as the shale gas development.

“There is also the excitement of being part of history in a way – transcribing these historical records will mean that the transcriber themselves has played a role in history as these digitised records will exist in databases forever.”

One thing that makes the Karoo BioGaps Project stand out is that its managers recognise that sometimes kudos is not enough. There are also prizes for the most pictures and most transcriptions.

Kenya – police fire tear gas to stop Kisumu primary vote demo

Reuters

KISUMU, Kenya Kenyan police fired teargas on Tuesday to disperse hundreds of people who took to the streets to protest the outcome of a regional party primary in the west of the country.

This month’s primaries, where voters choose party candidates, have been a chaotic affair, marked by violent clashes, cancellation of results and claims of rigging.

The problems have raised fears over the planning for a national vote on Aug. 8 and whether there may be further violence in Kenya, a key Western ally in a volatile region and East Africa’s largest economy.

Voters will pick a president, parliament and local authorities, a decade after 1,200 people were killed in ethnic violence following a disputed presidential election.

The Independent Electoral and Boundaries Commission (IEBC), which will conduct the election, said it would punish those behind the rising cases of violence in the primaries.

Tuesday’s protesters were angered by the results of a primary that re-elected the incumbent governor of the Homa Bay county, Cyprian Awiti, to run for the opposition Orange Democratic Movement (ODM) in August.

At least one person was injured in the fracas, said Willy Lugusa, the police commander for the region, adding police dispersed the protesters to prevent damage to private property.

“We are not using live bullets, we are only using teargas when people are demonstrating in a manner that is likely to cause the breach of the peace,” he told Reuters.

Neither Awiti nor ODM, which is led by the main opposition leader Raila Odinga, were available immediately for comment.

HARD-FOUGHT CONTESTS

The IEBC said all parties and their aspirants were bound to act peacefully during the primaries in line with the electoral code of conduct.

“We will impose sanctions against candidates and political parties who contravene the code,” the commission said in a statement, pledging to do all it can to ensure a free and fair election in August.

Contests to lead the country’s 47 local authorities, known as counties, are hard-fought affairs. The winners will control annual budgets of billions of shillings.

ODM postponed its primaries in the capital Nairobi on Tuesday after youths stormed a store where ballot papers were held, claiming they wanted to prevent rigging, a party spokesman said.

The ruling Jubilee party annulled the results of its primary elections in several counties on Friday after widespread protests over shortages of voting materials. The party started repeating them on Monday.

President Uhuru Kenyatta is running for a second and final five-year term for Jubilee. The main opposition coalition, bringing together Odinga and four others leaders, was expected to name its candidate later this week.

Macharia Munene, a professor of international relations at USIU-Africa university in Nairobi, said the violence in primaries was being sponsored by corrupt politicians.

“There is a linkage between corruption and violence,” he said. “Refusing to accept honest results – that’s corruption.”

(Additional reporting by Humphrey Malalo and George Obulutsa in Nairobi; writing by Duncan Miriri; Editing by Tom Heneghan)

Zimbabwe – Grace Mugabe blocks Kasukuwere investigation meeting

news24 WIRE/allAfrica

Photo: The Herald

Zanu-PF political Commissar and Local Government minister, Saviour Kasukuwere.

President Robert Mugabe’s wife Grace has reportedly told five top Zanu-PF officials, who are investigating the party’s embattled political commissar Saviour Kasukuwere, to call off a meeting in Bindura, after it emerged that rival party factions were planning on disrupting it.

Last month, News24 reported that close to 1 500 placard-carrying demonstrators had marched in Bindura, Mashonaland Central Province’s provincial capital, demanding that Mugabe wield the axe on Kasukuwere.

Some leaders of the protest accused Kasukuwere of harbouring presidential ambitions and plotting behind Mugabe’s back, with a view to take over power from him.

One of the provincial leaders, John Ngwenya, told the protesters who were carrying a coffin with Kasukuwere’s pictures stuck on it, that the local government minister had overstayed his welcome as a cabinet minister and senior party official.

Another provincial leader, Chantelle Mbereko, was quoted as saying that Kasukuwere had grabbed a number of unnamed mines and had parceled out residential stands to his relatives, despite the stands having been provided for Zanu-PF youths.

Reports have said that the Mashonaland central province was the first to pass a vote of no confidence in Kasukuwere, before it eventual spread to other provinces.

This reportedly triggered President Mugabe to deploy a high-powered Zanu-PF delegation last week to investigate circumstances that caused the province to pass a vote of no confidence in Kasukuwere.

The task team was made up of Zanu-PF secretary of administration Ignatius Chombo, Defence Minister Sydney Sekeramayi, State Security Minister Kembo Mohadi, Women’s League commissar Marble Chinomona, and Senate President Edna Madzongwe.

According to NewsDay, unnamed sources said that Grace had called Chombo over the weekend to call off a meeting scheduled for Sunday, after some politburo members and legislators from the province threatened to disrupt it.

This was after it emerged that the politburo members did not trust Chombo, as he was seen as being sympathetic to Kasukuwere.

“The province raised issues with the First Lady. (Kenneth) Musanhi has direct contact with Grace, so he advised her that the province does not trust Chombo. Grace had to instruct Chombo to call off the meeting,” the unnamed source was quoted as saying.

Meanwhile, according to the state-owned Herald newspaper, Mashonaland Central Provincial Affairs Minister Martin Dinha had said that the directive came from Chombo, as some members of the task team were not available to attend.

The paper quoted Dinha as saying that they wanted the handling of the accusations against Kasukuwere to be dealt with expeditiously.

He added that the meeting had been rescheduled to Wednesday.

“We received advice from the secretary for administration [Chombo] that we will reconvene on Wednesday. Some of the politburo members who were supposed to attend were committed elsewhere. As the head of the province I want the issue to be dealt with expeditiously,” Dinha was quoted as saying.

South Africa – Police Minister warns former Hawks boss he is coming for him

News24

 2017-04-25 16:28
Fikile Mbalula (File, Netwerk24)

Fikile Mbalula (File, Netwerk24)

Pretoria – “General Ntlemeza, you must know I am coming for you. You are working 24-hours to do an illegal operation… I’m going to unleash the law.”

This was the fiery warning from Police Minister Fikile Mbalula at a press conference on Wednesday.

Mbalula was briefing the media on his strategic plan to wage war against crime.

But it was questions on former hawks boss Berning Ntlemeza that stirred the minister’s anger.

On Monday, Ntlemeza reported for duty, despite a High Court ruling that his appointment was invalid and should be set aside. He left with a state-issued car and cellphone. Mbalula threatened to issue an arrest warrant, and Ntlemeza later returned the car.

On Tuesday, Mbalula told reporters that there were certain Hawks officials meeting in safe houses with Ntlemeza to plot against him.

“I’m aware about operations, working in safe houses to undertake an operation on the minister of police. I’m aware and I’m coming for them,” he said.

Rogue Hawks elements

An impassioned Mbalula warned these rogue Hawks elements that he would not allow resources to be invested in illegal operations.

“I am going to act. I’m not going to allow rogueness to happen in this country, willy nilly,” he said.

He said Ntlemeza’s legal counsels were “voodoo lawyers” who used provocative language to manipulate the media.

“If he thinks he is entitled to come to work, tell him to come now. He will not see me, but he will see me in terms of the law. I’m very clear about it. There is no beef between us… We must respect the law.”

Mbalula said he would not allow Ntlemeza to blackmail him, and that only the African National Congress could stop him from exercising his mandate.

“A smart cop acts quietly, not through press conferences… I owe Ntlemeza nothing. He never did me any favours. I’ve served this country. I’ve served my organisation to the best of my ability. It’s only the ANC that can tell me you are now out of line… I owe no policeman a favour. I’m here to work with them and, if possible, let’s play golf.”

He said he would wait for the courts before making any decisions against acting national police commissioner Lieutenant-General Khomotso Phahlane, who is under investigation for his lavish lifestyle.

Mbalula, however, said that it was concerning that so much scandal surrounded a high ranking police official.

“The minister will not defend any wrongdoing. Once evidence has been tested and found that there is authenticity, the minister will not defend any wrongdoing by whoever is in the police service. It is worrisome when one of our own at the helm of the police is receiving such accusations. We must follow the law,” he said.

South Africa – is an anti-Zuma super-slate emerging around Ramaphosa?

Daily Maverick

    • Stephen Grootes
      Grootes for DM.jpg

      Stephen Grootes

      Grootes is the host of the Midday Report on 702 and Cape Talk, and the Senior Political Correspondent for Eyewitness News. He’s been part of the political hack pack since before the Polokwane Tsunami, and covers politics in a slightly obsessive manner.

Photo: Cyril Ramaphosa, Zweli Mkhize, Gwede Mantashe, Lindiwe Sisulu, Mcebisi Jonas, David Makhura, Paul Mashatile.

Photo: Cyril Ramaphosa, Zweli Mkhize, Gwede Mantashe, Lindiwe Sisulu, Mcebisi Jonas, David Makhura, Paul Mashatile.

So strange is our political linguistics these days that when the Deputy President of the country states the obvious, that we need an inquiry into state capture, we all know that it really means he’s running for President. At the same time, when one of our President’s Ministers, Lindiwe Sisulu, travels to the Eastern Cape to receive the endorsement of an ANC branch, we know that something is very much in the works. Finally, it appears that the group of people who are going to contest the ANC’s December contest against Nkosazana Dlamini-Zuma is becoming clear(ish). Still, they have a mountain to climb against the ex(?)-wife of the incumbent. By STEPHEN GROOTES. 11

Cyril Ramaphosa must have set up Sunday carefully. To share a platform with a person fired by President Jacob Zuma is a statement. For that person to be the man who was offered, and refused, a R600-million bribe by the Gupta family is to shout it out in neon lights. Mcebisi Jonas is seen in some quarters as a hero, along with Pravin Gordhan; he gets a standing ovation from many audiences. So when Ramaphosa actually stood up and made his comment about state capture, it was clear what he was doing. He was saying that he is going to be the standard-bearer of the movement against Zuma, and his ex(?)-wife. 79

For her part, considering her long role in the national executive committee and government, Lindiwe Sisulu made probably the most assertive political move of her career over the weekend. Formally, she did very little. She went to a meeting of an ANC branch. But that branch has said it will nominate her to be ANC leader. And she travelled all the way to the Eastern Cape for the occasion. This is not a surprise – Sisulu’s frustration with the status quo is obvious. When her husband Rok Ajulu died earlier this year, it was Sipho Pityana who delivered a speech at his funeral. With predictable results. 29

But Sisulu and Ramaphosa were making their moves after what had already been a busy week. ANC Secretary-General Gwede Mantashe was also out and about in that part of the world, while earlier in the week ANC Treasurer Zweli Mkhize gave interviews both to Eyewitness News and Jacaranda FM. 5

It is clear that all of these people, Sisulu, Ramaphosa, Mantashe, Jonas and Mkhize, have the same agenda. They are opposed to Zuma, opposed to the reshuffle and removal of Gordhan, and opposed to Dlamini-Zuma. It is possible to say this with confidence because all have publicly criticised populism, which is surely a response to Dlamini-Zuma’s apparent lies, wild and factional demands for “radical economic transformation” and a solution to the land issue. Their public stances appear to line up. 29

Of course, it is entirely possible that each of them is acting entirely independently, that their comments and actions have been the result of frustration or happenstance. But in these times, that appears unlikely. At the very least, all of them will be aware that anyone who has ever gone up against Zuma on their own has lost. They will absolutely know that the only way to do this, to actually publicly criticise the president in this way and survive, is to work together. 22

And don’t forget, these are among the best political brains in the business we are talking about. All with their own long histories in the Struggle, and the ANC. If you were going to create a list of people likely to be seriously worried about the current situation facing the party, and who would also oppose Zuma, they would be near the very top of it.

18

And they would also absolutely know the value of working together. 15

One must also consider some of the events of the last eight months or so. It started with the SACP publicly attacking the Hawks’ boss, Mthandazo Berning Ntlemeza, and revealing he’d claimed to have a “mandate to pursue communists”. Then the party moved on to Hlaudi Motsoeneng, and more generally, the SABC. At the same time, after the local government elections, one by one, several high-ranking ANC MPs did the same thing. First it was Mathole Motshekga, who said the party had been wrong over Nkandla. Then Jackson Mthembu, who suggested Zuma and the entire NEC should step down. Other MPs have joined them, including Makhosi Khoza. In each case, it was stated loudly and proudly, in public. And in each case, no action was taken against them. Meanwhile, the momentum of the SACP’s anger continued to build, to the point where, less than 24 hours after Zuma’s reshuffle, they called on him to go. And the fact that Mantashe, Ramaphosa and Mkhize all sounded very similar in their reactions to Zuma’s reshuffle could not have been an accident. 32

This makes it likely that what we are seeing is a co-ordinated action: these people are starting something, and it could be big. If you are going to go against the Zuma2 machine (a band name whose time is unlikely to ever come) you will need lots of support, lots of organisation, and every big name you can summon. It is going to be tough and difficult. Zuma will bring all of the resources of the state against you, and he has shown many times that end always justifies the means. 32

One of the key decisions this group has to take along the way is who will be their “slate”, their group of leaders who will challenge the Dlamini-Zuma slate for the top six national leadership positions. At the moment it seems likely then this slate would include Ramaphosa, Mkhize, Mantashe and Sisulu. These are all names to reckon with, and have all spent much time on the national stage. But Jonas also brings certain attributes. He is, or could be, the symbol of transparency and clean government, because of the way he dealt with the Gupta offer. This gives him a certain power. His inclusion, say for the position of deputy secretary-general or treasurer, would be the symbol of what this group is actually fighting for, and of who it is actually fighting against. Other people up for consideration could, and should (from their point of view), include someone from Gauteng, such as its Premier David Makhura or provincial head Paul Mashatile. 34

Then there is the slate that Dlamini-Zuma would head. It would probably include David Mabuza, possibly Ace Magashula and maybe Supra Mahumapelo. Other names could include ANC KwaZulu-Natal leader Sihle Zikalala and possibly even Nomvula “let the rand drop” Mokonyane. 22

The contrast would be pretty incredible. 18

The other advantage for the “anti-Zuma” group to do things in this way would be to ensure the battle lines are cleanly drawn. Their message would be that a vote for them would be a vote for change and to end corruption, while a vote for the other side would be for the status quo, which in itself is certainly not a sustainable option that would help ANC keep its national electoral advantage. 15

The second big decision this group has to take is this: is it possible to fight an ANC election cleanly, and still win? In official ANC documents the party laments the slates, vote-buying (it calls it gate-keeping), and the general usage of measures designed to control the vote. In the end, it comes down to how many branches you can create and control. To put it crudely, it boils down to money. A hardcore cynic might claim that in fact the winner could well be the side with the most cash on hand the night before the vote. (Maybe that is taking it too far, though.) 18

It would seem likely that it actually is impossible to fight cleanly and still win. In which case, either you have to build such a commanding lead early on that it’s impossible to reverse in a crooked fashion, or you have to fight dirty. Which again leads to a discussion about whether the ends justify the means. Many might say that considering the situation we are in now, the answer is a very clear yes. Others may disagree. 9

What is surely true is that this fight is going to be long and dirty. The anti-Zuma group will have to be careful and will need every single person they can get on board. They need to avoid unnecessary fights, they must ensure they don’t squabble over positions. 14

They could be the ANC’s last chance to retain its soul. 7

This fight is for something much more important than all of that. It is for the heart and soul of the ANC, and the future of our country. It will not be pretty. But will it be effective? DM 16

Photo: Cyril Ramaphosa, Zweli Mkhize, Gwede Mantashe, Lindiwe Sisulu, Mcebisi Jonas, David Makhura, Paul Mashatile. 5

  • Stephen Grootes
    Grootes for DM.jpg

Somalia – roadside bomb kills six soldiers in Puntland

Al Jazeera

Al-Shabab claims deadly attack with improvised explosive device on a military pick-up truck, 40km south of Bosasso.

Al-Shabab fighters display weapons as they conduct military exercises in northern Somalia [File: Farah Abdi Warsameh/AP]

A military vehicle hit a roadside bomb in Somalia’s semi-autonomous Puntland region on Sunday, killing at least six soldiers and wounding another eight.

The al-Qaeda-linked group al-Shabab claimed responsibility for the attack, which happened on the outskirts of the region’s port city of Bosaso.

Al-Shabab is fighting to topple the Horn of Africa country’s Western-backed government and wants to rule the country according to its strict version of Islamic law.

It also wants to drive out of Somalia Africa Union peace keeping force AMISOM that helps defend the country’s central government.

Mohamed Ibrahim, a major in Puntland’s military, told Reuters news agency the vehicle, a pick-up truck, was from Galgala hills, about 40km southwest of Bosasso.

“Our military pick-up hit a roadside bomb today, six soldiers died, eight others were injured,” Ibrahim said, adding two of the wounded were in a serious condition.

Sheikh Abdiasis Abu Musab, al-Shabab’s military operations spokesman, said the group carried out the bombing.  “We are behind the attack,” he said.

Al-Shabab once controlled much of Somalia but in 2011 it was driven out of the capital Mogadishu and has since lost most other former strongholds.

But its fighters remain a formidable threat and constantly carry out bombings against both military and civilian targets in Mogadishu and elsewhere.

Officially called the Puntland State of Somalia, the region in northeastern Somalia declared autonomy 1998. However, it does not seek independence.

Source: Reuters news agency