Category Archives: Southern Africa

Kenya – eight security personnel killed by roadside bombs

Reuters

A Kenyan security person walk past a police vehicle damaged by a blast killing Kenyan police officers at the Garissa county, eastern Kenya, May 24, 2017. REUTERS/Stringer

NAIROBI, Kenya Eight Kenyan security officers were killed in two separate roadside bombings in eastern Kenya on Wednesday, senior officials said, underscoring the threat from Somali Islamist militants.

The biggest attack was on a governor’s convoy in Mandera, in the extreme northeast of the country near the border with Somalia. The area is a frequent target of the Somali jihadist group al Shabaab.

“Unfortunately I lost five of my security officers including my personal bodyguard in an attack on my convoy,” Mandera Governor Ali Robathe said in a Facebook post.

The Red Cross said on Twitter that the vehicle had hit a suspected landmine.

Al Shabaab has not yet commented on the incident, but it did claim an earlier attack in Liboi, further to the south but also in the extreme east along the border with Somalia.

The Liboi attack killed three policemen when their truck hit an improvised explosive device (IED), North Eastern regional commissioner Mohamud Ali Saleh said.

“The police car ran over an IED and we have casualties. All the dead officers are from one work station,” Saleh told Reuters, without revealing the number of wounded officers.

“From past incidences, it is easy to see that even this one is the work of our enemy, the al Shabaab. They plant these IEDs to target our security people.”

The Kenyan Red Cross said on Twitter eight officers had been wounded.

“We are behind the attack in Liboi area. We destroyed the police car. Some died and others were injured,” Abdiasis Abu Musab, al Shabaab’s military operation spokesman told Reuters.

Garissa county, where the incident happened, has suffered several al Shabaab attacks in recent years, including a 2015 assault on a university which killed 148 people.

Al Shabaab, which seeks to topple Somalia’s government and impose its own harsh interpretation of Sharia law, says it will continue to attack Kenya until Nairobi withdraws its troops from an African Union peacekeeping mission in Somalia.

The police said on Tuesday they were on alert for an increase in violence after al Shabaab fighters were detected moving into Kenya in small groups.

“These groups are dispatching operatives into parts of North Eastern Region to lay IEDs along the routes used by our security patrols in efforts to frustrate our security operations at the border areas,” the police said in a statement.

(Reporting by Joseph Akwiri in Mombasa, Humphrey Malalo in Nairobi and Feisal Omar in Mogadishu; Editing by Katharine Houreld)

Zimbabwe – anger over Mugabe’s daughter being appointed to censorship board

BBC

Prominent Zimbabwean actor Silvanos Mudzvova has condemned the appointment of President Robert Mugabe’s daughter, Bona Mugabe-Chikore, to the censorship board is the “final nail in the coffin for artistic freedom in the southern African state, the privately owned New Zimbabwe news site reports.

He added:

They will never approve any work critical of or against the government, ruling party of the First Family.”

Zimbabwe President Robert Mugabe (L) casts his vote by his wife Grace and daughter Bona (R) at a polling booth in a school in Harare on July 31, 2013.

AFP

Bona Mugabe-Chikore, seen with her parents in this 2013 photo, is aged 27

Playwright Raisedon Baya said Mrs Mugabe-Chikore’s appointment showed how serious the government had become about policing freedom of speech and artistic creativity, the new site reported.

 

south Africa – SARS to probe Zuma “fringe benefits” from Nkandla

Mail and Guardian

The DA wants President Jacob Zuma to be criminially prosecuted if it is found that he has not declared fringe benefits to Sars. (Gallo)
The DA wants President Jacob Zuma to be criminially prosecuted if it is found that he has not declared fringe benefits to Sars. (Gallo)

The Democratic Alliance wants the South African Revenue Service (Sars) to speed up its investigation into President Jacob Zuma’s fringe benefit tax relating to the upgrades at his homestead at Nkandla.

DA MP Alf Lees said on Wednesday that the party welcomes the admission by Advocate Neo Tsholanku of Sars at the meeting of the standing committee on public accounts (Scopa) on Tuesday that Sars is indeed investigating the liability by Zuma to pay tax on the fringe benefits related to his Nkandla private residence.

“The DA will now write to Sars commissioner Tom Moyane, to ask for a firm commitment to a timeline for the completion of this investigation,” said Lees.

On Monday, Zuma’s reply to a parliamentary question on this matter was released.

“The issue of tax is a confidential matter between the South African Revenue Service and the taxpayer,” reads Zuma’s full written reply to DA leader Mmusi Maimane.

Maimane asked Zuma if he had paid fringe benefit tax on the non-security related upgrades at his private homestead in Nkandla and if not, why not. If he did pay, Maimane wanted to know when and how much he had paid.

Sars declarations
After a damning ruling by the Constitutional Court in 2016, Zuma had to pay R7.8-million for the swimming pool (also called a “fire pool”), the chicken run, kraal, amphitheatre and visitors’ centre.

According to the DA’s calculations, Zuma should pay fringe benefit tax amounting to almost R64-million for the Nkandla upgrades.

According to Lees, Tsholanku “glibly stated” in the Scopa meeting that “our auditors are working as fast as they can” to complete the investigation.

“However, the reality is that it has been three years since the DA first called on Sars, in March 2014, to assess the extent of the president’s Nkandla fringe benefits,” said Lees.

“Tsholanku’s excuse won’t do. Sars cannot think that South Africans must simply accept a massive delay in enforcing Jacob Zuma’s tax liability. For three years Zuma has gotten away with evading paying tax on his palace of corruption, but that time is up.

“It is complete nonsense for Sars to cry ‘complex processes’ and say ‘our auditors are working as fast as they can’ after being aware of the non-security upgrades for a full three years since the matter was exposed by the DA.”

Lees said if the investigation finds that Zuma did not voluntarily declare the Nkandla fringe benefits to SARS, he should be criminally prosecuted. – News24

South Africa – Zuma banned from addressing COSATU meetings

Mail and Guardian

Cosatu general secretary Bheki Ntshalintshali. (Gallo)
Cosatu general secretary Bheki Ntshalintshali. (Gallo)

Labour federation Cosatu will not allow ANC president Jacob Zuma address any of its gatherings because it does not trust or support his leadership, and want him to step down.

“President Jacob Zuma will no longer be welcome to address Cosatu activities. This shall be communicated to the ANC, including engaging on its implications for our alliance,” Cosatu general secretary Bheki Ntshalintshali said on Tuesday.

Cosatu has publicly called for Zuma to resign as head of state, saying he is not the right leader to lead and unite the ANC or the country. The federation has also publicly endorsed Zuma’s deputy, Cyril Ramaphosa, to take over as head of the party and as president of the country.

The decision to bar Zuma was taken by a special meeting of Cosatu’s affiliates in Johannesburg on Monday. This is where the federation described the booing of Zuma at a May Day rally in Bloemfontein as a reflection of the “level of frustration felt by workers about the absence of leadership in the country”, according to the meeting’s statement.

Cosatu has also condemned leaders of the ANC who said the federation had attempted to “rent a crowd” in Bloemfontein to “disrupt and hijack our national event”.

The meeting promised to raise these concerns at the alliance political council meeting, scheduled to happen before the ANC’s policy conference in July.

Cosatu’s second deputy president, Zingiswa Losi, said the federation was not to blame for Zuma’s hostile reception at the May Day rally; it had advised the ANC that affiliates did not want the president there.

“We don’t invite certain people and say we want so and so. We only sent the communication to the ANC, to say ‘we have a May Day activity, can you deploy leaders?’. The issue of discomfort around the president attending – the ANC said it is them that shall decide who attends the May Day rally,” Losi said.

She confirmed that Zuma will not be attending or speaking at Cosatu’s central committee (CEC) next week, saying the ANC had sent a list of delegates and Zuma was not included on it.

“In terms of who shall speak, it’s a different case. The CEC said when we release that invite, we are not going to invite the president of the ANC to address,” Losi added.

Despite the move to ban Zuma from speaking at its national events, Ntshalintshali said this does not signal the end of Cosatu’s participation in the tripartite alliance.

“We will continue to fight to have an alliance … We also remain a reliable ally of the ANC,” Ntshalintshali said.

The ANC, however, said it had not been informed of the federation’s decision not to allow Zuma to address its gatherings and would respond in due course.

The federation also appeared to blame Zuma’s lack of leadership on the decision by General Motors (GM) to disinvest from South Africa.

GM has already served retrenchment notices, in terms of section 189(A) of the Labour Relations Act, to metalworkers union Numsa. It is estimated that 600 jobs will be lost and 1 500 workers will be affected.

Ntshalintshali said: “One of the unmentioned reasons for the disinvestment of GMSA [GM South Africa] is the question of lack of leadership, which has been raised by rating agencies.”

“[Rating agencies] have raised the issue that foreign investors will not invest until there is a new leader whom they can trust. While the issue of leadership is currently a challenge, it is regrettable that GMSA may be using politics to deal with business challenges,” Ntshalintshali added.

South Africa – major land occupation in Cape Town’s Khayelitsha township

News24

2017-05-24 08:32

Residents in Town 2 protest during an illegal land occupation in Khayelitsha. (Ashraf Hendricks, GroundUp)

Residents in Town 2 protest during an illegal land occupation in Khayelitsha. (Ashraf Hendricks, GroundUp)

Cape Town – Tensions simmered in Khayelitsha on Monday as residents flouted interdicts preventing occupation of open land at a number of sites.

The land occupations in Khayelitsha this past week are among the biggest in Cape Town in recent years, GroundUp reported.

“We are fed up with empty promises. We have to take action,” said Thando Mtombo, a backyarder in Town Two.

Many backyarders say they have lived their whole lives on someone else’s land and share a small space with numerous family members.

“People think we are criminals. We are not savages. We sacrificed work [to be here]. But when we talk, we aren’t taken seriously,” he said.

On Monday, GroundUp witnessed occupiers negotiating with law enforcement. It appeared that a representative from the city had agreed that the Anti-Land Invasion Unit would not remove the handful of structures that were erected until a meeting between the city and residents had taken place on Tuesday.

However, when occupiers left the site of occupation to attend a meeting with the Khayelitsha Development Forum, councillors and police, their structures were torn down.

One of the pieces of open land is next to the Khayelitsha Magistrate’s Court. After lying empty for years, backyarders in Town Two began their occupation on May 15, demarcating hundreds of sites on the wide expanse of land.

Zola Booi, a community leader from Makhaya, said that there were three occupations – one in Town Two, one in Makhaya and another in Kuyasa.

GroundUp has also been informed of a fourth site being occupied in Makhaza, but we have not been able to confirm this.

WATCH: Khayelitsha Land Occupation Protest

We asked the city on two separate occasions who owns the occupied land, but received no response to this question. But on Saturday, the city obtained an interdict against residents occupying the various pieces of land in Khayelitsha, which suggests it owns the land.

Delays

On the weekend, two Golden Arrow buses were torched and a MyCiti bus stoned, as tensions escalated following the repeated removal of structures.

The site alongside the Magistrate’s Court is possibly the most contentious site as it is meant to be developed for housing.

At least part of the land is specifically earmarked for gap housing, which usually caters for those earning more than R3 500 and less than R15 000 per month. Backyarders, who make up most of the occupiers, typically wouldn’t fall into this category.

The Khayelitsha Community Trust (KCT) is responsible for developing the occupied area in Town Two. In 2003, it signed a “land availability agreement” with the city, which according to KCT meant that “the rights for the development of all undeveloped land within the KBD (Khayelitsha Business District) precinct were allocated to KCT”.

In 2012, KCT submitted a request for proposals for a portion of the now occupied land to be developed for residential housing units. In addition, in a 2013 municipal notice the city states its intention to sell the land to KCT.


People erect new structures on the occupied land in Khayelitsha. (Ashraf Hendricks/GroundUp)

Despite this, the CEO of KCT Mkhululi Gaula said in a City Vision article that there have been delays in the release of the land from the city. He said that despite a land sale agreement being signed, “the land transfer process has taken more than four years to be finalised”. The approximately 10 hectares of land was to be sold at R200 000/ha in 2013.

At the meeting on Monday chaired by the KDF, Gaula said that the first phase of the project was meant to be the construction of 368 houses. “When we had a meeting with the community it was agreed that the houses to be built should be gap houses,” he said.

In a sub-council meeting on May 15, sub-council 10 manager Clifford Sitonga said the land availability agreement was signed in 2003 when KCT was a municipal entity.

“The clauses in the land availability agreement are strict in terms of the city intervening and these clauses need to be removed from the land availability agreement as KCT is no longer a municipal entity,” he said.

Sitonga said that KCT’s accusation that the city is stalling the project was not true. He said that KCT approached the city looking for money to construct infrastructure and that they received money from the Urban Settlements Development Grant (USDG).

Not happy with houses

“KCT accepted the money on condition that they build affordable low cost houses. KCT proceeded to put the infrastructure on the ground using the USDG funds,” Sitonga said.

“Subsequently, KCT received a letter from the Khayelitsha Development Forum (KDF) saying that the people of Khayelitsha are not happy with the type of houses that will be built. The board of KCT then changed the specifications of the houses to be built, which meant that they now no longer met the requirements for USDG funding.

“In order for the land to be transferred to KCT, the city required that the USDG funds already paid out to KCT be returned. KCT has not returned this money which means that the land cannot be transferred to them,” Sitonga said.

In the meeting on Monday, Gaula said that they were meeting with the city this week to discuss the issues and that they were also meeting with the national Minister of Human Settlements to ask her to intervene.

Gaula added that national Deputy Minister of Human Settlements Zou Kota-Fredericks had also said that KCT was not supposed to return the money, because the money was a grant, not a loan.

When asked about KCT and KDF, community member Booi said that the residents didn’t know KDF or KCT, as these organisations had not consulted with them.

KDF chairperson Ndithini Tyhido said that KDF couldn’t associate with “criminality” [the land occupation]. He said that KDF had no involvement in the occupation or in the land that was to be developed as they were a separate entity from KCT.

He said that as much as he does “feel for the backyard dwellers” their “method” can “never be the correct” one.

He explained that they had called the meeting yesterday because the KDF was a “conduit of development in Khayelitsha”.

Councillor Xanthea Limberg, Mayoral Committee Member for Informal Settlements, Water and Waste Services and Energy, said that although they “empathise with the plight of our residents, we simply cannot allow the invasion of land”.

She said that after obtaining the interdict on Saturday night it was served on Sunday morning, “which is when the city’s Anti-Land invasion Unit started to clear the areas that were invaded”.

South Africa – rand rallies on report of Zuma removal talks; ANC denial

News24

May 23 2017 16:07

Fin24 with Bloomberg

Cape Town – The rand raced to R13.02/$ on Tuesday as traders reacted on a Bloomberg report that the top leadership of the ruling African National Congress will discuss the option of removing President Jacob Zuma from his post at a May 26-28 meeting.

The news agency quoted two senior party officials who will be in attendance, but asked not to be identified because they aren’t authorised to speak publicly on the matter.

By 15:54 the local unit was trading at R13.09 to the greenback as the suspected terrorist attack in Manchester still weighed on risky emerging market assets. The rand traded as high as R13.31 to the US dollar on reports that 22 people were killed on Monday night in a suicide bomb attack after an Ariana Grande concert in Manchester.

According to Bloomberg, the ANC’s national executive committee is due to discuss a motion of no confidence in Zuma that has been filed by opposition parties in Parliament. Some members of the panel will also raise the possibility of the ANC taking the matter into its own hands, according to the party officials, who sit on the decision-making panel.

The rand gained as much as 1.5% against the dollar on the news.

ANC spokesperson Zizi Kodwa said that while the agenda will only be set at the meeting, the committee wouldn’t discuss Zuma’s removal.

While the committee rejected the possibility of ousting Zuma at a meeting in November, opposition to his rule has mounted within the party’s ranks following his March 31 decision to fire Pravin Gordhan as finance minister, a move that prompted S&P Global Ratings and Fitch Ratings to downgrade South Africa’s sovereign credit rating to junk.

The ANC will want to avoid a situation in which its MPs back the opposition motion to force Zuma to resign, Anthony Butler, a political science professor at the University of Cape Town, told Bloomberg.

Reuters

South Africa’s ANC dismisses Zuma removal report as ‘fabrication’

 

JOHANNESBURG South Africa’s ruling African National Congress (ANC) dismissed a media report on Tuesday that President Jacob Zuma’s removal would be discussed at a key party meeting this weekend as untrue.

Opposition to Zuma inside the ANC and from opposition parties and civil society groups has swelled since he axed respected finance minister Pravin Gordhan in late March, triggering credit downgrades to “junk” by two rating agencies.

The Bloomberg news agency quoted two anonymous sources as saying the ANC would discuss the removal of Zuma at a meeting of top party leaders at the weekend, sending the rand 1.5 percent firmer against the dollar.

ANC spokesman Zizi Kodwa denied the report, saying it was “a complete fabrication and not true”.

A senior member of the ANC’s National Executive Committee (NEC) told Reuters he was unaware of any changes to the draft agenda of a major policy meeting next month to include a debate on Zuma’s future as party leader.

“Clearly it must be on the minds of many people but I don’t know of anything specific,” the member of the ruling party’s top leadership structure said.

Zuma, 75, whose term ends in 2019, survived an internal bid to remove him in 2016 following a Constitutional Court ruling that he had violated his oath of office by refusing to reimburse the state for upgrades to his personal residence.

Zuma was also implicated in a report by an anti-corruption watchdog for allegedly allowing members of a family of Indian-born businessmen to influence cabinet appointments and tenders given by state firms.

Zuma and the Gupta family have denied any wrongdoing.

(Reporting by Nqobile Dludla and Ed Cropley; Writing by Mfuneko Toyana; Editing by Ed Cropley)

Shifting rhino poaching patterns in South Africa hit KZN hard

The Conversation

Wave of rhino killings points to shifting poaching patterns in South Africa May 23, 2017 4.40pm SAST

KwaZulu-Natal is home to smaller wildlife sanctuaries and private game reserves like Hluhluwe-iMfolozi where poaching has increased. Keith Somerville

Rhino poaching in South Africa continues to be a problem. In recent months poaching incidents have spiked in Hluhluwe-iMfolozi Park in the northeastern province of KwaZulu-Natal. In one of the worst attacks nine rhinos were found dead, bringing to 23 the number killed so far in just one month.

Earlier this year South Africa’s Minister of Environmental Affairs, Edna Molewa, announced triumphantly that in 2016 fewer rhinos had been poached than in 2015. Her statistics showed that nationally 121 fewer animals were poached in 2016 (1,054) compared with 2015 (1,175).

But my research into the evolution of poaching operations in South Africa – which I shared round about the same time – showed that while fewer had been killed, poaching efforts had simply shifted locations. In particular, illegal killings in areas outside South Africa’s largest game reserve, the Kruger National Park, have been on the rise.

There are at most 5,458 black rhino, 21,085 white rhino, 3,500 Asian one-horned rhino, 100 Sumatran rhino and between 61 and 63 Javan rhino left in the wild. South Africa is home to 75% of Africa’s rhino with between 19,000 and 20,000 white rhino and about 2,000 black rhino.

Successes in Kruger increase jeopardy elsewhere

Protection in the Kruger National Park has increased through the establishment of an “intensive protection zone” in the centre and south of the 19,485 km² park. This has reduced the number of killings.

But, to some extent, the poaching epidemic has simply changed focus and location. KwaZulu-Natal is home to smaller wildlife sanctuaries and reserves as well as private game reserves. All have substantial numbers of rhino which is why they have become the focus for poachers and criminal syndicates that run the illegal trade.

Zimbabwe and Namibia have been hit too. There are even fears that Botswana could be next on the hit list.

Rhinos under threat in South Africa have been relocated to the country’s well-protected national parks and private reserves. Botswana lost most of its rhinos to poachers in the 1970s and 1980s. But the success of the wildlife department and the Botswana Defence Force in combating poaching meant that it became a safe haven. In December 2014, Botswana had 154 rhinos and 25 more were translocated in 2015 and 2016.

In March this year, another 12 were sent from South Africa to the Okavango Delta, with 88 more due to follow this year and possibly another 100 sometime in the future.

But now their security is threatened. Budget cuts have forced Botswana’s Department of Wildlife and National Parks to cut funding for rhino protection. This has affected the elite Rhino Squad, set up to protect the relocated rhinos. It has even run out of money to buy fuel for its vehicles.

Botswana’s Environment Minister Tshekedi Khama II has bemoaned the lack of resources and the poor response from donors:

If you have given us money to establish the Rhino Squad, it will come with operational costs. We are always at war with poachers and we try to do as much as we can, with little.

The lack of funding could seriously imperil the relocation programme, which is reliant on security and well-resourced anti-poaching.

There has already been a surge in elephant poaching in northern Botswana.. Elephant poachers would see rhino horn – worth over $60,000 per kg compared with $1,000-$1,200 for ivory – as even more lucrative contraband than tusks.

Rhino horn – from a dehorned rhino in South Africa. Keith Somerville

KwaZulu-Natal bears the brunt

If Botswana could be a target, Namibia and Zimbabwe have already felt the effects of the shifting poaching operations. The numbers killed in Namibia have risen in recent years, reaching 80 in 2015 having been down at 25 the year before. Zimbabwe lost 50 rhinos in 2015, double the previous year’s level. Figures for 2016 have not been released.

But it is South Africa’s KwaZulu-Natal province that is now bearing the brunt of renewed rhino poaching. Ezemvelo’s official 2017 statistics show that 89 rhino have been poached in KZN province so far this year, compared with 55 rhino this time last year. This is a rise of 48%, attributed to Mpumalanga poaching syndicates who were operating in the Kruger National Park targeting Zululand reserves because of increased security and anti-poaching in their own province.

My visit to Hluhluwe-iMfolozi Reserve in September last year confirmed that 95 rhinos had been poached in the first nine months of the year. The latest statistics for 2016 showed 140 killed across the province (133 in protected parks) between January and November 2016. But with 89 poached across KZN in the first four months and killings up by 48%, the province could be looking at well over 200 dead in 2017 if the trend continues.

Cedric Coetzee, head of rhino protection in the park, believes that while it might take poachers days to track a rhino in Kruger National Park, the high density of animals in the KwaZulu-Natal reserve meant they might only spend two to three hours there before killing a rhino and escaping with its horns.

One thing that remains to be seen and analysed in detail is the effect that the unbanning of domestic trade in rhino horn in South Africa will have. In April this year South Africa’s Constitutional Court refused an attempt by the government to overturn an earlier court suspension of the government moratorium of the legal trade in horn imposed in 2009.

The Environment Minister has put out draft regulations for a legal trade. This would control domestic commerce and allow the export for personal use (not commercial exports which are banned by CITES) of a maximum of two horns. The draft is vague. But it was welcomed by the Private Rhino Owners Association in South Africa, who want a legal trade. Conservation organisations which oppose any trade in wildlife products were highly critical of the court decision and the South African government’s draft legislation for a legal trade.

The outlook for southern Africa’s rhinos remains threatening. The trade issue is confused and the South African government under President Jacob Zuma hardly has a reputation for administrative competence, integrity and far-sightedness.

The police and wildlife authorities struggle to deal with poaching and smuggling. The ability of criminal syndicates to evolve their operations to take account of improvements in security in some areas suggests a shifting and complex war between anti-poaching units and the poachers, weighted in favour of the killers and smugglers.