Category Archives: Republic Of South Africa

South Africa’s ex leader, Zuma could bag jail.

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Zondo dismissed Zuma’s argument, saying the apex court’s decision was supreme and that he would seek to have him charged with contempt of court.

The chair of a South African judicial panel investigating mass state corruption said Monday he would seek jail time for embattled former president Jacob Zuma over contempt of court after he again failed to appear before the commission.

The 79-year-old Zuma, who has snubbed previous summonses by the commission, refused to comply with a Constitutional Court order for him to appear on Monday before the panel probing graft during his nine-year tenure.

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The commission’s chair, deputy Chief Justice Raymond Zondo, vowed to seek to have Zuma charged with contempt of court.

“The commission will approach the Constitutional Court and ask it to impose a term of imprisonment on Mr Zuma if it finds that he is guilty of contempt of court,” Zondo said.

[file] Former South African president Jacob Zuma appears at the KwaZulu-Natal High Court in Durban on April 6, 2018, during for a brief preliminary hearing on corruption charges linked to a multi-billion dollar 1990s arms deal.

The court in January ruled that Zuma had no right to remain silent during the proceedings.

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The ex-president accused the commission of bias and demanded that Zondo recuse himself.

In a letter on Monday, Zuma’s lawyers said their client “would not be appearing before the commission” which had set aside February 15 to 19 for his testimony.

Zuma, who had approached the High Court to examine Zondo’s refusal to step aside, argued that appearing before Zondo would “undermine and invalidate the review application”.

Zondo dismissed Zuma’s argument, saying the apex court’s decision was supreme and that he would seek to have him charged with contempt of court.

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‘Right to silence’
In the two-page “matter of courtesy” letter, Zuma’s lawyers concluded that his refusal to testify should not be “construed to suggest any defiance of a legal process.”

But the commission’s advocate Paul Pretorius said it was in the public interest for Zuma to testify because he was president at the time of the alleged state corruption.

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Zuma has been implicated in evidence from some 40 witnesses, to which he is expected to respond.

“Mr Zuma, perhaps more than anyone else is able to assist the commission in understanding what happened in the period under review,” Pretorius said.

“Its difficult to understand why he would need to rely on a right to silence.”

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Zuma’s refusal came a day after the ruling African National Congress stressed the need for all its members to cooperate with the commission.

“To allow anything else would lead to anarchy and open the floodgates easily for counter-revolution,” the ANC said in a statement on Sunday.

Meanwhile, local media showed images of dozens of people, some wearing military regalia and ANC party gear, staging a vigil in support of Zuma outside his rural homestead in Nkandla in southern Kwa-Zulu Natal province

The group chanted and performed the “toyi-toyi” dance, a protest move synonymous with the struggle against apartheid.

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Zuma, who came to power in 2009, was forced to resign in 2018 over graft scandals involving an Indian business family, the Guptas, who won lucrative contracts with state companies and were allegedly even able to choose cabinet ministers.

He set up the commission shortly before his ouster and only testified before it once in July 2019, but staged a walkout days later.

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#Newsworthy

South Africa arrest ‘dozens’ over Nelson Mandela’s funeral graft.

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They face corruption and money-laundering charges amounting to around 10 million rand ($680,000 / 560,000 euros).

South Africa’s elite police on Friday arrested over a dozen members of the governing party, including a provincial minister, over the theft of funds earmarked for Nelson Mandela’s funeral eight years ago.

Fifteen suspects, including the current health minister for Eastern Cape province, Sindiswa Gomba, who was then a municipal councillor, as well as African National Congress (ANC) lawmakers and business owners, were granted bail after a brief court appearance.

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They had initially been charged in 2019 but the charges were provisionally withdrawn.

After further investigation, the Hawks, a police unit which handles corruption and other special crimes, arrested the suspects on Friday.

They face corruption and money-laundering charges amounting to around 10 million rand ($680,000 / 560,000 euros).

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The charges arose from fraudulent claims for the transportation of mourners and cost of venues booked for the memorial service for the country’s first black president in the southern coastal city of East London.

A magistrate freed them on bail of 1,000 rand ($68) bail each, and ordered them back to court on March 5, police spokeswoman Katlego Mogale said in a statement.

The arrests came a day after the 31st anniversary of Mandela’s release from 27 years of imprisonment.

After he left jail in 1990, he led the country’s transformation into a multi-racial democracy.

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He died on December 5, 2013 aged 95.

In an annual nationwide address on Thursday, President Cyril Ramaphosa said evidence being put before a panel probing graft under ex-president Jacob Zuma demonstrated “how the criminal justice system was compromised and weakened.”

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#Newsworthy

South Africa’s Ramaphosa delivers annual address ‘looking worn-out’

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Ramaphosa, who gives regular updates on the coronavirus fight, recently appeared teary and visibly worn-out during one of his broadcast addresses to the nation.

South Africa’s President Cyril Ramaphosa delivers his annual address to the nation on Thursday while appearing increasingly fragile politically, hit by massive health and economic crises as well as a divided ruling party.

Each February he outlines his national plan for the year, but this time he will be hard put to try to uplift a pandemic-weary and more impoverished population while battling for political survival within his ANC.

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His country is Africa’s hardest-hit by the coronavirus pandemic, which has sent the economy tanking to its worst in many decades, and a slew of government officials are embroiled in embarrassing cases of looting of funds meant to help fight the pandemic.

His government has come under fire for its handling of the pandemic, and lately for delays in acquiring and rolling out vaccines.

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“He’s going to get it from all sides,” said Amanda Gouws, political scientist at Stellenbosch University.

Ramaphosa will have to perform a juggling act to reignite public confidence while also not agitating a rival faction of the African National Congress (ANC) party to ensure his survival.

He came to power in 2018 after an internal struggle in the ANC resulted in Jacob Zuma being forced to resign on the back of corruption scandals.

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A year later he won a popular mandate following national elections.

‘Absent president’
But now Ramaphosa appears to be struggling to firmly stamp his authority over the 109-year-old party of Nelson Mandela and more broadly throughout the country — the continent’s most advanced economy.

“As long as you have to fight the battle inside your own party, it’s very difficult to actually create a sense of stability outside the party,” Gouws said.

He faces mounting hostility from factions within the ANC and opposition groups that accuse him of failing to rein in corruption.

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Ramaphosa has been careful not to ruffle feathers, refusing to directly chastise fellow party members implicated in corruption, including Zuma and secretary-general Ace Magashule.

“His hands are tied. If he goes against the Zuma faction we are going to see a very serious political fallout,” warned Gouws.

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His predecessor, who still commands support in the ANC, has derided the country’s top court, refusing to appear before a panel which is investigating state corruption during his nine-year tenure.

Instead he appears to be getting cosy with one of Ramaphosa’s most formidable political rivals, leader of the leftist Economic Freedom Fighters (EFF) Julius Malema.

Photographs of the beaming politicians released after their meeting last week fuelled rumours among South Africans of a possible alliance aimed at toppling Ramaphosa.

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The largest opposition party, the Democratic Alliance, wants Ramaphosa “to show South Africans that he is in fact the man in charge”.

“At the moment it looks like we have an absent president,” said Gouws

The country has seen nearly 1.5 million Covid infections and more than 46,000 deaths, and its vaccine rollout has been troubled.

This week authorities delayed the start of a much-anticipated vaccination campaign after a study showed the AstraZeneca jabs failed to prevent mild and moderate infection from the variant first identified in South Africa.

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Ramaphosa, who gives regular updates on the coronavirus fight, recently appeared teary and visibly worn-out during one of his broadcast addresses to the nation.

The former trade unionist who later became a wealthy businessman should deal with “the prevailing crisis of confidence and legitimacy that the government is facing from the people,” warned Sizwe Pamla, spokesman for Cosatu, the largest trade union federation and an ANC ally.

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#Newsworthy

COVID-19: South Africa stops vaccination as worries grow over AstraZeneca

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Efforts are underway in the United States, the hardest-hit nation, to accelerate its mass vaccination programme, which has been plagued by supply and logistics issues.

South Africa suspended the start of its AstraZeneca inoculation programme over concerns the shot does not work on a new variant, with WHO experts due to meet Monday to discuss the vaccine already facing questions about its efficacy for over-65s.

A trial showed the vaccine provides only “minimal” protection against mild to moderate Covid-19 caused by the variant first detected in South Africa, a setback to the global fight against the pandemic as many poorer nations are relying on the logistical advantages offered by the AstraZeneca shot.

Africa’s hardest-hit nation was due to start its campaign in the coming days with a million AstraZeneca doses but the government decided to hold off in light of the results from the trial conducted by the University of Witwatersrand in Johannesburg.

“It’s a temporary issue that we have to hold on AstraZeneca until we figure out these issues,” Health Minister Zweli Mkhize told reporters on Sunday.

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The 1.5 million AstraZeneca vaccines obtained by South Africa, which will expire in April, will be kept until scientists give clear indications on their use, he added.

AstraZeneca, which developed the shot with the University of Oxford, told AFP: “We do believe our vaccine will still protect against severe disease.”

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A company spokesperson said researchers were already working to update the vaccine to deal with the South African variant, which has been spreading rapidly around the world.

A World Health Organization panel is due to meet on Monday in Geneva to examine the shot, which is a major component of the initial Covax global vaccine rollout that covers some 145 countries — mostly lower- and lower-middle-income economies.

Out of the initial 337.2 million Covax doses, 240 million are AstraZeneca shots, which do not require the supercold storage needed for the Pfizer and Moderna vaccines.

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There were already concerns about the efficacy of the AstraZeneca shot among over-65s, with a number of European nations not authorising it yet for that demographic.

‘Be careful’
The coronavirus pandemic has claimed more than 2.3 million lives globally out of nearly 106 million known infections, and despite the AstraZeneca setback, vaccine rollouts in other countries are gathering pace.

Hungarian authorities said Sunday they have approved Russia’s Sputnik V shot, while Cambodia became the latest nation to receive delivery of the Chinese Sinopharm vaccine, taking on 600,000 doses of the jab.

Efforts are underway in the United States, the hardest-hit nation, to accelerate its mass vaccination programme, which has been plagued by supply and logistics issues.

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President Joe Biden, who took office last month, said his predecessor Donald Trump’s handling of the pandemic “was even more dire than we thought”.

“We thought they had indicated there was a lot more vaccine available, and it didn’t turn out to be the case,” he told NoRM‘s known Media on Sunday. “So that’s why we’ve ramped up every way we can.”

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Biden also asked American football fans to “be careful”, with health experts worried about the virus spreading at parties expected during and after the Super Bowl, the country’s biggest sporting event.

A health worker displays a vial containing the AstraZeneca Covid-19 vaccine, in Suresnes, on February 6, 2021, on the start of a vaccination campaign for health workers with the AstraZeneca/Oxford vaccine. – The top French medical authority Haute autorité de Santé has approved the vaccine for use in France, but only for people under 65, echoing decisions made in Sweden, Germany, Belgium and Switzerland over concerns about a lack of data on the effectiveness of the vaccine for over 65s. (Photo by Alain JOCARD / AFP)

‘I was bored at home’
There was some good news out of Israel, which began emerging out of its third lockdown on Sunday. Israel’s vaccination programme is considered the fastest per-capita in the world.

In neighbouring Jordan, hundreds of thousands of students returned to classrooms on Sunday after almost a year.

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“I am very happy to see my friends and teacher again,” said seven-year-old Mecca at a school in Jabal Amman, in the centre of the Jordanian capital.

“I was bored at home.”

Schools were also expected to reopen on Monday in Romania, the Netherlands, Denmark and Austria. Museums and shops were also due to reopen in Austria.

And there was both gloom and optimism in Venice, where the annual Carnival kicked off with much smaller celebrations.

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“Venice is strange this year. It is shocking to see it so empty,” said Armando Bala, a costume salesman.

“We are here today to say that Venice can live and be reborn, as it has several times in its history.”

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#Newsworthy

COVID-19: South Africa receives first batch of Pfizer vaccine.

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Another half-a-million doses of the vaccine are expected later this month.

South Africa on Monday took delivery of its first shipment of coronavirus vaccines, a move paving the way to the first phase of inoculation in Africa’s worst-hit country.

Public broadcaster SABC showed President Cyril Ramaphosa at Johannesburg’s O.R. Tambo International airport receiving one million doses of the Oxford-AstraZeneca vaccine, produced by the Serum Institute of India.

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The jabs will be administered to some 1.2 million health workers, the key target in the first phase of vaccination.

Injections will start to be administered in about two weeks after the vaccines go through quarantine, regulatory and quality-control procedures.

(FILES) An undated handout picture released by the University of Oxford on November 23, 2020 shows a vial of the University’s COVID-19 candidate vaccine, known as AZD1222, co-invented by the University of Oxford and Vaccitech in partnership with pharmaceutical giant AstraZeneca. – Britain on December 30, 2020 became the first country in the world to approve the coronavirus vaccine developed by drug firm AstraZeneca and Oxford University, with a mass rollout planned from January 4, 2021. (Photo by John Cairns / University of Oxford / AFP) / /

With at least 1.45 million detected infections and more than 44,000 fatalities, South Africa has the highest number of cases and deaths in Africa.

The authorities plan to vaccinate at least 67 percent of the population, or 40 million people, by year’s end.

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The government, which has been accused of being slow to acquire Covid vaccines, announced at the weekend that it had secured an additional 20 million doses — this time of the Pfizer/BioNTech formula.

South Africa’s outbreak has been accelerated by a new variant said to be more contagious than earlier strains of the virus.

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#Newsworthy

Jacob Zuma vows never to appear before anti-graft panel.

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The commission “can expect no further cooperation from me in any of their processes going forward,” Zuma said in a statement.

South Africa’s beleaguered ex-president Jacob Zuma vowed Monday to not appear before a judicial panel probing corruption during his nine-year tenure, defying a court order compelling him to testify.

Zuma, 78, has played cat-and-mouse with the commission since it was set up in 2018 to investigate looting of state coffers during his rule.

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He accuses the commission of bias and has demanded that its chair, Deputy Chief Justice Raymond Zondo, recuse himself from the anti-graft inquiry.

However, Zondo has dismissed the calls, saying Zuma failed to make a case that he was being unfair.

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Zuma, while highlighting his anti-apartheid exploits, said he was ready for “the law to take its course” and did not fear being arrested, convicted or incarcerated.

(FILES) In this file photo taken on July 15, 2019 Former South African president Jacob Zuma appears before the Commission of Inquiry into State Capture in Johannesburg, where he faces tough questioning over allegations that he oversaw systematic looting of state funds while in power. – South Africa’s Constitutional Court on January 28, 2021, ordered former South African President Jacob Zuma to testify before the commission of enquiry into suspicions of widespread corruption during his presidency. (Photo by WIKUS DE WET / POOL / AFP)

“The wrath visited upon me as an individual knows no bounds,” said Zuma, adding that his children and associates had also been “targeted and harassed” as their bank accounts were closed.

South Africa’s top court on Thursday ordered him to appear before the Zondo commission, ruling that he had no right to remain silent during the proceedings.

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“It is clear that the laws of this country are politicised even at the highest court in land,” Zuma said.

But Zuma argued that court decision rendered him completely defenceless.

He said he “never imagined that there would come a time when a democratic government in South Africa… would behave exactly like the apartheid government in creating legal processes designed to target specific individuals in society”.

Zuma, who came to power in 2009, was forced to resign in 2018 over graft scandals involving an Indian business family, the Guptas — who won lucrative contracts with state companies and were allegedly even able to choose cabinet ministers.

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He set up the commission shortly before his ouster and only testified before it once in July 2019, but staged a walkout days later.

Since then, Zuma has not testified again, citing health concerns or preparation for another corruption case related to a 1990s arms deal which will resume this month.

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#Newsworthy

COVID-19: South Africa orders 20 million Pfizer vaccines.

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A first shipment of AstraZeneca/Oxford jabs produced in India is due to arrive on Monday, with injections expected to start two weeks later.

South Africa has secured 20 million doses of the Pfizer/BioNTech coronavirus vaccine, the health minister told a Sunday newspaper.

Africa’s worst virus-hit country has yet to begin vaccinating its population against Covid-19, stirring criticism over slow procurement and lack of strategy.

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Health Minister Zweli Mkhize told The Sunday Times that 20 million additional vaccines had been ordered from US drugmaker Pfizer.

“These vaccines are secured and awaiting manufacturers to submit final agreements with details of delivery dates and exact amounts,” said Mkhize.

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The health ministry did not respond to several AFP requests for comment.

The new Pfizer order will complement 12 million vaccine doses from the WHO-backed Covax facility, nine million Johnson & Johnson shots and 1.5 million AstraZeneca/Oxford vaccines — pushing the total supply secured so far to over 40 million.

South Africa aims to vaccinate 67 percent of the population, or 40 million people, by the end of the year.

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Some vaccines will be provided by Covax and the African Union, while others will be directly purchased from suppliers.

“We are reasonably comfortable that what we have paid for, signed for and are negotiating for will cover the numbers that we are looking to vaccinate,” Mkhize assured.

The minister added that storage of the Pfizer/BioNTech vaccine, which needs to be kept at -70 degrees Celsius, would not be an issue.

“We have some capacity, mostly in academic institutions. There are now companies coming forward with storage and transit solutions,” he said.

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South Africa’s coronavirus outbreak has been accelerated by a new variant thought to be more contagious than earlier forms and relatively more resistant to existing vaccines.

To date the country has recorded more than 1.4 million infections and almost 45,000 deaths.

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#Newsworthy

[South Africa] Jacob Zuma snubs anti-graft panel again.

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The chief justice had to interrupt hearings on Friday after he was told one of his close aides had contracted coronavirus, forcing him to self-isolate.

South Africa’s ex-president Jacob Zuma will not appear before a judicial panel probing alleged graft during his time in office, his lawyer said Friday, despite a court application seeking to compel him to testify.

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Zuma, 78, has played cat-and-mouse with the commission since it was set up in 2018 to investigate looting of state coffers during his nine-year tenure.

The former leader has only testified to the panel once, in July 2019, but pulled out after a few days, saying he was being treated as an “accused” rather than as a witness.

He reappeared briefly before the commission in November to demand that the its chair, deputy chief justice Raymond Zondo, recuse himself.

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The exasperated panellists issued a fresh summons starting on January 18 and filed an urgent Constitutional Court application to oblige him to comply.

But Zuma’s lawyer Eric Mabuza on Friday told AFP the ex-president would not be appearing next week.

Former President of South Africa, Jacob Zuma

In a WhatsApp message, Mabuza explained that his client was waiting for the Constitutional Court to respond to the commission’s application.

He is also holding out for the outcome of an application to set aside Zondo’s refusal to recuse himself.

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“We have informed the commission that President Zuma will not be appearing on Monday,” Mabuza confirmed.

Zondo has not yet reacted to the announcement, which was widely expected.

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“Commission cannot continue today,” the judicial panel tweeted shortly after its lunch break. “DCJ (Zondo) says he has just received news that somebody who works very close to him has tested positive for Covid-19.”

It was not immediately clear whether this would impact next week’s proceedings.

Zuma, who became president in 2009, was forced to resign in 2018 over graft scandals centred around an Indian business family, the Guptas — who won lucrative contracts with state companies and were allegedly even able to choose cabinet ministers.

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He was succeeded by President Cyril Ramaphosa, who has vowed to confront the “scourge” of corruption.

The so-called state capture commission was established to hear testimony from ministers, ex-ministers, government officials and business executives on alleged corruption under Zuma’s tenure.

So far at least 30 witnesses have directly and indirectly implicated the former leader.

In the latest summons, he had been called to testify from January 18 to 22 and again from February 15 to 19.

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Zuma is also facing trial for allegedly receiving bribes in a multi-billion rand arms deal in 1999, when he was deputy president.

That trial is now scheduled to resume in February after postponements.

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#Newsworthy

COVID-19: South Africa takes new step as WHO warns of worse pandemics

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And in Spain, where the death toll has topped 50,000, the health minister said the government would set up a registry of people who refuse to be vaccinated and share it with other European Union member states.

South Africa banned alcohol sales and made masks mandatory in public from Tuesday after a surge in coronavirus cases, as the World Health Organization warned that pandemics far more deadly than Covid-19 may lie ahead.

Nations around the world are struggling with winter spikes in infections that have pushed the global caseload close to 81 million, even as the rollout of vaccines gathers pace in North America and Europe.

South African President Cyril Ramaphosa on Monday announced a ban on selling alcohol and said face masks will be compulsory in public after his nation became the first in Africa to record one million cases.

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“We have let down our guard, and unfortunately we are now paying the price,” said Ramaphosa, blaming “super-spreader” social events and an “extreme lack of vigilance over the holiday period” for the spike.

Ramaphosa said data showed “excessive alcohol consumption” leads to an increase in trauma cases reported at hospitals, causing an “unnecessary” strain on public health facilities.

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Surging cases also forced authorities in Rio de Janeiro — one of Brazil’s worst-hit cities — to announce Monday that they will block access to beaches on December 31 to prevent crowds celebrating New Year’s Eve.

Vaccinations in Spain and other EU countries started over the weekend, and authorities fear vaccine hesitancy and rejection could hamper those efforts — especially because of misinformation campaigns on social media.

That was not a concern with 75-year-old Jacques Collineau, resident of an old people’s home in Joue-les-Tours, France.

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“Fear? Fear of what? I’ve been vaccinated for the flu before, now it’s the same thing,” Collineau said as he got the shot on Monday.

“We don’t make vaccines to kill people, we make vaccines to try to save them.”

‘This is not the big one’
The coronavirus has devastated lives and economies across the globe, but the WHO warned Monday that worse pandemics could like ahead, urging the world to get serious about preparedness.

“This is a wakeup call,” WHO emergencies chief Michael Ryan told reporters at a briefing marking a year since the UN agency first learned of the new virus spreading in China.

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“This pandemic… has spread around the world extremely quickly and it has affected every corner of this planet, but this is not necessarily the big one,” Ryan added.

“We need to get ready for something that may even be more severe in the future.”

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While huge scientific progress was made to study the virus and develop vaccines at record speed, WHO senior advisor Bruce Aylward cautioned that the world was far from ready for the next pandemic.

“We are into the second and third waves of this virus and we are still not prepared to deal with and manage those,” he said.

“While we are better prepared… we are not fully prepared for this one, let alone the next one.”

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‘Good riddance, 2020!’
The warnings were backed up by the worrying figures and trends reported worldwide.

South Korea, one of the nations hailed for its success during the first months of the pandemic, on Tuesday logged its highest daily death toll since the beginning of the pandemic as it battled a third wave of infections.

India, with the second-biggest caseload in the world, reported the detection of the new coronavirus strain, but officials said the nation’s pandemic guidelines have not changed because of it.

Highlighting the frustration and suffering caused by the crisis, submissions from around the world came in for a Good Riddance Day celebration in New York City.

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The submissions were printed and then shredded, while the host of the event pulverised a 2020 pinata.

When Westbury, New York, resident Raul was asked what he wanted to say good riddance to, he responded: “Like anybody else, I want to get rid of the coronavirus. That’s it!”

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#Newsworthy

Jacob Zuma’s corruption trial postponed to next year February

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Neither Zuma nor a representative from Thales were present in the dock.

The corruption trial of South Africa’s embattled ex-president Jacob Zuma and French arms manufacturer Thales, which was due to resume this week, has been postponed to February, the high court ordered Tuesday.

Zuma, in power from 2009 to 2018, faces 16 charges of fraud, graft and racketeering relating to the purchase of fighter jets, patrol boats and military equipment.

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He allegedly took bribes of four million rand ($220,000 / 200,000 euros) over a $3.4-billion arms deal with French aerospace and defence giant Thales in 1999, when he was deputy president.

Judge Nompulelo Radebe of the Pietermaritzburg high court said, “the matter is postponed provisionally to 23 February 2021 for the resolution of… outstanding pre-trial management issues.”

Radebe said the delay would allow time for both the defence and prosecutors to request further details in the matter, including the trial letter.

Clarity on the restrictions on international travel due to the Covid-19 pandemic will also be sought, as some witnesses live abroad.

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Zuma was forced to step down in 2018 by the ruling African National Congress (ANC) after a nine-year reign marked by corruption allegations and dwindling popularity.

His successor Cyril Ramaphosa made the fight against graft the cornerstone of his presidency.

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#Newsworthy

Just in: South Africa anti-racism Protesters collides with Police

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The protests were the latest of a string of demonstrations against alleged racism at Brackenfell High School following the dance party held sometime late in October.

South Africa police on Friday fired teargas at opposition activists protesting against alleged racism at a Cape Town school where a whites-only year-end dance party was allegedly organised last month.

Anti-riot police aimed teargas and water cannon towards hundreds of members of the radical leftist Economic Freedom Fighters (EFF) party gathered near the school.

The protesters dispersed and re-grouped a few blocks away.

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Police later told the protest organisers that only 100 people were allowed to march to the school.

Few days after the party, EFF members tried marching to the school but were blocked by some of the students’ parents resulting in fistfights.

People run away from teargas during the opposition Economic Freedom Fighters party’s protest against alleged racism outside Brackenfell High School in Cape Town, South Africa, November 20, 2020. REUTERS/Mike Hutchings

Widely shared video footage showed dramatic scenes of angry whites punching EFF’s black protesters on the streets on November 9.

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The confrontation disturbed President Cyril Ramaphosa who called for a probe, describing the clashes as “deeply regrettable”.

“The spectacle of parents and protestors coming to blows at the school gate is deeply unfortunate,” said Ramaphosa, adding the development brought “back hurtful memories of a past we should never seek to return to”.

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The clashes occurred a few weeks after similarly racially-charged protests in the central farming town of Senekal over the murder of a white farm manager by suspected black assailants.

Despite the end of apartheid a generation ago, racial tensions in South Africa often remain high.


#Newsworthy

Heritage day: #JerusalemaDanceChallenge full South Africa.

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A Dancing Nation
In South Africa, Heritage Day was celebrated to the rhythm of the famous hit by the South African DJ Master KG.

Across the country, workers, national rugby team players and students could be seen doing the #JerusalemaDanceChallenge.

In a public address — which included the easing of coronavirus prevention restrictions, President Cyril Ramaphosa called on South Africans to participate in the challenge in celebration of the national culture.

The national dance challenge an ambience for the country to unwind to the notes of a gospel song that has become the soundtrack of a certain ode to lighter times during the Covid-19 pandemic.

Released in 2019 and already very popular on the African continent, the song Jerusalema found its way to social media in the form of a tiktok challenge where it blew up on a global scale. Since then, the #JerusalemaDanceChallenge has toured the world.


#Newsworthy

Protest sparks in South Africa amid racist ads

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Angry South Africans demonstrate in front of Clicks Pharmacy stores after opposition EFF calls for protests.

Protesters have gathered outside several pharmacy chain stores in South Africa in reaction to a shampoo advertisement slammed by the critics as “racist”.

The advertisement, commissioned by the TRESemme hair company and carried on the Clicks pharmacies’ website, compared two photos of Black women’s hair with two photos of white women’s hair, labelling the natural hair “dry and damaged” and “frizzy and dull”, while the white women’s hair was “fine and flat” and “normal”.

The opposition Economic Freedom Fighters (EFF) party on Monday called for demonstrations over the issue and rallied people to protest outside the company’s outlets.

“We will not permit the unrepentant and perverse racism of Clicks to go on in South Africa. #clicksmustfall,” the EFF posted on Twitter.

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Local website TimesLive reported that at least one store had been petrol-bombed early in the morning, causing minor damage.

Videos on the EFF’s social media pages and in local media showed small groups of protesters – clad in the party’s red berets – dancing and singing protest songs in several malls.

Many on social media also expressed their outrage over the advertisement, with Black women posting photos of their hair with hashtags #RacismMustFall and #BlackHairIsNormal.

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“Not only is this disrespectful to black lives, it is also evidence of an absence of representation and diversity within the organisation,” tweeted Zozibini Tunzi, who wears short natural hair and was crowned Miss Universe in December.

“And we are talking about a South Africa with a population of about 80 percent black people… No ways.”

Apology
As anger over the advertisement grew, Clicks Pharmacy, one of the two largest retailers in the country with more than 500 stores, issued “an unequivocal apology” and pulled down the images.

“We are strong advocates of natural hair and are deeply sorry we have offended our natural hair community,” it said in a statement on its Twitter account on Friday.

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“We have made a mistake and sincerely apologise for letting you down.”

Unilever SA, TRESemme’s parent company, published an apology on its website that read: “We are very sorry that images used in a TRESemme South Africa marketing campaign on the Clicks website promote racist stereotypes about hair.

“The campaign set out to celebrate the beauty of all hair types and the range of solutions that TRESemmé offers, but we got it wrong.”

Hair is a sensitive issue in many parts of Africa.

South African students have had to campaign in the past to be allowed to wear natural hairstyles – like dreadlocks, afros and cornrows – at school.

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In 2018, the EFF staged protests, trashing outlets of Swedish clothing giant Hennes and Mauritz (H&M) in Johannesburg over a controversial advertisement featuring a Black boy.

A photo on H&M’s website of the boy wearing a green hoodie with the inscription “coolest monkey in the jungle” had triggered outrage on social media.

H&M and Clicks are not the only major companies to be hit by advertisement scandals in recent years.

Spanish clothing brand Zara in 2014 removed striped pyjamas with a yellow star after facing outrage over its resemblance to clothes worn by Jewish prisoners in concentration camps.


#Newsworthy…

Burial traditions in South Africa suffers increase amid COVID-19.

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People Have Been Passing Away
Over 14,000 lives claimed by covid-19 in South Africa since the onset of the pandemic. Hence, the government has since put strict virus-prevention regulations in place. A cautionary move that seems to be exacerbating an already traumatic experience for those looking to mourn their loved ones as per the cultural tradition.

People in South Africa usually hold funerals over the weekend. Now, with the rise in the frequency of the number deaths due to coronavirus infections, funeral houses are busier than ever and many families are forced to hold burial ceremonies during the week.

Traditions Viewed as Risky
Tagu Sibeko, operations manager at Maziya Funerals in the township of Katlehong east of Johannesburg, explains the custom, “On Thursday, the family would come, wash the body and then after that we would coffin the body and then on a Friday we’re going to live with the body and the body would stay at home till Saturday when the funeral happens. And obviously the body would be moved and taken to the cemetery. That has completely changed.”

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The usual cultural rituals to say goodbye to deceased loved ones are also not advised as they mainly include washing the body of the person by family. Much hygiene care and sanitary precautions have been in effect worldwide amongst essential workers handling corpses of those who pass away during these covid-times.

Usually, bodies are recovered from the hospital already heavily bagged for protection – and in some cases even labelled as “highly contagious,” without the intention of being opened. As such, the corporal washing custom is not possible.

Sibeko, also noted that this aspect of the South African burial tradition is what has been most disrupted during the pandemic.

A Downsized Affair
In addition, a South African burial ceremony is typically an elaborate occasion where several people gather to mourn the deceased – many even coming from out of town and staying for overnight vigils. However, the current sanitary guidelines restrict the number of attendees to only 50 when normally they can go up to 100 in light of around 200 cases identified earlier this year by officials in the Eastern Cape province which were linked to funerals held in the cities of Port Elizabeth and Port St. Johns.

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Carl van der Riet, Chief Operating Officer of Avbob funeral insurance company, explains how the attendee-restrictions on funeral services are affecting the South African people, “People process trauma in different ways and people rely on family networks to assist them and support them through times of bereavement like this. And that’s, you know, the one potential area of impact is that people no longer have that level of support and are no longer able to process trauma.”

People are finding different ways to mourn and cope
In an already challenging time, the drastic change to the traditional burial rituals amongst family is daunting for many South Africans; However, so is having to pay a fine or face jail time for those found guilty of breaking these post-mortem sanitary regulations.

Pandemic Dying Down?
As the country continues to gradually ease lockdown regulations, many South Africans are hopeful that these traditional rituals will be permitted once again.

South Africa has over half a million confirmed covid-19 cases and currently claims the sixth-highest number in the world.


#Newsworthy…

[South Africa] Cyril Ramaphosa to face party probe.

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South Africa’s President Cyril Ramaphosa will appear before an integrity commission to answer questions about a controversial campaign donation. This is according to his governing party officials.

Senior member of the African National Congress, ANC Jessie Duarte, however has not specified when Mr Ramaphosa would present himself before the party panel.

Mr Ramaphosa, according to South Africa’s anti-corruption watchdog, is alleged to have misled parliament about money he received in 2017, worth more than $36,000 (£27,000). Mr Ramaphosa maintains it was a donation towards his campaign for the ANC leadership.

As President, Mr Ramaphosa has staked his reputation on cleaning up the country’s politics since he replaced Jacob Zuma.


#Newsworthy…