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Pistorius prosecutor takes up case against Grace Mugabe


on  Thursday, August 17   2017 at  19:36

South African Oscar Pistorius’ prosecutor, Gerrie Nel, has offered legal services to Gabriella Engels, a 20-year-old model who was alleged assaulted by Zimbabwe’s first lady Grace Mugabe.

Mr Nel has said he is concerned over the possibility of political interference in the prosecution of the case.

The former State advocate left the National Prosecuting Authority in January to join a civil rights organisation AfriForum.

Mr Nel told journalists in Pretoria on Thursday that Ms Engels’ family had been approached by a third party to accept a cash settlement and drop the case. He, however, would not shed more light on the allegations.

“AfriForum is willing to fight this matter to the highest court,” he said.

Debbie Engels, the alleged victim’s mother, welcomed the assistance saying she was glad the family was not left alone.

“At least now I can sleep a little bit more peaceful knowing that I have people in my corner that are going to help me fight for justice for my daughter. And I know these people are not going to back down. They’re going to fight for her all the way. I’m very, very grateful. Now I know that this woman is not going to get off scot-free,” she said.

Ms Engels, a model, laid criminal charges against the 52-year-old wife of President Robert Mugabe on Monday after she allegedly hit her with an electrical cord in a Sandton hotel on Sunday. The model said she suffered deep cuts to her forehead and the back of her head.

At the press briefing in Pretoria, Ms Engels was seen with a bandage on her forehead, but did not speak about the incident.

Meanwhile, South African police have issued a "red alert" at the country's borders for Mrs Mugabe, Police Minister Fikile Mbalula has said.

Mr Mbalula had previous said that Zimbabwe’s first lady had been expected to appear in court on Tuesday if she reported to a police station, but she failed to show up.

Mrs Mugabe has since invoked diplomatic immunity to avoid prosecution.

However, immigration law experts say she can only be granted immunity if her visit to South Africa was gazetted by the Department of International Relations and Co-operation (DIRCO) in advance.

The Police ministry said she is expected to join her husband and other heads of state at the Southern African Development Community (SADC) summit underway in Pretoria. Her official duties at the summit could bolster her claim to diplomatic immunity.

Grace Mugabe had been in South Africa to attend to personal matters and see her two sons.

Mr Nel, nicknamed Pitbull, prosecuted former Olympic star Oscar Pistorius, who was convicted of murdering his girlfriend, model Reeva Steenkamp, in 2013.

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Nigerians pay $1.2b in bribes each year


on  Thursday, August 17   2017 at  18:12

Nigerians spend more than $1.2 billion each year to pay bribes to public officials, a new survey by the country’s statistics office has said.

The National Bureau of Statistics in its report titled “Corruption in Nigeria, Bribery: Public Experience and Response 2017 Survey” said out of every 10 bribes paid to civil servants nine are made in cash, posing an arduous test on the country’s anti-graft measures.

According to the report, released on Thursday, the $1.2 billion (400 billion naira) spent in bribes, between June 2015 and May 2016, is equivalent to 39 per cent of the combined federal and state education budget in 2016.

The survey showed that almost a third of the 190 million Nigerians pay bribes to government workers for basic services, with police officers, custom officials and judges topping the list of bribe takers.

On average, Nigerians spend an eighth of their salaries on bribes each month, the report noted.

It added that about 82.3 million bribes are paid in the country each year, an average of six bribes per person.

According to the statistics office, Nigerians considered bribery as the third most important problem facing the country after high cost of living and unemployment respectively.

Since President Muhammadu Buhari took over two years ago, vowing to fight corruption, some high-profile officials have been charged with graft particularly theft of oil revenues.

The survey was conducted in April and May 2016 across Nigeria and was based on 33,067 household interviews, with support from the European Union and UN Office on Drugs and Crime.

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UN relocates Congolese refugees from Angola border


on  Thursday, August 17   2017 at  10:30

The United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) has begun relocating more than 33,000 Congolese refugees from over-crowded reception centres in northern Angola.

The UN agency said it will move the refugees to a new settlement in Lóvua, some 100km inland from the border with DR Congo.

About 1,500 refugees have been relocated from Mussunge to the new site, the UNHCR said on Tuesday.

Congolese refugees have been fleeing to Angola since March, putting more strain on resources at the border centres, the UN said.

Violence erupted in DR Congo’s central Kasai region after government forces killed a tribal chief and militia leader Kamwina Nsapu.

Mr Nsapu had been leading a rebellion against President Joseph Kabila.

UNHCR said the new site at Lovua, a 33km2 parcel of land allocated by the Angolan government, would improve the living conditions of the refugees.

“The refugees will receive a plot of land to build shelters and grow food to supplement their food rations.

“The new settlement’s distance from the border will help in maintaining the humanitarian and civilian character of the site,” UNHCR said in a statement.

The refugee agency said security situation in Kasai region remains volatile.

UNHCR said, along with its partners, it is ready to provide protection and assistance for up to 50,000 Congolese refugees by the end of 2017 at Lóvua.

In June, the UNHCR launched an appeal for $65 million to assist refugees of which only 32 per cent has been received.

“Additional funding is urgently needed to continue developing infrastructure and services for refugees in Lóvua settlement,” the UN said.

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Grace Mugabe claims diplomatic immunity in S.Africa assault case

Posted AFP

on  Thursday, August 17   2017 at  08:20

Zimbabwe's first lady Grace Mugabe has claimed diplomatic immunity after being accused of assaulting a 20-year-old model, South African police said on Wednesday, in an incident that could test cross-border relations.

The 52-year-old wife of President Robert Mugabe is accused of attacking Gabriella Engels on Sunday evening at a Johannesburg hotel where the first lady's two sons were staying.

Engels has registered a police case alleging assault with intent to do grievous bodily harm, saying she suffered deep cuts to her forehead and the back of her head.

"The suspect('s) lawyers and her government representatives made verbal representations... that the suspect wished to invoke diplomatic immunity cover," the police ministry said in a statement.

The police said that Grace Mugabe had been expected to report to a police station on Tuesday to give her version of the events and "to obtain a warning statement", but that she failed to show up.

Public or private trip?

They added that she would attend at the weekend a summit of the Southern African Development Community (SADC) in Pretoria where her husband and other heads of state will be present.

Her official duties at the summit could bolster her claim to diplomatic immunity, after her trip to see her sons was widely described as private.

Foreign affairs spokesman Clayson Monyela had told AFP on Tuesday that her trip was "a private visit, so government cannot get involved."

Her husband flew out of Harare for South Africa Wednesday evening for the summit, according to the Zimbabwean public broadcaster ZBC.
The summit of heads of state starts on Saturday.

"We know where the suspect is," South Africa's police spokesman Vishnu Naidoo told AFP earlier Wednesday.

"We are still continuing with the investigations. No warrant of arrest has been issued," he added, after some reports suggested she had hurriedly returned to Harare late Tuesday.

The alleged attack threatens to spark a diplomatic tiff between the two neighbouring countries, which have strong political and economic ties.

Zimbabwean officials have made no comment on the case.

'Kept beating me'

Grace Mugabe allegedly arrived at the Capital 20 West Hotel with bodyguards and accused Engels of partying with her sons Robert and Chatunga, who are both in their 20s and live in Johannesburg.

Pictures on social media appeared to show Engels bleeding from her head after the alleged assault at the hotel in the upmarket business district of Sandton.

Engels said she was attacked with an electrical extension cord.

"She flipped and just kept beating me with the plug. Over and over. I had no idea what was going on. I was surprised... I needed to crawl out of the room before I could run away," she told the News 24 website.

Grace Mugabe is 41 years younger than her 93-year-old husband, and the couple has two sons and a daughter.

She regularly speaks at rallies and is seen as a possible contender to take over from her increasingly frail husband, who has ruled Zimbabwe since independence from Britain in 1980.

The succession battle is expected to pit Vice President Emmerson Mnangagwa against a group called "Generation 40" or "G40" because its members are generally younger, and which reportedly has Grace's backing.

While Grace Mugabe has in the past denied harbouring ambitions to take over from her husband, at other times she has said she would be prepared to serve in any political position.

She has taken on a larger public role in recent years, drumming up support for her husband and heading the women's league of the ruling ZANU-PF party.

In speeches this year the president has often slurred his words, mumbled and paused for lengthy periods.

His reign has been marked by brutal repression of dissent, mass emigration, accusations of vote-rigging and a sharp economic decline.

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Three ANC lawmakers face disciplinary action over Zuma vote


on  Wednesday, August 16   2017 at  13:32

Three African National Congress (ANC) legislators who have publicly admitted to voting with the opposition in the no-confidence motion against President Jacob Zuma face disciplinary action.

About 35 MPs from the ruling party supported the motion in a secret ballot that sought the removal of President Zuma from office in parliament last week.

The motion was however unsuccessful after it failed to get enough votes.

The ANC secretary-general, Gwede Mantashe, said on Tuesday that the party would punish defectors.

“Three of them have confirmed they voted with the opposition. We will have to deal with that situation because if we don’t we will destroy the essence of being an organisation,” he said.

“We are not going to have lie detectors, but if they come out and say: ‘Yes, I voted with the opposition’, you are no longer following your own conscience, but you are daring your own party,” Mr Mantashe added.

It has since emerged that the decision to discipline the ANC dissenters was taken at a meeting of the party’s national working committee on Monday. A day earlier, President Zuma had called on ANC to identify and punish those who voted against him.

Among those that are seen to be the likely targets for disciplinary action include former Finance minister Pravin Gordhan, and outspoken MPs Makhosi Khoza and Mondli Gungubele. The three had repeatedly backed calls to vote in favour of the motion, saying they would cast their ballots with their conscience.

Party insiders are also said to be seeking the removal of the disciplinary committee chairperson, former Tourism Minister Derek Hanekom who is also suspected to have voted with the opposition. The party said his “tweets put him in a difficult position to chair a disciplinary process”.

On the day of the vote, August 8, Mr Hanekom tweeted: “Dispel the notion of voting with the opposition. We must vote against state capture, massive looting and corruption. Vote for change.”

President Zuma, whose eight years in power have been dogged by corruption scandals, is scheduled to address a parliamentary caucus next week.

He survived his eighth motion of no-confidence in him, in which 177 MPs voted in favour, while 198 were against it. 

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Zambia opposition chief freed, treason charge dropped

Posted AFP

on  Wednesday, August 16   2017 at  10:34

Zambian opposition leader Hakainde Hichilema has been released from prison Wednesday and treason charges against him dropped, his party said shortly before his trial was to begin in Lusaka.

"Hakainde Hichilema and his 5 co-accused have been released from prison with the treason charge dropped," the United Party for National Development (UPND) said on its Twitter account.

Hichilema has been in custody since April over an incident in which he allegedly failed to give way to President Edgar Lungu's motorcade.

Lungu, who narrowly beat Hichilema in last year's presidential election, has dismissed allegations of growing authoritarianism and has accused his rival of trying to overturn the election result.

Hichilema and five aides denied the treason charges at a plea hearing on Monday where police officers in riot gear had sealed off the court precinct as scores of UPND supporters waited outside.

The trial had been due to begin on Wednesday morning.
Zambia has enjoyed relative stability since its first multi-party election in 1991.

But last year's election was marked by clashes between supporters of Lungu's Patriotic Front (PF) party and the UPND.

Lungu also invoked emergency powers in July, increasing police powers of arrest and detention after he blamed opposition parties for a string of arson attacks.

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Former Al-Shabaab leader renounces group


on  Tuesday, August 15   2017 at  18:21

Robow Ali Abu Mansoor, the former Al-Shabaab deputy leader, has renounced ties with the Al-Qaeda linked militant group he helped form.

At a press conference in Mogadishu on Tuesday, Mr Mansoor said he abandoned the Somali jihadist group more than five years ago.

“I am going to make it clear for the Somali people and the world that I had withdrawn my membership in Al-Shabaab five years and seven months ago,” he said.

Mr Mansoor fell out with militant leaders in 2013 and remained a fugitive in southwestern Somalia.

He surrendered to the Somali government on Sunday at Hudur town, 420km southwest of capital Mogadishu.

He said he is holding talks with the government, adding that he hopes they would bear positive results and “lead to lasting peace in the country”.

In June, the United States dropped Mr Mansoor from its terror list and lifted a $5 million bounty for information leading to his arrest.

He had been placed on the list in 2008 and the bounty placed in 2012.

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Sierra Leone mudslides: President urges calm as rescuers dig for survivors


on  Tuesday, August 15   2017 at  12:32

Sierra Leone's President Ernest Bai Koroma has called for unity as the country faces one of the worst natural disasters to hit the capital Freetown.

In an televised address to the nation late Monday, President Koroma assured citizens that emergency services were doing all they could after heavy flooding and mudslides left more than 300 people dead and over 2,000 lost their homes.

"This tragedy of great magnitude has once again challenged us to come together, to stand by each other and to help one another," he said, appealing to a country still recovering from the catastrophic effects of deadly Ebola outbreak.

The President urged those living in areas prone to mudslides to move to safer grounds. He announced that an emergency response centre had been set up at Regent, the worst-affected area.

Torrential rains, that lasted more than 20 hours, led to flooding and collapse of a hillside in Regent, a mountainous town about 24km east of Freetown, submerging houses and sweeping away others.

Many of the victims were asleep when the disaster struck.

Downtown, in the Lumley West area of the city, corpses could be seen floating in the water.

President Koroma said two centres have been set up in the city to register those left homeless.

He praised the Red Cross volunteers, fire force, military and police for their response in tracing and digging up those trapped.

The government is yet to give an official casualty figure, but hospital sources and emergency aid agencies say that more than 300 people have been killed.

"Let me urge everyone to remain calm and to avoid disaster-prone areas while we continue to address this grave emergency," he said.

The president’s address came shortly after he chaired an emergency cabinet meeting to address the situation.

Deputy Information Minister Cornelius Deveaux, at a press briefing earlier, termed the incident as "a tragedy unprecedented in history of the country."

He said hundreds of people had lost their lives with some of the most affected areas including Kroo Bay and Big Wharf slums.

He promised food and other assistance for the victims.

Freetown, an overcrowded coastal city of 1.2 million, is hit each year by flooding during several months of rain that destroys makeshift settlements and raises the risk of waterborne diseases such as cholera.

-Additional reporting from Agencies.

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Over 300 dead as mudslides, flooding sweep through Sierra Leone capital

Posted AFP

on  Monday, August 14   2017 at  15:45

At least 312 people were killed and more than 2,000 left homeless on Monday when heavy flooding hit Sierra Leone's capital of Freetown, leaving morgues overflowing and residents desperately searching for loved ones.

An AFP journalist at the scene saw bodies being carried away and houses submerged in two areas of the city, where roads turned into churning rivers of mud and corpses were washed up on the streets.

Red Cross spokesman Patrick Massaquoi told AFP the death toll was 312 but could rise further as his team continued to survey disaster areas in Freetown and tally the number of dead.

Morgues overwhelmed

Mohamed Sinneh, a morgue technician at Freetown's Connaught Hospital, said 180 bodies had been received so far at his facility alone, many of them children, leaving no space to lay what he described as the "overwhelming number of dead."

Many more bodies were taken to private morgues, Sinneh said.

Images obtained by AFP showed a ferocious churning of dark orange mud coursing down a steep street in the capital, while videos posted by local residents showed people waist and chest deep in water trying to traverse the road.

Fatmata Sesay, who lives on the hilltop area of Juba, said she, her three children and husband were awoken at 4:30 am by rain beating down on the mud house they occupy, which was by then submerged by water.

She managed to escape by climbing onto the roof.

"We have lost everything and we do not have a place to sleep," she told AFP.

Local media reports said a section of a hill in the Regent area of the city had partially collapsed, exacerbating the disaster.

Other images showed battered corpses piled on top of each other, as residents struggled to cope with the destruction.

Over 2,000 people homeless

Meanwhile disaster management official Candy Rogers said that "over 2,000 people are homeless," hinting at the huge humanitarian effort that will be required to deal with the fallout of the flooding in one of Africa's poorest nations.

Freetown, an overcrowded coastal city of 1.2 million, is hit each year by flooding during several months of rain that destroys makeshift settlements and raises the risk of waterborne diseases such as cholera.

Flooding in the capital in 2015 killed 10 people and left thousands homeless.

Sierra Leone was one of the west African nations hit by an outbreak of the Ebola virus in 2014 that left more than 4,000 people dead in the country, and it has struggled to revive its economy since the crisis.

About 60 per cent of people in Sierra Leone live below the national poverty line, according to the United Nations Development Programme.

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President Zuma guns for party MPs who voted with opposition

Posted PETER DUBE in Pretoria 

on  Monday, August 14   2017 at  15:13

South Africa's President Jacob Zuma has declared war on African National Congress legislators who voted with the opposition in last week's parliamentary vote of no confidence against him.

Speaking at an ANC youth league in his home province Kwazulu Natal, President Zuma said the ANC Constitution should be applied against those who voted with the opposition in the National Assembly.

The party’s members of parliament narrowly defeated the eighth motion of no-confidence in President Zuma through a secret ballot.

Only 198 MPs out of the ANC’s 244 who were in parliament voted against the Democratic Alliance’s bid to remove President Zuma while 177 voted for the motion to oust him with nine abstaining. 

Disciplinary committee

"The issue of what happened in Parliament is something I will discuss with the officials‚ but that's my business," President Zuma said.

He added it was shocking that even the chairperson of the ANC disciplinary committee was implicated. 

Former Cabinet Minister Derek Hanekom chairs the party's disciplinary committee and has been vocal about President Zuma's alleged failures.  

President Zuma read excerpts from clause 25 of the ANC Constitution, which prohibits party members from collaborating with "counter-revolutionary forces" or other parties against the ANC. 

It further says if any individual contravenes this, they should face the party's disciplinary committee.

"If you commit any of these acts, it means the ANC has to take you to the disciplinary committee because it means you have broken the law‚" he said.

President Zuma said personal interests could not trump ANC interests.