Monday, April 23, 2018

Head of EBRD Hopes to Expand Into Sub-Saharan Africa
The European Bank for Reconstruction and Development keen to work with countries committed to market economics

Larry Elliott Economics editor
Sun 22 Apr 2018 19.15 EDT

A bank originally set up to help countries of the former Soviet bloc is poised to extend its operations into sub-Saharan Africa in order to speed up progress in meeting ambitious development goals set by the United Nations.

Sir Suma Chakrabarti, the president of the London-based European Bank for Reconstruction and Development, said his organisation had the money and the expertise to stimulate the growth of strong private sectors in some of the world’s poorest countries.

Speaking to the Guardian in Washington, Chakrabarti expressed enthusiasm for expansion into sub-Saharan Africa if the member governments that own the bank gave the go-ahead.

“Our shareholders need to start a debate about whether they want us to add to our capacity”, he said. “We have increased our geographical reach – to Mongolia, then Turkey, then the Middle East and north Africa, then Greece and Cyprus.

“The biggest gap is sub-Saharan Africa. The biggest need there is private sector development which is what we do. If we get involved, we need to do so gradually and incrementally. Countries we work with must have a commitment to democracy and market economics.”

With the EBRD prevented from lending to Russia since the start of the Ukraine crisis in 2014, Chakrabarti said the EBRD had all the capital it needed and could increase its lending by €2.5-3bn a year.

The World Bank and the African Development Bank already operate in sub-Saharan Africa, but Chakrabarti said he did not envisage a turf war if the EBRD joined them.

“There is so much to do. The African Development Bank was the biggest cheerleader for us to extend into north Africa and has said it would welcome us with open arms because there is a need for a strong private sector.”

He said the EBRD’s business model was successful because it employed local staff, with only the mission heads non-nationals, adding that the UK government should be celebrating his bank as an example of the global Britain it wants to create after Brexit.

Along with the International Maritime Organisaton, the EBRD is one of only two multilateral bodies based in London. Chakrabarti said India would soon join China as a shareholder in the bank, which had a strong development policy focus and attracted talented people from around the world. It is successful and it is profitable

“We need to recognise the importance to the UK of this organisation. It is a good news story for Britain.”

Chakrabarti said the international community needed to do more if the UN’s 2030 sustainable development goals – 17 targets including eliminating poverty and providing universal quality education – were going to be met. “It is worrying that everyone has willed the objectives but not the means. Business as usual is not going to get us there.”

The World Bank announced on Saturday an agreement to increase its capital by $13bn following protracted talks with the US Treasury.

Chakrabarti said the agreement was good in itself, but added that it was also encouraging that the US was engaged with the multilateral system.
Eritrea, Djibouti, Ethiopia Hosts Top U.S. Diplomat on East Africa Tour
Abdur Rahman Alfa Shaban 
22/04 - 12:37

The United States Department of State on Saturday announced that a top official on African Affairs was due to tour three East African countries between April 22 – April 26.

Principal Deputy Assistant Secretary for African Affairs Ambassador Donald Y. Yamamoto will start off his tour in Eritrea, head to Djibouti and round off his activities in Ethiopia.

He arrives in Eritrea today (April 22) with the three-day working tour according to the Department of State centering on “bilateral consultations with Eritrean government officials, to meet with the diplomatic community, and to visit the Embassy’s staff based in Asmara.

“He will then lead the U.S. delegation to the U.S.-Djibouti Binational Forum April 24-25 in Djibouti, our annual dialogue on matters of political, economic, assistance, and security cooperation,” the statement added.

Ambassador Yamamoto’s last stop will be in Ethiopia on April 26 where he is expected to meet with Ethiopian government officials to discuss shared interests and concerns.

The Horn of Africa region has been one that has continually engaged the attention of the United States. Its relation with Ethiopia has largely been premised on anti-terrorism combat and need for democratic reforms.

Eritrea, meanwhile, continues to slam the United Nationa Security Council and the United States in particular for the refusal to lift sanctions on Asmara over their purported support for Somalia insurgent group, Al Shabaab.

Djibouti on the other hand is seen as a key security ally of the West and other Asian giants, hosting a number of military bases. The U.S. also maintains special interest in Somalia where they continue to carry out air strikes against Al-Shabaab.
9 Dead, 16 Injured After Pedestrians Struck by Van During Attack in Toronto
By Nick Westoll, Jessica Patton and David Shum
Global News

Toronto police say nine people have died and 16 are injured after multiple pedestrians were struck by a white van in Toronto Monday afternoon.

“(At) approximately 1:30 this afternoon, Toronto Police received a number of calls from citizens indicating a vehicle was driving on Yonge Street and striking a number of pedestrians between Finch Avenue and Sheppard Avenue,” Deputy Police Chief Peter Yuen told reporters Monday afternoon.

“We can confirm for you … right now we have nine people that are dead. Sixteen that are injured.”

Yuen said a person is in custody and the investigation by Toronto police is ongoing.

Global News observed multiple bodies on Yonge Street covered with blankets.

In a statement from Sunnybrook Health Sciences Centre, 10 patients were brought to the hospital. Two of the victims died at hospital, five are in critical condition, two are in serious condition and one is listed in fair condition. Officials said the hospital’s emergency room has been locked down as a precaution.

A video posted on Twitter appears to show a standoff between the male suspect and police just before he was arrested.

The suspect appears to come out of the white van with an object in his hands pointed towards a police officer in the street. In the video, the officer could be heard shouting “get down on the ground now.”

The officer walked toward the man, who dropped the object and turned around with his hands in the air. It is unclear what the object was that the suspect was holding. He was subsequently taken into custody.

Yuen said police are in the process of setting up two telephone lines in response to the attack. The first one will be for victims and their families. The second will be for witnesses.

Barry Mather, a delivery driver from Bolton, told Global News Radio 640 Toronto’s Kelly Cutrara that he saw a “banged up” white van while he was making a delivery on Bogert Avenue, near Yonge and Sheppard.

“I was coming out of my van and I’d look and I’d hear this scraping and grinding noise and there’s this white Ryder van coming towards me so I had to jump out of the way.”

Nick Sanka told Global News he was studying in an area Starbucks when he saw a truck “just running through.”

“I get up, and by the time I come here, I saw someone with blood trailing…”

TORONTO PEDESTRIANS STRUCK

Sanka said the van was “definitely speeding” and that the driver appeared to be in control.

“He did seem to have control over what he was doing … so it wasn’t some sort of impairment where he was swerving,” he said.

“He just [drove] straight through – and he managed to make a perfect turn at that corner as well.”

Mayor John Tory said he has spoken with Chief Mark Saunders and other city officials and is on his way to the scene.

“There has been a very tragic incident at Yonge Street and Finch Avenue,” Tory said.

“My thoughts are with those affected by this incident and the frontline responders who are working to help those injured.”

Prime Minister Justin Trudeau issued a brief statement Monday afternoon in response to the incident.

“We’re just learning about the situation in Toronto now. Our hearts go out to anyone affected,” he said.

“Obviously we’re going to have more to learn and more to say in the coming hours.”

Federal Public Safety Minister Ralph Goodale commended the response by emergency crews.

“Grateful for the brave and professional response of @TorontoPolice and other first responders to the horrific attack at Yonge and Finch,” he tweeted.

“Canadians are appalled at what happened. The victims and their families have our deepest condolences.”

Global News confirmed Chief of Defence Staff Gen. Vance was briefed on the incident unfolding in Toronto. A strategic advisory alert has gone out to military commanders across the country.

Premier Kathleen Wynne said in a post on Twitter that the province is also monitoring the situation and working with the City of Toronto and the federal government.

“My thoughts are with everyone affected,” she said.

“Thank you to the first responders caring for victims and witnesses.”

Meanwhile, a spokesperson for the rental company of the van driven by the suspect said the company is aware of the incident.

“We are saddened by this tragic event, and our deepest sympathies go out to those impacted,” Claudia Panfil, vice president of corporate communications for Ryder System, Inc., told Global News in a statement.

“We take the safety and security related to the use of our entire fleet very seriously and we are cooperating fully with authorities.”

The Toronto Transit Commission has shut down subway service between Sheppard and Finch stations “until further notice.” Forty shuttle buses will be operating on Senlac Road.

More to come.

— With files from Kerri Breen, Amanda Connolly and Stewart Bell

Sunday, April 22, 2018

BRITAIN WANTS ZIMBABWE BACK IN THE COMMONWEALTH, BUT EYES JULY ELECTION
Zimbabwe left the Commonwealth network of 53 mostly former territories of the British Empire in 2003.

Reuters

LONDON - Britain said on Friday it would strongly support Zimbabwe’s re-entry to the Commonwealth and praised President Emmerson Mnangagwa for impressive progress since Robert Mugabe was toppled in a military coup.

But it said Mnangagwa, who became president following a military take-over, would still have to deliver on free and fair elections in July to win over Zimbabwe’s critics at home and abroad.

Zimbabwe left the Commonwealth network of 53 mostly former territories of the British Empire in 2003 after Mugabe, who had ruled Zimbabwe from its independence in 1980, came under criticism over disputed elections and land seizures from white farmers.

“The UK would strongly support Zimbabwe’s re-entry and a new Zimbabwe that is committed to political and economic reform that works for all its people,” the Foreign Office said in a statement.

As Harare looks to rebuild its international ties, Foreign Secretary Boris Johnson met his Zimbabwean counterpart Sibusiso Moyo and ministers from other nations over breakfast on the sidelines of the Commonwealth Heads of Government Meeting in London.

Moyo - the general who went on state television in khaki fatigues last November to announce the military takeover - also met ministers from neighbouring African states and Australia at the breakfast.

Mugabe cast himself as a liberation hero but opponents said he drove Zimbabwe’s economy into the ground and made the country an international pariah. He was forced to step down in November during a coup and was replaced by Mnangagwa.

Johnson praised Mnangagwa’s record in office in the past 150 days but said a bellwether for the direction of a new Zimbabwe would be the election in July.

“The Zimbabwe government must deliver the free and fair elections the people of Zimbabwe deserve and which it has promised,” he said.

The election will pit Mnangagwa against a clutch of opponents including 40-year-old Nelson Chamisa from the main opposition Movement for Democratic Change.

David Coltart, a former education minister and member of parliament from the Movement for Democratic Change, said he was shocked by the speed with which Mnangagwa has been welcomed back to the fold after an unconstitutional seizure of power.

“I am utterly appalled by the @Commonwealth18 and the British Government feting the #Zimbabwe regime,” Coltart said on Twitter.

The West imposed sanctions on Mugabe and members of his inner circle, accusing them of rigging a series of votes - charges they denied.

Now Zimbabwe has said it will invite Western powers to monitor its national elections for the first time in more than 15 years.

“President Mnangagwa has been in power for 150 days and while Zimbabwe has made impressive progress, there is still much to do,” Johnson said. “That’s why Britain, the Commonwealth and the wider international community will do everything it can in supporting Zimbabwe on its path of reform.”

“The UK stands ready in friendship to support a Zimbabwe that fully embraces the rule of law, human rights and economic reform,” he said.
Fired Zimbabwe Nurses Sue Government, Members to Resume Work on Monday
Zimbabwean nurses have called off a strike against poor working conditions and will return to work on Monday, a nurses union said on Sunday.

Vice President Constantino Chiwenga last week announced the sacking of 16,000 striking nurses, accusing them of a “politically motivated” walkout.

Zimbabwe National Union (ZINA) said on Saturday that the strike by its members had become “politicized”.

“To pave way for the re-opening of negotiations and protection of our workers, we have decided to call off the industrial action,” ZINA said in a statement, calling on its members to report for duty by Monday.

The union said it had filed a court application to force the government to reverse its decision to fire the nurses.

President Emmerson Mnangagwa’s government is seeking to keep a lid on labour unrest in the build-up to the first elections since the fall of Robert Mugabe.

The elections, which will pit Mnangagwa against several opposition candidates, are set for July.

The nurses strike came days after junior doctors wrapped up a month-long walkout over pay and working conditions.

REUTERS
Political Hand Behind Zimbabwe Nurses Strike Says Government
SUNDAY MAIL
Levi Mukarati and Veronica Gwaze

Opposition politicians conspired with the leadership of the Zimbabwe Nurses Association (Zina) to embark on a strike that led to thousands of health professionals losing their jobs last week, it has emerged.

The strike is part of a larger ploy by opposition politicians to stir labour unrest in the hope that it will reduce the chances of President Emmerson Mnangagwa and his ruling Zanu-PF party sweeping elections this year.

Zina last night asked its members to return to duty on Monday because the “collective job action has been highly politicised”.

It also emerged yesterday that the number of fired nurses has been grossly inflated by the political lobby, with Government saying 5 093 had been identified for dismissal.

Zimbabwe’s total nursing staff compliment is 16 974, and opposition politicians and some sections of the media have claimed that all have been fired and yet just 30 percent were affected.

The actual number of vacant nursing posts at present is closer to 2 000. This is because 2 400 unemployed nurses who were in the Health Services Board database were automatically recruited and many of them had already been deployed to clinics and hospitals by yesterday.

So rapid has been Government’s response to the politically-motivated strike that as of yesterday, Harare Hospital, a key referral institution, had all nursing posts occupied.

Investigations show that the 5 093 nurses were misled by their union leadership, among whom is at least one official who wants to represent the opposition MDC-T in the National Assembly in the 2018 elections.

The majority of those who were identified for dismissal have reapplied for their jobs, joining thousands of unemployed nurses who have stampeded to fill the posts after Government last week asked them to take their striking colleagues’ places.

Health and Child Care Minister Dr David Parirenytawa said: “I assure the nation that normalcy has been restored in all Government hospitals and recruitment in all provinces is underway.

“Of the 16 974 nurses that we have in the country, 5 093 were served with dismissal letters – which is 30 percent of the entire nursing workforce.

“Of the dismissed, in provinces such as Bulawayo, Matebeleland South and Masonaland West, all the nurses have either reapplied or have indicated that they want to come back, and we will make sure we re-engage them.

“We have also been receiving applications from unemployed nurses, both who were already in the database and not, and also those who qualified in March.”

Dr Parirenyatwa slammed opposition politicians’ use of hospitals as campigning venues.

This was after the leader of an MDC-T faction, Mr Nelson Chamisa, yesterday choreographed a visit to public hospitals to push his political agenda.

The Health Minister said: “I am very much against those who come to hospitals and use the hospitals to drive their political motives because a hospital is a high security area and the patients should be well protected at all costs.

“The hospital is also an area of confidentiality and therefore one cannot just come and invade the privacy of patients like that. Lastly, the hospital is a sacred place where people are treated and were some die and therefore not a political play ground. That must come to an end.”

Yesterday, the Health Services Board said of those nurses who had been identified for dismissal, some had “already received their dismissal letters, signed and reapplied; some have not received the letters; while some have received but not reapplied”.

“We have four districts that have not yet handed in the names of the nurses to be dismissed. About 2 400 nurses that were already in the database have been automatically employed, but to bridge the remaining gap the recruitment process is ongoing so we are to look at retirees and those that are reapplying.

“We cannot give detailed information on hospitals that have completed recruiting, but Harare Hospital is one of the institutions that has completed the recruitment,” the board said.

At about 7pm yesterday, Zina called off the strike “to pave way for re-opening of negotiations and protection of our workers”.

The union also said it was “highly regrettable that our cause of collective job action has been highly politicised”.

But this was after it had already become clear that nurses were being used as the first wave in a scheme to orchestrate a series of strikes by public sectors workers ahead of national elections.

The Sunday Mail established that the Progressive Teachers Union of Zimbabwe, led by Mr Takavafira Zhou, had come up with a “solidarity campaign” that would see teachers go on strike next month.

The project is being fanned under the line, “Teachers are their own liberators: its game on second term 2018.”

On Friday, opposition activists led by Mr Doug Coltart – son of MDC-T MP Mr David Coltart – organised a poorly attended “solidarity” event in Harare’s Africa Unity Square.

All this was despite the fact that Zina on April 15, 2018 acknowledged that Government had agreed to address nurses grievances.

This was after the Zimbabwe National Elders Forum, represented by Father Fidelis Mukonori, had mediated a meeting between employer and employees.

The Zina internal communication in our possession reads: “We are just coming from a meeting with HSB (Health Services Board), MoHCC (Health Ministry), Minister Parirenyatwa, Chief (Fortune) Charumbira, Ministry of Finance, pastors and Zina executives.

“The employer promised to effect the following allowances by Thursday 19 April 2018; night duty allowances to be paid for the following grades D1 to D4 at a rate of $217 to $303.

“Standby allowance for rural health centre staff to be paid at a rate of $240 for grades C5 to D4. Post basic allowance S70 for one. Grading and advancement arrears to be paid on the same date (and) rationalisation of allowance to be disclosed tomorrow.”

Nonetheless, the Zina executive told members to go on strike on April 16 – a day after communicating the good news and three days before the agreed date the money would be paid into accounts.

Zina president Ms Simangaliso Mafa yesterday insisted they had made the correct decision to go on the strike that resulted in members losing their jobs and patients going for days without treatment.

Asked if there was a political motive behind the action, she said would respond later but had not done so by the time of going to print. She also would not say whether or not she intended to stand in MDC-T’s primary elections.

However, several nurses who called The Sunday Mail during the week said they had been unwittingly “used” by politicians.

“Our president (Mafa) is said to be eyeing a post but from our standpoint we thought we had genuine concerns and our actions were above board.

“We feel our job action was infiltrated by politicians and the employer is now treating all of us as politicians,” one of them said.

By last night, service at healthcare institutions was normal.
Zimbabwe Conditions Conducive for Free, Fair Elections: SADC Chief
21 APR, 2018 - 00:04

President Mnangagwa speaks to Sadc Executive Secretary Stergomena Lawrence Tax shortly after her arrival at the Munhumutapa Offices in Harare today.-(Picture by Tawanda Mudimu)

Farirai Machivenyika
Senior Reporter
Herald

Visiting Sadc Executive Secretary Dr Stergomena Lawrence Tax has commended the political and legislative environment in Zimbabwe, saying it is conducive to conduct a credible election. The elections are expected in July. Dr Tax said this soon after paying a courtesy call on President Mnangagwa at his Munhumutapa offices yesterday.

“You are about to go to elections so we discussed about the elections (and) that you are also undertaking socio-economic reforms, we touched on that,” she said.

“As you are aware we had on observer mission here, a pre-electoral observer mission and we have shared a few issues and generally our findings are that you are set for elections.

“Politically, the environment is conducive, the legislative environment is also conducive, pointing to a readiness for elections and also the reform processes which are ongoing. We also have agreed on how we can work together as a region to support Zimbabwe.”

Dr Tax reiterated President Mnangagwa’s call for peaceful elections and called on other stakeholders to follow suit.

“The suggestion is to continue encouraging (as the President has doing) assuring Zimbabweans that elections are going to take place and are going to be free, fair and credible. That is the suggestion but to also to call upon on all stakeholders to make sure that indeed they are part of that process, they use their civic right but also that they contribute to ensuring that the elections are peaceful and credible,” she said.

The Sadc pre-election observer mission was in the country early this year.

A number of missions, including from Europe and the US, have also been in the country to assess the pre-election environment.

Parliament is currently debating amendments to the Electoral Act as part of reforms requested by the opposition.

Dr Tax said she had also visited Zimbabwe to introduce herself to President Mnangagwa following his assumption of office last year.

“This is my first visit since the new President took over. So I was here to introduce myself to him and also to exchange views and get guidance from him on Sadc issues. That was the main purpose,” she said.

On the economic front, Dr Tax acknowledged that industrialisation was the way to go for the Sadc region.

“In terms of reforms, you know that Zimbabwe championed industrialisation and that is still the way. So the suggestion is let us continue transforming our economies to make sure that indeed we can trade equitably,” she said.

Earlier, Dr Tax had met Minister Cde Simon Khaya Moyo and senior Government officials.
War Between USA and Russia Will Break Out Only If Americans Cross Russia’s Red Lines
Pravda Report

Director of the Institute of the USA and Canada Valery Garbuzov compared the qualities of the commanders-in-chief of Russia and the United States.

War between USA and Russia will break out only if Americans cross Russia’s red lines. 62378.jpeg
Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov stated that Vladimir Putin and Donald Trump, as well as the military of the two countries, will never let a military confrontation spark.

"Getting back to the question of risks of a military confrontation, I am 100% certain that the military will not allow it, and, of course, neither President Putin nor, I'm sure, President Trump will allow it. They are the leaders elected by their peoples, and they are responsible to their people for peace and tranquility," Lavrov said in an interview with RIA Novosti.

Director of the Institute of the USA and Canada, Valery Garbuzov, suggested in an interview with Pravda.Ru that Lavrov's optimism is based on one argument: "The United States and Russia are nuclear powers. "We saw from the Cold War experience that the confrontation was tough, but it had not developed into direct confrontation," the expert told Pravda.Ru.

"These days, neither Russia, nor the United States are afraid to take drastic steps that lead to the state of confrontation and contribute to the growth of anti-Americanism in Russia and Russophobia in the US. This is certainly an abnormal situation. Thank God Lavrov has said that as it reduces the tension of the situation, in which just one mistake can lead to a direct clash," Valery Garbuzov told Pravda.Ru.

In his opinion, however, it is the military, rather than policy-makers of the two countries who have been showing greater adequacy in their behavior.

"It's more difficult for the Americans, because our commander-in-chief Vladimir Putin is a reserved man, but Trump is a very unrestrained person. He may say one thing today and then a completely different thing tomorrow," the expert said.

Lavrov's optimism is probably also connected with the fact that the United States did not cross the "red line" that Russia had drawn prior to the recent missile attack on Syria. "They were informed about the red lines, including geographical ones, on the ground. The results show that they did not cross those lines." Russian FM Lavrov said.

Pravda.Ru
See more at http://www.pravdareport.com/russia/politics/20-04-2018/140815-usa_russia_war-0/
Syrian Forces Liberate Neighborhood in Southern Outskirts of Damascus - TV
April 22, 12:10 UTC+3

The militants suffered huge losses, Al-Manar TV station reported

TASS--April 22. Syria’s army and militias forced terrorists out of the al-Zayn neighborhood in the southern outskirts of Damascus on Sunday, the Al-Manar TV station reported.

During the operation, the forces blocked the strongholds of militants from the Islamic State and Jabhat al-Nusra (terror groups, outlawed in Russia) in the south of the capital.

According to the TV channel, the government forces are advancing to the Tadamon neighborhood. The troops from the Al-Hajar al-Aswad neighborhood, where the key forces of the adversary are concentrated, are advancing towards them.

The attack of forces and militias in this area started after surgical strikes carried out by Syria’s Air Force and artillery on the command posts of terrorists and ammunition depots. The militants suffered huge losses.

On Friday, the IS and Jabhat al-Nusra militants, who control several strongholds in the south of Damascus, disrupted the ceasefire brokered with the Syrian military. The armed groups were expected to be withdrawn from the outskirts of Damascus to Al-Sukhnah, some 70 km from Palmyra, and to the north of Syria in the Idlib Governorate.

The number of terrorists in Al-Hajar al-Aswad and the neighboring Tadamon and the Yarmouk refugee camp stands at 1,220. The terrorists reached the southern outskirts of Damascus in 2015 and sporadically attacked roadblocks of the Syrian forces from there. On March 21, 36 servicemen were killed when repelling one of these attacks by militants.

More:
http://tass.com/world/1001163
Threat to Turkey Comes From ‘Strategic Partners’ – Erdogan
22 Apr, 2018 01:47
Rt.com

FILE PHOTO: President Erdogan poses with police officers © Kayhan Ozer / Reuters

Turkish President Recep Erdogan has sharply criticized the US and other NATO allies for their support of and reliance on Kurdish militias to keep a foothold in Syria, reiterating that Ankara views them as a threat to its security.

“We cannot buy weapons from the US with our money, but unfortunately, the US and coalition forces give these weapons, this ammunition, to terrorist organizations for free,” President Recep Tayyip Erdogan said, in an interview on Turkish channel NTV.

“So where does the threat come from? It comes primarily from strategic partners,” he stated, emphasizing that Washington continues to funnel truck- and planeloads of weapons into Northern Syria.

“The US sent 5,000 trucks loaded with weapons to northern Syria,” the Turkish leader said, reiterating concerns he repeatedly voiced before, especially following the launch of military operations in northern Syria.

On January 20, Turkey launched a cross-border offensive into Syria with the aim of dislodging Kurdish “terrorists” from Afrin. The assault, codenamed Operation Olive Branch, has strained relations between Washington and Ankara – which has since threatened to expand the operation to Manbij and beyond. The Kurdish YPG are key US allies on the ground in this area, but Ankara views them as an offshoot of the terrorist-designated Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK).

Washington, for its part, has also been critical of Ankara’s growing “misalignment” with the West and of its cozier relations with Russia and Iran. Ankara’s decision to buy S-400 air defense systems from Russia exposes Turkey to possible US sanctions, Assistant Secretary of State Wess Mitchell recently warned, noting that “it is in the American national interest to see Turkey remain strategically and politically aligned with the West.”

“The ease with which Turkey brokered arrangements with the Russian military to facilitate the launch of its Operation Olive Branch in the Afrin district –arrangements to which America was not privy– is gravely concerning,” he said. “Turkey lately has increased its engagement with Russia and Iran.”
Moscow: Some Western Countries Are Bent on Distorting Facts About Alleged Chemical Attack in Douma
21 April، 2018

Moscow, SANA- Russian Foreign Ministry spokeswoman, Maria Zakharova, stated on Saturday that some Western countries continue to distort the facts about the alleged chemical attack in the city of Douma in Damascus Countryside.

Moscow is outraged at the “distortion of facts” by some Western politicians regarding the alleged chemical weapons attack in Douma, Syria, Novosti agency quoted Zakharova as saying.

Zakharova added Russia urges Western states to refrain from hindering the investigation of the Organization for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons (OPCW) into the April 7 alleged chemical attack in Syria’s city of Douma.

She also said that OPCW delay in sending an investigation team to Syria is “unacceptable”

The spokeswoman stressed that Moscow expected from the inspectors an impartial investigation, noting that the attempts by the OPCW to visit less places connected to chemical attack and question less eyewitnesses raise serious concerns.

“It demonstrates the unwillingness to shed light on yet another made-up provocation with the use of toxins, which served as a reason for the missile strike of the three western countries, members of the UN Security Council,” Zakharova concluded.

Emma /Manal
Syrian Army Destroys Hotbeds and Ammo Caches for Terrorists in al-Hajar al-Aswad, Damascus
21 April، 2018

Damascus countryside, SANA- Army units destroyed hotbeds and ammunition caches for terrorist organizations positioned in Western Ghouta to uproot terrorists completely from southern Damascus.

SANA reporter said that the army unit on Saturday afternoon launched intensive strikes against terrorists’ positions and hideouts in al-Hajar al-Aswad south of Damascus, destroying ammunition caches and inflicting heavy losses upon the terrorists’ ranks.

The reporter said that the army units conducted concentrated blows on the terrorist organizations’ centers, hideouts, ammunition warehouses, positions and their supply routes in al-Hajar al-Aswad, clarifying that the military operation will continue against the terrorists until terrorism is eradicated in Western Ghouta.

The disputes erupted among the terrorists in al-Hajar al-Aswad area impeded the agreements which proposed previously; where news mentioned that a cease-fire deal was reached Friday after the surrender of terrorists as the results of heavy losses inflicted upon them, the reporter said.

The reporter pointed out that the sounds heard in Damascus city are the results of the continuous military operations on the terrorist organizations’ positions south of Damascus.

Shaza/Ghossoun
Syrian Army Continues Concentrated Operations Against Terrorist Positions South of Damascus
20 April، 2018

Damascus, SANA- The Syrian Arab Army continued targeting the positions of terrorist organizations in the Western Ghouta as part of the military operation for uprooting terrorism south of Damascus.

SANA’s war correspondent said that on Friday evening, army units carried out intensive artillery and rocket attacks on terrorists’ hideouts based on intelligence data and meticulous reconnaissance, which resulted in destroying several of the terrorists’ positions, leaving scores of them dead or injured.

The correspondent said the army will continue operations against terrorism until all the details of the ceasefire agreement discussed on Friday afternoon are finalized, because the Syrian state realizes that some terrorist groups could try to circumvent or obstruct some of the agreement’s details.

Information surfaced on Friday noon about the terrorist organizations in Western Ghouta surrendering due to their heavy losses as a result of the targeting of their positions and gathering by the Syrian Air Force and artillery during the past hours, and afterwards there were reports about a ceasefire agreement.

The correspondent said that the sounds being heard in Damascus are a result of the operations carried out by the army against terrorists south of Damascus.

The Syrian Air Force began on Thursday a series of airstrikes targeting terrorists in al-Hajar al-Aswad neighborhood and its surroundings at the southern outskirts of Damascus.

The military operation coincides with declaring al-Dmair town in al-Qalamoun area in eastern countryside of Damascus clear of terrorism as the last batch of “Jaish al-Islam” terrorists and their families have been transported from that town to Jarablos.

Shaza / Ghossoun / Hazem Sabbagh
Palestinian Children Live Life of Hardship in Israeli Prisons
More than 350 Palestinian children are behind Israeli bars, where human rights groups say they endure mistreatment.

by Shatha Hammad
21 Apr 2018

Some Palestinian children have been tried in absentia, while the majority receive what rights groups call unreasonably harsh sentences [Shatha Hammad/Al Jazeera]

Ramallah, occupied West Bank - Omar al-Rimawi has not been home since he was arrested by Israeli troops more than two years ago, but his photos line the walls of the halls and rooms of his home.

Although just 16 years old now, Omar could be sentenced to life in prison stemming from his arrest on February 18, 2016.

Samir Mahmoud al-Rimawi, Omar's 49-year-old father, and Lana, his mother, have attended more than 40 court sessions in that time.

Sitting with Omar's siblings in their home, Samir and Lana struggle to hold back tears as they recall the painful details of their son's imprisonment.

Coming back from yet another court hearing, they had no new information for Omar's brothers and sisters.

Omar is a bright boy, was a model student at an upscale private school in Ramallah, and he excelled in football, swimming and karate, his parents tell Al Jazeera. His family dreamed that he would one day become a doctor.

Samir recalls the fateful evening when he learned of Omar's arrest.

On that night, his son was meant to be attending an English-language course, but Samir received a shocking phone call from Israeli intelligence demanding that he come to the interrogation centre where Omar was being held at the Qalandia checkpoint between Jerusalem and Ramallah.

The voice on the other end of the phone did not explain why Samir was being summoned, but within a few minutes, he learned from Israeli media reports that Omar and his friend Ayman al-Sabah, both of whom were 14 at the time, had been shot at a Rami Levy supermarket near Ramallah.

The boys were accused of carrying out a deadly stabbing attack.

Israel's widespread arrests and imprisonment of Palestinian children have been broadly condemned by human rights groups and watchdogs.

Omar and Ayham are among more than 350 Palestinian children who are currently in Israeli lockup, according to a joint statement recently published by the Palestinian Committee for Prisoners Affairs and the Palestinian Prisoners Club.

Bleak picture

Thus far in 2018, Israeli forces have arrested more than 353 children, and at least 102 - most of whom are from occupied East Jerusalem - were placed under house arrest between December 2017 and February this year.

The joint statement painted a bleak picture for Palestinian children in Israeli custody. The allegations include the use of brute force, restraining children in cruel ways, withholding food and water, violence and verbal aggression during interrogation and forcing confessions, among others.

Some of the children have been tried in absentia, while the majority have received what rights groups call unreasonably harsh sentences and expensive fines.

Ayed Abu Eqtaish, the accountability programme director at Defence for Children International - Palestine (DCI-P), argues that Israeli courts fail to respect established rules for detaining and trying children in court.

Although Israel is a signatory to the United Nations Convention on the Rights of the Child, it ignores that agreement's restrictions when dealing with Palestinian children, Abu Eqtaish tells Al Jazeera.

Rather than seeking alternatives to prison, Israeli courts regularly impose lengthy sentences on the children and impose costly fines on their families, Abu Eqtaish adds.

And despite Israel's use of forced confessions and other apparent violations of international norms, Abu Eqtaish fears that Israel has been allowed to operate with impunity.

Dreaming of freedom

In the wake of Omar's arrest, a flurry of contradictory stories began to circulate. Some of the rumours purported that the boys had been killed, while others alleged they were seriously injured by the gunshot wounds.

Israeli authorities, however, refused to update the Rimawi family about their son's health, Samir says. It was only six days later that they were finally permitted to visit Omar.

"Omar was in the intensive care unit, his hands and feet were restrained, and he was surrounded by three Israeli soldiers," Samir remembers grimly, explaining that Omar was subsequently carted from one prison to the next.

"I only saw him for five minutes, but during that time I found out that he had been paralysed because one of the three bullets that hit him had lodged in his spine. Another one had stopped near his heart, and the third had hit his arm."

During that brief visit, Samir learned that Omar would need upwards of six years of physiotherapy if he were to ever walk again. He credits Omar's strong, athletic physique with allowing the boy to walk after a mere six months.

Samir accuses Israeli authorities of mistreating his son, alleging that Omar was left in the rain on a gurney outside the court where he had his first hearing only a few days after his arrest.

Since 2015, Israel has lowered the minimum age of criminal responsibility, allowing Palestinian children as young as 12 to be arrested and charged and making it easier for judges to hand down lengthy sentences to minors.

Ayham and Omar are both awaiting a verdict that could land them behind bars for life. Omar's family say his lawyer expects that Omar will "most likely" receive a life sentence as Israel's military court system has a 99 percent conviction rate.

A slew of reports in Israeli media outlets called for the boys to be severely punished, and Samir says the Israeli prosecutor's office has refused to negotiate with Omar's lawyers. Their appeals for compassion based on the boy's age have fallen on deaf ears.

Meanwhile, Samir and Lana are allowed to see Omar only once every three months, and Omar is barred from calling or writing to them.

"We visit with him behind a glass barrier; we can't hug or kiss him," Samir says. "Every time we see him, he's grown, he's taller, and his mind has matured more."

Birthday behind bars

On June 22, Mohamed Tayseer Taha will turn 17. He will celebrate his birthday in prison, because, like hundreds of Palestinian children, he languishes behind bars.

His mother, Hanan, and father, Tayseer, sit in their home in the Shuafat refugee camp in East Jerusalem. The television is switched off; the home is silent and still, and photos of the absent teenager line the wall behind them.

"I wish I could serve his sentence in his place. I would do it rather than have him spend another minute in jail," Tayseer says before collapsing in tears and leaving the room to dry his eyes.

Mohamed, 14 at the time, was arrested on January 31, 2016, along with 16-year-old Monther Abou Miyala.

Accused of stabbing an Israeli settler in Jerusalem's Old City the day before, the boys had gone into hiding before eventually being arrested.

Fearing for the children's lives, their families had been searching frantically for them. "An Israeli officer called me [on January 30] and said I had to hand over Mohamed or he would shoot and kill him wherever and whenever he found him," Tayseer says.

When Mohamed came home the next day, his family had no choice but to deliver him to Israeli authorities.

A year later, an Israeli court sentenced Mohamed to 11 years in prison and imposed a roughly $14,245 fine on his family.

His mother was shocked and stricken with grief.

"I never expected that ruling against Mohamed, every session I was expecting Mohamed to come home with me," Hanan says.

"The initial demand was that he be jailed five years, and we were shocked in that last session when the judge sentenced him to 11 years instead."

Tayseer and Hanan are allowed to visit their son twice a month. But, like the Rimawi family, they can only communicate with him through a thick glass barrier.

"The visits are hard," Hanan explains. "We're searched very thoroughly; then we have to wait for hours before we're able to get in and see him. When I finally do see him, everything I planned to say to him flies out of my mind, and I am happy just gazing at him."

'He always tries to be strong'

Mohamed tries to put on a happy appearance for his family. He avoids talking about his tribulations behind bars, and arrives for every scheduled meeting in tidy clothes, with well-groomed hair and a broad smile on his face.

But Hanan suspects Mohamed is trying to shield them from the pain he endures. "I feel that Mohamed is hiding a lot from me, but he always tries to be strong in front of us [and] to only tell us the good news."

Behind bars, Mohamed told his family, he had become a barber for the other children where he is imprisoned in Megiddo prison.

On several occasions, his fellow prisoners have visited the Taha family after being released from jail. They tell Tayseer and Hanan about how widely respected and loved Mohamed is, and one brought Hanan flowers at Mohamed's request.

Despite Mohamed's efforts, he cannot always hide his sadness from his mother. Sometimes he confides that he struggles with complex feelings of both happiness and despair when his cellmates are released, and fears that he will never be free.

Throughout his two years in prison, Mohamed has asked his parents to bring photos of his four siblings and his nieces and nephews as well as the family pets, including their dog, Rambo, and Mohamed's flock of pigeons.

For Tayseer, just being at home is a constant - and piercing - reminder of his son's imprisonment.

"I can't stay in the house with Mohamed not here," he says. "I spend as much time as I can outside the house and come back at night to sit here and look at his photos and cry."

They recently filed an appeal in Mohamed's case, but it was rejected, and his 11-year-sentence was upheld.

'Childhood stolen'

Nourhan was 16 years old when she was arrested in Jerusalem for allegedly attempting to stab an Israeli settler with scissors.

She had been a successful student, and continued her studies in prison, receiving a 94 percent score on the standardised high school exams. But rather than being able to plan for university, where she hoped to study law, Nourhan has to continue serving a 13-year prison sentence.

On November 23, 2016, Israeli forces shot Nourhan and her 14-year-old cousin Hadeel after the alleged attempted stabbing. Hadeel died on the spot, and Israeli forces arrested Nourhan, who had been left gravely injured and bleeding on the ground.

Four days later, while Nourhan was still in hospital and under the influence of powerful anaesthesia after surgery, Israeli interrogators questioned the girl, her mother tells Al Jazeera.

Her mother, Manal, says the family was stunned when an Israeli court later sentenced her to 13 years. They were also given an $8,000 fine.

"The lawyer told us that she would be sentenced to five years, but at the last session, we were shocked to hear the sentence - 13 years," Manal recollects. "It was a terrible blow to all of us and to Nourhan. She fainted, and the rest of us ran out of the court crying and screaming."

Remembering the arduous details of her daughter's arrest and sentencing, Manal is gradually overcome with tears.

"In the blink of an eye, Nourhan's childhood was stolen, she was wrenched from my arms and [she was] put in prison," Manal laments.

"I miss her every minute of the day. Her siblings have grown accustomed to her absence; they don't ask when she will be back - they ask when the next visit will be."

In prison, Nourhan has remained an avid reader, always asking her month to bring new books when she visits.

"Every visit, Nourhan tells me about the latest book she read and gives me a synopsis of it," Manal explains.

"She told me that she has learned Hebrew and speaks it very well now and is also teaching math to the other imprisoned girls."

Ever hopeful that Nourhan will eventually come home, Manal nonetheless has endured an array of punitive hardships imposed by Israeli authorities, including the cancellation of her husband's work permit and the family's reunification application.

Back in their Ramallah home, the Rimawi family knows Manal's pain well - and share her steadfast resolve to never abandon hope for the future.

"I know Omar will be sentenced to life in prison," Samir, Omar al-Rimawi's father, says.

"But I dream that he will be liberated and get some of his childhood back, continue the normal life I always hoped he would have."

SOURCE: AL JAZEERA NEWS
Hamas Chief Blames the Mossad Over Death of Palestinian Engineer in Malaysia
04/21/20183:55:57 PM
by i24NEWS

Dr. Fadi al-Batash, assassinated in Kuala Lumpur after leaving Friday morning prayers April 21, 2018

A senior Hamas leader on Saturday blamed Israel's foreign spy agency the Mossad for the dawn killing of a lauded Palestinian electrical engineer in Malaysia, which the country's deputy prime minister has said was possibly carried out by a nation "unfriendly to Palestine."

Dr. Fadi al-Batsh, originally from Gaza, was shot dead in a quiet street by unidentified gunman as he left his house to lead morning prayers at a mosque in the Malaysian capital Kuala Lumpur.

Ismail Haniyeh, Hamas' political chief, was quoted as telling the Associated Press that based on past assassinations blamed on Israel, the “Mossad is not away from this disgraceful, terrible crime.”

“There will be an unsettled account between us and it,” Haniyeh reportedly said at a mourning tent set up for the 35-year-old.

“We cannot give up on the blood of our sons, youths and scholars.”

Hamas had initially refrained from pointing the finger at Israel, the Islamist militant group's arch foe.

However al-Batsh's family and terror group Islamic Jihad had immediately accused the Mossad, which has earned a worldwide reputation for often elaborate assassinations in foreign countries.

"His killing could have some links with foreign intelligence agencies or he may also be considered a liability to nations 'unfriendly' to Palestine," Malaysia's Deputy Prime Minister Datuk Seri Dr Ahmad Zahid Hamidi was quoted as saying earlier Saturday by the New Straits Times newspaper.

"I am saddened by all this and according to police information, the victim had been staying here for 10 years and was an expert in electrical engineering and (building) rocket[s]," he was quoted as saying while opening a local event.

Gunned down at dawn

A local police official said security camera footage showed two gunmen seated on a BMW motorbike waited 20 minutes for al-Batsh to leave his condominium, before opening fire at "point blank" range.

Kuala Lumpur police chief Datuk Seri Mazlan Lazim said one of the suspects "fired 10 shots, four of which hit the lecturer in the head and body. He died on the spot."

The deputy prime minister also said the gunmen had "European features," Reuters reported.

Both Hamas, which controls the Gaza Strip, and Islamic Jihad claimed Batash as a member. In a statement his family said: "We accuse the Mossad of being behind the assassination."

Senior Islamic Jihad leader Khaled al-Batsh accused Israel’s Mossad of being responsible for the assassination: “We, as a family, accuse the Mossad of being behind the assassination of Dr. Fadi Mohammad al-Batsh, a researcher in energy sciences."

Hamas also released a statement mourning his death, and Hanieyh added that a Hamas representative had been dispatched to Kuala Lumpur to discuss the investigation with authorities there.

"The Islamic Resistance Movement, mourns the son of its sons, the righteous, and a knight of its knights, a scholar of young Palestine scholars and the guardian of the Book of Allah, the son of Jabalia the Mujahideen," Hamas wrote in a press release in response to the death of its affiliate.

"The martyr was distinguished by his excellence and scientific creativity. He has important contributions to international conferences in the field of energy," the press release continued.

"The martyr was an example in calling God and working for the Palestinian cause."

Before travelling to Malaysia to take up a post as a lecturer at a private university, he was previously employed by the Energy Authority in the Gaza Strip and was a resident of Jabaila, Palestinian media reported.

Israel's Education Minister and security cabinet member Naftali Bennett said on Saturday that Al-Batsh's body should not be permitted to return to Gaza for burial until Hamas releases the bodies of two Israeli soldiers it is holding.

Hamas member

A revered engineer, Al-Batsh was granted with a number of prestigious scientific awards, including from the Malaysian government. He received a PhD in electrical engineering from the Malaysian University of Malaya and during the course of his study, published 18 scholarly pieces of researches featured in a number of international journals.

The Palestinian representative in Malaysia, Anwar al-Agha, told AFP that Al-Batsh, who was married and a father of three, was a lecturer in electrical engineering who had lived in Malaysia for the past 10 years.

"I visited the site of the attack. Fadi is a member of Hamas," he said.

Asked if Mossad could be responsible for his killing, he said: "I cannot comment on this. We have to wait for the official investigation."

On Saturday Israel's Hadashot reported, without citing sources, that Al-Batsh had authored materials on the propulsion of drones.

Alongside his scientific career, Fadi was also an imam and involved with Islamic organizations such as MyCARE.

He was scheduled to travel to Turkey on Sunday for an international conference on energy, the Palestinian ambassador to Malaysia was quoted as saying by local media, adding that he “was a kind, friendly and a quiet person, he mixed well with everyone."

The Mossad is believed to have assassinated Palestinian militants and scientists in the past, but has never confirmed such operations.

Hamas has accused Mossad of assassinating one of its drone experts -- Mohamed Zouari -- in Tunisia in 2016, and the spy agency is also believed to have been behind the 2010 murder of top Hamas militant Mahmud al-Mabhuh in a Dubai hotel.

AFP contributed to this report.

Saturday, April 21, 2018

Palestinian Lecturer and Hamas Member Assassinated in Malaysia
Ten shots were fired at the Palestinian professor early on Saturday morning

A Palestinian professor and member of the Hamas militant organisation has been killed in a drive-by shooting on the streets of the Malaysian capital, Kuala Lumpur.

The family of Fadi al-Batsh, 35, has accused Israel's spy agency Mossad of being behind his killing on Saturday.

Malaysian officials said the suspects are believed to have links to a foreign intelligence agency.

Israeli officials have not yet commented on the killing.

Hamas has accused Israel of conducting assassinations of its experts abroad in the past, although Mossad has never confirmed such operations.

A recent case involved the killing of a Tunisian national who was believed to be a Hamas drone expert in 2016.

Fadi al-Batsh was walking from his residence to a nearby mosque at about 0600 on Saturday (2300 GMT Friday) when he came under attack.

Two gunmen on a motorbike fired 10 shots, killing him on the spot, Kuala Lumpur police chief Mazlan Lazim said.

"Preliminary investigations found four gunshot wounds on the victim's body. Two bullet slugs were found at the scene of the incident," he added in a statement.

The police chief said that CCTV footage showed the suspects, who later fled the scene, had waited about 20 minutes in the area before attacking Mr Batsh.

"We believe the lecturer was their target because two other individuals walked by the place earlier unharmed."

Hamas said the victim, a research scientist who specialised in energy issues, was one of its members.

Malaysia's Deputy Prime Minister Ahmad Zahid, quoted by state news agency Bernama, said the victim had links to a foreign intelligence organisation and was active in pro-Palestinian non-governmental organisations.

The suspects are believed to be Caucasians who also have ties to a foreign intelligence service, Mr Zahid told reporters.

Mr Batsh, who had lived in Malaysia for several years, was a lecturer in electrical engineering.

Hamas said one of its members had been "assassinated", describing him as a "martyr" - a term it usually uses for people killed by Israeli forces. However, it stopped short of directly accusing Israel of the killing.

Israel is believed to have assassinated members of militant groups abroad in the past.

In 1997, Mossad agents conducted a failed bid to kill Hamas leader Khaled Meshaal in Jordan by spraying poison into his ear.

The holiday village run by spies

The spy agency is also believed to have been behind the 2010 murder of top Hamas militant Mahmud al-Mabhuh, who died in a Dubai hotel.

Israel has never confirmed or denied involvement in his killing.

Friday, April 20, 2018

Angola Seeks to Renegotiate Foreign Debt
20 April 2018

Angola is trying to renegotiate its foreign debt, which at the end of last year reached 62.8% of Gross Domestic Product (GDP), the Secretary of State for Economy and Planning, Neto Costa said in Washington, according to the Voice of America.

Neto Costa told a conference of potential investors organised by the World Bank and the United States Angola Chamber of Commerce that the ratio of debt service to tax revenues was 89.4% at the end of last year, and Jornal de Angola reported that more recent figures showed that Angola’s debt may have already reached 67% of GDP.

The Angolan government announced this week it had requested the support of the International Monetary Fund (IMF), but limited to the coordination of economic policies to assist in “implementing the government’s programme of macro-economic stabilisation.”

The newspaper also quoted Neto Costa as saying that Angola’s foreign exchange reserves have been falling since 2013, when they were valued at about US$31 billion, to just over US$13 billion last year.

The governor of the National Bank of Angola told the conference that Angola needs to diversify its economy, as 95% of its resources come from oil sales and the country spends US$250 million per month to import food, for example.

(macauhub)
Namibia: Angola's Lourenço to Attend Cassinga Day
Windhoek — Angolan President João Manuel Gonçalves Lourenço has accepted an invitation by President Hage Geingob to pay a state visit to Namibia and participate in the commemoration of the 40th anniversary of the Cassinga massacre.

The attack, in which about 900 Namibian refugees were killed by apartheid South African troops in 1978, happened on Angolan soil during Namibia's liberation struggle.

Deputy Prime Minister and Minister of International Relations and Cooperation, Netumbo Nandi-Ndaitwah, has confirmed that Lourenço would be in the country from May 3 to 5.

This year's national commemoration of the 40th anniversary of the Cassinga massacre will take place at the Heroes Acre in the capital.

Nandi-Ndaitwah said during the commemoration Lourenço would lay a wreath at the Heroes Acre and participate in the commemoration as guest of honour.

She said the Namibian heroes and heroines, who lost their lives during the attack on Cassinga and Vietnam camps, would always be remembered.

"These massacres will remain sacred in the collective national memory of present and future generations," she said in a press statement on Wednesday.

She also invited all Cassinga survivors and other fellow Namibians to attend the national commemoration.

On May 4, 1978, the then South African apartheid regime attacked the Cassinga refugee camp and killed hundreds of Namibian civilians. Hundreds of Angolans were also callously killed in that attack.

At the same time, an attack also took place at Vietnam camp. Many of the Cuban internationalists, who were attempting to rescue the Namibian civilians, were also killed.

President Hage Geingob and Founding Father Sam Nujoma last year attended the inauguration ceremony.

Lourenço is Angola's third president.

A former defence minister, Lourenço succeeded President João Eduardo dos Santos, who served as the head of state since 1979 following the death of Angola's founding president, Augustinho Neto.
CASSINGA MASSACRE 40TH ANNIVERSARY TO TAKE PLACE AT HEROES ACRE
Posted by Mandisa Rasmeni
Namibia Economist
Apr 20, 2018

The country will be commemorate the 40th Anniversary of the Cassinga Massacre on 4 May at Heroes Deputy Prime Minister, Netumbo Nandi-Ndaitwah has invited all Cassinga survivors and the public to attend the national commemoration.

“As we pay tribute to these heroes and heroines, who have paid the ultimate sacrifice that has brought about our freedom and independence and this is why we have decided to commemorate this Anniversary at a National level,” she said.

According to Nandi-Ndaitwah in solidarity with the local people in commemorating this tragic day in the history of the Namibian struggle, Gonçalves Lourenço, President of Angola has accepted the invitation of Dr. Hage Geingob, to pay a State Visit to Namibia from 3 to 5 May and participate in the commemoration of the Cassinga Massacre.

“During the Commemoration, the President of Angola will lay a wreath at Heroes Acre and participate as Guest of Honour at the commemoration of the 40th Anniversary of Cassinga massacre, as a nation we will always remember the Namibian heroes and heroines who lost their lives during the attack and this massacre will remain sacred in the collective national memory of present and future generations” she added.

On 4 May 1978 the then South African apartheid regime attacked the Cassinga Refugee Camp and killed thousands of Namibian civilians and hundreds of Angolans were also killed in that attack. An attack also took place at Vietnam Camp where many of the Cuban internationalists who were attempting to come to the rescue of the Namibian civilians were also killed.
Mam` Winnie Mandela - A Fearless Revolutionary! A Product of Mass Struggle and Indipensable Voice of the Marginalised!
03 April 2018

The African National Congress Youth League (ANCYL) joins millions of the youth of South Africa and the world in mourning the sad passing of our Mother of the Nation, cde Nomzamo Winnifred Mandela, one of the fearless revolutionaries, a dedicated product of mass struggles and an indispensable voice of the marginalized.

Mam`Winnie Mandela was one of the most decorated figures of our struggle for national liberation, people`s power and democracy. The youth of South Africa identified with her struggles; banishments; torture and detention not because of her 38-year marriage to the colossal and towering figure of our struggle President Nelson Mandela, but identified with her struggles partly because she was an independent leader in her own right, who fearlessly mobilised the masses against the heinous Apartheid regime.

She became a powerful voice of the exiled African National Congress (ANC) inside the country under hostile conditions. She provided refuge to the many young activists that identified with the ANC when it was not popular to hoist high the colours of the ANC during years of illegality. And she was a Mother of Courage to the many families who lost their loved ones in the hands of the enemy and apartheid regime.

It was through her tireless struggles, unflinching loyalty to the cause and militancy that earned her the accolade of being the "Mother of the Nation". She has been a voice of courage and a symbol of daily struggles of poverty, hunger, unemployment and landlessness experienced by the youth and marginalized post the 1994 democratic breakthrough.

One country has lost one of its dedicated and exemplary women leaders. She departs at the very critical phase of our struggle to unite the People`s Camp and the broader Alliance for the successful triumph of the National Democratic Revolution (NDR). She remains one of the decorated and celebrated liberation icon, wherever she is in the nooks and crannies of the universe, she is now in the great company of women icons that contributed immensely for our freedom, such as Mme Albertina Sisulu; Josie Mpama; Jabulile Ndlovu; Ruth First; Miriam Makeba, just to mention a few.

Mam`Winnie Mandela will always occupy a special place in the hearts and minds of the ANCYL and broader membership base. We will continue to celebrate her indelible contribution to our struggle through agitating and fighting for an end to youth unemployment and fight forcefully that free education is not reserved but funded by the State in the interest of a Black and African poor child.

In memory of this great servant of our people, a dedicated soldier for social justice, we call on the ANC-led government to revisit its decision to increase VAT by 1%. Any increase of VAT is a frontal attack to the working class and the poor, who are seized with the socio-economic burden of taking care of the vast army of the unemployed, especially the rural and urban youth ravaged by poverty, as a result of de-invest strike by Capital.

We extend our deepest condolences to her family, friends, colleagues and the ANC led Alliance. Through her militancy, in words and in action, she inspired many generations of youth to join the fight against murderous apartheid regime. Even after political liberation, she continued to be a source of inspiration for young people, particularly women, in the revolutionary struggle for socio-economic emancipation. She will continue to be a source of inspiration for many years to come.

The ANCYL will always remember you. In times like these we are reminded of many songs we will continue to sing. In times like these we know and we expect people to be saying good and bad things about you and your life. As they share bad news we will always keep in our minds the words of Shakespeare when he says, "The evil that men do lives after them; The good is oft interred with their bones".

Contact:
Mlondolozi Mkhize
African National Congress Youth League
National Spokesperson
Mobile: 073 011 4676
Give Land to South Africa’s Dispossessed
David Pilling
Financial Times
APRIL 18, 2018

Cyril Ramaphosa has called it the “original sin”. South Africa’s new president has pledged to correct “the violent dispossession of our people’s land”. That dispossession reached its height in 1913 when the Native Land Act set aside a miserable 7 per cent of terrain for four-fifths of the population. That segregationist act merely formalised a de facto policy that had gradually dispossessed black farmers, turning them into a rootless proletariat forced to work as cheap labour in gold and diamond mines. If all property is theft, the larceny in South Africa has been colour-coded for everyone to see.

Talk of land reform is back on the agenda in South Africa. In February, a matter of days into Mr Ramaphosa’s presidency, the African National Congress launched a review of the constitution that would allow more explicitly for expropriation of land without compensation. In doing so, it has buckled to pressure from the breakaway and radical Economic Freedom Fighters. It has also raised fears that South Africa could now go the way of Zimbabwe: driving whites off the land, spooking investors, wrecking the economy and endangering the country’s self-sufficiency in food.

Those fears are overdone. South Africa, for all its structural problems and festering injustice, is far from being a Zimbabwe. For one thing, it is Africa’s most urban society, with at least two-thirds of the population living in cities. For another, it has strong institutions that have weathered an assault by Jacob Zuma, the former president. Under Mr Ramaphosa, it is now in the hands of an arch constitutionalist.

The post-apartheid constitution already allows for land expropriation. Clause 25 permits property to be expropriated “for a public purpose or in the public interest”, a definition that could easily mean righting the wrongs of South Africa under white minority rule.

In practice, the ANC has hardly used the clause at its disposal. Far from doing too much land reform, it has done too little. Twenty-four years after the end of apartheid, there are still no clear records of who owns land, but even Agri SA, an industry group more optimistic than most about post-1994 transformation, estimates that 73.3 per cent of land is owned by whites, who make up just 8.4 per cent of the population.

Land reform is not only morally justified, it is socially and economically necessary

Ruth Hall, a professor at the University of the Western Cape, argues that, by contrast to the excellent property rights enjoyed under the ANC by whites, blacks have been less fortunate. The government routinely pushes people out of informal settlements and about 2m tenant farmers have been displaced.

“Expropriation of land rights without compensation is happening on an ongoing basis,” she says. “But it is poor and black people whose rights are being expropriated.”

Land reform is not only morally justified, it is socially and economically necessary. In per capita terms, Mr Zuma’s tenure constituted a near lost decade. Asian-style double-digit growth looks all but impossible, even under decent management. That leaves redistribution as one way of addressing entrenched imbalances resulting from an apartheid system that deliberately impoverished the black majority.

All over Africa — and in other parts of the developing world — land is not being put to work owing to the fact that it is not owned by those who occupy it. Rundassa Eshete, an Ethiopian critic of the government in Addis Ababa, calls it “dead capital”.

Farmers are not incentivised to work land they do not own. Nor can they use it as collateral to borrow. Much of China’s economic miracle came about by spiriting private property out of the “dead capital” of collectivised farms. Parcelling up land to smallholders was, as Joseph Studwell has written in How Asia Works, the foundation of economic take-off in Japan, Taiwan and South Korea.

Urban South Africa cannot repeat exactly the same trick. Not many blacks living in cities want to farm. That does not make land reform impossible. Many black South Africans live in peri-urban informal settlements to which they have no title. Some occupy city centre buildings long abandoned by landlords. In the countryside, many black farmers live a precarious existence on land owned by others, in many cases traditional leaders. The priority should be to formalise such arrangements. Giving title deeds or other official claims to those now landless would have a potent symbolic, as well as economic, impact.

Sensibly handled, land reform need look nothing like Zimbabwe. Mr Ramaphosa has been blamed by some for yielding to the ultra-left. In fact, he is yielding to the inevitability of history. If the ANC does not grasp the nettle, others will.

Follow on Twitter: @davidpilling
South Africa: Ramaphosa to 'Lend a Hand' in Mahikeng
President Cyril Ramaphosa has taken his own call to "lend a hand" and "send me" by convening an urgent meeting on Friday over protests in Mahikeng.

On Thursday evening, he announced he was cutting his visit to the UK short to intervene, bringing to mind the Hugh Masekela song he quoted during his inaugural State of the Nation Address earlier this year.

Ramaphosa had been participating in the Commonwealth Heads of Government Meeting in London where he led a government delegation.

The meeting at 12:00 on Friday will be convened with structures of the African National Congress, the party's leagues, alliance members and the ANC caucus in the North West.

Ramaphosa will be accompanied by ANC secretary general Ace Magashule, deputy secretary general Jessie Duarte and ANC national executive committee members.

Violence broke out in Mahikeng on Wednesday night when protesters took to the streets to call for the removal of Premier Supra Mahumapelo.

Vehicles were also set alight.

Call for calm, restraint

Protests against Mahumapelo brought the town to a standstill on Thursday as burning tyres and rocks were used to barricade the road.

Provincial police spokesperson Lieutenant Colonel Adele Myburgh said 16 people had been arrested since the protests started.

Her colleague, Brigadier Sabata Mokgwabone, said a man was shot dead during a high-speed chase with police in Mahikeng on Thursday but that it was not linked to the unrest.

He said the chase followed a robbery at one of the hotels in town.

Ramaphosa has called for calm and asked all aggrieved parties to "express their grievances through peaceful means and engagement rather than violence and anarchy".

He also called on law enforcement agencies to exercise maximum restraint in executing their duties to return calm and normality to the province.

Source: News24
Introduction of Minimum Wage in South Africa Delayed, Ministry Says
JOHANNESBURG (Reuters) - The introduction of a national minimum wage of 20 rand ($1.66) an hour in South Africa could be delayed by up to two months as parliament is yet to approve necessary draft legislation, a spokesman for the labor ministry said on Friday.

The minimum wage - a policy championed by President Cyril Ramaphosa as an important step to tackle labor instability and wage inequality - was approved by the cabinet in November and meant to be introduced on May 1.

Supporters of the minimum wage say it will reduce inequality and stimulate economic growth as workers can spend more.

But critics say it could lead to increased unemployment, already at record highs, with some employers unable to afford higher wage bills.

Labor ministry spokesman Teboho Thejane said the ministry was focused on getting the minimum wage introduced.

“The minimum wage will definitely be implemented. But it could be delayed by one or two months,” he said.

On Friday parliament’s portfolio committee on labor was still discussing amendments to the policy.

Sharome van Schalkwyk, acting chair of the committee, said the national minimum wage bill needed to be sent for redrafting.

“The Department of Labour must take its time and rework the bill for submission again to the committee. This piece of legislation is critical in our country, not only in fighting inequality, but also addressing abuse of vulnerable workers in some sectors,” van Schalkwyk said in a statement on Friday.

More than two decades after the end of apartheid in 1994, South Africa’s economy is still characterized by deep wealth inequality and high levels of unemployment.
Ramaphosa Touts ‘New Dawn’ in South Africa to Lure $100 Billion
April 19, 2018, 2:32 AM EDT
Bloomberg

New South African leader pledges to crack down on corruption
Land ownership issue will be handled according to constitution

South Africa President Cyril Ramaphosa discuses growth prospects for his nation’s economy.
President Cyril Ramaphosa brought his branding of a “new dawn” in South Africa to London as he promised to unveil incentives to attract $100 billion in investment.

Ramaphosa, 65, has been working to convince investors that he’s committed to reversing years of economic stagnation, policy uncertainty and looting of state funds since succeeding Jacob Zuma as president two months ago. So far he’s fired some ministers and replaced the boards of several troubled state companies.

“We will have well-crafted incentives that will attract people,” Ramaphosa said Wednesday in an interview with Bloomberg Television in London, where he’s attending a Commonwealth Summit and met with Prime Minister Theresa May and Queen Elizabeth II. “Some of them may well be tax incentives or general industrial incentives.”

Ramaphosa is seeking $100 billion in new investment and this week named four “envoys,” including former Finance Minister Trevor Manuel and ex-Standard Bank Group Ltd. Chief Executive Officer Jacko Maree, to travel the world seeking commitments.

Earlier at a lunch with investors at Bloomberg’s offices, he said his government is determined to fight corruption.

“We are putting in place measures to clean up,” Ramaphosa said. “It’s going to take some time, but we are at it.”

Yet his effort to sell South Africa as an investment destination has been hindered by the ruling party’s decision to back land seizures. He repeatedly addressed the issue, saying hunger for farmland is rife but his government will respect the constitution as it works to redress the imbalance of ownership.

Land Ownership

More than two decades after the end of apartheid, whites still own most of South Africa’s profitable farms, and. according to the finance ministry, about 95 percent of the country’s wealth is in the hands of 10 percent of the population. The governing African National Congress decided in December to amend the constitution to allow for expropriation without compensation. A parliamentary committee is considering the changes and is due to report back by the end of August.

“We won’t damage the economy,” he said at the lunch. “The land drive should not lead to a reduction in agricultural production or endanger food production.”

A 2017 land audit by AgriSA, a farmers’ lobby group, found that the government and racial groups that were discriminated against under whites-only rule owned 26.7 percent of South Africa’s agricultural land in 2016, up from 14.9 percent in 1994. A separate government audit found that whites owned 72 percent of farmland.

Property Rights

“We want round-table dialogue, a full discussion on the question of land because we want the protection of property rights not to be a protection of property rights to a few people only, like it has been in the past,” Ramaphosa said in the television interview, the first with an international broadcaster since he became president. “Our economy has also been constrained by the fact that the land, which is a powerful resource, has just been reserved for a few. Let us share the land.”

The president said he’s getting positive feedback from investors, and recent gains in the value of the rand indicate improved confidence. After Ramaphosa met May on Tuesday, the U.K. committed 50 million pounds ($72 million) in funding over the next four years.

“Attracting more investment in the economy is key to boosting growth,” Ramaphosa said.

Total fixed investment in South Africa declined to about 19 percent of gross domestic product last year, from 24 percent in 2008, with foreign direct investment dropping to 17.6 billion rand ($1.5 billion) from 76 billion rand over the period, government data show.

‘Open For Business’

“The pitch is going to be: ‘we are open for business, we are embarking on reforms that are going to lead to South Africa becoming even more attractive than it has been’,” Ramaphosa said.

He said he’s sticking to his target of 3 percent growth for this year, which is more than double the 1.4 percent forecast by the World Bank.

Read more on Ramaphosa’s impact on the economy

The rand was little changed at 11.9301 per dollar by 8:25 a.m. in Johannesburg on Thursday after advancing 0.5 percent the previous day. The currency is up almost 10 percent since Ramaphosa was elected as leader of the ruling ANC in December, the best-performing major currency over that period.

“The rand where it is now reflects a level of confidence that the world has in South Africa,” Ramaphosa said. “They can see that South Africa is going somewhere. The exporters from our own country, the stronger rand is not so positive for them, so we need to find a balance. It’s near the balance, not yet quite there, but near the balance.”

— With assistance by Alastair Reed, Michael Cohen, Amogelang Mbatha, Ana Monteiro, and Robert Brand