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Posts tagged ‘Cape Land of South Africa’

South African opposition protests Zuma, who celebrates 75th

April 12, 2017

JOHANNESBURG (AP) — Tens of thousands of South Africans on Wednesday marked the 75th birthday of President Jacob Zuma with a protest against him, pushing for his resignation because of scandals and his dismissal of a widely respected finance minister. The president, meanwhile, danced at a party where well-wishers said they loved him.

The rally in the capital, Pretoria, which followed nationwide protests on Friday, comes amid sharp criticism of Zuma within the ruling African National Congress party, although the president still commands the support of powerful ANC factions. Zuma, who is in his second five-year term after becoming president in 2009, has become a flashpoint for concerns about government corruption and mismanagement in one of Africa’s most powerful economies.

“Take a permanent holiday!” said one protest sign mockingly wishing a happy birthday to Zuma. Some demonstrators carried a mock coffin covered with a South African flag. Crowds gathered at a central square and marched peacefully to the Union Buildings, which house Zuma’s offices. Police estimated the crowd size in Pretoria at 30,000. Protest organizers said the number was higher.

The protest united groups with sharply different ideologies. The Democratic Alliance, the main opposition party, includes many members of the white minority that still controls much of the economy 23 years after the end of apartheid. The smaller Economic Freedom Fighters party, led by former ruling party member Julius Malema, says it seeks the rapid transfer of land and industry to South Africa’s poor black majority.

“All political parties have come together to send one message,” Malema said. “Zuma must leave office, and the soonest he does that, the better, because this country must recover economically.” Later Wednesday, Zuma attended a birthday party for him in the Soweto area of Johannesburg, sitting in a high-backed armchair on a stage before dancing. Supporters praised him, saying he would overcome political challenges and serve out his term until 2019.

Zuma last month fired Finance Minister Pravin Gordhan, who coincidentally turned 68 on Wednesday, in a Cabinet reshuffle. Some top ruling party leaders openly criticized the decision. Two agencies, Fitch and Standard & Poor’s, responded by lowering South Africa’s credit rating to below investment grade, raising concerns about a weakening currency and price increases in a country with high unemployment.

In a birthday message, the ruling party commended Zuma for his record as an anti-apartheid leader and tenure as president. Zuma spent 10 years in the same Robben Island prison where Nelson Mandela was held, but his anti-apartheid record has been overshadowed by scandals, including the spending of millions of dollars in state funds on his private home. He paid back some money after the Constitutional Court ruled against him last year.

On Monday, Zuma said many white demonstrators calling for his resignation are racist. Opponents described the remark as an affront to legitimate protest. Key allies, including the South African Communist Party and the country’s biggest labor group, have urged Zuma to resign. The divided ANC, however, is seeking to project an image of unity and says it will defeat an opposition bid to oust Zuma in a parliamentary vote of no confidence.

A small opposition party has opened a court challenge to try to have the vote conducted by secret ballot, which analysts believe could allow some ANC lawmakers to vote against Zuma with less fear of reprisal from ruling party loyalists. The vote, originally scheduled for April 18, has been delayed pending the outcome of the legal challenge.

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South Africans hold nationwide protests against Zuma

April 07, 2017

JOHANNESBURG (AP) — Thousands of South Africans gathered in major cities on Friday to demonstrate against President Jacob Zuma, whose dismissal of the finance minister fueled concerns over government corruption and a struggling economy.

Protesters began marches in Johannesburg, Pretoria, Cape Town and other big metropolitan areas to push for the resignation of the scandal-tainted Zuma, who for now retains the support of a ruling party facing an internal revolt against the president.

“Fire Zuma,” read some placards. A march organized by the Democratic Alliance, South Africa’s biggest opposition party, was expected to pass near the headquarters of the ruling African National Congress in downtown Johannesburg. ANC members in military uniforms who oppose the protest were posted outside.

The government appealed for calm and said it respects the right of South Africans to protest peacefully, a legacy of the struggle against white minority rule that ended in 1994 with the country’s first all-race vote and the election of Nelson Mandela as president.

Pravin Gordhan, who was fired as finance minister in a late-night Cabinet reshuffle a week ago, was widely respected for his anti-corruption stance. The Standard & Poor’s agency lowered South Africa’s foreign currency credit rating after the dismissal, citing political instability and threats to economic growth.

Gordhan was seen as a counter to the alleged influence of the Gupta family, Indian immigrant businessmen who have been accused of trying to influence some of Zuma’s Cabinet picks. The Guptas deny any wrongdoing, and Zuma has said there was nothing improper in the way he chose ministers.

Zuma and the ruling party have been weakened by other scandals around the president. Zuma was forced to reimburse some state money after the Constitutional Court ruled against him last year in a dispute over millions of dollars spent on his private home.

South Africa backs Polisario at talks

2017-01-06

PRETORIA – South African President Jacob Zuma on Friday held talks in Pretoria with the leader of Western Sahara’s Polisario Front independence movement, in a show of support for the territory’s struggle against Morocco.

Brahim Ghali was making his first visit to South Africa — a long-time ally of Western Sahara — since he was elected in July.

Morocco insists the sparsely-populated desert region is an integral part of the kingdom, despite UN resolutions to hold a referendum on self-determination.

“It is unfathomable that Western Sahara… still remains colonized,” Zuma said.

“We remain committed to continue to walk with the people of Western Sahara until you are free to live in your own land and able to determine your own future.”

Morocco quit the African Union more than 30 years ago when Western Sahara — known as the Sahrawi Arab Democratic Republic (SADR) — was accepted as a member.

But Morocco is now lobbying to return to the AU.

“The Sahrawi people are struggling to recover the total sovereignty of their state, of all their national territory,” Ghali told reporters.

“We are unfortunately confronting military occupation from the neighboring state, the kingdom of Morocco.”

Western Sahara, a former Spanish colony, was annexed by Morocco in 1975.

An insurgency pushing for independence ended with a UN-brokered truce in 1991.

Morocco says it will not change its stance on Western Sahara despite its efforts to rejoin the AU.

Source: Middle East Online.

Link: http://www.middle-east-online.com/english/?id=80709.

South African opposition to push for president’s removal

November 03, 2016

JOHANNESBURG (AP) — South Africa’s biggest opposition party said Thursday that it is pushing for a parliamentary vote to remove President Jacob Zuma next week following the release of a state watchdog report indicating possible government corruption linked to Zuma and some associates.

The Democratic Alliance will even lobby members of the ruling African National Congress party who defeated a similar move in parliament against the president in April, said opposition leader Mmusi Maimane. The opposition has received “provisional confirmation” that the motion will be debated in the National Assembly on Nov. 10, he said.

The opposition party’s effort is likely to encounter the same kind of resistance from the ruling party in a new vote as it did earlier in the year, even though more ANC members have spoken publicly against Zuma in recent months.

In April, the South African parliament rejected a motion to remove Zuma by a vote of 233 to 143; the motion required a two-thirds majority for approval. It followed an apology by Zuma after the Constitutional Court ruled that he failed to uphold the constitution in a scandal over millions of dollars in state spending on his private home.

On Thursday, the ruling party said it welcomed the report on corruption allegations linked to the president, but commented only in general terms about curbing graft. “This report provides a concrete basis for the ANC and society in general to discuss the allegations contained therein and deal with its outcomes,” the party said in a statement. It said it supports a plan to introduce “lifestyle audits” for all party leaders.

Pressure on Zuma intensified Wednesday when a South African court ordered the release of the state watchdog report about the relationship that Zuma and some state officials had with the Guptas, a business family of Indian immigrants accused of meddling in the government for financial benefit. The report by the public protector’s office found possible ethical violations centering on allegations that the Guptas were involved in the removal and appointment of Cabinet ministers and directors of state-owned firms.

The Gupta family wants to present its case and will cooperate with any judicial inquiry, said family lawyer Gert van der Merwe. “We will prepare for the allegations and that is what we concentrate on,” eNCA, a South Africa media organization, quoted van der Merwe as saying.

The Guptas have previously denied wrongdoing and said they were being framed as scapegoats for South Africa’s economic problems. The watchdog report recommended that a judicial commission investigate the allegations against the president and others. Zuma would be required to appoint the commission, though the chief justice of the Constitutional Court would select a judge to head the panel. Zuma’s office said he was not given a chance to provide “meaningful input” in the investigation and is considering whether to challenge the report in court.

Zuma, meanwhile, traveled to neighboring Zimbabwe on Thursday to discuss trade with Zimbabwean President Robert Mugabe. In prepared remarks there, Zuma did not mention the scandals that have sapped his popularity at home. He appeared jovial, joking with some of Mugabe’s ministers.

Mugabe, who has ruled since 1980 despite public discontent and economic hardship, referred to Zuma’s problems in welcoming remarks. “We are happy you are still in one piece in spite of what the papers are writing every day,” the 92-year-old Mugabe said. “So we continue to say, well, long live our solidarity.”

Associated Press writer Farai Mutsaka contributed from Harare, Zimbabwe.

South Africa watchdog report increases pressure on president

November 02, 2016

JOHANNESBURG (AP) — South African President Jacob Zuma faced growing calls to resign on Wednesday after the release of a state report that found possible evidence of corruption at top levels of a government whose leader has been enmeshed in scandal.

The report by a state watchdog agency came out as thousands of South Africans demonstrated for the removal of Zuma, who apologized earlier this year after the Constitutional Court said he flouted the law in a scandal over millions of dollars in state spending on his rural home.

A commission of inquiry should be established to investigate separate allegations centered on Zuma’s close relationship with the Guptas, a business family of Indian immigrants that has been accused of meddling in the government for its own financial benefit, according to the report by the state public protector’s office.

Zuma is required to appoint the judicial commission, though it would be “headed by a judge solely selected by the Chief Justice who shall provide one name to the President,” the report said. The commission would have six months to complete its findings and make recommendations, a process that could slow calls for Zuma to quit. Opposition parties, however, said they could push for a vote of no confidence in the president in coming weeks.

A similar vote earlier this year was rejected because the ruling African National Congress has a majority in parliament, though some ANC members have since become openly critical of Zuma. The president still has the support of some powerful factions in his party.

The release of the 355-page report by former Public Protector Thuli Madonsela, who completed a seven-year term last month, was delayed in court because of efforts by Zuma and associates to block its release.

The president “was not afforded a reasonable opportunity to provide meaningful input into the investigation and asked the court to be given an opportunity to do so,” Zuma’s office said in a statement. It said he should have been provided with “incriminating evidence” before answering questions from the watchdog agency, and should have been allowed to question witnesses who were interviewed for the report.

“The President will give consideration to the contents of the report in order to ascertain whether it should be a subject of a court challenge,” Zuma’s office said. The report explores conduct by Zuma and other state officials in connection with allegations that the Guptas were involved in the removal and appointment of Cabinet ministers and directors of state-owned firms.

The Guptas have denied they illegally tried to obtain state contracts and other benefits, and previously said they were the victims of hate speech. A key allegation centers on Zuma’s decision in December to abruptly fire Finance Minister Nhlanhla Nene and replace him with a relatively unknown figure, David van Rooyen. The move unsettled markets and prompted a national outcry, compelling the president to replace van Rooyen a few days later with Pravin Gordhan, who previously served as finance minister.

Allegations that the Gupta family knew that Nene was going to be fired, as well as evidence that van Rooyen was at the Gupta home in Johannesburg at least seven times before his appointment as finance minister, are worrying, according to the public protector’s report.

It also cited allegations by the deputy finance minister, Mcebisi Jonas, that a Gupta brother had offered him the finance minister’s post while saying Zuma was aware of the offer. The president denied knowledge of any such offer.

“Consequently the people of South Africa, who Deputy Minister Jonas took into his confidence in revealing this, would lose faith in open, democratic and accountable government if President Zuma’s denials are proven to be false,” said the report, noting that the executive branch should have investigated Jonas’ allegations.

Jonas alleged that the Gupta brother he met offered him $44 million “to be deposited in an account of his choice” and asked if Jonas “had a bag which he could use to receive and carry R600,000 ($44,000) in cash immediately,” according to the report. It said Jonas declined the offer.

On Wednesday, business executives, religious leaders and others gathered in a Pretoria cathedral to demand that Zuma quit. They said alleged corruption linked to the president was undermining one of Africa’s biggest economies, which is experiencing weak growth, as well as a constitution that was crafted after the end of white minority rule in 1994.

Separate rallies were also held in Pretoria by opposition groups. The marches were mostly peaceful, but some shop windows were smashed and police arrested several people. Later, members of the Economic Freedom Fighters, an opposition party, marched to the Union Buildings, which house the offices of Zuma and other government officials. There, protesters briefly clashed with police, who set off stun grenades and fired rubber bullets.

South Africa’s move on ICC raises concerns of African exodus

October 21, 2016

JOHANNESBURG (AP) — South Africa on Friday reversed its early support for the International Criminal Court and said it will withdraw from it, raising concerns of a possible African exodus that would undermine a human rights tribunal accused by some leaders of unfairly targeting the continent.

The announcement followed a similar decision by Burundi this week and was criticized by human rights groups that see the ICC as the best means of pursuing perpetrators of the world’s worst atrocities. The treaty creating the court entered into force in 2002 after years of efforts by South Africa’s post-apartheid government and others.

No country has ever withdrawn from the ICC. Now, the debate over a mass African withdrawal is expected to be a “hot issue” at an African Union summit in January 2017, said Oryem Okello, deputy foreign minister of Uganda, a critic of the court.

“We think the matter is best decided as a bloc,” Okello said. Withdrawal takes effect a year after the U.N. secretary-general is formally notified. U.N. spokesman Stephane Dujarric said the countdown for South Africa started on Wednesday. Countries have to cooperate with any ICC proceedings that begin before withdrawal takes effect.

South Africa’s announcement is “devastating” for the ICC, said Mark Kersten, a Britain-based researcher. “It is unclear if other states will follow South Africa’s lead, but it is clear that states are more likely to follow South Africa’s lead than Burundi, with whom many African states have tensions,” Kersten wrote in an email to The Associated Press. Kenya, Namibia and Uganda are among the countries that have indicated interest in leaving, he said.

The possible departure of more countries “really questions whether or not the court is going to survive because it simply will not have the number of countries that it needs in order to be seen as legitimate and international,” said Mark Ellis, executive director of the International Bar Association.

Many African countries were supportive of the court’s creation partly because of the 1994 Rwandan genocide, but grew uneasy due to ICC scrutiny of national leaders. Under the Rome Statute that created the court, signatory countries have a legal obligation to arrest anyone sought by the tribunal.

The treaty is “in conflict and inconsistent with” South Africa’s diplomatic immunity law, Michael Masutha, the minister of justice, told reporters Friday. The treaty hinders South Africa’s goal of promoting peace talks, which can include hosting adversaries on its soil, Masutha said. South Africa has hosted talks on Zimbabwe, Congo and Madagascar in the past.

Parliament is likely to pass the bill. The ruling African National Congress party holds a majority of seats, and its parliament office welcomed the decision, saying “the ICC has allowed non-member states to dictate and interfere with its work to suit their own imperialist agendas.”

South Africa’s announcement follows a dispute last year over a visit by Sudanese President Omar al-Bashir, who is wanted by the ICC for alleged war crimes, crimes against humanity and genocide in Darfur. Al-Bashir was allowed to leave South Africa even though a local court ordered authorities to stop him.

Friday’s announcement came ahead of a Nov. 22 Constitutional Court hearing in which the government was scheduled to appeal legal rulings against it in the al-Bashir case. Masutha said the state will drop its appeal.

South Africa’s main opposition party, the Democratic Alliance, said it would go to court to declare the government’s decision to leave the ICC unconstitutional. Richard Goldstone, a South African who was an international criminal prosecutor, said the move was demeaning to his countrymen.

“From a moral standpoint, it detracts from the inspiring legacy of the administration of President Nelson Mandela that so strongly supported the ICC and all of the mechanisms of international justice,” Goldstone said in a statement.

On Tuesday, President Pierre Nkurunziza of Burundi signed legislation to withdraw from the ICC, which had said it would investigate political violence that followed Nkurunziza’s decision last year to pursue a third term, which some have called unconstitutional.

The ICC, based in The Hague, Netherlands, had 124 member states before Burundi’s move. The United States, China, Russia and Israel are among non-members. ICC spokesman Fadi El Abdallah said international support “in Africa and beyond” is necessary for the court “to fulfill its independent and impartial mandate” to prosecute perpetrators of genocide and other crimes.

The push among some African countries to withdraw from the court began after it indicted Kenyan President Uhuru Kenyatta on charges of crimes against humanity for 2007 post-election violence in which more than 1,000 died. The ICC prosecutor said threats to witnesses, bribery and lack of cooperation by Kenya’s government led to the case’s collapse.

Only Africans have been charged in the six cases that are ongoing or about to begin, though preliminary ICC investigations have been opened elsewhere in the world. The African Union has said it will not compel member states to arrest a leader on behalf of the ICC.

Masutha, the South African justice minister, said Africa is strengthening its own human rights institutions. Handing another country’s leader over to the ICC would interfere in another nation’s sovereignty, he said.

“One cannot think of a more plausible scenario of forced regime change by one country on another,” Masutha said.

Associated Press writers Edith M. Lederer at the United Nations and Rodney Muhumuza in Kampala, Uganda, contributed.

South Africa to withdraw from International Criminal Court

By Stephen Feller

Oct. 21, 2016

OHANNESBURG, South Africa, Oct. 21 (UPI) — Less than a month after Burundi’s parliament voted to withdraw from the International Criminal Court, South Africa on Thursday announced it’s intent to become the second African country to pull out of the Rome Statute.

South Africa notified the United Nations of its intent to withdraw from the ICC, which is the formal beginning of the year-long process for withdrawing from the court.

The notice was signed by Maite Nkoana-Mashabane, South Africa’s minister of international relations, however several experts have questioned whether the country can pull out of the court under an executive decision or if its parliament is required to vote on such an action as well.

“The Republic of South Africa has found that it’s obligations with respect to the peaceful resolution of conflicts at times are incompatible with the interpretation given by the International Criminal Court of obligations contained in the Rome Statute of the International Criminal Court,” the letter says.

Several media organizations reported they received copies of the document notifying the United Nations of the planned withdrawal, though neither South Africa or the United Nations has commented on the withdrawal yet.

South Africa would be the second African nation to pull out of the permanent court, tasked with prosecuting genocide, crimes against humanity and war crimes, since Burundi’s announcement it would withdraw on Oct. 13.

Last year, South Africa declined to arrest Sudanese President Omar al-Bashir while he was attending an African Union summit there. Al-Bashir is accused of genocide and war crimes in Darfur by the court, charges he denies he has committed.

The African Union has previously told its members not to cooperate with the court because it holds an anti-Africa bias — a campaign that apparently pushed South African officials to move toward withdrawal after President Jacob Zuma visited Kenya last week.

The Kenyan president, Uhuru Kenyatta, was previously accused by the court of committing crimes against humanity but the trial collapsed due to a lack of evidence against him.

At least one organization, Human Rights Watch, expressed concern at the movement of country’s looking to leave the court and what it means for protecting human life in Africa.

“South Africa’s proposed withdrawal from the International Criminal Court shows startling disregard for justice from a country long seen as a global leader on accountability for victims of the gravest crimes,” said Dewa Mavhinga, Africa division senior researcher for Human Rights Watch. “It’s important both for South Africa and the region that this runaway train be slowed down and South Africa’s hard-won legacy of standing with victims of mass atrocities be restored.”

Source: United Press International (UPI).

Link: http://www.upi.com/Top_News/World-News/2016/10/21/South-Africa-to-withdraw-from-International-Criminal-Court/4371477030559/.

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