Tuesday, 4 March 2014
Africa News In Brief: A Nation Prays For 'Tata', While Another Mandela Passes And More
Jun. 11 (GIN) – News of the recurring illness of South Africa’s much loved leader, informally known as Madiba or 'Tata,' set off a new round of prayers for his recovery in the nation and around the world.
But in Qunu in the Eastern Cape, residents there are already grieving the passing of a Mandela – Florence Mandela - a close relative to the country’s former statesman and wife of one of the sons of Madiba’s uncle Solomon. She died last week at the age of 96.
Qunu, the home village of the former President, is now the home of the Nelson Mandela Museum and villagers there are foreseeing a heavy influx of tourists and visitors. Some residents have begun turning their homes into B&Bs, as there might not be enough place in the village should the ailing icon die, according to a report in The Sowetan newspaper.
But the talk of the town centered on the place of Mandela in their lives.
Nomishini Krexa, a villager, wondered: “Where will we be when he’s not around? What would we do here in Qunu, how would our lives be?
“Because of him we can feed our children. We have toilets, we have electricity. We would like to let him go but we’re scared. He has done so much for us.” Mandela, she said, brought her family together at a time when men lived in hostels at the mines where they worked.
The women were not allowed to live with their husbands and had to stay behind in the villages to look after the children.
An elderly woman, who asked not to be identified, echoed Krexa’s sentiments that people feared that without Mandela, their rights wouldn’t be upheld.
“If he’s not here (not alive), it won’t be good. We are pained to see him in pain. It’s not nice seeing your loved one like that, but what are we saying he must stay for?” she asked.
Noamen Qhola, from Mvezo, the village where Mandela was born, echoed her neighbor’s remarks: “…the day Tata is gone, things may change,” Qhola said.
Mandela’s grandson, who is the chief in Mvezo, said only: “I can’t comment on things related to uTat’omkhulu (grandfather)”.
Secrecy appears to be concealing a battle to save Mr. Mandela’s life. A report by CBS News, citing an unnamed source, said Mr. Mandela was in a medical “crisis” and had to be resuscitated by a medical team at his home last Friday night, shortly before he was rushed to hospital at about 1:30 a.m.
None of these details have been confirmed by the office of President Jacob Zuma, the only official channel for information on the health of the Nobel Peace Prize laureate.
But citizens are drawing their own conclusions from the steady stream of family members visiting him at the Pretoria hospital and holding vigil at his bedside. His wife, Graca Machel, cancelled a trip to London and has remained with him since Friday. His daughter Zenani, the South African ambassador to Argentina, has flown home to be with him. Other children and grandchildren have been visiting him all week, along with his ex-wife, Winnie.
Mr. Zuma’s office has been widely criticized for releasing misleading sound bites on Mandela’s health.
Just a few weeks ago, Mr. Zuma and other members of his ruling African National Congress visited Mr. Mandela at his home in a Johannesburg suburb, and Mr. Zuma later claimed cheerfully that the former president was “up and about” and “looking very good.” In fact, video footage from the visit showed Mr. Mandela obviously frail, frozen-faced, unable to smile, and almost unresponsive. It was the only video image of Mr. Mandela to be released in the past 10 months.
Mr. Mandela’s fragile health is not unexpected for a man of his age, especially since he had suffered tuberculosis during his 27 years of imprisonment in the apartheid era. In some ways, his latest hospital admission has been a bigger story globally than it has in South Africa, where people have become accustomed to his health problems over the years. Though he is beloved by the country, many people now say they are prepared to hear the worst.
A friend of the elder leader, Andrew Mlangeni, spoke frankly of the state of the internationally admired statesman. “The family must release him so that God may have his own way,” said Mlangeni, a former ANC activist who served years of imprisonment with Mr. Mandela on Robben Island.
“Once the family releases him, the people of South Africa will follow,” he told a South African newspaper. “We will say, ‘Thank you, God, you have given us this man, and we will release him too.’ ”
Nelson Mandela’s birthday, on July 18, was recognized by the U.N. in 2009 after his speech in Hyde Park London, for his 90th birthday. He said: “It is time for new hands to lift the burdens. It is in your hands now.”
Minnesotans Demand Justice For Somali Killed In South African Race Riot
Jun. 11 (GIN) – Hundreds of Somali-Americans rallied in Minnesota this week to protest the murder of a Somali shop owner in Port Elizabeth, South Africa. The Somali man was killed during a week of riots that targeted Somalis and other African foreigners.
Abdi Nasir Mahmoud was beaten to death after two Zimbabwean immigrants who were allegedly looting a store were killed. “You can replace what’s in a store,” a local man told Daily Maverick newspaper. “You can’t replace those two souls.”
The Somali’s murder was captured graphically in a video that surfaced on YouTube. The video shows a man lying naked in a busy street. As trucks drive by, he twists weakly to ward off kicks, blows, stones and a cement block raining down on him.
At the demonstration in St. Paul, Hali Mahmoud, the dead man’s sister, addressed a crowd of hundreds of Somali-Americans. Speaking amidst tears, she said her 27 year old brother had died a painful death.
The recent outbreak of “hate crime” brought back memories of May 2008 when an explosion of xenophobia or racism against foreign nationals left 62 dead and several hundred injured. It also caused the voluntary deportation of immigrants to their home countries and the destruction of immigrant-owned property.
Analysts link the anti-foreigner anger to high unemployment, a shortage of good jobs, housing and other basic necessities. But thinking this is “poor-on-poor” violence is not sustained by facts, argued David Cote of South Africa’s Lawyers for Human Rights.
There is a deep mistrust of law enforcement to protect local resident and solve crimes,” wrote Khadija Patel in the Daily Maverick newspaper of South Africa.
“Citizens have little faith in formal institutions and are resorting to violence," said the director of the Cape Town office for the Institute for Security Studies. "It is very possible that some of the victims may well be innocent."
“Corruption, bad management and an unclear policy has taken its toll... Daily reports of police officers tearing up refugee papers on the street and making cash demands from shop owners during searches of their businesses lend to the perception that there is no protection for foreigners against violence and persecution.
On Friday in Cape Town, a march of about 200 people was held to protest attacks on foreigners.
Meanwhile, in Minnesota, more than 250 leaders, community leaders and Muslim religious representatives assembled at the State Capitol to remember Abdi Nasir Mahmoud and condemn his murder and the murders of other Somalis in South Africa. Hassan Mohamud, imam of Da’wah Islamic Center in St. Paul pleaded with the Somali government to secure safety and justice for the Somalis abroad.
Hali Mahmoud said her brother is survived by two sons, Ahmed, 7, and Hassan, 9.
Corruption Fighters Blow The Whistle On Angola’s Missing Millions
Jun. 11 (GIN) – Hundreds of millions of dollars may have been divvied up between Angola’s President, Eduardo dos Santos, and Russian and French arms dealers, in what has been called “one of the most egregious cases of financial crime and corruption encountered” by the investigative group Corruption Watch UK and the Angolan legal rights group Free Hands.
Their report, “Deception in High Places: the corrupt Angola-Russia debt deal” was presented this week to the European parliament “as a vivid example of the plundering that can take place in developing nations with the complicity of European bankers and tax havens.”
Release of the report was hosted by a Portuguese parliamentarian, Ana Gomes, and the Open Society Initiative for Southern Africa. The author, Andrew Feinstein, a former South African member of parliament and current director of Corruption Watch UK, was praised for producing the report despite potential legal challenges, and serious personal risk.
The reports shows how millions of dollars move through banks based in Switzerland, Luxembourg, Cyprus, the Netherlands, the British Virgin Islands and the Isle of Man to the benefit of powerful Angolan and Russian figures.
Angolan youth, feeling the winds of change from Egypt and the Arab Spring to the U.S. and the Occupy movement - are beginning to show their outrage at the waste of their patrimony.
At several rallies they called on the President to quit after 33 years at the helm of Africa's No. 2 oil producer. Though small in numbers, the protests have provoked a violent clamp-down by authorities.
In a rare televised interview, President dos Santos this week dismissed the growing discontent. “We don't see, at least I don't perceive, any risk of social instability at the moment," he said to Portugal's SIC channel. "But that does not mean that there are not flash points once in a while."
In 2004, The Economist headlined a story on Angola: “The shameless rich and voiceless poor.” Today, Angola is the second-largest trading partner of the U.S. in sub-Saharan Africa, and the second largest producer of oil in sub-Saharan Africa -an OPEC member that has allowed major U.S. oil companies to prosper.
General Electric recently invested some $2 billion in health and infrastructure and has taken orders for 100 locomotives to be built in South Africa for Angola and Mozambique. Other countries with building plans for Angola include Korea, China and Brazil. w/pix of dos Santos
Poorly Paid Doctors In Mozambique In Paper Plate Protest
Jun. 11 (GIN) – With tape over their mouths and waving paper plates, Mozambique’s doctors marched in the capital city Maputo, demanding higher wages.
Over 600 medics, including doctors and nurses, wore face masks to symbolize the government’s silence in response to their demands.
Three days of talks with the health ministry last week yielded no results. Riot police with dogs stopped the protesters from marching near the prime minister's offices.
The workers waved paper plates with the inscription "hunger" and "empty", with some wailing and rubbing their stomachs.
One protester held a placard reading: "We are tired of counting our small change at the end of the month".
The medics are also demanding better working conditions in hospitals.
"We are exposed to a lot of sicknesses. Every day we are covered in blood, piss and everything. But the president doesn't respect what we do," said a worker who earns the equivalent of $70 a month
Mozambique has a total of 1,200 doctors in both public and private practice countrywide, with a ratio of one doctor to 22,000 Mozambicans. Ironically, money is pouring into the country, exploiting the large coal deposits, natural gas and oil. Mozambique's economy has grown significantly over the past decade thanks to investments from China, the UAE, Mauritius and Brazil. The African Development Bank expects growth to rise to 8.5 per cent this year and 8 per cent next.