Friday, 28 February 2014
African News Briefs
Global Information Network,
Aging Zimbabwe Leader Reported In Ill Health
By Fungai Maboreke
Apr. 10 (GIN) – Zimbabwe’s octogenarian leader Robert Mugabe has extended a visit to Singapore where he has been receiving treatment, reportedly for prostate cancer. The unconfirmed reports of his demise were denied by ZANU PF party officials who called them “lies meant to destabilize Zimbabwe.”
Precedent for the practice of denying the death of a national leader who had actually passed away was seen most recently in Malawi where the president died last week Thursday amidst vigorous claims that he was alive. President Bingu wa Mutharika’s death was finally confirmed on Friday. Similarly, Nigerian former president Umaru Musa Yar’Aadua was confirmed to be deceased in May 2010 although it is now believed he died earlier in the year.
Meanwhile, Mugabe was recently endorsed by his party as the presidential candidate for the next election which he wants held this year despite strong disagreement from the opposition under Prime Minister Morgan Tsvangirai who wants to see reform before polls are held in 2013.
It is widely believed that President Mugabe has already hand-picked Defense Minister Emerson Mnangagwa, also known as “the crocodile” a former head of the notorious Central Intelligence Organisation to take over.
Elsewhere, the human rights group Amnesty International named Zimbabwean activist Jenni Williams, co-founder of WOZA (Women of Zimbabwe Arise), as the recipient of its 2012 Ginetta Sagan Award at a ceremony in Washington DC. The women’s community empowerment movement was started in 2003 by Williams and the late Sheba Dube.
The award honors activists who persevere in their work, often at great personal risk and sacrifice.
Williams will receive a $10,000 cash prize in the name of the late Italian rights activist Ginetta Sagan. w/pix of R. Mugabe
Malawi Becomes Second Africa Nation With Woman Prez
By Fungai Maboreke
Apr. 10 (GIN) – Following the sudden death of Malawi’s President Bingu wa Mutharika last Thursday, Vice President Joyce Banda was sworn into office, making her the second female President in Africa.
President Bingu wa Mutharika died from cardiac arrest. His death was officially confirmed Friday after a day of denials that he had passed.
The new President has received international and national awards for her support of women’s rights. She also becomes the third most powerful female politician after Liberian President Ellen Sirleaf-Johnson and Nigerian Finance Minister Ngozi Okonjo-Iwela.
After her swearing-in, Mrs Banda began cleaning house, purging allies of the former president. "Although we are in mourning, certain decisions cannot wait," Banda told a news conference in the capital Lilongwe, three days after taking office.
She also announced an investigation into the mysterious murder of student activist Robert Chasowa. Mutharika's critics have accused police of staging a hit against Chasowa, implicating former police chief Peter Mukhito, who was sacked on Monday.
"As a mother, I feel for my fellow mother who doesn't know what killed her son. I understand how painful it is, and I will make sure we find out who killed our son Chasowa," Banda said.
She also sacked the head of the Malawi Broadcasting Corporation, Bright Malopa, another Mutharika ally who used state media to campaign against her.
The new director general is Benson Tembo, a veteran broadcaster and former diplomat whose last posting was as ambassador to Zimbabwe. w/pix of Pres. J. Banda
Tuareg Peoples Homeland Dreams In Mali May Be Shortlived
Apr. 10 (GIN) – The Tuareg people in their bright indigo robes may have won the war for a homeland in the northern half of Mali only to lose it.
The resource-rich Taoudeni basin in Tuareg lands bordering Mauritania and Algeria has drawn the interest of major oil and gas companies and in February, concession deals were signed with the Algerian company SONATRACH and the Canadian company Selier Energy.
With thousands of acres to be explored for oil, the nomadic lifestyle of the Tuareg people could face new restrictions of movement in the dry Sahara lands. Ownership of these wells may be another source of contention.
The Tuareg’s sweep of major cities of the north followed the overthrow of elected president Amadou Toumani Toure last month by a ragtag group of U.S.-trained junior officers who claimed they could not defeat the homeland-seeking Tuaregs under Toure’s rule. The army’s surprise defeat by the Tuaregs left citizens of the Malian capital, Bamako, struggling with the reality of a nation cut in two. “Have you seen the map?” a Malian exile asked wistfully. “I’ve lost my country.”
This week, thousands of Malians in Bamako marched down a central street chanting, ‘Liberate Gao, Kidal and Timbuktu!’ - the three regions in northern Mali taken over by Tuareg separatists and Islamic militants.
Renowned musical artists JeConte & The Mali Allstars released a track, described as a plea for peace, with famed Malian singer Khaira Arby, Vieux Farka Touré and Bassekou Kouyate. Tuareg songstress Khaira Arby is scheduled to tour North America starting April 26 in Dallas if a visa can be obtained.
Tinawiren, a Tuareg band highly popular in the U.S. and the west, was also caught in the eye of the storm and Tuareg takeover. Two members, the bandleader Ibrahim and acoustic guitarist Elaga Al Hamid—are reportedly stuck in refugee camps near the Algerian border and have been since February.
Finally, the resignation of former president Toure was accepted Friday, paving the way for a replacement, expected to be Dioncounda Traore, a former teacher, trade unionist and speaker of parliament. His appointment is part of a transitional deal struck between the ruling junta and west African leaders. He will organize elections - if possible within 40 days - according to the agreement.
African Gold Miners With Lung Disease Join Major Class Action Suit
Apr. 10 (GIN) – A class action lawsuit on behalf of thousands of former miners who say they contracted silicosis, a debilitating lung disease, through negligent health and safety is being prepared against leading South African gold mining firms.
Attorney Richard Spoor, who won a $100 judgment against a South African asbestos-mining company in 2003, said he would file class action papers with the High Court in Johannesburg "within the next few months".
The lawyer told Reuters news service that some 6,876 plaintiffs from South Africa and Lesotho, the landlocked kingdom that provided hundreds of thousands of migrant workers to South Africa's gold mines over the last century, had signed up so far.
Plaintiffs in the suit would be AngloGold Ashanti, Gold Fields and Harmony Gold - South Africa's three biggest gold miners - and minor producer DRD Gold, Spoor said.
The planned suit has its roots in a landmark ruling by the Constitutional Court a year ago that for the first time allowed lung-diseased miners to sue their employers for damages.
Speaking to Reuters staffer Ed Cropley, over a dozen former miners in Lesotho said they had never received protective gear such as face-masks in the mines.
"The only safety gear they gave us was gloves," said 55-year-old Tele Nchaka, who now makes a living growing vegetables on a small plot outside Lesotho's capital, Maseru. Nchaka was laid off from Gold Fields' Kloof mine in 2008 after 33 years of service. "We didn't have masks. To stop the dust, we just had old T-shirts that we used to make wet."
Nchaka said he and his colleagues "were never made aware of the dangers of the dust."
At their peak in the 1980s, South Africa’s gold mines employed 500 000 people. Medical research suggests as many as a third of gold miners have silicosis.
Gold Fields declined to comment on either compensation or health and safety practices. w/pix of South Africa gold miners before beginning their shift in mine