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Wednesday, January 17, 2018
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Lesotho shop assistant helped bust human trafficking ring in S. Africa

A man is seen on the premises of a farm in Welkom, South Africa, where 10 persons including those from Lesotho were found and rescued.,

A shop assistant David(not his real name) from Lesotho has become a hero of sort after facilitating the bursting of a human trafficking ring in South Africa. According to his story, he said that he arrived in South Africa last week‚ with the promise of work as a shop assistant in the Free State mining town of Welkom.

Instead‚ with the threat of violence and death hanging over him‚ he was forced to guard women who like him, had been lured from across southern Africa to the Free State with the promise of work.

The syndicate‚ which operates primarily out of Lesotho‚ preys on people’s desperation for work. Like scores of others‚ David believed the offer‚ made by two Lesotho women he knew‚ was the answer to getting his family out of a life of poverty. The women recruited David and three other men‚ who used false passports to travel across the border and into South Africa.

“We were told there was lots of work in Welkom. That we could earn R2‚400 a month. That’s a lot of money for someone from Lesotho. We were desperate‚” David said.

Once through the border‚ the men were driven to a taxi rank in Welkom. It was here that David began to think that something was wrong.

“We couldn’t get hold of the man who we were to work for. We wanted to go to the police‚ but the woman ordered us not to. She told us not to worry‚ that everything would be okay‚” he said.

“She spoke to our taxi driver and then afterwards another taxi came to collect us.”

Ordered into the minibus-taxi‚ the men were driven to a “guest lodge”‚ where they spent the night. The next day they were taken to a farm‚ where they were told they would be trained. Instead the training was not on how to be a shop assistant.

David(not his real name) inside the farm in Welkom, Free State

“A man came to us. He was screaming at us. He told us that he had killed people before‚ driven over them with cars and that if we did not listen‚ it would happen to us‚” he said.

“He told me that I was going to be a guard‚ and that I was to guard women brought to the farm to work.”

Questioning why the women needed guarding and what work they were doing‚ the man threatened David with his life. For days David was beside himself with fear‚ unable to reach his wife and sisters‚ who were set to join him.

On Tuesday‚ using a cellphone he had hidden on himself‚ David eventually managed to get hold of his wife.

“I begged her not to come. I told her what was happening. That they would be in danger if they got into the taxi that was coming for them.”

His wife alerted a Lesotho police officer‚ who in turn went to the South African embassy. Embassy officials immediately contacted Interpol in Lesotho and the Hawks.

Heavily armed police raided farms and lodges outside Welkom‚ along with several businesses‚ arresting six alleged traffickers and rescuing 10 people.

“I just thank God that he was able to show me what was happening. If he hadn’t‚ my wife and sisters would have been trapped here.”

Culled from Timeslive

Calls for action in S. Africa to prevent Gupta family from fleeing

South African opposition Democratic Alliance (DA) on Tuesday called for immediate action to prevent the Indian Gupta family from fleeing South Africa ahead of their reported imminent arrests.

South Africa should not allow the Guptas to leave the country, and certainly not with the assistance of the government, the DA said in response to reports that warrants of arrest are being prepared for at least one Gupta brother and an undisclosed number of the family’s associates.

On Tuesday, the Asset Forfeiture Unit (AFU) started the process to serve a summon on the Gupta family and freeze its assets to the tune of 1.6 billion rand (about 130 million U.S. dollars).

Under a court order, the AFU would freeze the assets of the Guptas pending the outcome of their prosecution. After they have been successfully prosecuted, the assets will be permanently forfeited to the state.

The Guptas are being investigated for its alleged collaboration with President Jacob Zuma and a number of senior government officials in looting the state coffers, through the awarding of lucrative contracts with state-owned enterprises to Gupta-linked families, known as state capture.

Two companies — the Gupta-linked Trillian company and international consultancy giant McKinsey –reportedly were sommoned on Tuesday. They are linked with corruption involving the controversial Gupta family.

A special anti-crime unit, known as the Hawks, has obtained warrants for the arrest of at least one of the Gupta brothers, according to the City Press newspaper.

The unit is now waiting for prosecutors at the National Prosecuting Authority (NPA) to sign off the warrants so that the arrests can be effected, the report said.

But the report did not identify those facing the arrest warrants. The Gupta brothers include elder brother Ajay, as well as Atul, and the younger brother Rajesh, also known as Tony.

Despite the reported arrest warrants, the whereabouts of the Guptas remain unknown.

“Our borders should be urgently secured to prevent the Guptas from slipping through the net. It is unlikely that the Gupta family will sit and wait for their arrest,” DA leader Mmusi Maimane said.

There is a strong possibility that the Guptas will attempt to flee the country, if they have not done so already, said Maimane.

Since Zuma is deeply compromised and implicated in this matter through his well-known relationship with the Guptas and their joint state capture efforts, Deputy President Cyril Ramaphosa, as second in command, ought to take action in the best interests of the country, Maimane said.

Ramaphosa has been extremely vocal in condemning state capture and corruption, therefore he must act without delay, Maimane said.

Maimane called on South Africans who have information about the whereabouts of the Guptas to come forward and alert the authorities.

Kenya’s Odinga vows to inaugurate self as ‘peoples’ president’

Kenya Opposition leader Raila Odinga

Kenyan opposition leader Raila Odinga, whose National Super Alliance (NASA) contests the results of October’s re-run election, has defiantly vowed to inaugurate himself the “peoples” president’ at the end of January, if there is no dialogue beforehand with President Uhuru Kenyatta.

In an exclusive television interview Tuesday with VOA’s Swahili Service, Odinga denied criticism the threat to hold his own “inauguration ceremony” on January 30 is a tactic to negotiate for power with Kenyatta.

“So, we’re not using the swearing-in as a basis of negotiating with Uhuru Kenyatta. We have said in fact that we don’t want any stake in Uhuru Kenyatta government. We want to be the ones who are in government.”

Despite his tough words, Odinga said the opposition is seeking a dialogue with Kenyatta’s ruling Jubilee Party of Kenya. He said it wants to discuss five points with the Kenyan president – electoral justice, judicial independence, police reforms, devolution of power, and restructuring the executive in the constitution.

“As [for] Jubilee, if they have another item or agenda they want to put on the table, they are free to do so. We are ready to discuss. But, our agenda for swearing-in is not negotiable. We say that if we cannot talk by [the] 30th of … January we are going to be sworn in. And we will then release our program thereafter.”

Kenyatta has hinted at, but not yet agreed to dialogue. Kenya’s Attorney General Githu Muigai warned in December that any attempts to swear in Odinga as president would qualify as high treason, which is punishable by death.

‘Vote of no confidence’

Kenya was plunged into political crisis after last year’s presidential elections, which saw an initial poll voided by the Supreme Court and a second round in October boycotted by Odinga and his supporters.

Kenyatta won the second round with 98 percent of the vote. But, a low voter turnout – 39 percent – led many to question if 56-year-old Kenyatta has the mandate to lead, an uncertainty that 73-year-old Odinga has encouraged.

“So, that election was itself a vote of no confidence in Jubilee,” Odinga said Tuesday. “And, therefore it is even shameful that Uhuru Kenyatta can be claiming that he is the president of Kenya on the basis of the 26th of October elections.”

Kenya’s opposition leader may be defiant, but governance and politics analyst at Inter thoughts Consulting Jarvis Bigambo tells VOA he is running out of options. “Because the moment the Supreme Court of Kenya determined and pronounced itself on the issue of the conclusion of elections that were conducted on October 26, that matter sounded a death nail on the issues that the opposition could hop on.”

Bigambo says Odinga has no legal ground to stand on. “And that’s why their claim to that swearing in is that they want to swear in honorable Odinga as the ‘peoples’ president’ not as the bona fide president of the Republic of Kenya,” he said.

But Bigambo warns Odinga, who has no small measure of support in Kenya, should not be dismissed by the ruling party.

“It will also be very dangerous for Jubilee leadership – and here I’m speaking specifically to President Kenyatta – to undermine the political capital that honorable Odinga has. And, it behooves the president therefore to reach out and request the leadership of [Odinga’s party] NASA to be gracious, to be diligent, and to be focused on the progress – democratic progress – of Kenya,” Bigambo said.

The United States recognised the results of the October election, while calling for a national dialogue to address long-standing issues and deep divisions. The U.S. also urged opposition leaders to work within Kenya’s laws to pursue reforms and avoid extra-constitutional actions such as Odinga’s planned “inauguration ceremony.”

– Culled from VOA

Bitcoin, cryptocoins crash on regulation fears

Bitcoin, the best known of hundreds of ‘virtual’ coins, slumped Tuesday to a six-week low below $12,000 as analysts blamed a rush by various jurisdictions to regulate the sector.

The final weeks of last year were marked by bitcoin mania as the unit topped $20,000, but it lost some 20 percent in Tuesday trading which saw most of its fellow cryptocurrencies similarly wilt.

“Bitcoin has dropped below $12,000, a level not seen since early December. The cryptocurrency has fallen nearly 40 percent since its all-time high,” noted David Madden, market analyst with CMC Markets.

According to crypto exchange coinmarketcap.com, other major virtual currencies ethereum, ripple and bitcoin cash, a clone which split from the original last year, posted double-digit losses by early afternoon.

“Explaining moves in bitcoin is always tricky but this plunge … may well be a result of recent signs that regulatory pressures are building,” said Neil Wilson, analyst for ETX Capital, as several countries, notably China and South Korea, target a crackdown.

Last week saw prices sag after the South Korean government said it was planning to ban cryptocurrency exchanges — though it later backtracked — while Justice Minister Park Sang-Ki said Seoul was preparing a bill to shut down the country’s virtual coin exchanges to slam the brakes on a craze which “has started to resemble gambling and speculation.”

South Korea is a hotbed for cryptocurrency trading, accounting for some 20 percent of global bitcoin transactions, while much of the “mining” — computerised creation — of the coin units is undertaken in China.

“South Korea holds some of the world?s largest cryptocurrency exchanges, so a ban is expected to disrupt Bitcoin trading,” said a note from British consultancy Capital Economics, which also alluded to Chinese concerns of bitcoins’s effect on financial stability.

Lukman Otunuga, research analyst at FXTM forex forecaster, also blamed the market jitters on the political regulatory backdrop surrounding the sector, which topped $600 billion in market capitalisation in mid-December.

“Bitcoin was the talk across financial markets for all the wrong reasons on Tuesday, after prices tumbled sharply to their weakest level since early December,” said Otunuga, noting talk of tighter regulation “has effectively eroded investor appetite for bitcoin.

“With reports on a renewed crackdown on the cryptocurrency in China fueling anxiety over future restrictions, further losses could be on the cards in the near term,” added Otunuga, noting the latest wild ride in value “should remind investors on how explosively volatile and unpredictable” cryptocurrencies can be.

“One has to ask if Bitcoin is currently in the process of flickering violently before it burns out?”

South Africa to fund free university education

South Africa is pushing ahead with a plan to offer free university education to students from poor households and will announce funding details in next month’s budget, Finance Minister Malusi Gigaba said on Tuesday.

President Jacob Zuma said last month the government would bankroll the tuition without giving details of how it would be funded. The announcement rattled financial markets and critics said it was a populist promise that risked widening an already gaping budget deficit.

A government report and the treasury said the plan is unaffordable. Some critics also said the timing of the announcement, which came days before Zuma stepped down as leader of the ruling African National Congress, showed he no longer cared about fiscal responsibility.

Gigaba told reporters at a televised briefing in the capital Pretoria that costs estimates had been finalized and the plan would be implemented over eight years.

”The president found himself in an invidious position …. It is about how to manage the process and implement it in a sustainable manner without having to breach the fiscal expenditure ceiling,“ he said.”

“If the president had not acted this year to provide some funding it would have resulted in further protests,” he said.

Since 2015 protests by students demanding free education rocked campuses across the country, disrupting teaching and examinations and culminating in a march to Zuma’s offices in Pretoria that saw the president freeze tuition increases.

Uganda condemns rebel attack in DR Congo, say won’t be deterred

The Ugandan military on Tuesday condemned the Allied Democratic Forces (ADF) rebels attack on the armed forces of the Democratic Republic of the Congo (FARDC) that left three soldiers dead.

Ugandan military spokesperson Richard Karemire said that the ADF attack on Monday on FARDC’s Muzambay base in North Kivu Province is a desperate attempt to survive after Uganda People’s Defense Forces (UPDF) attacks and ongoing ground offensive by Congolese troops.

At least three FARDC soldiers were reportedly killed and five others wounded while repelling the ADF attack.

“The reported attacks by the ADF on friendly forces will not deter the regional efforts to wipe them,” said Karemire.

“UPDF will continue coordinating with FARDC in its operations against these enemies of peace,” he said.

The ADF attack came barely two days after the Congolese army had on Saturday announced an offensive against the rebel group, accused of killing 14 Tanzanian Blue Helmets and five FARDC soldiers, serving under the UN mission, last month.

ADF, which was originally based in western Uganda before fleeing to eastern DRC, has been accused of increased killings and massacres of troops and civilians, rape and abduction over the past three months in eastern DRC, according to Congolese authorities.

‘Eye-bleeding fever’ outbreak confirmed in Uganda

Uganda's health minister, Sarah Opendi

HEALTH bosses have confirmed they are facing an outbreak of the “eye-bleeding fever” after four people died of the suspected disease in weeks. Uganda’s health ministry also admitted it is facing the risk of a large-scale explosion of the viral hemorrhagic fever (VHF).

VHF causes victims to suffer a burning fever before beginning to bleed from orifices including their eyes, anuses and mouths.

It comes after a girl, nine, was reportedly killed by the infection Uganda, and three people died in neighbouring South Sudan of similar symptoms.

Uganda health minster Sarah Opendi confirmed emergency response teams are now being deployed to the districts of Nakaseke and Luweero.

She also identified the mystery disease, saying tests have revealed the infection is Crimean-Congo Hemorrhagic Fever (CCHF).

Today, health minister Opendi said: “Results from Uganda Virus Research Institute tested positive for the Crimean-Congo Hemorrhagic Fever and negative for other viral Hemorrhagic Fevers like Ebola, Marburg, Rift Valley Fever and Sosua.”The confirmation comes after just two weeks ago the Ugandan Health Ministry denied there was an outbreak.

Positive tests for CCHF came from samples taken from a 9-year-old paitent Kihwoko Hospital.

SARAH OPENDI: Uganda’s health minister confirmed a patient had tested positive for CCHF

“Results from Uganda Virus Research Institute tested positive for the Crimean-Congo Hemorrhagic Fever”

Sarah Opendi

Experts from the World Health Organisation (WHO) have already said they were monitoring for an outbreak after reports in South Sudan.

CCHF is spread to humans via tick bites or contact with raw meat and infected animal blood immediately after slaughter.

“CCHF outbreaks constitute a threat to public health services because of its epidemic potential, its high case fatality ratio (10-40%), its potential for nosocomial outbreaks and the difficulties in treatment and prevention,” WHO’s description of the virus reads.

WHO first raised fears of a VHF outbreak in central Africa with a report of a number of deaths in South Sudan.A pregnant woman, and two teenagers all succumbed to a mystery infection along with a number of animals.

However, it is not confirmed whether these deaths are also from CCHF or a separate similar strain of VHF.

Outbreak in the nation could be catastrophic – with South Sudan bordered by Sudan, Ethiopia, Kenya, Uganda, the Congo and the Central African Republic.

WHO warns of high cholera risk in Kinshasa

The World Health Organisation on Monday said there was a high risk of a cholera epidemic after flooding in Kinshasa, the teeming and ramshackle capital of the Democratic Republic of Congo.

“In a big city like Kinshasa, which has between 10 and 12 million inhabitants, the rains and the floods make the risk of a spread of this epidemic very high,” the WHO’s Africa director Matshidiso R. Moeti said at a press briefing.

Since a cholera outbreak was first reported in November, officials had registered “531 cases, with 32 deaths,” senior health ministry official Sylvain Yuma Ramazani told journalists.

The highly infectious disease, which thrives in conditions of poor sanitation and contaminated water or food, has spread to 21 of the 35 health zones into which Kinshasa is divided, and “the situation is serious,” Ramazani said.

The WHO announced that it has delivered 11 tonnes of medical supplies to the Congolese authorities, including antibiotics and products to treat dehydration.

The epicentre of the outbreak is Camp Luka, a poor neighbourhood in central Kinshasa, marked by overcrowding and the lack of both toilets and potable water.

Three-quarters of homes in Kinshasa are slums which have no access to sanitation or electricity, Corneille Kanene, former head of UN-Habitat, said last year.

The charity Medecins Sans Frontieres (MSF – Doctors Without Borders) last week set up one of its two treatment centres in Camp Luka.

Flooding in Kinshasa was caused by torrential rain during the night of January 3, which was followed by a second bout on January 7, claiming 48 lives, according to the authorities.

Beyond the capital, the latest cholera outbreak has affected 23 of the 26 provinces in the vast central African country since 2017, with “almost 50 000 cases and around 1 000 deaths”, MSF estimates.

Such figures make it the worst outbreak in DRC since 1994.

Catholic bishops urge fighters in Central Africa to lay down arms

Catholic bishops in the Central African Republic have appealed to armed groups controlling swathes of the chronically unstable country to stop looting and lay down their arms.

Mired in poverty but rich in minerals, the former French colony has been battered by a conflict between rival militias that began in 2013 after then president Francois Bozize was overthrown.

The bishops made the appeal during an episcopal conference in the capital Bangui on Sunday.

“In the name of God, we ask the armed groups to unconditionally lay down their arms,” and “stop all sorts of crimes (including) looting natural resources and causing the dysfunction of the state”, they said during mass.

The closing ceremony of the conference was attended by President Faustin-Archange Touadera.

The bishops also condemned the delay in disarming fighters from varied groups and “the slow response and inaction by some contingents of MINUSCA”, the UN peacekeeping force in the country.

Thousands of people have been killed in the fighting. According to the UN, more than a million people have fled their homes and 2.4 million people — more than half of the Central African population — are in need of humanitarian aid.

The country has seen an upsurge in violence since France shut down its Sangaris mission there last year, but the UN Security Council agreed in November to extend its MINUSCA peacekeeping mission for a year and beef it up with 900 extra troops.

The bishops called for the speedy deployment of government troops although they noted that the soldiers, like the various rebel groups, turned to extortion to supplement their income.

The army’s restructuring has been hobbled by a UN arms embargo in place since 2013. However the UN authorised Russia last month to deliver weapons to CAR and China got the go-ahead in October to supply military equipment.

FIFA says banned Ghanaian ref helped betting syndicate

Ghana's Joseph Lamptey during the World Cup qualifier game between Senegal and South Africa in 2016

FIFA says it banned Joseph Lamptey for life after the Ghanaian referee took decisions during a 2018 World Cup tie ‘to make certain bets successful.’ Joseph Lamptey Lamptey was sanctioned after notable errors in South Africa’s 2-1 World Cup qualifying win over Senegal in 2016.

“He (took) intentional decisions with the sole purpose of facilitating a minimum number of goals to make certain bets successful,” said Fifa.

Fifa believes the bets related to the game featuring at least two goals. Football’s world governing body has never given extensive details of the case before but says it decided to do so because of ‘its complex nature and various misconceptions.’

The game in Polokwane featured a contentious penalty converted by South Africa after 43 minutes when a Senegalese defender was adjudged to have handled the ball, despite replays showing it had hit Kalidou Koulibaly’s knee.

Fifa also believes Lamptey was at fault for South Africa’s second goal just two minutes later, stating that the Ghanaian ‘clearly took two wrong decisions, which led to two goals being scored by South Africa.’

“Suspicious betting activities reached their climax precisely when Lamptey took the incorrect refereeing decision between the 40th minute and the end of the first half,” added the Zurich-based organisation in a statement.

Fifa said it was alerted to possible match manipulation by five different betting monitoring companies who ‘independently and simultaneously reported’ that irregular betting activities had taken place.

Lamptey appealed his ban to the Court of Arbitration for Sport which ruled – in August 2017 – that Fifa’s sanction was appropriate prior to notifying the various parties of its decision last month.

Culled from Nigerian Vanguard