South African president to testify over farm theft scandal

South African president to testify over farm theft scandal
South Africa President Cyril Ramaphosa looks on during a joint media conference in Pretoria, South Africa, May 24, 2022. (AP)
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Updated 07 June 2022

South African president to testify over farm theft scandal

South African president to testify over farm theft scandal
  • The party is expected to nominate its candidate for the 2024 national election in the next few months

JOHANNESBURG: Embroiled in a burglary scandal, South African President Cyril Ramaphosa will appear before his party’s Integrity Commission, the ruling African National Congress (ANC) said Monday.
The ANC “welcomed and commended the decision by the president to voluntarily present himself to the ANC Integrity Commission,” it said in a statement, without specifying a date.
Dogged by political infighting, the ANC is trying to overhaul itself by stamping out corruption, with members facing criminal proceedings being systematically suspended.
The party is expected to nominate its candidate for the 2024 national election in the next few months.
Since last week, Ramaphosa, 69, has been weakened by accusations that he was complicit in buying the silence of burglars who stumbled on large sums of money at one of his properties.
The case began in February 2020, according to the complaint filed Wednesday at a Johannesburg police station by former South African intelligence chief Arthur Fraser.
Robbers allegedly broke into Ramaphosa’s Phala Phala farm in the northeast of the country where they found $4 million in cash hidden in furniture.
Ramaphosa himself has disputed the sum of money in question, but accepted that he buys and sells animals “sometimes through cash sometimes through transfers.”
“I’ve never stolen money from anywhere and I will never do so. I have never stolen from taxpayers,” Ramaphosa added.
The case accuses Ramaphosa of concealing the theft from police and the tax authorities.
It sensationally alleges that the president then “paid” the burglars “for their silence.”
Fraser, who said he provided police with “photos, bank accounts, names and videos,” accused Ramaphosa of obstruction of justice and organizing for the suspects to be kidnapped, interrogated on his property and paid off.
In the past, members of the ANC have been removed from office following the Integrity Commission’s recommendations.


Agency donates breathing devices for premature babies to Ukraine

Updated 10 sec ago

Agency donates breathing devices for premature babies to Ukraine

Agency donates breathing devices for premature babies to Ukraine
GENEVA: Global health aid agency Unitaid is donating 220 specialized portable breathing devices to Ukraine that can help save lives of premature babies even in frontline hospitals where there is no electrical power.
Russia’s invasion of Ukraine on Feb. 24 has seen hundreds of hospitals damaged or destroyed, disrupting supply lines and placing newborn babies at risk of death or disability from a lack of access to equipment and oxygen.
Herve Verhoosel, spokesperson for Unitaid, told a media briefing that the war was causing extra stress on pregnant women, leading to an increase in the number of premature births, which had tripled in some areas.
The new bubble nasal continuous positive airway pressure (bCPAP) devices are now available in 25 facilities across Ukraine, Verhoosel said.
Unitaid funds medical innovation programs mainly in poor countries, and is hosted by the World Health Organization.
WHO spokesperson Margaret Harris said that on a recent visit to a paediatric hospital close to the frontline in Ukraine she had seen medical staff who sleep in the basement every night, and constantly have to move children on ventilation machines.
“So having very portable devices that can function offline is absolutely critical,” she told the briefing.
Unitaid partnered with Vayu Global Health, a non-profit that specializes in low-cost health care equipment for developing countries, to provide the Kenya-made bCPAP machines, which cost around $500 each, as well as 125 oxygen blender systems.

A British-Muslim mother has been fatally shot while holidaying in South Africa

A British-Muslim mother has been fatally shot while holidaying in South Africa
Updated 38 min 2 sec ago

A British-Muslim mother has been fatally shot while holidaying in South Africa

A British-Muslim mother has been fatally shot while holidaying in South Africa
  • Fatima Issa, a 47-year-old mother of 4, was visiting family and friends in Johannesburg
  • Confusion surrounds the circumstances of her death

LONDON: A British-Muslim mother of four has been shot dead by an apparent stray bullet while visiting family and friends in Johannesburg.

Fatima Issa, a 47-year-old school teacher from Leicester, was with her daughter Humairah, 19, in a house on the Meyersdal View Estate in the city when she was shot.

Confusion surrounds the circumstances of her death. Issa’s husband Fayaz, who remained in Britain with their three other children, was informed that the gunshot was fired by someone playing with a loaded gun when it was discharged.

But Yusuf Abramjee, an anti-crime advocate, said a relative was cleaning the gun it when it fired.

Abramjee later said the pistol “went off accidentally when a family member was showing it to a third person,” although the case remains under investigation by the police.

Paramedics rushed to the scene of the shooting, but Issa died soon after. South African police have yet to comment on the cause of death.

Issa’s brother Ebrahim Lambat took to Facebook to mourn her loss: “Request duas (prayers) for my sister Fatima Issa. She has returned to the mercy of Allah.”


Mounting proof of crimes against humanity in Myanmar: UN probe

Mounting proof of crimes against humanity in Myanmar: UN probe
Updated 37 min 31 sec ago

Mounting proof of crimes against humanity in Myanmar: UN probe

Mounting proof of crimes against humanity in Myanmar: UN probe
  • Investigators claim women and children are particularly being targeted
  • Myanmar’s military seized power on February 1 last year, ousting the civilian government

GENEVA: UN investigators on Tuesday reported mounting evidence of crimes against humanity, including murder, torture and sexual violence, committed in Myanmar since last year’s military coup.
The United Nations’ Independent Investigative Mechanism for Myanmar (IIMM) said women and children were particularly being targeted.
“There are ample indications that since the military takeover in February 2021, crimes have been committed in Myanmar on a scale and in a manner that constitutes a widespread and systematic attack against a civilian population,” the investigators said in a statement.
Myanmar’s military seized power on February 1 last year, ousting the civilian government and arresting de facto leader Aung San Suu Kyi.
The junta has waged a bloody crackdown on dissent, with the violence leaving more than 2,100 civilians dead and nearly 15,000 arrested, according to a local monitoring group.
The investigation team warned in its annual report that over the 12 months to the end of June, “the scope of potential international crimes taking place in Myanmar has broadened dramatically.”
The IIMM was established by the UN Human Rights Council in September 2018 to collect evidence of the most serious international crimes and prepare files for criminal prosecution.
It cooperates with the International Court of Justice and the International Criminal Court among others.
“Perpetrators of these crimes need to know that they cannot continue to act with impunity,” said IIMM chief Nicholas Koumjian.
The report said that according to the evidence collected, “Sexual and gender-based crimes, including rape and other forms of sexual violence, and crimes against children have been perpetrated by members of the security forces and armed groups.”
Koumjian said the investigators were focusing in particular on crimes committed against women and children, which are “among the gravest international crimes, but they are also historically under-reported and under-investigated.”
Children in Myanmar had been killed, tortured and arbitrarily detained, including as proxies for their parents, the report found.
They had also been subjected to sexual violence and conscripted and trained by security forces and armed groups.
The team, which has never been permitted to visit Myanmar, said it had nonetheless now collected nearly three million “information items,” including interview statements, documents, photographs and geospatial imagery.
The investigators said the evidence they had collected indicated that “several armed conflicts are ongoing and intensifying on the territory of Myanmar.”
They said they were drawing up case files on specific incidents of war crimes committed in the context of those armed conflicts, including intentional attacks directed at civilians, indiscriminate killings and the widespread burning of villages and towns.
Other UN experts and the IIMM itself had already warned that war crimes and crimes against humanity were being committed.
But on Tuesday, the investigators cautioned that more and more regions were becoming engulfed in the violence, and that “the nature of the potential criminality is also expanding.”
They pointed to the junta’s execution of four political prisoners last month, marking the first executions in the country in decades.
The IIMM also highlighted the ongoing plight of Myanmar’s Muslim Rohingya minority, five years after a bloody 2017 crackdown that resulted in the displacement of nearly a million people.
Most of the around 850,000 Rohingya who were driven into camps in neighboring Bangladesh are still there, while another 600,000 are in Myanmar’s Rakhine state.
“While the Rohingya consistently express their desire for a safe and dignified return to Myanmar, this will be very difficult to achieve unless there is accountability for the atrocities committed against them, including through prosecutions of the individuals most responsible for those crimes,” Koumjian said.
Last month, the International Court of Justice in The Hague threw out objections from Myanmar’s military rulers and decided to hear a landmark case accusing the country of genocide against the Rohingya.


UK issues new ‘extreme heat’ warning for England and Wales

UK issues new ‘extreme heat’ warning for England and Wales
The amber warning — the second-most severe after red — will be in place from Thursday through to the end of Sunday. (AFP)
Updated 48 min 10 sec ago

UK issues new ‘extreme heat’ warning for England and Wales

UK issues new ‘extreme heat’ warning for England and Wales
  • Temperatures are expected to peak at 35 Celsius (95 Fahrenheit) on Friday and may hit 36C in some places on Saturday

LONDON: Britain’s weather service on Tuesday issued an amber “Extreme Heat” warning for parts of England and Wales, with no respite in sight from hot dry conditions that have sparked fires, broken temperature records and strained the nation’s infrastructure.
The amber warning — the second-most severe after red — will be in place from Thursday through to the end of Sunday and means that people vulnerable to extreme heat could face adverse health effects, the UK Met Office said.
Temperatures are expected to peak at 35 Celsius (95 Fahrenheit) on Friday and may hit 36C in some places on Saturday.
The warning follows the driest July for England since 1935, when temperatures rose above 40C for the first time, turning a renewed spotlight to the impacts of climate change.
Other European nations have also faced a scorching heatwave in recent weeks with temperatures often exceeding 40C.
Britain, which is less used to such high temperatures, has struggled to cope.
July’s heatwave caused power outages, damaged airport runways, buckled rail tracks and ignited dozens of blazes in London, where the fire brigade faced its busiest week since World War Two.
Several water companies have since imposed usage restrictions and supermarkets have limited sales of disposable BBQs that firefighters warn can set light to tinder-dry grass. Ambulance services have received hundreds of calls from patients facing breathing difficulties, dizziness and fainting.
The amber warning, which follows Britain’s first-ever red “Extreme Heat” warning in July, covers much of the southern half of England and parts of eastern Wales.
Scientists have said the July heatwave was made at least 10 times more likely because of climate change.


French government moots law change to expel imam

French government moots law change to expel imam
Updated 09 August 2022

French government moots law change to expel imam

French government moots law change to expel imam
  • Moroccan Hassan Iquioussen faces court battle to remain in France amid accusations of extremism

LONDON: The French government has confirmed its determination to combat radical Islamism, with a senior minister saying he is prepared to change the law to remove an imam who has been accused of extremism, The Times reported.

Interior Minister Gerald Darmanin said preacher Hassan Iquioussen is an enemy of the country and had “no place” in France.

Iquioussen, 58, has come under fire from the French political establishment and the government for his preaching, with his sermons on YouTube attracting tens of millions of views.

Darmanin said he will not allow the law to prevent him from deporting Iquioussen, who is Moroccan but has lived all his life in France. The imam has five children in the country and 15 grandchildren.

The war of words between Iquioussen and the government has been central to President Emmanuel Macron’s campaign to tackle radical Islamism. Macron has repeatedly said preachers such as Iquioussen reject French laws and values.

Darmanin announced the intended expulsion of Iquiossen “by force” last week after Morocco confirmed it had authorized his travel to the North African nation, but the plans were stopped when Iquioussen secured a legal block on his removal.

An administrative court in Paris ruled that the expulsion was a “disproportionate infringement … of (Iquioussen’s) right to a private and family life.”

Macron’s government has accused the French left of using human rights law to defend Islamists such as Iquiossen.

Darmanin has relaunched the government’s legal efforts to deport the preacher, appealing against the injunction at the State Council, France’s highest administrative court.

He told the French press that if the deportation is approved, “all French people” will support it. He added that he will change the law to remove Iquioussen if the courts block the appeal.

Darmanin also confirmed media reports that French security and intelligence agencies had lodged Iquioussen as an allegedly dangerous radical 18 months ago.

“This imam … uses antisemitic language. He denies equality between men and women. He denies genocides. He calls for terrorist attacks in France to be considered as conspiracies,” Darmanin said. “The enemies of the Republic have no place in the republic.”

Iquioussen has posted on Facebook that he “strongly contested” the allegations that he has used “discriminatory or violent language.”

His supporters say Darmanin’s use of Iquioussen’s language is dated and taken out of context.

Defending the preacher, they point out that he has said: “We have never had, and have, nothing against Jews because Islam is a religion based on justice.”