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25 years later, South Africans are still not free, Ramaphosa says

Between 2011 and 2015, three million South Africans have fallen into poverty, according to the World Bank.

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freedom day
South Africa President Cyril Ramaphosa (C) addresses the crowd gathered at the Miki Yili Stadium, Makhanda, Eastern Cape Province. (Photo by Michele Spatari / AFP)

A quarter of a century after the end of the apartheid in South Africa many people remain trapped in poverty, in part because of rampant corruption, President Cyril Ramaphosa said Saturday.

“We cannot be a nation of free people when so many still live in poverty,” Ramaphosa said at a ceremony in Makhanda, formerly Grahamstown, in the south of the country.

“We cannot be a nation of free people when so many live without enough food, without proper shelter, without access to quality health care, without a means to earn a living,” he added.

“We cannot be a nation of free people when funds meant for the poor are wasted, lost or stolen (…) when there is still corruption within our own country.”

Ramaphosa was speaking 25 years to the day that black South Africans — who make up three quarters of the population — finally got to vote in the country’s first democratic elections. In South Africa, April 27 is known as Freedom Day.

That election brought to an end three centuries of white rule and the apartheid regime that had been in place since 1948.

“Bound by a common cause, we fought apartheid together and triumphed,” said Ramaphosa.

“We are gathered here to celebrate the day we won our freedom.

“We remember the moment we placed a cross on a ballot paper for the first time in our lives,” he added, paying homage to Nelson Mandela, the anti-apartheid campaigner who was elected South Africa’s first black president in 1994.

But, he added: “Ours is still a deeply unequal country.

“There are great divisions between rich and poor… between those with jobs and those who are unemployed.”

Ramaphosa is head of the African National Congress (ANC), the party that has been in power since the end of apartheid.

He took over as president in 2018 from Jacob Zuma, who was forced to resign as a result of a number of corruption scandals.

Elections looming

Despite the emergence of a middle class in South Africa, the continent’s economic powerhouse, 20 percent of black households still live in dire poverty, compared with only 2.9 percent of white households, according to the Institute of Race Relations.

Between 2011 and 2015, three million South Africans have fallen into poverty, according to the World Bank.

And the unemployment rate in South Africa currently stands at 27 percent, compared with 20 percent in 1994.

“As we celebrate 25 years of democracy, we need to focus all our attention and efforts on ensuring that all South Africans can equally experience the economic and social benefits of freedom,” Ramaphosa told the crowd.

The president was speaking ahead of the May 8 legislative and provincial elections, in which the ANC looks likely to keep its parliamentary majority, according to the latest opinion polls.

But for some in the audience at Makhanda, Ramaphosa’s message hit home.

“There’s no such thing as freedom,” said local resident 31-year-old Vuyiswa. “We’re still in apartheid.

“We are unemployed, no house, no water. We are really struggling,” she added.

“Older women have to go poo in buckets and throw them outside at night. It’s not safe.”

In Cape Town meanwhile, Archbishop Emeritus Desmond Tutu, celebrated the anniversary by attending an exhibition and book launch of notable photographs of his life, which have been turned into paintings.

Tutu won the 1984 Nobel Peace Prize for his role as a unifying figure fighting the apartheid regime.

East Africa News & Stories

Court in Kenya convicts 3 over involvement in Garissa massacre

The Garissa massacre was the second-bloodiest terror attack in Kenya’s history

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Court in Kenya convicts 3 over Garissa massacre | News Central TV
Suspects Hassan Aden Hassan, Mohamed Ali Abdikar, Rashid Charles Mberesero and Sahal Diriye sit in the dock as they wait for the verdict where they were charged with helping those who carried out the attack on Garissa University in 2015; at the Milimani Law Courts in Nairobi, Kenya June 19, 2019. REUTERS/Baz Ratner

A Nairobi court on Wednesday found three men guilty of abetting Somali jihadists who carried out a 2015 attack on Garissa University in northeast Kenya in which 148 people were killed.

A fourth individual was acquitted, Judge Francis Andayi said, adding that sentencing will be handed down on July 3.

The April 2, 2015 attack was carried out by four gunmen from Al-Shabaab, a Somali jihadist group linked to Al-Qaeda.

Firing their weapons, they stormed the students’ hall of residence at dawn.  

They first separated the victims according to their religion, letting Muslims go but keeping and then killing the others, most of whom were Christians.

It was the second-bloodiest terror attack in Kenya’s history, surpassed only by al-Qaeda’s bombing of the US embassy in Nairobi in 1998 that killed 213 people.

Andayi said the three — Kenyans Mohamed Ali Abikar, Hassan Aden Hassan and Rashid Charles Mberesero, a Tanzanian — “were members of the Al-Shabaab terrorist group whose members carried out the attack”.

Prosecutors had proven “beyond reasonable doubt” that they were involved in a conspiracy for “committing a terrorist act,” he said.

A fourth person, Sahal Diriye Hussein, was acquitted. In January, the court also acquitted a university guard who was accused of taking pictures during the assault — an allegation for which no evidence had been produced, the judge found.

During the trial, prosecutors placed 22 witnesses on the stand, most of them student survivors.

They also showed evidence that the three had been in contact with the gunmen, especially by telephone.

Mberesero, the Tanzanian, had been also been seen on the university campus three days before the attack, and on the day of the attack itself had been found under a bed in the hall of residence and was unable to explain why he was there, prosecutors said.

The three convictions are the first to result from a long-running investigation and prosecution.

All four gunmen were killed by security forces. The operation’s suspected ringleader, Mohamed Mohamud, also named “Kuno,” a former professor at a Koranic school in Garissa, was killed in southwestern Somalia in 2016.

The Shabaab said he had been killed by “US crusaders”.

Ruthless jihadists –

The Shabaab were chased out of Mogadishu in 2011 by the 22,000-strong African Union peace-enforcement mission, AMISOM.

They nevertheless control vast rural areas and remain the key threat to peace in Somalia. 

The group is fighting to overthrow the internationally backed government in Mogadishu but also regularly carries out attacks in neighbouring Kenya, which has troops in Somalia as part of AMISOM.

In September 2013, the Shabaab claimed responsibility for a dramatic raid on the Westgate shopping mall in Nairobi that killed 67 people over a four-day siege.

In June-July 2014 around 100 people were killed in raids in the coastal Lamu region in Kenya’s northeast, home of a once-popular tourist island.

In January 2016, the Shabaab overran a Kenyan army outpost at El-Adde in southern Somalia. Some estimates say that as many as 180 soldiers died.

And on January 15 this year, 21 people were killed and 28 injured when five Shabaab gunmen attacked the DusitD2 hotel and office complex in Nairobi.

The security response to Garissa was strongly criticised by many Kenyans. 

It took 16 hours for a special anti-terror unit to bring the attack to an end, their deployment slowed by a senior police officer who had commandeered the force’s plane for a family excursion.

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East Africa News & Stories

United States to ban corrupt Kenyans from entering country

“You cannot allow somebody to steal Sh20 billion and fine them Sh10 billion.” -McCarter

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United States to ban corrupt Kenyans from entering country
(File photo)

Kenyans who have been implicated in corruption will not be granted entry into the United States, Ambassador Kyle McCarter has announced.

Speaking in Nairobi on Saturday, McCarter also said that their children and kin will not be allowed to travel or study in the US.

While speaking during the Junior Achievement Organization 100 year’s celebration, McCarter said that it is quite unfortunate that top government officials went unpunished after embezzling billions of shillings, while ordinary Kenyans are jailed over petty offenses.

“You cannot allow somebody to steal Sh20 billion and fine them Sh10 billion. We deal with thieves in a very brutal way, not even according to the law,” said McCarter.

“Somehow, we tolerate the theft of billions in Kenya. If we stop tolerating thievery, Kenya will be a shining star for democracy and prosperity in Africa.”

The ambassador further said that corruption prevents the country from achieving its development goals, including President Uhuru’s big four agenda.

“The cost of this is the same cost ironically as the Big Four. It could become a reality if we got rid of thievery.”

McCarter assured that Kenyan authorities had the full support of the US government in the fight against graft.

He also decried the high level of unemployment in the country and the slow growth of Kenya’s economy.

“We have a group of young people that are bitter and if we do not do anything, other people will employ them to harm,” McCarter added. 

US ambassador Kyle McCarter has been outspoken in his condemnation of what he has called “thievery”.

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North Africa

Turkey’s Erdogan claims ex-Egyptian president was killed

“Mohammed Morsi was on the ground of courtroom flailing for 20 minutes. The officials present there failed to intervene.” -Erdogan

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Turkey's Erdogan claims ex-Egyptian president was killed
Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan. Serhat Cagdas / Anadolu Agency

Turkish President, Recep Tayyip Erdogan has claimed that Egypt’s former president, Mohammed Morsi, who collapsed in court and later died, did not die of natural causes but that he was killed.

Erdogan, while giving a speech in Istanbul, cited as evidence that the deposed Egyptian president allegedly “flailed” in a Cairo courtroom for 20 minutes on Monday and nobody came to his assistance.

On Wednesday, the Turkish president said: “Unfortunately, Mohammed Morsi was on the ground of courtroom flailing for 20 minutes. The officials present there failed to intervene. Morsi did not (die) naturally, he was killed.”

Erdogan said his country would do everything in its power to ensure Egypt faces trial in Morsi’s death. He also called on the Islamic Cooperation Organization to “take the necessary action” over the death of Morsi.

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