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South Africa vows to tackle xenophobic attacks against foreigners

Five deaths — most of them, South Africans — have been reported, police said, adding that 189 people had been arrested

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President Ramaphosa of South Africa talks tough on fighting gender violence
South African President Cyril Ramaphosa. (Photo by Fabrice COFFRINI / AFP)

Five people have been killed in a surge of xenophobic violence in South Africa, police said on Tuesday, as President Cyril Ramaphosa vowed to clamp down and the African Union, Nigeria and Zambia condemned the attacks.

Hordes of people — some armed with axes and machetes — gathered in Johannesburg’s central business district for a third day of unrest directed against foreigners, hours after mobs burned and looted shops in the township of Alexandra, prompting police to fire rubber bullets to disperse them.

Five deaths — most of them, South Africans — have been reported, police said, adding that 189 people had been arrested.

In a video address broadcast on Twitter, Ramaphosa said attacks on businesses run by “foreign nationals is something totally unacceptable, something that we cannot allow to happen in South Africa.”

READ: Nigerian President sends special envoy to South Africa over xenophobic attacks

“I want it to stop immediately,” said Ramaphosa, adding that the violence had “no justification.”

Sporadic violence against foreign-owned stores and enterprises has a long history in South Africa, where many locals blame immigrants for high unemployment.

The country is a major destination for economic migrants from neighbouring Lesotho, Mozambique and Zimbabwe. Others come from much farther away, including South Asia and Nigeria, Africa’s most populous country.

Gavin Booldchand, who lives in Coronationville, a low-income suburb west of Johannesburg, said he witnessed one of the killings on Tuesday, which was blamed on a Pakistani store owner.

“The owner of the shop shot him straight into the face,” Booldchand told reporters.

“He didn’t have to shoot the guy like that you know. People are taking our jobs and stuff (and) it is our country after all.”

This week’s assaults appear on a greater scale than in the past, although the full details remain unclear. 

“They burned everything,” Bangladeshi shop owner Kamrul Hasan, 27, told reporters in Alexandra, adding that his shop gets attacked every three to six months.

“All my money is gone. If the (South African) government pays for my plane ticket, I will go back to Bangladesh,” he said.

READ: Nigeria promises to act against xenophobic attacks in South Africa

The violence and looting of shops occurred in Johannesburg and surrounding areas. 

Similar incidents occurred in the capital Pretoria on Monday, when local media reported shacks and shops burning in the Marabastad — a central business area largely populated by economic migrants.

Nigerian anger –

Nigeria summoned its South African ambassador to express “displeasure over the treatment of her citizens” and said it would dispatch a special envoy.

Several Nigerians used social media to call for a boycott of South African companies, including telecoms provider MTN, satellite television service DSTV and retailer Shoprite.   

Separately, African Union chairperson, Moussa Faki condemned the violence “in the strongest terms” but said he was encouraged “by arrests already made by the South African authorities”.

Zambia has cancelled an international friendly football match which was slated for Lusaka next weekend against South Africa.

“This is because of the security concerns, you never know what can happen,” Football Association of Zambia (FAZ) secretary-general Adrian Kashala, told reporters.

“We want to be sure of the security of (the) visiting team”.

The attacks on foreign stores began a day after South African truckers started a nationwide strike on Sunday to protest against the employment of foreign drivers. They blocked roads and torched foreign-driven vehicles mainly in the southwestern KwaZulu-Natal province.

Deputy President David Mabuza condemned all attacks on foreign nationals.

READ: Police arrests several shop looters in South Africa

“We are a nation founded on the values of ubuntu (humanity) as espoused by our founding father, President Nelson Mandela… we should always resist the temptation of being overwhelmed by hatred,” he said in Cape Town on Tuesday.

Sickly economy –

The violence erupted ahead of a meeting of the World Economic Forum on Africa in Cape Town, where hundreds of political and business leaders will gather for three days from Wednesday.

David Makhura, the premier of Johannesburg’s Gauteng province, said rioting was not a solution. 

“This issue can be dealt with without resorting to xenophobia,” Makhura told reporters. “There is no country that does not have foreign nationals.”

Opposition parties pinned the blame on the ruling African National Congress.

“South Africans are scared and lack real hope for the future,” said Mmusi Maimane, leader of the Democratic Alliance, South Africa’s official opposition.

“We are seeing economic and social collapse in action.”

Ramaphosa took office after elections in May that he won on a platform of reviving the country’s economy and boost employment.

READ: Police arrest truckers for anti-foreigner protests in South Africa

But in July, the national statistics office said joblessness had reached 29 per cent — the highest since the country’s quarterly labour force survey was introduced 11 years earlier.

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Anti-graft agency seizes NFF chiefs’ properties in Nigeria

Rasheedat Okoduwa said “many officials of the NFF are under investigation

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Senior NFF officials under investigation
Courtesy: NFF - thenff.com

Nigerian authorities on Monday seized a dozen properties from senior officials of Nigeria’s top football body, including its president Amaju Pinnick, in a fresh corruption probe.

Agents of the Independent Corrupt Practices Commission (ICPC) took over 12 properties – half belonging to Pinnick, including a property in London — in the latest investigation to target senior officials of the Nigerian Football Federation (NFF), accused of laundering millions of dollars.

ICPC spokesperson Rasheedat Okoduwa said “many officials of the NFF are under investigation. What they have is in excess of what they have earned.”

NFF bosses led by Pinnick are currently under three separate corruption probes, including a 17-count charge in courts ranging from failure to declare assets and embezzling $8.4 million (7.5 million euros) paid to the federation by world football governing body FIFA.

The case continues on September 26.

In a separate case, Pinnick, general secretary Mohammed Sanusi and three NFF accountants have also been charged to court over an alleged theft of over $10 million in grants from both FIFA and the African Football Confederation (CAF),  meant for the development of football in Nigeria.

In July, CAF sacked Pinnick as vice president of the body following the charges against him, which he denied, with the NFF branding the investigations a “witch-hunt.”

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Kenya becomes 3rd country to adopt world’s first malaria vaccine, RTS,S

Kenya, which joins Malawi and Ghana, earlier this year, commenced their own pilot vaccination programmes supported by the WHO

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Kenya becomes 3rd country to adopt world's first malaria vaccine, RTS,S

Kenya on Friday became the third country to start routinely innoculating infants against malaria, using the world’s first vaccine to combat a disease that kills 800 children globally every day.

The vaccine — RTS,S — targets the deadliest and most common form of malaria parasite in Africa, where children under five account for two-thirds of all global deaths from the mosquito-born illness.

Kenya, which is rolling-out RTS,S in the western county of Homa Bay, joins Malawi and Ghana, which, earlier this year, commenced their own pilot vaccination programmes supported by the World Health Organization (WHO).

“This is the most advanced malaria vaccine that we have today. It has been in the making for the last almost three decades,” Dr Richard Mihigo, WHO’s co-ordinator of immunisation and vaccine development programme, told reporters before the Kenyan launch, which will expand to other malaria-prone areas of the country.

“Children are the most vulnerable group to this severe disease that is malaria, so protecting children can make a big impact in preventing malaria.”

The vaccine will be added in these pilot areas to the other routine shots given to young children under national immunisation schedules.

RTS,S acts against ‘Plasmodium falciparum’, the deadliest form of malaria, and the most prevalent in Africa, where illness and death from the disease remains high despite some gains.

The shots, administered over four doses, have been shown in clinical trials to significantly reduce cases of malaria, and malaria-related complications, in young children.

The vaccine prevented about 4 in 10 cases of malaria and three in 10 cases of the most severe, life-threatening form of the disease, within the trial group, WHO says.

RTS,S will be considered for use more broadly as a tool to fight malaria, alongside other preventative measures such as long-lasting insecticidal nets.

The disease kills more than 400,000 people around the world every year. Of these about 290,000 were children under five. 

WHO says a child dies roughly every two minutes from malaria somewhere in the world. 

Most of these are in Africa, where more than 90 per cent of the world’s malaria cases — and fatalities — occur.

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Tunisia decides: Voters head to polls in test on democracy

Tunisia has been praised as a rare success story for democratic transition after the Arab Spring regional uprisings

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Tunisia decides: Voters head to polls in test on democracy
Tunisians walk in front of posters of presidential candidates in the capital Tunis, on September 7, 2019. (Photo by FETHI BELAID / AFP)

Tunisia will hold on Sunday its second free presidential election by universal suffrage since the 2011 uprising that toppled an autocratic regime, with growing uncertainty over who will reach the next round.

Twenty-six candidates are in the race, including the incumbent prime minister and a media magnate who was arrested just weeks before the polls, as well as a presidential hopeful put forth by an Islamist-inspired party.

Seven million voters are expected to head to the ballot box after a campaign that largely focussed on social and economic challenges that have plagued the country’s fledgeling democracy.

“There are favourites and everything is possible, but even God cannot predict the results of the first round, let alone what will happen next,” columnist Ziyed Krichen said.

Political analyst Hatem Mrad agreed. “This election is really one of uncertainties,” he said.

Tunisia has been praised as a rare success story for democratic transition after the Arab Spring regional uprisings sparked by its 2011 revolution.

Three years later, it held its first post-revolution election, during which the political fault lines were clear, said Mrad, with Islamists squaring off against modernists.

But this time around, the differences are huge, with a plethora of candidates — Islamists, secularists, populists and partisans of the toppled regime — political programmes and issues, he added.

Preliminary results are expected to be announced by the electoral commission on September 17, but the date of the second round, which will decide the presidency, is not yet known.

Heavyweights –

Heavyweight candidates include Prime Minister Youssef Chahed and his nemesis Nabil Karoui, the media magnate arrested on charges of money laundering just three weeks before the election.

Tunisia decides: Voters head to polls in test on democracy
Prime Minister of Tunisia, Youssef Chahed speaks during a meeting ahead of the upcoming presidential elections, in Tunis, Tunisia on September 02, 2019. Yassine Gaidi / Anadolu Agency

Karoui’s supporters accuse Chahed of orchestrating his arrest, a charge denied by the ambitious prime minister who became the country’s youngest-ever head of government in 2016 at age 40.

A controversial businessman, Karoui has built his popularity by using his own Nessma television channel to launch charity campaigns, handing out food aid to some of the country’s poorest.

On Wednesday, the jailed candidate started a hunger strike, according to a member of his defence team, Ridha Belhaj.

Studies suggest that his arrest boosted his popularity, and observers say that if Karoui makes it to the second round of voting, it will be hard for authorities to justify keeping him behind bars without a trial. 

Tunisia decides: Voters head to polls in test on democracy
Nabil Karaoui, founder of Nessma TV, poses in his studio in Tunis. – The Independent High Authority for Audiovisual Communication (HAICA), created in 2012 to reform the audiovisual landscape, fails to impose its decisions on media outlets with political support. With the elections approaching, however, measures were taken against Nessma TV, one of the country’s major private broadcasters, which was accused of “political advertising” for its founder Nabil Karoui. (Photo by Fethi Belaid / AFP)

Also in the race is lawyer Abdelfattah Mourou, 71, who was selected to run by the Islamist-inspired Ennahdha party, and Mohammed Abbou, who was imprisoned under the ousted regime of Zine El Abidine Ben Ali.

Candidates also include former defence minister Abdelkarim Zbidi, a technocrat who said he would “restart the social ladder” and make public services accessible to all Tunisians, if elected.

Two women are also eyeing the presidency, including Abir Moussi, a staunch anti-Islamist lawyer and champion of Ben Ali’s regime.

Tunisia decides: Voters head to polls in test on democracy
Ennahdha Party’s Candidate for the presidential election in Tunisia Abdelfattah Mourou (C) holds a press conference regarding his election pledges ahead of the Tunisia’s presidential election which is slated for September 15, in Tunis, Tunisia on September 9, 2019. Yassine Gaidi / Anadolu Agency

Social challenges – 

The presidential campaign wraps up on Friday, but none of the candidates appears to have stood out despite squaring off in multiple debates that were broadcast on radio and television.

Around two to three million Tunisians are believed to have tuned in to three major debates, during which candidates were asked to respond to questions drawn randomly.

The economic and social hardships that undermine Tunisia’s transition to democracy took centre stage during the campaign.

The country, hit by terrorist attacks against its key tourism sector and security forces, has struggled to combat unemployment and bring down inflation.

Unemployment in Tunisia is at 15 per cent, while the cost of living has increased by more than 30 per cent since 2016.

The election was brought forward from November after the death in July of Beji Caid Essebsi, Tunisia’s first president democratically elected in nationwide polls in 2014.

It will be followed by legislative elections, due to take place on October 6.

Some of the 26 hopefuls have called for the president’s powers to be beefed up in Tunisia, which has a parliamentary system.

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