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South Africa: Voters cast votes in test for ruling ANC

Early results will emerge on Thursday with an official winner declared on Saturday.

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South Africa: Voters cast votes in test for ruling ANC
South African ruling party African National Congress President and South Africa's President Cyril Ramaphosa gestures as he delivers a speech on stage at the Ellis Park stadium in Johannesburg, on May 5, 2019 for the final campaign rally of the party ahead of May 8th general elections. (Photo by GIANLUIGI GUERCIA / AFP)

South Africans began voting on Wednesday in national elections which the ruling ANC, in power since 1994, is favourite to win despite corruption scandals, sluggish economic growth and record unemployment.

The ANC has won all five previous elections, and is tipped to come out on top again albeit with a reduced majority.

But the vote will be a test of whether its new leader, President Cyril Ramaphosa, can reverse growing dissatisfaction among South African voters.

“This is the first time that I am voting so I am happy to vote. Most of the people are not voting because they are afraid,” said Lala Rosetta Ramaoka, 21, before she cast her ballot at the Mponegele Primary School in Seshego, eastern Limpopo province.

Ramaphosa took over from corruption-accused Jacob Zuma who oversaw the ANC’s most significant drop in support since 1994.

He acknowledged on the eve of the election that “we are humble enough to admit our mistakes. We have taken decisive steps to fight corruption”.

The election comes 25 years after Nelson Mandela led the African National Congress to power in the country’s first multi-racial vote which marked the end of apartheid.

Support for the ANC has fallen in every election since 2004 with the party winning 54 percent in 2016 local elections, compared with 62 percent in 2014’s national vote.

Ramaphosa, 66, took office last year when Zuma was forced to resign as president by the ANC after nine years dominated by corruption allegations and economic problems.

Most opinion surveys suggest the ANC will secure nearly 60 percent of the vote on Wednesday, thanks to Ramaphosa’s appeal and a fractured opposition.

“It reflects the weakness of the opposition, more than it does reflect the achievements of the ANC,” said political scientist, Collette Schulz-Herzenberg from Stellenbosch University.

‘Not happy with the ANC’

The ANC has been confronted by deepening public anger over its failure to tackle poverty and inequality in post-apartheid South Africa.

“People are not happy with the ANC -but they are still voting for them,” retired teacher, Lockie Mans, 65, told AFP in Coligny in the North West province.

The economy grew just 0.8 percent in 2018 and unemployment hovers around 27 percent -and over 50 percent among young people.

Of the 47 opposition parties in the race, only the main opposition centrist Democratic Alliance (DA) and the radical-left Economic Freedom Fighters (EFF) are major players.

The DA hopes to shed its image as a white, middle-class party. Its first black leader, Mmusi Maimane is contesting his first general election since taking the helm in 2015, and is expected to make modest gains on 2014’s 22 percent vote share.

“Vote for the future of this country and the South Africans who are unemployed,” said Maimane after voting in Soweto, insisting the poll was not “a beauty pageant but a contract” between voters and their representatives.

‘Clean up this country’

“This vote is about competence… so we can clean up this country,” added Maimane who wore a suit in the DA’s signature blue and posed for selfies with voters.

Moxolo Gqetywa, 48, a mother-of-two who has been unemployed for five years, said she “will vote Mmusi -obviously”. 

“He has promised us jobs. We want to be set free from this poverty.”

But the radical leftist, EFF, founded six years ago by former ANC youth leader, Julius Malema, is predicted to make major gains, growing from 6.3 percent to a forecast 11 percent.

The party, which appeals mainly to young voters and the poor, has campaigned on its policy of seizing land from largely white owners to give to poor blacks.

Enforced land redistribution is also an ANC policy -alarming some investors.

Some 26.8 million voters are registered to cast ballots at 22,925 polling stations.

Polls opened at 7:00 am (0500 GMT) and are due to close 14 hours later.

Early results will emerge on Thursday with an official winner declared on Saturday. 

The party that wins most seats in parliament selects the president, who will be sworn in on May 25.

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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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