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The township road that is a fitness ”club”

It has no name, members or structure, and each group does its own routines.

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Youths going through their morning exercise routine - AFP

On a road over a railway track outside the Zimbabwean city of Bulawayo, about 30 people from surrounding townships go through their morning exercise routines.

The wide stretch of road is a well-known gathering spot each morning from 5 to 7 am for fitness enthusiasts who stretch, jog, shadow-box, plank and do squats, push-ups, sit-ups and jumps.

The nearby townships of Emakhandeni and Cowdray Park have scant health facilities, and the bridge is a safe, social spot for anyone looking to burn some calories at the start of the day.

Emmanuel Sibanda, a 25-year-old mechanical engineer, does stretching exercises early in the morning on the side of the road near the township of Emakhandeni, outside the Zimbabwean city of Bulawayo. – The wide stretch of road is a well-known gathering spot each morning from 5 to 7 am for fitness enthusiasts who stretch, jog, shadow-box, plank and do squats, push-ups, sit-ups and jumps. (Photo by Zinyange Auntony / AFP)

On Sunday, two young footballers did warm-up drills under the eye of their coach, groups of men worked out together and a couple shared a laugh as they exercised while small children joined in.

“I come with my sisters as early as we can, like at 5 am, and we come every day,” said Sidumsile Mthethwa, a 20-year-old arts student. “On Sundays we come before church.

“It keeps kids busy, and it allows us to spend time together — others come from different places around so we meet here.

“We connect as young people and we get to know each other better.”

No pain, no gain

“There’s a local gym but there’s no equipment,” said Emmanuel Sibanda, 25, a keen bodybuilder. “We come here because it is a way to lose weight and look good. People want to be healthy.”

The fitness “club” has no name, members or structure, and each group does its own routines, with some bringing along music on mobile phones or small hand-held stereos.

They use the road curbs for step exercises and drainage holes for their feet when doing sit-ups, or they sprint up and down the steep embankment from the bridge down to the railway tracks.

Some also jog along the railway, from one concrete sleeper to the next.

“That’s not the best exercise — it could lead to injury,” warned amateur football coach Julius Ndlovu, who brought two young players from a local side for pre-season training before matches start in March.

People workout on a bridge near the township of Emakhandeni, outside the Zimbabwean city of Bulawayo. (Photo by Zinyange Auntony / AFP)

“Many kids take drugs but if they come here in the morning they avoid that,” he said.

“Fitness is the key to a healthy life — you have to fight against high blood pressure and diabetes.”

As the morning progresses, traffic picks up and the small crowd clears off the road to allow cars, trucks and buses to hurtle past on their way to and from Bulawayo, Zimbabwe’s second city.

The session ends with a coordinated exercise when about eight pairs run towards each other from either side of the road.

They jump in the air 10 times, clapping their partner’s hand each time in a final burst of energy.

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East Africa News & Stories

Internet blackout hits cities in Ethiopia

An investigation found that with the exception of the capital Addis Ababa, most of the country’s cities had no internet.

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Internet blackout hits cities in Ethiopia

Most of Ethiopia was without internet access on Tuesday on the eighth consecutive day of an unexplained break.

An investigation found that with the exception of the capital Addis Ababa, most of the country’s cities had no internet.

Cherer Aklilu, executive director of the state monopoly Ethio Telecom, declined to give any details to explain the break.

“We expect to release an official statement on the internet blackout before the end of this week and we urge our users to be patient until that time,” she told AFP.

Internet access was cut on June 11, briefly restored and then severed again. It was restored for the Addis area on Friday.

The cut is the longest since reformist Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed came to office in April last year in the Horn of Africa country.

The current break coincides with annual school-leaving exams, which end on Friday. In 2017, the authorities defended a similar blackout by saying they wanted to limit cheating for the important tests.

However, the internet was also repeatedly cut between 2015 and 2017 when the government at the time faced waves of protests.

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Africa News & Updates

Kenyan authorities say Ebola case is a “false alarm”

The Health Ministry has spelt out a list of preventive measures that Kenya has already taken.

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Kenya Cabinet Secretary for Health Sicily Kariuki speaks to the media as travellers at the arrival terminal are screened by port health service, at the Jommo Kenyatta International airport in Nairobi

Kenya sought to reassure the public and foreign visitors on Monday after a suspected Ebola case, which turned out to be negative, was detected near the border with Uganda.

Uganda last week reported three cases of Ebola, two of them fatal, among people who had been to neighbouring Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC), where an epidemic has been underway since last August.

Kenyan Health Minister Sicily Kariuki said a 36-year-old woman in the western county of Kericho had fallen ill with headache, fever and vomiting, which can also be symptoms of Ebola.

Further examination found she did not have the disease, Kariuki said at a press conference staged at Nairobi’s Jomo Kenyatta International Airport.

“The Rapid Surveillance and Response Team has examined the patient, who is in stable condition, and has confirmed that she does not meet the case definition for Ebola,” she said.

“I wish to reassure all Kenyans and our visitors that we do not have any cases of Ebola.”

The Ugandan cases were confirmed in a town that is more than 600 kilometres from the border with Kenya.

Kariuki spelt out a list of preventive measures that Kenya had already taken.

They included the installation of thermal cameras at entry points to detect people with high temperatures, as well as isolation units to host suspected cases. More than 250 health ministry workers have been deployed at entry points as part of this strategy.

The minister called on the public to be vigilant, urging anyone with Ebola-like symptoms who had travelled to affected countries to go to the nearest hospital.

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Conservation News & Stories

Namibia plans to auction wild animals to raise money for conservation

An agriculture ministry report said 63,700 animals died in 2018 because of deteriorating grazing conditions brought on by dry weather

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Namibia plans to auction wild animals to raise money for conservation

Namibia has authorised the sale of at least 1,000 wild animals – including elephants and giraffes – to generate $1.1 million for conservation.

“Given that this year is a drought year, the [environment] ministry would like to sell various type of game species from various protected areas to protect grazing and at the same time to also generate much needed funding for parks and wildlife management,” environment ministry spokesman Romeo Muyunda told AFP.

The authorities declared a national disaster last month, and the meteorological services in the country estimate that some parts of the country faced the deadliest drought in as many as 90 years. 

“The grazing condition in most of our parks is extremely poor and if we do not reduce the number of animals, this will lead to loss of an animals due to starvation,” Muyunda said.

In April, an agriculture ministry report said 63,700 animals died in 2018 because of deteriorating grazing conditions brought on by dry weather.

Namibia’s cabinet announced this week that the government would sell about 1,000 wild animals.

They include 600 disease-free buffalos, 150 springbok, 65 oryx, 60 giraffes, 35 eland, 28 elephants 20 impala and 16 kudus — all from national parks.

The aim is to raise $1.1 million that will go towards a state-owned Game Products Trust Fund for wildlife conservation and parks management.

The government said there were currently about 960 buffalos in its national parks, 2,000 springbok, 780 oryx and 6,400 elephants.

The auction was advertised in local newspapers from Friday.

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