Saturday, July 04, 2020

Work on Mbuya Nehanda Memorial Statue Begins
04 JUL, 2020 - 01:07
Blessings Chidakwa
Municipal Correspondent

Government is erecting a memorial statue for Zimbabwe’s First Chimurenga war icon, Mbuya Nehanda, in Harare in honour of her heroic rebellion against colonialism in which she paid the ultimate price by being hanged.

She was hanged on April 27, 1902.

The memorial statue is being erected at the intersection of Samora Machel Avenue and Julius Nyerere Way.

Despite limited resources, Mbuya Nehanda led the black resistance and fought the whites with spears, bows, arrows and guns while the enemy used the gun.

When the rebellion failed she was among the last of the leaders to be captured. Together with another leader of the rebellion, the medium of Kaguvi, she was sentenced to death and hanged by the British but her heroic role has made her the idol of modern day Zimbabwean revolutionaries.

Work on the statue in Harare started last month.

As a result of the work, Harare City Council has since announced the temporary closure of portions of Samora Machel between Leopold Takawira Street and First Street and Julius Nyerere Way between Sam Nujoma Street and Kwame Nkurumah Avenue.

The project commenced on June 25 and is projected to have been completed by August 28.

City of Harare said the closure of the roads is “to allow for the upgrading of the intersection and construction of a monument”.

The local authority said there will be alternative routes which will be recommended by use of informative signs.

“It is most important to note that during this period, Leopold Takawira Street will be two-way up to Nelson Mandela Avenue from Samora Machel Avenue and a section of Kwame Nkrumah Avenue between First Street and Julius Nyerere Way will be one– way for traffic due west,” said the council in a statement.

The local authority also warned that traffic approaching these roads should do so with due care.

However, highly placed sources at the National Museums and Monuments yesterday told The Herald that the erection of the monument was a Government project, but the National Museums and Monuments is at the forefront.

“Works currently underway at Samora Machel Avenue and Julius Nyerere Way Intersection is meant for the construction of a memorial statue for Mbuya Nehanda.

“The project is being run by the Office of the President and Cabinet, Home Affairs and Cultural Heritage Ministry, department of Public Works, National Archives of Zimbabwe and National Museums and Monuments.”

The source said the designs for themonument are being done by one Mutasa.

It is said that, faced with the hangman’s noose, Mbuya Nehanda refused to be converted to Christianity and, let alone, talk to Catholic Priest Father Ritcherz apart from reminding him that “My bones shall surely rise again”.

But Kaguvi converted and was christened Dismus, “the good thief”, the name of the thief saved by Jesus on the cross. He was still hanged but his conversion was meant to send him to Heaven. No double entendre!

Since then a powerful and prolific oral tradition grew up around Nehanda, her part in the rebellion and especially the last moments of her life after she was condemned.

Her refusal to accept conversion to Christianity, her defiance on the scaffold and her prophecy that “my bones shall rise to win back freedom from the Europeans” made her a national occult of the spiritual realm.
New Covid-19 Cases Exceed 160,000 Daily
04 JUL, 2020 - 02:07 
Herald Reporter

The World Health Organisation says more than 10.3 million cases of COVID-19 have now been reported to them, and more than 506,000 deaths.

In his opening remarks at a media briefing on COVID-19 – on Wednesday, WHO Director-General Dr Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus said for the past week, the number of new cases has exceeded 160,000 on every single day.

He said 60 percent of all cases so far have been reported just in the past month.

“We will never get tired of saying that the best way out of this pandemic is to take a comprehensive approach.

“Find, isolate, test and care for every case, trace and quarantine every contact, equip and train health workers and educate and empower communities to protect themselves and others.

“Not testing alone. Not physical distancing alone. Not contact tracing alone. Not masks alone. Do it all,” he said.

Dr Ghebreyesus said countries that have adopted this comprehensive approach have suppressed transmission and saved lives.

He added that flare-ups are to be expected as countries start to lift restrictions.

“But countries that have the systems in place to apply a comprehensive approach should be able to contain these flare-ups locally and avoid reintroducing widespread restrictions,” he said.

However, added Dr Ghebreyesus, they are concerned that some countries have not used all the tools at their disposal and have taken a fragmented approach.

He warned that such countries face a long, hard road ahead.

“But one of the lessons of the pandemic is that no matter what situation a country is in, it can be turned around. It’s never too late.

“As you know, in March, Italy and Spain were the epicenter of the pandemic. At the peak of its epidemic, Spain had almost 10,000 cases a day, and Italy had more than 6,500 cases.”

Dr Ghebreyesus added that both countries brought their epidemics under control with a combination of leadership, humility, active participation by every member of society, and implementing a comprehensive approach.

Both countries faced a daunting situation, but turned it around.

He said the fastest way out of this pandemic is to follow the science and do what we know works: the comprehensive approach.

“Today and tomorrow, WHO is holding a second research and innovation forum, bringing together more than 1000 scientists from all over the world to take stock of the progress made so far, to discuss new research questions and knowledge gaps, and to define research priorities for the remainder of this year and beyond.”

Research and innovation have played a vital role since the beginning of the pandemic – and even before.

In January, WHO published the first protocol for PCR testing for the new coronavirus.

“In February, we brought together hundreds of researchers from around the world to identify research priorities.

“In March, we launched the Solidarity Trial, a large international study to find answers about which therapeutics are the most effective. And in April, with the European Commission and multiple other partners we launched the Access to COVID-19 Tools Accelerator, to catalyse the development and equitable allocation of vaccines, diagnostics and therapeutics.”

Dr Ghebreyesus said this pandemic is a scientific challenge, but it is also a test of character. Therefore, he said, there is need to act in the interests of global solidarity and shared humanity.

“We have a shared responsibility to ensure that all people have access to the tools to protect themselves, especially those who are most at risk. Although the pandemic is global, there are differences in the experience and approach of each region and country.”

He said over the next few weeks, they plan to feature a different region regularly, to highlight the challenges in different parts of the world, and the lessons we are learning.

“Today we’re starting with the Eastern Mediterranean region – comprising much of the Middle East and North Africa – which is the third-most affected region globally, after the Americas and Europe.”
Abortion Debate Heats Up in Namibia
29 JUN, 2020 - 00:06

WINDHOEK. — Campaigners from both sides of the abortion debate have had heated discussions in the last couple of days over the issue, which is now also a subject of deliberation in the National Assembly.

An online petition calling to reject the legalisation of abortion in Namibia has also been launched.

The petition launched by pastor Zelda van der Colff had by last Wednesday 4 736 signatures.

They are targeting to get 20 000 signatures.

The anti-abortion appeal comes just days after a local woman Beauty Boois called for the legislation of abortion in a petition.

In her petition, which has also divided opinion on social media platforms, Boois said Namibian women have been left with no choice but to break the law to practise their right of choice, in the process risking their lives and health as well as their well-being to obtain illegal abortions. Over 6 000 people have given the petition a thumbs-up.

Van der Colff stated that as a Christian pro-life citizen she could not be silenced as the future of Namibian generations would be aborted.

Van der Colff called on fellow Christians to collectively reject the legalisation of abortion in Namibia. The pastor said they would not allow the “evil” of legalising abortion to look good under the system of human rights. She said keeping silence means they are giving God the approval to bring the wrath upon the nation because of unrighteous actions.

“We declared and stand on the biblical normal with the biblical principles that there is dignity for the unborn baby,” said Van der Colff.

Sharing similar sentiments, the president of the Association of Charismatic and Pentecostal Churches of Namibia (ACPCN) Jan Fritz Gaweseb said a foetus should not be abused through abortion.

“We should stop child abuse before birth has been given,” Gaweseb said.

He said those calling for legalising cosmetic abortion were given a chance by their parents and others to fulfil their God-given mission and purpose here on earth. “So let us not be selfish but also give those unborn babies equally and fairly that blessed opportunity of life,” said Gaweseb.

Deputy health minister Esther Muinjangue motivated the motion on abortion in parliament, saying national leaders should allow for debates on the issue in order to weigh the pros and cons.

“Whether abortion is legal or not, the fact is young women and girls do backyard abortion which does not only affect them but has an impact on many systems of our society as well. My concern is more on the psychological effect on women. It is a well-known fact that women (young and old) flock to neighbouring countries, where abortion has been legalised, to do abortion,” remarked Muinjangue.

Women Action for Development (WAD) executive director Salatiel Shinedima said it was important to allow for a debate on whether to legalise abortion or not. “So far what we have seen is people want abortion legalised but have not seen a debate and would expect that in parliament,” he said.

“If I am saying abortion should be legalised why am I saying so? If I’m saying it should not, why I’m saying so? Not just to say because of culture, religion or it should be legalised because of people’s rights,” remarked Shinedima.

— New Era.
Tunisia Confirms Support for Libyan Government
July 3, 2020 at 12:44 pm
Middle East Monitor

Tunisia affirmed its full support for the internationally-recognised Libyan government on Wednesday, while endorsing a political solution to end the conflict in its neighbour, the Foreign Ministry in Tripoli has reported.

“Tunisian Foreign Minister Noureddine Al-Rai talked by phone with his Libyan counterpart, Mohamed Taher Siala,” revealed the ministry on Facebook. “[Mr Al-Rai] expressed his country’s full support for the Government of National Accord, and said that Tunisia supports a political solution in Libya.”

Libya has been embroiled in conflict since 2011 when the regime of Muammar Gaddafi was overthrown. The militia led by renegade Field Marshal Khalifa Haftar, supported by some Arab and European countries, has been contesting the GNA’s legitimacy and authority in the oil-rich country.

In a related move, the head of the Presidential Council of Libya and GNA leader, Fayez Al-Sarraj, spoke of a call received from UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres on Wednesday. Al-Sarraj pointed out that he has called from the beginning for “political dialogue during which all parties can negotiate to find a comprehensive solution.” He stressed that, “From now on, some parties need to stop calling this criminal [Haftar] a political partner and legitimising his presence.”

The Libyan army loyal to the GNA announced on Tuesday the recovery of 208 bodies from mass graves south of the capital and the city of Tarhuna and its surroundings over the past 23 days. These areas were previously controlled by Haftar’s militia.

Major efforts are being made by international actors to persuade the warring parties to return to the negotiating table, in light of numerous military victories by the GNA forces, which have seen Haftar lose control of some strategically-important cities in Libya.
France Returns Remains of Algerian Anti-colonial Fighters
The return of the skulls of 24 resistance fighters comes amid a growing global reckoning with the legacy of colonialism.

Algeria has received the skulls of 24 resistance fighters decapitated during France's colonial occupation of the North African country, and which had been stored for decades in a Paris museum.

The return of the skulls was the result of years of efforts by Algerian historians and comes amid a growing global reckoning with the legacy of colonialism.

"The valiant resistance fighters who refused the colonisation of their country by imperial France were displayed immorally for decades, like vulgar objects of antiquity, without respect for their dignity, their memory. That is the monstrous face of colonisation," Algerian army chief Said Chengiha said in a speech on Friday.

"Algeria is living a special day today," he said.

The 24 fought French colonial forces who occupied Algeria in 1830 and took part in an 1849 revolt. After they were decapitated, their skulls were taken to France as trophies.

In 2011, Algerian historian and researcher Ali Farid Belkadi discovered the skulls at the Museum of Man in Paris, across from the Eiffel Tower, and alerted Algerian authorities.

The researcher lobbied for years for their return, and Algeria's then-President Abdelaziz Bouteflika eventually launched the formal repatriation request.

French President Emmanuel Macron agreed in 2018 but bureaucratic obstacles delayed the return until now.

In December 2019, Macron said "colonialism was a grave mistake" and called for turning the page on the past.

The remains will be on public display at the Palace of Culture in the capital on Saturday, and will then be buried in a special funeral east of Algiers on Sunday - the 58th anniversary of Algeria's independence from France after a long and bloody war.

In tears, Algerian President Abdelmadjid Tebboune presided over Friday's ceremony, alongside the heads of both houses of Parliament and top military officials.

Three MiG jets escorted the Algerian Ilyushin military plane carrying the remains.

The skulls were placed in coffins wrapped in the Algerian flag, and carried by soldiers across the tarmac as a military band played.

Among the remains were those of revolt leader Sheikh Bouzian, who was captured in 1849 by the French, shot and decapitated, and the skull of resistance leader Mohammed Lamjad ben Abdelmalek, also known as Cherif Boubaghla (the man with the mule).

Historians welcomed the return of the remains, but say they are just part of Algeria's history that is still in French hands.

"We have recovered part of our memory," historian Mohamed El Korso told The Associated Press news agency.

"But the fight must continue, until the recovery of all the remains of the resistance fighters, which number in the hundreds, and the archives of our revolution."
Hundreds of Elephants Found Dead in Botswana
1 July 2020
BBC World Service

Mystery surrounds the "completely unprecedented" deaths of hundreds of elephants in Botswana over the last two months.

Dr Niall McCann said colleagues in the southern African country had spotted more than 350 elephant carcasses in the Okavango Delta since the start of May.

No one knows why the animals are dying, with lab results on samples still weeks away, according to the government.

Botswana is home to a third of Africa's declining elephant population.

Dr McCann, of the UK-based charity National Park Rescue, told the BBC local conservationists first alerted the government in early May, after they undertook a flight over the delta.

"They spotted 169 in a three-hour flight," he said. "To be able to see and count that many in a three-hour flight was extraordinary.

"A month later, further investigations identified many more carcasses, bringing the total to over 350."

"This is totally unprecedented in terms of numbers of elephants dying in a single event unrelated to drought," he added.

Back in May, Botswana's government ruled out poaching as a reason - noting the tusks had not been removed, according to

There are other things which point to something other than poaching.

"It is only elephants that are dying and nothing else," Dr McCann said. "If it was cyanide used by poachers, you would expect to see other deaths."

Dr McCann has also tentatively ruled out natural anthrax poisoning, which killed at least 100 elephants in Bostwana last year.

But they have been unable to rule out either poisoning or disease. The way the animals appear to be dying - many dropping on their faces - and sightings of other elephants walking in circles points to something potentially attacking their neurological systems, Dr McCann said.

Either way, without knowing the source, it is impossible to rule out the possibility of a disease crossing into the human population - especially if the cause is in either the water sources or the soil. Dr McCann points to the Covid-19 pandemic, which is believed to have started in animals.

"Yes, it is a conservation disaster - but it also has the potential to be a public health crisis," he said.

Dr Cyril Taolo, acting director for Botswana's department of wildlife and national parks, told the Guardian they had so far confirmed at least 280 elephants had died, and were in the process of confirming the rest.

However, they did not know what was causing the animals' deaths.

"We have sent [samples] off for testing and we are expecting the results over the next couple of weeks or so," he said.
Coronavirus in South Africa: Deciding Who Lives and Dies in a Cape Town Township
3 July 2020
BBC World Service

Funeral parlour manager Luthando Gqamana says many people don't say their relative died of Covid-19

The BBC's Andrew Harding visits a township in South Africa's coastal city of Cape Town to see how it has been hit by coronavirus.

While the surfers are back out in large numbers on the waves in False Bay, taking advantage of an easing of some lockdown rules in South Africa, just inland on the sandy, windswept plains of Khayelitsha, coronavirus is spreading fast through the impoverished, crime-ridden township and, in the process, highlighting some of the challenges this whole country is likely to face in the coming weeks.

"Yes, we're definitely seeing very big numbers currently here," said Dr Ayanda Trevor Mnguni, head of internal medicine at the 300-bed Khayelitsha District Hospital.

When the health workers need treatment

In a health service already wrestling with a historic shortage of nurses, Dr Mnguni has already had to triple the number of medical staff, and turn the entire hospital into a Covid-19 ward.

But now many of his key workers are, themselves, succumbing to the virus.

"We've got a lot of staff who are infected. We've had a week where we lost our porters. The following week it was our radiographer. A week after that… our staff from the laboratory," said Dr Mnguni.

The strains have exposed the underlying health issues in the community.

"The majority of our nurses are themselves patients who've got diabetes and hypertension, so that puts a huge strain on the system. Also, we're noticing an explosion of undiagnosed diabetics, who are now being diagnosed as a result of Covid. And that obviously overwhelms our emergency unit," added Dr Mnguni.

'Spreading like wildfire'

With its own wards full, Khayelitsha District Hospital is sending new cases across the road to a new facility, built, in the space of one month, in a sports hall, and run by Médecins Sans Frontières - an organisation that has been a familiar presence in the neighbourhood for 20 years, focusing on the battle against HIV/Aids.

South Africa Covid-19 crisis
Confirmed cases: 159,333
Total deaths:2,749
Most deaths:aged 60-69 (717); 50-59 (652); 40-49 (339); 80-89 (246)
Male deaths:1,444
Female deaths:1,301
Worst-affected area:Western Cape (64,377 cases and 1,896 deaths)
Source: South African government (1 July)

The MSF clinic is one of many steps that this province - the Western Cape - has taken to prepare for an anticipated surge of cases.

"Already this is spreading like wildfire," said Eric Goemaere, a Belgian MSF Doctor who has spent many years in Khayelitsha.

"We are having to take some tough decisions. There's no point sending the extremely sick cases back to the referral hospital because they don't have the staff or the equipment. The hospitals in this region cannot cope," he said.

Instead, the most severe cases are left in a palliative care section in the corner of the sports hall, while the precious supplies of oxygen are reserved for those perceived to have a better chance of recovery.

Everyone volunteering to help

Dr Goemaere, who has long experience fighting TB, HIV and Ebola, emphasised the importance of a community health approach - outsourcing as much work as possible in order to reduce pressure on hospitals.

He also stressed the need to secure reliable supplies of oxygen - one patient can easily use four huge bottles a day - and to find enough staff, particularly nurses, in order to help turn the patients over at regular intervals to lie on their chests.

Khayelitsha has so far recorded more than 6,500 cases of coronavirus, the second-highest number in a Cape Town district. The township has a population of about 400,000, according to the 2011 census.

A few miles away, in the neighbouring township of Nyanga East, several hundred people were lining up for a free meal, served by a local nursery school and funded by donations. The elderly stood in their own, separate queue, while children and adults stood in line on either side of the street.

"I'm hungry. No food at home. No money," said one elderly woman.

The principal of Khanyisa Nursery, Theodora Luthuli, said food aid was being given to 500 to 1,000 people, and the number was rising daily.

"This virus has exposed underlying issues. People were already unemployed here, lockdown or not," she said.

"I worry about these old people. There's nobody to look after them, and even the places where they can isolate are becoming full of infection.

"But during this period, we've experienced everyone trying to help. A lot of my volunteers are actually men, who are often abusers and cause violence against women. So now they're saying enough is enough," said Ms Luthuli.

The survivor

Back in Khayelitsha, 46-year-old Lusanda Jonas was busy exercising in her front yard, shuffling a few steps in her fluffy pink slippers and dressing gown before stopping and rotating her arms in a slow circle.

She had been discharged from hospital a day earlier, having recovered from Covid-19 after spending a fortnight in intensive care.

"People are not taking it seriously. It makes me feel so bad," said Ms Jonas, a diabetic who works as an administrative secretary at a nearby police station.

She had come home to learn that six people "on this same street" had died from the virus.

"This virus is going to kill more people. You need to stay at home and take care of yourself. You need to wear a mask," she said, before going inside for a rest.

The 2011 census showed that 19% of households in Khayelitsha had no monthly income
At a nearby shopping centre, almost everyone was wearing a face mask, and standing patiently in long queues outside banks and supermarkets.

But many people in Khayelitsha live in informal settlements - in home-made tin shacks - where self-isolation and social distancing are near impossibilities.

Another issue being confronted here, alongside a lack of education about the virus, is stigma - a familiar challenge from the long struggle against HIV/Aids.

"There's a whole stigma attached to the fact that someone passed away from Covid," said Luthando Gqamana, manager of Nothemba Funeral Services - one of the largest in the township. Its motto is "The last people to let you down."

No funeral rituals

Late one afternoon workers were busy unloading the day's last three Covid-19 corpses from an undertaker's van, and moving the body bags into the company's large freezer unit in a dank warehouse near the railway lines.

Standing beside a display of wooden coffins, Mr Gqamana described how many clients were reluctant to admit that their relatives had died of the virus, and how they became angry when they were told that - since the cause of death was always clearly indicated in official documents - they could not perform certain traditional rituals, like touching or dressing the body of a dead relative.

"When they are burying a loved one and can't perform certain rituals - that's when it kicks in that, no, this is actually real," he said.
South Africa Reports More Than 9,000 New COVID-19 Cases
Number of confirmed cases stands at 117,124 with 2,952 deaths

Hassan Isilow   |

South Africa reported its biggest increase in coronavirus infections Friday, with 9,063 confirmed new cases to bring the total to 117,124.

“Regrettably, we report a further 108 COVID-19 related deaths. This brings the total deaths to 2,952,” according to Health Minister Zweli Mkhize.

Mkhize said three of the deaths are from the Northern Cape Province, eight from Eastern Cape, 29 in North West, 10 in KwaZulu-Natal and 58 from Western Cape Province.

Western Cape, home to the tourism hub of Cape Town, recorded the highest number of deaths at 1,983, since the start of the virus three months ago.

The Eastern Cape is the second most affected province with 459 and Gauteng province, which includes Johannesburg and Pretoria, has 282 deaths.

At least 86,298 patients have recovered from the virus for a recovery rate of 48.7%, with more than 1.7 million tests conducted with nearly 40,000 in the past 24 hours.

Friday, July 03, 2020

Women Taken From African Mothers by Belgium Now Want Redress
July 1, 2020

In this photo taken on Monday, June 29, 2020, clockwise from top left, Simone Ngalula, Monique Bitu Bingi, Lea Tavares Mujinga, Noelle Verbeeken and Marie-Jose Loshi pose for a group photo during an interview with The Associated Press in Brussels. Five women who were taken from their families as children in Belgian Congo and placed in a religious mission run by Catholic nuns have filed a lawsuit seeking reparations from Belgium. The women were among thousands of biracial children seized from their mothers and separated from their African roots by Belgian authorities ruling over the area from 1908-1960. (AP Photo/Francisco Seco)

NEDER-OVER-HEEMBEEK, Belgium (AP) — Monique Bitu Bingi was only 4 years old when she was taken from her family in Belgian Congo and locked up in a religious mission run by Catholic nuns. Her friend Lea Tavares Mujinga was even younger the day her mother was forced to give her up: just a 2-year-old toddler.

Born from a white settler father and a Black mother — and despised because of their biracial heritage — both girls were seized from their mothers and separated from their African roots by Belgian authorities that ruled over the area from 1908-1960.

During colonial times, they, like thousands of other biracial children known as “métis,” were taken away and raised in Belgian institutions as the colonial power promoted a strict separation of white and Black people and systematically tried to prevent interracial unions.

At the St. Vincent de Paul sisters’ mission, they went through years of deprivation and abuse that have left indelible scars.

“We have been destroyed, both morally and psychologically,” Bitu Bingi told The Associated Press on Monday, the eve of the 60th anniversary of Congo’s independence on June 30, 1960. “We have lost our identities. Excuses are not enough.”

Now in their 70s, Bitu Bingi and Tavares Mujinga want reparations. Along with three other biracial women born between 1945 and 1950 in the African country, they have filed a lawsuit in Brussels targeting the Belgian state for crimes against humanity.

Their complaint comes amid growing demands that Belgium reassess its colonial past. In the wake of protests against racial inequality in the United States, several statues of King Leopold II, who is blamed for the deaths of millions of Africans during Belgium’s colonial rule, have been vandalized and a petition has demanded that Belgium remove all of his statues.

Last year, the Belgian government apologized for the state’s role in taking thousands of babies from their African mothers. And for the first time in the country’s history, a reigning king expressed regret Tuesday for the violence carried out by the former colonial power. In a letter to Congolese President Felix Tshisekedi, Belgium’s King Philippe conveyed his “deepest regrets” for the “acts of violence and cruelty” and “suffering and humiliation” inflicted on Belgian Congo.

Bitu Bingi, Tavares Mujinga and the three other women now live in Belgium and France after emigrating from Congo and have requested compensation of 50,000 euros ($55,000) each but are are also seeking broad reparations for all children seized from their mothers and placed in institutions during the colonial era.

“There were official documents from the administration, it’s a state crime that was organized by the Belgian colonial administration,” said Christophe Marchand, a lawyer representing the women.

Tavares Mujinga said she was taken away from her family while her father, a Portuguese man who worked in the cotton industry, had left the country for a holiday. Bitu Bingi’s father worked for the Belgian administration.

According to legal documents, in all five cases the fathers did not exercise parental authority and the Belgian administration threatened the children’s Congolese families with reprisals if they refused to let them go.

Time has passed since the five women were forced to cut ties with their relatives, but the trauma they went through has never been fully addressed, and their pain remains immense. None of them have ever received psychological assistance.

“When we talk about it, we cry,” Noelle Verbeeken, one of the five plaintiffs, told the AP on the outskirts of Brussels.

“We have no identity. We don’t know where we come from. ... We are nothing. Just the ‘children of sin,’” Verbeeken said, quoting the expression used to describe the children when they arrived at the religious mission in the Congolese town of Katende. There, Tavares Mujinga was reunited with her older brother, who had been seized a few years earlier.

The women lived in the mission with 20 other biracial children and Black orphans in very harsh conditions. Bitu Bingi recalls that food was scarce, and rare were the days when she could properly wash.

“We did not know how chicken tasted. And one of the doors of our dormitory was overlooking the morgue,” she said.

The girls did receive an education. Tavares Mujinga, who went on to marry a Belgian airplane pilot, became a primary teacher while Verbeeken studied Greek humanities and became a nurse.

“They wanted to make nuns out of us. We had other plans,” Bitu Bingi said.

The women’s traumatic journey took a turn for the worse several months after independence, when they and the other children were abandoned by both the Belgian authorities and the Catholic Church. The nuns and other mission personnel were evacuated amid political upheaval and the children were left on their own.

“There was no room for us,” Bitu Bingi said, recalling mutilated bodies around the mission during the post-independence unrest.

She doesn’t dwell on the sexual abuse and rape by Congolose militia fighters after the nuns left that is described in the lawsuit, which says the militiamen sent to the abandoned mission to look after the young girls molested them instead. Bitu Bingi was only 11.

To this day, she says she can’t help but think of the militia trucks whenever she hears the sound of a truck engine.

She found solace during a trip to South America decades later after finding out that her father had emigrated to Argentina to start a new life. She traveled there and finally met that branch of her family, a trip she said eased her suffering.

“My father was already dead, but I received a warm welcome,” she said.

Bitu Bingi and the women she calls “sisters” now hope their lawsuit will lead Belgium to finally recognize its responsibility in their suffering and in the pain of the thousands of other children who were snatched away.

“What we expect, and what they expect, is a reparation law, a strong decision,” said Jehosheba Bennett, another lawyer for the women. “Telling the stories of what happened during the colonization is really important, because now there is not much awareness about this.”
Black Worker Files Discrimination Complaint Against Facebook
July 2, 2020

FILE - In this March 29, 2018, file photo, the logo for social media giant Facebook, appears on screens at the Nasdaq MarketSite, in New York's Times Square. A Black Facebook employee, joined by two others who were denied jobs at the social network, has filed a complaint against the company, saying it discriminates against Black workers and applicants in hiring, evaluations, promotions and pay. Facebook did not immediately respond to a message for comment Thursday, July 2, 2020. (AP Photo/Richard Drew, File)

OAKLAND, Calif. (AP) — A Black Facebook employee, joined by two others who were denied jobs at the social network, has filed a complaint against the company, saying it discriminates against Black workers and applicants in hiring, evaluations, promotions and pay.

The charge was filed with the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission by Oscar Veneszee, Jr., who has worked as an operations program manager at Facebook since 2017 and claims he has not been fairly evaluated or promoted despite his “excellent performance” at the company. Two others joined Veneszee’s complaint, saying they were unlawfully denied jobs at the company despite being qualified.

Facebook said in a statement it takes discrimination allegations seriously and investigates every case.

“We believe it is essential to provide all employees with a respectful and safe working environment,” said spokeswoman Pamela Austin.

Black workers account for 3.8% of all U.S. Facebook employees and 1.5% of all U.S. technical workers at the company. Those numbers have barely budged over the past several years, a common pattern across large Silicon Valley firms.

This isn’t the first criticism a Black employee has leveled at Facebook. Mark Luckie, who left the company in 2018, sent a memo to his coworkers on his last day — also posted on Facebook — that chronicled what he called Facebook’s “black people problem.”

“Facebook’s disenfranchisement of black people on the platform mirrors the marginalization of its black employees,” Luckie wrote. “In my time at the company, I’ve heard far too many stories from black employees of a colleague or manager calling them ‘hostile’ or ‘aggressive’ for simply sharing their thoughts in a manner not dissimilar from their non-Black team members.”

According to Veneszee’s complaint, filed on Thursday, “people of color and Black workers in particular remain underrepresented at all levels of Facebook and especially at the management and leadership levels. They do not feel respected or heard. And they do not believe that Black workers have an equal opportunity to advance their careers at Facebook.”

While there may be Black Lives Matter posters on Facebook’s walls, the complaint says, “Black workers don’t see that phrase reflecting how they are treated in Facebook’s own workplace.”
Victim of Alleged Assault by Ohio Deputy Wants Officer Fired

COLUMBUS, Ohio (AP) — A man who prosecutors say was kicked in the head by an Ohio sheriff’s deputy while handcuffed and pinned to the floor demanded on Friday that the officer charged in his assault be fired.

Nick Ballachino called for Sgt. Jesse Franklin’s firing outside the Cincinnati law offices of his attorney, Fanon Rucker. His plea came a day after Franklin, a veteran of the Hamilton County Sheriff’s Department, was arrested and charged with misdemeanor assault. The charge carries a penalty of up to $1,000 and six months in jail.

Sheriff Jim Neil on Thursday said he was “outraged and shocked” by Franklin’s “egregious conduct,” which he said went against department training and values. Neil suspended Franklin without pay while a disciplinary case is brought.

Ballachino and Rucker, a Democratic candidate for prosecutor, said that’s not enough.

“An individual with this temperament should not be working in law enforcement in any capacity,” Rucker said. “If Sergeant Franklin felt comfortable kicking a handcuffed man in the head on camera, who knows what he’s capable of when there are no cameras rolling.”

Neil’s spokesman did not respond to an email seeking comment Friday, a county holiday.

The June 9 incident involving Franklin comes to light amid mass demonstrations against excessive use of force by police, particularly against Black people, that followed the death of George Floyd. Floyd died May 25 after a Minneapolis police officer pressed his knee into his neck as he pleaded for air.

County Prosecutor Joe Deters said Ballachino was arrested by Cincinnati police for disorderly conduct while intoxicated and obstructing official business. He was taken to the Hamilton County Justice Center, where he resisted being searched by deputies, Deters said.

Ballachino, who is white, was wrestled to the floor by several deputies and handcuffed. Ballachino bit Franklin’s booted foot and it was at that point that video showed Franklin kicking the detainee’s head, Deters said.

Ballachino was taken to the hospital, where he was diagnosed with a concussion and received five stitches. He said Friday that he still experiences headaches and dizzy spells following the incident, which he called “brutal.”

Franklin’s is the first prosecution of a police use-of-force case in Hamilton County since Ray Tensing, a white University of Cincinnati police officer, was charged in the killing of an unarmed Black motorist five years ago.

Tensing shot Sam DuBose, 43, in the head after pulling him over on July 19, 2015, for a missing front license plate. He testified that he believed his life was in danger when DuBose tried to drive away during the traffic stop.

State murder charges were dropped against Tensing after deadlocked juries led to two mistrials.
2 Oklahoma Police Officers Charged in Death of Man
OKLAHOMA CITY (AP) — Two police officers from a small southern Oklahoma town have been charged with second-degree murder after being accused of using their stun guns more than 50 times on a 28-year-old man who died.

Wilson police Officers Joshua Taylor, 26, and Brandon Dingman, 34, were charged Wednesday in the death last year of Jared Lakey, according to court documents.

Court documents said the two officers used their stun guns on Lakey more than 50 times, “which greatly exceeded what would have been necessary or warranted by the attendant circumstances,” and was a “substantial factor” in Lakey’s death.

The Oklahoma State Bureau of Investigation, which assisted with the investigation at the request of the Carter County sheriff’s office, said that after Taylor and Dingman used a their stun guns on Lakey on July 4, 2019, Lakey was hospitalized and died on July 6, 2019.

Taylor and Dingman had come into contact with Lakey after responding to a call that he was acting in a disorderly way, OSBI said. The agency said that when Lakey wouldn’t comply with the officers’ commands, they used their stun guns multiple times.

A deputy with the Carter County sheriff’s office eventually responded to the scene and helped get Lakey into custody. OSBI said that shortly after that, Lakey stopped breathing and became unresponsive. He was taken to the hospital.

OSBI said that on Wednesday, prosecutors issued arrest warrants for Taylor and Dingman. OSBI said both turned themselves in Thursday morning. They were each given a $250,000 bond and both have bonded out.

Court records do not list attorneys for Taylor or Dingman and home phone numbers for the men could not be found.

If convicted, each faces a punishment of 10 years to life in prison.

Wilson is located about 100 miles south of Oklahoma City.
`You Broke My Wrist!′ Police Sued for Taking Down Wrong Man
July 1, 2020

In this still image from body camera video released by the Valdosta police, Antonio Arnelo Smith is slammed face-first to the ground by a Valdosta police sergeant, in Valdosta, Ga., on Feb. 8, 2020. The video shows Smith handing his driver's license to a police officer and answering questions cooperatively before a second officer, Sgt. Billy Wheeler, approaches him from behind, wraps him in a bear hug and slams him face-first to the ground. Smith is crying in pain when he's told there's a warrant for his arrest. Officers are then told the warrant was for someone else. (Valdosta Police via AP)

SAVANNAH, Ga. (AP) — Body camera video shows Antonio Arnelo Smith handing his driver’s license to a Black police officer and answering questions cooperatively before a white officer walks up behind him, wraps him in a bear hug and slams him face-first to the ground.

“Oh my God, you broke my wrist!” the 46-year-old Black man screams as two more white Valdosta officers arrive, holding him down and handcuffing him following the takedown. One eventually tells Smith he’s being arrested on an outstanding warrant, and is immediately corrected by the first officer: They’ve got the wrong man.

Clutching his wrist and whimpering, Smith was let go without charges after the violent encounter on Feb. 8 in Valdosta, Georgia, near the Florida state line.

Now he’s suing all four officers, as well as Valdosta’s police chief, mayor and others, saying police used excessive force and violated his civil rights.

“When you see that video, you can’t help but say this is a travesty,” said Nathaniel Haugabrook, one of Smith’s attorneys. “Nobody should be done that way.”

The federal lawsuit comes during a national outcry over police brutality against people of color, sparked by the killing of George Floyd in Minneapolis. Haugabrook said police stopped Smith for questioning after a drug store employee reported him for panhandling outside.

“Obviously it has some racial tones to it,” Haugabrook said Thursday.

Smith’s encounter with police went largely unnoticed for more than four months, until he filed suit June 19. The city of Valdosta issued a statement three days after that, saying police are conducting an internal investigation and that Smith never filed a complaint.

City officials also released one of the four body camera recordings — that of the officer who grabbed Smith, which doesn’t show the takedown because the camera is pressed to Smith’s back. Valdosta officials didn’t release body camera videos with a clearer view until after the Valdosta Daily Times published one received from Smith’s attorneys.

The city’s statement said police responding to a report that a man was harassing customers and asking for money outside the drug store simultaneously found two suspects nearby who fit the description. Officers questioning one of them learned he had an outstanding arrest warrant. The other was Smith.

The city’s statement says that an officer, identified in the lawsuit as Sgt. Billy Wheeler, approached Smith mistakenly believing he was the wanted man, and “advised him to place his hands behind his back.” Smith “began to resist by pulling his arms forward and tensing his body,” prompting Wheeler to take him to the ground, the city said.

This is not an accurate description of what the officers’ body cameras recorded.

The video shows Wheeler walk up silently behind Smith, grab his right wrist and pin both of his arms to his sides in a bear hug. Only then does he order Smith to put his pinned hands behind his back, and Wheeler slams him to the ground almost immediately thereafter.

Asked about this discrepancy, a city spokeswoman, Ashlyn Johnson, said the city had no further comment. She said she did not know the status of the officers involved.

“The City of Valdosta and the Valdosta Police Department take any report of any injury to a citizen seriously,” the statement said.

The videos, recorded at noon on a clear, sunny day, show the encounter from beginning to end. Smith cries out in pain that his wrist is broken, and Wheeler says: “Yeah, he might be broke.” The officers remove the handcuffs within about a minute and call for an ambulance. Still on the ground, Smith asks why he’s being arrested.

“We have a warrant for your arrest,” one officer tells Smith.

That prompts the officer who first stopped Smith, identified in court records as Dominic Henry, to correct them.

“Hey, this was another guy,” Henry says. “The guy with the warrant’s over there. No, there’s two different people.”

Smith leaves the scene before paramedics arrive. His lawyer said Smith wanted to get away from the officers as quickly as possible, and the wrist never healed properly.

Smith’s lawsuit in U.S. District Court seeks unspecified monetary damages. In a letter sent to Valdosta officials seeking a settlement before the lawsuit was filed, Smith’s attorneys asked for $700,000. But he also wants something more, his lawyer said: A commitment by the Valdosta Police Department to reform.
Cops Fired Over Photos of Chokehold Used on Elijah McClain

AURORA, Colo. (AP) — Three officers were fired Friday over photos showing police reenact a chokehold used on Elijah McClain, a 23-year-old Black man who died last year after police stopped him on the street in a Denver suburb.

One of those fired is Jason Rosenblatt, a white Aurora officer who helped stop McClain in August for wearing a ski mask and “being suspicious.” Police put McClain in a chokehold, paramedics injected him with a sedative and McClain suffered cardiac arrest before later being taken off life support.

Aurora Interim Police Chief Vanessa Wilson told reporters that officers sent the photos to Rosenblatt two months after McClain died. Rosenblatt responded with a text saying, “Haha.”

“We are ashamed, we are sickened, and we are angry,” Wilson said. The officers may not have committed a crime, but the photographs are “a crime against humanity and decency,” she added.

McClain’s death has become a rallying cry amid a national reckoning over police brutality and racial injustice, with the state reopening the case for possible criminal charges and federal officials looking into a civil rights investigation. In several places, the chokehold has been banned and other police reforms passed after nationwide protests.

McClain’s family, friends and community activists noted during a rally that justice was swifter for the mocking photograph than the use of force against McClain’s death. The two other officers who stopped the young man are still on the force as authorities look again into possible criminal charges after clearing them last year.

“Rosenblatt got fired not for killing Elijah, not for murdering Elijah, but for making fun of Elijah,” said Terrence Roberts, a community organizer and family friend. “That is the culture that we’re fighting, where a police officer can murder a black man, a black child, and keep his job and stay on the force so he can go make fun of this child.”

Officers Kyle Dittrich, Erica Marrero and Jaron Jones — none of whom were among the officers who confronted McClain in August — smiled and mockingly placed each other in a chokehold in the photographs taken in October near a memorial for McClain.

An officer reported the photos to a sergeant late last month, and an internal investigation began.

Rosenblatt, Dittrich and Marrero were fired for conduct unbecoming an officer. Jones resigned earlier this week.

The Aurora Police Association called the investigation “a rush to judgment.” The union for officers said on Facebook that the investigation took nine days, while a standard internal affairs case takes months.

Several police agencies have taken swift action to punish officers, including those involved in George Floyd’s death May 25 in Minneapolis that ushered in global demonstrations.

For Elijah McClain’s mother, Sheneen McClain, “it was just devastating to see that people were mocking the murder of her son,” family attorney Mari Newman said.

“The fact that three on-duty, in-uniform police officers thought that it was appropriate to reenact the murder, jokingly, shows that the department is rotten to the core,” she said.

Facing increasing pressure as celebrities and others on social media called for justice, Colorado Gov. Jared Polis last week ordered the state attorney general to reopen McClain’s case.

The officers stopped McClain, a massage therapist, after a 911 call on Aug. 24 reported him as suspicious because he was wearing a ski mask and flailing his arms. He begged them repeatedly to let go of him, according to body-camera video.

After the chokehold that cut off blood to his brain, paramedics administered 500 milligrams of a sedative to calm him down. A forensic pathologist could not determine what exactly led to McClain’s death but said physical exertion during the confrontation likely contributed.

A prosecutor said he didn’t pursue criminal charges against the officers because the pathologist wasn’t able to determine if their actions caused McClain’s death. District Attorney Dave Young recently called the young man’s death “tragic and unnecessary” but defended his decision.

Police body-camera video shows an officer getting out of his car, approaching McClain and saying, “Stop right there. Stop. Stop. ... I have a right to stop you because you’re being suspicious.”

In the video, the officer turns McClain around and repeats, “Stop tensing up.” As McClain tries to escape the officer’s grip, the officer says, “Relax, or I’m going to have to change this situation.”

As other officers join to restrain McClain, he begs them to let go and says, “You guys started to arrest me, and I was stopping my music to listen.”

Aurora police have said McClain refused to stop walking and fought back when officers tried to take him into custody.

In the video, McClain tells officers: “Let go of me. I am an introvert. Please respect the boundaries that I am speaking.”

The U.S. attorney’s office, the U.S. Justice Department’s Civil Rights Division and the FBI announced this week they are looking into whether to launch a civil rights investigation. Federal authorities said they also were considering an investigation into the photos.

Nieberg is a corps member for the Associated Press/Report for America Statehouse News Initiative. Report for America is a nonprofit national service program that places journalists in local newsrooms to report on undercovered issues.
Confederate Flag Losing Prominence 155 Years After Civil War
June 30, 2020

BIRMINGHAM, Ala. (AP) — Long a symbol of pride to some and hatred to others, the Confederate battle flag is losing its place of official prominence 155 years after rebellious Southern states lost a war to perpetuate slavery.

Mississippi’s Republican governor on Tuesday signed legislation to remove the Civil War emblem from the state flag, a move that was both years in the making and notable for its swiftness amid a national debate over racial inequality following the police killing of George Floyd in Minnesota. Mississippi’s was the last state flag to include the design.

NASCAR, born in the South and still popular in the region, banned the rebel banner from races earlier this month, and some Southern localities have removed memorials and statues dedicated to the Confederate cause. A similar round of Confederate flag and memorial removals was prompted five years ago by the slaying of nine Black people at a church in Charleston, South Carolina. A white supremacist was convicted of the shooting.

Make no mistake: The Confederate flag isn’t anywhere close to being gone from the South. Just drive along highways where Sons of Confederate Veterans members have erected gigantic battle flags or stop by Dixie General Store, where Bob Castello makes a living selling hundreds of rebel-themed shirts, hats, car accessories and more in an east Alabama county named for a Confederate officer, Gen. Patrick Cleburne.

But even Castello is surprised by how demonstrations over police brutality became a wave that seems to be washing over generations of adoration for the Confederate battle flag by some. He wonders what might happen next.

“This could go on and on,” he said. “There’s just no limit to where they could go with it.”

The Confederacy was founded in Montgomery in 1861 with a Constitution that prohibited laws “denying or impairing the right of property in negro slaves.” The South lost, slavery ended, and Confederate sympathizers almost ever since have argued the war wasn’t just about slavery, instead advocating the “lost cause” version centered around state’s rights, Southern nobility and honor.

To some, the Confederate battle flag — with its red background, blue X and white stars — is a down-home symbol of Southern heritage and pride. The band Alabama, one of the top-selling country music groups ever, included the banner on five album covers in the 1980s and ’90s while at the height of its popularity.

Patty Howard, who was visiting a huge carving of Confederate Civil War generals at Georgia’s Stone Mountain Park with her husband, Toby, on Monday, said they aren’t offended by the flag, but they also don’t fly it at their home in Hendersonville, North Carolina.

“I don’t see it as related to slavery,” said Howard, 71. “To us, it just represents being from the South.”

But the flag has a dark side. It has been waved for decades by the Ku Klux Klan, neo-Nazis and other white supremacists who oppose equal rights. The banner’s use by such groups, combined with a widening sense that it is time to retire the symbol of a defeated nation once and for all, has led to change.

“The argument over the 1894 flag has become as divisive as the flag itself and it’s time to end it,” Mississippi Gov. Tate Reeves said of the state’s current flag, which was adopted by lawmakers at a time when white supremacists were actively squelching political power that African Americans had gained after the Civil War.

Georgia — which added the battle emblem to its state flag in 1956 in response to U.S. Supreme Court decisions to desegregate public schools — adopted a flag without a rebel banner in 2003.

Alabama flew the battle flag atop its state Capitol until 1993, when it was removed following protests by Black legislators. Additional Confederate flags were removed from around a massive Confederate memorial just outside the building in 2015, when South Carolina also removed its battle flag from the state Capitol grounds after the shooting.

It has taken longer in Mississippi. Not long after the Charleston shooting, House Speaker Philip Gunn became the state’s first prominent Republican to say the Confederate symbol on the state flag was morally offensive and must be changed. People posted signs with the slogan, “Keep the Flag. Change the speaker,” but Gunn was easily reelected twice.

During the past month, Gunn and Mississippi’s first-year lieutenant governor, Republican Delbert Hosemann, persuaded a diverse, bipartisan coalition of legislators that changing the flag was inevitable and they should be part of it.

Hosemann is the great-grandson of a Confederate soldier, Lt. Rhett Miles, who was captured at Vicksburg and requested a pardon after the war ended in 1865.

“After he had fought a war for four years, he admitted his transgressions and asked for full citizenship,” Hosemann said during the debate. “If he were here today, he’d be proud of us.”

Associated Press reporters Kate Brumback in Stone Mountain, Georgia, and Emily Wagster Pettus in Jackson, Mississippi, contributed to this report.
GERD Talks Still Lack Technical, Legal Agreement: Egypt's Irrigation Ministry
Ahram Online
Friday 3 Jul 2020

The Egyptian irrigation ministry said on Friday evening that fundamental differences over the technical and legal aspects of theGrand Ethiopian Renaissance Dam (GERD) are stillin place between Egypt, Ethiopia and Sudan.

The ministry's short statement was released on the first day of the new round of tripartite talks.

Talks willcontinue via video conference on Saturday, the statement added.

Sudan said the new round of talks resumed on Friday under the auspices of the African Union, which is headed by South Africa.

The United States, the EU, South Africa, representatives of the AU office and AU Commission as well as AU legal experts attended the session as observers, stated the Egyptian Ministry of Irrigation.

The previous round of negotiations between the three countries, held from 9 to 17 June, failed to produce an accord due to Ethiopia's refusal to enter into a legally binding agreement and its announcement that it will begin filling the dam in July with or without the approval of the two downstream countries.
GERD Talks Between Egypt, Ethiopia and Sudan Resume on Friday
Ahram Online
Friday 3 Jul 2020

Negotiations between Egypt, Ethiopia and Sudan on the operation and filling of the under-construction Grand Ethiopian Renaissance Dam began via video conference on Friday afternoon, the Sudanese government said in a statement.

The talks are being held under the auspices of the African Union, which is currently headed by South Africa.

South African President Cyril Ramaphosa, the current AU chairman, said that he hoped this round of talks will reach an acceptable solution that will safeguard the interests of the three countries.

The previous round of negotiations between the three countries, held from 9-17 June, failed to produce an accord due to Ethiopia's refusal to enter into a legally binding agreement and its announcement that it will begin filling the dam in July even without approval from the two downstream countries.

The leaders of the three countries, along with Ramaphosa, held an online mini-summit on last Friday.

At the summit, Ethiopia agreed to delay the filling of the hydropower dam until a final binding deal is reached. The summit also agreed to form a committee of legal and technical experts to draft a final deal.

The technical committee will try to strike a deal within two weeks, as suggested by Ethiopia, Sudan's Prime Minister Abdalla Hamdok said following the summit.
Eni Announces Gas Discovery off Egyptian Coast in the Mediterranean
Ahram Online
Wednesday 1 Jul 2020

Eni says it will drill a new well this year in the Great Nooros area

Italian oil company Eni announced on Wednesday that it has made a new gas discovery off the coast of the Egyptian Nile Delta.

Eni, along with contractors British BP and France's Total, has successfully drilled the first exploration well in the North Hammad concession, which Eni operates, the company said in a statement on its website.

In 2015, the Italian oil and gas company was awarded a 37.5 percent share in the North El-Hammad licence block, while BP holds 37.5 percent and Total holds the remaining 25 percent. Exploration by the three companies began in the block three years later.

The new discovery, which is at the Bashrush prospect, is located at a depth of 22 metres, and is 11 km from the coast. It is also close to the Nooros and Baltim South West offshore fields, both of which are also operated by Eni.

The well is a single 152-metre-thick gas column in Messinian age sandstone, and it has "excellent petrophysical properties," the company said, adding that the well will be tested for production.

The three firms will coordinate with Egypt's petroleum authorities to begin studying the development options for the new discovery, with the aim of "fast tracking" production, the statement said.

Eni said it will drill another well, Nidoco NW-1 DIR, this year in the Great Nooros area, located in the Abu Madi West concession.

Eni has been operating in Egypt since 1954 through its subsidiary IEOC, and its current daily production is estimated at 280,000 barrels of oil equivalent.

The Italian company discovered the giant Zohr gas field, the biggest in the Mediterranean, off the Egyptian coast in 2015. The discovery, which holds an estimated reservoir of 30 trillion cubic feet, has drawn the interest of investors to the country's energy sector.
WTO, International Banks Collaborate to Provide Support for Global Trade Amid COVID-19
Doaa A.Moneim
Wednesday 1 Jul 2020

The European Bank for Reconstruction and Development (EBRD) has joined the World Trade Organization (WTO) and other multilateral development banks to provide urgently needed support for trade during the COVID-19 crisis, which has caused a devastating economic downturn, the EBRD and WTO announced in a joint statement on Wednesday.

The EBRD, the WTO, the International Finance Corporation (IFC), the Asian Development Bank, the African Development Bank and the International Islamic Trade Finance Corporation said that they committed to working together to ensure that trade finance remains available through the ongoing difficult period, just as they did previously during the global financial crisis of 2008-2010.

They added that they will join forces to monitor ongoing developments and act to fill financing gaps that could emerge.

“We prioritise our support to areas in the world where such support is needed most, particularly the poorest countries. We also call on other institutions, trade credit insurers, central banks, other public-backed and private sector institutions to join current efforts and support essential trade finance transactions,” they added in the statement.

The EBRD has stepped up its support under its Trade Facilitation Programme, providing amplified financing for trade with a record €1.5 billion for the first five months of 2020 in the 38 economies in Europe, Asia and Africa where it currently invests.

Global trade is expected to drop around 18.5 percent (Y-o-Y) in the second quarter of 2020 due to the COVID-19 crisis, according to the WTO.

In June, the WTO said that the volume of merchandise trade shrank by 3 percent in the first quarter of 2020 compared to the same three months in 2019, adding that initial estimates for the second quarter, when the pandemic and its related lockdown measures affected a large share of the global population, indicate a year-on-year drop of about 18.5 percent.
Mersal: A Lifeline for Hospital Beds in Egypt’s Virus Fight
Ayat Al Tawy
Friday 3 Jul 2020

Every day, Heba Rashed is inundated with as many as 200 calls and messages on her mobile phone, starting the moment she wakes up, from Egyptians pleading for help finding a hospital bed during the coronavirus pandemic.

“If I don’t answer my phone, people may die. In a crisis like this, we can’t retreat,” the 40-year-old said after a typically exhausting work day that ended at midnight.

Rashed is the founder and head of Mersal, a five-year-old health care charity whose name has done the rounds on social media in recent weeks for saving the lives of hundreds of coronavirus patients.

Since May, she has been leading a nine-strong “emergency” team that has stepped forward to help in the gruelling battle against the highly contagious disease, as the rising caseload strains medical services in the country of over 100 million people.

The charity has taken on the daunting task of securing hospital beds and expensive intensive care unit (ICU) spots for coronavirus cases or those suffering from severe pneumonia caused by COVID-19.

As the epidemic accelerates and the disease progresses, these beds are in rising demand, especially because of the breathing problems the illness can bring.

Mersal’s coronavirus team has direct round-the-clock access to an operation room designated by health authorities for the coronavirus crisis that has a helpline, and is working together with ten private hospitals in Greater Cairo.

“We first reach out to the 105 [room]; if they find us an available bed in a state hospital, we direct the patient to it. If there is pressure, we send them to a private hospital until they secure a place in a government hospital, or until they recover and are discharged,” Rashed told Ahram Online.

Every day, the organisation receives some 2,000-3,000 calls and social media messages. Of those, some 50 people are added daily to a waitlist for critical care beds -- now totalling around 300.

The high numbers mean the team must perform triage to decide who deserves a place first, with priority usually given to those in serious condition, Rashed says.

While concerns are rising about how the country’s already faltering and under-resourced health care system will handle the surge of an average of 1,400 new infections daily in recent weeks, authorities have repeatedly assured the public that the hospital system is not running out of beds.

Last week, Egypt’s health minister said that the occupancy rate at quarantine hospitals was at 59 percent and intensive care beds were at 71 percent nationwide.

Out of the 35,000 beds in the 376 Egyptian hospitals currently dealing with coronavirus patients, only 6,500 were occupied, minister Hala Zayed said last month. She stressed that beds were still available in Cairo despite its high rate of infections and that complaints about lack of beds had dropped recently.

“Until a couple of weeks ago, a lot of people were calling us saying they cannot find a place. We had a very long waiting list,” said Ayman Soliman, an internist and critical care doctor at the Abbasiya fever hospital, the country’s first and major frontline facility in the battle against the virus.

But he says things have changed significantly after the country designated over 300 general hospitals to receive coronavirus cases. “There is a big difference now; the numbers [of those needing beds] are not as high, even with the steady rise in infections, and the waiting time is a lot shorter.”

Saving lives

Over the past month, Mersal has offered more than 400 patients intensive care beds, mostly in private hospitals, while covering all or part of the cost.

Marwa Refaat’s 66-year-old father was one such patient. He had spent nine days in isolation at home before he started having trouble breathing and his oxygen level deteriorated. He was being given oxygen at home as the family scrambled to hunt for a bed.

They reached out to four state hospitals and special government helplines, but to no avail, with one hospital turning them down.

Refaat posted a dire plea on social media at night, and the following afternoon, she was contacted by the Mersal team, who told her they had found her father a bed at a private hospital.

Her father spent 11 days at hospital, five in the ICU. Mersal fully covered the cost without querying if the family could have afforded it or not.

“I would have lost him if it wasn’t for them,” Refaat said.

Intensive care beds at private hospitals are expensive, costing between EGP10,000-50,000 (approx. $620-3,100) a day, Rashed and others say.

“There is an exaggeration in prices. But we have no other option. The alternative is that people will die,” Rashed said, adding that some facilities had offered them a discount of up to 30 percent.

Mersal has also helped around three dozen COVID-19 sufferers find beds at state hospitals strained by the rising influx of patients. It now has its own 20-bed ICU unit that came into operation in late May.

The charity, which is entirely reliant on social media to draw donors, now runs a telemedicine Facebook group for suspected coronavirus cases and self-isolating patients which has drawn 350,000 followers and which helps hundreds of people every day.

It has also given a number of life-saving ventilators and supplies of protective gear to several hospitals nationwide.

But the team, who are working round-the-clock rotating shifts to make sure they are reachable 24/7, are grappling with another challenge.

The unrelenting mental pressure of battling the pandemic on the frontline has exacted a toll on many of them, who have seen patients succumb to a disease that has killed more than 3,000 in the country.

“Sometimes I feel like I cannot handle that amount of calls, deaths, and cries. I just break down. It’s a terrible mental pressure,” Rashed says.

When this happens, she opts to stay away from her phone for a bit and have more proper sleep, while having one of her colleagues take her place.

“But the following day I’m back to the circuit. We can’t take a break at such a time.”

There are, however, many victories that keep the staff going. For Rashed, one such moment was when a 10-year-old patient, already suffering from an autoimmune disease and in dire condition, was admitted to hospital.

“Not all hospitals accept such cases. We were a bundle of nerves until we found him a bed. It was a happy day.”

Thursday, July 02, 2020

SADC Approves New Cross-border Rules
Southern Times
June 26, 2020
Thando Mnkandhla

Windhoek - The Southern Africa Development Community (SADC) has approved a set of revised guidelines for cross-border transporters.

The Revised Regional Guidelines and Harmonisation and Facilitation of Cross Border Transport Operations across the Region, and Regional Standard Operating Procedures for the Management and Monitoring of Cross Border Road Transport at Designated Points of Entry and Covid-19 Checkpoints got the nod at a virtual Extraordinary Council of Ministers meeting on June 23.

An initial set of guidelines was approved on April 6, and the Council of Ministers has updated these to factor in lessons learnt since then.

The revised guidelines aim to structure smooth and harmonised processing of COVID-19 regulations by member states, for purposes of promotion of safe trade and transport.

The updated regulations will also facilitate implementation of the SMART corridor trip monitoring system for management of cross-border movements, which will bolster driver wellness, vehicle tracking, contact tracing and queue management.

Council of Ministers Chair Professor Palamagamba John Kabudi called on SADC to continue exhibiting determination and solidarity in addressing COVID-19.

Prof Kabudi said it was important to have stringent and co-ordinated measures to contain the pandemic.

SADC Executive Secretary Dr Stergomena Tax added, “All indications show that until a vaccine for the treatment of COVID-19 is found, which might take a while, the region has to remain pragmatic and vigilant by considering  both, health requirements, but also socio-economic imperatives."

Members of the bloc that are yet to establish National Transport and Trade Facilitation Committees with expanded membership to include public health, public security and the private sector were urged to do so expeditiously.
Porous Borders Worry Lesotho
Southern Times
June 26, 2020

Lesotho last week recorded eight new cases of COVID-19, the highest number reported by the small mountain kingdom to date.

"Seven of the confirmed cases had a travel history from South Africa and one from Zimbabwe," the country's director-general of health services, Dr Ntsane Letsie, said in a statement last week.

She said two patients were from the capital Maseru, four from Mohale's Hoek, one from Berea and one from Buthe-Buthe.

Lesotho now has 12 COVID-19 infections, two recoveries, but no virus-related deaths.

Letsie said the ministry of health would continue to carry out contact tracing on all the confirmed cases. It would also continue "vigilant screening" at designated points of entry, at health facilities and in communities, as well as monitoring those in home quarantine.

She appealed to the public to remain calm, vigilant and adhere to safety protocols to minimise the spread of the virus.

Last week, Health Minister Motlatsi Maqelepo announced that the COVID-19 lockdown restriction had been relaxed, which included food retailers resuming trade from 8am to 8pm, and liquor stores

being allowed to operate from 8am to 5 pm, Monday to Friday.

Taxis and buses were only allowed to take seated passengers, with no standing room allowed.

Earlier in June, Lesotho's National Emergency Command Centre said it was worried that many Basotho were taking advantage of the porous borders to enter the country from South Africa, which is deemed a high-risk for COVID-19.

The spokesperson for the command centre, Ramakhula Ramakhula, said via a statement that between June 10 and 17, a total of 141 Basotho from South Africa entered the country through various weak border areas, and implied that thousands of Basotho were already in Lesotho because of the porous borders.

South Africa has the highest number of confirmed Covid-19 cases in Africa.

According to the latest figures released by the country's National Institute for Communicable Diseases, the country had recorded 97,302 COVID-19 infections, 51,608 recoveries, and 1,930 deaths as of Sunday night.

According to real-time data tracking site, Worldometers, South Africa has surpassed China's confirmed cases.

China has to date recorded 83,396 infections, 78,413 recoveries, and 4,634 deaths.

The new coronavirus was first recorded in Wuhan, the capital of Central China’s Hubei province, in December 2019, from where it spread to other parts of the world, resulting in a global pandemic.

– African News Agency
Kenya Gets UN Security Council Seat
Southern Times
June 26, 2020
Thando Mnkandhla

Windhoek - Kenya has been elected a non-permanent member of the United Nations Security Council, beating Djibouti in a close contest for the post designated for Africa on the powerful organ.

Both countries failed to get the required two-thirds vote win in the initial round of balloting last week Wednesday at the UN Headquarters in New York, USA. Kenya had 113 votes to Djibouti's 78, against the two-thirds threshold of 128.

This triggered a runoff the next day where 191 of the UN General Assembly’s 193 voting members cast ballots. Kenya secured 129 of these to Djibouti’s 68.

The east African country will join Niger and Tunisia, who were elected unopposed, and they will replace South Africa, Cote d'Ivoire and Equatorial Guinea for a two-year term.

The UN Security Council has five permanent members (Britain, China, France, Russia and the United States) who have veto power, and 10 non-permanent rotating seats that do not wield the veto.

In a media statement after the vote, Kenyan Foreign Affairs Minister Raychelle Omamo said, "Kenya remains a safe pair of hands. I reaffirm Kenya's firm commitment to a rules based ethos, buttressed by robust multilateralism, secured by the UN Charter and International Law. Kenya anticipates continued support to ensure global peace and security for sustainable development and shared prosperity."

Djibouti’s Foreign Affairs Minister, Mahmoud Ali Youssouf, took to microblogging site Twitter to thank the countries that had supported his country’s ultimately unsuccessful bid.

"Kenya has just been elected. We congratulate them and wish them all the best for their future. I congratulate all of our ministers, diplomats and senior officials for their dedication to this cause, but this is partly postponed.”

Kenya had offered its candidacy for the non-permanent seat for the 2013-2014 and 2018-2019 terms, but withdrew on both occasions in favour of Rwanda and Ethiopia respectively. In 2017 when Kenya declared its candidature for the 2020-2021 term, little to no resistance was expected until Djibouti stepped forward and expressed its interest.

The African Union Executive Council of Ministers on July 5, 2019 tasked the AU Permanent Representatives Committee to select a consensus candidate for the East African bloc and in August of the same year settled on Kenya.

However, Djibouti said Kenya had a previous stint on the Security Council in 1997-1998 and should thus step aside in the interest of rotation, setting the stage for a global diplomatic charm offensive by the two nations.

The AU, as per the Ezulwini Consensus, has been agitating for a reform of the United Nations system to make it more democratic and better reflect the realities of the modern world instead of remaining steeped in the power relations that characterised the world at the end of World War II when the Allies apportioned themselves permanent Security Council seats with veto power (the P5).

The AU wants two permanent seats for Africa with veto power, should the veto system be retained, or alternatively an end to the veto on the Security Council.

The veto allows the P5 in the Security Council to disregard any decisions reached by the 193 members of the General Assembly.
AIPPA Scrapped…New Freedom of Information Bill Signed into Law
02 JUL, 2020 - 00:07
Herald Reporter

The new Freedom of Information Bill became law yesterday after being gazetted following the approval of the final amended version from Parliament by President Mnangagwa.

The new Act, a giant step forward in the reform agenda, repeals the long-criticised Access to Information and Protection of Privacy Act (AIPPA)and brings Zimbabwe’s information-related laws into conformity with the Declaration of Rights in the Constitution.

The initial draft went through a long examination and multi-party amendment process by Parliament, and especially through the relevant portfolio committee, which is chaired by an opposition MP.

In a statement last night, the Minister of Information, Publicity and Broadcasting Services Senator Monica Mutsvangwa said the coming of the Act “marks a notable milestone in Government’s media legislative reform programme. The promulgation of the Act by President Mnangagwa has repealed the Access to Information and Protection of Privacy Act (AIPPA). Since assuming office in August 2018, he immediately prioritised the creation of a conducive national media environment through the repeal of AIPPA and the amendment of the Broadcasting Services Act.

“The enactment of the Freedom of Information Act is indeed a momentous occasion, not only for Government ,but for the media fraternity and the citizens. AIPPA had aroused a lot of animosity over the years.”

The Minister noted that the Act provided citizens and media practitioners with the right to access information as espoused by the Constitution through providing the legal frameworks and mechanisms for accessing information from public and private bodies.

“One such mechanism is the mandatory designation of Information Officers in all public and private entities that shall be responsible for handling information requests and disclosure of information to the public.

“I am happy that the Second Republic Government has enacted a law that Zimbabweans will undoubtedly take pride in as it caters for all citizens regardless of their race, colour, creed, religion, cultural beliefs and political persuasions.

“Once again, the enactment of the Freedom of Information Bill into law serves as a testimony of President ED Mnangagwa’s total commitment to instituting reforms in line with international best practices. By the same token, it shows what Zimbabweans can achieve when they commit to work together.”

She thanked the President, Parliament, the Ministry of Justice, Legal and Parliamentary Affairs, the public and in particular stakeholders in the media fraternity for all they had done.

The President has also approved the International Treaties Act, 2020 that seeks to provide a uniform procedure for the consideration, approval, ratification and publication of international treaties, and that too was gazetted into law yesterday.

The Act was a product of consensus after it was passed with full support of Zanu PF and opposition MPs after a lengthy drafting and amending process.

The basic concept behind the Bill is that all information held by public institutions, including State owned companies, can potentially be made public, with the exception of Cabinet discussions and certain information in victim friendly courts.

However, the new mandatory information officer in each entity, who is either the head of that entity or a person appointed by the head, has up to 21 days to consider each request for information and can refuse to make all or some of the requested information public, but under strictly set criteria, and all these decisions are subject to appeal.

Generally what can be barred are some defence and national security information, plus certain financial matters like proposed taxes in the pipeline, secret industrial processes, diplomatic matters, and some personal details of individuals. Where third parties are involved in the requested information, they have the right to agree or to make representations on why the information should not be released.

Rules are more relaxed when information is wanted on an individual person dead for more than 20 years, or on diplomatic matters more than 20 ago.

But when an information request is refused, full reasons must be given, and there is an automatic appeal process, first to the Zimbabwe Media Commission and then to the High Court. Deadlines are tight, 21 days to consider the request and 30 days for the media commission to hear the appeal. Within two months of a request that the relevant entity backed by the commission does not want to grant, the matter can be in front of a judge.

The Bill sets out the procedure of access to information held by public institutions or information held by any person, which is necessary for the exercise or protection of a right.

It also sets out considerations for making available, on a voluntary basis by entities, certain categories of information thereby removing the need for formal requests for such information.

Private entities fall under the same rules, but only when the rights of an individual are involved.

Speaking on behalf of the Portfolio Committee on Information, Media and Broadcasting Services following the passage of the Bill in March, Mbizo legislator Mr Settlement Chikwinya (MDC Alliance) thanked Government for the inclusivity in coming up with the Bill.

“At the point of drafting these laws, that is the laws which are repealing AIPPA, from the point of drafting Parliament was included. We went to Nyanga with the drafters and we had our input,” he said.

“At consultation stage and even at the point of cleaning up the areas where we did not find each other, we had a round-table meeting where the Ministry of Justice, the Ministry of Information and Parliament were involved. I believe that such a process will remove some of the political undertones which we may have in terms of suspicion. So I hope that the precedent can actually be sustained.”

Zanu PF representative for Makonde, Cde Kindness Paradza who is also a member of the committee, said he was happy that AIPPA would be repealed.

“I just want to say that I am so happy for this 9th Parliament that we have all agreed to make sure that we tear down AIPPA which was a bad law and that Bill is going to repeal this law. So, we are very happy. I am vindicated because in 2003, I stood up here and I said this was a bad law and I was hounded out of the party because of that. I just want to put it on record that I am so happy because I am vindicated,” Cde Paradza said.

Under the International Treaties Act, the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and International Trade shall be the principal custodian and principal national depositary of all international treaties.

The ministry shall also open and maintain an official archive of all international treaties currently in force, access to which shall be afforded to any interested person subject to such conditions, including the payment of any fee for access to the archive or the provision of authenticated copies of any international treaty.

The new Act also provides for the establishment of a committee, called the Public Agreements Advisory Committee, consisting of: a person nominated by the Attorney-General after consultation with the minister responsible for justice, who shall be the chairperson of PAAC; a senior official in the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and International Trade appointed by the minister, who shall be the secretary of PAAC; a senior official in the ministry responsible for finance nominated by the minister responsible for finance and a person nominated by the Office of the President and Cabinet.

The functions of PAAC shall be to scrutinise all international treaties and where appropriate, to recommend the approval or scrutiny of bilateral or multilateral agreements other than international treaties and to recommend or decline to recommend approval of any international treaty.

The Act also says international treaties shall be concluded under President’s authority except as otherwise provided by the Constitution or by or under an Act of Parliament.