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SA and Botswana flags
This week in history: Democracy 25
18 June 2019, 3:55 PM

This week marks 25 years since South Africa and Botswana signed an agreement upgrading the two countries’ diplomatic relations.

The ties were first formalised in 1992 with the establishment of Representative Offices in both countries in 1992. The upgrading of relations to full diplomatic level came into force on 22 June 1994.

Both countries have enjoyed good relations over the years, with then President Jacob Zuma in 2011 telling Members of Parliament (MP) during a question and answer session in the National Assembly that, “History has bound the two countries and peoples in a friendship and kinship that goes beyond normal diplomatic relations.”

“Our relations were cemented during the days of our struggle for liberation from colonial oppression and apartheid.”

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Diplomatic relations were rocked in April 2019 after Botswana accused mining mogul Bridgette Motsepe-Radebe of trying to influence that country’s leadership elections. President Cyril Ramaphosa swiftly sent then Minister of International Relations Lindiwe Sisul to Gaborone to diffuse the situation. After talks, Botswana said it was satisfied that no South African official was involved in the suspected coup plot.

The country, however, made it clear that Motsepe-Radebe, who has mining operations in Botswana, will now have to apply for a visa to enter Gaborone. This is a deviation from the norm as South African passport holders don’t need a visa to visit Botswana.

The incident was a second diplomatic spat between the two countries over the years. In 2017, Botswana lodged a complaint with the Department of International Relations and Cooperation (Dirco) after then North West Premier Supra Mahumapelo’s convoy allegedly pushed then President Ian Khama’s vehicles off the road. The incident had apparently occurred in Botswana’s capital Gaborone, which is a two-hour drive from the North West.

Trade relations

Botswana, South Africa, Lesotho, Namibia and Eswatini are members of the Southern African Customs Union (Sacu). The union allows for free flow of trade between the two countries. However, according to South African Market Insights, trade balance between the two nations seemed heavily skewed towards that of South Africa in 2017. Pretoria was exporting more to Gaborone than what the country was importing from South Africa, with exports in 2017 amounting to around R36.85 billion. South African imports from Botswana during the same period were worth a little more than R4.2 billion.

 

 

The Lion King celebrates a quarter of a century

Another milestone worth to note this week is the 25th anniversary of the Lion King.

The award-winning show celebrated its 1994 screen debut on June 15. The highest-grossing animated film in history had its stage premier in 1997. Over a 100-million people worldwide have watched the musical, which is a coming of age story about Simba – a lion cub separated from the kingdom he should rightfully rule.

According to the President of Disney Theatrical Productions Thomas Schumacher, South Africa has played an important role in the life of The Lion King.

“South African performers have been in every single production of The Lion King, from the first show in New York to the nine other productions which have played to packed houses around the world. Audiences have seen and felt the extraordinary talent, warmth and spirit which these performers and the South African music bring to the show.”

South Africans enjoy privilege in the show. For more than 20 years now, the musical has reserved at least six places in its cast for South African performers. They have been posted to cities around the world, including productions staged in Dutch, German and Spanish, among others.

The man credited with being the voice and spirit behind the show, Lebo Morake, known as Lebo M, is said to have made this practice due to the rich timbre and emotional essence South African singers’ voices add to the musical. Lebo M was choral director on the Broadway hit at the  time.

The heart of the show is African. It celebrates music, language and costumes. It features a fusion of popular Western music and rich and beautiful rhythms of African music based on Lebo M’s album, Rhythm of the Pride Lands, which was inspired by the film.

The producer and composer has arranged and performed much of the music for the movie and stage. His voice is the first one heard singing a chant over the opening sequence when the film begins.


Lebo M co-produced the local version of the musical with Pieter Toerien. Its debut was on 6 June 2007.

While The Lion King partly mirrors story lines of biblical figures Joseph and Moses, some of the musical’s cast members have drawn parallels with Nelson Mandela and the apartheid system. Mandela is seen as having represented the land that was enslaved and returns from prison as a hero who assumes power after years in exile.

 

 

Tito Mboweni tin fish
Social media – an eye opener!
18 June 2019, 12:01 PM

The emergence of social media has brought out the good, the bad and the ugly side of some of the country’s politicians. It’s let South Africans into the hearts and minds of many public figures that without it – their convictions would otherwise remain a mystery to many.

Ambassador to Denmark and daughter of struggle icons Winnie and Nelson Mandela, Zindzi Mandela, former President Jacob Zuma, ex-DA leader Helen Zille, Ekurhuleni Mayor Mzwandile Masina, ANC National Executive Committee member Tony Yengeni and Finance Minister Tito Mboweni are some politicians who are using the platform fearlessly; sometimes striking a raw nerve of some South Africans.

Mandela has been trending for several days now following her post on the land issue.

 

The Tweet has taken a life of its own – with racism, her father’s legacy and whether the diplomat should be fired taking centre-stage. The Department of International Relations and Cooperation (Dirco) is investigating the incident.

 

 

 

 

 


Mandela’s views are not the only ones that have exposed South Africa’s racial division and the hurt many still feel over the brutality of the apartheid rule and the settlement reached by politicians during the negotiations held before the country’s first democratic elections in 1994.

The DA’s Helen Zille is another public figure who has stirred the pot in the past. Her most recent controversial post was on Black Privilege, which saw former Public Protector Professor Thuli Madonsela stepping into the murky waters of a Twitter war.

 

 

 

The two leaders have since kissed and made up over a cup of tea.


The platform has, on the other hand, also revealed a soft and fun side of some leaders, like Finance Minister Tito Mboweni, who was previously only known to the public as a no-nonsense and bottom-line type of a guy. However, now South Africans have had a glimpse not only of his love for tin fish, Rwanda and farming, but his culinary skills too.

 

This led to some having fun with the Minister.


Former President Jacob Zuma also took to social media, openly throwing his weight behind embattled eThekwini Mayor Zandile Gumede.

He contradicted the ANC’s stance on Gumede a day after she was instructed to temporarily bow out of office until the outcome of her corruption case is pronounced.

South Africans fired back.

Masina and Yengeni are other ANC leaders who’ve lashed out at some of the Ramaphosa administration’s decisions on social media.

names @City_Ekurhuleni

— Mzwandile Masina (@mzwandileMasina) June 13, 2019

While others have accused these leaders of sowing divisions with their controversial and sometimes blunt statements, others believe it is good for the country’s healing from the trauma of apartheid and development. They say it should be encouraged rather than suppressed.

Child with albinism sitting in front of class to see clearly
Calls made to Moz govt for improved access to education for children with albinism
13 June 2019, 2:10 PM

Human Rights Watch is calling on the Mozambican government to do more to ensure equal access to education for children living with albinism.

To mark International Albinism Day, the international rights group released a report looking at education barriers for children living with the genetic disorder on Thursday.

The organisation spoke to more than 60 people, including community leaders, children and young adults living with the condition and government officials in Tete province and the country’s capital Maputo.

It found that children with albinism usually drop out of school due to various reasons, including bullying, little to no reasonable accommodation for their low vision, and requirements to participate in physical education classes outside without proper protection from the sun.

In late 2014, there was a surge of attacks on people with albinism in Mozambique, including kidnapping and trafficking with more than 100 incidents reported that year alone. Despite the rate of the attacks and kidnappings having gone down, the report also found that some children are still living in fear.


Government’s response to challenges faced by those living with albinism

In recent years, the Mozambique government has moved to improve security for people living with albinism.

At the Global Disability Summit in 2018 in Britain, it pledged to create inclusive education policies and plans.  The move was one of Maputo’s several efforts, including a 2015 Action Plan to deal with violence against people living with the condition, to ensure a fulfilling life for those who live with the disorder.

While recognising the Mozambican government’s efforts, Human Rights Watch says more should be done. It’s urging the government to increase its attempts to dispel deadly myths about albinism through workshops and at outdoor cinemas in the local language, particularly in rural and isolated communities such as those across Tete.

It’s also calling for government to ensure that all teachers in the public education system are trained to adequately provide for the needs of children living with albinism. It’s also advocating for schools to provide resources to meet the children’s needs, including textbooks and exams with larger fonts, and assistive devices to read the blackboard.

“Children with albinism have the same right as everyone else to a quality education with reasonable support to facilitate their learning,” says Human Rights Watch Disability Rights Director, Shantha Barriga.

“By taking steps to make sure that children with albinism can meaningfully get an education while continuing to investigate and prosecute those responsible for attacks, Mozambique has an opportunity to further show its commitment to ensuring the safety, inclusion and dignity for people with albinism,” Barriga adds.

As a priority, Human Rights Watch says Mozambique’s government should also carry out the recommendations outlined in the Regional Action Plan on Albinism in Africa, the first continental strategy to address violations against people with albinism.

The plan has been endorsed by the African Commission on Human and People’s Rights in 2017.

It contains a series of immediate to long-term measures focused on protection, prevention, accountability, and non-discrimination.

Albinism is a relatively rare genetic disorder where a person produces little or no melanin in their skin. While the condition affects one out of about every 17 000 to 20 000 people in Europe and North America, it is more widespread in Sub-Saharan Africa where it reportedly affects one in 1 000 people.

Although not everyone with albinism has a disability, the melanin deficit can result in low vision and an increased vulnerability to the sun’s ultra-violet rays. People with albinism living in Sub-Saharan African are about 1 000 times more likely to develop skin cancer than the general population.

Rob Packham
Packham sentenced to 22 years in jail for wife’s murder
12 June 2019, 2:56 PM

Constantia businessman Rob Packham has been sentenced to 22 years behind bars in the Cape Town High Court for killing his wife.

Last month, Packham was convicted of his wife Gill’s brutal murder after her charred body was found in the boot of her burnt car near Diep River in February 2017.

Judge Elize Steyn has described the murder as cruel.

Steyn says circumstances surrounding the murder warrant a deviation from the minimum sentence of 15 years.

“Accordingly on the count of murder you are sentenced to 20 years direct imprisonment on the count of defeat of (the ends of) justice you are sentenced to 4 years as ordered in terms of section 218 of the Criminal Procedure Act and two years of the sentence imposed on count two shall run concurrently with that imposed on count one. You are accordingly sentenced to an effective term of 22 years direct imprisonment.”

The state had called for life sentence for the 58-year-old.

President confirms receipt of PP’s notice over Bosasa controversial donation
12 June 2019, 1:59 PM

President Cyril Ramaphosa has received the Public Protector’s notice on her probe into allegations that he lied to Parliament.

The claims relate to the R500 000 Bosasa donation to support his campaign for the ANC presidency.

The Democratic Alliance (DA) had threatened to take action against Advocate Busisiwe Mkhwebane if her report into the matter was not released by the end of this week.

The Public Protector has granted the President until June 21 to respond to the preliminary report.

Presidential spokesperson, Khusela Diko has confirmed the developments.

“The Presidency can confirm Protector Busisiwe Mkhwebane’s confirmation that she has served a section 7.9 notice on him. President Ramaphosa has written for an extension of the 10-day period but also elected to exercise his entitlement to question the complainant, Mr Maimane, and several other witnesses that have appeared before the PP (Public Protector) during the course of the investigation. It’s important to reiterate that the President remains fully committed to cooperating with the PP in the course of the investigation.”

President Ramaphosa initially told Members of Parliament (MPs) the half a million rand was a payment to his son for services he had rendered to the controversial company, implicated in dodgy deals with state entities.

He later corrected his submission to the National Assembly, saying the donation was made towards his ANC campaign without his knowledge.

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