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South African Legion celebrates 100 years of assisting military veterans
19 October 2021, 11:25 AM

The SA Legion of Military Veterans has marked 100 years of assisting military veterans – embodying its motto of ‘not for ourselves but for others’.

The centenary congress was held in Cape Town, significantly just over 100 years after the first international conference of British veterans’ organisations following the end of the Great War, opened in the Cape Town City Hall in February 1921.  This saw the establishment of a number of Commonwealth veterans’ organisations, including the Royal British Legion and the British Legion Kenya.

And while much has changed over the years, the Legion continues to make a huge difference to veterans and their families.  Its original three-fold mission remains the same — to provide for all members of the armed forces community in need, to campaign in their interest, and to remember and honour their service and sacrifice. One example of providing care, housing and employment to military veterans is the work done by the SA Legion Memorial Chapel and Social Club in Dube, Soweto, which is run by the Soweto Branch.

Speaking during the congress, the Deputy Mayor of Cape Town Ian Neilson, noted that while South Africans had enjoyed at least a generation without a major war or conflict, there were still important lessons for the future.  He said: “As we reflect on what it means to serve, to sacrifice, and to build a better society for all our citizens, we can look back on what has been accomplished, and consider how we can build on that to face the uncertainties and challenges of the future.”

The COVID-19 pandemic meant that such a significant anniversary was marked by much-reduced celebrations which did not do full justice to the international aspect of the organisation.  The original plan had been to include as many as 80 foreign dignitaries from the Commonwealth.  While not able to attend in person, the Grand President of the Royal Commonwealth Ex-Services League, Lord Richards of Herstmonceux had this message for the Legion: “For 100 years the South African Legion has supported those who have no-one else to turn to. I congratulate you on reaching this remarkable milestone and send warmest wishes from all Nations of the League for a successful Centenary Congress.”

In the United Kingdom, the Royal British Legion marked the centenary of its establishment in May.  Across that country, various bodies held numerous events to mark the occasion throughout the year.

The highlight of the UK celebrations was a Service of Thanksgiving at Westminster Abbey in London earlier in October attended by Princess Royal, Princess Anne, and the Queen.  The Queen is the patron of the Royal British Legion. The Royals honored those who lost their lives in the line of duty and pay their respects to those who are serving and have served. Those attending the service included serving military personnel, veterans and their families from the UK and Commonwealth countries.

Looking to the future work of the SA Legion, with many members elderly and frail, the Legion’s Charles Ross pointed to the recruitment of new members and raised the question of whether they would have to be military veterans. He said this would be one of the matters that the new National Executive Committee elected in Cape Town, would have to address.

The SA Legion currently has around one-thousand-500 members.  By comparison, the Royal British Legion, which is the UK’s leading armed forces charity and one of its largest membership organisations, has over 450 000 members.

Reflecting on significant events leading up to the centenary, Ross said these included numerous pilgrimages, especially the 2016 visit to Delville Wood in France; the 2017 service to commemorate the sinking of the SS Mendi, which involved members of the UK branch; the earlier role the Legion had played in obtaining pensions for war veterans of all races, as well as providing accommodation for war veterans.

Key events in South Africa’s military history are regularly commemorated by the Legion. The best-known is Remembrance Day on 11 November.

Despite the changing times and challenges over the last 100 years, the Legion never ceased to strive for unity, fair and equal treatment for all veterans. This work drew words of praise from South Africa’s first democratically elected president, Nelson Mandela. He said:  “The South African Legion’s acceptance of veterans of Umkhonto we Sizwe and APLA as members puts the organisation at the heart of reconciliation which is feeding the new patriotism of the New South Africa.”

Missionary group confirms kidnapping of 16 Americans, one Canadian
17 October 2021, 9:27 PM

A missionary group including 16 Americans and one Canadian were kidnapped in Haiti on Saturday while on a trip to an orphanage, the Ohio-based Christian Aid Ministries group said on Sunday.

“We request urgent prayer for the group of Christian Aid Ministries workers who were abducted while on a trip to visit an orphanage on Saturday, October 16,” it said in a statement, saying seven women, five men and five children were taken.

Gang members kidnapped the group after they left an orphanage in the Caribbean nation, where violence has surged since the assassination of President Jovenel Moise in July and an earthquake in August, CNN and the New York Times reported earlier.

Christian Aid Ministries provided no information about where the group may have been taken or on efforts to free them, beyond saying “we are seeking God’s direction for a resolution, and authorities are seeking ways to help.”

US Congressman Adam Kinzinger, an Illinois Republican, told CNN the United States must find the group and see if it can negotiate their release without paying a ransom or should use the military or police to secure their freedom.

“We need to track down where they are and see if negotiations – without paying ransom – are possible. Or do whatever we need to do, on a military front or a police front,” Kinzinger who sits on the House Foreign Affairs Committee, said.

Asked if it could confirm the kidnapping, a spokesperson for the US State Department said only that it was aware of the reports, adding: “The welfare and safety of US citizens abroad is one of the highest priorities of the Department of State.”

The Department had warned US citizens on Aug. 23 against traveling to Haiti, the poorest nation in the Americas, citing the risk of kidnapping, crime, civil unrest, and COVID-19.

Son of ex-Somali political aide held over UK lawmaker stabbing
17 October 2021, 8:37 PM

Ali Harbi Ali, the son of an ex-media adviser to a former prime minister of Somalia, has been arrested by British police under anti-terrorism laws following the killing of lawmaker David Amess, a source close to the investigation and British media said.

Amess, 69, from Prime Minister Boris Johnson’s Conservative Party, was knifed repeatedly as he met constituency voters in a church on Friday in Leigh-on-Sea, east of London.

The killing took place five years after the murder of Jo Cox, a lawmaker from the opposition Labour Party, and has prompted a review of politicians’ security.

Police said they had arrested a 25-year-old British man at the scene on suspicion of murder and have said it is believed he acted alone. They have not named the suspect but used additional powers under anti-terrorism laws to detain him until Oct. 22.

A British source close to the investigation named Ali Harbi Ali, a British citizen, as the detained suspect.

Harbi Ali Kullane, the father of Ali Harbi Ali, told The Sunday Times that his son had been arrested in connection with the murder.

“At this particular moment we are going through (an)unprecedented and horrific situation,” Harbi Ali Kullane, a former adviser to Hassan Ali Khaire, a former Somali prime minister, told Reuters in an email when asked about this.

“Due to the ongoing early investigation I am obliged and commanded not to talk about it,” said Harbi Ali Kullane, who is a former director of the Somali government’s media and communication department.

British police were on Sunday searching an address in north London linked to Ali Harbi Ali, Reuters reporters said.

Amess’ family said they were “absolutely broken” and urged people to pull together.

“Set aside hatred and work towards togetherness,” they said in a statement released via London police. “Whatever one’s race, religious or political beliefs, be tolerant and try to understand.”

Interior minister Priti Patel said Britain is looking at how to boost the security of lawmakers.

“Within that there are other options that are being considered such as when you hold your surgeries, could you have officers or some kind of protection…?” she told Sky News on Sunday, referring to meetings British lawmakers have with their constituents.

What inflammatory election posters say about South Africa’s Democratic Alliance
13 October 2021, 3:23 PM


The Democratic Alliance has been accused of inflaming racial tensions in Phoenix. Local residents belonging to a protection group stand watch in July 2021 at the height of the violence.

Is “liberal” in South Africa another way of saying “right-wing”?

Liberalism’s apparent representative in the country’s party politics is the official opposition, the Democratic Alliance (DA). Its current leadership does not flaunt its liberalism, and most of its voters are not liberals. But it is affiliated to the Liberal International and the Africa Liberal Network, alliances of liberal parties. So, it identifies itself as liberal and liberal politicians around the world agree.

Other liberal parties may be less eager to identify with the DA after it distributed posters in eThekwini (Durban), KwaZulu-Natal, which were seen by just about everyone outside the party – and some within it – as at best racially insensitive, at worst bigoted and divisive.

They were erected in Phoenix, an area which houses mainly people of Indian descent, and was hit by violent clashes between Indian and black people in July. Phoenix residents who are blamed for the violence say they were protecting themselves from violent attack. Many black people insist they were racial vigilantes. The DA’s response was to erect two posters. One read:

The ANC called you racists.

The other:

The DA calls you heroes.

Even at face value, the posters were inflammatory and insensitive. In an area crying out for a calming of racial tensions, they chose sides and inflamed them.

They become worse if we recognise that, in a racially divided society, what people read is filtered through stereotypes which are rarely expressed but are deeply felt. The posters reflected a (false) view common among racial minorities – that black people (the majority) are always responsible for violence; minorities are always defending themselves against them.

Fallout over posters

The DA’s leader in KwaZulu-Natal, the province in which Phoenix is situated, has apologised for the posters, for which he was reportedly responsible, and said they would be removed. But he did this only after its Johannesburg mayoral candidate, Mpho Phalatse, urged that they be taken down and DA politicians in KwaZulu-Natal said he had not consulted them.

The DA’s leader, John Steenhuisen, said he would not apologise for the posters; he endorsed their content while claiming, implausibly, that they were not racially biased.

While several DA politicians, and media commentators sympathetic to it, rejected the posters, its leader finds nothing wrong with them and it seems likely that his view is shared by others in the DA leadership.

The posters were not a bolt from the blue. They were consistent with messages the DA’s current leadership has been sending out for some time.

Its federal chair and former leader, Helen Zille, has become notorious for Twitter outbursts which sound like those of Donald Trump. She has complained that colonialism’s benefits are unappreciated and that there were fewer racial laws under apartheid than now. A DA MP claimed black members of parliament enjoyed singing because they were no good at thinking.

Nor is the DA the only supposedly liberal vehicle which echoes the global right-wing: the South African Institute of Race Relations, which recently filed court papers supporting the DA’s position in a dispute with the electoral commission, has moved from a pillar of the liberal establishment to a loud vehicle for hard right positions, so much so that 80 people, including some former employees and members, signed an open letter protesting at its right-wing stances.

Liberalism and white supremacy

To many of liberalism’s critics in South Africa, the fact that two of its core vehicles seem closer to the global right than the Liberal International is no surprise. Liberalism, they insist, may talk of freedom for all, but is another form of white supremacy. Reality is more complicated.

The Canadian political philosopher CB Macpherson argued that there were two liberalisms. The first he called “possessive individualism”. It was an ideology of the property owner who believed that they enjoyed wealth and power not because they were privileged but because they were better than others. Liberals of this type were horrified at the thought that all adults should be allowed to vote because that would, they feared, give power to the ignorant poor.

The second he labelled “developmental liberalism” – it favoured votes and rights for all.

Both liberalisms have played a role in South Africa’s history, although the divide between them has a racial flavour. The “possessive individualists” believe in white supremacy but think that “educated” black people – those who see the world as they do – could also be admitted to the circle of the privileged. Developmental liberals campaigned for votes for all and engaged in civil disobedience and, in some cases, armed resistance to minority rule.

The Liberal Party, which was active in the 1960s, housed both types. When it disbanded in the late 1960s to avoid implementing a new law which banned non-racial parties, its possessive individualists joined the Progressive Party, one of the DA’s ancestors, which advocated votes only for black people who owned property and had formal qualifications.

So, the DA is a product of the liberalism that believes only some black people are equal to whites. So is the South African Institute of Race Relations, which was known during apartheid for high quality research but also for limiting its opposition to apartheid to convening discussions between whites and some black professionals.

DA’s rightward lurch

The DA’s rightward lurch is not its first – in 1999, the party fought an election using the slogan Fight Back. While it claimed it was rallying voters to oppose the governing African National Congress, it sounded very much like it was urging racial minorities to fight majority rule.

Later the DA tried, when Zille was leader, to shed its white, suburban baggage. But its white leadership found a liberalism that might allow for independent black leadership not to its taste. It has moved ever rightward since, despite the fact that this is likely to exclude it from government in most of the country forever: its current leaders clearly believe that their idea of whiteness is more important not only than liberalism but also than winning support.

But that does not mean the posters indict South African liberalism. Reactions to them suggest that the DA has become too right-wing even for many “possessive individual” liberals. It has arguably not been a liberal party for a while: even those who embrace the narrower form of liberalism may have begun to notice this. And, even in its liberal phase, it represented only one liberal strand – the other continues to influence South Africans, including many who are not liberals. It lacks a political vehicle but is found in the constitution and public debate.

So, the posters tell us much about the biases of the DA’s current leadership. They say far less about liberalism and its future in South Africa.The Conversation

Steven Friedman, Professor of Political Studies, University of Johannesburg

This article is republished from The Conversation under a Creative Commons license. Read the original article.

G20 tackles Afghan humanitarian crisis at special summit
12 October 2021, 2:02 PM

Italian Prime Minister Mario Draghi hosted a special summit of the Group of 20 major economies on Tuesday to discuss Afghanistan, as worries grow about a looming humanitarian disaster following the Taliban’s return to power.

Since the Taliban took over Afghanistan on August 15, the country – already struggling with drought and severe poverty after decades of war – has seen its economy all but collapse, raising the spectre of an exodus of refugees.

“The summit’s focus points include urgent humanitarian support for the Afghan population, the fight against terrorism, freedom of movement inside the country and open borders,” Draghi’s office said in a brief statement.

The video conference kicked off at 1.00 p.m. (1100 GMT) and was due to last around 2-1/2 hours.

US President Joe Biden, Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi and Europe’s G20 leaders were expected to take part. However, Chinese President Xi Jinping did not dial in and it was not clear if Russian President Vladimir Putin would participate, underscoring differing international positions on the emergency.

“The main problem is that Western countries want to put their finger on the way the Taliban run the country, how they treat women for example, while China and Russia, on the other hand, have a non-interference foreign policy,” said a diplomatic source close to the matter.

The UN Secretary General Antonio Guterres joined Tuesday’s summit, highlighting the central role being given to the United Nations in dealing with Afghanistan – in part because many countries don’t want direct relations with the Taliban.

Banks in the country are running out of money, civil servants have not been paid and food prices have soared.

“The crisis is affecting at least 18 million people – half the country’s population,” Guterres told reporters in New York on Monday, adding that a massive UN aid operation was underway in a “race against time” as winter approaches.

Italy, which holds the rotating presidency of the G20, has worked hard to set up the meeting in the face of highly divergent views within the group on how to deal with Afghanistan after the chaotic US withdrawal from Kabul.

China has publicly demanded that economic sanctions on Afghanistan be lifted and that billions of dollars in Afghan international assets be unfrozen and handed back to Kabul.

The United States and Britain, where many of the assets are being held, are resisting this.

Guterres on Monday called for a major injection of liquidity into the Afghan economy, but said this should not be channelled through the Taliban. Answering his call, the European Union said on Tuesday it would give an additional 700 million euros ($810 million) in emergency aid to Afghanistan and its neighbours.

Two neighbouring states, Pakistan and Iran, were not invited to join Tuesday’s G20 call, but Qatar, which has played a key role as an interlocutor between the Taliban and the West, was taking part.

The virtual summit comes just days after senior US and Taliban officials met in Qatar for their first face-to-face meeting since the hardline group retook power.



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