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Kazakhstan government’s resignation fails to quell protests
5 January 2022, 1:09 PM

Protesters stormed public buildings in Kazakhstan’s biggest city on Wednesday as security forces struggled to impose control after the government resigned in response to popular anger over a fuel price increase.

An Instagram live stream by a Kazakh blogger showed a fire blazing in the mayor’s office in the city of Almaty, with gunshots audible nearby.

Videos posted online also showed the nearby prosecutor’s office burning.

Protesters appeared to have broken through security forces’ cordons even though the latter deployed stun grenades whose explosions could be heard throughout the city centre.

Kazakhstan is a tightly controlled former Soviet republic that cultivates an image of political stability, helping it attract hundreds of billions of dollars of foreign investment in its oil and metals industries.

President Kassym-Jomart Tokayev accepted the government’s resignation on Wednesday, a day after police used tear gas and stun grenades to drive hundreds of protesters out of the main square in Almaty.

On Wednesday a Reuters correspondent saw thousands of protesters pressing ahead towards Almaty city centre, some of them on a large truck, after security forces failed to disperse them with tear gas and flashbang grenades.

Atameken, Kazakhstan’s business lobby group, said its members were reporting cases of attacks on banks, stores and restaurants.

The city health department said 190 people had sought medical help, including 137 police. City authorities urged residents to stay home.

The interior ministry said that government buildings were also attacked in the southern cities of Shymkent and Tarazovernight, with 95 police wounded in clashes. Police have detained more than 200 people.

A video posted online showed police using a water cannon and stun grenades against protesters in front of the mayor’s office in Aktobe, the capital of another western province


The protests began after the government lifted price controls on liquefied petroleum gas at the start of the year. Many Kazakhs have converted their cars to run on LPG because of its low cost.

The government said the regulated price was causing losses for producers and needed to be liberalised. The president said it had botched the move.

Speaking to acting cabinet members, Tokayev ordered them and provincial governors to reinstate price controls on LPG, and broaden them to gasoline, diesel and other “socially important”consumer goods.

He also ordered the government to develop a personal bankruptcy law and consider freezing utility prices and subsidising rent payments for poor families.

He said the situation was improving in protest-hit cities and towns, including Almaty and the surrounding province, where the authorities declared a state of emergency.

In addition to replacing the prime minister, Tokayev also appointed a new first deputy head of the National Security Committee who replaced Samat Abish, a nephew of powerful ex-president Nursultan Nazarbayev.

Nazarbayev, 81, a Soviet-era Communist Party boss, ran Kazakhstan for almost 30 years before resigning abruptly in 2019 and backing Tokayev as successor. Nazarbayev retains sweeping powers as the chairman of the security council; he has not convened the council or commented on this week’s violence.

The protests began in the oil-producing western province of Mangistau on Sunday, after LPG prices more than doubled following the lifting of caps.

A source familiar with the situation said some workers at Mangistaumunaigas, a Kazakh-Chinese oil-producing joint venture based in the Mangistau province, were on strike, although this was not affecting output so far.

Tokayev declared the emergency in Almaty and Mangistau and has said that domestic and foreign provocateurs were behind the violence.
Almaty mayor Bakytzhan Sagintayev said the situation in the city was under control and security forces were detaining”provocateurs and extremists”.

Kazakhstan’s dollar-denominated sovereign bonds suffered sharp falls with the 2045 issue falling around 3 cents in the dollar and many dropping to levels last seen in 2020, Tradeweb data showed.

Like many emerging and developing economies, Kazakhstan has grappled with rising price pressures in recent years.

Inflation was closing in on 9% year-on-year late last year – its highest level in more than five years – forcing the central bank to raise interest rates to 9.75%.

Some analysts said the protests – the most serious in the country in at least a decade – pointed to more deep-rooted issues.

“I think there is an underlying undercurrent of frustrations in Kazakhstan over the lack of democracy,” said Tim Ash, emerging market strategist at BlueBay Asset Management.

“Young, internet-savvy Kazakhs, especially in Almaty, likely want similar freedoms as Ukrainians, Georgians, Moldovans, Kyrgyz, and Armenians, who have also vented their frustrations over the years with authoritarian regimes.

Rabada checks India’s progress but tourists lead South Africa by 161
5 January 2022, 12:51 PM

South Africa’s lead bowler Kagiso Radaba took three wickets in 11 balls to stem an early flow of runs for India, who were 188-6 at lunch on the third day of the second Test at the Wanderers on Wednesday.

Rabada brought an end to a potentially devastating 111-run third wicket partnership between Cheteshwar Pujara and Ajinkya Rahane, to leave the test still delicately poised as India looked to set their hosts an imposing target to chase.

India lead by 161 runs with four wickets in hand on a wicket expected to continue favouring the seamers and where a target of over 200 is going to be difficult to chase down.

Pujara and Rahane picked up where they left off on Tuesday as they took it to the home bowling, adding 66 runs, in the first hour, to the overnight score of 85-2.

They were looking to take the game away from the hosts, as they both reached half centuries, and put their team on course for a winning 2-0 lead in the three-match series, and a first-ever series success in South Africa.

But Rabada checked their progress by having Rahane caught behind for 58 and then Pujara trapped leg before wicket in his next over, out for 53.

Rabada added the wicket of Rishabh Pant the over after. The India wicketkeeper was caught behind by Kyle Verreyne without scoring and after facing just three balls.

South Africa got another fortunate breakthrough just before lunch when Ravichandran Ashwin played at a loose ball going down leg from Lungi Ngidi and was caught by wicketkeeper Verreyne for 16.

Hanuma Vihari on six not out and Shardul Thakur on four will resume after lunch.

Mauritania’s president tests positive for COVID-19
5 January 2022, 9:12 AM

Mauritania’s President Mohamed Ould Ghazouani is displaying mild symptoms of COVID-19 after testing positive, the presidency said on Tuesday.

Ghazouani, who came to power in August 2019, was found to be infected after having a fever, it said in a statement posted on Facebook.

Mauritania recorded 490 new coronavirus cases on Monday, its highest daily tally since the start of the pandemic.

The West African country has reported 862 deaths fromCOVID-19 among its 4.6 million people, while more than 2.3 million vaccine doses have been administered, according to World Health Organization data.

Omicron could lead Israel to herd immunity: health official
2 January 2022, 1:00 PM

A surge of Omicron infections could see Israel reaching herd immunity, the country’s top health official said on Sunday as daily cases continued to climb.

The highly transmissible Omicron variant has brought a surge in coronavirus cases across the globe. Worldwide infections have hit a record high, with an average of just over a million cases detected a day between December 24 and 30, according to Reuters data. Deaths, however, have not risen in kind, bringing hope the new variant is less lethal.

Until late December, Israel managed to stave off Omicron to some degree but with infection rates now gaining pace, daily cases are expected to reach record highs in the coming three weeks.

This could result in herd immunity, said director-general of the health ministry, Nachman Ash.

“The cost will be a great many infections,” Ash told 103FMRadio.

“The numbers will have to be very high in order to reach herd immunity. This is possible but we don’t want to reach it by means of infections, we want it to happen as a result of many people vaccinating,” he said.

Herd immunity is the point at which a population is protected from a virus, either through vaccination or by people having developed antibodies by contracting the disease.

Around 60% of Israel’s 9.4 million population are fully vaccinated – almost all with Pfizer /BioNTech’Svaccine – according to the health ministry, which means they have either received three doses or have had their second dose recently. But hundreds of thousands of those eligible for a third inoculation have so far not taken it.

Around 1.3 million coronavirus cases have been documented in Israel since the start of the pandemic. But between two to four million people may well be infected by the end of January when the Omicron wave could subside, according to Eran Segal, data scientist at the Weizmann Institute of Science and an adviser to the government.

Head of the health ministry’s coronavirus taskforce, Salman Zarka, said herd immunity was far from guaranteed.

“We have to be very cautious with this particularly in light of our experience over the past two years in which we saw people who have recovered (from coronavirus) be re-infected,” Zarka told Ynet TV.

Over the past ten days, daily infections have more than quadrupled. Severe cases have also climbed but at a far lower rate, rising from about 80 to around 100.

Watching severe morbidity closely, Ash is considering allowing a fourth vaccine dose for people over 60, following its approval last week for immune-compromised and elderly people in care homes.

KwaZulu-Natal govt commemorates the 1838 Ncome battle in Nquthu
16 December 2021, 2:03 PM

The KwaZulu-Natal government has commemorated the 1838 Ncome River battle in Nquthu north of the province.
The battle between the AmaZulu nation and the Voortrekkers on 16 December 1838, saw the Ncome River turn red with the blood of thousands of AmaZulu warriors.

However, Premier Sihle Zikalala expressed disappointment after it emerge that another group observed the same event, commemorating only the Voortrekkers.

Zikalala says the Ncome Battle commemoration which was held just hundreds of metres away from government’s official event, is undermining Reconciliation Day.

Zikalala says they have in the past tried to engage the organisers of the other commemorations but were unsuccessful.

The KZN premier says the December 16th Ncome Battle is about the dispossession of land for the AmaZulu nation.

“It didn’t start as Reconciliation Day but it was a war between the Zulus and Afrikaaners here and that war was a war against dispossession of land against the Blacks and Black people fought all over we are here to commemorate this event as you see us we are grateful that the National Department of Arts and Culture working with our Provincial Government built this monument which is a museum that seeks to provide the remembrance of this day.”

Zikalala has called for the two commemorations to be merged. “It is, however, clear that the Reconciliation process has not been completed as you would see there is this celebration or commemoration on this side and there is a commemoration on the other side,  the two are not linked. The other one is led by government, the other one is led by the Voortrekkers Monument Centre, a national organisation which looks on the Heritage of Voortrekkers in South Africa. We will continue to engage with the national department on how to ensure that the two are merged to become one we have tried on several occasions but we have faced resistance from the other side.”

In the video below, SABC News Reporter Bongani Ngema gives an update on the commemorations in Nquthu:




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