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Senegal to build COVID-19 vaccine plant in bid to expand African access
9 July 2021, 7:25 PM

Construction of a new plant in Senegal to manufacture COVID-19 vaccines is expected to begin later this year, and the facility should produce 25 million doses per month by the end of 2022, the financers of the project said on Friday. The Institut Pasteur in Senegal’s capital Dakar, which will run the plant, and various European development partners said the facility would help Africa reduce its dependence on vaccine imports, which currently account for 99% of its needs.

That reliance on outside manufacturing has proved costly during the pandemic. Only a little more than 1% of the continent’s population has been fully vaccinated, and many African countries are now seeing fresh spikes in cases.

European countries and institutions, including the European Commission, European Investment Bank, France and Germany, committed 6.75 million euros ($8.01 million) in grants to support construction of the plant during a ceremony in Dakar. The investment comes on top of previous commitments by Germany and France and is part of a 1 billion euro ($1.19billion) initiative announced by the European Commission in May to bolster access to vaccines and other medicines in Africa.

“With today’s agreement, Team Europe is helping Senegal move one important step closer to producing its own vaccines and protecting Africans from COVID-19 and other diseases,” European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen said in the statement. The statement did not say which vaccines would be produced in Senegal.

There are currently fewer than 10 African manufacturers that produce vaccines in Egypt, Morocco, Senegal, South Africa and Tunisia. South Africa’s Aspen Pharmacare produces the Johnson & Johnson COVID-19 vaccine.

Senegal’s Institut Pasteur is the only facility in Africa currently producing a vaccine – a yellow fever shot – that is pre-qualified by the World Health Organisation, which requires manufacturers to meet strict international standards.

Discussion on the access to COVID-19 vaccine in southern Africa:

Rwanda begins deploying 1 000 security officers to Mozambique
9 July 2021, 3:59 PM

Rwanda has begun deploying a thousand security officers to Mozambique.

The contingent consists of members of the Rwanda Defence Force (RDF) and Rwanda National Police (RNP). The officers will be deployed to Cabo Delgado Province, which is currently affected by terrorism and insecurity, a statement from the government indicated.

The statement issued on Friday indicated that the deployment followed a request from the Mozambique government to Rwanda. Images on various Rwandan social media sites showed uniformed security officers boarding a Rwanda Air flight.

It further indicated that the security forces will work closely with the Mozambican Armed Defence Forces as well as forces from the Southern African Development Community (SADC).

SADC has indicated that beginning Thursday next week, member countries of the regional economic bloc will begin deploying troops to Mozambique to help combat the insurgent for a period of three months.

Thousands of people have been killed and thousands more have been displaced since 2017 in attacks linked to an insurgent group operating in the north of Mozambique.

Mozambique’s Cabo Delgado province could become the next target for militant insurgency:

Last month, SADC agreed to send troops to combat to the GAR rich region.

Magashule to appeal high court ruling on his suspension
9 July 2021, 2:49 PM

Suspended ANC Secretary-General, Ace Magashule, says he will appeal the High Court’s ruling on his suspension.

Earlier on Friday, the high court in Johannesburg dismissed Magashule’s application to overturn his suspension from the governing ANC.

The Johannesburg court ruled that his two months suspension was lawful and valid.

It also rejected Magashule’s suspension of ANC President Cyril Ramaphosa in a letter that was written to him on May 3. It found that the grounds on which Magashule sought to suspend Ramaphosa were not aligned to the requirements.

Angelo Fick dissects the outcome of the case:

In a statement, Magashule describes Friday’s ruling as incorrect. He says he will continue his bid to have the ANC’s step-aside rule and the clause in the party’s constitution used to suspend him declared unlawful and unconstitutional.

The ANC SG is among ANC leaders who were required to step-aside until criminal cases against them are finalised. When he didn’t temporarily vacate his office within the stipulated period, he was suspended.

Magashule is facing fraud and corruption charges in the Bloemfontein Regional Court relating to a R250 million asbestos project, which the Free State government undertook while he was premier.

 

Brakpan residents lament deteriorating state of ambulance services
8 July 2021, 10:07 PM

In the midst of a vicious third wave, Gauteng’s ambulance services are failing to reach critically ill patients.

A number of patients in Brakpan Old Location in Ekurhuleni have died while waiting for an ambulance to arrive. The ward councillor in the area says the problem is not unique to Brakpan but affects the entire metro.

Brakpan community members say they wait for hours for an ambulance to arrive. They say three people died in a single week, after ambulances failed to arrive. The ward councillor puts the number of deaths at 10.

“I tried calling an ambulance when my neighbour was sick and when it took too long to arrive, I walked to the hospital. The hospital told me to return home because you cannot physically come to the hospital to fetch an ambulance. I ended up going to the police station and that is when the ambulance came,” alleges one community member.

“The problem started when mkhulu was sick. Two people have since died while waiting for an ambulance and more recently the gogo that stays down the road also died while waiting for an ambulance. There is another man who died and his body spent more than 24 hours while waiting for an undertaker,” adds another resident.

It’s alleged the delays started after emergency medical services were moved from local government to Gauteng health departments.
The move is said to have overwhelmed the province as many ambulances remain out of service due to a failure to renew operating licenses.

“This is not a situation that only the community of Brakpan is facing. It’s a situation where the Ekurhuleni at large is finding itself in. The ambulance services have deteriorated to the extent that some would say that it has basically collapsed and the community has started to put the blame on mayor Masina and his administration,” says DA ward councillor, Brandon Pretorious.

The Gauteng health department says it’s aware of the challenges and is looking to work with the private sector to resolve the problem.

Health MEC in the province says due to the pressures on the service brought by the COVID-19 pandemic, they will issue municipalities with temporary licenses to operate ambulances.

“So now we have also issued temporary licence to municipalities because of COVID of the city of Tshwane and the other city that has applied is the city of Ekurhuleni. Combined, we will be able to respond to our communities on time. I just wanted to clarify that. We are working o it and we are aware of that this is a challenge,” says MEC Dr Nomathemba Mokgethi.

Mokgethi has blamed the delays on what she terms a referral system.

Haiti police say they have president’s suspected killers, still hunting mastermind
8 July 2021, 9:25 PM

Haiti’s police has killed or apprehended the suspected killers of President Jovenel Moise, officials said on Thursday, and are hunting for the masterminds behind the assassination that stunned the impoverished Caribbean nation.

Moise, 53, was shot dead early on Wednesday at his home by what officials said was a commando of apparently foreign, trained killers, pitching the poorest country in the Americas deeper into turmoil amidst political divisions, hunger, and widespread gang violence. Police Chief Leon Charles said in a televised briefing on Thursday that authorities had tracked down the suspected assassins to a house near the scene of the crime in Petionville, a northern suburb of the capital Port-au-Prince.

A fierce firefight lasted late into the night and six suspects were taken in custody, while three corpses were retrieved. Police were heavily patrolling the area from early on Thursday. “We have the physical authors, now we are looking for the intellectual authors,” Charles said.

James Solages, a US citizen of Haitian descent, is one of the six people arrested so far, reported the Washington Post, citing Mathias Pierre, Haiti’s minister of elections and interparty relations. He told the paper that at least one other detainee is also believed to be a Haitian American. Officials in mostly French and Creole-speaking Haiti said on Wednesday that the assassins appeared to have spoken in English and Spanish.

A crowd of locals gathered on Thursday morning to watch the police operation unfold, with some setting fire to the suspects’ cars and to the house where they had bunkered down. Bullets were strewn in the street. “Burn them!”, shouted hundreds of locals gathered outside the police station where the suspects were being held. Charles said it was the local population that had helped police track down the suspects but he implored citizens not to take justice into their own hands.

Earlier on Thursday, locals brought two corpses of suspected assassins to the Petionville police station. A 15-day state of emergency was declared on Wednesday to help authorities apprehend the killers. But interim Prime Minister Claude Joseph said on Thursday it was time for the economy to reopen and said he had given instructions for the airport to restart operations.

Officials have not given a motive for the killing so far. Since he took office in 2017, Moise had faced mass protests against his rule – first over corruption allegations and his management of the economy, then over his increasing grip on power.

Advocate Sipho Mantula on the assassination of Haiti’s Jovenel Moise:

Vacuum of power

Moise’s death has generated confusion about who is the legitimate leader of the country of 11 million people, which shares the island of Hispaniola with the Dominican Republic. That does not bode well in a nation that has struggled to achieve stability since the fall of the Duvalier dynastic dictatorship in 1986, grappling with a series of coups and foreign interventions.

“I can picture a scenario under which there are issues regarding to whom the armed forces and national police are loyal, in the case there are rival claims to being placeholder president of the country,” said Ryan Berg, an analyst with the Centre for Strategic & International Studies.

Haiti’s 1987 constitution stipulates the head of the supreme court should take over. But amendments that are not unanimously recognised state it be the prime minister, or, in the last year of a president’s mandate – like in the case of Moise – the parliament should elect a president. Adding further complications: the head of the supreme court died last month due to COVID-19 amid a surge in infections in one of the few countries worldwide to have yet to start a vaccination campaign. There is no sitting parliament as Haiti failed to hold legislative elections in late 2019 amid political unrest. And Moise had just this week appointed a new prime minister,

Ariel Henry, to take over from Joseph, although he had yet to be sworn in when the president was killed.

Joseph appeared on Wednesday to take charge of the situation, running the government response to the assassination, appealing to foreign governments for support, and declaring a state of emergency. Henry – who is considered more favorably by the opposition -told Haitian newspaper Le Nouvelliste that he did not consider Joseph the legitimate prime minister any more and he should revert to the role of foreign minister. “I think we need to speak. Claude was supposed to stay in the government I was going to have,” Henry was quoted as saying. The United Nations Special Envoy for Haiti on Thursday said Joseph would remain the leader until an election was held, urging all parties to set aside their differences.

A UN peacekeeping mission – meant to restore order after a rebellion toppled then-President Jean-Bertrand Aristide in 2004- ended in 2019 with the country still in disarray. “There are many unknowns about what happens next,” said Jake Johnston, a senior research associate at the Centre for Economic and Policy Research in Washington.

“But it is important to remember that that was also the case before the assassination of Moise.”

Moise, backed by the international community, had been pushing to hold both elections and a constitutional referendum in September, efforts that were vehemently opposed by Haitian civil society, he pointed out. Civil society actors said elections under his one-man rule, amid so much gang violence, could not be free and fair, pushing instead for a transitional government, and denounced his constitutional reform as part of a power grab.

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