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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.

Nelson Mandela and Yaser Arafat
This week in 1994: Democracy 25
12 June 2019, 8:55 AM

This week marks 25 years since the establishment of diplomatic relations between Palestine and South Africa. At a meeting on 14 June 1994, then President Nelson Mandela and chairperson of the Palestine Liberation Organisation (PLO) Yasser Arafat agreed to open a Palestinian embassy in Pretoria. They decided on Arafat’s adviser on African affairs Salman al-Hirif to be the ambassador.

Full diplomatic relations between the two countries were formalised on 15 February 1995, with South Africa’s first representative to the Palestinians National Authority taking up office in August of the same year in Gaza.

The move cemented the governing African National Congress’ (ANC) long-time commitment to the cause of the Palestinians. The relations continued to grow stronger, with Arafat undertaking his first state visit to the country on 11 August 1998.

Although South Africa received backlash over this from some among the Jewish community, Madiba had previously explained that solidarity with the Palestinian people didn’t mean the governing ANC didn’t care about the struggles of the Israelis. While he had professed the legitimacy of Zionism as Jewish nationalism, Mandela’s main concern in dealings with Israel’s government was the advancement of the peace process and the well-being of the Palestinian people.

Arafat’s PLO supported the ANC during apartheid. It trained and equipped ANC fighters, while the Israeli government bears the legacy of having supported the apartheid government. The relationship between the South African government and Palestine is still strong. In 2018, Pretoria downgraded its Israeli embassy to a liaison office. The move was in retaliation to clashes between Israeli military forces and protesters during which at least 52 Palestinians were killed. The controversial decision was also in line with a resolution the ANC took during its 2017 national conference in Nascrec, Johannesburg. It sought to draw attention to Israel’s settlement policy.

Watch video of the Navy welcoming Arafat to the country by playing the South African and Palestine national anthems:

Special Committee Against Apartheid dissolved

Another major event this week was the adoption of the final report of the United Nations Special Committee Against Apartheid by the General Assembly and the Security Council on 14 June 1994.

The Special committee was dissolved after the report was adopted.

This paved a way for South Africa’s re-admission to the United Nations after the country was suspended from participating in the work of the world body for its oppressive policies on 12 November 1974.

The Committee was behind international campaigns against the oppressive regime. It pushed for economic sanctions against the apartheid government, notably proposing an oil embargo in 1963. While many Western powers and other major trading partners of South Africa opposed the UN’s request for sanctions and declined membership on the Committee, it finally realised its ideal when South Africa held its first-ever democratic elections on 27 April 1994.

Watch Mandela’s address to the United Nations in New York after his release from jail in 1990:

SA re-joins the Commonwealth

Another major event this month was South Africa re-joining the Commonwealth on 1 June, 1994.

South Africa, a founding member of the Commonwealth, withdrew its membership in 1961 after becoming a republic.

A move some political experts say was a matter of jumping before being pushed as the association was against apartheid policies.

During the anti-apartheid struggle, the Commonwealth played an important role in lobbying for the end of institutionalised racism. It is credited with having contributed to the mounting international pressure placed on the National Party’s oppressive administration.

In recognising the association’s role during these years, former President Thabo Mbeki once referred to it as a “community of nations painstakingly brought massive pressure internationally, in many different ways to bear on the racist and repressive state.”

Since re-joining the Commonwealth, SA has been an active participant in the various governing bodies and ministerial meetings of the association. She is one of the major voluntary contributors to the Commonwealth of Learning (COL) and occupies a seat on its Board of Governors. In return, South Africa too has benefited from the membership of the association through various development initiatives like the Development of Mpumalanga Province Tourism Growth Strategy and the Bench-marking of South Africa’s Fruit Export Trade Logistics Chain.

Political commentators have criticised the association for not being at the forefront of international politics. However, supporters say it’s an important organisation that not only unites and serves its member countries, but also provides a lobby on global issues.

South Africa will be the first African country to host Commonwealth Games at the Moses Mabhida Stadium in Durban in 2022, more than 85 years since the event was first held in Canada.  The tournament takes place every four years.

Watch video on Africa’s response to Durban hosting the games:

SA joins the NAM

Another milestone to note for democratic South Africa leading to the month of June was its joining of the Non-Aligned Movement (NAM) on 31 May 1994. The movement advocates for developing countries against world superpowers. It was founded in 1961 to push for decolonisation.

The NAM has no formal constitution or permanent secretariat. All its members have equal weight and decisions are taken by consensus in the Summit Conference of Heads of State, which is held every three years.

The NAM is the second largest international body, after the United Nations. It has 53 members from Africa, 39 from Asia, 26 from Latin America and the Caribbean, two from Europe, as well as 17 observer countries and 10 observer organisations.


SABC building
Trust in independent media in South Africa under threat
12 June 2019, 7:01 AM

51% of South Africans don’t trust the news. According to the eighth annual Digital News Report from the Reuters Institute for the Study of Journalism, public concern about misinformation stands at 55% on average across 38 countries. It is said to have grown significantly over the last year in some countries, despite the attempts of platforms and governments to contain it

South Africa’s trust in the news rates 8th out of the 38 countries surveyed. Economic weakness of many media companies is cited as one of the attributing factors to the growing media mistrust. Digital disruption has also affected traditional news outlets negatively.

According to the report,  70% of English-speaking South Africans, who use the internet, say they struggle to separate fact from fiction online. However, despite bouts of unethical business practices, shoddy journalism and unreliable news, 53% of those surveyed still believe media is playing a crucial role in helping to hold politicians and businesses to account. This is 42% higher than the average across other countries included in the study.

The news media are seen as doing a better job at breaking news than explaining it, with 73% of South Africans saying media are good at keeping people up to date, but are not that great at helping them understand the news.

News consumption

The survey has found that South Africans are more likely to discover and share news via social media than elsewhere. The smartphone are proving vital to access news, with 76% of those surveyed relying on the device for a weekly dose. This doesn’t however translate to a high trust in the content found on the platform as only 28% of respondents tend to believe the information found on social media.

Leading brands

SABC news channels are top offline brands, with a total reach of 60%. Ukhozi FM and Umhlobo Wenene are dominating the radio space, while the public broadcaster ranks fourth in the most trusted news brand stakes. Financial mismanagement and government interference during the Zuma administration is cited as reason for this.

The News24 website is leading the pack on the digital front, followed by SABC News, eNCA, the BBC and the Daily Sun online.

While 43% of South Africans say they listen to a podcast monthly, the report is painting a grim picture for print news. Figures for the first quarter of 2019, show newspaper circulation declining by 5% year on year.

The Reuters Institute for the Study of Journalism says to survive, media houses will have to look on subscription and membership models to sustain volume and quality. It’s also advising news outlets to rebuild ties between producers and the people who consume their product.

Read full report below…





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