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Ruins left by shelling in Syria's Idlib province
Aid groups suspend activities to Syria’s embattled northwest
11 May 2019, 1:49 PM

UN-linked aid groups have suspended activities in parts of violence-plagued northwest Syria.

Stepped up bombardment by the regime and Russia is said to be jeopardising the safety of humanitarian workers.

The UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA) says 16 of the organisation’s partners halted operations on Wednesday. The World Food Programme (WFP) suspended deliveries to about 47 000 people in towns and villages that are being bombarded.

Since late April, government forces have mounted  attacks of southern Idlib and neighbouring areas with Russian support. The uptick in air strikes and shelling on the region dominated by Syria’s former Al-Qaeda affiliate has displaced 180 000 people between 29 April and 9 May, OCHA says. It has also affected 15 health facilities and 16 schools.

“Some organisations suspended activities as their premises were damaged, destroyed or rendered unsafe by the violence. Others have suspended activities in order to keep their staff and beneficiaries safe, or because the beneficiary population has left.”

According to OCHA – five humanitarian workers, including two health professionals, have been reportedly killed due to air strikes and shelling. WFP has also said that some of its partners inside Idlib have been displaced due to the violence, while a few others have sustained injuries.

The northwestern part of Syria, controlled by jihadists, is made up of a large part of Idlib province as well as adjacent parts of the Aleppo and Hama provinces. It has been protected from a massive regime offensive by a September deal inked by Damascus ally Russia and rebel backer Turkey.

The region of some three million people has come under increasing bombardment since Hayat Tahrir al-Sham, which is dominated by jihadists from Al-Qaeda’s former Syrian branch, took full control of it in the beginning of the year. Western powers are concerned that the Russia-backed Syrian government will launch a full-scale assault.

On Friday, air strikes and shelling reportedly killed 10 civilians. The civil war in Syria began in 2011 with the repression of anti-government protests. More than 370 000 lives have been lost so far and millions other people displaced.


Ballot paper
IEC rejects calls for independent audit
11 May 2019, 12:32 PM

The Independent Electoral Commission (IEC) has snubbed demands for an independent audit into the 2019 general elections.

27 small parties had given the electoral body until 11 o’clock on Saturday to appoint a firm that has no ties with government or face legal action.

The aggrieved parties were concerned over claims of double voting and the use of ink that could be erased in some instances.

However, the IEC says it’s confident that the 8 May polls were free and fair.

It says the request is not a legal requirement and its confident of its audit that its doing with the Statistician General will be credible.

IEC Chief Electoral Officer, Sy Mamabolo is urging those with proof of irregularities to present the evidence to authorities.

On Friday, domestic and international observers the endorsed the Wednesday polls – saying they were credible and the IEC has done a good job despite a few challenges.

Watch SABC senior political reporter Mzwandile Mbeje’s chat with IEC Chief Electoral Officer, Sy Mamabolo:


Call for changes

A shortage of  Section 24 A forms were also some of the challenges that faced voters on Wednesday.

Some voters were frustrated when voting stations ran out of registration forms.

The forms allows registered voters to vote at any polling station during the provincial and national elections.

Former Independent Electoral Commission (IEC) Deputy Chair, Terry Tselane, says the Section 24 A of the Electoral Act is causing logistical problems and should be done away with.

Tselani says voters should vote only where they are registered to avoid this.

“Section 24 A of the Electoral Act is archaic, is no longer relevant, is no longer helpful so this thing of people voting anywhere I think must come to an end because the biggest hindrance in the electoral process in fact if you look at the vote process, it is that aspect that actually contaminated the vote process.”

Tselane spoke to SABC anchor Desiree Chauke: 

DA, ANC Western Cape low support self-inflicted: Analyst
10 May 2019, 9:23 PM

The Democratic Alliance spat with Patricia De Lille and the controversy over African National Congress’s candidate list are cited as some reasons the country’s two major parties are bleeding support in the Western Cape.

Political analyst, Asanda Ngoasheng, says the parties should be worried by the declining support.

Provisional elections results show that the DA got over 55% of the vote compared to 59 in the 2014.

The ANC is at 29% compared to 32% in 2014. Ngoasheng says a number of factors may have led to the decrease.

“We also saw a lot of strife and power struggle between former mayor of the City of Cape Town, Patricia de Lille, and various members of the DA in the City of Cape Town over and above that we also have a water crisis, and a whole lot about ANC putting down members who had cloud hanging over themselves on the national list,” says Ngoasheng.

The DA tussle with De Lille took two years and was previously flagged as a potential vote drainer for the country’s official opposition party.

DA Federal Chairperson, Athol Trollip, has said the party has learnt from the episode and plan to handle such matters better in the future.

ANC provincial secretary, Faiez Jacobs, has blamed poor voter turnout for the party’s continued vote decline in the Western Cape.

66% of registered voters made their mark on Wednesday, which is at least 6% down on the 2014 provincial election.

Bad weather was among issues suspected to have been the reason for this.

Meanwhile, the Democratic Alliance has rejected claims that it will show Mmusi Maimane the door.
There’s been speculation that the DA would ask its leader to step down as he has failed to increase support for the party.

When the IEC captured 84 percent of the votes, nationally the DA was standing at 22%, behind the ANC at 57%.

The DA says it’s fully behind Maimane.

IEC welcomes observer missions’ findings on polls
10 May 2019, 8:57 PM
The Independent Electoral Commission (IEC) has welcomed the reports of international and domestic observer missions that have endorsed the elections as free and fair.
The electoral body says results from 1 020 voting stations are being audited – following allegations of vote rigging.
Commissioner Janet Love has also praised police for the swift arrest of the 22 people accused of violating the Electoral Act. Some of the suspects were caught trying to cast their mark for a second time.
The majority of the suspects are from KwaZulu-Natal, two are from Mpumalanga and one from Gauteng.
The incidents sparked a protest by some parties who had taken part in the general elections.
The IEC says there’s still no direct evidence to the vote rigging claims. It’s again reiterated its call for those with proof to forward it to authorities.
The Commission has also expressed disappointment at the conduct of the political parties who have been crying foul.
It’s accusing them of having violated the electoral code of conduct and says it’s written to the leaders alerting them of the Commission’s concerns.
The IEC says it should be done with results counting by midnight on Friday.
Watch the IEC media briefing: 

KZN double voting suspects to appear in court on Monday
10 May 2019, 7:12 PM

Seventeen people, who allegedly tried to vote twice, will appear in court on Monday in Dannhauser, in northern KwaZulu-Natal.

Two others were arrested in Hluhluwe and one in Port Shepstone, bringing to 20 the number of alleged double voters arrested in the province alone.

It’s not known at which voting stations the alleged incidents happened. However, police say some were caught in the act after their Identity Documents (IDs) were scanned twice.

It’s reported that others handed themselves over to the police when they learnt that they were being investigated.

The suspects were charged for contravening a section of the Electoral Act.  They may also face fraud charges.

More arrests on “double voting”

Two people, a journalist and a woman have been arrested after a video was posted claiming that they have cast votes more than once.

Police state that, “On the day of the elections, 8 May 2019 Etienne Mare (52) posted a video claiming that he was on his way to vote for a second time after hearing from Malinda Halloway (57) that she had been “able to do so herself”.”

On Friday, members for the South African Police Service in Mpumalanga were able to track down the suspects and arrested them.

The police say both Mare and Halloway appeared in the Barberton Magistrates Court on charges of contravening Section 88 (d) Voting more than once, Section 89 (i)(a) Intentional making a false statement, alt fraud and Section 90(2)(a) Infringement of secrecy.

The Joint Operational and Intelligence Structure (JOINTS), in a statement on Thursday, promised that all of the social media postings in which people claimed to have voted more than once will be investigated and culprits brought to book.

The scandal has led to the Independent Electoral Commission launching national audits to find out the extent and impact of the trend.

27 political parties have also launched a legal bid to stop the IEC from releasing the disputed results.

Watch the leaders of the Black First Land First (BLF) Andile Mngxitama and African Content Movement, Hlaudi Motsoeneng’s reaction to the 2019 general election results.



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