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Mali coup leader Assimi Goita sworn in as transitional president
7 June 2021, 3:40 PM

Assimi Goita, the Malian colonel who has overthrown two presidents in the past nine months, said he would oversee a transition toward democratic elections as he was sworn in as interim president on Monday.

Goita had already been declared president by the constitutional court last month after ousting Bah Ndaw, but was formally sworn in on Monday during a ceremony in the capital Bamako.

He is under pressure from regional and international powers to ensure elections go ahead next February as scheduled, but his advisers have suggested that the timetable could change.

“The situation offers us the opportunity to put the process of transition back in the direction desired by the people,” said Goita, who had traded his camouflage fatigues for a dark gray officer’s uniform and a yellow sash.

He added that he was committed to implementing “the actions necessary for the success of the transition, notably the organisation of credible, fair and transparent elections that are held as scheduled.

Discussion on Mali’s political impasse following the country’s suspension from Ecowas:

sabc news IAEA DG
UN nuclear watchdog sees indications of plutonium work in North Korea
7 June 2021, 3:05 PM

The  United Nations (UN) atomic watchdog has seen indications in North Korea of possible reprocessing work to separate plutonium from spent reactor fuel that could be used in nuclear weapons, the head of the agency said on Monday.

The International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) has not had access to the secretive state since Pyongyang expelled its inspectors in 2009. The country then pressed ahead with its nuclear weapons programme and soon resumed nuclear testing. Its last detonation of a nuclear weapon was in 2017.

The Vienna-based IAEA now monitors North Korean activities at sites including the main nuclear complex at Yongbyon from afar, mainly using satellite imagery.

In a quarterly update to a meeting of his agency’s 35-nation Board of Governors, IAEA Director General Rafael Grossi said steam had continued to emerge from a plant serving a reprocessing lab at Pyongyang since he reported it billowing at the last meeting.

“The duration of this operation is consistent with the time required for a reprocessing campaign at the Radiochemical Laboratory. It is not, however, possible to confirm that reprocessing is taking place,” he added.

There was no indication in the past three months of operations at North Korea’s main, 5-megawatt reactor at Yongbyon that is widely believed to have produced plutonium for weapons. The IAEA has previously said it has probably been shut down since December 2018.

There was also no indication that a Yongbyon facility thought to be an enrichment plant had been in operation, he added, and internal construction work at an experimental light-water reactor there appeared to continue.

Grossi added, however, that there were “ongoing indications of activity” at a facility just outside Pyongyang called Kangson, which has attracted attention as a potential enrichment site.
OPINION | Solutions to staggering youth unemployment rate
7 June 2021, 1:40 PM

South Africa is battling not only an unprecedented pandemic, but also its deepest economic recession in 100 years.  Unemployment remains stubbornly high and has pushed past 40%, with  2.2 million people having lost their jobs in 2020.  Millions more are at risk of losing their wages, pensions and jobs.

The state is facing varying degrees of collapse.  Key State-Owned Enterprises, central to critical sectors of the economy are hanging by a thread and some in fact are simply dying.  These range from South African Airways to SA Express, SABC, Denel, Prasa but also Eskom and Transnet.

Many municipalities are so dysfunctional that not only can they not deliver essential services, they also cannot even pay their workers’ salaries.

Young people are not immune from this tragedy.  Unemployment levels for young people are far higher than the national average, and worse when taking into account race, gender, disability, rural and township indicators.

Economic Recovery and Reconstruction Plan

What needs to be done is to get the economy moving and growing.  Government, organised business and labour drafted the Economic Recovery and Reconstruction Plan (ERRP) which was subsequently tabled at Parliament in October 2020 by President Cyril Ramaphosa.

Its central pillars include:

  • Ramping up local procurement. Some’s levels of imports are double the international average.  Shifting consumers, workplaces, companies, government, SOEs etc. to buy locally produced goods e.g. clothing, furniture, food, vehicles, machinery etc. will not only save but create 1000s of local manufacturing, agriculture, transport and other badly needed jobs.
  • Eskom Social Compact. Fixing Eskom, cleansing it of the corruption and mismanagement that has brought it to its knees is central to rebuilding the economy. Reliable and affordable electricity is essential if the economy is to be allowed to recover.
  • Tackling corruption and wasteful expenditure and rebuilding the state. Billions of rand are lost every year to corruption, wasteful expenditure, tax and customs evasion, mismanaged SOEs and a stagnant economy.  These leakages in the state have to be fixed.  Plugging these gaping holes will free up hundreds of billions that can be spent rebuilding essential public services, stimulating the economy and nurturing jobs rich emerging sectors.
  • A massive infrastructure programme. Six trillion is being secured to invest in ports, energy, rail, roads, water, agriculture.  These include funds from the public and private sectors.  Getting these right will boost key export sectors e.g. agriculture, manufacturing etc.  A working Prasa will get workers to work on time.
  • Addressing regulatory blockages. Unlocking digital spectrum, reducing red tape to set up businesses etc. will make it easier for young people to establish their own companies.

Overhaul our education system

Our education system has pockets of excellence.  But these are too few.  Tragically too many young people, in particular from historically disadvantaged communities fall through the cracks.

No modern economy can thrive if the majority of learners entering Grade 1 will not matriculate.  A skilled workforce will not exist if the majority of matriculants do not go on to enter and complete tertiary education.

Money is not the problem.  Billions are spent on basic, further and tertiary education.  It is a crisis of management, infrastructure and curricula.  Schools are under resourced with classrooms overcrowded and basic infrastructure lacking.  Too few spaces exist for the need and demand in tertiary education.  Too many learners leave universities with degrees in humanities and not enough with degrees in science, engineering, medicine etc.  Too few leaners and graduates leave the system with practical skills, training and experience.

The SETAs are the weakest link.  Billions are spent with very little to show for them.  Too often the SETAs are better known for looting and workshops of no value.

The curricula from basic to tertiary education needs to be overhauled to speak to the needs of the economy of not only today but also tomorrow.  The 4th Industrial Revolution is here.  Our education system needs to equip young people with the skills to become digital programmers, drone pilots, electric vehicle engineers etc.

Targeted interventions are needed to ensure young people are not left behind.

These need to include:

  • Expanding and formalising the Presidential Employment Programme which has employed 350 000 young people as learning assistants in our schools. This is helping keep learning safe and providing these young people with skills.  But they need to be paid, paid a living wage and paid on time.
  • Internship programmes need to be expanded with every workplace providing them. But they need to move from reducing interns to photocopy assistants and tea girls to providing them with practical skills so they can move into jobs.  They need to be based on the artisanship programmes that used to provide valuable training.
  • Expanded Public and Community Works Programmes need to move from providing cheap labour to broke municipalities to clean streets to programmes that will give young people real skills and help them to establish their own businesses, e.g. help young people set up recycling companies and not simply to pick up rubbish.
  • Provide unemployed youth with work seekers’ grants to enable them to afford public transport when they look for work.
  • Require job application portals to be data free to enable free access to applicants.
  • Scrap work experience requirements for entry level jobs to enable young people the chance to gain employment and skills.
  • Fix NSFAS so that young people can afford to study.
  • Fix the National Youth Development Agency (NYDA) and ensure that its funds go to young people seeking to set up their own businesses.
  • Require banks to provide affordable and accessible credit to young people wanting to set up their own businesses.
  • Overhaul the public procurement system so that there is a single open, online system for the entire state. This will make it easier to monitor and ensure that it favours local procurement and prioritises young entrepreneurs.
  • Reinforce the Sectoral Master Plans to get those sectors of the economy moving and require them to prioritise youth employment.

South Africa has a choice.  Fix the economy and state or continue to head on a downward spiral.  Equally a sustainable recovery needs to champion young people.  There can be no future if the youth continue to be marginalised, unskilled, unemployed and without hope.  That is a ticking time bomb. – Cosatu Parliamentary Coordinator, Matthew Parks, is the author of this piece. 

32 DRC MPs lost to COVID-19 since start of pandemic
1 June 2021, 1:00 PM

Authorities in the Democratic Republic of Congo say 32 members of parliament have died of COVID-19 since the start of the pandemic. The disease has claimed the lives of some prominent MPs and officials from the president’s office.

The Vice-President of the DRC’s lower house of parliament announced the news. The deaths were recorded from the start of the pandemic in March last year.

DRC reports first COVID-19 case:

The latest victim was a prominent MP, Thomas Lokondo. Health officials say he contracted COVID-19 and died on the 10th of March this year at a South African hospital.

All MPs are required to wear masks in parliament. But some lawmakers go without them. The DRC has 608 MPs.

According to the DRC Health Ministry, the country has recorded more than 31 000 COVID-19 cases and 782 deaths since March 2020. The country’s COVID-19 vaccination campaign was temporarily suspended last month over fears of side-effects from the AstraZeneca vaccine.

Authorities had to redistribute 1.3 million doses of the AstraZeneca vaccine to other African countries before they expired.

The country rolled out its vaccination campaign on April the 19th. But many Congolese are reluctant to have the COVID-19 vaccine due to fears of side-effects. Health officials have so far vaccinated 23 000 people out of a population of more than 80 million. – Report by SABC News’  Correspondent from Kinshasa, Chris Ocamringa.

SA PAP delegation condemns ‘brazen attempt’ to undermine the AU’s authority
1 June 2021, 11:52 AM

South Africa’s delegation to the Pan-African Parliament condemns what they describe as a brazen attempt by East and West Caucus members to undermine the African Union’s authority. This comes after several days of fighting over the PAP’s electoral system.

The Southern Caucus is calling for rotational leadership based on AU rules, while the Eastern and Western Caucuses want to keep the direct voting system.

On Monday, the Parliament’s sitting descended into chaos during an argument over the system as members were gearing up for elections.

Elections for new leadership are expected at 2pm.

The South Africa delegation says that the two East and West Caucuses have been using their majority to hog the Presidency. Amos Masondo, who leads the delegation, claims the majority is also used to avoid accountability on how PAP funds are used.

Masondo elaborates on his views in the video below:

No member for the Southern or Northern Caucuses have held the position of President in the PAP’s 17-year history. As it stands Zimbabwe’s Fortune Charumbira is going up against Mali’s Haidara Cisse and Albino Aboug from South Sudan.

The Southern Caucus believes based on the rotation principle – there’d be no need for an election as Charumbira becomes the only eligible candidate. The northern caucus has not nominated a Presidency candidate.

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