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Hindus hold first virtual global mass Maha Yajna prayer
7 March 2021, 6:09 PM

The World Hindu Foundation held its first virtual global mass Maha Yajna prayer. People from around the world participated in the “unity prayer”, which this year takes place amidst the coronavirus pandemic.

The event was also observed in Durban and Johannesburg.

‘Maha Yajna’ is a prayer for unity and healing. A Hawan, in modern times, is a private ritual around a symbolic fire, meant to bring prosperity and good health. It is steeped in the philosophy that this brings purification and transformation to the individual and the environment.

During the ceremony, sacred verses, or mantras, are chanted.

The President of the World Hindu Foundation of South Africa, Pravesh Hurdeen, says this year the virtual ceremony was about bringing nations together and uniting people, especially at the time of COVID-19.

“This prayer is meant to be a spiritual connection for many,” Hurdeen adds.

The Hawan is a fire sacrifice. Grains, ghee or clarified butter and other items are offered.

Fire is a precious life element in Hinduism, and the symbolism of the mass Hawan is meant to unite people with a common purpose.

Free State to hold SGB elections
7 March 2021, 5:26 PM

The Free State Education Department has appealed to parents to play a leading role in their children’s education.

The call comes as the province prepares to hold School Governing Body (SGB) elections.

Over one million parents in the Free State are expected to participate.

SGB elections across the country started at the beginning of March and will run until the end of next month.

The SGB polls are in line with the Schools Act and are the third-largest after the national, provincial and local government elections.

Free State Education spokesperson, Howard Ndaba, says SGBs are a critical decision-making authority in schools.

“SGB plays an important part as a liaison between the school and the community. There’s a correlation between the best performing school academically and socially and the participation of parents. So it is critical that people take this election very seriously,” says Ndaba.

The National Congress of School Governing Bodies says it’s happy with how the process is unfolding.

The organisation’s secretary, Thabang Motloung, has appealed to parents to elect ethical leadership.

“We are happy so far with the arrangement of the department. We appeal to parents to elect the people who will be able to do the functions of the schools not to put the agenda of certain people at the school,” urges Motloung.

The role of the SGB is to support the school management with, amongst others, financial administration, maintenance of the school and recommendation of staff appointments.

Free State COSAS chairperson, Katleho Mangoejane, stresses the importance of having parents in the daily running of schools.

“SGB elections are very important for running the school so that’s why we would like to encourage parents to participate and they must ensure that they elect good leaders so that they are able to run the school well,” Mangoejane says.

This is the 10th cycle of SGB elections since 1994. The elections take place every three years.

Second leg of Red Bull BC One breakdancing qualifiers wrap up
7 March 2021, 4:26 PM

The second leg of the Red Bull BC One national breakdancing qualifiers was completed in Gqeberha, former Port Elizabeth, in the Eastern Cape on Sunday.

Twenty dancers – including two women – displayed their breathtaking skills. The Red Bull BC One competition has grown into one of the largest competitions in the world since its inception 15 years ago. After four rounds of qualifications, 16 dancers will advance to the finals in Cape Town.

“Breakdancing has been growing in South Africa since it’s inception in the 80s and right now I feel us as a country…we are doing well. We are not far away from the world in terms of what the trends are and how far we are in terms of skills,” says dancer, B-Boy Gerald “Vouks” Witbooi.

B-Girl Courtnae Paul adds: “I am excited because there are more B-girls here. Although only two that doubles the Joburg number. Everybody is looking good. They have been training.”

The finals in Cape Town are scheduled for next month.

After the showpiece in the Mother City, the dancers will set their sights on the World finals in Poland in November.

Breakdancing is now an Olympic sport and will make its debut at the Paris Games in 2024.

Discussion on the return of the competition:

Swiss look set to approve ban on facial coverings
7 March 2021, 4:13 PM

A far-right proposal to ban facial coverings in Switzerland was headed toward a narrow victory in a binding referendum on Sunday viewed as a test of attitudes toward Muslims.

Projections for broadcaster SRF, based on partial results, showed the measure passing 52% to 48%, with a two-point margin for error. Final results were due later on Sunday.

The proposal under the Swiss system of direct democracy does not mention Islam directly and also aims to stop violent street protesters from wearing masks, yet local politicians, media and campaigners have dubbed it the burqa ban.

“In Switzerland, our tradition is that you show your face. That is a sign of our basic freedoms,” Walter Wobmann, chairman of the referendum committee and a member of parliament for the Swiss People’s Party, had said before the vote.

He called facial covering “a symbol for this extreme, political Islam which has become increasingly prominent in Europe and which has no place in Switzerland”.

The proposal predates the COVID-19 pandemic – which has required all adults to wear masks in many settings to prevent the spread of infection – and gathered the necessary support in 2017 to trigger a referendum.

The proposal compounded Switzerland’s tense relationship with Islam after citizens voted in 2009 to ban building any new minarets. Two cantons already have local bans on face coverings.

France banned wearing a full face veil in public in 2011 and Denmark, Austria, the Netherlands and Bulgaria have full or partial bans on wearing face coverings in public.

Practically no one in Switzerland wears a burqa and only around 30 women wear the niqab, the University of Lucerne estimates. Muslims make up 5% of the Swiss population of 8.6 million people, most with roots in Turkey, Bosnia and Kosovo.

Swiss Muslims have said right-wing parties were using the vote to demonise them and rally supporters.

Amnesty International has called the face veil ban “a dangerous policy that violates women’s rights, including to freedom of expression and religion”.

The government had said the proposal went too far and recommended voters reject a ban.

Boy killed in Senegal protests as opposition steps up pressure
7 March 2021, 3:44 PM

A 17-year-old boy was killed by gunfire in southern Senegal on Saturday, a government official said, and several police stations were ransacked as opponents of President Macky Sall called for more protests next week.

The boy was killed during clashes in the southern town of Diaobe, said the official, who asked not to be named. Protesters also burned down a military police station and ransacked several government buildings, the official said.

At least five people have died in protests sparked by Wednesday’s arrest of Ousmane Sonko, Senegal’s most prominent opposition leader. It is the worst political unrest in years for a country widely seen as one of West Africa’s most stable.

A spokesman for Senegal’s military police confirmed one person had died during clashes in Diaobe but did not say under what circumstances. He said protesters ransacked six police stations across the country on Saturday.

Sonko, who finished third in the 2019 presidential election, was arrested after an employee of a beauty salon accused him of raping her. Sonko denies the allegation and says it is an attempt by Sall to kneecap a political rival.

The government denies this.

The mostly young protesters cited a range of other grievances too, including high unemployment and strict measures to control the coronavirus that have inflicted economic pain, especially on informal workers.

Two other top rivals of Sall were previously targeted with criminal charges that prevented them from running for president in 2019.

In a statement, the opposition Movement to Defend Democracy (M2D) coalition called for three days of nationwide protests beginning on Monday.

“M2D … calls on the Senegalese people to pursue its mobilisation and peaceful struggle by using all of its constitutional rights to reject the dictatorship of Macky Sall,” it said.

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