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‘No smoking gun,’ ‘We are all Mohammed bin Salman,’ say crown prince supporter
27 February 2021, 9:05 AM

“No smoking gun,” pro-government Saudi commentators concluded in response to a US intelligence assessment that Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman had approved the operation to capture or kill journalist Jamal Khashoggi.

A few minutes after the report was released, many Saudis flooded Twitter with the hashtag saying, “We are all Mohammed bin Salman.

“Rights groups called for tough action. Saudi Arabia, one of Washington’s closest Arab allies, officially dismissed what it called the “negative, false and unacceptable assessment in the report pertaining to the kingdom’s leadership”, according to a statement from the Ministry of Foreign Affairs. The ministry added that those responsible for the “heinous crime” had been tried in Saudi courts and that “justice was served.”

Riyadh has denied any involvement by the crown prince, also known as MBS. Commentators close to the government took to social media to defend the crown prince, King Salman’s son and de facto ruler of the kingdom.

Ali Shihabi, former head of the Arabia Foundation in Washington which regularly supports Saudi policy, said there was nothing in the report that had not been said before and “absolutely no smoking gun.”

“Extraordinary that all this hype is made about this document… This thin ‘report’ is actually evidence that no hard proof exists against MBS,” Shihabi said on Twitter. Abdulrahman al-Rashed, a Saudi columnist who runs a government-controlled media group said “… and it is stated in the report: It is not certain that the accused team was on a journey to get rid of Khashoggi.”

He too said there was “no smoking gun.”

Five sentenced over Jamal Khashoggi’s murder:

Saudi Arabia’s biggest newspapers and television channels did not cover the release of the report, instead showing sports events and other unrelated programming. In its evening bulletin, Saudi-owned Al Arabiya referred to it briefly, focusing on what it said was the absence of concrete evidence.

“The nation is fortified,” wrote the conservative and semi-official Okaz newspaper on the front page of its weekend edition, with a large picture of the crown prince smiling. “The Biden administration will soon realize that the complex issues of the region will not find a solution, except through anew and exceptional agreement with its partners in the region that includes holding Tehran accountable,” Okaz said.

Activists and rights groups, however, clamored for justice and sanctions against Saudi Arabia and MbS on social media. “Thank you, Joe Biden for transparency about Jamal Khashoggi’s murder.

Now we need sanctions on the Saudi prince responsible,” Democracy for the Arab World Now (DAWN), a US-based human rights group founded by Khashoggi, said in a statement.

An “MBS-Khashoggi-killer” hashtag started trending after the release of the report.

Robert Sbukwe
SA observes 43rd anniversary of Robert Mangaliso Sobukwe’s death
27 February 2021, 7:37 AM

Today marks almost half a century since the death of the founder of the Pan Africanist Congress of Azania, Robert Mangaliso Sobukwe.

Yesterday, the organisation’s Gauteng wing hosted a panel discussion under the theme, “The Soul of Sobukwe and Spirituality.”

Sobukwe was deemed a major threat to the intolerant apartheid government.

In punishing him, the oppressive government created the Sobukwe Clause, which allowed for the specific and indefinite detention of Robert Sobukwe without trial.

This was in order to isolate him during his time in Robben Island in a bid to reduce his influence amongst his inmates.

He died on this day at the Kimberley Hospital after being diagnosed with lung cancer.

Sobukwe was jailed for three years by the apartheid government for incitement after he organised a march against unjust pass laws to Sharpeville on 21 March 1960.

At least 69 people were killed by the apartheid government during that march, while 180 others were seriously wounded.

More about Sobukwe’s political journey in the video below:

The democratic government has previously been criticised for not giving Sobukwe the honour he deserves.

APC calls for Robert Sobukwe’s recognition:

All systems go for the restart of amateur rugby in SA
25 February 2021, 10:30 PM

 

It’s all systems go for the restart of amateur rugby in the country.

The decision was taken in view of the recent easing of the adjusted Level 3 lockdown regulations.

Rugby, like all other sport and recreation activities, came to an abrupt halt early in March last year due to the outbreak of the coronavirus pandemic.

The clubs are compelled to follow a structured approach to ensure the health and safety of players and management is taken into consideration.

Walter Sisulu University is one of those clubs that has waited a long time to resume training.

The Eastern Cape outfit is preparing for the Varsity Shield, which starts next month in a bio bubble environment.

“Before they get to the buble they get tested. You might lose one or two with regard to that. We keep on crossing tongues that the players must always keep safe and always be wary of the fact that they need to take care of themselves,” says Walter Sisulu University Director of Sport, Bongo Nontshinga.

Walter Sisulu University coach, Akhona Mgijimi, says, “We are excited to be back in training because we spent a lot of time not training. For us, being back in training is exactly obviously we have to make sure we do it within the regulations>”

The Mdantsane-based Swallows are the current Border champions.

But preparing and playing under strict COVID-19 regulations, could pose challenges to clubs with limited resources.

“Swallows president, Zuko Matyeshana, says, “The challenge we are currently facing now. We don’t actually have a sponsor and we are quite scared that our players might be infected with the coronavirus since that we do not have control of them where they go or cannot go. It is always a risk of them catching a virus.”

After a long year of inactivity, most of the players are not in good shape. The initial phase will comprise of four weeks of non-contact training where emphasis will be on fitness.

The season will commence once SA Rugby and government feel it’s safe to do so.

OPINION | We want to see massive investment in social solidarity
23 February 2021, 2:08 PM

A people’s budget would be a budget that recognises that millions of people in South Africa are living in crisis. A crisis of hunger, life threatening living conditions and no way to see a path forward for their lives is a tale of millions of South Africans. This crisis is not recognised as a crisis because poor people do not count to this society.

While it predates democracy, it continues 26 years after the new dispensation due to poor service delivery. This is unforgiveable. Many are still without water and sanitation even though there is so much of rain and dams are full. Roads are so bad that they are preventing the provision of services in communities in both rural and in urban areas. The water tanks that were installed by the Department of Human Settlements, Water and Sanitation remain empty and are unable to serve the purpose of saving lives during Covid-19 pandemic.

We continue to die in shack fires. Our children continue to die from diarrhoea. These are deaths that result from social abandonment.

If you drive past the Bisasa landfill site near the Kennedy Road settlement in Durban, which was closed down few years ago, you are faced with deep levels of poverty. People still wait for the trucks and bakkies to take whatever is being loaded and dumped in that area. These dumped materials are then taken for recycling purposes or for feeding families. It is the same in Pietermaritzburg or Booysen in the Johannesburg or in Germiston. The poor survive off the rubbish of the rich in areas of dumping that are serious health hazards.

What kind of society that leaves some people to survive off the rubbish of others? South Africa is not a poor country. There is enough wealth for everyone to have a decent life.

When the Finance Minister tables the 2020/21 budget on Wednesday, we would like to see massive investment in social solidarity – in housing, health care, education, parks, libraries and job creation. We would like the budget to address immediate release of land and to support small scale farmers and markets so that people can be able to cultivate land and produce food. We would also like to see the rapid release of well-located serviced pieces of land so that people can build housing for themselves;  that the finalisation of the Amendment of Section 25 of the Constitution be speed up. The budget must allocate funds to rid us of corruption and to prosecute all those who are looting state-owned enterprise.

It is also important to stress that the process of budgeting must be democratised. The budget must address the need to enable social facilitation so that democratic spaces are encouraged and defended. There should be participatory budgeting at the local level with open assemblies in each ward. At the national level, demands should be collected in the same way that the demands for the Freedom Charter were collected. The money collected by the state belongs to the people, not the politicians. Opinion piece has been written by Abahlali baseMjondolo’s S’bu Zikode.

 

UN condemns attack on World Food Programme convoy in eastern DRC
23 February 2021, 1:31 PM

The United Nations Secretary General, Antonio Guterres, has condemned the attack on a World Food Programme convoy near the regional capital of Goma, in the eastern DRC. Three people were killed when the UN humanitarian convoy was targeted, including the Italian Ambassador to the DRC, a bodyguard and an official of the WFP.

The region in eastern DRC is close to the border with Rwanda and is a well-known theatre for multiple armed groups and asymmetric attacks.

The Italian Foreign Ministry and the World Food Programme confirmed the deaths after assailants attacked the convoy in a kidnapping attempt. This included the death of Ambassador Luca Attanasio, an Italian police officer and a WFP driver. Italy’s Foreign Minister Luigi Di Maio indicated earlier that the circumstances of the brutal attack are not yet known and that no effort will be spared to bring to light what happened.

The UN Chief rebuked the assault and expressed his sympathies with the families affected through spokesperson Stephane Dujarric.

“The Secretary-General strongly condemns today’s attack against a joint field mission of the World Food Programme (WFP) in Kibumba, near Goma. The attack was perpetrated by unidentified armed elements. The attack resulted in the killing of three people, including the Italian Ambassador to the Democratic Republic of the Congo, his bodyguard and a WFP national staff member.

The Secretary General expresses his deepest condolences to the families of the deceased, as well as to the Governments of Italy and the Democratic Republic of the Congo. He further expresses his full solidarity with the WFP colleagues and the entire United Nations team in the country,” said Dujarric.

Reports from the region suggest the convoy was stopped by armed men, a local WFP driver killed followed by an effort to lead the convoy into the forest in what was described as a kidnapping attempt. But a DRC army unit and park rangers responded and engaged the attackers when the Italian Ambassador and his bodyguard appeared to have been shot by the insurgents.

“The Secretary General calls on the Government of the Democratic Republic of the Congo to investigate swiftly this heinous targeting of a United Nations joint field mission and to bring the perpetrators to justice. He reaffirms that the United Nations will continue to support the Congolese Government and people in their efforts to bring about peace and stability in the east of the country,” says  the UN Chief’s spokesperson.

The head of UN Peace Operations Jean Pierre LaCroix has also weighed in.

“I obviously extend my condolences to the government of Italy and to the WFP and colleagues from that agency with whom we work day in day out in the DRC as well as many others countries, helping communities and helping people. There will be an investigation obviously and we will support, MONUSCO will support that investigation,” LaCroix says.

The perpetrators of this attack have not been identified, but DRC Foreign Minister Marie Ntumba has promised the Italian government that they will do everything to discover who was behind the murderous incident.

Weather

 

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