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IMF eyes new trust to provide aid to broader group of countries
14 June 2021, 5:00 AM

The International Monetary Fund (IMF) is exploring creation of a new trust that could allow its members to lend their IMF reserves to more countries, including middle-income countries vulnerable to climate change, IMF chief Kristalina Georgieva said on Sunday.

Georgieva said leaders of the Group of Seven rich economies had given the IMF a ‘green light’ to keep working on the plan, and China – the world’s second largest economy – had also expressed interest, along with middle-income countries that stand to benefit from such a fund.

She said the IMF would continue working on the “Resilience and Sustainability Trust” which could help countries combat climate change or improve their health care systems ahead of the July meeting of finance officials from the Group of 20 major economies, which includes China.

“Now we have the indication that we have a green light to go ahead, and we will reach out to others,” Georgieva told Reuters in an interview after the end of the G7 leaders summit in Cornwall, England.

“China has expressed interest to participate, and I would expect there could be other emerging market economies with sound fundamentals and strong reserve positions that may also do the same,” she said.

G7 leaders on Sunday said they welcomed an expansion of the global lender’s emergency reserves, or Special Drawing Rights (SDRs), by $650 billion, and backed a global target of providing $100 billion to the most vulnerable countries, but said other countries should participate.

The IMF’s Poverty Reduction and Growth Trust already allows members to share their IMF reserves, but small island states and other middle-income countries that have been hit hard by the coronavirus pandemic and significant economic downturns, are not eligible for funding through that IMF vehicle.

Georgieva welcomed the G7’s commitment to donate one billion COVID-19 vaccine doses as a key step toward ending the pandemic, and said discussions would continue within the G20.

The IMF has been urging rich countries to act, warning that a big divergence in the recoveries of advanced and developing economies could undercut demand and disrupt supply chains, which would also affect countries that are recovering faster.

“This is a moral imperative and an economic necessity,” Georgieva said, adding that allowing the gap between rich and poor countries to continue to widen could also trigger unrest.

“We have seen in the past that divergence that leads to more inequality, it creates a breeding ground for more instability in the world,” she said.

Zandile Gumede
Zandile Gumede, co-accused to appear before High Court for pre-trial hearing
14 June 2021, 5:00 AM

Embattled former eThekwini mayor Zandile Gumede and 21 other accused are expected to appear before the Durban High Court for a pre-trial hearing Monday.

The charges stem from 2017 Durban Solid Waste tender amounting to over R400 million.

Spokesperson for Gumede’s supporters, Ntando Khuzwayo says although supporters will be out in their numbers they will adhere to COVID-19 regulations.

“It’s a pre-trial conference so the parties are in court they’re going to try to reduce disputes before the matter goes to trial so we cannot pre-empt what is going to happen inside the courts but outside we can tell you that we’re expecting scores of people to come and show their support for Gumede.

We also have other provinces who have indicated that they also sending people over to show solidarity to her or the safety and Corbett regulation or going to be adhered to.”

Case against Zandile Gumede and 21 others moved to the Durban High Court:

In March it was reported that according to the indictment, the state listed Robert Abbu, accused number one, amongst the key role players.  

Former supply chain manager at the eThekwini Municipality Sandile Ngcobo, senior African National Congress (ANC) councillor Mondli Mthembu, former eThekwini mayor Zandile Gumede and suspended eThekwini City Manager Sipho Nzuza are also listed as key players in the matter.

Details contained in the indictment state that Abbu, in 2017, was appointed by Nzuza as Head of Special Projects without following proper procedures, a position that the state alleges had not previously existed. And that Nzuza was instructed by Gumede to do so.  

The state further notes that shortly after his appointment, Abbu requested to deviate from the formal process of the municipality to invite quotations from suppliers for the new DSW contract.

The state said that it intends to rely on the cellphone records of Gumede, Mthembu and Abbu detailing frequent communications, where the alleged Durban Solid Waste tender decisions were made.

It is believed that the cellphone records will link Gumede with some service providers who are also accused in the case. 

The indictment further alleges that Gumede, Nzuza and several councillors received illicit payments during the new DSW contract.

The papers also revealed that a sum of about a R100 000 was transferred into the bank account of the African National Congress in the eThekwini Region, allegedly in favour of Gumede.

Naomi Osaka
French Open organisers defend Osaka handling, say ‘can do better’ on mental health
14 June 2021, 5:00 AM

French Open organisers defended their handling of the Naomi Osaka situation on Sunday but accepted that the governing bodies need to do better on mental health issues following the Japanese player’s exit from the Grand Slam over her media boycott.

Osaka announced in the build-up to the French Open that she would not attend the mandatory post-match press conferences for players, saying the questioning by journalists impacts her mental well-being.

The four-time Grand Slam winner stuck to her stance and did not face the media after her opening win, leading to a $15,000 fine and a strongly-worded letter from the board of the four Grand Slam tournaments warning her of possible expulsion from Roland Garros and future majors.

Japan’s Osaka ended the stand-off with the French tennis federation (FFT) by withdrawing from the claycourt major after winning her first round match, explaining she had been suffering from depression for almost three years.

FFT director general Amelie Oudea-Castera said the organisers tried to reach out to Osaka several times without success and the statement from the four majors was to just remind her of the consequences of her decision.

“On the $15,000 fine, you noticed we did not want to put that fine at the maximum. Maximum was 20,” Oudea-Castera told reporters. “On purpose we only wanted to be at 15 because we wanted to send a message that we wouldn’t go to a default right away.

“I think we really cared for her. We really tried to engage. We were pragmatic in the way we handled the progressive approach to sanctions. It was a very sensitive and difficult situation, but we believe we really treated that with respect, with care.

“And yes, of course, on mental health, we can do better. This is part of the roadmap we have with the other slams. We will take the initiative on the matter together.”

The world number two’s withdrawal, however, subjected the four Grand Slams to criticism from fans and pundits for their handling of the matter.

FFT president Gilles Moretton said they “had to do it.”

“We need to have equity between all the players … I think we did it the right way,” he said.

“Now we want only one thing: she will recover as soon as possible and maybe she will be in very good shape and ready to talk to you (media) at Wimbledon. We’ll be very happy for that.”

G7 nations agree to boost climate finance
14 June 2021, 4:00 AM

G7 leaders agreed on Sunday to raise their contributions to meet an overdue spending pledge of $100 billion a year by rich countries to help poorer countries cut carbon emissions and cope with global warming, but only two nations offered firm promises of more cash.

Alongside plans billed as helping speed infrastructure funding in developing countries and a shift to renewable and sustainable technology, the world’s seven largest advanced economies again pledged to meet the climate finance target.

But climate groups said the promise made in the summit’s final communique lacked detail and the developed nations should be more ambitious in their financial commitments.

In the communique, the seven nations – the United States, Britain, Canada, France, Germany, Italy and Japan – reaffirmed their commitment to “jointly mobilise $100 billion per year from public and private sources, through to 2025”.

“Towards this end, we commit to each increase and improve our overall international public climate finance contributions for this period and call on other developed countries to join and enhance their contributions to this effort.”

After the summit concluded, Canada said it would double its climate finance pledge to $4.4 billion over the next five years and Germany would increase its by $7.26 billion a year by 2025 at the latest.

“G7 countries account for 20% of global carbon emissions, and we were clear this weekend that action has to start with us,” he said as the summit concluded.

The three day summit of the world’s seven richest leaders has come to an end:

“And while it’s fantastic that every one of the G7 countries has pledged to wipe out our contributions to climate change, we need to make sure we’re achieving that as fast as we can and helping developing countries at the same time.”

Some green groups were unimpressed with the climate pledges.

Catherine Pettengell, director at Climate Action Network, an umbrella group for advocacy organisations, said the G7 had failed to rise to the challenge of agreeing on concrete commitments on climate finance.

UN official accuses Eritrean forces of deliberately starving Tigray
14 June 2021, 2:11 AM

The northern highlands of Ethiopia became a global byword for famine in the mid-1980s, when drought and conflict combined to create a disaster that killed as many as one million people.

Now hunger is stalking the Tigray region again, and a senior United Nations (UN) official alleges that starvation is being used as a weapon of war.

More than 350 000 of Tigray’s nearly six million people are living in famine conditions, according to an analysis by United Nations agencies and global aid groups first reported by Reuters on Thursday.

Nearly two million others are one step away from such dire deprivation, they said. Ethiopia has disputed these estimates.

UN concerned by famine creeping into Ethiopia’s Tigray region:

Fighting since November between Ethiopia’s government and the region’s ousted ruling party, the Tigray People’s Liberation Front (TPLF), has displaced more than two million people.

The conflict broke out just before the main harvest, with each side blaming the other. The neighbouring country of Eritrea and the next-door Ethiopian region of Amhara sent forces in support of Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed’s government.

In some of his strongest public comments to date on the crisis, the UN’s top humanitarian official, Mark Lowcock, accused Eritrean forces of “trying to deal with the Tigrayan population by starving them.”

In an interview with Reuters on Thursday, Lowcock said Eritrean soldiers and local fighters are deliberately blocking supplies to the more than 1 million people in areas outside government control. “Food is definitely being used as a weapon of war.”

Ethiopia’s government, the UN and aid agencies have delivered food and other help to some 3.3 million Tigray residents since March, according to the UN humanitarian agency OCHA.

But most of that aid is going to government-controlled areas, Lowcock said.

Eritrea which fought a brutal border war against Ethiopia in 1998-2000, when the TPLF dominated the central government – didn’t respond to questions for this article.

Minister of Information Yemane Gebremeskel has previously said accusations that Eritrean soldiers are blocking or looting aid are “fabricated.”

The Ethiopian military, the prime minister’s office and the head of a national taskforce on Tigray did not respond to requests for comment on Lowcock’s remarks.

At a June 3 news conference, Abiy’s spokesperson, Billene Seyoum, dismissed accusations that the country’s defence forces are using food as a weapon as baseless and politically motivated.

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