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Pope seeks peace in Jerusalem, highlights plight of war-scarred children
25 December 2017, 2:47 PM

Pope Francis on Monday called for peace in Jerusalem in his traditional Christmas address and highlighted the plight of children scarred by conflict, after urging the world’s 1.3 billion Catholics not to ignore migrants.

Addressing tens of thousands of worshippers gathered at the Vatican to hear the pontiff’s fifth “Urbi et Orbi” (To the City and The World) message, Francis called for “peace for Jerusalem and for all the Holy Land.

“We see Jesus in the children of the Middle East who continue to suffer because of growing tensions between Israelis and Palestinians,” he said.

“Let us pray that the will to resume dialogue may prevail between the parties and that a negotiated solution can finally be reached, one that would allow the peaceful coexistence of two states within mutually agreed and internationally recognised borders.”

The pontiff’s plea came as fresh tensions simmered in the West Bank following President Donald Trump’s recognition of Jerusalem as Israel’s capital. Following Trump’s lead, Guatemala’s President Jimmy Morales said Sunday his country would move its embassy from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem.

Trump’s announcement on December 6 unleashed demonstrators and clashes, including in Bethlehem in the Israeli-occupied West Bank where Christians marked the birth of Jesus at a midnight mass.

“May the Lord also sustain the efforts of all those in the international community inspired by good will to help that afflicted land to find, despite grave obstacles the harmony, justice and security that it has long awaited,” the pope said.

The pontiff also mentioned other global flashpoints such as Syria, Iraq, Yemen, South Sudan and Venezuela, after stressing that the “winds of war are blowing in our world”.

“Let us pray that confrontation may be overcome on the Korean peninsula and that mutual trust may increase in the interest of the world as a whole,” the 81-year-old said.

Earlier, celebrating midnight mass in the ancient town, Archbishop Pierbattista Pizzaballa, apostolic administrator of the Latin Patriarch of Jerusalem, used his homily to lambast the wars that “the Herods of today fight every day to become greater, to occupy more space”.

Criticising Trump’s announcement, Pizzaballa insisted “Jerusalem is a city of peace, there is not peace if someone is excluded. Jerusalem should include, not exclude,” stressing the principle that Jerusalem is a city for both peoples and the three Abrahamic faiths.

Hundreds had gathered in the cold on Bethlehem’s Manger Square to watch the annual scout parade towards the Church of the Nativity, built over the spot where tradition says Mary gave birth to Jesus.

But the square was noticeably quieter following the violence between Palestinian protesters and the Israeli army in the past weeks.

Twelve Palestinians have been killed since Trump’s declaration, including a 19-year-old who died of his wounds on Sunday nine days after he was shot during a Gaza protest. Israel seized east Jerusalem in the 1967 Middle East war and later annexed it, in moves never recognised by the international community.

Palestinians view east Jerusalem as the capital of their future state, and interpreted Trump’s statement as rejecting their right to a capital in east Jerusalem, although the Americans deny this.

Christmas decorations have meanwhile become more visible in Christian areas of Syria’s capital Damascus this year.

In the central Syrian city of Homs, Christians will celebrate Christmas with great fanfare for the first time in years after the end of battles between regime and rebel forces with processions, shows for children and even decorations among the ruins.

In Iraq too, this year marks a positive turning point for the Christian community in the northern city of Mosul. Britain’s Queen Elizabeth II was meanwhile due to pay tribute to the cities of London and Manchester which suffered terror attacks this year.

“This Christmas, I think of London and Manchester, whose powerful identities shone through over the past 12 months in the face of appalling attacks,” the 91-year-old monarch was to say in the pre-recorded televised message.

London suffered two deadly terror attacks, while 22 people — including children — were killed during an attack at Manchester Arena following a performance by US singer Ariana Grande.

Meanwhile a tragic Christmas weekend in the Philippines was compounded Monday by the deaths of 20 people killed in a bus collision while travelling to mass. Dozens of people were feared killed in a fire Saturday in the southern city of Davao. Thousands were displaced by floods and landslides from a storm that also killed more than 200 others on Friday.

Hawks rescue E Cape girl from Ukuthwala
25 December 2017, 2:15 PM

The Hawks have rescued a 14-year-old girl from Tyoti village outside Dutywa in the Eastern Cape from forced marriage known as Ukuthwala. Her family allegedly arranged for her to be married to a 26-year-old man from Mvezo in Mthatha.

An agreement was reached between the girl’s family and that of her husband, without her knowledge. The girl has been taken to a place of safety. One of the girl’s relatives is shocked saying she is too young to be subjected to this.

“This is shocking and unbelievable. She is still young. There are girls who are 19 and 20 years here, they should have taken them not this little one. But this was done by her mother.

Provincial Hawks’ Lulama Jack has likened the practice to human trafficking.

“ It’s for the first time that we are having such a case in the Dutywa area because we used to do the awareness campaigns in all the calls that are   surrounding Mthatha and Ngcobo and the Bhaca area where this thing they usually do it. It’s shocking that Dutywa is starting to do this again whereas we’ve been doing awareness campaigns on radios, schools and television.”


Call for unified engagements to fund free education
20 December 2017, 9:50 PM

Fees-Must-Fall student leader, Fasiha Hassan, says there is an urgent need for students, universities, the Department of Higher Education, National Treasury and other stakeholders to discuss a way forward on funding free higher education.

This is after President Jacob Zuma’s recent announcement on fee-free education, which was met with mixed reactions.

The presidency released a statement at the weekend detailing plans to subsidise free education for poor and working-class first-year students in 2018.

“How are we actually, like everyone is going to say, how are we going to find the money and make it work. It is important for everyone to know that as students we are very committed to finding a sustainable and feasible way to fund free higher education in a way that doesn’t take away money from fundamental elements of society. What we need to do now is bring everyone into one room and students, have their own model. Universities have done investigations. Treasury has some ideas. But we haven’t actually been speaking to each other. That is something we need to do because for us, it’s not about driving the sector into collapse. It’s about finding a way in which our students are not going to be disadvantaged,” says Hassan.

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Strong call for government to implement free higher education

Science and Technology Minister, Naledi Pandor, who also chairs the subcommittee on education, health and technology says there’s a strong call for government to implement free higher education. Pandor was presenting the subcommittee’s resolutions.

Pandor says while they did not discuss how free higher education would be implemented, they do however have assurance from Finance Minister, Malusi Gigaba, that it will be discussed during his budget speech next year.

“Also a very very strong call that government must speedily implement the free higher education for poor and working class background and to help middle class and see government implement form 2018 The conference said this is something they want to see government implement from 2018 and they welcomed the announcements that have been made by President Zuma.”

She says the problem of graduates who finish their degrees but are unemployable as a result of weak, or lack of work-related skills must be addressed.

Pandor says the Basic Education department must also intensify efforts to improve literacy and numeracy at all grades, especially at foundation phase.

The committee accepted a resolution that schools must, from now on, teach three languages to promote social cohesion in the country.


Family of Marikana victim receives a house
20 December 2017, 7:17 PM

The family of a slain Marikana miner will for the first time ever celebrate Christmas in a proper house. It is part of Mineworkers and Construction Union (AMCU’s) promise to the families of the 44 victims.

Mmathabang Ntshenyeho’s husband, Andries was among the group gunned down by police. It was a dark chapter in the country’s history when 34 miners were shot and killed by police at Marikana.

Among the victims was Andries Ntshenyeho. He died fighting for a decent living wage. Life has been hard for his widow and their five children. They have been living in a shack.

“My husband was working but his wish was to build a house for his children but he couldn’t because he was earning too little,” says widow Mmathabang Ntshenyeho.

More than five years later, the promised three-bedroom house has been built. This single parent was overcome by emotion. All families of the dead miners will benefit from the project including those of the ten police and security personnel killed in the days before the massacre.

“As Amcu we are proud to report to comrade Andries Ntshenyeho that we have managed to live to these workers’ demands from R4500 to a minimum salary of R11500 in three years,” says Amcu president Joseph Mathunjwa.

Amcu claims that there is a concerted campaign against its members. At least seven have been killed this year alone. “We have seen comrades being assassinated recently but that did never scare or instil fear in our comrades in leading their fellow comrades,” says Mathunjwa.

Many widows are grieving with some consolation for Mmabatho Ntshenyehos as a New Year beckons.

ANC conference resolves to prioritise cases of corruption within govt
20 December 2017, 6:59 PM

Chairperson of the Peace and Stability Commission David Mahlobo says the African National Congress Elective Conference sitting in Nasrec, Johannesburg, has resolved that all cases of corruption within government must be investigated with speed.

He says there is no reason why there have not been any arrests, after convictions of any form of misconduct or corruption within all the government institutions. Mahlobo was addressing the media earlier on Wednesday.

“We have done a lot of investigations, but reports are sitting and we want those people to be brought to court. Go to municipalities and we have people sitting there and in the provinces there are Auditors’ reports sitting there. Public protector’s reports that are including the SIU and the ANC say there is no room for corruption. We just have to implement the things that are there, including anti-corruption agencies. They must just improve their coordination so that they become effective.”

Mahlobo has raised concerns regarding private security companies using the same uniform as law enforcement agencies. He says the governing party is looking into dealing with incidents where people have had access to police uniforms and blue lights.

“It’s safe to say that we did an assessment of the security situation in the world and reconfirmed that SA remains relatively stable. On private security, nothing has changed, but a discussion and a possible regulation with respect with private security is using the same uniform, like our law enforcement agencies. It creates some challenges. We know that there have been incidents of criminality where people have access to clothing, to blue lights and other things and we said lets deal with that issue.”

Mahlobo has highlighted the need for a higher police presence in communities.

“With respect to the police, we have reconfirmed the question that the number of police must be increased. Remember the radio was one police person around more than 300 citizens to be looked at. We say that over a period of five years that number must be able to come to one is to 150. So, there is an issue of visibility there.”

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