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UN launches Sudanese political process to end post-coup crisis
8 January 2022, 5:26 PM

The United Nations said on Saturday it would invite Sudanese military leaders, political parties and other groups to take part in a “political process” aimed at ending a crisis unleashed by a coup in October.

UN mediation in the weeks after the coup succeeded in reinstating Prime Minister Abdalla Hamdok, but his resignation last week deepened uncertainty around Sudan’s political future and a transition towards elections scheduled for 2023.

Neighbourhood-based resistance committees, political parties and other pro-democracy groups have carried out an ongoing campaign of protests under a “no negotiation” slogan, and crackdowns by security forces have left at least 60 dead.

Unless a new course towards a transition and credible elections can be charted, more instability within and beyond Sudanese borders is likely, analysts and diplomats have said.

“All measures taken to date have not succeeded in restoring the course of this transformation,” UN Special Representative Volker Perthes said in a statement announcing the launch of the UN-facilitated process.

“The … repeated violence against largely peaceful protesters has only served to deepen the mistrust among all political parties in Sudan,” he added.

Sudan’s military, armed movements, political parties, civil society and resistance committees will be invited to participate, the UN statement said.

Kazakhstan arrests ex-security chief as it presses crackdown on protests
8 January 2022, 4:55 PM

Kazakhstan’s former intelligence chief has been arrested on suspicion of treason, the state security agency said on Saturday, as the former Soviet republic cracks down on a wave of unrest and starts to assign blame.

The detention of Karim Massimov was announced by the National Security Committee which he himself headed until he was fired by President Kassym-Jomart Tokayev on Wednesday as violent protests swept across the Central Asian nation.

Tokayev’s office said he had told Russian President Vladimir Putin in a phone call that the situation was stabilising.

“At the same time, hotbeds of terrorist attacks persist. Therefore, the fight against terrorism will continue with full determination,” it quoted him as saying.

The Kremlin said Putin backed Tokayev’s idea to convene a video call of leaders from the Collective Security Treaty Organisation (CSTO), under whose umbrella Russia and four other former Soviet republics have sent troops into Kazakhstan to help restore order. It was not clear when this would take place.

Dozens of people have died, thousands have been detained and public buildings across Kazakhstan have been torched over the past week in the worst violence experienced in the major oil and uranium producer since it became independent in the early 1990s as the Soviet Union collapsed.

Tokayev has ordered his troops to shoot to kill to put an end to what he has called attacks by bandits and terrorists.

He said on Friday the state had “slept through” instigators’ preparations to launch attacks on the biggest city, Almaty, and across the country. The arrest of Massimov indicated that moves against those deemed responsible are under way.

Apart from heading the intelligence agency that replaced the Soviet-era KGB, Massimov is a two-time ex-prime minister who worked closely with former President Nursultan Nazarbayev, the country’s ruler for three decades until he turned over the presidency to Tokayev in 2019.

The demonstrations across the country began as a response to a fuel price hike but swelled into a broad movement against Tokayev’s Russian-backed government and 81-year-old Nazarbayev, whose family is widely believed to have retained influence in Nur-Sultan, the capital that bears his name.

North West disaster management authorities on high alert following heavy rains
7 January 2022, 9:48 PM

Disaster management officials from the Lekwa Teemane Local Municipality in Bloemhof and Christiana in the North West, are on high alert following heavy rains in the catchment area of the Vaal River.

A number of families living along the Vaal River in the Bloemhof-Christiana areas, have already been evacuated. Earlier this week, the Water and Sanitation Department ordered that two more sluice gates at the already full Vaal Dam be opened. This is in addition to the three sluice gates that are already open.

The continued heavy rain across the country has forced the Water and Sanitation Department to open five sluice gates at the Vaal Dam. This has resulted in rising of water levels in the Vaal River, forcing the opening of sluices at the Bloemhof dam further down stream.

Communities and businesses along the river in both Bloemhof and Christiana have been placed on high alert. The authorities say although the water level has drastically increased, there is no need to worry yet.

“As you can see there is a lot of water. But with this lot of water, we really positive that nothing will happen with us. We feel sorry for the farmers in the area because the farmers in the area have got the most difficult task. Their lands are washed away there is roads closed everything. So we blessed to see this water and we got no fear in our hearts at all,” says guesthouse owner Sias Meyer.

The increase in the water levels has also impacted on those who make a living by catching and selling fish. A fisherman had this to say..

“The river is over flowing and we are unable to catch big fishes that normally pays well. We are only able to catch small ones and they are not selling.”

Speaker of the Lekwa Teemane Local Municipality, Mpho Pilane, says close to 20% of the 83 families that live along the Vaal River, have already been evacuated.

“We have actually assisted in terms of the evacuation of more than 20% of the people who are staying next to the river. But I must equally indicate that those that are beyond the flood line have not been evacuated because the water has not reached the level of their houses. But those that are at the flood line, have already evacuated safely. I must also indicate that we have not had any casualties in terms of the drowning.”

The Weather Service has predicted more rain in the coming days and those living along the river hope that they will not experience severe flooding like they did in 2010.

R15 million set aside for flood victims in KZN
7 January 2022, 7:35 PM

The KwaZulu-Natal Department of Human Settlement has set aside R15 million towards re-building homes of victims of the recent heavy rains in the Pietermaritzburg area.

The heavy rains destroyed many houses and road infrastructure. Department MEC Jomo Sbiya, announced the relief during his visit to Azalea area in Pietermaritzburg.

Severe storm leaves a trail of destruction in Pietermaritzburg:

The 42-year-old Khehla Duma is among the victims of the recent storms that wreak havoc several homes in Pietermaritzburg. Over 513 houses were destroyed when roofs were blown away.

Duma says even the house he is using temporarily is also leaking when raining.

“I am disappointed by the storms. Fortunately I was not injured, and I decided to use my late brother’s house and it is not in good condition as I am taking chronic pills. I need help.”

Manthombi Xulu is another victim, she has been accommodated by her neighbours as her house was completely destroyed by heavy rains.

“I have nowhere to go as I am sleeping in my neighbour’s house. The situation is bad and I need any kind of help from the government.”

During his visit in the area Sibiya announced relief funds of 15 million that will be used to repair damaged houses.

“We are a caring government and we will use the money to improve people’s lives and also to make sure that you enjoy to be a South African.”

Meanwhile, other areas where the heavy rains wreaked havoc, homes and infrastructure are still waiting for the assistance. These areas includes rural areas of Ndwedwe and KwaMaphumulo on the north coast.

Sidney Poitier, first Black actor to win best actor Academy Award, dies at 94
7 January 2022, 7:15 PM

Sidney Poitier, who broke through racial barriers as the first Black winner of the best actor Oscar for his role in “Lilies of the Field,” and inspired a generation during the civil rights movement, has died at age 94, an official from the Bahamian Ministry of Foreign Affairs said on Friday.

Eugene Torchon-Newry, acting director general of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, confirmed Poitier’s death.

Poitier created a distinguished film legacy in a single year with three 1967 films at a time when segregation prevailed in much of the United States.

In “Guess Who’s Coming to Dinner” he played a Black man with a white fiancee and “In the Heat of the Night” he was Virgil Tibbs, a Black police officer confronting racism during a murder investigation. He also played a teacher in a tough London school that year in “To Sir, With Love.”

Poitier had won his history-making best actor Oscar for “Lilies of the Field” in 1963, playing a handyman who helps German nuns build a chapel in the desert. Five years before that Poitier had been the first Black man nominated for a lead actor Oscar for his role in “The Defiant Ones.”

His Tibbs character from “In the Heat of the Night” was immortalized in two sequels – “They Call Me Mister Tibbs!” in 1970 and “The Organization” in 1971 – and became the basis of the television series “In the Heat of the Night” starring Carroll O’Connor and Howard Rollins.

His other classic films of that era included “A Patch of Blue” in 1965 in which his character ias befriended by a blind white girl, “The Blackboard Jungle” and “A Raisin in the Sun,” which Poitier also performed on Broadway.

Poitier was born in Miami on Feb. 20, 1927, and raised on a tomato farm in the Bahamas, and had just one year of formal schooling. He struggled against poverty, illiteracy and prejudice to become one of the first Black actors to be known and accepted in major roles by mainstream audiences.

Poitier picked his roles with care, burying the old Hollywood idea that Black actors could appear only in demeaning contexts as shoeshine boys, train conductors and maids.

“I love you, I respect you, I imitate you,” Denzel Washington, another Oscar winner, once told Poitier at a public ceremony.

As a director, Poitier worked with his friend Harry Belafonte and Bill Cosby in “Uptown Saturday Night” in 1974 and Richard Pryor and Gene Wilder in 1980’s “Stir Crazy.”

STARTED ON STAGE

Poitier grew up in the small Bahamian village of Cat Island and in Nassau before he moved to New York at 16, lying about his age to sign up for a short stint in the Army and then working at odd jobs, including dishwasher, while taking acting lessons.

The young actor got his first break when he met the casting director of the American Negro Theater. He was an understudy in “Days of Our Youth” and took over when the star, Belafonte, who also would become a pioneering Black actor, fell ill.

Poitier went on to success on Broadway in “Anna Lucasta” in 1948 and, two years later, got his first movie role in “No Way Out” with Richard Widmark.

In all, he acted in more than 50 films and directed nine, starting in 1972 with “Buck and the Preacher” in which he co-starred with Belafonte.

In 1992, Poitier was given the Life Achievement Award by the American Film Institute, the most prestigious honor after the Oscar, joining recipients such as Bette Davis, Alfred Hitchcock, Fred Astaire, James Cagney and Orson Welles.

“I must also pay thanks to an elderly Jewish waiter who took time to help a young Black dishwasher learn to read,” Poitier told the audience. “I cannot tell you his name. I never knew it. But I read pretty good now.”

In 2002, an honorary Oscar recognized “his remarkable accomplishments as an artist and as a human being.”

Poitier married actress Joanna Shimkus, his second wife, in the mid-1970s. He had six daughters with his two wives and wrote three books – “This Life” (1980), “The Measure of a Man: A Spiritual Autobiography” (2000) and “Life Beyond Measure: Letters to My Great-Granddaughter” (2008).

“If you apply reason and logic to this career of mine, you’re not going to get very far,” he told the Washington Post. “The journey has been incredible from its beginning. So much of life, it seems to me, is determined by pure randomness.”

Poitier wrote three autobiographical books and in 2013 published “Montaro Caine,” a novel that was described as part mystery, part science fiction.

Poitier was knighted by Britain’s Queen Elizabeth II in 1974 and served as the Bahamian ambassador to Japan and to UNESCO, the U.N. cultural agency. He also sat on Walt Disney Co’s board of directors from 1994 to 2003.

In 2009, Poitier was awarded the highest U.S. civilian honor, the Presidential Medal of Freedom, by President Barack Obama.

The 2014 Academy Awards ceremony marked the 50th anniversary of Poitier’s historic Oscar and he was there to present the award for best director.

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