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Six killed on Western Cape roads
22 December 2017, 6:55 AM

Six people have died in two separate collisions on the N1 in the Western Cape. One crash occurred on Thursday night between Three Sisters and Beaufort West, and the other was early on Friday morning near Worcester.

Provincial Traffic Chief, Kenny Africa, says in the first incident near Three Sisters, five people, including two children died when the car they were travelling in, collided with a truck.

He says the driver of the truck apparently lost control of his vehicle when it jack-knifed and the motor vehicle drove into the truck.

He says a man, two women and two boys died in this incident. In another crash, the driver of a motor vehicle died when he was struck by a passing taxi while changing a flat tyre.

He passed away on the scene. Two lanes are closed to traffic.

Nigerian ‘mafia’ work with Libyans to smuggle migrants
22 December 2017, 6:49 AM

Amid the global outcry over hellish migrant camps in Libya, many African leaders have accused the country of racism and crimes against their African “brothers”.

But for those who have returned from the living hell, it’s not only the Libyans who are profiting from the “migrant business”. Illegal migrants are also the prey of sub-Saharan mafia groups, especially Nigerians.

Daniel* was a student when smugglers convinced him to travel to Europe, which many migrants see as the path to a prosperous life. “In two weeks, you will be in Italy,” they promised him.

But 10 months later, in early December, the 28-year-old Nigerian was repatriated to Benin City, his hometown, after enduring kidnapping, violence and forced labour. His legs were lacerated by electric wire burns.

“We feel cheated. It was a trap. The guys who did that to us are the ones who collected money from us” to go to Europe, Daniel said, surrounded by his likewise disillusioned companions.

Some 200 Nigerians being repatriated that day could hardly begin to describe the horrors they had suffered in Libya.

One just said: “The Arab man doesn’t like Africans.”

But others spoke up as confidence and a spirit of revenge began to show, and their testimonies recounted to AFP were unanimous: both Libyans and Nigerians are responsible for the ill treatment, kidnappings and enslavement of migrants.

Daniel paid 550 000 nairas (1 290 euros, $1 530) to a criminal organisation for his promised passage to Europe.

“When I arrived in Libya the contact I had there told me that the money was finished and that I should pay 500 000 extra,” he told AFP.

In the hidden camps, Daniel said the smugglers hang “us by the feet and make you bleed while you call your parents to beg for money.”

Those whose relatives cannot or will not pay are sold to the Libyans with whom the Nigerians “work hand and hand.”

Daniel could pay and continued his journey. Arriving at the coast, the network of smugglers demanded he pay 400 000 nairas (937 euros) to cross the Mediterranean. Once more he paid up and was freed – but he never got out of Libya.

Stuck in Tripoli, Daniel did small jobs for the equivalent of about two euros per day.

“I was going to work, hidden in the boot of the car. You don’t want to be seen if you are illegal because Nigerians or Libyans can kidnap you,” he said.

Daniel finally gave himself up to the authorities, in the hope of being deported to his home country. His bank account empty, he waited seven months in a detention centre where Libyans came to get them to work for free “like slaves” during the day.

Nigerian consular services based in Libya have sped up the repatriation procedure under orders from Abuja, after a CNN video showing migrants being sold as “slaves” shocked the world.

In November, 1 300 Nigerians were repatriated compared with only 643 between last December and March. Nigerian authorities claim that 5 000 nationals are still “stranded” in areas “accessible by consular services”.

According to the International Organization for Migration (IOM), nearly 250 000 sub-Saharan migrants were in Libya, as of the end of September. The largest number of them are from Nigeria, a country of 190 million people.

The IOM noted that these estimates were “certainly lower than the reality”.

Osagie, another Nigerian repatriated to Benin City, also denounced the corruption of certain employees at the Nigerian embassy in Tripoli and the IOM “who asked for bail” to get them out of official detention camps.

“They are supposed to help us to return home, but they are looking to enrich themselves,” said the young man.

The relevant authorities declined to respond to questions by AFP.

At the same time, international organisations find access to Libya extremely complicated and limited.

“Yes, both Nigerians and Libyans are involved in (human) trafficking in Libya,” said Julie Donli, director de NAPTIP, a Nigerian security unit against trafficking. But she added that it was difficult to get information from the victims.

Now back in Nigeria, Osagie says he will not file a complaint against his smugglers. The law of the jungle reigns.

“We don’t trust the system. At the end of the day, you lose when you report a situation like that and after one month the person is out (of jail), they will come get you,” he said.

Some of the victims “will round up a gang, and go the person’s (smuggler’s) home and take back their money… It’s jungle justice.”

*All first names have been changed to protect their identities

Watch related video below:

Palestinian Christians see Trump as the Christmas killjoy
22 December 2017, 6:32 AM

US Vice President Mike Pence may have postponed his visit, but Palestinian Christians still say Washington’s recognition of Jerusalem as Israel’s capital is spoiling their Christmas.

In Bethlehem, thousands plan to celebrate on December 24 and 25, including the midnight mass at the Church of the Nativity, built on the site considered the birthplace of Jesus.

In good years the West Bank town is flooded with Palestinian and foreign visitors in the days before Christmas.

But in the weeks before festivities this year, the city has at times appeared almost empty of tourists – with nearby clashes between Palestinian protesters and the Israeli army keeping many away.

In the courtyard next to the church, a towering Christmas tree adorned with lights has had few visitors, apart from street vendors selling Santa hats and Palestinians taking selfies.

Archbishop Pierbattista Pizzaballa, apostolic administrator of the Latin Patriarch of Jerusalem and the most senior Roman Catholic official in the Middle East, told journalists on Wednesday there had been a marked increase overall in religious tourists this year.

But since Trump’s declaration on December 6, “dozens” of groups had cancelled planned visits.
“Of course this created a tension around Jerusalem and this diverted attention from Christmas,” he said.

Jane Zalfou, a 37-year-old Bethlehem Christian, said a lot of Christmas celebrations had been called off following the decision, which had “killed the joy” in the community.

“Music, fireworks and many other things have been cancelled,” she told AFP.

“What happened wasn’t a small thing – it is a big deal. The Palestinian people have been waiting for so long to have their rights.”

Perhaps as few as 50 000 Palestinian Christians make up only around two percent of the predominantly Muslim population in the West Bank and east Jerusalem.

Israel’s tourism ministry denies Christmas has been negatively affected, saying they are running free shuttles between Jerusalem and Bethlehem for mass.
The ministry says it expects a 20-percent increase in Christian pilgrims over the course of 2017 compared to the year before.

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, but Israel sees the whole city as its undivided capital.

The international community does not recognise Jerusalem as Israel’s capital, instead keeping embassies in Tel Aviv.
The Palestinians interpreted Trump’s statement as rejecting their right to a capital in east Jerusalem, though the Americans deny this.

In the latest international show of support for the Palestinians, the United Nations General Assembly on Thursday rejected the US decision on Jerusalem by a vote of 128 to nine.

Trump’s announcement was the fulfilment of a campaign promise which was particularly important to evangelical Christian supporters with Pence included among them.

The evangelical Christian movement is overwhelmingly supportive of Israel, whose founding they see as the fulfillment of biblical prophecy.

Influential US evangelical Christian Laurie Cardoza-Moore said they want to see a third Jewish temple built in Jerusalem to help facilitate Christ’s second coming, but their support for Israel was based not merely on scripture.

“Like Judaism, Christianity believes that the Messiah will one day sit on the throne of David in Jerusalem,” she said in a statement to AFP.

The irony that American Christian support is one of the driving factors in Trump’s embassy move is not lost on Palestinian Christians.

They see their fate as part of the wider Palestinian community, which views Israel’s occupation as the largest problem they face.

Mitri Raheb, pastor of the Evangelical Lutheran Christmas Church in Bethlehem, said Christian Americans supporting Israel were ignoring the ongoing occupation of the Palestinian territories.

“The essence of the Bible is freedom, not slavery, liberation not occupation,” he told AFP.

“Unfortunately Trump and his people are sacrificing the Palestinian Christians for their political agenda.”

Palestinians from the West Bank, including Christians, need special permits to visit Jerusalem, while the Jewish state has built a wall surrounding most of the city.

Georgette Qassis, a 65-year-old from Bethlehem wrapped in a blue scarf embroidered with the word Jesus in English, agreed.

“Who gave Trump the right? We did not,” she said. “The Palestinian people are here on this great land. They should have asked for our opinion.”

DA says land expropriation must be done constitutionally
22 December 2017, 6:02 AM

The Democratic Alliance has vowed to defend the property clauses in section 25 of the Constitution following plans outlined at the ANC’s 54 national elective conference to expropriate land without compensation.

The party believes the call for expropriation is a diversion from the real solution to the country’s land reform challenges.

Spokesperson for Rural Development and Land Reform, Thomas Walters, says this is a step backwards for property rights owners in the country.

Walters has blamed government for failing to meet targets of land redistribution.

“We will most definitely defend Section 25 of the Constitution. In fact it’s actually there to protect the vulnerable in society and their property against the overbearing State. It was put there to avoid the kind of abuse by the State power that we saw during apartheid. It’s actually about defending the poor at the expense of incompetent State that has shown to enrich itself at the expense of the poor.”

Article updated

The headline in this article has been adjusted to better reflect the Democratic Alliance’s position.

Durban’s drought crisis worsens
22 December 2017, 5:55 AM

The Albert Falls Dam in KwaZulu-Natal has reached its lowest level in 20-years at 19.2%. Albert Falls feeds the Mayville Dam, which supplies water to at least 60% of residents in the eThekwini region.

Umgeni Water spokesperson Shami Harichunder says the water authority is concerned about the critically low levels of the Albert Falls Dam.

Water restrictions are in place. Harichunder says the most affected areas are those which are supplied by the Durban heights system, which includes areas in the North, South, Central and Western regions.

“Umgeni water is experiencing concerns about the level of the Albert Falls Dam. It means that in effect there isn’t sufficient water at Albert Falls, then there won’t be sufficient water in Mayville Dam. That is why we’re in a situation of water restricts of 15%. Water conservation and sparing use of water has to remain in place.”

Meanwhile, Harichunder has called on eThekwini residents as well as holidaymakers to help conserve  water.

“We are in an abnormal situation, we must use water sparingly. Irresponsible use of water is not good. It is half the problem resulting to water shortage. The other half is due to the inadequate rainfall.”




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