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Besty Diaz Velazquez
Cuban retail sales fell through during March
12 April 2019, 9:00 PM

Cuban retail sales fell sharply through March, state media said on Friday, reflecting short ages of basic goods and threatening the overall growth of the economy.

Internal Trade Minister Betsy Diaz Velazquez told a closed-door session of the National Assembly on Thursday that sales in the first quarter totalled 92.5% of the government’s target, short around 500 million pesos, which are officially equal to the dollar.

The government’s goal was only a few points above that of 2018. Diaz explained that food shortages in 2019, ranging from cooking oil and eggs to bread and chicken and which have sent residents scampering in search of basics, were largely due to fewer imports of spare parts, feed and food, the report said.

“These numbers reflect the reduction in the availability of several products, many of them in high demand, and this includes imported goods and others of domestic production that use imported raw materials,” said a local economist, who asked not to be identified due to restrictions on talking with foreign journalists.

Communist-run Cuba relies on imports directly or indirectly for much of what it consumes and the Caribbean island purchases those supplies with foreign currency it earns from exports, as the peso has no value outside its borders.

Foreign trade fell 25 percent from 2013 through 2017, with imports dropping to $11.3 billion from $15.6 billion, largely due to the crisis in Venezuela, from which Cuba receives oil and cash in exchange for health and other technical assistance.

Trade declined again last year, according to the government. More recently, the advent of a far-right government in Brazil led to the scrapping of a doctors-for-cash deal.

The tightening of United States (US) sanctions also has hurt tourism and other foreign exchange earnings.

The fall in revenue has led to cuts in fuel and energy consumption by state companies and service providers.

Communist Party leader Raul Castro on Wednesday warned that the economic situation could worsen in coming months.

Cuba forecast growth this year at 1.5 percent, slightly above its 2018 performance of 1.2 percent but local economists said that was now in doubt, in part because retail sales account for 20 percent of gross domestic product.

“Trade is a key component of GDP. Unfortunately, the only way to change the landscape is an increase in imports, given the restrictions on domestic supply, and that seems unlikely this.

Wayne Arendse
PSL to set new date to deliberate on Arendse case
12 April 2019, 7:31 PM

The Premier Soccer League (PSL) has confirmed that a new date will be set to deliver a sanction on the Mamelodi Sundowns and defender Wayne Arendse case.

In a brief statement on Friday afternoon, the league said the Brazilians, who are currently in Egypt for their Caf Champions League quarterfinal return leg on Saturday, have asked for a postponement.

Sundowns were last week found guilty of fielding an ineligible player, Arendse, during their Absa Premiership fixture against Bidvest Wits on October 7. The game ended in a 1-1 draw at Lucas Moripe Stadium.

Arendse had initially been left out of the match day squad that was submitted to the match commissioner before kick-off, but was recalled when Thapelo Morena suffered an injury during the warm-up.

Article 16.3.3 of the PSL rules prohibit such a charge, hence Downs were eventually charged and found guilty by the league, though the entire process took nearly six months before a verdict could be handed down.

Earlier this week, the club’s general manager Yogesh Singh refuted remarks made by PSL prosecutor Nande Becker that Downs’ busy schedule this season had led to the delay on the case.

David Makhura
Joburg City tenants demand ownership of properties
12 April 2019, 3:49 PM

Members of the Social Housing Tenants Uprising Movement have threatened to bring Gauteng province to a standstill if Premier David Makhura doesn’t respond to their demands within seven days.

Tenants of City of Johannesburg, who occupied flats in communities such as Alexandra, north of the city, Kliptown and Jabulani in Soweto and Fleurhof, west of Johannesburg, staged a protest at Makhura’s offices in Newtown, on Friday. They’ve handed over a memorandum demanding ownership of the properties they are currently renting.

The tenants no longer want to pay rent, saying they can’t afford it. They, however, say they’re prepared to pay for water, electricity and other services.

One of their leaders, Boy Motsoeneng, says if Makhura doesn’t respond they are going to close down the city.

“We’re going to shut down Gauteng province. We’re clear and we’re not afraid. We say it in front of the officials, in front of the cops. You know our intentions. We know that in order for them to listen to us someone must die for the struggle. Either it’s us or them. We know that blood must be spilled in order for history to be rewritten,” says Motsoeneng.

Premier promises to meet with members

The Office of Gauteng Premier David Makhura has promised to meet with members of the Social Housing Tenants Uprising movement by Thursday next week to discuss their demands.

Margarent Tleane, from the Premier’s Office, says: “I’m going to make sure that by close of business today, the premier has received this memorandum. We’re going to convene meetings with all relevant stakeholders, including housing. My team which is working on service delivery is going to be contacting all the relevant people stated in this memorandum to ask for meetings.

“On Thursday, we shall call a meeting with your leadership. If it happens that we shall have gathered all the stakeholders before Thursday, then the meeting with your leadership will be before Thursday.”

 

Earthquake
Indonesia issues tsunami warning after magnitude 6.8 quake off Sulawesi
12 April 2019, 3:10 PM

Indonesia issued a tsunami warning on Friday, urging people to evacuate to higher ground after an earthquake of magnitude 6.8 struck off the coast of its island of Sulawesi.

Indonesia suffered its highest death toll in natural disasters in more than a decade in 2018, following two major tsunamis and several earthquakes, with more than 3,000 killed in Palu, also in Central Sulawesi, the site of Friday’s earthquake.

“It is clear that the quake has tsunami potential,” said geophysics agency spokesman Taufan Maulana. Residents are advised to evacuate as soon possible.”

The agency is monitoring for high waves as the quake had the potential to trigger a tsunami, it added.

“The first wave may not be the biggest,” it said in a statement.

There were no immediate reports of damage or casualties from the quake, which hit 280 km (174 miles) south of the province of Gorontalo at a depth of 43 km (27 miles), the agency added.

The quake was “strong and long lasting,” Gina Saerang, a resident of Manado, the capital of North Sulawesi province, several hundred kilometers from the epicentre, said on social media.

Stormers
Stormers end Australasian tour with a win
12 April 2019, 2:40 PM

The Stormers have registered their first and only win on the road on their Australasian tour in four outings by beating the Rebels in a Super Rugby match in Melbourne.

They outscored the Rebels, who are top of the Australian conference, by five tries to three for a 41-24 victory to move to fourth in the South African Conference.

With their Coach Robbie Fleck’s head seemingly on the block, the Stormers played as a unit and were superb in all departments.

Wing Dylan Leyds was perhaps the best of the lot on the night. Some fancy footwork and lightning speed saw the 26-year-old slice through the Rebels defence to score the first try for the visitors.

The hosts threw the kitchen sink at the Stormers as they sought to level matters, but their defence was another outstanding aspect of the Stormers play on the evening.

The Rebels came close when wing Semisi Tupou failed to capitalise after Quade Cooper’s inch-perfect cross-kick found him it the right corner, but Tupou spilled the ball into touch with Sergeal Petersen lurking.

The visitors led by 10 points to three at the break.

The Rebels had a brilliant start to the second half. Reece Hodge intercepted a long loopy Jean-Luc Du Plessis pass after Will Genia had kicked a long ball up-field with Hodge scoring a try, but the Stormers responded with three tries in 10 minutes to lead by 31 points to 10.

The visitors twice managed to break through the Rebels’ defence on the left flank with Juarno Augustus scoring his first Super Rugby try before Damien De Allende also scored.

Ruan Nel added to the Rebel’s demolition pouncing on a ball after a Rebels’ defender had spilled it, to also score his first Super Rugby try and extend the Stormers’ lead to 29-10.

Two late tries by Genia and Campball Magnay reduced the deficit for the Rebels and gave their fans some hope of a late comeback.

But with the Rebels on the attack, Nel intercepted and sprinted away to score his second try of the match and complete a 41-24 victory.

“I think the Okes were really fired-up and they put their bodies on the line tonight. I think it’s an unbelievable effort and the Okes really performed tonight,” says Steven Kitshoff, who was the Stomers stand-in captain.

The Stormers will now return to South Africa and will play another Australian side, the Brumbies, at Newland in Cape Town next weekend.

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