Media Watch is a collection of the latest relevant news stories from around South Africa and the region. It is updated every Friday. To subscribe to Media Watch, please e-mail ‘subscribe’ to firstname.lastname@example.org
Passop Media Watch 19/5/2012 – 25/5/2012
2012 Elections - Fifteen months after Hosni Mubarak was deposed Egypt is having it’s first free election in over 30 years. Egyptians hope the vote will mark an end to the political turmoil and instability that destroyed any illusions and expectations of a swift improvement in their lives after Mubarak’s downfall.
Malawi to overturn homosexual ban - President Joyce Banda said in her state of the union address “Some laws which were duly passed by the august house… will be repealed as a matter of urgency… these include the provisions regarding indecent practices and unnatural acts.” The president is reported to have the support of the majority of MP’s so she should be able to get parlament to overturn the law. Overturning the law will make Malawi the first african country to lift the ban on homosexual acts since 1994.
Transition Deadline - Somali leaders have agreed to a timetable that will elect a new president by August 20th. The leaders also agreed on a draft constitution and that a new federal parliament, to be selected by a group of elders, will be sworn in by 20 July. The 225 MPs, half the number in the current parliament, will elect the president.
South Sudan News
Peace Talks - South Sudan and Sudan have agreed to restart talks next Tuesday with the aim of ending the hostilities. The UN Security Council endorsed an AU resolution that threatened both sides with sanctions unless they stopped fighting and resumed negotiations. Western Diplomats however do not expect a quick breakthrough as the position of the two nations still seems wide apart.
Amnesty for LRA leader - LRA rebel leader Caesar Achellam is claiming to deserve amnesty. This is reference to the amnesty law introduced in Uganda in 2000 to try to end the war waged by LRA leader Joseph Kony and his fighters for more than two decades. The law is contingent on the surrendering of fighters. Public prosecutors in Uganda are denying Achellam amnesty because he was one of the top rebel military strategists in the LRA.
Passop Media Watch 12/5/2012 – 18/5/2012
South Africa News
Home Affairs officials accused of extortion - Various officials from the Department of Home Affairs refused to grant an approved work permit to a Zimbabwean national until a bribe was paid. This comes after renewed efforts on the part of the Department of Home Affairs to ‘improve efficiency and transparency’ in their offices.
South Africa pledges to Prosecute high officials in Robert Mugabe’s government - In a ‘landmark ruling’ the South African high court in Pretoria made clear its commitment to human rights by pledging to prosecute members of Mugabe’s government suspected of egregious human rights violations.
ID doubles in DHA database - Twenty-nine thousand people in South Africa apparently share ID numbers with someone else; a disconcerting demonstration of the Department of Home Affairs lack of organization and attentiveness.
Zanu PF vents hate speech - Zanu PF officials, in an attempt to discredit the ongoing constitution-making process, have criticized and mocked the issue of gay rights. President Mugabe has led a campaign against homosexuality, calling them worse than pigs and dogs. In this incidence the official advocated the banishment of people who practice or support homosexuality from their communities.
The Democratic Republic of the Congo News
DRC Refugees arrive at makeshift refugee camp in Bunagana - Refugees from the Democratic Republic of the Congo fled the Masisi region of the Congo’s North Kivu province as a result of an outbreak of fighting between Congolese troops and soldiers loyal to the renegade general Bosco Ntaganda.
Caesar Acellam Captured - Lord’s Resistance Army commander Caesar Acellam was captured with two other rebel fighters while trying to cross the Bomu river. Acellam is not one of the rebel commanders indicted along with Joseph Kony by the International Criminal Court, Ugandan officials said “he was one of Mr. Kony’s top military strategists.”
Passop Media Watch 5/5/2012 – 11/5/2012
South Africa News
Court Orders Investigation Into Allegations of Torture in Zimbabwe – On tuesday a South African judge ordered prosecutors to investigate into the allegations that the Zimbabwean government had committed human rights violations. The judge believed it would benefit Zimbabweans tortured in their homeland and would see South Africa live up to its international responsibilities.
Refugee Reception Center in Maitland to Close - The Department of Home Affairs announced on 9 May that the landlord of the Maitland Refugee Reception Center has given a 30-day notice of the termination of the center’s lease. Organisations Scalabrini, Black Sash and PASSOP are urging the government to find ways to continue providing reception center’s services. Completely shutting down these services will cause disastrous problems for 1000s of Zimbabwe refugees.
Biti rules out election – Zimbabwe’s Finance Minister, Tendai Biti, has ruled out holding elections this year. Biti says the country’s cash strapped treasury cannot afford to finance a poll in 2012.
The Democratic Republic of Congo News
Mutinous Soldiers in E. Congo Announce New Group – The soldiers forming the new group used to belong to the largest rebel groups before joining the Congolese army in 2009. They are led by the No. 2 of ex-General Ntaganda of the CNDP. The new group says the DRC hasn’t lived up to the 2009 Peace Accords. They call themselves the March 23 Movement, the date the accords were signed in 2009.
East Africa News
One Day Cease Fire – A South Sudanese military spokesperson has announced that Sudanese aircraft have dropped ten bombs on the South Sudanese military base in Loloba. This attack comes one day after an African Union agreement that the two countries would adhere to a cease fire.
Passop Media Watch 28/4/2012 – 4/5/2012
South African News
New National ID System for South Africa - The South African Department of Home Affairs announced plans for a new national identification system based on smart national identification cards that will contain embedded chips storing citizens’ vital information, including their fingerprints. The aim of the new system, which will be tested over the next six months, is to increase security and eliminate the possibility of identity theft and ID-card forgery. The new smart cards will replace the current green ID booklets, the so-called “dompas” (dumb pass), in the course of the next two years.
ZANU-PF demanding revisions of the draft Constitution - Senior Zanu PF officials surprised the Constitution Select Committee (Copac) on Wednesday by demanding a clause-by-clause revision of the draft of the new constitution. Mangwana, Copac co-chair, had announced on Tuesday that the draft was ready but Zanu PF members demanded more time to review and amend the draft. This new development will seriously delay the completion of the new constitution that 88-year-old Robert Mugabe needs to hold elections this year.
Democratic Republic of the Congo News
Ntaganda takes DRC Towns - Bosco Ntaganda and troops loyal to him have taken two towns in the eastern part of the DRC. Bosco, known locally as the Terminator, is wanted by the International Criminal Court as he has been accused of recruiting child soldiers. Thousands of people are fleeing fierce fighting around the town of Goma.
Congo’s president names 28 ministers to his new government - Five months after winning the controversial Congolese elections, Joseph Kabila announced the names of the 28 ministers that will form his new government. Six ministers remain from the old government, while the rest are mostly technocrats and not well known to the public.
East African News
East Africa urges peace in Sudan and Somalia - Delegates of the five-member East Africa summit held in Arusha, Tanzania, appealed to Sudan and South Sudan to put an end to their violent border clashes and political conflict. The East African Community is in the process of establishing a monetary union and a political federation, having formed a customs union in 2005 and a common market in 2010. Sudan and South Sudan are both applicants to the union, but their potential for membership is seriously undermined by the potential outbreak of war in the region.
The East African bloc is also pleading for peace in Somalia, where two bomb attacks killed three parliamentarians outside Mogadishu this week. Somalia will face potential sanctions from East African IGAD nations and the UN Security Council if they fail to intensify their peace efforts.
Passop Media Watch 21/4/2012 – 27/4/2012
The bid to limit a president’s tenure in Uganda looks likely to fail. Ruling party officials argue that President Yoweri Museveni needs more time than his 26 years term in office. Critics argue that Museveni’s removal of the two term limit, which was done in 2005 before he sought his third term, is a clear sign that he is interested in ruling for life.Nigeria News
Corrupt fuel deals -
The Lawmakers Report has revealed that in order to ensure cheap gasoline prices Nigear paid billions of dollars into a corrupt government system that saw huge contracts awarded to shady companies without any oversight.
Passop Media Watch 14/4/2012 – 20/4/2012
South Africa News
SA deportations a ‘threat’ to Zimbabwe - The forced removal of Zimbabwean refugees from South Africa poses a threat to the livelihood of hundreds of thousands reliant upon the support of their relatives , 91 percent of whom, according to a PASSOP report, regularly send money home. The obstacles that the remaining refugees face in transferring financial support are equally inefficient and problematic.
Home Affairs Chasing away investors – The government and the department of Home Affairs’ handling of work permits has been dysfunctional to the point of deterring investors and skilled workers. The slow and at times chaotic permit application process has caused many who could benefit and boost the economy to simply ‘walk away’ rather than risk working illegally.
The PM declares Drought Disaster areas – Prime Minister Tsvangirai has declared the Manicaland, Masvingo, Midlands, Matabeleland North and Matabeleland South provinces disaster areas. Due to this year’s drought it is estimated that 45% of the maize planted this year has to be written off. The country has 600,000 tonnes of maize in storage but it will have to be supplemented with imports as Zimbabwe consumes 2.2 million tons of maize every year.
Mugabe calls for an end to violence – Mugabe urges political and party leaders to promote a spirit of ‘peace and tranquility’ as Zimbabwe moves towards elections next year. The speech came days after various reports and rumors on Mugabe’s health brought to the forefront questions of Mugabe’s successor, which remains a critical concern for his party and the country.
UDPS has dismissed 33 of their 41 parliament representatives - During a UDPS party meeting it was noted that only eight of the elected officials refused to serve in parliament. The 33 who did not declare likewise were struck from the UDPS members files.
Congo’s Security Sector Reform is Vital – Due to continuing violence years after the end of the Congo’s war, approximately 1.7 million Congolese citizens remain refugees in neighboring countries. In many areas, gender-based violence and the formation of child militias remain highly problematic, and were only exacerbated during the recent election cycle. In many respects the primary issue continues to be the Congo’ security sector, where reform remains vital.
Passop Media Watch 04/4/2012 – 13/4/2012
South Africa News
Refugees attacked at Home Affairs office in Pretoria - Tuesday 10 April, a security official employed by Home Affairs attacked refugees with a sjambok while they were waiting in line outside the Home Affairs (HA) office in Pretoria. HA has not been renewing documents because they ran out of the specific paper. The situation has turned drastic as refugees start paying bribes to officials who claim to be able to fast track their documents.
South African government owns up to invalid deportations - After the deportation of 125 Nigerians on the basis of false allegations of documentation fraud, the government has finally issued a formal apology. Nigeria accepted the apology, though some tensions remain.
Home Affairs blames its incompetence on immigrants - Mkhuseli Apleni, director general of Home Affairs, was recently accused of making xenophobic comments about foreign nationals. Apleni has claimed that foreign nationals detained at the Lindela Detention Centre lie about their identities and birth countries, delaying their deportation and extending their period of detention. The LRC has called these inaccurate comments “inappropriate and unbecoming of a high level government official.”
Home Affairs continues to refuse to comply with court orders - Lindela, a large holding facility for suspected undocumented migrants, has a well-earned reputation for human rights abuses. Many detainees report that court orders compelling the Department of Home Affairs to release them are being ignored. The facility is hugely overcrowded because detainees are often held beyond the regulatory time limit of 120 days. DHA Director General Apleni did not deny his department’s refusal to comply with court orders.
Home Affairs fails to meet the needs of asylum seekers - The Department of Home Affairs is struggling to meet the needs of asylum seekers, as its top official recently admitted. Fights and stampedes are commonplace in lines outside offices that accept asylum applications. The UN High Commissioner for Refugees has expressed concern over how the system in South Africa creates difficulties for those escaping violent and oppressive conditions. The system is fraught with frequent delays, backlogging, inefficiency, and invalid refusals to grant asylum.
Ncube accuses South African immigration officials of racism - After being detained without valid cause at OR Tambo International Airport, newspaper publisher Trevor Ncube tweeted “it’s time South African immigration stopped assuming every black African coming into the country is a desperate criminal”. South African immigration officials have been repeatedly accused of racism, xenophobia and classism.
Mugabe’s denies health emergency reports – Robert Mugabe returned from Asia Thursday, amongst rumors that he had experienced a health emergency. During the past 16 months, the President has flown to Singapore 10 times to receive medical treatment for prostate cancer. Rumors of ill health spread after a Nigerian preacher had a prophecy that Southern African leaders faced imminent deaths.
Zimbabwe stops subsidy agricultural inputs in favor of a market-based financing approach – The new scheme by the Agricultural and Finance ministers centers around a “cost recovery” scheme and seeks to offset food insecurity. The finance minister will make $5 million available to farmers for fertiliser and seeds. An additional $15 million of agricultural inputs will be carried over from the summer season. Analysts say that this plan is not sustainable because farmers will need to find working capital on their own, which, in the Zimbabwean environment, is hard to come by.
Teachers pressure government to include them in indigenization and economic empowerment program – Tendai Chikowore, president of the Zimbabwe Teachers Association, called for inclusion in the economic empowerment program, asking the government to extend the services to civil servants. Critics of this demand, including the president of the Progressive Teachers Union of Zimbabwe, said that the payment of salaries should come before demands for empowerment.
President Kabila calls for military defectors to rejoin – Soldiers loyal to former rebel leader Ntaganda defected from the DRC military last week in answer to a call from Ntaganda to join him. Ntaganda wanted the soldiers to bolster his personal protection as the ICC calls for his arrest to face charges of war crimes. Violence is not anticipated due to the military advantage held by Kinshasa, and President Kabila went to Goma in eastern DRC to pressure the soldiers to return.
Joyce Banda sworn in as President after the death of Mutharika – President Banda, Malawi’s first female president, was sworn into office Tuesday 7 April, after two tense days where the government delayed announcing Mutharika’s death. In less than a week, President Banda fired the police chief, information minister, and a top state broadcaster. The President is seeking to normalise relations with donors and to get Malawi back on track.
Passop Media Watch 17/3/2012 – 23/3/2012
South Africa news
Zuma urges South Africans to ‘take heed’ of Constitution – During a speech at Kliptown Hall on Human Rights Day, President Jacob Zuma urged South Africans to learn more about the Constitution. During the Human Rights Day festivities, the justice department and Constitutional development handed out copies of the Constitution along with packets of information about other government agencies –including home affairs. Many people who attended the rally expressed frustration that the government has stripped Human Rights Day of its historical significance. This comes at a time of increasing speculation that the ANC plans to amend the Constitution.
South Africa cooperates with US sanctions on Iran – South Africa has suspended almost all of its oil imports from Iran. South Africa joins South Korea and Taiwan in order to fall in line with EU and US sanctions on Iran. Iran is South Africa’s leading crude supplier. They account for 29 percent of oil imports to Africa’s biggest economy.
Helen Zille’s Refugee tweet strikes controversy – Many are outraged at opposition leader Helen Zille’s recent statement on the social networking site Twitter. The DA leader created a controversy using the word ‘refugee’ to describe residents of the Eastern Cape who move to the Western Cape for better educational opportunities