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Burundi Government Accused of Arresting Opponents of Constitutional ...

NAIROBI Burundi's government recently proposed constitutional changes that would, among other things, allow President Pierre Nkurunziza to stay in office beyond 2020. Civil society groups say the government is arresting opponents of those changes in advance of an upcoming referendum.

Officially, Burundi's government has banned anyone from campaigning for or against the proposed changes to the constitution. But civil society groups accuse the government of targeting those suspected to urging voters to reject the changes.

The head of Burundi's Forum for Strengthening the Civil Society, Vital Nshirimana, says people cannot make free choices.

So far dozens of people, about 60 people were arrested in many sides of the country, and this is one of the signs that referendum will not be fair since those campaigning against are arrested, while those campaigning for 'yes' are not arrested, said Nshirimana.

The government says the changes are aimed at strengthening and advancing the country's laws after more than two years of political violence.

The violence was triggered in April 2015 when President Nkurunziza announced he would run for a controversial third term. Opponents said he was violating constitutional term limits and the peace deal that ended Burundi's civil war.

Now, critics believe Nkurunziza is maneuvering to stay in power beyond the end of his current term in 2020.

Hamissi Sultan represents opposition party FNL, which is against the constitutional change. He was arrested on January 2nd.

It is the prosecutor of Ruyigi Province who issued an arrest warrant against me. I was questioned, and I was accused of organizing and leading a group meeting aimed at sanitizing people to vote against the proposed constitutional change," said Sultan. "We were with friends having fun, and some of them were arrested too. We were accused of participating in an illegal meeting aimed at opposing the draft constitution.

Sultan was released after three days without charge.

The president's deputy spokesman, Alain Diomede, says the government is educating its people on the proposed changes, but no one is allowed to advocate for passing or rejecting them.

Right now the government is explaining to the electorate the content of the constitution," he said. "I mean some of the articles that are likely to change. There is no campaign to vote 'yes' or 'no', the campaign has not yet started. So when you teach people to vote 'no' and campaign has not started you understand that you are going against the law.

Burundians will vote on the proposed changes in May.

Source: Voice of America

South Africa Political Parties Make Corruption Top 2019 Election Issue

JOHANNESBURG South Africa's two top political parties began the year by pledging to restore credibility, amid corruption allegations against key leaders. And with next year's elections drawing closer, they are driving home the message that corruption is their main target.

The ruling African National Congress and embattled President Jacob Zuma, have long been accused of corruption. Critics of the government say this has left the state unable to carry out basic duties.

But deputy president Cyril Ramaphosa, who succeeded Zuma as the ANC's top leader last month, said that will change. While at the coastal city of East London over the weekend, he took several not-so-subtle jabs at Zuma, who is accused of siphoning off tens millions of dollars and letting a wealthy Indian family have undue influence over the government.

"These challenges have been exacerbated by state capture through which through billions of rands have been illegally diverted to individuals," he said. "Corruption in state owned enterprises and other public institutions have undermined our government's programs to address poverty and unemployment and they have weakened those institutions."

The ANC has dominated national politics for a quarter-century, but has lost ground in recent years to the opposition Democratic Alliance, which captured three major cities in 2016's municipal polls.

Meanwhile, the DA is having its own reckoning, charging Cape Town mayor Patricia De Lille with corruption under the party's own disciplinary process. De Lille reported to work Monday, but her party relegated many key functions � like the city's dire water crisis � to other officials.

In Johannesburg, the city's mayor said Monday he was firing a top city finance official amid allegations of nepotism and undue influence.

Party leader Mmusi Maimane spoke to reporters Sunday in Cape Town.

"The true test of any political party is what it does when confronted with serious allegation of political dysfunction, maladministration and governance failures," said Maimane. "The DA, unlike many of our political competitors, stands largely alone in acting with resolve in confronting such issues, even when those decisions, in fact, come at a very serious political cost."

Political analyst Ralph Mathekga said these events may indicate that the two parties, which often try to cast themselves as each other's antithesis, may not be so different after all. He said he believes both leaders' words are sincere, but notes that they both face challenges in bringing their own parties into line.

He said the challenge the DA is facing is "not so different from that of the ANC."

"If you look at the allegations of corruption within the DA in the city of Johannesburg, you have the MMC [member of the mayoral committee] of finance being suspended, and you have De Lille as well, allegations coming out against her regarding impropriety � what that shows is that the DA is also battling with corruption within its ranks," he said. "And also, the problem seems to be emerging regarding the integrity of internal processes in dealing with this."

But he said one thing is clear: South Africa's parties need to scrub themselves thoroughly within before they can show their shiny new faces to voters next year.

Source: Voice of America

Cape Town digs deep to mitigate drought

In a bid to stave off Day Zero, the City of Cape Town is drilling its aquifers to abstract groundwater, which are expected to offer much needed water relief for the drought stricken city.

I [recently] announced that the recent groundwater survey had confirmed that aquifers around Cape Town could deliver at least 150 million litres of water per day.

The Cape Flats aquifer will deliver 80 million litres per day, the Table Mountain Group aquifer will deliver 40 million litres per day, and the Atlantis aquifer will deliver 30 million litres per day, said City of Cape Town Mayor Patricia De Lille.

Prime locations have been identified to abstract more water from these three aquifers.

The groundwater abstraction projects form part of the city's programme to supply additional water from desalination, water recycling and groundwater abstraction.

Abstracting groundwater in bigger volumes means that the city can deliver more water to residents at a lower cost. A company contracted by the city started to drill for water at the Mitchells Plain water works last week.

This site was chosen based on the hydrogeological information and the likelihood of it delivering a safe yield of water from the aquifer, said Mayor De Lille.

The Mitchells Plain site is an exploration and monitoring borehole that will provide data about the conditions in the area. All exploration boreholes are designed to potentially become production boreholes in the future.

The city will drill in Strandfontein, Philippi, Wesbank, Bishop Lavis and Kayelitsha to look for the best abstraction points to get water from the Cape Flats aquifer.

According to the city, the programme is based on an environmentally sensitive approach that will ensure sustainable water abstraction, ensuring generations of Capetonians will benefit from this groundwater.

This is the first time such an extensive mapping has been done and will ensure responsible use of groundwater through, for instance, the water recharge of these aquifers, said the City.

De Lille urged residents to continue to save water, despite the city's work to secure new water sources.

The City of Cape Town is working around the clock to bring new water supplies online but we need buy in from all residents.

I cannot stress it enough: all residents must save water and use less than 87 litres per day. If we continue to use more than 500 million litres of water per day, we will reach Day Zero on 22 April 2018. We must avoid Day Zero and saving water is the only way we can do this, said De Lille.

Day Zero is the day when taps will be closed and residents will be required to get water from various designated water collection points.

Source: South African Government News Agency

UN Official: Trump’s Vulgar Comments on Africa, Haiti Shameful

GENEVA The U.N. human rights office has sharply criticized U.S. President Donald Trump's vulgar comments on migrants from Africa and Haiti, calling them shocking and shameful.

Trump's reportedly crude outburst against migrants from the African continent and Haiti have set off a firestorm of global rebuke. Rupert Colville, spokesman for the U.N. Human Rights Office, calls Trump's remarks clearly racist.

"You cannot dismiss entire countries and continents as 's---holes' whose entire populations, who are not white, are therefore not welcome. The positive comment on Norway makes the underlying sentiment very clear," Colville said.

Recalling Trump's earlier comments vilifying Mexicans who cross the border as "rapists" and Trump's re-tweeting of anti-Muslim propaganda from a far-right British group, Colville says policy proposals targeting entire groups on grounds of nationality or religion goes against universal values.

"This is not just a story about vulgar language," he said. "It is about opening the door to humanity's worst side. It is about validating and encouraging racism and xenophobia that will potentially disrupt and even destroy the lives of many people."

Colville warns that comments by a major political figure, such as the president of the United States, can have damaging and dangerous consequences.

Trump's remarks were made at a meeting of Congressional leaders working on a bipartisan immigration deal to allow some 800,000 so-called Dreamers to remain in the United States.

U.N. human rights chief Zeid Ra'ad al-Hussein has previously said the future of the Dreamers should not be used as a bargaining chip to negotiate restrictive immigration measures. The young people are human beings, not commodities, he said.

Source: Voice of America

MEC Debbie SchA�fer: Western Cape 2017 NSC Awards ceremony

I am honoured and proud to be here to acknowledge and celebrate the outstanding success of schools and individual learners from throughout the province in the 2017 National Senior Certificate examinations.

2017 was a very special year for me of course, with my only two children being part of the matric class of 2017. Two of our senior managers, Mr Tau Matseliso and Mr Makhosandile Ndzuzo, also joined me in this regard, with a son and daughter respectively among our 2017 cohort.

I am pleased that our offspring contributed to the province's success, with each of them attaining a bachelor's pass.

I am very proud of the learners and schools here today, and all those who have achieved outstanding results in the 2017 NSC.

On a cursory glance, we may not be happy that we have dropped in our pass percentage and in fact by a position on the league table, but there is a quote by Plato in Phaedrus that says Things are not always what they seem; the first appearance deceives many; the intelligence of a few perceives what has been carefully hidden.

And when we examine the results in more detail, we have a lot to be proud about.

I am especially pleased that the Western Cape has again achieved the highest percentage of bachelor's passes in the country, with 39.1% of learners achieving this quality pass.

In Mathematics, the Western Cape achieved the highest pass rate of 73.9%.

In Physical Sciences, the Western Cape achieved a pass rate of 73.0%. This places us second in the Country to the Free State.

More learners in the Western Cape are taking maths and science as a percentage of the cohort, something that we have been encouraging over a number of years. While the overall cohort in the Western Cape was 2000 learners smaller than 2016, the number of learners taking maths and science only decreased by 703 and 329 respectively.

Congratulations must go to all of our 8 Education Districts which each, once again, achieved a pass rate of over 80%.

Special congratulations must also go again to the Overberg district that achieved 10th place in the country, out of 70 districts with a pass rate of 87.7%. Congratulations to the District Director, Bertram Loriston and his team.

When I refer to things not always being as they seem, I refer to the fact that pass percentages do not always accurately reflect the quality of the passes that are being achieved. They also do not take into account the retention rate of learners in the system, nor the subjects and subject combinations that learners are taking. When we look at these factors, a very different picture emerges.

Some commentators have called the pass rate including retention rates, the real matric pass rate.

The results of the real matric pass rate for the 2017 NSC show a very different 'ranking' to that announced by the National Minister of Basic Education last week, with the Western Cape firmly in the Number 1 spot.

The Western Cape retained 64.3% of learners in the system from Grade 10 to matric, 12.8% more than Gauteng, and 22% more than the Free State.

In the Western Cape our focus will remain on whether we have increased the numbers and percentages of candidates passing, and the quality of those passes.

That does not mean, of course, that we are satisfied. We are going to continue assessing where we need to improve, and we will always aspire to the number one spot, but not at the expense of retaining as many learners in the system as we can, to give them a better start in life. That is, after all, what education is about.

Having said that, Free State and Gauteng must watch out! We are hard at work analysing where we need to improve, and we are committed to doing that.


But back to our excellent achievements.

I am proud of our schools that worked hard and consistently throughout the year, and in fact for many years.

Important to note is that:

16.8% of schools in the Western Cape achieved a 100% pass rate, while more than 40% of schools achieved a pass rate of 90% or above.

18 schools in the province achieved a 95% bachelor's pass rate.

I would also like to specially mention schools that are plagued by gangsterism, violence and poor socio-economic circumstances, and yet have improved their results significantly.

Three schools that I must make special mention of are Lavender High School, Aloe High School and Fisantekraal High School.

Despite severe gang violence last year the Lavender Hill High School has gone from a 68.8% pass rate in 2016 to an 88.6% in 2017 � this is an exceptional improvement and an increase of a 19.8%.

Aloe High School in Mitchells Plain has gone from a 51.4% pass rate in 2015 to 66.7% in 2016 and 87.2 in 2017 � this is an outstanding achievement and an increase of 20.5% from 2016 to 2017.

Fisantekraal High School has gone from 64.4% in 2016 to 79.5% in 2017, an increase of 15.1%. This is a remarkable achievement.

As I said, these areas have all been plagued by gangsterism and violence over the past year, and learners from these schools have to learn under the most difficult circumstances.

Without in any way minimising the unbelievable difficulty that people in these areas have to endure, it does show that your situation does not have to determine your destination.

I must commend the principals and teachers who courageously face these challenges every day and strive to create a stable teaching and learning environment for our learners when there is violence and fear just outside the school gate, and unfortunately sometimes inside it.

Another school I must mention is Claremont High School. Claremont was born out of a partnership with Westerford High School. The aim was to try and replicate the success of Westerford, focussing specifically on Maths and Science for disadvantaged learners.

It has been a real collaborative effort, with teachers even being shared between the two schools. This year have attained a position in one of our top spots with 100% pass rate and an 87.8% bachelor's pass rate. Very well done to them.


And now onto the most important people here today, our learners.

WOW girls and guys, you have done us proud once again. I am SO proud of you, your schools are proud of you and this government is proud of you.

Results like the ones represented here today do not happen by accident. It takes dedication and commitment throughout your entire school career, and a special focus in your matric year. Well done � your hard work has paid off.

Of course some brains don't hurt either!

But what amazes me every year is the vast number of people who achieve absolutely excellent results, separated by points and sometimes even percentages of points, who do not get recognised at this function. And to them I also wish to say a huge well done. We can't all be in the top spots. But if you have worked consistently and done your best, you are as much of a hero as our learners here today.

I do, of course, want to acknowledge our top achievers who were recognised at the national awards last week

Janke Van Dyk from Bellville High School was the top achiever in the country,

Matthys Carstens from Durbanville High School was placed second in the country,

And, Erin Solomons from Rondebosch Boys High School achieved 3rd place in Physical Science.

Now that you have been successful in your school career, I am sure that many of you have big plans for the future.

I wish you all the very best as you embark on a new and very exciting chapter of your life.

So as you do so, I would like to leave you with some thoughts. Renowned international leadership author and speaker, Dr John Maxwell, in an online article, asks the question whether you know the difference between success and significance.

He says: I know a lot of people who believe they are successful because they have everything they want. They have added value to themselves. But I believe significance comes when you add value to others�and you can't have true success without significance.

He goes on to say that he worked on a definition of success for 6 months, and came up with the following:

knowing your purpose in life, growing to your maximum potential sowing seeds that benefit others.

He then identifies 5 differences between success and significance:

1. The first relates to motives. He says that with success, my motives may be selfish; with significance, my motives cannot be selfish. Significance and selfishness are incompatible.

2. The second is about influence. With success, my influence is limited; with significance, my influence is unlimited.

3. Third is time. Success can last a lifetime; significance can last several lifetimes. People who desire significance value time. They evaluate what they do with their time, and they invest their time wisely. M. Scott Peck said, Until you value yourself, you won't value your time. Until you value your time, you will not do anything with it.

4. The fourth factor is focus. Maxwell says: Success asks, How can I add value to myself? Significance asks, How can I add value to others?

5. And fifthly is reward. If I pursue success, my joy is the result of my success; if I pursue significance, my joy is the result of others' success.

What I wish for the class of 2017 is that you will use your success to pursue significance. That you will unselfishly influence those around you wherever you are, that you will use your time wisely to add value, and that you will find your joy in the success of others.

As I end off, we all know that success never comes before work, except in the dictionary. No outstanding results come without hard work, and I would like to thank all the teachers, principals, district officials and head office officials of the WCED for their hard work and commitment to education in the Western Cape.

I don't think many people realise the unbelievable logistical arrangements that have to be planned and executed in administering examinations like this. Everything has to be planned in the minutest detail, to ensure that papers arrive at their destinations on time and without any leaks. As a parent of matriculants my mind was focussed in a different way on this aspect this last year. Then of course the papers have to be delivered safely to the marking venues, marked, and the standardisation process has to take place. While many of us were having a break, our teams worked tirelessly over the Christmas and New Year period to ensure that we delivered a credible result.

So I would like to specifically thank my HOD Brian Schreuder, Dr Peter Beets, Ms Tina Singh, Mr Andre Claausen, Mr Blackie Swart and their teams for yet another year of excellently run NSC examinations. Please stand � you guys deserve a hand.

Thanks must also go to the educator unions, governing body associations, universities and various education organisations for the role that they have played in supporting the efforts of the WCED in 2017.

Thank you also to all those who have helped organise today's event.

And lastly but by no means least, I would like to specially mention, with gratitude and appreciation, a number of sponsors who have generously donated the prizes for today. Appletiser, Mustek, Lenovo, the MTN foundation, Pinnacle Africa and Pearson South Africa � thank you for your contribution today.

Thank you.

Source: Government of South Africa


JOHANNESBURG, The storm which swept through parts of Johannesburg, South Africa's biggest city, before the New Year and ravaged houses in the Soweto area has been declared a local state of disaster by the Executive Mayor of Johannesburg, Herman Mashaba.

In the main, the damage to homes included failing roofs, collapsed boundary walls and altered homes as well as wall cracks. The affected structures are said to be between 1- 20 years old. the Executive Mayor of Johannesburg, Herman Mashaba, declared this a Local State of Disaster after consultation with the relevant stakeholders, the housing regulatory body, the National Home Builders Regulation Council (NHBRC), said in a statement Tuesday.

According to the NHBRC, in an unconfirmed preliminary report, the South African Weather Services referred to the storm as Tornadic Supercell Thunderstorm with an EF2 damage rating.

Inspectors and engineers have been hard at work conducting visual assessment of the houses that were damaged by the storm for the past six days. The team worked through this past weekend in order to ascertain the extent of the damage as well as preliminary causes of said damage, said the NHBRC.

On Monday, the NHRBC assessed approximately 4,500 houses in the townships of Protea Glen, Lufhereng, and Lawley.

The total of 33 houses at Protea Glen damaged by storm will undergo further detailed investigation, in the form of materials testing as well as design and workmanship review. This phase will be conducted by independent professionals.

The affected areas included Protea Glen; Lawley; Braamfischerville; Slovo Park; Snake Park; Doornkop; Lufhereng; Tsepisong; Meadowlands; Westbury; Alexandra; Rugby Club Informal Settlement; and Fleurhof.

The NHBRC has further committed to working with the City of Johannesburg's Joint Operations Centre (JOC), established to locate centralised management of the disaster efforts by all stakeholders.

Further support will be provided to the investigators from the City's Group Risk Advisory Services, established by the Executive Mayor, to conduct a full risk assessment of the damage caused by the storm, said the NHBRC.


Rival Army Factions Clash in Ivory Coast’s Second City

ABIDJAN �Gunshots and heavy weapons fire erupted late on Tuesday between rival factions within Ivory Coast's army at military bases in its second largest city, Bouake, residents and soldiers said.

Bouake was the epicenter of several months of army mutinies last year that spread to cities and towns across Ivory Coast, forcing the government to cave in to demands for bonus payments and promotions.

"I'm hearing very intense shooting from machine-guns," said Bouake resident Georges Kouame. "There are also explosions from heavy weapons."

The outbreak of renewed violence follows days of tensions in Bouake between participants in last year's mutinies and members of an elite military unit, known as the CCDO. At least one person died in the wake of clashes there on Friday.

Former mutineers told Reuters they believed the CCDO members had been sent to Bouake to spy on them.

"At the moment we are surrounding the CCDO camp and there is an exchange of gunfire," said one of the mutineers' leaders. "They must leave the city or we will force them to leave."

A regional security source, who asked not to be named, said the government had earlier in the day dispatched around 200 soldiers to reinforce positions in Bouake.

Ivory Coast, the world's top cocoa grower, has emerged from a decade-long political crisis as one of Africa's fastest growing economies and a darling of international investors.

However, last year's instability laid bare the dangerous divisions that still persist within an army cobbled together from rival rebel and loyalist factions at the end of a 2011 civil war.

Source: Voice of America

As Growing Economies Jostle for Power, What Post-Brexit Role for ...

LONDON �As Britain's 2019 exit from the European Union edges closer, it is looking to carve out a new role for itself on the world stage. Many analysts say it could struggle to retain its influence as other world powers demand greater representation in global bodies like the United Nations. But the British government insists it is looking to build global alliances beyond Europe.

"Britain punches above its weight" - a boxing analogy once used by a former foreign secretary to describe his country's role on the world stage, and often repeated since. But the punch could be losing power, says Luke McDonagh of City University London.

Leaving the EU means that the UK could now be seen as a medium-sized economy in an increasingly polarized world where there are massive economic blocs," he said. " You have the United States, you have China, you have the EU. In the coming century, you will also have India, the rise of South America and Africa to compete, as well. What will the UK's place be?"

McDonagh says a measure of Britain's fading clout was its November loss of a judge at the International Court of Justice. After a long battle at the United Nations, London withdrew its candidate, allowing an Indian judge to take the place occupied by Britain since the ICJ's inception in 1946.

The way the powers game works now is decidedly different from that of 1945. And we have to question whether the U.N. Security Council will continue in this form for much longer," he said.

But it is unlikely Britain will lose its permanent seat on the U.N. Security Council any time soon, says U.N. expert Richard Gowan of the European Council on Foreign Relations.

Most of the big powers in the Security Council, including the United States and China, do not want to see any serious reforms to the institution in the foreseeable future," noted Gowan.

Britain insists it is not turning inward. The government's post-Brexit ambition is to create what it terms a "Global Britain."

On the one hand, the British foreign service will be able to invest more resources in U.N. affairs now that they are going to be less focused on the EU. ," Gowan said. "But on the other hand, without the support of 27 other (EU) countries, the British are going to find it much harder to influence debates over humanitarian affairs, development or security through the U.N.

A foretaste came in June, when many EU countries failed to vote with Britain on its claim to the Chagos Islands in the Indian Ocean.

Britain needs to keep Europe onside, argues Gowan.

If the British are seen to be simply cozying up to the Americans, they are going to lose a lot of goodwill from their European partners pretty quickly," he said.

In seeking a new role on the world stage, analysts say Britain will need to forge new alliances, while keeping old friends close, and try to weather turmoil back home.

Source: Voice of America