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The Times view on the jailing of Jacob Zuma: Hard Graft PDF Print E-mail
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Saturday, 10 July 2021 18:58


The Times view on the jailing of Jacob Zuma: Hard Graft

The former South African president’s imprisonment is a step forward in his country’s battle with corruption

Friday July 09 2021, 12.01am, The Times


As Jacob Zuma was driven to prison, he joked that he hoped to be given back his old overalls from Robben Island. The former South African president may claim he is once again a prisoner of conscience but the circumstances could scarcely be further from those that saw him imprisoned alongside Nelson Mandela.


Once an apartheid hero, Zuma oversaw the ransacking of state coffers for the enrichment of a few but to the impoverishment of the vast majority of black South Africans. After years of impunity, his imprisonment for refusing to testify in a corruption investigation sends a powerful message that no one is above the law.


When his long-delayed bribery trial begins later this month, the former president will travel to court direct from a prison cell. That is a victory for the courts and the constitution that Zuma sought to undermine, claiming them secondary in importance to the ruling African National Congress (ANC) party. Yet it is still only a start. Zuma’s successor, President Ramaphosa, has made only a timid start on cleaning up the party and purging the state of corruption. It is vital he now draws a line under the Zuma era and accelerates those efforts.


The scale of lasting damage Zuma wrought on his country is hard to overstate. During his nine-year presidency, South Africa’s state-owned enterprises were looted on a grand scale, with an estimated 1 trillion rand (£50 billion) or 20 per cent of GDP, siphoned off from state coffers in corrupt deals cut with business cronies. Parts of the state built to prevent such corruption were systematically demolished.


The corresponding damage to national infrastructure, from decaying roads to persistent power cuts and sluggish ports, slashed South Africa’s annual growth by a whole percentage point a year. Under Zuma, per capita income shrank while unemployment surged, crippling the future prospects of the country’s youth. Zuma’s rule hindered not only the economic development but the necessary social reforms for South Africa to move on from its painful apartheid past.


There is irony that it was Zuma’s own effort to evade justice that landed him in jail before his first corruption trial has even begun. His refusal to give evidence to a corruption commission was just the latest effort to undermine his successor’s early attempts to clean up what he and his cronies left behind. In sentencing the former president, the chief justice cited Mandela’s plea at the 1995 inauguration of the constitutional court for the country’s highest bench to “stand guard not only against direct assault on the principles of the constitution but against insidious corrosion”.


Ramaphosa could do worse than to pin those words to the wall for inspiration about what is required to clean up both his country and his party. While he had little to do with Zuma’s imprisonment, the fact of it should strengthen his hand against his predecessor’s supporters and reinforce his grip on the ANC. Corruption and malfeasance did not start with Zuma’s reign and will not end with his imprisonment which, authorities admitted yesterday, could be over in just four months.


By then, Zuma will be on trial for far more serious charges. At 79, he may yet face the rest of his life behind bars, going, not like Mandela from prison to the presidency but the reverse. His fall from grace underlines both the distance South Africa has strayed from its founding ideals and the challenge it faces on the road back to them. The jailing of Zuma is an important step along the way.

Tell our wives we’re in charge, men in Kenya plead PDF Print E-mail
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Sunday, 06 June 2021 10:58


Tell our wives we’re in charge, men in Kenya plead

Tom Collins 04/06/2021


Kenyan men have appealed to the government to help them reassert their role as traditional heads of the household.

Men from Kiriari, a village in Embu county, have formed a self-help group to tell the authorities that their wives and children are mistreating them. They claim they are being physically abused, and also complain that their wives do not follow orders and refuse on “flimsy grounds” to have sex with them.


The group laments that men are no longer at the top of the pecking order. The government has spent too much time empowering women, they say, and men are left on the sidelines.


“We urge the government to empower men and consider balanced treatment of both men and women in the county,” Samuel Muturi, the group’s chairman, said.


Group members say that attempts to seek help from the authorities have failed. “Whenever you try fighting back, the police act very harshly,” Joseph Wega, a group member, said.


The University of Nairobi has found that domestic violence against men has risen in Kenya. An estimated 3.8 women and 1.3 men in every 1,000 are victims of partner violence each year. Violence against men was found to rise when women took over household financial responsibilities. The study also concluded that the ready availability of illicit alcohol had led to an increase in abuse of men.

Smuggler linked to President Mnangagwa had 23 gold bars in a case PDF Print E-mail
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Sunday, 16 May 2021 12:38

Smuggler linked to President Mnangagwa had 23 gold bars in a case

Jane Flanagan – 11 May 2021


Twenty three gold bars worth £555,000 were discovered in the suitcase of a man who arrived in South Africa without papers on a flight from Harare, the capital of Zimbabwe.


Tashinga Nyasha Masimire, 33, appeared in court in Johannesburg and was bailed for £6,000 after scanners picked up his haul of gold.


Media reports in Zimbabwe identified Masimire as an aide to Henrietta Rushwaya, a relative of President Mnangagwa and head of the Zimbabwe miners’ federation who was herself arrested last October for allegedly smuggling gold.


Rushwaya was discovered with gold bars weighing 6kg in her handbag as she checked in for a flight from Harare to Dubai.


Masimire will have to report to police in Johannesburg three times a week. He was not asked to enter a plea.


The discovery raises questions about security at Harare’s Robert Gabriel Mugabe international airport. According to court documents in the Rushwaya case, airport CCTV cameras were switched off while her 6kg in gold went through scanners. A colleague who was arrested with her claimed that she was acting as a mule on behalf of Auxillia Mnangagwa, the first lady and her son, Collins Mnangagwa.


The scandal exposed an alleged elite trafficking cartel that is estimated to cost the state millions of pounds every month. Rushwaya was released on bail but no date has been set for her trial.


According to Zimbabwe’s News Hawks website, Rushwaya confirmed that the arrested man, Masimire, was a former driver. The intended destination of the gold bars was not made public but a picture of Masimire from his Facebook page showed him wearing a red keffiyeh, typically worn in the Gulf.


A report from the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace identified Dubai as a boom country for gold smugglers, where lax policing and deregulation are exploited by corrupt regimes such as Zimbabwe.


Mthuli Ncube, Zimbabwe’s finance minister, has estimated that $100 million of gold leaves its borders illegally each month, often to Dubai, robbing the state of much-needed foreign currency.

Mugabe’s violent youth militia could be ready to march again PDF Print E-mail
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Sunday, 25 April 2021 12:24

Mugabe’s violent youth militia could be ready to march again

Jane Flanagan 19/04.2021


A national youth service programme that spawned a violent militia that carried out some of the worst excesses of Robert Mugabe’s rule in Zimbabwe is to be revived.


Kirsty Coventry, 37, the minister of youth and the only white person in the government, proposed its resurrection to instil patriotism and loyalty among people aged 18 to 35, according to a cabinet briefing note. It has provoked fears that the unit is being readied before a bloody general election in 2023 and has led to fresh criticism of Coventry, a retired Olympic swimmer. Last year she was criticised for taking a lease on a prized farm that was seized during Mugabe’s catastrophic land grab.


Zimbabwe’s national youth service, established in 2001, was repurposed as a private militia for the ruling Zanu-PF party and became known as the “Green Bombers” after its military fatigues. It became synonymous with the vicious targeting of Mugabe’s critics and was linked to “rape camps” where abducted girls were held while the authorities turned a blind eye.


The deployment of youths to opposition strongholds became a key strategy for Zanu-PF retaining power in elections in the early 2000s. Henry Chimbiri, 59, recalled having his leg and knee cap broken by ten Green Bombers in 2005 when he was campaigning for election on behalf of the opposition Movement for Democratic Change. “They were demonic and brainwashed into doing the dirty work for the regime,” he said.


One survivor tweeted: “End of December 2001, these militants beat me to a pulp, left me for dead for not possessing a Zanu-PF card.”


The youth wing was disbanded in 2009 when Mugabe was under pressure to set up a government of national unity. Many of its members have joined the army, police and prison service.


Coventry joined President Mnangagwa’s government after the ousting of Mugabe in 2017. Her failure to condemn or distance herself from atrocities committed by state security forces has cast a shadow over her extraordinary achievements.


Fadzayi Mahere, a spokeswoman for the Movement for Democratic Change, said: “It is sad that an accomplished Olympian and a one-time beacon of youth excellence is advancing the establishment of a militia whose operations before have caused so much terror.”

Tortured Zimbabwean opposition MP Joanah Mamombe sent back to jail PDF Print E-mail
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Saturday, 17 April 2021 10:31


Tortured Zimbabwean opposition MP Joanah Mamombe sent back to jail


Jane Flanagan 14/04/2021


A female opposition MP in Zimbabwe was returned to jail following her 129th appearance in court in a 12-month campaign of persecution that began with her kidnap and torture by state thugs.


The targeting of Joanah Mamombe, 27, who is serving her seventh prison stretch in the space of a year, is seen as typical of the regime of President Mnangagwa which is now more feared than the era of Robert Mugabe it replaced. In a letter to her mother smuggled out of her cell, Mamombe said that she was “even ready to die for this struggle” against the state’s harsh and unrelenting attack on dissent.


Mamombe, the MP for Harare West, has spent the past 40 days in custody with Cecilia Chimbiri, an activist from her party, the Movement for Democratic Change Alliance. The pair were arrested for allegedly breaching coronavirus regulations when they spoke in public about another colleague’s detention. Kudzayi Chiwanza, the MP’s mother, said that the torment was taking its toll.


“I am not OK, I am in terrible shape. You can’t sleep or be fine when your child is being tortured like this,” she told The Times from Harare magistrates’ court following yesterday’s latest failed bail application.


It was her daughter’s winning of a plum constituency in the capital in 2018 that put her in the sights of the government, Chiwanza, 49, a university lecturer, said.


“Her victory humiliated the government and they’ve punished her ever since,” she said.


The campaign to get elected was violent, Chiwanza added, but “I thought once she was a parliamentarian, they would accept it. But it has just got worse.”


Last May Mamombe, Chimbiri and Netsai Marova, a third MDC colleague, were found dumped, partially clothed and “with horrendous tales of torture and abuse” on the edge of the city two days after they were arrested for protesting over food shortages.


The three women were accused of inventing their story of sexual abuse and gross humiliations, including being forced to eat human excreta. They were later dragged from their hospital beds to appear before a makeshift court accused of organising an illegal demonstration. Rights groups said that the treatment of the women typified an intolerance of critics by Mnangagwa, 78, who came to power after a military coup in 2017.


Dewa Mavhinga, the southern Africa director at Human Rights Watch, said that the targeting of Mamombe was “a classic example of how this government has gone rogue and now uses state security institutions to harass, abuse and intimidate activists in order to silence legitimate activism and stifle freedoms in the country”.


In addition to the arrest and jailing of opposition MPs, dozens more parliamentarians have been expelled from parliament. The headquarters of the Movement for Democratic Change has been seized and by-elections have been postponed indefinitely.


Last week, police beat journalists with batons and broke up an opposition party’s press conference after another activist, Makomborero Haruzivishe, 29, was jailed on conviction of inciting violence and resisting arrest. Witnesses said that Haruzivishe’s crime had been to blow a whistle to support a group of street vendors in Harare who were being rounded up and arrested by police.

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