Friday, March 15, 2013

THE MOTHERLAND: The Latest News Out Of Africa - Zimbabwe MDC Politician Sten Zvorwadza Beaten In Mbare; ICC Prosecutor Fatou Bensouda Maintains Strong Case Against President-elect Uhuru Kenyatta; Botswana Apologises To Kenya Over Kenyatta ICC Warning; Malawians Bailed On Coup Charges Attack On The President; Ivory Trade 'Gang Of Eight' Escape Sanctions; Tunisia Vendor Dies After Self-Immolation; South Africa Police Denied Bail In Dragging Case; Tanzania Use Phone To Look For Worms; Nigeria Pardons Presidential Ally; Cheap 'Nano-Tablet' Purifies Water For Up To Six Months In South Africa!

March 15, 2013 - AFRICA - A Zimbabwean politician has been attacked in the capital, Harare, during the last day of campaigning before a referendum on a new constitution.  Sten Zvorwadza, who hopes to become the next Movement for Democratic Change MP for the city's Mbare suburb, was punched as he tried to put up posters.  He escaped uninjured and says the youths were almost certainly Zanu-PF supporters of President Robert Mugabe.  Both Zanu-PF and MDC are campaigning for a "Yes" vote in the referendum.  But the referendum campaign has been raising political tensions ahead of an election expected later in the year.  The parties have been in a coalition government for the last four years following a disputed vote in 2008 marred by violence.  The BBC's Andrew Harding witnessed the incident in Mbare - an MDC stronghold in Harare - and said the youths also threw punches at him and his film crew.

Sten Zvorwadza (r) hopes to be the next MP for Mbare.

Zimbabwe MDC Politician Sten Zvorwadza Beaten In Mbare.
Under the new constitution, the president who wins the election, expected to be held in July, will be able to serve a maximum of two terms.  Mr Mugabe and MDC leader Morgan Tsvangirai, who is currently serving as prime minister, are both expected to vie for the presidency again.  Mr Mugabe, 89, has been in power since independence in 1980.  On Wednesday, he expressed concern over reports of a resurgence in political violence across the country.  His comments came after a Zanu-PF official was injured on Tuesday after his house was petrol-bombed by unknown assailants in Makoni district, in north-eastern Zimbabwe.  In February, the 12-year-old son of an MDC activist died in an alleged arson attack in the eastern farming district of Headlands.  Zanu-PF spokesman Rugare Gumbo said the president wanted people to vote peacefully.  "He said we should not have violence and added that the party will not tolerate that nonsense whether it is intra-party or inter-party. He wants the people to vote in peace," Zimbabwe's state-run Herald newspaper quotes Mr Gumbo as saying.

'Midwife' to new Zimbabwe 
The referendum campaign is raising political tensions.
Analysts say the constitution is seen as a compromise document.  According to the AFP news agency, during campaigning the MDC has focussed on clauses guaranteeing protection against all forms of violence, and free and fair voting. The MDC's Tendai Biti, who currently serves as finance minister, told the BBC the document was the "midwife" to a brand new Zimbabwe as it sets out people's rights, devolves some power and sets up a system of check and balances for those in authority.  The Zanu-PF campaign has highlighted the irreversibility of the land reform programme, which saw some 4,500 farms seized from mainly white commercial farmers, and other moves intended to give more economic power to black Zimbabweans, AFP reports.  Western and US observers have been barred from the referendum, but some 2,000 local and other foreign observers have been accredited for Saturday's vote, the Herald reports.  The Zimbabwe Election Support Network, a network of 31 non-government organisations whose head office was raided by police in February, is deploying about 600 observers.  It said in a statement on Friday that it was worried about new regulations from the electoral commission limiting the number of observers at polling stations.  It said it was also concerned by the refusal to accredit Jestina Mukoko, director of the Zimbabwe Peace Project.  Ms Mukoko spent two days in police custody earlier this month being questioned on allegations of illegally distributing radios.  Over the last four months, several hundred shortwave radios have been confiscated by the authorities, who say that have been illegally donated by Western organisations.  Many people in rural areas get most of their news from radio, which is dominated by the state broadcaster, although several stations based abroad broadcast to Zimbabwe on shortwave. - BBC.

ICC Prosecutor Fatou Bensouda Maintains Strong Case Against President-elect Uhuru Kenyatta.
ICC prosecutor Fatou Bensouda has maintained she still
has a strong case against Uhuru Kenyatta (file photo). 
Photo: RNW.
International Criminal Court Prosecutor Fatou Bensouda maintains that the decision to drop charges against former head of Civil Service Francis Muthaura has no impact on her case against President-elect Uhuru Kenyatta.  In her submission to the court, she explained that withdrawal of charges against one alleged indirect co-perpetrator does not automatically affect the other accused, so Kenyatta's case remains.  She says according to the Rome Statute: "Article 25 (3) demonstrates that the legal status of one alleged indirect co-perpetrator has no bearing on the guilt or innocence of another alleged co-perpetrator."  "In accordance with this Statute, a person shall be criminally responsible and liable for punishment for a crime within the jurisdiction of the court if that person: (a) commits such a crime, whether as an individual, jointly with another or through another person, regardless of whether that other person is criminally responsible."  She said although the two were charged jointly, it did not imply that both have to be criminally responsible.  Bensouda further explained that one co-accused can be found not to be criminally responsible while the other is found responsible despite being jointly co-accused.  "Logic dictates that the withdrawal of charges against one indirect co-perpetrator does not have an automatic knock-on effect with the respect to the charges against another alleged indirect co-perpetrator.

The fact that multiple individuals are charged in the same Document Containing Charges under the same mode of liability does not require lock-step decisions to be taken with respect to each co-accused," she explained.  She said even in cases where many are accused of participating in the same criminal act, verdicts are issued differently for the individual accused based on the evidence implicating them.  The prosecutor argued it was not the first time that charges had been dropped for one of persons who are jointly accused.  She gave the example of former Police Commissioner Hussein Ali and former Tinderet MP Henry Kosgey whose charges were dropped even though they were jointly accused with Kenyatta, Muthaura; and deputy President-elect William Ruto and former presenter Joshua arap Sang respectively.  She also cited the case of Thomas Lubanga who was convicted even though other perpetrators who were jointly accused with him were not.  Bensouda said the charges against Muthaura and Kenyatta including their roles in the post-election violence were different.  She said: "Whereas Kenyatta was allegedly in charge of the provision of financial and logistical support to the direct perpetrators, Muthaura allegedly secured the support of the Mungiki and directed the latter to commit the crimes in Nakuru and Naivasha,", as well as "provided institutional support for the execution of the crimes on behalf of the PNU Coalition."  The prosecutor on Monday filed a motion asking the court to drop all charges against Muthaura after evidence and the sole witnesses against Muthaura were withdrawn.  Kenyatta's defence team has argued that since the two were jointly accused, the charges against their client should also be dropped.  The team also complained over dishonest witnesses and dismissal of many others who gave evidence that led to the confirmation of charges.  Kenyatta who is the only accused person in Kenya Case I is set to stand trial on July 9 while Ruto and Sang have their date with the court on May 28. - All Africa.

Botswana Apologises To Kenya Over Kenyatta ICC Warning.
Uhuru Kenyatta is due to stand trial at The Hague in July.
Botswana's foreign minister has apologised for saying that Kenya's newly elected president would be banned from the southern African nation if he refuses to co-operate with the ICC.  Phandu Skelemani made the apology after Kenya's government accused him of being contemptuous towards Uhuru Kenyatta.  The International Criminal Court has charged Mr Kenyatta with crimes against humanity.  He denies the charges and won the 4 March poll with an outright majority.  He got 50.07% of the vote compared to his rival Raila Odinga's 43.31%.

'Innocent until proven guilty' 
Mr Odinga has refused to accept defeat, saying the election was marred by fraud and is expected to file a petition challenging the result at Kenya's Supreme Court on Friday. Analysts say the ICC case bolstered Mr Kenyatta's electoral chances, as voters saw it as interference in Kenya's domestic affairs.  He is due to stand trial in July, with the charges stemming from allegations that he helped orchestrate violence that erupted after the 2007 election.  Earlier this week, his lawyer, Steven Kay, called on the ICC to drop the case, saying the evidence against him was "utterly flawed".  Mr Kay made the call after ICC chief prosecutor Fatou Bensouda dropped charges against Mr Kenyatta's co-accused, Francis Muthaura, because a key witness had "recanted" his evidence and other witnesses were too scared to testify.  Mr Skelemani said he was retracting comments he made to Botswana's privately owned Mmegi newspaper following Mr Kenyatta's election victory.  "I apologise to the Kenyan people for my earlier statement and wish to maintain that Kenya and Botswana have always worked together and nothing will change that," he said, in a statement published in the Kenyan media.  "Mr Uhuru Kenyatta is more than welcome to visit Botswana. Botswana is cognisant of a section of the law that says one is innocent until proven guilty." - BBC.

Malawians Bailed On Coup Charges Attack President.
Joyce Banda raises her index finger as symbol of
the Democratic Progressive Party.
Picture: Getty
Malawian opposition politicians who appeared before the high court yesterday accused of plotting a coup against the president, Joyce Banda, have ­denounced their prosecution as “political”.  Twelve senior politicians and government officials, including the brother of the late president, Bingu wa Mutharika, were granted bail following the day-long hearing and emerged from court to songs and cheers from supporters of their DPP party.  They claim they are being prosecuted to distract attention from the larger problems facing the south-east African country.  They face a raft of charges including treason and “disobeying the constitution” for trying to prevent power being transferred to the then vice-president Mrs Banda when Mr Mutharika died in office on 5 April last year.  Peter Mutharika – now the presidential candidate for the opposition DPP and Mr Mutharika’s choice to succeed him – allegedly asked the military to take over after his brother’s death, an official report said last week.  Mutharika, a serving minister and several former ministers were released on £400 bail on the condition they report to ­police every fortnight.  Prosecutor Ralph Mhone had argued their release could “jeopardise ongoing investigations”.  They were greeted outside the court by cheering DPP supporters. George Chaponda, parliamentary leader of the DPP, told the crowd: “There are a lot of problems in the country to waste time on this.

[The] government is only trying to divert ­attention from real problems.”  Mrs Banda has won plaudits from the international community, which provides 40 per cent of Malawi’s development budget, for pledging to cut profligacy and corruption. But her decision to devalue the local kwacha ­currency in line with International Monetary Fund recommendations has sent inflation soaring, along with the cost of food and fuel, and taken the shine off her reputation.  Last year, she told The ­Scotsman how Mr Mutharika’s sudden death – and the refusal of those around him to confirm it for several days – pushed ­Malawi to the brink of a coup and she was forced to ring around other presidents in the region to ask them to intervene.  Malawi’s Cabinet, MPs and most of its judiciary, she said, initially rallied round Peter Mutharika and sought to obtain a court order to keep her from taking over. She claimed that, within the military, there were also calls for a coup until the army commander backed her and surrounded her house with troops for protection.  “At that point 15 ministers abandoned Peter Mutharika’s house and came running to my house,” she said.  The treason charge – which can carry the death penalty –followed the release of the official report into Mr Mutharika’s death which found that his body was flown to South Africa to stall the process of Mrs Banda taking over. She has maintained she had no hand in pressing charges, merely handing the ­report to police.  The arrests at the beginning of the week sparked protests in which police fired teargas and fought running battles with DPP supporters around Lilongwe.  John Gift Mwakhwawa, a former president of the Malawi Law Society, said the charges had been expected. “This might be a blow for the DPP but it would be setting a very bad precedent if such conduct had not been addressed before the courts,” he said. “This is not a political witchhunt.”  Steve Sharra, a Malawian ­blogger, said DPP supporters saw it as a “political vendetta”. - Scotsman.

Ivory Trade 'Gang Of Eight' Escape Sanctions.
Ivory seized in Kenya.
The plight of Africa's elephants was one of the top issues at a more than a week of talks bringing together the 178 member nations of the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species (CITES) in Bangkok.  The conference identified Kenya, Tanzania and Uganda as well as transit countries Malaysia, the Philippines and Vietnam, and top markets China and Thailand as making insufficient efforts to curb the trade.  But they avoided punishment after six of them submitted draft action plans in response and China and Tanzania committed to do so by a specific date.  Under the convention, member states can halt trading with offender countries in the 35,000 species covered by the convention.  CITES General Secretary John Scanlon said such measures were a "last resort" and should only be imposed "where there's a clear failure to comply and no intention to comply".  "We have not got to that point in my view. At this point we actually have states that are engaged," he told AFP.  The eight nations defended themselves in the face of the accusations, which led media to dub them the "Gang of Eight".  "We are not denying that we have an active seaport and an active airport, and that we have challenges," said Kenyan delegate Patrick Omondi.  "We should not be lumped together as a Gang of Eight. Transit and source countries have unique challenges," he said. "We feel the focus should be on the demand side."  Illicit trade in ivory has doubled since 2007 and more than tripled over the past 15 years, according to wildlife groups, which estimate that only about 420,000 to 650,000 elephants remain in Africa.  Conservationists fear that 2012 was an even deadlier year than 2011, when an estimated 25,000 African elephants were killed.  In an effort to better track the illicit commerce, CITES members adopted new measures under which countries making large seizures of illegal ivory will be required to conduct DNA tests to determine their origin. - The Phuket News.

Tunisia Vendor Dies After Self-Immolation.
Vendors took the streets in an anti-government
protest after Khadri's death was announced [AFP]
A Tunisian cigarette vendor who set himself ablaze in a busy street of the capital Tunis a day earlier has died under hospital care, a medical official has said.  Adel Khadri, 27, died on Wednesday as a result of severe burns, Imed Toiuibi, the director of the Ben Arous Burns Centre, told the AFP news agency.  "This is a young man who sells cigarettes because of unemployment," Khadri shouted before immolating himself on Habib Bourguiba avenue.  Security forces and bystanders tried to extinguish the flames before the man was rushed to hospital, witnesses said.  Officials said Khadri hails from an extremely poor family in Jendouba in northwestern Tunisia.  Khaled Tarrouche, interior ministry spokesman, attributed Khadri's desperate action to his economic situation.  "He is unemployed and came to Tunis a few months ago. He was very fragile, psychologically broken, and that is why he set himself on fire."  Street vendors took to the streets after Khadri's death to express their dissatisfaction with the government.  In December 2010, street vendor Bouazizi died of his injuries after setting himself alight on December 17, 2010 in the town of Sidi Bouzid after a policewoman confiscated his fruit cart.  Bouazizi's fate sparked protests that ended with the overthrow of autocratic President Zine al-Abidine Ben Ali and inspired rebellions elsewhere in the Middle East. - Al Jazeera.

South Africa Police Denied Bail In Dragging Case.
Unidentified mourners attend the funeral of Mozambican
taxi driver Mido Macia in Matola, Mozambique, Saturday,
March 9, 2013.  Ferhat Momade / AP Photo

Read more here:
Nine South African police officers charged with murdering a Mozambican taxi driver who was dragged from a police vehicle have been denied bail.  South Africa's police watchdog says the police were denied bail at the close of testimony Tuesday in Benoni Magistrate's Court, east of Johannesburg. 

Moses Dlamini, spokesman for the Independent Police Complaints Directorate, also says the next hearing for the police is April 12.  Taxi driver Mido Macia was dragged from a police vehicle in front of onlookers, some of them filming the incident after he allegedly blocked a road with his vehicle in Daveyton township, east of Johannesburg.  Macia was later found dead in a police cell. An autopsy showed that he suffered head lacerations and other injuries. - Miami Herald.

Tanzanians Use Phone To Look For Worms.
Scientists used an iPhone 4S to diagnose intestinal worm infections in schoolchildren in rural Tanzania.  They attached an $8 (Sh680) ball lens to the handset camera lens, and used a cheap torch and double-sided tape to create an improvised microscope.  Pictures were then taken of stool samples placed on lab slides, wrapped in cellophane and taped to the phone. They were studied for the presence of eggs, the main sign of the presence of the parasites.  When the results were double-checked with a laboratory light microscope, the device had managed to pick up 70% of the samples with infections present - and 90% of the heavier infections.  The study has been published this week in the American Journal of Tropical Medicine and Hygiene.  Researcher Dr Isaac Bogoch, who specialises in internal medicine and infectious diseases at Toronto General Hospital, told the BBC he had read about smartphone microscopes being trialled in a laboratory and decided to "recreate it in a real world setting".  "Ultimately we'd like something like this to be a useful diagnostic test. We want to put it in the hands of someone who might be able to use it," he said.  "70% (accuracy) isn't really good enough, we want to be above 80% and we're not quite there yet," he added.  "The technology is out there. We want to use materials that are affordable and easy to procure." Dr Bogoch and his team, which included experts from Massachusetts General Hospital and the Swiss Tropical and Public Health Institute, said the only reason he used an Apple iPhone was because it was his own handset.  "You need the ball lens to help with the magnification - but any mobile phone with a decent camera and a zoom function will be sufficient," he explained. - Standard Digital.

Nigeria Pardons Presidential Ally.
Diepreye Alamieyeseigha (in the front) was
freed two days after he was sentenced
Nigeria's government has pardoned a key ally of President Goodluck Jonathan who was convicted of stealing millions of dollars.  Ex-Bayelsa state Governor Diepreye Alamieyeseigha had been pardoned because he had been "remorseful", presidential adviser Doyin Okupe said.  Opposition activists said the decision is a major blow to efforts to curb corruption in Nigeria.  He was released in 2007, two days after receiving a two-year sentence.  The decision was taken because he had already served two years in prison since his arrest.  He was first arrested in the UK in 2005 on money-laundering charges, but jumped bail. 

'Irresponsible decision' 
Officials said Mr Alamieyeseigha fled the UK disguised in women's clothing, a claim he has consistently denied.  He was later arrested in Nigeria and became the first ex-governor to be convicted of corruption.  Under Nigeria's federal system, governors wield huge powers and control budgets larger than those of many neighbouring countries.  Mr Okupe told the BBC's Focus on Africa programme that the Council of States, a group headed by Mr Jonathan, had pardoned Mr Alamieyeseigha.  "He was tried, jailed and dispossessed of his property. He has been remorseful," Mr Okupe said.  "There's no law against the granting of pardons to any criminal."  BBC Nigeria analyst Fidelis Mbah says Mr Alamieyeseigha is now free to run for political office again, and could bolster Mr Jonathan's chances of winning another term in elections due in 2015.  Mr Alamieyeseigha remains influential in the oil-rich Niger Delta, where many people believe his trial was political, he says.  The ex-governor will be expected to rally support for Mr Jonathan in the region, where the president's support has fallen, he adds.  When Mr Alamieyeseigha was the governor of Bayelsa, Mr Jonathan was his deputy.  Prominent Nigerian human rights lawyer Bamidele Aturu said the government would "live to regret the irresponsible decision", Nigeria's Vanguard newspaper reports.  "In my view, it is better to fling open the gates of all our prisons and ask all the inmates to walk out into the warm embrace of their relatives than pardon those who force otherwise decent Nigerians to take to crime as a way of life," Mr Aturu is quoted as saying. - Joy Online.

Cheap 'Nano-Tablet' Purifies Water For Up To Six Months In South Africa.
Researchers have developed a water purification tablet comprised of nanoparticles that can be used by developing world communities with no access to clean water.  The tablet, MadiDrop, invented by PureMadi - a non-profit organisation of the University of Virginia, United States - was presented at the organisation's one-year celebration event last week (8 March).  It consists of a small ceramic disk filled with silver or copper nanoparticles that is placed a water vessel, where it can repeatedly disinfect water for up to six months.  "There is nothing easier," James Smith, a professor in the Environmental and Water Resources programme at the University of Virginia who co-leads the PureMadi project tells SciDev.Net. "You drop it in your water container, fill the container up at night and the water will be safe to drink for all the next day." The tablet is capable of treating 20 litres of water per day.  Only trace amounts of silver and copper nanoparticles are released into the water - at levels that are safe for human consumption, but high enough to kill waterborne pathogenic micro-organisms, says Smith.  The tool developed for use in communities without safe drinking water is named 'Madi' after the Tshivenda (one of the official languages of South Africa) word for water.  Smith says there isneed for more long-term field tests on the tablet's life span.  "Based on shorter-term tests that we can extrapolate, it should work for six months," he says. "We will be conducting longer-term tests in South Africa in June, July, and August."  It is hoped that the tablet will improve the supply of safe water to the community of Mashamba in South Africa and beyond, says John Mudau, director of the Centre for Rural Development and Poverty Alleviation at the University of Venda, South Africa.  The university is ensuring that the tablet complies with South African safety standards; that education on water quality reaches the rural communities of Limpopo province that have little or no access to clean water; and that locals accept the tablet.  The process is technically viable, saysAnthonyTurton, a water and environment expert in the Centre for Environmental Management at the University of Free State, South Africa. - All Africa.

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