South Africa’s Ruling Party Meets to Discuss President’s ‘Farmgate’ Scandal

South Africa’s ruling African National Congress party is holding emergency talks after an independent panel called for an impeachment inquiry, saying President Cyril Ramaphosa may have broken the law.

The panel said Wednesday that Ramaphosa needs to explain the theft of at least half a million dollars hidden in a sofa on his game farm. The scandal, known as “farmgate,” has led to calls for the president to step down.

Ahead of the party’s National Executive Committee meeting, ANC chairperson Gwede Manatashe said the report recommending the impeachment inquiry should be examined.

The report from an independent panel says there are questions about the amount of money stolen from the president’s game farm, the source of the money and whether it was declared for tax purposes.

The president says $580,000 was stolen and that the money was from the sale of 20 buffalos to a Sudanese businessman. But former spy boss Arthur Fraser says the amount stolen is between $4 million and $8 million, given to the president and his adviser by several Middle Eastern and African countries.

The Anglican archbishop of Cape Town, Thabo Makgoba, urged people to wait until an investigation is completed before making a judgment in the case. 

“It is correct that no one should be above the law, but to pass final judgment on a person based on what is, in effect, a board of preliminary investigation, which has not made a final determination of the facts, could lead to lawlessness in South Africa,” Makgoba said.

Wayne Duvenage, CEO of anti-corruption group Organization Undoing Tax Abuse, said: “We should be demanding the highest conduct from a president, in which case if that is what we’re looking for, then he should be stepping down and, on top of that, the ANC has been the problem for so long. The fact that we have so many people found wanting and implicated in corruption and maladministration still in positions of power is a serious matter for this country.”

He said citizens must unite and show their displeasure at the polls. 

“Civil society has to become very vigilant and protect the gains that we’ve been able to achieve since 2017 and to make sure when 2024 comes we have high voter turnout so that we can remove the ANC from power, because the ANC is the reason why we’re in so much trouble in South Africa,” Duvenage said.

Constitutional law expert and University of Cape Town professor Pierre de Vos said parliamentarians will vote Tuesday on whether to adopt the report and proceed with the impeachment inquiry. 

“It’s a party vote, so if the ANC instructs its caucus to vote against such a motion that will be the end of the impeachment motion,” de Vos said.

And does he think President Ramaphosa will survive as his predecessor Jacob Zuma did? 

“It’s a political calculation that depends on what happens in the ANC,” de Vos said.

“In the past, though, the ANC and its caucus in the National Assembly, as we know from the Zuma era, has protected its president, the president of the party, from this kind of accountability.”

In an interview with a local TV station Friday, ANC chair Mantashe denied a report that Ramaphosa is considering resigning.

The president has maintained his innocence, with his spokesman saying he wants to do what’s best for the country. 

 

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Cameroon Disabled Ask for Greater Inclusion in Public Office and Political Life

Scores of Cameroonians with physical disabilities petitioned the government on Friday for better representation in public office and political parties.  Meeting in the capital Yaoundé, ahead of the International Day of Disabled Persons on December 3, activists said parties resist fielding disabled candidates.  They also noted that not a single disabled person is in parliament or the president’s office.

Samuel Nyingcho, who has impaired vision, said the opposition Social Democratic Front rejected his request to run for local council in Tubah, an English-speaking northwestern town. Nyingcho said he was told that visual impairment hinders the ability to contribute to development.

“The national chairman of the Social Democratic Front, gave me a test to ascertain whether I was able to read and write and equally able to engage in community work,” he said. “That test I passed and then was given the opportunity to enroll as a councilor.”

But Nyingcho said after he registered, his candidacy was again rejected. Others with visual impairment began street protests and the party finally accepted his candidacy, he said.

The Social Democratic Front said that since his election in 2013, Nyingcho has been an exemplary council member, helping the community to build roads and to provide electricity and water.

Nyingcho is one of only 12 councilors with disabilities in Cameroon, out of some 12,000 nationwide.

Not a single member of parliament’s 280 members has a disability, and only one of the country’s 372 mayors.

Thirty-two leaders of associations of people with disabilities signed the petition presented Friday.

Coco Bertin, the founder of the Club for the Rehabilitated Young Blind People of Cameroon, said he signed because there is no reason qualified and educated people with disabilities should be denied better representation in public office and political parties.    

He said more opportunities for those with disabilities would reduce or end the traditional belief that people with disabilities are a curse to their communities or victims of ancestral punishment for wrongdoing. Coco added that Cameroon will not be a country that ensures inclusion and equality of opportunity if people with disabilities are discriminated against.

Cameroon President Paul Biya appointed Douglas Achingale, who walks with crutches, deputy director general of the National Rehabilitation Center for Persons with Disabilities in 2020. 

Achingale said the disabled want to see exclusion stopped in schools.

“There are official texts which give children with disabilities some exclusive advantages during their admission in public schools, however, many educational authorities refuse categorically to respect this text,” he said. “The process to render public buildings accessible to persons with disabilities is slow, very slow indeed.”

The government says it has taken note of the plight of people living with disabilities.

Pauline Irene Nguene, Cameroon’s minister of social affairs, said Cameroon considers the fight against all forms of social exclusions as one of its immediate priorities. She said there is an ongoing advocacy with political parties, NGOs and the government for social exclusion to end. 

The United Nations proclaimed the International Day of Persons with Disabilities in 1992 to mobilize support for the inclusion of persons with disabilities and promote awareness-raising about disability issues.

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Attack Near Ex-Afghan PM Hekmatyar’s Office Injures Two, His Party Says

Two people were injured Friday in an attack in Kabul near the office of the Hezb-e-Islami party associated with former Afghan prime minister Gulbuddin Hekmatyar, but all the senior leaders were safe, the party said in a statement.

Multiple attackers were killed and several guards injured in the incident, according to three Hezb-e-Islami sources and one source with the ruling Taliban.

Kabul police and the interior ministry did not immediately respond to requests for comment. It was not immediately clear who was behind the attack.

The incident took place on the same day as Pakistan Prime Minister condemned what he said was an assassination attempt on the country’s Head of Mission in Kabul. Taliban authorities did not immediately respond to request for comment.

The attack on the Hezb-e-Islami party office occurred near a mosque where senior party leaders were present, but all – including Hekmatyar – were unscathed, according to the party statement and his grandson, Obaidullah Baheer.

“All respected authorities, including the respected leader, are safe and sound … two senior guards from the leader’s support unit were superficially injured and no one else was injured,” the statement said.

One Taliban and one party source said a vehicle belonging to the attackers and packed with explosives had detonated near the office. Firing took place and two attackers were killed while trying to enter the mosque, they said.

Several bombing and shooting attacks have taken place in Afghanistan in recent months, some of which have been claimed by Islamic State militants. A blast at a madrassa on Wednesday in northern Afghanistan killed at least 15 people.

The hardline Islamist Taliban, which seized power after U.S.-led foreign forces withdrew in August 2021, have said they are focused on securing the country.

Hekmatyar founded Hezb-e-Islami in the mid-1970s as one of the main mujahideen groups fighting the 1980s Soviet invasion of Afghanistan from its base in Pakistan. He held the office of prime minister twice during the 1990s.

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India Cannot Ditch Coal Despite Ramping Up Green Energy

India is increasing the pace of green energy projects to cut carbon emissions, but coal use has also been rising this year. As Anjana Pasricha reports from New Delhi, that could set back efforts to reach India’s target net zero carbon emissions by 2070 seen as critical to deal with global climate change.

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Health Care Access Difficult for HIV Patients in Flood-Ravaged Areas of Pakistan

In the highly conservative country of Pakistan, AIDS patients often face discrimination that keeps them from disclosing their diagnosis. Hundreds of HIV cases reported in Sindh Province in 2019 included children. That region was recently devastated by floods, making access to health care for HIV patients even more difficult. VOA’s Sidra Dar reports from Sindh Province, in this report narrated by Asadullah Khalid.
Camera: Muhammad Khalil

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Somalia Says Around 40 al-Shabab Fighters Killed in Clashes

Somali forces killed about 40 al-Shabab fighters in the Middle Shabelle region, the government said Thursday, the latest clashes in a monthslong offensive that aims to weaken the grip of the Islamist militant group.

Al-Shabab, an al-Qaida franchise that is seeking to impose its interpretation of Islamic law across the country, frequently stages deadly attacks in the capital, Mogadishu, and elsewhere.

On Sunday, al-Shabab stormed a heavily guarded hotel near the president’s residence in Mogadishu, killing nine people.

The government, supported by clan militias and African Union troops, says it has killed more than 600 members of al-Shabab and recaptured 68 settlements over the last three months, as part of concerted efforts to end the militants’ control over large portions of the Horn of Africa country.

Al-Shabab’s restrictions on deliveries of international aid have compounded the impact of the worst drought in four decades, officials say, leaving Somalia on the brink of famine.

Different sides often give conflicting accounts of clashes.

“The security forces and our international allies killed around 40 al-Shabab fighters and wounded several others,” Somalia’s Information Ministry said in a statement.

The ministry described it as a planned operation in a forest near the village of Ali Foldhere in Middle Shabelle on Wednesday night, but al-Shabab and one clan fighter said the fighting arose from an attack by the militants.

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