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Archive for June 24th, 2008

South Africa: “Chinese are not black”

Posted by African Press International on June 24, 2008

Soweto (South Africa)- “They are not black, they will never be black, the government must go to China with them!” These were the reactions of Sowetans to the Pretoria high court ruling which on Wednesday declared that South Africans of Chinese origin can now be classified as black.

People in the township did not mince their words in expressing how appalled they were by Judge Cynthia Pretorius? ruling that South African Chinese can now benefit from black economic empowerment because they fell within the definition of black people in the Constitution.

Lucky Showens of Freedom Park said the government preferred foreigners to local people. – People in government must go to China with these Chinese. They do everything for foreigners. You go to town [Johannesburg] and you find places such as China City while we have nothing here, he said.

Pule Mutheiwani said: -Chinese came here to work. How can they be South Africans? In China you will not be granted citizenship. This is a free-for-all kind of situation.

Jacob Motsoane of Protea said: – What were these people classified as before? If you go to the corporate world, they are up there.

Sonia Mohatlane said: – They are not black and they will never be black. The ruling was unfair. We black Africans have not benefited from BEE, now they add Chinese.

Sindiswa Moyane of Eldorado Park said: – Blacks have been disadvantaged all the years. The BEE slice is not big enough for black people. If they add Chinese people, the slice will become even thinner. Why don?t they go back to China? I really don?t believe these people are black.

But Ray Hoon, a Chinese man working in Eldorado Park, welcomed the ruling. -I have been following the court case very closely and I am pleased with the ruling.

– I was born in this country but there was a time I could not even buy a house unless I had a special permit. I don?t mind being classified black because race does not matter to me, Hoon said.

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api.source.Sowetan (South Africa)

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Zimbabwe: Asbestos mines in trouble after ban

Posted by African Press International on June 24, 2008

Harare (Zimbabwe) – Zimbabwe’s asbestos mines, which lost their bid to prevent South Africans from imposing a ban on the use of the product in their country, in line with an international crusade against the use of asbestos, are facing a fresh battle to retain staff that could become redundant as a result of the new development.

South Africa expressed concerns over the environmental and health effects of using asbestos, prompting the ban. There are fears of massive job losses in Zimbabwe due to the ban on the use of asbestos in South Africa, which was one of Zimbabwe?s major markets. Revenue generated from asbestos sales had supported in excess of 10 000 workers for decades, and helped keep the troubled economy afloat through foreign currency receipts.

Asbestos, used extensively in developing countries as a roofing material, has since the 1960s been described as extremely dangerous to health and the implications of the ban in South Africa could be catastrophic as the country had been among the major consumers of Zimbabwean products.
South Africa joined more than 50 other countries in the prohibition of chrysotile asbestos arguing that ?any person who has ever suffered from exposure to asbestos would see the absolute necessity for the regulations?.

The main objectives of the South African regulations is to prohibit the use, processing or manufacturing of any asbestos or asbestos-containing products unless it can be proved that no suitable alternative exists. The regulations, which were gazetted in 2004, came into force this year and are causing panic among companies in asbestos related industries in Zimbabwe.

These include Shabani and Gaths mines, which support more than 70 000 people, and industrial manufactures and distributors of fibre cement products, Turnall Holdings. An estimated 10 000 workers are employed at the two chrysotile mines and downstream industries, which produce irrigation and water reticulation pipes, brake pads and gaskets. At least US$60 million was being generated from the sale of Zimbabwe?s chrysotile asbestos annually before the South African ban.

Zimbabwe, still smarting from a debilitating decline in tobacco revenue, is gradually losing the battle against the lobby against the production of asbestos. The crusade to ban asbestos has been spearheaded by the European Green Movement, a grouping of environmental enthusiasts who have declared war against the world asbestos industry.

The Minerals Marketing Corporation of Zimbabwe (MMCZ) has said the use of asbestos has been on the decline worldwide due to the hazards reportedly associated with the mineral.

?The market in now concentrated in developing countries primarily the Far East, Middle East, India, Sri Lanka and Brazil,? said the MMCZ in its strategic plan for 2005 to 2007.

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api.source.The Financial Gazette (Zimbabwe), by Shame Makoshori

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South Africa: Chinese between apartheid and BEE

Posted by African Press International on June 24, 2008

Johannesburg (South Africa) – Vernon Whyte has been married three times ? and always to the same woman. Whyte, now 58, first married his wife Gwen in 1975. Because he was ethnically Chinese and she white, they did so in Lesotho. Upon returning to South Africa, they were breaking the race laws of the time, so Gwen had herself reclassified as Chinese.

They married again in 1982 under South African law. About six months later they did so again in church, so they could do it ?in the sight of God,? as Whyte says.

He could be forgiven for thinking the arbitrary and unfair distinctions of the apartheid era went with the advent of democracy in 1994. But they had not, Whyte discovered, when his employer, Standard Bank, offered black managers 4% of the company?s share capital as part of its 2004 Tutuwa scheme. – The wording specified people of Chinese origin were excluded, he recalls.

As of Wednesday, that situation has been reversed. The Pretoria High Court declared ethnically Chinese South Africans who qualified for citizenship before 1993, when the new constitution was drawn up, qualified for benefits in terms of the Employment Equity Act and the Broad-Based Black Economic Empowerment Act. The 1999 Employment Equity Act and the 2004 empowerment law defined ?black people” as a generic term for ?Africans, coloureds and Indians? but failed to specifically mention Chinese, who under apartheid were classed as coloured.

– The problem is that government has never put down a definition of ?coloured? under the act, Patrick Chong, chairman of the Chinese Association of SA, says. -That?s where we slipped through the act, that ?coloured? should be all those who were ?coloured? under the race classification laws pre-1994. Nobody could answer the question.

There was indeed a lack of clarity. In a November 2006 document, Standard Bank said the financial services charter council advised that Chinese people were excluded from the definition of black. However, in October last year , at which time legal steps were being taken to resolve the matter, the bank said their status was unclear. The court decision has made the bank reverse its earlier stance and make Whyte, an IT specialist of 25 years with the bank, eligible for participation in the black manager share scheme. – We?re thrilled there?s clarity on this, Jacko Maree, Standard Bank CEO, said yesterday. – We had a whole chunk (of shares) we kept especially for this event. We were very supportive of Mr Whyte?s court case. We offered to fund it.

The high court decision gives Chinese-descent South Africans equal status with blacks, Indians and coloureds in the eyes of equal opportunity and black economic empowerment laws. But the unnecessary struggle has still left some in the affected Chinese community, whose numbers total less than 10000, at a disadvantage. – How many people didn?t get jobs in terms of South African Chinese? How many didn?t get tenders? Whyte says.

Chong?s father emigrated to SA in 1933 from southeast China and took out citizenship. His family suffered the same discrimination as all nonwhites.

– We were disenfranchised, we were treated as second-class citizens. His ID book called him an alien. He wasn?t black or white. Obviously he came from outer space!

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api.source,Business Day (South Africa), by Michael Bleby

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Chad: European Force Under Pressure

Posted by African Press International on June 24, 2008

N’Djamena (Chad)- The European Union?s first major overseas military deployment — to the impoverished central African nation of Chad — is caught in a war of words between the country?s president and tenacious rebel groups operating on Chad?s arid border with Sudan.

On Monday, Chadian President Idriss Deby accused the peacekeepers of effectively aiding rebel groups, sparking a diplomatic row. The peacekeepers? poorly-understood mandate lies at the heart of the dispute. 2,750 soldiers from 18 countries had been deployed in Chad by mid-May. The European Force -? EUFOR includes more than 1500 French troops; with significant but smaller numbers from Ireland and Sweden -? has a U.N. mandate to protect a quarter-million refugees and the thousands of international aid workers working to assist them. The refugees have fled Sudan?s Darfur region, where for five years militia groups have carried out bloody attacks that some have labeled genocide.

U.N. Resolution 1778, passed in September, authorises the force to “contribute to protecting civilians in danger, particularly refugees and displaced persons… [and] to facilitate the delivery of humanitarian aid.” It is not within the force?s mandate to intervene in Chadian security issues. A representative of the Irish battlegroup said his troops would step aside if rebel forces launched a major assault on the capital.

Bandits perhaps represent the biggest threat to the refugees -? there have been 140 assaults on aid workers and 84 carjackings of aid vehicles since 2006, according to the U.N. But eastern Chad is also the major battleground between the Chadian government and the rebel groups that Chad claims are supported by Sudan. At a press briefing in Geneva, U.N. High Commission for Refugees spokesperson Ron Redmond said rebels persuaded or coerced as many as 4,700 men and boys to join them from the Breidjing and Treguine refugee camps in March.

“These activities have not stopped, according to refugees, and we fear recruitment could also be spreading to other refugee sites in eastern Chad… despite UNHCR?s previous denunciation of such activities and our repeated appeals to the Chadian government to ensure that the civilian character of refugee camps is maintained,” Redmond said.

According to UNHCR, recruits who returned the camps reported that they were told they would be sent to Darfur to fight the Sudanese government; those who refused to participate in military training were beaten.

It?s unclear how many people have died in the latest round of fighting. The Chadian army on Wednesday claimed to have killed more than 100 rebels, but the figure is impossible to verify. As fighting continues, EUFOR begins the delicate task of carrying out its narrow mandate despite pressure from all sides.

In the days preceding the latest June attacks, the rebels announced that they would call off their planned campaign if the EU would broker talks with President Idriss Deby. And in a televised address on Monday Deby said EUFOR, by declining to engage the rebels, was essentially was “cooperating with the invaders.” Deby said rebels had stolen aid groups? supplies while the peacekeepers deliberately looked the other way. EU foreign policy chief Javier Solana quickly rejected Deby?s accusations. He stressed that EUFOR?s sole mandate was to protect refugees and aid workers. EUFOR spokesman Jean Axelos, a French army colonel, says that EUFOR?s mission is widely misunderstood ? even by the aid groups that the force protects. He says every aid group wants something different from EUFOR. “Some want us close, others want us far away.”

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api.source.Inter Press Service (IPS), by David Axe

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Rwanda: Government said to lose billions fraudulent fuel deals

Posted by African Press International on June 24, 2008

Kigali (Rwanda) – New details have emerged showing how billions of taxpayers? money was lost through shady fuel deals and irresponsible handling of Government fuel reserves.

The Auditor General Evelyn Kamagaju, who first raised the issue of mismanagement of Government fuel stocks in her 2006 report ? sparking nearly a two-month inquiry by a parliamentary ad hoc commission ? has now released new information that reveals the rot that has been going on in the fuel sector.

In a May 14, 2008 letter addressed to Senate President Dr. Vincent Biruta and the Speaker Chamber of Deputies, Alfred Mukezamfura, Kamagaju spilled the beans on a number of deals that have made Government incur heavy losses or likely to suffer more through illegal marriages with oil companies.

?On 2 November, 2005, cabinet agreed that Kobil Rwanda Oil Company leases state oil depots at Gatsata and buys Shell petrol stations. Cabinet further agreed that the said leasing and purchase would be subjected to negotiations between Kobil Rwanda and the Rwanda Government. However, I did not see any evidence of negotiations between Kobil and the Rwanda Government,? reads part of the letter whose copy The New Times obtained.

The letter was copied to the President, Prime Minister, Chief Justice and the Prosecutor General. A seven-member Chamber of Deputies ad hoc commission led by Juvenal Nkusi this week confirmed that there was no agreement between the Government and Kobil, despite the latter having acquired Shell shares in PetroRwanda ? a former state-owned petroleum company.

Both Kamagaju and the Nkusi commission expressed worries that in the event of any losses on the part of Kobil, the Government was likely to suffer the consequences since Kobil Rwanda Oil Company is a ghost company by Rwandan laws.

?From documents available, including confirmation from the Nyarugenge Higher Instance Court, legally, Kobil Rwanda Oil Company does not exist,? the AG said in her letter.

Officially, Shell shares in PetroRwanda were bought by Kenya Oil Company (Kenol), only for the latter to put the management of its Rwanda businesses into the hands of Kobil, which is said to be its subsidiary.

?Currently, Kobil manages the Gatsata Depot but it is not clear under what arrangements. There is no agreement between the Government of Rwanda and Kobil regarding the management of Gatsata depot and the management of Government fuel stock,? Kamagaju said.

She added that it was strange that Kobil, a company that is unregistered, is using Shell tax file/TIN number, adding that ?it appears Shell initiated the process of selling its business in Rwanda immediately after expiry of its licence.?

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api.source.The New Times (Rwanda), by James Munyaneza

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Congo (DRC): All Sides Continue to Violate Human Rights

Posted by African Press International on June 24, 2008

Kinshasa (Congo (DRC)) – Government troops, national police, foreign groups and local militia in the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC) continue to contribute to deteriorating human rights conditions, the United Nations peacekeeping mission to the country (MONUC) said in a report.

The report, assessing the human rights situation in the DRC in April, found that both the armed forces – known as FARDC – and the police (PNC) are among the main violators, including through rapes and acts of torture.

The inspector-general of the FARDC has been suspended from duty for shooting a 20-year-old street dweller in Kinshasa, the capital, while FARDC members have carried out armed robberies, extortion and many arbitrary arrests.

The number of violations by Congolese police also rose over the previous month`s figures, with at least two killings, 13 rape cases and more than 100 arbitrary arrests or acts of detention.

Other segments of the security service, as well as armed militia – including the Patriotic Resistance Front in Ituri (FPRI) and the National Congress for the Defence of the Congolese People (CNDP) – have also been implicated in human rights abuses, such as illegal detention, beatings and arrests.

The report also found that the Government had responded by prosecuting some soldiers, with five men recently given jail sentences ranging from five years to 15 years for the raping of minors.

But it also noted that, at a time when the number of jailbreaks is mounting, the Government continues to deny access to prisons in many parts of the vast country to MONUC`s human rights officials.

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api.source.Angola Press (Angola)

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Ghana: Lack of neurologists

Posted by African Press International on June 24, 2008

Accra (Ghana): In a country with a population of over twenty million people, there are only four doctors qualified in the field of neurology to confront such a vast area of medicine; this came to light yesterday during the launch of an advocacy NGO ? Sharecare Ghana ? for people with autoimmune conditions.

Autoimmune diseases include the following: Rheumatoid Arthritis, Acute Disseminated Encephalomyelitis (ADEM), Multiple Sclerosis (MS), Transverse Myelitis, Neuromyelitis Optica (Devic?s Disease), Lupus and others. Ghana?s healthcare delivery system is more geared towards the treatment of diseases like malaria, HIV/AIDS, the five killer diseases in children with very little attention being paid to other equally debilitating ailments.

There are practically only two practicing neurologist in the country, whose work load gets heavier by the day as a result of the rising numbers of people being diagnosed with autoimmune diseases.

The organization has attained international recognition and is affiliated to the Transverse Myelitis Association in the US. In Ghana, the Noguchi Memorial Institute for Medical Research (NMIMR) has signaled its willingness to begin a study into autoimmune diseases and the College of Physicians and Surgeons has also agreed to lend support to the organization?s efforts.

Speaking at the launch, the Coordinator of Sharecare Ghana, Nana Yaa Agyeman said the aim of the organization is to ?reach out to people who have had or are living with long-term illnesses and want to share their experiences, expectations and treatment options.?

?One of our objectives is to campaign towards the inclusion of autoimmune conditions in the National Health Insurance Scheme?At the moment, even though some of us pay our premiums, we still have to pay for expensive tests and medicines,? she said.

Sharecare, she said, is seeking research, better diagnostics and treatment in the area of autoimmune conditions that has been largely ignored in the country. ?For example, MRI scans are vital in monitoring many autoimmune conditions and yet, there is only one functioning MRI scanner in Ghana,? she said.
Nana Yaa Agyeman said the unfortunate situation in the country is that some doctors do not accept that Africans are now getting these disorders.

?This is unfortunate because although they were traditionally classified as rare, the diseases have actually been found to be not so uncommon within our society,? she said.

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api.source.Accra Daily Mail (Ghana), by Kofi Agyepong

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