Zimbabwe: No Land Return for White Farmers

According to Zimbabwean President Emmerson Mnangagwa, Zimbabwe will not return the land seized from white farmers 18 years ago.

Speaking to supporters of the ruling party, Zanu-PF, on Saturday, Mnangagwa said, “It will never happen”.

Mnangagwa’s statement has dashed the hopes of many white farmers who hoped that they might be able to return to their stolen land.

In December 2017, white farmer, Rob Smart, was able to return to his farm after Mnangagwa heard of his violent eviction while at a conference in Johannesburg, and returned his land to him.

Mnangagwa also previously vowed to stop illegal land seizures and to restore property rights, leading many to believe that all evicted white farmers would be compensated.

In 2000, Zimbabwe began a violent land reform programme which saw thousands of white farmers forced off their land by angry mobs.

The land was redistributed to landless black farmers, which former president Robert Mugabe said was to compensate for oppression under British colonial rule.

Critics have blamed this land reform for the collapse of Zimbabwe’s agricultural production.

Meanwhile, Zimbabwe’s Ministry of Lands, Agriculture and resettlement has announced that all remaining white farmers will be issued with 99-year-leases, instead of five years, as previously.

No Immunity for Zuma

African National Congress President, Cyril Ramaphosa, has said that immunity from prosecution is not being offered to current South African president, Jacob Zuma.

Ramaphosa has been locked in “transition” discussions with Zuma this week, which are expected to result in Zuma stepping down as president.

Ramaphosa was speaking to the ANC Parliamentary caucus on Thursday, in a meeting seen as unusual, as the ANC usually holds them after the State of the Nation Address (SONA).

SONA was originally scheduled to take place last night, but was postponed indefinitely, for “the best interests of the country”, according to National Assembly Speaker, Baleka Mbete.

According to sources, Ramaphosa said: “Immunity from prosecution is not even on the table. It is not in my powers to give him that.”

The National Prosecuting Authority still has to determine if it will reinstate fraud and corruption charges against Zuma.

Zuma is also a subject of the inquiry into state capture.

Ramaphosa said that his talks with Zuma about the transition of power will be over in “a day or two”.

Meanwhile, opposition parties are planning a national shutdown to protest against the drawn-out process leading to Zuma stepping down.

SA Model Wants Grace Mugabe Arrested

Gabriella Engels is pushing to have Grace Mugabe handed over to South African authorities for prosecution.

The 20-year-old South African model alleges that Zimbabwe’s former first lady assaulted her in August last year.

According to Engels, Mugabe attacked her with an electrical cord after finding her in a hotel room at the Capital 20 West in Sandton being rented by Mugabe’s sons, Chatunga and Robert Mugabe, Jr.

Pictures of Engels’s injuries, including a deep cut to her forehead, were widely circulated on social media last year, leading to outrage and calls for Mugabe’s arrest.

Engels laid charges against Mugabe, but the former first lady avoided arrest and prosecution after the South African government granted her diplomatic immunity.

Last week, new Zimbabwean President Emmerson Mnangagwa said that Grace Mugabe is no longer protected by diplomatic immunity.

Engels’s mother, Debbie Engels, said that in light of these developments, her family has renewed their attempts to secure justice and are appealing to Mnangagwa to “do the right thing”.

However, it’s unclear whether this appeal will have much success. Mnangagwa said that although his government had not granted immunity to Robert Mugabe and his wife, his government would “do everything possible to make sure the family lives in peace, undisturbed”.

Search Resumes for Flight MH370

Malaysia has kicked off a new search for missing Malaysia Airlines Flight MH370 four years after it disappeared, according to its civil aviation department.

In one of the world’s greatest aviation mysteries, the aircraft departed from Kuala Lumpur on 8 March 2014 with 239 people on board, and never reached Beijing.

The search vessel, the Seabed Constructor, set off from Durban, South Africa, on 3 January 2018 and has now reached the remote spot in the Indian Ocean where Australian scientists believe the plane went down.

The Seabed Constructor has around 90 days of moderate weather and will need to stop searching by the end of April.

Australia, Malaysia and China called off their previous two-year search for the plane a year ago, after finding nothing in a 120 000-square-kilometre underwater search zone.

In 2015, the remains of a wing flap, which was found on Reunion Island, located off the coast of east Africa, was positively identified as belonging to the missing Malaysian Airways flight.

Malaysian authorities have prioritised recovering the plane’s black box and cockpit voice recorder, but experts are divided on whether these items will provide any useful information.

Even if the black box is retrieved and still functioning after years at the bottom of the ocean, the cockpit voice recorder operates on a loop and much of the flight recording would most likely have been erased.

It is unclear if the mystery surrounding the doomed flight and those on board will ever be solved.

Image: Indonesian search and rescue workers survey high seas as part of the search mission [online image] (2014) sourced on 24 January 2018 from https://static.independent.co.uk/s3fs-public/styles/story_large/public/thumbnails/image/2014/03/15/14/malaysia-search-AFP.jpg

Uganda Brings Back Death Penalty

Ugandan President, Yoweri Museveni, intends to begin enforcing the death penalty.

While there are 278 people on death row, Uganda has not executed anyone in 13 years.

Museveni said that his “Christian background” has prevented him from going ahead with executions, but that he now regrets his leniency.

The 73-year-old president says that his refusal to put prisoners to death has been encouraging criminals, and that he is going to “revise a bit and hang a few”.

Human rights groups have expressed concern and alarm at Museveni’s words. Amnesty International said that resuming executions would be misguided, because there is no evidence linking the death penalty to a reduction in crime.

Museveni has responded by saying: “I saw some NGOs opposing the death sentence. In a pre-industrial society like ours removing death sentence is a recipe for chaos. Societies like the United Kingdom went through the industrial revolution 200 years ago. Here in Uganda and Africa we are dealing with pre-industrial societies.”

Museveni has been in power for three decades, and could potentially seek a sixth term in office in 2021 after signing a bill to remove the presidential age limit.

DRC: 5 Dead in Protests

Five people were killed in the Democratic Republic of Congo on Sunday during a banned protest march against President Joseph Kabila.

According to witnesses, security forces opened fire with live rounds and tear gas on protesters who had gathered for a peaceful demonstration.

This violent crackdown comes three weeks after a dozen protesters were killed during a similar march on New Year’s Eve.

Last week, the Catholic Church called for rallies around the country, despite a government ban on all demonstrations since September 2016, when anti-Kabila protests turned violent.

Kabila has been in power since 2001, and his government has been widely criticised for corruption and incompetence.

His term ended in December 2016, but he has refused to step down.

Under an agreement brokered by the Catholic Church, Kabila was allowed to remain in power if he agreed to hold elections in 2017.

Late last year, Kabila postponed these elections, claiming that organisational problems meant that the vote would only be held on December 23, 2018.

Zimbabwe Elections in Next 5 Months

The new president of Zimbabwe has stated that the country will hold elections in the next four to five months.

This timeline points to an earlier date than expected following the removal of Robert Mugabe who ruled over the country for over three decades.

President Emmerson Mnangagwa took office in November 2017 after once-loyal ZANU-PF lawmakers launched impeachment proceedings which ended Mugabe’s reign.

“Zimbabwe is going for elections in four to five months’ time and we have to preach peace, peace and peace,” Mnangagwa said recently during a visit to neighbouring Mozambique.
According to the state-owned Herald newspaper, Mnangagwa, 75, vowed to hold fair elections to ensure Zimbabwe “engages the world as a qualified democratic state”.

For decades Zimbabwean elections have been marred by vote rigging, intimidation and violent suppression of the opposition.

Mnangagwa was one of Mugabe’s closest allies in the ruling ZANU-PF party, and he is accused of playing a key role in the authoritarian regime that left the economy in ruins.

Mnangagwa has appointed military officials to key government positions and pledged to revive the economy by boosting agricultural production and attracting foreign investment.

The election had been expected in late July or August.

Image: Zimbabwean President, Emmerson Mnangagwa. [Online image] (2018) sourced on 18 January 2018 from https://www.premiumtimesng.com/foreign/africa/255429-zimbabwe-leader-mnangagwa-reveals-perilous-escape-sacked-mugabe.html.

World’s 5th Largest Diamond Found in Lesotho

A diamond believed to be the fifth largest of gem quality ever found, has been discovered in Lesotho. According to miner Gem Diamonds, the rock could be worth as much as $40 million.

The company unearthed the D-colour stone at the Letseng mine in the landlocked southern African country and described the 910-carat find as a gem of “exceptional quality”.

“Since Gem Diamonds acquired Letseng in 2006, the mine has produced some of the world’s most remarkable diamonds, including the 603-carat Lesotho Promise,” Gem Diamonds chief executive, Clifford Elphick, said in a statement:

“However, this exceptional top quality diamond is the largest to be mined to date… This is a landmark discovery.”
Ben Davis, a mining analyst at Liberum Capital, speculated in a research note to investors that the diamond could be worth as much as $40 million.

Gem Diamonds’ shares in London were up 14% from the market open to 0.92 a piece.

Image: The 910 carat diamond found at the Letseng mine in Lesotho. [Online image: Gem Diamonds] (2018) sourced on 15 January 2018 from https://www.timeslive.co.za/sunday-times/business/2018-01-15-one-of-the-biggest-diamonds-in-history-found-in-southern-africa/

Trump Offends Africans, Haitians

President of the United States, Donald Trump, has offended and alarmed American lawmakers, as well as many Africans and Haitians with his disparaging remarks about immigrants.

According to inside sources, Trump used vulgar language to describe Haiti and the entire African continent, asking why America should accept immigrants from these countries.

When Trump was informed that Haitians were among those who would benefit from a proposed bipartisan immigration deal – which he rejected – he asked whether they could be left out of the plan.

He said: “Why do we want people from Haiti here?”

Trump said that he would much rather accept immigrants from “places like Norway”.

According to the New York Times, Trump’s vulgar comments left members of Congress alarmed and mystified.

Trump’s remarks have left African governments in an awkward position, as criticising the US president comes with the risk of losing American financial aid.

“Unless it was specifically said about South Sudan, we have nothing to say,” said South Sudan government spokesperson, Ateny Wek Ateny.

However, many Africans and Haitians have taken to social media to express their outrage and disgust at Trump’s comments, calling his words racist.

The White House has not denied the remarks, but has instead said the following: “Certain Washington politicians choose to fight for foreign countries, but President Trump will always fight for the American people.”

Ethiopia Bans Foreign Adoptions

Ethiopian lawmakers have approved a ban on foreign adoptions due to concerns that the children face mistreatment in foreign countries.

Ethiopia had been one of the biggest source countries for international adoptions by American citizens, making up 20% of total international US adoptions.

Celebrities Brad Pitt and Angelina Jolie adopted their daughter, Zahara, from Ethiopia in 2005 when she was six months old.

In 2011, an Ethiopian child was starved to death by her adoptive parents in the US. Following their conviction in 2013, there was an outcry, leading to Ethiopia reducing foreign adoptions by 90% that year.

The new National Child Policy was hotly debated in parliament, as many lawmakers feel that Ethiopia does not have enough orphanages to handle the effects of the ban.

The new policy states that orphans need to grow up in their homeland, while honouring their culture and traditions.

“They should either be adopted locally or supported by a guardian family or tutor, or helped to reunite with biological parents or relatives,” it says.

Image: Angelina Jolie with her child Zahara [online image] (2017) sourced on 11 January 2018 from https://ichef.bbci.co.uk/news/660/cpsprodpb/9604/production/_99540483_a59c41cd-00fb-4611-a266-8ef941b930cb.jpg