Tag Archives: South Africa

Student Protests Continue in South Africa

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On Wednesday, South African police used stun guns outside the parliament building in Cape Town in a bid to disperse students demonstrating against planned tuition fee hikes.

On the ground sources have reported that the violence unfolded after students pushed their way through a parliament gate and scuffled with riot police. Earlier in the day, security guards forcibly removed a group of opposition lawmakers from the parliament floor after lawmakers, who are sympathetic to the students, disrupted the debate by chanting: “Fees must fall!”

The protests are part of a wave of nationwide protests that have resulted in the closing down of many South African universities, which say they are struggling with higher operational costs as well as inadequate state subsidies. Earlier this week, Blade Nzimande, who is the higher education minister, proposed a 6 percent limit on tuition fee increases for next year. However student leaders have rejected this proposal, stating that they will continue with their protests. The University of Witwatersrand (WITS) in Johannesburg, has suspended lectures and other operations for the rest of the week. It had dropped a proposed hike of 10.5 percent in tuition fees after several days of protests. Other universities had also planned increases of at least 10 percent.

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Regional Summit Opens as Crisis in Burundi Continues

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After a regional summit on the on going political crisis in Burundi was held in neighbouring Tanzania on Sunday, East African leaders declared that the upcoming elections in Burundi should be delayed by at least a month and a half and that the on going violence must end. The leaders, however, stopped short of calling for Burundian President Pierre Nkurunziza to abandon his controversial bid for a third consecutive term in office, which has effectively sparked weeks of civil unrest, a coup attempt and a major refugee crisis that is now affecting the region.

In a statement read out the East African Community’s (EAC) secretary general Richard Sezibera, which was released shortly after a meeting of regional leaders was held in neighbouring Tanzania, the East African leaders stated “the summit, concerned at the impasse in Burundi, strongly calls for a long postponement of the elections not less than a month and a half.” The statement further called “on all parties to stop violence,” for the “disarmament of all armed youth groups,” which is a clear reference to the ruling party’s supporters who have been accused of attacking the party’s opponents, and for “the creation of conditions for the return of refugees” who have fled the crisis. The EAC summit was attended by leaders from Kenya, Tanzania and Uganda. Rwandan President Paul Kagame, who is a key regional player and Burundi’s neighbour, sent a minister to represent him. South African President Jacob Zuma was also present at the talks.  The summit had been seen as a critical opportunity to resolve the crisis, with talks between the president’s camp and the main opposition currently at a deadlock.

President Nkurunziza was not present during Sunday’s summit, with his spokesman indicating that the president would instead be pushing ahead with his re-election campaign. However it is widely believed that the president’s absence is linked to the 13 May failed coup attempt, which occurred when President Nkurunziza attended the first crisis meeting in Tanzania’s economic capital. In an attempt to benefit from the president being out of the country, a top general launched an unsuccessful bid to oust him.

The political crisis in Burundi erupted after the ruling party designated President Nkurunziza, who has been in power for ten years, as its candidate for the upcoming elections. The opposition and rights groups however have indicated that this move effectively violates the constitution as well as a 2006 peace agreement, which ended the country’s 13-year civil war. That war killed hundreds of thousands of civilians and there are now growing fears that the current political crisis may push the country back into conflict. Despite the civil unrest leaving at least 30 people dead, the Burundian government has maintained that parliamentary elections will take place on 5 June, with presidential elections scheduled for 26 June.

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Fresh Fighting in Mozambique Sparks Fears of a New Civil War

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Just days after the Renamo movement ended its peace accord, Zimbabwe has urged that the ex-rebel group in Mozambique end its fighting.

In what is an attack that has sparked fears across Mozambique of a possible return to civil war, on Tuesday, gunmen attacked a police station just after Renamo declared that the 1992 peace accord was no longer valid.  The attack on the police station, which occurred in the central town of Maringue, prompted officers to flee their posts.  According to Maringue’s administrator, Antonio Absaloa, there were no reported casualties however schools in the region remain closed in fears that further clashes may occur.

The town of Maringue is located about 35 kilometers (20 miles) from Renamo’s base in the central Gorongosa mountains.  The Renamo base was seized on Monday by Mozambique’s military, however the ex-rebels have indicated that the operation was aimed at killing its leader, Afonso Dhlakama.  Mozambique’s President Armando Guebuza however has stated that country’s soldiers acted in self-defence after Renamo militants fired at them.  The military raid on the bush camp prompted the Renamo to end the peace accord late on Monday.

Although the attack, and subsequent end of the peace accord, has sparked fears throughout the country and region that the ex-rebels may launch another civil war, on Tuesday an independent negotiator indicated that Mozambique’s President and representatives of Renamo were determined to avoid a return to war.  Lourenco do Rosario had indicated that Renamo “reaffirms that it does not want to return to war,” instead the opposition group has demanded that government forces pull back from its base in the Gorongosa mountains.  According to the independent negotiator, Renamo has also pledged that in exchange, it will not restart hostilities.”  In turn, Mozambique’s President Guebuza has also renewed his commitment, stating that “dialogue is the best way forward despite the skirmishes.”

Founded one year after Mozambique gained its independence from Portugal in 1975, Renamo (the Mozambican National Resistance Movement) was formed as an anti-Communist rebel group that was backed by South Africa’s former white-minority regime.  The group opposed the newly formed Marxist-leaning government, which was led by the Mozambique Liberation Front (Frelimo), resulting in tensions between the Frelimo and Renamo which later escalated into a civil war that was fought between 1977 and 1992.  Backed by colonial Rhodesia, Renamo was used in order to destablize the Frelimo government, which supported the Zimbabwe liberation fighters.  Once Zimbabwe gained its independence in 1980, Renamo formed an alliance with South Africa’s apartheid regime, which would later supply the group with arms.  During the sixteen year bush war, more than a million people were killed.  The 1992 Rome peace accord ended the war and paved the way for multi-party elections, which were held in 1994.  During the nationwide elections, Renamo lost, later becoming Mozambique’s official opposition.  During the 2009 polls, Renamo had attained only 16.5 percent of the vote, losing to President Armando Guebuza.  This loss prompted Renamo’s dejected leader, Afonso Dhlakama, to threaten fresh fighting.  By October 2012, in the face of dwindling political support, Dhlakama set up a camp in the Gorongosa mountains, where he undertook the training of former guerrilla fighters,who at the time, numbered no more than a thousand.  In November of last year, Dhlakama indicated to the public that he was willing to “destroy Mozambique” if Renamo did not get a larger share of the country’s growing wealth.  Although the rebel group, turned opposition, has repeatedly insisted it gain greater inclusion in the Frelimo government, including an overhaul of electoral laws, the Frelimo government has rejected its pleas, including a plea to renegotiate the terms of the 1992 peace accord.  Currently, the Renamo movement is though to have about 1,000 fighters and fifty-one MP’s.

Since the end of the civil war, Renamo has repeatedly contested the country’s elections, however it has failed to dislodge Frelimo from power.  In turn, they have complained that the Frelimo government is determined in holding on to power, which has resulted in the failure to create conditions for free and fair elections.  While the Renamo have pulled out of the peace accord, its fifty-one MP’s have not withdrawn from parliament.  Mozambique is due to hold local elections in November, with presidential and parliamentary elections set to take place next year.

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Breakthrough in Talks Over Legislative Elections in Guinea

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A United Nations envoy has confirmed that Guinea’s government and opposition parties have made a breakthrough during talks that were held over the weekend, which could result in an end to the violent political demonstrations and pave the way for legislative elections to take place.  More than fifty people have been killed in the past three months in protests which have been organized by activists who accuse President Alpha Conde of preparing to rig the polls which are scheduled to take place on 30 June 2013.

Over the past weekend, President Conde’s government along with Guinea’s opposition parties have been meeting at UN-mediated talks which have focused on the organization of the long-delayed legislative elections.  Said Djinnit, a UN envoy who mediated the talks between the government and opposition parties in the coastal capital city of Conakry, indicated that the parties had made significant progress over their demands and that there was reason for hope.  Djinnit further indicated that in return for some guarantees, Guinea’s opposition parties have agreed to rejoin the electoral process and have dropped their demands for South African company Waymark, which was charged with updating the voter register, being replaced.  The opposition had initially accused the company of filling the electoral roll with the names of President Conde’s ethnic Malinke supporters.  However the company has denied these charges.  The opposition parties had also called for Guineans living overseas to be given the right to vote.  Djinnit has indicated that “regarding the vote of Guineans abroad, the presidential camp, which had reservations on the issue, have lifted their opposition.  It has agreed that Guineans living abroad could participate in elections.”  He further stated that decisions stemming from the talks could affect the date of the election.

While a spokesman for Guinea’s government could not be immediately reached for comment, a spokesman for the opposition noted that a minimum consensus had been reached and that the parties were waiting for concrete actions from both the government and Guinea’s electoral commission.  However Aboubacar Sylla, the opposition spokesman, did state that “we have reasons to be cautiously optimistic.”

A spokesman for UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon has indicated that the UN Chief was “encouraged” by the progress that was made during the multi-party political dialogue.  In a statement that was released by the UN, his spokesperson stated that ‘the Secretary-General welcomes the constructive spirit in which Guinean parties have pursued the dialogue..” and that he “encourages the parties to build on this positive atmosphere in order to resolve outstanding issues and create the conditions for free, fair and peaceful legislative elections.”  The United States’ State Department has also welcomed the agreement that was reached between the political parties.

Guinea has been without a functioning legislature for years while the country’s economy remains to be at a standstill.  Following a military coup in December 2008, political instability in Guinea has deterred a number of investors, despite the country’s large deposits of iron ore, bauxite, gold and other minerals.  Although Guinea is the world’s largest exporter of bauxite, a metal that is used to produce aluminium, the country remains to be amongst the world’s poorest nations.  Investor confidence has been undermined by repeated clashes which have occurred since March of this year.

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Central African Republic to Review Mining Contracts

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Just days after rebels took over the capital city in the Central African Republic, Michel Djotodia, who has named himself the new President of the African country, has confirmed that his government will be examining all mining contracts that were signed with Chinese and South African companies while President Francois Bozize’s government was in power.

Michel Djotodia, a former civil servant turned rebel leader whose forces took control of the capital Bangui over a week ago, has indicated that petroleum and mining licenses awarded to Chinese and South African companies would be reviewed, indicating that he “will ask the relevant ministers to see whether things were badly done, to try to sort them out.” During his tenure in power, former President Bozize had awarded China National Petroleum Corp (CNPC) the rights to explore for oil in Boromata, which is located in the northeastern region of the country, near the border with Chad. The contract was signed in a bid to tap the country’s under-exploited mineral wealth. In turn, South Africa’s DIG oil is also prospecting in the southeast of the country, near the town of Carnot. The review of contracts with South Africa and China may also signal that Djotodia and his government are marking a change from his predecessor Bozize’s close ties with South Africa, with which he had signed a fresh bilateral defence agreement in January.

However while the Central African Republic has large deposits of minerals, including diamonds and gold, decades of conflict coupled with mismanagement, have left the country’s people amongst the world’s poorest.

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