Friday, January 29, 2010

Nyanda Inc makes millions from govt

Communications Minister Siphiwe Nyanda -- South Africa’s former defence force chief -- owns a 50% stake in a company that has at least five contracts with government agencies, bringing it millions of rands in government business, the Mail & Guardian has established.

GNS [General Nyanda Security] Risk Advisory Services (Pty) Ltd, Nyanda’s company, has been in the news since last year when it was revealed that Transnet Freight Rail, on suspended chief executive Siyabonga Gama’s watch, had awarded GNS a R55-million tender without proper tender processes being ­followed. However, an M&G investigation has established that GNS has also benefited from security contracts with at least four other government entities. The M&G has also learnt that Nyanda’s business partner and chief executive of GNS is embattled Johannesburg lawyer Sylvester ­Sithole, fingered for alleged fraudulent dealings with the SABC in a 2007 draft forensic report. After Nyanda was appointed a minister in May last year, he told the M&G that his interest in GNS posed no conflict of interest with his official duties and that the company’s area of business was “security risk”. What he failed to declare was GNS’s clients -- Transnet Freight Rail; passenger train company Metrorail; state bus company Autopax; and two contracts with the Gauteng provincial government. At least three of these entities fall under the political leadership of two of his Cabinet colleagues -- Transport Minister S’bu Ndebele (Metrorail and Autopax) and Public Enterprises Minister Barbara Hogan (Transnet Freight Rail).

This week Nyanda defended himself by saying he had declared his interest in GNS to Parliament and “has not been active in the affairs of the entity”. He declined to clarify his role in the company’s affairs, his involvement in obtaining government business or his relationship with Sithole.

Nyanda, the country’s defence force chief from June 1998 to June 2005, was appointed a director of GNS on June 29 1998. He resigned from the board on August 13 last year but keeps his shares. In the 2009 register of members’ interests, he told Parliament that GNS provides him with a “driver for household and children transportation”. GNS, which is based in an office park in Rosebank, Johannesburg, also refused to answer the M&G’s questions about its business with government, requesting through its lawyers a copy of the article before publication to “properly comment”. The M&G declined to provide them with the unpublished story.

It was revealed last year that GNS was awarded a R19-million contract in December 2007 on Gama’s watch to provide surveillance and investigation services for the parastatal’s goods trains. Gama is currently ­facing a disciplinary hearing for allegedly signing off the tender, worth more than the R10-million he was allowed to award. In response to a parliamentary question last year, Hogan revealed that GNS “has been paid approximately R55-million in a 20-month period since the conclusion of the contract in December 2007”.

The M&G this week established that the contract was jointly awarded to GNS and Johannesburg-based Nayle Outsourcing, which provided investigation services to Transnet. According to Nayle’s Jaco van Wyk, the tender was up for renewal last year and advertised by Transnet three times. “Every time something went wrong with the advert.” GNS and Nayle’s contract finally comes to an end on Sunday -- 25 months after signing a 20-month contract with Transnet. Nyanda has publicly come out in support of Gama and likened his case to President Jacob Zuma’s graft trial. “The challenge is that some people out there are really bent on ensuring that he is destroyed. What happened to JZ is happening in this case. People vilify and cast aspersions on you,” Nyanda told Business Times in September.

According to Tiro Holele, spokesperson for the Passenger Rail Agency of South Africa (Prasa), Metrorail awarded GNS a contract to provide “various security risk-related functions” in October 2008 for two years. Metrorail and Autopax, which manages the Translux and City-to-City buses, were incorporated into Prasa last year. According to a former GNS employee, the company was contracted to do surveillance on Metrorail’s passenger trains and on ­Translux and City-to-City buses. “We had to ride on them and write reports on what we saw.” According to Holele, Metrorail has paid GNS R15,1-million to date, or little more than R1-million a month.

The M&G has established from two inside sources that the Gauteng government paid GNS to investigate and protect the provincial government garage, with a fleet of more than 5 000 vehicles. Nyanda’s company was also contracted by Impophoma, a provincial entity that manages ­Gauteng’s construction equipment, to provide security services. It is not clear whether these contracts have expired and how much GNS was paid. Gauteng failed to respond to questions.

Nyanda’s office gave the following response to the Mail & Guardian’s questions: Upon accepting appointment to public office, the Minister of Communications General (Ret) Siphiwe Nyanda made a declaration to Parliament with regard to his interests in the entity in question, GNS, as required by law. It is worth noting as well that the minister has not been active in the affairs of the entity in question since his appointment to public office. Any other question regarding GNS should therefore be directed to GNS itself and not to the office of the minister of communications. The minister has no other protection services other than those provided by the South African Police Service as ­prescribed by law.

Source: Mail & Guardian

KZN police station cooked crime stats

In a breakthrough investigation, the Independent Complaints Directorate (ICD) has found that crime statistics at Mountain Rise police station in Pietermaritzburg were manipulated. As a result of the tampering, Mountain Rise was the top station in KwaZulu-Natal last year, based on the skewed perceptions of its crime-prevention efforts. The ICD found that station officials received bonuses totalling R500 000 as a reward.

The ICD said that it is satisfied that its investigation yielded positive results in that the allegations of manipulation of crime were substantiated. The police watchdog has recommended that disciplinary action be taken against the officers involved. Although it did not name the ­culprits in its report, the ICD last year recommended disciplinary action against the Mountain Rise station commissioner, Director Hariram Badul, and others implicated.

Badul and three other policemen have been arrested and charged with corruption and defeating the ends of justice in another case. He is alleged to have defrauded the state of R1-million of equipment, including computers, recovered during police raids. Badul arrived at court in a wheelchair last year and was immediately admitted to hospital. Phindile Radebe, police spokesperson for KwaZulu-Natal, said the police had proceeded with disciplinary action against Badul, who was suffering from an undisclosed illness.

In its raid on Mountain Rise during its investigation, the ICD seized 147 dockets, six casebook registers and three statistic registers. "There were cases of fraud, theft of motor vehicles, common assault and assault with intention to cause grievous bodily harm, for example, which were not registered on the case administration system," the ICD report says.One of the whistleblowers, Constable Craig Josiah, approached the KwaZulu-Natal High Court last year after Badul suspended him without pay. Josiah told the court that Badul had ordered them to proceed with investigating cases only where ­suspects were easily ascertainable. The rest of the dockets were to be placed in a separate room, he said.

When management at Mountain Rise began to burn the unprocessed dockets, Josiah told the court police officers had stashed them away as evidence. The court ordered Josiah's reinstatement. Former colleagues said Josiah has now been seconded to the Hawks.

Source: Mail & Guardian

Minister's wife in court on drug charges

Sheryl Cwele (50), wife of State Security Minister Siyabonga Cwele, appeared on charges of drug dealing in the Pietermaritzburg High Court on Friday. Cwele and Frank Nabolis, a Nigerian arrested last month, are facing three charges, Hawks spokesperson Musa Zondi said. These are dealing or conspiring to deal in drugs, procuring a woman called Charmaine Moss to collect drugs in Turkey and another, Tessa Beetge, to smuggle 9kg of cocaine.

Beetge was arrested in São Paulo by Brazilian police on June 13 2008. They found 9,2kg of cocaine concealed in her baggage and she is currently serving an eight-year jail sentence for drug-trafficking in São Paulo. Zondi said Cwele, who was arrested at her office on Friday morning, would remain in jail until her bail application is heard next Friday. "The state intends opposing bail," he added.

The Hawks said Moss was the state's main witness in the case, which prompted a call from the Democratic Alliance on Friday for the state security minister to resign. Cwele, who is the director for health and community services at the Hibiscus Coast Municipality, was linked to Beetge in newspaper reports early last year but denied any involvement in drug dealing. According to the state, she was in contact with Nabolis soon after Beetge's arrest and the Nigerian then left the country for a while. He was arrested in Gauteng in December and has been in jail since then. The Hawks said he is also believed to be involved in drug manufacturing in Gauteng.

State counsel, advocate Ian Cook, said Cwele and Nabolis would appear in the Pietermaritzburg High Court again on February 12. In an interview with the Mercury newspaper a day before her arrest, Cwele insisted she was innocent and said as a Christian she believed "the only person who will solve the problem is God". Asked about the allegations against her, her husband reportedly told the newspaper: "I don't know anything you are talking about and nobody has been charged."

The DA on Friday urged him to prove that he was in no way involved in the matter or to resign from the Cabinet. "This is disturbing news and raises a number of serious questions regarding the minister. We believe that he must demonstrate to the South African public that he is in no way compromised by this matter; if he fails to do so, he ought to stand down from his position right away."

Source: Mail & Guardian

Thursday, January 28, 2010

Iran sentences 11 demonstrators to death

Tehran's Revolutionary Court sentenced 11 people to death after convicting them of participating in post-election riots, state media reported Thursday. Two of the sentences have been carried out; the rest are under appeal, the Iranian Students News Agency said, quoting a court official. These are the first executions known to be related to the post-election violence that erupted across Iran in June and has continued since, Amnesty International said in a statement condemning the hangings.

But a lawyer for one of the men executed on Thursday disputed a key part of the official report: "Both of these men were arrested two months before the elections and they were in prison until their sentences were carried out. So how can someone who's in prison take part in protests?" asked Nasrin Sotoudeh, a Tehran-based human rights lawyer who represented Arash Rahmanipour, one of two men hanged Thursday. His father had been scheduled to visit Rahmanipour on the day of the execution, and learned only from a TV report that his son was dead, Sotoudeh said, describing the family as "extremely upset and shocked." "Arash called his home two nights ago (Tuesday night) -- two nights before the sentence was carried out, and at that point Arash had no idea that his sentence was about to be carried out," she said.

She said the hanging violated Iranian law. "The entire process, the investigation, the trial, the handing down of the sentence and the carrying out of the sentence, were done illegally and in secret," she told CNN by phone. "Arash's family and I did not have his case file. A sentence must first be announced to the defendant and his lawyer and only then can it be carried out, but this sentence was never announced to Arash or myself."

She said he had been forced to confess. "He told me his pregnant sister had been arrested, too," she said. "In two sessions where he was interrogated, they placed his sister in front of him and told him if he wanted to see her free he had to admit to things he didn't do."

Rahmanipour's sister was later released from prison but lost the baby due to stress, Sotoudeh said. Rahmanipour, 20, was charged with being a mohareb, or enemy of God, and being a member of Anjoman-e Padeshahi-e Iran (API), a banned anti-regime monarchist group, his lawyer said.

Amnesty International condemned the execution of Rahmanipour and the other man executed Thursday, Mohammad Reza Ali-Zamani. "These men were first unfairly convicted and now they have been unjustly killed. It is not even clear they had links to this group, as their 'confessions' appear to have been made under duress," said Hassiba Hadj Sahraoui, Amnesty International's Middle East and North Africa deputy director.

The court said the defendants were convicted of "waging war against God, trying to overthrow the Islamic government" and membership in armed and anti-revolutionary groups. Anti-government demonstrations began after the disputed June 12 presidential vote, which re-elected hardline President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad over main opposition candidate Mir Hossein Moussavi. Late December marked the deadliest clashes in Iran since initial protests broke out in the summer.

At least seven people were killed and hundreds were arrested, witnesses said, as they took to the streets on Ashura, which occurred on December 27. The Iranian government has denied that its security forces killed anyone and has blamed reformists for the violence.

Source: CNN

Stand-Alone Body Planned to Level Electricity Playing Fields

The Department of Energy is planning to complete by end-March a new legal framework which will establish an independent system operator to buy electricity from Eskom and independent power producers. Initial suggestions were that only electricity from independent power producers would be bought by the independent system operator, but this has now been broadened to include Eskom's power. The aim of the new system is to create a level playing field between Eskom and independent producers so that the latter would not have to negotiate power purchase agreements with Eskom.

Eskom's designation as the sole buyer of electricity from independent producers has been a major stumbling block to developing a vibrant independent generation industry, as the utility has been reluctant to buy relatively more expensive power from independent producers. This has meant the government has not met its target to have at least 30% of all power generated by independent producers.

The new model - used extensively in countries where the private sector contributed to power generation such as Australia, the US, Argentina and Norway - would not affect Eskom's viability, the energy department's director-general, Nelisiwe Magubane, said yesterday. This was because both Eskom's power and that of the independent producers would be bought by the independent body at the tariffs determined by the National Energy Regulator of SA (Nersa). The same tariff would apply to all power purchased.

Magubane said that more private players would be attracted to the industry once tariffs rose after Nersa had decided on Eskom's 35% tariff application. She said the Cabinet had instructed the department at its last meeting last year to develop the model of independent power purchase and to report back to it before the end of March. Magubane said the proposed model would ensure the wholesale purchase of power by the independent operator was transparent and took place outside Eskom. The electricity would then be resold in bulk for transmission and distribution by Eskom and municipalities. "What has been happening is that Eskom has been acting like a real monopoly, trying to keep other players out of the industry," Magubane said. "We want to take that function of buying power away from it."

Magubane said Eskom was happy with the proposal and was working with the department on how best to implement it.

Source: All Africa

Iran 'executes two over post-election unrest'

Iran has executed two men arrested during the period of widespread unrest that erupted after June's disputed presidential election, reports say. They had been convicted of being "enemies of God", members of armed groups and trying to topple the Islamic establishment, Isna news agency said. The executions are believed to be the first related to last year's protests.

Millions demanded a re-run of June's poll at the largest demonstrations in Iran since the 1979 Islamic Revolution. Opposition groups said it had been rigged to ensure the re-election of President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, a charge the government denied. At least 30 protesters have been killed in clashes since the elections, although the opposition says more than 70 have died. Thousands have been detained and some 200 activists remain behind bars.

Last month, eight people were killed in clashes at demonstrations on Ashura, one of the holiest days in the Shia Islamic calendar. "Following the riots and anti-revolutionary measures in recent months, particularly on the day of Ashura, a Tehran Islamic Revolutionary Court branch considered the cases of a number of accused and handed down death sentences against 11 of those," Isna said, quoting a statement from the Tehran prosecutor's office. "The sentences against two of these people... were carried out today at dawn and the accused were hanged," the semi-official agency said, adding the sentences had been confirmed by an appeal court. It named them as Muhammad Reza Ali-Zamani and Arash Rahmanipour. "The sentences for the other nine of the accused in recent months' riots are at the appeal stage... upon confirmation, measures will be undertaken to implement the sentences," Isna added.

There has been no independent confirmation of the executions or the names, but opposition groups had previously said Mr Ali-Zamani was sentenced to death in October. He and one other person were believed to have been convicted for ties with the Kingdom Assembly of Iran (Anjoman-e Padeshahi-e Iran), a banned monarchist group. At his trial in August, prosecutors accused Mr Ali-Zamani of plotting political assassinations with US military officials in Iraq before returning to Iran "aiming at causing disruption during and after the election". He is said to have admitted his guilt in court.

The Kingdom Assembly of Iran confirmed it had worked with Mr Ali-Zamani, but dismissed the allegations and insisted he had been forced to confess. The group said he had played no role in the post-election protests and had merely passed on news to its radio station. Human rights activists also noted the indictment stated that Mr Ali-Zamani had been arrested before engaging in any actions relating to the protests. Nasrin Sotoudeh, a lawyer for Mr Rahmanipour, also denied he had played any role in the unrest and dismissed his "show trial" in July. "He was arrested in Farvardin [the Iranian month covering March-April] - before the election - and charged with co-operation with the Kingdom Assembly," she told the AFP news agency. Ms Sotoudeh said her client had been 19 when he was arrested, and that many of the charges related to the time when he was a minor. "He confessed because of threats against his family," she said, adding that his family had not known the appeal had failed.

In 2008, the Iranian authorities blamed the Kingdom Assembly of Iran for an explosion at mosque in the south-western city of Shiraz which killed 12 people and wounded more than 200. Correspondents say the executions may further increase tension in Iran ahead of possible new anti-government protests next month. Messages have been circulating on the internet about demonstrations on 11 February, the 31st anniversary of the Islamic revolution.

On Wednesday, Iran's state media reported that two German diplomats had been detained and accused of playing a role in last month's anti-government protests. A deputy interior minister was quoted as saying they were detained on 27 December, the day after the demonstrations. He also said a close aide to the opposition leader, Mir Hossein Mousavi, was being held for alleged contacts with German intelligence agents. Germany's foreign ministry said it had no knowledge of the detentions and categorically rejected the accusations.

Source: BBC

International Media Exaggerating Terrorist Threat from Yemen

Yemeni Prime Minister, Ali Muhammad Mujawar said that the international media is exaggerating the recent events and terrorist threat from Yemen. In an interview with Asharq Al-Awsat Mujawar said "Yes, Al Qaeda is present in Yemen as it is present in all advanced industrial countries." He also told Asharq Al-Awsat that poverty is the cause of all problems in Yemen, and he called for international effort to aid Yemen with a comprehensive development plan, saying that his country is in need of a "Marshall Plan" which can reach up to 40 billion dollars. Mujawar also pointed to the problem of high unemployment among young people in Yemen, saying that the solution to this in the short and medium term is to open the door to Yemeni employment in Gulf States.

The London conference on Yemen, which was attended by 20 countries and ended yesterday concluded with a mutual agreement between Yemen and its international partners to cooperate in order to address the roots of terrorism. British Foreign Minister David Miliband also announced that Riyadh will host a conference on 27 - 28 February on Yemen which will be attended by Gulf States and other Yemeni partners. Yemeni Foreign Minister Abu Bakr al-Qirbi welcomed the support expressed by fellow attendees for Yemen's unity and sovereignty. "What we have achieved today does indeed achieve the results (wanted) by Yemen," he said. For her part, US Secretary of State Hilary Clinton said that Yemen's problems cannot be solved via military operations, but through supporting Yemen's development efforts to achieve stability. As for Saudi Foreign Minister Prince Saud al-Faisal, he said that there is foreign interference "from some regional powers that desire control and which seek to sow destructive conflicts and instability among the Yemeni people."

London has warned that unless Yemen is stabilized, it could become a "failed state", like its lawless neighbor Somalia. Yemen's troubles sprang to prominence when 23-year-old Nigerian Umar Farouk Abdulmutallab allegedly tried to detonate explosives in his underwear on a plane approaching the US city of Detroit on Christmas Day. US President Barack Obama has accused Al-Qaeda's branch in Yemen -- Al-Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula -- of training, equipping and directing the suspect. Al-Qaeda chief Osama bin Laden claimed responsibility for the plot in an audio message broadcast this week and vowed further strikes would follow.

Yemen has ruled out allowing the United States to set up military bases on its soil and stepped up its own campaign earlier this month with a military crackdown against Al-Qaeda.

Source: Asharq Al-Awsat

Wednesday, January 27, 2010

World Report 2010: Backsliding on Human Rights

Human rights conditions deteriorated across North Africa in 2009, with unfair trials in political cases the norm, and a narrowing space for independent journalists and associations to operate, Human Rights Watch said today in its World Report 2010.

Morocco, Algeria, and Tunisia are among the 15 North African and Middle Eastern countries, and more than 90 countries worldwide, covered in the 612-page World Report 2010, Human Rights Watch's 20th annual global review of human rights practices. The report argues that nations responsible for the worst human rights abuses have over the past year intensified a concerted attack against human rights defenders and organizations that document abuse.

"Morocco cracked down hard on those who broke the taboos against critical discussion of the monarchy, Islam, and Western Sahara," said Sarah Leah Whitson, Middle East and North Africa director at Human Rights Watch. "The presidents of Algeria and Tunisia, both re-elected after the constitutions were amended so they could run yet again, showed no signs of allowing greater space for dissent."

The report says there was backsliding on human rights overall in Morocco, undermining progress earlier in the decade. The government imprisoned a magazine editor and a human rights activist for raising sensitive topics, increased politically motivated travel restrictions against Sahrawi activists, and convicted political activists in unfair trials.

President Zine El-Abidine Ben Ali of Tunisia, re-elected a fifth time with no real opposition, tolerated almost no dissent, using unfair trials and omnipresent plainclothes police to stifle the ability of Tunisians to speak and associate freely.

President Abdelaziz Bouteflika of Algeria, also re-elected by a huge margin, maintained Algeria's state of emergency, under which civil liberties, such as the right to organize meetings and demonstrations, are tightly restricted.


Repressive Legislation Punishes Government Critics

Morocco has a lively civil society and independent press. But authorities, aided by complaisant courts, use repressive legislation to punish and imprison peaceful opponents, especially those who violate taboos against criticizing the king or the monarchy, questioning the "Moroccanness" of Western Sahara, or "denigrating" Islam.

The government relies on laws providing prison terms for "defamatory" or "false" speech to prosecute critical reporting and commentary. Driss Chahtane, editor of al-Mish'al weekly, has been in prison since October for an article about the king's health. A human rights activist, Chekib el-Khayari from Nador, is completing the first year of a three-year sentence for "gravely insulting state institutions" because he accused state officials of complicity in illegal drug-trafficking. On November 14, Moroccan authorities summarily deported one Sahrawi activist, Aminatou Haidar, on the pretext that she had renounced her Moroccan citizenship by the manner in which she had completed a border entry form. The government allowed her to return home 33 days later under international pressure.

On July 28 the Rabat Court of Appeals convicted all 35 defendants in the so-called "Belliraj" case of forming a terrorist network, basing the verdicts almost entirely on the statements attributed to the defendants by the police, even though most defendants had repudiated those statements before the investigating judge and all repudiated the statements at trial. The court refused to investigate allegations of torture and falsified statements. The defendants included six well-known political figures, including two party leaders.

"Morocco's backtracking on rights became apparent to all during 2009," Whitson said. "Developments in 2010 will reveal whether authorities intend to reinforce this negative trend or put the country back on a path of progress on rights."

Human Rights Watch said that the two most significant steps Morocco could take to resume progress are to repeal laws that penalize nonviolent speech or protest that crosses the "red lines:" criticizing the monarchy, Morocco's claim to the Western Sahara, or Islam; and to implement King Mohammed VI's call for consolidating judicial independence by ensuring that courts respect the rights of defendants to challenge incriminating evidence, such as their statements to the police, and to present pertinent witnesses and other evidence in their own defense.


No Space for Opposition Voices

President Ben Ali won a fifth term in a campaign that allowed no space for opposition voices on the critical issues. Authorities prevent Tunisian human rights organizations and independent journalists from operating freely, and the police impose heavy and arbitrary restrictions on the liberties of released political prisoners.

The country, which has one of the region's longest traditions of independent human rights activity, is today without a single human rights monitoring group that is allowed to operate both legally and freely. The year ended with journalists Taoufik Ben Brik and Zouhair Makhlouf behind bars for their critical reporting and commentary, and hundreds of young men serving prison terms on charges under the anti-terrorism law, even though they were never charged with preparing or carrying out specific acts of violence.

"Tunisia's intolerance for human rights dissent makes it a prime example of a worldwide trend among repressive countries to cover up abuses by trying to silence the messenger," Whitson said.

Tunisia's top priority for 2010 should be to strengthen judicial independence by ensuring that trials are fair, that defendants enjoy all their rights to present relevant evidence, and that judges issue verdicts based on the evidence presented before them in court, Human Rights Watch said.


Restrictions Limit Civil Liberties

Algeria endured its 18th year under an emergency law that restricts civil liberties. Authorities banned public gatherings, such as outdoor demonstrations and even seminars organized by human rights organizations. The families of the thousands of Algerians whom state agents "disappeared" during the political strife of the 1990s received little or no information about the fate of their loved ones. Meanwhile, the 2006 Law on Peace and National Reconciliation provided a legal framework for the impunity enjoyed de facto by the perpetrators of "disappearances" and other atrocities committed during the 1990s, and for the penalization of criticism of the way the state handled political violence during that era. And, as in Morocco and Tunisia, journalists risked prison terms because of laws that chill free expression by providing penal sanctions for defamation.

"In Algeria, political violence is down compared to when President Bouteflika first took office in 1999," Whitson said. "But while Algerians are safer physically, they are less free when it comes to criticizing and challenging government policies."

Human Rights Watch urged Algeria to roll back the restrictions that muzzle independent media and civil society, and that criminalize questioning the state's handling of the political violence of the 1990s.

Top legal personality resigns as probe begins

Advocate Seth Nthai, the vice chairman of the General Council of the Bar of South Africa, has resigned pending the investigation of a complaint against him. On Wednesday, the council issued a statement saying that it had received a complaint against Nthai - who is also a senior member of the Pretoria and Johannesburg Bars.

The complaint was lodged last Friday by British barrister Toby Landau. The complaint apparently relates to Nthai's alleged conduct while executing a brief to represent the South African government before the Washington-based International Centre for Settlement of Investment Disputes against a claim instituted by 11 Italian investors. "More particularly it relates to alleged discussions between Mr Nthai and a certain Mr Mercerano, representing the Italian investors."The alleged discussions were apparently held without instructions from his instructing attorneys and allegedly related to "the merits of the government's case, their defences, technical strategies, a possible settlement of the case and a possible reward for Mr Nthai in the event of such a settlement."

The council said that following a meeting of the Pretoria Bar on Tuesday, Nthai agreed to tender his immediate resignation from the General Council of the Bar and all positions he currently held in its sub-committees. "[He has] tender[ed] an undertaking that he will accept a voluntary suspension and not practise as an advocate until such time as the investigation has been finalised, provided that it be done with due diligence and expedition."

A disciplinary committee consisting of a retired judge and two silks will be appointed by the Bar Councils of the Pretoria and Johannesburg Bars. The two silks will act as pro forma prosecutors and will lead evidence before the committee.

Source: IoL

U.S. to Join Talks on Helping Yemen

A month after the failed airplane bomb plot that put this country’s problem with Al Qaeda in the international spotlight, the United States and 20 other countries are gathering for a conference on Wednesday in London to discuss ways to address Yemen’s growing instability. But in their efforts to move beyond a narrowly military approach to fighting Al Qaeda here, the conference participants are likely to run up against a morass of social, political and logistical obstacles that have frustrated similar efforts in the past. And some diplomats and analysts say they fear that the sudden rush of aid and attention, if it is not handled properly, could reinforce patterns of patronage that have contributed indirectly to Yemen’s culture of extremism. Western donors have already begun increasing their aid commitments, and the London conference — though not aimed at securing more money — is focused on the need to address the many crises that help breed radicalism in Yemen.

The facts are appalling: half the population is living on less than $2 a day; the official rate of illiteracy is 45 percent; fewer than half of Yemenis from ages 15 to 24 are employed. Outside the major cities, access to public water supplies, electricity and health services is vanishingly rare. Those desperately poor hinterlands have become a haven for Qaeda militants, who have regrouped here in the past two years and claimed credit for training Umar Farouk Abdulmutallab, the Nigerian militant accused of trying to bomb a Detroit-bound jet on Dec. 25.

Addressing Yemen’s needs, though, is no simple matter. As in Afghanistan and Iraq in recent years, security concerns have put some of this country’s poorest and most dangerous areas beyond the reach of development assistance. An intermittent war rages in the country’s remote north, and a secessionist movement has grown worse in the south. A vast, corrupt and spectacularly inefficient government bureaucracy has been a stubborn obstacle to aid as well. For those reasons, only a tiny fraction of the $4.7 billion pledged to Yemen during a London donor conference in 2006 has been spent. More money, in other words, is not necessarily the answer. Yemen’s main development agency, the Social Fund for Development, has $12 million in unspent aid money for the Jawf Province, a huge, impoverished area where Qaeda militants have found refuge, said the agency’s director, Abdulkarim Ismail al-Arhabi. The province is too dangerous, and there are no effective intermediaries who could help spend it, Mr. Arhabi said. Western donors say they understand the challenges and are calling for political and economic reform to pave the way for more effective aid. Fixing Yemen’s system of diesel fuel subsidies — which consume almost a third of the budget and are widely said to be an avenue for smuggling and kickbacks — is an important priority, diplomats say.

The conference will also seek a more unified international approach to Yemen, including support from its immediate neighbors. Pressing Persian Gulf countries to open their labor markets to Yemenis could provide tremendous relief for the ailing economy, Western and Yemeni officials say. Another focus will be Saudi Arabia, which gives far more to Yemen than any other country, though mostly through unofficial channels. Western diplomats say they hope to persuade Saudi Arabia to start making its support conditional on political and economic reforms in Yemen. But previous reform efforts have repeatedly stalled. And diplomats say that the publicity created by the Dec. 25 bombing attempt could generate more foreign military and development aid, which in turn could — without the necessary reforms — strengthen the patronage networks that have helped weaken Yemen’s state institutions in the past.

Part of the problem, critics say, is that Yemen’s president, Ali Abdullah Saleh, has concentrated too much power in his own hands, skillfully balancing the country’s various political and tribal groups over his 32 years in office, but failing to build a modern state. “At the heart of the economic problem is corruption, and at the heart of the corruption problem is unchecked presidential power,” said Abdel Ghani al-Iryani, a political consultant. Government officials counter that patronage is part of the price of stability in a country that is fragmented along lines of sect, tribe, region and social class. They say that corruption, though widespread, has been exaggerated, and that reforms are under way. Last year Mr. Saleh endorsed a 10-point plan that would bring new blood to the civil service and cut back on the government’s use of diesel fuel. “The corruption is a symptom of the lack of money, the lack of capacity for monitoring this kind of thing,” said Jalal Yacoub, a deputy finance minister and one of the authors of the plan.

The Yemeni state’s administrative weakness, Mr. Yacoub added, derives in part from two major crises of recent years. North Yemen and South Yemen united in 1990, and the north had to absorb hundreds of thousands of public employees from the formerly socialist south. A year later, Saudi Arabia expelled a million Yemeni laborers, following Mr. Saleh’s decision to side with Saddam Hussein in the first Persian Gulf war. Afterward, the Yemeni civil service became a social safety net, as Yemen struggled to find jobs for the returning workers. Mr. Yacoub and other Yemeni officials say they put their hopes in well-financed pilot projects that can quickly improve people’s lives, especially in remote areas where distrust of the government is high. That is also the goal of the United States Agency for International Development, which channels its aid mostly through Yemeni nongovernmental groups. The agency signed a $121 million three-year development assistance program in September, a major increase. But that effort will be hampered by Washington’s inability to send Americans to Yemen’s most dangerous areas, which are also some of its poorest. And they are not the first efforts of their kind. Starting in 2003, a former United States envoy, Edmund J. Hull, traveled to Marib, Jawf, Shabwa and Abyan Provinces to foster aid projects, including the building of new hospitals. “The formula was ‘no security without development, no development without security,’ ” Mr. Hull recalled. “I proposed a virtuous circle to replace the vicious circle.”

Today, the provinces Mr. Hull focused on constitute the main havens of Al Qaeda in Yemen.

Source: New York Times

Tuesday, January 26, 2010

Somali Islamists claim deadly attack on medics

al-Shabaab, on Tuesday claimed responsibility for a mortar attack on an African Union peacekeepers' base in Mogadishu that left several people dead. On Monday, a mortar round crashed into a group of Somali civilians queuing up at one of the entrances of the AU's peacekeeping mission (Amisom) to receive medical treatment from the force's doctors. "The attack on the compound of the African infidels was carried out by our mujahedins [holy warriors]. It was a successful attack that left many of the enemy doctors dead," al-Shabaab spokesperson Sheikh Ali Mohamoud Rage said.

Officials on the base said at least one Ugandan peacekeeper was killed in the blast. They added that several Somali civilians may have died but could not provide an accurate count. A civilian source on the base said a total of five people were killed.

Al-Shabaab -- an organisation whose leader recently proclaimed allegiance to al-Qaeda supremo Osama bin Laden -- and its allies from the more political Hezb al-Islam movement routinely fire mortar shells on the base. They launched a fierce military offensive in May 2009 aimed at toppling internationally backed President Sharif Sheikh Ahmed, whose embattled administration has owed its survival largely to the protection of Amisom's 5 300 peacekeepers.

Al-Shabaab accuses Amisom's Ugandan and Burundian soldiers of occupying its country and being engaged in a Christian crusade against Muslim Somalia. Earlier on Monday, the AU mission's top civilian official and the UN special envoy to Somalia visited the base and reiterated their full support to Sharif's transitional federal government.The Ugandan soldier killed on Monday and a Burundian peacekeeper killed several days earlier were evacuated by plane on Tuesday, according to an Agence France-Presse reporter at the Amisom base.

Source: Mail & Guardian

The New Huthi Game

Abdul Malik al-Houthi's third initiative towards the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia can only be described as a new game and one of the ongoing Houthi ploys against Yemen and Saudi Arabia. The Houthi talk about a truce with Saudi Arabia is something that should not be given any attention, or even considered, and in fact this is a new condemnation against the Houthis, and a confession admitting that they were the ones to attack and target Saudi territory.

In the statement attributed to Abdul-Malik al-Houthi he said that they [the Houthis] are prepared to withdraw from Saudi territory, however the question here is; what territory do the Houthis occupy in the first place from which they can withdraw from? It is well known that the Houthis are fighting a guerilla war, infiltrating and fleeing, and so they are not a regular army. However it is clear that the Saudi message reached the Houthis; this message is that the violation of Saudi Arabian territory is something that cannot be tolerated under any circumstances. The greatest mistake that any Arab country can make is accepting the mergence of protuberances along its borders, whether this is armed groups or others, serving foreign objectives and threatening the security of Arab states. The Houthis are an example of this, in the same manner as other groups that hijack the state, exploiting a very old message, in the same manner as what Hezbollah is doing in Lebanon.

In the [audio] tape attributed to Abdul Malik al-Houthi, and in which he proposed the new initiative, he also put the blame for the war on Saudi Arabia, saying that it would have been better for Saudi Arabia to go to war with Israel, rather than the Houthis. This is the same logic that is employed by Hamas against Egypt, and the same logic employed by Hezbollah against Lebanon, Saudi Arabia and Egypt, and this is also the same logic employed by Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, and the Iranian official and media statements, in justifying the violations of the sovereignty of Arab states, and particularly when defending the Houthis.

Therefore the new Houthi truce is nothing more than an attempt to escape the conflict with Saudi Arabia in the hopes of preserving what remains of their forces, especially when they see international support for Riyadh's right to defend its territory and international support for Yemen during its present crisis, and above all else they have noticed an Iranian failure to defend them, or even alleviate the pressure on them.

It also appears that the Houthi initiative came as a quick response to the statement made by Saudi Assistant Defense Minister, Prince Khalid Bin Sultan, to the effect that Saudi Arabia plans to establish a military base in the Jizan region. As a result of this, the Huthis felt that the Saudi movement against them was serious and well-planned and had a serious message, namely to ensure that what happened [with regards to Houthi infiltration] would never be repeated under any circumstances. Therefore it is imperative that there is no leniency or sympathy for the Houthis, otherwise who can guarantee that there will not be a seventh war in Yemen, and who can guarantee that the Houthis will not once again attack Saudi Arabian territory, or kill Saudi border guards, as they did previously, especially as their storing of weapons – whether this is inside Saudi territory or in the border region – is an indication of the Houthis evil intentions towards Saudi Arabia and Yemen, and that they are a new group in the mould of Hezbollah. Therefore the conclusion of this talk is that the Houthis cannot be trusted whatsoever, even if there is a truse.

Source: Asharq Al-Awsat

Monday, January 25, 2010

Hussein Aide ‘Chemical’ Ali Executed in Iraq

Ali Hassan al-Majid, a symbol of the former government of Saddam Hussein, who ordered a poison gas attack on a Kurdish village in northern Iraq, was executed on Monday. An Iraqi court had sentenced Mr. Majid, 68, to death by hanging last week. Mr. Majid, known as Chemical Ali for his role in the attack on the village of Halabja, in which more than 5,000 Kurds died, was perhaps the most notorious figure from the former regime to be executed since Mr. Hussein was himself hanged in December 2006.

Iraq’s state television broadcast pictures of what it said was the execution, showing a man in a black mask and red jumpsuit on a wood scaffold, with a rope around his neck. “His execution turns the page on another black chapter of repression, genocide and crimes against humanity that Saddam and his men practiced for 35 years,” said Prime Minister Nuri Kamal al-Maliki in a statement. In court cases that began in August 2006, Mr. Majid was handed eight death sentences for crimes that ranged from Halabja to a campaign known as Anfal at the end of the Iran-Iraq war in which at least 180,000 Kurds were killed and thousands others displaced, invoking accusations of genocide and serving as a powerful symbol of Kurdish suffering in their quest for self-determination. He was also convicted for his role in crushing a Shiite uprising in southern Iraq in 1991, in which thousands were killed and displaced. “His execution is great news for all Iraqis,” said Fakhri Karim, an adviser to President Jalal Talabani, a Kurd. “He was the killing machine of the former regime.” He was hanged on Monday for his role in the Anfal campaign, an official from the Justice Ministry said.

Kao Mahmoud, a spokesman for the government of the semi-autonomous Kurdistan region, said that Kurdish officials would pursue their efforts to classify the attack on Halabja as genocide. The government announced his execution shortly after three devastating bombings struck hotels in Baghdad, killing 36 people, in what appeared to be a coordinated attack. The delays in executing Mr. Majid stood in contrast to the speed with which Mr. Hussein’s death sentence was carried out. Mr. Hussein was sentenced Nov. 5, 2006; his appeal was rejected on Dec. 26 that year; and he went to the gallows just before dawn within four days. Video was soon circulated of Mr. Hussein’s confrontation with guards. Ali Dabbagh, the government’s spokesman, said that Mr. Majid’s execution “happened without any violations, shouting or cries of joy,” unlike that of Mr. Hussein.

Throughout his courtroom appearances and until last week, Mr. Majid remained unapologetic, explaining to the court during the Anfal trial that he had ordered the destruction of Kurdish villages because they were filled with Iranian agents. “I am the one who gave orders to the army to demolish villages and relocate villagers,” Mr. Majid had said during one of the hearings. “I am not defending myself, I am not apologizing. I did not make a mistake.” “Thanks to God,” an unrepentant Mr. Majid said last week when his eighth death sentence was read out in court.

On June 24, 2007, the court sentenced Mr. Majid and a former defense minister, Sultan Hashem Ahmed, to death for their role in the Anfal campaign. Mr. Majid’s sentence was set to be carried out on Oct. 16, but was postponed because of wrangling over Mr. Ahmed’s execution. Several top Iraqi leaders and American commanders wanted to spare him. Mr. Ahmed received a 15-year prison sentence last week for his role in the Halabja attack. It is not clear yet if or when he will be executed.

“Until now, there isn’t an executive order to execute him,” said Bosho Dizai, the deputy justice minister. “We don’t know what will happen yet.”

Mr. Ahmed was a top officer for decades, winning respect from many Iraqis for his professionalism. Some American officials said he helped limit the resistance of the Iraqi army to the invasion in 2003, and many Sunni leaders said he was simply a soldier following Mr. Majid’s orders.

After the 2003 American-led invasion, Mr. Ahmed fled to Mosul, where Gen. David H. Petraeus, then a major general in charge of military operations in the north, praised him as a “man of honor and integrity” and asked him to surrender in a letter stating that by doing so, he could “avoid capture, imprisonment and loss of honor and dignity befitting a general officer.”

But because of his role in the Anfal campaign, both Shiite and Kurdish officials believed that if Mr. Ahmed’s life was spared, it could set a precedent by which others who committed crimes would also seek to be let off. Some also feared executing Mr. Ahmed would affect efforts to persuade Sunnis to reconcile with a government now dominated by Shiites.

Mr. Majid, a first cousin to Mr. Hussein, was captured on Aug. 17, 2003, five months after the invasion of Iraq. He was listed as the fifth most-wanted men and as King of Spades in the pack of cards of most wanted issued by the US military in 2003. He was a soldier in the Iraqi army until Mr. Hussein’s Baath party seized power in a bloody coup in 1968 when he was appointed an aide to the defense minister. When Mr. Hussein became president in 1979, he was promoted to head of the Iraqi Intelligence Service. In the late 1980s, he was appointed secretary general of the northern bureau of the Baath Party, where he demonstrated ruthlessness against Kurdish rebels.

Following the Iraqi invasion of Kuwait in August 1990, he was named military governor of the emirate. In 1991 he became interior minister and was charged with quelling the Shiite uprising that broke out that year against Mr. Hussein in the south. In 1995 he became defense minister but was dismissed shortly afterward when Mr. Hussein discovered he was involved in smuggling illegal grain to Iran. Three years later, he was brought back and appointed commander of southern Iraq, a position he kept until the invasion.

Source: New York Times

Bin Laden warns US of more attacks

Osama bin Laden has warned Barack Obama, the US president, that there will be further attacks on the United States unless he takes steps to resolve the Palestinian situation.

In an audio tape obtained by Al Jazeera on Sunday, the al-Qaeda chief, praised the Nigerian accused of a failed attempt to blow up an airliner heading for Detroit on Christmas Day. "The message I want to convey to you through the plane of the hero Umar Farouk Abdulmutallab, reaffirms a previous message that the heroes of 9/11 conveyed to you," Bin Laden said. "America will never dream of living in peace unless we live it in Palestine. It is unfair that you enjoy a safe life while our brothers in Gaza suffer greatly. "Therefore, with God's will, our attacks on you will continue as long as you continue to support Israel," bin Laden said. "If it was possible to carry our messages to you by words we wouldn't have carried them to you by planes."

The Obama administration said intelligence analysts had not confirmed that the al-Qaeda leader's voice was on the tape. But it quickly dismissed its significance. David Axelrod, a senior Obama adviser, told CNN's State of the Union programme that "assuming that it is him, his message contains the same hollow justifications for the mass slaughters of innocents that we've heard before". "And the irony is that he's killed more Muslims than people from any other religion - he's a murderer," Axelrod added.

Phil Rees, the author of Dining with Terrorists, told Al Jazeera: "Bin Laden has a great sense of timing; it's a complete poke in the eye to President Obama at a time when Obama is domestically suffering. "The reference to Palestine is possibly the most interesting part of this because he almost now becomes the al-Qaeda leader that speaks about Palestine."What you've now got in Gaza is bin Laden looking at the situation where there's a peace process which is going nowhere, and in an ironic way, Hamas is at the frontline of the battle with al-Qaeda there."

Azzam Tamimi, a political analyst and the author of Hamas the Unwritten Chapters, said that bin Laden was simply using the Palestinian issue in an attempt to mobilise Muslims against the US. "I would say that al-Qaeda has not been able to set foot in many places in the Muslim world despite its rhetoric," he told Al Jazeera. "In Palestine they failed miserably and that is why I understand this message as a return to the older strategy of waging war against America and the world order in the skies. "It is very difficult to compete with an organisation like Hamas in Palestine."

Osama Hamdan, a spokesman for the Hamas movement, told Al Jazeera that the Palestinians were focused on ending the Israeli occupation. "All Arabs and Muslims support our cause. [But] the Palestinian position is clear, the resistance is against the occupation, the Israeli army who is occupying and killing our people," he said. "Everyone knows that the policies of the US have created huge problems in the region. At this moment, we know who our enemy is - the Israeli occupation."Imtiaz Gul, the chairman of the Centre for Research and Security Studies in Islamabad, questioned whether the tape was genuine."I think the validity of this tape should be subjected to scrutiny because we haven't heard from Mr Bin Laden for quite some time."

In the attempted attack on Christmas Day, Abdulmutallab, who is now in US police custody, allegedly tried to ignite explosives sewn into his underwear as Northwest Airlines Flight 253 made its final descent to Detroit. He had boarded the flight in Amsterdam, but purchased his tickets in Ghana on December 16. Passengers on the flight were able to overpower the would-be bomber as he attempted to ignite the explosive's fuse. After being taken into custody, Abdulmutallab told police he had been directed by al-Qaeda and had obtained his explosive device in Yemen. Al-Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula, the organisation's affiliate in Yemen, has said it armed Abdulmutallab, describing the attempted attack as revenge for the US role in a Yemeni military offensive against al-Qaeda. Obama has criticised his own intelligence agencies for failing to piece together information about the suspect which should have stopped him boarding the flight.

Source: Al Jazeera

Shots Fired at Oslo Home of Kurdish Cleric

A man was injured when several shots were fired early Monday morning into the Oslo residence of Mullah Krekar, a Kurdish cleric who helped found the militant Islamist group Ansar al-Islam in Iraqi Kurdistan in 2001 while he enjoyed refugee status in Norway. Mr. Krekar, whose birth name is Najmuddin Faraj Ahmad, was at home with several other people when shots were fired through a window shortly before 2 a.m., according to an Oslo police spokeswoman, Unni Grondahl. Mullah Krekar’s son-in-law, who was not identified by name, was struck in the arm during the shooting but his injuries were not life-threatening, Ms. Grondahl said. Afterward, the injured man was taken away in an ambulance while Mullah Krekar and the others left in a police vehicle. The gun was apparently fired from a sheltered outdoor corridor providing access to the cleric’s fifth-floor family apartment in Oslo’s Toyen district. Soon after the bullets were fired, the police spokeswoman said, two men were seen running. A short time later, in a secluded parking lot nearby, the police discovered a burning car and began investigating whether it was connected with the shooting.

Mr. Krekar, 53, was granted refugee status here after the Gulf War of 1991 but traveled frequently to Kurdistan in the 1990s. After several armed groups joined forces to form Ansar al-Islam in December 2001, he emerged as its leader, calling for an independent, Islamic Kurdistan, according to court documents here. The United States accused the organization of being a link between Iraqi President Saddam Hussein and Al-Qaeda. That accusation, later partially discredited, was used to help justify the 2003 invasion of Iraq by American forces. Mr. Krekar’s militant activities abroad caused a furor here when they came to light in 2002. He has claimed that his leadership of Ansar al Islam ended later that year, but in 2007 Norway’s Supreme Court ruled that he remained a threat to Norwegian security as a result of continuing ties to the radical group or its offshoots.

Since 2003, the Norwegian authorities have sought to deport him but have been stymied by a lack of assurance from Iraq that he would not face the death penalty in connection with lethal bombings and other violent acts attributed to Ansar al-Islam. Under Norwegian law no one can be sent abroad to face capital punishment. Terror-related criminal charges in Norway were dropped in 2004 for lack of evidence, and he has lived freely in Oslo since then, although his activities have been monitored. His wife and four children obtained Norwegian citizenship in 2000.

Source: New York Times

Sunday, January 24, 2010

Former Somali PM to Face Charges

An official speaking for Somalia's Attorney General Office says a case against former Somali Prime Minister Ali Mohammed Gedi will be the first one, in series that face prominent persons, expected to be presented before the high court in the coming days.

Ali Yare says Gedi has committed crimes against the state in his premier tenure and its their responsibility to held him and others accountable. "We are going to present to the high court every crime committed against the state and our first case will be the former PM Prof. Ali Mohammed Gedi who committed crimes against the Somali public while in office," said the official.

This comes as the country's judiciary high commission holds its first meeting since the appointment of new Chief Justice Mohammed Omar Farah (Indho Buur) in the capital Mogadishu. The meeting was discussed on how best the high court will conduct its business." The judiciary high commission was formed outside the country and today's was to discuss how to start the court sessions," said Indo Buur, adding that the court will be independent and carry its operations based on justice.

Indho Buur, who was appointed to the office through an official gazette from the presidential Palace Villa Somalia last year, announced that the commission will conduct a weekly review on the court operations. The case against PM is expected to attract much attention after reports of disagreement between him and President Sharif Sheikh Ahmed emerged recently but was later settled through diplomatic ways.

Source: All Africa

Hijacker bail fraud outrage

The Justice Department has been urged to investigate how a dangerous crime suspect being held for hijacking three cars managed to slip out of jail using a fraudulent bail certificate. Police yesterday confirmed that a warrant of arrest has been issued for Innocent Phumlani Dlamini, 21, who, according to court records, was granted bail of R3 000 on December 22, 2009. However, Dlamini appeared in court on December 14, his case was adjourned for trial on January 22.

The Justice Department has been urged to investigate how a dangerous crime suspect being held for hijacking three cars managed to slip out of jail using a fraudulent bail certificate. One of his victims, says she has lost faith in the justice system."I was shocked. How could he have gotten bail when he had been remanded and was due to appear in court this week? My faith in the entire judicial system came crashing down after waiting almost a year to get a court date finalised."

A source has confirmed to the Sunday Tribune that the suspect appeared in U regional court on October 7 last year and again on December 14 when his trial was set down for January 20 to 22. He was remanded in custody at Westville Prison to stand trial on five counts of robbery with aggravating circumstances. However, according to the J7 form, which is the warrant of detention, the suspect was granted bail in U court on December 22. Warrants of detention are usually filled out by the court orderly, who is a police official. They are then signed by the magistrate. The source said the suspect should not have been called to court on December 22, and according to the charge sheet, he was not. The charge sheet does not reflect an appearance in any court on that day.

The source confirmed that the U court, where the suspect was allegedly granted bail, was closed for the day and the magistrate, Anand Maharaj, denies it is his signature on the form. Dianne Kohler Barnard, MP and DA shadow minister of police, said, "This country's criminal justice system is almost beyond repair. At the root of much of the problem is corruption shown, for example, by the continuous increase in missing police case dockets, the number of which has increased every year since 2003, and totals more than 2 500 since then. "By all accounts this man is a serial criminal, yet he played the system like a maestro. Good cops put their lives on the line apprehending suspected criminals like this, and for him to be out on the streets again is unconscionable. "Yet it's their colleagues and the officials they work with on a daily basis who have allowed him to stroll out."

Justice spokesman Tlali Tlali said officials would investigate to establish if this was "an isolated incident or a phenomenon". KwaZulu-Natal's state attorney Krish Govender said it would be wrong to assume that forged bail applications were a trend, but said the matter deserved urgent investigation. "This is the first time I am hearing of such a case in KZN. I'm sure the Department of Justice will pursue this matter with vigour."

Source: IoL

Saturday, January 23, 2010

Three SAPS staff appear for matric fraud

n the Nelspruit Magistrate's Court on Friday for allegedly being in possession of fraudulent matric certificates. Police spokesperson Captain Leonard Hlathi said the three were granted R1 000 bail each and the case was postponed to February 3.

Both Maurine Sibulelani (40) and Phetheni Annah Ngwenya (35) were allegedly caught with fraudulent matric certificates which they bought through a colleague, 41-year-old Nelly Zulu. Zulu, whose qualificaiton was authentic, was stationed at the Nelspruit police station. All three women have worked for the SA Police Service for about three years. "It is alleged that Zulu arranged fraudulent matric certificates for her two colleagues," said Hlathi.

Earlier this month, five other people who were also found with a pile of fraudulent certificates were arrested in Nelspruit and Barberton. They sold the papers for between R150 and R1 000. Among those arrested was Daniel Velaphi Gumede (35), who was allegedly the mastermind who sold certificates to the administrative personnel.

He was arrested along with 25-year-old Benedict Mavo Mhlabane, one of the suspects in the 2009 matric papers scandal in Mpumalanga, Gugu Morobane (31) and siblings Doris and Sifiso Nkosi. The group was granted R1 000 bail each, and were expected to appear in the Nelspruit Magistrate's Court on February 3. More arrests were imminent, Hlathi said.

Source: Mail & Guardian

Friday, January 22, 2010

British couple with Somali pirates fears death 'in days'

A British man held hostage by Somali pirates has said his captors have threatened to kill him or his wife “within four or five days” if they do not receive a ransom. Paul and Rachel Chandler disappeared while sailing from the Seychelles to Tanzania on October 23 near waters teeming with Somali pirates, who regularly seize ships for ransom.

Their yacht, the Lynn Rival, was later found abandoned, and Somali pirates confirmed they were holding the couple hostage. Speaking in a telephone interview with British TV channel ITN broadcast Thursday, Paul Chandler, 59, said he has been separated from his wife Rachel, 55, and that he believed time was running short. “I’m afraid that they will just kill us and abandon us in the desert here,” he said. There were rumours of a deal that would have freed the couple for as little as $100,000 at the tail end of 2009, but the British government allegedly blocked the move.

A spokeswoman for the Foreign Office told DPA on Friday that their policy was to not “make or facilitate concessions to hostage-takers”. The British government is, however, monitoring the situation and doing everything it can to secure the Chandlers’ release, the spokeswoman added. Pirates often say they will execute hostages in what is generally an empty threat. They rarely harm captives and fatalities usually occur during the initial pirate attempt to board the ship or rescue attempts by foreign naval forces. Piracy is rife off the Horn of Africa nation, which has not had a functioning central government since 1991.

Young men take to the seas in search of multimillion-dollar ransoms despite the presence of over a dozen international warships, which were dispatched to the Gulf of Aden in 2008 to combat a rise in piracy. The pirates have expanded their operations further out into the Indian Ocean to avoid the patrols and the International Maritime Bureau said last week that Somalis were largely responsible for a global increase in pirate attacks in 2009.

There were 406 attacks in 2009, compared to 293 the previous year, and over half of them were off the coast of Somalia, the IMB said. Somali pirates were believed to have scooped their biggest payday so far on Monday, when a Greek supertanker carrying millions of barrels of crude oil from Saudi Arabia to the United States was released. The ransom airdropped onto the ship was believed to be between 5.5 and 7 million dollars.

Source: The Hindu

Police praised for use of deadly force

National Police Commissioner Bheki Cele on Friday praised the work of KwaZulu-Natal police for shooting dead three armed robbers. "The fatal shooting of the men is a vivid signal that the days of criminals carrying out their evil deeds with impunity are over," said Cele. Early on Friday the police received information that four men were en route to commit a crime. Cele said that when a vehicle fitting the description of the suspects' car had been spotted, an order to stop had been issued. He said the occupants had emerged from the car and fired at the police, who had returned fire.

Three gunmen were killed and a fourth ran into a plantation."On this incident, police have with precision fought the thugs toe to toe. We silenced them and emerged the victors," he said. Cele said two of the dead men had been positively linked to the murders of six people in KwaMashu on Christmas day. The third suspect, who was fatally wounded, was linked to carjacking and armed robbery in Stanger and Mandini.

Source: IoL

Thursday, January 21, 2010

Abu Sayyaf operative reported killed in North Waziristan

A wanted member of the Philippines-based, al Qaeda-linked Abu Sayyaf Group is thought to have been killed in a US airstrike in Pakistan's Taliban-controlled tribal agency of North Waziristan last week. Abu Sayyaf operative and bomb-making expert Abdul Basit Usman is thought to have been killed in an airstrike on Jan. 14 in North Waziristan. Usman is believed to have died in the attack that targeted Taliban chieftain Hakeemullah Mehsud in the Pasalkot region in North Waziristan, an area close to the border with the neighboring tribal agency of South Waziristan. Ten Taliban and foreign fighters were reported killed in the attack, which hit a madrassa, or religious school, used by Taliban fighters from South Waziristan who dodged the Pakistani Army operation in South Waziristan.

Usman is wanted by the United States for his involvement in multiple bombings in the Philippines and also has links to Jemaah Islamiyah, al Qaeda's regional affiliate in Southeast Asia. "Because of his association with these US Government-designated international terrorist organizations, US authorities consider Basit to be a threat to US and Filipino citizens and interests," states the Rewards for Justice website. "He is believed to have orchestrated several bombings that have killed, injured, and maimed many innocent civilians."

The US has put a $1 million reward out for information leading to his capture and prosecution. It is unclear when Usman entered Pakistan. As of May 2009, the US believed Usman was hiding on the Philippine island of Mindanao. US intelligence officials contacted by The Long War Journal would not confirm Usman's death, but did say they were investigating the reports. Usman's death in North Waziristan, if confirmed, would further reinforce the reports that Pakistan's tribal areas are a nexus for al Qaeda-linked groups across the globe. "It isn't just al Qaeda operating in the tribal areas," a senior US intelligence official told The Long War Journal. "You have Pakistani groups like Lashkar-e-Taiba and Jaish-e-Mohammed. You have the Uzbek terror groups. You have HuJI (the Harkat-ul-Jihad-al-Islami, a terror group based in Pakistan and Bangladesh), Jemaah Islamiyah, Abu Sayyaf, you name it."

US Secretary of Defense Robert Gates has described this jihadist nexus in Pakistan as "a syndicate of terrorist operators" during his recent visit to India. US military and intelligence officials often privately refer to this alliance as AQAM (al Qaeda and allied movements, or al Qaeda and associated movements). US intelligence officials have spoken of AQAM's influence in Pakistan for years. "At times their [AQAM's] planning, allocation of resources, and operations are indistinguishable," a US intelligence official told The Long War Journal in October 2009. "Their goals are identical; they want to hit us here as well as carve out their caliphate there [in Pakistan and Afghanistan]."

Despite the growth of al Qaeda and its allies in Pakistan's tribal areas, the Pakistani military has stated it will not conduct further operations this year to root out the Taliban and al Qaeda safe havens. "We are not going to conduct any major new operations against the militants over the next 12 months," Major General Athar Abbas, the top spokesman for the Pakistani military told the BBC in an interview today. "The Pakistan army is overstretched and it is not in a position to open any new fronts," Abbas continued. "Obviously, we will continue our present operations in Waziristan and Swat."

Source: The Long War Journal

Mpisane contract stays under wraps

Attempts by The Mercury to uncover the truth about the affairs of high-flying La Lucia couple S'bu and Shawn Mpisane have been met with obfuscation and silence. Yesterday, we exposed shoddy workmanship in the building of low-cost housing in Umlazi, and possible irregularities in the payment of at least R219-million from the eThekwini municipality to their company, Zikhulise Cleaning, Maintenance and Transport. But attempts to establish how the contract was secured by the company in the first place have been stymied by a lack of communication by the provincial Human Settlements (housing) Department.

The contract - worth R300m in total, according to municipal manager Michael Sutcliffe - has been administered by eThekwini municipality and payments were made through eThekwini accounts.However, The Mercury has learned that the project was commissioned by and originated with the Human Settlements Department, which initially contracted a Section 21 entity, the Umlazi B10 Housing Company, to build 4 500 units. After the apparent failure of the company to deliver, the project was contracted to Zikhulise. Requests for clarity regarding the procedures followed in re-awarding the contract remain unanswered.

There is also confusion around the status of the project. Sutcliffe said it had been completed in mid-December, yet many houses were incomplete and others were falling down. According to Sutcliffe, payment was only made after "professionals" had certified the work done. Umlazi councillors and residents said Zikhulise had not resumed work in the new year, apparently because it had not received any payments since October. This was despite documentary proof in The Mercury's possession that about R50m was paid out in the last three months of 2009.

On Wednesday, Shawn Mpisane, registered owner of Zikhulise, promised to explain the situation to The Mercury. But contacted on Wednesday night, she said she was entering a three-day slimming programme and would thereafter discuss the matter. Earlier, Dominic Ntsele, a PR man, phoned, saying he wanted to establish The Mercury's motive for writing about the Mpisanes. Ntsele, one of the last people to spend time with mining boss Brett Kebble before he died in a hail of bullets, said he was acting on behalf of "concerned loved ones" of the Mpisanes. He refused to reveal who they were.

Since Monday, the provincial Human Settlements Ministry has promised to respond to questions relating to the Umlazi development. While officials were helpful, the division which should have provided information had still not done so at the time of going to print on Wednesday night. Sutcliffe also failed to return calls.

Source: IoL

R300m corruption in KZN social department

A forensic investigation commissioned by KwaZulu-Natal's social development department has revealed corruption involving about R300-million, provincial minister Meshack Hadebe said on Wednesday. "I don't want to discuss the content of the report now because there are processes that have to be followed. It is still confidential. I also don't want to discuss it because there are people's bank accounts that have to be frozen,” he told Sapa.

Radebe, who commissioned the investigation, said some senior officials in his department and people outside the department were likely to be arrested or face disciplinary measures. Radebe said he initiated the investigation after he received calls from people complaining about not receiving their grants. He also suspected funds earmarked for NGOs and community-based organisations were not handled properly.

Radebe had briefed Premier Dr Zweli Mkhize about the contents of the report.

Source: Mail & Guardian

Wednesday, January 20, 2010

Sanef slams threat against editor

The South African National Editors' Forum (Sanef) has pledged its full support for Mercury news editor Philani Makhanya, who has lodged a complaint of intimidation against Durban millionaire and former metro policeman S'bu Mpisane, following perceived threats he made relating to an investigation the newspaper is conducting.

Sanef said it was interesting that the politically connected, high-spending businessman was a friend of national police commissioner Bheki Cele. "As Angela Quintal, editor of The Mercury, says in her supporting affidavit, the newspaper, like all media, has a special duty to uphold the principle of freedom of expression and to eliminate dishonesty, news suppression and censorship."

After allegedly threatening Makhanya during a phone call, Mpisane referred to his relationship with Cele and said that "Bheki will defend me even if I go to jail". Cele told The Mercury he would not condone illegal activity, including from those he knew, if they had transgressed the law. He distanced himself from the threats Mpisane allegedly made. Police are investigating the complaint.

Sanef said it was also outraged at reports that journalists in Mpumalanga were on a hit list targeting corruption-busters in the province. "So far two provincial government officials said to have been on the list have been murdered. Samuel Mpatlanyane, Mpumalanga's sports and culture department head of communications, was shot dead by assassins during the night last week.

"Vusi Shongwe, the province's sports and culture MEC, has blamed the murder on the same people who killed Mbombela municipality speaker Jimmy Mohlala. Mohlala was similarly executed at home in front of his son last January." Mohlala was a witness in a disciplinary hearing concerning financial mismanagement related to the Mbombela Stadium, a World Cup venue.

Sanef said the murder and threatened murder of potential witnesses and journalists put a nasty twist on South Africa's struggle against corruption. "Sanef deplores the loss of life so far and urges anybody with information about the alleged hit list to inform the police without delay."

Source: IoL

Christian-Muslim Mayhem in Nigeria Kills Dozens

Armed with guns, machetes, torches, and bows and arrows, Christian and Muslim antagonists in central Nigeria’s religiously volatile city of Jos have been fighting for three days in sporadic clashes that have left dozens dead, witnesses and local news accounts said Tuesday. It was difficult to ascertain the precise toll in Jos, the scene of frequent religious violence over the past decade. Estimates ranged from 30 to 300 deaths, as the city was still consumed by mayhem Tuesday evening, with security forces descending on Jos in an attempt to contain it.

Gunshots could be heard throughout the city, and smoke from burning buildings was visible everywhere, witnesses said. “This morning there was smoke, and a lot of shooting by the military personnel,” said Shimaki Gad Peter, director of the League for Human Rights, which is based in Jos, in a telephone interview. The violence began Sunday when Muslim youths attacked a church, according to Mr. Peter, “and they were resisted by church members.” Subsequently, “innocent persons were macheted,” Mr. Peter said. “I saw youths holding bows and arrows, and machetes,” he said. While “the majority” of people killed Sunday appeared to be Christians, he said, there was now a “balance of terror” among the religious groups.

The Rev. Emmanuel Joel of the Pentecostal Fellowship of Nigeria said, “Personally, I have seen over 100 bodies.” He said he had seen the bodies in Red Cross trucks going to the morgue. Mr. Joel said Jos was “still boiling.” He was critical of the security forces’ efforts to contain the violence, saying, “While they are trying to contain it in one area, it is breaking out in another area.”

Government spokesmen could not be reached for comment. News reports said a curfew had been imposed on the city. “Nobody comes in, nobody goes out,” Mr. Joel said. “We are all scared of coming out, standing outside.” Several thousand people have been killed in religious rioting in Jos since 2001. The city is situated near the frontier between Nigeria’s mainly Muslim north and the mostly Christian south. “All we see is smoke coming out of burnt structures,” Mr. Joel said. “And gunshots, seriously.”

Source: New York Times

The mystery of Mpisane millions

Three weeks after receiving R30-million from the eThekwini municipality, high-flying Durban couple S'bu and Shawn Mpisane have halted the completion of RDP housing projects in Umlazi, apparently because they have no money to continue the work. The R30m paid in December was part of a series of electronic payments amounting to about R219 million, which the company received from eThekwini last year. The last payment of R4 785 720 was made on December 14, two weeks before their A-list, bling party on New Year's Eve. That's when the big-spending former metro officer and his politically connected wife dazzled friends at their luxurious La Lucia home.

Top-end whiskies and champagne flowed, while they splurged on special thrones and showed off their new Rolls-Royce. Guests included national police commissioner Bheki Cele. While Shawn Mpisane, daughter of the late ANC local councillor Dumazile Flora Mkhize, is the one who was granted the Umlazi housing contract, it is her husband, Wiseman Sibusiso (S'bu), who has been the focus of media attention. While working as a metro police constable, with a salary of less than R15 000 a month, Mpisane raised eyebrows by arriving at work in a Lamborghini and living in a R17 million mansion. This week, he made headlines of a different kind when The Mercury's news editor, Philani Makhanya, laid a complaint of intimidation against him. The alleged intimidation came after Mpisane became aware The Mercury was investigating his affairs.

On Monday, workers of Shawn Mpisane's Zikhulise Cleaning, Maintenance and Transport company, as well as those employed by sub-contractors, in Umlazi, were told to go home because the company allegedly had no money to continue their work. An estimated 1 300 people, many from Umlazi, and their families have been affected, according to Ward 79 councillor Sthenjwa Nyawose. Mpisane had told him her company had received no money from the municipality since October. Despite repeated attempts to interview Shawn Mpisane, she failed to return calls to The Mercury as promised. As a result of the job and housing uncertainty, Nyawose described the situation in the township as "volatile but calm". "We are very angry, the councillors of Umlazi are fuming," he said. "As we speak, the project is not going on because the contractor has not been paid. The problem is the municipality is not coming up with the money."

Contradicting this, however, documentary records in The Mercury's possession indicate that more than R50 million was paid by the municipality to Zikhulise in November and December. Municipal manager Michael Sutcliffe confirmed a total of "around R300 million" had been paid to Zikhulise over 18 months and said the project had been completed in mid-December. The project involved building low-cost cost RDP houses on 4 500 sites in Umlazi B10, KwaMgaga and Umlazi Infill.

The Mercury has documentary proof that a total of R219 930 939 was electronically transferred from eThekwini to Zikhulise in 2009. In December alone, four payments totalling about R30 million were made. Nyawose said thousands of houses were still under construction or to be built in Umlazi, contradicting Sutcliffe's statement that all work had been completed. Sutcliffe explained that some funding was usually paid in advance. "Contractors submit claims based on work done; the city's professional team verify that and if such work has been done, payments are then made," he said. Like Nyawose, Sutcliffe confirmed that the development was initially a provincial project which the municipality was asked to take over. "In August, 2006, eThekwini municipality resolved to take over the project and become the developer and further agreed that the professional team and contractors... be kept for the duration of the project."

But just months after construction, some of the houses were crumbling, The Mercury established during a field trip. The houses were not plastered or painted. Some had no toilets, taps, baths or showers. An eight-member family living in a leaking, three-roomed house said their biggest concern was how they would eat. Only two members of the family were employed, one by Zikhulise and the other by one of its sub-contractors. "Eish, school has started and we can't take the children to school because we have no money," said one woman. Another angry man said the houses were of a poor quality because workers were told to rush their work.

Source: IoL

Tuesday, January 19, 2010

Blue light assault in cop shop

A Cato Ridge woman became a victim of a blue light bully for the second time in two years on Monday. This time she was assaulted inside the Camperdown police station by a member of the traffic police Special Operations Task Team - and in front of police officers. She was left with scratches on her neck and a bruised arm.

The Special Operations Task Team falls under the Road Traffic Inspectorate (RTI). Jude Ward was driving on the N3 from Pietermaritzburg when a white unmarked Isuzu double cab with tinted windows came up behind her and flashed its lights, just before the Umlaas Road off-ramp. Ward said she thought the driver wanted to overtake, but she couldn't move to the slow lane as there was a tanker truck to her left. When she was clear of the tanker, she moved over to the slow lane, giving way to the motorist to pass. "Instead the man slowed down, opened the window and pointed his finger at me, screaming and shouting at me. "He indicated that I pull off the road, but as I could tell that he was angry, and because of my past experience with the blue light officers, I decided to get back on the fast lane and drove to the Camperdown police station," Ward said. In the parking area of the station, Ward said, the uniformed officer (whose name is known to The Witness) started shouting at her again. She ran into the charge office with the man following her and inside he held her by the arm and neck. "He twisted my arm and threw me on the floor. "I've got bruises from a man of law and order for reasons known to him alone. The officers on duty did nothing to stop him from assaulting me. "I managed to phone my husband PJ who arrived here, and the man became rude to him too," Ward said.

PJ, who was accompanied by farmers from Cato Ridge, confirmed that the officer was rude. When he asked what was happening, the officer allegedly told him to shut up and sit down or he would be thrown into the police cells. "I can't figure it out what triggered his behaviour, because I don't see my wife being a threat to such a huge man with big arms. "What's more troubling is that this took place inside a police station, with officers on duty doing absolutely nothing to help my wife from her attacker," PJ said.

A senior officer of the task team, accompanied by a colleague, was sent to the station after the matter was reported to it. A farmer who wished not to be named asked: "How can he assault someone at the police station and the police do nothing about it? "This is ridiculous and it seems like these senior offi¬cers don’t have control over their juniors on the streets," said the farmer

In September 2008, Ward was attacked on the N3 near Camperdown by the occupants of a VW Polo with blue lights. She was allegedly pushed out of the fast lane of the N3 southbound, and the two occupants forced her to pull over. It has been confirmed that the vehicle belongs to the KZN Transport Department.

Provincial police spokesperson Superintendent Vincent Mdunge said law enforcers are supposed to protect citizens and that they shouldn't be seen to be on the wrong side of the law. "When a law enforcement officer assaults a citizen, that officer is acting way out of his mandate. "If the victim has pressed charges against him, the case will be investigated. If the investigations reveal that there are police officers who did nothing to stop the assault, the department will charge them for neglect of duty," said Mdunge. Transport Department spokesperson Bheki Mncube referred the query to the head of the RTI, John Schnell, whose phone was off.

SourceL News 24

Guinea Junta Picks Opponent as Premier on Path to Civilian Control

Guinea’s military leaders appointed a veteran opposition figure as prime minister on Monday, a critical step in the transition to elections and civilian government later in the year, officials and news agencies reported.

The opposition figure, Jean-Marie Doré, was the choice of both a coalition of opponents of the military government, and the current military junta itself. Mr. Doré, in his 70s and the leader of the opposition coalition, which is called the Forces Vives, is from the same ethnic group as the country’s military dictator, Capt. Moussa Dadis Camara. Soldiers from that group are thought to have played a leading role in the massacre, beatings and rapes of regime opponents in a stadium in the capital, Conakry, on Sept. 28. The ethnic group, from Guinea’s remote forest regions, is considered a particularly volatile element in the country’s armed forces, and Mr. Doré’s new role is considered a potentially peacemaking one.

“It was the Forces Vives that proposed Jean-Marie Doré. We are satisfied,” said Oury Bah, vice president of the political party Union of Democratic Forces in Guinea. Late last week Guinea’s military leaders and the coalition agreed to establish an interim government together, while Captain Camara, wounded in an assassination attempt early in December, announced that he would go into exile.

The deal caps a period of deep unrest in this West African country of 10 million people, a leading bauxite exporter whose people are among the world’s poorest. Captain Camara took over in a coup 13 months ago and ruled in an increasingly arbitrary way from his army-base headquarters. The September massacre, in which at least 156 people were killed by soldiers, resulted in intense pressure on the junta as both the United Nations and the International Criminal Court spoke of potential crimes against humanity.

Captain Camara, shot by one of his own guards, flew to Morocco for treatment while power was assumed by his deputy, Gen. Sékouba Konaté. The general, regarded as more flexible than the wounded autocrat, took part in the negotiations that led to last week’s deal. But whether the troubled country finds peace in the months leading up to the elections is an open question. Mr. Bah, for one, was sharply critical of the proposed composition of the new government, which will have 10 ministers each from the military junta, the opposition and the different regions of the country.
That arrangement will effectively handcuff the prime minister, he said. “It’s as if the prime minister has no real power. We can’t accept this in the transition,” he said.

The army’s future role is also unclear. There is a strong possibility that it will remain “the power behind power,” said Mike McGovern, a Yale anthropologist and an expert on Guinea.
Mr. Doré has long been on the political scene in Guinea as an unpredictable opponent of the country’s military rulers. He has publicly proclaimed his friendship with the Liberian warlord Charles Taylor, according to Mr. McGovern, but was among those beaten at the stadium in September.

In an interview shortly after Mr. Doré produced the bloodstained clothes he was wearing at the time, he said, “With violence they forced me to my knees.” He was strongly critical of the military government. “The country is in a trap,” he said. “There’s a disjunction between the work that must be done, and the people doing it. The competencies at hand are not up to the job.”

Mr. McGovern said that Mr. Doré had “oscillated over time from being something of a gadfly in Guinean politics to being over the last year a pretty solid, level-headed spokesman for the Forces Vives.”

Source: New York Times