Daily Archives: March 24, 2014

South Africa: Messages Between Victim, Pistorius Read in Court

Photo: Werner Beukes/SAPA

Paralympic champion Oscar Pistorius in court (file photo).

Pretoria — A few weeks before Oscar Pistorius shot Reeva Steenkamp, she sent him a message saying she was scared of his temper, a witness testified on Monday as the paralympic athlete’s murder trial entered its fourth week.

Police cellphone analyst Captain Francois Moller read out transcripts of angry exchanges between the couple on WhatsApp, downloaded from her mobile phone.

In more than one the model complained that Pistorius was short-tempered and overly critical of her.

“You have picked on me excessively… I do everything to make you happy and you do everything to throw tantrums… ” began a message Steenkamp sent on January 27.

“I’m scared of you sometimes and how you snap at me and of how you will react to me. You make me happy ninety percent of the time and I think we are amazing together… but I am not some other bitch… trying to kill your vibe…

“I’m the girl who fell in love with you … but I’m also the girl who gets side-stepped when you are in a shit mood… I get snapped at and told my accent and voices are annoying.”

It was part of a lengthy text she sent him on January 27, expressing unhappiness with his behaviour at an engagement party for one of her friends.

She said Pistorius had criticised her for the way she spoke and for chewing gum, had snapped at her when she stroked his neck and forced her to leave early though she was having fun.

“…You fucked up a special day for me… I just want to love and be loved. Maybe we can’t do that for each other. Right now, I know you can’t be happy and I’m certainly very unhappy and sad,” she added.

In his response, the athlete apologised but complained that she had ignored him and spoken to another man.

As the private messages were read out in the High Court in Pretoria in Moller’s strong Afrikaans accent, Pistorius cried softly in the dock.

Moller said on February 8, Steenkamp again complained about tension between the couple that arose when they attended a public function.

“I can’t be attacked by outsiders for dating you, and attacked by you,” she concluded.

In an earlier message, sent on January 19, 2013, Pistorius wrote to Steenkamp: “When you got back from Tropica, you made it sound like you only smoked weed once.”

Steenkamp, a law graduate who became a glamour model, had been away filming a reality TV series called “Tropica Island of Treasure”.

Moller testified that he had retrieved nearly 2000 messages the couple exchanged while they were dating, and stressed that about 90 percent of these were simply “normal conversation” and many were “loving”.

He was due back on the stand on Tuesday for further questioning from State prosecutor Gerrie Nel, who contends that Pistorius shot Steenkamp after the couple had a row.

Pistorius has pleaded not guilty to premeditated murder and claimed that he mistakenly believed he was targeting an intruder when he fired four shots through a locked toilet door in his Pretoria townhouse, fatally wounding Steenkamp.

In his plea statement, he denied that they had argued.

Earlier on Monday, a neighbour whose house looks onto that of Pistorius in a plush Pretoria estate, testified that she and her husband had heard three shots, followed by a woman’s terrified screams around 3am on February 14 last year when Steenkamp was killed.

“Moments after the shots I heard a lady screaming… terrified, terrified screaming,” said Annette Stipp, whose husband later went to Pistorius’s home and found him crying next to a dying Steenkamp.

The couple also heard a man scream, Stipp said, and then another volley of three shots.

“I also heard a man screaming … After the second set of shots it just became quiet. There was no more screaming either male or female,” she said.

As the trial proceeds, it appears pivotal to the State’s case to prove that Steenkamp had time to scream as Pistorius fired shots into the locked toilet cubicle.

Nel has been leading detailed evidence suggesting that it is conceivable that he heard his girlfriend cry out but continued to shoot.

Last week the State called a ballistics expert who said tests showed that the first bullet hit Steenkamp in her hip, and the second missed. Two further shots found her slumped in a defensive position, and struck her in the arm and head.

In earlier testimony, the pathologist who performed the post mortem on Steenkamp, told the court that it would have been “unnatural” for her not to scream after a bullet shattered her hip.

Kenny Oldwadge, for Pistorius, tirelessly tried to fault Stipp on several counts in cross-examination.

He notably challenged her contention that the light was on in the toilet in Pistorius’s house, saying her husband had a different recollection and Pistorius had submitted that at the time of the shooting it was out of order.

Pistorius’s defence team are arguing that he sounds like a woman when he screams anxiously and that neighbours could only have heard his voice because Steenkamp was too severely injured to make a sound.

The trial is set to continue until May 16.

South Africa: Nurses to Lead Charge Against DR-TB

Photo: David Gough/IRIN

File photo.

In a country of more than 50 million people, it is hard to be a “first” but Ntombasekaya Mlandu is. She is the first nurse trained to initiate and manage multi-drug resistant tuberculosis (MDR-TB) patients.

The KwaZulu-Natal woman became the first South African nurse trained to initiate patients on MDR-TB treatment in 2012. Her training is part of government’s moves to take MDR-TB treatment out of scarce specialised hospitals and closer to patients.

MDR-TB is resistant to both of the most commonly used anti-TB drugs and only about half of MDR-TB patients survive, according to medical humanitarian organisation, Médecins Sans Frontières.

Doctors used to assume that MDR-TB only developed in patients who had been unable to adhere to regular TB treatment. Not so anymore, according to Dr Francesca Conradie, president of the HIV Clinicians Society and clinical advisor at Edenvale’s Sizwe Tropical Diseases Hospital outside Johannesburg.

“We always thought that you got MDR-TB because you weren’t adherent to TB treatment,” said Conradie speaking at a recent MSF briefing. “That is not true in South Africa in 2014.”

According to Conradie, about 60 percent of MDR-TB patients in Gauteng have never had TB before, which means they were infected with the drug-resistant strain. She says colleagues in other provinces report similar figures.

Monitoring and mobiles

About 60 percent of Gauteng MDR-TB patients have never had TB before, which means they were infected with the drug-resistant strain

Mlandu knew the frightening high mortality associated with MDR-TB before she underwent training through the US-based Johns Hopkins University, which is partnering with the Department of Health to train at least 180 nurses like Mlandu by 2016. Armed with guideline-laden smart phone tablets, these nurses will initiate, monitor and eventually prescribe MDR-TB treatment in clinics.

“I still had that fear of contracting MDR-TB, (which) to me was even more than the fear of contracting HIV,” she said during an interview shortly after completing the Johns Hopkins course. “I had the understanding that once you contracted MDR-TB, you wouldn’t survive.”

Although she had never worked with MDR-TB patients, her experience in nurse-initiated antiretroviral treatment, made her a prime candidate for the five-month training during which she learned about MDR-TB treatment and side-effects as well as how to refer tough cases – like diabetic MDR-TB patients – to a doctor for treatment.

Now, Mlandu says her patients have become like family.

“I tell them, ‘if you face any problem with MDR-TB treatment, please contact me because I am your sister … don’t rely to the next person to tell you other things that will confuse you,” said Mlandu, adding that she uses sms, What’s App and Blackberry Messenger to stay in touch with them. “I have to have my phone with me wherever I go because if they don’t find me they feel like I’ve deserted them.”

TB numbers just don’t add up

Do the maths of MDR-TB in South Africa and you can understand why nurses like Mlandu and moving care out of hospitals is so important.

In 2012, South Africa diagnosed about 14,000 MDR-TB cases but only half were ever treated. The country has enough hospital beds to accommodate less than half of those diagnosed.

Only 63 0f the country’s more than 4,000 health facilities are equipped to treat the disease, according to the Department of Health’s Dr Norbert Ndjeka, who heads the department’s division on HIV, TB and drug resistant TB.

“People travel hours to collect treatment and then when they fail to show up, we label them ‘defaulters’ – that’s stigmatising and not right,” he said. “That’s why it’s important to enable patients to get treatment closer to home – this will reduce transmission and make more beds available.”

“A hospital is hospital,” he added. “Nothing can beat your home even if it’s a five-star hotel.”

To deal with the shortage of beds and doctors, the Department of Health introduced a policy to decentralise treatment and move care closer to patients in August 2011. More than two years later however, progress is slow, Ndjeka admits.

Decentralisation without a dedicated budget

Decentralising MDR-TB care and treatment would mean providing, for instance, adherence counselling, psychological support and regular hearing screenings to monitor drug side effects at the primary healthcare level. While the National Department of Health is encouraging provinces to integrate services like these, they have not been allocated additional budget to do this.

Instead, the National Department of Health hopes that provinces will prioritise MDR-TB as they continue to strengthen primary health care, and integrate HIV and TB services.

Provinces are able to use part of their HIV conditional grants to decentralise treatment as people living with HIV make up the majority of TB patients in the country.

To improve access to drug resistant TB medications, the Department of Health also plans to fast-track Medicines Control Council (MCC) approval of the generic drug resistant treatment linezolid manufactured by Indian pharmaceutical Hetero Drugs, according to Ndjeka.

While the last TB tender included the drug, the only MCC-approved version of the drug – manufactured by Pfizer – would have cost government R676 per pill. Linezolid is available in India for about R25 per pill.

– Health-e News Service

Dludlu Geared Up to Take Banyana Banyana to Greater Heights [interview]

Former Banyana Banyana captain and defender Simphiwe Dludlu is determined to work hard to impress new national team coach Vera Pauw and win a place in the Senior Women National squad for the 2014 edition of the African Women’s Championship in October.

The experienced Pretoria-based defender who has 49 caps to her name was among the 43 players called up for the five-day selection and training camp that took place at the High Performance Centre in Pretoria from Wednesday 19 March.

SAFA Communications sat down with the former captain of the Sasol-sponsored Senior Women’s National team to get her views on how it is to be back in the national team fold after a three year absence.

After almost a three-year absence from the national team, how does it feel to be back with the regular Banyana Banyana players and several new faces?

The excitement is escalating by the day as I came in by default. It feels good to be back. At present I am not too sure where this journey will lead but it feels good to don the national colours once again even if it is on a trial basis.

We know that you have attained several coaching qualifications and you may be here with some of the girls that you have been working with at the High Performance Centre. How has that experience been for you in mentoring some of the new players?

Well for me getting my UEFA Coaching Licence and working with a Dutch coach is like continuity for me in the learning sphere. Having the knowledge as a coach has given me a different perspective on the field as I now look at it with an extra eye compared to when I was still just a player. For those aspiring to be in the team for the first time, it is no different for me as things have changed. The girls have achieved so much in the space of the three years that I have been away and I’m sure they’ve moved forward in the radar, I am just as excited as the new players in the team.

This is a big year for the Banyana Banyana, looking at the African Women’s Championship qualifiers and an opportunity to qualify for the FIFA Women’s World Cup that will be staged in Canada next year. What are your hopes as well as those of the national team going forward?

I think what is important for me right now is to take it one step at a time. I came in as one of the young coaches and it has turned around as the coach would love for me to be part of the squad. So now means I will have to train harder because it has been three years since I last played competitive football. This means also working on strengthening my fitness and everything else I think will fall into place.

Looking at how far the team has come and what they have achieved over the years, your past experience would surely be valued as the team aims for the number one spot on the continent.

Definitely. For us to compete in the world we need to conquer at home first. That is our mission as a team going forward to compete against the rest of the countries in Africa and claim title glory. I think it will also help us in a big way to be able to compete on the international stage.

Under the leadership of a new coach in the nation squad, how has that been as compared to when you were here three years ago?

I am excited to be here under the leadership of the new coach with different goals set in taking this national team to greater heights. As she said she is going to pick players that are willing work and take it to the next level and be able to compete with the rest of the world. It is almost like I’m starting at the beginning, waiting to be awarded my first cap. Football is changing day-by-day and I need to step up and get into that zone. I think with my experience and what the coach has observed over the past few days and what she will see in future, I would love to share my experience and contribute positively towards the national team’s growth.

So where to from here once the selection camp concludes?

I will return to my coaching job but this means balancing between coaching and getting back on the field. I’ve got a plan in place and even if I do not make it back into the team I think the coach has seen the potential in me as a coach and a player so whatever comes next I’m ready to take it head on.

Source : South African Football Association

EFF Statement On the Public Protector Report On Nkandla Corruption! [press release]

The Economic Freedom Fighters (EFF) notes the Report of the Public Protector on the Security Upgrades that were done on the private residence of President of South Africa, Mr. Jacob Zuma.

Concretely, the EFF fully agrees with the principle cited by the Public Protector that “Our government is the potent, the omnipresent teacher. For good or for I’ll, it teaches people by example… If the government becomes a law breaker, it breeds contempt for law it invites every man [person] to become law unto himself.”

The EFF agrees with this principle because more than anything, the Public Protector’s report reveals a government which consciously and knowingly spent money for the undue benefit of Mr. Zuma and later concocted a report to justify and lie on why such money was spent. What the Public Protector report reveals is a government that is systemically corrupt and can do everything to justify wrongfulness and criminality committed by its President.

The EFF is aware that the investigation by the Public Protector was not a criminal investigation, yet believes that there are many aspects in the report that necessitate criminal investigations against Mr. Zuma, his Architect, the Minister of Police and all officials who unlawfully awarded the tenders for the construction of the private residence of Mr. Zuma.

The Public Protector highlights the fact that Mr. Zuma was aware of the designs of his residence, and that as a President who should be a custodian and guardian of responsible expenditure of national resources, should have cautioned against expenses that do not relate to security and excessive. It is very apparent that Mr. Zuma knowingly left government spend millions of Rands in the construction of aspects that were not supposed to be constructed and knowingly partook in the design process which ballooned the security upgrades from R27 million to R146 million.

The EFF notes that the Public Protector does not accept the deviation reasons given by the Department of Public Works on why the private Architect of Mr. Jacob Zuma was appointed to be a Project Leader, an occurrence that violated government regulations and law of expenses above R500 0000. In this regard, the EFF believes that there was criminality in deciding the whole contract and those responsible should be held accountable.

The EFF believes that Mr. Zuma is responsible for the illegal appointment of his private Architect as the chief agent of the Nkandla project. The EFF believes that Mr. Zuma knew of each and every expense on the Nkandla project and partook in ballooning the costs because he was part of the design process. The private architect constantly briefed him of the designs, and Mr. Zuma did not caution against expenses that violate the legal and permissible aspects of the project.

In this regard, Mr. Zuma is party to violation of laws because he could have imposed his private architect into an illegally awarded Tender. Mr. Zuma is party to violation of laws because he was part of the designs that ballooned the costs of the Nkandla project. Mr. Zuma is party to violation of laws because even when it was brought to his attention that the costs of the project are too high and possibly unwarranted, he went ahead and approved the construction of non-security aspects of his private residence.

Because it was not a criminal investigation, the Public Protector’s report cannot give conclusive judgment on the illegal and unlawful role of Mr. Zuma, his private Architect, and Minister of Police. The EFF believes that a thorough criminal investigation will reveal that the private Architect Mr. Makhanya and Police Minister Mr. Nathi Mthethwa acted unlawfully because they were under instruction from Mr. Zuma. Mr. Zuma is also a recipient of an illegally awarded Tender, therefore making him a subject of criminal prosecution, like it has happened before. The illegal developments that happened in Nkandla happened in full view and knowledge of Mr. Zuma. It is only a criminal investigation and free and fair process that can reveal and confirm the criminality on the part of the Architect, Police Minister and Mr. Zuma.

It is on this basis that the EFF opens a criminal case against Mr. Zuma, Mr. Makhanya and Mr. Nathi Mthethwa. These three individuals should be subjected to a thorough criminal investigation and prosecution which will reveal that these people should be held accountable. The Public Protector has already highlighted that many aspects which transpired were unlawful, and in South African law, people who partake in unlawful activities or are known beneficiaries of unlawful activities are held criminally liable. It is therefore on this basis that Mr. Zuma, Mr. Makhanya and Mr. Mthethwa should be held accountable.

Failure of South Africa’s criminal justice system to hold these people accountable will lead to what the principle statement we agree with here cautions against, “if government becomes a law breaker, it breeds contempt for the law, it invites every man [person] to become law, unto themselves… “.

The EFF also highlights the reality that the people of South Africa now know that under Mr. Zuma, government has been reduced into systemic corruption and Web of lies reflected in the many lies and distortions performed by the Thulas Nxesi circus of Security Cluster Ministers who lied to South Africa about Nkandla.

The EFF does not agree that Mr. Zuma’s lies to Parliament that government did not construct his private residence was ‘bona fide’. As a President, Mr. Zuma was given opportunity by Parliament to prepare for his response and due to his role in the designs of the residence, he surely knew that he was not paying for the so many non-security aspects of his private residence.

With the police case opened, the EFF expects the police to swiftly act on those who should be held accountable. The Public Protector’s report is evidence enough to lay criminal charges against Mr. Zuma, Mr. Makhanya, and Mr. Mthethwa. If the police and prosecutions authority ignore the police case, the EFF will explore possibilities of private prosecution because we carry an obligation to protect the rule of law.

Source : Economic Freedom Fighters

Oscar Pistorius – Fallen Hero?

When you read the heading of this story you might think I am going to discuss Oscar’s trial, what I think the verdict will be or if I think he’s guilty or not. I do not wan to raise your hopes high, so I am telling you now already, I am not going to. So, sorry that I disappoint you, I don’t even watch the trial, it makes me feel uneasy.

Anyway with that aside, sometime early last year I was sitting with my mom when the news broke that Oscar Pistorius shot his girlfriend Reeva Steenkamp. My mother was so disappointed and hurt that she started crying. She explained to me that she is not crying because of her, but for all the small boys that are in the same situation that he is in (amputees), and look up to him.She then told me a story she read about a boy who got his legs amputated when he was a toddler, but his life changed when he saw Oscar racing at the Paralympics. From that day on, this boy decided he will not let the fact that he has no legs stop him from achieving his dreams or doing what he loves.

He started training and won medals for his school and his determination to follow his dreams has not stopped.So my question is what effect does Oscar killing Reeva have on this boy and any other boy who thought of him as a hero? I don’t have the answer to that question, but I guess it will depend on the individual. And besides, not only small boys who are amputees thought of Oscar as a hero, he was also a hero to many people with or without disabilities.So what do the parents of that little boy say to him when he starts taking down the posters of Oscar that he has hung on his wall in his room?

“Eish” I like putting myself in a corner and asking questions I can’t answer. But one thing is for certain, that boy should never lose his determination and drive to succeed. Plus he or any other person must remember humans are not perfect, we hear that almost every day. So why do we get shocked if we find out that someone who is seemingly prefect goes and does something stupid?

We should get it into our skulls, “No One is Perfect,” some people just hide it better.So just start being your own hero. I am not saying do not look up to people, there are people who are good examples of how to live life, but just learn from them. You may have similar situations but at the end of the day you are a totally different person. Because at the end of the day it is your own determination and drive that will make you achieve your goals.It is obvious that people do admire someone who has made the best of the horrible cards that life has given himher, but you must work out how you are going to handle your own horrible card by yourself. So be your own hero and admire the struggles through which you have risen and conquered your circumstances to get to where you are today.

Source : Namibia Economist