Daily Archives: January 15, 2018


GENEVA, What is believed to be the largest-ever outbreak of the bacterial disease Listeriosis � or Listeria � has left more than 60 people dead across South Africa, with nearly 750 confirmed cases, the United Nation’s health agency said.

Listeriosis is a serious, but preventable and treatable disease caused by the bacterium, Listeria monocytogenes, which is found in soil, water, vegetation and some animal faeces. Animal products, including meat and dairy; seafood; and fresh produce, such as fruits and vegetables, can all be contaminated.

Infants are often a high target of this bacteria, said Christian Lindmeier, spokesperson for the World Health Organization (WHO), adding that newborns are about 40 per cent of the infected people.

Having a three-week incubation period makes it difficult to establish the source and thus, tough to prevent.

You wouldn’t know what you ate three weeks ago � maybe the one particular food that made you sick three or four weeks later � this is the big challenge we face in this situation, the spokesperson elaborated.

South Africans are called upon to practice WHO’s ‘Five Keys to Safer Food’ programme that include washing hands before and often during food preparation; separating raw meat, poultry and seafood from other foods; and cooking foods thoroughly, especially meat, poultry, eggs and seafood.

Lindmeier underscored the importance for those with weakened immune systems � including the elderly and people living with HIV and cancer � and pregnant women, who are 20 times more likely to get Listeriosis than other healthy adults, to exercise care.

Nearly two-thirds of the reported cases have been from the Gauteng province, where Johannesburg and Pretoria are located.

We have a total now of 748 laboratory-confirmed cases, but then again, this is difficult because many cases may not be even reported, he said, adding that cases have been found in all socio-economic backgrounds since the outbreak was declared on Dec 5, 2017.

The second largest outbreak of Listeriosis was in 2011, when the United States had a total of 147 reported cases. Prior to that, Italy had a large occurrence in 1997.

South Africa has implemented some measures to stem Listeriosis, such as making it a notifiable disease, whereby every Listeriosis-diagnosed patient must be reported.

And that’s important because Listeriosis is such a big challenge because it is not just the health sector that is involved, it involves all sectors � the food industry, farming � and to find the source is really difficult simply because the incubation period is so long, Lindmeier asserted.



PRETORIA, The new leader of South Africa’s ruling African National Congress (ANC) party, Cyril Ramaphosa, has said the question of whether President Jacob Zuma should step down would be addressed as time goes on.

There has been widespread speculation that Ramaphosa and his allies are lobbying ANC members to oust Zuma as head of state in the coming weeks, but he made no mention of Zuma’s future in a closely watched speech on Saturday.

Ramaphosa won the race to succeed Zuma as ANC leader last month, narrowly defeating former cabinet minister Nkosazana Dlamini-Zuma, Zuma’s ex-wife, in a bitter leadership contest that had threatened to split the 106-year-old ANC.

In the interview to South Africa’s eNCA television station, Ramaphosa said the issue of whether the ANC would push for Zuma to step down as president will be dealt with, you know, as time goes on.

In a statement issued in response to the interview, South Africa’s presidency said Zuma and Ramaphosa had agreed to hold regular meetings to ensure synergy between the governing party and government.

Ramaphosa said Zuma was a deployee of the ANC and that the ANC dictates to all of us. He added that he knew South African people were impatient for change but that we should not humiliate President Zuma.

Zuma, who orchestrated the removal of former president Thabo Mbeki in 2008 after succeeding Mbeki as ANC leader, no longer holds a top ANC post.

Zuma’s presidency, tainted by corruption accusations which he denies, has tarnished the image of Africa’s oldest liberation movement and seen the economy slow to a near-standstill.

Markets have rallied since Ramaphosa’s election as ANC leader in December, as investors have warmed to his promises to root out corruption and kick-start economic growth.

Any sign that Zuma could step down before his second presidential term ends in 2019 has tended to lift South African assets, including the rand currency.

Ramaphosa faces a difficult balancing act as he struggles to unite a party which has been beset by bitter infighting for the past year. A faction within the ANC opposed his bid for party leader and is more closely aligned with Zuma.


Report: Al-Shabab Conscripting Children Young as 8

WASHINGTON , A new report says Somalia’s al-Shabab militants are forcing rural communities to hand over children as young as 8 years old for indoctrination and military training.

Human Rights Watch says al-Shabab conscripts the children by subjecting elders and religious school teachers to beatings, abductions and intimidation tactics. The group’s campaign has focused on the Bay region in southwestern Somalia, where communities were already ravaged by droughts and years of conflict, according to the report from the international rights group.

The campaign was first reported by VOA’s Somali service in September.

“These are communities which have already been hit by drought, very poor, struggling to survive,” said Laetitia Bader, a senior Africa researcher at Human Rights Watch who interviewed families affected by the campaign, which began in late September 2017.

Bader says in some incidents, al-Shabab militants have taken children directly from school classrooms. In others, the group took local elders hostage and refused to release them until a village agreed to hand over a certain number of kids.

In one incident, al-Shabab fighters beat a teacher after he refused to hand over his students. One teacher said that when he was hit by the militants, students started crying and tried to run out of the classroom but the militants were on hand to punish them. “They caned a 7-year-old boy who tried to escape,” the teacher told HRW.

HRW says hundreds of children have been affected. In one village alone, al-Shabab abducted at least 50 boys and girls from two schools near Burhakaba town and took them to Bulo Fulay where the militant group runs schools and a major training facility.

Back in September, Bay region Governor Ali Wardhere Doyow said clans and elders should resist al-Shabab. “Reject, don’t let them take away your children. Fight it off,” he said. But al-Shabab dominates the Bay region, leaving government officials with little means to stop the conscription.

The campaign has prompted hundreds of children to flee areas controlled by Al-Shabab. “A community’s only option to protect their children from recruitment was to send them into government controlled towns, often on their own, just to see if they can get a bit more protection in those towns,” Bader says.

This is hardly the first time al-Shabab has been accused of recruiting children. “We have seen in the past very young children sent to the front line, some children as young as 9 years old, very much being used as a cannon fodder …right at front lines during the fighting in Mogadishu 2010 and 2011 and more recently the large scale offensive in Puntland in 2016,” Bader said.

Al-Shabab’s longer term plan, Bader says, is to train at least some of them as fighters.

“What appears to be part of this campaign is to get these children to go to al-Shabab-managed, controlled madrassas, to put them through their educational system,” she said, adding, “In some cases there is a link children growing in these schools and then being sent to military training. Research also showed children received a mixture of indoctrination and basic military training.”

Source: Voice of America

At Port in Northern France, Brexit Occupies Minds and Looms Over Planning

CALAIS, FRANCE, With construction under way, Jean-Marc Puissesseau may have to rework an 800-million-euro- ($1-billion-) project to double the capacity of Calais’ port because of Britain’s exit from the European Union.

The fortunes of France’s busiest passenger port just 20 miles (33 km) across the water from Britain hinge on the U.K.’s future trade ties with the EU, an issue that must be negotiated between now and March next year.

Given Britain has said it will leave the EU’s single market and customs union, with profound implications for customs-free cross-Channel trade as well as Britain’s economy, Puissesseau worries his plans may be overly optimistic.

“The economic model for this new port is based on an increase in traffic,” said the general manager of the port. “It’s a strategic investment for the future of the town.”

His blueprint is based on annual revenue growth of 2 percent. But that prospect looks remote if Britain goes for what’s been dubbed “hard” Brexit and leaves the single market and customs union completely, which would likely reduce the amount of trade through Calais in the short term.

In such a scenario, he would have to substantially modify plans, not least because the port lacks the infrastructure to accommodate customs checks for the 2 million trucks it handles each year.

“If we get a hard Brexit, the whole plan will be at risk because we won’t be able to finance the investment,” he said, also expressing concern about the wider impact on the Hauts-de-France region around Calais.

Already one of France’s poorest areas, the fear is that post-Brexit tariffs and a return to a customs border will slow transit times, pushing up the cost of goods and squeezing margins. It could mean traffic being diverted elsewhere.

With unemployment well above the national average of 9.5 percent, officials fret Hauts-de-France will be left further behind. The far-right National Front party has made inroads.

“One has to understand that just two additional minutes for [customs] checks means kilometers of tailbacks,” said Philippe Hourdain, head of the Hauts-de-France Chamber of Commerce. “For us, everything depends on whether we get a hard or soft Brexit.”

Closer to London than Paris

President Emmanuel Macron will hold talks with Britain’s Theresa May in southern England on Thursday, discussing Brexit and the Le Touquet accord, a 2003 agreement that effectively allowed Britain to establish a border in France.

Macron wants Britain to pay a greater share of the financial burden France says it has incurred from dealing with migrants at the frontier and handling more asylum demands.

If Britain and France fail to strike a new deal, the nuclear option for France would be to return to border posts on either side of the Channel, one government source said.

That would further weigh on Hauts-de-France, which in many respects sees its future tied more closely to London than French cities. It’s capital, Lille, is 80 minutes from London by train.

“What’s key for us is that Brexit doesn’t make Britain poorer,” said Jean-Paul Mulot, a London-based adviser to Hauts-de-France leader Xavier Bertrand. “Our position is to do all we can to reinforce the cooperation and investments between the two sides of the Channel.”

On a recent dull, foggy morning in Calais, trade in high street stores was slow. Arcade machines chimed in an empty casino hall and locals nursed early glasses of beer.

No French town has borne the brunt of the European migration crisis more than Calais. In 2016, former president Francois Hollande sent bulldozers to clear a sprawling migrant camp near the port dubbed “The Jungle,” a symbol of the EU’s failure to tackle the influx of refugees and economic migrants from Africa and the Middle East.

Now it is Brexit at the front of people’s minds, even if there are some positive signs for the region, too, with Britain’s Liberty House upping its investment in nearby Dunkirk.

“Everyone talks about Brexit, but no one really knows how it’s going to work out,” said Patrick Genier, a 55-year-old electrical engineer. “What we need is for business to flourish. The Jungle is no more, but no one wants Calais to suffer another suckerpunch from Brexit.”

Source: Voice of America

Deputy Minister Buti Manamela visits registration centre at Peter Mokaba Stadium,15 Jan

Deputy Minister for Higher Education and Training, Buti Manamela will visit the registration centre set up by Capricorn TVET College at Peter Mokaba Stadium today, 15 January 2018.

Deputy Minister will also visit the University of Limpopo and Tshwane University of Technology in Polokwane, Limpopo.

Source: Government of South Africa