Monthly Archives: December 2018

Zimbabwe’s Government Increases Traffic Fines to Raise Revenue

HARARE, ZIMBABWE Motorists in Zimbabwe are ringing in the new year by toasting � or cursing � increased traffic fines which are expected to raise needed revenue by the cash-strapped government and reduce car accidents.

Come Jan. 1, if motorists break a traffic law, they will pay as much as $700 for offenses such as speeding, drinking and driving, overloading their vehicle, or driving without a license. The previous maximum penalty was just $30.

President Emmerson Mnangagwa’s government says the move, besides raising revenue, will reduce fatalities on the roads. But Stanford Chigwedere, a public transport driver, says he is against the idea because casualties on Zimbabwe’s roads are not caused by bad driving alone.

“Roads in Zimbabwe are now useless. They want to fine us; we pay tax but they are doing nothing,” Chigwedere said. “Now they are increasing fines to as much as $700, where will that money go to? All roads are full of potholes. We are giving them lots of money. We are not causing deaths or accidents on the roads; it is the police chasing motorists that cause accidents because we will be on these bad roads.”

Critics say the move is a desperate measure to squeeze money from an already overburdened citizenry.

Clever Mundau says he is for the new traffic fines being introduced by the government.

“I think the responsible authority have views, maybe they want the roads to be OK.” Mundau said. “So they are going to make sure that the roads are OK. So let’s just give them time.”

According to the Traffic Safety Council of Zimbabwe, major causes of road accidents include speeding and lack of discipline. Obio Chinyere, the head of the government agency, says fines by themselves will not work.

“It is not only the fines when you look at the road safety, there are other instruments we can actually use, yes, the fines, but you also have to bring in education, road worthy vehicles,” Chinyere said. “We are saying; yes you can make an error as you drive, if you move out of the road, it shouldn’t be a death sentence, the road should be able to forgive you. Once you leave that road, you are gone.”

Narrow roads have also been an issue, causing some motorists to swerve and get into accidents.

The government says it is embarking on a program to create four-lane roads as the current infrastructure has become dangerous after years of neglect.

Source: Voice of America

Sudanese Police Fire Tear Gas at Protesters

Police in Sudan’s capital fired tear gas Monday at demonstrators who had planned to march to the presidential palace to call for a change in President Omar al-Bashir’s government.

Witnesses say demonstrators gathered in groups in downtown Khartoum, but were quickly confronted by security forces and unable to march to the palace of President Omar al-Bashir. Some in the crowd chanted, “The people want the fall of the regime,” the slogan used in the 2011 Arab Spring.

Witnesses say demonstrators gathered in downtown Khartoum but were quickly confronted by security forces and were unable to march to the palace. Some in the crowd chanted, “The people want the fall of the regime,” the main slogan used in the 2011 Arab Spring protests.

Most shops in the area were closed ahead of the planned march, which was organized by professional groups, including lawyers, doctors and teachers.

Witnesses say police arrested dozens of people.

The anti-government demonstrations are in their second week, having begun as a protest against a sharp increase in the price of bread, a staple food in the country. The demonstrations have been forcibly dispersed by Sudanese security forces.

Sudan’s government said 19 people have been killed, including two security personnel, since the protests broke out the northeastern city of Atbara on Dec. 19.

Human rights group Amnesty International said 37 people have been killed in the protests.

Sudan’s government said more than 200 protesters and nearly 190 members of the security forces have been wounded.

Authorities have closed schools and declared curfews and states of emergency in several regions since the protests began.

Protesters have repeatedly targeted and burned the offices of Bashir’s party and called for an end to his 29-year rule. Bashir came to power in a 1989 military coup.

Bashir spoke on national television Monday to commemorate the country’s Independence Day on Jan. 1. He acknowledged the economic troubles the country is facing, but did not explicitly mention the protests.

“Our country is going through difficult economic circumstances we are confident that we are close to overcoming this difficult and temporary period,” he said.

Prices for food in Sudan have climbed sharply in recent months, with inflation topping 60 percent. This comes after the government cut subsidies earlier in 2018.

Sudan’s economy deteriorated after South Sudan became independent, depriving Khartoum of much of its oil revenue. Sudan is facing a foreign exchange crisis and soaring inflation, despite the United States lifting a trade embargo in October 2017.

Source: Voice of America

Chaos, Anger, Confusion Mar DR Congo’s Long Awaited National Poll

JOHANNESBURG Officials in the Democratic Republic of Congo counted millions of votes Monday, the day after an election marred by massive irregularities, including alleged errors in the voter roll, technical problems and delayed or missing polling materials.

The poll drew immediate criticism for its lack of organization, allegations of vote-rigging and malfunctioning equipment. While both presidential frontrunners said they were confident of victory, critics said this messy situation was part of the plan all along to keep the ruling coalition firmly in control. President Joseph Kabila has remained in power more than two years past the end of his second term mandate.

Observers from the Catholic Church observation mission said the poll had been relatively calm; but, the mood in the capital was tense, and local media reported that internet access had suddenly been cut for an untold number of residents.

Sunday’s vote was originally supposed to take place in 2016 but postponed numerous times due to what officials termed organizational problems.

The most recent delay came when a fire at a Kinshasa election depot destroyed thousands of voting machines. Then, in three districts considered opposition strongholds, the government postponed the election yet again, effectively taking a million people out of the voting process.

In the rainy capital, Kinshasa, some voters said they waited more than five hours Sunday to cast ballots.

“I came to sanction Mr. Kabila, I want to vote for change, but unfortunately, there is no voting, there are no machines, there’s nothing,” said a young voter, who said his name was Bolungu. “Some people could not even find their names on the list.”

Church officials, who are well respected in Congo because of the Church’s large role in propping up the nation’s failed infrastructure, said they, too, had seen irregularities.

Nonetheless, opposition presidential candidate Martin Fayulu was expected to beat Kabila’s candidate, Emmanuel Ramazani Shadary, according to a recent opinion poll.

Fayulu voted Sunday in Kinshasa and said he was confident of victory.

“Can you in all good faith, with what you have seen today, someone serious, can say that Shadary won the election or the presidential election?” he said. “If he wants to dream, let him dream.”

Shadary said the same, telling local media he, too, was sure he had won.

Kabila’s critics, among them Fayulu, say the chaos was intentional.

Analyst Claude Kabemba, director of the Johannesburg-based Southern Africa Resource Watch, says few analysts think the vote was fair.

The way these elections were organized and the way they happened, it seems to be that it was a planned chaos, and that does not augur well for him (Kabila) as he leaves power,” he told VOA in Johannesburg. “And I think he’s going to look back and see the mess he has left behind, and I think he will live with that for many, many years to come.

Congo’s electoral commission is not expected to announce results for several days. The presidential inauguration is scheduled for January 18 — if a winner is determined by then.

Source: Voice of America

New Year message by President Cyril Ramaphosa

As we celebrate the dawn of a new year, we look back on 2018 as a year that marked a new beginning in our shared effort to build a better South Africa.

It was a year in which our nation drew closer together as we celebrated the centenary of the birth of our founding President Nelson Rolihahla Mandela and the stalwart of our struggle Mama Albertina Sisulu.

The centenary reminded us and the global community of the great accomplishments of this country at the southern tip of Africa.

As we celebrated these remarkable champions of freedom, we reaffirmed our commitment to the values they embodied and the principles for which they fought � equality, dignity, integrity.

During the course of 2018, we bade farewell to several eminent South Africans who had served their people with distinction, and who had dedicated their talents, their energies and their lives to building a better South Africa and a better world.

We shall miss them and continue to honour them.

This has been a year of renewal.

It has been a year in which we worked together to restore confidence in our public institutions, and to confront the devastating effects of state capture and corruption, both in government and business.

This has been a year in which we have focused on the one thing our country needs most: jobs, jobs and more jobs.

We convened a Jobs Summit to develop new pathways into work for millions of South Africans.

As social partners, we agreed on several far-reaching initiatives to grow the economy, create many more jobs and provide young people with the skills and experience they need to thrive in the workplaces of today and tomorrow.

We have embarked on a massive investment drive to place our economy on a new path of inclusive growth.

We are encouraged by the many investors, both in South Africa and internationally, who have shown keen interest in investing in our economy.

As the new year begins, millions of South African workers will benefit from the introduction of the country’s first national minimum wage.

This is the result of many decades of tireless struggle and is a powerful demonstration of the shared resolve of all social partners to tackle poverty and inequality.

The introduction of the national minimum wage, like many of the achievements of the past year, proves our ability as South Africans to work together to solve difficult challenges.

We will be called upon to work with even greater focus and determination in the new year to confront our problems and create new opportunities for all South Africans.

We will need a huge national effort to build on the progress made this year in restoring our country to a path of growth and progress.

We will need to take extraordinary measures and work together to take some difficult decisions, given the challenges that lie ahead.

As we work to build a strong and resilient economy, we must also confront severe social ills such as gender based violence.

This is a national emergency, which requires a firm, coordinated response in which all South Africans have a role to play.

We will never be a free, peaceful and prosperous society for as long as women are subjected to violence and abuse and discrimination.

Fellow South Africans,

In 2019, we will celebrate 25 years of freedom and democracy.

We will also hold our sixth democratic general election.

This will be an opportunity to renew our dedication to our democratic dispensation and to give effect to each and every provision of our Constitution.

It will be an opportunity for a new generation of young South Africans to exercise the right to vote and determine their own future.

We urge all our people, particularly the youth, to register to vote and to exercise their responsibility as patriotic citizens of our great nation.

In 2019, we must ensure that the legacy of such great leaders as Nelson Mandela and Albertina Sisulu is felt in the lives of every citizen and every community.

In 2019, we must raise our hands � in the spirit of Thuma Mina � to participate actively in the transformation of our society.

Each of us has the ability and the desire to make a meaningful difference.

Having welcomed the new dawn at the beginning of this year, we can be certain that the sun is rising ever higher in the South African sky.

It is our shared responsibility to ensure that all our people bask in its warmth.

To the matric Class of 2018: South Africa thanks you for the hard work, discipline and diligence you maintained throughout your years at school.

We congratulate each and every successful candidate and the families, teachers and communities who made them succeed.

To those who have not passed, I urge you to make use of the opportunities available to improve your results, to return to your books and to never give up.

Throughout your life, you will come face to face with challenges that will bring out the best in you.

Make sure this is one of them.

We can only take care of our future if we take care of ourselves, and so I call on all South Africans to make this celebration of the new year and the remaining days of our festive period a safe and happy occasion.

In our homes, on our roads, in our taverns, restaurants and malls, let us give one another the gifts of tolerance, patience, safety and respect.

I wish you and yours a successful and peaceful 2019.

Source: The Presidency Republic of South Africa

Nigeria Targets 26M People in Yellow Fever Campaign

ABUJA A vaccination center in Nigeria’s capital, Abuja, is swarming with people, a sign that Nigeria’s campaign to vaccinate more people against yellow fever appears to be making headway.

As part of the effort, Nigeria’s government partnered with the World Health Organization (WHO), vaccine alliance GAVI, and the United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF) to immunize more than 26 million people.

It is the second phase of Nigeria’s preventive campaign after a yellow fever outbreak in September 2017.

Deborah Adiche came to the Abuja vaccination center with her daughter.

“We’ve learned it’s killing people, so we don’t have to wait for it to happen to us – that’s why we came to collect the vaccine and I brought her, too, to collect the vaccine.”

Some 8.7 million people were vaccinated in the country during an initial campaign in January and February 2018.

This phase covers six states, including the Federal Capital Territory.

Obiora Ezebilo, UNICEF’s yellow fever coordinator, has been monitoring the process.

“The campaign has been very good. We started the campaign on the 22nd of November. We’re implementing in Borno state, Niger, Kebbi, Sokoto, Plateau and … actually all the states have completed. The records were having is really good, as at now we’re having maybe a coverage of above 95 percent,” Ezebilo said.

But Nigeria’s routine yellow fever immunization rate is low – only 4-in-10 children age 2 years and older are immunized.

Experts say a high enough percentage of the population must be immunized to contain the spread of the disease. Nigeria hopes to reach that point in five years.

About 39 million people between 9 months and 44 years old are expected to be vaccinated by the end of 2018.

Program manager for immunization in Abuja, Salome Toh, says the effort is having an impact.

“The federal government of Nigeria, in collaboration with international organizations, especially the GAVI, they have earmarked a lot of money in supporting this campaign. They purchased the vaccines, they provided logistics, and there’s a national plan to cover this age group across the country. It is divided into phases, as I’m talking to you now, the first quarter of next year, other states are also going to do the campaign,” Toh said.

Since the September 2017 outbreak, doctors have seen more than 1,600 suspected cases of yellow fever across 14 states. Up to 70 people have died.

UNICEF’s Ezebilo says the campaign is focusing on high-risk areas first.

“There’s a global shortage of yellow fever vaccines. You can’t get, like, 200 million doses to vaccinate everybody in Nigeria. We have to get them based on global availability. So this year we are … we’re lucky to have about 20 million doses. So we just did a risk categorization, selected areas we feel that are most at risk and try to focus on them for the preventive campaign,” Ezebilo said.

The Yellow fever virus is endemic in tropical areas and is spread through the bite of an infected mosquito. As many as 60,000 Africans die annually from the disease. Children are most at risk.

There is no cure for the viral infection, but it can be prevented with the vaccine. Once someone contracts yellow fever, medical treatment consists of easing symptoms of the virus, which include fever, muscle pain and dehydration.

Good sanitation, hygiene and proper drainage are natural ways to reduce risks of the disease.

Nigeria is one of 50 global partners battling to eliminate the disease within the next 10 years.

Besides improving sanitation and clearing stagnant water where mosquitoes breed, Nigeria needs to immunize about 80 percent of the at-risk population to prevent further transmission of the disease.

Source: Voice of America