Suspect Charged in Connection With Fire at South Africa Parliament

South African investigators say a fire that destroyed significant parts of Cape Town’s historic parliamentary precinct Sunday may have been caused by arson. Police say they have arrested a suspect who was found with stolen goods.

Brigadier Nomthandazo Mbombo, from the Directorate for Priority Crime Investigation in Cape Town also known as The Hawks, listed the charges against the suspect.

“A 49-year-old suspect was arrested and charged with house-breaking and theft, arson and will also be charged under the National Key Points Act. The suspect was allegedly caught with suspected stolen property after he gained entry to the parliament precinct unauthorized. He was spotted by members of the protection and security services when they noticed the building was on fire,” he said.

The National Key Points Act deals with safeguarding certain installations against sabotage or other hostile acts.

Natasha Mazzone, the chief whip of the main opposition Democratic Alliance party, spoke outside the parliament gates.

“We now know that the water sprinkler system was turned off so clearly it was designed for destruction of our parliament, as I look up, I could cry…And what gives me hope is that the statue of Madiba stands strong and was untouched by the fire. And he’s looking on as we rebuild and rebuild we will. And we will be a better parliament than we were before,” said Mazzone.

By Madiba, she was referring to the late South African President Nelson Mandela.

Officials, including Cape Town’s mayor, offered potential meeting sites for parliament.

“Mayor Geordin Hill-Lewis has offered his city council chambers as well as the City Hall which seats over a thousand. We also have the virtual platform which we’ve all become very used to but sit we will and hold the government to account we certainly will,” said Mazzone.

Public Works Minister Patricia De Lille addressed the media at a briefing at parliament Monday afternoon.

“The temperature inside the building is still plus/minus a hundred degrees Celsius, down from what it was yesterday at over 400 degrees Celsius but what they’ve done in the meantime is to use a drone that they are putting inside the building to assess the structure of the building until the temperatures can cool down,” she said.

She said a team of engineers has been brought on board and will focus on the repairs that need to be done, the cost and the time it will take for completion. De Lille said they’ve also brought in a fire expert who will determine exactly where the blaze started, together with a fire forensic team.

“We are being informed by the professional teams that we can expect a preliminary report by Friday morning about their preliminary findings and that report will then be shared also with Madam Speaker and the presiding officers, and we will then decide together what to do, once we’ve seen the full extent of the cost,” she said.

The suspect is due to appear in the Cape Town Magistrate’s Court on Tuesday.

Source: Voice of America

Sudan in Difficult Position After PM Resignation, Analysts Say

Sudan’s Prime Minister Abdalla Hamdok resigned Sunday after mass protests against a deal he made with the military following the October coup. Political analysts say Hamdok’s resignation is a blow to the country’s political stability and hopes for a return to a civilian-led government.

In a televised address to the nation, Prime Minister Abdalla Hamdok said he was resigning to make way for another person to lead and called on comprehensive dialogue to end the political crisis that has engulfed the nation for two years.

Hafez Kabir is a Sudanese political commentator. He says Hamdok’s resignation leaves the country in a difficult situation.

“Sudan will witness a new crisis because there are many military groups, there are many political groups and their opinion is not the same. The military threatened Sudan’s unity. There are many problems on the economic side, social side, so we want a new initiative, comprehensive solution that can save the situation in Sudan,” he said.

Kizito Sabala, an expert in diplomacy and international relations, says Hamdok’s resignation proves that it’s difficult to block the military from the country’s politics.

“The transition in Sudan is very difficult.The military structure Bashir left means that structure is very strong and therefore for Sudan to move forward, a lot of work must be done to ensure that they de-link politics from the military, which is a long process that will take so many years. It also implies that any support that the military has been having through the good international standing of Hamdok is going to fizzle out,” he said.

In October, army officers pushed out Hamdok’s civilian-led government. Military chief General Abdel Fattah al-Burhan defended the military action, saying it was to prevent the outbreak of civil war.

Hamdok signed an agreement with the military rulers in November, but the Sudanese population questioned the prime minister’s power after he was reinstated.

Shakur Nyaketo, a journalist and activist, says new blood is needed to lead the civilian side of the government.

“The political parties are still in an argument. They are not together. Now thinking of reforming their political parties, they want to come up with one national front so that they can clean their image with the communities and the public. But they do not trust the [other] political parties. The public right now are asking for a civilian government that should be formed from technocrats, not from political parties,” he said.

Sudanese youth continue to march in the streets against the military, and the protests are consistently suppressed through force.

On Sunday, thousands marched, demanding that the military get out of politics. According to Sudan’s Central Doctors Committee, two people were killed. The military has been cited as saying it will permit peaceful protests and hold those responsible for violence accountable.

So far, 57 people have been killed since the military seized power in October.

The U.S. State Department’s Bureau of African Affairs issued a statement on its Twitter page after Hamdok resigned, urging Sudanese leaders to “set aside differences, find consensus, and ensure continued civilian rule.”

The United Nations’ Sudan representative, Volker Perthes, issued a tweet Monday, saying he regrets Hamdok’s decision but respects it.

Sabala says Sudan is at a crossroads, and international pressure is required for the military to ease its grip on power and accept the country’s need to move to a democratic phase.

Source: Voice of America

South African national assembly entirely destroyed by fire

CAPE TOWN— A massive fire in South Africa’s houses of parliament in Cape Town has “burned down” the entire National Assembly where elected parliamentarians sit, a spokesperson said.

“The entire chamber where the members sit… has burned down,” Moloto Mothapo said, adding that the blaze had still not been extinguished.

The historic building houses a collection of rare books and the original copy of the former Afrikaans national anthem used during the apartheid era, “Die Stem Suid-Afrika” (“The Voice of South Africa”), which was already damaged.

The cause of the fire is unknown, but an investigation has been opened and an individual held.

President Cyril Ramaphosa told reporters at the scene earlier on Sunday that an arrest had been made.

“Someone has been held right now and is being questioned,” he said.

The fire started at around 0300 GMT Sunday in the parliament’s oldest wing before spreading to newer parts of the complex which are currently in use.

A team of firefighters who were first to arrive at the scene battled the flames for several hours before being forced to retreat and call for reinforcements.

Some 70 firefighters were later deployed, some using a crane to spray water on the blaze.


Sudan’s PM resigns as deadly crackdown on protesters goes on

KHARTOUM— Sudan’s civilian Prime Minister Abdalla Hamdok resigned Sunday, more than two months after a coup and following another deadly crackdown on protesters, with the military now firmly in


Sudan had been undergoing a fragile journey toward civilian rule since the 2019 ouster of autocrat Omar al-Bashir, but was plunged into turmoil when military leader General Abdel Fattah al-Burhan launched his coup on October

25 and detained Hamdok.

Hamdok was reinstated on Nov 21 under a deal promising elections for July 2023, but local media had reported he had been absent from his office for days, with rumours swirling over his possible resignation.

“I have tried my best to stop the country from sliding towards disaster,” Hamdok said Sunday evening, addressing the nation on state television.

Sudan “is crossing a dangerous turning point that threatens its whole survival”, he said.

Hamdok was the civilian face of the country’s fragile transition, while Burhan has been the country’s de facto leader following Bashir’s ouster.

Hamdok cited “the fragmentation of the political forces and conflicts between the (military and civilian) components of the transition” and said that “despite everything that has been done to reach a consensus… it has not happened”.

Mass protests against the coup have continued even after Hamdok was reinstated, as demonstrators distrust veteran general Burhan and his promise to guide the country toward full democracy.

Protesters also charged that the deal to reinstate Hamdok simply aimed to give the cloak of legitimacy to the generals, whom they accuse of trying to continue the regime built by Bashir.

Thousands of demonstrators on Sunday braved tear gas, a heavy troop deployment and a telecommunications blackout to demand a civilian government.

They lambasted the coup, shouting “power to the people” and demanding the military return to barracks, at protests near the presidential palace in the capital Khartoum and in its twin city Omdurman.

The pro-democracy Doctors’ Committee said security forces killed three protesters, including one who was shot in the chest and another who suffered a “severe head wound” at the hands of security forces in Omdurman.

As with previous demonstrations, which have become regular since the coup, the authorities had erected roadblocks, with shipping containers blocking Nile River bridges between the capital and outlying areas.

But thousands still came out to demonstrate “in memory of the martyrs”, with at least 57 protesters now killed since the coup, according to pro-democracy medics.

Young men on motorcycles were seen ferrying wounded protesters to hospitals as security forces blocked ambulances from reaching them.

Web monitoring group NetBlocks said mobile internet services were cut from mid-morning ahead of the planned protests, the first of the year. They were restored in the evening.

Activists use the internet for organising demonstrations and broadcasting live footage of the rallies.

Protests since the army’s takeover have been repeatedly broken up by security forces firing rounds of tear gas, as well as charges by police wielding batons.

Sudan has a long history of military takeovers, but Burhan insists the military’s move “was not a coup” but a push to “rectify the course of the transition”.

On Friday an adviser warned that “the demonstrations are only a waste of energy and time” which will not produce “any political solution”.

Activists on social media say 2022 will be “the year of the continuation of the resistance”.

They demand justice for those killed since the coup as well as the more than 250 who died during months of mass protests that paved the way for the toppling of Bashir.

Activists have condemned sexual attacks during December 19 protests, in which the UN said at least 13 women and girls were victims of rape or gang-rape.

The European Union and the United States issued a joint statement condemning the use of sexual violence “as a weapon to drive women away from demonstrations and silence their voices”.

On Saturday, US Secretary of State Antony Blinken warned in a statement that Washington was “prepared to respond

to those who seek to block the aspirations of the Sudanese people for a civilian-led, democratic government and who would stand in the way of accountability, justice, and peace”.

Over 14 million people, one in three Sudanese, will need humanitarian aid during the coming year, according to the UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs — the highest level for a decade.


Nigerian police rescued 21 kidnapped students – Official

ABUJA— Nigerian police rescued 21 children abducted on Friday night by bandits while being taken to an Almajiri school in Zamfara State.

The bandits were said to have blocked the Gusau-Funtua federal highway in Tsafe Local Government Area in the state and abducted several people in five vehicles.

Most of the affected vehicles were commercial.

In a statement police spokesperson in the state, Mohammed Shehu, said some of those abducted have been rescued.

He said the police acting on information that bandits had blocked the road, sent a team to dislodge the gunmen.

“The police operatives succeeded in rescuing 21 kidnapped children including two female who were coming from Rini village in Bakura area of Zamfara State to Katsina State for Almajiri Islamic school. Along with their scholar, Lawali Ibrahim, and the driver of the vehicle were among the victims that are currently in captivity,” the statement said.

Shehu said the commissioner of police had deployed more officers to complement the effort of the joint security operatives working to rescue the remaining victims and apprehend the perpetrators.

He also called on drivers to avoid night journey.

Bandits in Sokoto, Zamfara and Katsina states now attack highways, forcing the closure of major roads including the Jibia-Zurmi-Kaura Namoda-Gusau road, and Kankara-Sheme road in Katsina and Zamfara states.

Separately, the Chairman of the Christian Association of Nigeria (CAN), Kaduna State, John Hayab, has confirmed that 120 abducted students of Bethel Baptist High School in Kaduna State have been freed so far.

In a statement issued in Kaduna on Saturday, Hayab recalled that in the early hours of July 5, 2021, bandits invaded the school located at Maraban Damishi, Chikun Local Government Area of Kaduna State and kidnapped 121 students.

He said the number of the released students includes one student who was freed on Dec 28, 2021, and another one who was freed on Jan 1.

“With the release of these two students, a total of 120 students have regained their freedom so far and only one student is still with the bandits,” he said.