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Charges filed against South Africa hunter over ivory import

DENVER (News Observer) – The owner of a South African hunting company was indicted this month in Colorado by federal prosecutors, who accuse the man of bribing Zimbabwean government officials while guiding a Colorado tourist on a hunt for elephants and working to have the ivory tusks of an elephant the group illegally killed inside a national park imported to the U.S.

Prosecutors said 44-year-old Hanno van Rensburg took a client to the area around Gonarezhou National Park in Zimbabwe to hunt elephants in 2015.

The Colorado client shot one elephant that did not die. The hunting party then tracked the animal into the national park but could not find it, according to prosecutors.

An indictment unsealed last week said van Rensburg and the hunter bribed government officials with at least $5,000 to let the party shoot other elephants inside the park. Zimbabwean law does not allow hunters tracking a wounded animal inside the park to continue hunting other animals.

Someone in the group shot and killed a different elephant and prosecutors say van Rensburg conspired with the client from Colorado to export ivory from the dead elephant, falsely claiming that the hunter was a resident of South Africa and that the elephant was not shot inside a national park.

In 2015, U.S. law banned importation of the body parts of African elephants killed for sport in Zimbabwe. However, the Trump administration announced in March 2018 that requests to import elephant trophies would be approved on a “case-by-case basis.”

Van Rensburg also is charged with violating a broader U.S. law — the Lacey Act — that make it illegal to transport or sell wildlife killed in violation of any foreign law.

Officials said van Rensburg has not been arrested; an arrest warrant filed with the court orders “any authorized law enforcement officer” to take him into custody. The charges include wire fraud, conspiracy and violating the Endangered Species Act.

“The U.S. Attorney’s Office and our law enforcement partners work together to support global efforts to protect threatened and endangered wildlife from illegal poaching,” Colorado U.S. Attorney Bob Troyer said. “(Fish and Wildlife Services) and our prosecutors did an extraordinary job investigating this case.”

Van Rensburg did not respond Monday to an email sent to an address listed on his company’s website.

Prosecutors did not name the hunter from Colorado who paid van Rensburg more than $39,000 to guide him on a hunt for elephants and a spokesman for Troyer’s office declined to identify the hunter.

Colorado federal prosecutors announced in April, though, that Paul Ross Jackson of Evergreen had reached a plea agreement after being charged for violating the Endangered Species Act for shooting and killing an elephant in Zimbabwe

The months, locations and initials of the hunting company owner — H.V.R. — in Jackson’s plea agreement mirror those in the indictment filed against van Rensburg.

Jackson was ordered to pay a $25,000 fine and agreed to provide the Fish and Wildlife Service with all documents on any hunts outside the United States. He also was ordered to transfer the elephant’s tusks back to the Zimbabwean government.

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South Africans are among the hardest workers in the world

SOUTH AFRICA (Quartz Africa) – South Africans may be some of the hardest workers in the world—they’re three times more likely to work 60 hours a week than Americans.

On average, South African employees work 43.3 hours per week, the fifth hardest working country in a sample of countries by the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD). Turkey has the employees who work the most hours, followed by Colombia, Mexico and Costa Rica. Comparatively, Germans, Danes, Norwegians and Dutch worked the fewest.

Nearly 12% of the South African workforce spent more than 60 hours per week on the job. This is despite the fact that South Africa’s labor laws prohibit more than 45 hours per week and no more than 10 hours in overtime.

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South Africa’s hardest workers are black men younger than 45 in a semi-skilled occupation and lucky enough to have a permanent job in a country with high unemployment, according to a study (pdf) from Stellenbosch University’s Bureau for Economic Research.

There has been a steady increase in the number of formal employees who more than 40 hours a week, says the study. There is also an increasing gap between hours worked in the public and private sector. That is likely due to the lack of competition in the public sector and perhaps an unwillingness to flout labor laws.

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Working hours were also shorter in the economic capital, Gauteng province and the Western Cape, which has a concentration of highly-skilled workers. The average working hours in these more affluent provinces is affected by migration from other provinces. The Eastern Cape also had some of the lowest working hours, but that was because so few people had permanent employment in the impoverished province.

A closer look at working South Africans’ work habits reveals that women are also likely to work shorter hours, because they tend to be more educated and work in the professional sector. That, however, also shows the limits of the data used.

The OECD and Bosch studies exclude the informal sector, such as agriculture, domestic work and other low-income jobs. These forms of work, like farmhands and maids, are a huge source of employment in South Africa, albeit precarious and poorly paid. They are ignored by these surveys, which rely on formal employment data.

In 2000, Statistics South Africa released a standalone time use study (pdf). No later study exists, but the study revealed the limits of how we measure hard work. Taking into account informal types of work not measured by these standardized surveys, women spent 23% of their day working, as opposed to men at 19%.

South African women without a housekeeper spend 183 minutes per day on housework, as opposed to 75 minutes for men. Women living with children also spent an average of 87 minutes per day taking care of them, compared to men, who spent seven minutes.

Current working hours studies also excluded domestic labor like fetching water, which added 44 to 71 minutes per day of work, depending on the distance to the main water source. Black households in former bantustans or rural areas were most likely to be affected. Once again, it was mainly women who bore the burden of this unpaid work, starting in childhood.

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South Africa’s Civil Servants to Get Above-Inflation Wage Increase

SOUTH AFRİCA (Bllomberg) – Unions representing South African civil servants and the government agreed to above-inflation increases for workers, the Public Service Coordinating Bargaining Council, said.

The deal, to be signed on Monday, will see the lowest-paid government workers get an increase of 7 percent and people on the highest salary level will get 6 percent, the council said in an emailed statement late Friday. The pay rise will be backdated from April 1.

The Public Servants Association, which represent about 238,000 workers, said it won’t sign the deal, News24 reported, citing Deputy General Manager Tahir Maepa.

Inflation reached a seven-year low of 3.8 percent in March. While central bank governor Lesetja Kganyago has warned the rate will start rising due to tax increases and high salary demands, inflation will stay close to 5 percent until at least at the end of 2020, according to the regulator. Unions initially demanded a 12 percent increase.

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Cash van bombed in South Africa, criminals loot cash in sacks

SOUTH AFRICA (REUTERS) – Robbers armed with assault rifles and explosives blew up two armoured cash-carrying vans in Johannesburg this week in a brazen broad-daylight incident that underscored South Africa’s reputation for violent crime.

In dramatic cellphone footage of the incident recorded by a motorist, the assailants seal off a block in the suburb of Boksburg, east of Johannesburg’s commercial centre, before calmly detonating explosives under the cash vans.

Three large explosions are heard, with plumes of grey smoke shooting up into the air. There are also rapid exchanges of gunfire before and after the blasts, although it is not clear where the shots were coming from.

The assailants, who numbered around a dozen, then load sacks into at least two get-away cars before speeding away. Motorists caught up in the shoot-out are seen pulling U-turns across the road to escape the scene.

Police said two security guards in the cash vans were injured in the incident and were treated in hospital. They also said some of the robbers were arrested after being tracked by helicopter to a run-down industrial park.

Security experts quoted in South African media said the way the assailants behaved and handled the weapons suggested they had military backgrounds.

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Innovative drug-resistant TB trial launched in South Africa

WESTERN CAPE (iol.co.za) – Doctors Without Borders (MSF) has joined forces with the Department of Health and numerous organisations to launch a drug-resistant TB trial in South Africa.

Approximately half a million people around the world suffer from multi-drug resistant tuberculosis (MDR-TB) each year.

A staggering 19 000 of those cases are seen in South Africa and 59% of people diagnosed with TB are co-infected with HIV.

‘Expand new drug markets for TB’ (endTB) is a controlled trial of five new, all-oral 9-month treatment regimens for MDR-TB.

Their main goal is to find treatments for MDR-TB that are less toxic but more effective than current treatments.

Khayelitsha site aims to enrol between 90 to 120 patients until 2020, while a total of 750 patients are set to be enrolled in the clinical trial.

“The endTB trial aims to revolutionise the standard MDR-TB treatment by dropping the injectable entirely using bedaquiline and delamanid, the first TB drugs to have been developed in almost 50 years, along with other oral TB drugs such as clofazimine, linezolid, fluoroquinolones and pyrazinamide, in experimental combinations of up to five drugs,” says Jared Borain, Trial Study Coordinator for endTB in Khayelitsha.

Patients enrolled with the Khayelitsha site are promised to receive treatment at primary health care facilities rather than hospitals.

“MSF, in close collaboration with the department of health, has been providing care for people with drug-resistant TB for many years, in South Africa, and in many other countries,” says Dr Laura Triviño, MSF medical referent in Khayelitsha. “I have seen too many people on toxic treatment for drug-resistant TB, suffering from nausea, joint pains, psychosis and even going deaf as a result of the injectable.”

endTB is a partnership between Partners in Health, Médecins Sans Frontières, Interactive Research & Development and financial partner UNITAID. Prestigious companies such as Epicentre, Harvard Medical School and the Institute of Tropical Medicine Antwerp are partners of the clinical trial.

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Amid protest and murder, South Africa’s new president struggles to assert his authority

SOUTH AFRICA (newstatesman) – Cyril Ramaphosa is discovering how difficult it is to govern the country. South Africa’s newly installed president, Cyril Ramaphosa, is discovering just how difficult governing the country can be. For the first time in living memory (and certainly since the end of apartheid) central government has had to take direct control of a province.

Bordering on Botswana, the North West Province is mostly dry, desolate scrub, although the platinum around the town of Rustenberg means it contains some hugely valuable mines. Over the weekend, the cabinet decided it could no longer tolerate the autocratic rule of the provincial leader, Supra Mahumapelo. He was stripped of his powers for at least the next 180 days. The province will be run from the centre.

As is now so often the case, this is a conflict at the heart of the African National Congress. Mahumapelo is accused of mismanagement, fraud and corruption amounting to about R160m (£10m). The allegations are being investigated by the elite anti-corruption police unit, the Hawks. Mahumapelo protests his innocence and might have escaped prosecution, if he had not backed the wrong leader: being identified as a Zuma supporter. With Zuma out of office, Mahumapelo’s political cover vanished.

For the people of the province, Mahumapelo’s rule has been little short of disastrous. Services of almost every kind have been poor to non-existent. Everything from water to electricity has been in short supply. Public satisfaction has plummeted.

Only one thing gets the attention of ANC: taking to the streets. There were riots in April, with public buildings burnt down and even badly needed clinics attacked. The situation deteriorated so badly that President Ramaphosa decided to cut short his very first Commonwealth Summit in London, to try to restore order.

The president was meant to visit the North West on Monday, to deal with the crisis. Ramaphosa had to cancel the trip, as an even more pressing issue required his immediate attention: political killings in KwaZulu-Natal.

There have been three such murders in the past week – all within the ANC. Such assassinations have become a routine part of political life within the governing party, particularly in KwaZulu-Natal. There were more than 450 political murders in the province between 1994 and 2013: fewer than one in ten saw a conviction.

President Ramaphosa promised that he would not allow the murders to continue. “We will not allow KZN [KwaZulu-Natal] to be the killing fields of South Africa.” It is a pledge he’s unlikely to be able to fulfil. These murders – sometimes carried out by professional assassins – are now a routine way of settling disputes over who controls the levers of power within the ANC.

South African politics is increasingly dangerous. Professor Mark Shaw and Kim Thomas of the University of Cape Town have been tracking the murders. Their database recorded just over 1,000 individual cases of assassination or attempted assassination over a period of 16 years.

In his book Hit Men for Hire: Exposing South Africa’s Underworld, Professor Shaw explained the devastating toll murders have taken on the political system: “The system of assassinations is a vicious political cycle: it empowers those whose power comes from the gun, and disempowers those who rely on their standing and capacity for delivery. Unchecked in South Africa, it will undermine the very foundations of the democratic system.”

The violence guarantees political office. With political office comes contracts, and with contracts comes the backhanders that keep leaders in power. It is a cycle that is becoming almost impossible to break. Little wonder that President Ramaphosa is struggling to assert his authority.

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South Africa pulls ambassador out of Israel over Gaza violence

SOUTH AFRICA (News24) – South Africa has taken a strong stance against the killing of scores of Palestinians by Israeli armed forces by pulling the SA ambassador out of Israel.

READ MORE: Scores killed as Israelis celebrate US embassy opening

“Given the indiscriminate and gravity of the latest Israeli attack, the South African government has taken a decision to recall Ambassador Sisa Ngombane with immediate effect until further notice,” Department of International Relations spokesperson Ndivhuwo Mabaya said on Monday.

Mabaya said the attack also resulted in scores of Palestinian citizens being injured.

He said government condemned “in the strongest terms possible the latest act of violent aggression carried out by Israeli armed forces along the Gaza border”.

“[This] led to the deaths of over 40 [people] killed following a peaceful protest against the provocative inauguration of the US embassy in Jerusalem,” he said.

Mabaya said South Africa reiterated its view that the Israeli Defence Force “must withdraw from the Gaza Strip and bring to an end the violent and destructive incursions into Palestinian territories”.

“South Africa maintains further that the violence in the Gaza Strip will stand in the way of rebuilding Palestinian institutions and infrastructure.”

Mabaya said government reiterates calls made by several member states of the United Nations calling for an independent inquiry into the killings, with a view to holding to account those who are responsible.

Monday marked the deadliest day of violence since the 2014 cross border war.

The South African Jewish Board of Deputies (SAJBD) and the SA Zionist Federation (SAZF) issued a statement on Monday, saying the government’s decision to withdraw the SA ambassador smacked of gross double-standards against the Jewish state.

It said while it regretted the loss of civilian life, it recognised that Israel had the right to protect itself and its borders.

“By withdrawing its Ambassador, South Africa is essentially walking away from playing any meaningful role in finding a sorely needed resolution to the conflict. The rhetoric used by the government has already has spilled into anti-semitic comment on various social media platforms and the biggest losers are the South African Jewish community, and other peace loving South Africans”, read the statement.

The SAJBD and the SAZF called on the government to reconsider its decision immediately.

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South Africa needs a plan to redistribute land in urban areas

The ConversationLand debates are reverberating across South Africa after the country’s parliament resolved to accelerate land redistribution through expropriation without compensation where necessary. Twenty four years since the advent of democracy, land remains a stark and visible symbol of dispossession and racial and income inequality.

The current wave of land reform debates is different in one key respect: there’s been an emergence of an urban angle to them. And rightly so. The majority of South Africans live in urban areas. On top of this spatial apartheid lives on in South Africa’s cities.

But genuine land reform requires a shift in the country’s approach to urban land: it can’t be seen simply in terms of its market value and its potential for profit. Land’s social and redress value must be considered.

There’s also the real possibility of the land debate being hijacked for political party or elite gains rather than a genuinely re-distributive agenda for poor and working class people. South Africans need to pay attention to the voices dominating land debates, and constantly ask: land reform for whom?

In spite of the challenges, the current moment could provide a golden opportunity to redefine the country’s approach to urban land. I spoke to Lauren Royston, who has been working on the urban land question in the research and advocacy arena for more than a quarter of a century. She recently co-authored “Untitled: Securing Land Tenure in Urban and Rural South Africa”.

Sarita Pillay: Are we seeing a conversation about urban land reform that we’ve not had before?

Lauren Royston: I think we’re seeing an opening for a conversation about urban land reform in a way that hasn’t been present before. Urban land tends to be hidden in other urban development sectors such as housing, planning and municipal finance.

The expropriation without compensation debate might be changing that, creating an urban land focus and redistribution an urban land issue too. But a meaningful shift in the debate requires serious interrogation of key areas such as the dynamics of the property market as well as a review of how both state owned and private land can be used to accommodate urban land reform.

Sarita Pillay: Urban land in South Africa’s cities isn’t approached as an opportunity for redistribution or social justice. Good public land in cities is being sold for profit by government while land in well-located suburbs is not considered for public housing. Would you agree that the country’s provinces and city municipalities haven’t pursued brave and progressive approaches to urban land?

Lauren Royston: I do think that state land is often seen as a revenue generator. I’m not unsympathetic to that – municipalities do have big mandates and are under-funded. But isn’t it time to rethink private land? The expropriation debate gives us that opportunity.

It seems to me that occupied inner city buildings and occupied private land parcels are a prime case for a focused, programmatic expropriation approach. One that needn’t cause instability. What we need to talk about next is how those buildings will be held. It’s my view that they should be a public or social asset, not privately owned. The country should have a debate about this.

Sarita Pillay: Expropriation can also be used by government to ensure shack settlements on private land finally have access to basic services and infrastructure. This was raised as a demand in the recent Land for Living march in Cape Town. Is this the kind of genuine urban land reform that the expropriation debate opens up?

Lauren Royston: Definitely. But the risk with expropriation is how political it has become. Despite the heated debate, it’s always been technically possible. In the urban context, the Housing Act allows for expropriation. The call for an amendment to the constitution seems premature – at least until existing provisions have been used more proactively.

Expropriation in the urban setting should focus on poor households – those earning a household income below R3 200 per month. They make up close to 50% of Johannesburg’s population. Private sector delivery doesn’t work for them.

Sarita Pillay: There seems to be a lack of public imagination and interrogation around how land is held and the ownership of land when it comes to urban land reform. You’ve written about land tenure, how should we be thinking about this in an urban context?

Lauren Royston: South Africa’s property regime is anchored in registered title and this can be rigid and exclusionary. To get into official or formal property if you’re poor, you have to enter a system of individual title deed registration via a housing subsidy project. But a significant number of subsidy properties are not on the deeds registry.

South Africa needs to consider that the problem with title may be more systematic than simply “fixing” a backlog. It needs to look into the range of tenures that exist outside the formal property system. These tenures have legal protection under a range of different post-1994 tenure laws but these rights are not registered which makes them less secure and denies access to the many benefits of registered title.

Sarita Pillay: What do you think needs to happen now?

Lauren Royston: If President Cyril Ramaphosa’s commitments are genuine, then after the 2019 elections the government needs to move beyond rhetoric and it needs to start countering the fear mongering and instability spectre. And it needs to improve capacity on land by co-opting private sector and civil society experts.

Sarita Pillay is a PhD student at South African research chair in spatial analysis and city planning at the University of the Witwatersrand. This article first appeared on theconversation.com

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Deadly attack on South African mosque has ‘hallmarks of Islamic State’

SOUTH AFRICA (The Guardian) – One killed and two critically wounded in knife and petrol bomb assault on Shia worshippers near Durban.

South African police searching for three men who stabbed worshippers at a mosque near Durban have said the attackers’ motive was unknown but “elements of extremism” were involved.

One Muslim leader said the mosque was targeted because it was a Shia place of worship that had received previous threats, exposing deep tension between the Shia and Sunni population.

The assailants killed one man by slitting his throat and critically injured two others after midday prayers on Thursday at the mosque in Verulam, a town on the outskirts of Durban.

“There are elements of extremism,” said Simphiwe Mhlongo, a spokesman for the Hawks police unit. “It shows hatred towards the worshippers.”

A local Islamic leader, Aftab Haider, said Shias in South Africa had been subjected to a prolonged hate campaign. He said the attack may be connected to the Sunni extremist group Islamic State.

“There has been a huge organised hate campaign in different mosques, radio stations and on social media against the Shia community. There have been threats at this mosque before, but not in the weeks leading up to this incident,” Haider said.

“It has all the hallmarks of the Isis style of operations in Iraq and Syria.”

The assailants, who also set off a petrol bomb inside the mosque, escaped in a car. Emergency services found the victims lying in the forecourt.

“These people were not robbers. They did not want phones, they did not want laptops or money,” said Ali Nchinyane, who was stabbed in the abdomen. “They came to the gate saying they want to perform prayers. They prayed and afterwards they wanted to kill.

“One of the suspects told me: ‘I will kill you’. If I did not fight, I would have been dead,” Nchinyane added, saying he used a martial arts weapon to defend himself.

Mhlongo said: “Law enforcement forces are [looking for the assailants], including private security, local detectives and police.”

The incident appeared to be unprecedented in South Africa, where about 1.5% of the 55million population is Muslim. The country prides itself on religious acceptance.

The parliament’s police committee condemned the attack. “A mosque is a religious institution, and South Africa’s constitution guarantees and protects the right to religious practices,” its chair, Francois Beukman, said.

“We want our communities to live in harmony, practising their religions without fear.”

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South Africa probes extremism element in mosque attack

South Africa’s elite police unit says it’s investigating an “element of extremism” in a mosque attack in which three people’s throats were slit after midday prayers, killing one of them.

Hawks spokesman Simphiwe Mhlongo told The Associated Press that “you can see elements of hatred to a certain religion” in Thursday’s attack in the mosque’s worship space.

But Mhlongo says police can’t yet say whether the assault on the Imam Hussein mosque in the eastern town of Verulam, just north of Durban, can be called a terror attack.

He says police can’t confirm reports that the three attackers were Egyptian. They are still at large.

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In this photo supplied by the South African Police Services, paramedics attend to an injured man after attackers entered a mosque in Verulam, Durban, South Africa, Thursday, May 10, 2018. Attackers entered a South African mosque after midday prayers, stabbed three people and set the place on fire before fleeing, local police said Thursday, as people expressed shock at the kind of attack rarely seen in the country. One of the victims later died, an emergency responder told local media. (South African Police Services via AP)