China gives billions to Iran

Tehran – A Chinese state-owned investment firm has provided a $10 billion credit line for Iranian banks, Iran’s central bank president said on Saturday.

The contract was signed in Beijing between China’s CITIC investment group and a delegation of Iranian banks led by central bank president Valiollah Seif.

The Iran Daily said the funds would finance water, energy and transport projects.

Iran is vital to China’s trade ambitions as it develops its trillion-dollar “One Belt, One Road” strategy aimed at dramatically boosting its ties to Europe and Afric

In addition to the credit line, the China Development Bank signed preliminary deals with Iran worth $15 billion for other infrastructure and production projects, Seif announced.

The contracts reflect “a strong will for continuation of co-operation between the two countries,” Seif said.

The credit line will use euros and yuan to help bypass US sanctions that have continued despite the nuclear deal between Iran and world powers in 2015.

China was a signatory to the deal that lifted sanctions in exchange for curbs to Iran’s nuclear programme.

President Xi Jinping visited Iran a week after it came into effect, vowing to boost bilateral trade to $600 billion within a decade.

Iran’s biggest oil customer

Although trade was just $31 billion in 2016, it has jumped more than 30% in the first six months of 2017.

China is already Iran’s biggest oil customer and accounts for a third of its overall trade.

Since the lifting of sanctions, Beijing has opened two credit lines worth $4.2 billion to build high-speed railway lines linking Tehran with Mashhad and Isfahan, Iran Daily reported.

The latest move follows an eight-billion-euro credit deal signed with South Korea’s Exim bank last month.

European banks remain wary of penalties from Washington for working with Iran, but talks are said to be at an advanced stage for $22 billion in credit deals with banks from Austria, Denmark and Germany.

China’s new $10 billion credit line will go to Iran’s Refah Kargaran, San’at va Ma’dan, Parsian, Pasargad and Tose’e Saderat banks.

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Malaysia police arrest 7 teens linked to deadly fire

Kuala Lumpur – The police chief in Malaysia’s capital says authorities have arrested seven teenagers suspected of intentionally starting a deadly blaze an Islamic boarding school that killed 23 people.

Kuala Lumpur police chief Amar Singh says the seven arrested boys lit Thursday’s fire because they had been mocked by students at the school.

Singh said in a press conference late on Saturday that the boys aged 11 to 18 had also tested positive for drugs.

The blaze at a three-story “tahfiz” school, where Muslim boys study and memorize the Qur’an, blocked the lone exit to the dormitory, trapping students behind barred windows.

Istanbul police detain 74 suspected IS militants

Istanbul — Turkey’s official news agency says police have detained 74 suspects who are alleged members of the Islamic State (IS) group.

The Anadolu news agency said Saturday the anti-terror police conducted simultaneous operations at 15 different addresses in Istanbul.

Anadolu said 73 of the detained were foreigners and were handed over to relevant authorities to be deported. There was no information on their nationalities. The other suspect was being questioned.

IS has been blamed for several deadly attacks in Turkey, killing more than 300 people since 2015

Along with combatting IS cells inside its borders, Turkey launched a military operation into northern Syria in August 2016 to clear the border zone of IS extremists after a suicide bomb ripped through a street wedding in the southeastern province of Gaziantep.

UK police arrest 2nd man in London subway attack case

London — London police say a second man has been arrested in connection with the London subway attack.

Police said on Sunday that a 21-year-old man was arrested late Saturday night in Hounslow in west London. He was arrested under the Terrorism Act.

Two men are now in custody for their possible role in the attack that injured 29 people.

Britain’s terror threat level remains at “critical” — the highest level — meaning that authorities believe another attack is imminent.

Police on Saturday arrested an 18-year-old man in the port of Dover — the main ferry link to France — and then launched a massive armed search in the southwestern London suburb of Sunbury.

SADC to send ‘contingent force’ to troubled Lesotho

The deployment of a contingent force, which will include military and intelligence military forces, to the volatile Kingdom of Lesotho was approved by the Southern African Development Community (SADC) Heads of State and Government in Pretoria on Friday.

“Summit approved the deployment of a contingent force comprising military, security, intelligence and civilian experts to support the government of the Kingdom of Lesotho, and directed the chiefs of defence and security to assess the requirements, to determine the appropriate size of the contingent force, and to prepare the modalities for the deployment,” SADC Executive Secretary Stergomena Lawrence Tax read out the communique at the end of the Double Troika Summit in Pretoria.

She said the summit had “strongly condemned” the brutal assassination of Commander of the Lesotho Defence Force, Lt-General Khoantle Motsomotso which happened earlier this month, prompting the SADC meeting to contain the degeneration situation in Maseru.

“The Right Honourable Motsoahae Thomas Thabane, Prime Minister of the Kingdom of Lesotho was also invited. The Double Troika Summit was also attended by SADC Facilitator to Lesotho, Deputy President of South Africa Cyril Ramaphosa,” said Tax.

In a question and answer session, South Africa’s Defence Minister Nosiviwe Mapisa-Nqakula insisted that the SADC intervention approved on Friday was different from a military deployment.

“We need to understand what the deployment is going to be … for now it’s going to be support for the oversight committee. It is a contingency force. We are politicians, we want chiefs of defence to assess the situation and advise us. This is a directive to the chiefs of defence, the region will come together and discuss this matter again. We don’t need to cause unnecessary panic with everybody saying they have already committed to deploy [soldiers], some going to parliament to say this and that. The issue is that a directive has been issued and we will then be directed by the chiefs of staff,” she said.

Earlier, South African President Jacob Zuma, in his capacity as chairperson of the SADC appealed to the authorities and the populace of the Kingdom of Lesotho to collectively work tirelessly to bring peace and stability to the mountain kingdom which has been on the regional bloc’s agenda for a considerable period.

“As SADC, we cannot and shall not be in Lesotho forever. We desire to have Lesotho off the SADC agenda soonest,” Zuma addressed a Double Troika of Heads of State and Government.

“It is unfortunate and regrettable that as we gather here this afternoon that the Commander of the Lesotho Defence Force, Lt-General Motsomotso, who was with us here in this very building three weeks ago during the SADC Summit, tragically lost his life in a senseless killing.”

Zuma said the assassination of Motsomotso typifies a dangerous pattern of targeted killings in the geographically small African nation.

Motsomotso was killed earlier this month, while two senior officers who were allegedly responsible for the murder, were also killed in a shoot-out at a barracks in Lesotho’s capital Maseru.

Eyewitnesses said the officers burst into the army chief’s office and shot him, before being killed by guards.

At least 18 Burundi refugees shot dead by Congo forces: UN

Refugees who fled Burundi’s violence and political tension wait to board a UN ship, at Kagunga on Lake Tanganyika, Tanzania, to be taken to the port city of Kigoma. File picture: Jerome Delay/AP

Bujumbura, Burundi – Congolese forces have shot and killed at least 18 Burundian refugees near Burundi’s border, officials said Saturday.

The deaths occurred Friday in the Kamanyola area of Congo’s South Kivu province, the commander of the Pakistani battalion of the U.N. peacekeeping mission in Congo, Waquara Yunusi, told The Associated Press.

He said 34 people were killed, 15 of them women.

Congo’s military could not immediately be reached for comment.

The coordinator of the U.N. Communications Group in Congo, Florence Marchal, confirmed a provisional death toll of 18, with 50 others wounded.

“I do not know the exact circumstances of why it degenerated, but it degenerated … There were shots from (Congolese forces) and the police on asylum seekers,” she said.

The death toll is likely to worsen, Marchal said.

The Congolese government, the U.N refugee agency and the U.N. peacekeeping mission in Congo “have deployed teams on site to shed light on everything that happened,” she said.

Burundi’s foreign minister, Alain Aime Nyamitwe, on Twitter asked Congo and U.N. officials for an explanation of the shootings.

Residents in the area said the killings occurred after some Burundian refugees went to the Bureau of Intelligence in Kamanyola to inquire about four detained refugees. Congolese soldiers responded with gunfire when some of the refugees hurled stones, said refugee Aline Nduwarugira.

Another witness, Alfred Rukungo, said Congolese soldiers continued shooting into the crowd even after some refugees were wounded.

More than 100 people were injured in the incident, according to Bertin Bisimwa, chief of Kamanyola.

Congo is home to thousands of Burundian refugees. Many fled political violence at home in 2015, when President Pierre Nkurunziza successfully pursued a disputed third term amid deadly protests.

MDC ASSURES PUBLIC THAT MORGAN TSVANGIRAI IS OUT OF DANGER

Following reports that its president was battling for his life, Zimbabwe’s Movement for Democratic Change (MDC) says Morgan Tsvangirai is out of danger and is resting.

Newspapers in Zimbabwe yesterday reported that the 65 year old presidential Thehopeful had been urgently flown to South Africa on Friday night after his health condition deteriorated.

Tsvangirai had been addressing a party meeting in Kodama when he allegedly started experiencing severe vomiting, prompting his doctor to have him transported to South Africa.

The MDC says its leader has brushed aside his health scare to encourage Zimbabweans to register to vote in the coming elections.

This after widespread media reports that he was on life support fighting for his life.

The MDC’s Austin Moyo says Tsvangirai has already spoken to party members assuring them of his wellness.

“He has called on Zimbabweans to honour the call to register to vote on issues that face them.”

While the party says its leader is in a hospital for a routine medical procedure it couldn’t say when he would be discharged.

WHATSAPP TESTING ‘DELETE FOR EVERYONE’ FEATURE

According to a report, WhatsApp, the Facebook-owned messaging service used by more than 1 billion people worldwide, is testing a revoke button.
Have you ever sent a WhatsApp message and seconds later regretted pressing that send button … or even worse, sent a message intended for a friend to your boss?

Well, now you won’t have to worry about drafting an apology or resignation letter.

The “Delete for Everyone” feature will remove “sent-by-mistake” messages from your chat history and that of the recipient(s).

According to the leaker of all that is new with the App, the feature will be available for both Android and IOS users.

In a tweet on Tuesday, WABetaInfo said the server works and will allow users to successfully recall a message they have sent.

Robert Mugabe slams Zodwa Wabantu’s ‘no-panty policy’

Speaking at an interface rally in Bindura on Saturday, President Robert Mugabe told a crowd of thousands that he knew he was “disappointing many men” for banning Zodwa Wabantu from performing in Zimbabwe.

The Zimbabwean president lambasted the Durban entertainer, who is famous for her sultry moves and revealing clothes, for attending parties without wearing underwear.

He said: “I’m sorry we disappointed many men… You just come without covering your decency. What do you want? Men to see you? We don’t want such…”

Zodwa was set to perform in Zimbabwe, but was banned by the acting minister of Tourism and Hospitality last month when he ruled that the Durbanite will not be allowed to perform at the Harare International Carnival

This happened after actress Anne Nhira complained to the tourism board that Wabantu should not be invited because she was not a Zimbabwean, she dressed scantily and she was a lesbian.

Zodwa told TshisaLive she blamed her gig cancellation on “political games”.

“The show was cancelled at the last moment. They said I must tell everyone that I am sick and they would send me money to cover the trouble. It’s a political thing. It was politics behind closed doors because apparently people were protesting that they want me to perform and sponsors were pulling out of the event because reports about me were drawing too much (negative) attention to the event,” she said.

World leaders send Zim congratulatory messages

WORLD leaders yesterday congratulated Zimbabwe for attaining 37 years of independence with Russian President Mr Vladimir Putin saying the relations between Harare and Moscow should be strengthened in line with Russia’s thrust to strengthen security and stability in Africa.

The solidarity messages came ahead of today’s 37th independence annivesary celebrations being held under the theme, ‘’Zimbabwe@37: Embracing ease of doing business for socio-economic development.”

Zimbabwe became independent on April 18 1980 after a protracted 14-year liberation struggle against the minority Smith regime.

Mr Putin said the relations between Russia and Zimbabwe have traditionally been of a friendly nature and should expand to other spheres.

“Please accept my sincere congratulations on the occasion of the National Day of the Republic of Zimbabwe — Independence Day.

“Russian-Zimbabwean relations have traditionally been of a friendly nature.

“I am confident that the further expansion of constructive cooperation in the political, trade and economic, humanitarian and other spheres meet the key interests of the peoples of our countries, goes in line with strengthening security and stability on the African continent.”

Mr Putin wished President Mugabe good health and success as well as the well-being and prosperity to the people of Zimbabwe.

“I wish you good health and success, as well well being and prosperity to all citizens of Zimbabwe,’’ Mr Putin said.

British Ambassador Mrs Catriona Laing said the Queen of England Queen Elizabeth II wished Zimbabwe well on its day of independence.

“The message from Her Majesty the Queen is l send the people of Zimbabwe my congratulations on the celebration of their national day,” she said.

Dean of African diplomats and Democratic Republic of Congo Ambassador to Zimbabwe Mr Mwawapanga Mwawampanga said; “The people of Zimbabwe should remain steady and united in the challenges they face. The challenges are not peculiar as most countries are facing the same challenges.”

Turning to negative western media, Ambassador Mwawampanga said: “President Mugabe should not lose any sleep. He is a strong leader whom we all look up to.”

Switzerland Ambassador to Zimbabwe and Malawi Mrs Ruth Huber said; “I congratulate the people of Zimbabwe for their 37 anniversary. I give them my best wishes for the future. I hope that the economy and living conditions of all its citizens improve.”

Canada’s Ambassador Mr Kumar Gupta said: “Canada and its people are wishing Zimbabwe the best on its independence day today.”

Mugabe’s son ‘removed from Dubai under controversial circumstances’… now lives in SA

Both of President Robert Mugabe’s sons are living in South Africa, according to a privately owned Zimbabwean newspaper.
The Zimbabwe Independent said on Friday Robert Mugabe jr who had been living in his parents’ rented mansion in Dubai, and the youngest son, Bellarmine, 20, had moved to Joburg.
The Mugabe family and the Zimbabwean government have not confirmed this information, nor where their sons are studying, if they are studying.
Both young men failed to pass their school-leaving examinations in Harare as Robert jr, a top-class basketball player, did not succeed in his final A-level examinations at expensive private school St John’s College in Harare. He was believed to be studying in Dubai and it is not clear why he left the United Arab Emirates.

When he was 16, Bellarmine was expelled from St George’s, the prestigious Catholic boys’ school he attended in Harare. He allegedly finished his schooling at home.
Mugabe’s eldest child, Bona is now married with a baby. She qualified as an accountant at a college in Hong Kong but has never worked and lives in her father’s former home in Harare.

First lady Grace Mugabe’s oldest son, Russell Goreraza, 33, divorced with one child, lives in Harare and was involved in an allegedly troubled gold-mining venture and was found guilty two years ago of culpable homicide when he was speeding in Harare in his luxury car and killed a pedestrian.

He and Bona Mugabe’s husband, Simba Chikore, a one-time pilot who now heads bankrupt Air Zimbabwe, recently took over several houses in Harare on behalf of Grace, who claims in court she is trying to recover about R20 million from a Dubai diamond dealer.

The properties belong to Jamal Ahmed and according to what he told the Harare High Court, Goreraza and Chikore took possession of his homes and other buildings he claims he owns in Harare.
Ahmed’s employees claimed they were evicted from one of his properties by the pair.
 The police have since told the high court that they seized the homes as they are investigating Ahmed.
Ahmed says he sold Grace Mugabe a diamond last year and had it cut and set. 
He says she paid for the stone from her Harare bank account but refused to accept delivery of it and demanded the money be paid back to her account in Dubai. Chikore, according to the Zimbabwe Independent, is now taking over some of his father-in-law’s security, in addition to control of Air Zimbabwe.

This week police and soldiers continued to evict scores of people from mud-and-grass homes built on land near Harare, which Grace Mugabe claimed from a Zimbabwe company. The evictions continued even after the high court ordered them to stop last month.

Grace recently spent about R60m on a large piece of land in a top Harare suburb.
The Mugabes have taken over about 15 formerly white-owned or company-owned farms in Zimbabwe and are the largest private landowners in the country. The president bought his first farm in 2000.

Wheels are now coming off for Zuma, say analysts

The president has been described as a python who has tried to swallow an elephant.

President Jacob Zuma is like “a python that has swallowed more than it can digest”, according to political analyst Elvis Masoga.

He was responding to the increased calls for Zuma to step down that were made, among other places, at the memorial service of fallen ANC stalwart Ahmed Kathrada, where recently axed finance minister Pravin Gordhan said he “unashamedly” encouraged mass mobilisation.

“It has been said I am encouraging mass mobilisation,” Gordhan said.

“Yes, I am unashamedly encouraging mass mobilisation. We are encouraging mass mobilisation to ensure that people shall govern.”

Masoga told The Citizen yesterday said Zuma was suffocating to death from swallowing this huge elephant.

“He has been swallowing impalas and rats for some time now, but his time is up now. Zuma’s survival skills and theatrics are now coming to an end … the wheels have come off,” Masoga said.

He described Gordhan’s call for mass mobilisation as coming from a true patriot.

“Every person who loves his or her country will do that to save us from this mafia. Everyone in the country must rise up against these thieves. There are different ways to remove Zuma and one could well be the ANC calling a special national executive committee meeting to map the way forward after a cadre shamelessly disregarded the ruling party.”

Another analyst, Professor Andre Duvenhage, said it was crystal clear that there was a total rebellion against Zuma in the country, including from within the ANC.

“We are likely to witness a very big battle over the next few weeks and there is a strong possibility that the ANC might want to remove the president. That could happen if the ANC calls an emergency meeting or in parliament, where several opposition parties have also been calling for a motion of no confidence in the president.

“Zuma, on the other hand, is also prepared for a fight and he will counter with the ANC Youth League and the Women’s League, who have already made it clear that they support the recent Cabinet reshuffle,” said Duvenhage.

He said Zuma would be “lucky” if he survived to the end of 2017, stressing the president found himself under immense pressure from all corners of the country.

“We must also remember that there are still pending court cases against him and chief among them is the ‘spy tapes’. Also, the EFF has been to the Constitutional Court asking for action to be taken regarding the Nkandla matter.”

TB Joshua visit a ‘blessing’ for Zim’s religious tourism

Johannesburg – Nigeria’s massively wealthy religious leader TB Joshua arrived on a private jet in Harare on Friday for his first “crusade” in Zimbabwe.Joshua, whose real name is Temitope Baogun Joshua, was invited by Zimbabwe’s richest ‘‘pastor’’ Walter Magaya for a week-long visit before the Easter holiday.
In the midst of Zimbabwe’s worst economic crisis, Magaya and other new era religious leaders, have made fortunes in Zimbabwe.
TB Joshua is on an Easter ‘ crusade, in Zimbabwe.

Joshua will address Magaya’s followers and will also visit the poor during his Zimbabwe ‘‘crusade’’, according to a press briefing in Harare on Thursday.
Tourism minister Walter Mzembi said Joshua’s visit was welcome.
“Religious tourism is very important for the country. It will create jobs locally and bring in foreign currency as many people come for the crusade,” he said.
Several government leaders are understood to be planning to visit Joshua during his visit at a time when there is huge political uncertainty within the ruling Zanu PF over who will succeed Robert Mugabe when he dies.
The TB Joshua brand was not always popular with the Zimbabwe government as he made several prophecies about Mugabe’s health prior to the previous elections.
Three years ago more than 80 South Africans died when the building housing Joshua’s church ‘‘hostel’’ in Lagos collapsed.
Magaya is the wealthiest of Zimbabwe’s religious leaders and is building a flat-roofed mansion in a leafy, semi rural suburb east of Harare.
The building is using the only crane operating in Harare at present and several South African builders and engineers are involved the construction of the extraordinary hilltop home.

Police shoot dead Palestinian who stabbed 3 Israelis

Jerusalem – A Palestinian from the occupied West Bank stabbed and wounded three Israelis in Jerusalem’s Old City on Saturday before being shot dead by border guards, police said.

The man attacked two Jewish passers-by before fleeing. He later wounded a border guard before he was shot dead.

Two of the Israelis were slightly injured and the third was in a more serious condition, according to police.

Clashes broke out afterwards between stone-throwing Palestinians and police officers who used stun grenades, a report said.

It was the second such attack in days near Damascus Gate, a main entrance to the Old City.

On Wednesday, a Palestinian woman said to be the mother of a man killed last year tried to stab Israeli police with scissors before being shot dead.

A wave of violence that broke out in October 2015 has claimed the lives of 259 Palestinians, 40 Israelis, two Americans, one Jordanian, an Eritrean and a Sudanese national, according to an AFP count.

Most of the Palestinians killed were carrying out knife, gun or car-ramming attacks, according to Israeli authorities. Others died during protests, clashes or in Israeli air raids on the Gaza Strip.

Violence has subsided in recent months, despite sporadic attacks.

2 girls held on suspicion of plotting French attack

Nice – A judicial source said on Saturday that two teenage girls were arrested in southern France on suspicion of plotting a terror attack.

The pair, aged 14 and 15, were taken in for questioning by the anti-terrorism prosecution service after a search of both girls’ homes turned up evidence suggesting they could have been planning an attack, the source said.

“At this stage we do not know how far advanced the preparations were,” the  source said, adding that no weapons had been found.

Several girls have been among a swathe of teenagers arrested in recent anti-terror swoops in France on suspicion either of plotting attacks or having contact with Islamic State members or sympathisers.

The country remains in a state of emergency after suffering a spate of deadly jihadist attacks over the past two years.

Three teenage girls were arrested in late February on suspicion they had chatted on Telegram, an encrypted instant messaging platform used by French jihadi Rachid Kassim to call for attacks on France.

An anti-terrorism judge in Paris charged the trio last month.

New jihadist alliance claims border attack in Mali

Dakar – A new jihadist alliance claimed responsibility on Saturday for an attack that killed three members of Mali’s security forces on March 29, according to a statement released by jihadist monitoring group SITE.

Three Malian jihadist groups with previous Al-Qaeda links recently joined forces to create the “Group to Support Islam and Muslims” (GSIM), led by Iyad Ag Ghaly of Islamist organisation Ansar Dine.

The group, also known as Nusrat al-Islam wal-Muslimeen in Arabic, mounted an attack that killed three gendarmes, they said, though Malian security sources told AFP the day of the attack that it was two soldiers and a civilian who were killed.

“This past Wednesday, a brigade of mujahideen was able to attack a Malian gendarmerie post in Boulikessi, which is part of the Douentza area, near the Burkinabe border,” the statement released by SITE said.

“The attack resulted in killing three gendarmes and seizing some weapons and ammunition as spoils,” it added.

It is believed to be the jihadist alliance’s second operation after their merger, following the killing of 11 soldiers in the same area on March 5.

Ansar Dine was involved in an onslaught that saw northern Mali fall out of government control for nearly a year from spring 2012.

The extremists were later expelled from the region by a French-led international military intervention.

Nonetheless large swathes of northern Mali continue to come under attack from jihadist groups.

The area is also seen by governments battling the jihadist threat as a launchpad for attacks against other countries in the region.

Bomb in Egypt Nile Delta city wounds 13 police, 3 civilians

Cairo – Egypt’s Interior Ministry says 16 people, including 13 policemen, have been injured in a bomb blast near a police training facility in the Nile Delta north of Cairo.

The ministry says Saturday’s bomb was hidden in an abandoned motorbike and that all the injured were hospitalised.

No one immediately claimed responsibility for the bombing in the city of Tanta, but the attack bore the hallmarks of several shadowy groups authorities say are linked to the now-outlawed Muslim Brotherhood.

The Brotherhood’s Mohammed Morsi, Egypt’s first freely elected leader, was ousted in 2013 by then defense minister Abdel-Fattah al-Sisi, who was elected president a year later.

Egypt faces an increasingly emboldened insurgency by Islamic militants led by an affiliate of the Islamic State group in northern Sinai.

S Korean cargo ship Stellar Daisy vanishes in South Atlantic

A huge South Korean cargo ship which had 24 people on board has gone missing in the South Atlantic.

Two Filipino sailors found on a life raft were rescued, AFP reported, citing a Uruguayan navy spokesman.

On Friday, a crew member sent a text saying the 312m-long (1024ft) Stellar Daisy freighter was taking on water.

The Uruguayan navy alerted merchant ships in the area, which began a search. A navy spokesman said they had reported a strong smell of fuel.

The two people rescued had been found by commercial ships aiding the search, Yonhap news agency said.

“A search operation is continuing for the 22 people,” a South Korean foreign ministry official told Reuters.

South Korea also requested assistance in the search from Brazil and Uruguay, the official said.

The ship, a Very Large Ore Carrier (VLOC) with a capacity of 260,000 tonnes, was being operated by a South Korean company but was flagged to the Marshall Islands, and had 16 Filipinos and 8 South Koreans on board.

It had departed from Brazil, reports said.

German police probe Syrian student over bomb plot

Berlin – German police are investigating a Syrian doctorate student in detention for having allegedly planned a bomb attack, reports say.

The 36-year-old man was previously already probed over suspected ties to the Islamic State group, said public broadcaster Hessischer Rundfunk.

Prosecutors have broadened their investigation after finding bomb-making instructions in his possession.

The suspect, who was studying for a doctorate at western Germany’s Darmstadt Technical University, was detained last year over a video broadcast online in which he allegedly voiced his support for ISIS.

Investigators had confiscated his mobile phone and other electronic devices and subsequently found the bomb-building instructions.

But his lawyer has argued that the man downloaded those instructions in 2014 and that this did not qualify as proof he was planning an attack.

Germany is on high alert for jihadist attacks following a string of assaults last year, the deadliest of which was an ISIS-claimed December 19 truck rampage through a Berlin Christmas market that killed 12 people.

Donald Trump calls Russia probe a ‘witch hunt’

President Donald Trump has blasted a probe into his team’s ties to Russia as an opposition “witch hunt”, defending his former top aide Michael Flynn’s decision to ask for immunity in the case.

Trump’s ex-national security adviser, whose links to Russia are one focus of the investigation, has sought protection in exchange for his testimony to the FBI and congressional committees.

Flynn’s lawyer said in a statement on Thursday that his client has “a story to tell, and he very much wants to tell it, should the circumstances permit”.

But two key committees in the probe, the House and Senate Intelligence Committees, both suggested the immunity proposal was premature.

Trump nevertheless encouraged Flynn’s move in a tweet.

“Mike Flynn should ask for immunity in that this is a witch hunt (excuse for big election loss), by media & Dems, of historic proportion!”

Flynn could be a key witness as the FBI, as well as the House and Senate intelligence committees, seek to determine whether Trump advisers colluded with Russia’s interference in last year’s presidential election.

But Adam Schiff, the senior Democrat on the House panel, said there was “still much work and many more witnesses and documents to obtain before any immunity request from any witness can be considered”.

“We should first acknowledge what a grave and momentous step it is for a former national security adviser to the president of the United States to ask for immunity from prosecution,” Schiff said.

‘Guilty of a crime’

A close adviser to Trump’s 2016 campaign, Flynn was forced to step down from his White House job in February after misleading the vice president about conversations he had with Russian Ambassador Sergey Kislyak after the election.

He is also in focus over receiving $33 000 from Russian television RT to attend a 2015 gala in Moscow where he sat with Russian President Vladimir Putin, and $530 000 from Turkey for lobbying services.

But Flynn is not the only Trump associate to have had contacts with Russia during the campaign.

Investigators want to know whether there was any collusion between them and Moscow’s concerted effort last year to hurt Trump’s Democratic election rival Hillary Clinton.

What Flynn could tell investigators is unknown. US prosecutors can offer a suspect immunity in exchange for information that can incriminate others in a case, particularly larger figures.

Critics assailed the president over his tweet, noting that during last year’s campaign, Trump said in a speech that “If you’re not guilty of a crime, what do you need immunity for?”

Asked by journalists on Friday if Trump though Flynn was guilty of something, White House spokesperson Sean Spicer said the president just wants Flynn to testify.

“He thinks Mike Flynn should go testify and do what he has to do to get the story out,” Spicer said.

Moscow denounces Nato ‘slander’

Moscow – Moscow on Friday denounced Nato “slander”, accusing the alliance of using “the myth of Russian aggression” as a way to unify its members.

To maintain unity, Nato uses “the myth of the Russian threat, the slander of Russian aggression, the endless repeating of the need to confront it together”, said Russia’s foreign ministry.

Moscow’s outburst came after US Secretary of State Rex Tillerson, attending his first Nato meeting in Brussels, denounced “Russia’s aggression in Ukraine”, signalling a potentially tougher stance toward Moscow from the Trump administration.

The Russian ministry said Tillerson’s comments had left it “perplexed”, while voicing regret that they should be made on the day after a Russia-Nato meeting which was held “in a constructive atmosphere”.

“Many times, Nato has placed ideological dogma ahead of real efforts to tackle world problems,” the foreign ministry said.

“The only solution is to radically change the nature of the alliance,” it added.

Donald Trump made rapprochement with Russia a theme of last year’s US presidential campaign. Now Russia is impatient to see that wish translated into action.

US State Department officials said Tillerson would work with Nato allies to press Russia to fulfil its obligations under the Minsk agreements to end the war in eastern Ukraine.

Tillerson’s remarks appeared likely to ease concerns that Trump is more interested in cultivating ties with Russian President Vladimir Putin than in shoring up the 28-nation alliance against a more assertive Moscow.

Landslide buries over 2 dozen people in central Indonesia

Ponorogo — More than two dozen people have been reported missing after a rain-triggered landslide struck a village in Indonesia’s main Java island.

The spokesperson for Indonesia’s Disaster Mitigation Agency Sutopo Purwo Nugroho said the landslide hit up to 30 houses and farmers harvesting ginger on Saturday morning under a hillside in Banaran village in Ponorogo district in East Java province.

The latest report from the local mitigation agency said 27 people were buried while a local army chief put the missing at 38 based on reports from villagers.

Disaster agency rescuers, soldiers, police officers and volunteers were searching for the missing, Nugroho said.

Seasonal rains cause frequent floods in Indonesia. Many of the country’s 256 million people live in mountainous areas or fertile, flood-prone plains near rivers.

Mugabe’s rivals hail appointment of new chief justice

Harare – Zimbabwean President Robert Mugabe’s opponents together with the country’s legal fraternity have reportedly applauded the recent appointment of the southern African nation’s chief justice Luke Malaba.

According to New Zimbabwe.com, Malaba was set to replace chief Justice Godfrey Chidyausike who stepped down at the end of February.

The 66-year-old former deputy chief justice was appointed to the highly contested top judge post on March 27 after a bruising battle within the ruling Zanu-PF factions.

Both the ruling Zanu-PF party factions who were allegedly led by Vice President Emmerson Mnangagwa and President Mugabe’s wife Grace respectively had their preferred candidates.

The Mnangagwa led faction was reportedly backing Judge President George Chiweshe while the rival faction allegedly led by Grace preferred Judicial Service Commission secretary Justice Rita Makarau.

But during the shortlisting process held by the country’s Judicial Service Commission last year, Chiweshe failed to pitch at the interviews and as a result, he was disqualified.

Following the interview process, Malaba who was regarded by the opposition parties as the right candidate emerged as the leading candidate with a 92% mark while his closest rival Makarau scored 90% and the third candidate Paddington Garwe obtained only 52%.

The Movement for Democratic Change led by Morgan Tsvangirai said that the incoming chief justice was “good man”.

“It is a legal and constitutional appointment. There was no need for the Zanu-PF apparatchiks to try to meddle with the constitution,” MDC general secretary Douglas Mwonzora was quoted as saying.

The state owned Herald newspaper said that the Law Society of Zimbabwe (LSZ), legal experts and legislators had also welcomed Mugabe’s appointment of the former deputy chief justice.

LSZ was quoted as saying that “Zimbabweans and the legal profession would benefit immensely from his vast experience spanning over 35 years”.

Mozambique university bans dreadlocks, ‘improper dressing’

Maputo – A Mozambican university has caused a social media uproar after it reportedly banned students from wearing dreadlocks, sandals, shorts and tight dresses.

According to a tweet posted by a Human Rights Watch researcher, Zenaida Machado, the University of Zembeze published a statement on Tuesday in which it said that the ban was an effort to stamp out what it described as “inadequate dressing”. 

The ban will be effective from Monday, April 3. 

Following the announcement, a number of people took to social media to express their views, with some criticising it as “an ancient colonial move aimed at undermining Africans”.


Man, 25, rapes, infects 12 year-old niece with HIV

Victoria Falls – A Zimbabwean man, 25, has reportedly been sentenced to 16 years in jail for raping his 12-year-old niece and infecting her with HIV.  

According to NewsDay, the convicted rapist also indecently assaulted the girl’s younger sister aged 9. 

The man, who could not be named in order to protect the identity of the children, was slapped with an 18-year jail time on the rape charge.

Three years were suspended for a period of four years on condition of good behaviour.

He was, however, found guilty of aggravated indecent assault and sentenced to 12 months.

The court prosecutor Bheki Tshabalala said that the convict committed the crimes sometime in January last year, according to a New Zimbabwe.com report.

Tshabalala said that the 12-year-old niece was cleaning her mother’s bedroom hut when the convict forced himself on her.

“On an unknown date in the month of January 2016, the accused approached his 12-year-old niece who was cleaning her mother’s bedroom hut and lifted her up before placing her on her mother’s bed where [he] forcible had sex with her once. Immediately after that, he went to the girl’s younger sister who was sweeping in another hut and mounted her but only lay on top of her,” Tshabalala was quoted as saying.

It emerged that the girl who was raped developed rash and sores on her private parts, prompting her grandmother to rush her to a nearby clinic where she was tested HIV positive.

Boko Haram kidnap 22 girls, women in northeast Nigeria

Kano – Boko Haram Islamists have abducted 22 girls and women in two separate raids in northeast Nigeria, residents and vigilantes told our news correspondence on Friday.

In the first attack on Thursday, the jihadists raided the village of Pulka near border with Cameroon where they kidnapped 18 girls.

“Boko Haram fighters from Mamman Nur camp arrived in pickup vans around 06:00 and seized 14 young girls aged 17 and below while residents fled into the bush,” a Pulka community leader told GNR by phone.

“They picked four other girls who were fleeing the raid they came across in the bush outside the village,” said the community leader who asked not to be named for fear of reprisals.

According to the official, the attackers were loyal to the faction headed by Abu Musab Al-Barnawi, the son of Boko Haram founder Mohammed Yusuf.

Barnawi was appointed last year by the Islamic State group to replace leader Abubakar Shekau, who had pledged allegiance to the Middle East jihadist group in 2015.

Another resident confirmed the raid and said the girls were likely to end up as brides for the fighters.

“They didn’t harm anyone during the raid and they made no attempt to shoot people running away from the village,” said the resident.

In the second incident outside the village of Dumba, close to Lake Chad, the jihadists killed a herdsman who had tried to escape after refusing to pay protection money, said Adamu Ahmed, a member of an anti-Boko Haram militia.

“When the Boko Haram gunmen came for the money they realised he had left with everything and they decided to go after him on their motorcycles,” Ahmed said.

“They caught up with him near Dumba where they slaughtered him and shot dead 50 of his cattle.

“They took four women from the man’s family and the rest of the herd,” he said.

The promotion of Barnawi had revealed divisions in the group, as Shekau had been criticised for mass killings and suicide attacks against civilians.

Barnawi and his right-hand man Mamman Nur, who is seen as the real leader, had promised residents in areas under their control would not be harmed as long as they did not cooperate with Nigerian troops fighting Boko Haram.

But in recent weeks the Islamist fighters have intensified raids in areas near Lake Chad, stealing food from residents.

They have also killed several civilians they accused of cooperating with the military.

Cannabis can now be grown, smoked at home, court rules

The court ruled that current legislation did not pass Constitutional Court muster, and that parliament had two years to rectify the laws.

Dagga smokers can breathe a sigh of relief and inhale a puff of ganga – after the high court in the Western Cape declared it legal to grow and smoke dagga in their own homes.

The court ruled that current legislation did not pass Constitutional Court muster, and that parliament had two years to rectify the laws. This means from Saturday no-one smoking or growing weed in their homes can be arrested or face prosecution.

Jeremy Acton from the Dagga Party said since 2011 he had been fighting for his rights. He has been arrested five times over dagga-related charges.

“Obviously this judgment is only the first opening of a door, but we have two years to determine how the new law will really look. Needless to say, it [dagga] will have to be de-scheduled in the illicit drugs act and the Medicines and Related Substances Act.”

Acton isn’t overly concerned about any fallout from the ruling from a full bench, including Judge Dennis Davis.

“Anything can be abused, but fortunately cannabis abuse does not result in death by overdose. All moderate recreational use is medically beneficial as preventive medicine against onset of ailments relating to ageing,” he said.

“Getting off cannabis does not entail major withdrawals, and only needs a personal decision to stop. Cannabis use is part of a healthy sovereign lifestyle, so I am not really concerned with addiction issues or harms arising from recreational use. We are all using it already anyway,” Acton said.

Parliament, which now has a deadline to amend legislation, said it acknowledged the ruling to change sections of the Drug Trafficking Act and the Medicines Control Act. Spokesperson Moloto Mothapo said parliament was in the process of obtaining the judgment to study it.

“If the two laws mentioned have been found to be unconstitutional, then the Constitutional Court would have to confirm the judgment before parliament can act,” he said, adding that the state was also in a position to appeal the ruling.

Once litigation was finalised, the Constitutional Court could instruct parliament to rectify defects in the laws.

This included dealing with defects in terms of the Medical Innovation Bill, currently before parliament and first introduced by the late MP Mario Oriani-Ambrosini as a Private Member’s Bill.

Oriani-Ambrosini died of cancer more than three years ago and was a strong proponent of marijuana as an alternative medicine to treat the disease. Acton said he was sureOriani-Ambrosini would be pleased to see the changes.

The changes do not bode well for big pharmaceutical companies.

“With respect, the Medical Innovation Bill (MIB) was hijacked for the interests of Big Pharma, and the entire dagga legalisation movement opposes the MIB,” Mothapo said. This judgment destroys the Medical Control Council guidelines recently published for the MIB, and puts the medicine securely into the hands of the people, he said.

Zimbabwe: Zim Central Bank Urges Public to Use SA Rand ‘More’

The Zimbabwean central bank has reportedly urged the public to replace the US dollar with the rand as the country’s main currency.

According to New Zimbabwe.com, Reserve bank of Zimbabwe deputy governor Kapukile Mlambo said that they were going to be content if the public used the South African rand more than the US dollar.

Mlambo’s remarks came as cash shortages in the southern African country continued to bite.

Zimbabwe introduced its own surrogacy currency dubbed the “bond notes” last year, but the move has failed to address the cash problem.

We will be happy in the central bank if people use the rand more than they would use the other currencies… We can benchmark pricing with the rand, which we can’t do with the [US] dollar because we trade almost nothing with the US,” Mlambo was quoted as saying.

Zimbabwean firms last year urged the government to adopt the South African rand as its “reference currency” instead of the US dollar.

The Confederation of Zimbabwe Industries reportedly argued at the time that while the country’s unique “multi-currency system” should be maintained, all financial reporting must be done in rand.

The group said that the rand was becoming more attractive, as the southern African country continued to face an “acute liquidity crisis of cash dollars”.

Zimbabwe abandoned its own currency in 2009 and now uses mainly the US dollar and the South African rand, although other currencies are also legal tender.

April Fool’s Day: 10 stories that look like pranks but aren’t

It’s hard to know what to believe on April Fool’s Day as there are are many stories that seem rather strange but are in fact genuine.

Here is a round-up of some of this year’s more suspicious stories that are apparently true.

1. Today is international pillow fight day.Yes, really. Cities taking part include Hong Kong, Barcelona, Amsterdam, Chicago, Bangalore and Hull. Rules include no hitting anyone without a pillow.

More details (Hull Daily Mail)

2. Former Baywatch star Pamela Anderson “loves” Julian Assange. It might seem an unlikely relationship but “it’s no secret”, according to the actress. Writing a blog post, she said Mr Assange is trying to “free the world by educating it”. She goes on: “It is a romantic struggle, I love him for this”.

More details (Daily Star)

3. Putting Shakespeare lyrics to rap music can help pupils revise. Studytracks are songs with lyrics recorded to help pupils to remember what they have learnt in class. Students download an app which features tracks covering the Year 10 and 11 syllabus.

More details (Times)

4. A cat’s life was saved with a vodka shot. Vets had to give seven-year-old cat Princess a “vodka drip” to save her from being poisoned by brake fluid. Princess needed 24-hour intensive care and was treated with vodka which worked as an antidote to the poison.

More details (Daily Mirror)

5. Cricketer Gary Ballance may have to miss a championship match because he is colour blind. He could be forced to miss Yorkshire’s pink-ball County Championship fixture against Surrey as he could struggle to see the ball and differentiate it from the grass. “If I can’t see it, I can’t see it. There’s nothing I can do,” he said.

More details (Times)

6. A teenager has had a “leaving party” for his leg. Thomas Green has had 20 unsuccessful operations to treat a venous malformation – a network of veins behind his left knee that have bled into his joints. He is now having his leg removed. His parents threw his leg a “goodbye” party, complete with a cake in the shape of a leg.

More details (Daily Mirror)

7. An 82-year-old grandma rocks it as a professional DJ in Japan. After 50 years running a restaurant, Sumiko Iwamuro discovered her talent at a birthday party for her son. Her musical tastes include rock, techno jazz and French chansons. Ms Iwamuro, who goes by the name of DJ Sumirock, plays at a club in the Kabukicho district of Tokyo.

More details (Times)

8. China bans long beards. New measures which include prohibiting “abnormally” long beards have been introduced in the far western region of Xinjiang in what the Chinese government describes as a campaign against Islamist extremism.

More details (BBC China)

9. A woman who ate chicken nuggets and chips every day for 24 years has been cured of food phobia after an hour of hypnotherapy. Louise Newton, 28, would gag if she tried anything other than her diet of dry cereal, plain bread, crisps, chocolate and her everyday dinner of battered chicken and chips.

More details (Sun)

10. For a five star hotel stay with a difference, thrill seekers in the Netherlands can now spend the night in a crane. The Crane Hotel Faralda offers three suites – which are up to 50m above the ground – and a hot tub on the top deck.

More details (Daily Express)

South Africa leaders divided after President Zuma sacks Gordhan

South Africa’s Deputy President Cyril Ramaphosa has described the sacking of Finance Minister Pravin Gordhan as “totally unacceptable”.

His late night dismissal on Thursday led to a 5% plunge in the value of the currency, the rand.

Mr Gordhan was seen as a bulwark against corruption in an administration that is facing growing criticism.

He was one of several victims as President Jacob Zuma conducted a major overhaul of his cabinet.

Mr Zuma said the midnight reshuffle was about a “radical socio-economic transformation”.

Mr Ramaphosa told public broadcaster SABC that he would not resign in response to the sacking but continue to “serve the people”.

Why has this caused such a fuss?

Pravin Gordhan was seen by many as a safe pair of hands when it came to managing the economy.

He was keen to keep a tight rein on spending and resisted calls from the president to increase government expenditure.

This was Mr Gordhan’s second stint as finance minister after first serving from 2009 to 2014.

He was reappointed in 2015 to replace little-known David van Rooyen. Mr Van Rooyen’s selection was controversial and he was in place for less than a week.

Why was he sacked?

It is unclear why Mr Gordhan was sacked but local media are pointing to an alleged intelligence report which accuses him of working with foreigners to undermine Mr Zuma’s administration.

In a spirited farewell press conference at the treasury’s office in Pretoria, Mr Gordhan defended his economic record, and dismissed speculation that he had recently held meetings in London aimed at undermining the president.

Referral to his dismissal and that of his deputy Mcebisi Jonas he said: “Our souls are not for sale.”

Mr Gordhan and Mr Zuma did not see eye to eye on government spending, the BBC’s Milton Nkosi reports, and that led to a rift between them. Ultimately, though, this is being seen as a political issue with the president rewarding loyalists.

Earlier this week, the president recalled his finance minister from planned events in the UK.

Last October, Mr Gordhan was charged with fraud, but the charges were later dropped.

He has described the allegations as politically motivated.

What is being said about the sacking?

Comments by the Deputy President Cyril Ramaphosa that Mr Gordhan’s sacking was “totally unacceptable” captures the overwhelming sentiment of some top leaders in the ruling African National Congress (ANC).

ANC chief whip Jackson Mthembu said Mr Gordhan and his deputy Mcebisi Jonas had integrity and were incorruptible.

The Anglican Archbishop of Cape Town, Thabo Makgoba, has said the cabinet sackings “constitute an assault on the poor of South Africa”.

ANC Youth League leader Collen Maine has however praised the cabinet changes calling the new Finance Minister Malusi Gigaba “experienced and intelligent”.

What impact could this have?

The rand is experiencing a setback just when it had started to recover from the political uncertainty and international volatility that plagued it in the past year.

The bond markets, this is where government debt is sold and the values are directly linked to the prospects of the economy have also reacted negatively.

For foreign investors that is a boon, but for South African taxpayers subsidising the state it does not represent value for money.

Ultimately ordinary people will feel the pressure of these political moves, a weaker currency means the cost of basic imports such as fuel and some foods will go up.

A country whose reputation is dented, may ultimately lose face with international ratings agencies and finally be downgraded to “junk status” when the economic assessments are done again in June.

What other changes have been made?

Apart from the nine ministers who have been affected by the changes Mr Zuma also appointed 10 deputy ministers.

Sfiso Buthelezi will become Deputy Finance Minister, replacing Mcebisi Jonas.

“I have directed the new ministers and deputy ministers to work tirelessly with their colleagues… to ensure that the promise of a better life for the poor and the working class becomes a reality,” President Zuma’s said in a statement.

Paraguay congress set on fire amid presidential controversy

Demonstrators in Paraguay have set fire to the country’s congress amid violent protests against a bill that would let the president seek re-election.

The head of the main opposition party said an activist had been shot dead.

The country’s 1992 constitution, introduced after 35 years of dictatorship, limits the president to a single five-year term.

But sitting President Horacio Cartes is trying to remove the restriction and run for re-election.

Protesters were photographed smashing in windows of the congress building in Asuncion on Friday night and setting fire to the interior.

The AFP news agency said protesters “ransacked” the offices of those who backed the bill.

Police used mounted units, rubber bullets, and water cannons to disperse the crowd. Local media reports said dozens of people had been injured, including protesters, politicians, and police officers.

The head of Paraguay’s opposition Liberal party, Efrain Alegre, said a young man had been killed during the protests. Police are yet to confirm this.

Santi Carneri, a journalist in Asuncion, told the BBC the congress building was on fire for “more than one or two hours”.

There were “a lot of battles between people and the police in the streets”, he said, adding that it was the worst violence of its kind since Paraguay became a democracy in 1992.

‘A coup

In a statement released on Twitter, President Cartes appealed for calm.

“Democracy is not conquered or defended with violence and you can be sure this government will continue to put its best effort into maintaining order in the republic,” he said (in Spanish).

The attorney general’s office said it had followed the events closely and was investigating the violence.

Earlier, the crowd took to the streets following a private meeting of 25 senators – a slight majority of the house – which approved a bill to amend the constitution.

The bill must also be approved by the other house of parliament – the chamber of deputies – where President Cartes’ party holds a majority.

The chamber’s president, Hugo Velázquez, told ABC Color (in Spanish) that the sitting planned for the following morning would no longer take place and no decision would be made on Saturday.

Opponents say the bill will weaken the country’s democratic institutions.

Opposition senator Desiree Masi said: “A coup has been carried out. We will resist and we invite the people to resist with us.”

Paraguay was controlled by military ruler General Alfredo Stroessner, who seized power in a coup, from 1954 until 1989.

The new constitution in 1992 created the modern government, but there has been a long period of political instability and party infighting, as well as a failed coup attempt.

President Cartes’ term is due to end in 2018.

The change, if approved, would also allow former president Fernando Lugo to run again.

Mr Lugo was ousted in 2012 over his handling of a land eviction in which 17 people were killed.

His supporters, however, would like to see him run again.

Mugabe under siege in Mauritius

President Robert Mugabe came under siege on Monday in Mauritius as scores of journalists stormed a closed session when it was his time to deliver his speech.
According to Zimbabwe state run Herald which does not hesitate to heap praises on the 93 year old, said journalists had been calm all along when other speakers took to the floor, while following proceedings from giant screens in the media centre.
 However, ” all of a sudden they stormed the entrance when the President’s turn to speak came” it said.
“The journalists had been barred from covering the plenary session because the conference venue was too small and were asked to watch proceedings on giant television screens in the media centre.

“But security officers failed to control them when they disregarded protocol and stormed the entrance just not to miss that once-in-a-lifetime experience of covering the African icon’s speech” it added.

Mugabe made a rare public appearance wearing a casual safari shirt surrounded by several aides as he was struggling to walk.

What happened to Mugabe’s suit jacket in Mauritius?

Mauritius: Hang on: what happened to President Robert Mugabe’s suit jacket?
Zimbabweans on social media have been looking at photos of their 93-year-old leader at a meeting in Mauritius with more than a bit of bewilderment. Because he seems to have “lost” his blazer.
A video clip of Mugabe arriving in Mauritius on Sunday night, where he is attending the inaugural African Economic Platform (AEP), shows him wearing a sober navy blue suit jacket and grey tie as he is welcomed by Mauritian Prime Minister Pravind Jugnauth. 
But later photos show him walking (and reclining) inexplicably dressed in what looks very much like an untucked white shirt – while a sea of smart blazers surrounds him. 
And although the shirt appears to have a collar, it’s not buttoned up.

Was it a wardrobe malfunction, as @PovoZimbabwe suggested? 

Or a sign of something much more worrying?

“Mugabe has to quit, this is crazy,” tweeted one Zimbabwean.

Said @ali_naka: “The man should be resting or sitting under a mango or guava tree in the village.”
“True but he is being subjected to a gruelling schedule by avaricious aides who are on a plundering mission. Heartless natives,” said @GomoDubi.
The strange choice of clothing could have been nothing more than a desire to be different, as @hbanhire suggested. “Our fearless leader likes to stand out from the crowd,” he tweeted, next to a photo taken in 2015 of Mugabe at an India-Africa Forum in which he was the only one to stick to his suit.
But Mugabe’s taste for Savile Row suits (and others) makes this choice of attire in Mauritius even more puzzling.
He doesn’t just wear Savile Row: at his 93rd birthday party last month he wore a jacket made of fabric that had his face printed on it.

Mugabe’s nephew helps oust ‘dictator’ (so can he oust his uncle, Zimbabweans wonder?)

President Robert Mugabe’s flamboyant and very rich nephew Philip Chiyangwa played a large part in achieving the unthinkable: the unseating of a man who’s been in power for the last (nearly) three decades.
Admittedly, Chiyangwa’s victory was in the world of soccer where the longtime head of the Confederation of African Football Issa Hayatou has just been voted out of power.
But some Zimbabweans are asking: could “Fidza” perhaps do the same with his 93-year-old uncle Robert Mugabe, the man who’s ruled Zimbabwe with an iron grip since independence in 1980?
Rival birthday party
ZIFA and COSAFA boss Chiyangwa headed the campaign to block Cameroon’s Hayatou from getting re-elected as boss of CAF and get Madagascar’s Ahmad Ahmad elected in his place. Hayatou had been in place for 29 years. As a key part of his power-transfer strategy, property magnate Chiyangwa even went so far as to hold a birthday party in Harare a day before his uncle’s official party in February. “Fidza” got FIFA president Gianni Infantino to come to the bash as guest of honour.
The campaign paid off, because Ahmad Ahmad was finally elected at the CAF Congress in Ethiopia this week.
African strongman
So excited were some Zimbabweans that hundreds of them reportedly thronged Harare International Airport on Friday to greet Chiyangwa on his return from Addis Ababa.
But with headlines like “all change in Africa” and “one of Africa’s longest serving strongmen just got voted out of power”, some Zimbabweans and non-Zimbabweans are seeing a certain irony in what’s happened.
“Dear Mr Phillip Chiyangwa, that warm fuzzy feeling you just had sir is called regime change,” tweeted @cctsodzo.
“When shall we get a Fidza in our politics to do a Hayatou? Hayatou fall has excited many,” said @shadreck1971.
‘It took a politician from Zimbabwe to bring change
Phelisile Cengani from Cape Town said: “The irony in all of this, it took a politician from Zimbabwe to bring change at CAF.”
Not everyone saw the irony, it seems. Zimbabwe’s Higher Education Minister Jonathan Moyo congratulated the new CAF boss, saying that history had been made in African football “with our very own Philip Chiyangwa in the thick of it.”
Asked @povozim in a likely reference to Mugabe’s refusal to accept the what many think was the outright loss of the first round of presidential elections in 2008: “Someone must ask Zifa President @chiyangwa_phil how he would feel if #issahayatou refused to go after yesterday’s defeat! #ZimElections2018”.
‘Mugabe has Hayatousis
Supersports presenter Robert Marawa went as far as to pose the ‘could the same thing happen to your uncle’ question to Chiyangwa in an interview on Friday night, according to an online Zimbabwe media watchdog.
Tweeted @ZimMediaReview. “Robert Marawa asked Chiyangwa if he wouldn’t do the same to Bob. “Different type of politics; you will be throwing yourself under a train”
Chiyangwa does not often speak in public about his relative.
Zimbabwe’s next elections are in 2018 and Mugabe says he will stand.
Zimbabwe’s Independent weekly said Saturday that the longtime president is “suffering from Hayatousis”

8 women held hostage in mansion by suspected human sex trafficker: Cops

Eight women were taken from a man’s home in Georiga in what police are calling a case of suspected human sex trafficking.
Police in Sandy Springs responded to a haunting 911 call from a 20-year-old woman who said she was being held against her will on Tuesday.
“I’m in a really bad situation and I need to get out,” said the caller, who told the dispatcher she had met her captor on a website called Seeking Arrangements, which connects women with wealthy men.
In a 911 recording released by police, the dispatcher questions the caller, asking, “Wait, did you say that you’re in a house full of girls?”
“Mmhmm,” the caller replied. “And somebody threatened to kill you if you leave?” the shocked dispatcher asked.
“Mmhmm,” the woman confirmed. The caller went on to tell the dispatcher the man threatening to kill her was her “boss.”
According to officials, officers from Sandy Springs PD arrived at the home, where they say they found a total of eight women. All the women have been removed from the residence.
Four were referred to victim services and the other four are with friends or family, WGCL reports.
Arrested at the home was 33-year-old Kenndric Roberts. Police said he’s been charged with false imprisonment and trafficking of persons for labor.
Police said the current charges are related to the one woman who called with the complaint. Authorities are interviewing the other women and said additional charges could be coming.
“What we believe was happening is these women were basically lured there with a promise of either financial help or a modeling career or some kind of career advancement,” said Sandy Springs Police Sgt. Sam Worsham.
According to police, women in the 6,800-square-foot home were forced to dance for money and even get plastic surgery.
Property records put the value of the 5-bedroom residence at nearly one million dollars. A neighbor said the home was rented.
Robert’s first appearance in a Fulton County Court is scheduled for Thursday morning.
In a statement released late Wednesday, the website SeekingArrangement.com said they are conducting an internal investigation into the matter.
“At this time, we are conducting our own internal research and currently have no additional information. SeekingArrangement.com is a dating platform intended to be used to connect people interested in mutually beneficial relationships.
“We do not condone any illegal activity, and take active measures to protect the integrity of both our site and our members. As always, we intend to cooperate fully with the authorities on any investigation.”

China-India Rivalry Could Have Deadly Consequences for Afghanistan

Afghanistan is rapidly becoming a strategic hub for a grave conflict of interest among global players — China, Russia, the United States, and India — with huge repercussions for regional security and peace. In the recently concluded six-party meeting in Moscow, India and China rehearsed deep-seated disagreements over peace-building in Afghanistan. In strong opposition to China’s demands to initiate talks with the Afghan Taliban, Indian diplomats reiterated their concern about terror activities proliferating, albeit covertly, from Pakistan. Vikas Swarup, India’s external affairs spokesperson, called for concerted efforts to prevent “safe havens or sanctuaries to any terrorist group or individual in countries of this region” as a prerequisite of stability in Afghanistan.
Yet beyond geopolitical interest, the Sino-Indian rift over Afghanistan is also about status. Status can be understood here as a set of collective beliefs about a state’s standing. Paradoxically, it is only revealed to a state through acts by other parties, which either recognize or fail to recognize status.
For over a decade, the two emerging powers have been engaged in a conflict over their extended spheres of influence in the regional space. India and China have confronted each other in Kabul. China has opted to initiate talks with the Taliban as a prelude to peacemaking; India has resorted to developmental support while refraining from partaking militarily in the conflict. On both sides, there is seething unease about ceding to the other legitimate status as a “responsible” power in the region, with its implications for respective status at the global level. Enjoying this article?
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This has created a status dilemma between the two stakeholders. A security dilemma, as is well understood, has the potential to amplify conflict among purely security-seeking states into an arms race or even war. Yet a status dilemma can engender conflict among states which seek only to maintain their relative standing. Indeed, status dilemmas are frequent and are thus more important causes of inter-state conflicts.
India and China have both pursued deceptively similar strategies vis-a-vis Afghanistan, officially premised on “non-intervention.” In contradiction to Western powers’ reflex toward direct intervention in recent times, the two Asian powers have advanced with cautious steps. Previously relegated to the sidelines of Beijing’s foreign policy perspective, since the 1990s Afghanistan’s strategic significance has escalated astronomically. With concerns ranging from Uyghur militants posing security threats in Xinjiang province to Afghanistan’s evolving geo-political interest — as a gateway to Central Asia and a key player in the “One Belt, One Road” initiative — Beijing has looked at Kabul with focused attention.
India, on the contrary, has eyed Afghanistan through the prism of Pakistan. In the era of Narendra Modi, Delhi has sought to strengthen Afghan ties. To that end, the transfer of Mi-25s attack helicopters – a first-of-its-kind lethal transaction — marks a new beginning.
On the wider canvas, however, India and China are highly sensitive to the status implications of their role in Afghan’s conflict resolution and peacebuilding. Their involvement in multiple institutional arrangements vis-a-vis Afghanistan has thus proved neuralgic.
On being excluded from the Moscow-led multi-party talks early this year, which engaged China and Pakistan, India registered strong opposition. This led to its inclusion in the subsequent six-party talks of unavoidable partners, also embracing Iran and Afghanistan itself.
In the absence of the Afghan Taliban, however, China elected to host a delegation of its leaders. One of the latter described China as a prime stakeholder in peace and stability in Afghanistan. Deng Xinjun, China’s special envoy on Afghanistan, reciprocally remarked: “China has always conveyed to the Taliban that it recognized the Afghan government and has encouraged the Taliban to join the peace process.”
India, differing prominently with China, has meanwhile described the Taliban as the biggest threat to Afghanistan. At the annual Heart of Asia conference in Amritsar in December, India presented itself as a strong peace partner while dismissing any role for the Taliban in bringing peace to the region.
With India and China seeming to pursue on mutually exclusive agendas on Afghanistan, they have used these different institutional platforms to win recognition for their own conceived roles. Status reflects an objective hierarchy, related to material capabilities and observed capacities, yet it is also socially constructed through eliciting acts of recognition by others. Hence the efforts of China to draw support from Russia and Pakistan and India’s advances to Afghanistan and the United States competitively seek recognition of their own envisaged roles in the conflict-ridden state. These institutional fora have offered vehicles for status signaling by the major stakeholders.
In any bargaining over states’ relative status, each state is incentivized to highlight the particular resources in which it enjoys comparative advantage. In the simmering Sino-Indian status dilemma over Afghanistan, India has highlighted its extensive commitments to development, contributing over $2 billion since 2001 alongside training police and military units. China, besides confirming an aid contribution of over $1.5 billion, has gone a step further in conducting joint patrols with the Afghan authorities – looking to fill the vacuum which the complete draw-down of U.S. forces from Afghanistan will herald.
Given that Sino-Indian cooperation is paramount if peace in Afghanistan is to be secured, the United States has a major responsibility to smooth the way. While Afghan policy is uncertain under the volatile new president, it is only prudent for the U.S. administration to attempt a strategic accommodation of the status concerns of India and China. And while Donald Trump’s relationship with Russia is also under scrutiny, Moscow’s interest in the region is growing – including as an advocate of peace talks with the Taliban.
Only through a peaceful accommodation of the status concerns of the great regional/global players – including in most cases institutional recognition – can an effective resolution of the Afghan conundrum be ensured.

Assange defends Wikileaks’ publication of CIA hacking docs

WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange defended on Thursday his organization’s decision to publish what he alleges are more than 8,000 documents detailing the CIA’s hacking arsenal, adding he would give tech companies early access to the next tranche of documents so that they can develop fixes before vulnerabilities in consumer technologies are made public.
Assange also reiterated allegations made in Wednesday’s publications that the U.S. consulate in Frankfurt, Germany served as a base for U.S. cyber warriors.
“The U.S. consulate in Frankfurt is a CIA hacker base. People go there from the central intelligence agency,” Assange said. “They operate out of that hacker base to attack targets wihtin europe, within africa and within the Middle East.”
The CIA has not confirmed the authenticity of the documents, but officials tell ABC News that they appear authentic.
Questions have been raised in recent months over the role that WikiLeaks played in Russian efforts to undermine the 2016 U.S. election.
In January, the U.S. intelligence community concluded that hackers associated with Russian intelligence agencies had stolen documents from U.S. political institutions – including the Democratic National Committee – and given them to WikiLeaks, who later published them.
In a January interview with Fox News, Assange said, “We can say – we have said repeatedly – over the last two months that our source is not the Russian government and it is not a state party.”
The press conference was streamed live on Facebook and Periscope.
Assange was speaking from the Ecuadorian Embassy in London where he has lived since 2012.
This is a breaking news story and will be updated.

Two dead and two injured as bridge collapses onto motorway in Italy

The two people killed were a married couple whose Nissan Qashqai car was crushed when the bridge came crashing down without warning.
The collapsed bridge was reportedly a temporary structure that had been put in place while road works were carried out.
The two injured were road workers who were employed at the site. They were taken to a hospital in Ancona.
Traffic on the motorway had to be closed in both directions.

Zimbabwe: ‘Unfit to rule’ case against Mugabe dismissed

Zimbabwe’s Constitutional Court has rejected a case filed by an activist that challenged President Robert Mugabe’s ability rule saying proper court procedures weren’t followed.
Promise Mkwananzi of a social movement calling itself Tajamuka wanted to prove the 92-year-old president was unfit to hold office given his advanced age.
The court threw out the application on Wednesday, saying Mkwananzi’s case was filed improperly and he has 30 days to address technicalities and refile.
Speaking to media outside the court in the capital, Harare, Mkwananzi said he will appeal the decision.
“This is just a convenient excuse for the constitutional court to bite the bullet, so we are saying that we are going to reapply within 30 days as prescribed by the rule of the constitutional law and relaunch this issue,” he said.
“We think that this is a very strong case to answer the overwhelming evidence against him. There are statements which the president made which are clearly not in the spirit of the constitution.”
In his case, Mkwananzi argued that Mugabe – who turns 93 this month – is to be blamed for the poor state of the economy, corruption, high unemployment, and alleged human rights abuses in Zimbabwe.
“Afraid of what? We can’t be afraid. This is our country and we are citizens of this country. We are entitled to the things that we do. We have done everything perfectly above board in terms of laws of the country. We are excercising our democratic right,” Mkwananzi told our correspondence
Opposition parties say they will form a coalition by June and choose one presidential candidate to challenge Mugabe in next year’s election.
Civil society groups and activists say there will be more anti-government protests this year.
Mugabe has been in power since the country’s independence from Britain in 1980. He is coming under growing pressure from his opponents and some former allies, who are calling for him to step down. But members of the ruling ZANU-PF party want him to run again in next year’s vote.
Anger over high unemployment and cash shortages has led to violent protests in last year.
Zimbabwe protesters call for President Mugabe to step down

U.N. seeks $2.1 billion to avert famine in Yemen

The United Nations appealed on Wednesday for $2.1 billion to provide food and other life-saving assistance to 12 million people in Yemen who face the threat of famine after two years of war.
“The situation in Yemen is catastrophic and rapidly deteriorating,” Jamie McGoldrick, U.N. humanitarian coordinator in Yemen, said in the appeal document.
“Nearly 3.3 million people – including 2.1 million children – are acutely malnourished.”

Why is China ‘protecting’ the Pakistan-based Jaish-e-Mohammad militant group?

On Tuesday, China blocked a proposal by the United States to designate Jaish-e-Muhammad (JeM) chief Masood Azhar a global terrorist, according to media reports. The US move at the United Nations Security Council was backed by the United Kingdom and France in an apparent show of support for India.
New Delhi accuses JeM and Azhar of masterminding several terrorist attacks on Indian soil, including a deadly assault on an Indian airbase in Pathankot in January 2016. Pakistani investigators say Azhar and his associates had no links with the attack.
In December last year, China vetoed India’s request at the UN to blacklist the Pakistan-based JeM head Azhar as a terrorist. The UN Security Council has already blacklisted JeM, but not Azhar.
Vikas Swarup, the spokesman for India’s Foreign Ministry, said at the time that his country had requested nine months ago that Azhar be blacklisted, and claimed that most members of the Security Council had backed the move.
“We had expected China would have been more understanding of the danger posed to all by terrorism,” Swarup said in a statement in December, adding that the inability of the international community to ban Azhar showed the “prevalence of double standards in the fight against terrorism.”
New Delhi accuses Pakistan of using jihadist proxies to mount attacks inside India, including India-administered Kashmir. Islamabad denies these allegations.
In a DW interview, Siegfried O. Wolf, a South Asia expert at the University of Heidelberg, explains why Beijing continues to block the Indian move to blacklist Masood Azhar.
Siegfried O Wolf: ‘China’s counter-terrorism measures exclude the US and India’
DW: China blocked a recent US move to blacklist Jaish-e-Mohammad chief Masood Azhar at the UN. Last year, Beijing put two similar Indian proposals on hold. Why is China protecting Azhar?
Siegfried O. Wolf: China’s diplomatic support for Pakistan-based militants is multi-faceted. Therefore, one must look at Beijing’s latest action at the UN in a larger context.
China’s protection of Masood Azhar is only one component of the Chinese campaign to provide Pakistan its diplomatic support, which includes informal “lobbying work” to prevent Pakistan from being listed as a state that sponsors terrorism. The possible sanctions would not only have immense political and economic implications for Islamabad, they would also reflect poorly on Beijing as Pakistan is widely seen as a close China ally. Therefore, Chinese authorities try to undermine all Indian attempts to officially name Pakistan as a state sponsor of terrorism on international platforms like BRICS or the Heart of Asia conference.
Beijing is now also drawing on Islamabad’s improved relations with Moscow. China is increasingly involving Pakistan in multilateral dialogues on regional cooperation and security in relation to the Afghanistan-Pakistan region and Central Asia in an attempt to minimize Pakistan’s international isolation.
Another dimension of China’s move to block the Indian effort to designate Azhar as a terrorist is the threat that anti-Indian militant groups like the JeM could turn against the Pakistani state. This would have dangerous implications for China, especially for its massive investments and development initiatives in the South Asian country, including the multi-billion dollar China-Pakistan Economic Corridor (CPEC) project. We must not forget that international terror groups like al Qaeda, “Islamic State” (IS) and the East Turkestan Islamic Movement (ETIM) oppose Beijing for its alleged anti-Muslim policies against the Uighurs in its western Xinjiang province. China doesn’t want an additional confrontation with Islamist groups.
Finally, there is no doubt that the India-China rivalry might also be a factor in Beijing’s support for Islamabad and Pakistan-based terrorists. In this context, China’s major development projects like “One Belt, One Road” to link China with Europe and the Middle East, and several other infrastructure projects show that Beijing considers Afghanistan an important country for its economic, security and geopolitical interests.
China is investing massively in Pakistan Why does India want the UN to designate Azhar as a terrorist? What does it want to achieve through this move?
The Indian policy is that the internationally community recognizes Pakistan as a terror sponsor. New Delhi wants the global powers to impose sanctions on Pakistan. If the international community declares Pakistan a state sponsor of terrorism, it would help India to justify its military action against militants on Pakistani soil and legitimize cross-border operations.
China is also facing a protracted Islamist insurgency in Xinjiang. Why are Beijing and New Delhi not on the same page over Islamist terrorism?
China’s counter-terrorism measures exclude the US and India. Chinese authorities have historically treated New Delhi as a geopolitical rival. India’s close ties with the US are also perceived as a threat in Beijing, therefore China prefers not to cooperate with India. Last year, China bolstered its ties with Moscow, and at the moment it appears that Beijing is trying to construct a new security bloc in Asia. This, however, does not involve the Sino-Indian security cooperation.
New Delhi accuses JeM and Azhar of masterminding several terrorist attacks on Indian soil
Will Chinese support embolden Pakistan in what some experts say is its backing for jihadist proxies in India and Afghanistan?

China is indirectly encouraging Pakistan to continue its state patronage of cross-border terrorism. At the same time, Beijing is supporting Pakistan’s policy of fighting anti-state militants, especially those groups that could pose a threat to CPEC.

Beijing will most likely not intervene in Pakistan’s policy of backing militants that are operating in Afghanistan and India. Any measures against such groups, or the withdrawal of support, will be perceived as a hostile act by these jihadists. In this context, it is interesting to note that a recent tripartite meeting between Russia, China, and Pakistan on how to bring stability and peace to Afghanistan identified IS as the major threat and not the pro-Pakistan Taliban groups or the Pakistan-based Haqqani Network.
Siegfried O. Wolf is a researcher at the University of Heidelberg’s South Asia Institute. He is also the director of research at the Brussels-based South Asia Democratic Forum (SADF).

Jovenel Moise Has Been Sworn In As Haiti’s New President

Jovenel Moise has been sworn in as Haiti’s new president, opening a new chapter in the country’s history after a long-running political crisis.
The 48-year-old banana exporter, who has never held political office, took the oath of office on Tuesday in a ceremony in the capital, Port-au-Prince.
The handpicked candidate of Haiti’s former president, Michel Martelly, Moise initially won the first round of voting in October 2015 – but the results were subsequently annulled amid allegations of massive fraud.
The elections were further postponed in October after Hurricane Matthew battered the country, killing hundreds and causing extensive damage.
Moise won a November election redo with 55 percent, vowing to stimulate the economy and create more jobs.
Yet, his critics claimed he did not gain a mandate because only 21 percent of voters went to the polls.
The new president begins his five years in power with an already fragile popularity, since he is at the centre of an unresolved money laundering probe.
Haiti earthquake: Thousands still wait for help Haiti’s Central Unit of Financial Intelligence alleges that Moise laundered $5m through suspicious money transfers – charges he denies.
Haiti has been dependant on international aid since a powerful earthquake devastated it in January 2010. Its serious economic problems have been compounded by political instability, violence and corruption.
According to the UN World Food Programme, two and half million Haitians live in poverty.
Despite the challenges Moise faces as the poor Caribbean country’s new president, some Haitians are willing to give him a chance.
“We have to wait and see what is going to happen. Previous governments came and made promises but nothing happened,” Desilien Simedieu, a community leader at the Carradeux camp, where most people live on less than $3 per day, told our correspondent
“The only thing we can do is wait.

Rwanda fires 200 police officers accused of corruption

Rwanda’s government has dismissed 200 police officers implicated in corruption as the East African country strives to maintain its reputation as largely free of petty graft.Rwanda is sub-Saharan Africa’s third least corrupt country in Transparency International’s latest survey.

The ranking shows the Rwandan government’s will to fight corruption, said Marie-Immaculée Ingabire, the head of Transparency International in Rwanda.

The dismissal of the police officers was approved by a Cabinet meeting last Friday chaired by President Paul Kagame, whose government has been hailed by donor countries for punishing corrupt officials.

Rwanda depends on foreign aid to finance a sizable part of its national budget.

Rwanda police spokesperson Theos Badege said on Monday there would be “no mercy” upon corrupt officers in the police.

“It is a national policy to ensure zero tolerance to graft,” Badege said, adding that accountability and integrity are among the core values expected of police officers while on duty.

Last year 200 civilians were arrested for allegedly giving bribes to police officers.

The African Union estimates that $50 billion is lost to corruption and other financial crimes across Africa annually.

Trump speaks on Zim, slams Mugabe’s govt over arrest of pastor Mawarire

President Donald Trump’s administration has raised alarm over the deterioration of Zimbabwe’s human rights situation, following the jailing of two prominent clerics critical of Zimbabwean President Robert Mugabe’s leadership.Trump has not minced his words on some of the world’s dictators, telling them to reform or leave office.

The US embassy in Harare issued a statement condemning the arrest of evangelical pastors Evan Mawarire and Phillip Patrick Mugadza, saying that freedom of expression was now under attack in Zimbabwe.

Mawarire was arrested last week at the Harare International Airport on his surprise return to the southern African country after spending six months in self-imposed exile, mostly in the United States. He was subsequently charged with attempting to subvert Mugabe’s constitutionally elected government.

On the other hand, Mugadza continues to be incarcerated following his prophecy that Mugabe would die on October 17 this year.

Spokesperson of the US embassy in Harare, David Mcguire, described the arrest of Mawarire and Mugadza as “unwarranted”.

“The US government unequivocally believes in the basic right of freedom of speech and calls on the government of Zimbabwe to respect the human rights of all Zimbabweans which are enshrined in the constitution. We believe that the basic right of Zimbabweans to freedom of speech – be it in public, through print media or social media – should be protected within and outside Zimbabwe’s borders,” said Mcguire.

For his part, Mugabe recently lambasted some citizens and top officials of his ruling Zanu-PF party for “abusing social media to further their selfish interests”.

The government is now planning to introduce a bill that would criminalise the abuse of the internet.

Information Minister Christopher Mushohwe was not immediately available for comment.

Madonna adopts twin girls from Malawi: court official

Blantyre – US superstar Madonna adopted two four-year-old twin girls from Malawi on Tuesday, a court official in Lilongwe told AFP, taking the number of children she has adopted from the country to four.Just two weeks ago, the singer denied that she was involved in any adoption application in Malawi after news of her court case first emerged.

“I can confirm that Madonna has been granted an adoption order for two children,” judicial spokesperson Mlenga Mvula told AFP, adding they were twins called Esther and Stella.

Madonna, who set up a charity called Raising Malawi in the southern African nation in 2006, adopted Malawian children David Banda in 2006 and Mercy James in 2009.

Her publicist was not immediately available for comment on Tuesday.

On January 24, local media reports said the singer appeared before Justice Fiona Mwale, accompanied by two unidentified children and several other people, before being driven away in an SUV vehicle.

Later that day Madonna told US magazine People in a statement that “the rumours of an adoption process are untrue.”

Madonna’s charity is funding a surgical unit for children at the Queen Elizabeth hospital in Blantyre, the commercial hub of Malawi.

Somali capital on lockdown ahead of presidential vote

Mogadishu – Somalia’s capital Mogadishu was under security lockdown on Tuesday, with roads and schools closed and residents urged to remain indoors a day before the country holds a long-delayed presidential election.Fears are high that the Al-Qaeda linked al-Shabaab group will seek to disrupt the election by carrying out an attack on the capital.

Twin car bombs at a popular hotel left at least 28 dead two weeks ago.

Heavily armed security personnel patrolled the streets of the capital, while several main roads were blocked off with sand berms and residents of the capital were urged by Mayor Yusuf Hussein Jimale to stay indoors.

“My children did not go to school because of the election and my husband who works as a policeman had to stay on duty for the last three days. This thing is taking too long and people would be relieved if they could see an end to this drama,” mother-of-four Samiya Abdulkadir said.

President Hassan Sheikh Mohamud is seeking re-election against 21 other candidates, after another dropped out on Tuesday.

The troubled Horn of Africa nation, which has not had an effective central government in three decades, had been promised a one-person, one-vote election in 2016.

However political infighting and insecurity, mainly due to Shabaab militants who control swathes of countryside and strike at will in Mogadishu, saw the plan ditched for a limited vote running six months behind schedule.

The delayed electoral process began in October, with 14 025 specially chosen delegates voting for candidates for both parliament and a new upper house.

In 2012, only 135 clan leaders chose the MPs who voted for the president.

Repeated delays meant the new lawmakers were only sworn-in in December.

In a report on Tuesday, Somalia-based anti-corruption watchdog Marqaati said the elections “were rife with corruption”.

-Delays and disillusion

The tortuous process to elect a president whose remit does not extend beyond the capital and a few regional towns, has left some disillusioned.

“I really don’t care who becomes president. We just need to be free to attend to our business,” said Qoje Siyad, a Mogadishu day labourer.

While falling well short of the election that was promised, the process is more democratic than in the past and is seen as a step towards universal suffrage, now hoped for in 2020.

Wednesday’s voting will see members of the 275-seat parliament and 54 senators cast ballots inside a hangar within the heavily-guarded airport.

Security sources said commercial flights would not be operating on Wednesday.

No candidate is expected to get the two-thirds majority needed for a first-round win, with two further rounds permitted before a winner is declared.

In the absence of political parties, clan remains the organising principle of Somali politics.

The 22 candidates – all men after the only declared female candidates dropped out – paid a $30 000 registration fee.

Few have any serious chance of winning.

One of them is the current president, a 61-year-old former academic and civil society activist from the Hawiye clan.

Also in the running is ex-president Sharif Sheikh Ahmed, a fellow Hawiye and 52-year-old former leader of the Islamic Courts Union which pacified Somalia before being driven out by US-backed Ethiopian troops.

The leading candidates from the Darod clan are Prime Minister Omar Abdirashid Ali Sharmarke, 56, and former premier Mohamed Abdullahi Mohamed ‘Farmajo’, 55.

Both hold dual nationalities having lived for years in Canada and the US respectively.

Famine looms again

The overthrow of president Siad Barre’s military regime in 1991 ushered in decades of anarchy and conflict in a country deeply divided along clan lines.

The clan rivalries and lawlessness provided fertile ground for the al-Shabaab to take hold and seize territory, frustrating efforts to set up a central administration.

The al – Shabaab has been in decline since 2011 but still launches regular, deadly attacks against government, military and civilian targets in the capital and elsewhere.

Security and overcoming Somalia’s adversarial and divisive politics will top the agenda for whoever wins the vote as will dealing with a growing humanitarian crisis.

The UN warned last week of “possible famine” in Somalia as a severe drought has pushed nearly three million people to the edge of starvation.

After two failed rain seasons, aid workers fear a repeat of a 2010-11 drought which left more than 250 000 dead.

Woman found guilty of hiding 6 dead babies in storage locker

Montreal – A Canadian woman was found guilty on Monday of intentionally hiding in a storage locker the remains of six babies to whom she gave birth.The 42-year-old Winnipeg woman refused to submit to a DNA test, but investigating police performed one with a warrant, using a sanitary napkin from her home. She was shown to have given birth to all the infants.

“All of these children were likely born alive. There is no evidence of complications in these pregnancies,” Judge Murray Thompson said in finding Andrea Giesbrecht guilty of six counts of concealing the body of a dead child.

Each count carries up to two years in prison.

Giesbrecht was not charged with murder. Because the bones of the children were in bad condition, authorities were unable to determine their causes of death.

One of the remains was found in cement, and another covered in a white powder.

The discovery of the remains came after Giesbrecht failed to pay rent on her storage area.

Staff readying to auction off the contents made the tragic discovery.

She pleaded not guilty at trial in April.

Zimbabwe to US critics: ‘Go and hang on a banana tree’

Harare – US critics of Zimbabwe’s human rights record “can go and hang on a banana tree,” a Zimbabwean official said in comments published Tuesday, while he also indicated that the southern African country is waiting for an overture from the administration of President Donald Trump.”We are waiting for a cue from a new government,” Zimbabwe’s state-run Herald newspaper quoted presidential spokesperson George Charamba as saying. Charamba also denounced US Ambassador Harry K Thomas Jr as “a leftover from a terrible era”, an apparent reference to past US administrations that have had testy relations with Zimbabwe’s longtime leader, Robert Mugabe.

On Monday, the US Embassy expressed deep concern about what it called the “continuing deterioration” of human rights in Zimbabwe. The American statement followed the arrest last week of Evan Mawarire, a Zimbabwean pastor who launched a popular protest movement on social media dubbed #ThisFlag.

Mawarire was arrested on his return to Zimbabwe after going to the United States last year. He is being charged with subverting a constitutionally elected government and inciting public violence, and Charamba speculated that he is a US agent. A bail hearing will be held Wednesday.

Another Zimbabwean pastor, Patrick Mugadza, has been in detention since January 19 for claiming that Mugabe will die in October this year.

“The US Government unequivocally believes in the basic right to freedom of speech and calls on the Government of Zimbabwe to respect the human rights of all Zimbabwean citizens which are enshrined in the constitution,” the US Embassy said in a statement.

“We believe that the basic right of Zimbabweans to freedom of speech — be it in public, through print media, or social media — should be protected within and outside Zimbabwe’s borders,” it said.

Charamba said Thomas, who was nominated to the ambassador’s post during the Obama administration, faces an uncertain future under the Trump administration.

“He thinks he can boss over us,” Charamba said of Thomas. “They can go hang on a banana tree.”

CHURCH DRINKS RATTEX FOR HEALING

PROPHET Light Monyeki of Grace Living Hope Ministries from Soshanguve, Pretoria held a conference over the past weekend.On Sunday the prophet mixed deadly poison Rattex,in water and gave some members of the congregation to drink.

This was to demonstrate power by faith as said on the Grace Living Hope Ministries FACEBOOK PAGE.

The caption said, ” The man of God, Prophet Light Monyeki demonstrates power of faith by causing congregants to drink Rattax; deadly poison to show forth their faith. As he was doing that he said “we do not need to proclaim faith because we are believers. If nyope boys can smoke Rattax for more than 8years, who are we? Death has no power over us”. Then he declared life from above upon the water mixed with Rattax; and spoke nourishment unto bodies and healing unto the sick. A multitude of congregants voluntarily ran to the front to have a drink of the deadly poison. After declaring nourishment and healing, Prophet Light was the first one to drink.”.