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Rights watchdog in South Africa to take legal action against star rugby player Etzebeth

Etzebeth, 27, allegedly insulted, assaulted and pointed a gun at a 42-year-old homeless man in Langebaan

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Eben Etzebeth of South Africa (R) is tackled by Jefferson Poirot of France

South Africa’s rights watchdog on Wednesday said it will take legal action against Springbok star lock Eben Etzebeth who faces allegations of assaulting and racially abusing a homeless man just before the World Cup.

In a statement, the South African Human Rights Commission said it “will institute legal proceedings against Mr. Eben Etzebeth in the Equality Court” on Friday.

Etzebeth, 27, allegedly insulted, assaulted and pointed a gun at a 42-year-old homeless man in Langebaan, a seaside resort about 120 kilometres north of Cape Town in August.

He was named in South Africa’s squad for the World Cup in Japan just a day after the allegations surfaced on social media. The 78-cap lock was interviewed by Human Rights Commission officials before flying out with the South African squad. He denied the allegations.

The commission said it would meet the complainant on Thursday to take further instructions.

In this file photo taken on October 06, 2018 Springbok’s lock Eben Etzebeth stands before the start of the Rugby Championship match between South Africa and New Zealand at the Loftus Versfeld stadium in Pretoria, South Africa. – South Africa’s rights watchdog on October 2, 2019, said it will take legal action against Springbok star lock Eben Etzebeth who faces allegations of assaulting and racially abusing a homeless man just before the World Cup. (Photo by GIANLUIGI GUERCIA / AFP)

“We will definitely ask for monetary compensation, we will ask for a public apology, we will ask for criminal prosecution of Mr Etzebeth, we will ask for community service and other forms of relief,” Buang Jones, acting head of legal serves at SAHRC told reporters.

The commission will also hold a public meeting on Thursday in the town. “The community are demanding justice, so we are going to give them a platform to ventilate around this matter,” said Jones.

He also said the commission will approach the country’s police service to ask it to look into claims of bias against a police officer who initially investigated the matter.

South Africa’s rugby body, SA Rugby has vowed to cooperate fully with investigations and promised to “take appropriate action once the legal investigation and process have concluded”.

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Politics

Botswana elections – 3 notable things about the diamond-rich nation

About the size of France, Botswana is one of the world’s largest diamond producers.

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Botswana elections

Diamond-rich Botswana is hailed for its stability. Ahead of its general election on October 23, here is some background about the landlocked country of 2.2 million people wedged between Namibia, South Africa and Zimbabwe.

Stable since 1966

Formerly a British protectorate, Botswana became an independent democracy in 1966. The Botswana Democratic Party (BDP) has been in power ever since. The country’s first president, Seretse Khama, died in 1980 and his deputy Ketumile Masire took over, going on to entrench democracy and development. 

Masire stepped down in 1998 and was replaced by his vice president, Festus Mogae, who oversaw strong growth during his two five-year terms. He was succeeded by Ian Khama in 2018, a former military chief and son of Botswana’s first president. Khama positioned himself as a regional leader, for example calling for the resignation of Zimbabwe’s long-ruling president Robert Mugabe.

Khama, accused by opponents of an increasingly authoritarian approach, stepped down in 2018 after the constitutional limit of 10 years in office. He handed power to his deputy Mokgweetsi Masisi.

Khama then quit the governing BDP party – which was co-founded by his father – in May 2019, citing major differences with his hand-picked successor. 

In the run-up to Wednesday’s election, Khama backed a small splinter party of BDP dissenters, and even urged voters in some constituencies to vote for the main opposition coalition Umbrella for Democratic Change (UDC).

Running on diamonds

About the size of France, Botswana is one of the world’s largest diamond producers. The gems are its main source of income and account for more than three-quarters of total annual exports, according to the African Development Bank.

Since independence, the country has been one of the world’s fastest growing economies with business activity expanding by about five percent a year over the past decade, the World Bank said in 2018.

The economy was hit by a drop in diamond prices in 2009 and record drought in 2015, and has sought to diversify, notably through tourism. Botswana is rated Africa’s second least corrupt country, after the Seychelles, by Transparency International.

Largest elephant population

Much of Botswana is covered by the semi-arid Kalahari desert, home to the indigenous Bushmen people and rich in flora and fauna. It is the second largest desert in Africa after the Sahara. The Bushmen, also called the San, are hunter-gatherers and have been evicted from ancestral land in the Kalahari, where there are diamond deposits.

With unfenced parks and wide-open spaces, Botswana has Africa’s largest elephant population with more than 135,000 – about a third of the continent’s total.

Most of the animals are in the Chobe National Park, an important tourist draw.  In May 2019 President Masisi lifted a 2014 ban on elephant hunting however, saying their numbers needed to be controlled.

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Former South African President Jacob Zuma delays corruption trial with appeal

If it goes ahead, the trial would be the first time Zuma faces a court on graft charges

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Former South African President Jacob Zuma delays corruption trial with appeal
South Africa's embattled former president Jacob Zuma (C) appears in the Pietermaritzburg High Court where he is appearing on corruption charges, in what would be the first time he faces trial for graft despite multiple accusations, in Pietermaritzburg on October 15, 2019. - Zuma stands accused of taking kickbacks before he became president from a 51-billion-rand ($3.4-billion) purchase of fighter jets, patrol boats and military equipment manufactured by five European firms, including French defence company Thales. (Photo by Michele Spatari / POOL / AFP)

The corruption trial of South Africa’s embattled former President Jacob Zuma has been delayed again after his lawyer announced Tuesday he would appeal.

The last-minute move pushes back a long-awaited trial over bribery allegations dating back to a 1990s arms deal. Zuma dismissed the charges as a conspiracy.

If it goes ahead, the trial would be the first time Zuma faces a court on graft charges, despite a string of accusations over his long political career.

The High Court in the southeastern city of Pietermaritzburg last week rejected his request to have 16 charges of fraud, graft and racketeering dismissed, clearing the way for the trial to start on Tuesday.

READ: Ex-South African President Jacob Zuma claims he has been vilified

But Zuma’s lawyer Thabani Masuku told the court at the start of the trial that the ex-president would appeal, dragging on a case that has seen numerous legal twists over 15 years.

After the hearing, Zuma told a small group of supporters gathered outside court that “there have been many conspirators against me”. 

“There is no justice that will be served by continuing with this case,” he told the crowd in Zulu.

Zuma was forced to resign as president last year by the ruling African National Congress (ANC) party after a nine-year reign marred by corruption allegations and dwindling popularity.

He is accused of taking bribes worth R4 million when he was deputy president from a R51 billion 1999 arms purchase by five European firms, including French defence company Thales.

Both Zuma and Thales, which are accused of paying the bribes and was also to stand trial, deny the charges.

‘Another cunning move’ –

Former South African President Jacob Zuma delays corruption trial with appeal
South Africa’s embattled former president Jacob Zuma (C) appears in the Pietermaritzburg High Court where he is appearing on corruption charges, in what would be the first time he faces trial for graft despite multiple accusations, in Pietermaritzburg on October 15, 2019. (Photo by Michele Spatari / POOL / AFP)

The appeal, which must be filed by November 1, will be heard on November 22. If denied, proceedings are scheduled to resume on the provisional date of February 4.

READ: Jacob Zuma’s son denies offering $40 million bribe to former South African minister

State lawyer Billy Downer told the court that the prosecution believed the appeal would fail and requested the trial starts as soon as possible.

Legal analysts have said a delay would have been likely even without the appeal, given the size of the case.

For its part, Zuma’s defence team maintained that the ex-president had been ready for trial for 14 years.

Legal expert Pierre de Vos of the University of Cape Town said that “if all the courts refuse to hear the appeal, there will be a short delay.”

“If they hear the appeal there will be another year or two before they can begin a trial,” he told reporters, adding that he could face 15 years in jail if found guilty.

Analysts have warned that if Zuma goes on trial, he will drag down with him many leaders of Nelson Mandela’s ANC, which has governed the country since the end of apartheid in 1994.

The opposition Democratic Alliance party in a statement slammed “yet another cunning move by Zuma to avoid jail” and called for the government to ensure the ex-president pay his legal fees.

After a court ruled last year that he should pay his own way, Zuma claimed he was so broke that he had to sell his socks.

‘Teflon president’ –

Former South African President Jacob Zuma delays corruption trial with appeal
South Africa’s embattled former president Jacob Zuma (L) leaves the Pietermaritzburg High Court where he is appearing on corruption charges, in what would be the first time he faces trial for graft despite multiple accusations, in Pietermaritzburg on October 15, 2019. (Photo by Michele Spatari / POOL / AFP)

Critics have dubbed Zuma the “Teflon president” for his reputed ability to evade judicial reckoning.

READ: Former South African President Zuma receives court order to face corruption scandal

He has also been accused of organising the systematic plunder of government coffers in a scandal known as “state capture”.

He appeared at an inquiry into the scandal in July, putting on a defiant performance and denying all wrongdoing.

Zuma’s successor President Cyril Ramaphosa told a conference hosted by the Financial Times in London this week that corruption during Zuma’s administration is estimated to have cost the country more than R500 billion.

Ramaphosa has vowed to tackle deep-seated corruption but faces opposition from powerful senior ANC members, many of whom remain Zuma allies.

“Zuma was in charge for nearly two terms but did very little for us ordinary people,” Sakhile Dube, a 30-year-old clothes seller, told reporters outside the Pietermaritzburg court.

“We are still waiting to see if Ramaphosa can assist us and remedy the situation,” he added. 

READ: Former South African President Zuma withdraws from graft inquiry

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Southern Africa

Police in South Africa march against gender-based violence on women

There has been a rising outcry against sexist violence in the country over the last two months after a series of murders

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Police in South Africa march against gender-based violence on women
Members of the South African Police Services (SAPS) hold plackards as they sing and chant during a march against gender-based violence outside the Sunnyside Police station in Pretoria on October 14, 2019. - The march led by the men in blue aims to raise awareness on the scourge of violence with a view of mobilising society to play an active role in assisting the police in detecting, preventing and fighting gender-based violence. (Photo by Phill Magakoe / AFP)

More than a thousand police officers marched against gender-based violence in South Africa’s capital Pretoria on Monday after a surge in murders and sexual crimes against women.

There has been a rising outcry against sexist violence in the country over the last two months after a series of murders that shocked the public.

In a sea of blue, police officers at the Pretoria rally held up signs reading:

“It hurts us as police officers to pick up bodies of women, children and vulnerable groups on a daily basis”.

READ: South Africa struggles with surge of gender-based violence

Acting national police commissioner Bonang Mgwenya told the gathered officers that gender-based violence was in “a dire state of emergency”. 

“We need an urgent shift that will govern the impact and outcomes of our concerted progressive resolutions,” she said.

The hashtag #AmINext started trending in South Africa as more than 30 women were killed last month, among them a student from Cape Town who was raped and killed in a post office.

READ: President Ramaphosa of South Africa talks tough on fighting gender violence

Police statistics released on the weekend showed that the number of crimes involving sexual offences jumped 4.6 per cent from April 2018 to March 2019, compared with the same period the previous financial year.

Sexual offences detected as a result of police action — instead of women reporting the crime — rose 19 per cent, the statistics said.

President Cyril Ramaphosa, who has said South Africa is “the most unsafe places in the world to be a woman” has announced an emergency plan to stop the surge in violence against women.

READ: Painting by prostitute killer causes outrage in South Africa

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