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South Africa’s former ambassador to Iran arrested over “bribe”1 minute read

Yusuf Saloojee, now retired, stands accused of corruption and foreign bribery.

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Photo: National Council Against Smoking

A former South African ambassador to Tehran was arrested and brought before a commercial crimes court on Thursday for allegedly taking a bribe linked to a major Iran mobile phone tender, police said.

Yusuf Saloojee, 75, who is now retired, stands accused of corruption and foreign bribery.

He allegedly received cash in return for helping South African telecoms giant MTN secure a contract to operate in Iran in 2005, while he was ambassador there.

“Saloojee allegedly pocketed 1.4 million rand for his role” and is said to have used the money to purchase a house in Pretoria, police spokesman Hangwani Mulaudzi said in a statement. The figure is equivalent to $100,000 at current exchange rates. 

According to South Africa’s elite police Saloojee was allegedly involved in facilitating the cancellation of a cellphone operating licence that had been awarded to Turkish mobile company Turkcell.

The licence was later handed to South Africa’s telecoms giant MTN.

Saloojee is believed to have been part of “deceitful corrupt activities with Iranian officials after Turkcell Consortium was awarded a lucrative… (GSM-licence) to operate in Iran for 15-years,” Mulaudzi said. 

The former ambassador was freed on $280 bail and was ordered to return to court on April 17.

Turkey’s Turkcell which lost out in the competition, in 2012 filed a $4.2 billion lawsuit in Washington alleging that MTN had bribed Iranian officials and pressed Pretoria to offer weapons and diplomatic support for its nuclear programme.

It claimed it had already won the deal through an international tender, but its licence arrangement was suddenly dropped in favour of MTN.

The South African company was later cleared of wrongdoing.

MTN holds operating licences in 22 countries in Africa, Asia and the Middle East.

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North Africa Politics

Algeria’s presidential election to hold on Thursday amidst nationwide protest

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Algeria’s presidential election to hold on Thursday amidst nationwide protest
Algerians wave a national flag from a balcony as they watch anti-government demonstrators march in the capital Algiers on December 6, 2019, ahead of the presidential vote scheduled for December 12. (Photo by RYAD KRAMDI / AFP)

Algerians are expected to come out en masse on Thursday and cast their votes in the widely opposed presidential election. There have been protests against the presidential election spanning a period of 9 months. Algerians are protesting because they see the election as the regime ploy to hijack power. 

Though no opinion polls have been published, observers predict high voter apathy in Thursday’s election. This is not surprising judging from a widely-held view by the voters that the political system is rigid and uncountable.

Overseas polling booths for expat Algerians opened Saturday, but have been almost empty. The few who cast their votes face a barrage of insults from angry protesters.

Direche, of France’s National Centre for Scientific Research (CNRS), said that despite being traditionally conservative and close to the regime, today the diaspora “is mobilised against the election”.

Read: Protesters march against December general elections in Algeria

The outcome of president Abdelaziz Bouteflika’s February announcement of a fifth term bid was an unprecedented nationwide protest that forced the 82-year-old to resign. 

Protesters continued with their weekly rallies, demanding the total dismantling of the military-dominated system that has ruled Algeria since independence in 1962.

Algeria’s presidential election to hold on Thursday amidst nationwide protest
An Algerian student holds a placard reading in Arabic, “student against the elections”, during an anti-government demonstration in the capital Algiers on December 9, 2019, ahead of the presidential vote scheduled for December 12. (Photo by RYAD KRAMDI / AFP)

The military high command which has wielded power from behind the scenes was forced to take a front-line role in government but refused to bow to pressures from protesters calling for reforms.

The regime has also refused to yield to demands to replace the constitution that served to legitimise Bouteflika’s grip on power.

Rather, the army pushed for an election to pick a replacement for Bouteflika, saying it is the only way to resolve the political crisis.

A previous poll set for July 4 was abandoned for lack of viable candidates and interim president Abdelkader Bensalah’s term technically ended five months ago.

A caretaker government, appointed by Bouteflika two days before he quit, remains in post, led by his longtime ally Noureddine Bedoui.

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Politics

Sowore: Nigeria’s civil society coalition gives government 14-day protest ultimatum

The group says if ALL demands are not met within 14 days, it will mobilise Nigerians to occupy the NHRC Commission offices

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Sowore: Nigeria's civil society coalition gives government 14-day protest ultimatum
Cross-section of attendees at the world press conference. Photo credit: Sumner Shagari Sambo

A Coalition of Civil Society Groups in Nigeria, comprising the Centre for Democracy and Development (CDD), Transition Monitoring Group (TMG), Enough is Enough (EiE) and Civil Society Legislative Advocacy Centre (CISLAC), has held a world press conference today in Abuja tabling its demands and calling for response to growing human rights abuse cases in the country.

The five demands include:

  • President Muhammadu Buhari to show accountability as Commander In Chief and address the nation on his commitment to the rule of law and human rights
  • The release of all illegally detained persons by the Department of State Service (DSS) as reviewed by Amnesty International, Premium Times and Punch newspaper in recent times
  • That the government obeys all pending court orders
  • An investigation of the officer who violated protocols and circumstances leading to the re-arrest of #RevolutionNow convener, Omoyele Sowore
  • Unconditional release of Omoyele Sowore

The group says if ALL demands are not met within 14 days, it will mobilise Nigerians to occupy the National Human Rights Commission offices across the country as it is legally mandated to protect Nigerians and also report to Presidency.

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Politics

Togo announces presidential election for February next year

Gnassingbe has been in power for nearly 15 years since succeeding his father Eyadema Gnassingbe

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Togo announces presidential election for February next year
Togo's incumbent President Faure Gnassingbe. AFP PHOTO / ISSOUF SANOGO (Photo by Issouf SANOGO / AFP)

Togo will hold elections in February next year, when incumbent President Faure Gnassingbe is expected to seek a fourth term in office.

A government decree published late Thursday after a cabinet meeting said the presidential election will be held on February 22 with a second-round organised if no candidate gets a clear majority.

Gnassingbe has been in power for nearly 15 years since succeeding his father Eyadema Gnassingbe, who led the country with an iron fist for 38 years.

The decree said for the first time Togo citizens living abroad will be able to cast their votes at embassies in the countries where they are living.

Election campaigning will start on February 6 and end February 20.

Opposition parties and civil society leaders, including Togo’s bishops, last month called for the election to be suspended to allow for a reorganisation of the constitutional court, the electoral register and the national electoral commission.

In early May, the Togolese deputies voted a constitutional amendment allowing Gnassingbe to run again in 2020 and 2025, but also to benefit from immunity for life “for acts done during presidential terms”.

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