SA, Bangladesh commit to strengthen economic ties

While trade and economic relations between South Africa and Bangladesh have grown significantly, both countries have acknowledged that there is still considerable potential to expand these relations.


The two nations believe that this can be done by harnessing the opportunities that exist between them.


This was discussed during the working meeting between International Relations and Cooperation Minister, Dr Naledi Pandor and Bangladesh’s Foreign Affairs Minister, Dr Kalam Abdul Momen on Tuesday.


The Ministers agreed to forge closer cooperation in the fields of small business development, technical exchanges in information and communications technology and skills development and women’s economic empowerment.


This is in addition to the already identified priority areas, including trade and investment, agriculture, transport and education, according to a joint statement issued following the meeting.


“The meeting took note that Bangladesh is celebrating its Golden Jubilee Anniversary of Independence as well as the Centenary Birth Anniversary of the Father of the Nation of Bangladesh, Bangabandhu Sheikh Mujibur Rahman.”


The two Ministers reflected on Bangladesh’s achievements since independence and paid tribute to the life of Bangabandhu Sheikh Mujibur Rahman for his dynamic and visionary leadership, commitment and sacrifice that enabled his people to enjoy freedom and democracy.


The leaders also paid tribute to former President Nelson Mandela for his visionary leadership and recalled his visit to the South Asian country in 1997 to participate in the Silver Jubilee Anniversary of Independence.


“The focus of the meeting centred on strengthening the excellent relations that exist between Bangladesh and South Africa which have been forged through bonds of solidarity, friendship and cooperation.”


To strengthen both political and economic relations, both parties agreed to continue deliberations, through the exchange of official visits, including high-level visits, as well as facilitating engagements and cooperation across all levels.


The parties once again spoke about the developments within the Indian Ocean Rim Association (IORA), with Bangladesh set to assume the Chairship in November 2021.


“The Ministers underscored the need for consultation and the exchange of views between South Africa and Bangladesh to build partnerships in multilateral fora and to ensure the prioritisation of the development agenda of the Global South.”


In addition, the Ministers further exchanged views on regional and international developments and reflected on the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic and the global response to the pandemic.


Source: South African Government News Agency

For France’s Sahel Mission, Echoes of Afghanistan

The chaotic aftermath of Washington’s troop withdrawal from Afghanistan is being followed with a mix of trepidation and glee thousands of kilometers away — in Africa’s Sahel, where another foreign power, France, also vows to wind down its long-running counterinsurgency operation, at least in its present form.


As the United States continued to evacuate thousands of citizens and allies at Kabul’s airport this week, dozens of civilians and soldiers were killed in several Islamist attacks across a vast and dangerous three-border region that straddles Niger, Burkina Faso and Mali. It was just another marker in a protracted fight that has killed thousands, displaced 2 million and — like Afghanistan — is considered by some as unwinnable.

If there many stark differences between America’s war in Afghanistan and France’s in the Sahel — from their size and nature to their Islamist targets — there are also haunting similarities, analysts say.


Both involve yearslong foreign involvement in countries with weak and  unstable governments.  Both operations have struggled against troop fatigue, casualties, and dwindling support at home. Both are against Islamist groups which, many say, are patiently confident they will outlast their enemy.


“If there’s any lesson to draw, it’s that indefinite military solutions aren’t sustainable,” said Bakary Sambe,  Senegal-based director of the Timbuktu Institute think tank.


“Sooner or later, there’s got to be an exit,” he said.


Staying put


Unlike the U.S., France for now has no intention of withdrawing from the Sahel, a vast area below the Sahara. It will, however, soon begin decreasing its 5,100-troop Barkhane operation, the linchpin of a regional counterterrorist fight spanning five West and Central African countries.

Nor was the Sahel mentioned in French President Emmanuel Macron’s first major response to the Taliban’s swift victory. Rather, he warned against resurgent terrorism in Afghanistan and illegal migration to Europe.


Yet it may be hard to compartmentalize.


“I think the French cannot afford not to look at what’s going on in Afghanistan when preparing for the very gradual drawdown” of Barkhane forces, said University of Kent conflict expert Yvan Guichaoua.


Images of mayhem and anguish at Kabul’s airport and elsewhere “is something that certainly shocked French officials,” he said, “and maybe made them think about the circumstances in which they are going to leave.”

Others are not so sure.


“I don’t think [the French] are drawing this kind of direct parallel,” between Afghanistan and the Sahel, said Jean-Herve Jezequel, Sahel Project director for the International Crisis Group policy group.


“Maybe this is a mistake. But the French are downsizing, they’re not withdrawing. They’re still the biggest military force in the region,” he said.


Different — but also echoes of Afghanistan


Macron announced in July France’s Barkhane operation would formally end early next year, with troops shrinking to up to half their current numbers and shifted to other anti-terrorist missions — notably forming backbone of the European Union’s fledgling Takuba force, currently aimed at helping Mali fight terrorism in the Sahel region.

Yet France’s revamped mission with its narrowed goals — counterterrorism and beefing up local forces rather than securing large tracts of territory — comes after mounting casualties, fading support at home, a spreading insurgency and growing anti-French sentiment in some Sahel nations.


Born in 2013, France’s military intervention in that region is half as old as the U.S. war in Afghanistan was, with a fraction of its scope and troop losses. Originally aimed to fight jihadist groups in Mali, it later expanded to four other vulnerable former colonies — Niger, Chad, Burkina Faso and Mauritania — that together now form a regional G5 Sahel counterinsurgency operation. Meanwhile, the jihadists are moving south, into parts of sub-Saharan Africa.

While Paris pushes for greater governance and democracy — in June, Macron briefly suspended operations in Mali after its second coup in a year — the nation-building efforts seen in Afghanistan are not likely, Crisis Watch’s Jezequel said.


“It’s a failure,” he added. “But it’s a failure of the Sahel states.”


Today, some of those states, especially Mali, are watching Afghanistan’s swift unraveling with alarm, experts say, even as extremists celebrate.


The Sahel’s myriad jihadi groups lack the deep roots and experience of the Taliban, which held power in the 1990s. Yet, especially Western recognition of Afghanistan’s new rulers “will comfort the idea that the Islamist alternative is possible,” Sambe said.


“It will galvanize radical Islamist groups—and that’s the fear,” he said.


The European Union’s executive arm said Saturday it does not recognize the Taliban.


Moving forward


For France, moving forward in the Sahel means focusing southward, where the insurgency has spread, and beefing up the Takuba Task Force. Nearly a dozen European countries, including Estonia, Italy, Denmark and non-EU-member Norway have joined or promised to take part in the military mission. But many others remain on the sidelines, including Germany.


“The fear of many European countries is to commit troops and then be confronted with a fiasco or death of soldiers,” Guichaoua said.


However, he and others add, French persuasion, from raising fears of conflict-driven migration to Europe, to offering military support in other areas, appears to be working.


Not under French consideration, though, is any dialogue with extremists — an effort controversially tried with the Taliban that is earning support among some Sahel authorities, at least when it comes to homegrown groups.


“The French have considered this a red line,” Guichaoua said. “Because that would mean somewhat that French soldiers died for nothing. But it is on the agenda for Malian authorities.”


Local-level negotiations with jihadi groups have long taken place, he said — to gain access to markets, for example, or get hostages released — but not high-level ones, “and the main reason is France.”


For their part, the Sahel’s extremists appear willing to wait, as the Taliban did in Afghanistan.


Both, Guichaoua said, are convinced foreign powers will eventually leave, so time is on their side.


Source: Voice of America

Former Political Party President sentenced to pay back millions to the Department of Education

Senyane Alton Seropane Mphethi (55), a former president of a political party, a prominent and influential businessman in Mpumalanga who allegedly lost his presidency status after he was arrested and sentenced to eight years imprisonment for defeating the course of justice on a murder case where he was sentenced for being an accomplice.


The accused had a contract with the Mpumalanga Department of Education (DOE) to transport school children around Gert Sibande District Municipality. He then submitted duplicate claims to the DOE where he changed the invoice numbers and the dates when submitting the claims. The department suffered a loss of R830 000 on the first entity and R1997 964 on the second one.


​The matter was reported to the Hawks and the accused was arrested by the Mpumalanga Serious Commercial Crime Investigation team in 2015. He was convicted on 31 July for 34 counts of fraud by the Ermelo Regional Court.


On 20 August 2021, Seropane was sentenced to 10 years imprisonment wholly suspended for five years on condition that he pays R3 million with the first instalment of R50 000 on or before 30 August 2021. His two companies (Ngwato and Barudi) were fined R100 000 each. Asset Forfeiture Unit was involved on the sentence proceedings.


Source: South African Police Service

Invitation to cover: 19th Nelson Mandela Annual Lecture

Invitation to Cover: 19th Nelson Mandela Annual Lecture

From: Nelson Mandela Foundation

Date of publication: 18 August 2021

The Nelson Mandela Foundation would like to invite you to attend and cover the 19th Nelson Mandela Annual Lecture, taking place virtually, on 25 August 2021 from 15h00 to 17h00. We would also like to invite you to attend a short media briefing on Monday 23 August, from 12h30 to 13h00.

The 19th Nelson Mandela Annual Lecture will be delivered by the former Prosecutor of the International Criminal Court (ICC), Fatou Bensouda, whose term ended on 15 June 2021. She served the ICC with distinction for nearly two decades. Her theme for the Lecture will be The Rule of Law, International Criminal Justice and Sustainable Development. Terrible failures in the rule of law in parts of South Africa during July have underlined the importance of these lines of enquiry.

The theme for the 19th lecture builds directly on the 18th lecture by UN Secretary-General António Guterres, during which he called for a New Global Deal. As he pointed out, in the contexts of COVID-19, the current global order and its underpinning social contract simply are not working for the great majority of the world’s human population. Nor are they working for the Earth and for nonhuman species. How can we do not more but differently? What might a new liberatory social contract look like? How do we build the solidarities that we will need in order to find sustainable solutions to the multiple challenges confronting humanity? How do we redeem respect for the rule of law and grow cultures of accountability in contexts where most human communities are alienated from notions of ‘law and order’?

You can access Nelson Mandela Annual Lecture collateral, video, audio and image material, here.

Source: Nelson Mandela Foundation

ICC Awaits Sudan’s Decision on Bashir

NAIROBI – Political analysts and rights groups have welcomed reports that Sudan may hand former president Omar al-Bashir to the International Criminal Court.  Bashir is wanted by the court for alleged crimes in the Darfur region.

Various Sudanese officials suggested this week that Sudan is ready to turn former president Omar al-Bashir over to the court. However, the final decision rests with Sudan’s ruling Sovereign Council, which consists of military and civilian leaders.


Hassan Khannenje, head of the Horn Institute for Strategic Studies, says sending Bashir to the ICC would help move the country forward.

“It’s going to play a role and enhance some confidence, especially when it comes to the victims and the rebels,” Khannenje said. “Part of the agreements with the rebel groups was to hold those people who committed the crimes to account and I think it’s going to go a long way in building confidence perhaps in reducing future tensions and potential conflict in the years to come.”


The ICC indicted Bashir in 2009 on charges of genocide, war crimes and crimes against humanity on people living in the Darfur region.  Bashir denies the charges.


The crimes were allegedly committed as Khartoum attempted to crush an insurgency in Darfur that began in 2003. Bashir ruled Sudan for 30 years until the army ousted him in 2019 after months of mass protests. He was convicted of corruption and still faces other charges related to his seizure of power through a military coup in 1989. The former ruler is currently in a Kharotum prison.


ICC chief prosecutor Karim Khan, who visited the Sudanese capital this week, said Thursday the government needs to cooperate with the court.


“Regarding an individual former president Omar al-Bashir, I have not discussed dates. I had discussions with the various parts of the government which they are aware of, they know their responsibilities and announcements will be made when decisions are taken that become public,” Khan said. “In terms of the Rome statute I mentioned, I was informed that a meeting of the joint council is scheduled for next week, We will see what that brings. Ultimately the decision to cooperate and how to cooperate is one to be decided by Sudan not by me.”


Sarah Jackson is the deputy regional director of Amnesty International East Africa. She says surrendering Bashir to the court would go a long way toward providing justice to the victims in Darfur.


“We are waiting to see if survivors and victims of the atrocities in Darfur will get the opportunity to see justice done,” Jackson said. “This will be a very important moment for victims, for survivors and for their families in Darfur.”


The transitional government in Khartoum reached a peace deal with the rebels in the Darfur region last October, but the region continues to witness violence.


In December, the U.S. government took Sudan off the list of state-sponsored terrorist nations and pledged to economically support the transitional government.


Source: Voice of America

Minister de Lille to inspect new anti-GBV billboards

Public Works and Infrastructure Minister Patricia de Lille is on Friday expected to visit three Tshwane-based police stations which house newly installed anti-gender-based violence and femicide billboards.


The Minister will visit the Mamelodi East, Mamelodi West and Eersterust Police Stations in commemoration of Women’s Month which is marked in August.


In a statement, the department said Minister de Lille will visit the three police stations to view the billboards and to reaffirm government’s commitment to fighting the scourge.


“In September 2019, Minister de Lille… committed that DPWI would use state-owned properties to install anti-GBVF messaging as a campaign to show government’s solidarity with communities and families who have been affected by this scourge and to demonstrate government efforts in the fight against GBVF.


“The billboards also publicise the number of the GBV command centre where communities and victims of GBV can get help to ensure that we save more lives and put an end to this scourge,” the department said.


The Minister had also committed to allocate unoccupied state-owned properties to provide shelter to victims of gender-based violence with 12 such shelters already made available in Gauteng and the Western Cape.


Minister de Lille will be joined on the visit by the Chairperson of the GBVF Response Fund, Dr Judy Dlamini and CEO of the GBVF Fund, Lindie Dlamini.


Source: South African Government News Agency

Government saddened by the passing of 1976 struggle hero

Government says it is saddened by the passing of 1976 struggle hero, Dan Sechaba Montsitsi, who is reported to have passed away from COVID-19 complications.


“Government sends its deepest condolence to his family and friends,” the Government Communication and Information System (GCIS) said in a statement.


Montsitsi was one of the leaders in the Soweto Student’s Representative Council (SSRC) that led the student marches against the encroachment of the Afrikaans language as a medium of instruction in schools.


His activism led to him being arrested in June 1977. He was one of the Presidents of the SSRC, served in the South African Student Movement in 1974, and was an executive committee member of the National Youth Organisation, according to the GCIS.


After 1994, he became a member of the democratic Parliament of South Africa and served as a member of the joint standing committee of defence as well as other select committees.


“Montsitsi was part of the youth of 1976 that contributed towards the realisation of [a] free and just society. He was known for being vocal in the fight for equal education for the youth.


“As a country, we are grateful for the resilience and determination by the youth of 1976 that was led by leaders like Montsisi who stayed the cause for a fight for a free and just democratic South Africa,” Director- General of GCIS, Phumla Williams, said.


Source: South African Government News Agency