Africa News in Brief: April 24-30 edition

| April 25, 2013

South African police brutality at record levels, justice group finds

(GIN)—With the defeat of apartheid, a new black leadership runs South African ministries, businesses, and schools but an abusive police force appears to have survived the cultural and social changes.

Last year, five thousand complaints were lodged against the South African police and 720 deaths in police custody were reported, according to the Witz Justice Project of South Africa’s University of Witwatersrand.

Among the notorious cases this year was the point-blank shooting of striking miners of the Marikana mines by police, and the death of Mido Macia, a Mozambican migrant taxi driver who was tied to the back of a police van and dragged along the road. He later died in custody.

The Justice Project, staffed by journalists, lawyers and students, collected testimonies that told of brutality from beatings to suffocation used to extract confessions.

“Torture hasn’t suddenly reared its ugly head,” said Professor Peter Jordi of the Wits Law Clinic who specializes in the subject of torture. “It’s never stopped… It was carried out at police stations before and continues today.”

In days past, he said, mostly political detainees were tortured. Today, “if you’re a criminal arrested for armed robbery, you face exactly the same fate.”

With video recording devices widely available, evidence of police misconduct is mounting. On April 5, an officer in Free State province was captured on video chasing a woman who fell to the ground, where he then stomped on her head. Two officers attempted to restrain their colleague but let him go. Interviewed on eNews Channel Africa (eNCA.com), Moses Dlamini of the internal investigative unit of police, called the video “shocking” yet dashed hope of prosecution because the victim was afraid to make a report.

The right to be free from torture is enshrined in South Africa’s constitution. However, “police torture is a daily occurrence in Gauteng where I practice,” said Jordi. “I probably handled more than 20 torture cases against the police in Gauteng alone last year.”

Meanwhile, seven police officers accused of killing community activist Andries Tatane were acquitted to public outcry this month. Despite a video of the police shooting seen widely, prosecutors said that police witnesses have changed their testimony and it would be unlikely the case would be won on appeal. It prompted a popular TV show “The Big Debate” on Sunday to ask the question “Are the police out of control?”

 

FBI break up plot to grab West African minerals in corruption bust

(GIN)—The FBI recently nabbed the French crony of a billionaire mining exec who claims to hold title to one of the world’s richest mineral deposits in Guinea, West Africa. The crony had been plotting to destroy key evidence in the mineral claim, according to wiretaps obtained by the agency.

The sting operation puts in jeopardy plans by Beny Steinmetz, an Israeli diamond tycoon worth $6 billion according to Forbes magazine, to extract valuable iron ore at a fraction of the price he paid for it. The iron ore is valued at $10 billion and Steinmetz had paid a mere $165 million to develop the mine.

But, the plot takes a twist when it turns out that the crony, Frederic Cilins, arrested in Jacksonville, Fla., had been dealing with Mamadie Toure, widow of Lansana Conté, the dictator who ruled Guinea for 24 years until his death in 2008. She is said to be a cooperating witness.

According to U.S. attorney for the Southern District of New York, Preet Bharara, Cilins offered to pay the widow as much as $5 million if, in exchange, she would provide certain documents he knew were being sought by special agents of the FBI. These documents revealed an alleged attempted bribe of millions of dollars, among other benefits, to the former dictator with the understanding that the leader would help obtain valuable mining concessions in the Simandou Region in Guinea.

Cilins is facing one count of witness tampering, obstructing a federal criminal investigation and conspiring to destroy evidence in a federal criminal investigation. The charges carry a maximum penalty of up to 45 years’ imprisonment.

Meanwhile, the government of Guinea has banned Steinmetz from visiting Guinea “as a security matter” and is reportedly considering stripping the Steinmetz venture of its mining rights.

Guinea, a former French colony, has almost half of the world’s bauxite reserves and significant reserves of iron ore, gold and diamond reserves, but the majority of its 11 million people live in poverty as a result of years of corruption that has deterred many would-be investors

 

Namibian ‘children of the liberation struggle’ confront ruling party

(GIN)—More than 200 self-described ‘children of the liberation struggle’ found themselves taken to jail last week when they refused to give up a small piece of land where they were squatting to protest the failure of the government to help them find jobs.

The youngsters had been occupying two plots of land belonging to the Windhoek City Council and directly in front of the headquarters of the ruling Swapo party. A contingent of police officers assisted by the City Police ordered the squatters to pack their belongings before they were loaded into police trucks to be charged for trespassing at the police station house.

“These kids have no manners. When we were registering them, they were giving us false names such as ‘my name is Kwanza Zul,’” said police spokesperson, Inspector Kauna Shikwambi. “They claim they don’t have national documents, maybe they hid them. But, we want to handle the situation amicably since it is a trespassing case and there is no need to use maximum force,” she said.

In a quiet rebuke, Dr. Andrew Niikondo, vice-rector for Academic Affairs and Research at the Polytechnic of Namibia, defended the youth, calling them “struggle kids” born to combatants who helped liberate the country.

Niikondo, himself a former fighter with the People’s Liberation Army of Namibia, recalled that combatants often left their children in camps to be taken care of by people who were not their relatives while the adults went to the front.

At independence, some children were repatriated to Namibia without their parents, because, “some of these children’s parents died during the struggle.”

Minister of Veteran Affairs, Dr Nickey Iyambo, replied: “I have sympathy for those children. But, my sympathy equally extends to other children of this country, who were born inside Namibia.”

Niikondo insisted: “Government should accept that the struggle kids were born ‘in abnormal situations’ and cannot be compared to the children who were born here.”

Mpinge Nakale, a squatter, asked: “Why do elected leaders not come to us and give us an audience, especially from the ministry of youth. Some of them were not even in exile, now they are telling us to go back home… People think this demonstration is not serious. We are more united than ever and we will not surrender.”

 

Ex-president’s son unable to explain $1 billion in assets

(GIN)—A special court judge ordered the arrest of Karim Wade, son of Senegal’s ex-president, Abdoulaye Wade, for failing to explain the source of an estimated $1 billion in assets.

Judge Alioune Ndaw said that documents submitted by Mr. Wade’s lawyers were insufficient to explain how he acquired the funds.

Ciré Ly, one of Mr. Wade’s lawyers, said he was surprised by his client’s detention after having submitted a 3,000-page document justifying his client’s wealth.

Mr. Wade was picked up from his Dakar residence by paramilitary police gendarmes and taken to police headquarters where he is said to be held in “preventive” custody.

During Abdoulaye Wade’s 12-year rule from 2000 to 2012, Karim Wade held several ministerial posts simultaneously, including minister for infrastructure and air transportation.

His large portfolio led to him being dubbed “the minister of the earth and the sky,” but it also put him in charge of a large proportion of Senegal’s government budget at a time of large-scale infrastructure spending.

Many believed he was being groomed for the presidency.

A big crowd of mainly supporters of the former ruling party headed for the Wade family home to show their sympathy.

Karim is among nearly two dozen former senior government officials under investigation for embezzling billions of dollars during ex-President Wade’s 12 year-rule.

 

This article originally appeared in our April 24, 2013 issue.

 

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Category: Africa Briefs

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GLOBAL INFORMATION NETWORK distributes news and feature articles on Africa and the developing world to mainstream, alternative, ethnic and minority-owned outlets in the U.S. and Canada. Our goal is to increase the perspectives available to readers in North America and to bring into their view information about global issues that are overlooked or under-reported by mainstream media.

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