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USAfrica: Igbo Farm Village in America marks 1st anniversary; Q&A wt Prof. Akuma-Kalu Njoku

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Igbo Farm Village in America marks 1st anniversary this weekend in Virginia; plus, USAfrica Q&A wt Prof. Akuma-Kalu Njoku.

By Chido Nwangwu.

http://usafricaonline.com/2011/09/16/igbo-farm-village-jaknjoku2011-by-chido-nwangwu/

Special to USAfrica multimedia networks, Houston, USAfricaonline.com, the IgboEvents e-group powered by USAfrica

J-Akuma-Kalu-Njoku.prof.-at-IgboFarm-village-staunton2010

J. Akuma-Kalu Njoku, Ph.D., a diligent and soft-spoken man, is a Professor of Folklore Studies and Anthropology. In many ways, Prof. Njoku’s intimate insights and unique knowledge of Igbo ethno-folkflores and tradition –especially the historical foundations and sites of the Arochukwu/Ohafia/Bende region of the Igbo nation, have set him part, in my view, as the major resource on pre-colonial Igbo life, the slave trade and folklores of south eastern Nigeria. I met Prof. Njoku, born on June 16, 1946, for the first time during his research work on the Arochukwu heritage in 2006 in Houston, Texas.

He is an associate Professor at the Western Kentucky University in Bowling Green, Kentucky. He recently established the West African Cultural Heritage Education and Training (WACHET) Institute in Bowling Green. The following are excerpts from my September 15, 2011 exclusive interview with him for USAfrica and CLASSmagazine on the Igbo Farm Village project in Staunton in Virginia, which he has championed.

(USAfrica does not Authorize the wholesale copying/archiving of this report on any other site/web/publication. Linking to it, with proper attribution, is permitted).  http://usafricaonline.com/2011/09/16/igbo-farm-village-jaknjoku2011-by-chido-nwangwu/

Chido Nwangwu/USAfrica: Congratulations for your dedication and work on the Igbo Farm Village in Staunton, Virginia. On this first anniversary of the Igbo Farm Village this weekend of September 17, 2011, may I respectfully ask that you share with the readers of USAfrica, USAfricaonline.com and IgboEvents  the major significance of this historic project?

Njoku: Thank you very much for this opportunity to share with your broad readership the joy and excitement I feel about the first anniversary of the Igbo Farm Village at Staunton, Virginia.  The Igbo Farm Village, it is important to mention, is a part of the American Frontier Culture Museum of Virginia established to acknowledge the contributions of the Old World cultures to the development of the American frontier culture, which began from Virginia.

The American Frontier Culture Museum had already constructed four other farmsteads (in Igbo, that will translate to Ulo Ubi)—the English Farm, the Irish Farm, the German Farm, and a Colonial American Farm—before building the Igbo Farm Village.  Therefore, the Igbo Farm Farm Village is a tangible recognition of the African (especially those from West Africa) who, though forced to migrate to the New World, helped to build, prosper, and populate what is now known as the United States of America starting from the 1700s.  That, in a nutshell, is the historical significance of the Igbo Farm Village.

What does it mean for the  youth of the Igbo nation, and the African-American communities?

The early days of work at the Igbo Farm Village saw the arrival of the first volunteers, a group of Igbo men from the Washington, D.C. area.  As the project progressed, the number of volunteers and the level of their support and enthusiasm increased rapidly. The Museum hosted groups of volunteers from the Igbo communities in Chicago; Nashville; Bowling Green, Kentucky; Washington, D.C. and New Jersey. Individuals from cities without large numbers of Igbo residents also came from virtually all over the country. Many came with their children and young adults to volunteer in the construction. Now to Participating in the construction of the Igbo Farm Village provided the Igbo and African American youth a once in lifetime opportunity to get a firsthand experience in the techniques of Igbo traditional architecture. They helped to puddle and knead mud, built adobe walls, helped to smoothen the walls, and indoor mud seats. They also watched their parents construct wooden frames for the thatched roofs. While many were engaged in such activities, others were roasting either yams or corns, or cooking soup and making foo foo and, and in the evenings, occasionally playing moonlit night games.

I do believe that the learning and growth that have come from these firsthand experiences and from the summer cultural immersion classes and weekend institutes that I run in the Igbo Farm Village mean a great deal to Igbo youth and to other peoples of African descent.

In terms of replicating the fundamentals of a typical Igbo village, give anyone who has not visited a picturesque profile.

There are four raffia palm thatched houses enclosed in a semi-circle mud fence also thatched. The first house you see as you enter the Ulo Ubi Igbo (Igbo Farm Village) is the Obi.  Directly behind the Obi are the other three houses—a man’s house flanked by two mkpuke (female) houses; those of his two wives. There are, in addition, two outdoor shelters one for cooking / frying (say gari) or processing oil-palm produce, the other a goat shed. There is a space for a yam-barn right behind the man’s house.  You know what? Next summer, in anticipation of the Iwa / Ike Ji (Yam Harvest Festival) scheduled precisely for Saturday, September 15, 2012, we shall raise the yam barn.

About 50 days ago, I spoke with Eric Bryan, the Assistant director of the Frontier Culture Museum Foundation. He, in fact, went to Igbo land in Nigeria, as part of the effort to make the best of this village. How would you assess the roles of the Museum and the Virginia communities in making the village a worthy reality?

Yes, I went with Eric Bryan and another Museum staff, Ray Wright to Nigeria.  Eric is the administrative brain behind what is going on in the Igbo Farm Village initiative.  He understands the vision and strategic plans of the project more than any other person. Regarding the role that Museum has played in making the village a worthy reality, what comes first to mind is that Museum has placed the Igbo on the map the United States, which is a land of enormous ethnic diversity.  We are no longer just a homogenous Negroid. And I have no doubt on my mind that the Museum will continue to let us use the exhibit to keep our Igbo community traditions alive in the United States. Of course, the property belongs to the Commonwealth of Virginia, which means continued funding the maintenance of the structure.

USAfrica and IgboEvents networks will like to know the level and scope of funding and financial support your team and the foundation have received from the Igbo leaders/Governors and well-to-do folks from the Igbo communities across the U.S.?

Great Question! The Frontier Culture Museum has yet to get the kind of financial support that is expected of Igbo leaders / Governors.  Mr. John Avoli and I went to Nigeria to meet the Igbo Governors and stakeholders in Delta states.  I know that sometimes the political imperatives of governance in Nigeria do not allow the Igbo leaders to be the Igbo we anticipate, but I cannot begin to tell how extremely important it is for the Igbo leaders / Governors to commit funds to the Igbo Village in Staunton, VA.  The Igbo Village needs all the funding it can get, especially now that attention of the Board of Trustees and Board Directors of Frontier Culture Museum and the American Culture Foundation is shifting from the Igbo project to the Native American Farm. Some well well-to-do members of the Igbo communities in the United States have made substantial donations and sacrifices. Two of them spend their own monies traveling to Board of Trustees and Board of Directors meetings.  I do not want to mention them by names. The Frontier Culture Museum has the records—just in case.

What are your hopes and projection for the Igbo Farm village in Virginia and possibly elsewhere. What about Louisiana?

The Igbo Farm Village, being an outdoor museum exhibit provides a context very close to the Igbo cultural environment for experiencing and learning Igbo culture in America. Although my presentations at the Igbo Farm Village are Igbo-centered, I also draw from my 20 years’ experience in teaching cultural diversity in the United States to anchor them (my presentations) within the greater American multiethnic and multicultural heritage. Because the Igbo Farm Village is in the midst of English, Irish, and German Farms that also showcase Old World Cultures, there could not be a better location in the United States for achieving my goals.

What about Louisiana? Of course an Igbo Village could be built there, but it probably will not be as good as the one that is surrounded by the existence of four other farms—English, Irish, and German farmsteads. Quite frankly, I would like to see a Congo Farm Village in Louisiana.  How about building one where the Place Congo / Congo Square used to stand or at least close by that almost invisible historical marker commemorating that historic the former Congo Square.

What does this village need?

The roofs are leaking. Therefore, there is an urgent need to get fresh raffia palm mats from Igboland for fix the leaks.  It will cost far less to do this than any other alternative that has been so far considered from the United States. The Village needs traditional tools and decorative objects.  We need to decorate the walls with Uli.  The village also needs more and more Igbo communities to come and use the compound.

Tell us about your scholarship and works.Why and how did you get involved in the project?

My broad research interest is the folklore of forced historical population movements resulting from the depletion of farmlands, the Atlantic slave trade together with the issues of forced relocations and settlement patterns, and reestablishment of community traditions on both sides of the Atlantic, and genocide and war in the affairs of Ndi Igbo.  Since 1999, I have been researching and writing about the forced transatlantic journeys of the Igbo people.

Specifically, I am working on the slave journeys from the hinterland villages and towns in Igboland to Virginia and, through the Underground Railroad, to freedom in the United States. While on sabbatical and doing fieldwork in 2002, I was allowed to enter an ancient cave temple complex the Ovia Chukwu in Arochukwu which was a secret slave dealing location and a definite starting point of numerous Igbo slave journeys from the hinterland to the coastal towns of Calabar and Bonny. That isbefore the Middle Passage. In addition to the Arochukwu cave, I found cave outlets in Ututu, and another that provided safe haven for the people of Alayi and Igbere or Igbo ereghi (those who were never sold by the Aro Oke Igbo).

I presented my findings at the annual conference of the American Folklore Society in 2003, and Professor John Vlach, a distinguished American folklorist, after hearing my paper recommended me to American Frontier Culture Museum of Virginia.

At the time, the Museum was planning a West African exhibit to complement the English Farm, Irish Farm, German Farm, and the American Colonial Farm already in existence. I became a member of the advisory board and later, since 2004, the principal consultant for the Igbo Farm Village project.

Initial attempts to get builders from Igboland to construct an Igbo farm village that will be faithful to Igbo traditional architecture failed.  The American Embassy in Nigeria refused to grant them visa. I asked Reverend Dr. Maduawuchukwu Ogbonna, a member of the Igbo Studies Association and a Holy Ghost priest with a surpassing talent and practical experience in Igbo vernacular architecture to help.  Fr. Ogbonna came to our rescue.  And with the able assistance of Dr. Kanayo K. Odeluga I got in touch with Igbo hometown associations in the United States to recruit volunteers. Igbo people responded in large numbers and helped to build the farm village. Reverend Dr. Ogbonna directed the building process, and in the process, trained Museum staff and volunteers in traditional Igbo building methods and techniques.

What next for the Igbo diaspora?

Since my research has led to the construction of an Igbo Farm Village (Ulo Ubi Igbo) at the Frontier Culture Museum of Virginia and to establishment annual reconnection program for the peoples of African descent long separated by the forced transatlantic migration, it is now time to take the research one more step further.  I have self-consciously established a Freedom to Freedom Trail for pilgrimages from Virginia to Arochukwu and the greater Igboland.

It is hoped that peoples of African descent in the United States that celebrate the long journey from slavery to freedom in the month of February will be journeying from Freedom to Freedom. This will be a symbolic journey from the state of freedom won in the United States back to the state of freedom that was in Africa before the Atlantic slave trade started. The experience of this ritual quest, I can tell you from my journeying back, can be overwhelming and the story bitter.  But it will be the experience of a shared memory of pain and the truth that must be told in order to begin to make a physical reconnection with Africa—the ancestral home.  It is the truth that will help to heal the deep-seated wounds of the Atlantic slave trade and slavery on both sides of the Atlantic.

I also wish the Igbo people in the United States will help support the TICHA (Teaching Igbo Cultural Heritage Education in the Americas) Fund Drive that I will announce during the celebration of the anniversary on Saturday September 17, 2011. The TICHA fund will help me to continue proving the summer Igbo cultural immersion class and weekend institutes.  We need to continue to reacquaint with ourselves with our culture so that we can effectively pass them on to our American born children.         © copyright USAfrica 2011.                   • Dr. Chido Nwangwu, Founder & Publisher of USAfrica multimedia networks, first African-owned, U.S-based newspaper published on the internet USAfricaonline.com;  recipient of several journalism and public policy awards, was recently profiled by the CNN International for his pioneering works on multimedia/news/public policy projects for Africans and Americans. http://edition.cnn.com/video/#/video/international/2010/07/29/mpa.african.media.bk.a.cnn

Are we Igbos or “Ibos”? by Chido Nwangwu, Dec 11, 2001.  http://usafricaonline.com/chido.igbosoribos.html

Martin Luther King Jr: Why I believe The Prophet’s vision is valid into 21st century.                  By Chido Nwangwu.                                                                                                                    http://usafricaonline.com/2011/08/26/the-prophet-mlk-vision-chido-nwangwu-jan1999-tribute

Why Chinua Achebe, the Eagle on the Iroko, is Africa’s writer of the century. By Chido Nwangwu, Publisher of USAfrica, and first African-owned, U.S-based newspaper published on the internet USAfricaonline.com http://usafricaonline.com/chido.achebebest.html

 ——-
Obama’s Africa agenda, our business and democracy. USAfricaonline.com and CLASS magazine and The Black Business JournalAlso, see USAfrica’s October 17, 2001 special report/alert: Nigeria’s bin-Laden cheerleaders could ignite religious war, destabilize Africa. By USAfrica’s Publisher Chido Nwangwu. http://usafricaonline.com/chido.binladennigeria.html

310 killed by Nigeria’s ‘talibans’ in Bauchi, Yobe n Maiduguri; crises escalate. USAfricaonline.com  on  July 28, 2009.

www.usafricaonline.com/chido.ngrtalibans09.html

Related and prior reporting on the Jos crises on USAfrica, click here:

10 killed in renewed violence near Jos


News archives related to Jos, here http://usafricaonline.com/?s=jos

USAfrica: As Egypt’s corrupter-in-chief Mubarak slides into history’s dustbin.  By Chido Nwangwuhttp://usafricaonline.com/2011/01/30/chido-nwangwu-as-egypt-corrupter-in-chief-mubarak-slides-into-historys-dustbin-egyptians-not-waiting-for-obama-and-united-nations/

Tunisia, Egypt . . . Is Nigeria next? By Prof. Rosaire Ifedi
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USAfrica: Why Trump should watch out on May 30 for Biafra memorial day

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By Rev Joshua Amaezechi, contributing editor of USAfricaonline.com, Minister of the Christian Reformed Church of North America (CRCNA) and Lead Chaplain, at the Kalamazoo County Jail 

History, they say, often repeats itself. This happens because we fail to learn from it and avoid its pitfalls. A look at history may provide a path for President Trump to reshape the US foreign policy on Nigeria in a manner that promotes life and advances human progress. An alternative is to ignore history and follow the known path of executive and economic convenience as was done in the past and live with the outcome.

History is perhaps about to repeat itself. Igbo Christians as well as their neighboring Christians in the middle belt of Nigeria have been facing unchallenged terrorist attacks from radical Islamists “Fulani Herdsmen” who overrun Christian communities, killing women, men and children and seeking to take over their lands. There had been many cases in which the Nigerian Military under President Buhari had been accused of aiding and abetting these attacks as killers were neither arrested nor frontally confronted by the State Security. Official policies of the government of President Buhari to reduce arms in the hands of civilians ended up only disarming the natives, thereby giving the invading herdsmen an edge over their victims. 

Like Nixon, president Trump has declared that the killing of Christians in Nigeria would no longer be acceptable to the US government. During a recent visit of President Buhari of Nigeria to the White House, president Trump was quoted to have said:

 “Also, we’ve had very serious problems with Christians who have been murdered, killed in Nigeria. We’re going to be working on that problem, and working on that problem very, very hard, because we can’t allow that to happen.”

 President Trumps commitment to protect Christians in Nigeria was reaffirmed in his speech on the National Day of prayer and aligns with his campaign promise to tackle the problem of Boko haram and Islamic terrorism, twin problems which as believed by the Christian Association of Nigeria(CAN) are geared towards the Islamization of Nigeria. But Nixon’s declaration on Biafra is different from President Trump’s promise to protect Christians in Nigeria. While the later was a declaration of a high profile presidential candidate, the latter is the declaration of a sitting president. However, both declarations place similar moral obligation on the US government to act decisively to protect Christians, especially at this time when 99% of the strategic Armed forces of Nigeria are headed by Muslims and mostly kinsmen of President Buhari who is widely known for his nepotism and unflinching support for the spread of Islam. 

The moral obligation of the US comes to the fore as the Igbo people and the peoples of the former Republic of Biafra who are mainly Christians and Omenana Jews gather on May 30 to remember the estimated 3.5 million of their folks who were killed during the Nigerian Biafran war. Already, Nigeria’s ‘President Buhari’s government has deployed Soldiers and combat airplanes to the region ahead of the May 30 memorial, even when that region is known to be the safest and peaceful part of Nigeria. While it is a moral tragedy that genocidists who should have been in jail, were allowed to become Presidents and heads of states in Nigeria, some with streets and public places named after them; it is even a greater moral evil for the bereaved to be denied the freedom and solemnity to mourn their dead. 

It is the aggregation of the pains and sorrow of many Christian families who lost their loved ones due to Nixons dereliction of his moral obligation to save Biafra from genocide and its interplay with current persecution of Christians in Nigeria that makes May 30 a day to watch for President Trump. The moral burden of allowing 1967-1970 to repeat itself will be too much for the US to bear.

 From 1967 to 1970, the Igbo people of the South Eastern Nigeria, with over 80% Christian majority faced the danger of extinction in an avoidable war between Nigeria and the Republic of Biafra. The US presidential candidate, then former Vice President and front runner in the presidential election Richard Milhous Nixon attracted widespread attention and support when on September 8, 1968 he issued a statement calling on the US to intervene in the Nigerian-Biafra war, describing the Nigerian governments war against the Biafrans as a “genocide” and the “destruction of an entire people”. Following his declaration, the Christians of Igbo land felt a sense of relief with the expectation that Nixon’s victory at the poll would usher in a shift in US foreign policy on Nigeria and a departure from Lyndon Johnson’s half-hearted interestedness, evidenced by minimalist provision of relief to the starving Igbo in the Biafran territory.

 Nixon won! Unfortunately, rather than act to end genocide in Biafra, President Nixon followed Lyndon Johnson’s policy. Not even the declassified memo from the former US Secretary of State and NSA, Henry Kissinger, describing the Igbo as “the wandering Jews of west Africa..” and calling for a more robust response turned the needle of President Nixon’s neglect to follow up on his campaign promises on Biafra. With these words “I hope Biafra survives”, he gave up Biafra. The result was that estimated 1 million children and civilians were starved to death following the official blockade of all access of food aid and medical relief by the Nigerian Military Government. 

While the Watergate Scandal put the final seal on Nixon’s presidency, many would argue that his foreign policy failures, including his relative silence over genocide against Biafrans  ate deep into his political capital leaving him with no significant goodwill. We know how it ended: President Nixon resigned!

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#Breaking “Worst case scenario” predicted for latest outbreak of Ebola in the Democratic Republic of Congo

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The World Health Organisation says it is preparing for “the worst case scenario” in a fresh outbreak of Ebola in the Democratic Republic of Congo.

WHO has recorded 32 suspected or confirmed cases in Bikoro, including 18 deaths, between April 4 and May 9. The cases include three healthcare workers, one of whom has died.

This is the country’s ninth known outbreak of Ebola since 1976, when the disease was first identified in then-Zaire by a Belgian-led team. Efforts to contain the latest outbreak have been hampered because the affected region of the country is very remote.

“There are very few paved roads, very little electrification, access is extremely difficult… It is basically 15 hours by motorbike from the closest town,” WHO’s head of emergency response Peter Salama said.

Cases have already been reported in three separate locations around Bikoro, and Mr Salama warned there was a clear risk the disease could spread to more densely populated areas.

WHO is particularly concerned about the virus reaching Mbandaka, which has around one million inhabitants and is only a few hours away from Bikoro.

“If we see a town of that size infected with Ebola, then we are going to have a major urban outbreak,” Mr Salama warned.

The organisation has a team on the ground and is preparing to send up to 40 more specialists to the region in the coming week or so.

Nigeria’s government this week ordered that travellers from DR Congo should be screened as an additional security measure after the fresh outbreak was confirmed, but the request was rejected by Nigeria’s health workers’ unions, who have been striking since April 18 over pay and conditions.

The country does not share a border with DR Congo but memories are still fresh of an Ebola outbreak in 2014 that killed seven people out of 19 confirmed cases. ref: AFP

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USAfrica: Will Rwanda President Kagame succeed President Kagame, ruling for 34 years?

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Special to USAfricaonline.com

Who will succeed President Paul Kagame? Ask the ruling party – Rwanda Patriotic Front (RPF) – and Rwandan citizens, says the president.

“The succession plan is not mine. If it had been, I would not be here now; I would have left because that is what I intended to do,” President Kagame said last week during a panel discussion at the Mo Ibrahim Governance summit in Kigali.

President Kagame was elected to a third seven-year term in 2017, after a constitutional referendum led to the suspension of term limits.

Under the amended constitution, a presidential term was slashed from seven to five years, and set to be renewed only once. This allows President Kagame to run for two further five-year terms when his current term ends- potentially making him rule for 34 years until 2034.

But even after winning his third term with an enviable 99 per cent of the vote, President Kagame said he had no intentions of leading past two terms, and was only persuaded by Rwandans to stay on.

“I intended to serve the two terms and leave; that was my intention and it is clear, I don’t have to keep defending myself on it. I was deeply satisfied in my heart … until people asked me to stay,” he said.

“And even then, it took some time before I accepted; finally I did because of history — the history of my involvement in politics and being a leader which started from childhood.”

The Rwandan head of state argued that it was never his ambition to be president in the first place, and that he was not prepared to lead the country after the 1994 Genocide against the Tutsi, turning down his party when they fronted him as a leader.

“In 1994, my party had taken it for granted that I was going to take the helm as the leader. I told them to look for someone else. I told them I wasn’t prepared for it; it was not what I was fighting for,” he said.

“I became vice president and Minister of Defence. Later, then president (Pasteur Bizimungu) had problems with parliament and was impeached. They turned to me and asked me to lead and I said yes.”

President Kagame warned that although it appeared as though his longevity in power has been left for him to decide, there will come a time when no amount of persuasion from his party or the citizenry will convince him to stay.

“If I were to reach a stage — and I will not reach that stage — where people ask me to continue… and when I feel I cannot do much for them, then I will tell them no. Even if they insist, I will also insist on going,” he said.

The president said that once he is out of power, he will support his successor.

But in a country where rights groups have alluded that the political climate only favours the ruling party, it is unlikely that President Kagame’s successor — whenever he or she comes — will come from outside the RPF.

On top of overseeing a strong recovery of the Rwandan economy, ensuring peace and stability, the RPF has consolidated political and financial power since taking over power in 1994.

This is to the point of having several other political parties seeking for coalition with RPF rather than contend for influence.

•Mugisha, Rwandan journalist and author Of Sheep That Smell Like Wolves is based in Kigali, Rwanda. He contributes to the East African.

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World SOCCER SHOWDOWN: South Africa backs Morocco; U.S under pressure

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Special to USAfrica [Houston]  • USAfricaonline.com  •  @Chido247  @USAfricalive

“It is an old myth that Africa doesn’t have the capacity, and naysayers should stop using the political argument. Africa hosted the best Fifa World Cup ever and with good support, Morocco can emulate South Africa,” said the SAFA president Jordaan.

Johannesburg – South Africa Football Association (SAFA) president Danny Jordaan has promised Morocco that South Africa will give its unqualified support to secure another World Cup on the African continent in 2026.

Morocco is vying to stage the world’s biggest football prize against a joint bid by Canada, Mexico and the U.S.

The Moroccan delegation comprises ex-Senegal and Liverpool striker El Hadji Diouf and former Cameroonian goalkeeper Joseph-Antoine Bell.

Jordaan said it would be great for Africa to have a second bite of the World Cup cherry, adding Morocco’s bid was Africa’s bid.

Jordaan assured Morocco that he would personally lobby for the Council for Southern Africa Football Associations (Cosafa) and the rest of the continent to rally behind the Moroccans.

In his remarks, Antoine Bell said Morocco had all the ingredients to host another spectacular World Cup.

“South Africa showed the way and I am confident Morocco will follow suit. The country has international standards, from the stadiums to top infrastructure. Morocco can compete with the best in the world,” he said.

By giving Morocco its support, South Africa’s voice would make all the difference on the continent, Bell said.

“When South Africa talks on the continent, the rest of the continent listens hence it is vital for South Africa to support Morocco. South Africa has the experience and Morocco will use this experience to win the 2016 bid,” added Bell. African News Agency

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USAfrica: Catholic priest Etienne killed by militia in DR Congo, after a wedding mass

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Special to USAfrica [Houston]  •  @USAfricaLIVE

Goma – A Catholic priest was found shot dead hours after he said mass in Democratic Republic of Congo’s restive North Kivu province, a member of the church told AFP.

“Father Etienne Sengiyumva was killed [on] Sunday by the Mai Mai Nyatura (militia) in Kyahemba where he had just celebrated a mass including a baptism and a wedding,” father Gonzague Nzabanita, head of the Goma diocese where the incident occurred, told AFP.

The Mai Mai Nyatura are an armed group operating in North Kivu, in eastern DRC.

Nzabanita said Sengiyumva, 38, had had lunch with local faithful before “we found him shot in the head”.

North and South Kivu provinces are in the grip of a wave of violence among militia groups, which often extort money from civilians or fight each other for control of mineral resources.

Last week unknown assailants kidnapped a Catholic priest in North Kivu, demanding $500 000 for his release.

Eastern DRC has been torn apart by more than 20 years of armed conflict, fuelled by ethnic and land disputes, competition for control of the region’s mineral resources, and rivalry between regional powers.

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USAfrica: Nigeria’s LOOTERS LIST and Buhari’s selective corruption targets. By Majeed Dahiru

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PDP vs APC Looters List and Buhari’s selective corruption targets

By Majeed Dahiru

Special to USAfrica {Houston] • USAfricaonline.com • @USAfricaLive

 

Timipriye Silva, a former governor and PDP chieftain, who became a founding member and financier of APC, had his corruption charges quashed by a federal high court and Buhari’s Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC) failed to appeal the N19.5 billion fraud case.

More curious are the missing names of some accused looters with marital ties to Nigeria’s First and Second families. Gimba Yau Kumo, the PDP appointed former managing director of the Federal Mortgage Bank and now son-in-law of President Buhari, who was similarly accused of fraudulent activities amounting to about N3 billion and reportedly being investigated by EFCC, is missing from [Buhari’s Information Minister] Lai Mohammed’s list.

For a party that has been accused of destroying Nigeria by squandering accrued oil revenues estimated at over $500 billion in sixteen years, it is confounding that Lai’s list is not only exclusively comprised of PDP looters but also captures the last two years of PDP’s last lap in power and included just Goodluck Jonathan’s associates, who supported him against candidate Buhari, while also relating only to funds used in the last electioneering campaign of the PDP.

Whenever the obviously abysmal performance of the Muhammadu Buhari administration appears to be gaining sustained attention, and leading to murmuring within the rank and file of his supporters, a tale of humungous looting by opposition elements is usually spun and thrown into the public space to distract people away from the core issue of the failure of governance.

Like a fit of deja vu, the recently unveiled list of looters by Lai Mohammed, a fellow who comes across as more of President Muhammadu Buhari’s chief propagandist than a minister of the federal republic of Nigeria in charge of information and culture, didn’t come as a surprise. The list is all too familiar as the unveiling was a summarised rehash of politically exposed individuals who are members of the opposition party, close associates of former President Goodluck Jonathan, particularly his appointees in government, who have been named and shamed several times in well-coordinated media trials.

First on Lai’s list is Uche Secondus, the chairman of the opposition Peoples Democratic Party (PDP). Lai had this to say of Secondus: “On the 19th of February 2015, he took N200 million only from the office of the NSA”. An unidentified former financial secretary of the PDP was similarly accused of “taking” N600 million from the same office of the National Security Adviser. Lai Mohammed also re-revealed that frontline member of PDP and media mogul, who deployed his media power to promote Goodluck Jonathan by de-marketing the Buhari candidacy in the run up to 2015 presidential election, Raymond Dokpesi, is on trial for “taking” N2.1 billion from the office of the then NSA. Lai also reminded Nigerians that his shouting match and former spokesman of the PDP, Olisa Metuh is on trial for “collecting” N1.4 billion from the same office of the NSA.

Lai Mohammed’s expanded follow up list included the usual suspects – former ministers, PDP state governors, service chiefs, presidential aides, associates and family members of former President Goodluck Jonathan, who were collectively accused of looting Nigeria of close to $2.1 billion through the office of the former NSA, Col. Sambo Dasuki (rtd.).

The choice of words like “took” and “collected” deployed by Lai to describe the manner in which those named received these monies was deliberate for the maximum effect of propaganda, portraying the accused persons as looters who broke into NSA vault and catered away boxes of cash at something akin to a gun point.

While the clamp down on PDP looters who supported Goodluck Jonathan and are still members of the former ruling party has been heavy handed, others who decamped from PDP to the All Progressives Congress (APC) on the eve of the 2015 elections and supported candidate Buhari’s campaign with their share of loot have been forgiven. For example, former NSA, Sambo Dasuki is being treated as an apostate for his role in the disbursement of funds that were used to oil Goodluck Jonathan’s electioneering effort. He has been kept in detention illegally and in defiance of several judicial rulings. Judging by the Buhari administration’s anti-corruption standard of an accusation being tantamount to guilt, in clear contempt of court proceedings by the resort to the naming and shaming suspects even before investigations and criminal prosecution are concluded and convictions obtained, it becomes curious that Lai’s list didn’t reveal any new name. Rather some names were either missing or omitted from what is a familiar list. This appears so because the bulk of PDP bigwigs who “destroyed” Nigeria in sixteen years of national rule are firmly in control of the APC, from its elected national executives to the National Assembly and appointed members of the federal executive council. The majority of APC-elected governors were also former members of the PDP. Even recently decamped PDP members to APC, such as Musiliu Obanikoro and Sulivan Chime, who have been prominently named and shamed in the recent past, were conspicuously missing from the released list of looters.

More curious are the missing names of some accused looters with marital ties to the first and second families. Gimba Yau Kumo, a former PDP appointed managing director of the Federal Mortgage Bank and now son-in-law of President Buhari, who was similarly accused of fraudulent activities amounting to about N3 billion and reportedly being investigated by EFCC, is missing from Lai’s list. Also missing on that list is Bola Shagaya.

Arguably one of Africa’s richest women, with a reputation for close business and political ties to all first families in the past two decades, Bola Shagaya was exceptionally close to the Goodluck Jonathan family. Often described as a bosom friend of former first lady Patience Jonathan, she has been accused, in numerous instances, allegedly, of acting as Patience Jonathan’s front for the laundering of illicit money estimated at over N13 billion, while engaging in other fraudulent activities involved in state capture. All that may be in the past now as she has found her way back to reckoning with the marriage of her son, Seun Bakare to Damilola, the daughter of Vice President Yemi Osinbanjo. Little wonder then, Bola Shagaya’s name is not on Lai’s looters list.

In a clear display of the arrogance of ignorance, the Buhari administration has narrowed its war on corruption to the hounding of members of the Jonathan administration, other individuals and organisations that were known to have worked against the emergence of the President [Buhari] in the 2015 presidential elections. This is clearly evident in the selective nature of the current anti-corruption effort.

The tone of generalisation of the PDP as the problem of Nigeria, as an indicator of corruption, should make all members of PDP (both former and present) and their collaborators in other parties guilty, hence qualifying them for naming and shaming, while being liable for criminal prosecution.

Therefore, Buhari’s list of looters is devoid of integrity, because his selective war on corruption is indicative of corruption in itself. All that is required of a former PDP looter is to get baptised into APC and profess Buhari as the saviour of Nigeria. This is precisely responsible for the failure and ineffectiveness of the war on corruption. Nothing has changed as the current APC looters continue to loot Nigeria, while the redeemed former PDP looters continue to enjoy their loot in hibernation under the abundant grace of the infallible Buhari.

• Dahiru is based in Abuja 

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USAfrica: Mandelas say Winnie sacrificed her life for the freedom of South Africa

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WINNIE MANDELA, the anti-apartheid activist and former wife of Nelson Mandela, died a few hours ago, today April 2, 2018 — following a long illness especially an infection of her kidney. She was 81 years old.

The following is the full text of the statement by the Mandela family on the death on Monday April 2, 2018 of Winnie Mandela.

 

Special to USAfrica [Houston] • USAfricaonline.com • @Chido247 •  @USAfricaLive

It is with profound sadness that we inform the public that Mrs Winnie Madikizela-Mandela passed away at the Netcare Milpark Hospital‚ Johannesburg‚ South Africa, on Monday April 2 2018.

She died after a long illness‚ for which she had been in and out of hospital since the start of the year. She succumbed peacefully in the early hours of Monday afternoon surrounded by her family and loved ones.

Mrs. Madikizela-Mandela was one of the greatest icons of the struggle against apartheid. She fought valiantly against the apartheid state and sacrificed her life for the freedom of the country. Her activism and resistance to apartheid landed her in jail on numerous occasions‚ eventually causing her banishment to the small town of Brandfort in the then Orange Free State.

She kept the memory of her imprisoned husband Nelson Mandela alive during his years on Robben Island and helped give the struggle for justice in South Africa one its most recognisable faces. She dedicated most of her adult life to the cause of the people and for this was known far and wide as the Mother of the Nation.

The Mandela family are deeply grateful for the gift of her life and even as our hearts break at her passing‚ we urge all those who loved her to celebrate this most remarkable woman.

The family will release details of the memorial and funeral services once these have been finalised.

 

WHY I CELEBRATE THE LIFE AND WORKS OF NELSON MANDELA. By Chido Nwangwu  http://usafricaonline.com/2010/07/15/mandela-why-i-celebrate-his-life-works-by-chido-nwangwu/

—  2018 book: In this engaging, uniquely insightful and first person reportage book, MANDELA & ACHEBE: Footprints of Greatness, about two global icons and towering persons of African descent whose exemplary lives

Mandela-n-Achebe-by-Chido-book-frontcover-Lrsand friendship hold lessons for humanity and Africans, the author Chido Nwangwu takes a measure of their works and consequence to write that Mandela and Achebe have left “footprints of greatness.”

He chronicles, movingly, his 1998 reporting from the Robben Island jail room in South Africa where Mandela was held for decades through his 20 years of being close to Achebe. He moderated the 2012 Achebe Colloquium at Brown University in Providence, Rhode Island.”I’ll forever remember having walked inside and peeped through that historic Mandela jail cell (where he was held for most of his 27 years in unjust imprisonment) at the dreaded Robben Island, on March 27, 1998, alongside then Editor-in-chief of TIME magazine and later news chief executive of the CNN, Walter Isaacson (and others) when President Bill Clinton made his first official trip to South Africa and came to Robben Island. Come to this island of scourge and you will understand, in part, the simple greatness and towering grace of Nelson Mandela”, notes  Chido Nwangwu, award-winning writer, multimedia specialist and founder of USAfricaonline.com, the first African-owned U.S-based newspaper published on the internet, in his first book; he writes movingly from his 1998 reporting from South Africa on Mandela. http://www.mandelaachebechido.com/

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USAfricaBrkNEWS WINNIE MANDELA IS DEAD

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WINNIE MANDELA IS DEAD

The anti-apartheid activist and former wife of Nelson Mandela died a few hours ago, today April 2, 2018 — following a long illness especially an infection of her kidney. She was 81 years old.

 

The full text of the statement by the Mandela family on the death on Monday April 2, 2018 of Winnie Mandela.

Special to USAfrica [Houston] • USAfricaonline.com • @Chido247 •  @USAfricaLive

It is with profound sadness that we inform the public that Mrs Winnie Madikizela-Mandela passed away at the Netcare Milpark Hospital‚ Johannesburg‚ South Africa, on Monday April 2 2018.

She died after a long illness‚ for which she had been in and out of hospital since the start of the year. She succumbed peacefully in the early hours of Monday afternoon surrounded by her family and loved ones.

Mrs Madikizela-Mandela was one of the greatest icons of the struggle against apartheid. She fought valiantly against the apartheid state and sacrificed her life for the freedom of the country. Her activism and resistance to apartheid landed her in jail on numerous occasions‚ eventually causing her banishment to the small town of Brandfort in the then Orange Free State.

She kept the memory of her imprisoned husband Nelson Mandela alive during his years on Robben Island and helped give the struggle for justice in South Africa one its most recognisable faces. She dedicated most of her adult life to the cause of the people and for this was known far and wide as the Mother of the Nation.

The Mandela family are deeply grateful for the gift of her life and even as our hearts break at her passing‚ we urge all those who loved her to celebrate this most remarkable woman.

The family will release details of the memorial and funeral services once these have been finalised.

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USAfrica: Nigeria forces repeatedly warned before Boko Haram abducted 110 schoolgirls in Dapchi, says Amnesty

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Nigeria forces repeatedly warned before Boko Haram abducted 110 schoolgirls in Dapchi, says Amnesty

Amnesty said that between 2:00 p.m. and 6:00 p.m. on Feb. 19, at least five calls were made to tell the security services that Islamist fighters were in the Dapchi area. Locals spotted about 50 members of the Islamic State group affiliate in a convoy of nine vehicles in Futchimiram, about 30 km (19 miles) from Dapchi, then at Gumsa. In Gumsa, where Boko Haram stayed until about 5:00 p.m., residents phoned ahead to Dapchi to warn them. The convoy arrived at about 6:30 p.m. and left about 90 minutes later.

Special to USAfrica [Houston] • USAfricaonline.com

AFP:Nigeria’s military was on Tuesday accused of ignoring repeated warnings about the movements of Boko Haram fighters before they kidnapped 110 schoolgirls in the country’s restive northeast.

The students — the youngest of whom is aged just 10 — were seized from the town of Dapchi, Yobe state, on February 19, 2018 in virtually identical circumstances to those in Chibok in 2014.

Then, more than 200 schoolgirls were taken in an attack that brought sustained world attention on the Islamist insurgency and sparked a global campaign for their release.

President Muhammadu Buhari has called the Dapchi abduction a “national disaster” and vowed to use negotiation rather than force to secure their release.

But as in Chibok nearly four years ago, human rights group Amnesty International claimed the military was warned about the arrival of the heavily armed jihadists — yet failed to act.

In the hours that followed both attacks, the authorities also tried to claim the girls had not been abducted.

Amnesty’s Nigeria director Osa Ojigho said “no lessons appear to have been learned” from Chibok and called for an immediate probe into what she called “inexcusable security lapses.

“The government’s failure in this incident must be investigated and the findings made public — and it is absolutely crucial that any investigation focuses on the root causes,” she added.

“Why were insufficient troops available? Why was it decided to withdraw troops? What measures have the government taken to protect schools in northeast Nigeria?

“And what procedures are supposed to be followed in response to an attempted abduction?”

There was no immediate response from the Nigerian military when contacted by AFP.

Amnesty said that between 2:00 p.m. and 6:00 p.m. on Feb. 19, at least five calls were made to tell the security services that Islamist fighters were in the Dapchi area.

Locals spotted about 50 members of the Islamic State group affiliate in a convoy of nine vehicles in Futchimiram, about 30 km (19 miles) from Dapchi, then at Gumsa.

In Gumsa, where Boko Haram stayed until about 5:00 p.m., residents phoned ahead to Dapchi to warn them. The convoy arrived at about 6:30 p.m. and left about 90 minutes later.

Amnesty, whose researchers spoke to about 23 people and three security officials, said the army command in Geidam had told callers they were aware of the situation and were monitoring.

Police in Dapchi promised to tell divisional commanders, while army commanders in Geidam and Damaturu were also alerted during the attack, it added.

People in Dapchi have previously said troops were withdrawn from the town earlier this year, leaving only a few police officers. The nearest military detachment was an hour away.

The Dapchi abduction has thrown into doubt repeated government and military claims that Boko Haram is on the brink of defeat, after nearly nine years of fighting and at least 20,000 deaths.

Boko Haram, which has used kidnapping as a weapon of war during the conflict, has not claimed responsibility but it is believed a faction headed by Abu Mus’ab al-Barnawi is behind it.

IS in August 2015 publicly backed Barnawi as the leader of Boko Haram, or Islamic State West Africa Province, over Abubakar Shekau, whose supporters carried out the Chibok abduction.

Analysts have attributed a financial motive to the Dapchi kidnapping given government ransom payments made to Boko Haram to secure the release of some of the captives from Chibok.

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USAfrica: Zuma’s failed presidency of corruption, what next? By Paul Hoffman

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Zuma’s presidency of corruption, what next?       By PAUL HOFFMAN

South Africa’s National Prosecuting Authority needs to box smart – there is no better way to clear the air than swiftly to charge Jacob Zuma for the corrupt manner in which he relieved Mxolisi Nxasana of his post as the head of the NPA. This crime is far more serious, far more recent and far more relevant to the future of the rule of law and constitutionalism in South Africa [SA].

The 18 criminal charges against former President Jacob Zuma, reinstated by the Supreme Court of Appeal on 13 October 2017 in the culmination of a judicial review initiated by the DA in April 2009, must stand. Zuma’s unpublished but bulky representations aimed at their withdrawal have failed, as was announced by current National Director of Public Prosecutions, Shaun Abrahams, in an 11-minute press briefing on 16 March 2018.

Four serious crimes are identified in the 18 charges: corruption, fraud, money laundering and racketeering. All of the charges flow from 783 transactions between Zuma and his former financial adviser, Schabir Shaik, or companies controlled by the latter or in which he had a major interest.

Shaik and his companies were convicted in the High Court on various counts of corruption and fraud in June 2005. The state alleged and proved to the satisfaction of that court (and both higher courts to which appeals were directed) that over a period of nearly seven years, they made some 238 payments either directly to, or for the benefit of, Jacob Zuma, at all material times a prominent politician. The payments had been made between October 1995 and September 2002 as an inducement to Zuma to use his name and political influence for the benefit of Shaik’s businesses or as an ongoing reward totalling R1,340,078 for having done so.

The Shaik trial lasted more than six months, generated huge media interest and attracted a great deal of public attention. More than 40 witnesses testified. The record comprises more than 12,000 pages with oral testimony constituting more than 6,000 pages.

When the Shaik matter reached the Constitutional Court on appeal relating to the forfeiture of the fruits of the crimes, Acting Deputy Chief Justice O’Regan, writing for a unanimous court, observed that:

“It is clear that corruption is a serious crime which is potentially harmful to our most important constitutional values. Moreover, it is clear that both our Parliament and the international community recognise the close links between corruption and organised crime.”

The prosecution has, for the purposes of the now pending case against Zuma, expanded the number of transactions from 238 to 783 and it intends to call over 200 witnesses in the matter, including forensic experts.

Given the length of the Shaik trial, it is clear that the Zuma trial will be considerably longer and a very expensive undertaking, particularly so if the hitherto consistent “Stalingrad strategy” of the Zuma legal team is persisted with during the trial. There is no reason to doubt that the strategy will not be abandoned.

It seems, from what little was revealed during President Ramaphosa’s first parliamentary question session, that the taxpayer will foot the bill for the defence of Zuma and will only be able to seek to recover costs if a conviction is secured at the end of the trial and the appeals which routinely form part of the Stalingrad strategy. This arrangement (flowing from an agreement with then President Mbeki) is both wrong and outrageous; the validity of the agreement ought to be impugned as Zuma does not hold any political office now and was not put in office to commit crimes.

It is also a racing certainty that, for the purpose of delaying the matter, the decision announced on 16 March 2018 will be taken on review, and if necessary on appeal, by Zuma. He may also apply for a permanent stay of prosecution which will also hold up the commencement of the trial.

A rather misguided stab at a permanent stay has already been launched by an obscure NGO in the Western Cape High Court. Both the NGO’s standing to sue and the jurisdiction of that court to hear the matter will doubtless feature prominently in the application. While it is pending, the application will delay the commencement of the criminal trial. The Judge President in Cape Town is a known Zuma sympathiser with a Stalingrad strategy of his own in relation to long-outstanding disciplinary proceedings against him.

The National Prosecuting Authority needs to box smart in the circumstances sketched above. After the review and stay applications are dispensed with (probably on appeal) a long, complex and expensive trial about 783 smallish transactions that mostly took place in a previous century is required.

This trial is not the only option for bringing Zuma to book.

Far more relevant and topical is Zuma’s role in the attempted capture of the state, some State-owned Enterprises and in particular the criminal justice administration itself.

A trial soon, over one transaction which took place as recently as the autumn of 2015 that impacts on the NPA’s overall credibility directly, would involve evidence on a single invalid and corrupt payment, admittedly made, of over R17-million and will, if successfully prosecuted, set the tone of the post-Zuma era. This prosecution is a possibility the management of the NPA ought to consider. Only one prosecution witness need be called and all of the limited quantity of documentation relating to the matter tends to support his version of the corrupt transaction at the heart of the case. Only two charges are needed, one of corruption and one of defeating the ends of justice.

A criminal complaint in relation to the matter has been under investigation by the Hawks since July 2015, when, fortified by a favourable opinion of two senior counsel, and armed with an affidavit and draft charge sheet, Accountability Now laid the two charges concerning the manner in which former NDPP Mxolisi Nxasana was relieved of his duties.

Related civil proceedings, brought by FUL, Corruption Watch and CASAC, have already reached the Constitutional Court on appeal, and judgment in the matter is imminent. The validity of the appointment of the current NDPP, Abrahams, is a live issue in the appeal. It was common cause in argument that the transaction complained of is illegal and invalid. Its criminality was not in issue in the civil case nor was the available evidence of Nxasana, which would be adduced in the criminal trial, before the court, having been excluded from the record because it was presented late. The High Court nevertheless rejected the version put forward on oath by Zuma. During argument in both courts, counsel did describe the payment of Nxasana’s golden handshake to agree to leave office as a bribe.

This low hanging fruit is available for plucking by the NPA, if it chooses to “box smart”. In the Shaik trial a sentence of 15 years was imposed on the corruptor of Jacob Zuma. This is the minimum sentence laid down in the applicable legislation. Zuma, now 75 years old, will surely not get a lesser sentence if convicted for bribing Nxasana to leave office after a short, sharp and well directed trial. There is no special dispensation for pensioners in SA, unlike the Italian criminal law which has been exploited by Silvio Berlusconi after his conviction.

What Zuma did to the country and the NPA by easing out Nxasana is a far more serious matter than his corrupt relationship with Shaik. It goes to the overall administration of criminal justice, not to 783 petty corrupt payments intended to oil the fortunes of the Shaik business empire.

The NPA top management ought to be able to muster the moral fortitude to discern the need to clear the air around its widely perceived lack of constitutionally required independence in its leadership; the dark cloud of suspicions that Abrahams was previously willing to align the NPA with Zuma’s interests rather than the interests of the administration of justice and the general feeling that the NPA “ain’t what it used to be”.

If it is so able, there is no better way to clear the air than swiftly to charge Zuma for the corrupt manner in which he relieved Nxasana of his post as the head of the NPA. This crime is far more serious, far more recent and far more relevant to the future of the rule of law and constitutionalism in SA.

The Constitution itself enjoins the entire public administration to use resources in an effective, efficient and economical way. If the objective of a “winnable case” for the prosecution is the appropriate conviction and punishment of the accused, let’s get there sooner rather than later.

It is time for the NPA to recall the words of the unanimous Constitutional Court quoted above and also to bear in mind that on 17 March 2011 our highest court’s concerns about corruption were expressed in the following words of Moseneke DCJ and Cameron J in the second Glenister case concerning the unconstitutionality of the Hawks:

There can be no gainsaying that corruption threatens to fell at the knees virtually everything we hold dear and precious in our hard-won constitutional order. It blatantly undermines the democratic ethos, the institutions of democracy, the rule of law and the foundational values of our nascent constitutional project. It fuels maladministration and public fraudulence and imperils the capacity of the State to fulfil its obligations to respect, protect, promote and fulfil all the rights enshrined in the Bill of Rights. When corruption and organised crime flourish, sustainable development and economic growth are stunted. And in turn, the stability and security of society is put at risk.”

When the relatively trivial “small time crook” nature of the corruption between Shaik and Zuma is contrasted with the serious harm done to the overall administration of justice and the trajectory of constitutionalism in SA by the “dis-appointment” of Nxasana, then it ought to be a no-brainer that the latter matter deserves priority on the roll for hearing in the criminal sessions of the High Court.

It is up to the NPA to do the right thing, not because the DA’s successful review and a change of president points it in that direction, but out of inner conviction, unswerving independent-mindedness and to preserve its own integrity.

If Jacob Zuma ever considers doing the right thing he could consider negotiating a plea bargain by pleading guilty to common law crimes (those that don’t have minimum sentences, a la the travelgate fraudsters) in both matters and confess to all other wrongdoing on his part so as to shop those he threatened to shop when first charged concerning his cosy relationship with Shaik. Zuma’s little black book of “Where the ‘smallanyana’ skeletons are buried” could be usefully handed to the NPA as part of the plea bargain.

Urban legend has it that when told by Mbeki (whom he later threatened to force into the witness box in the long arms deals related trial now in prospect) that he was being fired as deputy president because of Shaik’s conviction for corrupting him, Zuma looked around the room full of assembled Cabinet ministers and said: “But, But, but I am the poorest cadre in the room!”                                                                                                                      •Hoffman is a director of Accountability Now.

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