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Ex-South African President Zuma makes second court appearance on corruption charges

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….As Buhari’s minister blames governor for APC failures in Oyo state***

Former South African President Jacob Zuma, who was ousted by his own party in February, arrived at the Durban High Court on Friday for his second appearance on corruption charges relating to a $2.5 billion arms deal in the late 1990s.

Zuma faces 16 charges of fraud, racketeering and money laundering relating to the deal to buy European military hardware to upgrade South Africa’s armed forces after the end of apartheid in 1994.

State prosecutors and Zuma’s lawyers are expected to argue over a start date for the trial, a rare example of an African leader being held to account for his actions.

The national prosecutor this week turned down a request by the 76-year-old to delay Friday’s hearing pending the outcome of a separate legal challenge over the state paying his legal fees.

The speed with which prosecutors have moved against Zuma is a sign of his waning influence since he was replaced as head of state by Cyril Ramaphosa, his former deputy, four months ago.

Ramaphosa has made the fight against corruption a top priority as he seeks to woo foreign investment and revamp an ailing economy.

Zuma’s supporters say the former president, whose nine years in power were marked by economic stagnation and credit rating downgrades, is the victim of a politically motivated witch-hunt.

In the meantime, the Minister of Communications, Adebayo Shittu, has blamed Oyo State Governor Abiola Ajimobi for the recent failures of the All Progressives Party (APC) in the state.

In a letter addressed to the APC National Chairman, Mr Shittu said the “undemocratic” actions of the governor had cost the APC dearly as it has lost every election in the state since 2015 when Mr Ajimobi was reelected – a victory he claimed was made possible by the unity of purpose, commitment and resilience of members who campaigned for him.

He accused Mr Ajimobi of running the affairs of the party like a dictator by usurping the functions of the various organs of the party in the state, notably the executive of the party at the various levels.

“Rather than allow the wishes of the majority to prevail, the Governor has always single-handedly imposed his will on the party without due consultation with party members, elders and stakeholders.

“The effect of the above is that since the year 2015 when Governor Ajimobi won his re-election bid on the platform of the party, the party has lost every election in which it has participated in Oyo State.

“This is because, the Governor, in a bid to impose his hegemony on the party, has always ignored the views of party members and imposed unpopular candidates on the party. I will give a breakdown of the losses suffered by the party,” he said.

He made reference to how the APC lost the bye-election conducted in August 2016 in respect of the Oorelope State Constituency following the death of the former occupant of the seat and also the bye-election conducted last Saturday in respect of the Ibarapa East State Constituency following the death of the former occupant of the seat, Hon. Michael Adesina Adeyemo.

Mr Shittu further accused the state governor of having preference for non-members of the party for key positions in government.

He said Mr Ajimobi had directed members of the House of Assembly to vote for Hon. Joshua Olagunju Ojo who then occupied the Office of Minority Leader on account of his membership of the Labour Party.

“This, the Governor did to the detriment of the party all because of his selfish motive. The rest is now history as the said Minority Leader emerged speaker based on the shenanigans of the Governor. ”

He described the losses recorded by the party at the polls, including the recently conducted bye-election of June, as “a consequence of the apathy foisted on the majority of the party members by Mr Ajimobi through his culture of imposition and disrespect for the democratic will of the majority.”

While reminding the leadership of the APC that apart from Lagos State, Oyo State made the highest contribution to the victory of President Muhammadu Buhari at the 2015 polls in the entire Southern part, Mr Shittu called on the leadership of the party to abate “the culture of impunity.”

“May I also warn that the decision of the National Working Committee to unilaterally swear in Mr. Oke, a nominee and stooge of Governor Abiola Ajimobi without following due legal and political process amounts to a pitiable show of indiscretion, lack of political foresight and possible political electoral suicide for our great party in Oyo State,” he added.

When contacted, the Oyo State Commissioner for Information, Toye Arulogun, said he would not react to Mr Shittu’s claims because he is “not compelled to do so.”

However, APC spokesperson in the state, Abdulazeez Olatunde, told PREMIUM TIMES Mr Shittu was full of fallacious claims “which is something he is fond of.”

He challenged the minister to state three vivid examples of undemocratic tendencies the governor has exhibited. He also accused Mr Shittu of carrying out anti-party activities in the state.

“He said the party lost the by-election in Oorelope since the governor was sworn in the second time but all the elements in the party that are causing trouble now were solidly with us then, yet we lost the by-election.

“The by-election in Ibarapa which he claimed that it’s because they are no longer with us that the party lost; they were the ones that are guilty of working against the interest of the party.

“They were carrying out anti-party activities. They raised a candidate from the same constituency of the candidate of the APC all because he wanted to undermine the chances of the APC,” he said.

Mr Olatunde alleged the minister was “mobilising people ans telling them not to vote for the party.”

He further stated that Mr Shittu did not contribute to the reelection of the governor “because he was the one that took the governor to court despite every reasonable element in the party pleading with him to be reasonable.

“He is reaping from where he did not sow because if at all, reward is given based on contribution, then he doesn’t deserve that ministerial position he is enjoying now.

“Other antecedents of the minister are there for everybody to claim. He has never been found to very stable in every ramifications. If he actually loves Buhari, this is not the time for him to be working against him,” he said.

He, however, noted that the party does not want Mr Shittu and “any of his co-travailants to leave the party.”

“We want peace and reconciliation. We want them to come and amicably settle it but whatever is their choice is left for them. If he cannot be submissive to the leadership of the party here and the state governor, he certainly cannot be submissive to President Buhari in Abuja,” he added.

Additional report from Premium

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29 Killed In Southern Brazil’s Worst Storms

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29 Killed In Southern Brazil’s Worst Storms

Four consecutive days of intense rainfall, floods, and mudslides that hit Brazil’s southern state of Rio Grande do Sulworst released the worst storms that killed 29 people and left 60 others missing, Governor Eduardo Leite said.

“Unfortunately, we know that these numbers will rise,” said Leite, describing the storms as the worst natural disaster in the state’s history, a top agricultural and livestock producer.

Brazilian President Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva visited Santa Maria, one of the state’s worst-hit cities, and met with Leite on Thursday.

Lula offered federal funding and aid to address the emergency in the state bordering Uruguay and Argentina.

“There will be no shortage of help from the federal government to take care of health, no shortage of money to take care of transportation and food, everything that is within reach.

“Whether through ministers, civil society, or our military, we’ll dedicate round-the-clock effort to satisfy the basic needs of the people stranded by the rains,” said the president.

With more rain forecast, the governor called on residents, to head for higher ground and stay away from flood-prone areas identified by the civil defence agency.

He said 4,400 residents have been evacuated but thousands more are waiting to be rescued from their flooded homes.

According to a civil defence bulletin, 154 cities have been affected by natural disasters.

– Xinhua

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Israel Says Not Briefed In Time About Hamas Accepting Gaza Ceasefire Proposal – Reports

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Israel Says Not Briefed In Time About Hamas Accepting Gaza Ceasefire Proposal – Reports

The Israeli government was taken aback that Hamas accepted the latest Gaza ceasefire proposal, formed by Qatari and Egyptian mediators, as the country was only briefed on the Palestinian movement’s response an hour after its release.

The Axios news outlet reported this on Tuesday, citing three Israeli officials.

On Monday, Hamas informed Qatari and Egyptian mediators that it agreed to the terms of the ceasefire deal they had drafted.

The proposal provides for three stages of 42 days, during which a complete ceasefire in the Gaza Strip and an exchange of Israeli hostages for Palestinian prisoners are expected to be concluded.

In addition to allegedly being briefed on Hamas’ decision belatedly, the Israeli officials told Axios they had been outraged by the fact that the proposal accepted by the Palestinian movement allegedly contained “many new elements,” which had not been discussed with the Jewish state.

“It looked like a whole new proposal,” one of the Israeli officials was quoted by the news outlet as saying.

That “new” proposal, which allegedly was not negotiated with Israel, had been presented by the mediators to Hamas’ delegation during the latter’s visit to Cairo last weekend, the Israeli officials told Axios.

Meanwhile, a source familiar with the negotiations said Israeli representatives had also been invited by the United States to visit Cairo along with Hamas but had refused to do so.

The Israeli authorities have been seriously disappointed with Washington’s mediating role in the talks with Hamas, Axios reported.

CIA Director Bill Burns participated in the recent round of the negotiations in Cairo and Doha and was aware of that “new” proposal, but allegedly did not inform Israel about it, sources familiar with the matter were cited by the news outlet as saying.

Meanwhile, a senior US official told Axios that “American diplomats have been engaged with Israeli counterparts,” adding there were “no surprises.”

On Monday, the Israel Defense Forces started a military operation in the eastern parts of Rafah, after urging residents to evacuate.

Palestinian movement Hamas said that it had agreed to the provisions of the Gaza ceasefire deal proposed by Egypt and Qatar, but Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu called the deal unacceptable.

More than a million people are believed to be sheltering in the city.

On Oct. 7, 2023, the Palestinian movement Hamas launched a large-scale rocket attack against Israel and breached the border, attacking both civilian neighbourhoods and military bases.

Nearly 1,200 people in Israel were killed and some 240 others abducted during the attack.

Israel launched retaliatory strikes, ordered a complete blockade of Gaza, and started a ground incursion into the Palestinian enclave with the declared goal of eliminating Hamas fighters and rescuing the hostages.

Over 34,700 people have been killed so far by Israeli strikes in the Gaza Strip, according to local authorities.

More than 100 hostages are still believed to be held by Hamas in Gaza. 

– Sputnik

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East Africa Floods Affecting 750,000 People, Kill 235 – UN

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East Africa Floods Affecting 750,000 People, Kill 235 – UN

UN humanitarians said about 750,000 people were affected by flooding in eastern Africa, with 234,000 displaced and more than 236 killed.

The UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA) said local authorities in Kenya reported more than 285,000 people were affected nationwide.

“The United Nations and our partners are supporting the government-led response and have reached more than 126,000 people with water and sanitation assistance.

“About 31,000 people were assisted with food and cash, more than 5,000 assisted with health services, and nearly 26,000 people with emergency shelter support,” OCHA said.

The office said that in Somalia, more than 160,000 people were affected by flooding, with more than 37,000 displaced or relocated.

Flooding has killed seven children since April 19, with the states of Hirshabelle, Jubaland and Southwest the worst affected.

Humanitarian agencies said local authorities provided more than 70,000 people with food, cash, water, sanitation, shelter and health assistance.

Some 50 boats were deployed to deliver supplies or evacuate people who may have been marooned by flood waters.

“Our partners estimate that the rains and floods could affect at least 770,000 people in Somalia,” OCHA said.

“The rains are also likely to worsen the ongoing cholera epidemic in the country.”

The humanitarians said that in Burundi, torrential rains and the rising water level of Lake Tanganyika have affected nearly 180,000 people since January.

The agriculture sector is heavily impacted, with national authorities estimating that 40,000 hectares or 10 per cent of the country’s crop area have been affected.

“A flood response plan seeking 25 million U.S. dollars is being finalised to support more than 300,000 people,” OCHA said.

“Our partners are providing health care support, drinking water, tarpaulins and psychosocial support.”

According to humanitarians, in Tanzania, the government and partners deployed search and rescue teams and distributed emergency aid, including food, mattresses, mosquito nets and tents to assist flood-affected people.

The office said that in Rwanda, heavy rains and floods killed and injured dozens of people and damaged roads, bridges and hundreds of homes.

Local authorities reported that several hectares of rice and banana plantations were also damaged.

“The governments and humanitarian partners are supporting evacuation efforts and the response,” OCHA said.  

– Xinhua

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