Daily Archives: August 23, 2017

Worldwide remembrance of the slave trade ‘a tribute to every victim’ – senior UNESCO official

While the International Day for the Remembrance of the Slave Trade and its Abolition is a tribute to every victim and their resistance against slavery, it is also a reminder of the importance of teaching history, a senior United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural (UNESCO) has stressed.

The legacy of the slave trade is a symbolic victory for human rights freedom; and the International Day acts as a reminder of the eternal effort to reaffirm human dignity and break down ignorance Nada Al-Nashif, UNESCO Assistant Director-General for Social and Human Sciences told UN News ahead of the International Day of remembrance, marked annually on 23 August.

Since its 1998 establishment, the commemoration has provided an opportunity to look back at the legacy of the slave trade and to understand how the uprising that began in 1791 in what is now Haiti was symbolic of a victory for freedom and human rights.

She explained that many regions of the world consider it to be a day of common heritage that symbolizes a call for freedom, for justice and for dialogue among people.

According to Ms. Al-Nashif, it is important to understand the limitation of interpretation, to change the silence and to act together to make resistance against slavery an inspirational force for future generation.

She underscored that its call for truth permeates UNESCO’s work in appealing for social justice, the reduction of inequality and the preservation of human dignity and human rights.

Tracing history

Aiming not only to break the silence, but to better understand the historic causes, methods and global consequences of the tragedy, UNESCO launched in 1994 the landmark Slave Route Project.

Highlighting global transformations and cultural interactions, Ms. Al-Nashif said the project showcased how cultural pluralism and intercultural dialogue and understanding are critical to the culture of peace.

Since its introduction, UNESCO maintains that the project has had a significant impact at local, national, regional and international levels � and has helped to effect a change in attitudes by ‘de-racializing’ the tragedy which, de facto, concerns humanity as a whole.

The Slave Route Project has contributed substantially to fostering greater awareness of the ethical, political, socio-economic and cultural aspects of this chapter of history, and even the official recognition of slavery as a crime against humanity by the United Nations, according to Ms. Al-Nashif.

Ms. Al-Nashif noted that project also speaks to remedy the general ignorance on the history of Africa by reconstructing it � freeing it from racial prejudice � and re-reading the history through purely African perspectives or more objective views of scientists or researchers.

Turning newly-nominated UNESCO World Heritage sites, Ms. Al-Nashif told UN News about Valongo Wharf Archaeological Site in Brazil and Mbanza Kongo, the Vestiges of the Capital of the former Kingdom of Kongo in Angola, saying both [are] recognized to be of universal value.

Ms. Al-Nashif said that Valongo, the former harbour area in Rio de Janeiro is one of the most important wharfs in world history, because as many as 900,000 African men, women and children were held there before being sold in the Brazilian market and, for the two decades that it existed, was a hub for how the African diaspora came to the New World.

The Vestiges were also a principal slave trade route through which enslaved people were transported to the Americas and Caribbean.

The archaeological traces of the past speak to the many tangible and intangible heritage elements that still exist and have been honoured now, she stressed.

Ms. Al-Nashif added that slavery is not a thing of the pass.

Today we talk about modern slavery and human trafficking; the pushback on multilateralism and human rights; about race, identity and culture; and the challenges on how we can co-exist together, she concluded.

Source: UN News Centre

Water and Sanitation tables quarter one report for 2017/18 financial year in Parliament

The Department of Water and Sanitation is considering blacklisting individuals, companies and organisations that continue not to honour their debts that are due to the department.

This proposal was tabled before the Parliament’s Portfolio Committee on Water and Sanitation today, 23 August 2017 when the department presented its Quarter One report for the 2017/2018 financial year.

By the end of June 2017, the department only managed to collect R115 million out of more than R7 billion of the money owed to it by municipalities and water boards, an amount that is more like a drop in the ocean.

The department views the failure of water users to pay for the services in a serious light as this failure has adverse implications for the department in the execution of its mandate.

On its Quarter One report, the department revealed that it has 15% of its original R15 billion budget with Acting Director-General, Mr Sifiso Mkhize saying the department is on the right track in as far as achieving its set targets for the year.

In the first quarter, the department has used over R800 million to pay for its 2016/17 accruals which amounted to R1.5 billion. These were mainly due to the late submission of invoices amongst other things. This has resulted in the department reprioritising its Accelerated Community Infrastructure Programme and Water Services Infrastructure Grant projects to cater for the accruals.

As of 30 June 2017, the department had spent over R1 billion for its infrastructure projects out of the R11 billion that is allocated. In as far as the Bucket Eradication Programme is concerned, the department overspent by R45 616 000. The budget allocated was R145 000 000 and the department spent R190 616 000.

Source: Government of South Africa

Water dept gets tough on irregular spending

Water and Sanitation Minister Nomvula Mokonyane has committed her department to deal decisively with the flouting of supply chain management processes to ensure that public money is spent wisely.

The Minister reaffirmed this commitment during the Standing Committee on Public Accounts (Scopa) meeting held in Parliament on Tuesday to clarify matters of irregular expenditure incurred during the 2015/16 financial year period.

Minister Mokonyane said the scope of the department’s work necessitated it to go beyond the call of duty to ensure that there is adequate provision of water and sanitation services to the people.

Citing the unrelenting drought that thwarted most parts of the country, the Minister said the department had to go out of its way to alleviate the disastrous situation that threatened to reduce water resources.

We had to shift some funds and assist our communities who were running out of water, Minister Mokonyane said.

Department did not incur irregular expenditure

The Minister explained, however, that her department did not actually incur irregular expenditure but the entities under the department are the ones who faced many challenges due to the volume of infrastructure projects that they are handling.

A case in point is the Giyani Intervention Project, which is being implemented by the Lepelle Northern Water Board, was found to have irregularly spent by the Auditor General as a result of the scope of work done in the Mopani District Municipality. To this end, the emergency intervention in Giyani accounted for R1.3 billion of the R1.7 billion in irregular expenditure that was incurred in the 2015/16 financial year, the Minister said.

The Giyani Project was implemented in 2014 after the Supreme Court of Appeal instructed the Department of Water and Sanitation to intervene in the humanitarian crisis that was unfolding in the Mopani District since 2009.

An outbreak of water-borne diseases saw babies and the elderly dying, while wards of Khensani Hospital closed down due to the lack of water, as well as water contamination.

Minister Mokonyane reported that the Giyani Project emergency interventions were implemented and the completion of the Giyani Water Works ensured that all 55 villages have access to water.

The six boreholes of Nkhensani Hospital have been refurbished and are all working. A 10 000-litre water tank was replaced and the internal pipe reticulation of the hospital as well as leaking taps and toilets have been attended to, she said.

Minister Mokonyane said there are cases where officials of the department have been found to have acted wrongly and did not follow the right processes in line with National Treasury regulations. To mitigate this, she said the department will act strongly and bring to book all those who were found to have benefited personally from devious means.

In October 2016, I instituted an investigation into a number of projects and related procurement matters within the department, led by Advocate Terry Motau, SC. The Task Team has submitted a report to me and a full forensic investigation will be instituted.

Anyone found to be on the wrong side of the law will have to face the music. Already there are senior managers on suspension and we want to allow a fair process that will ensure that we get to the bottom of the problem, the Minister said.

The department’s Acting Director General, Sifiso Mkhize, warned that the department will not only dismiss those found guilty, but will also institute processes to recoup any money owed to the department.

Mkhize also revealed that the department is still grappling with recouping money owed by Water Boards and municipalities, which amounts to R7.1 billion.

Source: South African Government News Agency

Minister Maite Nkoana-Mshabane: Media briefing on SADC Summit outcomes and Sierra Leone relief efforts

Media Briefing by the Minister of International Relations and Cooperation, Hon. Maite Nkoana-Mshabane, on relief efforts for the Republic of Sierra Leone. Wednesday, 23 August 2017, OR Tambo Building, Pretoria

Thank you Programme Director;

Hon Minister D Van Rooyen;

Senior officials present;

Ladies and gentlemen of the media

We invited you here today to update you on the efforts of the South African Government, working with other stakeholders, to provide relief to the people of Sierra Leone who have suffered severely as a result of a natural disaster.

The South African Government would like to once again express deepest and heartfelt condolences to the Government and people of the Republic of Sierra Leone following one of the worst floods in our continent. This natural disaster has devastated significant parts of Sierra Leone’s capital, resulting in massive loss of life, destruction of property and leaving behind a catastrophic humanitarian crisis.

The President of Sierra Leone, His Excellency President Ernest Bai Koroma, has made an appeal for urgent help to support the thousands of people affected by the disaster.

The Chairperson of the AU Commission, H.E. Moussa Faki Mahamat, has also appealed to all Africans and the diaspora, as well as to international partners, to support Sierra Leone and its public health system respond to this disaster, which occurred only two years after the country successfully dealt with the deadliest Ebola outbreak in living memory.

In line with the spirit of solidarity underpinned by Ubuntu, the South African Government has decided to respond positively to Sierra Leone’s appeal for humanitarian assistance.

South Africa’s initial plan was to send a Search, Rescue and Recovery operation team under its Urban Search and Rescue team (USAR-South Africa). This team has a classified recognition status from the United Nation’s International Search and Rescue Advisory Group (INSARAG).

This means the team is now officially recognised by the international community as being equipped and skilled to respond to major emergency incidents and disasters both locally and internationally in order to provide assistance to victims.

However, yesterday (22 August 2017), the President of Sierra Leone, HE Ernest Bai Koroma, made a declaration suspending the Search, Rescue and Recovery operation. This is due to difficulties and constraints relating to weather conditions and the state of bodies recovered. Therefore, the South African Government will not be dispatching a Humanitarian Response Team for Search, Rescue and Recovery Operation. Instead, we are announcing an initial financial contribution of R8 million for humanitarian assistance through the United Nations World Food Programme (WFP). This contribution is for the provision of materials for temporary shelters, medical supplies and food aid. The WFP is already on the ground in Sierra Leone has been identified for this purpose as it has the requisite expertise and experience to execute this function.

This will not be the only contribution we are making. Accordingly, we would like to this take this opportunity to humbly make an appeal to the South African people, in their personal capacities and as members of organisations, to join the efforts to assist the sisterly people of Sierra Leone in this hour of need. The donations can be made in the following manner:

SMS the Word Relief to this number 38510. All SMS will be at the cost of R10.

Or alternatively

We are supporting efforts of the International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent who are already on the ground in Sierra Leone through the South African Red Cross Society.

Make your donations by using the following banking details:

Account name: The South African Red Cross

Bank name: Standard Bank

Account number: 001 35 5929

Branch code: 051001

Reference: Sierra Leone Relief

Allow me to thank all the stakeholders who have generously agreed to play a part in this campaign. The South African Broadcasting Corporation (SABC) through its foundation has availed its radio, online and television platforms to publicise this drive. Our gratitude also go to MTN for assisting us at short notice to set up the facility to allow the public to make contributions. We call upon other corporates to get involved.

In conclusion, it is important to say that the disaster in Sierra Leone is yet another indication that the effects of climate change come at a devastating cost, and the international community must work collectively and with the requisite urgency to implement multilateral decisions agreed to. In particular, the Durban Climate Change Conference outcomes that resulted in the historic Paris Climate Change Conference agreement.

The cost of avoiding to take responsibility are very high, and the people in developing countries are mostly exposed to the catastrophic effects of climate change.

I thank you.

Source: Government of South Africa

Northern Mali State Governor Returns as Part of Cease-fire

BAMAKO � Rival armed groups in northern Mali agreed to the return of a state governor to the desert city of Kidal for the first time in years as part of a ceasefire deal

signed on Wednesday after weeks of fighting.

The return of Governor Sidi Mohamed Ag Ichrach follows a truce among fighters drawn mostly from competing Tuareg clans involved in remote desert battles since July that have killed dozens.

The clashes have undermined a Western-backed peace process in the country and complicated efforts to counter al-Qaida-linked militants.

Radhia Achouri, spokeswoman for the United Nations mission in Mali, said the truce had been agreed between CMA, an alliance of separatist groups seeking autonomy for a region of northern Mali, and Platform, their pro-government opponents.

The deal signed in the capital Bamako amid jokes and handshakes envisages a ceasefire for an initial period of 15 days. The U.N. and Mali’s government helped broker it.

“We hope that his [Ag Ichrach’s] presence in Kidal will contribute to advancing the implementation of the peace agreement and addressing populations’ needs,” Achouri said.

The latest upsurge in fighting around the strategic city of Kidal, which lies on a nexus of desert trade routes, marks the resumption of decades-old score-settling between the semi-nomadic clans that has continued despite a 2015 peace agreement.

Mediators at the time said that the peace accord would allow Malian and French troops to counter an Islamist insurgency led by jihadists who briefly seized north Mali in 2012. Instead, their attacks on Western and Malian targets have increased.

Interim state authorities have already returned to other north Malian towns as part of the implementation of the deal.

But progress had stalled over Kidal, which is prized by both sides and has changed hands several times.

There has been no permanent state presence in Kidal since 2014, when the governor fled after a visiting government delegation came under fire from angry CMA fighters.

International Committee of the Red Cross field coordinator Assem Elessawy told Reuters thousands of people had been displaced by fighting that resumed in July, and has since led to the CMA seizing back significant territory from its rivals.

Forty people injured in the battles have been treated in hospitals in Gao and Kidal, Elessawy added.

Senior CMA official Attaye Ag Mohamed told Reuters the group still held dozens of Platform prisoners but had released nine child soldiers.

A spokesman for Platform could not be reached for comment.

Source: Voice of America