Wednesday, August 19, 2009
Police in Kenya say they have arrested a "key suspect" in the murder of a Scottish-born gemstone expert.
Campbell Bridges, 71, was attacked last week near the southern town of Voi by a gang armed with spears and machetes.
A police spokesman said a man was arrested in the town of Taveta, near Kenya's border with Tanzania, as he tried to flee the country.
Mr Bridges' son Bruce, who was also attacked, told the BBC his father had received death threats for three years.
The 30-year-old said the family had been threatened by "bandits" trying to gain illegal access to their gemstone mines.
But he alleged politicians were ultimately behind his father's murder as part of a continuing effort to grab his land.
Mr Bridges was ambushed on 11 August by up to 30 men in the grounds of his 600-acre property.
He died from a stab wound while two guards who were with him were seriously injured.
Herbert Khaemba, regional police commander, reportedly told Reuters news agency on Wednesday: "The suspect believed to be the main organiser of the brutal murder was arrested by the police at the Kenyan border town of Taveta in hiding.
"The police are still pursuing other suspects who were armed with crude weapons during the attack."
Mr Bridges was born in Scotland, but had lived in Africa for most of his life.
He was a world-renowned gemstone expert, credited with discovering the green Tsavorite gem, a rare stone unique to the region, more than 40 years ago.
The BBC's East Africa correspondent Will Ross said the find had fuelled interest in the region's mineral reserves, but had led to frequent clashes between contracted and local artisanal miners in both Kenya and Tanzania.
A memorial service for Mr Bridges is due to take place on 21 August in the Kenyan capital Nairobi.
Higher Education South Africa (Hesa) chairperson Dr Theuns Eloff yesterday warned that there was a serious breakdown between school-level outcomes and higher education entry-level proficiencies. “Schools should be able to better prepare learners for higher education.”
In a presentation to the portfolio committee on higher education, Eloff this week painted a bleak picture on school leavers’ lack of academic competency. His presentation is confirmed by the results of the final pilot phase of the National Benchmark Tests Project (NTBP). Among other things, the NTBP assesses entry-level academic and quantitative literacy and mathematics proficiency of university students. About 13 000 students at seven universities, including Rhodes, wrote the assessments earlier this year. It reportedly found that only seven percent of those tested were mathematically “proficient”, meaning they would not need extra help to pass their first year. About 73 percent had intermediate mathematical skills, and would need to take part in extended or augmented programmes to pass the subject. Twenty percent had “basic skills” and would need long-term support.
Out of those who wrote the academic literacy tests only 47 percent were proficient, meaning more than half would require “extensive support in language development”. The test assessed ability in English, the medium of instruction.
In an interview with the Daily Dispatch, Eloff yesterday said the results were “cause for concern” about curriculum implementation at school level and the quality of the NSC.
“We don’t want to rush to judgment but it is a serious cause for concern right now. Matric leavers with exemption should have at least basic academic literacy and be better able read, write and do calculations.”
Botswana’s president has moved against a rival in his party, exposing an internal split with only months to go before elections.
On Tuesday, President Seretse Ian Khama suspended party Secretary General Gomolemo Motsweledi for 60 days.
Khama says Motsweledi brought the party into disrepute by criticising the party’s law firm, which includes a lawyer who is a friend of Khama.
In his announcement, Khama indicated Motsweledi will be barred from running for parliament on the party ticket in October elections.
Khama is the party’s candidate in presidential elections that will be held alongside the parliament vote. He has considerable support because of the popularity of his late father Sir Seretse Khama, Botswana’s first president.
A court in Niger jailed the director of a satirical private weekly for three months for "discrediting a court decision", his lawyer said.
"This ruling has no legal basis and I am deeply shocked by it," Marc Lebihan, who has appealed the court decision, told journalists on Tuesday.
Abdoulaye Tiemogo, of Le Canard dechaine, was charged last week after he commented on a private television channel on an arrest warrant issued by authorities against former prime minister Hama Amadou, the lawyer said.
"We are surprised and sad over this heavy punishment," added Boubacar Diallo, the president of the Association of Independent Press in Niger (ANEPI).
Tiemogo fled the country last August following a complaint lodged by President Mamadou Tandja over an article suggesting he planned to impose his son to succeed him should he fail in his bid to revise the constitution.
The controversial referendum earlier this month cleared the way for Tandja, in power since 1999, to run in subsequent elections, potentially allowing him to hold on to power for life.
On his return to Niger in May, Tiemogo was charged with "spreading false information" although that case was subsequently dropped, ANEPI said.
Zimbabwe’s flag carrier will cut 500 jobs, representing one-third of its workforce, to mitigate financial losses incurred over the past years, the airline’s boss said on Tuesday.
"We have no option other but to right-size or else we are dead," Air Zimbabwe chief executive Peter Chikumba told AFP.
Nearly a decade of economic and political crisis has seen annual passenger numbers for the embattled airline drop from a peak of million in 1996 to just 300,000 now, the company said.
The company currently has a 30 million US dollar debt, and has asked the government to sell its stake in the airline in a bid to raise desperately needed cash from private investors.
"If we do not do anything about it, the business will collapse.
The situation we are in today as an airline and as a country is not best for business," Chikumba told AFP.
The company, with 1,500 employees, has already cut its flights to Dubai, Kinshasa and Luanda, while concentrating on busy routes to South Africa, Britain and Zambia.
Chikumba also expressed concern about the airline’s aging fleet.
"Our 737 fleet is 23 years old and has outlived its economic life span," he said.
"The standard economic life span of an aircraft is about 15 years. Maintenance costs are high, spares for these aeroplanes are scarce," Chikumba added.
The company’s newer planes are three Boeing 737s, two 767s and three Chinese MA60 which were purchased in 2005.
Wednesday, August 12, 2009
One of Africa's largest oil producers, Angola, is much tougher in negotiating deals with Asian firms than critics might suggest, a new report claims.
UK-based think-tank Chatham House says the country does not fit the stereotype of weak African states being exploited by resource-hungry Asian tigers.
Their report contrasts Angola with Nigeria, which it says has mismanaged its relations with Asian firms.
It says Nigeria has put $20bn (£12bn) of infrastructure at risk.
In Angola, President Jose Eduardo Dos Santos has been in power for almost 30 years, boosting stability and helping to create a functioning state-owned oil company, Sonangol, the report says.
Angola emerged as the second-largest supplier of oil to China last year, helping the African country secure at least $13bn in oil-backed loans from Beijing.
"While Nigeria was playing politics with its Asian partners, Angola was driven by economic necessity to quickly access funds to finance its reconstruction," the report said.
The BBC's Africa analyst Martin Plaut says the co-operation between Angola and China reflects the fact that Beijing, unlike the West, has played a major part in rebuilding Angola after its long civil war.
Nigeria's dealings, on the other hand, have been bogged down by corruption and mismanagement.
Nigeria's former President Olusegun Obasanjo sought partners in China, India, South Korea and elsewhere to buy oil blocks in return for billions of dollars of infrastructure.
But not a single barrel of oil was ever produced by Asian national oil companies in Nigeria, leaving the Nigerian economy with no tangible benefit, the report said.
"The scale of the corruption, mismanagement and non-execution of projects in the Obasanjo years has sent shockwaves through Nigeria," the report said.
"His intentions were good but officials failed to spell out the full implications of the scheme. And many used the scheme for private profit."
When President Umaru Yar'Adua took power in May 2007 many deals were revoked - and a Korean firm has taken the Nigerian government to court over the issue.
The leaders at the centre of Madagascar's political crisis have reached agreement on a power-sharing government, the UN special envoy says.
The accord would see a transitional period of 15 months, during which legislative and presidential elections would be held, Tiebile Drame said.
Ousted President Marc Ravalomanana said he would return to Madagascar but not personally take part in the process.
The deal follows days of negotiations in the Mozambican capital, Maputo.
Mediators hope it will bring an end to the months of crisis which culminated in the opposition leader, Andry Rajoelina, forcing Mr Ravalomanana to resign as president on 17 March and flee.
Mr Rajoelina and his allies, who accused the president of being a tyrant who misspent public money, were accused by the African Union of taking power through a coup and foreign aid was frozen.
The power struggle led to the deaths of more than 100 people in violent riots and crippled the island's tourist industry.
The leaders of Madagascar's four main political groups, including Mr Rajoelina, Mr Ravalomanana, and their predecessors as president, Didier Ratsiraka and Albert Zafy, began the power-sharing negotiations in Maputo on Wednesday.
The talks were mediated by the former Mozambican leader, Joaquim Chissano, on behalf of the Southern African Development Community (SADC).
Earlier, Mr Ravalomanana said that under the terms of the agreement, he would not take part in the transitional period, although his party would.
"In the interests of the nation, and following consultations, it seems reasonable to me to not participate personally," he said.
But he added that he would return to Madagascar, where he would be granted an amnesty from a conviction for abuse of power handed down in June. He was also fined $70m by the court in Antananarivo.
Mr Ravalomanana has been living in exile in South Africa since March. On Friday, Mr Rajoelina said any deal should not allow him to return.
An amnesty has also been agreed for Mr Ratsiraka, who has been living in exile in France since a crisis over the disputed results of the 2001 presidential election, which was won by Mr Ravolamanana.
He was sentenced to 10 years of hard labour and five years in jail in 2003 for misusing public funds and threatening state security.