Category Archives: Lifestyle

Mnangagwa Wins Zimbabwe’s Presidential Election

Emmerson Mnangagwa has won Zimbabwe’s presidential election in a poll marred by violence and charges of fraud.

The election commission gives Mnangagwa 50.8 percent of the vote, barely ahead of opposition leader Nelson Chamisa.

Chamisa is calling the results fake and promises a court challenge.

Before the final results were announced about 1 a.m. Friday, an opposition spokesman appeared on the stage in front of multiple microphones and cameras to denounce the results and say his party has not verified them.

He was shouted down and could scarcely be heard before security escorted him away.

The election commission said turnout was high in most provinces and that a large number of votes had to be rejected.

The commission declared the election an unqualified success, but it also said it deeply regrets the violence between protesters and police that left at least six people dead in Harare.

Mnangagwa was vice president when he took over the presidency when the authoritarian Robert Mugabe was forced from office last year after 40 years.

But Mnangagwa was elected with a bare majority, and Chamisa says he has no interest in being part of a coalition.

Mnangagwa and the ruling ZANU-PF party must try to fix Zimbabwe’s ailing economy and poor international image on its own, while also dealing with a population demanding change after 40 years of Mugabe.

Mnangagwa has also said he will call for an investigation into election violence when hundreds of Chamisa supporters, angry that the election results were postponed, threw rocks at police outside commission headquarters Wednesday.

Police responded with tear gas and water cannons. The army was called in and witnesses say soldiers beat and shot at marchers, leaving at least six dead and 14 wounded.

Chamisa said the place to challenge the election results is in the courts, not in the streets.

Source: Voice of America

Tension, Celebrations – But No Results – Day After Zimbabwe Election

Celebrations erupted on the streets of Zimbabwe’s capital Harare Tuesday as opposition supporters marked what they said was a certain victory in Monday’s pivotal poll, the first in 38 years without long-time leader Robert Mugabe on the ballot. But official results have yet to be announced, and observers and the electoral commission have raised concerns about aspects of the campaign.

The poll was effectively a race between President Emmerson Mnangagwa and opposition challenger Nelson Chamisa.

However, the celebration was tinged with menace: a VOA reporter spotted five water cannon trucks, each loaded with police, making their way through central Harare, just a block away from the celebrations.

We won’t be intimidated, said opposition supporter Andrew Anthony, 32.

Although results had not been announced as of Tuesday evening, the two main rivals have already aired their views on social media after Monday’s poll. Chamisa tweeted Tuesday morning that his party was winning resoundingly, based on results they had collected from most of the more than 10,000 polling stations. Official results are expected by August 4.

We have now received from our agencies across the country results of the 2018 election, the results show beyond reasonable doubt that we have won the election and that the next president of Zimbabwe is advocate Nelson Chamisa, said party official Tendai Biti.

Also on Tuesday, President Mnangagwa called for caution on Twitter, urging Zimbabweans to exercise responsibility and restraint by patiently waiting for ZEC to declare the official outcome. But, he noted, the information from our reps on the ground is extremely positive!

All this talk, the largest local observer mission said, is worrying. The Zimbabwe Election Support Network, on Tuesday, praised the poll for being smooth and peaceful, but said such political sniping and rule-breaking could tarnish the poll. On Monday, the Zimbabwe Electoral Commission said it had reported two presidential candidates to police for campaigning outside of the allowed window, but the commission declined to name them.

One of the main issues, which really is of concern to us, is the issue of hate speech in the period leading to elections. It’s something which the political players across the political divide must work on, said network chairman Andrew Makoni. Again you saw that when ZEC indicated that campaigning was going by 12 midnight on Saturday, we saw campaigning continue on social media, we saw pressers being held, we also saw the president of ZANU-PF also appearing to continue with his campaign on Facebook which was also broadcast, I understand, on ZBC. So those issues are of concern to us. If we want to make our election management board look credible, we also must respect, in some way, their pronouncements.

Lawrence Mhandara, a political science lecturer at the University of Zimbabwe, says this is a delicate moment for the nation, but said that the people showed maturity and a desire for calm. If anything happens, he says, the population won’t be to blame.

I’m not sure how Zimbabweans will react to the results, but knowing how Zimbabweans are, they wouldn’t take that route, he said. If there is any violence, this violence will be sponsored by those candidates who have lost. But in terms of the people, I don’t think they will go that far. Our political culture is one which is non-violent. The violence has always been sponsored by politicians, not by the people. So any violence that will come as a result of the outcome should be squarely, the blame laid on the politicians themselves and not the people.

Source: Voice of America

Somalia, Eritrea Restore Diplomatic Ties

Somalia and Eritrean leaders agreed Saturday to resume their diplomatic ties and open embassies in their capitals.

The decision was made during a summit in Asmara, Eritrea, where Somalia President Mohamed Abdullahi Farmajo began a historic three-day visit Saturday. The two nations have not had diplomatic ties for nearly 15 years.

Speaking to VOA Somali, Somalia Information Minister Dahir Mohamed Geelle said, “You will see Eritrean and Somali ambassadors in both capitals very, very soon.”

He said the leaders also discussed regional security and changing relations among Horn of Africa countries.The region is of importance to the wealthy nations just across the Gulf of Aden and the Red Sea, who are interested in a strategic foothold in East Africa through its very busy shipping lanes.

The leaders are scheduled to continue tallks Sunday.

Stabilizing the Horn

Farmajo’s visit comes after longtime rivals Eritrea and Ethiopia restored diplomatic ties. The two nations have a long and complicated history, which has had a destabilizing influence on the Horn of Africa.

One point of contention has been Ethiopia’s military presence in Somalia. Backed by the West, the country’s military is supporting the Somali government fight against al-Shabab militants. Eritrea has criticized this intervention, claiming that Ethiopia’s presence in Somalia is doing more harm than good.

Ethiopia has accused Eritrea of supporting the terrorists. Over the years, this proxy war between the two countries has had the potential to spark regional conflict.

The conflict between the two nations also spilled over into neighboring Djibouti. One of Ethiopia’s main economic allies, Djibouti has been engaged in a war with Eritrea over a border area claimed by both countries.

Ultimately, the prospect of peace between Ethiopia and Eritrea may have a calming effect on the Horn. If stability is achieved, Ethiopia, a country with an estimated population of over 100 million, could realize its potential as a regional economic and military power. This could, in turn, transform the region into a united economic powerhouse.

Source: Voice of America

Baha’i Delegate to US Religious Freedom Conference: Pressure Iran

A Baha’i International Community representative who participated in a first-of-its-kind U.S. conference on religious freedom says she urged delegates to press Iran to stop mistreatment of its Baha’i minority.

Speaking to VOA Persian in Washington on Thursday at a conference-related event, Baha’i representative to the United Nations Diane Ala’i said Iran is susceptible to outside pressure on the issue.

What is important is to pressure Iran to abide by its (human rights) commitments, Ala’i said. Iran is a signatory to the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights, which says: No one shall be subject to coercion which would impair his freedom to have or to adopt a religion or belief of his choice.

Baha’is have reported decades of discrimination and harsh treatment of their community in Iran, whose Islamist rulers refuse to recognize them as having a religion and label them heretics. The Baha’i Faith, a global religion whose leaders say has 5 million followers, originated in Iran in the mid-19th century. Community leaders say about 300,000 Baha’is live in Iran, constituting its largest religious minority.

Ala’i, who is based in Geneva, said Iran’s long-running denials of Western accusations that it persecutes Baha’is shows that it realizes such mistreatment is a bad thing.

When Mohammad Javad Larijani (secretary of Iran’s High Council for Human Rights) comes to the U.N. Human Rights Council in Geneva, he does not say, ‘yes, we imprison Bahai’s and we do not care (what you think),’ Ala’i said. Larijani says Iran gives Bahai’s freedom and they do not have any problems. So more pressure should be put on the Iranian government to do something to prove that there are no problems for Baha’is.

At an assessment of Iran’s human rights record at the Geneva-based council in October 2014, Larijani said Baha’is are a minority who enjoy all the privileges of any citizen in Iran.

A group of more than 20 international legal scholars wrote an open letter to Larijani earlier this year saying a recently launched online archive, containing thousands of documents of alleged human rights abuses against Bahai’s in Iran, presents a different story.

Ala’i said the three-day U.S. State Department ministerial conference that ended Thursday was noteworthy for delegates of many governments committing themselves to promote religious freedom at home and abroad.

If there is a great movement of all of these countries to speak out for religious freedom in all parts of the world including in Iran and including for the Bahai’s, it will have an effect, she said.

Earlier Thursday, Ala’i attended a conference speech by U.S. Vice President Mike Pence, who said Iranian Christians, Jews, Sunnis, Baha’is and members of other minority religious groups are denied what he called the most basic rights enjoyed by Iran’s Shiite majority.

They are routinely fined, flogged, arrested, assaulted, and even killed, Pence said. The Baha’i International Community reported 67 Baha’is were imprisoned in Iran as of Thursday.

The U.S. vice president also had a message for the Iranian people:

Even as we stand strong against the threats and malign actions of your leaders in Tehran, know that we are with you. We pray for you. And we urge you, the good people of Iran, to press on with courage in the cause of freedom and a peaceful future for your people, he said.

Asked what she thought of Pence’s message, Ala’i said Iran’s Baha’is are fighting for their rights peacefully.

They are not using the same tools as their oppressors, but at the same time, they are not giving in, she said. They are trying to contribute to the betterment of society and to resist and to take cases through the courts.

Ala’i spoke to VOA Persian at a Washington Newseum event organized by the Bahai’s of the United States and the Religious Freedom Center of the Freedom Forum Institute, a nonprofit group that runs the museum.

The event included a U.S. premier screening of a 30-minute documentary film The Cost of Discrimination, which draws comparisons between discrimination against Baha’is in Iran and discrimination against nonwhites in South Africa during its apartheid era. After the film, a panel discussed the plight of Baha’is in Iran and the region.

As part of the panel discussion, Ala’i gave an update of the situation of Baha’is in Yemen, where Iran-backed Houthi rebels have jailed six Yemeni Bahai’s in the capital, Sanaa, a city held by the rebels.

Ala’i said three of the detained Baha’is have faced charges for practicing their faith. One of them, Hamid Haydara, has been sentenced to death. She said the other three have not been charged.

I hope that the international community will put pressure on the Houthis to release the six Bahai’s, because they have not committed any crimes, Ala’i said.

This report was produced in collaboration with VOA’s Persian Service.

Source: Voice of America


PRETORIA– The latest report on dam levels in South Africa paints a picture of a stable water situation across the country but the Department of Water and Sanitation has warned that the country is not out of the woods yet.

Recent rains in parts of the country have given hope that perhaps the days of the water crisis may be over, even though it is too early to consider lifting water restrictions in affected provinces, the department said in a statement here Wednesday.

A weekly report released by the department on Wednesday shows that South Africa’s dam levels are showing signs of stability at 78.7 per cent of capacity, compared with this time last year when they were at 69.7 per cent during the drought which had ravaged the country.

Gauteng, South Africa’s smallest but most populous province, tops the charts, with levels of dam supplying the province almost reaching their capacity at 99.7 per cent, indicating the great improvement in the province compared with 2017 when the levels were at 90.2 per cent.

The Vaal Dam is among the water resources which have recorded the highest levels in the country at 97.6 per cent. The dam has improved by three percentage points compared with 2017 when it was at 94.0 per cent capacity.

The heavy downfalls in Western Cape, the province which has been affected by the recent drought, have increased dam levels there to a whopping 50.1 per cent this week, compared with 25.7 per cent at this time last year.

Levels at Theewaterskloof Dam, which feeds Cape Town, South Africa’s second biggest metropolitan area, have almost doubled to 41.3 per cent, compared with 20.5 per cent a year ago.

However, despite the good rains, the department said it will only review the current water restrictions in Western cape Province when the dam levels have reached 85 per cent capacity.

The Cape Town Dams System, with six dams serving the Cape Town Metro, has also seen their average capacity levels increasing from 54.8 per cent to 56.1 per cent. More rains are predicted for the region.

Eastern Cape Province was the worst province with the lowest dam levels in the country at 62.9 per cent.

The Algoa System, with five dams serving the Nelson Mandela Bay metro, saw average levels dropping from 19.7 per cent to a perilous 18.9 per cent. Last year, the system stood at 32.9 per cent capacity.

The department reminded consumers to continue adhering to water restrictions imposed by their respective municipalities.