Tuesday, December 12, 2017

Zimbabwe: Does Chinamasa’s Budget Pass the Test?
December 12, 2017
Clive Mphambela
Zimbabwe Herald

Well, it has come and gone. Finance and Economic Development Minister Chinamasa delivered an interesting budget which, as was expected, had its own fair share of highs and lows.

The much anticipated budget dealt some good measure as it highlighted issues needing attention in order to put Zimbabwe’s economic train back on the rails. However, his efforts still missed some critical elements, required to actually power the economy forward.

To his credit, Minister Chinamasa’s delivery was brilliantly honest in terms of its underlying assumptions. He demonstrated Government’s acute understanding of the critical state of the economy. He acknowledged at length the failure of government over recent years to adhere to fiscal order and discipline. He agreed with the common view that excessive indiscipline by the Government right across its breadth and depth has bled the economy and led us to where we are. This level of candour inspires some confidence. In order to start resolving a problem, the very first step is to first identify the problem and then honestly accept the realities engendered by the problem. Hats off to him!

Secondly, Minister Chinamasa did a good job in aligning the Budget statement to the new vision outlined by President Emmerson Mnangagwa. The constant reference to the President’s speech right through his statement showed that there is already a high level of buy-in, not just by his own ministry, but right across the entire Government. Minister Chinamasa touched on critical elements of the New Economic Order’, articulating how various sectors of the economy will be impacted. He clearly understands that the Ministry of Finance and Economic development will play a key coordinative function in this new dispensation. That is the reason his budget touched on the need to review the indigenisation act through amendments to be pushed through as soon as possible. This will be quite reassuring to foreign investors.

Minister Chinamsasa cemented the need to tell the world that “Zimbabwe is now open for business” highlighting strongly that Government is seized with putting in place supportive measures that seek to rebuild confidence and compete for investment. Hence, re-engagement with the global community takes centre stage in his address, as does the need to establish new relationships and strengthen existing relationships with international funders. Minister Chinamasa also recognizes the critical role of the Zimbabwean diaspora in the economic recovery agenda of the country, stating that “the diaspora plays an active role in the broader economy, particularly through investments in the domestic economy, as well as knowledge and technology transfer”, further calling for the creation of conditions for an investment-led economic recovery that is underpinned by the active participation of the diaspora in the “broad economic calculus”. This position of the government is certain to enthuse the diaspora and rekindle strong feelings of loyalty to their country. Fortunately, Hon Chinamasa is the custodian of the diaspora policy, and pledges that Government will, therefore, be strengthening platforms for engaging the Zimbabwean diaspora with a view to coming up with a policy framework that provides incentives and guaranteed security for diaspora investments. In view of the mega deals such as the NRZ-DIDG-Transnet transaction, Government must urgently follow through on this commitment.

To his further credit, Minister Chinamasa dealt at length with measures meant to address the problems in Agriculture, outlined plausible solutions to the problems.

The lengths to which he went to address Issues to do with tenure security for farmers, unlocking the capital value of agricultural land, working on weaknesses in the current financing mechanisms under the special agriculture programmes, marketing challenges and the need to improve the sustainability of small holder farming through special schemes such as the strategic partnerships with Anchor Farmers.

The Anchor Farmer concept integrates commercial farming and smallholder farmer outreach, providing farmers with access to inputs, agronomic advice, and markets. He proposed a massive 150 percent allowable deduction on expenditure related to technical and support services availed to smallholder farmers by anchor farmers which in my view is a substantial incentive for established farmers to want to work with and assist in integrating upcoming farmers into mainstream agriculture.

The budget was also very solid on civil service reform proposals; the need to revamp and revitalise state owned enterprises; transform the public finance management system; addressing inefficiencies caused by rent seeking by government officials and accelerating the ease and cost of doing business reforms.

There are indeed many other positives in the budget but this column notes some glaring shortcomings.

On employment creation, the budget seems to make only sweeping references to the need for jobs but lacks comprehensive strategies specifically aimed at creating new jobs.

Whilst the minister acknowledges the negative consequences of excessive money supply growth caused by excessive government borrowing, which has caused dislocations in the monetary system, he does not seem to provide any solutions to the problem. Indeed he spoke of the need to curb the fiscal deficits, reduce the need for government to rely on inflationary Treasury bills and RBZ overdraft financing, improve foreign currency inflows, but he did not attend to the need to re-look at the additional instability and damage that has been inflicted on the economy by Bond Notes. It is as clear as daylight that this monetary based export incentive is inflationary and is inflaming key variables such as the exchange rate.

This is impacting the cost structures in the economy. Minister Chinamasa only proposes cosmetic solutions to the problem, namely prioritising foreign currency allocations to producers of essential goods and services; exercising flexibility in the issuance of import licences to those with “free funds”, in order to avert shortages of essential goods not produced locally. These solutions ignore an obvious critical fact, that the “free funds” that the Minister refers to are being sourced from the informal market, and this is what is making the problems worse. Minister Chimasasa in this respect completely misses the point that we need to remove bond notes from the system so that the foreign exchange starts to return to the banking system, otherwise we remain doomed. The parallel market will continue to thrive unless we return to the system where some 30 percent or so of transactions in the economy were in US Dollar notes, which were in continuous circulation. There are no concrete proposals aimed at restoring and maintaining the integrity of the multicurrency system by revising the export incentive scheme. This I identify as a major weakness.

The Minister of Finance was however, quite correct to observe that his policy prescriptions merely address the symptoms, and require to be buttressed by additional efforts aimed at fundamental issues related to fiscal imbalances and low production.

As things stand the economy is facing unprecedented challenges from many fronts, with inflation and monetary instability posing as major risk factors. I saw very little by way concrete proposals to deal with these risks. The economy is facing acute foreign currency position, despite significant projected growth in export receipts. The import bill is still projected to rise further from $6,4 billion last year to $6,8 billion this year. The country’s external position will therefore remain precarious and the dislocations in the financial system, the foreign exchange markets and the real goods market (multiple tier pricing ) are likely to continue.

Did Minister Chinamasa deliver a JOBS BUDGET?

Finally perhaps more importantly I need to state that Ministers Chinamasa budget was only going to be relevant to the ordinary man if all his policy measures were keenly focused on CREATING NEW AND SUSTAINABLE JOBS IN THE ECONOMY. If truth be told, he did not do too well on this front. Perhaps he assumed that employment creation is an implicit objective. My view however, is that the citizens are desperate for JOBS and therefore employment creation must necessarily have been an explicit objective in the budget. Minister Chinamasa’s effort therefore falls short of heeding the loud calls by His Excellency that “we need JOBS!, JOBS!, JOBS!!!!” Let us now wait and see how he follows through on this ambitious but very interesting plan.

The writer is an economist. The views expressed in this article are his personal opinions and should in no way be interpreted to represent the views of any organizations that the he is associated or connected with.
TIGHT RACE AS ANC PREPARES TO ELECT ZUMA SUCCESSOR
In a race seen as too close to call, seven candidates are seeking to succeed President Zuma, who has been at the helm of the party for a decade.

Reuters

JOHANNESBURG - South Africa’s ruling African National Congress holds an election this weekend to replace Jacob Zuma as party leader in a closely fought contest whose winner is likely to emerge as the nation’s next president.

The front-runners are Deputy President Cyril Ramaphosa, a former trade union leader and one of South Africa’s richest people, and Zuma’s preferred candidate, his ex-wife Nkosazana Dlamini-Zuma, a former minister and chairwoman of the African Union Commission.

In a race seen as too close to call, seven candidates are seeking to succeed Zuma, who has been at the helm of the party for a decade.

The stakes are high because the ANC’s electoral dominance means whoever wins the party’s top job is likely to become the next president of South Africa after a national election in 2019.

The party holds its conference in Johannesburg between 16-20 December.

All seven ANC leadership hopefuls pledged to Zuma at a meeting last month that they would accept the outcome of the leadership vote in the interests of keeping the 105-year-old organisation intact and avoid splits that could weaken its strength at the national elections in 2019.

Ramaphosa edged Dlamini-Zuma by getting the majority of nominations to become a leader of the party, but the complexity of the leadership race means it is far from certain he will become the next party leader and therefore the likely next president.

Adding another level of complexity, delegates are not bound to vote for the candidate their ANC branch nominated.

Zuma said last week he was “very happy” to be stepping down as ANC president. He can remain as head of state until 2019.

Political uncertainty over the ANC race is a major threat to the country’s credit rating. S&P Global Ratings and Fitch rate South Africa’s debt as “junk”.

Analysts have said South Africa’s business and consumer confidence has been dented in recent years by allegations of corruption in Zuma’s government and influence-peddling by the Gupta family - businessmen who are close friends of the president. Zuma and the Guptas have denied the allegations.

Ramaphosa is viewed as more investor-friendly and has pledged to fight the corruption that has plagued Zuma’s tenure.

Dlamini-Zuma has said she is not tainted by graft and it is fine if the country’s white business community will not endorse her. She has said her priority is to improve the prospects for the black majority.
GWEDE MANTASHE: ANC TACKLING ISSUES FACED BY PROVINCES
The ANC secretary-general says there are plans in place to deal with issues currently faced by various provinces.

Sifiso  Zulu
Eyewitness News

JOHANNESBURG - African National Congress (ANC) secretary-general Gwede Mantashe says there are plans in place to deal with issues currently faced by various provinces as the organisation heads to its national elective conference.

About Mpumalanga, Mantashe says the so-called vote for unity in that province will not make it to the conference.

“There will be no unity on the ballot paper… those are nominations. Now, we’re heading to the conference, we’ll have elections. On the ballot paper, there will be names of the nominated candidates.”

Mantashe says there’s an internal party process tackling the issues in the Eastern Cape, where there was violence during the provincial elective conference earlier this year.

“We told them it’s urgent and urged that they don’t do a half-cooked job. They must gather evidence that will be presented at the NEC.”

He says members of the Free State should do political work and desist from being emotional about the removal of Ace Magashule who was re-elected as provincial chair on Monday night.

“If people were contesting the election in the Free State, they become emotional and not do solid political work… they’ll not remove Magashule from that position (sic).”

Monday, December 11, 2017

'WE WILL DO WHATEVER IT TAKES TO MAKE SURE ANC CONFERENCE SUCCEEDS’
Energy Minister David Mahlobo was giving an update on Monday afternoon on behalf of the ANC's peace and security sub-committee at Luthuli House.

Gaye Davis
Eyewitness News

JOHANNESBURG - Energy Minister David Mahlobo says the African National Congress (ANC) is ready for its national conference at the weekend and will do everything necessary to ensure it's a success.

He was giving an update on Monday afternoon on behalf of the ANC's peace and security sub-committee at Luthuli House.

“We are ready for a conference. We will do whatever it takes that that conference succeeds. Because the success of that conference is not only for the ANC, but it’s for the people of this country.”

Thousands of delegates are expected to descend on Nasrec, south of Johannesburg, for the election of a new president and party leadership.

Mahlobo says the ANC will be under close scrutiny this weekend.

“Even our neighbours and the continent are watching us as the ANC. And the ANC has never failed to respond when we are actually being put under a microscope. We are confident men and women of the secret services will be able to make us proud.”

Mahlobo’s warned that those who misbehave won’t be permitted into the conference precinct.

“Members of the ANC who are coming to that conference they must come and show that there is maximum unity and discipline because if people are not disciplined they will never be allowed to be actually closer to the precinct of our conference.”
ANC LEADERS SAY FREE STATE CONFERENCE WITHIN SPIRIT OF THE PARTY
Ace Magashule was re-elected on Monday night with Paseka Nompondo as his deputy.

The newly elected ANC Free State top five leadership. Picture: @ANCFS /Twitter

Clement Manyathela
Eyewitness News

PARYS - The African National Congress (ANC)'s national leaders have endorsed the Free State ANC elective conference which re-elected Ace Magashule unopposed, saying that the gathering was held "within the spirit of the ANC".

This while disgruntled party members are preparing to head to court, to try and nullify the conference and interdict all provincial delegates from attending the national elective conference this weekend.

Magashule was re-elected on Monday night with Paseka Nompondo as his deputy after the now-former deputy chairperson Thabo Manyoni rejected nomination in his absence from the gathering.

William Bulwane was re-elected as secretary, Mamiki Qabathe as his deputy and Mosebenzi Zwane as treasurer-general.

Magashule continued his run as the longest-serving provincial chairperson.

But what will his election mean if Nkosazana Dlamini Zuma emerges as ANC president this weekend, making Magashule the national secretary-general?

Re-elected provincial secretary William Bulwana says they will make a plan.

David Mahlobo, Lindiwe Zulu and Malusi Gigaba were national executive committee (NEC) deployments at the conference and despite some branches boycotting the gathering, the NEC leaders have described it as an ambience of unity.
BURUNDI WILL RAISE FUNDS FROM CITIZENS TO PAY FOR 2020 ELECTION
Until 2015, Burundi used external aid to pay for elections, but donors have suspended their assistance since a political crisis erupted when President Pierre Nkurunziza sought and won a third term.

FILE: Burundi's President Pierre Nkurunziza stands at the Presidential office in Bujumbura on 17 May 2015. Picture: AFP.

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Reuters | about 2 hours ago
NAIROBI - Burundi plans to raise money for an election in 2020 by deducting part of civil servants’ salaries and taking contributions directly from citizens, a government minister said on Monday, as it seeks to replace dwindling external funding.

Until 2015, Burundi used external aid to pay for elections, but donors have suspended their assistance since a political crisis erupted when President Pierre Nkurunziza sought and won a third term.

Pascal Barandagiye, the minister for interior, said the government will also be seek contributions from every household, which will pay up to 2000 francs a year. Gross national income per capita stood at $280 in 2016, and close to 65% of the population live below the poverty line, according to World Bank data.

“The total amount of the election cost is not yet known ... But as soon as the needed fund is got the fundraising campaign will be halted,” Barandagiye told a news conference. “That contribution should be given voluntarily, it shouldn’t be seen as a head tax.”

Students of voting age will contribute 1000 francs annually. Civil servants will contribute at least a tenth of their monthly salaries, Barandagiye said. Foreign help would also be accepted, he said.

Burundi has been gripped by a political crisis since April 2015, when Nkurunziza announced he would stand for a third term, which the opposition said violated the constitution as well as a 2005 peace deal that ended a 12-year civil war.

He won a vote largely boycotted by the opposition, but protests sparked a government crackdown. More than 700 people have been killed and 400,000 displaced to neighbouring countries. The economy has stagnated.

The aid-dependent nation now has to rely on domestic tax collection and modest revenue from coffee and tea exports. Key donors, such as the European Union, cut direct financial support to the government over accusations of human rights violations and the crackdown on opponents, which Burundi rejects.

At the end of October, Burundi’s cabinet adopted draft legislation seeking to change the current constitution to allow Nkurunziza to run for a fourth term in the 2020 election.

The proposed amendments, which are likely to go to a referendum by next year, seek to abolish the two-term limit and lengthen the presidential terms to seven years.
Mozambique: President Nyusi Wants Massive Campaign Against Malaria
Mozambique Information Agency (AIM)

President Filipe Nyusi on 8 December urged the Ministry of Health to lead a massive campaign against malaria in 2018. Speaking at the ceremony to lay the first stone for a new general hospital in the northern city of Nampula, President Nyusi expressed his concern at the large number of cases of malaria in Nampula province.

"I am worried by the persistent occurrence of malaria and cholera, two diseases that can be avoided", he said. "Malaria kills and it is the number one cause of hospitalisation. The prevalence of malaria is falling very slowly in Nampula and Zambezia".

He took the opportunity to criticise those who refuse to sleep under mosquito nets, or refuse to allow their homes to be sprayed with insecticide.

"The best way of fighting malaria is prevention", said the President. "Secure ways of doing this are using mosquito nets and spraying houses. Let the health professionals spray your houses in order to protect the entire community".

To illustrate his government's commitment to the health service, President Nyusi said the government is spending about 100 million meticais (US$1.67 million) a year in activities to prevent avoidable diseases.

He stressed the need for decent sanitation, and declared that all Mozambican municipalities should clean up the environment not merely in the wealthy parts of cities and towns, but also on the poorer, semi-rural periphery.

The new general hospital, in the Nampula neighbourhood of Natikiri will have 350 beds, and will make available maternity, paediatric, orthopaedic and surgical services.

President Nyusi also chaired the ceremony marking the start of paving the road from Nampula city to Nametil, capital of Mogovolas district, a distance of 70.6 kilometres. This is part of government plans to improve road connections between districts in the south and east of the province.

President Nyusi said that better roads will ensure the movement of agricultural and fisheries produce between Angoche, Moma, Monapo and Meconta districts and Nampula city.

Roads had already been tarred in the west of the province, he added, linking the city to Ribaue and Malema district. Work was now underway to pave the stretch from Malema to Cuamba, in Niassa province.

This was all part of the government's plans for a decent network of paved roads from Maputo, through Nampula, all the way to the Niassa provincial capital, Lichinga, and to Metangula, on the shores of Lake Niassa.

The Nampula-Nametil road is being financed by South Korea. "It was a wise decision by our friends in South Korea to bank on the vision of our government for developing these infrastructures".

The Korean ambassador, Heung Soo Kim, praised the cooperation between the two countries. Since the establishment of diplomatic relations in 1993 up until now, he said, South Korea had invested US$400 million in 12 projects in Mozambique, the largest of which was the Quelimane Central Hospital, in Zambezia province.

Tarring the road will cost US$41.5 million, and will take 30 months.
Mozambique: Government Cuts Privileges to Top Officials
Mozambique Information Agency (AIM)

The Mozambican government has introduced austerity measures to cut expenditure on the perks and privileges of high ranking state officials, the Minister of Economy and Finance, Adriano Malaeiane, announced on 5 December.

Speaking to reporters after the weekly meeting of the Council of Ministers (Cabinet), Maleiane said the cuts are expected to result in savings of 7.2 billion meticais (US$120 million) in 2018.

One of the largest savings is on rent. Because the government does not have enough houses of its own to accommodate senior officials, up until now it has put them in hotels, or private rented accommodation at enormous cost. The new government decree, Maleiane said, fixes a basic sum per square metre for rented accommodation. This cut will save the state budget 1.1 billion meticais a year.

Officials can no longer expect that their jobs will entitle them to travel in luxury cars. Maleiane said that the State will now only use cars with an engine capacity of between 1,300 and 1,500 cubic centimetres.

It will also end the long-standing scandal of buying cars with the sole purpose of selling them at a discount to officials for their personal use. Instead when an official takes office he will be granted an allowance. Maleiane did not say how much this allowance will be, but he said the measure will allow the State to buy only the vehicles that it really needs.

Officials will no longer have unlimited access to fuel and communications. A ceiling is set of 5,000 meticais a month for the fuel allowance, and 10,000 meticais for communications (essentially on mobile phones). It should be noted that 10,000 meticais is two and a half times the statutory minimum wage in the public administration (currently 3,996 meticais a month). The limits on fuel and communications allowances will save the state 245 million meticais over the year, Maleiane said.

The decree eliminates an irrational "special bonus" granted to officials merely because they have completed a mid-level or higher education courses, regardless of whether the degree they obtain is of any relevance to their work.
Mozambique, China Agree on $60m Airport Deal
BBC 

Hardly a week after BBC reported that the $200m Nacala International Airport, which was opened in 2014 and turned into an international centre for passenger distribution, was hardly being used, Mozambique has clinched yet another airport deal.

China has given the Southern African nation $60m to build an airport in the Southern port city of Xai Xai.

Mozambique’s foreign minister says the airport would improve the mobility of people and goods, and make it easier to respond to natural catastrophes in the remote Gaza province.

While the ‘ghost’ Nacala Airport reportedly serves 20,000 passengers of the projected 500,000 a year, Mozambique is not deterred in its appetite for infrastructural projects.

China’s ambassador to Mozambique also confirmed that China has also agreed to finance the purchase of 100 commuter buses at a cost of $7.5m in addition to installing a satellite television system in 500 Mozambican villages.
Michigan is Facing an Alarming Hepatitis A Outbreak
Katrease Stafford and Kristi Tanner
Detroit Free Press
8:02 a.m. ET Dec. 11, 2017

 An alarming number of hepatitis A cases have swept across southeast Michigan since August 2016 in what public health officials said is one of the largest outbreaks to occur in the United States since a vaccine was widely introduced two decades ago.

In 2017 alone, Michigan has led the nation in hepatitis cases per capita, according to a Free Press analysis. More than 500 cases have been reported this year.

The far-reaching outbreak — which has heavily impacted Wayne, Macomb and Oakland counties — has created a coalition of sorts among local and state officials who are working to keep the disease from spreading among the region’s most vulnerable, at risk populations. Detroit and Macomb County have the highest rate of outbreak related cases at about 2 cases per 10,000 residents.

The cause of the outbreak is not yet known but officials say they're probing a link to the ongoing opioid and heroin crisis seen across Michigan, as well as other potential exposure routes.

"We're continuing to see new cases almost every day so it is a concern," said Macomb County Health Department Director Bill Ridella.  "I think there is a strong connection to a number of these cases with the opioid and heroin problem. About half of the cases in Macomb County has some connection with drug use and/or heroin."

But state officials said since other exposure routes have been found, it hasn't been easy to discern the exact origin.

"Typically what we would see this time of year is about 14 times lower than what we’re currently dealing with," said Angela Minicuci, Michigan Department of Health and Human Services spokesperson. "I don’t know if we’ve seen a hepatitis A outbreak like this before."

To put the outbreak in perspective, Wayne County's Department of Health, Veterans & Community Wellness Medical Director Ruta Sharangpani said only two to three cases are typically seen in a given year within the county.

And a shortage of vaccinations across the country has also created an uphill battle for public health officials. The Centers for Disease Control is exploring options to increase vaccine supply, and one manufacturer has said it might be able to supply more to support the demand. Since hepatitis A is a vaccine-preventable illness, officials are urging people to speak with their medical providers to determine if they should obtain it.

"The demand for adult hepatitis A vaccine(s) has increased substantially over the past six months and vaccine supply to meet this unexpected demand in the U.S. has become constrained," the CDC said in a statement to the Free Press. "While CDC and state/local public health officials are targeting vaccine to manage outbreaks and carry on routine vaccination, current supply is not sufficient to support demand for vaccine."

20 deaths reported in Michigan

Hepatitis A is a serious, highly contagious liver disease caused by the hepatitis A virus, according to the CDC. HAV is found in the feces of people with hepatitis A and can be spread by eating contaminated food or water or during sex. The risk also increases by living with someone who has been infected.

Illness can appear 15-50 days after exposure and an individual can be sick for several weeks. Symptoms include nausea and vomiting, abdominal pain, yellowing of the skin and eyes.

Statewide, there have been 20 deaths associated with the current hepatitis A outbreak which began Aug. 1, 2016. 

Eight of those deaths were Detroit residents who had a case of hepatitis A when they died.

Detroit Health Department Director Dr. Joneigh Khaldun said while she can’t share specific information about the eight reported deaths due to privacy laws, she said some of the individuals may have had other underlying illnesses that ultimately led to their deaths.

“Someone who died might have had hepatitis A and it’s not necessarily the reason for their actual death,” Khaldun said. “To pick apart every single death that had an association with hepatitis A, I think that is not the real point here. The most important point is we want to make sure we’re protecting our citizens. We want to make sure we’re getting ahead of it and vaccinating. We want to make sure that our clinicians are being very vigilant and looking for people who might have symptoms so we can get ahead of this outbreak. That’s the most important thing to talk about.”

Three deaths also each occurred in Macomb, Oakland and Wayne counties (not including Detroit) -- for a total of 9 additional deaths associated with the outbreak. While one death associated with hepatitis A happened in Ingham, Livingston and Monroe counties.

Minicuci says there's usually about a one-year lag from the date of death to when the state compiles and releases information on the number of deaths caused by hepatitis A.

Yet, in an e-mail to the Free Press she shared that death certificates are available for 18 of the 20 deaths and "six of the 18 specifically list hepatitis A."  Three list a cause of death related to liver failure or liver disease and nine died while hospitalized with hepatitis A or within 30 days of discharge.

People who have died from the disease tend to be older with a median of 58 years old, according to an analysis by the state.

There are usually very few deaths caused solely by hepatitis A.

Between 2011 and 2016 there were four deaths determined to be caused by hepatitis A in the state, three deaths in 2013 and one in 2016, according to vital statistics data.

But Minicuci said Michigan isn’t the only state experiencing an outbreak of some nature.

 “It’s certainly something that we’re treating as a very unique situation here in Michigan but so are a lot of other states nationally,” Minicuci said.

In Michigan, in 2017 alone, the state had 527 cases, which is a rate of 5.3 per 100,000 residents. Other states being monitored by the CDC during the current outbreak include: Utah with 101 cases this year- a rate of 3.3 per 100,000 residents; California with 666 cases, or 1.7 cases per 100,000 residents; and Kentucky with 31 cases -- a rate of 0.7 cases per 100,000 residents. California has reported 21 deaths since the outbreak began.

In 2015, the latest nationwide data available, there were 1,390 hepatitis A cases - a rate of  0.4 cases per 100,000 people, according to the CDC.

The CDC stated in an e-mail that Michigan's outbreak is unrelated to the one in California but similar in terms of the affected population - mainly homeless people and people who report drug use. According to the CDC, an outbreak in San Diego led to outbreaks of hepatitis A in other California cities, Arizona and Utah.

 “The outbreak is caused by related strains of the same hepatitis A virus genotype (IB),” the CDC said in a statement to the Free Press. “These strains are not commonly seen in the United States, but are common in other parts of the world. … While what is occurring in Michigan and San Diego, a large community wide outbreak, has not happened in the last 25 years (since the widespread use of vaccine), outbreaks of this nature have occurred historically.”

Just under half, 48%, of cases in Michigan are related to drug use and a majority of cases are men -- 65%. About 12% of individuals with the disease are homeless.

Macomb County District Judge Linda Davis, president of the grassroots organization Families Against Narcotics (FAN), said she's not surprised by a potential link to the opioid and addiction crisis.

"There's going to be lots of consequences (of the crisis,)" Davis said. "It's not just hepatitis A, it's AIDS, it's hepatitis A, B and C, they are all aftermaths of addiction.  A large number of the people in drug courts and that we just deal with generally through FAN have hepatitis A and have been treated for it or awaiting treatment for it. The numbers are large."

Among hepatitis A outbreak cases, about 1 in 3 cases, 31%, have a history of hepatitis B or C.

Many in the public learn of hepatitis cases only when someone who works in the food service industry is diagnosed with having it. Since August of last year, local health departments have sent out regular releases, alerting the public to new cases at restaurants across the tri-county area.

At the end of November, the Detroit health department announced a Greektown Casino employee had been diagnosed with hepatitis A. The announcement came just two days after it announced a separate case at a McDonald's on West Grand Boulevard.

And just last week, Oakland County announced an employee at a Papa Romano's in Southfield had been diagnosed with hepatitis A. Oakland County announced last week that it plans to hold two clinics aimed at vaccinating food service workers.

As the cases continue to roll in, Dr. Katherine Reyes, medical director of Infection Prevention & Control for the Henry Ford Health System, said she's been troubled by the high number of hospitalizations in connection with the outbreak. About 83% of cases have included hospitalization, according to the latest data from the state.

Other at risk populations include people who have close contact with someone who has hepatitis A, gay men, travelers to countries with high or medium rates of hepatitis A and people with chronic liver disease.

"We have had patients admitted with hepatitis A," Reyes said. "We have seen a number who come in with symptoms and the diagnosis is made during admission. We have also had patients who were transferred to us with known diagnosis of hepatitis A and are getting transferred for escalation of care. ...This is tragic."

Response to the outbreak

Multiple counties across the region have taken similar, proactive approaches to the outbreak. According to the MDHHS, the best way to reduce the risk of getting hepatitis A is to receive two doses of the vaccine. Proper hygiene, including thorough hand-washing, is also urged.

In Detroit, Khaldun said her department has been on the ground working with not just at-risk populations but also local hospitals, clinics and individuals who work within the community such as police and emergency technicians.

In November, health officials announced a case of hepatitis A had been found in a worker at the Detroit Water and Sewerage Department but officials said it was a single instance.

"We’ve done over 20 outreach clinics in the community," Khaldun said. "We also are working internally with various city agencies. ... We’re actually vaccinating all of the city’s first responders, EMS, Detroit Water and Sewerage, and the police department. There's been no indication that those agencies are the cause of the outbreak or have spread it in anyway but we’re doing it as precautionary measure. We’re also working with our food service workers across the entire city."

Detroit Recovery Project, a multi-service agency that has provided a variety of support services to Detroit's recovery community for the past 10 years, has been working hand-in-hand with the city's health department to increase awareness of the outbreak and reach some of the at-risk population.The recovery project has two locations, one on the east side of the city and the other on the west, and averages about 400 to 500 clients a month, who are battling varying degrees of drug or alcohol addiction.

"We’re kind of boots on the ground because of the work we do," said Andre Johnson, president of Detroit Recovery Project near McNichols and I-75 .  "You see where we’re located, we’re in the belly of the beast. Hepatitis has been known to be a silent killer in urban communities for many years. Unfortunately, Detroit, we get the brunt of everything. So this (outbreak) doesn't surprise me. ... Our program is about infusing hope and providing them with the tools to sustain long-term recovery."

Contact Katrease Stafford: kstafford@freepress.com or 313-223-4759.

Contact Kristi Tanner: ktanner@freepress.com or 313-222-8877

Sunday, December 10, 2017

Bodies of Tanzanian UN Peacekeepers to Be Repatriated This Week
2017-12-10 15:39

Nairobi - The bodies of 15 UN peacekeepers from Tanzania killed in the Democratic Republic of Congo will be repatriated in the coming days, the Tanzanian army said on Sunday.

The soldiers were all members of the Tanzania People's Defence Forces participating in a UN peacekeeping operation in the conflict-torn eastern region of the country.

Their base in North Kivu province came under attack by suspected Ugandan rebels on Thursday.

"We are working with the United Nations on this. The bodies will be repatriated between Tuesday December 12 and Wednesday December 13," Lieutenant General James Mwakibolwa, deputy head of the Tanzanian army, told reporters.

The UN has put the death toll from the attack at 15, with 53 wounded. But Tanzania's government continues to speak of 14 deaths, the original figure released by the UN.

Mwakibolwa said the soldiers were killed after 13 hours of clashes with fighters of the Allied Democratic Forces who attacked their positions.

The ADF is a shadowy rebel group dominated by hardline Ugandan Muslims and opposed to Uganda's President Yoweri Museveni, who has been in power for 31 years.

The attack is the worst loss of life to a UN peacekeeping force since 1993 when 24 Pakistani soldiers were killed in Somalia during clashes with a local warlord.

DR Congo's huge eastern region has long been wracked by violence, but fighting between government soldiers and militia groups, as well as inter-ethnic clashes, has increased significantly this year.

The UN chief Antonio Guterres led an outpouring of outrage over the deadly ambush, calling it a "heinous" act.
Sonangol's Former Leader Prepares New Oil Plans After Losing Post in Angola
By AHMED FETEHA, TAMIM ELYAN AND HENRIQUE ALMEIDA
12/8/2017

CAIRO and LISBON (Bloomberg) -- Less than a month after being fired as head of Angola’s state-owned oil company, Isabel dos Santos says she is studying new deals.

Dos Santos, Africa’s richest woman, said two major Angolan banks she has links to are preparing to sell shares as part of plans to strengthen their operations at home and abroad. She also said Friday she remains committed to her investments in Portuguese oil company Galp Energia SGPS SA and cable operator NOS SGPS SA.

The daughter of former Angolan President Jose Eduardo dos Santos, the 44-year-old has an estimated wealth of $2.5 billion. Joao Lourenco, who became head of state in September, fired Dos Santos from her position as chair of Sonangol last month. He has vowed to end monopolies and tackle corruption and poverty in a country where the former leader’s family and their allies control large sectors of the economy. Dos Santos said her dismissal was “normal” in the context of the change in political control.

“I think there was a change in vision in terms of where to take the company,” Dos Santos said in an interview during a conference in the Egyptian resort of Sharm El-Sheikh. On speculation about the decision, she said: “I’m not a politician and my focus is on business, on building businesses.”

Banco de Fomento Angola, the oil-rich country’s second-biggest bank, may sell a stake of as much as 25% in an initial public offering in the first quarter of 2019, said Dos Santos, who is vice president of the lender. The bank is controlled by Unitel, Angola’s largest telecommunications company, of which Dos Santos owns a 25% stake.

New shareholders

There are also plans to sell a stake in Luanda-based Banco BIC through a private placement of shares, said Dos Santos. A roadshow to market Angola’s fourth-biggest lender to potential investors will take place in the first quarter of 2018, said Dos Santos, who owns a 43% stake in Banco BIC and sits on the board.

“These banks have gone from strength to strength and I think it’s time now to open their capital and receive new shareholders,” Dos Santos said. Unitel owns 51.9% in Banco de Fomento Angola, while Lisbon-based Banco BPI, controlled by Spain’s CaixaBank SA, holds the rest.

“We’re still discussing whether London or Lisbon would be a better place,” she said. “But we’ve already made our intention clear to Angola’s central bank and their view was positive.”

'Aggressive plan'

While the size of the possible sale of shares in Banco BIC hasn’t been decided, it has put together a team to study the share offering and has also picked financial advisers for the sale.

Banco BIC, which has operations in Angola, Namibia, Cape Verde and Portugal, would use funds raised from a share sale to fund expansion, and is looking for opportunities in Africa and Asia, said Dos Santos. “We’re looking at mergers, we’re looking at acquisitions. We have quite an aggressive acquisition and licensing plan.” Banco BIC is discussing an opportunity in South Africa, she said, without elaborating.

Her dismissal as chair of Sonangol shouldn’t affect her investment in Portuguese oil company Galp Energia, where she holds an indirect stake, along with Sonangol and the heirs of Portuguese investor Americo Amorim of 33.4%, Dos Santos said.

“These are two different things,” she said. “The Galp investment is a very old investment, it dates back to 2008. It’s a stable investment.”

Dos Santos said she remains happy with her investment in Portuguese cable operator NOS, which is controlled by a joint venture Dos Santos owns with Sonaecom SGPS SA.

“The position in NOS is one to maintain and to keep,” said Dos Santos. “I like to think that our investment in NOS is an investment that will allow it to generate further growth and to look at the possibility of NOS growing in other areas, both inside and outside Portugal.”
Declare DRC Rebels Terrorists: Kabila 
December 10 2017 10:54 PM
GULF TIMES
Agencies/Goma

The leaders of three African nations have called on the international community to classify as a terrorist group the Congolese rebel group responsible for one of the worst attacks on peacekeepers.

President Joseph Kabila of the Democratic Republic of Congo and heads of state from neighbouring Congo-Brazzaville and Angola want the international community to respond to attacks by the Allied Democratic Forces rebel group as terrorist attacks.

Kabila, Angola’s President Joao Lourenco and President Denis Sassou-Nguesso released a statement on Saturday while attending a summit with leaders from Africa’s central Great Lakes region, held in the city of Brazzaville over the weekend.

At least 15 UN peacekeepers were killed on Thursday by rebels in an attack on a base in Congo’s North Kivu region, the UN said. A further 53 others were wounded.

UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres said “this is the worst attack on UN peacekeepers in the organisation’s recent history”.

Most of the peacekeepers killed were Tanzanian nationals.

Tanzania’s ambassador to the Congo and UN representatives arrived in the town of Beni yesterday to assess the situation.

The three presidents also want the Lord’s Resistance Army, the rebel group led Joseph Kony, to be declared a terrorist group.

Both groups operate between the porous borders of Uganda, the Democratic Republic of Congo and other neighbouring East African states.

The bodies of 15 UN peacekeepers from Tanzania killed in the Democratic Republic of Congo will be repatriated in the coming days, the Tanzanian army said yesterday.

The soldiers were all members of the Tanzania People’s Defence Forces participating in a UN peacekeeping operation in the conflict-torn eastern region of the country.

Their base in North Kivu province came under attack by suspected Ugandan rebels on Thursday.

“We are working with the United Nations on this.

The bodies will be repatriated between Tuesday December 12 and Wednesday December 13,” Lieutenant General James Mwakibolwa, deputy head of the Tanzanian army, told reporters.

The UN has put the death toll from the attack at 15, with 53 wounded.

But Tanzania’s government continues to speak of 14 deaths, the original figure released by the UN.
Mwakibolwa said the soldiers were killed after 13 hours of clashes with fighters of the Allied Democratic Forces who attacked their positions.

The ADF is a shadowy rebel group dominated by hardline Ugandan Muslims and opposed to Uganda’s President Yoweri Museveni, who has been in power for 31 years.

The attack is the worst loss of life to a UN peacekeeping force since 1993 when 24 Pakistani soldiers were killed in Somalia during clashes with a local warlord.

DR Congo’s huge eastern region has long been wracked by violence, but fighting between government soldiers and militia groups, as well as inter-ethnic clashes, has increased significantly this year.

UN chief Antonio Guterres led an outpouring of outrage over the deadly ambush, calling it a “heinous” act.
SWAPO Elects New Politburo
December 4, 2017
Albertina Nakale
New Era

Windhoek-President Hage Geingob has urged the newly elected members of Swapo’s politburo, who will serve for the next five years, to carefully study and familiarise themselves with the oath they took when they were sworn into their new roles over the weekend.

Eighteen members of the Swapo politburo – the first nine from the male list and another nine from the female list as elected – were sworn in on Saturday.

“Comrades, you have been charged. You took your oath. Go and re-read that oath and what it means. Very soon we will start with our job as people have assigned us to do,” Geingob advised the elected members.

The politburo consists of 24 members: 18 are elected and two are nominees of the party president. The top four: party president Geingob, vice president Netumbo Nandi-Ndaitwah, secretary general Sophia Shaningwa and deputy secretary general Marco Hausiku, are automatically included.

President Hage Geingob is yet to nominate his two candidates to the new politburo.

Voting and counting in the election of the new politburo members started on Saturday morning and the result was announced after lunchtime. Commissioner of Oath Sisa Namandje, who announced the new members at a swearing-in ceremony that took place at Parliament building on Saturday afternoon, said a total of 711 votes were cast during the election process.

Founding President Sam Nujoma also graced the election and swearing-in of the new members of the politburo.

At the same event, Geingob appointed his six members to the party’s central committee. They are Calle Schlettwein, Erkki Nghimtina, Penda Ya Ndokolo, Christina Hoebes, Jennely Matundu, chief liaison officer for Opuwo Town Council, and Collien Van Wyk, a retired teacher from Rehoboth.

Saara Kuugongelwa-Amadhila topped the female list with 66 votes, while Nangolo Mbumba received 62 votes to top the male list.

“These lists I have signed off. Every time there is a vacancy you look who is going out. If it’s a representative of NUNW [National Union of Namibian Workers], you don’t have to look at my list. You have to ask them to provide you with a list.

“If it comes from the 57 central committee members and there is a vacancy then should you replace through the 57 voted at congress. If it’s politburo and the vacancy is among the 18 voted today, then you come back to my list. If it’s among the two presidential nominees, then the president will nominate,” he said.

Female list with number of votes obtained:
Saara Kuugongelwa-Amadilha 66
Laura McLeod-Katjirua 63
Doreen Sioka 59
Katrina Hanse-Himarwa 55
Magareth Mensah-Williams 52
Hilma Nicanor 52
Lucia Ipumbu 44
Sirka Ausiku 42
Lucia Witbooi 39
Kornelia Shilunga 36
Christina Hoebes 35
Eunice Iipinge 35
Maria Jagger 31
Eveline Nawases-Taeyele 27
Loide Kasingo 25
Anna Shiweda 19
Lempy Lucas 15
Ida Hoffman 8
Coleen van Wyk 8

Male List with number of votes obtained:
Nangolo Mbumba 62
Albert Kawana 51
John Mutorwa 47
Pohamba Shifeta 47
Peter Katjavivi 35
Alpheus !Naruseb 34
Calle Schlettwein 33
Tobie Aupindi 31
Bernard Esau 30
Veikko Nekundi 29
Utoni Nujoma 29
Penda ya Ndakolo 29
Erkki Nghimtina 26
Peya Mushelenga 23
Erastus Uutoni 21
Sacky Shangala 19
Charles Namoloh 18
Tjekero Tweya 18
Uahekua Herunga 17
Asser Kapere 17
Clemens Kashuupulwa 15
Elia Kaiyamo 13
Leon Jooste 12
Festus Ueitele 12
Erginus Endjala 10
Mukwaita Shanyengana 9
Tommy Nambahu 8
Petrus Nevonga 7
Usko Nghaamwa 7
Modestus Amutse 6
Royal /Ui/o/oo 5
Team Swapo Disbands, Calls for Unity
November 28, 2017
Selma Ikela
New Era

Windhoek-Home Affairs Minister Pendukeni Iivula–Ithana, who contested for the party’s vice-presidency in the just-ended Swapo elective congress, has saids her campaign group, dubbed ‘Team Swapo’, is henceforth disbanded, as it no longer serves any purpose.

Iivula-Ithana implored those who supported her bid for the vice-presidency to accept the outcome, saying she believed the voting process was free, fair and transparent.

Iivula-Ithana lost with 194 votes to Netumbo Nandi Ndaitwah, who scored 552 votes. Helmut Kangulohi Angula, who was in the same category only garnered 20 votes.

Iivula-Ithana and fellow team members spoke at the announcement of the congress results in early hours of Monday morning, saying they accepted the results and that the process was democratic, free and fair.

“I have accepted the results wholeheartedly and call upon those who supported my candidature to accept what I am saying here: that we now all belong to one team that is Swapo,” Iivula-Ithana said.

“Prior to this historic congress, we had our election campaign. Before I move on, I would like to tell this congress that Team Swapo is disbanded, because its purpose has come to an end. All of us are Swapo Party members and must continue to work for our party. I would like to congratulate the party president and your team for being elected,” she said.

The defeated group vowed to rally behind the victors and offered their support. This chimes with President Hage Geingob’s call last week at the opening of congress for members to support those candidates who emerge as winners in the inner-party election.

The now disbanded Team Swapo was led by seven candidates, namely Jerry Ekandjo and Nahas Angula who both vied for the Swapo party presidency. They both lost convincingly to Hage Geingob.

In the race for the position of party secretary general, Team Swapo member Armas Amukwiyu lost to Sophia Shaningwa, while for the position of Swapo Party deputy secretary general both Petrina Haingura and Martha Namundjebo-Tilahun lost out to Marco Hausiku.

Iivula Ithana said as the campaign has ended all Swapo party members should rally around he leadership and continue to work for the party.

In her special message to Nandi-Ndaitwah, who she said was her age mate, and participated alongside her in the liberation struggle, she said Nandi-Ndaitwah’s election had been her own achievement.
“I would like to assure you comrade Ndaitwah, that where you feel I have a contribution to make, don’t hesitate,” she said.

Amukwiyu added that the party’s victory is the party members’ victory. He told Shaningwa that he remains the Oshikoto regional party coordinator and she is his immediate supervisor and therefore pledged his support.

“The party leadership and structures in Oshikoto Region will march towards the support of your leadership,” Amukwiyu stated.

Nahas Angula, who also accepted the loss, said delegates spoke through their votes and their voice needed to be respected. “I am at your command, when you need my energy and intellectual capacity in order to make Namibia a place to live for all our people,” he said to Swapo president Geingob. Jerry Ekandjo said it was history in the making and that unlike in many other countries people came out more united than before.

“Everything has a beginning and an end. I am saying this, some of us have been leading the Namibian revolution for 21 years before independence and 27 years after independence, altogether 48 years, meaning that there will be a time when everything comes to the end and new generation will take over,” he said.

Helmut Angula said the delegates had spoken and they will abide by the democratic process. He jokingly said he might return to being a bishop and looking after his church.

Petrina Haingura said she was glad the party adhered to the 50/50 gender representation system. She added that there may be a next time to compete again.

Martha Namundjebo-Tilahun said in Swapo there are no losers or winners. Namundjebo-Tilahun, a prominent businesswoman, said she would dedicate her time to the party and support the Swapo leadership.

Local political analyst Dr Hoze Riruako said the country witnessed a great spectacle of political maturity and everybody this time around appreciated the fact that they had won or lost fairly and their action will not destroy the party. He said this was instrumental to the future of the party. Riruako noted that past congress elections saw the birth of opposition political parties, such as the Congress of Democrats (CoD) and Rally for Democracy and Progress (RDP), as the candidates were completely bruised and bitter.

“This time around I am seeing a different Swapo and it started before the counting of congress votes, were I saw both comrades from two teams kissing and hugging each other. Now that is one surprise we saw; things were different this time around.”

Riruako said this moment in the party’s history should be celebrated because for the first time both groups decided to do what is good for the party. He also brushed aside suggestions that those defeated may create their own political parties, saying age is not on the side of some candidates age: if they couldn’t win within the party, how can they win on their own?

“That is why it was a smart move to get together,” he said.
Namibia Women-centric Policy and Boardroom Diversity Needed
December 8, 2017
Alisa Amupolo
New Era

Boardroom gender diversity is increasing and as a female C-suite leader [chief executive] I have more appreciation for that by virtue of my own presence in the boardroom, in a typically male dominated industry that is passive infrastructures in the telecommunications industry, traditionally run by electronic engineers.

However, reality dedicate on the one hand that women are still under-represented in the boardroom not only across millennial black women like myself, but across race, age groups, across industries and continents of the world, making it a cross cutting issue.

Only 15 percent of the world’s corporations, including America’s Fortune 1000 companies, are run by women and as of 2017 there are only 32 female CEOs on that list.

On a lighter note countries like Norway, Sweden and France are pioneers well on their way to reach the equilibrium with 40.1, 33.7 and 33.5 percent representation, respectively. Whilst Africa has made progress on gender equality, only 5 percent of women are CEOs in Africa, according to McKinsey and Co.

These statistics are alarming and should not serve as reasons to justify the norm but to challenge the status quo and be intentional as Namibians and Africans about being world leader in gender diversity in the corporates. We need not to wait for USA to first reach the equilibrium then we follow.

The Namibian lawmakers have set themselves apart by adopting a 50/50 representation, also referred to as ‘the Zebra style’, and the impact was unparalleled, an effort worth emulating.

However corporate Namibia is still playing catch up. We know for a fact companies with strong female leadership generated a return on equity of 10.1 percent. We need to go beyond simply having women in leadership position compared to just 7.4 percent for those without. If you have gender diversity on the board, you can expect greater profits even greater CEO pay and enhanced problems solving.

I firmly believe the only way we can make the most of opportunity to achieve gender diversity is by being intentional about it in our corporate policies. We have to seek alignment with national objectives and put in practice the tone of gender equality that has already been set by lawmakers.

In my previous role as a strategy and management consultant, I have had the privilege of developing corporate policies that creates the culture and environment for the entity to thrive and yield sustainable results that are value adding and aligned to national objectives.

I found that the easiest place to measure the gender equity appetite of any company is through the corporate policies.

You can easily deduce that women were missing at the table and there was simply no one to echo their voice in shaping or counter those policies. When present, they are often in support functions rather than in the core business functions, where key decisions are made, let alone at the helm of the company.

A conversation needs to happen when designing corporate policies that are women centric. There must be threshold levels for achieving gender diversity, and incentive to attract and retain more women in the corporate boardroom where key decisions are made. There must then be penalties for not achieving that, apart from the obvious low profits.

I have observed companies both that have and those that do not have progressive policies that embrace female employees. I have had experiences where corporate policies, at design stage, did not foresee women in the c-suite and were caught off guard when a maternity case arose, because men had predominantly run the company.

We have heard companies that would not interview pregnant woman as a thumb rule, and it is retarded. Similarly, we have heard companies where people, including women, get agitated if a new female employee, no matter at what level, is fall pregnant within the first months of employment. Whereas having a family is a human right.

This is not to suggest that women find new jobs just to pop babies whilst enjoying the employment security without being productive at work or adding value to the bottom line.

We have heard of companies that rub it in expectant mothers’ faces that the current labor law does not require companies to pay the gap for women above the N$13,000 social security threshold. Corporates should be interested in protecting their females’ employees from significant income loss or forced annual leaves for expectant women without being ask by lawmakers to do so.

We should be celebrating a progressive corporate culture that is not to the detriment of our male counterpart but to collective effort towards prosperity for all that does not discriminate based on gender. None of us had the privilege to choose our gender at birth.

All in all, we need to be deliberate about our corporate policies, and move away from women being understudies or deputies to men, and normalize men being deputies to women, serving under women leadership. We should embrace women’s powerful emotions, sense of care and selflessness, transparency and integrity as an asset to our boardroom that has tangible value.

Happy Women’s Day and Human Right’s Day beloved Namibia!

Saturday, December 09, 2017

Egypt’s Coptic Church Chief Cancels Meeting With US Vice President Over Quds
Sat Dec 9, 2017 03:22PM
presstv.ir

The file photo shows the leader of Egypt's Coptic Christians, Pope Tawadros II. (Photo by AFP)

The head of Egypt's Coptic Church, Pope Tawadros II, has called off a meeting with US Vice President Mike Pence scheduled to be held in the capital Cairo later this month in protest at Washington's recognition of Jerusalem al-Quds as Israel's capital.

US President Donald Trump's decision "did not take into account the feelings of millions of Arab people," Egypt's Coptic Church said in a statement on Saturday.

"The Egyptian Coptic Orthodox Church declines to receive American Vice President Mike Pence," the statement added.

The church said it would pray for "wisdom and to address all issues that impact peace for the people of the Middle East."

The announcement comes a day after the head of Egypt's al-Azhar, the country’s top Muslim authority, Ahmed al-Tayeb, also refused to meet Pence.

Egyptian Coptic Christians are considered the largest religious minority in the region.

Meanwhile, Majdi Khaldi, a diplomatic adviser to the Palestinian president, confirmed Saturday that Mahmoud Abbas won't meet Pence "because the US has crossed red lines" on Jerusalem al-Quds.

On Wednesday, Trump announced that he formally recognized Jerusalem al-Quds as Israel’s “capital” and ordered the start of a process for moving the American embassy from Tel Aviv to the city.

The declaration sent shock waves throughout the Muslim world, and even prompted warnings from Washington’s allies in the West that it would bring more chaos to the region.

On Thursday, Palestinian officials said they would not meet with Pence during his visit to Israel later this month to protest against Trump’s decision, saying the US official was unwelcome in Palestine.

Palestinian leaders declared Friday as the “day of rage” against Israel and the US.

Clashes broke out between Israeli troops and Palestinian protesters after Friday prayers in Jerusalem al-Qud's Old City, al-Khalil -- also known as Hebron-- , Bethlehem and Nablus in the occupied West Bank as well as the besieged Gaza Strip. At least two Palestinians were killed and about 770 others were injured during the unrest on Friday.

Also on Saturday, twenty Palestinians were injured during continued clashes with Israeli forces in Bethlehem after the forces began targeting the crowd with rubber-coated bullets and fired tear gas to disperse protesters.

Jerusalem al-Quds remains at the core of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, with Palestinians hoping that the eastern part of the city would eventually serve as the capital of a future independent Palestinian state.
Palestine to Ask the UN to Issue a Resolution on Trump’s al-Quds Decision: Palestinian FM
Sat Dec 9, 2017 05:55PM
presstv.ir

Palestinian National Authority Minister of Foreign Affairs Riyad al-Maliki speaks during a news conference at the Palestine Embassy, in Cairo, Egypt, December 9, 2017. (Photo by Reuters)

Palestinian Foreign Minister Riyad al-Maliki says he will seek the United Nations Security Council’s resolution over US President Donald Trump’s recent provocative decision on recognizing Jerusalem al-Quds as Israel’s “capital.”

“The United States’ decision is illegal and illegitimate. It shows how biased and hostile it is and that it has positioned itself as a party to the conflict rather than as a mediator,” the Palestinian top diplomat told a news conference held ahead of the Arab foreign ministers’ meeting in the Egyptian capital of Cairo on Saturday.

On Wednesday, Trump announced his contentious decision and ordered that work on the relocation of the American embassy from Tel Aviv to al-Quds begin.

The provocative declaration sent shockwaves throughout the Muslim world, and even prompted stern warnings from Washington’s allies in the West that it would bring more chaos to the already tense region.

Maliki further said Washington had decided to isolate itself from the international community and had moved to be part of the rogue minority side by side with the occupation entity of Israel.

"We came today to attend the emergency meeting of Arab foreign ministers at the joint request of Jordan and Palestine to discuss this issue and will issue a set of resolutions on this matter after the meeting of the Arab League,” he added.

Thousands of mourners hold funeral processions for four Palestinians killed by Israeli forces.
Tel Aviv lays claim to the entire city as its “capital,” while Palestinians want its eastern part as the capital of their future state.

In reaction to the announcement, Palestinians have staged rallies across the West Bank, Jerusalem al-Quds and Gaza during the past few days.

Several people have already lost their lives as Israel security forces attacked Palestinians’ protesting gatherings. At least 20 Palestinians sustained injuries during heavy clashes between Israeli forces and protesters rallying in the occupied West Bank on Saturday.
US VP Pence Unwanted in Palestine: Fatah
Fri Dec 8, 2017 08:03AM
presstv.ir

Palestinian officials have called off a planned meeting with US Vice President Mike Pence to protest Washington’s recognition of Jerusalem al-Quds as Israel’s “capital.”

Secretary General of the West Bank-based Palestinian Fatah party, Jibril Rajoub, said Thursday that Pence, who is scheduled to visit the occupied West Bank to meet with President Mahmoud Abbas later this month, was “unwanted in Palestine.”

He said that no official from the Palestinian government, including President Abbas, would meet with Pence during his visit to the region.

“In the name of Fatah, I say we will not welcome Trump’s deputy in Palestinian territory,” Rajoub said. 

The Palestinian official said that Pence had requested to meet with Abbas in Bethlehem on December 19, adding that a “meeting like this won’t happen.”

However, a White House aide said Pence “still plans to meet with Abbas as scheduled” and “believes it would be counterproductive for him to pull out of the meeting.”

US President Donald Trump on Wednesday defied global warnings and said the US formally recognizes Jerusalem al-Quds as the “capital” of Israel, and will begin the process of moving its embassy to the occupied city, breaking with decades of American policy.

The announcement has triggered a chorus of condemnations from around the world.

Late on Wednesday, Deputy Palestinian UN envoy Feda Abdelhady-Nasser said in a letter to the UN Security Council that Trump’s move violates numerous resolutions that prohibit changes to the status of Jerusalem al-Quds.

She warned that the provocative move would only aggravate the already-heightened tensions, and could lead to “a never-ending religious war.”

The diplomat warned that the provocative move would only “aggravate the already-heightened tensions” in the region.

The letter also warned that “extremists” would exploit the situation to their own benefit.

The Security Council is scheduled to meet later on Friday to discuss Trump’s announcement.

Palestinian resistance group Hamas has called for a new intifada against Israel, calling Friday “day of rage” across the Palestinian occupied territories.

The entire Jerusalem al-Quds is currently under Israel’s control, while the regime also claims the city’s eastern part, which hosts the third holiest Muslim site.

The city has been designated as “occupied” under international law since the 1967 Arab War, which Palestinians want as the capital of their future state.

Trump had vowed during his presidential campaign that he would relocate the US embassy in order to court pro-Israel voters.

Palestinians have repeatedly warned Trump against such an action, saying it would deliver a death blow to any prospects of the resolution of the Palestinian-Israeli conflict and fuel extremism in the region.
Al-Quds Will Turn Into Zionist Regime's Graveyard: IRGC Commander
Sat Dec 9, 2017 05:04PM
presstv.ir

The chief commander of Iran's Islamic Revolution Guards Corps, Mohammad Ali Jafari (File photo)

The chief commander of Iran's Islamic Revolution Guards Corps (IRGC) says Jerusalem al-Quds will turn into a graveyard for the Israeli regime.

Speaking at a meeting with a number of IRGC personnel in Tehran on Saturday, Major General Mohammad Ali Jafari said a recent decision by US President Donald Trump to recognize Jerusalem al-Quds as Israel’s “capital” was aimed at destroying al-Aqsa Mosque.

"The US and the Zionist regime [of Israel] have committed their most historic folly vis-à-vis al-Quds, and with the grace of God, al-Quds will become a graveyard for the fake regime of Israel," he added.

Leader of the Islamic Revolution Ayatollah Khamenei says the Muslim world will stand against a US plot to declare Jerusalem al-Quds as Israel’s “capital.”

Jafari urged Muslims to immediately stand up against the "vicious plot” or it would be too late. 

"We are informed that this decision was the outcome of [the US] behind-the-scenes consultations, agreements and coordination with some Arab countries, particularly Saudi Arabia, and that they had been aware of the issue since a few months ago," the senior IRGC commander said.

A commentator says Trump's al-Quds move has unveiled Washington’s true face that it is not a peacemaker but rather stands solely by the Zionist entity.

Jafari added that the Saudi regime is making efforts to limit the Muslim nations' stance against the new US crime to just words and statements and said Riyadh had agreed with Israel and the US to prevent any "practical move" aimed at safeguarding al-Quds.

However, Muslims would once again thwart the enemies' plots, he emphasized.

Meanwhile, in a meeting with the visiting British foreign secretary, Shamkhani said the decision by US President Donald Trump to recognize Jerusalem al-Quds as Israel’s “capital” would once again turn the Palestinian issue into the main focus of the Muslim world.

Trump's move was an "unwitting service to the Muslim world" which would lead to further unity among Muslims to counter the Israeli regime and defend the Palestinians' rights, Shamkhani told Boris Johnson in Tehran.

The US president on Wednesday defied global warnings and said Washington formally recognized Jerusalem al-Quds as the “capital” of Israel and would begin the process of moving its embassy to the occupied city, breaking with decades of American policy.

Trump's declaration has sent shock waves throughout the Muslim world, and even prompted warnings from Washington’s allies in the West that it would bring more chaos to the region.

The Iranian Army on Friday denounced the recent "foolish" US move and said the United States and Israel were responsible for escalating tensions in the Middle East.
Dozens Killed in Saudi Airstrikes on Northwest Yemen
Fri Dec 8, 2017 10:38AM
presstv.ir

Yemenis check the aftermath of a Saudi-led airstrike on the town of Sahar in the northwestern Yemeni province of Sa’ada, November 1, 2017. (Photo by AFP)

As many as 23 people have lost their lives in Saudi Arabian-led airstrikes against Sa’ada Province in Yemen’s extreme northwest.

Yemen’s al-Masirah television network reported on Friday that 15 Yemenis had died in the Saudi-led aerial attacks against Sha’ban District in the province’s Razeh City.

Eight more were killed in airstrikes that targeted the Bani Ma’adh District in the town of Sahar there, the network added.

More than 12,000 people have died since March 2015, when Saudi Arabia began leading a number of its vassal states in an invasion of Yemen.

Yemen’s popular Houthi Ansarullah movement has been defending the nation against the invaders.

Saudi Arabia seeks to restore power to a former regime that was Riyadh-friendly.
Saudi Arabia Bombards Yemeni TV Station, Kills 4
Sat Dec 9, 2017 10:07AM
presstv.ir

The photo, taken on November 16, 2015, shows a Saudi F-15 fighter jet landing at the Khamis Mushait military airbase, in southwest Saudi Arabia. (By AFP)

The Saudi-led coalition waging war on Yemen has attacked the headquarters of the Yemen al-Youm TV channel in the capital, Sana’a, killing four people and injuring five others.

Yemen’s al-Masirah television network reported that in addition to the casualties, the Friday Saudi air raids caused serious damage to the building of the TV station and its equipment.

The building of the Yemen al-Youm TV channel had been targeted twice by Saudi jets over the last week.

The TV station was affiliated with the General People’s Congress (GPC) of former president Ali Abdullah Saleh, who was killed on Monday.

Yemen’s Interior Ministry says former president Ali Abdullah Saleh has been killed in Sana'a clashes.
Houthi fighters took over the TV station following clashes with the supporters of Saleh, who broke ranks with the Houthis in favor of Saudi Arabia.

The Saudi regime and its allies have been incessantly pounding Yemen since March 2015 in an attempt to crush the Houthi Ansarullah movement and reinstall a former regime that was staunchly allied with Riyadh. But the coalition has achieved neither of its goals.

The Saudi war, which has been accompanied by a land, naval, and aerial blockade of Yemen, has so far killed over 12,000 people and caused one of the worst humanitarian catastrophes in recent history.

The Saudi-led coalition has intensified its airstrikes on Yemen after Saleh’s death.
Fresh Saudi Airstrikes Leave Six Civilians Dead in Yemen
Sat Dec 9, 2017 03:44PM
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Yemeni men look at the damage in the aftermath of a Saudi airstrike on Yemen Today TV station in the capital Sana’a on December 9, 2017. (Photo by AFP)

At least six civilians have been killed and several others injured when Saudi military aircraft carried out separate airstrikes against residential areas across Yemen as the Riyadh regime presses ahead with its atrocious bombardment campaign against its southern neighbor.

Saudi fighter jets conducted five aerial assaults against Khalfah outdoor market in the Nihm district of the capital province of Sana’a on Saturday, leaving five people dead and three vehicles destroyed, an unnamed local official told Saba news agency.

The official added that the airstrikes also caused considerable damage to the commercial district.

Separately, one person lost his life and four others sustained injuries when Saudi warplanes launched aerial attacks against Shaje'a market in the Zabid district of Yemen's western coastal province of Hudaydah.

The development came as Saudi jets targeted the building of the Yemen Today satellite news channel in Sana'a, killing four citizens.

The head guard, himself wounded in the attack, told reporters at the scene that the strike had hit his staff's sleeping quarters.

“This is not a military post and there are no weapons here. This is just the house where we security guards live,” he said outside the heavily damaged building.

The Yemen Today television network was affiliated with the General People’s Congress (GPC) of former president Ali Abdullah Saleh, who was killed on Monday during clashes with Houthi Ansarullah fighters.

Saudi Arabia has been incessantly pounding Yemen since March 2015 in an attempt to crush the popular Houthi Ansarullah movement and reinstate Hadi, a staunch ally of the Riyadh regime.

More than 12,000 people have been killed since the onset of the campaign more than two and a half years ago. Much of the Arabian Peninsula country's infrastructure, including hospitals, schools and factories, has been reduced to rubble due to the war.

The Saudi-led war has also triggered a deadly cholera epidemic across Yemen.

According to the World Health Organization’s latest count, the cholera outbreak has killed 2,167 people since the end of April and is suspected to have infected 841,906.

On November 26, the United Nations children’s agency (UNICEF) said that more than 11 million children in Yemen were in acute need of aid, stressing that it was estimated that every 10 minutes a child died of a preventable disease there.

Additionally, the UN has described the current level of hunger in Yemen as “unprecedented,” emphasizing that 17 million people are now food insecure in the country.

It added that 6.8 million, meaning almost one in four people, do not have enough food and rely entirely on external assistance.

A recent survey showed that almost one third of families had gaps in their diets, and hardly ever consumed foods like pulses, vegetables, fruit, dairy products or meat.

More than 3 million pregnant and nursing women and children under 5 also need support to prevent or cure malnutrition.
ED Appoints New CIO Boss
December 9, 2017
News Editor
Zimbabwe Herald

PRESIDENT Emmerson Mnangagwa has appointed Ambassador Isaac Moyo to the position of Director- General of the Central Intelligence Organisation (CIO) with immediate effect.

He takes over from Retired Major-General Happyton Bonyongwe who recently became Zimbabwe’s shortest-serving Justice, Legal and Parliamentary Affairs Minister.

Cde Aaron Nhepera had been Acting Director-General since Maj-Gen Bonyongwe’s departure.

The appointment of Ambassador Moyo was confirmed by Chief Secretary to the President and Cabinet Dr Misheck Sibanda in a statement last night.

“In terms of Section 226, subsection (1) of the Constitution, His Excellency the President Cde ED Mnangagwa has appointed Ambassador Isaac Moyo to the position of Director-General of the Central Intelligence Organisation (CIO) with immediate effect.

Ambassador Moyo was serving as Zimbabwe’s Ambassador to the Republic of South Africa and United Kingdom of Lesotho,” read the Statement.

Ambassador Moyo has a glittering curriculum vitae in the intelligence services, having served as the Executive Secretary of the African Union Committee of Intelligence and Security Service in Africa in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia, before he was appointed Zimbabwe’s Ambassador to South Africa replacing Cde Phelekezela Mphoko who, until recently, was the country’s vice president. Cde Mphoko has since been expelled from zanu-pf.
Zimbabwe Electoral Commission Chair Pressured to Resign
 SUNDAY MAIL REPORTER

Zimbabwe Electoral Commission Chairperson Justice Rita Makarau could have resigned due to mounting political pressure over her multiple roles, The Sunday Mail has gathered.

Justice Makarau resigned last Thursday without stating reasons after leading Zec since 2013.

On top of heading the Commission, she was a Supreme Court judge and Secretary of the Judicial Service Commission.

She resigns less than a year before Zimbabwe holds harmonised elections and her deputy, Mr Emmanuel Magade, takes over in acting capacity.

Justice Makarau could not be reached for comment on her mobile phone.

Secretary for Justice, Legal and Parliamentary Affairs Mrs Virginia Mabhiza told The Sunday Mail, “She gave no reasons for her resignation. My assumption is that it was because of the pressure that was coming from Parliament where there was a lot of debate around her roles at the Judicial Service Commission, Zimbabwe Electoral Commission and the Supreme Court.

“The ministry and herself were regularly called upon to justify her roles in these institutions and she may have decided that it was in the best interest that she resigns.

“The minister has already notified the President of the resignation and, of course, the vacancy. What happens now, in terms of the Constitution, is that the President will appoint a new Chairperson after consulting the Judicial Service Commission and the Parliamentary Committee on Standing Rules and Orders. In the meantime, the Deputy Chair of the Commission is the acting head.”

Chairperson of Zec’s media committee, Commissioner Joyce Kazembe, said: “She communicated her resignation to the Commission via email, stating that she was stepping down. She did not give any reasons why she was stepping aside.

“I cannot speculate on why she decided to leave because that would be misleading. But as a Commission, we were really hurt and devastated by the news because we were doing very good work as a team and with the elections just around the corner, it just makes it very difficult to accept.”

Another Commissioner, Dr Qhubani Moyo, added: “She communicated her decision on Thursday but did not give any reasons why she was stepping down.

‘‘However, I cannot speculate on why she decided to leave. Try to get hold of her and she will give you her reasons.”

Commissioners are appointed for a maximum of two six-year terms. None maybe appointed after having been a member for one or more periods, whether continuous or not, amounting to 12 years.

The Constitution says the Zec Chair should be a judge or former judge, or a person qualified for appointment as a judge.

He/she is appointed in terms of Section 238(1)(a) of the Constitution, which reads:

“There is a Commission to be known as Zimbabwe Electoral Commission consisting of (a) a chairperson appointed by the President after consultation with the Judicial Service Commission and the Committee on Standing Rules and Orders.”