By Panashe Chigumadzi (@panashechig)
A round-up of some of the biggest news and newsmakers from the last week.
1. Israel attacks the Gaza Strip
For over a week, Israel maintained its offensive, which included air strikes and artillery fire, on the contested Gaza Strip in Palestine. This was despite diplomatic pushes for a ceasefire. With the Palestinian death toll at 172 and another 1,230 people wounded, UN Chief Ban Ki-moon said “too many” Palestinian civilians have been killed.
The murder and kidnap of three Israeli teens early last month began the recent escalastion of the Israeli-Gaza conflict. This triggered a crackdown on Hamas, the Palestinian resistance movement, in the West Bank and a spike in rocket fire from Gaza, which worsened after a Palestinian teen was killed by Jewish extremists on 2 July.
Despite the growing international calls for an end to the fighting, Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said the military was hitting Hamas “with growing force” and Israel warned that preparations are under way for a possible ground incursion. Israeli media have since disputed this, saying that a meeting of Netanyahu’s security cabinet ended on Sunday night without giving the order for ground operations.
2. Malala pledges solidarity with kidnapped Nigerian girls
Whilst on a trip to Nigeria to mark her 17th birthday, Pakistani rights activist Malala Yousafzai pledged to help free the group of schoolgirls abducted by Boko Haram. Yousafzai, who survived being shot in the head by the Taliban for campaigning for girls’ education, met with 12 parents of the more than 200 girls who were kidnapped from a school in the village of Chibok two months ago.
“I can see those girls as my sisters … and I’m going to speak up for them until they are released,” said Malala, who met President Goodluck Jonathan on Monday. Her 17th birthday was on Saturday.
“I’m going to participate actively in the ‘Bring back our girls’ campaign, to make sure that they return safely and they continue their education.”
Monday has been designated by the United Nations as Malala Day which she decided to mark by coming to Nigeria to appeal for the release of the kidnapped girls and the right of all children to an education.
Faced with the seeming deadlock as the Nigerian government fails to free the girls, the parents are close to despair. Some of the parents broke down in tears as Yousafzai spoke at a hotel in the capital Abuja on Sunday.
Yousafzai’s father Ziauddin Yousafzi ended the meeting with the parents by saying a prayer: “O God, accept our tears, accept the tears of these fathers and mothers. O God, empower us to bring the girls back.” Christian and Muslim parents joined together in saying, “Amen”.
3. Germany wins the World Cup
For the second time in World Cup history, Germany defeated Argentina for the title, having done so in 1990 and ending the four-week tournament which drew in an estimated worldwide audience of one billion people.
The score was 0-0 at the end of first half, with Gonzalo Higuain’s goal for Argentina ruled offside. It seemed the game was headed toward a penalty shootout, as several games of this World Cup had. It was only once in extra time, in the 113th minute, when Germany’s Mario Götze, moved passed Argentina’s André Schürrle and goalie Sergio Romero to win and take home the victory.
The trophy was brought into the stadium by supermodel Gisele Bundchen and 2010 winner Carles Puyol. The win makes Germany four-time World Cup champions, but this is the first win for Germany as a unified nation. The victory also gives them the honor of being the first European side to win the title in South America.
4. Nobel-winner Nadine Gordimer dies
Nadine Gordimer died peacefully at her Johannesburg home on Sunday evening in the presence of her helpers and her children, Hugo and Oriane, according to a statement released by her family.
Gordimer was born in 1923 and, following her friend Bettie du Toit’s arrest, joined the anti-Apartheid movement in the 1960s. She had long career in literature that saw many of her 15 politically themed novels books banned by the Apartheid government. In 1962 she helped edit Nelson Mandela’s famous ‘I am prepared to die’ speech. In recognition of this, Gordimer won the Nobel Prize for Literature in 1991.
“She was 90 years old and will be lovingly remembered by her family, friends and literary colleagues. A private memorial service will be announced at a later date,” the statement said.
5. Feed A Child withdraws racist ad and apologises
After criticism over a racist advert that was meant to promote the plight of South Africa’s hungry children, NGO Feed a Child has apologised for any offence caused. The advert, which was intended to raise awareness about starving children, caused outrage over the way in which a black child was portrayed as the dog of a wealthy white woman. The advert, which calls for R20 donations, ends with the tagline: “The average domestic dog eats better than millions of children.”
In an interview with ENCA, Feed A Child founder and CEO Alza Rautenbach said the charity group not consult widely on the advert, and that the tagline was anecdotal and not based on research facts.”We shot this ad to get reaction from public that there are hungry children out there,” she said.
Rautenbach said that while calls of racism were made, from their perspective, Feed A Child doesn’t “look at colour; there isn’t a black and white.”
She said the advert was fully sponspored by agency Ogilvy & Mather who also conceptualised the ad. The agency issued apology saying the advert was aimed at “drawing attention to the extremely important issue of malnutrition in South Africa…We are aware of the negative reaction to the commercial. Since receiving an official complaint from the Advertising Standards Authority of South Africa (ASA), Feed a Child and Ogilvy & Mather have withdrawn the commercial. It was not our intention to offend in anyway, and therefore we unreservedly apologise for any offense caused.”
On Thursday, the ASA announced that no further action would be taken against the NGO after it withdrew its controversial advertisement and its CEO apologised.
6. Steve Hofmeyer sings ‘Die Stem’ in Australia
On Friday around 400 people stood up and sang along during Steve Hofmeyer’s 90-minute performance of Federation of Afrikaans Cultural Associations (FAK) songs, which included South Africa’s old national anthem ‘Die Stem’, in Adelaide, Australia.
This was not the first time Hofmeyer had performed it, having done so at Nelspruit’s Innibos arts festival to an estimated crowd of 45 000.
After the show Hofmeyer’s Facebook page included the message about what he called the “Die Stem Dilemma” saying: “…With pride and homesickness. As one. Without warning.”
In response to the Innibos performance, Afrikaans singer Elzabe Zietsman stated in Afrikaans on Facebook, where she has nearly 8 500 fans: “I declare that I was not one of the ‘duisende dose’ that sang Die Stem along with Steve Hofmeyer.
“I am a South African with Afrikaans as my first language. Just that. I don’t want to debate this … I love South Africa passionately, and I love Afrikaans passionately, but Nkosi Sikelel’ iAfrika is my national anthem – in Xhosa, Zulu, Sesotho, Afrikaans and English. Just that.”
Her comment drew over 1000 likes and more than 250 people agreed. But an overwhelming number of the more than 1 100 comments that followed were hateful, with some Hofmeyr supporters going so far as to publicly state that Zietsman should be ‘raped’.
Steve Hofmeyr tweeted the following in response:”Thanks Elzabe, at least we know how YOU feel. Congratulations. How is it that everyone should feel like you and pass your democratic test?”
The Economic Freedom Fighters (EFF) also reportedly called on Parliament for the ‘Die Stem’ portion of the current national anthem to be scrapped.