By Panashe Chigumadzi (@panashechig)
A round up of the last week’s biggest news and newsmakers.
1. Protests continue in Ferguson as Obama sends Attorney General to investigate
Speaking for the second time on the Ferguson protests, US President Barack Obama has expressed sympathy for the “passions and anger” sparked by the killing of unarmed black teenager Michael Brown, and said overcoming the mistrust between many communities and their local police would require Americans to “listen and not just shout”.
On 9 August 2014 Darren Wilson, a Ferguson police officer racially profiled and fatally shot unarmed, 18-year-old Brown as he walked to his grandmother’s residence with a friend. Eye witnesses report that Wilson fired several shots at Michael as the teen stood in the street with his hands in the air.
This police killing is representative of the systemic police abuse affecting Black communities in Ferguson, Missouri, and across the country. Last year, Black Missouri residents were 66% more likely to be stopped by police, and more likely to be arrested, even though white residents were more likely to be found with contraband.
Protestors are demanding a rigorous investigation, prosecution, and firing of all officers involved in this police killing. The protests have been met with heavy-handed police response which has included a media blackout, the imposition of a curfew and the use of tear gas and rubber bullets.
Speaking after meeting with Attorney General Eric Holder, Obama said Holder would travel to Ferguson to meet with FBI and other officials carrying out an independent federal investigation into Brown’s death.
UN chief Ban Ki Moon on Monday called on US authorities to protect the right of peaceful protests over Brown’s death in Ferguson.
2. Gaza truce extended by 24 hours
On Monday, Israel and Palestinian leaders agreed to extend a Gaza truce by another 24 hours, minutes before an Egyptian-brokered ceasefire was set to expire.
Monday’s agreement was reached as gaps on key issues continued to dog efforts to achieve a long-term deal between Israel and the armed groups in the Gaza Strip, dominated by Hamas, which would allow reconstruction aid to flow in after five weeks of fighting.
The month long war ended more than a week ago when Egypt secured a three-day truce, extended by another five days that expired on Monday night.
A Palestinian official close to the talks in Cairo said the latest extension would give both sides time “to complete the negotiations”.
The Palestinian Health Ministry put the Gaza death toll at 2,016 and said most were civilians in the small, densely populated coastal territory. Sixty-four Israeli soldiers and three civilians in Israel have been killed.
Hamas has said that laying down its weapons is not an option.
3. Chadian Troops rescue Boko Haram hostages
Officials say security forces in Chad have rescued Nigerians who were recently kidnapped by Boko Haram. The abductees were taken last Sunday by the militants in a raid on a Nigerian town near the border with Chad.
The militants, along with nearly 100 kidnapped Nigerians, were stopped at the border by Chadian soldiers.
It was not immediately clear what the soldiers did with the Boko Haram militants and whether the rescued Nigerians were sent home.
Boko Haram’s 14 April abduction of schoolgirls from the remote town of Chibok drew unprecedented international attention to the conflict and offers of help from Western powers. Nearly four months on, the girls have yet to be returned to safety.
4. Mfundi Vundla fires striking Generations cast
On Monday MMSV Productions, the production company responsible for making Generations, fired the entire striking Generations cast.
The SABC and MMSV Productions “have today terminated the contracts of the striking actors on the SABC1 soap drama, Generations…the termination follows calls by both parties for the actors to return for recordings, following the start of their illegal strike,” says the SABC.
The Generations Actors Guild responded saying, “We are saddened by this development, but remain steadfast in our goal to ensure fair working conditions for ourselves as creative professionals,” they say.
They will now look at their legal options as a result of their wholesale firing.
It’s not clear how the SABC plans to handle the massive exit of major actors from the popular soap, who went on strike last Monday, yet again for the promised three year contracts, better pay, and the payment of “royalties” due over rebroadcasts and international sales of the popular show.
Generations episodes are recorded six weeks in advance and attracts an audience of 7.5 million viewers per weeknight on SABC1 at 20:00 making it by far the most watched show on South African television for the past 21 years and dwarfing the rest of the top five shows on free-to-air television in the country.
The massive number of Generations actors took part in the unprecedented strike and who are now out of the show: Anga Makubalo (MJ), Atandwa Kani (Samora), Katlego Danke (Dineo), Mandla Gaduka (Choppa), Menzi Ngubane (Sibusiso), Nambitha Mpulwana (Mawande), Patrick Shai (Patrick), Slindile Nodangala (Ruby), Sophie Ndaba (Queen), Seputla Sebogodi (Kenneth), Thami Mnqolo (Senzo), Thato Molamu (Nicholas), Winnie Ntshaba (Khetiwe), Zenande Mfenyana (Nolunthu), Zikhona Sodlaka (Priska) and Zolisa Xaluva (Jason).
FURTHER READING: An open letter from the Generations cast
5. SA man tests negative for Ebola — health ministry
A 37-year-old man admitted to Charlotte Maxeke Hospital on Sunday with possible Ebola tested negative, the health ministry and the National Institute for Communicable Diseases (NICD) announced earlier on Monday afternoon.
“The condition of the patient is stable… We are busy conducting further tests for other infections and continue with our appropriate management of the patient,” said the health minister’s spokesman Joe Maila in an e-mailed statement.
He said the government had instituted measures to maintain vigilance for Ebola, and the country remained on high alert.
“South Africans should rest assured that our surveillance is strengthened,” he said.
On 6 August, the 37-year-old man returned to South Africa from Liberia, where he worked as a health and safety officer on a mine. He showed no sign of illness upon his entry into South Africa, but reported to his general practitioner with a fever ten days later. He had not had any contact with Ebola patients while in Liberia, according to the Department of Health.
There have been no confirmed cases of Ebola in South Africa. Port authorities at airports and harbours are on high alert, and the government has designated specific hospitals in each province as referral sites for suspected Ebola patients.
Since the current outbreak began in April, Guinea, Sierra Leone, Liberia, and Nigeria had by August 13 reported 2,127 suspected and confirmed cases of Ebola, and 1,145 deaths. But experts believe the epidemic may worse than the reported figures because some people have shunned health facilities.
6. Marikana’s tragedy remembered at two-year commemoration
As the Farlam Commission, chaired by retired judge Ian Farlam, is probing the deaths of 44 people during the strike, the second anniversary of the shooting at Lonmin’s Marikana mine, near Rustenburg in the North West was commemorated on Saturday at the koppie where miners were shot.
A total of 44 people were killed during the strike-related violence at Lonmin’s platinum mining operations in August 2012. Thirty-four of them, mostly mineworkers, were shot dead in a clash with police, over 70 were wounded, and over 250 arrested on 16 August 2012. Ten people, among them two security guards and two police officers were killed in the preceding week.
At the time, rock drill operators rejected the official union, the National Union of Mineworkers and led a wildcat strike demanding a basic monthly salary of R12,500.
Many had left the NUM to join the Association of Mineworkers and Construction Union (Amcu). Amcu leader Joseph Mathunjwa arrived at the commemoration rally to a rousing welcome from the thousands of people gathered in Nkaneng informal settlement on Saturday.
He told the crowd a trust fund of R2 million had been established to help the families of the slain Marikana mineworkers and that R12,500 would be donated to each widow of the mineworkers killed.
Leaders from opposition parties, attending the rally, criticised government for not helping to change the lives of the mining community in Marikana. Representatives from government and the African National Congress did not attend the event, saying they had not been invited.
In a statement on Saturday President Jacob Zuma said the day of the shooting should be a day of reflection and recommitment to peace and tolerance in the country.
“We cannot bring back those who lost their lives, but we must ensure that there is never a repeat of the tragic and painful incidents of August 2012,” he said.
“We need to recommit ourselves to ensuring that violence is never again used to solve problems of any kind in our country.”
- All Africa
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