South Africa will take over the rotational chair of the African Union (AU) in 2020, following on Egypt, which took over the chair of the continental organ on Sunday.
African heads of state formally elected South Africa during a closed session on Sunday morning, ahead of the opening ceremony of the 32nd African Union heads of state summit.
Egyptian president Abdel Fattah el-Sisi will chair the continental body in 2019, in a move that follows efforts by this country to position itself closer to the rest of Africa.
Egypt was suspended from the continental body in 2013 following a coup d’etat in the country, but accepted back the next year after it held elections.
He takes over from Rwandan president Paul Kagame, who during his year at the helm focused strongly on African Union reforms and free trade by encouraging ratification of the African Continental Free Trade Agreement.
South Africa’s election to this position will put President Cyril Ramaphosa — in the likely event that he would still be in place after the May 8 general elections — in an important role on the international stage, as South Africa is also a non-permanent member of the United Nations Security Council for the next two years.
Ramaphosa has been lobbied by some groups to push for a more human rights-based approach, especially to issues in Africa.
As incoming chair, Ramaphosa will be working closely with Al-Sisi to smooth the transition to next year.
South Africa last chaired the African Union in 2002, when Thabo Mbeki was president, and the last time the Southern African Development Community had a turn at the helm of the AU, Zimbabwean president Robert Mugabe was in the chair.
Eswatini, which was also a strong contender within the southern African bloc for the AU chair, and which has recently spent billions of rands in upgrading its conferencing facilities – is expected to host the AU’s 2020 mid-year gathering. — News24
Trump allows attorney general to declassify information about origins of Russia probe
FILE PHOTO – U.S. Attroney General William Barr passes President Donald Trump as he heads to the podium to speak during the presentation of Public Safety Medals of Valor to officers in the East Room of the White House in Washington, U.S., May 22, 2019. REUTERS/Carlos Barria
WASHINGTON (Reuters) – U.S. President Donald Trump on Thursday issued an order allowing Attorney General William Barr to declassify any information Barr sees fit during his review of the events that prompted the FBI to open an investigation into links between the Trump campaign and Russia.
The order also directed leaders of the U.S. intelligence community and other departments and agencies to cooperate with Barr during his review.
Reporting by Steve Holland and Makini Brice; Editing by David Alexander
Botswana To Resume The Hunting Of Elephants : NPR
Cameron Spencer/Getty Images
Botswana’s government is lifting a ban that protected its elephants from being hunted, part of a series of decisions that could have lasting impacts on the country’s conservation efforts.
In a letter to reporters, the Ministry of Environment, Natural Resources Conservation and Tourism referred to elephants as predators and said their numbers “appear to have increased.” It said a subcommittee found that conflicts between humans and elephants had risen, harming livestock and the livelihoods of Botswana’s people.
The announcement marked a sharp departure from the policies of former President Ian Khama, who suspended elephant hunting after data showed the population in decline. The ban took effect in 2014 but did not stop hunting in registered game ranches.
In May, Botswana’s newly elected president, Mokgweetsi Masisi, made international headlines for giving three African leaders stools made of elephant feet.
In June, he requested a review of the ban on hunting elephants.
His study group recommended “regular but limited elephant culling,” in addition to establishing elephant meat canning for pet food and other products. Among other conclusions, it recommended the government expand Botswana’s safari hunting industry.
Authorities said Thursday that the government accepted all recommendations except the regular culling of elephants and the establishment of meat canning. “This was rejected because culling is not considered acceptable given the overall continental status of elephants. Rather, a more sustainable method such as selective cropping should be employed,” the government said.
Conservationists around the world took to social media to denounce the government’s reversal on elephant hunting.
“Horrific beyond imagination,” said Paula Kahumbu, CEO of the Kenya-based WildlifeDirect. She said hunting was an archaic way to address the problems of living with mega fauna. “Africa, we are better than this,” she tweeted.
German organization Pro Wildlife wrote that hunting was a bloody sport, “#cruel, outdated, unethical and often undermining” conservation.
Other groups celebrated Botswana’s announcement, including Safari Club International, a U.S.-based organization that supports regulated trophy hunting.
President Paul Babaz called it “heartening” in a statement. “These findings clearly show that hunting bans actually hurt wildlife conservation; hunting is the key to providing the necessary revenue to fund anti-poaching efforts and on-the-ground conservation research,” he said.
Fewer than 400 elephant licenses will be granted annually, the government of Botswana announced on Twitter Thursday. It said it was planning for “strategically placed human wildlife conflict fences” and compensation for damage caused by wildlife. All migratory routes for animals that are not considered “beneficial” to Botswana’s conservation efforts will be closed, including an antelope route to South Africa.
Northern Botswana is home to Africa’s largest elephant population, according to the U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service. The population grew steadily from 80,000 in 1996 to 129,000 in 2014.
It happened as habitat loss and poaching devastated elephant populations across Africa. Between 2010 and 2012 alone, poachers slaughtered 100,000 African elephants, National Geographic reported.
Last September, the carcasses of 87 elephants were found close to a protected sanctuary in Botswana. They had been killed for their tusks.
With both Houses of Parliament in place, it’s all eye…
Thursday’s swearing-in of the 54 permanent delegates of the National Council of Provinces was a staid affair, but then the house that must champion the nine provinces is often seen as the stepchild of Parliament. Now both Houses are constituted, the parliamentary calendar should kick into high gear. Sort of.
Day two of swearing in South Africa’s 454 parliamentarians found Chief Justice Mogoeng Mogoeng in the hot seat in the National Council of Provinces (NCOP), overseeing a much shorter process than in the National Assembly on Wednesday, 22 May 2019. Then it was 400 MPs; on Thursday there were 54 permanent delegates taking the oath of office to be faithful to the Constitution and country.
Mogoeng cautioned those newly sworn-in lawmakers as the signing of their oath of office forms apparently didn’t quite go smoothly in the National Assembly:
“Some signed both — the space where they are supposed to sign and where I am supposed to sign. Please be careful!”
Amos Masondo, the ANC’s choice as NCOP chair, was elected unopposed, unlike National Assembly Speaker Thandi Modise, against whom the DA fielded their own, ultimately unsuccessful candidate. Masondo took over and his deputy Sylvia Lucas, the ex-Northern Cape premier, was also elected unopposed. As was NCOP Chief Whip Seiso Mohai.
“ANC, ANC, ANC, ANC…” erupted in the NCOP in a replay of the Zuma administration years — and in stark contrast to the co-operative tone emphasising MPs’ common mandate. The NCOP may just become the place to track the ANC’s factional swings and sways at the provincial level.
But that would be in the coming months. As the parliamentary agenda is melded to the governing ANC’s programme to constitute a new state, right now the focus shifts to Tshwane and the Union Buildings for Saturday’s inauguration of President Cyril Ramaphosa and the subsequent announcement of Cabinet expected from Sunday, or perhaps Monday.
The choreography is delicate; the optics managed.
And while ANC Chief Whip Pemmy Majodina said after the governing party’s Tuesday’s special parliamentary caucus that chairpersons of committees would be announced after the ministers became known, it seems there’ll be a bit of a wait yet. The parliamentary calendar at this stage has set aside the morning of 5 June for that election.
Effectively, this means these committee chairpersons’ elections follow the ANC National Executive Committee (NEC) lekgotla from 31 May to 3 June. While the draft programme Daily Maverick has seen does not include an agenda item of parliamentary committee chairpersons, it includes ANC NEC member Nkosazana Dlamini Zuma’s presentation on a 25-Year Review and a panel discussion on development, state and a social compact — and the interventions needed for the next five years.
It would be unusual for such deployments not to be discussed, particularly as the strategic House Chairperson of Committee Chairpersons, known as “chair of chairs”, is vacant after outgoing minister Nomvula Mokonyane, at the last minute on Wednesday, declined her deployment.
Given the numerical dominance of the ANC, the governing party gets to chair the committees — all but the public spending watchdog, the Standing Committee of Public Accounts (Scopa), which traditionally is chaired by an opposition MP. However, in line with ANC hierarchies, those names are determined at best with the guidance and recommendations of the chief whip and parliamentary political leaders, but at worst in the Office of the Secretary-General at Luthuli House ANC head office.
How it will pan out this time around remains to be seen. Crucially, aside from considering another “chair of chairs”, the ANC would have to pay some thought to who from the opposition parties should chair Scopa, as African People’s Convention (APC) MP Temba Godi lost his seat in Parliament.
Although Majodina met her chief whip counterparts from other political parties immediately after Wednesday’s National Assembly proceedings, including Ramaphosa’s election as president, it will only be in early June the first chief whips’ forum would meet. The multi-party structure is meant to smooth out the crinkles behind the scenes for Parliament to function efficiently.
And the committee that sets the programme of Parliament is expected to meet only in mid-June. It’ll be then that further details would emerge on the about 40 Budget votes that must be passed to give full effect to February’s financial allocations. Traditionally the Budget is passed in June, but in 2019 the statutory four-month period is hooked on the start of the financial year of 1 April, under the Money Bills Amendment Procedures and Related Matters Act.
It’s a high-pressure time in any given year — some days there are nine budget votes — but this time around there are additional dynamics. On the MPs benches, many would have had had a few weeks only to get to grips with their new responsibilities. And new ministers could be in charge of the portfolios, which may be in transition as a leaner government structure with fewer departments is anticipated.
The Budget vote debates are expected to take their cue from Ramaphosa’s State of the Nation Address on 20 June. That address would be the third in a month where the president could outline the tone of his administration, starting with Ramaphosa’s address shortly after being elected as president by the National Assembly when he pledged to be president for all South Africans and the inauguration.
But it’s in the State of the Nation Address that the details of government programmes and projects will emerge alongside the tone and character of the administration Ramaphosa would like to see. DM
Want to watch Richard Poplak’s audition for SA’s Got Talent?
Who doesn’t? Alas, it was removed by the host site for prolific swearing*… Now that we’ve got your attention, we thought we’d take the opportunity to talk to you about the small matter of book burning and freedom of speech.
Since its release, Pieter-Louis Myburgh’s book Gangster State, has sparked numerous fascist-like behavior from certain members of the public (and the State). There have been planned book burnings, disrupted launches and Ace Magashule has openly called him a liar. And just to say thanks, a R10m defamation suit has been lodged against the author.
Pieter-Louis Myburgh is our latest Scorpio Investigative journalist recruit and we’re not going to let him and his crucial book be silenced. When the Cape Town launch was postponed, Maverick Insider stepped in and relocated it to a secure location so that Pieter-Louis’ revelations could be heard by the public. If we’ve learnt one thing over the past ten years it is this: when anyone tries to infringe on our constitutional rights, we have to fight back. Every day, our journalists are uncovering more details and evidence of State Capture and its various reincarnations. The rot is deep and the threats, like this recent one to freedom of speech, are real. You can support the cause by becoming an Insider and help free the speech that can make a difference.
*No video of Richard Poplak auditioning for SA’s Got Talent actually exists. Unless it does and we don’t know about it please send it through.
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