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Africans win UN vote on Britain’s last colony | News | Africa

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In a stinging defeat for Britain, the United Nations General Assembly overwhelmingly demanded Wednesday that London cede to Mauritius the British-ruled Chagos Islands, home to an important military base.

The Indian Ocean archipelago has been at the center of a decades-long dispute over Britain’s decision to separate it from Mauritius in 1965 and set up a joint military base with the US on Diego Garcia, the largest of the islands.

A total of 116 countries voted in favour of a non-binding resolution presented by African countries that urged Britain to “withdraw its colonial administration” from the Chagos Islands within six months.

Only six countries, including Britain and the United States, voted against the measure in the 193-nation assembly while 56 others abstained, including Canada, France and Germany. Fifteen countries did not vote.

The vote came three months after the International Court of Justice handed Mauritius a victory when it said in a legal opinion that Britain had illegally split the islands and should give up control of the Chagos.

After Britain rejected that ruling, Mauritius turned to the United Nations.

The resolution decides that the United Nations and its agencies shall recognize Mauritius’s sovereignty over the Chagos Islands and calls on all governments “not to recognize, support or abet the unlawful colonial administration” in the Chagos.

Resolutions adopted by the General Assembly are not legally binding, but they do carry political weight.

Keeping the world safe 

Taking the UN podium, Britain argued that the dispute was a bilateral matter and stressed that it had opposed the move to seek the ICJ legal opinion.

British Ambassador Karen Pierce said the Diego Garcia military base “plays a vital role in keeping allies and friends — including Mauritius — in the region and beyond safe and secure.”

The United States has sent fighter jets from Diego Garcia to bomb Afghanistan and Iraq.
The facility was used as a CIA interrogation centre after the September 11 2001 attacks.

In 2016, Britain renewed a lease agreement with the United States for the use of Diego Garcia until 2036.

Richard Gowan, UN director for the International Crisis Group, described the vote as “an embarrassing moment for the UK” as Britain seeks to show that it remains an influential global player post-Brexit.

African countries sought to frame the dispute over the Chagos as an issue of decolonisation.

Addressing the assembly ahead of the vote, Mauritius Prime Minister Pravind Kumar Jugnauth said UN member states must send “a clear signal to the world that colonialism can no longer be tolerated.”

Australia, Hungary, Israel and the Maldives voted “no” alongside Britain and the United States. The vast majority of European countries abstained except for Spain which backed the resolution as did Russia and China.

It was the second time in two years that Britain has had to defend its rule of the Chagos Islands at the United Nations.

In 2017, only 15 countries including Britain and the US voted to oppose a request for the ICJ ruling.

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University applications could be after A-levels

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Universities are considering whether to shift the timetable of the admissions system so that applications would take place after students have their A-level results.

A review into the admissions process has been launched by Universities UK.

It will examine whether it would be fairer to move away from a system based on predicted exam grades.

Paul Cottrell, head of the UCU lecturers’ union, said an “overhaul of university admissions is long overdue”.

The review, to be chaired by Paddy Nixon, vice-chancellor of Ulster University, says it will “draw on best practice from across the UK”.

But universities in Scotland have run their own review of admissions, with an emphasis on ensuring access for applicants from deprived areas.

Fairer choices

Universities have been under pressure over entry systems – with criticism over the increasing use of unconditional offers, in which students commit to a university place in return for being accepted regardless of their exam results.

Unconditional offers give universities more certainty over their recruitment numbers and finances – but there are concerns this is achieved at the cost of “pressure-selling” tactics on students.

There have also been challenges over whether disadvantaged students have fair access into the most selective universities.

The review, due to report back next spring, will look again at the findings of an inquiry carried out under the Labour government, which called for applications to be made after A-level results – changing to what is called “post-qualification admissions”.

At present, students apply and narrow down their selections before they take their A-levels – and universities make offers using the grades predicted by their schools.

But most predicted grades are incorrect and there have been arguments that students would make better informed choices and rely less on guesswork if they could apply after they knew their results.

There have also been social-mobility arguments that under the current system some disadvantaged youngsters might not even apply to universities their subsequent results might have allowed them to enter.

The Sutton Trust education charity has called for an end to the use of predicted grades, with figures showing almost three-quarters of students did not achieve the grades they had been predicted.

‘Remove barriers’

This change to a post-results system has been proposed before but a stumbling block has been whether this would mean an earlier start for school exams or a delayed start for beginning university.

The Ucas admissions system allows for some changes after results, in the “clearing” and “adjustment” processes, but there have been calls for a more comprehensive restructuring of admissions.

“There is growing support for a shift to a post-qualification admissions system,” said Mr Cottrell, acting leader of the UCU lecturers’ union.

“Our research shows such a move would not only be fairer for students, it would bring the UK into line with the rest of the world and eliminate the use of controversial unconditional offers and the chaotic clearing process,” he said.

The chief executive of Universities UK, Alistair Jarvis, said the review would help “to build greater levels of transparency, trust and public understanding in admissions practices”.

The higher education watchdog, the Office for Students, is to launch its own review of admissions in England later this year.

Chief executive Nicola Dandridge said the aim would be to “remove barriers to disadvantaged applicants, and to promote transparency and clarity about admissions and offer-making processes”.

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Broken promises: Houses are cracking over old coal mine where diggers risk their lives for cash

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Residents of Blaauwbosch village in Newcastle, who live near an old coal mine where informal mining takes place, say they are fed up with empty promises by the government and local politicians. They told GroundUp they want to be moved elsewhere.

The residents say the walls of their houses are cracking because of the informal – and illegal – mining activity. Over 50 households are affected.

Mzamo High School, which was near the mine, was relocated by the KwaZulu-Natal Department of Education at a cost of R37m, and reopened in February 2017. Residents say they have been left behind.

“Many promises have been made to us, and we are now fed up,” said resident Msi Mavuso. “We are still living under dangerous conditions. Our houses are so cracked, they can fall in at any moment.

“For years, we have been promised by the local authorities that we would be moved to a safe place, but nothing has been done,” he said.

“Some have managed to move to other safe places and rebuild their homes, but not all of us can afford that because most of us are unemployed and struggling to make ends meet in this village,” said Mavuso.

As far as GroundUp can tell, people in the area discovered the coal in the 1980s and digging has been taking place at this site since then. But we cannot confirm this.


“Illegal coal diggers risk their lives everyday for coal digging”


Elderly resident Vusi Manana said: “Illegal coal diggers risk their lives everyday for coal digging to eke out a living because of a high rate of unemployment in this area. No one will stop them; even the government departments have failed. They won’t stop digging. What we are asking for as residents… is to be moved to a safe place.

“In every election campaign, the politicians come here and make promises to us that we would be moved from this area, but after elections they never come back. They did the same even in this year’s election campaigns.”

Kaizer Mbuli, one of hundreds of informal coal diggers, said: “I have been doing this since I was a young boy. We know that what we are doing is illegal, but we have no choice. This is our livelihood. We support our families.” He has two children.

The informal miners also dig up different types of soil, mix them together and make bricks. They dig the coal in order to bake the bricks.

Nothando Dub, spokesperson for Sisonke Environmental Justice Network, a community organisation based in Newcastle, said that it had “inspected the living conditions of the residents of Blaauwbosch living near the coal mine” and taken the matter up with the Department of Mineral Resources.

Ward 18 councillor Dolly Mnguni said that a housing project would start later this year and that there were plans to move the residents who were living near the coal mine.

The Department of Mineral Resources said that it had inspected the site and intended to rehabilitate it, but that officials from the department had been prevented from entering the area.

“The department will continue to try and gain access to the area and work with the provincial government to find sustainable solutions for the affected households.”

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Rustenburg holds public city manager interviews – SABC News

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Rustenburg Local Municipality in the North West is holding public interviews for a municipal manager in efforts to turn the city around.

The municipality has one of the biggest budgets of all the municipalities in the province. It also contributes at least 21% to the GDP of the province from a host of mining and industrial activities.

However, its success has been clouded by allegations of mismanagement and rampant corruption.

The previous municipal manager, whose office was raided by the Hawks for alleged tender corruption, resigned in May, after merely two years in office.

The public participation interview initiative is aimed at starting on a clean slate to foster transparency.

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