Wednesday, February 21, 2018

Outbreak of Optimism in South Africa May Spur IPOs, Bourse Says
By Neo Khanyile
February 21, 2018, 11:55 AM EST
Africa News

‘Some good IPOs in the pipeline,’ CEO Newton-King says
JSE Ltd. had ‘challenging year,’ cut its staff by 24%

The operator of Johannesburg’s stock exchange expects improved sentiment following Cyril Ramaphosa’s election as South African president to encourage companies to sell shares in initial public offerings this year.

Ramaphosa, who succeeded Jacob Zuma last week, is expected to oversee improved management of Africa’s most-industrialized economy. Bourse operator JSE Ltd., which handled 21 new listings in 2017, could see some of that positivity materialize in IPOs and new exchange-traded funds, Chief Executive Officer Nicky Newton-King said in an interview on Wednesday.

“When things are more positive, then entrepreneurs and boards of directors feel more inclined to come to the public market,” Newton-King said. “We never talk exactly on this, but we’ve got some good IPOs in the pipeline and some interesting ETFs. But let’s see when they come to market.”

The South African rand has gained 12 percent against the dollar, more than any other major currency, since Ramaphosa won a contest to lead the ruling African National Congress in December. Last week was the Johannesburg benchmark stock index’s best in more than eight years as the new president was sworn in.

The JSE will receive a further boost when Old Mutual Plc, the insurer that started in South Africa more than 150 years ago, ends the primary listing it has had in London since 1999 in exchange for one in Johannesburg, Newton-King said. “We’re soon going to welcome Old Mutual, so that’s going to be really nice to have them come home.”

She spoke after the bourse operator reported results for a “challenging year” in which operating revenue fell 5 percent to 2.2 billion rand ($189 million) and it cut staff by 24 percent to 364, according to a filing.
South Africa's Ramaphosa Promises to Accelerate Land Redistribution
Reuters

South Africa president Cyril Ramaphosa has promised to accelerate the redistribution of land to black populations in the country.

Ramaphosa on Tuesday insisted on the need to carry out a reform intended to “heal the wounds of the past and to redistribute land to Blacks.

“ We will not allow smash and grab interventions, that we will not allow. We will handle this matter in the same way that we have always handled all difficult issues in our country,” he said.

We will not allow smash and grab interventions, that we will not allow. We will handle this matter in the same way that we have always handled all difficult issues in our country.

According to a recent study, agriculture remains largely in the hands of the descendants of the settlers. The white farmers held 73% of the land, against 85% at the end of apartheid.

“If there has ever been anything that many South Africans would like to have line of sight of , is the lifestyle audit of their public representatives. Now that is something I believe we have to do and this will be done starting with the executive of the country. Yes, we will go in that way,” he added.

The new president also said he is “determined” to “heal the wounds” of the massacre of Marikana, when 34 minors were killed by the police in 2012 in a mine belonging to the society which he was an administrator.
South Africa Just Raised Its Sales Tax for the First Time in 25 Years Amid Political Upheaval
South Africa will increase its VAT for the first time in 25 years as part of an attempt to reduce its budget deficit.

South Africa's annual budget, delivered by Finance Minister Malusi Gigaba on Wednesday, is the first under new President Cyril Ramaphosa.

Justina Crabtree | @jlacrabtree
CNBC.com

South African President Cyril Ramaphosa and Finance Minister Malusi Gigaba during a pre-World Economic Forum briefing on January 18, 2018, in Johannesburg, South Africa.
Moeletsi Mabe | Sunday Times | Gallo Images | Getty Images

South Africa is to increase its value added tax (VAT) for the first time in 25 years in order to help bridge a gap in the government's budget.

The news came as part of Finance Minister Malusi Gigaba's first annual budget in the South African Parliament in Cape Town. The speech also marked the first budget under new South African President Cyril Ramaphosa.

South Africa's VAT, which has remained constant since 1993, will increase to 15 percent from 14 percent as of April 1 this year. This is part of the Treasury's attempt to shrink its budget deficit, which stands at 4.3 percent of gross domestic product (GDP) in the 2017/18 fiscal year.

Last week saw momentous political change in Africa's most developed economy as Ramaphosa took over as president following former President Jacob Zuma's resignation. Ramaphosa is viewed favourably by the business community, not least for his pledge to fight the corruption that plagued Zuma's administration — of which Zuma denies wrongdoing.

The U.S. dollar fell against the South African rand on news of the VAT hike, and was trading over 0.7 percent lower immediately after the news.

"This is a tough, but hopeful budget," Gigaba said, as reported by Reuters.

"We decided that increasing VAT was unavoidable if we are to maintain the integrity of our public finances," he added.

South Africa's Treasury intends for its consolidated deficit to fall to 3.5 percent of GDP by the fiscal year of 2020/21. It also revised its projection of GDP growth for 2017 to 1 percent, up from the previous 0.7 percent figure.
Don’t Get Ahead of Yourselves – Ramaphosa to Opposition on Cabinet
20 FEB, 2018 - 03:02 

CAPE TOWN. – President Cyril Ramaphosa has reined in opposition demands of a prospective Cabinet reshuffle, saying an announcement on a new Cabinet will be made by him “at the appropriate time”.

President Ramaphosa took to the podium in the National Assembly yesterday to address both Houses of Parliament during his State of the Nation Address (SONA) reply. This after parties debated his SONA on Monday for a marathon 10 hours.

When the time came to address one of the most common themes in the debate – the composition of a new Cabinet – Ramaphosa was quite critical of opposition parties in their “attacks” on ministers.

“Whatever views one might hold about members of Cabinet, this does not justify in any way the kind of character assassination and insults we have heard,” he told the House.

African National Congress MPs applauded him as he spoke. Social Development Minister Bathabile Dlamini looked up from her desk and listened intently.

Opposition parties have made a strong call for President Ramaphosa to reshuffle his Cabinet and axe some ministers, especially those who have been linked to the controversial Gupta family. The House then fell silent in anticipation.

“On the matter of the composition of Cabinet, an announcement will be made by the president at the appropriate time,” he said.

Groans then came from the opposition benches, which were soon replaced by the same sense of anticipation. So, don’t get ahead of yourselves, he said off speech. “It will be addressed and when it is addressed, it will be addressed very carefully without any noisy interventions that I am hearing on this left-hand side,” he said with a smile.

“Lock them up!” shouted one male Democratic Alliance MP.

As for President Ramaphosa’s promise to review the size and configuration of his Cabinet, he said that would be a much longer process.

“Changes of this nature need to be well considered, they should be evidence-based and should not be made in haste.”

It will therefore take several months, he said, but will definitely include broad consultation, including with opposition parties. To this, the opposition benches applauded.

President Ramaphosa also ended this section of his speech by indicating that lifestyle audits for public officials were on the horizon.

“It is time that we implement our resolutions on the conduct of lifestyle audits of all people who occupy positions of responsibility, starting with members of the executive.”

Police Minister Fikile Mbalula had also indicated to him earlier that senior member of the South African Police Service had also volunteered to undergo the same procedures.

“Lock them up!” the same DA MP shouted one more time.

– News24
Why is Ramaphosa Hosting Private Dinner for Zuma?
20 FEB, 2018 - 03:02

JOHANNESBURG. – President Cyril Ramaphosa was expected to host a dinner yesterday evening in honour of his predecessor former president Jacob Zuma.

The Presidency’s Tyrone Seale confirmed that President Ramaphosa would be hosting a private dinner for former President Zuma and his Cabinet, amid talks of a looming Cabinet reshuffle.

The cocktail affair, set to be taking place at Tuynhuys in Cape Town was meant to bid farewell to Cde Zuma and members of his executive. Cde Zuma resigned last week, following “transitional” talks between himself and the ANC’s newly-elected leadership collective.

Former president Zuma was not present for President Ramaphosa’s election, nor his maiden State of the Nation Address. In an exclusive interview with the SABC, just hours before he resigned, Cde Zuma questioned the ANC leadership’s decision to recall him as South Africa’s head of state and said he was not defying the movement, but disagreed with its leaders.

He also claimed he was not provided with reasons to explain why the NEC had recalled him.

Attempts to confirm Zuma’s attendance were unsuccessful. News24’s resident analyst Ralph Mathekga said it was odd that President Ramaphosa was hosting a dinner in honour of the controversial former president.

“Is this for KwaZulu-Natal? Is he trying to say, don’t worry, we are throwing a party for Zuma, we will protect him,” questioned Mathekga.

He said it was clear that the ANC had no intention of publicly distancing itself away from the former president, which he said could cost President Ramaphosa.

“Maybe they are trying to curb the nation’s excitement and say there is actually no new dawn – or even to deal with Zuma, to manage him,” speculated Mathekga.

They might have to say he was great once in a while, even though they know he is not, the analyst said.

Mathekga said he believed the move could also be an attempt to show KZN that Cde Zuma, who is from that province, was still valued by the movement, in a bid to retain support from one of the country’s largest provinces come election time in 2019.

“If you are in trouble in KZN when it comes to the elections, then you are in trouble in the whole country,” he said.

Mathekga questioned the timing, saying there were other matters Ramaphosa should be focusing on which were more urgent than allaying the fears of Zuma supporters.

– News24
African Union Gives Zimbabwe Thumbs Up
21 FEB, 2018 - 00:02
Photo: AU Commission chairperson Mr Moussa Faki Mahamat
Felex Share Senior Reporter

Zimbabwe did not experience a coup, and the world should respect the country’s decision, as the new political leadership is implementing reforms that are giving people more freedom and democracy, the African Union (AU) has said.

Addressing journalists at the end of his three-day visit to Harare yesterday, AU Commission chairperson Mr Moussa Faki Mahamat said his delegation had been satisfied with the peaceful situation on the ground. The AU, he said, would help Zimbabwe overcome the sanctions-induced economic challenges it was facing.

“Zimbabweans have been asking for more freedom and more democracy and the authorities of the transition have responded positively,” said Mr Faki.

“You are aware that this country has been subjected to two decades of sanctions, so we need to work together so that this country can really harness the potential it has for economic development and so that Zimbabwe can play its role, not only at the regional level, but at continental level.

“I am satisfied with the visit we have had and together with the authorities of Zimbabwe we have taken stock of the situation that obtains.”

Mr Faki added: “The authorities of Zimbabwe have committed themselves to various actions and opening up the political and democratic space so that free and fair elections are conducted in the country.”

He said Zimbabwe’s decision to undergo a transition should be respected by everyone, as no laws were violated.

“Everybody has noted that the transition has been peaceful, according to the laws of the land. It is the responsibility of the AU to support and accompany countries in such situations to ensure there is peace and stability,” said Mr Faki.

“All others have to respect the sovereignty and decisions of the country. If there is any unconstitutional change of Government then we also have our instruments. We have our rules that apply in that case. We are here to support the country in transition, a transition that has been publicly supported by the people of Zimbabwe.”

Mr Faki said the AU would work with the Zimbabwe Electoral Commission to ensure the forthcoming harmonised elections are free and fair. He said the continental bloc would chip-in with technical support.

“We have experts sent by the (AU) political affairs department, and normally a team is sent some 30 to 45 days before the election to work with the organ in charge of conducting elections,” said Mr Faki.

He said the impending polls would give Zimbabwe “a greater space for democracy and development.”

Mr Faki held a private meeting with former President Cde Robert Mugabe on Monday, whom he said told him that he resigned for the development of the country.
ED Meets Equatorial Guinea Envoy
21 FEB, 2018 - 00:02 
Fidelis Munyoro Chief Court Reporter
Zimbabwe Herald

Equatorial Guinea has pledged to continue working with the new administration in Zimbabwe and take the bilateral ties to new heights.

This emerged after visiting Equatorial Guinea special envoy Mr Gabriel Lima Obiang delivered a special message to President Mnangagwa at his Munhumutapa offices in Harare yesterday.

After the meeting, Mr Obiang told journalists that Equatorial Guinea President Teodoro Obiang Nguema Mbasogo, had extended an invitation to President Mnangagwa to visit that country.

“We also came here to congratulate the President and the people of Zimbabwe for the way they handled the transition leading to the new dispensation,” said Mr Obiang.

“We wish him the best and we are proud of what he is doing both in Government and internationally. As Africans we are proud of what the President has done, proud of the Zimbabweans for the way they handled their affairs.”

Mr Obiang, who is also his country’s Minister of Mines, reiterated the country’s support for Zimbabwe, saying they viewed the Southern African country as a good place for investment.

“In the future, we want to see Equatorial Guinea investing in various sectors of the economy in Zimbabwe,” he said.

Mr Obiang said soon, both countries were expected to initiate high-level meetings as part of strengthening the bilateral cooperation.

Ties between Harare and Malabo were strengthened in 2004 when Zimbabwe foiled an attempted coup by mercenaries to topple President Nguema and replace him with exiled opposition leader and Spanish-based Severe Moto.

Zimbabwean security forces arrested British mercenary Simon Mann and 69 others at Robert Gabriel Mugabe International Airport when they landed to pick up weapons, while on their way to overthrow President Nguema’s government.
Zanu-PF Youth League to Honor Former President Mugabe
21 FEB, 2018
Herald Reporters

The Zanu-PF Youth League will today mark National Youth Day with various activities to commemorate former President Robert Gabriel Mugabe’s contribution to the liberation and development of the country.

This was said by Zanu-PF secretary for Youth Affairs Cde Pupurai Togarepi in an interview on the sidelines of an ongoing ideological training workshop for students held in conjunction with the Zimbabwe Congress of Students Union at the University of Zimbabwe yesterday.

“Tomorrow is going to be Youth Day, so youth will be doing charity work and will be associating with each other, discussing development issues, issues that challenge them and we are also going to have time to interact with these students tomorrow and reflect on this training they have gone through,” he said.

“We are going to be listening to the youths, they have their own issues they want to convey to the leadership of the party and we will give them a platform to talk to the leadership. That time of us going to rallies is gone, our new dispensation is going to be interactive, so tomorrow is going to be the starting point for us.”

Cde Togarepi described Cde Mugabe as a hero who had done a lot for the country’s development, adding that a youth delegation is expected to visit the former President at his home today.

“He is our hero, he is our icon,” he said.

“He is somebody who has contributed to the development of this country immensely.

“So, this day came about recognising him as our leader and what he has done for this country.

“So you cannot celebrate the Youth Day without including Robert Mugabe in the process, so we are going to celebrate with him in mind and where possible some of our youths will be going there to sing happy birthday with him. Toenda ne ma bhosvo ikoko kunocelebrata nemukuru wedu, tinomuda.”

Meanwhile, Zimbabwe Service Commissions chairman Dr Mariyawanda Nzuwah has confirmed that today is a public holiday with respect to public officers as gazetted by President Mnangagwa on November 24 in Statutory Instrument Number 143 of 2017.

“Accordingly, Wednesday, 21st February is a Public Holiday with respect to public officers,” Dr Nzuwah said.

He said all public officers were expected to work the whole day yesterday and report for duty tomorrow, adding any violation of office hours would be considered an act of misconduct.

Calls for former President Mugabe’s birthday to be made a national holiday were adopted by Government in August last year, following intense lobbying by the Zanu-PF Youth League.

The day coincides with the 21st February Movement celebrations meant to commemorate the principles and ideals that former President Mugabe stood for.

The 21st February Movement was formed in 1986.

Speaking during his acceptance speech at his inauguration as the second Executive President of Zimbabwe last year, President Mnangagwa indicated that the former President needed to be accorded the respect and recognition he deserved as one of the founders and leaders of Zimbabwe.
Zimbabwe Government to Fulfill Pledges to Tsvangirai
19 FEB, 2018
Zimbabwe Herald

President Mnangagwa consoles Mr Morgan Tsvangirai’s mother Mbuya Lydia Chibwe Tsvangirai and other mourners at the MDC-T leader’s residence in Highlands, Harare yesterday. — (Picture by Presidential Photographer Joseph Nyadzayo)

Zvamaida Murwira and Audrey Rundofa

PRESIDENT Mnangagwa yesterday assured the family of MDC-T leader Mr Morgan Tsvangirai that Government will fulfil the pledges he made to the politician regarding his welfare. President Mnangagwa said Government will consult with the family to see how the promises he made to the former Prime Minister could be fulfilled.

The Head of State and Government and Commander-in-Chief of the Zimbabwe Defence Forces (ZDF) said this when he visited Mr Tsvangirai’s Highlands residence in Harare to pay his condolences following the MDC-T leader’s death at a South African hospital last Wednesday.

President Mnangagwa was accompanied by his two deputies, General Constantino Chiwenga (Retired) and Kembo Mohadi, Government ministers and senior Government officials.

He said during his visit to Mr Tsvangirai’s residence last month, the politician raised some concerns and requests he wanted addressed and as the Head of State and Government, he had acceded to them and would ensure that they are fulfilled.

“He gave me a list of things he wanted addressed that time and I gave him my word that the issues would be addressed,” said President Mnangagwa.

“I will keep my promise. His requests would be honoured. When we are done with the burial, I will come and talk to my uncles — the Tsvangirai family.

“I will come here and explain what he requested and all that I promised him. I will explain all what I said and promised to each and every request he made. I will also come with my Vice Presidents, they shall be present when I come. I will honour those promises that I made to him.”

President Mnangagwa said the Tsvangirai family were his uncles by totem, since he was a nephew of the “Dziva” clan.

Government, he said, would help in the settlement of the medical bills that accrued.

“Vaenda uku (South Africa) ndakazonzwa futi shoko rouya nemudzimai zvichinzi ah, kuno kwaita mabill akati kuti,” he said. “Ikoko, ah todii? Tinotsigira, ndikaudza Hurumende yangu. System yayo kuti pakurapwa kwaformer Prime Minister wedu isusu seHurumende, tichabatsira, vahanzvadzi munozongouya kwatiri togadzirisa zvamataura seHurumende.”

President Mnangagwa was responding to concerns raised earlier on by a family member, Ms Bryline Chitsunge, that a hospital bill to the tune of R2 million (US$172 000) had accrued.

He said he was constantly briefed about Mr Tsvangirai’s condition and had directed doctors to help in the best way possible to ensure that he recovered.

Government, President Mnangagwa said, would continue assisting the family to ensure a decent burial for Mr Tsvangirai, including provision of an aircraft to ferry the body to his rural home in Buhera today. The burial is set for tomorrow.

President Mnangagwa said he felt duty-bound to bury political differences and unite with the MDC-T family in mourning, since Mr Tsvangirai was not only a political party leader, but a national leader given that he was once a Prime Minister of the country during the inclusive government.

“Zviri kwamuri kana matipa programme kuti vanofamba sei,” said President Mnangagwa. “Tichazobatsira zvekare nendege dzedu kuvatakura kuvasvitsa kumusha kwamuri kuzovachengeta nokuti tinofana kukudzana. Zvematongerwo enyika zvoramba zvichingovapo kana taenda ikoko tomarana asi kana tasvika kune zvemhuri tiri vanhu vamwe. Hatifanire kuzoti tamarana uku, saka kana nepange pane rufu, toramba tichimarana. Kwete.

“Ini semutungamiri kuparty kwangu kana kuHurumende, ndine shoko rekuti ngatibatanei, ngatishandei pamwe chete ngatiwiriranei. Inyaya yekungoti handei tinorima. Mumwe oti, ngatirime nemombe, umwe woti ngatirime nechipani chine six, mumwe woti chine four. Umwe woti tractor ndorakanaka. Umwe woti aiwa dry planting, kwasiyana maitiro asi tese tine chido chokurima kuti tiwane zvokudya asi torima sei, ndonyaya, ndopanopinda zvinhu izvi.”

Earlier on, Mr Tsvangirai’s brother, Collins, gave an account of his brother’s illness. He said when he went to South Africa last month, he had anticipated to stay for a shorter period, but ended up staying for a month hoping that his brother would recover.

He thanked Government for the assistance rendered to the family in repatriating the body. “When my brother died, I overheard some nurses whispering among themselves saying how are these people going to raise money for the repatriation of the body,” said Collins. “Had it not been for Government’s assistance, we would have been in South Africa trying to mobilise resources.”

Collins said his brother had shown signs of improvement on Sunday, three days before his death, only to deteriorate the following day. “During the last day, his temperature had dropped to 34,7 degrees Celsius,” he said. “His heart and kidneys were no longer functioning well.”

Speaking at a memorial service at the Methodist Church in Mabelreign, Harare, Speaker of the National Assembly Advocate Jacob Mudenda described Mr Tsvangirai as an icon of democracy. “As a Prime Minister, he brought some breath of fresh air and tolerance and nobody can take that away from him,” he said.
Violence Mars Tsvangirai Burial
21 FEB, 2018 - 00:02 
Zvamaida Murwira in BUHERA
Zimbabwe Herald

VIOLENCE reared its ugly head at MDC-T leader Mr Morgan Tsvangirai’s burial here yesterday, with rowdy party youths threatening to torch a thatched hut in which the party’s co-vice president Dr Thokozani Khupe and secretary-general Mr Douglas Mwonzora had sought refuge after being assaulted.

Quick reaction by the police, who moved in to disperse the rowdy youths, saved the situation. Police escorted the pair to a nearby primary school’s grounds from where they then followed the proceedings.

The youths considered Dr Khupe and Mr Mwonzora as obstacles to co-vice president Mr Nelson Chamisa’s road to leading the party. This came as Mr Tsvangirai’s uncle Mr Innocent Zvaipa assaulted a University of Zimbabwe student at the graveyard in full view of mourners for photographing Mr Tsvangirai’s mother, Gogo Lydia Tsvangirai.

On arrival at Mr Tsvangirai’s homestead, Dr Khupe and Mr Mwonzora had to scurry for cover as the youths bayed for their blood in front of mourners and dignitaries that included ambassadors from Western countries and Mr Tsvangirai’s close friend and Kenyan opposition leader Raila Odinga.

Dr Khupe was heckled by youths who protested against her presence at the burial, when she was boycotting party meetings in Harare. Dr Khupe has boycotted meetings convened by Adv Chamisa in protest over what she feels is his unconstitutional rise to power.

She was jeered on her arrival, together with Mr Mwonzora. They were manhandled before the police intervened and whisked them away to a hut at Mr Tsvangirai’s homestead. That was when the youths threatened to torch the hut.

When Dr Khupe eventually joined proceedings at the school grounds, she wept uncontrollably and had to be comforted by MDC-T national treasurer Mrs Theresa Makone and the party’s women’s assembly chairperson Mrs Lynette Karenyi.

Away from Dr Khupe and Mr Mwonzora plight, Mr Tsvangirai’s uncle Mr Innocent Zvaipa assaulted a University of Zimbabwe female student at the graveyard for photographing Mr Tsvangirai’s mother, Gogo Lydia Tsvangirai.

MDC-T acting president Nelson Chamisa sits next to Kenya’s National Super Alliance (NASA) leader Raila Odinga in Buhera today.

Mr Zvaipa slapped Ms Nyaradzo Mutize three times before he was restrained by the Tsvangirai family led by Mr Tsvangirai’s brother, Manase.

Ms Mutize was forced to delete all the pictures of Gogo Tsvangirai that she had captured. She was also detained for close to 40 minutes under intense interrogation by Mr Tsvangirai’s family members.

Gogo Tsvangirai has made headlines after she threatened to commit suicide if Adv Chamisa and Ms Elizabeth Macheka attended her son’s funeral.

There was also an exchange of harsh words between the Tsvangirai family members led by the deceased’s brother Collin and Adv Chamisa. The misunderstanding delayed the removal of the coffin from the hearse for over 30 minutes.

Collin was insisting that the coffin be returned to the homestead to allow traditional rites to be undertaken, while Adv Chamisa felt proceedings should go ahead in the interest of time, as rains were beginning to build. Collin and his younger brother Manase stuck to their guns, forcing Adv Chamisa to make a public apology.

In an interview soon after Mr Tsvangirai’s burial, Manase expressed concern over the conduct of MDC-T leadership who authorised the removal of the hearse from their homestead to nearby school grounds without the family’s knowledge.

“We were preparing the programme on who was going to speak when we suddenly heard that the hearse had already been removed from our homestead to Makanda Primary School, the venue of the funeral wake,” he said.

“That had the effect of creating us problems because we had not performed any cultural rites like informing our in-laws. That omission can cast a bad spell in the family.”

Responding to the rowdy and unbecoming behaviour of MDC-T members, Adv Chamisa implored people to be united.

“Let us respect each other,” he said. “We want to be united and we do not want violence even after gathering.”

The MDC-T supporters failed to respect leaders of other political parties such Cde Oppah Muchinguri (Zanu-PF national chairman), who were among dignitaries that came to bury Mr Tsvangirai. They intermittently interjected Cde Muchinguri-Kashiri when she gave her speech and Adv Chamisa had to restrain them.

The spectre of violence at Mr Tsvangirai received widespread condemnation yesterday, with Mr Mwonzora tweeting: “The attack on @Dr Thoko Khupe by a gang of sponsored and drunken goons at Dr Tsvangirai’s funeral was outrageous and sadistic. It was tribal, sexist and totally unacceptable.”

The US Embassy in Harare also condemned the violence in a statement on twitter.

“The US Gov strongly condemns the violence that occurred today @ the funeral for Morgan Tsvangirai,” said the embassy. “He stood in opposition of such violence & there exists no place for these types of actions today in Zimbabwe, as the country moves forward.”

Activist Mr Dehwa Mavhinga also castigated the acts of violence and challenged Adv Chamisa to institute investigations and bring the culprits to book.

He tweeted: “#RIPTsvangirai @nelsonchamisa spoke against political violence at Tsvangirai funeral, he must go further & ensure those who harassed & threatened violence against @DouglasMwonzora @ T Khupe are investigated & punished. No to violence.”

Tuesday, February 20, 2018

Oshakati Bomb Survivor Zaaruka Opens Up After 30 Years
February 20, 2018
Nuusita Ashipala
New Era

Oshakati-Multi-millionaire businessman Ben Zaaruka, who survived the mysterious 1988 Barclays Bank bomb blast at Oshakati but lost his fiancée in the attack, yesterday said a “white man” could have been behind the deadly explosion.

Mystery continues to shroud the fatal incident, but many senior leaders in Namibia today believe the attack formed part of the brutal strategy of the colonial regime to cause confusion and sow fear among Namibian people.

Twenty-seven people died in the attack, while several others were maimed.

Zaaruka, speaking publicly about the incident for the first time in 30 years, said his fiancée at the time, Johanna Onesmus, who died a week after the attack due to severe injuries, told him that she saw a white man dropping a bag in the bank moments before the deadly explosion.

“She said a white man, dressed in shorts, dropped a bag in the bank and left. I am not saying the white man had a bomb in that thing [bag],” said Zaaruka yesterday at Oshakati.

He made the revelation when the attack was commemorated yesterday, speaking publicly on what could happened prior to the Oshakati bomb blast on February 19, 1988.

Zaaruka said his fiancée told him this two days before she passed away on February 26, 1988.
According to Zaaruka, his fiancée observed a man with a bag filling in a bank receipt before he dropped the bag on the floor. But before Onesmus could tell the white man that he was leaving his bag behind, having presumably forgotten it, she was struck by the shrapnel from the explosion.

Strangely, said Zaaruka, there were no police or army personnel in sight at the bank, as they only showed up an hour later after he and other civilians had transported the injured to hospital.

“I stayed away for 30 years because it was war, we could not talk about those things,” said Zaaruka, who himself was at the bank but survived the explosion.

Zaaruka had met his fiancée at the bank that day as she needed assistance before she would travel to Lüderitz.

He said he had previously shared the story with close acquaintances.

He has ugly vivid images of arms and legs lying around and a body sliced in half requesting assistance, he told those in attendance yesterday.

He recalls lying almost three metres from the door on his back, motionless, with money flying around.

“Next to me I saw a body cut in half with only the top part saying I am in pain, I need help.  The bottom part of the body was not there, and that is when I drew the courage to sit up,” said Zaaruka.

Speaking at the event, former president Hifikepunye Pohamba said the attack on the bank was politically motivated and joined Zaaruka in suspecting the white apartheid regime of planting a bomb as those who were in charge of security were nowhere to be found.

“Perhaps what that man carried is what caused the death of our people,” said Pohamba.
“It was an attack designed to sow the seeds of fear among Namibian people at the time when the attainment of our independence was approaching,” said Pohamba.

Speaker after speaker hailed and asked the nation to uphold the spirit of reconciliation.
Pohamba also appealed to the nation to reject tribalism, calling on those with issues hindering them to come to the table and talk, saying that tribalism is dangerous and not good for any country.

The governor of Oshana region Clemens Kashuupulwa also called on the nation to strive for national reconciliation as a precondition for economic emancipation.

The event was graced by the presence of a number of politicians and clergymen.
Namibia: Qualified Teachers Demand Removal of Unqualified Ones
By Albertina Nakale
New Era

Windhoek — Over 500 qualified teachers who are roaming the streets without jobs are demanding that the government removes all the unqualified teachers in public schools with immediate effect so that they can occupy those positions.

The qualified but unemployed teachers also demand that the government, through respective regions, should conduct a survey to collect data to find out which schools have unqualified teachers and remove them "as soon as possible from those posts and call in qualified ones".

The unemployed graduates from the University of Namibia last month wrote a letter to the education ministry permanent secretary, Sanet Steenkamp, expressing their dismay that unqualified teachers occupy teaching posts at their expense.

Initially the government was concerned about the shortage of teachers when it introduced the system of In-Service Training (INSET) at Unam and awarded a five-year contract to unqualified teachers.

Currently, close to 1,000 practicing junior primary teachers are enrolled in the programme, with the same number again to be enrolled each year over the next three years.

The unemployed graduates are up in arms that the government is responsible for the study fees of those that are in INSET and yet they are earning their monthly salaries which makes it hard for the new graduates to secure employment.

They demand that the INSET programme be halted as the country is producing more qualified teachers each year.

They say those that are in the programme should go for full-time studies.

"The posts that currently have unqualified teachers should be terminated and replace them with those that are qualified. Directors must not sign recommendation forms for unqualified teachers that principals bring to them, by this reason they are taking advantage of those that are qualified, but are not related to principals, it's hard for those teachers to be recommended by principals (sic)," the teachers petitioned.

Steenkamp, in an interview with New Era yesterday, rejected these demands, saying they cannot remove these unqualified teachers because they are on a five-year contract.

"I discussed the issue with one person who came to my office to drop the letter. I explained the recruitment process to him. I told him that some of their demands cannot be met because one of the demands is that we cancel the contracts that we have with INSET which we cannot do. It's an employment contract that we have with the prime minister's office," Steenkamp responded.

She said they have shared the list of names of these qualified teachers with the regional directors that should any position be open, they will be called based on their area and field of specialization.

In December, the Khomas Directorate of Education, Arts and Culture cancelled 75 teaching vacancies from the initially advertised 409 vacancies.

These cancelled vacancies include about 19 head of department posts and 56 teaching posts.

This also comes at a time when the government had just announced that over 2,500 teaching posts are up for grabs following immense pressure from students led by Teachers Union of Namibia (TUN) secretary general Mahongora Kavihuha to release the delayed annual Teaching Vacancy Bulletin for 2018.
Raúl Receives Namibian Prime Minister
The two leaders held a friendly conversation discussing the excellent relations shared by their peoples and governments, and reaffirmed their intention to work on strengthening these ties

Author: Granma | internet@granma.cu
February 16, 2018 08:02:26
Photo: Estudio Revolución

Army General Raúl Castro Ruz, President of Cuba's Councils of State and Ministers, yesterday February 15, received her Excellency Saara Kuugongelwa-Amadhila, Prime Minister of the Republic of Namibia, who is making an official visit to our country.

The two leaders held a friendly conversation discussing the excellent relations shared by their peoples and governments, and reaffirmed their intention to work on strengthening these ties. They also addressed a variety of issues on the current international agenda.

Accompanying the distinguished guest were Peya Mushelenga, minister of Yrban and Rural Development, and Namibia's ambassador in Cuba, Jerobeam Shaanika.

Also participating on the Cuban side were First Vice President Miguel Díaz-Canel Bermúdez; Minister of Foreign Trade and Investment Rodrigo Malmierca Díaz; and First Deputy Foreign Minister Marcelino Medina González.
Díaz-Canel Receives the Prime Minister of Namibia
During the fraternal meeting, Cuba’s First Vice President thanked Namibia for its support following Hurricane Irma, as well as in the fight against the U.S. blockade

Author: Granma | internet@granma.cu
February 16, 2018 09:02:39
Photo: Ismael Batista

The First Vice President of the Councils of State and Ministers, Miguel Díaz-Canel Bermúdez, received on Thursday, February 15, Her Excellency Saara Kuugongelwa-Amadhila, Prime Minister of the Republic of Namibia, who is on an official visit to the island.

During the fraternal meeting, both sides agreed on the excellent state of bilateral relations and reiterated the will to promote further political ties and cooperation.

Díaz-Canel thanked Namibia for its support following Hurricane Irma, as well as in the fight against the U.S. blockade.

Both politicians also exchanged on topics of interest on the international agenda.

The distinguished African guest was accompanied by Peya Mushelenga, Minister of Urban and Rural Development; Jerobeam Shaanika, Namibian ambassador to Cuba; and Elizabeth Assamany, deputy director of Policy Research of the Office of the Prime Minister, as well as other members of the official delegation.

Participating on the Cuban side were Rogelio Sierra Díaz and Ileana Núñez Mordoche, deputy ministers of Foreign Affairs and Foreign Trade and Investment, respectively; Gisela García Rivera, director of Sub-Saharan Africa at the Cuban Foreign Ministry, and other ministry officials.
Geostrategic Shale
Numerous environmental groups have warned that the Trump administration’s policy of facilitating fracking poses a serious threat to the environment

Author: Elson Concepción Pérez | internet@granma.cu
February 19, 2018 16:02:00
Photo: Pinterest

It’s very clear. The President of the United States, Donald Trump, acts on impulse, with sudden, melodramatic outbursts. He has even described coal produced energy as “clean,” ignoring the harmful effects on the environment.

“We have ended the war on American Energy — and we have ended the war on clean coal. We are now an exporter of energy to the world,” he stated in his State of the Union Address, January 30, 2018.

Beforehand, as he took his first steps as tycoon-President, he described global warming as a “lie,” claiming it was irrational, and promptly turned his back on the Paris Agreement, signed by almost all countries of the world, and applauded by the international community.

He then found it inconsistent with his way of thinking and acting that the major oil-producing countries – read Venezuela and Russia, fundamentally – should benefit from the rising price of oil on the international market. Thus he threw all his weight behind the production of oil and gas through fracking (hydraulic fracturing), extraction from shale rock through the use of large amounts of water and chemicals that pollute the environment and have even been linked to diseases such as cancer.

According to International Energy Agency forecasts, U.S. crude oil production will reach the record figure of ten million barrels per day. It could reach energy self-sufficiency in 2035, through the accelerated extraction of shale oil and gas.

Studies have demonstrated the contamination of surface and subterranean fresh water sources in areas close to where fracking is undertaken, as well as the increase of greenhouse gas emissions.

In one of his Reflections on January 5, 2012, the historic leader of the Cuban Revolution, Comandante en Jefe Fidel Castro, warned that “… exploitation of a platform with six wells can consume 170,000 cubic meters of water and even create harmful effects such as influencing seismic movements, polluting surface and groundwater and affecting the landscape.”

Suffice to say that among the numerous chemicals that are injected with the water to extract this gas are benzene and toluene, which are terribly carcinogenic substances.

As such, numerous environmental groups have warned that the Trump administration’s policy of facilitating fracking poses a serious threat to the environment.

Another measure of the current President is the easing of export restrictions and authorization to drill in protected areas such as Alaska’s Arctic National Wildlife Refuge.

Accusations of all kinds have been voiced throughout the world. A wire from the IPS agency highlights statements by Robert Howarth, professor at Cornell University in New York State, in which he notes that shale gas production generates between 40 and 60 times more greenhouse gas emissions than conventional gas. Due to methane leaks during the fracking process, this method is worse than burning oil or coal, as methane has “105 times the warming potential of CO2 over a 20-year time frame.”

There remains no doubt that Trump and his team are obsessed with saturating the market with U.S.-produced oil, wherever it may come from, even if this means its people are exposed to the most terrible environmental contamination and diseases.

Geostrategic interests come above those of other human beings. Another point for Trump in a Presidential post for which he is obviously not in the least prepared.

GENERO: Report
Internet: The Same for Rich and Poor?
In a scenario in which access to information and telecommunications technologies is limited by the development of each country and people’s ability to pay for and learn to use them, the approval – on December 14 by the U.S. Federal Communications Commission – of the withdrawal of measures established in 2015, that favored net neutrality, opens up new digital divides between rich and poor

Author: Yaditza del Sol González | yadidelsol@granma.cu
February 13, 2018 12:02:37
Photo: Granma

As early as the 1960s, the U.S. Department of Defense had a system that allowed multiple computers located at different universities and research centers in the country to communicate in a single network – the embryo of the great interconnection of networks that we know today as the internet. However, it was not until 1993 that the World Wide Web was put in the public domain.

From then on, and with the creation of Mosaic, the first popular Web browser, and other simple graphic tools for the use of the network, the number of hosts or computer equipment connected to the internet would begin to grow rapidly. So much so that, today, the net is an unavoidable means to access information media, social networks, download files and videos, and even as a source of work.

However, the possibility of using this technology and its contents could start to change, with users having to pay internet service providers more, for the privilege of access.

In 2015, under the Barack Obama administration, the U.S. Federal Communications Commission (FCC) announced the policy known as “net neutrality” to regulate broadband internet providers as a public utility. The regulations prevented companies from blocking websites, or charging for a higher quality, faster service, or certain content. In July, 2017, a new law was proposed including the withdrawal of these measures, which was approved by the FCC last December 14, by three votes to two.

According to El País, the change – presented as “a victory for freedom” – has come from the big suppliers themselves, as telecommunications giants like Comcast, AT&T, and Verizon have aligned with the Trump government to break the legal barrier that prevented them from imposing their will regarding internet traffic and content.

In this sense, the consequences of the change could be deeper than first expected, as the repeal of net neutrality means users are left unprotected and could be forced to pay additional charges, or have to purchase different service packages in order to navigate certain websites.

OPPOSITION

“The withdrawal of neutrality will mean restoring freedom, returning to a better and cheaper Internet. There will still be consumer protection and their access will not be limited. But it is not our job to decide who wins and who loses in the Internet economy. The government will stop regulating how providers should handle themselves, and they will have incentives to face the next generation of networks and services,” FCC Chairman Ajit Pai stated upon announcing the move.

Although the recent measure has its defenders, there are many who claim that the decision poses a threat to the internet, free markets, and online innovation.

An open letter from the “Pioneers for Net Neutrality,” signed by 21 high-profile people - among them Vinton Cerf, considered one of the “fathers” of the internet; Steve Wozniak, co-founder of Apple; Tim Berners-Lee, the inventor of the World Wide Web; and Mitchell Baker, executive chairwoman of the Mozilla Foundation; calls on the FCC to cancel its vote repealing Net Neutrality protections.

“This proposed Order would repeal key network neutrality protections that prevent Internet access providers from blocking content, websites and applications, slowing or speeding up services or classes of service, and charging online services for access or fast lanes to Internet access providers’ customers. The proposed Order would also repeal oversight over other unreasonable discrimination and unreasonable practices,” the letter reads.

It should be mentioned that in mid-November, when the FCC’s proposed Restoring Internet Freedom Order was released, hundreds of U.S. technology companies made public their disagreement.

A statement from Facebook noted “We are disappointed that the proposal announced this week by the FCC fails to maintain the strong net neutrality protections that will ensure the internet remains open for everyone,” the BBC reported.

Meanwhile, the American Sustainable Business Council, representing almost one thousand U.S. firms, filed an open letter with the FCC, noting “We also depend on a strong competitive framework and legal foundation to ensure that Internet service providers (ISPs) cannot discriminate against websites, services, ​​and apps, or impose new fees that harm small​businesses.”

Even within the FCC itself, there were those who expressed their disagreement with the regulations approved December 14.

The Democrat FCC Commissioner Jessica Rosenworcel noted that the “rash decision” puts the FCC “on the wrong side of history, the wrong side of the law, and the wrong side of the American public.”

WITHOUT NET NEUTRALITY REGULATIONS: EXPERIENCES IN OTHER COUNTRIES

An example of what happens when net neutrality regulations are inexistent is the case of Portugal. As a member of the European Union, this country is governed by laws that prohibit companies from reducing the connection speed or blocking access to certain services, however, what is not regulated are certain kinds of pricing schemes in which only certain applications or data are offered without cutting into users’ data plans.

This means that the user can browse the contents of an internet service provider with an open access package, but if he or she wants to access other services outside the range of this operator, they have to pay for additional packages.

In the case of Guatemala, meanwhile, companies offer prepaid packages offering access not only to a set of similar services, but to a single application, Renata Ávila, senior digital rights adviser for the World Wide Web Foundation, told BBC Mundo.

“Many people will have two SIM cards there, because on one SIM card they can access WhatsApp for free, and on another SIM card you access Facebook for free,” she explained.

According to Ávila, this hyper-fragmentation of internet access has the greatest negative impact on those with little money to connect, “which is precisely the user that must be empowered, to help broaden their horizons, to apply for jobs online.” She added that these users will be forced to access only the cheapest, indispensable content, and will lose the possibility of accessing the internet of creation and innovation.

While up to now the major internet providers in the United States have not talked about their future plans in the context of non-neutrality, the fact is that the new measure opens the way to condition users’ access to certain information.

One of the possible ramifications is that telephone companies gain even more power, on being able to limit access to certain contents. But the new scheme will also affect small or emerging startup companies on the web.

These already find it difficult to compete with renowned multinationalssuch as Google, Amazon, Netflix, and Facebook. Having to pay operators special rates for preferential access to the internet will probably mean their contents are of lower quality and attract an even smaller number of users, as a large percentage can not assume the new costs.

Even though the recent regulation is limited to the territory of the United States, the concern is that most of the services that currently circulate on the web are developed by U.S. companies. Hence, many specialists and CEOs of telecommunications companies claim that the prospect of the so-called two-speed, or two-tiered internet, of “the rich” and “the poor” is closer than we imagine.

It seems many of them are ignorant of the fact that this measure only increases the already existent digital divide, since information and communication technologies have long been marked by unequal levels of access, dependent on the development of each country, individuals’ income, and the opportunities for computer literacy to make optimal use of these tools.
Why is Cuba Developing a New Pneumococcal Vaccine?
The mere fact of being able to tell Cuban families that a new, effective and safe Cuban pneumococcal vaccine will soon be available, work on which has been advancing since 2006, is already more than just “good news.”

Author: Lisandra Fariñas Acosta | lisandra@granma.cu
February 7, 2018 13:02:07

The new vaccine is another guarantee of the well-being of Cuban children. Photo: Ariel Cecilio Lemus

The mere fact of being able to tell Cuban families that a new, effective and safe Cuban pneumococcal vaccine will soon be available, work on which has been advancing since 2006, is already more than just “good news.”

It’s a comforting thought, “after so many years of development of this vaccine candidate, which includes seven serotypes in a single vaccine and, therefore, it is as if we were developing seven vaccines in one. This singularity has made preclinical demonstrations, the pharmaceutical development and clinical demonstration more complex,” Darielys Santana Mederos, biochemistry graduate and general coordinator of the Finlay Institute’s pneumococcal project, told Granma at the recently concluded Cuban Pediatrics Congress, Pediatría 2018.

According to the expert, following the introduction in the country of vaccines against Haemophilus influenzae and meningococci, pneumococcus is now the fundamental pathogen to cause pneumonia and bacterial meningitis in Cuban children. “Therefore, prevention with a vaccine against pneumococci would have a significant impact on reducing the incidence of bacterial pneumonia and meningitis in this population,” she added.

Although there are two commercially available vaccines of this type in the world, their prices are restrictive for Cuba. “Each child must be immunized with at least three doses according to what is scientifically proven today,” Santana explained, noting, “Each dose, at the pharmacy price, is around 50 dollars, and Cuba would have to spend an excessively high amount.”

Therefore, she said, we had to devise a development strategy for our own candidate, in order to protect our children against the bacteria.

The Finlay Institute has done just that. Under the trademark Quimi-Vio, the heptavalent vaccine will reach all Cuban provinces by next year.

“We have already conducted clinical studies in adults, in children between four and five years of age, in children between one and five years of age, in infants aged seven to 11 months; and at this time we are working with infants up to six months, which is the final target population,” the specialist reported.

Santana noted that the demonstration of clinical evidence should conclude this year. However, she stressed that “to introduce a vaccine, not only must the clinical demonstration stage be overcome; we must also have the productive capacities ready, and we will not have them this year. We are anticipating that by 2019 we will be able to present the application for registration of the immunogen for pre-school children aged between one and five years.”

In this regard, she mentioned that the vaccine will be first introduced in this sector of the population, because the clinical demonstration period for younger children is longer, in addition to the fact that the highest incidence of pneumococcal diseases in our country is concentrated precisely in this age group, rather than in infants.

Regarding the clinical trials in minors, the general coordinator of the Finlay Institute’s pneumococcal project highlighted that more than 5,000 Cuban children have already been vaccinated, which has shown that the product is safe, with no serious side effects, apart from those related to any vaccination: redness in the arm and a low-grade fever.

She also commented that a community intervention study with this heptavalent vaccine candidate is underway in Cienfuegos, which means measuring the effectiveness and safety of the vaccine in more extended environments, such as the application of the vaccine to approximately 22,000 children of this province.

All these studies have enjoyed the collaboration of the Ministry of Public Health, the Maternal-Infant Care Program, the Immunization Program, and others; and have been registered and authorized by the national regulatory authority, the Center for State Control of Medicines, Medical Equipment and Devices (CECMED).

VAC-CUBA: A KEY STRATEGY

A round table was held as part of the Pediatría 2018 Congress, recently held in Havana’s International Conference Center, on the research and development of new vaccines for Cuban children, and the perspective of the Finlay Institute.

Isabel Pilar Luis González, epidemiologist of the Finlay Institute’s Clinical Research and Surveillance Directorate, noted that as part of its mission to provide the necessary immunogens for the prevention of communicable and vaccine-preventable diseases, the institution is currently developing several vaccine candidates.

“There is a strategy to complete in the medium term - after these seven serotypes - 13 more that could provide protection to the Cuban population against approximately 20 pneumococcal serotypes. This process first includes this heptavalent vaccine, which could become a combined vaccine for more serotypes, and then a vaccine against emergencies,” she explained.

However, according to Luis González, in order to present all the evidence to demonstrate the efficacy, effectiveness and the subsequent impact of the introduction of this immunogen in Cuba, the Finlay Institute - in collaboration with the Ministry of Public Health and the national health system, several hospitals, the National School of Public Health, the Pedro Kouri Institute of Tropical Medicine with its national reference laboratories, the University of Havana and other institutions depending on the need for studies - has promoted and developed a platform based on networking, called the VacCuba Network.

She explained that the network consists of a set of institutions that, as nodes, contribute their experience in conducting social, clinical, surveillance and epidemiological studies, as well as economic studies that include cost-effectiveness, cost-utility; in order to demonstrate not only the efficacy and safety of the vaccination, but also to be able to provide evidence to the national health system and decision makers on these aspects, and the advantages of introducing the product.

“In the case of the pneumococcal vaccine, which constitutes the primary experience as regards the creation of this network, we can say that we have achieved a working group in which, in addition to the centers previously referred to, specialists from three provinces of the country are involved: Havana, Cienfuegos and Santiago de Cuba. Specifically, we work with the Juan Manuel Márquez, Wiliam Soler, and Centro Habana pediatric hospitals, while in Cienfuegos, with the Paquito González hospital, and in Santiago de Cuba with the Norte and Sur hospitals,” explained the epidemiologist.

She added that in these institutions, a strategy to monitor syndromes of pneumonia, meningitis and other conditions is currently being developed.

“Thanks to the research advantages offered by the VacCuba Network, today we know about the distribution of pneumococci in these provinces that in some way represent Cuba, and which are not exactly the same as those circulating in other parts of the world. For example serotypes one and five, which were included in the initial pneumococcal vaccines, in Cuba do not seem to be as well represented. However, there are other genotypes - those that we are considering adding to the new generations of vaccines - that we have realized are represented in Cuba, and that in other countries may not be a problem, or do not have the same prevalence.”

This same integrated clinical research strategy is the working platform that the Finlay Institute advocates in the study of all its products. New projects already include VacCuba as a guarantee to start, for example, in conjunction with the national health system and its units, the burden studies of transmissible diseases such as rotavirus, explained Sc.D. Nevis Amin, of the institution’s projects and products management.

“Achieving a new update of the vaccine against Bordetella pertussis (whooping cough) that can make an impact not only on young children, which is what we have today, but also have an impact on the disease and the carrier state; and that then permits its introduction as a less reactogenic vaccine than the current one, in other age groups, is another of the Finlay Institute’s current lines of work,” the specialist stressed.

FUTHER DATA
- Pneumococcal diseases include pneumonia, meningitis and febrile bacteremia, as well as otitis media, sinusitis and bronchitis.

- By the end of 2016, pneumococcal vaccine had been introduced in 134 countries (only partially in three of these), and the estimated global coverage was 42%.

- Cuba has immunization coverage of over 98% with 11 vaccines that protect against 13 diseases.

Sources: WHO & Minsap
President Maduro Sends a Message of Unity and Peace to Venezuelans
Venezuelan President Nicolás Maduro posted a video through his Twitter account in which he sent a message of peace and called for unity, alongside several of his ministers

Author: Gabriela Ávila Gómez | informacion@granma.cu
February 19, 2018 09:02:15
Photo: AVN

CARACAS.– President of Venezuela Nicolás Maduro posted a video through his Twitter account in which he sent a message of peace and called for unity, alongside several of his ministers.

“We want a United Venezuela, we want a Venezuela in Peace... We want a Venezuela for All. We do not need to raise our voice to say so: Together everything is possible,” the president tweeted.

Meanwhile, Minister of Communication and Information, Jorge Rodríguez, noted that “This is an effort of young Venezuelan filmmakers to include those who for decades were excluded, to send a message to Venezuela and the world of inclusion, hope, peace and of permanent dialogue.”

On Saturday the head of state said he had prepared a “surprise” for Venezuelans and invited them to be attentive at 8:55p.m on Sunday, when he posted the video.

The tweet and video can be seen on the President’s twitter feed @NicolasMaduro (in Spanish) here: pic.twitter.com/ETiVmfoanG
Activists Around the World Call for the Closure of All U.S. Military Bases

Various initiatives are planned to mark February 23, the 115th anniversary of the occupation of part of the territory of Guantánamo by a U.S. naval base

Author: Nuria Barbosa León | internet@granma.cu
February 13, 2018 10:02:33

ON February 23, coinciding with the 115th anniversary of the occupation of part of the territory of Guantánamo by a U.S. naval base, several pacifist groups plan to hold a major protests worldwide to demand the closure of the military base.

With various initiatives that include mobilizations, messages in alternative and, where possible, more traditional media outlets, concerts and other cultural activities, activists will seek to call public attention to the issue, especially in the United States.

One of the actions will be to use Twitter to share clear messages under the hashtags: #ReturnGuantanamotoCubaNow; #USOutofGuanatamo; #EEUUFueradeGuantanamo; #DevuelvanGuantanamoaCubaYa!; including tagging the twitter account of President Donald Trump @POTUS.

This forms part of the agreements taken at the conference organized by the Coalition Against U.S. Foreign Military Bases, held at the University of Baltimore in the U.S. state of Maryland, January 12-14, which addressed the need to close U.S. military bases located throughout the world.

The final resolution on the Guantánamo Naval Base concludes: “the Coalition Against U.S. Foreign Bases unanimously calls upon the global peace movement to organize, on or around February 23, 2018, Actions calling for the United States to promptly withdraw all its forces and personnel from Guantánamo Bay and immediately declare ALL agreements ceding Cuban control of Guantánamo Bay to the U.S. to be null and void.”

The Cuban chapter of the International Committee for Peace, Justice and the Dignity published its January 27 bulletin, in Spanish and English, on these issues, which already has the support of valuable intellectuals and artists, among whom is Argentine Nobel Peace laureate Adolfo Pérez Esquivel.

The Committee also asked other organizations around the world to screen the documentary All Guantánamo is Ours, by filmmaker Hernando Calvo Ospina, which has been translated into numerous languages, to serve to spark a debate.

The audiovisual material explains how the Guantánamo Naval Base is a permanent source of threat, provocation and a violation of Cuban national sovereignty.

The activities will continue throughout the year as outlined on the Coalition website: www.NoForeignBases.org; with important events scheduled for April 14 and 15, to commemorate Earth Day (April 22), and May Day.

The U.S. has 860 military bases in 144 countries around the world. These facilities were created under the pretext of guaranteeing security in the face of armed groups, and to combat drug and human trafficking.

In fact, they have been very effective in quelling attempts at social change in countries that distance themselves from capitalism and the interests of the White House. Today our peoples need a change in the political and hegemonic vision of the United States to achieve higher rates of human development. As long as investments are made for war and not peace, we face the imminent danger of having the means to make the planet earth disappear in seconds.
Raúl: A Tireless Promoter of Regional Integration and Staunch Anti-imperialist
Interview with Cuban researcher and essayist Abel González Santamaría, responsible for compiling the book Raúl Castro y Nuestra América. 86 discursos, intervenciones y declaraciones

Sergio Alejandro Gómez | internet@granma.cu
February 13, 2018 09:02:51

Raúl’s revolutionary and integrationist thought is present in his speeches, like that given at the 2nd Celac Summit held in Havana 2014. Photo: Archive

Unlike academics and intellectuals who dedicate time to organizing their work, the ideas of revolutionaries with state responsibilities are often dispersed throughout time, among thousands of speeches, interviews, and statements.

It is therefore the researcher’s job to revive this legacy and organize it in such a way as to help one understand the scope of a figure, and the historic moment they were destined to live.

This is precisely what researcher and essayist Abel González Santamaría has done in his book Raúl Castro y Nuestra América. 86 discursos, intervenciones y declaraciones (Raúl Castro and Our America. 86 speeches, remarks and statements) which was presented in the Nicolás Guillén at Havana’s Cabaña Fortress on February 7, as part of activities during the latest edition of Cuba’s International Book Fair.

González Santamaría’s new book is more than a simple historical account, instead offering us Raúl the statesman, whose work – defined by over half a century of revolutionary efforts – stands firm.

With Raúl Castro y Nuestra América the Cuban researcher leaves a tool for present and future generations to continue the journey initiated over 200 years ago toward achieving the unity and integration of Our America.

The book, Fidel Castro y los Estados Unidos: 90 discursos, intervenciones y reflexiones(Fidel Castro and the United States: 90 speeches, remarks and reflections) was presented during the last Havana International Book Fair; while a similar compilation dedicated to Army General Raúl Castro is also being presented this year by Capitán San Luis publishers. What’s the link between the two works?

Both books share a dialectical link, because their authors, Comandante en Jefe Fidel Castro Ruz and Army General Raúl Castro Ruz, are two men who share the same ideas and attitude when it comes to revolutionary theory and practice. The book Raúl Castro y Nuestra América: 86 discursos, intervenciones y declaraciones is like a second edition of Fidel Castro y los Estados Unidos: 90 discursos, intervenciones y reflexiones.

Can you describe the legacy of both leaders in regards to Latin American integration?

For over half a century of intense struggle they have shown that it was possible to integrate all the countries of our Great Homeland into one organization dedicated solely to “Our America” and without the presence of nations from outside the region. Fidel and Raúl, together with other revolutionary and progressive leaders from the continent, made a decisive contribution to the creation of the Community of Latin American and Caribbean States (CELAC).

Don’t forget that in order to do so they (regional leaders) were first obliged to unite to defeat the “Free Trade Area of the Americas” (FTAA) agreement, an imperialist initiative by the United States’ which it attempted to implement in the region in the early 21st century. This victory was decisive toward advancing integration efforts.

How important is Cuba’s role as a key promoter of ‘unity within diversity’ to progress made in regional integration efforts?

Cuba’s continuous efforts to promote unity among nations of the region for over 60 years, and its respect for the political, economic, social and cultural system of each and every country, is recognized within the region. As a nation committed to its principles Cuba was selected to host the Second CELAC Summit in 2014, during which the 33 member-states declared “Latin America and the Caribbean as a Zone of Peace.” This was a transcendental and historic event, and is the most important tool for nations in their struggle against constant acts of aggression and threats to peace, in a world in which the drums of war are sounding.

What role has Raúl’s thought – as presented in the book - played in these processes?

The text includes excerpts of his revolutionary work, from interviews with the press he offered in 1959 during the Meeting of Ministers of the Organization of American States (OAS), in Santiago de Chile, to his 2017 speech at the Fifth CELAC Summit in the Dominican Republic.

The Army General stands out as a statesman with an acute understanding of the social problems affecting our people; he is a tireless promoter of integrationist processes and a staunch anti-imperialist. His revolutionary thought will transcend this era and is a necessary tool to guide youth in these times.

The Cuban Revolution has been a beacon for leftist movements not only within the region but across the entire world. How can the new generation of Cubans carry on the struggle for just causes at an international level?

The best way is to continuously fulfill the concept of Revolution every day. This is the task left to us by the Comandante en Jefe of the Cuban Revolution. Remain united and set aside everything that can divide us.

We must learn from our mistakes and failures so as to prevent being misled and divided by the oligarchs. We must remain positive and believe in the betterment of humankind.

I think it’s important that Cuba continues to offer its solidarity to Third World countries, and fulfill its commitment to cooperation based on sharing the modest resources we have and not what we have to spare. We must also preserve the achievements made to date and continue with our policies of development and social inclusion in order to achieve a fairer distribution of wealth and to reduce inequality.

Are gains made by the right wing over recent years only temporary or do they mark the end of an era in the region?

There’s a debate going on about if we are witnessing the “end of the progressive era” in Latin America and the Caribbean, following the “end of history” as proclaimed by the right wing in the early 1990s - a period marked by neoliberal domination.

I’m one of those who believe that the progressive era has not come to an end despite the right wing’s obvious advances in the region, which I believe are only temporary. They are trying to return to neoliberalism and demoralize political forces and parties, social movements, and the working class.
Political processes aren’t linear, they are constantly moving and changing; they are subject to advances, stagnation, and setbacks. What has changed in recent years is that Our America has gained a new consciousness.

What’s your opinion of the Trump administration’s policy toward the region?

There’s a marked intention to return to the failed policies of the past. The new U.S. government’s attitude toward the region closest to its territory is one of disdain and disregard. Once again it is treating us like its “back yard” and vulgar criminals. This is the reality despite the damage control they try to do during their visits to Latin America and the Caribbean; and it's obvious why - the 8th Summit of the Americas in Lima, Peru, is approaching and they need to prepare the ground if they want to achieve their geopolitical interests.

The Trump administration is obsessed with Cuba and Venezuela. There isn’t a single document or speech in which, when referring to the region, they do not mercilessly attack both nations.
At the same time, they continue to adopt more and more measures within the framework of the economic, commercial, and financial blockade to achieve a “regime change.”

Do you believe that Donald Trump’s hateful discourse toward immigrants and lack of respect for the countries of Latin America could help to unite nations of the region?

It is definitely contributing to uniting the region. His attitudes have been widely rejected and have automatically become a key motive behind protests and efforts to unite. Trump is set on implementing an anti-immigrant policy and building a wall on the border with Mexico, who he blames for some of the serious social problems within the United States. However, the wall is in fact a symbolic expression of his xenophobic and hard-line nationalist ideology toward countries south of the Río Bravo.

The history of Latin America has left us with many unresolved issues at a time when solutions are desperately needed. What answers can readers find in your two latest books?

Exploring the continued relevance of their (Fidel and Raúl’s) words was precisely one of my main aims with these two books. I must admit that the years I spent revising and analyzing all the texts for the two volumes (1,546 by Fidel and 1,468 by Raúl) have been the best lesson I have ever had. Their words are an endless source of knowledge on various political, economic, social, cultural, and scientific issues, which motivate you to constantly reflect, to better understand Cuban history and discover the depth of revolutionary thought.

I recommend reading the book’s prologue, which was lovingly written by my friend and teacher Eusebio Leal Spengler, a true gem of Latin American and Caribbean historiography, and to whom the 27th Cuba International Book Fair is dedicated. Leal Spengler is a man whose loyalty and contributions to Cuban culture have seen him win the love and admiration of our people.
I invite readers to continue investigating and debating the prolific works of Fidel and Raúl, two great men, renowned worldwide, who have elevated the thought of Marti’s idea of the Great Homeland to its highest expression, in the belief that “One just principle from the depths of a cave is more powerful than an army.”
Cuba Cannot Be Defeated
Once again the Organization of American States (OAS) has demonstrated that rather than working for a more united and prosperous region, it seeks to create divisions and tension between all its member-states

Author: Redacción Internacional | internacionales@granma.cu
February 14, 2018 10:02:11

Cuba will continue along its own path, and as much as submissive and servile lackeys, like the current Secretary General of the Organization of American States, Luis Almagro, would like to destroy us, they will never be able to do so.

This according to Cuba’s Deputy Minister of Foreign Affairs, Rogelio Sierra in response to recent interventionist remarks by Almagro regarding Cuba’s electoral process.

According to Rogelio Sierra, the OAS Secretary General “tried to misrepresent the electoral process underway (in Cuba) in an attempt to de-legitimize it, in a show of support for campaigns against the Cuban Revolution and their allies.”

“The Secretary General of the Organization of American States (OAS),” noted Sierra “has no moral or ethical credibility whatsoever to judge what the Cuban government and people are doing. He is making a big mistake by failing to acknowledge, by ignoring, the Cuban people’s decision to be sovereign and independent,” he stated, in reference to remarks made by Almagro in an event held recently in Miami.

The main theme of the Secretary General’s speech, with a heavily interventionist tone, was the Cuban electoral process, a subject on which he demonstrated a great lack of understanding.

During his speech Almagro noted that a non-democratic succession of power must not be permitted in Cuba - ignoring the fact that the island has a participative electoral system which ensures that the President of the Councils of State and Ministers is elected with support of the vast majority of the Cuban people. Direct elections are not they only democratic or most effective model, as the former Foreign Minister of Uruguay is well aware.

Almagro also made the most of the occasion to insult the Cuban government, which he described as a “regime” and “dictatorship,” while categorizing the Cuban Revolution as a “dangerous example;” in remarks which contradict those made when he visited the island alongside former President of Uruguay Pepe Mujica. So when was Almagro lying, now or then?

In this regard, the Secretary General of the OAS also mentioned another of his “favorite topics,” Venezuela and the government of Nicolás Maduro, which he described as a “clumsy attempt to replicate the Cuban experience.”

With the Eighth Summit of the Americas, to be held in Peru only months away, Almagro’s speech in Miami comes as he seeks to build support for his interventionist plans against progressive governments in the region.

Thus, once again the Organization of American States (OAS) has demonstrated that rather than working for a more united and prosperous region, it seeks to create divisions and tension between all its member-states, just as Washington intended when the group was founded.

BOLIVIA CONDEMNS U.S. INTERVENTION

Bolivian President Evo Morales described Commander of the United States Southern Command Kurt Tidd’s recent visit to the continent, during which he met with Vice President of Colombia Oscar Naranjo, as a threat to peace in Venezuela.

Taking to his Twitter account, Evo stated, “Any imperialist military threat against the peace of the sister nation of Venezuela and our region will be thwarted by the dignity, sovereignty, and unity of our democratic peoples.”
Cuba Rejects Interference and Exclusion of Venezuela from Summit of the Americas
Ministry of Foreign Affairs Statement   
Author: MINREX | internet@granma.cu
February 15, 2018 09:02:33

The Ministry of Foreign Affairs of the Republic of Cuba energetically rejects the announcement by a group of nations in the hemisphere, released February 13 in Lima, that constitutes unacceptable interference in the internal affairs of the Bolivarian Republic de Venezuela, and at the same time categorically rejects the decision to reconsider the participation of the Venezuelan government in the 8th Summit of the Americas, to be held this coming month of April, in Peru.

A few days ago, the U.S. Secretary of State, on a tour of several countries in the region, stated that continuing in effect is the Monroe Doctrine, the most notorious interventionist policy of U.S. imperialism in our region. He called for a military coup against the constitutional government of Venezuela and advocated strengthening sanctions on the country. The decision adopted is not unrelated to these declarations and actions.

In this context, Cuba's Ministry of Foreign Affairs recalls the arbitrary and aggressive U.S. Executive Order, renewed in January of 2017, that describes Venezuela as "an unusual and extraordinary threat to the national security and foreign policy" of the superpower, and President Donald Trump's most recent warning about utilizing "a possible military option, if necessary."

It is unprecedented and incredible that now being used as a pretext is an alleged "unconstitutional rupture of the democratic order," precisely in a country which has held, within a few months time, municipal, regional, and Constituent Assembly elections, and has just called Presidential elections, precisely as has been demanded, including via external interference and unconstitutional, violent methods.

Cuba denounces this statement and the exclusion of Venezuela from the Summit of the Americas as contrary to the purposes and principles of the United Nations Charter and the Proclamation of Latin America and the Caribbean as a Zone of Peace, signed by heads of state and government of countries which are members of the Community of Latin American and Caribbean States.

The Ministry of Foreign Affairs reaffirms Cuba's unwavering solidarity with the Bolivarian Republic of Venezuela and the military-civic union of its people, led by constitutional President Nicolás Maduro Moros.

Absolutely relevant are the words of Raúl Castro Ruz, President of the Councils of State and Ministers, on July 14, 2017, when he said, "Aggression and coup violence against Venezuela hurt all of Our America and only benefit the interests of those who attempt to divide us, in order to assert their dominance over our peoples, regardless of the incalculable consequences for the region, like those we are witnessing in different parts of the world. We warn those who today attempt to overthrow the Bolivarian Chavista revolution, using unconstitutional, violent, coup-plotting methods, that they are assuming a serious, responsibility before history."

Havana, February 14, 2018