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Archive for South Africa

Newsline: South African Parliament Votes to Downgrade Embassy in Israel

South African lawmakers voted Tuesday to downgrade the country’s embassy in Israel, a move welcomed by human rights advocates around the world. The resolution to downgrade the status of South Africa’s embassy in Ramat Gan, just east of Tel Aviv, to a liaison office was introduced by the center-left National Freedom Party (NFP), which hailed the measure’s passage as “a historic moment for our country and a demonstration of our unwavering commitment to justice, human rights, and freedom.” (https://www.commondreams.org/news/israel-south-africa) Holding just two seats in the Parliament, the NFP secured the resolution’s passage with the support of parties including the dominant African National Congress (ANC), Economic Freedom Fighters, United Democratic Movement, African Independent Congress, Al-Jama-ah, and Pan-Africanist Congress of Azania. While Israel’s Foreign Ministry called the vote “shameful and disgraceful,” NFP Member of Parliament Ahmed Munzoor Shaik Emam, who introduced the resolution, said after its passage that “this is a moment Madiba would be proud of.” Emam was referring to former South African president and anti-apartheid icon Nelson Mandela, who advocated for Palestinian rights and for Israel’s right to exist as a Jewish and democratic state.

Newsline: South Africa’s top diplomat defends planned military drills with Russia and China

South Africa’s foreign minister deflected criticism of joint military drills planned with Russia and China, saying that hosting such exercises with “friends” was the “natural course of relations.” (https://neuters.de/world/africa/russias-lavrov-visits-ally-south-africa-amid-western-rivalry-2023-01-23/) Naledi Pandor made her comments during a meeting with Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov, who was visiting South Africa 11 months after Russia’s invasion of Ukraine. A South African official, who declined to be identified because they were not authorised to speak, said Lavrov would afterwards visit Eswatini, Botswana and Angola. In Washington, the White House expressed worry about South Africa’s military plans.

Newsline: South Africa’s President calls US embassy’s warning “unfortunate”

South Africa’s President Cyril Ramaphosa on Thursday regretted as “unfortunate” the US embassy’s issuing of a warning of a possible weekend “terrorist” attack in the country without consulting his government. “It is quite unfortunate the US issued that type of warning without having any type of discussion with us,” he said during a press conference. “Any form of alert will come from the government of the republic of South Africa and it is unfortunate that another government should issue such a threat as to send panic amongst our people,” said Ramaphosa. (https://news.yahoo.com/us-terror-alert-africa-unfortunate-132342048.html) The US embassy on Wednesday posted the alert on its website and identified the potential target as Sandton, a suburb in the country’s financial hub of Johannesburg. The alert said the attack could occur there on Saturday.

Newsline: South Africa hosts diplomatic talks on Ethiopia’s Tigray

Peace talks to end Ethiopia’s Tigray conflict have begun in South Africa, a South African government spokesman said Tuesday. It is the highest-level diplomatic effort yet to end two years of fighting that has killed perhaps hundreds of thousands of people. The spokesman for South African President Cyril Ramaphosa, Vincent Magwenya, said the African Union-led talks that started Tuesday are expected to continue until Sunday. “Such talks are in line with South Africa’s foreign policy objectives of a secure and conflict-free continent,” Magwenya said. (https://www.mrt.com/news/article/South-Africa-says-Ethiopia-peace-talks-have-begun-17532652.php) Delegations from the Ethiopian government and Tigray authorities arrived in South Africa this week. There was no immediate comment from either side.

Newsline: Nigerian Consulate General raises alarm on ‘violent killings’ of Nigerians in South Africa

The Consulate General of Nigeria, based in Johannesburg, said it has noted with great concern reports of “violent killings” of Nigerian nationals in Durban. In a public notice issued by the Consulate General in Saxonwold, the Nigerian envoy expressed sadness over the “condemnable” murders. “The Consulate General, Johannesburg, has received with great concern reports of recent killings of Nigerians in Durban, KwaZulu-Natal province. The killings, which happened in the last three weeks, are unnecessary, condemnable, and utterly callous. The Consulate General is saddened by the developments and hereby extends its heartfelt condolences to the families and friends of the victims,” the diplomatic mission said. (https://www.thezimbabwemail.com/world-news/nigerian-embassy-raises-alarm-on-violent-killings-of-nigerians-in-sa/) “While the mission is confident that the South African Police Service will conduct full and thorough investigations into the murders, it is pertinent to enjoin all Nigerians residing in KwaZulu-Natal province to remain calm, security conscious and law-abiding. The Consulate General advised Nigerian families directly impacted by the “latest gruesome killings” to contact it for consular assistance.

Newsline: Iran reportedly weighing plot to kill US ambassador to South Africa

The Iranian government is weighing a plot to assassinate the US ambassador to South Africa, a report said on Sunday. Authorities have been aware of a general threat against ambassador Lana Marks since the spring, but intelligence reports about the plot have become more specific in recent weeks, Politico reported, citing two unnamed government officials. The intelligence community isn’t sure why Iran would target Marks, who does not appear to have any known links to the country, according to the report. (https://nypost.com/2020/09/13/iran-weighing-plot-to-kill-u-s-ambassador-to-south-africa-report/) But the plot seems to be an effort by Iran to retaliate against the Trump administration for the killing of its top general Qassem Soleimani in a US drone strike in January. President Trump announced fresh sanctions on Iran and warned it against other retaliatory moves. But US officials believe attacking Marks is one of several options Iran’s regime is considering as payback. A personal friend of the late Princess Diana, Marks, 66, has known Trump for more than two decades. She was sworn in as US ambassador last October. The report said that she has been made aware of the possible threat to her life.

Newsline: The US Embassy in South Africa is arranging evacuation of stranded citizens

The embassy has set up up a registration website for US Citizens who wants to leave on an evacuation flight. (https://www.capetalk.co.za/articles/379421/us-embassy-says-stranded-americans-should-be-evacuated-from-sa-by-next-week) US consul-general to South Africa Virginia Blaser says the government contract charter flights should be arranged by early next week. A government contract flight is a type of charter airline operation contracted with a government agency. Blaser says hundreds of American tourists became stranded in South Africa when international flights were cancelled ahead of the nationwide lockdown.

Newsline: Student stranded in South Africa due to broken New Zealand embassy printer

A medical student at Otago University who is attempting to get home is stranded in Pretoria, South Africa. A day before Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Trade (MFAT) advised all New Zealanders to return home, Ibraheen Rasheed’s passport was stolen. He and his three Otago University colleagues, under MFAT advice, took a one-hour flight from Pietermaritzburg, where they were in an elective placement, to Pretoria so that he could get an emergency travel document issued from the New Zealand High Commission. But the specialised printer at the High Commission was broken and he was unable to get emergency documentation. (https://www.rnz.co.nz/national/programmes/ninetonoon/audio/2018740070/kiwi-student-stranded-in-south-africa-due-to-broken-embassy-printer) His mother Fazilat Shah has since been desperately trying to get him on a flight home. His three colleagues were able to get on a flight home on 19 March, but Ibraheen has had to stay in Pretoria until his situation is resolved – with time fast running out to leave before South Africa goes into lock down. A new passport has been issued but Shah says she is worried it will not arrive in time. “The New Zealand passport I understand has only just left New Zealand. The only flight I’ve been able to get for Ibraheen is Friday 1pm their time and that is after the lock down on Thursday at midnight in South Africa.

Newsline: Chinese Ambassador Accuses Trump of Using ‘Racist Rhetoric’ to Distract From Coronavirus Response

A Chinese ambassador concurred with former U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton’s recent remark that President Donald Trump is “turning to racist rhetoric” to distract from criticisms over his administration’s coronavirus response. China’s ambassador to South Africa, Lin Songtian, was recently “permanently recalled” by the communist Beijing government in what Chinese officials have said is unrelated to the coronavirus crisis. He expressed support for remarks made by Clinton, which urged Americans to ignore Trump’s repeated labeling of the coronavirus as the “China virus.” (https://www.newsweek.com/chinese-ambassador-joins-hillary-clinton-accusing-trump-using-racist-rhetoric-distract-1493593) Clinton accused Trump of ignoring several international health warnings and helping to allow the spread of the COVID-19 illness into the U.S. Clinton argued, and Lin appeared to agree, that the U.S. president is attempting to distract Americans from his administration’s poor response by using divisive labels and honing in on a debate over whether “China virus” is a racist description. Lin has consistently blasted Trump since he started at the Pretoria ambassador post in August 2017. He accused the president of turning the U.S. into “the enemy of the whole world” over his trade war last August. And Lin more recently has used the Trump administration’s widely criticized coronavirus response to shift accusations of blame away from the Chinese government, which first addressed the COVID-19 outbreak in the Wuhan province last December.

Newsline: Handbag designer Marks appointed U.S. ambassador to South Africa

Luxury handbag designer Lana Marks has been appointed U.S. ambassador to South Africa, the U.S. embassy said on Friday. Marks was born in South Africa and speaks Afrikaans and Xhosa, the White House has said. The U.S. Senate confirmed her nomination, which President Donald Trump put forward last year. (https://www.reuters.com/article/us-safrica-usa-diplomacy/handbag-designer-marks-appointed-u-s-ambassador-to-south-africa-idUSKBN1WC0V3) Washington has had no ambassador in South Africa since Patrick Gaspard left in December 2016, with its mission being overseen by a chargé d’affaires. The website for Marks’ firm offers handbags for up to $20,000 and says they have become favorites for celebrities including Oprah Winfrey, Kate Winslet and Madonna.