SOUTH AFRICA’S PRESIDENT TAKES FOURTH WIFE
South African President Jacob Zuma married his long time fiancée in a private ceremony at his rural home, making her one of his four current wives. President Zuma, at the age of 70, tied the knot with Bongi Ngema in a traditional ceremony in the town of Nkandla. It is the sixth marriage overall for the polygamous president – one of his wives died while another one divorced him. The president practices the Zulu tradition which allows polygamy. While legal in South Africa, polygamy is losing popularity with the younger generation in the continent, it is still practiced in some cultures. Zuma who has 21 children embraces his culture, said Mac Maharaj, a government spokesman. “One of the challenges we have in this world is that some communities are looked down upon as inferior and there’s a major struggle to assert our culture,” Maharaj said. “You don’t have to be ashamed of your culture provided you don’t intrude on other people’s fundamental rights”. The bridal party took part in a celebratory dance after the traditional Zulu wedding that included the president’s three other wives. “The government did not pay for the wedding festivities nor does it pay for the four spouses’ expenses unless related to state duties”, the spokesman said. South Africa has no official position of first lady and the wives maintain private homes. Their benefits include a personal secretary and they accompany the president during travel on a rotating basis. “The new Mrs Zuma had already been part of the spousal office machinery in terms of administrative support so there will be no changes due to the wedding” the government spokesman again said. Ngema, an activist, dated the president for years and they have a 7-year-old son together. He is also married to Sizakele Zuma, Nompumelelo Ntuli-Zuma and Tobeka Madiba-Zuma. Zuma became president in 2009.
1,000 FISH FOUND DEAD IN OONA RIVER
More than 1,000 fish have been killed in a pollution scare in Northern Ireland. Trout, sticklebacks and roach are among the dead species discovered in a stretch of the Oona River near Duncannon in Co Tyrone. Investigators have blamed an “agricultural source” for the fish kill which is being classed as of “high severity”. The Northern Ireland Environment Agency (NIEA) and the Inland Fisheries agencies are both investigating the water pollution. Northern Ireland’s Environment Minister Mark H. Durkan has voiced his worries that he is concerned and keeping a close eye on the situation. Samples have been taken from the river for analysis. An NIEA spokeswoman said: “Investigations are on-going and the (fish kill) count is continuing.” The River Oona runs through south Tyrone and is part of the Black water river system. The water quality impact of this water pollution incidence is being classified as high severity. “Investigating officers have identified a potential source of the discharge and statutory samples have been taken by NIEA.”
WHITE HOUSE ‘HORRIFIED’ BY MASSACRE IN SOUTH SUDAN
The White House has called the massacre of hundreds of civilians in South Sudan an abomination and called for an end to the cycle of violence there. The United Nations said that rebels slaughtered hundreds of civilians when they seized the South Sudan oil hub of Bentiu, hunting down men, women and children who had sought refuge in a hospital, mosque and the Catholic Church. Rebel troops overran Bentiu, the capital of the oil producing Unity State. Rebel spokesman Lul Ruai Koang denied responsibility for the slaughter, blaming government forces for the killings. More than 1 million people have fled their homes since December when fighting erupted in the world’s youngest country between troops backing President Salva Kiir and soldiers loyal to his sacked vice president, Riek Machar. “We are horrified by reports out of South Sudan that fighters aligned with rebel leader Riek Machar massacred hundreds of innocent civilians in Bentiu,” White House spokesman Jay Carney said in a statement. The White House statement sought to capture some of the graphic nature of the violence. “Images and accounts of the attacks shock the conscience: stacks of bodies found dead inside a mosque, patients murdered at a hospital, and dozens more shot and killed in the streets and at a church – apparently due to their ethnicity and nationality – while hate speech was broadcast on local radio,” Carney said. Bulldozers have buried the dead in mass graves, and the number of people seeking protection at the U.N. camp in Bentiu has grown from 8,000 to more than 22,000 in two weeks, the spokesman said. He said U.S. officials were equally appalled by an armed attack last week at the U.N. mission in Bor, South Sudan, which killed at least 48 civilians and injured dozens more. “These acts of violence are an abomination. They are a betrayal of the trust the South Sudanese people have put in their leaders,” he said. Carney said both Kiir and Machar must make clear that attacks on civilians are unacceptable, that those responsible for violence on both sides must be brought to justice “and the cycle of violence that has plagued South Sudan for too long must come to an end.”
PALESTINIAN PRESIDENT OPEN TO EXTENDING PEACE TALKS WITH ISRAEL
Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas said he was still ready to extend stalled peace talks with Israel as long as it met his long-standing demands to free prisoners and halt building on occupied land. Israel suspended the troubled US-sponsored negotiations with Abbas after he signed a unity pact with rival Islamist group Hamas – a movement which has sworn to destroy Israel. Commentators said the discussions had already hit a brick wall and the United States had been struggling to extend them beyond an original April 29 deadline for a peace accord. Abbas, for the first time since the suspension, said he was still open to re-starting the talks and pushing on beyond the deadline. There was no immediate response from Israeli negotiators. “How can we restart the talks? There’s no obstacle to us restarting the talks, but the 30 prisoners need to be released”. Abbas told a meeting of senior leaders in the Palestine Liberation Organization at his presidential headquarters in the occupied West Bank city of Ramallah. “On the table we will present our map – for three months, we’ll discuss our map. In that period, until the map is agreed upon, all settlement activity must cease completely.” He told the officials, who were gathered for a two-day conference to assess the Palestinian strategy to achieve statehood. Talks veered toward a collapse after Israel failed to release a final group of Palestinian prisoners it had pledged to free in March, and after Abbas signed several international treaties — a move that Israel said was a unilateral move towards statehood. Palestinians accused Israel of not focusing enough during the last nine months of negotiations on drawing future borders between Israel and the future state of Palestine and they denounced the expansion of Jewish settlements on occupied land. Israel accuses Abbas of being more interested in healing the national rift with Hamas than achieving a peace deal.
EGYPT ENCOUNTERS ITS FIRST CASE OF THE POTENTIALLY DEADLY VIRUS
Egypt has discovered its first case of the potentially deadly Middle East Respiratory Syndrome (MERS) in an Egyptian citizen who had recently returned from Saudi Arabia. The Egypt Ministry of Health has confirmed. The virus, which can cause coughing, fever and pneumonia, has spread from the Gulf to Europe and has already caused over 90 deaths.The patient, 27, is being treated for pneumonia at a Cairo hospital and is in a stable condition, said in a statement by the Ministry. The man who is from the Nile Delta was living in the Saudi capital Riyadh. Saudi Arabia, which has been hardest-hit by the MERS virus, announced it had discovered 14 more cases in the kingdom bringing the total number to 313. Although the number of MERS infections worldwide is fairly small, the more than 40 percent death rate among confirmed cases and the spread of the virus beyond the Middle East is keeping scientists and public health officials on the alert. A spokesman for the World Health Organization in Geneva said it was “concerned” about the rising MERS numbers in Saudi Arabia urging for a speedy scientific breakthrough about the virus and its route of infection. Saudi authorities have invited five leading international vaccine makers to collaborate with them in developing a MERS vaccine, but virology experts argue that this makes little sense in public health terms.
HUNDREDS OF ANTI-NUCLEAR PROTESTERS CLASH WITH TAIWAN POLICE
Police in Taiwan fired water cannons to disperse hundreds of anti-nuclear protesters refusing to give up their campaign despite a government pledge to halt work on the island’s fourth nuclear power plant. The protesters had been occupying a main Taipei boulevard for days now demanding the government to scrap plans to begin operation of Taiwan’s nearly completed fourth reactor. “Anti-nuclear public opinion is very high,” said 26-year-old protester Huang Ting-chiao. “The government should respond to the public’s desires as soon as possible. “Taiwan sits on the so-called ring of fire region of seismic activity around the Pacific Ocean and many of the island’s residents are alarmed at the prospect of an earthquake triggering a disaster like the one at Fukushima in japan that followed an earthquake and tsunami in 2011. Tens of thousands of people had gathered before the government announced it would halt construction pending a public vote. Despite that, hundreds of protesters remained out overnight and police used water cannons to clear them in the morning. “Many people had hoped for a complete abandonment of the fourth nuclear plant,” the government said in a statement issued. “Under this scenario, rising electricity prices are unavoidable”. Media reported several people were injured but police denied that allegation. The Taiwan’s president Ma Ying-jeou refused opposition demands for an immediate referendum on the future of the plant but reiterated that the government would hold such a vote before the facility starts operations.
BLAST ATTACK IN EGYPT’S SINAI LEAVING 1 DEAD AND 6 HURTS
A soldier was killed in a suicide blast at an army checkpoint in Egypt’s Sinai Peninsula, news reported. The blast in the town of El Tur wounded three other soldiers, the news agency revealed. In an unrelated incident, a blast targeting a tourist bus wounded three people in the region. The explosion took place 50 kilometres northwest of the Red Sea resort city of Sharm el-Sheikh. No group immediately claimed responsibility for either attacks. Militants based in the Sinai Peninsula near the Israeli border have stepped up attacks on soldiers and policemen since the ouster of Egypt’s President Mohamed Morsy.
JAMAICA TO SCRAP BANK WITHDRAWAL TAX
The Jamaican government has announced it is scrapping controversial plans for a tax on bank withdrawals. The measure, which was to have been part of the country’s 2014-15 budgets, had prompted widespread criticism because of its perceived unfairness. Finance Minister Peter Phillips told parliament the levy would be replaced by other proposed duties. Jamaica is currently implementing a debt restructuring programme backed by the International Monetary Fund. Just recently, the World Bank approved a $510m (£301.5m) loan package to help Jamaica carry out wide-ranging economic reforms, seen as essential to reversing decades of low growth and high debt.The Jamaican economy was already struggling before the global financial crisis, which has exacerbated the country’s problems. According to the World Bank, poverty levels rose from 10% to 17% between 2007 and 2010, while unemployment has reached 15%. It is said that instead of taxing money withdrawn from banks, the government would impose a 15% withholding tax on some insurance premiums and extend its consumption tax to imported services, closing a loophole in the system.