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Opinion: US prepares for war against Iran

US president Donlad Trump

Chris Hedges

The assassination by the United States of General Qassem Soleimani, the head of Iran’s elite Quds Force, near Baghdad’s airport will ignite widespread retaliatory attacks against U.S. targets from Shiites, who form the majority in Iraq.

It will activate Iranian-backed militias and insurgents in Lebanon and Syria and throughout the Middle East. The existing mayhem, violence, failed states and war, the result of nearly two decades of U.S. blunders and miscalculations in the region, will become an even wider and more dangerous conflagration.

The consequences are ominous.

Not only will the U.S. swiftly find itself under siege in Iraq and perhaps driven out of the country—there is only a paltry force of 5,200 U.S. troops in Iraq, all U.S. citizens in Iraq have been told to leave the country “immediately” and the embassy and consular services have been closed—but the situation could also draw us into a war directly with Iran.

The American Empire, it seems, will die not with a whimper but a bang.

The targeting of Soleimani, who was killed by a MQ-9 Reaper drone that fired missiles into his convoy as he was leaving the Baghdad airport, also took the life of Abu Mahdi al-Muhandis, the deputy commander of Iran-backed militias in Iraq known as the Popular Mobilization Forces, along with other Iraqi Shiite militia leaders. The strike may temporarily bolster the political fortunes of the two beleaguered architects of the assassination, Donald Trump and Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, but it is an act of imperial suicide by the United States. There can be no positive outcome. It opens up the possibility of an Armageddon-type scenario relished by the lunatic fringes of the Christian right.

“The generals and politicians who launched and prosecuted these wars are not about to take the blame for the quagmires they created. They need a scapegoat. It is Iran.”

A war with Iran would see it use its Chinese-supplied anti-ship missiles, mines and coastal artillery to shut down the Strait of Hormuz, which is the corridor for 20% of the world’s oil supply. Oil prices would double, perhaps triple, devastating the global economy.

The retaliatory strikes by Iran on Israel, as well as on American military installations in Iraq, would leave hundreds, maybe thousands, of dead. The Shiites in the region, from Saudi Arabia to Pakistan, would see an attack on Iran as a religious war against Shiism.

The 2 million Shiites in Saudi Arabia, concentrated in the oil-rich Eastern province, the Shiite majority in Iraq and the Shiite communities in Bahrain, Pakistan and Turkey would turn in fury on us and our dwindling allies. There would be an increase in terrorist attacks, including on American soil, and widespread sabotage of oil production in the Persian Gulf. Hezbollah in southern Lebanon would renew attacks on northern Israel. War with Iran would trigger a long and widening regional conflict that, by the time it was done, would terminate the American Empire and leave in its wake mounds of corpses and smoldering ruins.

Let us hope for a miracle to pull us back from this Dr. Strangelove self-immolation.

Iran, which has vowed “harsh retaliation,” is already reeling under the crippling economic sanctions imposed by the Trump administration when it unilaterally withdrew in 2018 from the Iranian nuclear arms deal.

Tensions in Iraq between the U.S. and the Shiite majority, at the same time, have been escalating. On Dec. 27 Katyusha rockets were fired at a military base in Kirkuk where U.S. forces are stationed. An American civilian contractor was killed and several U.S. military personnel were wounded.

The U.S. responded on Dec. 29 by bombing sites belonging to the Iranian-backed Kataib Hezbollah militia.

Two days later Iranian-backed militias attacked the U.S. Embassy in Baghdad, vandalizing and destroying parts of the building and causing its closure. But this attack will soon look like child’s play.

Iraq after our 2003 invasion and occupation has been destroyed as a unified country. Its once-modern infrastructure is in ruins. Electrical and water services are, at best, erratic. There is high unemployment and discontent over widespread government corruption that has led to bloody street protests. Warring militias and ethnic factions have carved out competing and antagonistic enclaves.

At the same time, the war in Afghanistan is lost, as the Afghanistan Papers published by The Washington Post detail. Libya is a failed state. Yemen after five years of unrelenting Saudi airstrikes and a blockade is enduring one of the world’s worst humanitarian disasters.

The “moderate” rebels we funded and armed in Syria at a cost of $500 million, after instigating a lawless reign of terror, have been beaten and driven out of the country. The monetary cost for this military folly, the greatest strategic blunder in American history, is between $5 trillion and $7 trillion.

So why go to war with Iran? Why walk away from a nuclear agreement that Iran did not violate?

Why demonize a government that is the mortal enemy of the Taliban, along with other jihadist groups, including al-Qaida and Islamic State?

Why shatter the de facto alliance we have with Iran in Iraq and Afghanistan?

Why further destabilize a region already dangerously volatile?

The generals and politicians who launched and prosecuted these wars are not about to take the blame for the quagmires they created. They need a scapegoat. It is Iran. The hundreds of thousands of dead and maimed, including at least 200,000 civilians, and the millions driven from their homes into displacement and refugee camps cannot, they insist, be the result of our failed and misguided policies. The proliferation of radical jihadist groups and militias, many of which we initially trained and armed, along with the continued worldwide terrorist attacks, have to be someone else’s fault. The generals, the CIA, the private contractors and weapons manufacturers who have grown rich off these conflicts, the politicians such as George W. Bush, Barack Obama and Donald Trump, along with all the “experts” and celebrity pundits who serve as cheerleaders for endless war, have convinced themselves, and want to convince us, that Iran is responsible for our catastrophe.

“Trump and Netanyahu, as well as Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman, are mired in scandal. They believe a new war would divert attention from their foreign and domestic crises.”

The chaos and instability we unleashed in the Middle East, especially in Iraq and Afghanistan, left Iran as the dominant country in the region. Washington empowered its nemesis. It has no idea how to reverse its mistake other than to attack Iran.

Trump and Netanyahu, as well as Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman, are mired in scandal. They believe a new war would divert attention from their foreign and domestic crises. But they have no more rational strategy for war with Iran than they did for the wars in Afghanistan, Iraq, Libya, Yemen and Syria. European allies, whom Trump alienated when he walked away from the Iranian nuclear agreement, will not cooperate with Washington if the U.S. goes to war with Iran. The Pentagon lacks the hundreds of thousands of troops it would need to attack and occupy Iran. And the Trump administration’s view that the marginal and discredited Iranian resistance group Mujahedeen-e-Khalq (MEK), which fought alongside Saddam Hussein in the war against Iran and is seen by most Iranians as composed of traitors, is a viable counterforce to the Iranian government is ludicrous.

International law, along with the rights of 80 million people in Iran, is ignored just as the rights of the peoples of Afghanistan, Iraq, Libya, Yemen and Syria were ignored. The Iranians, whatever they feel about their despotic regime, would not see the United States as allies or liberators. They do not want to be occupied. They would resist.

A war with Iran would be seen throughout the region as a war against Shiism. But these are calculations that the ideologues, who know little about the instrument of war and even less about the cultures or peoples they seek to dominate, cannot fathom. Attacking Iran would be no more successful than the Israeli airstrikes on Lebanon in 2006, which failed to break Hezbollah and united most Lebanese behind that militant group. The Israeli bombing did not pacify 4 million Lebanese. What will happen if we begin to pound a country of 80 million people whose land mass is three times the size of France?

The United States, like Israel, has become a pariah that shreds, violates or absents itself from international law. We launch preemptive wars, which under international law is defined as a “crime of aggression,” based on fabricated evidence. We, as citizens, must hold our government accountable for these crimes. If we do not, we will be complicit in the codification of a new world order, one that would have terrifying consequences. It would be a world without treaties, statutes and laws. It would be a world where any nation, from a rogue nuclear state to a great imperial power, would be able to invoke its domestic laws to annul its obligations to others. Such a new order would undo five decades of international cooperation—largely put in place by the United States—and thrust us into a Hobbesian nightmare. Diplomacy, broad cooperation, treaties and law, all the mechanisms designed to civilize the global community, would be replaced by savagery.

Chris Hedges writes a regular column for Truthdig.com. Hedges graduated from Harvard Divinity School and was for nearly two decades a foreign correspondent for The New York Times. He is the author of many books, including: War Is A Force That Gives Us Meaning, What Every Person Should Know About War, and American Fascists: The Christian Right and the War on America.  His most recent book is Empire of Illusion: The End of Literacy and the Triumph of Spectacle.

SA’s education minister Angie Motshekga praises top achievers

Basic education minister Angie Motshekga

Thirty top achievers out of 700 000 learners who wrote the national senior certificate exams were honoured at a breakfast hosted by Basic Education Minister Angie Motshekga.

Motshekga, a former school teacher herself, praised the top achievers, and congratulated them for beating the odds and passing their matric with flying colours.

“Despite serious challenges such as infrastructure, you managed to achieve the best. For that we are grateful,” said Motshekga.

“We are putting our hopes in you. You are our national asset.”

Motshekga said she was not intimidated by challenges posed by the Forth Industrial Revolution and the digital economy because the South African learners were brilliant, hard-working and dedicated to education.

“In you we have brilliant and dedicated kids. We are not intimidated at all by the Fourth Industrial Revolution,” she said.

Motshekga said she was extremely with the overall matric exams outcomes, especially because many schools ‘servicing the poor came to the party’ and performed well.

Motshekga added: “You must know as country we are putting our hope’s in your capabilities. We don’t want any child to be left behind, we close the gap between the poor and the reach and bottom schools should go up. We are putting our hopes in you and we are very proud from the analysis of results.”

Deputy Minister Reginah Mhaule said she was proud of the 30 top learners and what they had achieved during their examinations.

“You have made us proud and we appreciate your commitment to education and excellence. You are here top 30 out of 700 000 learners and that must make you proud,” said Mhaule.

Esther Makinder from Milnerton High School in the Western Cape Province said she ‘feels happy and joyful that by Go’ds grace she’s been able to do well and be a top achiever’.


Davido, D’Banj, Wizkid, Tiwa Savage: Nigerian musicians are global stars

Nigerian musician Tiwa Savage

Davido, D’Banj, Wizkid, Tiwa Savage … Nigerian musicians are global stars. But behind the VIP-studded after-parties, and signings with major labels, is the 100% Naija ecosystem that got them there.

“Are you ready?”

Amped up by a string of warm-up acts, the audience at the O2 Arena in London loses it completely as Idris Elba jogs out onto the runway.

“Are you ready for Davido?” asks the screen idol, rhetorically.

A curtain falls to reveal the singer – white T-shirt and black shades. He stands on a circular platform suspended from the roof, some 10 metres in the air.

Flames and smoke engulf both platform and Davido, who keeps singing. Pyrotechnicians quietly high-five backstage.

The crowd are young. They know all the words to this newly global sound. Soft harmonies and synth, thudding bass and the omnipresent rrrat tat tat, tat-tat. Knee-high black leather boots. Dreads, with the occasional red weave and shaved sides. Big coats from Italian designers. Swaying, singing, dancing.

Davido is slowly lowered from the sky to the stage. He is being gently manoeuvred into the consciousness of the wider listening public, too.

“You have to let people feel they are discovering things for themselves,” says a senior executive of LiveNation, the UK’s largest live music music promoter. He is impressed by the turnout for the gig. “Not so many people are selling out the O2 these days.”

Bottom of Form

But only cave-dwellers would be ignorant of Nigeria’s sustained global musical moment. It is not just since the appearance of Nigerian musician Burna Boy on The Daily Show with Trevor Noah in August 2019 – although having African entertainment giants on either side of the interview desk during American prime-time TV is no small thing.

In 2017, at the MOBO Awards, Wizkid beat Jay-Z, Drake and Kendrick Lamar to win Best International Act, and Davido walked away with Best African Act for ‘If’, a tune that has now exceeded 90m views on Youtube. Davido’s subsequent single, ‘Fall’, is knocking on 140m views. A year later, Davido won at the BET Awards in Los Angeles and implored global artists to “come to Africa”.

Wizkid sold out at the O2 Arena in 2018, a year before Davido. Beyoncé, never shy of jumping on popular directions, brought together Nigerian stars such as Tiwa Savage, Mr Eazi, Tekno, Yemi Alade, Wizkid and Nigerian super-producer P2J, as well as other African artists, on her companion album to The Lion King movie. Many of these Nigerian acts are making the US festival circuit their new home.

Behind the global phenomenon, however, the demography and purchasing power of Nigerian consumers is driving the industry.

When Nigeria rebased its GDP, adding in things like the music industry and Nollywood, Nigeria’s output leapt from $270bn to $510bn. The music you hear in Lagos nightclubs today is almost exclusively Nigerian – a far cry from a few decades ago.

“I only began to realise that Afrobeats was going to be big when we were all fighting over the D’banj single, which eventually went to Kanye’s label in the summer of 2012,” says Ferdy Unger-Hamilton, president of Columbia Records UK, a subsidiary of Sony Music. “And I was silly enough to think this was going to be a one-off. […] Until I noticed a few weeks later that D’banj feat Davido had just sold out the Hammersmith Apollo. The music has now been adopted into the wider culture.”

Pan-African audience-building

Back on stage, “Are there any Nigerians here tonight?” asks Davido, rhetorically, as the crowd roars. “Any Ghanaians?” Again a huge response. South Africans, too.

The click beat to his hit ‘Coolest kid in Africa’ – jointly produced with South African rapper Nasty C – starts to unfurl, with its shout-outs to countries on the continent.

It feels almost studied, a conscious attempt at pan-African audience building. Go to far-flung villages in non-anglophone countries, and you will find people who know many of his hits.

For those who have followed Davido’s career for a long time, this is no surprise. Davido is strategic in his use of the whole toolbox. He is, for example, one of the few Nigerian musicians to use songwriters.

And Davido is being strategic in management, too. His aim: crack the US. He has asked Efe Ogbeni, founder of Stealth Management and a stalwart of the industry, to get him there.

After the gig is over, the pungent dressing-room party is in full swing. The A-list of black London then rolls through Davido’s chambers: supermodel Naomi Campbell, Vogue UK editor Edward Enninful, (former) Arsenal midfielder Alex Iwobi to name a few.

Ogbeni is all smiles. As the gig ended, he runs on stage to spray Davido with champagne.

A few hours earlier, however, things were very different….

We arrive in a 4×4 at the artist gate at the O2 arena. Security guards, with the smirk of security guards around the world, ask who we are. “It’s my event,” says Ogbeni, visibly irritated, trying to keep his temper under control.

After some mutterings into a radio the gates finally open, and the car sweeps under the lip of the giant white tent known as the Millennium Dome, a New-Labour folly of the late 1990s that seats 15,000 people.
“I have to keep it cool otherwise they tag you as the angry black man,” says Ogbeni. “I have been fighting this all my life.”

His long push to bring Africa to the world started with Moroccan producer RedOne, with whom he brought artists like Lady Gaga to prominence.

Record-breaking record

Part of the frustration is with the lack of radio airplay that Davido had ahead of the O2 gig. No matter: he sold out the arena anyway.

“Right now LiveNation and AEG are the landlords and gatekeepers. The radio are the gatekeepers,” says Ogbeni. “But next time we want to book the O2, we will be able to go straight to the venue – we have proved that we can sell tickets. And the radios in the US are now playing Davido on heavy rotation.”

Five months on from the O2 gig, and Ogbeni has helped push Davido’s single ‘Fall’ to number 13 on the Billboard chart, where it made history as the longest-charting Nigerian single in Billboard history.

“It’s connecting Africa to the world and connecting the world to Africa,” says Ogbeni, as we meet this time at the Eko Hotel in Lagos. “So I took Naomi Campbell to the Shrine last month, and Femi [Kuti] did what he has never done before, he came up here and performed with her on stage. With the editor of British Vogue there. Then I go to Morocco for Idris Elba’s wedding. I took Davido to do a surprise party. I shot the clip of Davido dancing with Christian Louboutin with their red-bottomed shoes. That’s culture, that is connections.”

Ogbeni adds: “I have been battling the gatekeepers for years. But Joel Katz is my mentor. I don’t fuss. People get to know me in the end.” Katz, the lawyer to James Brown and Michael Jackson, works for US law firm Greenberg Traurig and is considered an untouchable in the music industry. He is the legal representative to the Grammys and to 70% of the top labels in the US.

Rush of the majors

In show business, artists are the product, and you often need to fill a pipeline of hits for the majors to be interested. Slowly but surely, big media corporations are identifying – and fighting for – Nigeria and Africa’s top talent.

African artists – no pushovers themselves – are surfing on this new wave of interest. The most sophisticated are riding it to global supremacy. And as the internet upends business model after business model, the streaming generation of musicians and industry players are trying to keep up.

In May 2019, for example, Tiwa Savage, a huge star in Nigeria and winner of the MTV Europe Music Award for Best African Act, was signed to Universal Music Group (UMG).

Of the US major labels, UMG, Sony and Warner Music Group are taking Africa seriously.

Warner has just signed up Nigeria’s influential Chocolate City label, which boasts Femi Kuti (Fela’s son) and M.I Abaga. Sony’s deal with Davido was preceded by the signing of D’banj in 2012. The world’s second-largest record company opened a West Africa office in Lagos in 2016. They were followed by the world’s largest, UMG, in 2018.

UMG is a behemoth – cash-rich and courted. Its parent company, Vivendi, is said to be seeking to sell up to 50% of its shares and is in talks with Tencent, the Chinese media giant, which already sublicences UMG’s catalogue in China. Together, they are building ‘Abbey Road Studios China’.

“They are not pressed. They have got cash, top acts. They can influence the whole world,” says Ogbeni. “So I knew if I pitched Tiwa to them they would jump on it. It’s a small deal, but a €1m ($1.1m) commitment is a lot.”

Enter the Don

We are sitting in the late bar of the Hotel Ivoire in Abidjan, in early April.

The great and the good are milling about after hours, gathered for the Mo Ibrahim Foundation’s governance weekend. Bono is propping up the bar. We dodge the conversation to grab some large sofas with Don Jazzy, Nigeria’s answer to Dr Dré.

A super-producer and musician, Don Jazzy looms large in the Nigerian musical psyche, instrumental in creating a new sound for Nigerian pop, much as Dr Dré spearheaded G-Funk in the US.

Don Jazzy set up Mo’Hits Records in 2004 alongside singer D’banj and helped launch the careers of Nigerian musical heroes like Wande Coal, while working with Jay-Z, Kanye West and Beyoncé. In 2012, when D’banj left the label, he launched Mavin Records with the aim of being “the powerhouse of music in Africa in the shortest possible time”.

“You can’t blame someone for being ambitious,” says Don Jazzy. Though the news has not yet dropped that Tiwa Savage is leaving Mavin Records, he is obviously aware that something is afoot. “When you are growing, you are getting to the point – like Tiwa Savage now – where you think, okay what’s next? There’s the big three: there’s Universal, there’s Sony and there’s Warner. If they are knocking on your door and they are like: ‘We can make you like this…’ You need to remember, most of these artists, they look up to the Beyoncés, the Rihannas of this world. They have the right to actually try to see if they can achieve that in partnership with people that have done it before.”

Premier league tactics

A footballing analogy may help explain the dynamics of Nigeria’s music scene. Ogbeni is the super-agent that can get you into Real Madrid and hopefully switch on the entire world to what Nigeria can do. Connected across all the major labels, able to bridge African and global markets, close to musical godfathers like Quincy Jones, Ogbeni can turn you into a star.

By contrast, what Don Jazzy wants to do with Mavin is to create an academy like Barcelona’s La Macias – an ecosystem to nurture the entire industry. “More than building global superstar artists that are going to be big in America, Asia, whatever. It is actually about growing a sector in Africa – have students go to school who can aspire to actually work in the entertainment business,” says Don Jazzy. “We don’t have people that go and read entertainment law, for example. There’s a whole lot of job security that we are trying to actually put in place, more than getting a superstar there.”

And, for Don Jazzy, avuncular and relaxed on the sofa, as one star walks away, another arrives. As we talk, Mavin’s latest addition is filling four out of the top 10 slots of Nigeria’s Apple Music charts.

Rema is certainly blunting any pain at Tiwa Savage’s departure.

Identified by Don Jazzy’s younger brother, known as D’Prince, Rema is a clear talent, but one who also has clear plans. “They [Mavin] accept my sound for what it is, crazy as it sounds. The trap and the rock and everything. Most people would try to change your sound, but they believe in mine,” Rema told journalist Debola Abimbolu in May.

Taking back control

That contrasts with Davido, who has complained of creative differences with Sony, leading to his renegotiating how he makes music back in 2017. He posted on social media: ‘Creative control returned, new music in 2 days.’

Indeed, after his contract was tweaked to allow him to release music in Africa on his own terms, compared to the total control Sony was demanding for his international releases, he released ‘If’ under his own label.

Bobby Pittman, the affable former assistant secretary of state for Africa under George W. Bush, now runs Kupanda Capital, a US private equity firm. In January 2019, Kupanda announced a multimillion-dollar investment into Mavin.

He takes up the idea of creating the ecosystem required to help new artists focus on their creativity. “We have lawyers, accountants, we have social media teams. We have a full suite of data professionals and are really building an engine so that [Don Jazzy] can do what he does – develop artists,” says Pittman. “There are not enough of these platforms today, the majors are not in these geographies really as horsepower builders, right?”

But while there may not be enough of them, Mavin and Don Jazzy are not alone.

Along with the sophistication of Davido’s approach – bringing in the management and the songwriting talent to help crack the US market – there is now a whole raft of new entrepreneurial artists with designs on being the next platform.

Take Mr Eazi – born Oluwatosin Oluwole Ajibade in Port Harcourt and now based in Ghana. He is no stranger to using data. Ajibade founded an e-commerce company, took it through an accelerator and ran it for some time. He is no stranger to hustle either. In 2016, he was selling phones in Lagos’s Computer Village, a sprawling tech market in Nigeria’s rowdy commercial capital.

His latest initiative is to create his own incubator for African musicians. While it may not have the polish of Mavin, it has a similar quest to hand autonomy to artists. Lately, Mr Eazi has been promoting his new initiative called emPawa, a platform he established to help boost talented up-and-coming artists through a competition that gives the winners access to knowledge, equipment, and the chance to perform with him.

Gift that keeps giving

It has been a rewarding project for the 27 year old. “Watching these artists go from amateur Instagram videos to having their careers, successful singles, touring, has just been a blessing to watch,” Mr Eazi tells The Africa Report after a concert in South Africa. “If you ask me what’s the one thing I’m proud of in this music career, the only thing I can tell you is emPawa. What’s about to happen in Africa this year is we’re gonna be changing everything. We’re launching emPawa Distribution, emPawa Publishing and other platforms to empower artists. The end goal for that is to build a new incubator for African music within Africa and the African diaspora.”

Now he has moved his business to London and is striking deals with US artists. And even the structure of his songs has evolved with the new economics of the streaming world in mind. “Take his last three releases, for example. All two minute songs or slightly shorter. Why?” asks The Africa Report’s West Africa editor, Eromo Egbejule. “Music economics to game the system and maximise streaming revenue.”

Ajibade recently told Rolling Stone: “In the West I can make gambles and book venues by myself, because I have data [about my listeners]. I know that in New York, I have about 500,000 listeners a month. So I know I can have 1,000 people at my concert. And I know 30% are from Brooklyn so I can do a show near where they live. I don’t have that data back home. Nigeria has 36 states. I’ve not even toured 10, and that’s partly because my fans are consuming the music in an alternate way that is not trackable.”

Beyond the music lie those who (mostly) consume it; the kids.

And in Africa, whether or not the kids are alright is proving a vexed question. Both for African governments desperately trying to keep pace with job creation, and for terrified eurocrats, trembling at the thought of migrants crossing the deserts.

For Ogbeni, ultimately, this is the vision. “The youths listen to those artists more than they listen to governments. So I have to be responsible. If I have the number-one female and the number one-male [artist], that is real influence.”

What if the real importance of musicians was their ability to transmit messages?

Back in the 1970s and 1980s, Nigerians were well aware of the political impact their musicians could have. Your aunties and uncles will tell you that today’s crop appear more interested in shifting product and branding deals.

That won’t prevent another Fela Kuti emerging. Already, Davido has weighed into Nigerian politics, backing his uncle’s failed bid to become the governor of Osun State in May.

As Davido once told reporters: “I know eight presidents personally, so you can imagine what I can do.”

Story by The Africa Report

With additional reporting by Shingai Darangwa in Johannesburg

17-year-old US teenager earns master’s degree in Physics


While it is normal for any teenager to be in matric, a precocious 17-year-old Carson Huey-You has graduated from the Texas Christian University with a master’s degree in Physics.

It is reported that Huey-You, is thought to be the youngest person to ever get a master’s degree from Texas Christian University.

In a tweet written by Amiso George, she says she is so proud of the youngest master’s graduate, Huey-You, who earned his physics degree.

Huey-You said he is just a normal kid who likes video games as he normally plays with his brother and petting his dog outside of the school.

“Outside of just school and academia, I’m really just a normal 17-year-old kid. I like playing video games, I have a dog, I have my brother at home, so, we have fun,” he said.


#MatricResults2019: Eastern Cape hopes to improve pass rate by 5%

EC education MEC, Fundile Gade


As growing concerns escalate over the Grade 12 pupils’ poor Mathematics results, Eastern Cape Department of Education is optimistic that it will improve its matric pass rate by at least 5%.

This is according to education spokesperson, Loyiso Pulumani, who told Zonk News ahead of the release of matric results on Tuesday that the department was hoping to improve its position and pass rate.    

The province has had the worst results for the past five years.

 “The Eastern Cape Education Department has indeed put in a lot of work to make sure that we maintain the upward trajectory that has been the hallmark of our performance for the last 5 years,” said Pulumani.

In 2017, he said, the province showed a slight improvement, but not much enough to raise it from the bottom of the list.

“We have ensured that our schools are monitored from the 1st day of schooling through a comprehensive IT based system that enables districts to flag problems before they become unmanageable,” said Pulumani.

On Friday, SA’s Council for Quality Assurance in General and Further Education and Training said the 2018 Grade 12 class had failed to improve the Maths pass rate from last year.

The quality assurance body approved the release of the 2019 national exams results after successfully conducting the quality assurance of the management and administration of the examinations

Lucky Ditaunyane, Umalusi’s spokesperson, said as the institution they compared the performance in Maths with the performance in other gateway subjects like Maths literacy and life sciences.

“There has been an improvement in the other subjects, Maths remained the same and it hasn’t moved the needle. The marks are not better and they’re not getting worse,” he said

Pulumani added that they had quarterly campaigns that have targeted struggling schools for additional support through additional resourcing and new innovation.

“We remain cautiously optimistic that improvement will be met as all indicators from assessment of June and September trial exams have suggested,” said Pulumani.

In December 2019, Eastern Cape’s education MEC Fundile Gade announced that matric pupils will write the 2020 exams in isiXhosa and Sotho.


GOLDEN GLOBES 2020: All the winners and big surprises

War film 1917 surprised many when it won Best Picture at the annual 77th Golden Globe Awards, held in Beverly Hills on Sunday night.

Here is the list of winners, with Brad Pitt taking the Best supporting actor for Once Upon a Time… in Hollywood and, Laura Dern picked as the Best supporting actress for Marriage Story.  

As predicted, Joaquin Phoenix picked up best actor for The Joker.

All the Golden Globes winners:

Best Motion Picture – Drama


Best Performance by an Actress in a Motion Picture – Drama

Renée Zellweger, Judy

Best Performance by an Actor in a Motion Picture – Drama

Joaquin Phoenix, Joker

Best Motion Picture – Musical or Comedy

Once Upon a Time in Hollywood

Best Performance by an Actress in a Motion Picture – Musical or Comedy

Awkwafina, The Farewell

Best Performance by an Actor in a Motion Picture – Musical or Comedy

Taron Egerton, Rocketman

Best Performance by an Actor in a Supporting Role in Any Motion Picture

Brad Pitt, Once Upon a Time in Hollywood

Best Original Score – Motion Picture

Joker – Hildur Guðnadóttir

Best Television Limited Series or Motion Picture made for Television


Best Performance by an Actress in a Limited Series or Motion Picture made for Television

Michelle Williams, Fosse/Verdon

Best Director – Motion Picture

Sam Mendes, 1917

Best Performance by an Actress in a Television Series – Drama

Olivia Colman, The Crown

Best Performance by an Actress in a Supporting Role in a Series, Limited Series or Motion Picture made for Television

Patricia Arquette, The Act

Best Original Song – Motion Picture

“I’m Gonna Love Me Again,” Rocketman – Music by Elton John, Lyrics by Bernie Taupin

Best Television Series – Musical or Comedy


Best Performance by an Actress in a Supporting Role in Any Motion Picture

Laura Dern, Marriage Story

Best Motion Picture – Animated

Missing Link

Best Screenplay – Motion Picture

Once Upon a Time in Hollywood – Quentin Tarantino

Best Performance by an Actor in a Television Series – Drama

Brian Cox, Succession

Best Motion Picture – Foreign Language


Best Performance by an Actress in a Television Series – Musical or Comedy

Phoebe Waller-Bridge, Fleabag

Best Television Series – Drama


Best Performance by an Actor in a Supporting Role in a Series, Limited Series or Motion Picture made for Television

Stellan Skarsgård, Chernobyl

Best Performance by an Actor in a Limited Series or Motion Picture made for Television

Russell Crowe, The Loudest Voice

Best Performance by an Actor in a Television Series – Musical or Comedy

Ramy Youssef, Ramy


19-year-old Ghanaian student builds search engine to rival Google

A 19-year-old Ghanaian university student Gabriel Opare has built a new search engine to rival Google and Youtube.

According to Opare, his new search engine, Mudclo, will challenge the dominance of YouTube.

Opare, a level 300 sociology student of the University of Ghana, taught himself how to code by taking online courses during his free time.

Mudclo is a free search engine for videos. Mudclo discovers and streams videos from the different locations on the internet all in one place.

“I believe that my business is good enough and that it can scale globally. It is a legitimate point to say that YouTube is a video hosting website, but they are two different entities.

“While YouTube is a video hosting website, Mudclo combines the power of YouTube and two other video hosting websites in order to create Mudclo,” he said.

Mudclo’s users most popular searches include adverts, music videos and amateur content.

According to Opare, his initial inspiration came from other Ghanaians, restless and eager to build businesses at a young age on a continent where opportunities are limited and unemployment is rife.

Mudclo has already caught the attention of some of the world’s big tech companies, including more established video hosting sites although there is some work to be done on Mudclo to fix bugs, boost the features and visual experiences it offers users.

“With all entrepreneurs, they feel that there is a rewarding or gratifying feeling that comes with creating a product or a service that will actually matter to the world,” the teenager added.

Experts say information and communication technology could help Africa overcome infrastructure inadequacies, satisfy rising consumer demand, boost regional trade and diversify economies, ending reliance on raw materials.

SOURCE: Graphic Online Ghana

Businesses hit hard as Eskom load-shedding returns

Eskom chairperson Jabu Mabuza


Despite President Cyril Ramaphosa’s promises, South African businesses have been hard hit by another round of Eskom’s load-shedding.

The embattled power utility plunged the country into stage 2 load-shedding on Saturday evening – and this continued until 5am on Monday morning.

Eskom’s management blamed an “unanticipated conveyor belt failure at the Medupi power station”.

In a statement released by Eskom, it said the conveyor belt had been repaired, but the incident and the loss of additional generation units caused it to deplete its emergency diesel and water storage levels.

These needed to be restored as SA heads into the working week today.

Although they reported that there won’t be any load shedding expected on Monday, despite a constrained and vulnerable system, small businesses are concerned about the effects of load shedding on their business.

Jerry Mthembu, of SJM Auto Body based in Midrand says his business uses a lot of electricity and it is unfortunate that they have to suffer.

“My business is heavily based on using electricity and without giving my clients the best of what they want and without electricity I am worried about load shedding,” Mthembu told Zonk News on Monday.

In December, President Ramaphosa assured South Africans that there won’t be any load-shedding between 17 December 2019 and 15 January 2020.


Former deputy Reserve Bank governor Daniel Mminele appointed new Absa CEO

Former deputy Reserve Bank governor Daniel Mminele appointed new Absa CEO


Former deputy Reserve Bank governor Daniel Mminele has been appointed new CEO of Absa – the second-largest bank on the African continent with an asset value of over US$97.2 billion.

Mminele will start work on January 15 2020.

Mminele had been at the central bank since 1999 and served two five-year terms as deputy governor before resigning on 27 June.

When he resigned, he told President Cyril Ramaphosa that he won’t be available to remain in his position, without providing information about his future plans, fuelling speculation that he could be appointed CEO of Absa.


SA business pioneer Richard Maponya dies after a short illness

Business pioneer Richard Maponya

Richard Maponya, the South African businessman, teacher, philanthropist and property developer, has died at the age of 99 after a short illness.

In a statement issued on Monday morning, family spokesperson Mandla Sibeko said: “It is with great sadness that the Maponya family informs you of the passing-on of Dr Richard Maponya in the early hours of the 6th of January 2020, after a short illness. The family requests some privacy during this time of grieving. Funeral arrangements will be announced in due course.”

Born in Tlhabile, Tzaneen in Limpopo, Maponya started out as a school teacher.

However, he took a job as a stock taker at a clothing store and later sold clothes to migrant workers in Soweto.

On 27 September 2007, Maponya, dubbed the father of black retail in SA, opened the Maponya Mall in Soweto, valued at over R650 million.  

It holds more than 200 stores and a cinema complex

Maponya acquired the land where the mall is situated in 1979, at first as a 100-year lease.

In 1994, after several attempts, he acquired it outright.

Various attempts to finance construction failed until Maponya’s holding company entered into a joint venture with Zenprop Property Holdings.