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Botswana begins voting in test of a stable democracy

Voting opened on Wednesday in Botswana for a hotly contested general election that could test the country’s traditionally stable politics, as the ruling party faces its toughest challenge yet.

Voting opened on Wednesday in Botswana for a hotly contested general election that could test the country’s traditionally stable politics, as the ruling party faces its toughest challenge yet.

The historic Botswana Democratic Party (BDP) – whose rule has been unfettered since independence from Britain in 1966 – was shaken up earlier this year after former president Ian Khama dramatically renounced his hand-picked successor Mokgweetsi Masisi.

Voters started gathering late on Tuesday at Tlogatloga secondary school in Botswana’s capital Gaborone, waiting all night to cast their ballot.

“I have spotted a candidate I think is the right person and I have to get him in,” said banker Chops Maswikiti, 37.

“He does not belong to the party I voted for in the last two terms but he represents strong sanity on our side,” he told AFP.

Khama stormed out of the BDP in May after accusing President Masisi – his deputy until last year – of autocracy.

The dispute could fracture the BDP and offset Botswana’s reputation as a beacon of democracy and stability in Africa.

It also strikes another blow to Botswana’s founding party, which saw its share of the vote dip below 50 percent for the first time at the last election in 2014.

Khama has thrown his weight behind the BDP’s strongest rival – a coalition of opposition parties called the Umbrella for Democratic Change (UDC).

While the opposition group was once Khama’s fiercest critic, he has urged voters to back the UDC in a bid to unseat the “dead” BDP.

Khama, whose father co-founded the BDP and served as Botswana’s first president, retains plenty of influence, particularly in the central region — a BDP stronghold — where he is a traditional chief.

Should Khama fulfil his goal, it would be the first time diamond-rich Botswana has seen a change of government in 53 years.

Around 931,000 of the country’s 2.2 million people are registered to vote in the parliamentary and local elections.

The BDP, UDC and two smaller parties are vying for 57 seats in parliament. The party with the most seats chooses the president.

“This election is different because normally it’s obvious who will be the next president,” said Lesetamang Paya, a 63-year old retired public servant, before casting his vote.

“But this time it’s uncertain, there is genuine competition,” he added, hinting that there “might be some change”.

Rule of law remains supreme

During an interview with AFP in the town of Mahalapye, 200 kilometres (120 miles) northwest of Gaborone, Khama said the “arrogant” Masisi administration posed a “genuine threat” to “our general democracy, our peace and stability”.

“It will actually be good for our democracy… (to) elect a new party to take over,” said Khama.

Meanwhile, a red-clad Masisi addressed more than 1,000 supporters in his natal Moshupa village, 65 kilometres east of Gaborone.

“I have not packed any books in my office, I’m not about to leave the house I’m living in,” Masisi told reporters before voting day.

“But if the unexpected should happen and we do not succeed, I will pack all my belongings peacefully and come home,” he added.

“The rule of law remains supreme in Botswana,” said Masisi. “And I’m addicted to it.”

After the rally, supporter Boitumelo Dintwe told AFP she was confident Masisi would win.

“Masisi is intelligent, he is a real leader with a vision,” said Dintwe, 39, who sells perfume.

“That one doesn’t think,” she added, referring to Khama.

The BDP is expected to garner around 44 percent of the vote, according to a pre-poll survey carried out by Afrobarometer.

“These elections are actually a test to how stable the country is,” said University of Botswana politics lecturer Gladys Mokhahwa, .

“A test of… how entrenched democratic principles and mythos are in this country,” she told AFP.

Polls opened around 6:30 am (0430 GMT) and are scheduled to close at 7:00 pm (1700 GMT).

Results are expected to be announced by the end of the week.

AFP

Oil, diamonds and nuclear power: Russia eyes Africa business

While Russia has traditionally focused on arms and grain exports to Africa, it is now looking to broaden its activities and influence.

Here are four sectors likely to be discussed at the Russia-Africa Summit set for next Wednesday and Thursday in the Black Sea resort of Sochi.

Oil and gas

Russia is one of the world’s top hydrocarbon producers and exporters through energy giants like Gazprom, Rosneft and Lukoil.

But with 65 percent of its territory covered with permafrost, exploration and extraction are costly, so Russia is eyeing up promising reserves in Africa.

Gazprom is working in Algeria, where it has discovered three gas fields, as well as in Libya, though its activities there have largely stalled since the war in 2011. The group is also interested in taking part in a project to build a gas pipeline linking Nigeria to Europe via Algeria.

Lukoil recently discovered a number of oil and gas deposits in Ghana, Nigeria, Cameroon and Egypt.

For its part, Rosneft is investing in Egypt’s huge Zohr offshore gas field and is set to be involved in some 20 projects with Nigeria’s Oranto Petroleum energy group.

Nuclear

Africa is almost entirely lacking in atomic energy, with just one nuclear power station on the whole continent, in South Africa.

Russian-built nuclear power stations have a price advantage over Western competitors and its nuclear agency Rosatom offers, attractive financing deals to customer countries.

It has already signed preliminary agreements on nuclear projects with Egypt, Nigeria, Sudan, Kenya, Ghana, Zambia and Uganda.

So far only Egypt has signed an agreement to build a station, one with four reactors at Dabaa on the Mediterranean coast by 2028 or 2029.

The cost per plant could be prohibitive, but Rosatom says countries including Rwanda are showing “great interest” in smaller-capacity, less expensive nuclear power stations.

 Diamonds

Rich in mineral resources, Russia has significant expertise in extraction that could be deployed in other countries.

The world’s top diamond producer, Russia’s Alrosa, founded the Catoca mine in Angola in 2003. The Russians even built a hydroelectric power station to provide electricity for its operations. Since 2014 Alrosa has also been searching for new deposits in the country.

Alrosa this year announced it will also start mining activities in Zimbabwe.

Aluminium giant Rusal, formerly a target of US sanctions, is meanwhile mining bauxite in Guinea and has decided to reopen an aluminium refinery there closed since 2012.

Groups such as Norilsk Nickel, Severstal, Nordgold and Ferrum Mining are present in Madagascar, Guinea, South Africa and Burkina Faso.

Education

A massive slump in Russia’s birthrate after the breakup of the Soviet Union has decimated the number of young people looking to study or join the workforce.

As it looks to fill empty seats in universities, Africa could provide a steady stream of students. 

Charles Robertson, chief economist at Renaissance Capital, estimates that the number of Russian students has fallen by 40 percent in the last decade.

“There are no young Russian people any more, so how do you fill up those universities? You bring in African students.”

This will also bring Russia “a very subtle long-term benefit” in business dealings with Africa, he said. 

“People are more willing to do trade deals with a country that they know, that they’ve been to.”

The number of African students at Russian universities is around 17,000 according to education ministry figures. It has doubled in the last 10 years and is expected to grow. – AFP

Toni Braxton’s Joburg leg sold out

by TANKISO KOMANE

Toni Braxton’s Joburg leg of her ‘As Long As I Live’ sells out days ahead of its scheduled date much to fans surprise 

As artists and promoters alike continue to bemoan the apparent lack of fan support, Toni Braxton’s sold out Joburg leg has proved that ticket pricing doesn’t always have to be the determining factor when it comes to selling out shows.

Scheduled for a two-city performance – Cape Town and Johannesburg – early next month, publicist Melanie Ramjee told Zonk News that Braxton’s Joburg tour leg has been sold out.

Priced from R790 to R2880, throngs of Braxton’s Jozi fans were taken completely surprised to learn that tickets have sold out weeks ahead of its scheduled date on Saturday, November 9.

Capetonians however are still pretty much covered with a mix of seating charts still available for purchase.

 – ZONK NEWS WIRES

Shane Maja takes the helm as Gauteng Film Commission’s new acting CEO

 The Gauteng Film Commission (GFC) has announced the appointment of Shane Maja as its acting CEO. The announcement was made today by the MEC for Sport, Arts, Culture and Recreation, Mbali Hlope and the commission’s board.

A seasoned proffesional with extensive experience in both the arts and public sector, Maja takes on the role after serving five years as a senior manager in the Gauteng Department of Sport, Arts, Culture and Recreation.

The former ‘Mamepe’ presenter is reportedly working towards completing his master degree in Cultural Policy and Management at Wits University.

The GFC is a public entity of the Gauteng Provincial Government tasked with positioning th le province as a leading destination for film-making. 

Simangele Sekgobela, who was Acting CEO will return to her position as the commission’s board member, “as they finalize the process of appointing a full time CEO,” according to a report published by GFC.

– ZONK NEWS WIRES

Coldplay announces upcoming double album out in November

The band’s last album, “A Head Full of Dreams,” arrived in 2015.

Speculation that Coldplay would soon release their eighth studio effort arose after some promotional posters appeared in major cities across the world.

The black-and-white photographs depicted the band dressed like an old-time ragtime band with a drumhead reading “The Wedding Band Dance Orchestra,” along with the date November 22, 2019.

Coldplay recently addressed rumors in a letter to their fans, announcing that they will unveil their new double album “Everyday Life” next month.

“For the last 100 years or thereabouts we have been working on a thing called Everyday Life. In the classifieds you might write ‘double album for sale, one very careful owner’. One half is called ‘sunrise’, the other ‘sunset’ […]. It is sort of how we feel about things,” they wrote.

Although details about “Everyday Life” are still scarce to this date, Coldplay collaborator Mat Whitecross teased last year that the band’s new album would “surprise” fans.

“They always want to be challenging themselves and surprising other people – that’s why they work with people like Brian Eno. In that sense, I’m sure whatever they do next will surprise people,” he told NME.

Since their 2015 “A Head Full of Dreams,” Coldplay embarked on a massive world tour in support of their seventh studio album.

Late last year, they also unveiled a career-spanning documentary named after the LP, along with a concert film and live album both entitled “Live in Buenos Aires”.

They also teamed up with Pharrell Williams and Stormzy for two collaborations that appeared on “Global Citizen EP 1,” which they released under the group name Los Unidades. – RELAXNEWS

India leave South Africa hurting with Test series sweep

Shahbaz Nadeem took the final two wickets in straight balls as India thrashed South Africa by an innings and 202 runs in the third Test on Tuesday to complete a 3-0 series rout.

Shahbaz Nadeem took the final two wickets in straight balls as India thrashed South Africa by an innings and 202 runs in the third Test on Tuesday to complete a 3-0 series rout.

The day’s play lasted just 12 balls in a triumph emphatically ramming home India’s feat in beating Australia’s record of 10 straight home series wins, and consolidating their place at the top of the World Test Championship.

For South Africa, who lost two of the three matches by more than an innings, it was one of their worst series in decades.

“It’s been a brilliant series for us,” said India captain Virat Kohli as he hailed the performance of his batsmen and bowlers who made 497 for nine declared in their first innings.

Kohli made South Africa follow on after they were bowled out for 162 in their first attempt in Ranchi.

Resuming on 132-8 in the second innings, Nadeem got substitute Theunis de Bruyn caught behind for 30 and then Lungi Ngidi for nought to dismiss the tourists for 133 on the fourth day.

“To be the best side in the world, you need to be multi-dimensional. All facets of your team have to fire,” said Kohli.

The series saw Indian batsmen Mayank Agarwal (215), Kohli (254 not out) and Rohit Sharma (212) all hit double tons against South Africa.

After big wins in the first two tests in Visakhapatnam and Pune, fast bowlers Mohammed Shami and Umesh Yadav again battered South Africa in Ranchi, this time taking 10 wickets between them.

“The catching has been brilliant as well. It’s great to see when you operate in such a way,” said Kohli.

“We believe we can win anywhere in the world. England, Australia, South Africa — good things are going to follow,” he vowed.

We were dominated

South Africa captain Faf du Plessi was left frustrated and despondent by the defeat.

He said the team had shown “good signs” at the start of the first Test, “but we went the other way and kept making more mistakes as the series went on.

“You got to give credit to the Indian team. This is a really tough Indian team under Virat,” he added.

“Be it in the batting, bowling or even fielding, we were dominated across the series.”

Du Plessis said India’s fast bowlers had performed throughout the three matches.

“Our seamers were good for 30-40 minutes but theirs were able to do that throughout the day.”

It has been a really tough series for us but we need to ensure that when we tour again, we are better equipped. This is the toughest place to tour, the statistics say that.”

De Bruyn came in to the South African XI in place of Dean Elgar, who was hit on the helmet and concussed by a short paced Umesh Yadav delivery on Monday.

The left-hander had to retire hurt and is now under observation.

Anrich Nortje received a hit on the arm on the final ball of the match after Ngidi’s shot hit him and then went to Nadeem for a return catch.

India are scheduled to host Bangladesh for two Tests and three Twenty20 internationals starting November 3. But the tour is under threat as the Bangladesh players have gone on strike over payments. – RELAXNEWS

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One Night With Sjava: watch as Black Coffee urges S.Africans to go “support their own”

by TANKISO KOMANE

The countdown has begun for Jabulani “Sjava” Hadebe’s much-anticipated first solo concert at Sun Arena Time Square in Pretoria on Sunday, October 27.

With less than a week to go before local music fans can witness in action one of the best musicians to ever come out of Africa, DJ Black Coffee took to Twitter on Monday to urge South Africans to “go support their own” and get tickets before they are sold out.

Already early bird tickets are said to have been sold out with a limited phase 2 tickets available.

Presented in association with MTN and MusicTime!, ‘One Night with Sjava’ will be “a musical treat marked by the Afro balladeer’s distinctive style of positive, affirming and celebratory songs,” organisers say. 

In keeping with the humility of the BET award winning musician, he will not be hoggling the spotlight all by himself. He will feature a yet to be announced list of surprise acts that will sure be a marvel to watch.

Show info

Bookings: Tickets are available at Computicket from R180 to R2 500 for the VVIP hospitality suite. 

Show time: Doors open at 3pm

Address: Time Square at Menlyn Maine, 209 Aramist Ave, Waterkloof Glen, Pretoria

– ZONK NEWS WIRES

Botswana: African bastion of stability

Diamond-rich Botswana is hailed for its stability, but the southern African nation struggles with income inequality, unemployment and a high rate of
HIV.


Ahead of its general election on October 23, here is some background about the landlocked country of 2.2 million people wedged between
Namibia, South Africa and Zimbabwe.


Stable since 1966


Formerly a British protectorate, Botswana became an independent democracy in 1966. The Botswana Democratic Party (BDP) has been in
power ever since.


The country’s first president, Seretse Khama, died in 1980 and his deputy Ketumile Masire took over, going on to entrench democracy and development.


Masire stepped down in 1998 and was replaced by his vice president, Festus Mogae, who oversaw strong growth during his two five-year terms.
He was succeeded by Ian Khama in 2018, a former military chief and son of Botswana’s first president.

Khama positioned himself as a regional leader, for example calling for the resignation of Zimbabwe’s long-ruling president Robert Mugabe.


Khama, accused by opponents of an increasingly authoritarian approach, stepped down in 2018 after the constitutional limit of 10 years in office.


He handed power to his deputy Mokgweetsi Masisi.
Khama then quit the governing BDP party – which was co-founded by his father – in May 2019, citing major differences with his hand-picked
successor.


In the run-up to Wednesday’s election, Khama backed a small splinter party of BDP dissenters, and even urged voters in some constituencies to vote for the main opposition coalition Umbrella for Democratic Change (UDC).


Running on diamonds


About the size of France, Botswana is one of the world’s largest diamond producers. The gems are its main source of income and account for more than three-quarters of total annual exports, according to the African Development Bank.


Since independence, the country has been one of the world’s fastest growing economies with business activity expanding by about five percent a year over the past decade, the World Bank said in 2018.


Income inequality is among the highest in the world, the World Bank added, with 16 percent of the population living in poverty and around 20
percent unemployed.


The economy was hit by a drop in diamond prices in 2009 and record drought in 2015, and has sought to diversify, notably through tourism. Botswana is rated Africa’s second least corrupt country, after the Seychelles, by Transparency International.


Largest elephant population


Much of Botswana is covered by the semi-arid Kalahari desert, home to the indigenous Bushmen people and rich in flora and fauna. It is the second largest desert in Africa after the Sahara.


The Bushmen, also called the San, are hunter-gatherers and have been evicted from ancestral land in the Kalahari, where there are diamond deposits.


With unfenced parks and wide-open spaces, Botswana has Africa’s largest elephant population with more than 135,000 – about a third of the continent’s total.


Most of the animals are in the Chobe National Park, an important tourist draw. In May 2019 President Masisi lifted a 2014 ban on elephant hunting however, saying their numbers needed to be controlled.


AIDS hotspot


Botswana has the world’s third-highest prevalence rate of HIV, with 23 percent of adults aged between 15 and 49 living with the AIDS-causing virus, according to UNAIDS 2019 data.


The country’s average life expectancy plummeted from 62 in 1987 to 48 in 2001, but has since climbed back up to 66. It was the first African nation to offer universal anti-retroviral treatment to fight the disease.


In June 2019 Botswana’s High Court decriminalised homosexuality, which had been punishable by a jail term of up to seven years. – AFP

Viggy dumps Idols SA after twin sister’s elimination

by TANKISO KOMANE

The continuous online bullying and harassment that the Qwabe twins have had to endure from the start of their Idols SA journey are partly to blame for their abrupt exit from the competition.

This morning Mzansi woke up to the shocking news that the Qwabe twins are both out of the competition following Viggy’s decision to withdraw from the singing competition.

Viggy, who still remained in the Idols competition post Sunday night’s elimination announced she’s quiting the show after her twin sister Virginia was eliminated on the night.

Season 15 of Idols SA has seen a first on the competition with the Qwabe twins making it to the top 6. From the start of the competition, the twins have always said they are in this together.

While Viggy is yet to divulge the actual reason for her abrupt exit, Mzansi Magic confirmed in statement this Monday that she’s no longer part of the show.

“We would like to wish both Viggy Qwabe and Virginia Qwabe all the best in their career as they are both extremely talented,” it said.  “The Qwabe twins, their family, production company and channel met after the show tonight (Sunday) to formalise Viggy’s decision.”

Fans however were quick to express their displeasure at the bullying the twins have endured since the start of the show, which they partly blame for their exit.

 “#idolssa Viggy has withdrawn from the competition. I won’t judge her because these girls have gone through so much cyber bullying from day one. In the live video they made, they were crying and said they don’t like it when people say bad things to them,” Twitter user @uYesuKrestu shared.

Another user @focul123 wrote: “There are rumors going around that they wanted to quit long time ago but Virginia was the strong one. So, even if Viggy stayed for votes, was she going to survive emotionally? The hate? She is also human and they read all comments on social media.”

– ZONK NEWS WIRES

Herman Mashaba resigns as mayor of Joburg


Businessman Herman Mashaba has resigned as Executive Mayor of the City of Joburg, effective November 27 2019, following the DA’s election of Helen Zille as the party’s federal council chairperson on Sunday.

“The election of Zille as chair of federal council is victory for people who are opposed to my belief systems. I cannot reconcile myself with a group of people who think race is irrelevant when dealing with social economic conditions of people,” said Mashaba.


Mashaba announced his resignation during a media briefing at the city council’s offices in Braamfontein, Johannesburg. DA leader Mmusi Maimane wished Mashaba in his future endeavours.


Maimane said he would have preferred him to finish his term. “Today is a very difficult day,” Maimane said.
“I would have preferred him to finish his term. [However] I respect Mashaba’s decision.”


Mashaba was previously quoted as saying he would resign if “right-wing elements” took over the DA.

Business Day reported on Monday that he was unhappy with the recommendation of the review panel – which was made up of former party leader Tony Leon, former policy head Ryan Coetzee and Capitec founder Michiel le Roux – that the DA should rethink its relationship with the EFF, with which he is on solid ground and whose support resulted in him being elected.

– ZONK NEWS WIRES