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Feb. 26 (GIN) – As the international press corps spins rafts of copy on accused killer Oscar ‘Blade Runner’ Pistorius, the much-needed gender debate expected to follow a young Black girl’s rape and murder has sunk to the back pages.

Cabinet ministers were also missing in action at a crucial debate in Parliament this week on gender-based violence.

Ministers Lulu Xingwana of women, children and people with disabilities, Justice Minister Jeff Radebe, Police Minister Nathi Mthethwa and Social Development Minister Bathabile Dlamini all failed to show up at the debate, the local Mail & Guardian newspaper reported.

Democratic Alliance spokesperson Debbie Schafer called it symptomatic of a lack of leadership on the issue. Spokesman for the ANC caucus Moloto Mothapo excused the absences telling a reporter that ‘this was not a debate on a portfolio like a budget vote, but a political debate.’

Meanwhile, a rape survivor will have her day in court thanks to pressure by the Treatment Action Coalition that followed up her case lost repeatedly by investigators after it took place in 2010. “Rape in the East Cape is out of control,” an investigating officer acknowledged. “Drastic measures need to be taken to combat this.”

Finally, the release on bail of accused sports icon Oscar Pistorius continues to raise eyebrows as details of his arrest emerge. Essayist Rapule Tabane in the Mail & Guardian observed:  “Pistorius is indeed privileged, what with a big-name spin doctor flying out from London to salvage his diminishing reputation, a specially hired pathologist and sympathetic headlines screaming “Prayers for Oscar”.

“His got special treatment, even from the police: they could not bear to put him in the back of a police van…  After his arrest, he did not have to spend time in a prison. Instead, he was detained at a police station where, it was reported, family members came to visit and gave him food. I do not need to dwell here on the horrors of our prisons, which thousands of our young men have to endure daily, and which Pistorius was spared.

Pistorius was granted bail of 1 million rand. He was allowed to pay an initial installment of 100,000 rand, with the balance due by March 1. He is next due in court on June 4. w/pix of O. Pistorius after arrest


Feb. 26 (GIN) – It’s been called “the new pomegranate juice” blessed with antioxidants and benefits for cardiovascular, diabetes, liver and respiratory ailments. Rooibos tea, grown only in a small area in the Western Cape province of South, has been a popular drink in Southern Africa for ages.

Which is why it came as a shock to learn that a French company was petitioning to own the name “Rooibos Tea”.  “The Dept. of Trade and Industry stands ready to defend South Africa’s trade and intellectual property interests vigorously,” Trade Minister Rob Davies said.

French corporate bids to own foreign names include an attempted patent claim on “Darjeeling,” the name of an Indian tea, which the French company had used for a lingerie line.

This is the second patent fight for Rooibos. A Texas firm, Burke International, registered the name “Rooibos” in 2004 with the US Patent and Trademark Office. When the tea became popular, Burke demanded that users either pay fees for use of the name, or cease its use. Burke’s claim to the name Rooibos was legally denied in 2005.

Copyright claims have even been launched against the national anthem. According to City Press of South Africa, “there are 61 claimants on royalties for Nkosi Sikelel’iAfrica or any derivative of the name, including the National Anthem of South Africa.” But Owen Dean of Intellectual Property Watch, refutes the claims.

“At best such claimants can only claim rights in their particular versions or arrangements of Nkosi (provided they are original).”

Meanwhile, the South African Rooibos Council (SARC) has reportedly applied to register ROOIBOS as a Certification Mark under the South African Trade Marks Act, which registration is intended to serve as the basis for international protection. w/pix of farmer harvesting rooibos


Feb. 26 (GIN) – A year after the international community pushed for polls in the Ivory Coast and helped remove the former president, Laurent Gbagbo, serious abuses of human rights by the current administration have been documented in a new report by the rights watchdog Amnesty International.

“Ivory Coast’s army has committed “widespread human rights violations” against supporters of ousted former president Laurent Gbagbo, Amnesty said in its report published Tuesday.

“This new national army, along with an armed militia of traditional hunters, are carrying out extra-judicial executions, deliberate and arbitrary killings, politically motivated arrests and torture”.

“They are acting with almost total impunity under the pretence of ensuring security and fighting against perpetrators of armed attacks,” the report said.

The Amnesty team heard first-hand evidence about how detainees were being held for months, with no access to their families, doctors or lawyers.

Amnesty delegates visited several places of detention. They heard accounts of torture with electricity or molten plastic to extract confessions about alleged participation in armed attacks.

Gbagbo himself has been detained by the International Criminal Court in The Hague since the end of 2011, accused of crimes against humanity.

Amnesty called for an international commission of inquiry into a July 2012 raid on a displaced persons’ camp near the town of Duekoue, which targeted people from the Guere ethnic group, considered to be pro-Gbagbo.

Fourteen people were reported killed, but Amnesty said “many more bodies are believed to have been dumped in wells”.

Meanwhile, Nigerian President Goodluck Jonathan begins a four-day visit Wednesday to the Ivory Coast to discuss with other leaders of the Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS) the current crises in Mali and Guinea-Bissau. At the end of the summit, Pres. Jonathan will remain for a 3-day state visit at the invitation of Pres. Alassane Ouattara. w/pix of Ivory Coast special forces


Feb. 26 (GIN) – South Africa’s Education Minister, Blade Nzimande, has called for the deportation of over a hundred South African medical students in Cuba who launched a hunger strike over conditions they considered unacceptable.

“The sense of entitlement and lack of gratitude displayed by these students who come from a country with such high levels of desperate need for higher education and training, and limited state resources, is totally unacceptable. I condemn it in the strongest terms,” Minister Nzimande said. “If they are threatening to come back home, then maybe they should do just that.”’

But emails sent to the South African daily City Press painted a different picture. A bottleneck apparently held up payment of student food bills which left the students without meals for four days. Meals are primarily pork, not acceptable to some students. The stipend is insufficient, they say, to cover incidental expenses and amounts to a third of what children of the South African diplomatic corps receive.

“The department of health might say our demands are unreasonable, but, honestly, we wouldn’t go to such lengths for something we didn’t believe in,” said one student who asked to remain anonymous.

“None of us are trying to be heroes here, and none of us want to go home and lose our careers,” he added in an email.

Some 2,000 South African medical students are enrolled in the 6 year program which includes one year of practical work in South Africa. This week, about 187 of the student doctors staged a protest outside the South African embassy in the Cuban capital of Havana and were arrested.

They were detained overnight but have refused to give up their fight over food and money.

Health Minister Aaron Motsoaledi’s spokesman, Joe Maila, initially promised a “fact-finding mission” to look into the complaints. “We really want to find out what is happening with the food. Where there are serious concerns we will do something immediately. We want these students to succeed. We need more doctors.” According to the students, the mission never arrived.

He defended the pork diet. “Our students are usually served alternate meals consisting of beef, chicken or pork but for the past two or three weeks the Cuban government had problems acquiring beef and chicken. They could only serve what was available, which was pork.”

The students responded: “Whenever we ask for change we are reminded of the fact that we are from poor families, squatter camps, that we are women and men with difficulties, children of the storm and we should be grateful for the little we have.”

The father of a student detained this week told City Press it was unfortunate the department felt this way.

“When our kids complete their studies they return to serve South Africans. In many cases, they work in rural areas where local doctors refuse to go.” w/pix of Minister B. Nzimande


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