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South Africa’s sugar cane murders: Living in fear of serial killings



A sugar-growing community in South Africa is reeling after the bodies of five women aged between 16 and 38 were discovered dumped on farms, writes the BBC’s Kyla Herrmannsen.

Illuminated by the flickering of a small candle, Zama Chiliza’s relatives sit in mourning.

Items of her clothing – a white top and skirt – are laid out on a mattress on the floor, as is customary practice.

The candle is placed where her head would be – symbolising the presence of her soul. Until she is buried, this candle will burn day and night.

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The family now in mourning feared the worst after Zama Chiliza went missing in July

The 38-year-old went missing on 6 July, last seen on her way to the local supermarket, Boxer, in Mthwalume, a rural area about 90km (55 miles) south of the city of Durban in KwaZulu-Natal province.

“We were anticipating the worst… as each day passed, we started doubting she would come back alive,” admits her relative Musawakhe Khambule after initial police searches yielded no results.

‘She became a statistic’

Her family’s fears were confirmed on 11 August – five weeks after her disappearance – when a body was stumbled upon by women collecting wood on an abandoned part of a sugar cane farm on the outskirts of Mthwalume town.

A short walk into a forest-like part of the farm leads to the base of a tree where Ms Chiliza’s remains were discovered – the large leaves used to hastily hide them are still at the scene.

“Her body was already decomposing. But we found the lead from her identity document,” says Mr Khambule.

He described her as humble, cheeky at times but quiet – not the sort of person to get into trouble as she was focused on looking after her 15-year-old daughter.

“She really was that type of person that loved her family, she loved her child so much, she would always be with her,” says Mr Khambule.

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Pressure mounted on the police after the fifth body was found in mid August

The family had been aware that the bodies of some women had been found in the area months prior Ms Chiliza’s disappearance – but they never anticipated she would fall victim to such a gruesome fate.

“These deaths started happening while Zama was still alive. We would hear about the horrific murders. At some stage Zama and I even discussed these mysterious killings and had our own theories about them,” says Mr Khambule.

“We were really worried when she disappeared,” he admits, adding: “We woke up one day to be told that Zama had become a statistic.”

Women under attack in South Africa:

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Media captionThembi Maphanga was doused in petrol and set alight by her partner

Indeed South Africa has among the world’s highest crime rates – and last year President Cyril Ramaphosa himself admitted that the country was one of “the most unsafe places in the world to be a woman”.

Despite overall crime dropping during the first few months of a strict lockdown in the country, there have been several horrific cases of recently reported femicides.

Ms Chiliza’s body, the fourth to have been found in Mthwalume between April and August, made police suspect a serial killer was at work – and officers continued to search the area.

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Siyabonga Gasa says three of the bodies have been found on his sugar cane farm

Aided by sniffer dogs, they found another badly decomposed body of a woman the very next day on the same farm owned by Siyabonga Gasa.

Mr Gasa says the body was badly mutilated. Police have not said if any of the murdered women were sexually assaulted.

Three of the bodies were found on his farm and two on the neighbouring farm.

The scene is now marked by police tape, a wooden cross and a few bunches of flowers. Local women continue to gather there to hold prayer meetings, their mournful songs competing with the heavy wind.

‘No bail, rot in jail’

With fears of a serial killer on the loose, pressure mounted on the police, who arrested two suspects for questioning two days after the fifth body – which has yet to be identified – was found.

By Monday 17 August, six days after the discovery of Zama Chiliza, an angry crowd gathered outside the Mzumbe Magistrate’s Court in Mthwalume in anticipation of catching a glimpse of the suspects.

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Prayers sessions continue to be held for the vicims

“No bail, rot in jail” some of their placards read.

As their numbers swelled and their voices were raised in song, news spread that one of the suspects had allegedly taken his own life in police holding cells.

It was then confirmed that the remaining suspect would not be charged because of insufficient evidence.

This angered the crowd even more and under heavy police escort with sirens blazing, National Police Minister General Bheki Cele arrived to try and calm them down.

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This mobile polices station has been set up in Mthwalume town

He explained that the man who had allegedly taken his own life had confessed to the murders.

Yet his revelation that there might be more dead bodies to be found caused more unease – especially as locals, like Mr Gasa, think the man who confessed could not have been working alone.

“It’s clear that they were killed elsewhere and dumped in the farm,” he said.

“For you to carry one person on your own it’s impossible, you can’t, so this person who is responsible for these murders first of all they need to have a car to transport. The suspect who committed suicide did not own a vehicle – so who assisted him to transport these victims?”

‘I’m terrified’

Outside Mthwalume’s Boxer supermarket, women voiced their fears – not convinced by the assurances from officials.

“I’m scared. I’m terrified,” said one.

Image caption

Zama Chiliza was buried on Saturday but Musawakhe Khambule (L) says the family still wants justice

“I really thought hard before even leaving the house today because chances are that I might never be seen alive… I could be the next victim,” added another.

Mthwalume does not have its own police station, instead relying on the nearest one in Hibberdene, which is at least a 20-minute drive away.

To thwart fears, police have now placed a mobile police station in the town, which along with the surrounding area has a population of about 160,000.

Ms Chiliza’s body was finally laid to rest last Saturday.

The candle has been blown out – symbolising that her soul is now at peace and has joined her ancestors.

But her family and the town of Mthwalume more broadly are not at peace – desperate for some form of justice.

They fear nothing more will be done to pursue the case and that those who may have assisted in the killings may still be living amongst them.

“They need to be brought to book,” Mr Gasa says.

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‘Uninformed’ CSOs Frustrating EACOP Project Financing – Oil and Gas Expert




Denis Kakembo, the Managing Partner and leader of Corporate and Tax Practice at Cristal Advocates, has revealed that the continuous uninformed statements uttered by a section of Civil Society Organizations (CSOs) are frustrating the financing of the East African Crude Oil Pipeline (EACOP) project.

Cristal Advocates is a corporate and commercial law firm offering full scale legal services with an emphasis on tax, energy, infrastructure and business support.

On Sunday April 11, the Ugandan government led by President Yoweri Kaguta Museveni, his Tanzanian counterpart Samia Suluhu and two oil companies; Total E&P Uganda Limited (TEPU) and China National Offshore Oil Company (CNOOC) signed four different agreements to pave way for the construction of the USD 3.5bn 1,440 kilometer EACOP from Hoima (Uganda) to Tanga Tanzania.

The agreements include; Host Government Agreement, Intergovernmental Agreement, Shareholders’ Agreement, Tariffs and Transport Agreement, Project Framework Agreement and Several Financing Agreements.

TEPU is the majority shareholder in the deal with 72% followed by Uganda with 15%, CNOOC with 8% while Tanzania have 5%. The project is however expected to be funded with borrowing from different banks, which have opted out of the deal.

In a March 18th press release issueed by Inclusive Development International, banks provided statements that they will not support the construction of EACOP, after an open letter endorsed by 263 organizations from around the world was sent to 25 banks considered most likely to be approached for financing.

Speaking to journalists at the sidelines of the ACME media training on oil and gas in Kampala on Monday, Kakembo wondered why CSOs have chosen to “just make noise without reading and understanding what’s on ground.”

“The perception people have towards oil and gas sector is old fashioned. Its true in the past oil companies didn’t behave well and this was in so many countries where they operated and people did not benefit so there is that historical bias which is still being held by people to date,” he said.

Adding: “The oil and gas industry has tremendously transformed over the period of time there is a lot of honor for an international law level perspective to ensure that people benefit and protect the environment and there are a lot of instruments that can be used to achieve this but these instruments can only be used when the CSOs understand and appreciate what they are.”

CSOs, he said, sometimes approach these issues on a perspective of an activist mind, “but not from a mindset of an informed person on what is taking place and yet if they understand fully what is taking place, they can serve their people in terms of articulating their concerns.”

“I would urge CSOs to take time, dig in and take more information which is readily available to boost and build their capacities.”

“Whenever there is an economic activity or project taking place, you would expect that people will be affected but there are other ways of mitigating that like; is the process transparent, are people being compensated, these are not very difficult issues, which can be addressed,” he said.

The said EACOP project is expected to kick off in six months’ time which Kakembo noted will be the final kickoff of each and everything including the declaration of Final Investment Decision (FID) by oil companies.

The post ‘Uninformed’ CSOs Frustrating EACOP Project Financing – Oil and Gas Expert first appeared on ChimpReports.

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IAE issues ‘dire warning’ as CO2 emissions set to soar in 2021 | Climate News




The IAE predicts that carbon dioxide emissions could rise to 33 billion tonnes in 2021 – the second largest rise in emissions ever.

Global carbon emissions are set to jump by five percent marking the largest single increase in more than a decade as the economic rebound from the coronavirus pandemic is “anything but sustainable” for the climate.

The International Energy Agency (IEA) published on Tuesday its annual Global Energy Review predicting that carbon dioxide emissions would rise to 33 billion tonnes this year, up 1.5 billion tonnes from 2020 levels.

“This is a dire warning that the economic recovery from the COVID crisis is currently anything but sustainable for our climate,” IEA Executive Director Fatih Birol said.

Birol called the Leaders Summit on Climate to be hosted by US President Joe Biden on Thursday and Friday a critical moment for nations to pledge immediate actions before the UN Climate Change Conference set for November in Glasgow.

“Unless governments around the world move rapidly to start cutting emissions, we are likely to face an even worse situation in 2022,” said Birol.

In early March, the IEA’s chief stressed that the level of carbon emissions in December was higher than the same month the previous year as economies started reopening following coronavirus lockdowns, a figure that the IEA’s chief said was a “stark warning” to leaders around the world.

United Nations Secretary-General Antonio Guterres urged countries on Monday to back up their commitments to fight climate change with “concrete immediate action”, including making as their “absolute priority” that no more coal power plants will be built.

Last year, when power use dropped due to the COVID-19 pandemic, energy-related CO2 emissions fell by 5.8 percent to 31.5 billion tonnes, after peaking in 2019 at 33.4 billion tonnes.

The IEA’s annual review analysed the latest national data from around the world, economic growth trends and new energy projects that are set to come into action.

Global energy demand is set to increase by 4.6 percent in 2021, led by developing economies, pushing it above 2019 levels, the report said.

Demand for all fossil fuels is on course to grow in 2021, with both coal and gas set to rise above 2019 levels.

The expected rise in coal use dwarves that of renewables by almost 60 percent, despite accelerating demand for solar, wind and hydro power. More than 80 percent of the projected growth in coal demand in 2021 is set to come from Asia, led by China.

Coal use in the US and the European Union is also on course to increase but will remain well below pre-crisis levels, the IEA said.

The IEA expects both solar and wind to post their largest annual rises ever, at around 17 percent.

It expects renewables will provide 30 percent of electricity generation worldwide in 2021, their biggest share ever and up from less than 27 percent in 2019.

China is expected to account for almost half of that increase.

While demand for oil is rebounding strongly, the IEA expects it to stay below the pre-pandemic level as the aviation sector struggles to recover owing to a slow and patchy vaccine rollout.

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Victims of Syrian gov’t chemical attacks file case in Sweden | Bashar al-Assad News




Four NGOs have filed a criminal complaint against members of the Syrian government for deadly attacks in 2013 and 2017.

Four NGOs have announced they have filed a criminal complaint in Sweden against members of the Syrian government, including President Bashar al-Assad, over chemical weapons attacks in 2013 and 2017.

In the complaint filed with Swedish police, the Syrian Centre for Media and Freedom of Expression (SCM), Civil Rights Defenders, Syrian Archive (SA), and the Open Society Justice Initiative (OSJI) accuse Syrian officials of chemical attacks using sarin gas, in Khan Sheikhoun in Idlib probvince in 2017 and Ghouta near the capital Damascus in 2013.

“By filing the complaint, we want to support the victims’ struggle for truth and justice,” Hadi al-Khatib, founder and director of Syrian Archive, said in a statement.

“We hope that a Swedish investigation into these crimes will eventually result in trials and convictions of those who ordered and carried out these attacks. Sweden can and should contribute to putting an end to the current state of impunity in Syria,” he added.

Allegations of war crimes can be investigated by Swedish police regardless of where they were committed.

The Syrian government denies ever using chemical weapons against its own civilians in the course of conflict with rebel forces.

The conflict, which began in 2011, has largely subsided with Assad having regained control of most key territory with Russian and Iranian military support.

According to the complaint, the Syrian government used chemical weapons in attacks on the opposition-held towns of Ghouta in 2013 and Khan Sheikhoun in 2017. Hundreds of civilians, including children, were killed.

“In the ten years since the first assaults on pro-democracy protesters in Syria, the government has used chemical weapons more than 300 times to terrorise the civilian population,” said Steve Kostas, a lawyer at the Justice Initiative.

“Swedish authorities can join their counterparts in France and Germany to jointly investigate the use of chemical weapons in Syria and demonstrate that there will be no impunity for the perpetrators of these crimes,” he said in a statement.

Syria has rejected the allegations

A United Nations-commissioned investigation to identify those behind chemical attacks in Syria concluded in 2017 that Syrian government forces had used chlorine and sarin gas.

The first trial of suspected members of Assad’s security services for crimes against humanity, including torture and sexual assault, began in a German court in April 2020.

Meanwhile, the world’s chemical weapons watchdog will decide this week whether to impose unprecedented sanctions on Syria for its alleged use of toxic arms and failure to declare its arsenal.

Member states of the Organisation for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons (OPCW) will weigh a French proposal to suspend Syria’s “rights and privileges” at the body, including its ability to vote.

Damascus is accused of failing to answer key questions after an OPCW probe last year found Syria attacked a rebel-held village with the nerve agent sarin and the toxic chemical chlorine in 2017.

Syria has rejected all the allegations and said the attacks were staged.

Damascus and its ally Moscow have accused Western powers of using the OPCW for a “politicised” campaign against them.

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