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

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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.



Source – www.bbc.co.uk

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Charles Mbire gains $1.2 million as stake in MTN Uganda rises above $51 million

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Ugandan businessman and MTN Uganda Chairman Charles Mbire has seen the market value of his stake in MTN Uganda surge above $51 million in just two days, as the share price in the leading teleco company increased by a single digit.

The single-digit bump in the share price caused the market value of Mbire’s stake to gain UGX4.42 billion ($1.24 million) in less than two days.

The million-dollar increase in the value of his stake came after Uganda’s largest telecom company delivered the country’s largest-ever IPO through the listing of 22.4 billion ordinary shares on the Uganda Securities Exchange (USE).

Upon completing the largest IPO in Uganda’s history, MTN Uganda raised a record UGX535 billion ($150.4 million) from the applications that it received for a total of 2.9 billion shares, including incentive shares.

As of press time, Dec. 7, shares in the company were trading at UGX204.95 ($0.0574), down six basis points from their opening price this morning.

Data gathered by Billionaires.Africa revealed that since the telecom company registered its shares on the Ugandan bourse on Mon., Dec. 6, its share price has increased by 2.5 percent from UGX200 ($0.056) to UGX204.95 ($0.0574) as of the time of writing, as retail investors sustained buying interest long after the public offering.

The increase in the company’s share price caused the market value of Mbire’s 3.98-percent stake to rise from UGX178.45 billion ($49.96 million) to UGX182.86 billion ($51.2 million).

In less than two days, his stake gained more than UGX4.42 billion ($1.24 million).

In a statement after the successful listing of MTN Uganda’s shares, Mbire said the IPO shows the confidence that Ugandans and other investors have in the company, its brand and strategic intent.

“We commend all the regulators for their support in our work to become a USE-listed company and to comply in a timely manner with the listing provisions of the national telecommunications operators’ license,” he said.

Steady but sure-MBIRE who is the biggest investor on Ugandas Stock exchange with stocks valued at more than $55 million is laughing all the way to the bank after MTN declared the latest dividend payout.He has steadily grown his business empire which is believed to be more that $350 million (debt free).

Steady but sure-MBIRE who is the biggest investor on Ugandas Stock exchange with stocks valued at more than $55 million is laughing all the way to the bank after MTN declared the latest dividend payout.He has steadily grown his business empire which is believed to be more that $350. ( debt free).

He is into communications-revenue assurance-cement-distribution-oil services-real estate-oil exploration and logistics.

Source: Billionaires Africa

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2-year-old dies at Arua hospital as nurse demands Shs 210,000 bribe

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A two-year-old child died at Arua Regional Referral hospital after a nurse, Paul Wamala demanded a bribe amounting to Shs 210,000 before carrying out an operation. 

The incident happened on Saturday, after Aron Nabil, a two-year-old child was referred to the hospital for an operation after he was diagnosed with intestinal obstruction, a medical emergency caused by a blockage that keeps food or liquid from passing through the small intestine or large intestine.

According to the relatives of the child, Wamala allegedly asked them to initially give him Shs 30,000 to buy medicines to commence the procedure. He however returned shortly asking for an additional Shs 180,000 from the relatives.

Emily Adiru, a resident of Osu cell, in Bazar Ward, Central Division, and a relative of the child says although they paid money to Wamala, he abandoned the child without carrying out the operation. According to Adiru, Wamala later refunded Shs 200,000 through mobile money, after she threatened to report him to the police.

“They told us this boy needs an operation which was supposed to be done in the morning on Sunday at around 7 am. They took him inside there, some doctor came from the theatre, he called one of us and said, we should pay Shs 70,000 for buying medicine to start the operation. We paid the Shs 30,000 [but] after paying the Shs 30,000, after some minutes, the same man came and opened the door and called us again, and told us we should pay another Shs 100,000. We also paid the Shs 100,000 and we thought it is finished. We were outside there waiting for our patient to come out [but] then this man came back again and said we should pay another Shs 80,000,” said Adiru.

Although the operation was later carried out after a 7-hour delay, the child didn’t make it, and relatives attribute the death to negligence. Miria Ahmed, a concerned resident wonders why such incidents have persisted at the facility which is supposed to service the citizens.

“Is the problem the hospital, is it the management or it is the human resource that is the problem in the hospital? A small child like this you demand Shs 210,000 for the operation? Well, if the money was taken and the operation is done, I would say anything bad but this money was taken and the small boy was abandoned in the theatre,” she said. 

When contacted Wamala refused to comment on the allegations. Dr Gilbert Aniku, the acting hospital director says that the hospital will issue an official statement later since consultations about the matter are ongoing.

Arua City resident district commissioner, Alice Akello has condemned the actions of the nurse saying she has ordered his arrest so as to set an example to the rest. The case has been reported to Arua regional referral hospital police post under SD reference No:05/30/05/2022.



Source – observer.ug

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Mexican president’s Mayan Train dealt new legal setback | Tourism News

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Activists say the planned tourist train will harm the wildlife and natural features of the Yucatan Peninsula.

Mexican President Andres Manuel Lopez Obrador has been dealt the latest setback to an ambitious plan to create a tourist train to connect the country’s southern Yucatan Peninsula.

On Monday, a judge indefinitely suspended construction on a portion of the project, known as the Mayan Train, saying the plans currently do not comply “with the proceedings of the environmental impact evaluation”.

The ruling follows a legal challenge by activists who said they were concerned the 60km (37 mile) portion of the train that would connect the resorts of Playa del Carmen and Tulum would adversely affect the area’s wildlife, as well as its caves and water-filled sinkholes known as cenotes.

The original plan for the disputed section was for an overpass over a highway, but the route was modified early this year to go through jungle at ground level.

The federal judge cited the “imminent danger” of causing “irreversible damage” to ecosystems, according to one of the plaintiffs, the non-governmental group Defending the Right to a Healthy Environment. In a statement, the group said that authorities had failed to carry out the necessary environmental impact studies before starting construction of the section.

Lopez Obrador had announced the ambitious project in 2018, with construction beginning in 2020. The roughly 1,500km (930 mile) cargo and passenger rail loop was presented as a cornerstone of a wider plan to develop the poorer states and remote towns throughout the about 181,000sq km (70,000sq mile) Yucatan Peninsula.

The railway is set to connect Caribbean beach resorts with Mayan archaeological ruins, with authorities aiming to complete the project by the end of 2023. The plan is estimated to cost about $16bn.

The project has split communities across the region, with some welcoming the economic development and connectivity it would bring. Others, including some local Indigenous communities, have challenged the project, saying it could not only disrupt the migratory routes of endangered species, including jaguars, tapirs and ocelots, but could also potentially damage centuries-old Mayan archaeological sites.

The National Fund for the Promotion of Tourism, the government agency overseeing the project, has said that it expects to “overcome” the latest challenge and that work should continue after an environmental impact statement is finalised. It said the Environment Ministry was currently reviewing its environmental application for the project.

For his part, Lopez Obrador has insisted the railway will not have a significant environmental effect and has accused activists of being infiltrated by “impostors”.



Source – www.aljazeera.com

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