CAPE TOWN, May 12 -- The ruling African National Congress (ANC) has won South Africa's parliamentary elections with 57.5 percent of the vote, the electoral commission said, announcing the official results.
Saturday's win assured a sixth straight term in power for the ANC. But the result was the worst-ever electoral showing for the party, which has ruled South Africa since the end of apartheid 25 years ago.
Support for the ANC, which gained 62 percent in the previous election in 2014, has steadily declined since it took a record 69 percent of the vote in 2004. Saturday's electoral showing comes amid growing voter frustration over rampant corruption and high rates of unemployment. President Cyril Ramaphosa, who replaced scandal-plagued Jacob Zuma last year, now faces the challenge of regaining public confidence in a party that remains beset with internal divisions and which oversaw a raft of economic crises in the country. The result, which gives the ANC 230 seats in the 400-member parliament, will renew pressure on Ramaphosa to decisively deal with cabinet ministers accused of corruption. In a victory speech in the northern city of Pretoria, Ramaphosa said the election confirmed "freedom and democracy reign" in South Africa. "Our people have given all of the leaders of our country a firm mandate to build a better South Africa for all." Earlier in the day, Jessie Duarte, ANC deputy secretary-general, struck a more sombre tone, saying the party would move swiftly to counter corruption and increase economic growth. "We need to correct our mistakes," she said, adding that the election showed voters want an "ANC that is united, and in its unity remains true to the values and principles on which it was founded."
Cape Town, May 9 -- At 9am on Thursday, South Africa's Electoral Commission results were showing the African National Congress in the lead. The country voted in national and provincial elections on May 8.
Results for the three main political parties were as follows:
ANC - 1.742.573 votes, or 55,04%
Democratic Alliance - 824.328 votes, or 26,04%
Economic Freedom Fighters - 260.507 votes, or 8,23%
Total Valid Votes 3.165.859
Spoilt Votes 42.659
Total Votes Cast 3.208.518
Voter Turnout 64,79 %
Registered Population 26.756.649
Total Voting Districts 22.925
Voting Districts Completed 5.883 (25,66%)
CAPETOWN, May 8 -- South Africans are voting in presidential and parliamentary elections in what is being seen as a pivotal election after years of corruption scandals that have plagued the "rainbow nation".
Some 26.8 million voters are registered to cast ballots at 22,925 polling stations. Polls opened at 7am (0500 GMT) and close 14 hours later. Early results will emerge on Thursday while the official winner will be declared on Saturday. The party that wins most seats in parliament selects the president, who will be sworn in on May 25. Voter turnout has been predicted at around 70 percent. But an hour after polls opened at Orlando West polling station in Soweto, an important site in the anti-apartheid struggle, the small queue of voters was a far cry from the vast crowds shown in images from the first democratic elections in 1994. An estimated six million under 30s have not registered to vote and there was a small minority of young voters waiting in line at the Orlando West polling station.
Wednesday's vote comes 25 years after the end of apartheid. But despite the demise of the system of racial discrimination, the country remains divided by economic inequality. While dozens of parties are competing, the main contenders are the ruling African National Congress (ANC), Economic Freedom Fighters (EFF) and the Democratic Alliance (DA). The ANC is almost certain to win again. However, its reputation has been damaged in the last 10 years by a stream of scandals under former President Jacob Zuma. Zuma was forced to resign in 2018 and is currently on trial on corruption charges. His replacement, Cyril Ramaphosa, has a cleaner image. But he has lost votes in recent years to the EFF and its leader Julius Malema, who promises to redistribute white-owned land and nationalise the banks. The DA, meanwhile, has also eaten into the ANC's once-dominant share of the vote. In the last municipal elections, the DA won in two key cities - Johannesburg and Cape Town.
The ANC - the liberation party that brought about the end of the racist apartheid regime and enfranchised black South Africans - will be challenged on whether it can win back disillusioned urban voters. Under South Africa's electoral system, citizens do not vote directly for the president, but a vote for the ANC is essentially a vote for Ramaphosa.
TRIPOLI, April 20 -- Thousands of protesters took to the streets in Libya's capital, Tripoli, on Friday after US President Donald Trump praised Libya's Khalifa Haftar amid a military assault by the renegade general to seize the capital.
A White House statement said Trump and Haftar spoke by phone on Monday "to discuss ongoing counterterrorism efforts to achieve peace and stability in Libya". On April 4, Haftar and his forces launched an offensive against the country's internationally recognised government, which is based in Tripoli. In their phone call, Trump "recognised Field Marshal Haftar's significant role in fighting terrorism and securing Libya's oil resources, and the two discussed a shared vision for Libya's transition to a stable, democratic political system." It was unclear why the White House waited several days to announce the phone call. Trump's praise for Haftar was seen in Tripoli as a reversal in US policy on Libya, as earlier this month, Secretary of State Mike Pompeo demanded an immediate halt to Haftar's offensive.
Reports from Tripoli, said news of the conversation caused anger in the capital with residents perceiving the call as a show of support by Trump for Haftar's offensive. "People are very angry, thousands of people have come out here on the main streets and squares especially in Tripoli and they are calling on the international community to stop the military aggression by Haftar forces," he said. At least 2,000 people took part in Friday's protest in Tripoli's Martyrs' Square to protest the push on Tripoli by Haftar's Libyan National Army (LNA). Abdelrizaq Musheirib, a protester criticised Trump's call to the commander, telling Reuters news agency: "The call has no meaning but we will respond to it." The LNA launched the military campaign against Tripoli on April 4, saying it wanted to "cleanse" the country's western region of "remaining terrorist groups". Analysts say the offensive is threatening to reignite a full-blown civil war in the oil-rich country, which has been mired in chaos since the NATO-backed toppling of longtime ruler Muammar Gaddafi in 2011. The fighting on the outskirts of the city has killed at least 213 people and wounded more than 1,000 people, the World Health Organization said on Friday. More than 25,000 have been displaced, according to the United Nations. Haftar backs a rival administration in eastern Libya that refuses to recognise the authority of the UN-recognised Government of National Accord in Tripoli, led by Prime Minister Fayez al-Serraj.
KHARTOUM, April 11 -- Sudanese President Omar al-Bashir is set to step down, Al Arabiya sources confirmed adding that some current and former officials have been arrested.
Al Arabiya sources also said the Khartoum airport has been closed down. Al Arabiya sources also stated that counter-coup attempt in Sudan had failed. A gathering of Sudanese professionals said they will accept only the handover of power to a civilian transitional government. According to sources, the Sudanese army announced the formation of an interim council headed by the first vice president Awad Ibn Auf. However other sources did not confirm the report, saying that consultaions over the council's members, are still ongoing.
Sudanese military vehicles were deployed on key roads, bridges in Khartoum and people were chanting “it has fallen, we won”, Reuters reported. It was earlier reported that the Sudanese army will make an “important statement soon,” state television and radio announced Thursday, as thousands of protesters camped outside the military headquarters in Khartoum demanding the resignation of President Omar al-Bashir. State media offered no further details, as the rally outside the army complex entered its sixth day. Several military vehicles carrying troops entered the army compound in the early hours of Thursday, witnesses told AFP. The compound also houses Bashir’s official residence and the defense ministry.
TRIPOLI/BENGHAZI, April 8 -- Eastern Libyan forces tried to push toward the center of Tripoli on Monday after their easy desert advance hit a tougher urban phase, with deaths and displacements mounting despite Western appeals for a truce and a return to a peace plan.
Renewed war in Libya - splintered since Muammar Gaddafi’s 2011 fall - threatens to disrupt oil and gas supplies, trigger more migration to Europe, and wreck U.N. hopes for an election. The eastern Libyan National Army (LNA) forces of Khalifa Haftar, a former officer in Gaddafi’s army, said 19 of their soldiers had died in recent days as they closed in on the internationally recognized government in Tripoli.
The United Nations said 2,800 people had been displaced by clashes and many more could flee, though some were trapped. The LNA has conducted air strikes on the south of the city as it seeks to advance into the center from a disused airport. But the government of Prime Minister Fayez al-Serraj has armed groups arriving from nearby Misrata to help block the LNA. It reported 11 deaths without saying on which side. Al-Serraj, 59, who comes from a wealthy business family, has run the Tripoli government since 2016 as part of a U.N.-brokered deal boycotted by Haftar.
His LNA, allied with a parallel eastern administration based in Benghazi, took the oil-rich south of Libya earlier this year before its surprisingly fast push toward the coastal capital. While that advance was straightforward through sparsely populated areas, taking Tripoli is a far bigger challenge. The violence has thrown into disarray a U.N. plan for an April 14-16 conference to plan elections as a way out of the anarchy that has gripped Libya since the Western-backed toppling of Gaddafi eight years ago. The European Union joined the United Nations, United States and G7 bloc in calling for a ceasefire, a halt to Haftar’s advance and return to political negotiations.
WASHINGTON, April 7 -- The United States said Sunday it has temporarily withdrawn some of its forces from Libya due to "security conditions on the ground", as a Libyan military commander's forces advanced toward the capital, Tripoli, clashing with rival militias.
A small contingent of American troops has been in Libya in recent years helping local forces combat Islamic State and al-Qaida militants, as well as protecting diplomatic facilities. "The security realities on the ground in Libya are growing increasingly complex and unpredictable," said Marine Corps General Thomas Waldhauser, the head of US Africa Command. "Even with an adjustment of the force, we will continue to remain agile in support of existing US strategy." He did not provide details on the number of US troops that have been withdrawn or on how many remain inside the country. The self-styled Libyan National Army, led by Field Marshal Khalifa Hifter, launched a surprise offensive against the capital last week, a move that could potentially drag the country back into civil war. Libya has been gripped by unrest since the 2011 uprising that overthrew and killed long-ruling dictator Moammar Gadhafi, and in recent years has been governed by rival authorities in the east and in Tripoli, in the west, each backed by various armed groups.
Fighting was underway Sunday at the international airport, some 24 kilometres from central Tripoli, after Hifter claimed to have seized the area. The airport was destroyed in a previous bout of militia fighting in 2014. Hifter said his forces had launched airstrikes targeting rival militias on the outskirts of Tripoli. The rival militias, which are affiliated with a UN-backed government in Tripoli, said they had also carried out airstrikes, slowing Hifter's advance. At least 23 people, including civilians, have been killed on both sides since Thursday.
MALTA, March 28 -- Malta deployed patrol boats and a helicopter to capture a migrant-packed Turkish tanker after it was hijacked by asylum seekers rescued by the crew near Libyan shores.
The hijacked ship was seized by the Maltese special operations unit on Thursday morning. It was escorted to Malta’s capital, Valletta where all the migrants are due to be handed over to the police. Several patrol boats and a helicopter participated in the operation to intercept and capture the vessel. The migrants hijacked the Palau-flagged Turkish tanker ‘El Hiblu 1’ around 5pm local time on Wednesday after its crew had rescued them off the coast of Libya. The ship was then making its way to the Libyan port of Tripoli, apparently aiming to drop the migrants off there, but suddenly turned around just six nautical miles (11 km) from the shore and headed north, towards Malta.
The Maltese authorities confirmed the hijacking and put the nation’s armed forces on standby to confront “the pirated ship.” There are believed to be 108 migrants on board, around 77 of which are adult men, the Times of Malta reported, citing government sources. Other reports suggested that the number of migrants may be as high as 120. It is unclear how many asylum seekers participated in the hijacking. Malta wasn’t the only Mediterranean nation to put its forces on alert. Italian Interior Minister Matteo Salvini said that Rome was prepared to intercept the tanker if it sailed to the island of Lampedusa or the country’s mainland. He reiterated that nation’s ports remain closed to the ship just like they have been to NGO rescue vessels.
JOHANNESBURG, March 20 -- This below analysis should form the base of a case study of how a misguided interpretation of statistics can result in a skewed and unrealistic picture of what’s really happening on the ground.
It makes the job of journalists in today’s world that much more important as they need to critically think about the statistics they report on before hitting the publishing button. (The analysis below first appeared in Politicsweb and is republished here with permission.) – Gareth van Zyl
On Tuesday this week Police Minister Bheki Cele released the South African Police Service’s crime statistics for 2017/2018. The information contained in the SAPS’ presentation detonated a small explosion beneath a claim repeatedly made, over the past month, by some of the world’s most prestigious newspapers, authoritative “Fact Checkers”, and most brilliant diplomats. How this came to pass is an interesting case study in how, in our current age, a falsity can still travel halfway around the world, and back again, long after the truth has put its boots on and kicked the damn thing to death. The story begins with a reply to a parliamentary question from Freedom Front leader Pieter Groenewald MP by the Minister of Police on the 3rd of May 2018. In it Bheki Cele provided detailed data from the SAPS on the provincial breakdown of farm murders and farm attacks by year from 2012/13 to 2017/18. This was useful information as it suggested that the burden of this type of crime fell disproportionally on farms and small holdings in the eastern half of the country, and that any analysis of this phenomenon needed to take this into account.
The figures were not unproblematic however. The national totals for farm murders in the 2015/16 and 2016/17 periods were significantly lower than official figures earlier released by SAPS. The figure of 47 farm murders for the 1 April 2017 to 31 March 2018 period (down from 74 the year before) also seemed implausibly low. One likely explanation for this was simply that the figures had been compiled only a month after the end of the reporting year, and were not complete. As Sally de Beer of the SAPS had told Africa Check the year before “the database is a ‘live’ system, meaning that the statistics derived from it are subject to change if new information on cases emerges. The database is not primarily intended as a source of statistics, but as an operational tool.” The fact-checking site cautioned in its 2017 fact-sheet on this issue that, “As such, statistics for certain years may change.” There was thus good reason not to put any weight on this last, probably provisional, national figure.
Then on the 31st May 2018 Agri SA released a report on farm attacks. This contained the following graph:
The source given for the data is clearly “SAPS” (see arrow). The person compiling the graph had merged the data provided to Pieter Groenewald at the beginning of the month with other previously released SAPS statistics. Where they conflicted – for 2015/16 and 2016/17 – Agri SA went with the significantly lower figures from May. The Agri SA report commented: “When police statistics, as announced in Parliament for the past six years, are viewed more closely, it appears that farm attacks had increased while murders declined on a year-on-year basis.” The number of “47” is contained in the graph, but not in the text of the report. Despite Agri SA’s clear admonition to “treat farm attack statistics with caution”, News24 ran a massively hyped-up story the same day asserting that “Farm murders have decreased to their lowest level in more than 20 years, a report by agricultural organisation AgriSA has found.” It made the claim that “According to AgriSA’s statistics, farm murders decreased from 66 recorded incidents in 2016/2017 to 47 in 2017/2018. This was less than a third of the record highs recorded in the late 1990s, when 153 murders were recorded in 1997/1998.” In this way the questionable SAPS numbers released earlier that month were now magically transformed into gold standard statistics from Agri SA. As a Ratcatcher article (published within hours of the News24 report first appearing) noted, the SAPS data Agri SA had used for the past three years was not reliable, and the figure of “47” for 2017/18 was simply wrong. A quick and dirty analysis of the SAPS figures for three provinces revealed at least eight clear cut farm murder cases, reported in the press, which could not have been included in these figures. The article noted:
“Given that a brief news search could establish eight cases missed by the SAPS the true under-count must be substantial. The SAPS figures should also be more not less comprehensive than press reporting. The News24’s headline then is based upon a SAPS figure which was implausible to begin with, and which is provably wrong.”
AfriForum, which collects its own data on farm murders and farm attacks, also vehemently disputed this figure. The assertion that there were only 47 farm murders in 2017/18 and therefore at their “lowest level in more than 20 years”, should have been quietly buried, and left to rest in peace from then on.
Rise of a zombie factoid
In late June 2018 however Jason Burke of the Guardian of London decided to disinter this claim, and the number on which it was based. In an article on the 27th June 2018 he stated that “Forty-seven farmers were killed in 2017-18, according to statistics compiled by AgriSA, an association of hundreds of agricultural associations across South Africa … The new lower totals contradict recent reports in Australian and other western media describing white farmers in South Africa facing “a surge in violence’.” The opening sentence of Burke’s piece contained three factual errors. It conflated farm murders with murders of farmers (not always the same thing), cited a figure that had been already shown to be false (47), and claimed that these statistics had been compiled by Agri SA (they were from the SAPS). This zombie-like factoid – that farm murders were at a “twenty year low” – began massively replicating itself after US President Donald Trump tweeted, following a Fox News broadcast by Tucker Carlson on looming land seizures in SA, that he had “asked Secretary of State @SecPompeo to closely study the South Africa land and farm seizures and expropriations and the large scale killing of farmers.” In the subsequent rush to debunk Trump’s comments on farm murders this claim was repeatedly invoked by US and British publications, often linking back to Burke’s Guardian article as the source.
For example an article in the New York Times on the 23rd August 2018 by Kimon de Greef and Palko Karasz stated that: “The number of killings of farmers, including farm workers, is at a 20-year low, 47 in the fiscal year 2017-18, according to research published in July by AgriSA, a farmers’ organization in South Africa.” This same claim was then repeated in an editorial in the publication denouncing Trump, which added that the “numbers have been declining steadily since peaking in 1998, when 153 were killed.”
In an article for the Financial Times Joseph Cotterill stated that “Agri SA, a farmers’ organisation, said in May that farm murders were at their lowest level in two decades. There were 47 murders between 2017 and 2018 compared with 66 over the previous period, it said.” It was also credulously accepted by the American and British Fact-Checking establishment.
The Washington Post Fact Checker wrote that “the government’s farm-murder statistic has been declining steadily from its peak in 2001-2002, when the total was 140. Separate figures from Agri SA show that murders of farmers are at a 20-year low, with 47 recorded in the year from April 2017 to March 2018 period, the Guardian reported.”
The BBC’s “Reality Check” claimed that “AgriSA, an association of agricultural organisations, also records murders and attacks on farms. It found that in the year to April 2018, there were 47 murders, with their data showing a decline from a high in 1998, when 153 people were killed.”
Politifact repeated the claim that “there were 47 farm murders in the 2017-18 financial year” and they “have been declining over time.” But to its (partial) credit it correctly attributed the source of this information to the SAPS, not AgriSA. The internet myth-busting website Snopes meanwhile reposted the AgriSA graph above and also stated that “the number of farm murders in South Africa hit a 30-year low point in 2017-18, according to a report released by the South African Agricultural Industry (AgriSA) that cited South African police data.” Then, at the end of August, Foreign Policy ran an article headlined “In Tacit Rebuke, U.S. Embassy in South Africa Rejects Trump Tweet: Internal cable cites report that farm murders in South Africa are at their lowest level in 19 years”. Robbie Gramer and Colum Lynch reported on the contents of a leaked cable to Washington DC from US diplomats in South Africa which was headed ““Despite Crime Epidemic, Farm Murders Down.” The authors reported that the cable had “cited a recent report by AgriSA, a nonprofit industry group that represents 70,000 commercial farmers, that estimated that there were 47 farm murders from 2017 to 2018, fewer than at any time in the past 19 years.”
None of these journalists, diplomats or Fact Checkers though it worth cautioning that the number of 47 had long been shown (by a body-count) to be too low, or even that it was contested. Although implausible to begin with – and long disproven by the time it started feasting on the brains of British and American intellectuals – this factoid was apparently too convenient not to unleash upon readers as well. It was further invested with bogus authority by simply asserting that the number came from Agri SA, rather than highly provisional police figures. News24’s hyped up interpretation of Agri SA’s somewhat more cautious analysis were also presented as reflecting the latter organisation’s own view.
End of an error
On Tuesday the South African Police Service, during their press briefing, released updated figures for the number of recorded farm murders (though not attacks) for 2017/18. The SAPS presentation stated that there were, in fact, 62 farm murders last year, not 47. The SAPS added that 42 of the murders occurred on farms, 15 on small holdings and one at a cattle post. 46 victims were white. If one compares the provincial breakdown with the information released on the 3rd May there was an under-count of eighteen murders in eight provinces (three of which had been identified by the Ratcatcher) and an over-count of three in one (the North West.)