Monday, 8 December 2014

Kabila brings opposition into long-delayed govt
Kabila brings opposition into long-delayed govt
DRC President Joseph Kabila

Democratic Republic of Congo President Joseph Kabila on Monday named a government that includes several opposition members, more than a year after promising to appoint a cabinet of national unity.

The new team, which will be headed by incumbent Prime Minister Augustin Matata Ponyo and include 47 other members, will still be dominated by the ruling party.

But it also includes figures from the political opposition, notably the Movement for the Liberation of Congo (MLC) founded as a rebel force by businessman Jean-Pierre Bemba to fight the Kinshasa regime and its troops during the Second Congo War (1998-2003).

After a peace deal was cut among the Congolese foes and foreign countries backing rival sides, Bemba turned his movement into a political party. He made an unsuccessful challenge to Kabila at the polls in 2006, which led to violence.

Today Bemba is on trial before the International Criminal Court in The Hague for alleged war crimes and crimes against humanity by the MLC army in Central African Republic.

Despite being in custody, Bemba participated in consultations to form the new government, along with Senate President Leon Kengo wa Dondo, a bitter foe of the president's rebel father Laurent-Desire Kabila, who took power after ousting kleptocratic dictator Mobutu Sese Seko in 1997.

Joseph Kabila, a soldier hastily made head of state by Kinshasa politicians in wartime after his father was assassinated in January 2001, rules over a nation two-thirds the size of Western Europe.

The DRC has vast, widely coveted mineral resources, but years of neglect dating from Mobutu's era have left infrastructure and basic services in ruins, while serious unrest prevails in the east.

Business sources have complained that economic activity has been stalled by a lame-duck cabinet since Kabila first pledged in October 2013 to name a unity government, following talks with the opposition and leaders of civil society.

Kabila, who has himself come under fire for plans to tamper with the constitution so that he can run for a third term in 2016, has brought several heavyweight politicians from the presidential majority back into the new government.

Prime Minister Ponyo's team includes three deputy prime ministers, two ministers of state, 32 ministers and 10 deputy ministers.

Leading the big guns from Kabila's People's Party for Reconstruction and Democracy (PPRD) is Evariste Boshab, a former speaker of the national assembly and PPRD secretary-general. Boshab has been made minister of the interior and a deputy prime minister.

Former foreign minister Alexis Thambwe Mwamba has been appointed justice minister, while Olivier Kamitatu retains the national planning portfolio.

Henri Yav Mulang, the deputy director of Kabila's personal cabinet, has been placed in charge of the finance ministry.

A deputy prime minister from the opposition is the secretary-general of the MLC, Thomas Luhaka, who has been entrusted with the postal service, telecommunications and new information technology.

Kengo, an advocate of free-market economics who several times served as prime minister under Mobutu, obtained the key budget portfolio for Michel Bongongo of the opposition Union of Forces for Change (UFC).

The new government includes one job for a member of parliament from the Union for Democracy and Social Progress (UDPS), the foremost opposition party first created to contest Mobutu's rule, but today riven with internal dissent. AF

British millionaire Dewani acquitted of 'honeymoon murder'
Publish Date: Dec 08, 2014
British millionaire Dewani acquitted of 'honeymoon murder'
Shrien Dewani in court. AFP/PHOTO

A South African judge on Monday acquitted British millionaire businessman Shrien Dewani of murdering his bride on their honeymoon, saying the state had not adequately made the case against him.

Judge Jeannette Traverso said the prosecutors' arguments had "fallen far below" the level needed to secure a conviction, paving the way for Dewani to walk free without mounting a defence.

The ruling is a blow to the reputation of South Africa's state prosecutors, coming after a lengthy and costly battle to extradite Dewani from Britain.

Dewani's lawyers applied for his discharge at the end of the state's case, arguing that the evidence against him was so weak he should be acquitted.

Traverso agreed, giving a scathing view of key state witnesses.

She said evidence given by taxi driver Zola Tonga that implicated Dewani in a murder plot was "highly improbable," while a prosecution witness was described as a "self-confessed liar".

Prosecutors had accused Dewani, 34, of hiring hitmen to kill his 28-year-old Swedish bride Anni on their 2010 Cape Town honeymoon in a staged hijacking because he is a gay man who felt trapped into marriage by family pressures.

Dewani says he is bisexual and loved Anni.

After the ruling was read out Dewani left the dock and greeted his weeping mother.

The dead woman's family left the Western Cape High Court in shock.

They had earlier urged the judge to make sure that Dewani testified.

"Don't let Shrien Dewani walk away without giving us, South Africa and people from all over the world the full story," Anni Dewani's brother Anish Hindocha said ahead of the ruling.

Traverso said she had heard those calls, but had to apply the law rather than emotion.

Both families -- the Dewanis and the Hindochas -- are of Indian origin, and have sat on opposite sides of the courtroom throughout weeks of sensational testimony.

The driver of the hijacked taxi and one of the hijackers -- both serving long jail terms for the murder -- testified that Dewani hired them for 15,000 rand ($1,300) to kill his wife.

Dewani's lawyer Francois van Zyl argued that their evidence was full of contradictions and "cannot safely be relied upon".

According to South Africa's Criminal Procedure Act, an accused can be declared not guilty at the close of the prosecution case if the court feels there is insufficient evidence to show he or she committed the crime.

Dewani returned to Britain within days of the murder in November 2010 and fought a three-year legal battle to avoid being extradited to South Africa, claiming he had mental health problems, including depression and post-traumatic stress.

But he was sent back to South Africa in April, where he was found fit to stand trial. AFP