PRETORIA - South Africa celebrated 16 years of democracy with President Jacob Zuma offering a stark reminder that the effects of unjust apartheid laws still linger. "Our people still have to daily confront the impact of the law," Zuma says, referring to the now-repealed Group Areas Act. Addressing thousands of people gathered at the Union Buildings for the Freedom Day celebrations, he says the Act - which marked the institutionalising of racial partitioning of cities and towns - is still in existence 20 years after it was repealed. "Many still live in areas once designated for black people . . . away from economic opportunities and civic services," he says. "Freedom imposes on us a responsibility to work together in the process of changing such conditions." This is one example among many that Zuma says need to be dealt with to ensure that people "enjoy the fruits of freedom". He cautions that in four years' time - after 20 years of democracy - government will not have sympathy for reasons advanced to explain its failure to make a difference in the lives of the people.
JOHANNESBURG - South African voters have the power to stand up against corrupt government officials who abuse their positions of power, opposition Democratic Alliance (DA) leader Helen Zille says. "When people in South Africa today see all the corruption and power abuse and lack of delivery, they get angry and feel powerless," Zille says during her Freedom Day speech at the Constitutional Court. "When this happens, we must remember 27 April, 1994, and remember that we are not powerless. We have the vote," she adds. "If we don't use our vote to change the people in power, there will be more and more abuse, and more and more corruption, and we will become a criminal State." Zille criticises the African National Congress (ANC) and President Jacob Zuma, saying that they have not been held accountable for their actions. She adds that Zuma has undermined the Constitution to make sure he does not have to go to court and answer to over 700 counts of corruption. "He abuses power to protect his friends, like Shabir Shaik, from the law, while persecuting his political opponents. He supports a system in which the ANC uses the people's money to make themselves rich - that is what is happening at Eskom."
Africa & the world
KIGALI - Rwanda denies that there is a political crisis in the run-up to the August Presidential election despite the arrest of top military officers and an alleged clampdown on opposition and independent media. In April, two generals were arrested on charges of corruption and misuse of office, a Presidential aspirant was briefly detained, two local newspapers were banned and a foreign human rights official was denied a work permit. "The recent events, when bundled together, create an element of fear and panic. But, having lived in this country, and [despite] these events, I don't see many Rwandans panicking," says government spokesperson Louise Mushinkiwabo. "We have no doubt about the reality on the ground. Rwandans are ready to participate in the elections," she adds. President Paul Kagame is widely expected to secure a second seven-year term in the election after winning 95% of the vote in 2003. Kagame is praised for establishing stability and completely rebuilding the Central African nation in the aftermath of the 1994 genocide, and for his bold ambition to transform land-locked Rwanda into a middle-income country by 2020.
NEW YORK - The United Nations (UN)Security Council suggests the creation of special piracy courts to plug a gap in the world response to the costly attacks on merchant ships off the lawless Somali coast. A Russian-drafted resolution passed unanimously by the 15-nation council asks UN secretary-general Ban Ki-moon to report back within three months on ways of prosecuting pirates, some of whom currently go free, even if they are captured. The resolution, a rare Russian initiative on the council, expressed concern over such cases, calling them a failure that "undermines antipiracy efforts of the international community".