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29 Feb. 2016 
Katharine Child | 2016-02-29 00:32:19.0

The current drugs for treating drug-resistant TB have severe side effects, including deafness and nausea. File photo

Image by: Gallo Image/ Thinkstock

A new TB drug that can treat multidrug-resistant strains of the disease and will not cause the severe side effects of older treatments is soon to be available in South Africa.

The drug, Delamanid, developed by the Japanese Otsuka drug company, was approved by the European Medicines Agency in 2014.

Otsuka and the UN body Stop TB launched the drug last week.

Tests have shown that Delamanid can help 45% of extremely drug-resistant patients get better in only two months. The drug has to be taken for six months in conjunction with others.

It is expected to arrive in this country within weeks.

Multidrug-resistant TB infects 15000 South Africans a year (and half a million globally). It has a 40% cure rate locally and requires 24 months of medication.

The current drugs for treating drug-resistant TB have severe side effects, including deafness and nausea.

Only a few hundred patients globally have had access to Delamanid, despite its approval for use 15 months ago.

The drug will be available in developing countries for about R22000 for a half-year course.

Ten patients in Khayelitsha, Cape Town, have been identified as eligible for Delamanid and will start treatment as soon as the drug arrives in this country, but the NGO Mdicines Sans Frontires says that many patients will not be able to benefit because of the high cost.

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29 Feb. 2016 
MIDRAND, South Africa A growing market in carbon credits to cut greenhouse gas emissions may become a tool to help Africa's poor, a World Bank official said on Tuesday.

Under the Kyoto Protocol's Clean Development Mechanism (CDM), emissions by developed countries are capped, forcing them to fund cuts in poor countries through buying certified emission reduction permits to emit greenhouse gases.

But the three-year-old market has so far failed to help Africa, with China and India dominating sales to rich nations.

World Bank figures released earlier this month showed the global carbon trading market trebled to over $30 billion in 2006 from $11 billion the previous year.

"For us this carbon resource is an additional tool to bring in to solve the (poverty) problems that people have on the ground," said Karan Capoor, a senior financial specialist at the World Bank's Africa region carbon finance team.

"We are interested in this market simply because it can help create an additional resource to solve these problems that are very difficult to solve," Kapoor told reporters at a carbon finance investment conference near Johannesburg.

Carbon markets are seen as a cheap and possibly profitable measure to fight climate change.

Africa accounted for 3 percent of certified emission reduction (CER) permit sales last year, by volume, versus 61 percent from China and 12 percent from India, the World Bank says.

One of the biggest obstacles to carbon trading in Africa is a lack of finance plus the complexity of carbon markets. The continent also does not have as much heavy industry as China or India from which to reduce greenhouse gas emissions.

Conference organizers said African organizations or individuals could develop projects to reduce carbon emissions, selling the emission cuts to governments or companies in developed countries.

"One of the biggest challenges for CDM in Africa is complexity...there are lots of risks that have to be thought out and have to be structured," said Jan Kappen, program manager at the United Nations Environment Program (UNEP).

But Kappen said the involvement of banks, drawing on their risk-management expertise, in the carbon trading process may mitigate perceived risks for carbon trading in Africa.

Among the projects offered to financiers at the three-day conference were a natural biogas program in Kenya, gas recoveries from landfills in Rwanda, solid waste management in Uganda and an organic produce initiative in South Africa.

"CDM, certainly the voluntary market is a growing area and one could imagine that Africa would potentially have a stronger position in that market," the World Bank's Capoor said.
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28 Feb. 2016 

The idea behind the campaign #ColourBlind is noble in intent, but serves to be harmful mostly to black people, who suffer various forms of racial discrimination, and more especially to students who have independently devoted themselves to addressing the issues that are unjust to them.

nayirrah waheeds poem titled is eloquently deconstructs why the perpetuated notions of colour blindness are deleterious to black people who bear the greatest brunt of the social injustices and inequalities they are faced with on university campuses and beyond. waheed writes: Never trust anyone who says they do not see colour. this means to them, you are invisible.

The cracks of nation-building continue to show themselves through the current state of affairs in South Africa: from the revolt of students, workers standing up against the exploitative measures of outsourcing, to the increasing popularity for the call of land expropriation.

The #ColourBlind campaign, like many other similar campaigns before it, has good intentions. However, a good intention does not directly result in a good outcome. #ColourBlind is, in fact, a shaming mechanism that frames the protesting students at University of Pretoria (UP) and University of Free State (UFS) as opponents of the idealistic hope and unity that the campaign advocates. It also absolves the actions (or lack thereof) of university management, private security and police in the violence both systemic and physical that students continually experience at their hands.

While supporters of the campaign have defended it on the basis that it does not ignore the real issues students are facing, it shows a lack of nuanced understanding of their struggle while simultaneously vilifying those engaging in protests. It leaves the responsibility on victims to turn the other cheek, be the bigger person and simply get over their grievances. Even the social execution of the campaign is contradictory in its nature: participants post pictures of themselves with people of different races declaring that race does not matter even when it is the campaigns cornerstone. These contradictions are a result of simplifying the visceral effects of racial inequalities.

Hope and unity are the easy part of the reconciliation process, the hard and necessary work (which continues to be ignored) starts when individuals confront how they are complicit in the perpetuation of injustice. When the white Afrikaans students introspect on how they have benefitted from the dual language policy that only allows them to study in their home language, despite the fact they make up only 13% of students at UP; and when black students have honest conversations about how their proximity to whiteness legitimises them in spaces they occupy.

Preaching hope, unity and reconciliation while simultaneously ignoring justice and reparative actions from those in power is why this rainbow nation is a blatant lie and a slap in the face of South Africas poorest and most vulnerable people. It is in the name of unity that many of those who supported apartheid and even committed heinous crimes (such as FW de Klerk and Adriaan Vlok) were granted immunity and redemption with very little repentance expected from them.

The call for tolerance and acceptance through #ColourBlind, which is intentionally or unintentionally directed to dissented black people (specifically students at UP and UFS), is in itself unjust. However, it is easy to just point fingers at this campaign and the deeply problematic nature of how South Africans process what racism is and how it manifests. Racism did not start at Shimlas Stadium at UFS, at UP when Afriforum and EFF students clashed at UP, nor did it start when Penny Sparrow spewed her venomous comments on Facebook. Racism will not end through gleeful selfies, speeches about racism in apartheid museums, marches by ruling parties, pizza narratives, and earnest prayers for peace.

Writing about the #IamStellenbosch campaign, which was critiqued for the same reasons as #ColourBlind, Michelle Avenant argues that these campaigns silence consideration of race and racial inequality, all in the name of preserving a positivity that vilifies those who speak out against these movements through painting them as negative or lacking faith.

Pontsho Pilane is a reporter for the Mail & Guardian

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28 Feb. 2016 

CAPE TOWN, South Africa - Celebrating her 100th birthday with a parachute jump is not enough for South African Georgina Harwood. She plans to make her centenary even more exciting by doing a shark cage dive on Monday.

Her birthday skydive was a tandem jump in which she was in harness with another person. The jump took place Saturday near the Melkbosstrand area north of Cape Town.

Wearing a red jumpsuit, Harwood was joined in the air by 15 family members and friends who participated in groups of three. Harwood said it was wonderful seeing all the others around her.

Harwood said this was her third skydive. She did her first when she was 92 years old in 2007.

In a shark cage dive the participant goes underwater in a cage in an area where sharks are fed chum, bits of cut up fish meat, by tour operators.

2015 The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed.

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28 Feb. 2016 

Gordhan has until Wednesday to answer 27 questions from Hawks boss Lieutenant General Berning Ntlemeza in the latest round of an extraordinary battle that has seen the minister go toe-to-toe with some of Zuma's closest lieutenants.

But Gordhan is unlikely to heed the ultimatum, because he considers the letter - sent to him six days before he tabled the 2016 budget in parliament this week - an attempt to discredit him.

Economists are now warning that the high-profile battle could inflict long-term damage on the economy, with dire consequences for the livelihoods of South Africans.

New battle lines have been drawn between Luthuli House and the Union Buildings, with ANC secretary-general Gwede Mantashe saying "the timing" of the Hawks' questions was "an effort to destabilise the economy".

Zuma's office indirectly hit back at Mantashe, saying it "noted rumours and gossip which insinuate some conspiracy" against the finance minister.

Another cause of tension between Gordhan and Zuma is the minister's apparent determination to remove SAA chairwoman Dudu Myeni from the state-owned airline's board.

Two sources, one at SAA and another at National Treasury, told the Sunday Times that the minister on Tuesday informed Zuma of his intention to remove Myeni, a close friend of the president.

"The first time the president ignored him and after some time he said it again. This time the president simply responded that he had heard him. He never said yes or no, or asked why," said a source close to the situation.

Relations between Gordhan and Myeni are said to be so bad that the two have not had a formal meeting this year, and the SAA board had no idea of Gordhan's announcement that SAA would merge with SA Express.

When the Sunday Times contacted Gordhan yesterday, his wife Patsy answered the phone and said he "is extremely, extremely tired and stressed" because of what has been happening to him.

"He is really tired and stressed and I want him to have a break," she said.

SAA spokesman Tlali Tlali refuted claims that the two have not met, saying they have had three meetings since Gordhan became finance minister.

Finance Minister Pravin Gordhan and President Jacob Zuma ahead of the 2016 budget speech in parliament this week Image: ESA ALEXANDER

Gordhan's likely refusal to respond to Ntlemeza's questions would paint Zuma into a corner, and he would soon have to choose between his newly appointed finance minister and South African Revenue Service chief Tom Moyane, who initially laid the complaint with the Hawks.

In a week in which Gordhan presented a budget that even critics said would help appease international rating agencies, South Africa witnessed an unprecedented proxy war between the president and his finance minister, with Gordhan demanding that the Hawks probe be stopped and Moyane be removed as SARS commissioner.

At the heart of the unprecedented conflict is a SARS investigation into the National Research Group and the High Risk Investigation Unit, which were set up during Gordhan's tenure as commissioner at SARS.

Gordhan's critics alleged that the unit was illegally set up and went "rogue", conducting illegal intelligence-gathering and surveillance.

But the minister on Friday denied this, saying it was "legally constituted and approved" and that it had done "commendable work in disrupting activities in the illicit economy".

"I can categorically state that the Hawks have no reason to investigate me," said Gordhan on Friday.

Among the questions posed by Ntlemeza in his four-page letter to the minister is whether Gordhan knew about an operation code-named "Sunday Evenings", which involved "the bugging or installation of sophisticated surveillance equipment" at the offices of the National Prosecuting Authority.

"If this unit was operating legitimately, why were they operating from guesthouses, hotels, restaurants and their private dwellings? Further, why were they not provided with SARS laptops to store confidential information?"

After receiving the letter from Ntlemeza last Thursday, Gordhan is said to have complained to Zuma about the Hawks investigation.

He thinks he is above the law just because . . . he is now the most powerful minister in the cabinet

On Monday, he met Zuma and the rest of the ANC's "top six " leaders and further expressed his frustrations with Moyane and the Hawks.

One version of the events at the meeting, given mostly by sources sympathetic to Zuma and Moyane, is that Gordhan threatened to resign from the ministry if the president did not fire Moyane and did not order the Hawks to stop harassing him.

But those close to Gordhan deny that the minister put a gun to Zuma's head, saying all he pointed out at the meeting was that he had told party leaders when he was appointed to the post in December that he did not want to work with Moyane.

Mantashe confirmed that the "top six" meeting dealt with tensions between Gordhan and Moyane but declined to comment on the alleged threat to resign.

"I always refuse to talk about rumours because if I start talking about rumours I am going to be deep in trouble because some of the rumours are driven deliberately," he said.

However, a number of ANC insiders with intimate knowledge of the talks insisted that the minister threatened to leave.

"He did threaten to leave if Tom is not removed and Ntlemeza and others are not told to stop the investigation. But how does Baba instruct a law-enforcement agency to stop investigating anyone? It would be unfair and dangerous," said one official.

Another source accused Gordhan of "thinking that he was above the law just because everybody tells him that he is now the most powerful minister in the cabinet".

Zuma sympathisers, including three from the criminal justice cluster and two from SARS, rubbished claims that Gordhan was the subject of a smear campaign aimed at distracting him from doing his work.

They pointed out that Moyane opened the case in May last year, long before Gordhan returned to the finance portfolio.

"When SARS established the rogue unit in 2009, Pravin was the commissioner and it is only logical that he can be asked to clarify certain things and answer certain questions.

"If Pravin's hands are clean and if he is innocent, as he claims, then why is he scared of this Hawks investigation? He is now busy lobbying the public to rally for him instead of letting the law do its course and exonerate him," a SARS source said.

Zuma has told those close to him that he would "not interfere" with the Hawks investigation and that he will not sack Moyane as he believes he is doing a great job.

Tensions between Moyane and Gordhan were evident at the presentation of the budget.

SARS staff who were on standby to fly to Cape Town and help the Treasury prepare the speech were told at the last minute that they were not required, SARS sources said.

"We learnt on Friday last week that all the bookings should be cancelled ... it's a case of don't call us, we will call you. But eventually a few others including Tom went," one said.

Two criminal justice cluster sources said Moyane requested a meeting with Zuma in December, to which Ntlemeza was invited, to discuss the implications of Gordhan's re-appointment.

At a meeting between Zuma, Gordhan and organised business earlier this month, Old Mutual's Ralph Mupita presented a nine-point plan to help avoid a rating downgrade, which included a need for the tensions between SARS and National Treasury to be resolved amicably.

Zuma is said to have agreed to this plan.

People need to understand that this is our future. Food prices are already skyrocketing

On Friday Cas Coovadia, chief executive of the Banking Association, who had also attended the meeting with Zuma, said:

"We have made the point with the president and the minister that we need to do what needs to be done.

"A critical balance is that we collect taxes properly, and an efficient revenue service is critical to that.

"The revenue service has done very well in collecting taxes. We as a business, we are extremely concerned: now we have reached a total breakdown between the revenue service and the minister of finance.

"We urge that this matter gets sorted out urgently, that the minister plays the role he should be playing, and the commissioner to play a role that he should."

Economic analyst Mike Schussler of warned that the Treasury battle was causing uncertainty that the beleaguered South African economy could ill-afford.

"One thing is certain: if the one faction wins, all of these plans will come to naught and the decline of state-owned entities under unsuitable leadership will continue.

"People need to understand that this is our future. Food prices are already skyrocketing.

"Hunger will be the plight of the workers and the poor if we do not act with restraint.

"If this unnecessary fight is not nipped in the bud, it will not end well."

Sunday Times saw the questions the Hawks sent to Gordhan and they include:

Who was heading the unit and to whom was it responsible and accountable?;

Was there any input you gave for establishing the unit?;

As the commissioner of SARS at the time, were you briefed about all key strategic operations?;

Were there things at SARS (when you were the commissioner) that would have happened without your knowledge?;

If this unit was operating legitimately, why were they [its members] operating from guesthouses, hotels, restaurants and their private dwellings?;

Who authorised the procurement of the surveillance equipment to be utilised during the unit's operations?;

We believe you are aware of the KPMG forensic investigations into the existence of a rogue unit at SARS. Do you perhaps have a clue as to why such investigations were conducted?; and

Did the minister of finance receive the KPMG report? If yes, have you read it since you took office or requested to be briefed about its content by the deputy minister or the commissioner? Have you made any contact with Judge Frank Kroon?

Read the Hawk's Questions to the Finance Minister here.

[email protected], [email protected], [email protected], [email protected]

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