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South Africa sends murder suspect Edwin Samotse back to Botswana

Human rights lawyers on Tuesday pressed South Africa to explain why a murder suspect from Botswana was illegally deported to his country, where he could be executed if convicted.

South Africa's Department of Home Affairs has acknowledged that the man, Edwin Samotse, was handed to officials in neighboring Botswana in violation of South African rules that bar the extradition or deportation of people whose countries have the death penalty. It said it was investigating and that some officials were suspended.

South Africa abolished the death penalty in 1995 after the end of white minority rule.

Lawyers for Human Rights, a South African group, has sought a court order requiring the government to ask Botswana not to impose the death penalty if Samotse is convicted, said David Cote, head of the group's strategic litigation unit. The next court hearing on the matter is Thursday, according to Lawyers for Human Rights.

Samotse was arrested in Botswana in 2010 but fled to South Africa, where he was detained a year later, according to court papers. Prior to his deportation in August, South Africa asked Botswana to promise that Samotse would not get the death penalty in the event of extradition and conviction, but Botswana did not give the assurance, according to South African officials.

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Judge clears Pistorius of murder charges, may be guilty of culpable homicide

South African Judge Thokozile Masipa on Thursday cleared Oscar Pistorius of all murder charges, saying the state had failed to prove the athlete intended to kill his girlfriend Reeva Steenkamp when he fatally shot her on Valentine's Day last year.
 
Masipa said, however, that Pistorius had acted negligently in Steenkamp’s death, raising the possibility that he could be convicted of culpable homicide, or manslaughter. The case was then adjourned until Friday, when a formal verdict will be given.
 
"Culpable homicide is a competent verdict,'' the judge said, without delivering any formal verdict before calling for a lunch break.
 
The state had charged that the former double-amputee Olympic and Paralympic star killed Steenkamp on February 14, 2013, after a heated argument. The defendant has said he shot his girlfriend in a tragic accident after mistaking her for an intruder.
 
In explaining her reasoning behind the upcoming verdicts, Masipa said there were “just not enough facts” to support the finding of premeditated murder in Steenkamp’s fatal shooting.
 
As the judge spoke, Pistorius wept quietly, his shoulders shaking as he sat on a wooden bench.
 
Masipa told Pistorius he could remain seated on a wooden bench in the South African courtroom until she asked him to stand, and then proceeded to explain her assessment of the testimonies of some of the 37 witnesses who testified.
 
‘Normal relationships are dynamic’
 
Masipa also said she was disregarding telephone text messages between the couple that had been entered as evidence – prosecutors had submitted text messages that showed tension between them in an attempt to prove that Pistorius had a motive to kill his girlfriend, while the defence submitted messages that indicated mutual affection.
 
That evidence, the judge said, doesn’t prove anything.
 
“Normal relationships are dynamic and unpredictable most of the time, while human beings are fickle,” she said.
 
If Pistorius is found guilty of culpable homicide, he faces up to 15 years in prison. He could be acquitted if Masipa believes the athlete made a tragic error.
 
Pistorius has said he mistakenly shot Steenkamp through the closed door of a toilet cubicle, thinking there was an intruder in his home and pleaded not guilty to murder.
 
The prosecution alleges the athlete intentionally killed her after a loud quarrel, which was heard by neighbours.
 
A key part of the prosecution’s case was its assertion that Steenkamp screamed during a late-night alleged fight with Pistorius before he killed her. But Masipa said some of those witnesses who testified to hearing a woman scream in the pre-dawn hours of February 14, 2013 were “genuinely mistaken in what they heard, as the chronology will show”.
 
That appeared to indicate that the defence had succeeded in raising doubts that Steenkamp ever screamed. The defense says the screaming was instead Pistorius, who was traumatised and desperately calling for help in a high-pitched voice after realizing he had shot Steenkamp in error.
 
Four charges
 
Masipa also cited testimony of an acoustics expert called by the defence, saying it cast “serious doubt” on whether witnesses who were hundreds of meters away in their homes – as some state witnesses were – could have differentiated between the screams of a man or a woman.
 
Earlier, Masipa began by outlining in detail the four charges against the Olympic runner: Murder, two counts of unlawfully firing a gun in a public place in unrelated incidents and one count of illegal possession of ammunition.
 
Pistorius sat looking straight ahead in the direction of the judge as she was explaining her upcoming decision from documents on a stand in front of her. Her two legal aides sat on either side.
 
Before the session began, Pistorius hugged his brother Carl, who was seated in a wheelchair because of injuries suffered in a recent car crash.
 
The parents of Steenkamp, the 29-year-old model fatally shot by Pistorius, were also in the packed gallery. Other members of Pistorius’ family, including his father Henke, sat behind him.
 
If Pistorius is convicted on any charge, the case will likely be postponed until a later sentencing hearing.
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36 killed in road accident in Tanzania's lake zone regions

At least 36 people were killed and 79 others injured on Friday after two buses involved in a head-on collision in the Tanzania's lake zone regions of Mwanza and Mara, police said.

Mara Regional Police Commander, Ferdinand Mtui told Xinhua in a telephone interview that the accident occurred along the Mwanza- Musoma highway, involving a bus christened Jumanne Express with registration numbers T.677 CYC which was heading to Mwanza from Musoma and the other one christened Mwanza Coach with registration numbers T736AWJ ,which was heading to Musoma.

"This is one of the grisly road accidents to happen in this part of Tanzania," Mtui said.

According to police, 36 people died on the spot and dozens severely injured and were rushed to Musoma Regional Hospital for treatment.

Mtui police were still working on the cause of the accident, though earlier investigation show that a driver of the Jumanne Express bus was trying to overtake another vehicle in an area which is very close to a narrow bridge.

"But it was too late for the driver to do what he wanted to do, as collided with another bus," one of the eyewitnesses said, heaping blames on reckless driving.

This is one of the deadly accident to happen in just one month after the one occurred on July 30 in Dodoma, killing 17 people, injuring 56 others after a bus travelling to Dar es Salaam collided with a lorry in Tanzania's central district of Kongwa.

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Calm returns to Lesotho as leaders agree to end tension

The executive secretary of the Southern African Development Community (SADC) says Lesotho’s rival leaders have agreed on a framework aimed at resolving the sharp disagreement that led to the alleged attempt to overthrow Prime Minister Thomas Thabane’s government last weekend.

Stergomena Lawrence Tax says the regional bloc will soon name a “high-profile” facilitator to monitor the agreement signed by the Lesotho leaders in a bid to restore law and order, constitutional rule and resolve tension in the Southern African country.
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“They agreed on two things. That SADC would support them in ensuring that there is security and peace in the country. They would also appoint a facilitator, which would enable them to make sure that they implemented the Windhoek declaration, and basically to remove the prorogation of parliament,” said Tax.

She said the current security situation is “calm and normalizing” following the alleged attempt to overthrow the government last weekend.

Tax said according to the stipulations of the agreement, the leaders in Lesotho would have to come up with a timetable in order to re-open parliament this month.

“Our expectations and belief is that they are going to adhere to what they have agreed to, and that being the case, we believe that the political situation in the country is going to be normalized. Once that has taken place, obviously the security situation is also going to be normal,” said Tax.

“As SADC…we are there and we are ready to support the kingdom to make sure that all the challenges are addressed in an amicable manner and in a peaceful manner,” she said.

Rivals in the coalition government accused the Prime minister of a power grab after Mr. Thabane suspended parliament, apparently to avoid a vote of no confidence.

But in an interview with VOA, Prime Minister Thabane said corruption charges against a prominent member of the government, who he says is seen as a hero, led to the alleged attempt on his life.

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South African opposition given Jacob Zuma spy tapes

Taped phone conversations and documents about former corruption charges against South Africa's president were released Thursday to the opposition party, reviving a case that has plagued the leader since before he took office.

Conversations on the recordings were cited as a reason to drop fraud and corruption charges against President Jacob Zuma before he became president in 2009. The prosecuting authority at that time said the conversations showed there was a political conspiracy against Zuma, but the actual recordings were never made public.

Zuma had applied to prevent the tapes from being released while the opposition Democratic Alliance party sought access to them. The Supreme Court of Appeals ordered the release of the materials last week.

Opposition leader Helen Zille said these records were critical because they reveal so much, and will be reviewed to see if the charges were legitimately dropped.

"This is a very important step in our commitment to defend the constitution and the independence of every part of our criminal justice system," Zille said outside of the court in South Africa's capital, Pretoria.

She held a white package high in the air to the cheers of dozens of Democratic Alliance members wearing blue T-shirts with the red DA symbol. Also present were supporters of another opposition party, the Economic Freedom Fighters. Zille pointed to the words "Tamper Evidence Security Bag," which were written on the envelope in black ink.

"We are going to be using this as evidence in a review application on the withdrawal of over 700 counts relating to corruption, fraud, money laundering and racketeering that were drawn against the president before he became the president in 2009," she added.

Prosecutors said the taped conversations showed there was a political conspiracy against Zuma.

Zuma, then deputy president, was accused of accepting bribes to thwart an investigation into a French arms company involved in a weapons deal in the late 1990s. The conversations were allegedly between prosecutors and a head of a crime-fighting unit.

The president's lawyers had argued the opposition party would use the tapes for political gain. However, Zuma welcomed their release on Thursday, saying in a statement that they should include materials that "do not breach the confidentiality" between the president and the National Prosecuting Authority.

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Mozambique rebel leaders out from hiding set to ratify peace deal

After two years in hiding, Mozambique opposition leader Afonso Dhlakama arrived in Maputo on Thursday to "ratify a pact between his Renamo party and the government ending hostilities ahead of an Oct. 15 election," according to reports by Reuters.

If ratified, the peace deal between the government of President Armando Guebuza and its longtime opposition Renamo party, also known as the Mozambique National Resistance Army, could finally clear a major political obstacle in the southern African nation.

Guebuza and Dhlakama are set to meet on Friday in to cement the arrangement that would allow Renamo followers to come out of hiding and participate in politics.

Although Guebuza's longtime ruling Frelimo party, Front for the Liberation of Mozambique, is predicted to maintain the presidency, University of South Africa analyst Shadrack Gutto says the prospective deal has major implications.

“It is important that they are meeting now for the first time after those two years ... because Mozambique does not need another war or conflict," said Gutto, referring to a 17-year civil war between Frelimo and Renamo forces that ended with a 1992 peace agreement, which fell apart after government forces attacked a Renamo base in October 2013, forcing Dhlakama into hiding.

"They need to really focus on participating in elections and let the people decide.”

Renamo has long expressed frustration at being considered an opposition party in the coastal African nation, which discovered massive deposits of natural gas in the last 10 years. The country has "plans to open a liquefied natural gas terminal in 2018 that will be the second-largest export site in the world after Ras Laffan in Qatar," according to Bloomberg News.

Once the deal is ratified, upcoming elections could give Renamo a much-needed chance to win parliamentary seats, giving it more say over the country’s economic future. The former anti-communist rebel group has claimed Frelimo rigged elections and marginalized the opposition.

Dhlakama has run on the Renamo ticket unsuccessfully in every presidential poll since 1994. President Guebuza is constitutionally barred from running again after serving two terms.

Analyst Dimpho Motsamai of the Pretoria-based Institute of Security Studies says the timing of the agreement is key.

“The point is really to create a conducive environment for peaceful elections by giving Renamo some kind of assurance that [its] demands, which are longstanding, are going to be respected," she said. "It is a strategy to prevent them from disturbing the elections as well. It is also a strategy to try to establish some kind of fraternity in the political environment of the country, which is hardly the case, because you never knew when Renamo would come out of the bush and disrupt political balances or everyday life."

Since its brutal civil war concluded in 1992, Mozambique wrote a constitution and held several elections, becoming a well-known tourist haven that is now poised to reap the economic gains of massive natural gas repositories.

But Motsamai warns a peace deal alone does no guarantee long-term stability.

“Politicians can blame the agreement for their election loss, and on that basis cause post-electoral violence, but that is not the scenario that they would like to see," she said. "Or they could just accept the outcome of elections and they have a reduced majority, and they can use the agreement as the bargaining tool to get more positions and a slice of the economic pie from government.”

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Report says 3 children murdered every day in South Africa

An average of three children are murdered per day in South Africa, doubling the global rate, the South African Medical Research Council (SAMRC) revealed on Wednesday.

While delivering a report on violence against children in South Africa to the National Assembly, SAMRC President Glenda Gray said violence against children under the age of 18 was physical, psychological and sexual in nature.

"The violence against children is perpetuated by adults and peers and consequently resulting in suicide, substance abuse, alcohol abuse, delinquent behaviour, mental health and conduct problems," Gray said.

The statistics drew immediate concern from the parliamentary Portfolio Committee on Social Development.

Committee Chairperson Zoleka Capa said the committee "is saddened" by the report.

Capa acknowledged that violence against children was a huge problem in the country, and that it required the intervention of the society, especially families.

"One wonders where the family units are when all these social ills occur to children, but the Department of Social Development has presented a comprehensive report to the Committee on how they will deal with all forms of violence against children and they also requested a substantial budget to that effect," said Capa.

On recommendations and way forward, Capa encouraged scientists, responsible for conducting research, to also consider indigenous ways of raising a child in order to bring a holistic solution.

"We take this report very seriously but we will interrogate it further with people like traditional healers and church leaders," she said.

South Africa has one of the highest crime rates in the world, with children and women often falling victim to criminals.

The number murder cases against children in South Africa has been on the rise over the past recent years.

The police recorded 827 child murder cases in 2012/2013, up from 793 in 2011/2012, Minister of Police Nathi Nhleko told Parliament earlier this month.

It is certain that there are a multitude of child murder cases that never make it to court, therefore are not included in the figure, the opposition Democratic Alliance (DA) claims.

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South African police escort Lesotho Prime Minister back home

South African police escorted Lesotho's prime minister back to his home in the capital of the mountainous kingdom after military actions saw him to flee to South Africa over the weekend, a police official said Wednesday.

Prime Minister Thomas Thabane arrived safely at his home in Maseru, said Assistant Police Commissioner Lehloka Maphatsoe. He did not say long South Africa's forces would be present.

"We were informed that he is back home," said Maphatsoe. "They have told the public that he is back home, but the way forward has not yet been publicized."

South African police forces are in Lesotho for extra security, said Lesotho police commissioner Khothatso Tsooana. He also ordered that Lesotho police go back to work. They had been told days ago to stop work and not wear uniforms to prevent attacks on police.

The military disarmed police stations on Saturday. Radios were also jammed in what the prime minister said was a coup attempt in the country of about 2 million people. The military said they merely acted on information that police would be arming demonstrators in a political protest.

Political tensions have been high between Thabane, Deputy Prime Minister Mothetjoa Metsing and others within the country's first coalition government since June when the prime minister suspended parliament to dodge a vote of no confidence.

Metsing and the leader of the third party in the coalition also returned to Lesotho, said assistant police commissioner Maphatsoe. While South African police were present, Lesotho's police remained off the streets and out of uniform after being instructed to do so to avoid being targeted in attacks, Maphatsoe said. The Southern African Development Community, the region's 15-nation organization, said it is sending an envoy and an observer team to Lesotho to help restore stability and security in the tiny country encircled by South Africa.

Lesotho's leaders agreed to a roadmap with a "clear timeline" on working toward removing the parliamentary suspension, SADC said. They also agreed to release a joint statement "appealing for calm and exercise restraint with a view to rapidly bring law and order back in the kingdom," according to a statement issued by the regional body.

Lesotho has seen a number of military coups since gaining independence from Britain in 1966.

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Fresh unrest in Lesotho force PM to shelve return to Maseru

Gunfire and power cuts rekindled tensions in Lesotho's capital Maseru overnight, as the expected return to the mountain nation of the exiled prime minister appeared uncertain following an apparent coup.

An aide to Tom Thabane told AFP on Tuesday that the 75-year-old was unlikely to return to the country on Tuesday as planned, after regional mediators brokered a road map to ease the country's political crisis.

"We are still in Johannesburg. There is a possibility that we may not arrive in Lesotho today," Samonyane Ntsekele said in a phone interview, without giving details on the delay.

The prime minister fled across the border to South Africa before dawn on Saturday, as troops attacked key police installations and surrounded his official residence.

The military and a rival political party - the Lesotho Congress for Democracy - have been accused of trying to oust the 75-year-old, a charge they vehemently deny.

Political tensions have been running high in the landlocked country since June when Thabane suspended the country's parliament to avoid a no-confidence vote amid feuding in the two-year-old coalition government.

Deputy Prime Minister Mothetjoa Metsing had vowed to form a new coalition that would oust Thabane.

South African President Jacob Zuma and representatives of the regional bloc Southern African Development Community (SADC), had brought together leaders from Lesotho's three ruling coalition parties to resolve their differences.

It was reported earlier that the SADC will send an observer team to the mountainous African kingdom to monitor political, defence and security developments.

The country's police force is in disarray after being forcibly disarmed by troops, and the military is seemingly beyond political control, leaving ordinary people fearing for the future.

Power vacuum

In an attempt to fill that vacuum Motloheloa Phooko, a minister from the LCD, raised eyebrows on Monday by saying he was acting prime minister thanks to "cabinet protocol".

The confusion continued on Monday evening when gunshots were heard in Maseru by AFP reporters though it was initially unclear if this was related to the ongoing tensions.

The political situation may be fraught, but Thabane's biggest task may be to end doubts about who controls the army.

Intelligence sources have claimed that Lieutenant General Tlali Kamoli, commander of the Lesotho Defence Forces, orchestrated the coup when ordered by Thabane to relinquish his command.

Kamoli was to be replaced by Lieutenant General Maaparankoe Mahao, who fled the country on Saturday after a pre-dawn assassination attempt.

On Monday, military spokesman major Ntlele Ntoi insisted there was no doubt who was in command of the armed forces.

"Lieutenant General Tlali Kamoli is the one who is in charge," he said categorically, stating that Mahao faces a court martial for conduct unbecoming an officer.

Speaking in Pretoria, Mahao labelled Kamoli a "renegade general".

Mahao claimed that Kamoli was reluctant to relinquish his post for fear of prosecution.

When asked who is in charge of the military, acting prime minister Phooko said "that is a difficult question."

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Lesotho PM calls for regional peace force to restore order after 'coup'

Lesotho's prime minister has asked southern African states to send peacekeepers into his mountain kingdom to restore order after an apparent coup over the weekend, his aide said on Monday.

Thomas Thabane fled to South Africa, whose territory surrounds Lesotho, early on Saturday, hours before the army surrounded his residence and overran police stations in the capital, Maseru, in what the prime minister called a coup.

Lesotho's army said it had not tried to oust Thabane but had moved against police suspected of planning to arm a political faction. One policeman was shot dead and four others wounded.

The unrest stems from a power struggle between Thabane, who is supported by the police, and Deputy Prime Minister Mothetjoa Metsing, who has the loyalty of the army, diplomats said.

Tension has risen since Thabane, who has accused Metsing of orchestrating the coup, suspended parliament in June amid feuding in the 2-year-old governing coalition.

The Southern African Development Community, or SADC, defense and security troika, which includes foreign ministers from South Africa, Namibia and Zimbabwe, met through the night with Thabane and Metsing to try to find a peaceful settlement to the crisis.

Thabane asked SADC, a cooperative group of 15 southern African states, for military support, said officials.

"On top of the table was a need for intervention based on the situation. We called on the SADC peace force to intervene," said Thabane's aide, Samonyane Ntsekele.

On Monday, Thabane and Metsing met South African President Jacob Zuma, who chairs SADC's defense and security body, with the regional group agreeing to send a facilitator to help resolve the crisis.

"SADC further agreed to deploy an observer team on politics, defense and security as a matter of urgency," a statement issued after the meeting in South Africa's capital, Pretoria, said.

Thabane was now on his way back to Lesotho, Ntsekele said.

In Maseru, the atmosphere was quiet but tense on Monday. The police commissioner said soldiers had carried out further raids on police installations and even officers' homes, taking away weapons and uniforms.

Commissioner Khothatso Ts'ooana told Public Choice FM radio station that this meant police would not be able to carry out their normal duties. Police stations were deserted and some officers had fled over the border into South Africa.

In Washington, the U.S. State Department said in a statement it was "deeply concerned by uncertainty over the political process and the state of public security" in Lesotho’s capital. It has ordered non-employed family members of U.S. mission personnel out of the country.

Thabane told Reuters on Saturday he had fired the army commander, Lieutenant-General Kennedy Tlali Kamoli, and appointed Brigadier Maaparankoe Mahao to replace him. But on Sunday, Kamoli said he was still in charge of the military.

Lesotho, a state of 2 million people, has suffered a several coups since independence from Britain in 1966. At least 58 local residents and eight South African soldiers died during a political standoff and subsequent fighting in 1998, when Pretoria sent in troops.

Besides textile exports and a slice of regional customs receipts, Lesotho's other big earner is hydropower and water, both of which it supplies to neighbor South Africa.

Lesotho's massive mountain ranges have made it a favorite of trivia fans as "the world's highest country" - its lowest point is 1,380 meters (4,528 feet) above sea level.

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