JOHANNESBURG — Beleaguered former South African President Jacob Zuma says he is ready to make a surprise return to politics by standing for a top position at the ruling African National Congress’ conference in December — if he is nominated by party members.
The 80-year-old Zuma was president from 2009 to 2018 before he was forced to resign amid wide-ranging allegations of corruption in government and state-owned institutions.
He was sentenced to 15 months in prison last year for defying a court order to testify at a judicial commission investigating corruption during his tenure, and has since been released on medical parole.
Zuma is also facing trial for corruption in a separate case involving a major arms deal the South African government was negotiating more than 20 years ago, around the time Zuma was a deputy president of South Africa.
In a statement released late Monday, Zuma said some ANC members approached him to consider contesting the position of party chairman at the end of the year.
“I have indicated that I will be guided by the branches of the ANC and that I will not refuse such a call should they deem it necessary for me to serve the organization again at that level or any other,” Zuma said.
The December meeting is expected to be crucial to the future of the ANC and current President Cyril Ramaphosa, who faces stiff opposition in getting reelected as party leader and staying on as the country’s president.
Zuma has been critical of his successor, and the pair are seen to be part of opposing factions within a divided ANC.
Zuma also endorsed his ex-wife, current government minister Nkosazana Dlamini-Zuma, to stand for president of the ANC against Ramaphosa.
Ramaphosa’s struggle to get a grip on corruption, a scandal of his own involving the theft of a large amount of cash from his ranch, and an ongoing electricity crisis that has recently left Africa’s most developed economy in power blackouts for up to 10 hours a day all have weakened his standing.
Parliament has formed a three-person panel to investigate if Ramaphosa has a case to answer in the ranch scandal, in which he is accused of money laundering and breaking foreign currency laws by holding cash in U.S. dollars at the property.
He also is accused of bribery for allegedly attempting to cover up the theft of the money to hide its existence. He has confirmed the theft took place and denied any wrongdoing but dodged questions seeking specific information about the incident. Ramaphosa said the money came from the sale of animals on his game farm.
No criminal charges have been brought against Ramaphosa, but Parliament could impeach him if lawmakers find he broke his oath of office. The South African leader is scheduled to appear in Parliament on Thursday to answer more questions from lawmakers about the theft.
Zuma is still popular among some factions of the ANC and at the grassroot level in some regions. It’s unclear how he would deal with an ANC rule that anyone facing criminal charges is ineligible to stand for leadership positions. The rule also demands that those occupying leadership positions should “step aside” from their positions if they are charged.
The corruption charges Zuma faces are linked to a 1999 arms deal, and the case covers a time when he was a political figure on the rise and then deputy president. He is accused of receiving bribes from French arms manufacturer Thales to provide political protection for the multi-billion dollar deal.
Zuma has denied the charges and has moved to have the prosecutor taken off the case, claiming he is biased.
B.C. Premier David Eby unveils his new cabinet
Agriculture and Food — Pam Alexis (new to cabinet)
Attorney General — Niki Sharma (new to cabinet)
Children and Family Development — Mitzi Dean (unchanged)
Citizens’ Services — Lisa Beare
Education and Child Care — Rachna Singh (new to cabinet)
Minister of state for child care — Grace Lore (new to cabinet)
Emergency Management and Climate Readiness — Bowinn Ma
Energy, Mines and Low Carbon Innovation — Josie Osborne
Environment and Climate Change Strategy — George Heyman (unchanged)
Finance (includes Columbia River Treaty) — Katrine Conroy
Forests and minister responsible for consular corps. — Bruce Ralston
Health and minister responsible for Francophone affairs — Adrian Dix (unchanged)
Housing and government house leader — Ravi Kahlon
Indigenous Relations and Reconciliation — Murray Rankin
Jobs, Economic Development and Innovation — Brenda Bailey (new to cabinet)
Minister of state for trade — Jagrup Brar (new to cabinet)
Labour — Harry Bains (unchanged)
Mental Health and Addictions — Jennifer Whiteside
Municipal Affairs — Anne Kang
Post-Secondary Education and Future Skills (includes immigration/foreign credentials) — Selina Robinson
Minister of state for workforce development — Andrew Mercier (new to cabinet)
Public Safety and Solicitor General (ICBC) — Mike Farnworth (unchanged)
Social Development and Poverty Reduction — Sheila Malcolmson
Tourism, Arts, Culture and Sport — Lana Popham
Transportation and Infrastructure (BC Transit and Translink) — Rob Fleming (unchanged)
Minister of state for infrastructure and transit — Dan Coulter (new to cabinet)
Water, Land and Resource Stewardship — Nathan Cullen
This report by The Canadian Press was first published Dec. 7, 2022
Bob Rae heads to Haiti in attempt at political consensus, amid possible intervention
OTTAWA — Canada is trying to dislodge a political impasse in Haiti by sending one of its top diplomats to Port-au-Prince.
Bob Rae, Canada’s ambassador to the United Nations, started an in-person push for negotiations Wednesday.
Haiti is facing a series of crises as armed gangs block access to fuel and essentials, leading to water and power outages that are worsening a cholera outbreak.
The Haitian government has asked for a foreign military to intervene and push out the gangs, but opponents argue that might only prolong an unpopular government in a country that has not had elections since before the COVID-19 pandemic.
Prime Minister Justin Trudeau has said Canada might be part of an intervention, but only if there is a consensus across Haiti’s fractured political scene.
Rae’s three-day visit will include talks with politicians, grassroots groups and United Nations officials on how Canada could play a role in what the Liberals say would be “Haitian-led solutions.”
Defence Minister Anita Anand gave no sense of what that might look like.
“We are making sure to be prudent in this situation,” she told reporters Wednesday.
“We are studying those contributions, potential contributions, and we will have more to say on that in short order.”
This fall, Canada has sanctioned 11 prominent Haitians over alleged ties to gangs, sent military vehicles to the country, and had Trudeau’s former national security adviser conduct an assessment mission.
This report by The Canadian Press was first published Dec. 7, 2022.
Dylan Robertson, The Canadian Press
An anti-environmental group is shaping Oregon politics and policy – Oregon Capital Chronicle
Shortly after this year’s midterm elections, an anti-government group in Oregon called Timber Unity posted a call to action on Facebook. It asked its followers to “bombard” Portland City Council members during an upcoming hearing over a proposed change to a motor vehicles fuel code.
The changes in the code would reduce dependence on nonrenewable fossil fuels by “increasing the required percentage of renewable fuels blended with petroleum diesel.”
In its post, Timber Unity called this a “special eletist [sic] blend” that would raise the price of diesel, lead distributors to disinvest in Oregon and cause biodiesel and renewable diesel to “not meet specs.”
All of these claims were false, according to the City of Portland Bureau of Planning and Sustainability.
Timber Unity has been active in Oregon politics since its founding three years ago.
This year, it endorsed Republican Christine Drazan for governor. Even though she lost, other conservative candidates won and did so with help from Timber Unity, an increasingly active conservative organization with a decidedly anti-conservation agenda.
County commissioners backed by Timber Unity flipped several seats this year, including Ben West who won in Clackamas County, unseating an incumbent. In Lane County, Ryan Ceniga defeated Dawn Lesley, an environmental engineer who prioritized climate change.
Taking over these hyper-local positions has been central to Timber Unity’s strategy of political influence.
Timber Unity’s origins
In June 2019, truckers and loggers living mainly in logging country between the coast and Portland became fed up and angry over a proposed carbon emissions bill.
Many of them, including the trucker and movement’s founder, Jeff Leavy, viewed the bill as a means of killing jobs.
In fact, the bill would have financially benefitted rural communities, such as theirs, affected by climate change.
But the proposal galvanized workers in the industry who mistakenly thought that China would be able to trade in the marketplace and, as Leavy put it to me, “keep polluting this earth on our dime.”
After hearing about the bill, Leavy used Facebook to organize a protest at the Capitol in Salem.
Over the course of several weeks in June, truckers and haulers staged their rigs, coordinated a convoy and held speeches in front of the Capitol.
They called themselves Timber Unity.
Soon after that protest, right-wing figures, including anti-vaxxers and secessionists, joined Timber Unity.
The protests attracted national media attention and statewide political interest.
That month, each of the 11 Republican state senators walked out of the legislative session and effectively killed the bill.
Now over three years later, Timber Unity is still energized, even after some initial internal splintering and leadership changes (Leavy says he resigned).
The group endorsed several winning candidates in the 2020 election, and even helped flip a House seat that hadn’t voted for a Republican in two decades.
In a September 1 Facebook post leading up to this year’s elections, the group applauded then candidate and former House minority leader Drazan for joining a 2020 Legislature walkout by Republicans over a bill aimed at reducing greenhouse gas emissions.
The news that Timber Unity endorsed Drazan wasn’t a complete surprise despite the fact that an early Timber Unity supporter, Betsy Johnson, ran this year as an independent.
Angelita Sanchez, a co-director of the Timber Unity PAC, told me, vaguely, that Johnson was “a yes vote on a gas tax,” which Sanchez considered a “bad vote.”
And Mike Pihl, a former Timber Unity president, was already listed as an endorsement on Drazan’s website.
In interviews, Timber Unity leadership distances itself from extremism and right-wing figures, but posts on Facebook and other promotional materials reveal far-right ideologies.
In October, Timber Unity screenshotted a Vox story headlined “How logging, a Nike founder, and the alt-right warped the Oregon governor’s race” and wrote, “Well, well, WELL!!! Look at what we have here!!! The FAR LEFT EXTREMIST came out with a story today, and lets just say they are running scared and they give ALL THE CREDIT TO YOU!!!”
The group also previously promoted a rally with a poster that included a QAnon banner and members of the private Facebook group in 2020 included election deniers, QAnon conspiracy theorists and at least one man calling for war ahead of the Capitol riots.
The “Wise Use” movement in the 1980s and ‘90s, for example, wanted the expansion of private property rights and less government oversight on federal lands. Its anti-government and anti-environmental rhetoric was similar to that used by Timber Unity, which sees environmental and government regulation as an infringement on freedom and rights.
Pihl, the former president, told me there’s already too much regulation of the timber industry.
“We already have the Forest Protection Act, which is very deep and it’s 87 pages of regulation,” he says. “I have it sitting on my desk, I read it all the time and there’s so many protected already, like the Siuslaw National Forest. You can’t do anything there.”
Timber Unity has successfully tapped into deep-seated resentments over environmental regulation, and its statewide support seems here to stay—at least for now.
This story was originally published in Columbia Insight, an independent environmental journalist news site.
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