JOHANNESBURG – South African police raided the family home of businessmen friends of President Jacob Zuma on Wednesday amid a probe into allegations that the family used their links with the president to win state contracts and influence Cabinet appointments.
The raid by the specialist Hawks police unit on the family home of the Guptas came a day after the ruling African National Congress (ANC) ordered Zuma to step down as head of state after nine years in office dogged by scandal and a stagnant economy.
A dozen heavily armed tactical police blocked off a street leading to the Gupta home in Johannesburg. A police officer told Reuters: “This is a crime scene.”
Zuma and the Guptas – a family of wealthy Indian-born businessmen – deny any wrongdoing.
Related CoverageSouth Africa Hawks police unit seal off road around Gupta homeA lawyer for the Gupta family said he could not comment on the raid because he had yet to see the search warrant.
Hawks spokesman Hangwani Mulaudzi said the raid was part of an investigation into allegations of influence peddling in the government. The allegations are also the subject of a judicial inquiry on wider corruption.
“We’re viewing this investigation in a very serious light. We’re not playing around in terms of making sure that those who are responsible in the so-called state capture, they take responsibility for it,” Mulaudzi said.
He declined to give details of what was seized or if the business premises of the Guptas would also be raided, saying a full statement would be released later on Wednesday.
Zuma was expected to respond on Wednesday to an order from the ANC to resign as head of state, party officials said.
The ANC said on Tuesday it had decided to “recall” Zuma, a euphemism for removing him from office, but gave him no firm deadline to resign, setting the stage for a potential fight to wrest him from power.
ANC Secretary General Ace Magashule said the party’s national executive was split on when Zuma should step down, although the party expected him to respond to the order by Wednesday.
Finance Minister Malusi Gigaba told CNN late on Tuesday Zuma was expected to address the nation at 0800 GMT on Wednesday.
Zuma’s spokesman could not be reached for comment and there was no official confirmation from the presidency that the address would take place.
ANC spokesman Pule Mabe told state broadcaster SABC that Zuma remained “a disciplined member of the ANC and would do what is best for a cadre of the movement”.
Zuma is already facing a no-confidence motion in parliament, brought by the opposition Economic Freedom Fighters and set for Feb. 22.
The ANC could throw its weight behind such a vote if Zuma, who has survived several no-confidence motions in the past, refused to resign. The entire Cabinet would have to step down if such a vote went through.
(This story has been refiled to add dropped word in headline)
Additional reporting by Tiisetso Motsoeneng in Johannesburg and Wendell Roelf in Cape Town;
Sudan Releases Political Prisoners From Khartoum Jails
KHARTOUM – Sudanese authorities said on Sunday they would release more than 80 political prisoners from jails in the capital Khartoum, a week after the African country appointed a new security chief.
A Reuters reporter said he had seen about 40 prisoners released from the main prison by Sunday evening and that some prominent opposition leaders were still being held there.
A presidential adviser had earlier said in a statement that President Omar Hassan al-Bashir had ordered more than 80 political detainees to be released.
All of them were arrested last month after protests about high prices and tough economic conditions that turned violent.
Families celebrated in front of the jails on Sunday, with some chanting “freedom, freedom” and singing national songs.
REFILE – REMOVING EXTRA WORDS Arrested politicians and journalists shout inside the National Prison before their release after demonstrations in Khartoum, Sudan February 18, 2018. REUTERS/Mohamed Nureldin AbdallahA group of people started a sit-in outside one of the prisons, saying they would not leave until all the political prisoners were freed.
The United States in October lifted 20-year-old sanctions on Sudan, prompting calls from the International Monetary Fund for the African country to float its currency among other measures that it said could help its economy recover.
Slideshow (5 Images)Sudan rejected floating the currency but devalued it in January and cut wheat subsidies, sending the pound’s value plummeting on the black market and causing a doubling of bread prices that led to January’s demonstrations.
The weak black market rate of the pound has also forced authorities to slash the rate at which banks can trade dollars.
Sudan’s economy has been struggling since the south seceded in 2011, taking with it three-quarters of what had been its oil output.
Opposition groups have accused the president of jailing dissidents and censoring the media.
Bashir has remained in power for more than a quarter of a century, weathering rebellions, economic crisis and an indictment by the International Criminal Court on suspicion of having orchestrated war crimes in Sudan’s Darfur region.
Reporting by Khalid Abdelaziz; Writing by John Davison and Arwa Gaballa in Cairo;
Bad Guy Russia Emerges As Central Player In Western Diplomacy
MUNICH – European and U.S. officials divided over U.S. President Donald Trump’s foreign policy found common cause this weekend in decrying what they say is Russia’s covert campaign to undermine Western democracies.
But despite the transatlantic show of anger at Russia during the Munich Security Conference, Western officials and diplomats also acknowledged an uncomfortable truth: that Russia is critical to resolving many of the world’s worst conflicts.
From eastern Ukraine to North Korea, Russia’s status as a nuclear power, its military intervention in Syria and its veto on the United Nations Security Council mean any diplomacy must ultimately involve Moscow, officials said.
“We can’t find a political solution without Russia,” Norwegian Defence Minister Frank Bakke Jensen told Reuters. “We need to reach a point where we can work to find a political solution, and they must be central to that.”
Publicly at least, Russia was the bad guy in Munich, roundly criticized for interfering in the 2016 U.S. presidential campaign after the U.S. indictment of 13 Russians this week, and more broadly for its 2014 annexation of Ukraine’s Crimea.
For the West, such unity of purpose marked a change after a year of Trump’s “America First” rhetoric, his inconsistent statements on NATO and the European Union, his decision to pull out of the Paris climate change accord and his move not to certify Iran’s compliance with the 2015 nuclear deal.
At the annual Munich event, a rare gathering of European and U.S. security officials that also attracts top Russian diplomats, American policymakers were visibly irritated with Moscow’s public denials of accusations of meddling.
“I am amazed that … the Russians come, they send someone, every year to basically refute the facts,” U.S. Director of National Intelligence Dan Coats said of the Russian presence at the event.
But behind the scenes, diplomats said there was a different tone, as top officials including NATO Secretary-General Jens Stoltenberg met Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov in the gold-and-white paneled rooms of the Bayerischer Hof hotel.
“There is a diplomatic network that works,” said Russian senator Aleksey Pushkov, citing contacts to resolve the Syrian civil war including Moscow, Ankara, Washington and Tel Aviv. “It’s something that, if used efficiently, can prevent bigger confrontations.”
German Foreign Minister Sigmar Gabriel met several times with Lavrov, offering the prospect of easing economic sanctions imposed over Moscow’s role in eastern Ukraine and calling Russia an “indispensable” partner in global efforts to prevent proliferation of nuclear weapons.
Former U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry, who negotiated the 2015 accord curbing Iran’s nuclear ambitions, said the West needed to “compartmentalize” issues with Moscow, so that diplomacy could achieve more.
“IN RUSSIA‘S HANDS”
Part of the challenge for the West is that international crises have been interlinked.
Russia is allied to Israel’s nemesis Iran in Syria while Moscow’s support for separatists in Ukraine draws NATO’s ire.
But NATO-ally Turkey is seeking to complete an arms deal to buy Russian air defenses. It has struck U.S-backed Kurdish forces in northern Syria with Russia’s blessing.
In Asia, U.S. efforts to stop North Korea’s atomic weapons development rest partly on Moscow’s willingness to countenance a U.S. and European call for an oil embargo on Pyongyang, which it has so far rejected.
“A few years ago you could talk about distinct crises, but today, if you’re discussing one, you’re shaking all the others,” Norway’s Jensen said.
So as Israel’s Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu railed against Iran in Munich on Sunday, in New York, British, U.S. and French efforts to condemn Tehran at the United Nations immediately ran into Russian resistance, diplomats told Reuters.
And in Munich, while U.S. and European officials saw momentum for U.N. peacekeepers in eastern Ukraine to resolve the four-year-old conflict there, U.S. special envoy Kurt Volker conceded everything rested on Moscow.
“It’s in Russia’s hands,” Volker told a gathering of EU and U.S. officials, including Sweden’s defense chief, who offered his country’s troops for any such mission.
Nine years ago in Munich, then U.S. Vice President Joe Biden promised to “reset” relations with Russia, but few in the West appeared to realize the depth of Russia’s resentment over the break-up of the Soviet Union and NATO’s eastward expansion.
Now, with Western economic sanctions in place on Russia over its 2014 annexation of Crimea and its support for rebels in eastern Ukraine, East-West ties are at their lowest since the Cold War, with little chance of an improvement, diplomats said.
Reporting by Robin Emmott and Andrea Shalal;
Who Is Don Davis, When Did The Arkansas Death Row Inmate Murder Jane Daniel And Has His Victim’s Daughter Susan Khani Spoken?
KILLER Don Davis is well-known on death row in Arkansas, where he has been awaiting his execution for the past 26 years.
As his execution draws closer, we find out more about the murderer and his innocent victim.
Splash News A mugshot of Davis, who is now 55 and has spent nearly half of his life in prison
Who is Don Davis?
Don William Davis is one of the eight death row inmates currently set to be executed in April in Arkansas.
The executions have now all been approved by the Supreme Court, but the New York Times reports that the state is struggling to find enough people who want to watch the convicts to die.
The 55-year-old has been in jail since 1992.
When did the Arkansas death row inmate murder Jane Daniel?
Davis murdered Jane Martha Daniels at her home in Benton County, Arkansas, on October 12, 1990.
He was robbing her home when he took her life with a caliber Magnum revolver he had stolen earlier that day.
For the murder of the 62-year-old he was sentenced to death on March 6, 1992, and has been on death row ever since.
Murder victim Jane Daniel, who Davis killed as he robbed her home in 1990
Why has his execution been delayed and what else is he known for?
Davis was set to be executed in 2006, but won a stay because of a court challenge in Kentucky that claimed the lethal injection procedure was cruel and unusual.
The U.S. Supreme Court ruled against the inmates.
Both Davis and fellow inmate Bruce Ward also avoided an execution last April, after claiming independent psychiatrists should have reviewed their files.
In a dramatic turn of events, Davis was even given his last meal of fried chicken and mashed potatoes before his execution was postponed.
In January 2018, the Supreme Court rules that neither of them crossed the threshold to gain assistance.
Back in 1995, Davis was among death row inmates caught when state police investigated a gang of killers on death row who managed to smuggle drugs, weapons, alcohol and tools into death row.
The tools included wire cutters, pliers and a hacksaw blade, and troopers also found a priest’s cassock and the white top to a karate uniform – all pointing to plans for a prison break.
What’s did his victim’s daughter Susan Khani say?
Police believe Jane Daniel gave Davis all the items he asked for before he took her life.
“It just bothers me horribly that…she must have been terrified and she didn’t deserve that at all,” said her husband Richard.
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