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Withdrawal from the ICC – Curious and Questionable

On 19 October 2016 the South African government submitted its Instrument of Withdrawal to the United Nations Secretary General, stating that it had “the honour to notify that the government of the Republic of South Africa has decided to withdraw from the Rome Statute of the International Criminal Court”.

This is the latest legally questionable and deplorable instalment in what seems to be a string of legally questionable actions taken by the state since the unfortunate arrival of Sudanese President Omar al-Bashir in June 2015. Procedurally and substantively, serious concerns have been raised about the government’s conduct in this ongoing and bitter South Africa-ICC saga. By ANGELA MUDUKUTI.


South Africa, post 1994, was understood to be a nation that would prioritise human rights and justice. The nation signed and ratified the Rome Statute and took its commitment one step further by domesticating it, making it an integral part of the domestic legislative framework. The domestic legislation, the Implementation Act, has been an integral part of South African law since 2002 and all was well until the arrival of Bashir. This was ‘Part One’ of the saga.
Bashir, who is wanted for genocide, war crimes and crimes against humanity arrived in June 2015 for the 25th African Union Summit despite the existence of local and international arrest warrants.

Bashir was not arrested on arrival and thus the Southern Africa Litigation Centre was forced to approach the courts on an urgent basis seeking the arrest of Bashir. Unfortunately, the state allowed Bashir to escape despite a court order issued to prevent his departure. The High Court and the Supreme Court of Appeal both ruled that failure to arrest Bashir was unlawful. Adamant that both courts had erred, and that another court would rule differently, the state persisted with the matter and took it on appeal to the Constitutional Court.


The matter is scheduled to be heard on 22 November, and yet on 21 October the next curious and questionable announcement from government hit the headlines, constituting ‘Part Two’ of the saga. Justice Minister Michael Masutha announced to the media that the state intends to withdraw the case. What is most interesting about such an announcement is that the state cannot unilaterally withdraw from a case. The Constitutional Court rules indicate that “[w]henever all parties, at any stage of the proceedings, lodge with the Registrar an agreement in writing that a case be withdrawn… the Registrar shall, if the Chief Justice so directs, enter such withdrawal, whereupon the Court shall no longer be seized of the matter”. By the time Minister Masutha made this announcement, none of the above procedures had been followed.


Now we find ourselves at ‘Part Three’ of the saga – the state’s attempt to withdraw from the Rome Statute. By announcing that the executive has the prerogative to effect withdrawal, the executive is attempting to sidestep parliament. This procedurally questionable move has received fully warranted outrage from civil society and parliamentarians. In order for South Africa to withdraw from the Rome Statute, the Implementation Act must be repealed first as it binds the nation to cooperate with the ICC.


To repeal this Act necessary parliamentary procedures must be followed including introducing a bill before Parliament, the organ vested with legislative authority in terms of the Constitution. Both houses of parliament are constitutionally bound in terms of section 59 and 72 respectively to “facilitate public involvement in the legislative and other processes” of the Council and Assembly.
Even if it is said that the executive has acted in a manner that is procedurally correct, (which is doubtful) then the substance of its actions are still subject to the Constitution it must “uphold, defend and respect the Constitution as the supreme law of the Republic.”


Withdrawing from the only permanent International Criminal Court (imperfect as the Court may be) without consulting parliament or the people of this country hardly reflects actions that are reconcilable with the spirit, object and purport of the Constitution.The Constitution is designed to provide a solid foundation for a democratic and open society, yet the state continues to act in a way that jeopardises these important values. The will of the people, respect for human rights, an appreciation for justice and accountability are all missing from this disturbing turn of events.


The implications of withdrawing from the Rome Statute and repealing the Implementation Act are serious. Victims of international crimes will have no international access to justice and will find themselves before domestic courts that have no domestic framework governing the prosecution of these crimes, given that the Act could be obliterated. It is the ordinary citizens who will continue to pay the price for this brazen disregard for international criminal justice and human rights.
This article appeared in the Daily Maverick of 24 October 2016

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Media have a Role in Accelerating Harm Reduction Adoption

8th December 2022

African Scientists and Experts Call for the adoption of a Harm Reduction in approach in Public Health Strategies and Tobacco Control. Media have a critical role to play in accelerating Harm Reduction efforts by informing and sensitizing cigarette smokers on the availability and benefits of alternative, potentially lower risk products to cigarretes. Traditional cessation and smoking prevention norms are not the only ways that smokers who cannot or don’t’ want to quit can make healthier choices that cause less harm to themselves and those around them.

This was said during the 2nd Harm Reduction Exchange conference for African journalists held in Nairobi, Kenya on the 1st of December 2022. Speaking at the Harm Reduction Exchange Conference, Integra Africa Principal Dr. Tendai Mhizha emphasized the role that journalists and media houses should play in handling misinformation and disinformation in tobacco harm reduction discourse that is actually perpetuating the death and disease caused by people continuing to smoke combustible cigarettes. “There has been a lot of disinformation surrounding the topic of nicotine and the alleged negative effects that e-cigarettes have on public health.

This has led to policies that disfavour risk reduces products and narratives that completely deny their benefits. The media have the difficult responsibility to curb the scourge of disinformation and misinformation on harm reduction just like on other socio-political stances that are prescriptive and do not uphold consumers’ right to healthier lifestyle choices,” Dr Mhizha said.

The Harm Reduction Exchange cast a spotlight on alternative ways to reduce harm among tobacco smokers. Held under the theme Harm Reduction: Making a difference in Africa, the conference focused on the progress being made through harm reduction strategies in all fields related to public health such as drug and alcohol abuse, excessive sugar consumption, skin lightening and other addictive and behavioral practices. A wide array of harm reduction strategies and initiatives that are deployed towards reducing unnecessary deaths through non-communicable diseases were presented and discussed.

On his part, Prof. Abdoul Kassé, a world renowned and awarded Oncologist and a Professor of Surgery at the Cancer Institute in Senegal, said that Harm Reduction is a powerful public A Summary of the HR Exchange 30th November  1st December 2022 health tool that has the potential to reduce cancer by 30% and should be at the centre of all public health development strategies. Harm reduction, he said, has already benefited many people in public health and is the most viable alternative in tobacco control.

It applies to areas where there is a need to reduce the harm associated with a practice or consumption of a substance that is overused in society leading to increased morbidity and mortality. “Innovative Harm Reduction initiatives will help to keep more Africans alive. Tobacco Harm Reduction initiatives, including the use of popular e-cigarettes, nicotine patches and chewing gums, have continued to generate a lot of misunderstanding in both the public health community and in the media. However, there is evidence that the use of potentially less harmful alternatives than cigarettes for those who are not willing or cannot give up smoking with currently approved methods may be a solution, not necessarily the best for everyone but by far better than continuous smoking.

Where cessation repeatedly fails, switching to less harmful products is expected to result in benefits for many smokers,” Prof. Abdoul Kassé said. Similarly, views were expressed by Kenya’s Dr. Vivian Manyeki who said tobacco Harm Reduction has a solid scientific and medical basis, and it has a lot of promise as a public health measure to assist millions of smokers. “Many smokers are unable, or at least unwilling, to achieve cessation through complete nicotine and tobacco abstinence. They continue smoking despite the very real and obvious adverse health consequences and against the multiple public health campaigns. Conventional smoking cessation proposals should be complemented with alternative but more realistic options through Harm Reduction,” Dr. Manyeki said.

Tobacco Harm Reduction was introduced to mitigate the damage caused by cigarette smoking—the most dangerous form of tobacco use, and the leading cause of preventable diseases, including cardiovascular disease, lung cancer, and chronic obstructive pulmonary disease. “Nicotine has an addictive potential but plays a minor role in smoking-related morbidity and mortality. Across the world, there is growing interest among experts in novel approaches towards tobacco control and there is an ongoing discussion that reducing the negative effects of smoking can be also achieved by tobacco harm reduction,” Dr. Kgosi Letlape, an ophthalmologist and President of Africa Medical Association and the president of the Association of Medical Councils of Africa, said.

Tobacco cessation is a key factor in the prevention of cardiovascular diseases and cancer. Abstinence from tobacco smoking is one of the primary goals for health promotion and management globally but it is unachievable in a huge amount of cases. This task remains unaccomplished despite extensive public campaigns on the health dangers of tobacco smoking. Thus, the development of novel strategies to reduce smoking is imperative. Moreover, the use of innovations in smoking products has been currently adopted by several smokers to reduce the health risks of smoking.

“The Harm Reduction approach prevents drug-related deaths and overdose fatalities and is the only way out for addicts. In the same way these alternative technologies can reduce tobacco harm and accelerate the journey to a smoke-free world as they reduce exposure to toxicants,” Bernice Apondi, A Policy Manager at Voices of Community Action and Leadership Kenya (VOCAL-Kenya), said.

During the Harm Reduction Exchange, journalists drawn from Southern, West and East African countries, including: Nigeria, Botswana, Ethiopia, Kenya, Lesotho, Malawi, Mozambique, Namibia, Rwanda, Eswatini, Tanzania, Uganda, South Africa, Zambia, and Zimbabwe debated and set forth several resolutions in regards to the present and future as well as the challenges and progress made in Harm Reduction,and science-led regulation.

The Harm Reduction Exchange brought together high-level policy makers, physicians, scientists and health policy experts with media stakeholders from Africa in a lively mix of speeches, presentations, and panel discussions. The key note speakers included Prof Abdoul Aziz Kasse, Ms Bernice Opondi, Joseph Magero, Jonathan Fell, Chimwemwe Ngoma, Clive Bates, Dr. Kgosi Letlape, Dr. Vivian Manyeki and Dr. Tendai Mhizha.

 

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Over 2 000 civil servants interdicted

6th December 2022

Over 2,000 civil servants in the public sector have been interdicted for a variety of reasons, the majority of which are criminal in nature.

According to reports, some officers have been under interdiction for more than two years because such matters are still being investigated. Information reaching WeekendPost shows that local government, particularly councils, has the highest number of suspended officers.

In its annual report, the Directorate on Corruption and Economic Crime (DCEC) revealed that councils lead in corrupt activities throughout the country, and dozens of council employees are being investigated for alleged corrupt activities. It is also reported that disciplined forces, including the Botswana Defence Force (BDF), police, and prisons, and the Directorate of Intelligence and Security (DIS) have suspended a significant number of officers.

The Ministry of Education and Skills Development has also recorded a good number of teachers who have implicated in love relationships with students, while some are accused of impregnating students both in primary and secondary school. Regional education officers have been tasked to investigate such matters and are believed to be far from completion as some students are dragging their feet in assisting the investigations to be completed.

This year, Mmadinare Senior Secondary reportedly had the highest number of pregnancies, especially among form five students who were later forcibly expelled from school. Responding to this publication’s queries, Permanent Secretary to the Office of the President Emma Peloetletse said, “as you might be aware, I am currently addressing public servants across the length and breadth of our beautiful republic. Due to your detailed enquiry, I am not able to respond within your schedule,” she said.

She said some of the issues raised need verification of facts, some are still under investigation while some are still before the courts of law.

Meanwhile, it is close to six months since the Police Commissioner Keabetwe Makgophe, Director General of the Directorate on Corruption and Economic Crime (DCEC) Tymon Katlholo and the Deputy Director of the DIS Tefo Kgothane were suspended from their official duties on various charges.

Efforts to solicit comment from trade unions were futile at the time of going to press.

Some suspended officers who opted for anonymity claimed that they have close to two years while on suspension. One stated that the investigations that led him to be suspended have not been completed.

“It is heartbreaking that at this time the investigations have not been completed,” he told WeekendPost, adding that “when a person is suspended, they get their salary fully without fail until the matter is resolved”.

Makgophe, Katlholo and Kgothane are the three most high-ranking government officials that are under interdiction.

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Masisi to dump Tsogwane?

28th November 2022

Botswana Democratic Party (BDP) and some senior government officials are abuzz with reports that President Mokgweetsi Masisi has requested his Vice President, Slumber Tsogwane not to contest the next general elections in 2024.

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