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Sinai plane crash: ‘External influence’ caused crash

Egyptian Prime Minister Sherif Ismail (foreground) visited the crash site

The Russian airline Kogalymavia has blamed "external influence" for Saturday's Sinai plane crash which killed 224 people.

A senior airline official said: "The only reasonable explanation is that it was [due to] external influence."

An investigation by aviation experts using data from the aircraft's "black boxes" has yet to give its conclusions.

The head of Russia's Federal Aviation Agency said it was premature to speculate on the cause of the crash.

"This kind of talk is… not based on any proper facts," Aleksandr Neradko said on Russian TV.

The Kremlin has also warned against speculation as to the possible causes of the crash.

James Clapper, the US director of national intelligence, said there was no "direct evidence of any terrorist involvement yet" adding: "It's unlikely, but I wouldn't rule it out."

Russian President Vladimir Putin has described the crash as an "enormous tragedy" and expressed his condolences to the families of the victims.

"Without any doubt, everything must be done to create an objective picture of events so that we know what happened and can react accordingly," he said.

At a news conference in Moscow, the deputy director of the airline, which was later renamed Metrojet, ruled out a technical fault and pilot error.

"The only [explanation] for the plane to have been destroyed in mid-air can be specific impact, purely mechanical, physical influence on the aircraft," Alexander Smirnov said.

"There is no such combination of failures of systems which could have led to the plane disintegrating in the air," he added.

Another airline official acknowledged that there had been previous damage to the plane's tail in 2001 during take-off.

But he said that the damage had been repaired, and was not thought to be a factor in the crash.

However, the widow of the plane's co-pilot told Russian TV her husband had complained about the aircraft's technical condition.

The Airbus 321 lost speed and started descending rapidly, and the crew made no attempt to get in contact and report about the situation on board, Mr Smirnov added.

The bodies of 144 of those killed in the crash have been flown back to the Russian city of St Petersburg, where the plane had been headed from the Egyptian resort of Sharm el-Sheikh.

A second flight with more bodies is expected to arrive in St Petersburg on Monday evening.

Russian Emergency Situations Minister Vladimir Puchkov said that searches in a 20-sq-km (7.7-sq-Mile) area around the crash site had ended and that a 30-sq-km area was now being searched.

Mr Puchkov said searches would not end until all the bodies have been recovered, AP reports.

The plane was carrying 217 passengers, including 25 children, and seven crew members – mostly Russians.

Timeline: the course of flight KGL9268

05:58 Egyptian time (03:58 GMT): Flight leaves Sharm el-Sheikh, a statement from the Egyptian cabinet says

06:14 Egyptian time (04:14 GMT): Plane fails to make scheduled contact with air traffic control based in Larnaca, Cyprus, according to Sergei Izdolsky, an official with Russia's air transport agency

06:17 Egyptian time, approx (04:17 GMT): Plane comes down over the Sinai peninsula, according to Airbus

11:12 Egyptian time (09:12 GMT): Flight had been due to land in St Petersburg's Pulkovo airport

BBC

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DPP halts JSC, Judge’s back to work plan

25th January 2021
Kebonang

The Directorate of Public Prosecutions (DPP)’s decision to reject and appeal the High Court’s verdict on a case involving High Court Judge, Dr Zein Kebonang has frustrated the Judicial Service Commission (JSC) and Judge Kebonang’s back to work discussions.

JSC and Kebonang have been in constant discussions over the latter’s return to work following a ruling by a High Court panel of judges clearing him of any wrong doing in the National Petroleum Fund criminal case filed by the DPP. However the finalization of the matter has been hanged on whether the DPP will appeal the matter or not – the prosecution body has since appealed.

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BDP rejects Saleshando payment proposal

25th January 2021
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Botswana Democratic Party (BDP) top brass has declined a request by Umbrella for Democratic Change (UDC) to negotiate the legal fees occasioned by 2019 general elections petition in which the latter disputed in court the outcome of the elections.

This publication is made aware that UDC Vice President Dumelang Saleshando was left with an egg on his face after the BDP big wigs, comprising of party Chairman Slumber Tsogwane and Secretary General Mpho Balopi rejected his plea.

“He was told that this is a legal matter and therefore their (UDC) lawyer should engage ours (BDP) for negotiations because it is way far from our jurisdiction,” BDP Head of Communications, Kagelelo Kentse, told this publication.

This spelt doom for the main opposition party and Saleshando who seems not to have confidence and that the UDC lawyers have the dexterity to negotiate these kind of matters. It is not clear whether Saleshando requested UDC lawyer Boingotlo Toteng to sit at the table with Bogopa Manewe, Tobedza and Co, who are representing the BDP to strike a deal as per the BDP top echelons suggested.

“From my understanding, the matter is dealt with politically as the two parties are negotiating how to resolve it, but by far nothing has come to me on the matter. So I believe they are still substantively engaging each other,” Toteng said briefly in an interview on Thursday.

UDC petitioners saddled with costs after mounting an unprecedented legal suit before the court to try and overturn BDP’s October 2019 victory. The participants in the legal matter involves 15 parliamentary candidates’ and nine councillors. The UDC petitioned the court and contested the outcome of the elections citing “irregularities in some of the constituencies”.

In a brief ruling in January 2020, Judge President Ian Kirby on behalf of a five-member panel said: “We have no jurisdiction to entertain these appeals. These appeals must be struck out each with costs including costs of counsel”. This was a second blow to the UDC in about a month after their 2019 appeals were dismissed by the High Court a day before Christmas Day.

This week BDP attorneys decided to attach UDC petitioners’ property in a bid to settle the debts. UDC President Duma Boko is among those that will see their property being attached with 14 of his party members. “We have attached some and we are on course. So far, Dr. Mpho Pheko (who contested Gaborone Central) and that of Dr, Micus Chimbombi (who contested Kgalagadi South) will have their assets being sold on the 5th of February 2021,” BDP attorney Basimane Bogopa said.

Asked whether they met with UDC lawyers to try solve the matter, Bogopa said no and added. “Remember we are trying to raise the client’s funds, so after these two others will follow. Right now we are just prioritising those from Court of Appeal, as soon as the high court is done with taxation we will attach.”

Saleshando, when contacted about the outcomes of the meeting with the BDP, told WeekendPost that: “It would not be proper and procedural for me to tell you about the meeting outcomes before I share with UDC National Executive Committee (NEC), so I will have to brief them first.”

UDC NEC will meet on the 20th of next month to deal with a number of thorny issues including settling the legal fees. Negotiations with other opposition parties- Alliance for Progressives and Botswana Patriotic Front (BPF) are also on the agenda.

Currently, UDC has raised P44 238 of the P565 000 needed to cover bills from the Court of Appeal (CoA). This is the amount in a UDC trust account which is paltry funds equating 7.8 per cent of the overall required money. In the past despite the petitioners maintaining that there was promise to assist them to settle legal fees, UDC Spokesperson, Moeti Mohwasa then said the party has never agreed in no way to help them.

“We have just been put in debt by someone,” one of the petitioners told this publication in the past. “President’s (Duma Boko) message was clear at the beginning that money has been sourced somewhere to help with the whole process but now we are here there is nothing and we are just running around trying to make ends meet and pay,” added the petitioner in an interview
UDC NEC has in December last year directed all the 57 constituencies to each raise a minimum of P10, 000. The funds will be used to settle debts that are currently engulfing the petitioners with Sheriffs, who are already hovering around ready to attach their assets.

The petitioners, despite the party intervention, have every right to worry. “This is so because ‘the deadline for this initiative (P10, 000 per constituency) is the end of the first quarter of this year (2021),” a period in which the sheriffs would have long auctioned the properties.

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Boko-Khama axis viewed with suspicion

25th January 2021
boko-and-khama

President of the Umbrella for Democratic Change (UDC) Duma Boko’s alliance with former President Lt Gen Ian Khama continues to unsettle some quarters within the opposition collective, who believe the duo, if not managed, will once again result in an unsuccessful bid for government in 2024.

While Khama has denied that he has undeclared preference to have Boko remaining as leader of UDC, many believe that the two have a common programme, while other opposition leaders remain on the side-lines.

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