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Former South Africa President De Klerk Dies at 85

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FW de Klerk
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The last president of apartheid South Africa and a key actor in the country’s transition to democracy, FW de Klerk, has died.

The FW de Klerk Foundation’s spokesperson Dave Steward confirmed his death to News24 on Thursday.

“The former president died earlier this morning at his home in Fresnaye after his struggle against cancer.

He was 85-years-old. He is survived by his wife Elita, two children Susan and Jan, and his grandchildren.”

President Cyril Ramaphosa is expected to announce details of De Klerk’s state funeral in due course.

In a statement on 8 June 2021, the foundation said he was diagnosed with mesothelioma – “a cancer that affects the lining of the lungs” – in March 2021.

He was receiving immunotherapy for the illness.

De Klerk was the head of state from September 1989 until May 1994 and became one of the country’s two deputy presidents after the first multi-racial, democratic election in April 1994.

The son of a National Party senator and minister, De Klerk entered Parliament in 1972 after training as a lawyer and winning his seat in Vereeniging, in what was then known as Southern Transvaal.

He was appointed to the Cabinet of prime minister John Vorster in 1978 and served in various portfolios, including Minister of National Education. De Klerk was also a member of the Broederbond, the secretive Afrikaner organisation then active in politics and society.

He succeeded PW Botha as the leader of the National Party in February 1989 after Botha suffered a stroke and resigned from the party leadership.

He became president seven months later after Botha quit the post in anger and the National Party won a whites-only election with a reduced margin.

On 2 February 1990, exactly one year after taking the reins as National Party leader, De Klerk announced to Parliament that he was unbanning the ANC, SACP, PAC and other liberation movements, and that he was releasing Nelson Mandela unconditionally.

This led to a multi-party negotiation process between 1990 and 1994, paving the way for the democratic election.

The 1993 Nobel Peace Prize was jointly awarded to De Klerk and Mandela, who became the country’s first democratically elected president the following year.

De Klerk became the first leader of the opposition after the election and led his party from the Government of National Unity in June 1996. He retired from active politics in August 1997.

He testified at the Truth and Reconciliation Commission on behalf of the National Party in August 1996 and May 1997, where his apology for apartheid was criticised as insufficient.

After his political career, he launched a foundation in his name, which sought to play a role in civil society as a watchdog and think-tank. He also became involved in a global leadership initiative called The Elders, consisting of former heads of state who advocated for the rule of law and human rights.

Recently, De Klerk became mired in controversy. In 2012, he defended aspects of apartheid during an interview with CNN’s Christiane Amanpour and in 2020 he refused to concede that the system was a crime against humanity.

He is survived by his wife Elita (68), whom he married in November 1998, son Jan (57) and daughter Susan (52). His son Willem died of cancer in October 2020 at the age of 53. His former wife, Marike, whom he divorced in 1998, was murdered at the age of 64 in 2001.

 

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Iranian President, Ebrahim Raisi is dead

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Late Iranian president Ebrahim Raisi
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Iranian president Ebrahim Raisi has died after his helicopter crashed amid heavy fog in northern Iran, state media reported. Raisi was 63.

Rescuers on Monday found the chopper that was carrying the Iranian president, as well as the country’s foreign minister Hossein Amirabdollahian and other senior officials, after it crashed in the mountainous northwest reaches of Iran.

The crash comes as the Middle East remains unsettled by the Israel-Hamas war, during which Raisi, under Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, launched an unprecedented drone-and-missile attack on Israel just last month.

Under Raisi, Iran enriched uranium closer than ever to weapons-grade levels, further escalating tensions with the West as Tehran also supplied bomb-carrying drones to Russia for its war in Ukraine and continued arming proxy groups in the Mideast such as Yemen’s Houthi rebels and Lebanon’s Hezbollah.

Raisi was a prominent figure in Iranian politics, known for his alignment with conservative and hardline factions. He had been serving as president for nearly three years and was widely expected to run for re-election next year.

Born in Mashhad, a significant religious center for Shia Muslims in northeastern Iran, Raisi’s journey into politics was deeply rooted in his religious education.

He studied at the renowned seminary in Qom, under the guidance of prominent scholars, including Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, the current supreme leader of Iran.

His black turban, a symbol that he was a sayyid, or a descendant of the Prophet Muhammad, held special significance among Twelver Shia Muslims, further cementing his religious and political stature.

Raisi’s career as a prosecutor began in various jurisdictions before he moved to Tehran in 1985. There, he became a part of a controversial committee of judges responsible for the execution of political prisoners, a role that drew significant criticism from human rights organizations.

Raisi’s untimely death leaves a significant void in Iran’s political landscape. As the nation mourns, questions about his potential successor and the future direction of Iranian politics loom large.

 

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Nigeria’s Senate President Akpabio seeks IPU’s voice in ending conflict in Gaza

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President of the Senate, Godswill Akpabio
President of the Senate, Godswill Akpabio
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The President of Nigeria’s Senate, Godswill Akpabio, has called on the International Parliamentary Union (IPU) to lend a strong voice to the restoration of lasting peace in war-torn Gaza.

Akpabio made the call while contributing to discussions at the ongoing 148th Session of the International Parliamentary Union Assembly in Geneva, Switzerland.

He said it is time for nations to rise above sentiments and invoke the spirit of humanity, by doing all they can to bring sustainable peace to the region.

Some of the resolutions, according to the Chairman of Nigeria’s National Assembly, should include access to humanitarian aid, the restoration of normal life in Gaza, and meetings on a permanent truce.

His words: ” Madam President, this is a lone voice from Nigeria. We tried our best in Angola, and we failed to lend a collective voice to what is happening in Gaza. Today, the world is very expectant.

“We must drop ego. It has nothing to do with which country brings the proposal. The basic tenets of humanity demand that we leave here with a resolution for the rest of the world, to show that we have human feelings in us.

“The issues are very clear. If you notice the proposal for 12 blocs; they attempted to even marry the proposals from South Africa. Yes! South Africa has a right to be emotional, but we have children who are dying even as we are talking now. We have people who do not have water to drink, even as we are talking now. We have people who are going to suffer infections from gunshots.

“We have to show the world that we are human beings. The cessation of hostilities must be a part of our resolutions. Access to humanitarian aid must be a part of our resolutions.

‘At the same time, the release of hostages and even those who are prisoners of war, because if both sides take steps in releasing the hostages, releasing the prisoners of war, it means that both sides have agreed that the international community can go to the next stage, which is negotiation for sustainable peace.

“If they cannot agree, I would urge that, from here, we have a three-man drafting committee to come up with those resolutions which we must make before we leave here.

‘We can no longer allow a child to die tonight without lending our voice. It doesn’t matter which side. We are all parents. If we come here to look for ego and then try to be emotional, it’s not affecting them.

“There’s nothing affecting Denmark; there’s nothing affecting South Africa. The people affected are over there and nobody will agree to the lone resolution from Israel. It must be all-encompassing so that we stand up from here as human beings. That would be my plea.

“Let them go aside, meet and remove those vexatious items. In the course of their discussions, we can have amendments. We can add items that we should add, but we must discuss the Gaza issue in this 148th IPU Assembly. That is my position.”

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Okonjo-Iweala ‘Less Optimistic’ About World Trade In 2024

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Ngozi Okonjo Iweala
Ngozi Okonjo Iweala
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The World Trade Organization’s chief Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala on Wednesday said she was “less optimistic” about world trade in 2024, pointing to tensions in the Red Sea.She said weaker global economic growth, “worsening geopolitical tensions, the new disruptions we see in the Red Sea, on the Suez Canal, the Panama Canal” meant “we are less optimistic”.

Okonjo-Iweala was speaking to journalists at the World Economic Forum in the Swiss resort of Davos where political and economic elites are meeting to discuss global challenges.

Before the massive Hamas attack on Israel in October and the subsequent outbreak of war in Gaza, the WTO had predicted trade would grow by 0.8 per cent in 2023 and projected growth of 3.3 per cent this year.

But Okonjo-Iweala warned the figure for 2024 would now be lower in future forecasts.

“We think there are a lot of downside risks to the forecasts we had made last year of 3.3 percent of growth of merchandise volumes this year. So we expect weaker performance,” she said.

“We will be revising estimates for this year, but they won’t be ready for another month or so,” Okonjo-Iweala added.

A spate of attacks by Yemeni rebels on Red Sea shipping has disrupted the vital trade route while the worst drought in decades to hit the Panama Canal has forced authorities to slow transits.

Yemen’s Huthi rebels say their strikes are in solidarity with Palestinians in Gaza.

The attacks have, however, also caused shipping companies to avoid the Suez Canal.

The Hamas attack on October 7 resulted in the death of around 1,140 people in Israel, most of them civilians, according to an AFP tally based on official Israeli figures.

More than 24,400 Palestinians, around 70 percent of them women, young children and adolescents, have been killed in the Gaza Strip in Israeli bombardments and ground offensive since October 7, according to the Hamas government’s Ministry of Health.

 

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