Monday, April 24, 2017

Macron Wins French Executives' Backing in Contest Versus Le Pen
by Phil Serafino
Bloomberg
April 24, 2017, 6:16 AM EDT

Former economy minister supports EU, easing of labor laws
Stocks rise the most since 2015 as polls show Le Pen losing

French executives began rallying behind Emmanuel Macron, saying the former investment banker will be a more business-friendly president than Marine Le Pen by preserving the country’s place in the European Union and easing the tax and paperwork burden on companies.

Macron’s victory in Sunday’s first round of voting lifted stocks, the euro and French bonds as investors bet he will beat Le Pen, who leads the far-right National Front party, in the May 7 runoff. The CAC 40 index jumped the most since August 2015, led by building-materials supplier Cie. de Saint-Gobain SA, construction company Vinci SA and telecommunications operator Orange.

The election sets up a stark choice between the pro-free trade, pro-EU views of Macron, an independent and former economy minister, and the anti-euro, anti-immigrant Le Pen. Many executives say they can’t support Le Pen because of her pledge to hold a referendum on France’s membership in the EU and impose import duties.

“Macron’s commitment to Europe is definitely stronger and good for business,” said Eric Meyer, a managing director and head of France at RBC Capital Markets. “That has been a strong component of the campaign, and someone who assumes and endorses their commitment to Europe is, from a business perspective, reassuring.”

Backing Innovation

Macron proposes reducing the corporate tax rate to the European average of 25 percent from 33 percent, exempting stock holdings from the wealth tax and easing the social charges that companies face when hiring low-skilled employees. Le Pen has called for a surtax on companies that hire non-French workers, the imposition of import duties and a withdrawal from free-trade pacts, including the EU.

Le Pen’s backers are already trying to turn Macron’s background in business against him, with Florian Philippot, a National Front official, describing the former banker as a “candidate of oligarchs” and banking lobbies.

Macron, a fluent English speaker who’s making his first run for public office, built a track record of support for French startups in technology, traveling to Las Vegas in 2015 to promote the country’s entrepreneurs at the Consumer Electronics Show.

“We are very optimistic,” said Maryvonne Hiance, chairwoman of France Biotech. “I think he understands that the research in France in health care and biotech is very strong. He has very good positions regarding innovation and new technology and also health.”
After French Vote, European Leaders Come Out Against Le Pen. But What If She Wins?
 Emmanuel Macron celebrates after winning the first round in French presidential election on April 23, 2017. (Benoit Tessier/Reuters)

By Griff Witte
April 24 at 6:28 AM

BERLIN — With the future of Europe in French hands, the continent’s leaders have cast aside their tradition of staying out of each other’s elections and weighed in with some unsolicited advice: Pick the candidate who wants to make the European Union stronger, not the one who wants to blow it up.

Hearty endorsements of independent centrist Emmanuel Macron — and the stinging dismissals of her far-right rival, Marine Le Pen — came from across European capitals in the hours after French voters whittled their presidential choices to two on Sunday.

If Macron wins, continental leaders are cautiously optimistic that he can steer the beleaguered country back into an historically central role in European affairs. If Le Pen wins, modern Europe — defined by integration and growing cooperation across national boundaries — could fall apart after already being jolted by Britain’s planned E.U. exit.

German Chancellor Angela Merkel’s top adviser, Peter Altmaier, chimed in to say that Macron’s first-place finish showed “France AND Europe can win together. The center is stronger than the populists think!”

Although the preferences were no surprise, the decision by presidents, prime ministers and other senior officials to so vocally involve themselves in a democratic election outside their national boundaries marked a striking break with precedent.

Leaders normally maintain a studious silence when the vote isn’t on their turf. That they didn’t in this case reflects the gravity for Europe of the choice French voters face when they next go to the polls on May 7.

“The situation is now so tense that they’re making an exception to the rules,” said Claire Demesmay, who studies France for the German Council on Foreign Relations.

Yet by publicly wading into the French vote, Europe’s powers-that-be are taking at least two major risks. One is that by backing Macron, they will only fan the flames of anti-establishment ire that have propelled Le Pen’s rise.

“It may be counterproductive,” said Josef Janning, head of the Berlin office of the European Council on Foreign Relations. “It could reinforce some of the discontent in France among those who will see this as the global elite denying them their right to vote.”

The other potential pitfall is that it could make it even more difficult to work with Le Pen if she defies the polls and wins. For months before Americans voted last year, European leaders denounced Donald Trump — only to have to make amends this year with solicitous visits to the new U.S. president at the White House.

Trump said last week following a Paris terrorist attack that left a police officer dead that Le Pen would “do well” in the election, and called her the “strongest on borders, and she’s the strongest on what’s been going on in France.” But Janning said that by publicly speaking out against Le Pen, Europe’s establishment appears to be discounting her chances.

“It would have been dumb to speak out in the way they did if they thought she could still win,” he said. “They seem to view that possibility as close to zero.”

As Europe digested the first-round results Monday morning, there was other evidence of a heavy bet on Macron’s prospects.

The French stock market jumped four percent in morning trading, and the euro leapt to a five-month high.

In Berlin, the banner headline on the mass-market tabloid Bild, above a photo of a jubilant Macron, was: “Europe breathes a sigh of relief.”

German Foreign Minister Sigmar Gabriel even waded into the realm of political prognostication, telling reporters that “I am sure [Macron] will become the new French president.”

There were several reasons for optimism among pro-Europeans.

One was the fact that Europe had avoided what many regarded as a nightmare final round matchup between Le Pen and the far-left candidate Jean-Luc Mélenchon. Although the pair come from opposite ends of the political spectrum, they share a hostility toward the European Union and NATO.

Pro-Europeans were also buoyed by the fact that Macron had bested Le Pen in the first round, vindicating pre-election polls that had him ahead and offering no evidence of an unforeseen far-right surge.

And although the first-round result was tight — 24 percent to 21 percent — surveys show Macron enjoying a much-healthier advantage of 16 points or more in the final showdown two weeks from now.

Even as the European establishment rallied around Macron, far-right leaders and voters across Europe were cheering Le Pen, who has vowed to hold a French referendum on E.U. membership and who denounces the 28-member bloc at every turn.

André Poggenburg, a state-level chairman with the right-wing populist Alternative for Germany (AfD) party, tweeted his congratulations to the 48-year-old and described the runoff as a choice “between E(U)stablishment and patriotism!”

Nigel Farage, the British anti-E.U. politician who helped lead last year’s Brexit campaign, wrote dismissively that Macron gave his victory speech Sunday night “with E.U. flag behind him. Says it all.”

Indeed, at a time of rising nationalist sentiment in Europe, when the E.U.’s popularity is on the wane, Macron has stood apart for his unabashed pro-European views.

The union’s blue flags with yellow stars have been a feature of the 39-year-old’s rallies, alongside the French tricolor. And he has promised if elected to help lead “an ambitious Europe,” restoring France to a preeminent place in the E.U. after years in which the French role has been diminished by its own domestic struggles with unemployment, terrorism and political dysfunction.

Macron’s willingness to passionately defend Europe prompted liberal German lawmaker Alexander Lambsdorff to describe him Monday on Germany’s ZDF television as “a French John F. Kennedy.”

But analysts suggested that even if Macron wins, Europe’s mainstream will need to keep its expectations in check for what he can achieve given overall public sentiment. Taken together, anti-E.U. politicians won nearly half the first round vote.

“It may be that Europe’s leaders have an over-interpretation of the role Macron can play,” said Demesmay. “The anti-European mood in France will still be there — and it could increase.”

Stephanie Kirchner in Berlin and Karla Adam in London contributed to this report.

Sunday, April 23, 2017

Command Agriculture: The Lessons We’ve Learnt in Zimbabwe 
Hon Vice-President Emmerson Mnangagwa
Zimbabwe Sunday Mail

When our industries are profitable, finding financiers for them, including farming, would not be difficult, as investors would be guaranteed of a fair return on their investment.

There is no doubt that Command Agriculture has yielded positive results, as the projected maize yield from the 2016/2017 season will be the best in a number of years.

Indications from the areas I have toured to date suggest that we are headed for a bumper harvest that will be upward of two million tonnes.

It is vital that we deliberately develop strategies to enhance productivity by surpassing the tonnage achieved in the 2016/2017 summer cropping season.

Whereas our maize is marketed to the Grain Marketing Board at US$390 per tonne, regional and international maize prices are much lower, and the maize is normally landed in Zimbabwe at prices that are lower than this.

Government’s desire is to improve overall maize productivity across all farmer categories.

To achieve this goal, I enjoin you to make optimal use of every inch of land at your disposal and invest in irrigation development to ensure full utilisation of all available water bodies.

As Government, we remain grateful for the support and cooperation that we received from various inputs suppliers and financiers during the 2016/2017 agricultural season.

Furthermore, for the programme to be sustainable, the invested resources must offer fair returns as various competing options of growing shareholder value exist to investors. We must ensure that all the players across the maize value chain, be it the farmers, input suppliers, or financiers; get a fair return on their investment.

This is important as industrial profitability can attract offshore capital into this key strategic sector.

As a result of the expanded maize hectarage and increased yields during the 2016/2017 season, most maize value chain players benefited or are still to benefit from increased demand for their products.

In this respect, seed houses, fertiliser and chemical suppliers, all benefited.

The quantum leap in the 2016/2017 maize output should thus drive “economies” and various experiences across the value chain.

It is this cost efficiency that will make the agricultural sector, and by extension the country, competitive and attractive to investors.

It is Government’s desire to see the country’s farming activities become more productive and cost efficient, with an irrigable expanded maize crop area of a minimum of at least 300 000ha. Already, the Tokwe-Mukosi dam is almost complete and full, and is expected to add some 25 000ha of irrigated land, with the potential of creating massive employment opportunities.

There is, therefore, an imperative need for investment in irrigation in the area.

It is in this respect that Government, as detailed in Zim-Asset, sees farm mechanisation and automation as key to the attainment of this objective.

Also, the adoption of modern technologies on soil-testing and management, development and distribution of improved seed varieties, availing of additional water bodies and the corresponding water/application systems, is critical.

Pursuant to operationalising the above, Government is still receiving farming equipment, including tractors and irrigation equipment, from such countries as Belarus and Brazil, which are all meant to attain this objective.

Furthermore, research into hybrid seeds is continuing at such institutions as the Scientific and Industrial Research and Development Centre and various seed houses.

You will also realise that Government visibility, in the form of Agritex officers and senior officers in the Ministry of Agriculture, Mechanisation, and Irrigation Development, was more enhanced this season, which is a clear show of its commitment to agriculture and ability to turn around the economy.

Our ultimate goal is to have at least two in every five of our farmers hitting 10 tonnes and above, as a result of improved yields and the coming on board of new farmers during the 2017/2018 season.

In its quest to attain best practices in agriculture, the Government of Zimbabwe should consider adopting modern IT-driven farming, as is currently the case in countries such as South Africa and Kenya, among others.

The benefits of this move are multifarious, including the ability to conduct instant soils tests, obtain information about the weather, better management of irrigation systems, forecasting yields, receiving information on commodity prices and markets, and thereby allowing farmers leeway to effectively plan vital activities like planting, fertiliser application, harvesting, and marketing of the produce.

Such information, coupled with advice from extension officers, should improve farm productivity and make farming more cost-efficient.

With a database of farmers, it will be possible for Government to simultaneously disseminate a single message communication on issues like pests, diseases and their control to a large number of farmers.

Inputs

High input costs constrained the 2016/2017 agricultural season.

The unsustainable cost of inputs is attributable to a number of reasons, including, but not limited to low productivity across agro-related sectors. High transport costs, particularly rail, high seed and fertiliser prices, and the cost of water and electricity, as is currently the case across industry, affect farm productivity.

This calls for urgent stakeholder attention and engagement.

Government is, however, working on ways to capacitate the National Railways of Zimbabwe, to enable it to fulfil its strategic role of moving various goods, including grain across the country.

It is critical to embark on a blitz approach to maintain and repair our road network, particularly in rural areas to ensure that farmers have quick access to markets and related services.

It is my fervent hope that deliberations will help us find solutions to some of the challenges we have.

This, coupled with an attention to productivity across the board, must help us recover the economy; grow our exports and discourage imports.

When our industries are profitable, finding financiers for them, including farming, would not be difficult, as investors would be guaranteed of a fair return on their investment.

With regards to the maize harvest for the 2016/2017 agricultural season, Government has made sure that storage facilities of up to four million tonnes are made available, as well as dryers to reduce maize moisture content to acceptable levels, to free the land for winter crops. Other strategies to motivate farmers include paying them on time for grain delivered.

To date, funds have been secured to pay the farmers for the produce.

Buoyed by these successes, Government intends to extend Command Agriculture to livestock, cotton, soya beans, wheat and other high value crops capable of earning the country foreign currency.

Preparations for the winter wheat crop are now in full swing.

Maize is strategic to Zimbabwe as it provides food security and is a staple for the majority of our population.

It is also critical to Zimbabwe’s economy as it can be beneficiated into a number of other products that are used as inputs in the manufacturing sector, including starch, grits, and glucose, thus helping the country to reindustrialise, and grow its economy.

Some maize derivatives, such as cooking oil and stock feed, besides their domestic use, are exported to earn the country vital foreign currency.

Moreover, starch is used as a raw material in the pharmaceuticals industry for coating, binding and filling in of capsules.

In the textiles industry, it can be used to provide the necessary stiffness, and adding weight to clothes.

Furthermore, starch is used in paper-making, and in the manufacture of such products as ice-cream cones. Starch, in the form of grits, is reduced to produce glucose that is used in the production of such products as beer, mahewu, and lactic acid.

Increased maize output, at the “correct” prices, thus offers an opportunity for such companies as the GMB, National Foods, Nestle Zimbabwe and Delta Beverages, among others, to increase production. It would also be possible to resuscitate such companies as Food and Industrial, which are no longer functional and are relying on imports.

In this way, the recovery of the agricultural sector would help the whole economy to thrive and create jobs.

It is my sincere hope that with collective effort and support for Command Agriculture, the Presidential Inputs Scheme, and other related programmes, we can achieve food security and recover our economy.

I, therefore, urge players in the maize value chain and other value chains to uphold good corporate governance, and work towards a collective and shared vision of transforming Zimbabwe into a fully industrialised economy.

This is an achievable goal, and not a mere chimera.

Lessons learnt

Firstly, an important lesson emerging from the 2016/2017 summer agricultural season is that we need to maximise on the distribution of inputs for the 2017/2018 season so that by August 2017, all farmers participating in Command Agriculture, Presidential Inputs Scheme and any other organised support programme get their inputs in a timely manner.

Secondly, we need to assist our farmers to access mechanisation and tillage services catering for the different farmer requirements. There is also need for combine harvesters, dryers and storage facilities to manage post-harvest losses. It has to be adequately planned and implemented like yesterday.

Thirdly, it is critical to maximise on the planting window in relation to rainfall patterns for future summer cropping seasons. Therefore, we urgently need a focused mechanisation strategy to speed up farm operations, like planting.

Fourthly, if we are to achieve the targets we have set for ourselves, there is urgent need for proper application of fertilisers and herbicides.

This requires an efficient, sufficiently mobile and well-motivated extension service with up-to-date competences.

Vice-President Emmerson Mnangagwa was speaking at the Maize Value Chain Conference in Harare on April 21, 2017
Reserve Bank of Zimbabwe Sets Record Straight on Rand Adoption
 SUNDAY MAIL REPORTER
Livingstone Marufu

The Reserve Bank of Zimbabwe has ruled out adopting the South African rand as the country’s major reference currency. Instead, authorities will spiritedly promote the full multi-currency basket and stimulate manufacturing capacity and economy-wide productivity to spur export earnings and cash circulation.

This follows vociferous advocacy by some sections of the business community for Zimbabwe to make the rand its foremost medium of exchange to ease obtaining cash shortages.

If that avenue were pursued, Zimbabwe would have to become a member of the South African Rand Union which also has Lesotho, Swaziland and Namibia.

The country would gain access to South Africa’s capital markets while receiving instruction from Tshwane’s monetary authorities.

Those for rand adoption argue that inadvertent dollarisation has made Zimbabwe’s economy “high cost” and uncompetitive, and has constricted fiscal and monetary policies.

Some economists, on the other hand, say such a move could downgrade the economy further and reduce competitiveness due to South Africa’s inflation-linked cost drivers.

RBZ Governor Dr John Mangudya told The Sunday Mail that rand adoption was out of the question.

“We have always said that the fundamental problem of this economy is not about currency, but localised production, stimulating exports and discouraging imports of finished products at all costs. We are spending more time talking about currency than production.

“We can’t talk of adopting the rand as our major currency as we already have it in the multi-currency basket introduced back in 2009. We continued to use it until such a time when some unscrupulous dealers started rejecting it.

“What guarantee do we have that if we adopt it as our major currency it won’t suffer the same fate of externalisation and hoarding? Worse still, it takes only a few hours to reach South Africa.

“We continue to urge our people to have fiscal discipline and to desist from cash hoarding and capital flight. The Bank Use and Promotion Act has been sharpened to deal with perpetrators. By so doing, we are encouraging dealers, traders and wholesales to bank surplus cash to ease the liquidity crunch.”

Economist Mr Brains Muchemwa said: “Adopting the rand is illogical as the currency has continued to be unstable over the last two years. In any case, it is still the same uncompetitive currency that the same businesspeople rejected for bond coins not so long ago.

“Unfortunately for those proposing adopting the rand as a reference currency, competitiveness is largely currency neutral. The thinking, therefore, that adopting the South African rand or adopting it as a currency of reference will cure productivity challenges and the current cash shortages is not only erroneous, but very misleading and should never be given policy consideration.”

He continued: “Rather, a weak and unstable currency is, in fact, a threat to obtaining a stable macro-economic environment which, in itself, is an important pillar of competitiveness. In any case, the rand was rejected by this market over the term of this multi-currency regime on account of its volatility.

“And with South Africa now having its own challenges and the subsequent credit rating downgrades, one wonders how adopting the rand will insulate Zimbabwe from the economic headwinds associated with South Africa’s volatile currency.

“No matter how much policy-makers would have pushed the economy towards plastic money or opted to use the rand, the cash crunch was inescapable, moreso considering that a significant part of the economy is informal.

“Therefore, to believe that by using the same currency as SA’s, Zimbabwe will be equally as competitive as its neighbour is fallacious.”

University of Zimbabwe Economics lecturer Professor Albert Makochekanwa, however, said Zimbabwe should adopt the rand.

“We should adopt the South African rand as most of our economic activities are based in South Africa. Of the US$900 million from Diaspora remittances, over US$600 million is from our people in South Africa.

“In my own thinking, adopting the rand is the best option for the country since most tourists also come from South Africa. Whatever currency we adopt, we need to produce more to boost our foreign currency reserves.”

But economist Dr Gift Mugano described rand adoption as “senseless”.

“I don’t think it makes sense to adopt the rand at the moment as the challenges the country is facing are not about currency, but productivity. As long as we don’t raise our capacity from around 30 percent across all sectors of the economy we will continue to have high pricing whether we adopt the rand or the US dollar.

“If we don’t address the macro-economics of competitiveness; that is cost of labour, utilities, cost of doing business and other supply side factors, we will still have high cost build-ups. So, from where I stand, the issue of rand adoption is just a mathematical one because if a commodity is going for US$10 at a crossrate of 1:13, we can still buy that commodity for R130 and be back to square one.

“Pricing is still high. To address these fundamentals, we need to reduce the cost of prodcution to enjoy the US dollar; not the rand. Let’s put more energy in trying to see how best we can use the US dollar as it is usable in many countries as a foreign reserve, which is not the same case with the rand, which is only used by four nations. On this issue, let’s use facts not emotions as the same people who are calling for it are the ones who rejected it a year ago.”

Zimbabwe has been fighting cash shortages since April 2016 when externalisation and hoarding of the United States dollar peaked.

A huge trade deficit has also seen Zimbabwe pump cash into other economies while generating comparably little from exports.

Government introduced bond notes last year and has been promoting point of sale transactions to provide respite to the public.
COSATU Will Be Marching on May Day
Cosatu will be marching on May Day to demand the removal of Helen Zille as the Premier for her racist endorsement of Colonialism The call for her removal will also focus on the refugee slurs that she dished out in Cape Town, as she tries to keep the City and the Province white preferential area. Besides the obvious racist statements of Zille, she is also applying a more subtle form of racism, through the following actions:

She orders the employment of mainly whites as consultants, so she can avoid employment equity issues. She spends more money on white schools so white learners have better prospects than black learners.

She ensures that the old white areas have much better landscaping and servicing than black areas. The march will also call for the removal of President Zuma for the bad leadership he has shown, to the ANC and to the country. The march will also focus on the CEO's of the companies who defrauded our people by their collusive business practices and the stealing of public funds. They stole from the poorest of the poor through price fixing around bread and chicken.

We will use this march to expose the hypocrites who claim they will march for the future of the country when it comes to Zuma violations, but they won't march against Zille violations and the violations of the CEO of corrupt companies. They are really just intent of destroying the democratic project to redistribute stolen funds under apartheid to the masses of our people in South Africa. We want to put the issues of workers and the poor on the agenda to be dealt with urgently, as these are the issues of the most concern to the majority of South Africans. Some of these people who march today has never marched against racism or white corruption and has never called for greater equality and fairness in the country. They pretend to be speaking for all South Africans, when really they are just speaking for the maintenance of the white privilege, and those BEE brothers who they bought. They are in a squabble with the other thieves who are now stealing from the state coffers with Presidents Zuma help.

We will march for the things that pain us, and for all the unjust things consistently, not pick and choose the injustices that suits some. Cosatu is inviting all democratically minded people to join the march against racism and for equality and social justice across the land.

For questions please call Tony at 082 7733194

- See more at: http://www.cosatu.org.za/show.php?ID=12657#sthash.oPoxLtsK.dpuf
Use Education for Liberation - Dlamini-Zuma
2017-04-20 22:46
Mxolisi Mngadi, News24

Durban - If education was used as a tool of oppression during apartheid, the youth of today must use it for liberation, former AU chair Nkosazana Dlamini-Zuma said on Thursday.

"Once you think what is white is superior and what is African is inferior, then you'll be a dominated nation. So part of decolonising ourselves is to believe in ourselves," she told ANCYL members and students at the Durban University of Technology.

She encouraged students to get educated in order to transform the country’s economy. Transformation at universities did not only mean admitting more black students, but also changing the demographics of the academic staff. She encouraged students to become academics in order to inspire the next generation.

Dlamini-Zuma said the country had abundant mineral resources, but that a lack of skills was preventing these from being exploited. Young people needed to study to become skilled in fields such as engineering so the country could export finished goods rather than raw materials.

She encouraged higher education institutions to use technology to increase access for those who had not been admitted due to a lack of space.

Dlamini-Zuma called on the ANCYL to remain disciplined during its fight for free education and not to destroy the assets of the country’s people.

“It is totally unacceptable to burn libraries, clinics, schools and university halls,” she warned.

ANCYL secretary general Njabulo Nzuza said those who argued that free education would be a waste of money failed to understand that an uneducated nation would never grow economically.

"Free education should never be separated from radical economic transformation," he said.

The league's KwaZulu-Natal chair, Kwazi Mshengu, said they had invited Dlamini-Zuma to talk to them because they had entrusted her with their future.

The league's Ethekwini regional chair, Thembo Ntuli, said they backed Dlamini-Zuma to be the next ANC president.  They would stand up against anyone who staged protests against President Jacob Zuma in Durban.
Dlamini-Zuma: They Will Come For Us One by One
2017-04-23 00:14
Paddy Harper

Nkosazana Dlamini-Zuma addresses ANC Youth League members and students on issues of free education at the Durban University of Technology. Picture: Siyanda Mayeza

A discussion about free education at Durban University of Technology on a week night may seem a low-key choice of time and place for a presidential campaign, but that is what happened when hundreds of ANC Youth League members packed into the university’s Cane Growers Hall to hear Nkosazana Dlamini-Zuma speak on Thursday.

The address by the former African Union Commission chair to the youth league forum was used by them, as well as the party’s eThekwini region, to openly endorse Dlamini-Zuma as their presidential candidate.

This early declaration of intent has followed that of the ANC Women’s League, and is likely to be continued by other KwaZulu-Natal ANC structures, which are hosting Dlamini-Zuma with increasing frequency ahead of the December elective conference.

Dlamini-Zuma, accompanied by a Presidential Protection Service security detail, was treated like a president-in-waiting by the youth league supporters on her arrival – an hour and a half after the official starting time.

Her four-vehicle convoy had slowed down in Centenary Road, outside the campus, in time for the official 16:00 start, but had pulled away as the venue was still being set up and only a handful of yellow shirts and several teams of plainclothes police had turned up.

Dressed in an ANC-issue doek and floral dress, and a long black scarf, Dlamini-Zuma took to the podium and sat smiling on a white sofa as the party’s women and youth league members sang songs calling for her to take over the governing party.

Some of the songs were culled from her ex-husband’s campaigns, with “Mama” transposed for “Zuma” for the 2017 remix.

Dlamini-Zuma – or Zuma-Dlamini, as she was repeatedly referred to by the youth league speakers – continued smiling as eThekwini secretary Bheki Ntuli welcomed her with a declaration that she had the backing of the biggest region.

eThekwini was instrumental in driving the successful campaigns for the ANC presidency by President Jacob Zuma, in 2007 and 2012, and Ntuli declared that it would go to bat for her this December.

Declaring that Zuma’s support was “here in the branches”, Ntuli said eThekwini was “clear” about its role in defending the president and taking forward the fight for rapid economic transformation at the party’s policy conference in July.

Kwazi Mshengu, chairperson of the youth league in KwaZulu-Natal, said Dlamini-Zuma was the person in whom the youth had decided to “entrust our future”.

Addressing Dlamini-Zuma as “the incoming ANC president”, Mshengu said he was not disobeying the national executive committee’s ruling against early lobbying, but was rather communicating the resolution of the recent KwaZulu-Natal youth league congress, at which the province had decided that it would lobby on her behalf when the official ANC process opened later in the year.

Dlamini-Zuma steered clear of mentioning any presidential ambitions.

Instead, she called on young people to be patriotic and become activists, and at the same time, to study hard to prepare themselves to claim their share of the economy.

Calling on the youth to be “unapologetic”, Dlamini-Zuma said they needed to assist the ANC to transform the economy, adding that young people, while being disciplined, should challenge the lack of transformation in the institutions of learning, the workplace and in the redistribution of land and resources.

She said education should not “make us feel inferior”.

“What did we fight for? To be apologetic? Let us transform this economy. It is ours.

“We are not excluding anybody, but we are not going to be excluded and keep quiet.

“We are proud Africans and we are proud black people. We have been magnanimous, and we must continue to be magnanimous, because we have said: ‘This country belongs to all who live in it,’ Dlamini-Zuma said.

She went on to say the struggle for economic liberation and transformation would be “harder than the struggle for political freedom”.

“Nothing is going to come easy. It is going to be hard ... They will come for us one by one if we are not careful,” Dlamini-Zuma concluded.
'Divorce' Could Harm Us Both, ANC's Mantashe Warns SACP
2017-04-22 17:04
Tshidi Madia

Matlosana - ANC secretary general Gwede Mantashe has cautioned the SACP against making decisions that could result in both members of the tripartite alliance losing supporters.

Mantashe was delivering a lecture in honour of Chris Hani in Matlosana, in the North West, on Saturday.

This month, the communist party commemorates the 24-year anniversary of Hani's death. The former general secretary of the SACP was gunned down by white nationalists outside his home in 1993.

"In the struggle for freedom you will be betrayed and that doesn't mean you must commit suicide," said Mantashe.

He said this would be the situation if the SACP decided to leave the tripartite alliance. The communist party has become one of the ANC's loudest critics, calling on the governing party to remove its president, Jacob Zuma.

Emotional decision

Mantashe said walking away from the alliance would not be a political decision but an emotional one.

"It sounds revolutionary, it sounds left, but the next possibility is that we divide our electoral base and split it between the party and the ANC, and both of us will lose power," warned Mantashe.

He said an ANC/SACP split would have greater consequences than when splinter party Cope was formed following the recall of Thabo Mbeki as the country's president.

"If the party delivers divorce papers to the ANC... very emotional, the ANC will accept them but the effect is that we are both weak," he reiterated.

The SACP will have to grapple with a decision when it holds its national conference in June, as some - including the North West region - have previously called for the party to pursue state power on its own.

Mantashe told those at the lecture that some in the ANC felt it did not need the SACP any longer, and viewed it as a nuisance.

"I am not one of them. I know that the communist party is not a nuisance. We need it. Activists need ideological content and theory. There's no revolution you can't theorise," he said.

The ANC SG also defended himself against those claiming he attacked the SACP at his Chris Hani lecture on Friday but that he didn't want to see it sharing a platform with the "enemy".

"It's not an attack on the party. If it's a reality that it shares a platform with the enemy because it's irritated by Jacob Zuma, society will be confused," said Mantashe.

He was referring to one of the SACP's deputy general secretaries, Solly Mapaila's participation in lobby group Save South Africa's anti-Zuma march in April.

"The party has a responsibility and I can tell you Chris Hani would not run away from that responsibility," said Mantashe.
ANC Secretary General Mantashe Cracks the Party Whip
2017-04-23 06:00
Lubabalo Ngcukana

The second-biggest ANC region in the country, the Eastern Cape, has endorsed Deputy President Cyril Ramaphosa as the next president of the party, and wants current secretary-general Gwede Mantashe to return into the top six.

Xolile Nkompela, the ANC’s OR Tambo regional chairperson, told a memorial lecture in honour of slain Communist Party leader Chris Hani that the party wanted to ensure that Mantashe returned to being part of the top six when new leaders were elected in December.

Mantashe delivered the memorial lecture.

Nkompela, who spoke before Mantashe at a packed OR Tambo Hall in Mthatha on Friday, said they also wanted change in the provincial ANC leadership, led by Premier Phumulo Masualle, who is also chair of the ANC.

He said they wanted current provincial secretary Oscar Mabuyane to replace Masualle at the provincial elective conference in July with a new leadership collective.

Later, in an interview with City Press, Nkompela said his region would support Ramaphosa, who is vying for the position of party president against President Jacob Zuma’s ex-wife, Nkosazana Dlamini-Zuma.

“When going to [the ANC national conference in] Polokwane in 2007, we said the deputy president of the ANC must be president. We are not confused about that and we are still maintaining that.

“Unless we can be convinced otherwise, we are saying the DP [deputy president Ramaphosa] is ready when the president of the ANC, comrade Jacob Zuma, steps down in December.

“The president of the ANC at the moment is Zuma. There is no contestation about that and we have to respect him. But immediately after the national executive committee is dissolved in December, we start to nominate and vote for the nominated leaders. We will vote for Ramaphosa as president,” said Nkompela.

He said although they were not sure yet what position they would nominate Mantashe for, they wanted him back in the top six as “he is a principled leader”.

Rebels

In his address at the memorial lecture, Mantashe lashed out at factionalism. He referred to the current goings-on ahead of the elective conference as a silly season, saying a lot of dirt would be thrown at people.

On the issue of the president’s recent controversial Cabinet reshuffle, Mantashe said they had since reinstated the question of consultation with the ANC.

“We are not asking for a favour that we must be consulted. We must be consulted. That was a resolution taken at the 52nd national conference [held in Polokwane in Limpopo]. We reaffirm that.

“We also reaffirm that the intelligence report [implicating former finance minister Pravin Gordhan] that was used [to fire Gordhan] complicated our space.

“It was even worse when the minister of intelligence called a press conference and said the report was not theirs. So, who does it belong to?”

Mantashe added that it was a mistake to suggest that some members of the ANC’s top six were now rebels because they had raised issues about the organisation in principle. This was in reference to public utterances Mantashe had made, along with Ramaphosa and treasurer-general Zweli Mkhize, expressing concern over Zuma’s Cabinet reshuffle.

“We cannot be rebels because we are raising issues affecting the organisation. We are going to raise issues of the organisation now and in future. We want the organisation to attend to those issues.

“But you cannot expect me, as secretary-general, to team up with opposition parties because I am angry. It is the worst thing that can happen to me,” Mantashe said.

He said more detail on the radical economic transformation being espoused was needed because currently, people were using the term, but it was “hollow in content”.

“If we want to honour comrade Chris [Hani], we must fight factionalism in all its forms and manifestations. The problem with factionalism is that we do not see it is wrong when it suits us [not to to so].

“I can see Nkompela is being mischievous, saying they want Gwede first, which makes me think this is right. But no, factionalism is wrong. It has few effects. It divides, it destroys, it mutates.”

Unity

Mantashe said the Eastern Cape was a very important province but was divided. He said everyone’s strength was their base, their home.

“You must talk to each other and unify the province. If you don’t do that, you are giving yourselves a luxury you do not have. You must not allow people who are carrying money bags to divide you.

“I can see that the Eastern Cape is becoming a Mecca of sorts; everyone is coming here for pilgrimages.

“They come here to cut their small piece from this province. You should not allow that. All I am saying is that factionalism must be fought,” he said.

Mantashe said an SA Communist Party, under its erstwhile leader Hani, would never have shared a platform “with the enemy” because he was irritated by Zuma.

“He would not. He would deal with this irritation of Jacob Zuma here and fight it,” he said.

“You must never have a Communist Party that joins forces with the enemy for immediate satisfaction. That cannot happen. Chris Hani would not have allowed that.”

The ANC’s 54th national conference, taking place from December 16 to 20, was an opportunity for the party to correct itself, Mantashe said.

He said the problem was that members were not discussing leadership of the ANC not in terms of principle but in terms of preference.

“We must ... discuss leadership in terms of track record and behaviour in the organisation. If we don’t do that, as much as we complain about corrupt individuals and looters in the organisation, we will continue electing a leadership that sends the same message,” he said.
Full Speech by Cyril Ramaphosa at Chris Hani Memorial Lecture
2017-04-23 17:42

Cyril Ramaphosa at a SACP Chris Hani commemoration in KwaNobuhle. (Derrick Spies, News24)

'We will not allow institutions of our state to be captured' - Ramaphosa
Comrades and Friends,

We meet here today to remember and honour a great son of our soil.

We meet here to recall the enormous contribution he made to the struggle for the freedom of our people.

We remember his kindness, his selflessness, his modesty, his intellect and his unwavering courage.

He was an outstanding soldier, a disciplined cadre, a democrat and a leader with vision and integrity.

He was a leader who put the interests of the people above his own.

He put their well-being and safety before his own.

He was a revolutionary who was truly worthy of the title Isithwalandwe Seaparankoe.

He was a giant of our struggle who has rightly earned his place among the most outstanding leaders of our people, Nelson Mandela, Walter Sisulu, Oliver Tambo, Govan Mbeki, Moses Kotane, Lilian Ngoyi, Dorothy Nyembe, Joe Slovo and Ahmed Kathrada.

As we gather here, we recall with great anguish and sorrow the horrific act of racial hatred that ended his life on the eve of our freedom.

For the masses of our people, this was the darkest moment before our democratic dawn.

It was the moment at which the apartheid government realised that they would no longer be able to contain the anger of an oppressed and persecuted people.

They relented and quickly agreed on the date for South Africa’s first democratic election.

It is fitting that, as we celebrate the contribution of Isithwalandwe Chris Hani, we reflect on the revolutionary tasks that we must still undertake to achieve the free and equal society for which he gave his life.

We must reflect on the work we need to do to liberate all our people from all forms of oppression and exploitation.

As we undertake the second phase of our transition, in which intensify the struggle for socio-economic freedom, we must focus our attention on the actions required to advance radical economic transformation.

Revolutionary qualities

We must direct all our resources and energy to achieve far higher rates of inclusive growth, to create jobs, develop the skills of our youth and reduce poverty and inequality.

It is fitting that we reflect on how the life, contribution and character of Chris Hani provide some guide to how we approach the responsibilities we must now shoulder together.

It is fitting, particularly at a time like this, to reflect on what kind of a leader he was.

Chris Hani was a unifier, a nation builder.

He was a champion of a non-racial and non-sexist South Africa, deeply committed to breaking down the barriers that had long kept our people apart.

He was not the kind of leader who, through reckless statements and self-serving actions, would divide the movement or polarise the nation.

He embodied the revolutionary qualities that we need in our leaders today.

Critical, honest debate necessary for unity

He was the kind of leader that we speak about in the document ‘Through the Eye of a Needle’, when we say:

“A leader should constantly seek to improve his capacity to serve the people; he should strive to be in touch with the people all the time, listen to their views and learn from them. He should be accessible and flexible; and not arrogate to himself the status of being the source of all wisdom.

“A leader should win the confidence of the people in her day-to-day work. Where the situation demands, she should be firm; and have the courage to explain and seek to convince others of the correctness of decisions taken by constitutional structures even if such decisions are unpopular. She should not seek to gain cheap popularity by avoiding difficult issues, making false promises or merely pandering to popular sentiment.”

Chris Hani was a leader who was rooted among the masses, who was willing to listen and who was not afraid to confront problems.

He was not afraid to raise concerns about the state of the movement or the conduct of its leaders.

He was able to clearly articulate the weaknesses in our strategy or the shortcomings in its implementation.

He did so precisely so that we could correct our errors and build the movement as a stronger, more effective instrument of struggle.

He did so not to divide the ANC, but to unite it around a common understanding of the tasks of the moment and the actions that these tasks demanded.

For Chris Hani, critical, honest debate was a necessary condition for unity – and organisational renewal was a necessary condition for progress.

Heightened tensions after Cabinet reshuffle

Early in 1969, Chris Hani and six other members of Umkhonto we Sizwe produced a document that became known as the ‘Hani Memorandum’.

It began:

“The ANC in Exile is in a deep crisis as a result of which a rot has set in. From informal discussions with the revolutionary members of MK we have inferred that they have lost all confidence in the ANC leadership abroad. This they say openly and in fact show it. Such a situation is very serious and in fact a revolutionary movement has to sit down and analyse such a prevailing state of affairs.”

There are many within the Alliance and the broader democratic movement who say that the ANC is today in a deep crisis.

Many say that a rot has set in, a result of our inability to respond effectively to the challenges – and temptations – of political office.

While some may want to contest the use of words such as ‘crisis’ and ‘rot’ to describe the current situation, the undeniable reality is that the democratic movement is undergoing a period of greater turbulence and uncertainty that at any time since 1994.

There is a strong sense among many of our people that the ANC no longer represents their hope for a better life.

Many believe that the ANC is no longer a trusted repository of the aspirations of our people for freedom, dignity, peace and justice.

Recent political developments have thrown into sharp relief the divisions within our movement and brought to the fore broader grievances about the direction of the country.

The manner and form of the cabinet reshuffle a few weeks ago heightened tensions within the movement, causing some comrades to engage in bitter exchanges in public statements and on social media.

It has further polarised the Alliance and broader democratic movement, with different formations taking strongly opposing positions.

But there is a broader problem.

Own up

Over many years, the unity of the democratic movement has been gradually eroded as the politics of patronage, factionalism, vote-buying and gate keeping has become more widespread.

In many parts of our country, the interests of the people have been rendered subordinate to the interests of the few as they jostle for positions of authority and access to resources.

This challenge has been identified at the highest levels of the movement, resolutions have been taken at successive national conferences and it has been much debated within the Alliance.

Yet it continues to plague the organisation and diminishes our ability to realise our objective to achieve a better life for all South Africans.

The challenge that faces each and every member of the ANC, the Alliance and the broader democratic movement is what to do.

How should we respond to the many challenges that today confront our revolution?

The lesson from the life and struggle of Chris Hani – the lesson from the ‘Hani Memorandum’ in particular – is that we must honestly and directly own up to the problem.

We must do so not in an effort to achieve some kind of factional advantage.

We must do so not to divide the organisation or demoralise our membership.

We must do so because that is what a revolutionary movement does.

Once we have analysed the challenges – once we have a common understanding of what the causes and manifestations of these problems are – we must take concrete action to address them.

And we must do so together.

As former ANC President Oliver Tambo said in 1980:

"The need for the unity of the patriotic and democratic of our country has never been greater than it is today. Our unity has to be based on honesty among ourselves, the courage to face reality, adherence to what has been agreed upon, to principle."

These words, spoken over three decades ago, perfectly capture the central task of the democratic movement at this difficult moment in our history.

Allegations of ‘state capture’ must be put to rest

Chris Hani would have been the first to say that we need to be honest among ourselves.

The ANC cannot fulfil its historic mission if it is divided.

It has a responsibility not only to be united itself, but also to unite society behind a programme of fundamental social and economic change.

This has been its central strength over many decades of struggle, first in defeating apartheid and then in building a new democratic state that has had significant success in improving the lives of millions of people.

However, its ability to unite society is significantly diminished.

The divisions within the organisation and among its leaders are well ventilated in the public space.

Despite the good work that continues to be done by cadres and deployees in all spheres, the ANC’s programme in government and in communities lacks sufficient coherence and focus.

The allegations that there are private individuals who exercise undue influence over state appointments and procurement decisions should be a matter of grave concern to the movement.

These practices threaten the integrity of the state, undermine our economic progress and diminish our ability to change the lives of the poor.

These activities, if left unchecked, could destroy the revolution.

It is therefore critical that the allegations of ‘state capture’ are put to rest, that wrongdoing is exposed and that illicit practices are brought to an end.

The ANC should support the establishment of an effective, credible mechanism to investigate these claims.

Those that have evidence will be able to come forward. Those that have been unfairly implicated will have an opportunity to clear their names.

We cannot leave this rot to fester.

We must have the courage to face reality.

And we must be prepared to talk about these things openly and honestly, as our forebears did.

Unless the ANC addresses these challenges, we can be certain that our electoral support will continue to slide.

'We have alienated many of the people'

We have research that shows that many ANC supporters did not vote in the 2016 local government elections because of perceptions of factionalism in the movement and a sense that many of its leaders and public representatives were self-serving.

A decline in the ANC’s electoral fortunes is not so much about the ‘maturing’ of democracy, as some have suggested, as it is about a waning confidence in the ANC as the organisation best placed to build a better future for the people of this country.

If the ANC is voted out of office – as happened in several metros in 2016 – it will be unable to use state power to effect transformation.

It will thus lose the most potent weapon it has to build a national democratic society.

Recent marches in various centres across the country are further evidence of the challenges the movement faces.

While it may be true that those who marched do not reflect the views of the majority of South Africans, many of them nevertheless represent important constituencies that the ANC should be engaging and mobilising to bring about social and economic change.

Throughout its history, the ANC has been most effective when it has drawn a variety of social forces towards it – when it has mobilised broad fronts in pursuit of common objectives.

Today, this no longer seems to be a priority.

In fact, we seem to be pushing many important constituencies away from us.

Through some of our utterances, through some of our conduct – sometimes through sheer neglect – we have alienated many of the people who we should be organising and mobilising.

The ANC is meant to unite, not divide.

Reason to hope

These marches and associated forms of mobilisation present a direct challenge to the ANC’s mission to unite all South Africans in pursuit of a better life for all.

Unless it acts with determination and urgency to address these challenges, the organisation is likely not only to lose further electoral support, but also to lose its ability to lead society in a popular programme of change.

In responding to these challenges, the ANC must adhere to its values.

The unity that Oliver Tambo spoke of in 1980 was premised on honesty, courage and principle.

It was unity in support of revolutionary ideals.

He never envisaged that this unity should be used as a cover for misconduct or as reason not to confront those implicated in wrongdoing.

He never saw unity as an excuse to avoid the difficult, painful questions that we need to ask ourselves.

But even through our movement faces great challenges – and even though our country is going through a particularly difficult time – there is every reason to hope.

There is every reason to expect that the cadres of this movement will respond with the same resolve and purpose as they have done before.

'We are the glue'

I am confident – and many in the leadership share this confidence – that the branches of our organisation will use the upcoming 54th National Conference to chart a new path of political, organisational and moral renewal.

Many of the elements of this renewal are to be found in the Policy Conference discussion documents currently being debated in our structures.

Among other things, these documents assert that critical to the resolution of the challenges facing our movement is the strengthening of internal democracy within the organisation.

As we prepare for Conference, these current challenges need to be addressed within the ANC’s constitutional structures, with the participation of branch members and leadership at all levels.

It is also needs to be a matter for structured and direct engagement with other formations in the Alliance and broader society.

The manner of engagement is particularly important.

The political culture of the ANC requires that comrades accept each other’s bona fides, avoid divisive language and name-calling and be prepared to engage honestly with each other’s views.

At a time when there is great distress – even anger – inside and outside the movement, it is the responsibility of all cadres to ensure that they are respectful, honest and constructive in their engagement.

This situation requires calms heads and sound political judgment.

This is a responsibility that rests in great measure on the leadership of the movement and the Alliance, but ultimately it is the duty of each and every one of us to take responsibility for the cohesion and effectiveness of the organisation.

Each and every of one of us needs to understand – as Oliver Tambo did, as Chris Hani did, as Ahmed Kathrada did – that in our conduct and in our contribution, we are the glue that holds the movement together.

'We must combat arrogance, complacency and dishonesty'

We must weigh every action and pronouncement to ensure that it unites rather than divides.

We need to constantly ask ourselves what is it that we must do to build a united and cohesive movement that is honest, courageous and principled.

We need to draw from Chris Hani the lesson that criticism of the movement does not mean that one is disloyal.

Criticism cannot be disloyal if it is honest, if it is consistent with the discipline of the movement, and if it is intended to strengthen the movement and promote unity.

As we gather to remember Chris Hani, as we ask ourselves what is it that history demands of us at this difficult moment in our revolution, we must resolve to be the kind of cadre – the kind of leader – that Chris Hani was.

We must resolve to humble ourselves before the people.

We must combat arrogance, complacency and dishonesty.

We must heed the words of Chris Hani when he said:

“I’ve never wanted to spare myself because I feel there are people who are no longer around and died for this struggle. What right do I have to hold back, to rest, to preserve my health, to have time with my family, when there are other people who are no longer alive – when they sacrificed what is precious: namely life itself.”

Isithwalandwe Chris Hani gave his life for the freedom of his people.

Inspired by his courage, determination and compassion, though we may face great challenges and difficulties, we dare not spare ourselves in the struggle to build a united, free and equal society.

The spirit of Chris Hani lives on.

The struggle continues.

Amandla!
3 Syrian Forces Killed in Fresh Israeli Attack on Military Camp
Sun Apr 23, 2017 7:11AM
presstv.ir

The photo shows the site of an Israeli attack on a military camp run by pro-Damascus forces near Quneitra, Syria, April 23, 2017.

Three Syrian forces have been killed in a fresh Israeli attack on a military camp near the southwestern city of Quneitra, a military official says.

The attack hit the al-Fawwar camp on Sunday, wounding two others, the unnamed official told the French news agency AFP.

It was not clear whether the assault was an airstrike or shelling. The attack comes after Israel struck a Syrian army position in the province of Quneitra on the Golan plateau on Friday, "causing damage."

A Syrian military source told the official SANA news agency that the Israeli aggression came after an attempt by terrorists to infiltrate military positions in Quneitra was foiled and the assailants suffered heavy losses.

The Israeli military confirmed the raid in a statement, saying it was conducted shortly after three mortar shells allegedly fired from Syria hit an open area in the northern occupied Golan Heights.

The Tel Aviv regime regularly hits positions held by the Syrian army in the Golan Heights, claiming that the attacks are retaliatory. Syria says the raids aim to help Takfiri militants fighting against government forces.

In the past, the Syrian army has confiscated Israeli-made arms and military equipment from terrorists fighting the government forces. There are also reports that Tel Aviv has been treating the extremists wounded in Syria.

Israel seized the Golan Heights from Syria after the 1967 Six-Day War and later occupied it in a move that has never been recognized by the international community.

The regime has built tens of illegal settlements in the area ever since and used the region to carry out military operations against the Syrian government.

Army advances against militants

Separately on Sunday, Syrian forces recaptured Halfaya town in the west-central Hama Province, the Lebanon-based al-Mayadeen TV channel reported.

Meanwhile, pro-opposition media reported fierce clashes between the so-called Free Syrian Army (FSA) militants and US-backed Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF) in the northern countryside of Hama.

US defense officials also told Fox News that the Daesh terrorist group is now centered in the city of Dayr al-Zawr, some 144 kilometers southeast of Raqqah, the Takfiri outfit’s de facto capital in Syria.

They said that US military drones have watched hundreds of Daesh “bureaucrats” or administrators, leaving Raqqah in the past two months.
President al-Assad Receives Congratulation Cables From Guterres and Others on Occasion of Independence Day
23 April، 2017

Damascus, SANA- President Bashar al-Assad received on Sunday a cable of congratulation from United Nations Secretary-General Antonio Guterres on the occasion of Syria’s Independence Day.

In this cable, Guterres expressed his warmest congratulations to the Syrian people and government on this occasion.

He stressed that the world is living a time of great promise, but it also carries great insecurity, saying that this year he launched an appeal for laying peace around the world, asserting that all what we are striving for, as a human family, of dignity, justice, progress, and prosperity depends on peace, adding that these values, which are consecrated in the United Nations Charter, bring us together.

Guterres said that he is aware of how the diversity in the United Nations enhances joint work and common humanity at a time when we are suffering from a growing division all over the world, adding that he is counting on Syria’s involvement and effective contribution to help build a stronger UN and to enhance joint efforts to ensure peace, development, and human rights for all.

Ghossoun / Hazem Sabbagh


President al-Assad receives congratulatory cables from presidents of China, Belarus and Cameroon on occasion of Independence Day

20 April، 2017

Damascus, SANA- President Bashar al-Assad received on Thursday a cable of congratulation from Chinese President Xi Jinping on occasion of Syria’s Independence Day.

In the cable, the Chinese President extended warm congratulations to Syria, affirming the strong traditional friendship ties between the two countries.

President al-Assad also received a congratulatory cable from President Alexander Lukashenko of Belarus, in which he referred to the successes achieved by the Syrian Arab Army in the fight against terrorism to preserve the unity of Syria.

President Lukashenkov affirmed his country’s endeavors to develop cooperation with Syria in all fields and to help reconstruct the country, congratulating President al-Assad and the Syrian people on the occasion of Independence Day.

President al-Assad also received a similar congratulatory cable from President Paul Biya of Cameroon in which he expressed congratulations and good wishes to the Syrian government and people on this occasion.

President al-Assad has received congratulatory cables on the occasion of Syria’s Independence Day from Presidents of Russia, Algeria, Iraq, Lebanon, Cuba, India, DPRK, South Africa, Indonesia, and Turkmenistan.

Manar/Mazen
President al-Assad: Leaderships of Al-Baath Party Must Encourage Spirit of Initiative in Party Members
22 April، 2017

Damascus, SANA – An expanded meeting of the Central Committee of Al-Baath Arab Socialist Party was held on Saturday, chaired by President Bashar al-Assad, the Party’s Regional Secretary.

President al-Assad said that the war that is being imposed on the Syrian people for more than six years must be an incentive for Al-Baath Party to keep enhancing its presence among citizens by creating new mechanisms for communication that suit the current conditions and keep up with changes in the society, particularly since the Party was targeted since the beginning of the events in Syria due to its pan-Arab ideals, not just on the political level, but also on the level of media, but the true image of the Party has become clear after the truth became apparent to many and due to the Party’s performance during the past few years.

His Excellency said that the states hostile to Syria used all its tools in the war against Syria, primarily the Wahabi and Muslim Brotherhood terrorism, noting that the battle between the Party and extremist currents isn’t a new thing; rather it dates back to the 60s of the 20th century.

President al-Assad said that one of the goals of the war on Syria was undermining pan-Arab ideals and forcing Syria to abandon pan-Arabism, and he asserted that Syria belongs to the Arab nations therefore these attempts failed, affirming that Al-Baath Party has an important role in consecrating Syria’s Arabism due to its belief that Syria is the basis of Arabism.

His Excellency stressed the need for Party leaderships to find new ideas and work methods to revitalize the Party’s work, thereby holding constructive dialogue with the members of the Party and strengthen them, calling for devising programs that address the new generations and develop the Party’s ideals in order to protect these generations, enhance their sense of patriotism, and involve them in making programs and work plans.

President al-Assad said that it’s important for the Party’s leaderships to encourage the spirit of initiative in Party members in all fields, not just in party work, which must be conducted on the ground and be in touch with the people rather than being limited to deskwork or paperwork, adding that it’s not enough for officials to conduct field tours, as there must be clear work mechanisms linked to these tours and their effectiveness.

His Excellency reviewed the developments in Syria, saying that the recent US strike on al-Shairat airport came after the defeat that terrorists suffered in Hama and the advances made by the Syrian Arab Army in the north and the east, noting that Western states with the United States at their head interfere in favor of the terrorists whenever the Syrian Arab Army makes a significant advance.

President al-Assad affirmed that war on terrorism will not cease as long as one terrorist remains in Syria, and at the same time Syria will continue to confront Western scenarios seeking to undermine its unity and sovereignty, and this will be done in conjunction with pursuing political work, both in terms of the reconciliation policy that proved effective, and in participating in the political process in Astana or Geneva in the hope that this would help stop the shedding of Syrian blood.

Participants in the meeting raised a number of ideas and discussions, and President al-Assad addressed the members’ queries about the performance of the Party and the political situation.

A new Central Committee was also formed during the meeting and changes were made to the formation of the Regional Leadership and the Party Supervision Committee.

Hazem Sabbagh
Two Persons Injured in Terrorist Mortar Attacks in Damascus and Mhardeh
22 April، 2017

Damascus/Hama, SANA – Two persons were injured in terrorist attack with two mortar shells on Rukneddein residential area in Damascus.

A source at Damascus Police Command told SANA that terrorist groups positioned in the Eastern Ghouta area in Damascus Countryside fired on Saturday afternoon two mortar shells at Rukneddein area, injuring two persons and causing material damage to properties.

Terrorist organizations also targeted Mhardeh city in the northern countryside of Hama province with a number of mortar shells.

SANA’s reporter in Hama said that terrorist organizations located in the northern countryside of Hama targeted Mhardeh city with a number of mortar shells, causing material damage to citizens’ houses and private properties, but no injuries or casualties were recorded.

Shaza / Hazem Sabbagh
Syrian Army Restores Security to Halfayia and a Number of Villages in Hama, Targets ISIS and al-Nusra in Other Areas
23 April، 2017

Provinces, SANA- A military source declared that security and stability were restored to Halfaya town and to a number of the neighboring villages in the northern countryside of Hama province after destroying the last gatherings of Jabhat al-Nusra in them.

The source told SANA that army units, in cooperation with the backing forces, carried out intensive operations against Jabhat al-Nusra terrorists, restoring security and stability to the towns and villages of Halfayia, Zalin, al-Wabida, Btaish, Zour al-Nasiryia and Zour Abu Zaid, and establishing control over Talet al-Nasiryia and Tal al-Mintar.

The source added that hundreds of terrorists were killed and injured and scores fled away leaving their arms behind them as the army seized 7 mortar launchers, two machinegun-equipped vehicles and a huge amount of varied ammunition.

The source said that 58 vehicles, 3 ammunition caches, 3 tanks and a booby-trapped vehicle were also destroyed in the operations, indicating that the engineering units are dismantling the mines and the explosive devices planted by the terrorists at the streets and in the citizens’ houses.

Among the killed terrorists were Ahmed Said Doudi, Mahmoud Abdul-Razzaq Jarkas, Qasem Mohammad Amin, Yusuf al-Aboud, Hassan al-Aboud and Ismail Badran from the so-called “Jaish al-Nasser”, in addition to terrorists Eiad al-Naddaf and Kamal al-Dairi from the so-called “Jaish al-Ezza”.

Daraa

An army unit destroyed a vehicle belonging to Jabhat al-Nusra terrorists and killed a number of terrorists on the road between Ebtaa and al-Sheikh Miskin in the countryside of Daraa province, according to military source.

The source said that a number of terrorists were killed due to army’s concentrated strikes on their gatherings to the east of al-Wardat village in al-Lujat area to the north of Daraa city.

The source added that army units directed strikes on terrorists’ sites and fortifications in al-Talaibi Square, to the south of Khazan al-Karak, to the west of al-Nazihen Camp, and in Tariq al-Sadd neighborhood in Daraa al-Balad area in Daraa city, destroying fortified positions and killing a number of terrorists.

Deir Ezzor

Army units operating in Deir Ezzor Airport area engaged during the past few hours in heavy clashes with terrorist groups affiliated to ISIS that attacked the Airport from the direction of its eastern fence, according to SANA reporter.

The reporter said that a number of terrorists were killed or injured due to the clashes, in addition to destroying fortifications for ISIS in the area surrounding the 137th Brigade.

The reporter said that the Syrian Air Force carried out raids on ISIS movements near Raqqa Bridge, killing a number of terrorists, injuring many others and destroying 2 vehicles equipped with machineguns, while an army unit destroyed ISIS gatherings in the graveyards area south of Deir Ezzor city.

He also pointed out that another army unit shelled with artillery fire ISIS dens in Hawijit Saqar and Hatla village in the northern countryside of the province, inflicting heavy losses upon them in personnel and equipment.

Homs

Army units launched operations against gatherings and movements of ISIS terrorists to the east of al-Abtar Mount, al-Bareda, to the east of al- Qaryatayn, the area surrounding al- Qaryatayn Dam, Oum Sahrij village, and to the east of Jub al-Jarah in Homs province, a military source said.

The source said that the army’s operations resulted in destroying a number of vehicles, some of them equipped with machineguns.

The source added that a number of fortified positions were destroyed and many terrorists were killed as a result of the army’s operations targeting the gatherings and fortifications for Jabhat al-Nusra in al-Amiria village and to the southwest of Talbiseh in the northern countryside of the province.

English Bulletin
Syrian Army Expands Control in Northern Countryside of Hama, Targets Terrorists in Other Areas
22 April، 2017

Provinces, SANA – Army and Armed Forces units on Saturday made new advances in its ongoing military operations against Jabhat al-Nusra and terror groups affiliated to it in the northern countryside of Hama province.

SANA’s correspondent in Hama said that army units, in cooperation with supporting forces, engaged in violent clashes with terrorist groups in al-Nasseriye and al-Mintar hills, killing and injuring many terrorists in the process and establishing control over a strategic point north of Souran near the turnpike leading to the town of Lahaya, in addition to establishing control over the farms of al-Nasseriye town located between the towns of Helfaya and Tibet al-Imam.

The correspondent said that clashes were preceded by targeting terrorists’ positions in the front lines with intensive volleys of rockets, which resulted in destroying several fortified positions and killing large numbers of terrorists, including Shahoud Abu Ali who was a field commander of Ahrar al-Cham Movement terror group.

Army units also carried out intensive special operations targeting terrorists’ supply lines coming from al-Latamneh and Kafr Zeta towards Helfaya town, which resulted in destroying many vehicles, the correspondent went on to say, adding that the army’s operations expanded control in the northern countryside, securing the town of Qamhana with several defensive lines, and closing in on terrorists located in Helfaya.

Later, the source said that army units destroyed machinegun-equipped armored vehicles for al-Nusra terrorists and killed a number of them in al-Boweidah, Hilfaya, Maerkabbeh, al-Lihaya al-Sharqieh, al-Lihaya al-Gharbieh, and al-Lattamineh in the northern country of Hama.

Deir Ezzor

Army units destroyed a tunnel for ISIS terrorist organization during the army‘s intensive operations against gatherings and movements of the terrorist organization in the surroundings of Deir Ezzor city.

SANA’s reporter in the province said that army units, in cooperation with the supporting forces, targeted ISIS terrorists’ gatherings and fortified points in al-Matar al-Qadim neighborhood, killing 15 terrorists and destroying a 150-meters-long tunnel that was used by the terrorists to transport and store weapons and ammunition.

Lattakia

Army units targeted terrorist groups’ movements and fortified positions with concentrated strikes in the northern countryside of Lattakia province, inflicting heavy losses upon them in personnel and weaponry.

A military source told SANA that army units targeted with heavy strikes positions and movements for Jabhat al-Nusra terrorists in the surroundings of Kabani, Zahret al-Deghleh, Fulla, al-Yamdiya, al-Hamboushiye, and al-Tufahiye in the northern countryside of Lattakia, which resulted in killing most members of a terrorist group and injuring others, in addition to destroying three machinegun nests and six vehicles equipped with heavy machineguns.

Hazem Sabbagh

Saturday, April 22, 2017

A Year Later, the 7th Party Congress Continues
Comandante en Jefe Fidel Castro at the close of the 7th Congress of the Communist Party of Cuba, alongside Army General Raúl Castro, José Ramón Machado Ventura, and Miguel Díaz-Canel Bermúdez. Photo: Estudio Revolución

A year ago, the undefeated Comandante en Jefe of the Cuban Revolution, Fidel Castro Ruz, left us a testament and a political duty: “working with fervor and dignity, can produce the material and cultural wealth that humans need, and we must fight relentlessly to obtain these”

Author: Oscar Sánchez Serra | informacion@granma.cu
April 19, 2017 13:04:23

A year ago, the undefeated Comandante en Jefe of the Cuban Revolution, Fidel Castro Ruz, left us a testament and a political duty: “working with fervor and dignity, can produce the material and cultural wealth that humans need, and we must fight relentlessly to obtain these.”

Fidel immediately followed this by expressing to the peoples of the world, just as José Martí spoke of the importance of Cuban independence, on May 18, 1895: “To our brothers in Latin America and the world we must convey that the Cuban people will overcome.”

Today, we are also celebrating 56 years since the victory on the sands of Playa Girón against imperialist aggression and in defense of our socialist Revolution, with Fidel leading the action in the theater of operations.

On April 19, 2016, Army General Raúl Castro Ruz closed the 7th Party Congress stating: “I believe it is appropriate to recall that the process of updating our economic model, which we initiated at the 6th Congress, is not a task of one or two five-year periods. The course has been charted,” Raúl stated then, recalling that the next five years would be decisive “to guaranteeing the gradual, well-ordered transfer of the principal responsibility for the country to younger generations, a process of special importance which we hope to carry out and conclude with the holding of the 8th Congress in 2021.”

The first 12 months of those five years demonstrate the motives for defending our socialism.

At the end of 2015, given financial constraints due to the decline in the prices of Cuba’s principal exports and the effects on cooperative relations with other countries, a complex economic situation loomed. In July of last year, Raúl reported the decline of fuel supplies and the worsening of financial tensions, which led to a decrease of 0.9% in the island’s Gross Domestic Product.

However, Cubans, under the leadership of our Party and the protections offered by our socialist system, have continued to enjoy free social services - education and health for the entire population - there has been no return to the blackouts of the early 1990s, and the process of updating our economic model has continued. All this in the context of the same cruel and illegal U.S. economic, commercial and financial blockade, which has not diminished at all, and continues to prevent Cuba from carrying out international transactions in U.S. dollars, which thwarts the advance of many important and prospective business ventures.

As if that were not enough, after the 7th Party Congress, on October 4-5, 2016, a powerful and destructive hurricane, named Matthew, hit the eastern region of the island, causing extensive damages. But thanks to our socialist system, irreversible according to the Constitution and endorsed in each document and word spoken at the 7th Congress, we did not have to mourn the loss of a single human life. In addition, the socialist state - it is good to repeat this because only a socialist state is capable of such feats – decided to subsidize the prices of construction materials for those people whose homes had been totally or partially destroyed by 50%; granted the possibility of loans with lower interest rates and longer terms, and assumed the payment of interest in cases of total destruction of homes and roofs.

In the immediate aftermath of the 7th Congress, on April 22, May 3, 17 and 24, 2016, measures to gradually increase the purchasing power of the Cuban peso came into force. These were followed by the updating of 17 self-employment activities formerly taxed according to the general regime and moved to the simplified tax regime. Shortly before the Congress, Resolution 6 was announced to modify wage payment systems according to results applied in the Cuban enterprise system; while a measure was adopted to permit the direct wholesale of industrial gases to self-employed persons working in the auto-body repair, blacksmith and oxyacetylene cutting sectors, at the Industrial Gas Company’s territorial units.

As is known, by mandate of the 7th Congress, the historic and core documents presented at this gathering - the Conceptualization of the Cuban Economic and Social Model and the National Economic and Social Development Plan through 2030 - were put to an intense and democratic debate within the Party and youth organizations, and among representatives of mass organizations and broad sectors of society.

On July 26, 2016, during his closing remarks to commemorate National Rebellion Day, Party Central Committee Second Secretary, José Ramón Machado Ventura, noted that up until mid-June, a total of 704,643 compatriots had participated in this debate, making 359,648 interventions, including 95,482 proposals aimed, almost without exception, at enriching and further defining these documents.

Although high expectations have resulted in increasing impatience to know the results of this process, it is advancing as planned by the Party Congress. It should not be forgotten that on Tuesday, December 27, 2016, at the close of the eighth period of ordinary sessions of the Eighth Legislature of the National Assembly of People’s Power, held at the Havana International Conference Center, compañero Raúl stated: “We hope that during the course of the first half of this coming year, the Central Committee Plenum will approve both programmatic documents.”

That is to say, a year later, the 7th Party Congress continues.
Fidel’s Role in Playa Girón Recognized
Artistic performances accompanied activities to celebrate the 56th anniversary of the victory at Playa Girón. Photo: Ventura de Jesús García

Fidel’s example of integrity and morale, the determining factor in Cuba’s triumph at Playa Girón, was recognized during an act celebrating the 56th anniversary of this historic event which has come to symbolize the heroism of the Cuban people

Author: Ventura de Jesús | informacion@granma.cu
April 20, 2017 10:04:24

Ciénaga de Zapata.- Fidel’s example of integrity and morale, the determining factor in Cuba’s triumph at Playa Girón, was recognized during an act celebrating the 56th anniversary of this historic event which has come to symbolize the heroism of the Cuban people.

Hundreds of locals, gathered near the sands of Playa Girón, recalled the man who led revolutionary forces to an irrefutably victory over a mercenary invasion orchestrated by the U.S. government.

Fidel’s talents as military strategist and his ability to take command at crucial moments have been recognized. His physical presence at the scene of the invasion contributed to keeping morale high among the militias and was decisive to their victory in those glorious days of April 1961, stated Kenia Otaño, a young resident from Ciénaga de Zapata, speaking during the act.

Meanwhile, combatant Peña Flor Gallo, who participated in the resistance, highlighted the importance of the unity of the Cuban people to securing victory; noting that this was the first time the government had given arms to the masses (militias, workers, campesinos) to defend the sovereignty of their homeland.

Also recalled during the act was the historical importance and moral lessons of Girón, which continue to grow and prove that a people committed to fighting to defend their sovereignty cannot be defeated.

Meanwhile, a total of 56 youths received their Young Communist League membership cards, while the same number of combatants were presented with a commemorative medal in honor of the 60th anniversary of the Revolutionary Armed Forces.

The act was presided by Jorge Cuevas Ramos, a member of the Party Central Committee Secretariat; Major General Raúl Rodríguez Lobaina, head of the Central Army; as well as Teresa Rojas Monzón, first Party secretary in Matanzas, and Tania León Silveira, president of the Provisional Assembly of People’s Power.

Also in attendance were combatants who fought at Girón; Nemesia Rodríguez and her family, and José Luis Centella Gómez, Secretary General of the Communist Party of Spain.

Speaking during the act, Party Provincial Bureau member, Hidovaldo Díaz Martínez, highlighted the extraordinary impact of the triumph, noting that 56 years on Playa Girón continues to be a shining example and proof of the immoral and deceitful measures used by the United States to attack other countries.