Trump Information-sphere – Debunking with data; Insights From Fact-checkers Around The World

CRIMSON TAZVINZWA, AIWA!NO!|EJC|Ever wondered if a politician’s claims really add up? Or perhaps you read a news story which seemed a little fishy? Armed with data, fact-checking organisations across the globe work tirelessly to help separate these facts from fiction, and any misnomers in-between.

To find out more about debunking with data, European Journalism Centre (EJC) gave subscribers to their data newsletter access to a global group of fact-checkers for an exclusive; “Ask Me Anything“.

How about starting with the most recent one; US President Trump’s UN LIE of the ‘century and centuries’ to come;  “In less than two years, my administration has accomplished more than almost any administration in the history of our country,” line which drove the listeners into murmurs and laughter – mockery.2018-09-26

The world just laughed out loud at Donald Trump. That day, during the president’s address to the United Nations General Assembly, the audience laughed when Trump boasted that “my administration has accomplished more than almost any administration in the history of our country.”

As soon as the words left Trump’s mouth, a ripple of laughter traveled through the crowd and grew as Trump reacted to the guffaws

An unnecessary and embarrassing spectacle at that; if you ask me. Of course the humongous CLAIM was debunked as quickly as it was uttered; by the laughter of the audience and the world; also later on; hours later if I remember correctly, by Donald Trump himself;  

On the one hand, that is a pretty even-keeled response from someone as tantrum-prone as Trump.

Reader question: Can you share some good examples or best cases where data has been successfully used for fact-checking?

Anim van Wyk, Chief Editor, Africa CheckGood data aids good fact-checking, which need to point out exactly what the data can and can’t tell you. The more limitations, the less certain the answer becomes.

For example, it’s easy to use data from the World Health Organization’s Global Ambient Air Quality database to rank cities according to their pollution levels. But the fine print shows that these entries aren’t comparable. This is due to differences in the methods and quality of measurements – and the fact that some cities suspected to be the most polluted don’t report data to the WHO.

Samar Halarnkar, Editor, Factchecker.in: Data are [we never use the singular!] the foundation of fact-checking.

One example: The Indian telecommunications minister announced that within a year of taking charge, his administration ensured that the government-run telecoms behemoth, BSNL, had turned a operating profit, after seven years of losses, and had added subscribers. After a meticulous examination of data–including right-to-information requests–we found that operating profits did not mean the company had turned profitable; indeed net losses had increased, and the minister had, conveniently, not mentioned that more subscribers left than were added.

After a new right-wing government took over in 2014, there were many reports of lynchings, especially of minorities, based on violence related to cows, considered holy by many Hindus. The ruling party and its adherents insisted these were isolated incidents, were never reported before and were not related to the extreme version on Hinduism that they promoted. A debate raged nationwide, poisoning politics and society, made worse by the absence of data–national crime records did not register crimes related to bovines. At Factchecker.in, we created a database of each such crime from 2010 onwards, so that crime patterns could be compared with those after 2014, when the new government took office. Our database–now widely quoted in India and abroad–clearly shows that the overwhelming majority of the victims of such lynchings are minorities, in particular Muslims, and most violence has occurred in states run by India’s ruling party.

Image: Factchecker.in’s interactive database of cow-related violence in India.

Matt Martino, Online Editor, RMIT ABC Fact Check: Politicians in Australia often like to speak about records, both when attacking opponents and spruiking their achievements. A famous example in our unit was when the ruling Coalition Foreign Minister said that when the Opposition Labor Party were last in government, they bequeathed the “worst set of financial accounts” in Australia’s history to their incoming government. This particular fact-check took several months of work sourcing data from the history books on debt and deficit. We were able to find data on federal government surpluses and deficits, plus gross debt, stretching back to 1901, and on net debt handed over to incoming governments back to the 1970s. It’s a great example of where a claimant has used the raw number in place of a percentage, which puts the figure in historical context. In this case, experts told us that these figures must be expressed as a percentage of GDP to enable historical comparisons. Ultimately, we found that the Foreign Minister’s claim was wrong, as there were far larger (as a percentage of GDP) inherited deficits recorded during WWII, far larger gross debt inherited in the same period, and far larger net debt bequeathed to a government during the 1990s.

Dinda Purnamasari, Senior Researcher, Tirto.id: Data is the soul of fact-checking. But not just data, more importantly, the context of data itself is what makes our fact-check more reliable.

First, on 2 May 2017, Jake Van Der Kamp, an economist, shared an opinion entitled “Sorry President Widodo, GDP rankings are economists’ equivalent of fake news”. At that time, Kamp quoted a statement from President Joko Widodo (Jokowi) that Indonesia’s economic growth was third in the world, after India and China.

‘GDP is an attempt to emulate the corporate world by putting money numbers on performance but… with GDP you get no equivalents of the corporate balance sheet or profit and loss account and no notes to the accounts’“Indonesia’s economic growth is the third in the world, after India and China,” said Indonesian president Joko Widodo.

Third in the world, is it? What world is that? Within Asia alone I count 13 countries with higher reported economic growth rates than Indonesia’s latest 5.02 per cent.

They are India (7.5), Laos (7.4), Myanmar (7.3), Cambodia (7.2), Bangladesh (7.1), Philippines (6.9), China (6.7) Vietnam (6.2), Pakistan (5.7), Mongolia (5.5), Palau (5.5), Timor-Leste (5.5) and Papua New Guinea (5.4).

But of course President Widodo’s Indonesia is a very populous country with 261 million people. We cannot really compare it with pipsqueak places like Timor or Palau. Thus let’s draw the line at the 200 million people or more.

This gives us six countries across the world and, in terms of economic growth, Indonesia is in the bottom half of these six behind India, China and Pakistan. Try it at a cut-off of 100 million people or more and you still get no luck. Bottom half again.

Way to go, Joko. Don’t let the facts get in the way of a good story. We’ll make a journalist of you yet.

 

After this opinion became an issue in Indonesia, Tirto.id decided to verify the data that had been used by Jokowi. We looked at data from the International Monetary Fund (IMF) and based on that we concluded that Indonesia was not in the third position using general criteria, but instead ranks third among BRICS and high populated countries.

Image: A graph from tirto.id’s fact-check, showing that Indonesia is ranked third out of the BRICS countries.

Second, in early August 2018, the Vice Governor claimed that their policy of odd-even traffic limitation had reduced air pollution in Jakarta. His statement became an issue, and even some media quoted his data. We verified the data using measurements from the Indonesian Agency for Meteorology, Climatology and Geophysics (Badan Meteorologi, Klimatologi, dan Geofisika – BMKG) and the US Embassy. Based on those, his statement was incorrect. The average of air pollution in Jakarta was still high and did not appear to be decreasing.

Tania Roettger, Head of Fact-Checking Team, Correctiv/EchtJetzt: Fact-checking only works for statements of fact, not opinions. So ideally there is data available to verify claims. We regularly use statistics about topics like crime, HIV-rates or jobs. If there are statistics on a topic, we will consult them. Of course, statistics differ in quality depending on the topic and who gathers the data.

Earlier this year, we debunked the claim that refugees sent 4.2 Billion Euros to their home countries in 2016. Data from the German federal bank showed that the 4.2 Billion Euros in remittances actually came from all migrants working in Germany for more than a year, not specifically from refugees. Most of the money, 3.4 Billion Euros, went to European countries, followed by Asia (491 Million) and Africa (177 Million).

Image: Correctiv/EchtJetzt rated the statement as four on their seven point rating scale.

Reader question: Have you seen examples where the same data has been manipulated to support both sides of an argument? If so, how do you ensure that your way of looking at the data isn’t biased?

Anim van Wyk: At Africa Check, we’re fond of the quip that some people use statistics “as a drunken man uses lamp posts – for support rather than illumination”. Depending on what you want to prove, you can cherry-pick data which supports your argument.

An example is different stances on racial transformation in South Africa, or the lack thereof. A member of a leftist political party said in 2015 that  “whites are only 10% of the economically active population but occupy more than 60% of the top management positions.” The head of the Free Market Foundation, a liberal think-tank, then wrote: “Blacks in top management… doubled.”

Both were right – but by presenting only a specific slice of the same data source to support their argument.

Again, you need to find out what the data cannot tell you and try to triangulate by using different data sources.

Image: Africa Check’s ‘mostly correct’ verdict means that a claim contains elements of truth but is either not entirely accurate, according to the best evidence publicly available at the time, or needs clarification.

Matt Martino: A great example of this was the debate over “cuts” and “savings” to health and education during the early days of the Abbott Coalition government in Australia. The government argued that they were making a “saving” on health and education by reducing the amount spent on what the previous Labor government had budgeted to spend. Labor, now in opposition, argued that this was in fact a cut. We investigated the figures and found that the Coalition was still spending above inflation so it couldn’t be called a cut, but the projections the Coalition had made about savings were over such a long period of time that it was difficult to say whether they would come to pass. In the end we called the debate “hot air”.

How do we make sure we’re looking at the data the right way? We always rely on several experts in the field to guide our analysis and tell us the right way to interpret the data. We’re not experts in any of the topics we explore, whilst academics can spend their entire careers researching a single subject, so their advice is invaluable.

Dinda Purnamasari: In our experience, many use the right data, but the context is incorrect. Then, the data becomes incredible.

For example, reports that PT Telkom (state-owned telecommunication company in Indonesia) had provided Corporate Social Responsibility funds of around IDR 100 million to a Mosque and, in comparison, IDR 3.5 billion to a church.

We found that the numbers (IDR100 million and IDR3.5 billion) were right, but the purpose of the funding was incorrect. The 100 million was granted by PT Telkom in 2016 to pay the debt from a mosque renovation process. On the other hand, 3.5 billion was granted to renovate the old church, which also became a cultural heritage site in Nusa Tenggara Barat in 2017.

In this case, again, the context of data becomes an important thing in fact-checking. We must understand the methodology and how the data was gathered or estimated, even by double-checking on the ground, if needed.

Tania Roettger: Crime-data is a good example. In 2017 crime rates in Germany went down. But the statistic only shows the crimes that have been reported to the police. This has lead some politicians to claim that crime has not actually gone down and that the statistics are “fake news“.

When the meaning of data is debated, we consult independent experts to collect arguments about how the data can or should be interpreted. Or we look at alternative sources, for example the surveys some German states conduct with people about the crimes they experienced but did not report. (However, the validity of these surveys is disputed.)

Samar Halarnkar: In this era of fake news, data are often used to reinforce biases.

For instance, there was much self congratulation when the government claimed that India’s forests grew by 6,779 sq km over the two years to 2017. We found that this was not wrong because that is what the satellite imagery revealed. But what it did not reveal was that these new “forests” included forests converted to commercial plantations, as well as degraded and fragmented forests, and that the health of these forests was being gauged by satellite imagery with inadequate resolution. Indeed, numerous studies had recorded a steady degradation of forests over nearly a century.

Image: Factchecker.in found that this map of forest coverage was not what it seemed. Credit: India’s state of forest report (ISFR) 2017.

Indian remote-sensing satellites produce images with a resolution of 23.5 metres per pixel, which is too coarse to unequivocally identify small-scale deforestation and cannot distinguish between old-growth forests and plantations. To make that distinction, India needs imagery with resolution of 5.8 m per pixel.

So, all data are not always what they appear. They need to be verified and cross-checked, either with studies, other databases or ground reporting.

Reader question: How do you fact-check stories or statements when data on an issue isn’t available?

Anim van Wyk: It’s really unsatisfactory to use our “unproven” verdict, but sometimes the evidence publicly available at the time “neither proves nor disproves a statement”, as we define this rating. Still, the absence of data doesn’t mean anything goes in making statements of fact about a topic. We then point out what is known and what isn’t.

Samar Halarnkar: If data are not available–or independently verified data are not available–there is only one substitute: Verification through old-fashioned, shoe-leather reporting.

For instance, India’s Prime Minister once claimed that his government had built 425,000 toilets within a year. With no independent verification, this claim was hard to dispute. Obviously, it was impossible to verify that 425,000 new toilets had indeed been built in all of India’s schools. But after sending reporters to conduct random verifications in eight Indian states, it quickly became apparent that the Prime Minister’s claim was–to put it plainly–a lie.

Matt Martino: RMIT ABC Fact Check tests the veracity of claims made by politicians and public figures in Australia. If someone is making a claim to influence policy, our position is that they should have good evidence to back it up. Lack of evidence is no excuse so we try and persevere regardless.

Sure, this often leads to less-exciting verdicts, such as “unverifiable” or “too soon to know” but the verdict is not the be-all-and-end-all of a fact-check. In these situations, we explore what data is out there; we consult experts in the field for their opinion, and we present it to the audience as best we can so they can see how we’ve come to our decision.

Video: More detail on how RMIT ABC Fact Check finds and checks claims.

Dinda Purnamasari: If the data isn’t available, we will place it as unproven, though this flag is unsatisfactory. But, before we conclude the issue as unproven, we still explain the verification steps that we undertook. This is because we want citizens to understand that, when tirto.id places a claims as unproven, it means we could not find the credible source of the information.

As an example, one of our politicians stated that the LRT development cost for 1 KM was USD 8 billion. After we checked reliable and credible sources, and we couldn’t find the information, then we concluded the issue as unproven.

Tania Roettger: “Knife crime on the rise“ is a recent story, but the federal crime statistics do not list crimes committed with knives as a special category. Some states in Germany do, but among them, they differ in what they count as knife crime. That definitely does not make our work easier.

In cases like this, we source as much information for a claim as is available. If it turns out the material is not sufficient to verify or debunk the claim, we list what is known and clearly state what is missing. If there is no convincing tendency we give the rating “unproven”. But it is important to keep in mind that those making a claim also carry a burden of proof – if one makes a statement of fact, it needs to be based on evidence. This is one of the things we’re trying to show with our work.

Reader question: Are there any established guidelines for determining the reliability of a data source? How does your organisation determine which data is appropriate to use?

Samar Halarnkar: We do not have established guidelines. In general, we consider if the data source is reliable. Sometimes, it might not entirely reliable; for example, a government source, in which case we use the data but cross check with experts, independent studies and/or our own checks. Some public databases are largely reliable: for instance, government-run databases on health, farming and education. We do not consider those data that have previously proven to be compromised or are doubtful.

Matt Martino: We don’t have any hard rules around it, but generally the source should be a non-partisan organisation. In Australia, we rely heavily on data from the Australian Bureau of Statistics, which is a government organisation which has a reputation for providing objective data on a range of issues. This is an example of a good source.

When considering a source, it’s always pertinent to ask: “what is their agenda?” If their motivations for providing data might influence the data in a partisan way, it’s best to leave it alone. As always, it’s a good idea to consult experts in the field on what is the best source to use in verifying a claim.

Dinda Purnamasari: Since we already know that every data has their own nature, such as context, methodology, etc, we have established a standard for the secondary data that is used. Our first level of the source comes from the Government Statistic Bureau, Ministry/Local Government, company financial reports and the stock exchange. As a second layer, we use world organisations, verified and credible journals, consultants and research companies, as well the national or high reputation news agencies. Although, we have this standard, we also cross-check information by consulting with experts in the field, so that we use the best sources.

Tania Roettger: When we’re investigating a claim, one task is to understand what exactly a given piece of data is able to tell. We establish how and why it was collected, what it contains and it excludes. Usually we note the shortcomings of a statistic in the article. Whenever we are uncertain about the evidence we have gathered, we discuss the issue among our team.

Anim van Wyk: There’s no way round studying the methodology by which the data is collected. This must then be discussed with experts to get their input. And all data sources, even those considered reliable, have limitations, which has to be highlighted.

Reader question: What do you think about the potential of automated fact-checking?

Samar Halarnkar: I am sure it has immense potential, but this requires coding expertise that we do not currently have.

Tania Roettger: There are several ways in which automation could help the fact-checking process: extracting fact-checkable claims from speeches or sourcing relevant statistics and documents from a data-pool, for example. But so far we have not experienced or heard of a tool that would do our work for us.

Image: An overview of out automation could aid fact-checking from Understanding the promise and limits of automated fact-checking, by Lucas Graves.

Matt Martino: It’s an interesting area, but one which is currently undercooked. Parsing language is a big part of what we do at Fact Check, and machines are not yet capable of interpreting a great deal of the nuance in language. That being said, anything that allows greater access to the facts in a debate for audiences would be a good thing.

One area where there is already enormous potential is in searching for and identifying potential claims to check and key data on government website such as Hansard and budget papers.

I think that, like a lot of AI, there’s a long way to go, and we’ll be watching this space intently.

Anim van Wyk: The tools I’ve seen are helpful in monitoring important sources for claims to fact-check, such as transcripts from parliament. But I’m quite hesitant about fact-checks without any human intervention as nuance plays such a big role. The potential of getting it completely wrong when you are the one claiming to be correcting claims is not worth the potential credibility loss, in my opinion.

Dinda Purnamasari: It is very interesting, and could make the fact-checker’s work easier. But, for us, it is still long way to go. But, more importantly, to provide the context to data that I am sure is still hard to do by machine.

Reader Question: What are some of your go-to data tools?

Anim van Wyk: You’t can beat a good old spreadsheet. For illustration purposes, we keep it simple by using Datawrapper.

Samar Halarnkar: We use Tabula for extracting tables from PDFs. For analysis, we depend on Excel/Google Sheets and Tableau depending on the size and type of the dataset. For visualisation, we work primarily with Google Sheets, Datawrapper, Infogram and Tableau. We also use Google My Maps and CartoDB for some maps.

Matt Martino: We use Excel or Google spreadsheets for simple analyses; for more complex ones I use R Studio, which is more powerful and can handle much larger datasets. It requires coding knowledge, but the training is well worth it.

In terms of visualisation, we’ve tried many different platforms throughout the years, but Tableau Public has emerged as our go-to. Its abilities in formatting, design, calculation and visualisation are pretty much unrivalled in my opinion, and we’ve been able to create really interesting and rich visualisations using the platform, like those seen here and here.

Dinda Purnamasari: For analysis, we use excel, SPSS, and other statistical tools. It really depends on the purpose, size and type of our data and analysis. For visualisation, we use adobe illustrator, datawrapper, etc.

Want to participate in future ask me anythings? Sign up to the European Journalism Centre’s data newsletter here.

Mandela My Life is a welcome tribute to a hero, but avoids difficult questions

It is a welcome tribute to a hero, but  ‘Mandela My Life’ exhibition avoids difficult questions; Andrea Witcomb, Professor, Cultural Heritage and Museum Studies, Deakin University

Detail from Father of the Innocents, from the series, Mandela A Life’s Journey, by John Meyer.

Review: Mandela My Life, Melbourne Museum.


AIWA! NO!//The desire to eulogise, as often appears to be the case in this exhibition, does not allow space for questions that might allow for a fuller explication of the nature of Mandela’s legacy and its relevance beyond South Africa.

What is the role of commemorative exhibitions that focus on the life of a single change agent I asked myself, as I viewed Melbourne Museum’s latest blockbuster, Mandela My Life: The Official Exhibition.

The result of an international collaboration between Museums Victoria, the Nelson Mandela Foundation and IEG exhibitions, the exhibition is billed as a major international event that “will commemorate, illuminate and most importantly share Nelson Mandela’s living legacy with the world” on the centenary of his birth.

At first glance I doubted that these aims could be achieved. The tone of the exhibition could be accused of being hagiographic, given the ostensible reason for the exhibition – to celebrate the centenary of Mandela’s birth – as well as its narrative structures, which blended Mandela’s own words with the editorialising of the Mandela Foundation. This lent support to the claim that this exhibition was the “official” version of how to interpret the meaning of Mandela’s life.

Keith Bernstein

Read more: Revisiting Nelson Mandela’s roots: a photographic exploration


Organised chronologically, the exhibition follows Mandela’s life. It begins with his birth in the Transkei region of South Africa, where he was initiated into his tribe’s traditional cultural practices and knowledge systems and attended a mission school.

The exhibition then follows him as he decides to leave his homeland for Johannesburg, where his experiences under apartheid radicalised him, leading on towards his role as a leader in the African National Congress, and his eventual imprisonment. His resilience while in prison and his leadership of the new post-apartheid South Africa led him to become the revered figure he is today.

This simple chronological narrative is given emotive force by three elements that come into play.

The first of these is the sound of Mandela’s voice at key moments. These include his famous Rivonia Trial speech in which he stated that he was prepared to die for the anti-apartheid movement.

Others are his memories of his childhood in the Transkei, his reflections on his time in prison, and his speech when he was freed, where his conciliatory approach to ending apartheid set the tone for what was to follow. Mandela’s voice guides us through the exhibition, supported by a rich display of personal photographs, letters and personal objects carefully preserved by the Mandela Foundation.

Boxing glove signed by Muhammad Ali.
Nelson Mandela Foundation. Photo: Jon Augier/Museums Victoria

These are then contrasted with the evidence of apartheid from material borrowed or reproduced from other collections and media organisations, which provides the second element. The role of these sources is to lend authority to the human rights claim that apartheid was an unjust system – they are the evidence of what goes wrong when equality between humans is not respected.

The third element is the visitor – a visitor who already knows the end of the story and believes in its righteousness. Mandela was on the right side of history.

None of this is wrong of course. But the desire to eulogise, as often appears to be the case in this exhibition, does not allow space for questions that might allow for a fuller explication of the nature of Mandela’s legacy and its relevance beyond South Africa.

Read more: Centenary of Nelson Rolihlahla Mandela’s birth: a tribute in poems

For instance, the final gallery shows a series of 16 paintings by John Myer, retelling Mandela’s life story and giving body to South African’s pride in the achievements of this extraordinary man. This could have been the moment, however, when his legacy could have been broadened out and key themes explored and thus gone beyond the outpouring of grief on his death, captured by the 95 messages of condolence, one for each year of his life – available in the penultimate gallery via a table full of telephone handsets.

Melbourne MuseumPrepared to Die, from the series Mandela A Life’s Journey, by John Meyer.

Beyond the obvious answer – he was a hero who fought apartheid and won – what is it that those fighting for human rights can learn? What are the difficult questions his activism raises for those fighting on behalf of the oppressed? And, finally, are there other contexts in which his life might have meaning?

In an Australian context, some of the answers were alluded to in the speeches on opening night, which pointed to the relevance of Mandela’s activism for Australians fighting for Indigenous rights. Such speeches go some way towards explaining why the Melbourne Museum, which is aligned with human rights museums and whose First Peoples Gallery is an eloquent articulation of the need for treaty, is host to this exhibition.

But I would also argue that Mandela’s life is relevant to all of us at this particular juncture in time – a time when we need to hang on to the hope that change is both necessary and possible and that the actions of ordinary, everyday people can bring it about. This is as true for situations of unequal power relations as for other complex problems, such as what to do about climate change.

Mandela was an extraordinary man – but he was also supported by many others, both within and outside South Africa, all of whom believed in the necessity of change. Mandela is important because we need to have figures who show us that hope, resilience and leadership is still possible when those values are valued by all of us.

The exhibition does not make these points itself – but perhaps it is enough that such points can be made by those who visit it and reflect upon it. Even so, I wish there was less emphasis on the authorised, official nature of the exhibition, which, for me, closed down the potential for some really interesting discussions on the nature of change and how to achieve it.


Mandela My Life is being exhibited at the Melbourne Museum until March 3 2019.The Conversation

Andrea Witcomb, Professor, Cultural Heritage and Museum Studies, Deakin University

African oil boom can offer ‘opportunities’ for Scotland’s North Sea oil sector

Africa is one of the fastest-growing economies in the world. Picture: AFP/Getty Images
Africa is one of the fastest-growing economies in the world. Picture: AFP/Getty Images

TOM PETERKI (THE SCOTSMAN)AIWA! NO!//Scotland’s North Sea sector can take advantage of the “vast opportunities” offered by oil and gas exploration in Africa, one of Theresa May’s trade commissioners has said.

Scotland’s North Sea sector can take advantage of the “vast opportunities” offered by oil and gas exploration in Africa, one of Theresa May’s trade commissioners has said.

Emma Wade-Smith, newly appointed HM Trade Commissioner for Africa, says exporting Scottish energy expertise will be key trade strategy in the post-Brexit era.

HM Trade Commissioner for Africa, Emma Wade-Smith

On a visit to Scotland to promote trade links, Wade-Smith said the industry developed in Aberdeen should capitalise on the burgeoning oil and gas development in Africa which is creating a market worth billions of pounds.

Wade-Smith’s trip to Scotland follows May’s recent trade mission to South Africa, Kenya and Nigeria to promote global trade after Brexit.

Image result for emma wade smith
British Prime Minister Theresa May and Kenya President Uhuru Kenyatta, Nairobi – KENYA

Speaking to Scotland on Sunday, Wade-Smith said Africa was one of the fastest-growing economies in the world, creating opportunities for Scottish business.

She said Scottish expertise should be harnessed to help countries like Senegal and Mauritania, who are starting out on oil and gas oil production.

It could also be used in countries like Angola and Nigeria where oil exploration is well-established.

Emma Wade-Smith Retweeted Department for International Trade

As Her Majesty’s Trade Commissioner for Africa I know Africa is alive with business opportunities. My Africa Trade is here to help UK companies interested in doing business in Africa. DM me or email DITAfricaTrade@mobile.trade.gov.uk for more

Emma Wade-Smith added,

“There is a huge amount of expertise and experience clearly in the oil and gas industry in Aberdeen,” she said. “So it is how do we take that to support countries across Africa in their own efforts to build an oil and gas capability? Also how do we use that experience and technological innovation to help African countries avoid some of the potential pitfalls of creating that domestic capability?”

She added: “There are vast opportunities for Scottish companies across the entire industry and supply chain to grow their businesses.”

Scottish expertise includes drillers, fitters and those involved with training. It also includes a host of supply chain enterprises which provide items such as equipment and clothing for an industry that has been hit by the falling oil price in recent years.”

Oil & Gas UK upstream policy director Mike Tholen said: “Embracing the opportunities available in the international export market could unlock an additional £150 million in the revenue of supply chain companies. It shows why industry, government and the regulator must put their shoulder to the wheel in pursuit of Vision 2035.”

South Africa’s Constitutional Court Legalises Private Use Of Cannabis

South Africa’s top court legalises private use of cannabis

The Constitutional Court has ordered the parliament to draft new laws within 24 months to reflect the order.

South Africa's top court legalises private use of cannabis
Members of the Rastafarian movement and traditional healers greeted the ruling with loud applause [File: Reuters]

CRIMSON TAZVINZWA//South Africa’s highest court has legalised the private use of marijuana, upholding a lower court’s ruling that found the criminalisation of cannabis was unconstitutional.

In delivering the Constitutional Court’s unanimous verdict, Deputy Chief Justice Raymond Zondo on Tuesday declared the law banning marijuana use in private by adults “is unconstitutional and therefore invalid”.

“It will not be a criminal offence for an adult person to use or be in possession of cannabis in private for his or her personal consumption,” he said in Johannesburg.

The court also ordered parliament to draft new laws within 24 months to reflect the order.

However, the judgement did not specify the amount that can be used by an adult in private use.

Activists, including members of the Rastafarian movement and traditional healers, greeted the ruling with loud applause.

Outside, pro-cannabis campaigners lit pipes and rolled joints to celebrate the news, filling the air with the distinctive aroma of marijuana.

“I’m happy I won’t be getting any more criminal records for possession,” Ruaan Wilson, 29, told AFP before pausing for a puff.

“Now, we can get police to focus on real drugs and thugs,” he added.

Activists held marches over the years to demand that the law be changed [File: Reuters]

A court in Western Cape had ruled in March 2017 that a ban on cannabis use by adults at home was unconstitutional, a move that effectively decriminalised it in the province, which includes Cape Town.

But the ministers of justice, police, health and trade challenged that finding, arguing that there was “objective proof of the harmful effects of cannabis”.

Activists have held marches over the years to demand that the law be changed to allow people to smoke “weed”, which is called “dagga” in South Africa.

But opponents fear crime connected to drug abuse and users graduating to harder drugs.

File: Results from the latest NOI Poll showed that 9 in 10 Nigerians believe the highest abusers of drugs and substance are teenagers and young adults aged between 15 and 29 years old.It has also emerged true from this poll that the most abused substance in Nigeria is marijuana.
Read more at: https://www.vanguardngr.com/2018/09/s-africas-top-court-legalises-personal-private-cannabis-use/

They also cite medical research which suggests a link between heavy use of marijuana and psychotic disorders such as schizophrenia.

The country’s Medical Research Council has already launched trials to help guarantee quality, consistency and standards, according to local media.

“We have used cannabis to treat anxiety, colic in children and as an antiseptic in secret for many years,” said Phephsile Maseko, of the Traditional Healers Organisation.

“Now we will be able to develop the plant even further.”

Previously, possessing, growing or using marijuana for personal use – even in small quantities – exposed users to fines of up to hundreds of dollars as well as jail time. Penalties for selling it were far higher.

ZIMBABWE PRESIDENTIAL RESULTS: Emmerson Mnangagwa ‘win’ means “aluta continua, the struggle continues,” MDC supporter

Zimbabwe’s opposition on Friday rejected what it said were the “fake” results of the landmark election in which President Emmerson Mnangagwa has been declared the winner.

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Mnangagwa win means ‘aluta continua’ in Zimbabwe

Zimbabwe woke to the news that Mnangagwa, a former ally of Robert Mugabe, had won the historic first polls since the autocrat’s ousting last year with 50.8% of the vote, according to the electoral commission.

The narrow margin is just enough to avoid a run-off against opposition leader Nelson Chamisa that would have been called if Mnangagwa had won less than 50% of the vote.

Chamisa dismissed what he called the election’s “unverified fake results”.

“ZEC must release proper & verified results endorsed by parties,” he wrote on Twitter, referring to the Zimbabwe Election Commission.

“The level of opaqueness, truth deficiency, moral decay & values deficit is baffling.”

Mnangagwa, who was chosen as Mugabe’s successor in the ruling Zanu-PF party after he was removed in a brief military intervention in November, hailed his victory as a “new beginning” for Zimbabwe.

“Though we may have been divided at the polls, we are united in our dreams,” he said on Twitter.

Opposition allegations of foul play had already sparked a deadly crackdown on protesters in the capital Harare on Wednesday when troops opened fire, killing six.

Soldiers and police had cleared the city centre on Thursday as the government vowed not to tolerate any more protests, but on Friday the streets were crowded with their usual traffic and commuters were heading to work as normal.

An army truck and water cannon were however parked outside MDC headquarters.

Celebrations by Zanu-PF supporters were also muted, though in the suburb of Mbare music blared from a car covered with party posters.

“This is a new Zimbabwe, we are happy,” said Tendai Mugadzi, a 32-year-old IT specialist.

He was not worried that Mnangagwa had won by only the slimmest of margins, adding: “It just shows that this was a free and fair election.”

Fresh start?

Analysts EXX Africa said they expected the situation to calm over the next few weeks, with big protests unlikely “due to the heavy-handed security crackdown in the capital and other cities”.

“Despite the mixed response on the elections process from international observers, there is little actual evidence to demonstrate the opposition’s claims of mass vote tampering,” they said in a briefing note.

“Over the next few weeks, the fall-out over the elections will subside and allow the government to begin to repair its tarnished reputation in order to secure fresh investments and debt relief,” they predicted.

Since independence from Britain in 1980, Zimbabwe has known only two presidents – Mugabe, who ruled with an iron fist for 37 years, and his erstwhile right-hand man Mnangagwa, who was appointed after Mugabe was forced out by the military in November last year.

The new president had promised a free and fair vote that would turn the page on years of brutal repression under Mugabe, end Zimbabwe’s international isolation and attract foreign investment to revive the shattered economy.

But Chamisa has repeatedly alleged that the vote was rigged, charging that the ZEC – synonymous with fraud under Mugabe – had again helped Zanu-PF to steal an election.

An MDC spokesperson said early on Friday that the party was planning to take the outcome to the courts.

‘Un-level playing field’

Turnout was high at over 80% in most of the country’s 10 provinces.

In the parliamentary election, also held on Monday, Zanu-PF won easily.

Before the violence, European Union observers declared they found an “un-level playing field” that stacked various factors in Zanu-PF’s favour, including heavy coverage by state media.

“It means our suffering will continue,” Emion Chitsate, a security guard at a shopping centre in the Waterfalls district of Harare, said of the result.

“It’s the same Zanu-PF which brought us to where we are.”

Under Mugabe’s rule, elections were often marred by fraud and deadly violence.

But ZEC chairperson Priscilla Chigumba, a high court judge, has in recent days flatly rejected allegations of bias and rigging.

Mnangagwa was the clear election front-runner, benefitting from tacit military support and state resources. But Chamisa, a lawyer and pastor, sought to tap into the youth and urban vote.

Mnangagwa was allegedly involved in violence and intimidation during the 2008 elections when then opposition leader Morgan Tsvangirai pulled out of the run-off after attacks claimed the lives of at least 200 of his supporters.

The president must now tackle mass unemployment and an economy shattered by the Mugabe-backed seizure of white-owned farms, the collapse of agriculture, hyperinflation and an investment exodus.

Previously solid health and education services are in ruins and millions have fled abroad to seek work.

South Africa: 11 taxi drivers killed in ambush

A gunman in South Africa opened fire on a minibus carrying members of a taxi drivers’ association, killing 11 and critically wounding four others, according to a statement from the South African police service.

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South Africa transport minibus station

The attack happened on Saturday night when the taxi drivers were coming back from a colleague’s funeral, said local authorities.

The taxi drivers — who were from the central Gauteng province — were heading back to Johannesburg.

The ambush took place between the towns of Coleno and Weenen in the coastal South African province of KwaZulu-Natal.

Police are still investigating the motive for the ambush and working on identifying the suspects.

Rivalry between minibus taxi driver groups fighting for control of routes in South Africa has turned violent in the past.

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Family members of police who died on duty lay wreaths in remembrance of their loved ones

Ten people were killed in violence related to rivalries among minibus taxi drivers in Cape Town in May, South African media reported.

Land: The people speak – We are all Africans, Rustenburg residents say

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South Africa’s controversial Expropriation Bill, which will enable the state to make compulsory purchases of land to redress racial disparities in land distribution

Members of the Rustenburg community and those in surrounding areas have had their turn to share their views on the highly-emotive land issue, and most of them support an amendment to the Constitution to allow expropriation without compensation.

Only a handful were against the move.

Stories about life in the villages, on the farms and under traditional leaders in the platinum-rich province formed the basis of the opinions shared by residents, who spoke for three minutes each.

“Who will protect you next time?” Cheryl Phillips asked in a packed Rustenburg Civic Centre.

She said currently, black people were saying that land should be expropriated from white people but wondered what would happen in the future.

Phillips, who was one of the few people against the amendment of Section 25 of the Constitution, said there was nothing wrong with the Constitution. Instead, the ANC government had failed the people, she said.

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Illegal land grab on the increase in South Africa

She also argued that, as a white person, she deserved to be called an African.

LAND OVERVIEW: Section 25, to amend or not – the people continue to speak

“We want ownership of land. We don’t want to be tenants on anybody’s land… How far back do you want to go to draw the line? We can go as far back as the cradle of humankind which showed that we are all Africans,” she told the hall.

Although the Rustenburg sitting was less heated than the one in Mahikeng the previous day, some members of the public booed and made their voices heard when views they did not agree with were expressed.

Nkateko Mabunda, who agreed with Phillips, said expropriating land without compensation was “not empowerment but enslavement”.

Mabunda said her parents already had land and she would never accept it being expropriated from them.

“Le palelwa ke King Zwelithini ko KwaZulu-Natal (You are struggling to deal with King Goodwill Zwelithini in KwaZulu Natal),” Mabunda said to the ANC and EFF members in the house.

Her comment comes after the ANC and the government took swift action to allay the fears of both King Zwelithini and several traditional leaders over tribal land that might be expropriated.

Their view was also reiterated by Simon Aphane, who said he and his family had benefited from Section 25.

“It is just the ANC that is lazy. Even its former president was called a constitutional delinquent, which shows that they didn’t know what they were talking about,” Aphane said to the room.

Aphane mentioned chair of the National Council of Provinces Thandi Modise’s farm where animals were neglected.

“Thandi Modise inherited the people’s land, a farm and pigs, which died. She would just give land to her people,” he claimed.

Resident Deon Geldenhuys insisted that the land debate was merely a legal issue and was racist.

“Racism in the Constitution is outlawed. Taking land from white people is racist, it’s illegal,” said Geldenhuys.

He asked the hall if people were truly comfortable with the idea of changing Section 25, adding that people would have land but not really own it.

However, people like Rabosweni Malele who agreed with land expropriation without compensation expressed some concern over how this would be achieved.

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“I want to agree with expropriation without compensation but because of this province’s corruption, I have a problem,” Malele told members of the public.

“If they can take people who are not traditional leaders and make them traditional leaders [so they benefit], that opens a gap for corruption in the process,” he said.

Malele said he wanted the government to establish ways to ensure the process was not corrupted in order to make sure land was returned to its rightful owners.

Read more on:    land expropriation  |  land
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