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Archive for August 2012

Christians re-affirm support for Palestine

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By Hassan Isilow
Members of the Christian community in South Africa have reiterated their support for the Palestinian cause and condemned atrocities committed by Israeli forces in Palestine. “We condemn in the strongest terms what Israel is doing in Palestine,” Dr Stiaan Van der Merwe of Kairos Southern Africa said. “Given our history as Christians in South Africa, we believe what Israel is doing is equivalent to the crime of Apartheid.’’

According to Van der Merwe, Kairos SA felt it was their responsibility as Christians to speak out on the injustices being committed in Palestine, because many Christians were ignorant about what was happening in that country. “Many Christians have ignorantly justified what Israel is doing in Palestine without knowing the actual truth. Therefore we believe that it’s our duty to come out and tell them the real truth,” he stated.

When asked what challenges they faced as Christians campaigning against both Zionism and Christian Zionism, he said: “It is difficult to make people understand the difference between Israel, as it is portrayed in the Bible and given how it is being portrayed by the Israeli government. So I am trying to make people understand the difference between the two’’

Van der Merwe added that Christians in Palestine were not happy with the support that other Christians in the world were offering Israel since it allows that regime to continue with the brutal occupation of Palestine. The comment comes after the support shown recently by the African Christian Democratic Party to the Zionist lobby on the relabeling of Palestinian goods as made in Israeli.

“Christians in Palestine often say they can take the Israeli occupation and many other injustices, but what they can not take is the support given by global Christians to Israel in the face of the suffering they have to endure.” To watch the full interview log on to:

This story was earlier published on Voice of the Cape’s Website.


Written by africawitness

August 10, 2012 at 1:05 pm

Muslims welcome Ramadan

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Worshippers at the Somali mosque in Mayfair, Johannesburg perform their first Taraweeg(Night Prayers) at the start of Ramadan in July 2012. Photo: Hassan Isilow.

By Hassan Isilow
JOHANNESBURG – Muslims in Mayfair welcomed the holy month of Ramadan on Friday with great excitement and enthusiasm. Hundreds of believers congregated in the many mosques in the area to perform their first Taraweeg salaah (Night Prayers). Nearly all masajid (Mosques) in Mayfair and its environs were filled to capacity, as believers welcomed the holy month of fasting.
On Saturday afternoon worshippers at the Mayfair Jumah Masjid were seen handing out donations to a number of beggars who had gathered outside, knowing that this was a special time of the year for Muslims.”I love the month of Ramadan, because I never starve during this month. Muslims are so generous and they give out a lot of donations to the poor,” one of the beggars told Africa Witness. The start of the holy month of Ramadan has also brought Muslims of different backgrounds together. The Somali community that has been divided along ethnic and political lines is largely united during Ramadan. As a tradition, Somali ulema (Preachers) strongly advocate unity in their sermons.
On a different note, most restaurants run by Muslims in Mayfair and Fordsburg are closed during the day and only open at sunset when Muslims break fast. Ramadan is the holiest month on the Islamic calendar. During Ramadan, adult Muslims abstain from food, drink, smoking and sex between dawn and sunset.
The sick and those travelling are exempt from fasting especially if it poses health risks. Muslims dedicate their time during the holy month to be closer to Allah (God) through prayers, self-restraint and good deeds. Some South African mosques offer iftar (Food for breaking fast) to their worshippers. During Ramadan Muslim aid organizations in South Africa distribute cooked foods to the destitute and needy. Ramadan is a month when Muslims learn to develop self control and self inhibitions from rampant and uncontrolled pleasures. It is a month when Muslims forgive their enemies and hope to be forgiven.

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August 4, 2012 at 7:13 pm

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Government told to re-open refugee centers

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Refugees protest outside Home Affairs offices in Pretoria.

By Hassan Isilow

The Consortium for Refugees and Migrants in South Africa (CORMSA) has urged government to take 67 minutes to reconsider the closure of refugee reception centers in the country, following this week’s Mandela Day focus. “We call upon government to reconsider opening refugee reception centers they recently closed,” Gwada Majange, CORMSA media officer told Africa Witness.
She said the group used Mandela Day for this call because SA icon, Nelson Mandela, dedicated most of his life to serving humanity in different ways. However, government’s recent decision to close a number of refugee reception centers in various cities had presented a crisis situation for the protection and preservation of the asylum system in South Africa.
“The refugee reception centre in Crown Mines (Johannesburg) was closed and now the Port Elizabeth office is operating partially, while the Cape Town office also closed. So where does government expect the refugees in these areas to go and renew their papers?” she questioned, adding that it will be expensive for refugees to travel to the country’s border posts to do so.
To make matters worse, Majange said, government had also passed a policy that denies prospective asylum seekers the right to do so at the country’s ports of entry. According to CORMSA, this policy made it difficult particularly for refugee families who were separated during flights and sought to reunite upon arrival in South Africa. These families faced a huge struggle to link their files at Home Affairs as officials there sent them back and forth, she added.
CORMSA held a protest march outside the Marabastad Refugee reception office in Pretoria on 19 June on the eve of World Refugee Day with the aim of highlighting the new government policy on refugees. When asked if the protests had yielded any response from government, Majange said: “Not as yet, but we will continue with our campaigns. Hopefully it will yield success’’ she said.

Written by africawitness

August 4, 2012 at 6:54 pm

Cape Town, most xenophobic city-Survey

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A xenophobic mob descends on homes of foreigners living in Alexandra Township, determined to drive them out.Agencies

By Hassan Isilow

In the past most foreign nationals preferred to live and work in the Western Cape because of the province’s renowned hospitality, but a new survey indicates that things have changed. The survey conducted by Pondering Panda was aimed at finding out how South Africans felt about foreigners running small Shops or (spazas) in the country.
According to Butch Rice, spokesperson for the research company, they interviewed 5,641 adult South African nationals from different demographic groups. 46% of respondents agreed that foreigners should be allowed to operate spaza shops while 44% were against foreigners running businesses with 10% being undecided. The majority of respondents in the Western Cape reportedly objected to the idea of foreigners running businesses, followed by the North West province.
Rice said poorer communities were most opposed to foreign businesses compared to the wealthier communities. The research also found that men were more opposed to foreigners running businesses compared to females. “About 48% of men felt that foreign run spazas should be stopped, compared to 40% of women,” said Rice.
Older people also responded negatively towards foreign owned businesses, compared to younger people. “About 54% of those aged 35 years and older were negatively disposed, compared to 43% of those aged between 18 and 24. Negative perceptions were uniform across racial groups,” the research stated. Rice added that the findings of this survey corroborate that SA was facing a very real threat of xenophobia.
Meanwhile, the attacks on foreigners continue in the Western Cape with an 18 year old Somali shopkeeper being shot and killed in Cape Town two weeks ago. In another incident, a 41 year old Somali truck driver was shot in Delft last week. Elsewhere in Mitchells Plain foreign shop owners found their spaza shops attacked with petrol bombs in what researchers say was a new trend that saw gangs extorting protection money from foreign shopkeepers.

Written by africawitness

August 4, 2012 at 6:36 pm

Africa Muslims Agency needs your support

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By Hassan Isilow
As the winter season gets colder, Africa Muslims Agency (AMA) is calling on Muslims to contribute R270 for their winter warmth campaign, targeting the underprivileged. According to AMA regional director, Hassan Choonara, their campaign is meant to help those who can not afford to buy winter necessities like blankets.
“Many underprivileged South Africans sleep in the cold during the winter season because they can not afford to buy blankets. So we are appealing to Muslims to contribute generously to this campaign so that we can help these people get warm this winter,” Choonara said, adding that their winter warmth packs includes a blanket, gloves, scarves and earmuffs for four members of a family.
Besides the winter campaign, AMA has also initiated its Ramadan feeding scheme. The humanitarian organization – which supports Islamic works in 34 African countries – also welcomes sponsorships for building mosques across the continent, along with boreholes and water wells in some of Africa’s worst affected areas. In a different project, donors are encouraged to sponsor an Eid gift for an orphan. AMA currently takes care of 10,000 orphans.
Choonara, who recently returned from famine-hit Somalia, said his organization had started a repatriation programme where they relocated thousands of Somalis who had earlier fled from their villages to the capital city Mogadishu because of famine. “We have given seeds to the people we repatriated as they returned to their villages where they can start cultivating their lands in places where the rains have started to fall,” he related. Elsewhere, AMA started a water catchment process to help farmers and households in drought stricken regions.
Besides, offering humanitarian assistance, AMA also runs the Simad University in Mogadishu, Somalia, which trains thousands of students. “After these students graduate from this university, we sponsor them for their Masters and PhD courses at international universities in Malaysia and other Muslim countries. Alhamdulillah, whenever they complete their studies they return to Somalia and serve their communities,” Choonara said.
To donate to any of these projects, contact AMA on 011-834 8685/6, or visit their website for more details at

Written by africawitness

August 4, 2012 at 6:20 pm

MSF team fights Ebola outbreak in Uganda

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MSF team fights Ebola outbreak in Uganda

Headlines of all Major newspapers in Uganda focused on the hemorrhagic fever (Ebola) which has killed 16 people in the country. The Ebola outbreak, was confirmed by the Ugandan government on 28 July. Meanwhile,an emergency team from the international medical humanitarian organisation Médecins Sans Frontières(MSF) is in Kigadi,western Uganda to help fight the outbreak . Other MSF teams in Uganda are also closely monitoring the situation.

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August 3, 2012 at 10:05 am

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