A men’s forum has called on government, traditional leaders and communities to take an uncompromising stand in ending the ‘murder’ of initiates, as the number of deaths reached 25. Working under the banner of the Takuwani Riime Men’s Movement, the ‘culturally and religiously diverse’ group said in a press statement that the ‘murders of innocent initiates in the name of cultural practice’ had to be stopped. The group said it supported the work of the Commission for the Promotion and Protection of the Rights of Cultural, Religious and Linguistic Communities (CRL Rights Commission) to immediately suspend the traditional initiation season in all the affected regions in South Africa ‘until all measures in place are satisfactory so that no more lives will be lost’. A strengthening of the multi-stakeholder plan of action was also needed, said the forum, as was mobilisation of affected communities to prevent deaths. ‘The proud heritage of an old age African practice is being systematically undermined by the continuing loss of African male lives; this is particularly disheartening in a day and age where there are readily available modern technologies and approaches that allow for safe circumcisions with minimal adverse events, let alone deaths, ‘ it said. Issues surrounding culture and tradition remained sensitive, said the forum, but should not negate the need to prevent deaths. ANA 2 (JERUSALEM, 27 DEC, AFP) – Embattled Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu declared a ‘huge’ victory today, after winning a leadership primary that ensures he will lead his right-wing Likud party into March elections. Israel’s longest-serving premier, who faces a corruption indictment and a third general election in twelve months, was expected to beat rival Gideon Saar but the convincing margin of victory strengthened his position in the party he has dominated for 20 years. With all votes counted, Likud announced early today that Netanyahu had secured 72.5 per cent, with Saar winning 27.5 per cent. Around 57 000 Likud members cast their ballots across the country yesterday, a little less than 50 per cent of those eligible. Saar, a former minister seen as to the right of Netanyahu, campaigned on the basis that the leader was no longer able to win elections after deadlocked polls in April and September. AFP 3 (TEHRAN, 27 DEC, AFP) – An earthquake struck Iran today less than 50 kilometres from the country’s only nuclear power plant in the southwest, monitors said. There were no immediate reports of any damage. The US Geological Survey said the 5.1 magnitude quake struck 44 kilometres southeast of Borazjan city and at a depth of 38 kilometres. Its reported epicentre is 45 kilometres east of the Bushehr nuclear power plant, and the Iranian Seismological Centre said in a preliminary report on its website that the strength of the quake was 4.9 magnitude. AFP 4 (MOSCOW, 27 DEC, AP) – A Kazakhstan plane with 100 people aboard crashed shortly after takeoff early today, killing at least 14 people while at least 35 others survived with injuries, officials in Almaty said. The Bek Air aircraft hit a concrete fence and a two-story building after takeoff from Almaty International Airport at 07h22 am local time. In a statement on its Facebook page, the airport said there was no fire and a rescue operation got underway immediately following the crash. The plane was flying to Nur-Sultan, the country’s capital formerly known as Astana. AP 5 (RIO DE JANEIRO, 27 DEC, XINHUA) – Brazil’s federal police indicted former President Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva yesterday for another case of corruption. The case involves donations made by construction company Odebrecht to the Lula Institute the former president founded after he left office. According to the federal police, the donations to the institute, which were made between December 2013 and March 2014 and amounted to 4 million reals (1 million US dollars), originated from an Odebrecht account habitually used to pay bribes. Lula, the Lula Institute’s head Paulo Okamoto, and former Finance Minister Antonio Palocci were charged with corruption and money laundering. Lula’s defence lawyers said that the accusations do not make any sense, as the supposed bribes were paid when Lula had not been in office for years, adding that the donations were normal and regular, with an identified origin and not related to any commitment. Lula’s last term ended in 2010. XINHUA

Source: African News Agency