South Africa new visa rules: Paranoia or security?

  • 1 June 2015
  • From the section Africa
Table mountain (file photo)
Table Mountain is one of South Africa's major tourist attractions

Is it a bold move to fight child trafficking and protect South Africa's borders? Or a paranoid gamble that will damage one of the country's most important industries and add to soaring unemployment?

South Africa has introduced new rules, requiring any child crossing its borders to be in possession of - or to have earlier submitted during a visa application - a full, unabridged birth certificate.

"We're very, very worried," said Mmatsatsi Ramawela, head of the Tourism Business Council of South Africa.

"The world - countries like the US, France and the UK are all doing everything they can to attract [tourists] and we're doing the opposite.

"We think South Africa is going back - these regulations are so stringent, so in the past. We think South Africa should be learning," she said.

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South Africa's 'brazen cover-up' of Zuma's home upgrade

  • 29 May 2015
  • From the section Africa
South African President Jacob Zuma speaks during his State of the Nation address at the opening of parliament in Cape Town on 12 February
President Jacob Zuma will not have to repay state money spent to upgrade his private home

The offence itself was bad enough - an orgy of overspending by obsequious officials and conniving contractors who managed to spend 246m rand ($21.7m, £14.3m) of public money lavishly upgrading South African President Jacob's Zuma's private homestead, Nkandla.

That is nearly 10 times what taxpayers spent on Nelson Mandela's two homes, and 20 times what it cost to secure Thabo Mbeki's house.

Read full article South Africa's 'brazen cover-up' of Zuma's home upgrade

The shadowy centre helping former al-Shabab members quit

  • 24 May 2015
  • From the section Africa
inside the camp
Eighty former militants are housed in the camp

In a small, heavily guarded compound on the bullet-riddled outskirts of Baidoa, a secretive team is working to undermine Somalia's Islamist militant group, al-Shabab, from the inside.

"We can't just solve this militarily," said Aden Mohamed Hussein, ushering me past the soldiers at the gate.

Read full article The shadowy centre helping former al-Shabab members quit

Who was Somali suicide bomber Luul Dahir?

  • 23 May 2015
  • From the section Africa
A hotel in Mogadishu, Somalia
The managers of the Central Hotel attacked by a suicide bomber are uncertain about its future

She was, by almost all accounts, a rather wonderful woman - smart, helpful, and engaging - and a familiar presence behind the old-fashioned wooden reception counter in the Central Hotel's spacious lobby in the Somali capital, Mogadishu.

"We made a really good connection. She was very attentive, and was doing her job very well. One government minister I knew was ready to offer her a job," said a European official who sometimes stayed at the hotel in order to meet the many Somali politicians who had made it their home. He asked for his name not to be used for security reasons.

Read full article Who was Somali suicide bomber Luul Dahir?

Mogadishu's Lido beach: Sun, surf and... grenades?

  • 22 May 2015
  • From the section Africa
Lido beach, Mogadishu
Life is returning to normal in some parts of Mogadishu

Abdullah Mohammed Hassan climbed down from his perch, and strolled purposefully into the sea to rescue yet another bather who appeared to be struggling against big waves and a rocky, barbed-wire-infested shoreline at Lido beach, on the northern edge of the Somali capital, Mogadishu.

"We save people here every day," said the 46-year-old policeman - managing to sound both proud and chiding and the same time.

Read full article Mogadishu's Lido beach: Sun, surf and... grenades?

Somalia outrage at remittance bans

  • 21 May 2015
  • From the section Africa
A money transfer facility in Mogadishu
The large Somali diaspora uses money-transfer firms to support their families back home

Somalia's president has lashed out at the government of neighbouring Kenya - accusing it of a "heavy-handed" approach to regional security, and specifically criticizing Kenya's recent decision to clamp down on money transfer companies allegedly linked to the militant group, al-Shabab.

In an interview with BBC News, President Hassan Sheikh Mohamud described the remittance industry as "a lifeline" for millions of Somalis and for others across the region, and said "the massive closing of accounts, the closing of remittances" was counter-productive.

Read full article Somalia outrage at remittance bans

Somali defector: Why I left al-Shabab

  • 20 May 2015
  • From the section Africa

One of the most senior figures to defect from Somalia's al-Qaeda-linked militant group al-Shabab has urged his former colleagues to stop targeting civilians and to begin negotiations with the Somali government.

In his first interview with a foreign journalist, Zakariya Ahmed Ismail Hersi - who once had a $3m (£1.9m; €2.7m) bounty from the US government on his head - condemned al-Shabab's attack on Garissa University College in Kenya in April, where 148 students were killed.

Read full article Somali defector: Why I left al-Shabab

South Africa: What does Maimane's win mean for the DA?

  • 10 May 2015
  • From the section Africa
Mmusi Maimane, the newly elected leader of South Africa's main opposition party, gestures as he gives his maiden speech following his election in Port Elizabeth, South Africa, on 10 May 2015.
Mmusi Maimane is the first black leader of the Democratic Alliance

It is a milestone of sorts. For the first time in its democratic history South Africa has an official opposition led by a black person.

In that context, it is hard not to see the Democratic Alliance's (DA) election of Mmusi Maimane as its new leader as a significant step in the country's journey towards political maturity.

Read full article South Africa: What does Maimane's win mean for the DA?

Cecil Rhodes monument: A necessary anger?

  • 11 April 2015
  • From the section Africa
Students attack the defaced statue of British mining magnate and politician, Cecil John Rhodes, as it is removed by a crane from its position at the University of Cape Town on April 9, 2015, in Cape Town
Cecil Rhodes was a British diamond magnate, politician and unapologetic colonialist

It all started with some excrement.

One night last month, a student called Chumani Maxwele scooped some poo from one of the portable toilets that dot the often turbulent, crowded townships on the windswept plains outside Cape Town.

Read full article Cecil Rhodes monument: A necessary anger?

Kenya's stoic survivors defy al-Shabab

  • 5 April 2015
  • From the section Africa
Some of the Garissa University students who were rescued comfort each other at the Garissa military camp on 3 April 2015
Some of the Garissa University students who were rescued comfort each other

"Now I'm okay," was about all Cynthia Terotich could manage, as she sat in the casualty ward in Garissa's hospital.

She had been contemplating the 50 hours she'd just spent crushed inside a tiny cupboard, hidden beneath a pile of clothes, with nothing but a bottle of body lotion to try to quench a raging thirst.

Read full article Kenya's stoic survivors defy al-Shabab