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Bad timing for a new police policy

A new TV show attempts to curb crime. The reinstatement of a shoot-to-kill police policy is debated, with killings by police at a ten-year high. An order for Airbus planes exceeds the defense budget. Charges are dropped against white students who urinated into food served to black cleaners. Nearly one in three women are infected with HIV. The Caster Semenya Support Task Team wants an apology for South Africa. Manufacturing and retail sales are down. Beer sales fall three percent. And the nation's capitol will be referred to as "Tshwane" at the World Cup.

Top News: After recently issued crime statistics showed that some violent crimes, including home robberies, actually increased in the previous year, South Africa’s police forces vowed to get tough on criminals. First step: a new crime prevention TV show. Meanwhile, the debate continued over the reinstatement of a shoot-to-kill policy for police officers. President Jacob Zuma supports it, but the timing couldn’t be worse. The policy comes after police accidentally shot and killed a young woman, mistaking her for a carjacker.


A new study revealed that killings by police are at a 10-year high, with a level close to those reached in 1976 at the height of a wave of anti-apartheid riots. During the past fiscal year, police killed 556 people, including 32 innocents, according to a study by the Independent Complaints Directorate.


Jackie Selebi, the country’s former top cop, is currently on trial for corruption. The state’s main witness in the trial is Selebi’s former friend, a convicted drug lord who is also accused of murdering a mining magnate and who has admitted to lying “from time to time.”


South Africa’s parliament got a shocker when it was told that the cost for eight Airbus military freight planes it ordered from Airbus had almost tripled from $2.4 billion to $6.4 billion, a sum that is superior to South Africa’s annual defense budget. The manufacturer of the A400M planes denied the price increase was that high but refused to disclose the exact price tag, saying negotiations with the South African government were ongoing. The increase seems to be due in part to maintenance costs that hadn’t been factored in initially.


Jonathan Jansen, the first black Vice-Chancellor of the University of the Free State, stirred a contentious debate when he decided to withdraw charges against four white students who had urinated in the food served to the university’s black cleaners. The racist incident, which was filmed, shocked a nation eager to move toward a non-racist society. The ruling African National Congress condemned Jansen’s move, saying it would not lead to reconciliation, but harden racial attitudes around the country.


The prevalence of HIV infections among South African pregnant women appears to be stabilizing, but remains shockingly high, according to a new survey. According to data released by the health ministry, the incidence of HIV among pregnant women dropped only slightly to 29.3 percent last year, compared with 29.4 percent in 2007.


After tackling chronic unemployment and poverty, returning the country to economic growth and solving South Africa’s health crisis, the ruling party has added a new challenge to its long list of priorities: supporting Caster Semenya, the South African runner whose gender has been questioned. The ANC created the Caster Semenya Support Task Team whose first task will be to call on the International Association of Athletics Federations to apologize to the nation for a botched gender verification process that has affected “the entire leadership of the country negatively.” Official results of the gender tests conducted on the runner, who won the 800-meter race at the world championships this summer, haven’t been released yet.


Money: The latest government statistics appeared to dash hopes that the end to South Africa’s first recession in 17 years was just around the corner. Statistics South Africa said that manufacturing output dropped 15 percent in August, compared with the same month last year. The trend is still going downward as manufacturing had decreased a more modest 13.7 percent in July. There wasn’t much relief on the consumer front as retail sales fell 7 percent in August, which was much worse than analysts had expected. Retail sales had slipped 4.1 percent in July.


The belt tightening by consumers was confirmed by global brewer SABMiller, which dominates the South African beer market. In a trading update for the six-month period that ended in September, SABMiller said that beer sales fell 3 percent in South Africa. On the African continent as a whole, beer sales for the group actually rose 3 percent over the same period.


The South African Revenue Service announced that it would show no mercy for defaulting taxpayers in an attempt to bridge an estimated $9.5 billion tax revenue shortfall. For the previous fiscal year, more than 5.3 million South Africans failed to file their tax returns on time, and 81,000 of them were legally prosecuted.


Elsewhere: Place names play an important role in the construction of a new South African identity. White Afrikaners often want to cling to town names that the black majority is eager to drop. The result is a lot of confusing road signs and tedious compromises where one name refers to a city while another designates the encompassing metropolitan area. In the latest installment, a regional high court ruled that signs welcoming visitors to the nation’s capital during next year’s soccer World Cup could drop the name “Pretoria” in favor of the new “Tshwane.” AfriForum, a group that defends the interests of the white minority, called the ruling “unfortunate.”