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Africa for Haiti

Former Haitian President Artistide, exiled in South Africa, says he's ready to help Haiti rebuild. Mandela's wife urges Africans to help Haiti. Police and journalists clash over a news interview promising crime during the World Cup. Hearings on Eskom's rate hike end after three years. Internet usage is over ten percent for the first time. The Food and Allied Workers' Union is planning an anti-Coke campaign. Obama is the apparent reason for a rise in African tourism. And the ANC releases "day-glo snakeskin" jackets for party members.

Top News: Former Haitian president Jean Bertrand Aristide, who has been exiled in South Africa since 2004, told reporters in Johannesburg that he was ready to return to Haiti and help the country rebuild from the devastating earthquake. “As far as we are concerned, we are ready to leave today, tomorrow, at any time to join the people of Haiti, to share in their suffering, help rebuild the country,” he said at a news conference, tears streaming down his face. However, it is not known when or if he will return. Aristide, Haiti’s first democratically elected president was ousted in a popular revolt and now lives with his wife and two daughters in Pretoria.


South African rescue teams travelled to Haiti to help with relief efforts, while a campaign called Africa for Haiti, backed by Graca Machel, the wife of Nelson Mandela, urged Africans to get involved with the rebuilding of the shattered country.


Police clashed with journalists in a dispute over a TV news report in which two self-confessed criminals, whose faces were concealed, threatened to rob and kill tourists during the World Cup this year. The ETV report ignited a storm of controversy in South Africa and drew harsh words from the country’s police chiefs . Authorities are using apartheid-era laws to demand that the journalists involved identify their sources to police, a move that received support from the ruling African National Congress party. However, the subpoenaing of ETV journalists was criticized for infringing on press freedom. One of the two men from the news report was arrested and another man, who ETV said helped to set up the interview, committed suicide.


World Cup organizers are hoping that offering easier ways for South Africans to purchase World Cup tickets will boost flagging ticket sales for games involving African teams. Football fans in South Africa have complained that current procedures for buying tickets, either online or at bank branches, are too complicated because many people don’t have Internet access or live far from banks. South Africa’s World Cup chief Danny Jordaan expressed concern that few locals were buying tickets for South African national team Bafana Bafana, and said that for the first time in World Cup history the host country is not topping the ticket sales list.


South Africa’s national parks authority announced that it would start military patrols in Kruger National Park, which is world famous for its wildlife, after poachers killed 14 rhinos in the first two weeks of this year. Rhino poaching is on the increase in South Africa. The animals are killed for their horns, which are usually used in traditional medicines in Asia or for ornamental purposes.


Money: Public hearings on state-owned power utility Eskom’s proposed rate hike of 35 percent a year for the next three years came to a close. The price increase has been widely opposed in South Africa, with everyone from business leaders to human rights groups warning that it will hurt the country.  Meanwhile, Eskom’s recently ousted chief executive filed a suit against the energy supplier for R85 million, but said he would settle for his job back.


Internet usage in South Africa passed the 10 percent mark, or 5 million users, for the first time. The number of Internet users grew by 15 percent last year, from 4.6 million users to 5.3 million. A range of factors are cited for the record growth, including a new undersea cable to South Africa and more competitive packages being offered by large Internet service providers.


The Food and Allied Workers’ Union said that it is planning an anti-Coca-Cola campaign, focused on its sponsorship of the World Cup, after unsuccessful wage talks with Amalgamated Beverage Industries, the soft drinks division of South African Breweries (SAB). Some 2,500 ABI employees have been on strike for more than a month.


Travel industry experts said that the World Cup and the “Obama effect” are boosting tourism in Africa. Africa was the only continent to see an increase in tourism last year, with the number of international tourist arrivals rising by 5 percent, compared to a fall of 4 percent worldwide, mainly attributed to the economic crisis and swine flu.


Elsewhere: South Africa’s World Cup organizers are furious at a British company advertising anti-stab vests for fans attending the soccer championships in June. Organizers are sensitive about the suggestion of violent crime at the event.  The company’s website quotes crime statistics on South Africa, which has one of the highest murder rates in the world, and says that the vests can be customized with team colors or slogans. A local World Cup spokesman said that the vests were an “abominable money-making ploy using fear tactics.”


Football legend Diego Maradona, visiting South Africa, shrugged off security fears and praised the country’s World Cup preparations.


The ANC released a range of leather jackets for its party members in neon green, yellow and black, including a gaudy design described as “day-glo snakeskin” and another that resembles a marching band uniform. In a poll by the Independent Online, 86 percent of respondents said they would not buy a jacket.