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An outspoken ANC youth leader faces potential sanctions. A 9-year-old finds ape-man fossils. Tourists are wounded in a luxury train accident. The ANC’s investment arm stands to profit from a World Bank-financed coal plant. And Shakira’s official World Cup song is panned as clichéd.
Top News: Julius Malema, the embattled leader of the African National Congress youth wing, faced a party disciplinary hearing today over his recent headline-grabbing conduct. The hearing, which took place behind closed doors, is expected to continue next week. Malema has been accused of bringing the ANC into disrepute after praising Zimbabwean President Robert Mugabe and speaking out about murdered white supremacist leader Eugene Terre’Blanche, against party policy.
Malema also chewed out BBC journalist Jonah Fisher in a high-profile row. At a media briefing at ANC headquarters in Johannesburg, Malema called Fisher a “bastard” and a “bloody agent.” Fisher had interrupted Malema as he criticized the party of Zimbabwean Prime Minister Morgan Tsvangirai, Mugabe’s former opponent and now coalition government partner, for holding press conferences in Sandton, the wealthiest area of Johannesburg. Fisher pointed out that Malema himself lived in Sandton, sending the youth leader into a rage.
An on-air battle during which Andre Visagie, secretary-general of the AWB, the extreme right-wing group led by Terre’Blanche until his death last month, threatened political analyst Lebohang Pheko became a hit on YouTube. In the video, eTV news host Chris Maroleng intervenes in the fracas, repeatedly telling Visagie “don’t touch me on my studio,” which became a catchphrase-of-the-moment in South Africa.
Two fossil skeletons were found in caves near Malapa, north of Johannesburg. Scientists described them as members of a previously unknown species — named Australopithecus sediba — that may fit in the transition between “ape men” and humans. Lee Burger, a paleoanthropologist with the University of the Witwatersrand, led the team that made the discovery. He credits his nine-year-old son Matthew with the find. The significance of the discovery is being hotly debated by scientists.
A luxury tourist train derailed near Pretoria as it arrived from Cape Town, killing three employees, one of whom was pregnant, and injuring many of the 55 passengers, mostly American and European tourists. The South African railway safety regulator found that the train’s handbrakes were not on during a changeover from an electric locomotive to a steam locomotive for the final part of the journey.
Richard Goldstone, a former international war crimes prosecutor, was threatened with protests at his grandson’s bar mitzvah by South African Jewish groups angry over a U.N. report in which he accused Israel of war crimes in Gaza. In the end, after the standoff drew international attention from the U.S. to Israel, Goldstone was allowed to attend the coming of age ceremony without incident.
President Jacob Zuma revealed that he was HIV-negative at the launch of a new anti-AIDS campaign that aims to see 15 million South Africans tested for HIV by June 2011. Zuma’s test results sparked controversy, with some critics saying that his HIV negative status after having admitted to unprotected sex with a known HIV-positive woman, who accused him of rape in a high-profile 2006 case, will encourage unsafe practices.
Money: The ruling ANC party drew heat after news that its investment arm, Chancellor House Holdings, stood to profit from a major coal-fired power plant that is to receive funding from the World Bank. It was revealed that Chancellor House has a 25 percent stake in Hitachi Power Africa, which is providing the boilers for the plant. News of the contract, through which the ANC stands to make about $100 million, stirred up controversy in South Africa and Washington. Hitachi said it wasn’t aware that the ANC was behind Chancellor House.
Absa, the South African bank controlled by Barclays Plc, was found guilty of reckless lending in what was described as a landmark case. The bank had granted an 81-year-old pensioner in Port Elizabeth a loan despite knowing the installments would exceed his entire monthly income. The Port Elizabeth Magistrate's Court found that the issuing of the bond was reckless and the loan should be scrapped. Absa said it may appeal the court decision.
South Africa's economy was forecast to expand by about 3.4 percent this year, faster than previously predicted, according to the University of Stellenbosch-based Bureau for Economic Research. However the bureau warned that the rand, which strengthened 29 percent against the U.S. dollar last year, is “overvalued” and will probably weaken. The International Monetary Fund had predicted 2.6 percent growth for the South African economy, a promising outlook for a country still recovering from the recession. Growth will be moderated by high unemployment, tight credit and a strong rand, the IMF said.
Elsewhere: The official song of the 2010 World Cup in South Africa, sung by Colombian pop star Shakira and featuring South African band Freshlyground, was released to mixed reviews. The song, called “Waka Waka (This Time for Africa),” was criticized in Johannesburg’s The Star newspaper for lyrics “so clichéd they seem to have either been cobbled together from a collection of primary school poems or first team rugby pep talks,” while the song’s title, “Waka Waka,” was mockingly described as the sound made by Fozzie bear of the Muppets.
South Africa’s notorious criminals were warned that they will be in for a surprise when foreign soccer hooligans arrive for the World Cup. “[U]nlike crime-weary locals who usually submit to their attackers, violent football thugs are more likely to fight back,” said a story in The Times, a South African newspaper.