Forty South African members of parliament (MPs), past and present, were to be charged with fraud yesterday in the biggest corruption scandal in the country's post-apartheid history. \nThe 40 MPs -- 27 current and 13 former -- will be charged with illegally using parliamentary travel vouchers worth about US$2.82 million to pay for lavish trips for themselves and relatives, according to prosecutors. \nThe identities of those to be charged have not been revealed but it is known that most will be from the ruling African National Congress (ANC). Representatives from two other parties will also be charged. \nThe ANC claims the charges prove that President Thabo Mbeki's government is tough on corruption. \n"We will inform those to be charged in Cape Town and they will be told to appear in court immediately," Makhosini Nkosi, a prosecution spokesman, told the UK's Guardian newspaper. \n"Travelgate" was first exposed by South Africa's Sunday Times newspaper in July last year and is the largest corruption case since the country achieved majority rule in 1994. \nThe newspaper revealed how members of parliament used travel vouchers, issued by the government to allow them to visit their constituencies, to go on luxurious holidays unrelated to their work. \nConspiring with unscrupulous travel agents, some MPs allegedly inflated claims for their travel allowances and banked the surplus. Others reportedly gave free air tickets to relatives. \nSouth Africa's National Prosecuting Authority (NPA) questioned 135 MPs, representing almost every party in the 400-member national assembly. \nSeven employees of a travel agency have already been arrested and charged with fraud. \nTwo members of the DA have admitted guilt. The MP Craig Morkel repaid the equivalent of US$5,600. \nA former DA MP, Charles Redcliffe, admitted last year that he used the travel vouchers to take a US$2,800 cruise with his wife and to pay for his son's US$1,880 honeymoon near the Kruger game park.
A coronavirus-free tropical island nestled in the northern Pacific might seem the perfect place to ride out a pandemic, but residents on Palau said that life right now is far from idyllic. The microstate of 18,000 people is among a dwindling number of places on Earth that still report zero cases of COVID-19 as figures mount daily elsewhere. The disparate group also includes Samoa, Turkmenistan, North Korea and bases on the frozen continent of Antarctica. A dot in the ocean hundreds of kilometers from its nearest neighbors, Palau is surrounded by the vast Pacific Ocean, which has acted as a buffer against the
Dutch scientists have found the coronavirus in a city’s wastewater before COVID-19 cases were reported, demonstrating a novel early warning system for the disease. SARS-CoV-2 — the virus that causes COVID-19 — is often excreted in an infected person’s stool. Although it is unlikely that sewage will become an important route of transmission, the pathogen’s increasing circulation in communities would increase the amount of it flowing into sewer systems, Gertjan Medema and colleagues at the KWR Water Research Institute in Nieuwegein said on Monday. They detected genetic material from the coronavirus at a wastewater treatment plant in Amersfoort on March 5, before
TRUE TOLL? Some Chinese are skeptical about official data, particularly given the overwhelmed medical system and initial attempts to cover up the outbreak The long lines and stacks of urns greeting family members of the dead at funeral homes in Wuhan, China, are spurring questions about the true scale of casualties at the epicenter of the COVID-19 outbreak, renewing pressure on a Chinese government struggling to control its containment narrative. The families of those who succumbed to the coronavirus in the city, where the disease first emerged, were allowed to pick up their cremated ashes at eight funeral homes last week. As they did, photographs circulated on Chinese social media of thousands of urns being ferried in. Outside one funeral home, trucks shipped in about 2,500
‘LIKE A CASSANDRA’: Chinese residents of Prato went into self-imposed lockdown and warned their Italian neighbors about what was coming, but were ignored In the storm of infection and death sweeping Italy, one big community stands out to health officials as remarkably unscathed — the 50,000 ethnic Chinese who live in the town of Prato. Two months ago, the country’s Chinese residents were the target of what Amnesty International described as shameful discrimination, the butt of insults and violent attacks by people who feared that they would spread the coronavirus through Italy. However, in the Tuscan town of Prato, home to Italy’s single biggest Chinese community, the opposite has been true. Once scapegoats, they are now held up by authorities as a model for early,