As it was in medieval Hamelin, so it is today in the South African township of Alexandra: wherever you go, you are never far from a rat.
Yet residents of the Johannesburg suburb have been offered a deal unavailable in the era of the Pied Piper — a free mobile phone for every resident who catches 60 of the rodents.
Alexandra has just turned 100 years old and was the young former South African president Nelson Mandela’s first home when he moved to Johannesburg. Its cramped shacks and illegal rubbish dumps sit in brutal contrast with neighboring Sandton, dubbed the wealthiest 3km3 in Africa.
The crumbling structures, leaking sewage and discarded piles of rotting food, are a perfect breeding ground for rats. There have reportedly been cases of children’s fingers being bitten while they sleep.
In an attempt to fight back, city officials have distributed cages and the mobile phone company 8ta has sponsored the volunteer ratcatchers.
Resident Joseph Mothapo says he has won two phones and plans to get all his family.
“It’s easy,” he told South Africa’s Mail & Guardian newspaper, wielding a large cage containing rats. “You put your leftover food inside and the rats climb in, getting caught as the trap door closes.”
However, there were signs that the PR stunt could backfire, as animals rights activists criticized the initiative on social networks.
On Monday, South African mobile network provider 8ta denied responsibility for the initiative. It said it was a long-time sponsor of a charity called Lifeline, which had handed out the phones.
“You will have to ask Lifeline why they decided to use these promotional products,” 8ta spokesman Pynee Chetty said. “They do a lot of good community work, including in Alexandra. They used the promotional material to incentivize members of the community. I wasn’t aware this is how they were going to resolve the problem [of rats].”
He added: “We won’t distance ourselves from Lifeline. It is a charity that does a lot of good work and our support for them is steadfast.”
Local councilor Julie Moloi told the Mail & Guardian there had been no choice but to carry out the drastic experiment.
“We are afraid these rats will take over Alex and it will become a city of rats,” she said.
Henry Tong (湯偉雄) and Elaine To (杜依蘭) were preparing to spend their first wedding anniversary in separate prison cells until their acquittal for rioting during Hong Kong’s pro-democracy protests. There were gasps and tears of relief in court on Friday last week as a judge declared prosecutors had failed to prove that the couple took part in clashes with police in July last year. The pair walked free in a ruling that has potential consequences for hundreds of other protesters facing similar charges. However, they have a long journey ahead as they try to rebuild their lives and business. “We have already been punished,”
WARNINGS OVER COMPLACENCY: The curves of new infections in numerous countries is climbing, while others see the the first new infections in months Spikes in COVID-19 infections in Asia have dispelled any notion that the region might be over the worst, with Australia and India yesterday reporting record daily infections, Vietnam fretting over a new surge and North Korea urging vigilance. Asian nations had largely prided themselves on rapidly containing initial outbreaks after the coronavirus emerged in central China late last year, but flare-ups this month have shown the danger of complacency. “We’ve got to be careful not to slip into some idea that there’s some golden immunity that Australia has in relation to this virus,” Australian Prime Minister Scott Morrison told reporters. Australia recorded its
The Australian government yesterday said that it plans to give Google and Facebook three months to negotiate with media businesses fair pay for news content. In releasing a draft of a mandatory code of conduct, Canberra aims to succeed where other nations have failed in making tech firms pay for news siphoned from commercial media companies. Australian Treasurer Josh Frydenberg said that Google and Facebook would be the first platforms targeted by the proposed legislation, but others could follow. “It’s about a fair go for Australian news media businesses, it’s about ensuring that we have increased competition, increased consumer protection and a sustainable
‘COVIDIOTS’: Politicians condemned the protest that came amid surging infections in the country, while a marcher said government-induced fear weakened the body Loudly chanting their opposition to masks and vaccines, thousands of people on Saturday gathered in Berlin to protest against COVID-19 restrictions before being dispersed by police. Police put turnout at about 20,000 — well below the 500,000 organizers had announced as they urged a “day of freedom” from months of virus curbs. Despite Germany’s comparatively low toll, authorities are concerned at a rise in infections over the past few weeks and politicians took to social media to criticize the rally as irresponsible. “We are the second wave,” shouted the crowd, a mixture of hard left and right and conspiracy theorists, as they converged