Union boss accused of rape
An employee has accused the leader of powerful trade union federation COSTATU of rape, but the politician shot down the allegation as a plot on Saturday. COSTATU general secretary Zwelinzima Vavi said the sex was consensual and that his accuser tried to blackmail him into paying 2 million rand (US$204,000). The 26-year-old woman told the Weekend Post that Vavi overpowered her on Jan. 25 in her office at the union’s Johannesburg headquarters. “He put me on the floor and forced himself on me. The general secretary raped me,” she said in an internal complaint, according to the paper. Vavi slammed the complaint as a plot to topple him. “I vehemently deny the allegations made against me by the staff member concerned,” he said in a statement on Saturday. “I have engaged lawyers, and I am ready and willing to appear before any legitimate body to clear my name.”
Poll highlights discontent
Almost three-quarters of the population consider their country “intolerable,” according to a new survey released on Saturday by the Open Society Institute, following weeks of protest against the government and a worsening economy. The survey of 1,155 people by the public policy charity found that 72 percent thought the political situation was “intolerable,” with 22 percent judging it was just “bearable.” Only 2 percent of those surveyed described the current state of the nation as normal. The 72 percent of respondents denouncing the nation’s political quagmire is at a six-year high, and up 15 percentage points from July last year. The survey also found that almost 40 percent of the population wanted the immediate resignation of the government of Prime Minister Plamen Oresharski, whose minority Cabinet took office in late May.
Man self-immolates: report
A semi-official news agency is reporting that a member of a small religious minority set himself on fire next to the country’s parliament building. ISNA’s late Saturday report says the man, a member of the Ahl Al-Haq, suddenly poured a bottle of fuel on his body and lit it. It said he was taken to hospital. Opposition Web sites have reported two other such self-immolations since last month by Ahl Al-Haq adherents, following the alleged abuse of a group member in prison. Tehran recognizes some non-Muslim minorities such as Zoroastrians, but others like the Baha’i complain of exclusion from state jobs, vilification in the media and other pressures. The Ahl Al-Haq faith is found mostly among ethnic Kurds in both western Iran and Iraq.
Voters head to polls
Voters were heading to the polls yesterday in the nation’s first election since last year’s coup, despite massive technical glitches which have resulted in tens of thousands of registered voters being dropped from the voter list. In the contested region of Kidal yesterday, only a trickle of voters made their way past checkpoints manned by UN peacekeepers. The majority that came could not find their name on the lists posted outside their polling station. Kidal was the birthplace of last year’s uprising by Tuareg separatists, a rebellion which set in motion a sequence of events that led to the coup in the capital. Officials are worried that low voter turnout, combined with the technical lapses that are preventing people from voting will undermine the legitimacy of the election.