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Anger rises over South Africa making millions in US benefits while cozying up to Iran, Russia and Hamas

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Anger rises over South Africa making millions in US benefits while cozying up to Iran, Russia and Hamas

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JOHANNESBURG South Africa is under fire for spending millions of dollars talking to terror group Hamas and sending delegations for cozy negotiations with U.S. adversaries Russia and Iran. Some critics say the money would be better spent tackling the “chaos” back home.

South Africa has the highest unemployment rate in the world, rampant crime and widespread corruption, which has led to large parts of Johannesburg having no water for 10 out of the past 11 days, and, nationally, power blackouts between four and 11 hours a day.

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The U.S. helps South Africa gain billions of dollars a year in trade benefits through the African Growth and Opportunity Act, or AGOA.  Orde Kittrie, law professor at Arizona State University and senior fellow at the Foundation for Defense of Democracies, told Fox News Digital it’s time for South Africa to be thrown out of the program. 

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Russia’s President Vladimir Putin speaks with South African President Cyril Ramaphosa at the first plenary session as part of the 2019 Russia-Africa Summit at the Sirius Park of Science and Art in Sochi, Russia, Oct. 24, 2019. (Sergei Chirikov/Pool via REUTERS)

“The ANC-led South African government has, in its relations with both Russia and Hamas, violated the requirement that AGOA beneficiaries not undermine U.S. national security and foreign policy and, with regard to Hamas, violated the requirement that AGOA beneficiaries not “provide support for acts of international terrorism,” said Kittrie, who also served as a State Department attorney and policy officiaL

“The AGOA law’s requirements really leave the Biden administration no choice but to terminate South Africa’s AGOA benefits unless such activities cease.”

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South Africa continually makes controversial diplomatic moves, including allowing Russian ships to play war games just off the coast and permitting a Russian arms ship, the Lady R, to dock at a South African military base. This has attracted the attention of Sen. Tim Scott, the ranking Republican member of the Senate subcommittee on Africa and a member of the Senate subcommittee on banking. 

“South Africa has harbored sanctioned Russian ships, expanded relations with Iran and issued statements against Israel’s right to defend itself following Hamas’ recent terror attacks,” Scott said in a recent statement.

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Also, according to the USAID dashboard, Washington gave South Africa $660 million in aid in 2023.

Herman Mashaba, president of the relatively new political party ActionSA, told Fox News Digital, “The ruling party prioritizes Cold War-era alliances above the interests of the South African people. Our close relationship with Russia has jeopardized investment into the country, which cost jobs which South Africa cannot risk losing.” 

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South African genocide case against Israel at ICJ in the Netherlands

Public hearings in South Africa’s genocide case against Israel begins at the International Court of Justice in The Hague, Netherlands, Jan. 11, 2024.  (Dursun Aydemir/Anadolu via Getty Images)

“At the same time, 86 people are killed in South Africa per day,” Mashaba continued.  “Every 11 minutes, a woman is raped in this country. The ruling party has in 30 years been unable to address these crises and instead pays attention to everything except finding solutions to these issues.” 

The State Department weighed in. 

“Russia is waging a brutal war against the people of Ukraine, and we are constantly working to cut off support and funding for Putin’s war machine and to undercut Russia’s ability to carry out this conflict,” a department spokesperson said. “We have strongly urged countries not to support Russia’s war.” 

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On Tehran, the State Department spokesperson noted, “Iran is an adversary and the leading state sponsor of terrorism. It seeks to sow instability in the Middle East and around the world.

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“We call on all countries to condemn Hamas, as Hamas is a designated terrorist organization and deserves condemnation”.

J. Brooks Spector, a former U.S. diplomat and associate editor of  The Daily Maverick, spoke of his concerns to Fox News Digital:

“South Africa has rarely supported America internationally in grave crises such as the Russian invasion of Ukraine.

Economic Freedom Fighters

Members of the Economic Freedom Fighters protest on the street in Tsakane township, east of Johannesburg, South Africa, March 20, 2023. (AP Photo/Themba Hadebe)

“Beyond AGOA eligibility, South Africa might find itself at risk of seeing the major American contributions of PEPFAR funds combating HIV/AIDS begin to lessen or even end, as funds are shifted to other nations.” 

This would be disastrous. Even with support from the U.S., South Africa has the largest HIV epidemic in the world, according to the Center for Strategic and International Studies.

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“Part of the challenge for South Africa, going forward, is its desire for a foreign policy strategy that seeks to be a visible player in resolving international disputes far afield from its home continent such as Ukraine and Gaza, while largely ignoring equally urgent issues nearer to home,” Spector said.

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South African parliament

Firemen spray water on flames erupting from a building at South Africa’s Parliament in Cape Town Jan. 2, 2022. (AP Photo/Jerome Delay)

South Africa has “a completely chaotic approach to foreign policy in recent years,” Emma Louise Powell told Fox News Digital. Powell is shadow minister for international relations for the country’s main opposition party, the Democratic Alliance, or DA.

Powell criticized the government for getting involved in talks on the Israel-Hamas war, “given the bloodbath unfolding in South Africa’s backyard, on the African continent, in countries such as Sudan, the DRC and across West Africa. This is not to mention the political and economic crisis in neighboring Zimbabwe.

“South Africa has not even condemned Russia’s illegal invasion. This is intellectually dishonest, given the funding the ANC is receiving from Russian-linked oligarchs and companies, and we see that this position is leading to South Africa’s increasing isolation.”

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scott holding mic on campaign trail

Senator Tim Scott has criticized the South African government over its dealings with US adversaries, and the country’s corruption problems. (Photo by Peter Zay/Anadolu Agency via Getty Images) (Photo by Peter Zay/Anadolu Agency via Getty Images))

Spector added, “Such a mix of behaviors means South Africa risks becoming increasingly irrelevant internationally, both as a country with real political heft and as a valuable investment and trade partner with anyone besides China.”

Then there’s the systemic corruption. Two years ago, hundreds of senior politicians and businessmen, mostly linked to the ruling African National Congress, or ANC, were accused in the 5,000-page State Capture report for links to corruption, yet very few have been prosecuted. 

“Many Washington foreign policy insiders are now for the first time seeing the ANC for what it has, sadly, become since (President Nelson) Mandela’s retirement, a party whose rampant financial corruption has impoverished South Africa’s people and led it to ally itself with America’s enemies including Russia, Iran and Hamas,” FDD’s Kittrie warned.

South Africa's Foreign Minister Naledi Pandor

South Africa’s Foreign Minister Naledi Pandor addresses reporters after a session of the International Court of Justice, or World Court, in The Hague, Netherlands, Jan. 26. (AP)

Earlier this week, Sen. Tim Scott tweeted, “The U.S. cannot continue to simply look the other way when it comes to corruption in South Africa. As we consider AGOA reauthorization, it’s important that we take steps to ensure the program’s eligibility requirements are actually enforced.”

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The State Department is so concerned about corruption in South Africa it sent Fox News Digital an additional statement that some analysts say contains a veiled threat. 

“The fight against corruption is a core U.S. national security interest,” the statement said. “The United States considers the use of several foreign policy tools for countering corruption, including but not limited to financial sanctions. Beyond this, it is the policy of the United States to not comment on internal deliberations regarding the use of sanctions or to preview potential actions.”

Kittrie added, “U.S. officials are noticing that the ANC is not itself holding its corrupt officials accountable, with the ANC-led South African government reportedly making no significant progress in prosecuting South African officials who were bribed and, most recently, the ANC placing several corruption-tainted officials on its list for re-election.”

South Africa power cuts

Pinkie Sebitlo cooks using a coal stove during frequent power outages caused by South African utility Eskom’s aging coal-fired plants in Soweto, South Africa, June 23, 2022.  (REUTERS/Siphiwe Sibeko)

Action SA’s Mashaba added “it is unacceptable that two years after the State Capture Report was submitted, not a single high-profile individual has successfully been prosecuted”

Last week, the South African Foreign Minister, Naledi Pandor, announced any South Africans with dual nationality who are fighting for Israel in Gaza will be arrested when they return. 

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“We are ready. When you come home, we will arrest you,” the minister said, referencing a long-standing law that South Africans may not fight in wars for other countries. Yet, when the Iraqi ambassador here claimed as many as 300 South Africans had left to take up arms for the terror group Islamic State in Syria in 2015, there were no such public threats of arrests for returning fighters.

Analysts predict Foreign Minister Pandor could face some tough questions during her visit to Washington, scheduled for this week. 

The ANC government is likely to lose sole and majority power of South Africa in elections coming in May. Last week’s latest poll by the Brenthurst Foundation predicts the ANC will only get 39% of the vote. The party is likely to go into coalition, with analysts predicting this probably will be with the “revolutionary” EFF, the Economic Freedom Fighters. 

Anti-Israel protest in South Africa

A man brandishes a toy gun during a pro-Palestinian demonstration organized by the South African opposition party Economic Freedom Fighters in front of the Israeli Embassy in Pretoria Oct. 23, 2023.  (Marco Longari/AFP via Getty Images)

The EFF wants to grab White-owned farmland with no compensation, according to its election manifesto. 

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“As the EFF, we have never promised [White people] that we will not take the land. We don’t owe them anything,” EFF leader Julius Malema told cheering crowds at the manifesto’s launch. 

And the China-leaning EFF warned the 600 U.S. companies operating in South Africa that if the Americans working for them don’t like the EFF’s policies, “they can leave with immediate effect.”

Fox News Digital reached out to both the South African Foreign Ministry and the ANC but did not receive a response.

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European nations with Patriots hesitate to give their missile systems to Ukraine

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European nations with Patriots hesitate to give their missile systems to Ukraine

BRUSSELS (AP) — European Union countries possessing Patriot air defense systems appeared hesitant on Monday to give any to Ukraine, which is desperately seeking at least seven of the missile batteries to help fend off Russian air attacks.

Russia’s air force is vastly more powerful than Ukraine’s, but sophisticated missile systems provided by Kyiv’s Western partners can pose a major threat to Russian aviation as the Kremlin’s forces slowly push forward along the roughly 1,000-kilometer (620-mile) front line in the war.

Dutch Foreign Minister Hanke Bruins Slot said the Netherlands is “looking at every kind of possibility at the moment” and is offering financial support to a German initiative to help Ukraine bolster its air defenses and to buy more drones.

Asked at a meeting of European Union foreign and defense ministers why the Netherlands is reluctant to send some of its Patriot systems, Slot said: “We are looking again if we can deplete our store of what we still have, but that will be difficult.”

Last week, NATO Secretary-General Jens Stoltenberg said that the military organization “has mapped out existing capabilities across the alliance and there are systems that can be made available to Ukraine.” He did not name the countries that possess Patriots.

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The Patriot is a guided missile system that can target aircraft, cruise missiles and shorter-range ballistic missiles. Each battery consists of a truck-mounted launching system with eight launchers that can hold up to four missile interceptors each, a ground radar, a control station and a generator.

A key advantage of the U.S.-made systems, apart from their effectiveness, is that Ukrainian troops are already trained to use them.

But Patriots take a long time to make — as long as two years, some estimates suggest — so countries are reluctant to give them up and leave themselves exposed. Germany had 12, but it is supplying three to Ukraine. Poland, which borders Ukraine, has two and needs them for its own defenses.

Asked whether his country would provide any, Swedish Defense Minister Pål Jonson said: “I don’t exclude that possibility, but right now we’re focused on financial contributions.” He said Sweden would send other systems that could “relieve some of the pressure” on the need for Patriots.

Jonson also noted that more U.S. deliveries of air defense systems might come, after the U.S. House of Representatives passed a package over the weekend of $61 billion in support, including $13.8 billion for Ukraine to buy weapons.

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Questioned about whether Spain might step up with Patriots, Foreign Minister José Manuel Albares said that his country “will make its decisions based on the power it has in its hands to support Ukraine.”

“I don’t think we’re helping anyone if we hear all the time what it is that’s being given, when it’s being given and how it’s getting in,” he told reporters at the meeting in Luxembourg.

NATO keeps track of the stocks of weapons held by its 32 member countries to ensure that they are able to execute the organization’s defense plans in times of need.

But Stoltenberg said on Friday that if dropping below the guidelines is “the only way NATO allies are able to provide Ukraine with the weapons they need to defend themself, well that’s a risk we have to take.”

Beyond providing new Patriot batteries, Stoltenberg said that it’s also important for countries to ensure that the batteries they do send are well maintained, have spare parts and plenty of interceptor missiles.

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In a separate development at Monday’s meeting, Lithuanian Foreign Minister Gabrielius Landsbergis expressed concern about possible Russian sabotage against facilities in Europe being used to train Ukrainian troops.

Two German-Russian men were arrested in Germany last week on suspicion of espionage, one of them accused of agreeing to carry out attacks on potential targets including U.S. military facilities, prosecutors said.

“We are witnessing very similar events in our region, not just in Lithuania but also in Latvia and Estonia as well,” Landsbergis told reporters.

“There seems to be a coordinated action against the European countries that is coming from Russia,” he said. “We have to find a way to deal with the threat … because Russia is fighting not just against Ukraine but the West as well.”

___

Follow AP’s coverage of the war in Ukraine at https://apnews.com/hub/russia-ukraine

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Hezbollah claims to shoot down Israeli drone over Lebanon

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Hezbollah claims to shoot down Israeli drone over Lebanon

The Lebanese terrorist group Hezbollah is claiming to have shot down an Israeli drone that was on a combat mission, a report says. 

Hezbollah said in a statement that the drone, which was “waging its attacks on our steadfast people,” was brought down in the Al Aishiyeh area of southern Lebanon near the country’s border with Israel, according to Reuters. 

It reportedly described the drone as a Hermes 450 made by Israel-based weapons manufacturer Elbit Systems. 

“A surface-to-air missile was launched at a remote manned aircraft of the air force that was operating in the skies of Lebanon, as a result the vehicle was hit and fell in Lebanese territory,” the Israeli Defense Forces later said in a statement. “The incident is being investigated.” 

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Hezbollah members salute and raise the group’s yellow flags during the funeral of fallen fighters who were killed in an Israeli strike on their vehicles, in Shehabiya in south Lebanon on April 17. (AFP via Getty Images)

More than 240 Hezbollah fighters have been killed in cross-border skirmishes with Israel since the Oct. 7 surprise attack by Hamas that launched the ongoing war in Gaza, Reuters reports. 

On the Israeli side, 18 people, including soldiers and civilians, have died, it added. 

The reported downing of the drone comes as the head of Israel’s military intelligence directorate has resigned for failing to prevent the Oct. 7 massacre. 

ISRAELI MILITARY INTELLIGENCE CHIEF RESIGNS OVER FAILURE TO PREVENT DEADLIEST ATTACK IN ISRAEL’S HISTORY 

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Israeli shelling in Lebanon

Lebanese villagers pass by a building which was destroyed by Israeli shelling, in Kfar Kila, on Thursday, April 18, 2024.  (AP/Mohammed Zaatari)

“In coordination with the Chief of the General Staff, the Head of the Intelligence Directorate, MG Aharon Haliva, has requested to end his position, following his leadership responsibility as the Head of the Intelligence Directorate for the events of October 7,” the IDF wrote on X. 

“The Chief of the General Staff thanked Major General Aharon Haliva for his 38 years of service in the IDF, during which he made significant contributions to the security of the State of Israel as both a combat soldier and commander,” it added. 

Israeli airstrike in Lebanon

Smoke rises on the Lebanese side of the border between Israel and Lebanon after an Israeli airstrike on April 10. (Reuters/Ayal Margolin/TPX Images Of The Day)

 

In a resignation letter quoted by The Associated Press, Haliva wrote, “The intelligence directorate under my command did not live up to the task we were entrusted with. I carry that black day with me ever since, day after day, night after night. I will carry the horrible pain of the war with me forever.” 

Fox News’ Lawrence Richard contributed to this report. 

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Period poverty still a problem within the EU despite tax breaks

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Period poverty still a problem within the EU despite tax breaks

In some countries, costs remain high for women despite tax breaks with many not being able to buy their product of choice.

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Approximately half of the EU menstruates or will do it at some point of their lives. But that does not mean access to menstrual products is guaranteed.

There is no official EU data on how many women suffer menstrual poverty, but Belgian NGO Bruzelle believes that in Belgium one in fifteen people cannot buy their choice of product.

“At some point, you have to choose between a basic necessity and buying menstrual products. So at some point, you have to choose between eating or buying a menstrual product,” explains Verónica Martínez of Bruzelle.

“When you get to that point, you’re really in a situation of menstrual insecurity. And add two other factors that make the situation even worse, which are the lack of menstrual information and the lack of safe, well-adapted places to change in complete safety,” she adds.

Since 2022, the EU allows member states to sell menstrual products without VAT. For now, Ireland is the only one taking advantage of this.

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Most states have reduced taxes between 5 to 10%. But in others taxes remain high, such as Hungary (27%) or Sweden and Denmark, both at 25%.

One of the options to alleviate the cost of menstrual products is using reusable ones.

Free menstrual cups in Catalonia

Catalonia recently started giving out a menstrual cup, a pad or a pair of period underwear to fight menstrual poverty.

“Menstruation still has lots of taboos and stigma in society. This is why this is a universal action. We need to change the way society has been dealing with menstruation as a private issue, as something that it’s not spoken about, because this means these stigmas have also implications on women’s health and well-being,” explains the Minister of Equality and Feminism of the Government of Catalonia, Tània verge.

According to the Catalan government, 23% of women in the region are reusing single use products and 44% can’t afford their first choice.

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