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South Africa's Air Force Steps in to Fill Shortage of Black Pilots

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Special to the NNPA from the Global Information Network –

South Africa’s Air Force has volunteered to help produce more Black African pilots following the report that 16 years after the end of apartheid, the national airline’s pilots are overwhelmingly White.

The failure of South African Airways (SAA) to increase the number of pilots from previously disadvantaged communities shows that the aviation industry is far from reaching its transformation deadline, observed Mmanaledi Mataboge, a reporter with the South African Mail and Guardian.

The racial make-up of the SAA currently includes 27 Indian men, 3 Indian women, 45 White women, 37 Black men, and 657 White men. Currently, there are no Black African women pilots.

Chief director of policy for the Air Force, Major General Lucky Ngema, recently announced a country-wide awareness program called Siyandiza (We are flying) to address the shortage of Black pilots.

Siyandiza aims to attract high school pupils to aviation, with the focus on previously disadvantaged communities. Through Siyandiza, the air force visits schools to draw the students' attention to possible careers in aviation. Its latest excursion was to the Reed Dance ceremony in KwaZulu-Natal to draw girls into the industry.

Pricey Diamonds for the Super-Rich Mined from African Soil

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Special to the NNPA from the Global Information Network –

Sep. 28 (GIN) – The ‘Lesotho Promise’ - “one of the most important diamond necklaces ever assembled’, according to the British jewelry firm Graff - is expected to reap close to $50 million for the British billionaire Laurence Graff - the dealer known as the “King of Bling”.

Named for the Kingdom of Lesotho, a tiny mountain enclave within South Africa’s borders, the 223.35-carat necklace was carved from a 603 carat stone the size of a golf ball, discovered in a Lesotho mine. It features 26 white flawless diamonds, the most valuable on the grading system.

While the Kingdom owns part of the mining rights for the Letšeng Mine where the Promise was extracted, it is 70 percent owned by the Gem Diamond Mining Company of Africa, an Australian firm. Sold uncut at the Antwerp Diamond Center in Belgium for $12 million, it could fetch five times as much in the necklace form.

While the necklace elicits gasps and wows at private showings, the southern African kingdom starves for cash, with one of the world's highest maternal mortality rates, the third highest prevalence of HIV/AIDS in the world after Swaziland and Botswana, and over 200,000 orphans and other vulnerable children, most of them AIDS orphans.

The World Fact Book also finds Lesotho to have the highest level of inequality of incomes between rich and poor, after Namibia and South Africa. Life expectancy is 40 years of age.

District Rallies to Support Congresswoman Johnson

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By Iman Evans, Special to the NNPA From The Dallas Examiner –

Residents of Texas’ 30th District and long- time friends of Rep. Eddie Bernice Johnson (D-TX) came together recently during a to show Dallas that they continue to stand behind the congresswoman.

Johnson has been in damage control mode since it was revealed that her office violated the Congressional Black Caucus Foundation’s nepotism and residency rules by directing scholarship money to four of her family members and the children of a top staffer. In an attempt to repair her tarnished image, Johnson has announced a new CBCF Scholarship Committee that will take over deciding which students living in her district will be awarded CBCF scholarships.

“She did a lot for us in this district and she’s still doing a lot for us in this district,” said community activist Willie Mae Coleman. “I’m not excusing what she did, but haven’t we all done something that was wrong?”

As a member of the Bertrand Neighborhood Association, Coleman is in a position to bear witness to the blight of the Southern Dallas area that Johnson represents, as well as difference-making projects that Johnson has stewarded.

“When they were going to spend all that money for the Trinity Project, she [Johnson] stopped that so that homeowners would not have to get flood insurance,” said Coleman. “[And] that rail that is running right by my house, that’s going to be a blessing for the community.”

Johnson’s new committee appears at first glance to be a model of moral and professional rectitude. The members are Mavis Knight, presently serving on the Texas State Board of Education; Randy Skinner, director of the Greater Dallas Area Justice Revival; longtime educator Dr. Roscoe Smith; Raul M. Magdaleno, Director of Diversity & Community Outreach for Southern Methodist University Meadows School of the Arts; and Dr. Al Roberts, professor emeritus of Education at Paul Quinn College.

It remains to be seen what effect the rally will have on Johnson’s legacy. But, it is clear that for supporters, Johnson has been a conduit for benefits that South Dallas would otherwise not have been able to access, and that the kind of petty self-dealing for which she has admitted guilt is, in the grand scheme of things, forgivable.

Himba People Protest Plan to Flood Burial Grounds

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Special to the NNPA from the Global Information Network –

The Himba of northern Namibia, who survived deadly droughts, guerrilla warfare, and attempted genocide by German colonial armies, are bracing for a new fight.

After a series of delays, Namibia and Angola are moving forward on a planned $1.1 billion Baynes Dam hydropower plant on the Kunene River that runs along their common borders.

"Angola needs power; Namibia needs power; southern Africa needs power, so the development of a hydropower station is gaining momentum," NamPower director Leake Hangala said this month during a meeting in Windhoek.

The planned dam will flood the valleys where the Himba live and their burial grounds. Approximately 18,000 Himbas live on the Namibian side of the border, with another 9,000 on the Angolan side.

"If they build the dam, they'll kill us," said Muhapikwa Muniombara, who wears traditional necklaces and bracelets over her skin dyed reddish with otjize, a mixture of butter fat and ochre.

In other energy developments, a grant of $400,000 from the U.S. Trade and Development Agency has been signed to study the feasibility of upgrading the Van Eck coal-fired plant on the outskirts of the capital, Windhoek, to meet Namibia’s growing energy needs.

South Africa to Launch Health Care for All

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Special to the NNPA from the Global Information Network –

All South Africans will enjoy national health insurance under a program scheduled to kick off in 2010 and be implemented during a period of 14 years.

Details of the program were discussed recently at the mid-term conference of the African National Congress (ANC). Thousands are attending the week-long review of the party’s progress in the port city of Durban which featured health care high on the agenda.

Currently, South Africa spends slightly more than 8% of its economy on healthcare, more than any other country on the continent. Still, only 8% of the Black population is covered by a medical care plan, compared to 64% of White people.

Opening the conference, President Zuma, whose administration has created millionaires and billionaires, took the podium to give a speech some called “Zuma straight up with no frills.” He went on the offensive, tackling the challenges to the party from the nationalist ANC Youth League and the socialist Congress of South African Trade Unions (Cosatu).

“I think they have managed to call each other to order,” observed Fikile Mbalu, ANC head of organizing. “They’re saying ‘Let’s shape what we want the ANC to achieve.’ On the call for nationalization, he said: “I think this is debate we need. I look forward to this robust, somewhat agitated and militant discussion of the issues.”

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BVN National News Wire