Three-and-a-half years ago Volodymyr Zelenskiy’s television series “Servant of the People” began airing on Ukrainian television. For a country where money and powerful oligarchs have long dominated politics the concept was beguiling.
A teacher (played by Mr Zelenskiy) accidentally becomes president after an expletive-laden rant about Ukrainian politics goes viral on social media.
Now after victory in the first round Mr Zelenskiy is one step away from the real deal.
Is life imitating art? Or could we be witnessing a sophisticated, very 21st Century election heist?
Mr Zelenksiy’s entire election campaign has been based on being different and defying convention. So there have been no official rallies or political speeches, and lots of cheerful videos on social media.
The 41-year-old has made his ignorance a virtue and openly admits to having no strong political views. “No promises, no disappointment” is one of the few memorable things he’s said.
At the end of January I spent a day with Mr Zelenskiy as he submitted his registration papers for the presidential election.
He’s an actor by profession, so it could of course all be fake, but my overwhelming impression was that, just like on television, he’s a likeable fun guy.
As he showed me around the corridors of his highly successful production company Kvartal 95 Mr Zelenskiy joked with me about how he liked Monty Python, before lamenting that the audience for his TV shows are more into the slapstick “Benny Hill” type humour.
We watched as his colleagues toasted his 41st birthday over glasses of champagne. Some were genuinely in tears as they expressed their support for his presidential campaign, but sadness that he might be about to leave them.
When we moved into the staff canteen for a more serious interview it was immediately clear that Mr Zelenskiy’s political views were still very much a work in progress.
He told me that he believed people wanted “something new, they want to get a person with a human face”.
There were vague commitments to “stop the shooting” in eastern Ukraine but a jumble of ideas of how to do it. Ukrainian emigration was another big issue, he told me, but there were no immediate ideas on how to stop the brain drain.
Things didn’t get any better when I turned to Mr Zelenskiy’s Achilles heel, his business ties to Ukraine’s most controversial oligarch Igor Kolomoisky.
The links are there for all to see. All the comedian’s TV shows are on one of Ukraine’s most popular TV channels 1+1.
Mr Kolomoisky is the owner of 1+1 but he has to manage it remotely from self-imposed exile because there are numerous investigations in Ukraine into his business dealings.
When I spoke to Mr Kolomoisky in Israel he did little to play down his role in the comedian’s rise, gushing that he wished there were “millions of Zelenskiys”.
And there’s no doubt that 1+1 has given its full backing to the comedian. Four days before the vote the latest series of “Servant of the People” premiered, and on the night before the election a full evening was dedicated to Mr Zelenskiy’s back catalogue.
The question then is what if anything a President Zelenskiy would give back in return. When we spoke the comedian insisted he was “no puppet” of Mr Kolomoisky and said that if courts found against the oligarch that he would receive no protection. But the worries linger.
In the last few weeks, after some disastrous performances in closed door briefings with diplomats, he’s brought on board advisers with credibility to try and reassure people, that even if he may appear clueless, he’ll be surrounded by smart people and getting the best advice.
For now Mr Zelenskiy must focus on the second round in three weeks time. His likely opponent Petro Poroshenko has a more established network on the ground and the support of administrators across the country. Victory for the comedian is by no means a certainty.
ABUJA- The Peoples Democratic Party, PDP, has described Steve Hanke’s report which rated Nigeria as the 6th miserable country in the world, as a vindication of its position “all this while,” saying the nation has sunk into a new low since President Muhammadu Buhari assumed power in 2015.
Hanke, an economist at John Hopkins University, United States of America had in the publication rated Nigeria 6th on the ignoble list of world’s most miserable countries, behind Venezuela (Ist), Argentina (2nd), Iran (3rd), Brazil (4th) and Turkey (5th), citing the high rate of unemployment in Africa’s biggest nation as the major contributor to her “misery. ”
Reacting to the development, the main opposition party, through its spokesman, Kola Ologbondiyan tasked the ruling All Progressives Congress, APC, to perish the thought of the planned increment in Value Added Tax, VAT, saying such would only make life more difficult for the “already traumatized Nigerians.”
In a chat with our correspondent, the publicity scribe said: “That report is a vindication of the position of the Peoples Democratic Party, all this while. The economy has virtually collapsed under President Buhari and the man is even mooting the idea of piling more pressure on Nigerians.
“Nigerians have never suffered like they are suffering today because those charged with the responsibility of managing the economy have failed completely. They have no idea of what it takes to manage an economy like ours.
“As an opposition party, we call on the Presidency to take urgent steps to fine-tune the economy, create jobs for our teeming youths if only to justify that a government is in place.
“In the interim, we advise them to stop their plan to increase VAT as that will only fetch millions of Nigerians additional pain and discomfort.”
While noting that democracy is essentially about the people, Ologbindiyan expressed worry that rather improving on the living conditions of Nigerians, “the APC-led administration of President Buhari appears to be deriving pleasure from inflicting pains and misery.”
He added: “Nigerians can now see that indeed, the PDP don’t just do criticisms for the fun of it. We are talking of a report that searchlighted economies of countries in different continents of the world. Our beloved country is in shambles but there is no doubt we will reclaim it for the people at the appointed time.
Brexit: PM cannot ‘ignore’ soft Brexit MPs, says minister
On Monday, Parliament will hold an indicative vote on Brexit alternatives. A customs union with the EU is thought to be the most likely preference.
Meanwhile, the prime minister is considering her next move after her withdrawal plan was defeated by MPs for a third time.
Mr Gauke said there are “no ideal choices” over the Brexit deadlock.
Speaking on the BBC’s Andrew Marr Show, he argued the prime minister’s deal was “the best outcome”.
But he added: “Sometimes you do have to accept your second or third choice to avoid an outcome you consider to be even worse.”
Labour’s deputy leader Tom Watson said it would be “inconceivable” if there was a general election and his party did not include a new referendum in its manifesto.
Following the UK’s vote to leave the EU in 2016, Theresa May negotiated a withdrawal deal with the EU.
Although European leaders agreed to the plan, Mrs May has yet to get the deal approved by Parliament.
The prime minister has until 12 April to seek a longer extension to the Article 50 process if the UK is to avoid leaving without a deal.
The prime minister’s deal is currently opposed by parties including Northern Ireland’s DUP – which the government relies upon for support – as well as a group of her own MPs.
Tory Brexiteer Steve Baker, who resigned as a Brexit minister over the PM’s handling of negotiations, wrote in the Sunday Telegraph that Mrs May’s deal “cannot be allowed to go through at any cost”.
However he admitted deciding to vote for it on Thursday before being talked out of it by friends.
Monday, 1 April: MPs hold another set of votes on Brexit options to see if they can agree on a way forward
Wednesday, 3 April: Potentially another round of so-called “indicative votes”
Wednesday, 10 April: Emergency summit of EU leaders to consider any UK request for further extension
Friday, 12 April: Brexit day, if UK does not seek/EU does not grant further delay
23-26 May: European Parliamentary elections
On Monday, MPs have a non-binding vote on a series of options designed to test the will of Parliament. The intention is to see what outcome, if any, commands a majority.
None of MPs’ eight proposed options secured a majority in the first set of indicative votes on 27 March, but those which received the most were a customs union with the EU and a referendum on any deal.
A customs union would allow businesses to move goods around the EU without tariffs, ie taxes – but membership would bar the UK from striking independent trade deals after Brexit.
Mr Gauke said he was in favour of leaving the customs union, arguing that it would “better reflect the way the country voted in 2016”.
Membership of a customs union would breach the Conservative’s 2017 manifesto.
But he acknowledged that his party “does not have the votes to get its manifesto position through the House of Commons at the moment”.
“We are in an environment where it is not just about going for your first choice,” he added.
Defence Minister Tobias Ellwood told Radio 4’s The World This Weekend he would support something along the lines of customs union membership – if the prime minister’s deal could not get through Parliament.
“I fear that is the only option we have if we want to honour the referendum” he said.
Mr Gauke reiterated his opposition to a no-deal Brexit, warning he would leave government if such a policy was pursued.
A no-deal Brexit would mean cutting ties with the European Union immediately and defaulting to World Trade Organisation rules for trade.
Tom Watson said there was an “emerging consensus” among Labour MPs.
He said: “Whatever the deal looks like – and we understand there has to be compromises – if it’s underpinned by a People’s Vote that is the way we can bring the country back together.”
Speaking on Sky News, shadow foreign secretary Emily Thornberry said under a Labour government it was “likely” that the UK would leave the European Union.
When asked if Labour was a Remain party, Ms Thornberry replied: “In our hearts we want to remain but we have to square that with democracy.
“If the people want us to leave we have to leave.”
‘Last thing we need’
Ms Thornberry also said “it looks like the time may come” for another attempted no confidence vote in the government.
If passed, this would pave the way for a general election.
The deputy chairman of the Conservative Party, James Cleverly, told Sky News that his party is doing “sensible pragmatic planning” in case there is a snap general election, but not seeking to call one.
And Mr Gauke warned he did not see how a general election would solve the current deadlock.
Former Conservative prime minister John Major said: “When feelings are running high… a general election is pretty much the very last thing we need.”
But he added: “We might be driven to it later.”
If an election failed to produce a majority in the Commons, Sir John suggested a “time limited” national unity government should be formed.
He said: “I think it would be in the national interest to have a cross-party government so we can take decisions without the chaos that we’re seeing in Parliament at the moment where every possible alternative is rejected.”
“I don’t think it is ideal, I would prefer a Conservative government with a clear majority.”
But he argued such a government would at least enable decisions to be taken.
Anti-corruption candidate Zuzana Caputova has won Slovakia’s presidential election, making her the country’s first female head of state.
Ms Caputova, who has almost no political experience, defeated high-profile diplomat Maros Sefcovic, nominated by the governing party, in a second round run-off vote on Saturday.
She framed the election as a struggle between good and evil.
The election follows the murder of an investigative journalist last year.
Jan Kuciak was looking into links between politicians and organised crime when he was shot at home alongside his fiancée in February 2018.
Ms Caputova cited Mr Kuciak’s murder as one of the reasons she decided to run for president, which is a largely ceremonial role.
She won 58% of the vote, with Mr Sefcovic trailing on 42%.
Her opponent was nominated by the ruling Smer-SD party, which is led by Robert Fico, who was forced to resign as prime minister following the killings.
Ms Caputova gained national prominence as a lawyer when she led a case against an illegal landfill lasting 14 years.
Aged 45, a divorcee and mother of two, she is a member of the liberal Progressive Slovakia party, which has no seats in parliament.
In a country where same-sex marriage and adoption is not yet legal, her liberal views have seen her promote LGBTQ+ rights.
The opponent she defeated, Mr Sefcovic, is vice president of the European Commission.
By Mr Ben Rory
Saturday night did feel like a moment. Addressing crowds of supporters in her impromptu election HQ at Bratislava’s Habsburg-era indoor market, Zuzana Caputova quietly extolled values that now seem to come from a bygone political age: compassion, tolerance, truth.
But while liberals rejoice at what they see as proof the tide of populism in Central Europe can be turned, some urge caution.
One analyst said darkly within hours of her election: “Expect Fico to launch a campaign against her right away, before June’s inauguration.”
He added that parliament would seek to stymie her liberal agenda even before she took office, for example by passing legislation to make same-sex marriage difficult if not impossible.
But, he said, her appeal to voters remained strong.
“Viktor Orban [the Hungarian PM] attacked her hard from Budapest,” he said. “But I’m hearing most ethnic Hungarians [10% of Slovakia’s population] voted for her anyway.”
In the first round, Ms Caputova won 40% of the vote, with Mr Sefcovic gaining less than 19%.
Several heads of state – including those of neighbouring Austria and Ukraine – have expressed their support for Ms Caputova on social media.
She will be sworn in on 15 June when Slovakia’s current president, Andrej Kiska, finishes his term of office.
Mr Poroshenko, a chocolate magnate and one of Ukraine’s wealthiest people, was elected in a snap vote after former pro-Russian President Viktor Yanukovych was toppled in the February 2014 Maidan Revolution, which was followed by Russia’s annexation of Crimea and a Russian-backed insurgency in the east.
The next president will inherit a deadlocked conflict between Ukrainian troops and the eastern separatists, while Ukraine strives to fulfil EU requirements for closer economic ties.
The EU says that about 12% of Ukraine’s 44 million people are disenfranchised, largely those who live in Russia and in Crimea, which Russia annexed in March 2014.
Mr Poroshenko aimed to appeal to conservative Ukrainians through his slogan “Army, Language, Faith”.
He says his backing for the military has helped keep the separatists in check. He also negotiated an Association Agreement with the EU, including visa-free travel for Ukrainians. During his tenure the Ukrainian Orthodox Church has become independent of Russian control.
Millions of people have voted in Turkey’s local elections, which are widely seen as a referendum on President Recep Tayyip Erdogan.
Early reports say the main opposition Republican People’s Party (CHP) has a narrow lead in Ankara.
In Istanbul, BBC Turkey correspondent Mr Ben Rory, says, the result is too close to call – but some reports are putting the governing AK Party ahead.
More than 57 million were registered to vote for mayors and councillors.
The poll came amidst an economic downturn. The country is in recession,inflation is at 20% and the lira has plunged by a third in value.
Mr Erdogan said the poll was about the “survival” of the country and his AK Party (Justice and Development Party, AKP), which has dominated politics for 16 years.
It was the first municipal vote since Mr Erdogan assumed sweeping executive powers through last year’s presidential election.
In election-related violence, dozens of people were injured in clashes across Turkey. Two people were shot dead at a polling station in the eastern city of Malatya. Local reports say a fight broke out after a man refused to use a polling booth, preferring to vote in the open.
How will people vote?
President Erdogan has been Turkey’s most popular and most divisive leader in modern history.
However, with the state of the economy after a recent currency crisis and an increase in unemployment and inflation, some voters had seemed ready to punish Mr Erdogan and AKP in the polls.
“Citizens are suffering because of the economic problems,” said one voter to news agency AFP at an opposition rally. “I’m a trader, I’m retired, but I’ve never seen a downturn like this.”
The BBC’s Mr Ben Rory, says the AKP is in danger of losing key cities where opposition parties have come together in a rare act of unity in a polarised country.
Polls have shown a tight contest in Ankara between the CHP mayoral candidate Mansur Yavas and AKP candidate Mehmet Ozhaseki.
“I was actually not going to vote today,” a voter in the capital told Reuters, “but when I saw how much [AKP] are flailing, I thought this might be time to land them a blow.”
The 47-year-old added, “Everyone is unhappy. Everyone is struggling.”
How was the campaign?
The AKP have won every election since coming to power in 2002, but analysts say this is the first time the party is no longer confident of its success.
With most media either pro-government or controlled by Mr Erdogan’s supporters, critics believe opposition parties campaigned at a disadvantage.
The opposition pro-Kurdish Peoples’ Democratic Party (HDP) said the elections were unfair and refused to put forward candidates in several cities.
Some of its leaders have been jailed on terror charges, accusations they reject.
Mr Erdogan’s rallies have dominated TV coverage. At one on Saturday, the president sought to reassure voters and the party’s usually conservative supporters that everything was under control.
“I am the boss of the economy right now as president of this country,” he said, also blaming the West and particularly the US for its financial turbulence.
He warned citizens of those coming to Turkey with anti-Muslim sentiments, sparking a diplomatic row after invoking memories of Turkey’s dead in the battle of Gallipoli by Australian and New Zealand forces in 1915.
He warned citizens of those coming to Turkey with anti-Muslim sentiments, sparking a diplomatic row after invoking memories of Turkey’s dead in the battle of Gallipoli by Australian and New Zealand forces in 1915.
Police in England and Wales are being given greater stop and search powers to tackle rising knife crime.
Home Secretary Sajid Javid is making it easier for officers to search people without reasonable suspicion in places where serious violence may occur.
It comes after fatal stabbings rose last year to the highest point since records began.
But campaigners said the move was “disappointing and regressive” and that stop and search is not effective.
Stop and search powers have been controversial for many years, with evidence that they are frequently misused and that they target black people disproportionately.
But Mr Javid said: “The police are on the front line in the battle against serious violence and it’s vital we give them the right tools to do their jobs.”
The change is being trialled in seven police force areas where more than 60% of knife crime occurs: London, the West Midlands, Merseyside, South Yorkshire, West Yorkshire, South Wales and Greater Manchester.
It makes it easier to use so-called “section 60” checks, where for a limited period of time officers can search anyone in a certain area to prevent violent crime.
Under the new rules, inspectors will be able to authorise the use of section 60. Currently, more senior officers have to give approval.
There will also be a lower threshold. Police will only need to reasonably believe serious violence “may” occur, not that it “will”.
Shadow home secretary Diane Abbott said evidence-based stop and search was “a very important tool for police”.
But she added: “Random stop and search is not effective in bringing down levels of knife crime.”
Section 60 has been used at large events such as Notting Hill Carnival last year and after violent incidents such as the stabbing of a man outside Clapham Common Underground station on Friday.
Other powers which account for the majority of searches will remain the same, and will still require officers to have reasonable suspicion of an offence.
With 285 deaths from stabbings in 2017-18, the most ever recorded in the UK, ministers have come under increasing pressure to tackle knife crime.
Prime Minister Theresa May will host a summit on serious youth violence on Monday.
Metropolitan Police Commissioner Cressida Dick said officers in London had increased the use of section 60 over the past 18 months, following 132 deaths from stabbings in the capital during 2017-18.
She said: “Stop and search is an extremely important power for the police. It is undoubtedly a part of our increasing results suppressing levels of violence and knife crime.”
But Katrina Ffrench, chief executive of StopWatch, which campaigns against excessive use of stop and search, said: “This decision is a disappointing and regressive move, which is about politics not saving lives.”
Removing the need for reasonable suspicion “will not only exacerbate the racial disparity, but has the potential to further damage the relationship between the black community and the police,” she said.
Garvin Snell, an anti-knife crime activist in Hounslow, west London, said that when stop and search was “used in the correct manner”, there was “nothing wrong with it”.
But he added: “I grew up in an era in the 1990s when you almost felt being young and black was enough to be stopped and searched and I don’t want to go back to that environment.”
He said some of the extra £100m the government has promised to help reduce knife crime should be used to open more youth centres.
“A lot of these incidents are happening in poorer parts of London,” he said. “Why don’t we do something to raise the aspirations of these young people?”
North Korea has described a break-in at its embassy in Spain last month as a “grave terrorist attack”.
In its first official comment, the government demanded an investigation and said it was closely watching rumours that the FBI had played a role.
On Wednesday a group committed to ousting North Korean leader Kim Jong-un, the Cheollima Civil Defense, said it carried out the raid.
The group took computers and data and said it gave its evidence to the FBI.
At least two international arrest warrants have been issued for the main suspects.
“A grave terrorist attack occurred on February 22, where an armed group assaulted the DPRK Embassy in Spain,” a spokesman for the North’s foreign ministry said in a statement.
What happened in the raid?
Spanish authorities say one of the group, named as Adrian Hong Chang, gained access by asking to see the commercial attaché, whom he claimed to have met previously to discuss business matters. His accomplices burst in once he was inside.
The group are accused of interrogating the attaché and trying to persuade him to defect. When he refused, they left him tied up in the basement.
Two other members of the break-in group were named as US citizen Sam Ryu, and a South Korean, Woo Ran Lee.
Embassy staff were held hostage for several hours. One woman managed to flee, escaping through a window and screaming for help. Concerned neighbours quickly called the police.
When officers arrived, they were greeted by Adrian Hong Chang, posing as a North Korean diplomat in a jacket with a Kim Jong-un lapel badge.
He told the police that all was well, and nothing had happened.
Most of the group later fled the embassy in three North Korean diplomatic vehicles. Mr Hong Chang and some others left later via the back entrance using another vehicle.
They split up into four groups and headed to Portugal. Mr Hong Chang – a Mexican citizen who lives in the US – allegedly contacted the FBI to give his version of events five days later.
What do we know about this group?
Cheollima Civil Defense (CDC), also known as Free Joseon, is committed to overthrowing North Korea’s ruling Kim dynasty.
The attackers seemed to know what they were looking for. Spanish authorities suspect US intelligence agencies and their allies could have been involved in the attack, according to El País and El Confidencial.
El País even reports that two of the group have links to the US Central Intelligence Agency (CIA). The CIA declined to comment to the BBC.
The US has denied any involvement in the raid.
Why would anyone attack the embassy?
Reports say the attackers could have been looking for information on North Korea’s former ambassador to Madrid, Kim Hyok-chol, who was expelled from Spain in September 2017 over North Korea’s nuclear testing programme.
Mr Kim is now serving as a key envoy in North Korean talks with the US and helped organise the summit in Vietnam. He also travelled to Washington DC with Kim Jong-un’s right-hand man, Kim Yong-chol, in January.
Nokubonga Qampi became known as the “Lion Mama” in South Africa after she killed one of three men raping her daughter and wounded the others. She was charged with murder – but after a public outcry the prosecution was halted, and she was able to focus her efforts on her daughter’s recovery.
It was the middle of the night when the telephone call came, waking Nokubonga from her sleep.
The girl at the other end of the line was just 500m away – and she said Nokubonga’s daughter, Siphokazi, was being raped by three men they all knew well.
Nokubonga’s first response was to call the police, but there was no answer. She knew, anyway, that it would take them time to reach her village, in the rolling green and brown hills of South Africa’s Eastern Cape province.
She was the only person that could help.
“I was scared, but then I was forced to go because it was my daughter,” she said.
“I was thinking that when I get there, she might be dead… Because she knew the perpetrators, and because they knew her and knew she knows them, they might think they had to kill her so she couldn’t report them.”
Siphokazi had been visiting friends in a group of four small houses in the same village but had been left alone, asleep, when her friends went out at 01:30. Then three men who had been drinking in one of the other houses attacked her.
Nokubonga’s sparsely furnished hut has two rooms, a bedroom, where she had been sleeping, and a kitchen – where she picked up a knife.
“I took it for me, for walking the distance between here and where the incident was taking place, because it is not safe,” she says. “It was dark and I had to use the torch on my phone to light the way.”
She heard her daughter’s screams as she approached the house. On entering the bedroom, the light from her phone enabled her to make out the awful sight of her daughter being raped.
“I was scared… I just stood by the door and asked what they were doing. When they saw it was me, they came charging towards me, that’s when I thought that I needed to defend myself, it was an automatic reaction,” Nokubonga says.
Nokubonga refuses to go into detail about what happened next.
The judge in the court case against the attackers said Nokubonga’s testimony showed she had “become very emotional” as she saw one of the men raping her daughter, while the other two stood nearby with their trousers round their ankles, waiting to take their turn again.
Judge Mbulelo Jolwana went on to say, “I understood her to mean that she was overcome with anger.” But in recounting the story now, all Nokubonga will admit to was fear – for herself and her daughter – and her face betrays only sadness and pain.
It’s clear, though, that when the men charged at Nokubonga she fought back with her knife – and that as she stabbed them they tried to flee, with one even jumping out of a window. Two were seriously injured, and the other died.
Nokubonga did not stay to find out how badly hurt they were. She took her daughter to a friend’s house nearby.
When the police arrived, Nokubonga was arrested and taken to the local police station, where she was kept in a cell.
“I was thinking of my child,” she says. “I got no information [about her]. It was a traumatic experience.”
At the same time, Siphokazi was in hospital worrying about her mother, imagining her in her cell and heartbroken about the prospect of her being jailed for years.
“I wished that if she spent time in prison, I would be the one who would serve it on her behalf,” she says.
Still in shock, she could remember little or nothing of the attack. What she now knows she heard from her mother when she arrived at the hospital two days later, after being freed on bail.
From that moment on they have been each other’s emotional support.
“I didn’t get any counselling but my mother has been able to assist me,” Siphokazi says. “I am recovering.”
Nokubonga’s efforts are focused on ensuring that life continues just as it was before.
“I’m still the mother and she is still the daughter,” she says. They share a laugh about the closeness of their relationship, joking that Siphokazi cannot get married, because then Nokubonga would have no-one to look after.
In the 18 months since the attack occurred they have come a long way.
Buhle Tonise, the attorney who represented Nokubonga, remembers that both seemed to have given up when she first met them, a week after the attack.
“The mother was distraught,” she says.
“When you are meeting with people that are at that level of poverty, then you know most of the time they would feel that the mother is going to jail because she has no-one to stand by her side. The justice system is for those who have money.”
As Buhle spoke to Nokubonga, Siphokazi watched her silently, as though the attack had deprived her of the power of speech.
Although Buhle says she was confident Nokubonga could argue convincingly that she acted in self-defence, she feared it would be a struggle to overcome her client’s overwhelming pessimism. What neither of them had foreseen was the help they would get from the media, which ended up creating the legend of the Lion Mama.
It is rare in South Africa for a rape case to get more than basic news coverage. This may be in large part down to the sheer number of rapes in the country, estimated at around 110 per day – a situation President Cyril Ramaphosa recently labelled a national crisis.
The Eastern Cape province – the country’s poorest, with unemployment of over 45% – has a higher level of rape per capita of population than any other. In Lady Frere, the village where Nokubonga and Siphokazi live, there were 74 recorded rapes in the year 2017/2018 – an astonishingly high figure for somewhere with a population of less than 5,000.
But among the numerous harrowing stories of rape in South Africa, Nokubonga and Siphokazi’s story stood out. The press quickly latched on to the tale of a mother protecting her daughter. Unable to name Nokubonga, to protect her daughter’s anonymity, one newspaper labelled her “Lion Mama”, placing the story next to a picture of a lion and her cubs. The name stuck.
“For me, at first, I didn’t like it because I couldn’t understand,” Nokubonga says. “But in the end I knew it meant I was a hero, because when you look at a lion it would protect its cubs.”
The public responded by criticising the decision to charge Nokubonga with murder and raising funds to help her mount her legal defence. This raised her spirits, but the extent of the public support did not sink in until her first appearance in a local magistrate’s court, a month after the attack.
“Going to court I was scared, I woke up and said a prayer,” she says.
When she got there, she found the place was full of well-wishers.
“There were a whole lot of people from all over South Africa. What I said to people is thank you, because the fact that the court was filled to the rafters, it meant that they supported me. They really gave me hope.”
She was quickly called before the magistrate.
“I was told the charges had been withdrawn,” she says. “I just stood there, but I was excited, I was happy. At that moment I knew the justice system is able to separate right from wrong, they were able to tell I had no intentions of taking someone’s life.”
Buhle Tonise recalls the impact the magistrate’s decision had on Siphokazi as well.
“After the case was withdrawn, she calls her daughter. For the first time ever I heard her daughter laugh. I think that’s when [Siphokazi] said she also wants to see the guys going to jail.”
They had to wait over a year for that to happen, but in December 2018 the two remaining attackers, 30-year-old Xolisa Siyeka and 25-year-old Mncedisi Vuba – members of the same clan as Nokubonga and Siphokazi – were each sentenced to 30 years in prison.
“I was happy about it,” says Siphokazi, now 27. “I felt a bit safe, but a part of me just felt they deserved life imprisonment.”
This is as close as Siphokazi gets to showing anger toward her attackers.
Once the case was finished, she decided to waive her anonymity in order to give encouragement to other rape survivors.
“I would tell a person that even after such an attack there is even life beyond it, you can still go back to society. You can still live your life,” she says.
Nokubonga also shows a surprising lack of anger for someone compared by the media to a lioness.
In fact, she has hopes that her daughter’s rapists can achieve something positive in the future. “I’m hoping that when they finish their sentence they’ll come back as reformed or changed people,” she says, “to tell a story about it and be a living example.”
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Pili Hussein wanted to make her fortune prospecting for a precious stone that’s said to be a thousand times rarer than diamonds, but since women weren’t allowed down the mines she dressed up as man and fooled her male colleagues for almost a decade.
Millions of people in Turkey have begun voting in local elections that are widely being seen as a referendum on President Recep Tayyip Erdogan.
The poll comes amidst an economic slump, which is expected to impact the choice of his conservative supporters.
The governing AK Party fears it could lose control of Ankara and Istanbul, the country’s biggest cities.
Turkey is in recession, inflation is at 20% and the lira has plunged by a third, leading to bankruptcies.
Mayors and councillors will be elected across Turkey, with the tightest battles in a handful of cities where opposition parties have come together in a rare act of unity in a polarised country of more than 57 million voters.
BBC Newslight, correspondent, Mr Ben Rory, Europe Editor.
The government says any candidate found to be supporting terror groups will be removed – a clear warning to the pro-Kurdish HDP party, which the president claims backs PKK Kurdish militants, though the party denies it.
Mr Erdogan is facing the fight of his career – he says Sunday’s vote is about the “survival” of his party and the country he has dominated for 16 years.
With several high-profile figures unhappy about Mr Erdogan’s increasingly authoritarian line, speculation of a party split could be prompted if citizens were to punish the ruling party in the polls.
EU leaders head into this weekend with a heavy heart. They know, in theory, that all Brexit options remain on the table and they haven’t entirely given up hope of a negotiated UK departure, but there is little trust here that the prime minister or Parliament will manage to pull it off.
Despite all the drama, the money and time spent by EU leaders on Brexit over the last two years (summits, dedicated governmental departments, no-deal planning), all the hard, hard graft put in by the EU and UK negotiating teams, Europe’s leaders are asking themselves what there is to show for it all.
Ongoing Brexit divisions in parliament, in government and in Theresa May’s cabinet were on screaming technicolour display again last week.
EU leaders used to use the threat of a no-deal Brexit as a negotiating tactic (as did the UK). They now believe it to be a very real prospect.
That has led to a number of countries – notably France – questioning the logic of delaying Brexit for much longer.
They wonder if the UK will ever unite around a Brexit Way Forward – be it a softer Brexit, no deal or no Brexit.
Would a Brexit extension, allowing for a general election or a second referendum, really settle the issue, they ask?
Or will the EU and UK end up in a no deal scenario anyway, after countless extra months of agonising (and costly) uncertainty?
France’s President Macron – suffering from sagging popularity ratings at home – is hell-bent on breathing life in to the European project.
He is far from excited at the idea of having a recalcitrant UK – with 8.5 toes already out of the club – overshadowing proceedings for the immediate future.
In the next few months, the EU holds decisive elections for the European parliament, where populist nationalists are predicted to make a strong showing. New European Commission and European Council presidents will need to be chosen and the next EU budget should be decided this autumn. The French president is not alone in worrying that an in-the-process-of leaving UK could throw a spanner in the works if it so chose.
By Mr Ben Rory, Europe Editor
This is not to say that the answer will be no if the prime minister comes to the emergency Brexit summit of EU leaders on 10 April, asking for a longer delay.
But there is a lively debate right now in EU circles about the virtue of granting the UK (by law all EU countries must come to a unanimous decision) a longer Brexit delay vs no deal in April or May. Of course no deal would be costly for the EU too, but for some, it’s beginning to look like the best of a bunch of bad options.
Treating a no-deal Brexit as a looming, very real possibility, rather than a distant, highly unlikely prospect, is making the EU take a long, hard look at its own no-deal planning.
At every opportunity, in press statements and tweets, EU leaders boast that they are fully prepared- but that is not entirely true.
Some countries and businesses are better prepared than others, but there are two hot potato political issues that – up until now – EU leaders have shied away from confronting.
Spain is now being told to stop trying to score points – however small – over Gibraltar. Madrid’s insistence on describing the Rock as a UK colony has held up finalising a document ensuring EU-wide, visa-free travel for UK citizens throughout the EU in case of no deal.
But the EU’s main no deal planning concern is the Irish border.
Leaders are beginning to lean on Dublin now to finesse its plans for the border with Northern Ireland in case of a no deal Brexit. The Irish government has kept plans vague until now because the idea of border checks is politically so sensitive on the island. But Brussels believes checks and some physical infrastructure will be needed, even if it’s away from the border itself.
Germany’s Angela Merkel is scheduled to fly to Dublin next week.
Whatever happens with Brexit, she and other European leaders want to make sure their single market will be protected.
Flash floods in western Afghanistan have killed at least 32 people.
Thousands of homes have been destroyed by heavy rains, as have makeshift shelters housing displaced families.
Seven provinces have been affected by the flooding, with Faryab, Bagdhis and Herat bearing the brunt of the damage.
The disaster has added to the suffering of hundreds of thousands of people who were forced out of their homes because of severe drought in the region last year.
Aid workers have been struggling to deliver assistance to the people who need it.
Poor infrastructure makes it hard for humanitarian workers to reach isolated areas.
Shir Ahmad, who lives in the Enjil district of Herat, told Reuters news agency: “My house and my farmland have been destroyed by the floods. If you go and see the destruction, it makes you want to cry.”
Three teenage migrants have been charged in Malta after “hijacking” an oil tanker, which is considered a terrorist activity under Maltese law.
One has been named as Abdalla Bari, 19, from Guinea. Two others, 15 and 16, are from Guinea and Ivory Coast and, as minors, cannot be identified.
All three deny the charges. They face up to 30 years in jail if found guilty.
The tanker, Elhiblu 1, had more than 100 migrants on board. All have been taken into custody.
The migrants had been rescued by the ship but reportedly hijacked it on Wednesday after being told they would be returned to Libya.
They are alleged to have told the captain to head north towards Europe instead.
A patrol vessel later stopped the tanker from entering Maltese territorial waters and a special operations team was dispatched to board and secure the vessel, the Armed Forces of Malta (AFM) said in a statement.
Malta’s Prime Minister Joseph Muscat has said all international rules will be followed as police investigate the incident.
The latest incident comes as the European Union says it is ending navy patrols in the Mediterranean. The EU says the decision to suspend Operation Sophia from September follows a request by Italy.
The mission was put in place four years ago to deter people smugglers and rescue migrants trying to reach Europe by boat. Tens of thousands of lives have been saved.
Lately, the mission has largely targeted smuggling networks as the number of people making the crossing dropped sharply following a controversial deal between the EU and Libya.
Italy’s Interior Minister Matteo Salvini has blamed Operation Sophia for continuing to bring rescued migrants to Italian shores.
Earlier this week, he described the alleged hijacking as “the first piracy on the high seas with migrants”, according to the Associated Press news agency.
Hassiba Hadjsahraoui of Medical aid group MSF told the BBC’s Newsday programme that the incident showed the despair of people who made the dangerous crossing over the Mediterranean.
The pilot of the plane which crashed into the English Channel with Emiliano Sala on board, was not qualified to fly at night, BBC Wales understands.
David Ibbotson is thought to have been colour-blind, and his licence restricted him to flying in daytime hours only.
Footballer Sala, 28, died when the plane carrying him from Nantes to Cardiff crashed late on 21 January.
The UK Civil Aviation Authority (CAA) said it could not comment.
The Air Accidents Investigation Branch (AAIB) said licensing “continues to be a focus” of its investigations.
Regulatory authorities have confirmed that Mr Ibbotson, from Crowle, North Lincolnshire, did not hold a “night rating” on his UK private pilot’s licence, the BBC understands.
His UK licence was mirrored by a US pilot’s licence – enabling him to fly the US-registered Piper Malibu in Europe.
The public record of his Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) licence states Mr Ibbotson “must have available glasses for near vision” and that “all limitations and restrictions on the United Kingdom pilot licence apply”.
There is no publicly available record of UK pilot licences, which are held by the CAA.
But sources have told BBC Wales that Mr Ibbotson’s licence restricted him to “flights by day only”.
An aviation source told BBC Wales that the ability to be able to differentiate between green and red lights is “key” to flying in the dark.
“Anything that’s on the UK licence applies to the US licence as well, so he couldn’t do anything more than the UK licence allows.
“Flying outside the restrictions of your licence is illegal and that’s likely to affect the insurance cover for the flight.”
European aviation rules define night as “the time from half an hour after sunset until half an hour before sunrise”.
Flight plans seen by BBC Wales indicate the flight scheduled to take Argentine player Sala for his first training session with Cardiff City had been due to leave Nantes airport at 09:00 local time on 21 January.
But the flight was postponed until 19:00, at the request of Sala, to allow him to spend the day saying goodbye to his Nantes teammates.
By the time Mr Ibbotson taxied a Piper Malibu plane on to the runway ready for take-off shortly after 19:00, it would have been around an hour and 10 minutes since sunset.
Speculation about the legality of the flight has so far centred around the question of whether it complied with restrictions concerning private pilots flying passengers in Europe in a US-registered aircraft.
As a private pilot, 59-year-old Mr Ibbotson was not allowed to carry passengers for remuneration or financial reward.
A preliminary report from the AIIB, released in February, stated he could only fly passengers on a cost-share basis.
As the aircraft was US-registered, pilot and passenger must have a “common purpose” for making the journey, and the pilot must dictate when a flight leaves.
The report adds that the flight “must not be made for the purpose of merely transporting the passenger”.
In an interview in February, football agent Willie McKay, who commissioned the flight, told the BBC that he and his family paid for the flight.
He was not involved, he said, in selecting the plane or the pilot and it was not a cost-share arrangement.
The plane disappeared off radar north of Guernsey in the Channel Islands at 20:16.
Sala’s body was recovered from the wreckage of the plane in early February but Mr Ibbotson’s body has not been found.
The European Aviation Safety Agency (Easa) states that to obtain a night rating, a pilot must undergo five hours of theory and five hours of flight training.
In their preliminary report, the AAIB said that because Mr Ibbotson’s pilot licence and log book had been lost in the crash, it had not yet been able to establish what ratings he held or how many hours he had flown recently – although it was known he had completed approximately 3,700 flying hours.
Investigators would normally look to establish how many hours a pilot had flown in the last 28 and 90 days before a crash.
The AAIB is expected to publish its full report into the tragedy early in 2020.