Thursday, March 22, 2018

Protests Planned as NAACP Meets With Police Chief Over Stephon Clark Shooting
March 22, 2018 10:27 AM

Local NAACP chapter president Betty Williams will meet with Sacramento Police Department Chief Daniel Hahn on Thursday amidst rising tensions stemming from the shooting of Stephon Clark on Sunday, video of which was released Wednesday afternoon.

The NAACP released a statement Wednesday condemning the police's role in the 22-year-old's death Sunday, when two officers fired a combined 20 shots at Clark shortly before 9:30 p.m. in his grandparents' backyard. They believed Clark had a gun, though a Sacramento County Sheriff's Department deputy in a helicopter had previously described him breaking into nearby property with a "tool bar." A rose gold iPhone was the only item found near Clark's body.

"While we respect the role of (SPD) in our community ... these shooting(s) have angered, frustrated and frighten(ed) people in our community," the statement said. "We are also frustrated with the justice system which fails to indict such killings. We are a community experiencing post-traumatic stress and as such the community and police relations(hip) remains one of mistrust."

Sacramento Area Congregations Together said it is planning a 3 p.m. protest Thursday at City Hall. A candlelight vigil is also scheduled for 7 p.m. Friday at 29th Street and Meadowview Road, near where Clark was shot.

The Rev. Al Sharpton said Wednesday he has been in contact with Clark's family and plans on traveling to Sacramento sometime in the next week.

U.S. Senate Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi (D-CA) tweeted about Clark's death Thursday morning, joining a group of celebrities including rapper/actor Common, former Sacramento Kings guard Doug Christie, activist Shaun King, U.S. women's soccer goalkeeper Hope Solo and actress Wanda Sykes.
Police Shoot, Kill Unarmed Black Man In His Grandmother’s Backyard
March 22, 2018 at 11:47 am

(CNN) — Sacramento police officers shot and killed a black man in his grandmother’s backyard because they believed he was pointing a gun at them, police said.

But investigators say they did not find a weapon at the scene, only a cell phone near the man’s body.

The fatal shooting of Stephon Clark on Sunday night was recorded by two officers’ body cameras and from a police helicopter; that footage was released Wednesday.

The videos show a brief encounter between police and Clark, lasting less than a minute, from the moment one of the officers spotted him in the driveway and yelled, “Hey, show me your hands. Stop. Stop.”

In the dark, the two police officers chased Clark into the backyard of his grandmother’s home.

“Show me your hands!” one of the officers yelled. “Gun, gun, gun.”

Then police opened fire. Clark crumpled to the ground, momentarily tried to crawl before falling motionless as more shots erupted around him.

His death has caused outrage among residents who say that the officers should be held accountable for his death. Police have said the officers fired only because they thought their lives were at stake.

As more police arrived at the scene, someone is heard asking “What did he have on him?”

An officer responded, “Like this, something in his hands. It looked like a gun from our perspective.”

Minutes after the shooting, as more officers arrive on the scene, a voice is heard saying, “Hey, mute,” and the audio on the body camera cuts off.

Clark’s grandmother said she was inside the house when the shots were fired and saw him with an iPhone.

“He was right there dead. I told the officers, you guys are murderers, murderers, murderers,” she told the Sacramento Bee.

What police say happened

The incident began on Sunday after 9 p.m., when Sacramento officers responded to a report that a man had broken car windows and was hiding in a backyard. The man was described as 6-foot-1, thin and wearing a black hoodie and pants, police said in a statement.

Officers arrived and were aided by a team in a Sacramento Sheriff’s Department helicopter. Police said the helicopter personnel observed that the suspect had picked up a “toolbar” and broken a window to a residence. The helicopter team observed the man running and looking into another car, police said. The helicopter then guided officers to the man’s location in the backyard of a home.

The camera from the helicopter showed a man running through a backyard and hopping a fence into another yard. The aerial footage captured the moment when two officers began heading towards him.

Officers arrived at the front yard and gave the man commands to stop and show his hands, according to police. The man immediately fled to the backyard, police said, and they pursued him.

At that point, the man “turned and advanced toward the officers while holding an object” extended in front of him, according to police.

“The officers believed the suspect was pointing a firearm at them. Fearing for their safety, the officers fired their duty weapons, striking the suspect multiple times,” the police news release states.

The body camera footage is dark and shaky. The helicopter pivots, blocking the aerial view of Clark and the two police officers in the brief seconds leading up to gunfire.

The officers fired 20 times at Clark and he was hit multiple times, police told CNN affiliate KOVR. Officers then handcuffed Clark and began life-saving efforts, according to police. He was pronounced dead at the scene.

The two officers involved in the shooting have two and four years’ experience with the Sacramento police, and both have four years’ prior experience with other agencies. The officers have been placed on paid administrative leave amid a use of force investigation.

Police said detectives canvassing the neighborhood found at least three vehicles with damage they say they believe Clark caused, as well as an adjacent residence with a shattered sliding glass door. Deputies in the helicopter had witnessed him shatter the door, police said.

Stevante Clark, the victim’s brother, told HLN that his brother “wasn’t a thief.”

“He was arrested before, but he’s been different lately, he really changed his life. He was a people-person who everybody wanted to be around. We came from underprivileged, broken homes, but he didn’t care about nothing else but his kids.”

Family skeptical of police version

Stevante Clark said on HLN that his priority right now wasn’t a possible lawsuit or body camera footage, but focusing on Clark’s two young children.

“I just want to make sure his kids go to school, my mom is good, and he gets buried in a way where we don’t have to worry — the nicest funeral,” he said.

He said he and his mother did not plan to watch body camera video of his brother’s shooting, but he expressed skepticism about the police version of what happened.

“They said he had a gun. Then they said he had a crowbar. Then they said he had a toolbar. Now I’m asking you, you’ve got a nice job, you sound pretty smart. What is a toolbar?” he said.

“If you lie to me once, I know you’ll lie to me again.”

Rev. Al Sharpton has pledged his support for Clark’s family and said he would be in California to help them fight for justice, according to a statement from his organization.
Stephon Clark: Police Video Shows Fatal Shooting of Unarmed Man
BBC World Service

Police video of the shooting death of Stephon Clark:

California police have released footage showing the fatal shooting of an unarmed man whose phone was apparently mistaken by officers for a gun.

Authorities said they thought Stephon Clark, 22, had a weapon when they shot at him about 20 times on Sunday night.

Sacramento police said a man was seen breaking into at least three vehicles and a neighbour's home.

Bodycam and helicopter footage do not clearly show what Mr Clark was doing before he was shot in his own backyard.

It is dark in the clip, but a figure is seen hopping over a fence and running into a backyard.

Police officers' body cameras show them running along the side of a house to confront the suspect.

Two officers who shot Mr Clark are purportedly heard asking him to show his hands and shouting, "gun, gun, gun", before opening fire.

Police said the suspect approached the officers with an object extended in front of him, which they thought was a handgun.

Footage from the helicopter shows Mr Clark collapsing as officers begin to fire, according to the Sacramento Bee.

One officer suggested disarming him with a non-lethal weapon, but stopped his thought mid-sentence, according to the footage.

"Let's hit him a couple of times with that before we uh...," he is purportedly heard saying.

"What'd he have on him?" one of the officers asked.

"Something in his hands, it looked like a gun from our perspective," an officer responded.

Police approached Mr Clark and a mobile phone can be seen lying near his head. He is handcuffed by the officers.

While discussing whether to perform CPR, one officer said: "Hey, mute". The audio went silent for two minutes.

Mr Clark was pronounced dead at the scene.

His name was not officially released but his fiancee, Salena Manni, identified him. He had two sons, aged one and three.

The shooting has reignited the debate about interactions between law enforcement and African Americans.

The Black Lives Matter Sacramento group issued a public statement calling the shooting a "murder" by police after reviewing the video. They organised a public event in his honour on Thursday.

"He was at the wrong place at the wrong time in his own backyard?" Mr Clark's grandmother, Sequita Thompson, asked the Sacramento Bee newspaper.

The videos were first shown to the family before they were released to the public.

Police training expert Ed Obayashi told the newspaper that the officers' actions were "reasonable".

"It looks bad, but (the officers) are still perceiving a threat... he's not obeying," said Mr Obayashi.

"The problem is he's got an object in his hand which unfortunately even during daylight could easily be considered a gun."

Ms Thompson, who heard the gunfire, said that she never heard police ask her grandson what he was holding.

Sacramento Mayor Darrell Steinberg said the investigation needs to be completed before he could draw any conclusions.

"Based on the videos alone, I cannot second guess the split-second decisions of our officers and I'm not going to do that," the mayor said in an statement to US media.
‘Show Me Your Hands:’ Police Video Shows Murder of Stephon Clark in a Hail of Gunfire
Sacramento Bee

March 21, 2018 03:49 PM

Video of police killing of Stephon Clark

Sacramento police fatally shot Stephon Clark on Sunday night within seconds of encountering him next to his grandparents’ home in south Sacramento, video released Wednesday by the department shows.

About six minutes after the shooting, after backup arrives, an officer can be heard telling another officer, “hey mute.”

Sound then cuts out as officers apparently turn off their microphones. But video continues and the officers can be seen speaking to each other and to at least one civilian on scene for about two more minutes before the video ends.

“We asked, ‘Can they do that,’” said Les Simmons, a pastor and social activist in Sacramento who viewed the footage with two of Clark’s family members Wednesday afternoon prior to its public release. “They all just muted their mics. … It was a moment of, what are they doing? What are they saying?”

The Sacramento Police Department has released helicopter footage of the Stephon Clark shooting where officers fatally shot the unarmed black man who was holding his cellphone in his grandparents' backyard. Sacramento Police Department

Sacramento police spokesman Sgt. Vance Chandler said, “There are a variety of reasons why officers have the opportunity to mute their body worn cameras.”

Chandler referred a Sacramento Bee reporter to the department's general orders for details.

Simmons and Clark’s aunt, Saquoia Durham, said after viewing the videos that they believe the fatality could have been avoided.

"As soon as they did the command, they started shooting. They said 'put your hands up, gun' and then they just let loose on my nephew,” said Durham.

"They didn’t give him a chance to put his hands up or anything, and then when they shot him down, they knew they messed up,” she said.

The release by the Sacramento police Wednesday included two audio and three video recordings of the fatal shooting of Clark by two officers in Meadowview, a working class neighborhood that has historically had uneasy relations with law enforcement.

Clark was unarmed and holding only a cellphone.

The videos include body camera footage from the two officers involved in the shooting, each of whom fired 10 shots at Clark, according to the department. The officers have not yet been identified, but Chandler said the names would be released within 10 days. The department also said more video from other responding officers would also be released soon.

Included in the videos was aerial footage captured by a Sacramento County Sheriff's Department helicopter. It's the first time Sheriff Scott Jones has released video in an officer-involved shooting.

In a frenetic sequence that lasts about 10 seconds, police chase Clark into the backyard of his grandparents' home, where he had been staying on and off for a month, yelling at him to "show me your hands. Stop. Stop."

Clark rounds the corner into the dark area and runs toward a covered patio at the far side. He can‘t be seen for a moment from overhead while the helicopter circles to a different position, and the body camera footage is dark.

One officer yells, “Show me your hands. Gun,” and quickly ducks back behind the wall for cover. In the bodycam footage, it appears the second officer may be pulling his partner to cover.

Then Clark can be seen taking a few steps toward officers as one officer moves into the backyard again.

The officer yells, “Show me your hands. Gun, gun, gun,” before both officers fire a rapid barrage of shots.

Both officers are illuminating the scene with what appears to be flashlights attached to their weapons. Neither identifies themselves as a police officer.

The overhead video shows one of the first shots hit Clark, sending him crawling on his hands and knees away from the backdoor of the house, before more than 15 additional bullets go flying from their chambers.

Police training expert Ed Obayashi said after viewing some of the video that the shooting was "reasonable" and that firing so many shots was standard procedure.

“It looks bad, but (the officers) are still perceiving a threat,” said Obayashi. “He's not obeying. He's running from them. He suddenly turns. The problem is he‘s got an object in his hand which unfortunately even during daylight could easily be considered a gun.”

Simmons said he believed it was “a lack of proper training to handle a situation like this.”

“Even if he did what they say was done, at the end of the day it does not justify his life being taken,” said Simmons.

Sacramento Mayor Darrell Steinberg said he had reviewed the videos as well.

“Based on the videos alone, I cannot second guess the split-second decisions of our officers and I’m not going to do that,” Steinberg said in an emailed statement. “The investigation must be completed. We need more information in addition to the video before we can render any final conclusions. The questions raised by the community and councilmembers are appropriate and must be answered during the investigation. For instance, what are the protocols regarding use of force and for rendering emergency aid during officer involved shootings?”

After Clark is shot and lying face down on the ground, one officer tells the other to do a “tactical reload” in case more force is needed. Both officers assure one another that they have not been hit.

“He's still down; he's not moving,” one adds a little later. “We can't see the gun.”

The officers then wait for about six minutes for backup – guns drawn – before Clark is approached for aid. In the interim, another officer can be heard saying “go get a non-lethal” weapon, and “hit him” with it, apparently to ensure Clark was not an armed threat before approaching.

“He came up and he, he kind of approached us, hands out, and then fell down,” one of the involved officers says as more officers arrive.

Once officers do approach Clark, he can be seen lying on the concrete with a white iPhone nearby. Officers handcuff him and begin CPR, sending an officer to get a safety mask before beginning.

Soon after, an officer arriving on the scene tells one of the officers who fired shots to turn off his microphone, and the audio ends.

The videos were released Wednesday afternoon after police met with Clark‘s family members to allow them to view the materials first. Simmons was also present.

Allowing family to see such videos before they are released to the public is part of a city policy adopted in late 2016 by the city of Sacramento after the fatal shooting by police of Joseph Mann, a mentally ill black man. Mann's shooting led to major reforms in the department, including a requirement that all patrol officers wear body cameras.

The reforms also require police to release videos in “critical incidents” such as officer-involved shootings and deaths in custody within 30 days of the event. Sacramento police Chief Daniel Hahn, the city's first African American chief, has been releasing videos more quickly than the requirement and for a broader range of events than covered by the new law since taking over the department last summer.

The sequence of events leading to Clark's death began on the night of March 18 when police received a call about a man breaking car windows and hiding in a backyard in the 7500 block of 29th Street.

Police dispatched ground units, and the Sacramento County Sheriff's Department responded with a helicopter. Deputies in the helicopter reported seeing a man in a backyard pick up an object described as a "tool bar" and break a window. The helicopter video does not include this. Chandler said the unit did not begin filming until after this occurred.

Police later said the man in the backyard broke the rear sliding glass door of the home, then discarded the "tool bar."

Chandler said investigators retrieved a cinder block and a piece of aluminum similar to the kind that would be used for a rain gutter near the broken sliding glass door. Both items were taken into evidence though Chandler said it was uncertain if either was the "tool bar" seen by airborne officers.

Chandler said the man then ran south and jumped a fence into the adjoining property. That property is where Clark's grandparents live. It's just prior to this that the helicopter video begins.

The object ultimately determined to be what police saw in Clark's hand was a cellphone his girlfriend and mother of his two children, Salena Manni, had loaned him. It was in a rose gold-colored case with a black clip on the back for holding items like credit cards, she said.

The shooting has become a focal point for community activists who have continued to campaign for more reforms after the Mann shooting. It has also garnered national attention and likely will draw more. The Rev. Al Sharpton said Wednesday he has been in touch with Clark's family and plans on traveling to Sacramento to "fight for justice and to ensure (Clark) has a proper burial," according to a statement to The Bee.

Clark's family has started a GoFundMe page to fund funeral expenses.

"This is an unfortunate moment," said community activist Berry Accius. "This moment is probably going to set us back. … We got transparency. Now we need accountability. We can't get that young man back."
Police Shot At a Man 20 Times In His Own Yard, Thinking He Had a Gun: It Was an iPhone.
By Alex Horton and Wesley Lowery March 22 at 1:14 PM
Washington Post

How the Stephon Clark shooting unfolded

Body camera and helicopter footage provides more information of the night Sacramento police shot and killed Stephon Clark, a father of two. (Joyce Koh/The Washington Post)

Police say they saw an object in Stephon Clark’s hand before they fired 20 bullets that killed him in his back yard Sunday night in Sacramento, a disturbing moment that was made public through body camera footage released Wednesday night.

The two officers were responding to a 911 call about a man breaking vehicle windows when they encountered, then killed, Clark, an unarmed black man.

Video released by the Sacramento Police Department depicts a frantic foot pursuit through darkened streets pierced by white slivers of police flashlight.

The officers spot Clark approaching a house and shout: “Show me your hands! Stop! Stop!”

Clark is seen running, and the two officers round the corner of the house and find him under a covered patio.

An infrared camera on an overhead helicopter briefly loses sight of Clark.

“Show me your hands! Gun!” an officer shouts and ducks behind the wall in a fraction of a second.

The helicopter footage shows one of the officers appearing to grab his partner to pull him to cover.

Clark steps toward the officers. Behind the wall, one of the officers issues another command. “Show me your hands!” And then: “Gun, gun, gun!”

Both officers open fire. Sparks from the bullets light up the helicopter’s infrared camera in sharp white pops.

The sequence, from the first glimpse of Clark on the patio to the first gunshot, unfolds in about six seconds.

The officers are never heard identifying themselves as police before fatally shooting Clark.

The gun officers thought Clark had in his hand was actually a white iPhone.

“He was at the wrong place at the wrong time in his own back yard?” his grandmother, Sequita Thompson, told the Sacramento Bee. “C’mon, now, they didn’t have to do that.”

The Rev. Al Sharpton, who has spoken with Clark’s mother and plans to travel to California to meet with the family, said in a statement: “It is an atrocity that an unarmed young man was shot at 20 times in his own backyard and shows the urgent need in these times for intervention against police misconduct.”

Sharpton added: “We will call for a complete and thorough investigation into this young man’s death.”

The Sacramento Police Department said the man they believed was breaking windows was the same man the officers killed in a hail of gunfire, identified by the 911 caller as a thin 6-foot male wearing a black hoodie and dark pants.

Police have yet to identify Clark as the suspect or victim.

But Thompson and other relatives identified him to media using variations of his name, Stephon and Stephan. (Public records list him as Stephon Clark, 22.)

Thompson disputes the police department’s version of events.

Her grandson was short, not 6 feet, she said in a video produced by the Bee. She believes another suspect was smashing windows, and that Clark was in the back yard at the wrong time.

Their doorbell is broken, and relatives often tap on the back window for someone to open the garage door, the family told the newspaper. Clark was staying at his grandmother’s home at the time he was killed.

The gunfire startled her that night, she told the Bee.

“The only thing that I heard was pow, pow, pow, pow, and I got to the ground,” she said in the Bee’s video.

She said she began to suspect the police description of a dead person in her yard was a member of the family.

“I told the officers, ‘You guys are murderers. Murderers,’ ” Thompson cried out. “You took him away from his kids.”

The family said Clark had two young sons, Cairo and Aiden, and a fiancee, Salena Manni, the Associated Press reported.

Thompson did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

The narrative of the Sunday night shooting released by authorities tells a short, grim story.

The helicopter observed a suspect picking up a “toolbar” and breaking a window to a house after 9 p.m. Sunday night.

The Bee reported it was the sliding glass door belonging to a neighbor.

Authorities said the suspect then ran and looked into a car.

Police in the helicopter guided officers on the ground to the front yard of Thompson’s house as Clark was coming from the back.

They met in the middle, and soon Clark was dead.

“Prior to the shooting, the involved officers saw the suspect facing them, advance forward with his arms extended, and holding an object in his hands,” police said in a statement. “At the time of the shooting, the officers believed the suspect was pointing a firearm at them. After an exhaustive search, scene investigators did not locate any firearms. The only items found near the suspect was a cell phone.”

An analysis by The Washington Post found that 987 people were killed by police last year — 68 of them unarmed. Of those unarmed victims, 30 were white, 20 were black and 13 were Hispanic, showing an overrepresentation of African Americans among the total U.S. population. Five of the remaining fatalities were of unknown or other race.

At least 230 people have been killed by police this year, according to The Post’s database on fatal force.

“I know there could have been another way; he didn’t have to die,” Clark’s brother Stevante told CBS News.

“You’re going to know his name forever,” he added before reciting the names of several black men who were killed by police: “You’re going to remember it, like, how you know … Mike Brown, Eric Garner, Tamir Rice. You’re going to know him. You’re going to remember this.”

Sacramento Mayor Darrell Steinberg offered his condolences to Clark’s family and said in a statement that he was “heartbroken” for the city.

“The questions raised by the community and council members are appropriate and must be answered during the investigation,” Steinberg said, though he noted that he had reviewed the police videos carefully and said: “Based on the videos alone, I cannot second-guess the split-second decisions of our officers and I’m not going to do that.”

Clark is at least the sixth person shot and killed by the Sacramento Police Department since the beginning of 2015, according to a Post analysis: Five of them were black men; the other, a white man.

The October 2015 shooting of Adriene Ludd and the September 2017 shooting of Eric Arnold were the only two of the six fatal Sacramento police shootings in which the person killed was armed with a gun.

Police say Ludd fled after a traffic stop and fired at officers before he was killed.

Arnold, a suspect in a double homicide, shot two police officers before he was shot and killed.

Matt Coates was holding a plastic BB gun when he was shot and killed in May 2015; his girlfriend would later tell reporters that she had told the officers that the gun wasn’t real. In two of the cases — the fatal shootings of Dazion Flenaugh and Joseph Mann — Sacramento police killed people alleged to have been armed with a knife.

Clark, it appears, was unarmed.

How many times Clark was shot is unknown, authorities said, pending the investigation. The officers are on paid administrative leave as the probe unfolds, officials said.

Detective Eddie Macauley of the Sacramento Police said Wednesday he was unsure what model of weapon the officers used, or if the 10 rounds each of them fired was the entire capacity of their magazines.

The police said five minutes passed before responding officers arrived to cuff Clark and render first aid, which ultimately proved futile: He died at the scene.

That timeline is not precise, according to the footage. Five minutes and 16 seconds pass between the radio call of shots fired and when officers snap on the cuffs. Several more seconds pass before someone on scene begins chest compressions.

A single sentence of department guidance on providing medical attention to suspects reads: “Officers shall provide first aid to injured parties if it can be done safely.”

Some factors may affect how and if police render aid to someone they shoot, such as if they are resisting or if police think a weapon is present, said Macauley, the police detective.

In the video, the officers did not appear to be fearful of an attack once Clark was down.

He wasn’t moving, an officer notes. One officer, showing no clear urgency to replenish his ammunition, waits a minute and a half before he reloads.

“Sir, can you move?” an arriving officer calls into the night at Clark, minutes after the shooting, telling him they cannot help unless they know he does not have a weapon.

Police allowed Clark’s family to review the body camera video before it was publicly released — part of a departmental policy change, according to the Bee:

Allowing family to see such videos before they are released to the public is part of a city policy adopted in late 2016 by the city of Sacramento after the fatal shooting by police of Joseph Mann, a mentally ill black man. Mann’s shooting led to major changes in the department, including a requirement that all patrol officers wear body cameras.

The changes also require police to release videos in “critical incidents” such as officer-involved shootings and deaths in custody within 30 days of the event. Sacramento police Chief Daniel Hahn, the city’s first African American chief, has been releasing videos more quickly than the requirement and for a broader range of events than covered by the new law since taking over the department last summer.

“As soon as they did the command, they started shooting,” Clark’s aunt Saquois Durham told the Bee. “They said ‘Put your hands up, gun,’ and then they just let loose on my nephew.”

Said Les Simmons, a pastor and community activist: “Even if he did what they say was done, at the end of the day it does not justify his life being taken.”

Simmons called into question what was left off the released video, particularly at the end.

Before the video concludes, the two officers walk to the street, nearly seven minutes after the shooting.

Shimmering red and blue lights silhouette an approaching group of officers. Their faces are blurred.

“Hey mute?” an officer says. The audio goes silent, and shortly after, the videos end.

 Alex Horton is a general assignment reporter for The Washington Post. He previously covered the military and national security for Stars and Stripes, and served in Iraq as an Army infantryman.  Follow @AlexHortonTX

Wesley Lowery is a national correspondent covering law enforcement, justice and their intersection with politics and policy for The Washington Post. He previously covered Congress and national politics. In 2015, he was a lead reporter on the "Fatal Force" project awarded the Pulitzer Prize and George Polk award.  Follow @WesleyLowery
Hundreds of people gathered at the George Thabe Cricket Stadium on Wednesday where Deputy President David Mabuza delivered the keynote address.

On 21 March Deputy President David Mabuza addressed the national Human Rights Day commemoration in remembrance of 69 people who were killed by apartheid security forces during the anti-pass law protest in Sharpeville, Vereeniging, Johannesburg.

Ray White
Eyewitness News

JOHANNESBURG - Deputy President David Mabuza has laid a wreath at the memorial site to honour those who were killed in the Sharpeville massacre by apartheid police.

Hundreds of people gathered at the George Thabe Cricket Stadium on Wednesday where Mabuza delivered the keynote address.

Mabuza says South Africans have a responsibility to protect children, saying former leaders would be devastated when hearing about what happens to them in the country.

He was referring to pupils dying after falling in pit toilets in schools.

“Such a tragedy exposes our neglect of children and abuse of Human Rights that Tambo and Mukaba fought for.”

Meanwhile, Mabuza says generations to come should be reminded of the struggle to free millions of South Africans from the apartheid rule.

He says the anti-apartheid movement was about achieving equality.

“At the heart of all these campaigns against the indignity of passes was a struggle for equality and citizenship.”

Wednesday, March 21, 2018

Deputy President David Mabuza says it’s disappointing that racism still exists in South Africa even after so many years.

Masego Rahlaga & Ray White
Eyewitness News

JOHANNESBURG - Deputy President David Mabuza says racial attacks among the people of South Africa show that the lives of those who were killed during apartheid were lost for nothing.

Mabuza was speaking in Sharpeville at a Human Rights Day event.

The event was to commemorate the 69 people who were killed in 1960 by the apartheid police, who opened fire during a peaceful march against pass laws.

Mabuza says it’s disappointing that racism still exists in South Africa even after so many years.

“We’re called upon to work together to advance Human Rights, inclusion and unity. We must create a world free from the evil clutches of racism and social exclusion.”

The deputy president says cases and incidents of racism show that South Africa is not yet entirely free.

“It’s an indictment on all of us that some many years after Sharpeville we still witness racial attacks”

Mabuza was referring to cases such as that of former real estate agent Vicki Momberg, who was found guilty on four counts of crimen injuria.

Mabuza says generations to come should be reminded of the struggle to free millions of South Africans from the apartheid rule.

He says the anti-apartheid movement was about achieving equality.

“At the heart of all these campaigns against the indignity of passes was a struggle for equality and citizenship.”

Mabuza says former leaders would be devastated when hearing about what is happening to children.

Mabuza was referring to children who died after falling into pit toilets in schools, saying things there need to be changed.

“Such a tragedy exposes our neglect of children and abuse of Human Rights that Tambo and Mukaba fought for.”
Hundreds of people gathered at the George Thabe Cricket Stadium on Wednesday where Deputy President David Mabuza delivered the keynote address.

On 21 March Deputy President David Mabuza addressed the national Human Rights Day commemoration in remembrance of 69 people who were killed by apartheid security forces during the anti-pass law protest in Sharpeville, Vereeniging, Johannesburg. Picture: Sethembiso Zulu/EWN

Ray White
Eyewitness News

JOHANNESBURG - Deputy President David Mabuza has laid a wreath at the memorial site to honour those who were killed in the Sharpeville massacre by apartheid police.

Hundreds of people gathered at the George Thabe Cricket Stadium on Wednesday where Mabuza delivered the keynote address.

Mabuza says South Africans have a responsibility to protect children, saying former leaders would be devastated when hearing about what happens to them in the country.

He was referring to pupils dying after falling in pit toilets in schools.

“Such a tragedy exposes our neglect of children and abuse of Human Rights that Tambo and Mukaba fought for.”

Meanwhile, Mabuza says generations to come should be reminded of the struggle to free millions of South Africans from the apartheid rule.

He says the anti-apartheid movement was about achieving equality.

“At the heart of all these campaigns against the indignity of passes was a struggle for equality and citizenship.”
Statement of the African National Congress Following the National Working Committee Meeting Held on 12th March 2018
14 March 2018

The African National Congress held an ordinary meeting of the National Working Committee (NWC) on Monday the 12th of March 2018. The NWC is a constitutional structure of the ANC mandated with the day to day running of the organisation and the implementation of the resolution of the National Executive Committee. The NWC received and considered a number of reports on the affairs of the organisation including on specific issues of national interest. The NWC engaged extensively with ANC Elections Sub-Committee Report which provided a comprehensive analysis of the open voter registration Weekend.


The ANC embarked on an intense voter registration drive through visits to various communities throughout the country, urging first time voters primarily youth to register and for those who have registered to check and confirm their details. The outcomes of the open voter registration weekend is proof that South Africa has entered an era of hope and renewal. The ANC elections machinery was led in action by the National Officials with President Ramaphosa kicking off the mobilization programme with a health walk from Regina Mundi Church to Mangalane in Chiawelo, Soweto, followed by door-to-door visits and blitzes.

The NWC commended the thousands of ANC volunteers including alliance partners and party agents who took to the streets to mobilize and ensure that eligible South Africans are registered to vote. Registration took place in conditions that were largely peaceful, orderly, and conducive to the free exercise of fundamental political rights. The ANC further calls on all eligible South Africans who have not registered or checked their details during the open voter registration weekend to visit IEC offices within their reach, mostly located within municipal offices including using the SMS line and the toll-free number provided by the IEC to verify their details.

The NWC further noted that in a number of areas, voters were prevented from accessing voting stations due to disruptive protest actions. The ANC calls upon all South Africans to exercise their fundamental right to protest peacefully and unarmed with due regard to the rights of their fellow citizens.

The NWC also learned with shock of the killing of Cde Nqobizwe "Nqoh" Mkhize an ANC voter-district coordinator in Ethekweni Ward 105, and two members of the community by unknown assailants. The ANC condemns this horrendous and murderous act and call on SAPS to act swiftly in bringing those responsible to book. The NWC calls upon law enforcement agencies to ensure that citizens are able to exercise their rights without fear and call upon all levels of government to work with affected communities urgently to resolve any service delivery concerns they have.


The ANC remains committed to the realization of conference resolutions to further the agenda of transformation and development in society. The ANC will therefore continue to canvass across all sections of society a broader and fair understanding on our responsible efforts to advance for the expropriation of land without compensation. The advancement of all resolutions of the 54th National Conference will be undertaken working together with all stakeholders in our society and primarily our own communities and masses of our people.


The NWC noted the Report by the Sbu Ndebele Commission on the outcomes of the Eastern Cape 8th Provincial Elective Conference and the report will be placed before the NEC for decision-making.


The NWC noted with great concern the recent outbreak of Listeriosis. We are especially disturbed by the high number of fatalities, with 180 deaths reported to date. This has been recorded as the largest outbreak in history and must be treated with the urgency and seriousness it deserves. We urge citizens to remain vigilant and ensure that they follow the guidelines issued by health authorities to ensure food safety so that we may arrest this scourge and prevent further exposure to the risks of ingesting contaminated food products. We further call on health authorities to intensify their efforts towards focused awareness programs and adopt more preventative approaches in dealing with this disease.


The NWC noted the placement of the VBS Mutual Bank under curatorship and that such efforts should be undertaken with a view of resuscitating and assisting VBS to function optimally within the requisite regulations as a going concern with sufficient liquidity for self-sustainability. Similarly the Secretary General honored a request of a meeting by the VBS delegation on the Tuesday the 13th of March 2017. Such engagements will be ongoing with a view of finding long lasting solution and further resolve the ongoing impasse consistent with an the ANC overriding commitment to fully transform the financial services sector as the per the resolutions of the 54th National Conference.


The NWC noted and resolved on the nominations of Premiers Elect for the Provinces of the Free State and Mpumalanga. The Two Comrades Nominated for the Position of Premiers Elect are as follows:
Mpumalanga: Refilwe Mtshweni
Free State : Sisi Ntombela

The NWC believes that the two women nominated as Premiers Elect will take forward the agenda of radical socio-economic transformation. The nomination of the Premiers Elect demonstrates that the ANC is a true non-sexist organisation and continues to recognize the existing leadership capacity of the Women within our organisation.

Issued by the African National Congress


Pule Mabe
National Spokesperson
071 623 4975

Donovan Cloete
Acting National Communications Manager
071 461 2989
Statement of the ANC on the Reinstatement of Charges Against Comrade Jacob Zuma
16 March 2018

The African National Congress (ANC) has noted the decision of the National Prosecuting Authority (NPA) to reinstate charges of corruption against the former President of the ANC and the Republic of South Africa, Comrade Jacob Zuma.

The ANC reaffirms its confidence in our country's criminal justice system and our respect for the independence of the judiciary. We equally affirm our commitment to the constitutionally enshrined principle of equality of all before the law.

Accordingly we call on South Africans at large to afford the NPA space to conduct its work unhindered, we continue to assert the inalienable right of all in our country, including Comrade Jacob Zuma, to be presumed innocent until and if proven guilty.

Issued by

Ace Magashule
Secretary General
African National Congress

Pule Mabe 071 623 4975
As Commodities Roar, Africa Wants Bigger Slice of the Mining Pie
March 21, 2018, 8:00 PM EDT

Zambia hits Canada copper producer with $7.9 billion tax bill
Congo, Tanzania and Mali already seeking more lucrative deals

One by one, the biggest names in African mining are getting squeezed. The tactics might be blunt, but the message is clear: the countries where they operate want a bigger share of the proceeds.

The collapse in commodities through 2015 hobbled some of Africa’s biggest resource economies, stunting growth and leaving budgets short. Since then a recovery in prices has sent the continent’s biggest miners soaring, boosted profits and rewarded shareholders with bumper payouts. But a lack of returns to governments is drawing a backlash from Mali in the Sahara to Tanzania on the Indian Ocean.

Zambia is the latest flash point. Africa’s second-biggest copper producer slapped a $7.9 billion tax assessment on First Quantum Minerals Ltd. and said it’s planning an audit of other miners in the country. Companies operating in Zambia include units of Glencore Plc and Vedanta Resources Plc.

Next door in the Democratic Republic of Congo, Glencore, the world’s biggest commodity trader, is dealing with a dispute over a new mining code that dramatically boosts taxes, while major gold producer Mali has reportedly said it might follow Congo’s example. Tanzania has all but crippled its biggest gold miner Acacia Mining Plc, a unit of Barrick Gold Corp., with export bans and a whopping $190 billion tax bill.

‘Seize a Slice’

Barrick also has a copper mine in Zambia, though it says it hasn’t received any notifications from Zambian authorities about a potential audit or tax reassessment, according to spokesman Andy Lloyd.

Countries “want a larger share of the rent,” Hunter Hillcoat, an analyst at Investec Securities Ltd. in London, said by phone. “The mining companies are doing extremely well and governments are taking the opportunity to seize a slice of that.”

Part of the governments’ motivation is pecuniary. Zambia’s economy, for example, grew in 2016 at the weakest pace since the start of the millennium and the government is struggling with a budget deficit. In Congo, economic growth has also slowed and the country’s foreign exchange reserves have plunged.

There’s a wider dissatisfaction than just money. Many governments feel the companies that operate on their territory haven’t delivered on their promises, either through operational setbacks or the use of legal tax planning to transfer profits offshore.

Aggressive Rhetoric

In Tanzania, President John Magufuli accused Acacia of under-declaring export revenue and hit it with a record $190 billion tax bill. In Congo, the state-owned copper miner has accused its joint-venture partners, including Glencore’s Katanga Mining Ltd., of using inter-company loans to reduce the profits that are declared in the country and promised to investigate.

The aggressive rhetoric has been contagious, according to Charles Robertson, London-based global chief economist at Renaissance Capital.

“The approach taken by Magufuli did not deliver what was initially demanded, but it did see the company pay more tax,” Robertson said by phone. “That relative success looks like it has encouraged similar moves elsewhere.”

In a world where statements are transmitted around the globe instantly, African governments have also seen that their threats can give them leverage. First Quantum tumbled 12 percent Tuesday and didn’t fully recover even after the company refuted the tax assessment Wednesday. Acacia lost 47 percent of its value last year -- and another 26 percent so far this year -- as its dispute with Tanzania drags on.

The share prices of Glencore and Randgold Resources Ltd., which both mine in the Congo, have been relatively more resilient despite the uncertainty there. Still, chief executive officers Ivan Glasenberg and Mark Bristow flew to Kinshasa this month with other mining executives to negotiate directly with President Joseph Kabila -- a sign that the balance of power may be shifting from foreign investor to African government.

“The governments don’t care if they’re discouraging foreign investment in the future,” Investec’s Hillcoat said. “This is an opportunity right now to boost revenues.”

— With assistance by Danielle Bochove, and Taonga Clifford Mitimingi
Africa’s Art Scene May Be Booming, But It’s Still a Blip on the Global Market
Sotheby's employees hold up one of Pablo Picasso's portraits of his muse Marie-Theres Walter, a 1937 'Femme au beret et a la robe quadrillee', which is scheduled to be auctioned for the very first time on Feb. 28, 2018, during the Impressionist and Modern Art Evening Sale, at Sotheby's auction house in London, Thursday, Feb. 22, 2018. Picasso painted the portrait the same year as his masterpiece on the Spanish civil war 'Guernica'.  (AP Photo/Frank Augstein)

Lynsey Chutel
March 21, 2018
Quartz Africa

For all the excitement around African contemporary art, the continent still accounts for a fraction of the global art market.

Last year, the sales in the global art market reached a total of $63.7 billion—a 12% increase on the previous year, according to the 2018 Art Market report published last week. Compiled by Art Basel and UBS Bank, the report relies on auction sales data and dealer surveys.

Africa, combined with South America, made up less than 4% of global sales. The US, China, and the UK account for a combined 83% of the value of the global art market. The report found that “despite having dynamic and vibrant local art scenes and significant international buyers at the high end,” South America and Africa made up a fraction of the global market share.

While sales in 2017 improved by 12% from the previous year, it was recovering from a low point. All regional art markets declined in 2016 thanks to slow economic growth and political uncertainty, which filtered down into the art market. Between 2014 and 2016, the global art market lost 16% of its value on aggregate, according to the report.

Art collection is closely tied with wealth, which accounts for China’s entry into the art market in recent years and explains why the US still dominates the market. This year’s Knight Wealth report found that art has become the preferred luxury investment for the world’s wealthy. The same report found that Africa is home to less than 10% of the number the of individuals living in the income bracket of $5 million or more.

The kind of purchases that make a dent in the global art market are those like that of Japanese billionaire Yusaku Maezawa, who bought an untitled work by Jean-Micheal Basquiat for $110.5-million in a record-breaking 10-minute bid. But on the list of the world’s top 200 art collectors, only one of them lives in Africa: German Jochen Zeitz based in Kenya, whose name and permanent collection has been lent to the Zeitz MOCCA Museum of Contemporary African Art opened in Cape Town last year.

And so, despite the unprecedented interest in African pieces, local collectors don’t have the money to amass the kind of collections that attract the global industry’s collection. Zeitz’s collection (on display at the museum) contains already-established names like El Anatsui, William Kentridge and Yinka Shonibare. Young collectors are likely buying emerging artists at much smaller margins. Corporates and institutions and Africa’s elite hold the more valuable collections.

One of the continent’s most well-known collectors is Sindika Dokolo, the DRC-born businessman and African art champion married to Africa’s richest woman Isabel dos Santos. Dokolo got something of a head start when he purchased the collection of German businessman and African art enthusiast Hans Bogatzke in 2005. At the same time, Dokolo established a foundation in Angola to promote homegrown talent, but his political affiliations and personal controversies threaten to overshadow his work.

The data is a reminder that despite the optimism, Africa’s art market is still very much an emerging market—with plenty room for growth.
‘Black Panther’ Fans Can Find Glimpses of Wakanda in Africa
By Andrew Meldrum 
March 21 at 4:34 PM

JOHANNESBURG — Want to go to Wakanda? The blockbuster success of “Black Panther” has created a new, compelling vision of Africa as a continent of smart, technologically savvy people with cool clothes living in a futuristic city amid stunning landscapes.

The hidden, high-tech kingdom is fictional, of course. But the movie successfully weaves together many different aspects of the continent to depict Wakanda. For fans who long to visit, there are many real places to consider.

“The movie references a lot of different African cultures and tribes,” says Meruschka Govender, a “Black Panther” fan who blogs about travel at and calls herself an “African travel activist.”

“I loved the Afro-futurist costumes, production and black consciousness themes. I really hope that it changes the narrative of African travel and inspires people to travel more the continent,” she added.


In South Africa, Johannesburg is a good place to start. “Joburg” is a dynamic, cosmopolitan African city, full of commerce, high-rise architecture and nightlife that is redolent of Wakanda.

The high-speed Gautrain can whisk you from O.R. Tambo International Airport to Johannesburg’s shiny financial center Sandton, with its modern skyscrapers. The train is quick, clean and pleasant.

Joburg’s Braamfontein district is hip, edgy and fun. University students and hipsters frequent the coffee shops, restaurants and boutiques. By night there are fun bars and jazz clubs. The striking Nelson Mandela suspension bridge leads to gritty downtown Johannesburg. Braamfontein has come up in the past 10 years from a derelict, dangerous spot to a great place to visit.

Rocky Street in Yeoville is a bustling, hustling strip full of people selling their wares. South Africans, as well as Zimbabweans, Congolese and people from all parts of Africa are there. Security is a concern in Johannesburg, but if you are alert and careful, don’t flash your cell phone or cash, it can be a manageable city.


“Black Panther” highlights the contrast between Africa’s cityscapes and the landscapes of the countryside.

The tiny mountain kingdom of Lesotho has that rural, traditional, spiritual side of Africa, where the Border Tribe in “Black Panther” resided. Lesotho has dramatic mountain scenery and picturesque rondavels, the round, thatched dwellings where many rural families live. Most distinctive are the woven, cone-shaped hats and the brightly colored Basotho blankets worn over the shoulders of many in Lesotho. Those blankets feature prominently in the movie.


With historic towers and churches dating back to the fourth century, Ethiopia has many sites that suggest Wakanda. The country was never colonized and its people are very proud of that, just as the people of Wakanda are proud of their history of independence. The obelisks of Axum and the churches of Lalibela, carved out of rock, speak of ancient traditions. Ethiopians wear flowing embroidered cotton robes and also like their reputation as the place where coffee was first grown and served, which you can appreciate with an Ethiopian coffee ceremony.


Victoria Falls, where the Zambezi River spectacularly plummets 350 feet (106 meters) to make one of the world’s largest waterfalls, is located on the border between Zambia and Zimbabwe. The awe-inspiring falls throw up a perpetual mist that supports a lush rainforest. The indigenous Tonga people called the falls “Mosi-oa-Tunya” which means “Smoke That Thunders.” It’s a fabulous place to visit and may bring to mind the waterfall fight scene from the movie.

Kenya’s capital, Nairobi, is another city that is reminiscent of “Black Panther.” Perhaps the place that best captures the juxtaposition of modern and rural Africa is Nairobi National Park, just 4 miles (6.4 kilometers) from the city, where you can see rhinos, giraffe and elephants, and look over their shoulders to see the office towers of the city in the background.

East Africa’s expansive savannas, with flat-top acacia trees, seen in Maasai Mara park and Tanzania’s Serengeti park, look like they are right out of a sweeping movie scene.

But maybe the best place to get that Wakanda feeling is the Wits University campus in Johannesburg. To be surrounded by smart, opinionated, articulate students, fashionably dressed in colorful, sharp clothes, full of hope and plans for themselves, their country and their continent is to feel the heart of the Afro-optimism of “Black Panther.”
Parents Shocked After Son ID'd As Bomber: 'We Had No Idea of the Darkness That Mark Must Have Been In'
MAR 21, 2018 | 2:00 PM
Los Angeles Times
Austin Police Chief Brian Manley comments on what they know about the bombing suspect.
Investigators detained and questioned two roommates of the Austin bombing suspect Wednesday as officials sought to determine whether Mark Anthony Conditt had any help as he terrorized Texas' capital city over the last month.

One of the roommates already has been released, while the other was still being questioned, Austin police said in a statement on Twitter, declining to release any names because no charges had been filed.

Officials also announced they had filed a federal bomb-possession charge and arrest warrant against Conditt late Tuesday, shortly before the suspected bomber blew himself up early Wednesday morning following a brief police chase in the Austin suburb of Round Rock.

"Hundreds of federal, state and local law enforcement officers worked together to identify and locate Conditt," U.S. Atty. John F. Bash said in a statement. The affidavit supporting the complaint, which might give details on how officials zeroed in on Conditt, remained under seal Wednesday afternoon.

Using a personalized auto insurance match engine developed by Boston grads drivers can now look for the right coverage for the right price.

Officials warned that Conditt may have planted or mailed more bombs before killing himself, and more than a dozen square blocks of his hometown of Pflugerville, a northeastern suburb of Austin, were evacuated as officials searched the area.

While investigators have not revealed a possible motive for Conditt's actions, a portrait emerged Wednesday of an introverted Christian conservative who had been home-schooled and worked at a local manufacturing company before being fired last year.

In a statement released to CNN, Conditt's parents said they were in shock and grieved for the victims in the string of bombings.

"We are devastated and broken at the news that our family could be involved in such an awful way," the family said. "We had no idea of the darkness that Mark must have been in.

"Our family is a normal family in every way. We love, we pray, and we try to inspire and serve others. Right now our prayers are for those families that have lost loved ones, for those impacted in any way, and for the soul of our Mark. We are grieving and we are in shock."

In Pflugerville, federal and local law enforcement officials searched two sheds and trash bins outside the Conditts' multistory home. The shades were drawn, and a U.S. flag flew out front.

Austin police homicide Det. David Fugitt said Conditt's family has been "very cooperative," adding that officials didn't have any indication the family knew Conditt was involved with the bombings.

"They have gone above and beyond to answer any questions we have had," Fugitt said.

"They're having a difficult time," Fugitt said. "It's understandable with everything they have had to deal with. This is certainly a shock to the conscience. They're taking it in stride. They're having a difficult time as well, which would be expected."

Conditt took classes at Austin Community College between 2010 and 2012 and was home-schooled, according to college officials and social media posts from his mother, who said he graduated high school in 2013.

"He's thinking of taking some time to figure out what he wants to do....maybe a mission trip," said a Facebook post from Danene Conditt, which included a photo of Mark Conditt.

In an old blog under Mark Conditt's name, started apparently as part of a community college class assignment, the author wrote in 2012 that he was conservative but "not that politically inclined," writing posts opposing abortion, favoring the death penalty and arguing that gay marriage should be illegal.

"I view myself as a conservative, but I don't think I have enough information to defend my stance as well as it should be defended," read the blog's biography page. "The reasons I am taking this class is because I want to understand the US government, and I hope that it will help me clarify my stance, and then defend it."

In a post in favor of the death penalty, the author wrote, "Living criminals harm and murder, again - executed ones do not." The blog's final post is dated May 2012.

One of Conditt's former friends, Jeremiah Jensen, 24 — who was home-schooled in Pflugerville and attended the community college at the same time as Jensen — said that Conditt's blog posts for class were being taken out of context in media reports.

"Certainly a lot of the home-school community in Pflugerville, Texas, is conservative and a lot of kids were raised that way," Jensen said. "I think a lot of people jump to conclusions and want to make him out to be a conservative terrorist. But I think it has more to do with loneliness and anger than it has to do with anything else."

Conditt was smart, "straight-laced" and "definitely came off as a little intense, and it was hard for him to get along with people and make friends," said Jensen, now a freelance journalist living in Dallas. "A lot of people didn't really understand him or how to speak his language."

But "he was actually a very kind person, when I knew him," said Jensen, adding that the two had not spoken for several years.

Community college officials said that he was a business administration major and did not graduate, but that he left in good academic standing. His last classes were in 2012.

"We are working with Austin Police Department to provide any information they need," college spokeswoman Jessica Vess said in an email.

Information about Conditt's home schooling could not be obtained from Texas state education officials. "Texas has no authority over home schooling, and we don't keep any type of school records on such," said DeEtta Culbertson, a spokeswoman for the Texas Education Agency.

Jeff Reeb, a neighbor of the Conditts since they moved to the area 17 years ago, described Conditt as "a quiet youngster" who played with Reeb's grandson.

Conditt, who had two younger sisters, moved away from home in recent years and bought a house but returned to visit, Reeb said.

On Conditt's blog in 2012, he listed his hobbies as cycling, parkour, tennis, reading and listening to music. The Conditt home has a deck, a trampoline, a treehouse and a pool in a large, grassy yard.

"They're church-going people, extremely good neighbors. I like them a lot," Reeb said, adding that he was surprised to see reporters arrive at his street, the first clue the bombing suspect could be someone he knew.

Reeb said he saw the Conditts daily and last saw the suspect visit his parents last week — which would have been after the bombings began.

"I was hoping they were wrong," Reeb said of reports identifying Mark Conditt as the bombing suspect, adding that he didn't recognize Conditt in surveillance footage from an Austin FedEx store that showed the bomber with long, blond hair. "I'm not sure I still believe it. It makes no sense whatsoever."

Another of the Conditt family's neighbors, Beverly Canales, 56, a stay-at-home mom, said she did not know the family, although her two daughters, ages 23 and 24, attended Austin Community College about the same time Mark Conditt did.

They were scrutinizing photos of the suspected bomber Wednesday, comparing them to high school yearbooks and trying to remember whether they had seen him.

"Our little town of Pflugerville had our own Unabomber," she said.

Mark Roessler, 57, lived across the street from where Conditt lived with his two roommates, and he sometimes chatted with Conditt and Conditt's father, who came over occasionally to help remodel the home.

"It's a quiet neighborhood, and he blended right in," Roessler said.

Roessler said he saw two young men coming and going from the home recently but did not realize Conditt had roommates. When he left for his job as a manager at a medical device company at 6:30 a.m. Wednesday, Roessler was met by FBI agents with guns drawn who surrounded the area and evacuated homes

"I feel for the family and for the father," Roessler said. "Having two sons of my own, I can only imagine what he is going through. The whole Austin community was living in fear. … Everybody is relieved, but still not understanding and waiting for answers."

Conditt worked for several years at a local semiconductor manufacturer, Crux Manufacturing, before he was fired in August for poor performance, according to KVUE-TV.

The business' owner, who spoke to the television station anonymously, said Conditt "seemed like a smart kid who showed a lot of promise" and worked in purchasing and sales.

"He was very quiet and introverted" and did not have any confrontations with management," the owner said, adding that he was given several warnings for not meeting expectations before he was fired. "He would prioritize things in his own way."

An employee outside Crux on Wednesday who asked not to be identified said company officials were not answering questions.

Investigators began zeroing in on Conditt over the last two days, and officials were moving to make an arrest at a hotel in the suburb of Round Rock when Conditt began driving away, Austin Police Chief Brian Manley said at a news conference.

The vehicle ran into a ditch, and as officers approached, the suspect detonated an explosive that killed him and knocked one officer back, Manley said. Police fired a single shot at the car.

Conditt's death followed days of rapid developments in the case.

On Tuesday, a bomb inside a package exploded on a conveyor belt at a FedEx shipping center in Schertz, northeast of San Antonio and about 60 miles from Austin. One worker was treated at the scene for minor injuries.

It was the fifth in a series of bombings this month that left two people dead, four others injured and the state capital shaken.

"I really wish that I could have spoken to him one more time before he went down this path," Jensen said of Conditt. "I wish I had known that he was struggling or that, you know, or had some sort of an inkling to reach out to him. … It's in the dark that people start getting angry and sad and eventually go off the deep end."
Hennessy-Fiske reported from Pflugerville, Texas; Pearce from Los Angeles.


2 p.m.: The article was updated with additional reaction.

12:40 p.m.: The article was updated with information on Conditt's roommates and further details of the investigation.

11:09 a.m.: The article was updated with additional details and reaction.

9:40 a.m.: This article was updated throughout with Times staff reporting, including comments from neighbors.

6:50 a.m.: This article was updated with an official identifying the suspect and quotes from Austin Police Chief Brian Manley and Mayor Steve Adler.

3:30 a.m.: This article was updated with additional details.

This article was originally published at 3:10 a.m.
Austin Bombing Suspect Bought Some Materials at Home Depot
New York Times
MARCH 21, 2018

Law enforcement responded to an area of Round Rock, Tex., where the police say a bombing suspect blew himself up in his vehicle. Credit Tamir Kalifa for The New York Times

PFLUGERVILLE, Tex. — An intense, three-week manhunt in a series of bombings that has terrorized Austin, Tex., came to an explosive end on Wednesday when the suspect, a 23-year-old unemployed man who had purchased bomb-making materials at a local Home Depot, drove into a ditch and blew himself up.

The suspect, Mark Anthony Conditt, whom authorities had identified via surveillance footage and other clues left behind in one of the country’s worst serial bombing cases, was dead at the scene, the authorities said. One police officer was blown back by the blast and another officer fired his weapon.

“The danger that has been causing so many people in Austin and across Texas to be so concerned has been eliminated,” Gov. Greg Abbott told local television.

Officials said Mr. Conditt’s motive was not immediately clear, but a picture of his life was beginning to emerge: He was a home-schooled student who never graduated from community college. He described himself on a blog as “not that politically inclined” but expressed conservative views on issues like gay marriage and the death penalty. Friends and neighbors described him as a loner.

“Sometimes he was a very intense person,” said Jeremiah Jensen, a friend from the local home-schooling community in Pflugerville. “He could sometimes get frustrated. There were times he could get angry over a misunderstanding.”

A city that has been on edge for weeks as several makeshift bombs exploded without warning — on doorsteps, on a sidewalk and, most recently, in a FedEx shipping center — saw the long-running drama coming to an end. But authorities warned that with the bomber’s obviously extensive preparations, it might not be entirely over.

“Two very important things before we can put this to rest. One, we don’t know if there are any other bombs out there and if so, how many and where they may be,” Mr. Abbott said on Fox News.

“Second, very importantly, we need to go throughout the day to make sure that we rule out whether there was anybody else involved in this process,” he said.

Representative Michael McCaul, Republican of Texas, told a local television affiliate that Mr. Conditt bought at least some of his bomb-making supplies from a Home Depot in Pflugerville, a small town about 20 miles northeast of Austin where the suspect lived.

“He did have a battery pack, and he had nails,” Mr. McCaul said.

The crucial break for investigators, Mr. McCaul said, came when Mr. Conditt walked into a FedEx office to mail a package earlier this week.

“From there, we could get surveillance video of him, get his vehicle, his license plate number, identify the individual, go to the Home Depot where he bought the stuff, and eventually, with his cellphone, be able to locate him, which they did this morning,” Mr. McCaul said.

A federal criminal complaint charging Mr. Conditt with unlawful possession and transfer of a destructive device was filed on Tuesday night, the authorities said Wednesday, along with a warrant for his arrest.

Also on Wednesday, the Austin Police said they had detained Mr. Conditt’s two roommates. One was questioned and released; the other was still being questioned as of Wednesday afternoon. Neither roommate was identified.

Earlier in the day, local police and state troopers went door-to-door in the five blocks around Mr. Conditt’s house and told residents they were evacuating the area for their safety as federal agents worked to remove and dispose of homemade explosives found inside the residence.

As they arrived, federal agents notified neighbors, and then approached someone at Mr. Conditt’s home, said Mark Roessler, 57, an information technology manager who lives across the street.

“I watched the truck come down the street and shove the car out of the way, and they started announcing, ‘This is the F.B.I. We’re here to serve search warrants,’” Mr. Roessler recounted. “And then within a few minutes this individual came out the front door. They were giving him clear instructions, had him remove his shirt, and walk toward them.”

Mr. Roessler said he had never seen the person who emerged from the house. “He was wearing some dark pants and a white T-shirt, looked like he had just woken up,” he said.

A string of bombings this month have put Austin, Tex., on high alert.

Law enforcement authorities spent hours closeted with Mr. Conditt’s parents in their white clapboard home with an American flag hanging outside.

“We do not understand what motivated him to do what he did,” the Austin police chief, Brian Manley, told reporters.

Mr. Conditt was a quiet, “nerdy” young man who came from a “tight-knit, godly family,” said Donna Sebastian Harp, who had known the family for nearly 18 years.

He was the oldest of four children who had all been home-schooled by their mother, Ms. Harp said, but he had also attended Austin Community College, although college officials said he did not graduate.

“He was always kind of quiet,” she said. “He was a nerd, always reading, devouring books and computers and things like that.”

She said there had never been any hints of violence, until Wednesday morning, when she received a text message from Mr. Conditt’s mother. It read, “Pray for our family. We are under attack” — a reference to a spiritual assault by Satan, Ms. Harp said.

The Conditt family is affiliated with Calvary Chapel of Austin, according to the church’s office manager, Dean Miller. It is an evangelical church that meets in a former grocery store in Pflugerville. Its members believe the Bible prohibits same-sex marriage.

It was not immediately clear how involved Mr. Conditt was in the church, but he argued against same-sex marriage in a post he wrote on a blog he created for a political science class at the community college.

“Political protection of a sexual practice is ludicrous,” Mr. Conditt wrote. “I do not believe it is proper to pass laws stating that homosexuals have ‘rights.’”

McKenna McIntosh, another student in the course, said Mr. Conditt’s views as reflected on his blog were “clear as day.” In a biography on the site, Mr. Conditt described himself as a conservative but said he was “not that politically inclined.” His six posts, which date from January to March 2012, also included arguments in favor of the end of sex-offender registries and in support of the death penalty.

“Living criminals harm and murder, again,” he wrote, “executed ones do not.”

In the post, he pointed to Larry James Harper, a Texas fugitive who killed himself in 2001 as the police closed in after he escaped from prison. He compared him to another escapee, George Rivas, who was captured.

It seemed almost to foreshadow his own fate.

“If he had wanted or wished for death, he would have just shot himself, like his fellow Texas 7 escapee, Larry Harper, who committed suicide, rather than be captured and re-incarcerated,” Mr. Conditt wrote.

Detective David Fugitt with the Austin police said Mr. Conditt’s family was cooperating and was allowing investigators to search the property, including several backyard sheds.

“We are devastated and broken at the news that our family member could be involved in such an awful way,” the family said in a statement published by CNN. “We had no idea of the darkness that Mark must have been in. Our family is a normal family in every way. We love, we pray, and we try to inspire and serve others. Right now, our prayers are for the families who’ve lost loved ones, for those impacted in any way, and for the soul of our Mark. We are grieving and in shock.”

Real estate records show that Mr. Conditt and his father, William Conditt, bought a house together in Pflugerville in 2017, and family friends said the younger Mr. Conditt was remodeling it.

But neighbors said they saw little of him.

“I think he was pretty much a loner,” said Jay Schulze, a network engineer who lived about two blocks down, adding that Mr. Conditt spent most of his time with his parents.

A neighbor of Mr. Conditt’s parents, Jeff Reeb, 75, said the Conditts had never expressed concerns about their son to him.

“I can tell you nothing about him personally, except that he was a nice, young kid,” Mr. Reeb said. “He always seemed like he was smart. And he always seemed like he was very polite.”

Austin has been in the grip of the wave of attacks since March 2.

The first explosions hit African-American residents whose families are well-known in the city’s black community, though two white men were injured by an explosive triggered by a tripwire on Sunday.

The suspect is believed to be responsible for at least six bombs that killed at least two people and wounded five. Four bombs detonated in various locations in Austin where they had been left. Another detonated at a FedEx distribution center in Schertz, Tex., near San Antonio, and a sixth was found, unexploded, in a FedEx facility near Austin’s airport.

The attacks began when a package bomb detonated on the porch of an Austin home, killing Anthony Stephan House, 39. That was followed 10 days later by two bombs that were found outside homes, one of which killed a 17-year-old man.

The first three bombs were apparently detonated when they were picked up or jostled. Later, a package bomb exploded outside another Austin home, set off by a tripwire. The bombs at the FedEx centers were found on Tuesday.

The suspect’s vehicle was traced to a hotel in Round Rock, just north of Austin, Chief Manley said, where a SWAT team surreptitiously surrounded the hotel and called other specialized units. But the suspect drove away before those teams could arrive.

Officers followed the suspect, who stopped in a ditch off Interstate 35, and SWAT officers approached the vehicle on foot.

“The suspect detonated a bomb inside of the vehicle, knocking one officer back” and slightly injuring him, the police chief said. Another officer fired his gun at the vehicle.

Michael Luna, a guest at a Red Roof Inn near the confrontation, told a local news channel that he heard the explosion from the bomb, which sounded as if it had gone off 100 to 200 yards away, when he was smoking a cigarette in the parking lot. Mr. Luna, who said he had been in the military, said that the explosion sounded like two grenades going off at the same time, and that he heard a pop afterward that might have been gunfire.

The section of Interstate 35 near that confrontation was a traffic nightmare for hours as commuters moved at a glacial pace in the southbound lanes, many of them presumably unaware of what had happened. State troopers barred access at several ramps along that stretch of the highway.

By Wednesday morning, aerial video footage of the area from KVUE, a local television affiliate, showed a red sport utility vehicle with blown-out windows next to a blue tarp, surrounded by investigators’ vehicles.

Manny Fernandez reported from Pflugerville, Tex., Jack Healy from Denver, and Jessica Bidgood from Boston. Reporting was contributed by Jonah Engel Bromwich and Michael Gold in New York and Michael Wolgelenter and Richard Pérez-Peña from London.

Tuesday, March 20, 2018

Rwanda's Kagame Hosts African Leaders Meeting to Sign Free Trade Deal
Daniel Mumbere
Africa News

The African Union Extraordinary Summit on the African Continental Free Trade Area that is being held in Kigali, Rwanda is steadily making progress despite earlier setbacks including snubs by Nigerian president Muhammadu Buhari and Uganda’s Yoweri Museveni.

The Free Trade Area is one of the flagship projects of Agenda 2063 and aims to deepen the integration process, by allowing Africans to trade and move freely across the continent.

The project is being driven forward along with other key related initiatives such as the Single African Air Transport Market and the Protocol on Free Movement of Persons and the African Passport.

By signing and ratifying it, we would signal that we are determined to play our part as a global player while promoting the continent’s economic interests as one, through a single African market.

The Kigali Extraordinary Summit was agreed to during the ordinary session of the Assembly of the Union held in Addis Ababa in late January 2018.

Rwanda’s president Paul Kagame who also took over as chair of African Union pledged to achieve free movement of persons this year.

Nigeria’s Buhari opted out of the Kigali conference on Sunday, saying he wanted further domestic consultation on the continental deal after media reports said labour unions in Africa’s largest economy warned against the deal.

The Chairperson of the Commission of the African Union, Moussa Faki Mahamat urged countries to overcome fears and self-interests as they continue to be barriers of regional trade and growth.

Rwanda’s foreign affairs minister, Louise Mushikiwabo, who also doubles as the Chairperson of the Council of Ministers said the agreement should come into force as soon as possible.

“By signing and ratifying it, we would signal that we are determined to play our part as a global player while promoting the continent’s economic interests as one, through a single African market,” she said.

Intra-Africa trade currently stands at about 14 per cent with the agreement expected to facilitate an increase to about 52.3 per cent by 2022.
CFTA: Africa Positions for “the World’s Largest Free Trade Area”. What are the Implications?
19 MARCH 2018

As African heads of state and government meet in the Rwandan capital Kigali to formally sign the much-talked about Continental Free Trade Area (CFTA) this Wednesday, Rafiq Raji looks at what lies ahead. Is Africa ready?

More than two years after the signing of the Sharm-el-Sheikh Tripartite Free Trade Area (TFTA) agreement in June 2015 – which brought together member states of the Southern African Development Community (SADC), East African Community (EAC) and Common Market for Eastern and Southern Africa (COMESA) – trade ministers from all of Africa’s 54 countries, including those of the Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS), which already have a common external tariff, met in Niamey, the capital of Niger, in early December last year to agree final terms for the African Union’s Continental Free Trade Area (CFTA).

By and large, they made good progress. However, there are still issues to iron out. Member states have yet to agree on tariffs on all goods, for instance although on services, they successfully closed the book.

Intra-African trade grew by 8% in the first nine months of 2017, with Guinea, Ethiopia, Burkina Faso, Equatorial Guinea, and Sierra Leone in the lead.

In order to make a meaningful impact, the CFTA will have to improve the quality as well as the quantity of intra-African trade. The objective of the CFTA is primarily to engender more intra-African trade, which currently comprises just 15% of the continent’s total merchandise trade. When compared with intra-regional trade in other continents – 67% in Europe, 58% in Asia and 48% in North America – this is quite low.

Efforts, thus far, at improving the low trade interactions within the continent, have clearly not been very effective. There are signs of improvement, though. According to most recent data from Cairo-based African Export-Import Bank (Afreximbank), intra-African trade grew by 8% in the first nine months of 2017, with Guinea, Ethiopia, Burkina Faso, Equatorial Guinea, and Sierra Leone in the lead. This is definitely better than the marginal 0.6% growth to $156.94bn recorded in 2016.

Even so, there is still much road to cover before intra-African trade recovers to the 2013 peak level of $174.9bn. And as recently as 2015, intra-African trade growth was almost 9%. Afreximbank attributes the latest recovery to rising commodity prices, “improved regional trade across regional economic communities and some countries’ increased focus on promoting intra-African trade.” This could be the start of a paradigm shift.

Trading within and keeping up

After the jamboree likely to herald the signing of the CFTA, the various heads of government may as usual go back to their capitals and do little to implement the accords. However, things could be different this time: the need for improved intra-regional trade relations is now almost existential.

With additive manufacturing, automation and other fourth industrial revolution innovations likely to maintain the insurmountable advantage of developed economies, African manufactures will only thrive if they are traded within the continent. And since it is only by trading more with each other that this could be achieved, African governments will need to ensure hassle-free market access for African-made goods. This is the underlying motivation behind the CFTA.

To meet the continent’s needs, however, more of African countries’ predominantly primary commodity international trade will have to be pared down. For example, instead of exporting so much of their cocoa to Europe and the US, Ghana and Côte d’Ivoire should keep more of the crop at home to produce chocolate and other cocoa-related manufactures. Batteries used to power electric vehicles could be manufactured in the Democratic Republic of Congo and Zambia, where the key input, cobalt, is found in abundance, instead of exporting the mineral to China.

Were the CFTA able to boost the quality of trade as much as the quantity, it could be truly groundbreaking. Considering how hard it has been to achieve even the slightest consensus on trade integration, however, this is probably too much to ask. But politicians cannot go on talking about the need for greater beneficiation without ever taking any concrete action.

To meet the continent’s needs, however, more of African countries’ predominantly primary commodity international trade will have to be pared down. For example, batteries used to power electric vehicles could be manufactured in the Democratic Republic of Congo and Zambia, where the key input, cobalt, is found in abundance, instead of exporting the mineral to China.

Strangely, the bulk of the small intra-African trade is in manufactures. But these tend to be goods like processed food products, cement, and so on, which are not complicated to manufacture. And even these supposedly simpler manufactures have to contend with cheaper imports in some African countries.

EPAs and other trade agreements

The CFTA signing will still be a work in progress. Negotiations on such important issues like intellectual property rights, tariffs for some goods, what constitutes proper competitive behaviour and so on, are still ongoing. Besides, there is the bigger issue of how African countries would extricate them selves from constraining bilateral and multilateral trade agreements with developed economies, which at first glance seem beneficial to African countries but on further scrutiny have been found to be ultimately detrimental to their long-term industrial development.

The European Union’s Economic Partnership Agreements (EPAs) top the list. In 2016, for instance, Africa’s trade with the European Union was valued at €262bn ($324bn), with a relatively small trade deficit of €28.6bn.

However, the fact that 62% of Africa’s exports were primary products and 71% of its imports were manufactures puts that deficit in a different light.

Thus, African countries will in addition to trading more with each other also need to exclude outsiders with as much zeal, at least for a while.

Vision to reality

When the CFTA vision becomes a reality, intra-African trade could increase by at least 50% over the next five years, according to some estimates. A market of more than 1.2bn people with a combined GDP of $2.2 trillion is a far stronger bulwark against limiting external trade forces than the tiny ones that inevitably get overwhelmed in negotiations with big countries – even as stand-alone economies – like the US, Britain and China.

Incidentally, even these countries which already trade a great deal within their own continents are becoming increasingly isolationist.

So, just as African countries are beginning to find trade unity, previously globalist and more integrated ones abroad are beginning to flirt with insularity. Benedict Oramah, president of Afreximbank, put it succinctly in remarks he made in early December:

When the CFTA vision becomes a reality, intra-African trade could increase by at least 50% over the next five years. A market of more than 1.2bn people with a combined GDP of $2.2 trillion is a far stronger bulwark against limiting external trade forces.

“While the speed with which the CFTA has been concluded appears to indicate Africa’s preference for unity, we have to be mindful that the attainment of the ultimate goal of the CFTA of strengthening Africa’s role in global trade may be more difficult to achieve under the wave of isolationism sweeping across other markets.”

In any case, the trade barriers that really require attention on the continent would barely surface in negotiations or be amenable to them. For instance, infrastructure – which with its terrible state and its huge financing deficit ($93bn per annum) adds to logistical costs and retail prices – is one of the reasons why African goods are not competitive.

Non-tariff barriers like that would require not just collaboration between African governments but a sense of initiative by each of them.