The Inauguration of President Barack Obama

Posted by batman on Jan 20th, 2009
2009
Jan 20

barack-obama-2.jpgToday, on the 20th January 2009, Barack Hussein Obama was inaugurated into the Presidency of the United States of America. He is the 44th president of the United States, succeeding President George W. Bush who was, in the opinion of many, the worst president yet. There wasn’t exactly an abundance of sadness as President Bush left the stage.

Anecdotes are aplenty at grand occasions such as this – one of them going something like “It needed a Clinton (President) to fix up the mess left by President H.W. Bush – will it take another Clinton (Hillary) to cleanup after the latest President W. Bush?”

Much of this inauguration has an Abraham Lincoln flavour to it. Reference was made during President Obama’s speech, and even the menu at the presidential luncheon was slanted towards the tongue of the great man. Its no coincidence then that 2009 is the 200th anniversary of the birth of Abraham Lincoln, the 16th President of the United States.

Interestingly enough, one of the most popular webpages was that containing the menu for the inauguration luncheon held in the Statuary Hall.

Senator Joe Biden first took his oath of office from Supreme Court Justice John Paul Stevens.

At noon President-elect Barack Obama became President Obama when Chief Justice John G. Roberts led him in the Oath of Office found in Article II, Section 1 of the Constitution:

I do solemnly swear that I will faithfully execute the office of the President of the United States, and will to the best of my ability, preserve, protect, and defend the Constitution of the United States.”

Unfortunately Chief Justice Roberts stumbled through the leading of the oath, leaving Barack seeming nervous and missing his words. However he followed this up with a magnificent and powerful oratory, fluent and eloquent. Gone was the boyish, smiling, nervous fellow – here was a stern and determined man, hard and unlikely to take nonesense from anyone. Here seems to be the leader America has been calling out for.

See his full inauguration speech here.

America. In the face of our common dangers, in this winter of our hardship, let us remember these timeless words. With hope and virtue, let us brave once more the icy currents, and endure what storms may come. Let it be said by our children’s children that when we were tested we refused to let this journey end, that we did not turn back nor did we falter; and with eyes fixed on the horizon and God’s grace upon us, we carried forth that great gift of freedom and delivered it safely to future generations.

Thank you. God bless you. And God bless the United States of America.

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Robben Island, Cape Town

Posted by batman on Nov 12th, 2008
2008
Nov 12

Robben Island, Cape TownFor nearly 400 years, Robben Island, 12 kilometres from Cape Town, was a place of banishment, exile, isolation and imprisonment. It was here that rulers sent those they regarded as political troublemakers, social outcasts and the unwanted of society.

From 1836 to 1931 the island was used as a leper colony and animal quarantine station. During the Second World War, the island was fortified and guns were installed as part of the defences for Cape Town.

Under the apartheid regime, Robben Island became a maximum security prison in 1959, and its character as an island-prison near to a major population centre invites comparisons with Alcatraz. Between 1961 and 1991, over three thousand men were incarcerated here as political prisoners, often for decades. Prisoner family member visits were restricted to once every six months, for a period of only thirty minutes, in conditions which made even conversation difficult. The only reading material allowed was the Bible. A variety of barbaric impositions were made on prisoners, including breaking rocks and mining lime. In the early 1980s, many prisoners engaged in more active demands for rights, and a 1981 hunger strike reinforced their case and led to some minor improvements in conditions. It is of particular note as it was here that former South African President and Nobel Laureate Nelson Mandela and incumbent South African President Kgalema Motlanthe, alongside many other political prisoners, spent decades imprisoned during the apartheid era.

Throughout this period, security was very tight and the island off limits to almost all civilians, including fishermen. Before about 1980 almost no-one, even among inhabitants of Cape Town, had set foot on the island. It is not generally known that the use of the island as a prison was greatly inhibited for centuries by a lack of fresh water. The island is arid, with low scrubby vegetation and has no watercourses. Boreholes were drilled in the first half of the 20th century but in due course the fragile water table was invaded by sea water and the bores became useless. Sometime after 1965 a pipeline was laid on the bottom of the ocean from Cape Town.

The particular character of the apartheid era prisoners, and their disciplined morale in the face of considerable difficulties and even abuse, is well attested as being sustained by their commitment to the cause of the struggle for freedom, in particular for the majority black African population.

In June 1980 Frederik Willem de Klerk initiated the removal of political prisoners, and most prisoners left by May 1981. The last of the non-political prisoners (who had always been held separately from political prisoners) left the island in 1996, and it became a museum in 1997. Nelson Mandela left to worldwide acclaim on February 11th, 1990.

Nelson Mandela at Robben Island, Cape TownSince 1997 Robben Island has been a museum acting as a focal point of South African heritage. Daily tours of about 4 hours long, including the two half-hour ferry rides are offered (weather permitting) from the V & A Waterfront in Cape Town. In 1999 the island was declared a World Heritage Site.

The main centre of Robben Island is located in a small village and mostly everything – from milk to building materials had to be ferried over from Cape Town Harbour. Robben Island generate it’s own electricity and obtains its water from nine boreholes.Limestone Quarry, Robben Island, Cape Town

Much has been done to restore the Robben Island’s ecological haven to what it used to be centuries ago. In 1991 Robben Island was included in the SA natural heritage program and the northern parts of the island was declared a bird sanctuary. Buck, ostrich, and rabbits are also to be found on the island.

Robben Island and nearby Whale Rock have been the nemesis of many a ship and its crew. The surf of the open Atlantic Ocean thunders continuously at its margins and any vessel wrecked on the reefs offshore is soon beaten to pieces and disappears. In the latter half of the 1600s a Dutch ship laden with gold coins earmarked for the payment of the salaries of employees of the Dutch East India Company in Batavia (now Indonesia) disintegrated on these reefs a short distance off shore, in relatively shallow but very restless waters. The gold today would be worth tens of millions of pounds sterling or U.S. dollars. A few coins have washed ashore over the centuries but the treasure itself remains in the ocean. It is protected largely by the almost ceaseless and violent surf. Many other vessels have been wrecked around the isle.

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The sacking of President Mbeki

Posted by batman on Sep 24th, 2008
2008
Sep 24

A dignified Thabo Mbeki

A gleeful Jacob Zuma

Thabo Mbeki on Sunday night resigned as president of South Africa, bringing the curtain down on a sometimes tumultuous nine years of rule.

However, he sounded a final warning to his eventual successor to honour his party’s principles. He also claimed not to have interfered in rival Jacob Zuma’s legal wranglings as inferred recently by Judge Nicholson.

In accordance with the instruction to do so from African National Congress (ANC), Mbeki has handed a letter of resignation to the speaker of parliament, Baleka Mbete. Parliament will now decide the date from which this is effective.

In a speech to South Africans after meeting with his cabinet, Mbeki appealed for unity.

Announcing his resignation as president last night, Mbeki defended his legacy, which suffered a major blow when a Pietermaritzburg High Court judge ruled that he and his cabinet had interfered with the work of the independent prosecuting authority.

Mbeki categorically denied that he or any member of his cabinet had – as Judge Chris Nicholson’s judgment last week had inferred – meddled with the justice system or organs of state like the National Prosecuting Authority to settle political scores.

“I would be the first to say that even as we ensured consistent economic growth, the fruits of this growth are not shared among all the people. We must admit that we are still faced with many challenges in this regard.

Trevor Manuel (and 13 other Ministers) resign Trevor Manuel

Their letters of resignation had been received by President Thabo Mbeki “which, regretfully, he has had to accept”, the presidency said in a statement on today. “President Mbeki thanked the deputy president, the ministers and the deputy ministers for their dedicated service to the nation and wished them well in their future endeavours,” it said.

The ANC has moved to calm the panic over the resignation of finance chief Trevor Manuel and 13 other cabinet ministers by insisting that he was still in charge of the country’s purse-strings.

Mantashe considered that the party had been caught by surprise…”that’s why we felt it necessary to have an urgent press briefing because we knew the markets would react negatively, especially with regards to finance minister Trevor Manuel.

“He remains the Minister of Finance,” the party’s secretary-general Gwede Mantashe said at a press conference this afternoon.

Mantashe said that Manuel, along with eight other Cabinet Ministers, had indicated they were “ready to serve under the new leadership”.

Six Cabinet Ministers have indicated they will not make themselves available to serve in a new government. They are Deputy President Phumzile Mlambo-Ngcuka, Minister of Defence Terror Lekota, Minister in the Presidency Essop Pahad, Minister of Intelligence Ronnie Karsils, Minister of Public Enterprises Alec Erwin and Minister of Provincial and Local Government Sydney Mufamadi.


Kgalema Motlanthe the next president

Kgalema Motlanthe

Kgalema Motlanthe will be nominated in Parliament to replace Thabo Mbeki as president, the ANC confirmed.

“Minister Motlanthe is perhaps the most level-headed and reasonable of all the politicians in the Zuma camp. Unlike Zuma, he dared to stick his head above the parapet and rebuke the ANC Youth League for its menacing statements that it would ‘shoot to kill’ for the ANC President,” the opposition party said.




Sources: The Sunday Times



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