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President Emmerson Mnangagwa - Release of Commission of Inquiry Report

As hundreds gathered at the National Heroes Acres in Zimbabwe’s capital, Harare, to pay tribute to the nation’s fallen heroes, President Emmerson Mnangagwa used the occasion to appeal for peace and non-violence, in light of pending demonstrations Friday, called for by the opposition Movement for Democratic Change (MDC).

“These heroes and heroines at this shrine, and others at marked and unmarked graves, both in Zimbabwe, Mozambique, Zambia, Botswana and Anglola, gave their lives to uphold this peace, this unity, freedom, justice and independence,” said Mnangagwa. “Let us honor them by dedicating ourselves to peace,” he appealed.

The planned demonstrations aim to pressure Mnangagwa and his government to rectify the economic crisis in the country, evidenced by shortages of water, electricity, fuel, cash and other necessities.

Mnangagwa has acknowledged the economic hardships gripping the country, and has said his government was working to resolve all these problems. However, he said, violence had no place in resolving the crisis.

“Violence, discord, disunity, hatred, divisions, discrimination, tribalism, regionalism, and corruption, must be rejected,” he continued.

The MDC, which challenged the results of last year’s presidential elections, claiming they were rigged, has continued to poke holes at Mnangagwa’s legitimacy, and has refused to engage him in dialogue, unless he concedes defeat.

Secretary general of the Zimbabwe National Liberation War Veterans Association (ZNLWVA) Victor Matemadanda, has criticized the MDC’s planned demonstrations, and vowed to stop them.

Matemadanda, who is also the deputy minister of defense, accused the MDC of violence, and disrespecting the country’s heroes and war veterans, by not participating in the Heroes Day festivities, though they were invited.

“They don’t see the relevance of (Heroes Day) because their agenda is different (from that the heroes who died for the country),” said Matemadanda. “We called them all and told them that this is not a day for the (Zanu-PF) party, it’s a day to celebrate the liberation of the country.”

Echoing Matemadanda’s statements, Lewis Matutu, secretary of the Zanu-PF Youth League said they were going to block the planned demonstrations so as to avoid violence.

“We saw what they did in the last demonstration – looting shops and stealing people’s things, breaking things, so we can’t allow them to do that again,” said Matutu, adding that they are not concerned that the demonstrations are sanctioned by the police.

“It doesn’t matter what the police have said, because we are not the police,”said Matutu. “That is for the government and security sector to worry about. Our interest is to make sure that the power we have as Zanu-PF is protected,” said Matutu.

However, MDC spokesperson Daniel Molokele dismissed Matemadanda and Matutu's threats to disrupt the demonstrations, promising that they will continue as planned, because the constitution gives them that right.

“As the MDC party, we are following the Constitution – Section 59 - which says that every Zimbabwean citizen has a right to demonstrate and hold peaceful petitions. That is what we will do on Friday,” said Molokele. “We are going ahead with our plans to hold a demonstration in Harare, on Friday,” Molokele said, and added that Zanu-PF was free to hold its own demonstrations under the same constitutional protection.a

Mnangagwa however warned that while his government respects human rights, citizens should not violate or abuse the rights of others.

Mnangagwa, officiating over the Heroes Day event for the first time as president after taking over power from longtime leader President Robert Mugabe, who had officiated over the events for 37-years, also praised the Zimbabwe Anti-Corruption Commission for reigning in corruption by arresting those found to be guilty, including officials in his government.

On the celebrations to mark Hero’s Day, which was observed under the theme, “Let We Forget,” Mnangagwa stressed the importance of mainting peace in the country, which he said was what the war of liberation was fought for,.

Mnangagwa also said his government was not backtracking on the issue of land, but acknowledged that a major task for the government was to ensure that electricity was available to farmers on a regular basis, so they could do their work properly.

FILE - A bald eagle sits on a tree branch in West Newbury, Massachusetts, March 17, 2010.

The Trump administration took steps Monday to significantly weaken the U.S. Endangered Species Act, prompting state attorneys general and conservation groups to threaten legal action to protect at-risk species.

The 1970s-era act is credited with bringing back from the brink of extinction species such as bald eagles, gray whales and grizzly bears, but the law has long been a source of frustration for drilling and mining companies, and other industries because new listings can put vast areas of land off-limits to development.

The weakening of the act's protections is one of many moves by U.S. President Donald Trump, a Republican, to roll back existing regulations to hasten oil, gas and coal production, as well as grazing, ranching and logging on federal land.

"These changes crash a bulldozer through the Endangered Species Act's lifesaving protections for America's most vulnerable wildlife," Noah Greenwald, the Center for Biological Diversity's endangered species director, said in a statement.

"For animals like wolverines and monarch butterflies, this could be the beginning of the end."


The changes would end a practice that automatically conveys the same protections for threatened species as for endangered species, and would strike language that guides officials to ignore economic impacts of how animals should be safeguarded.

FILE - Monarch butterflies cling to a plant at the Monarch Grove Sanctuary in Pacific Grove, California, Dec. 30, 2014.

The original act protected species regardless of the economic considerations.

"The revisions finalized with this rulemaking fit squarely within the President's mandate of easing the regulatory burden on the American public, without sacrificing our species' protection and recovery goals," U.S. Secretary of Commerce Wilbur Ross said in a statement.

The changes were announced by the Interior Department's U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (USFWS) and the Commerce Department's National Marine Fisheries Service (NMFS).

'Illegal' revision process

Massachusetts and California will lead a multi-state lawsuit joined by conservation groups once the final rule is published in the Federal Register in the coming weeks, challenging what they say was an "illegal" process to revise it.

"By gutting key components of the Endangered Species Act, one of our country's most successful environmental laws, the Trump administration is putting our most imperiled species and our vibrant local tourism and recreation industries at risk," said Massachusetts Attorney General Maura Healey.

"We will be taking the administration to court to defend federal law and protect our rare animals, plants, and the environment," she added on a call with reporters.

According to the revision, the Fish and Wildlife Service would need to write separate rules for each threatened species, slowing their protection until conditions worsen. Previously, threatened species, which account for 20% of listed species under the act, would receive the same automatic protections as endangered species, according to the liberal Center for American Progress policy research organization.

"Ending this practice ... would strain the resources of USFWS and NMFS, costing managers valuable time before they can take action to protect a species," said Kate Kelly, the organization's public lands director.

The revised rules will also prohibit designation of critical habitat for species threatened by climate change, the impacts of which tend to be felt in the future, the Center for Biological Diversity said.

For, against

Trump rejects mainstream climate science, and agencies such as the Interior Department have stopped weighing climate impacts in their regulations.

Some lawmakers from Western states and free market conservation groups applauded the changes, seeing them as helping states and landowners. Wyoming Republican Senator John Barrasso said the revision was a good first step but Congress should also reform the Endangered Species Act.

"We must modernize the Endangered Species Act in a way that empowers states, promotes the recovery of species, and allows local economies to thrive," Barrasso said.

But environmental groups said the overhaul comes at time when U.N. scientists are warning that up to 1 million plant and animal species are facing an "imminent risk" of extinction because of human activity.

"Instead of undercutting the Endangered Species Act and other bedrock environmental laws, we should be strengthening these laws to improve their effectiveness for people and wildlife," said Jamie Rappaport Clark, president and CEO of Defenders of Wildlife.

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