South Africa's black champion pigeon racer

1 day 7 hours ago

The pigeons are coming home after a day of training. They live at Samuel Lofts, a club for racing pigeons in Walkerville, 30 kilometers south of Johannesburg, South Africa.

The owner of the club, pigeon fancier and world champion racer, Samuel Mbiza has worked with pigeons since he was a child shooting birds out of the sky with his sling-shot.

Mbiza says it became more than simple fun after his mother bought him a fantail – a fancy pigeon with more feathers than other breeds.

“There is something about these pigeons, the way they look and they look athletic and the way they behave, and also their intelligence, they are very, very intelligent,” he added.

Last year, Mbiza made history by bidding and buying Belgium’s best long-distance racing pigeon for a record 350,000 US dollars.

His plan is to breed the bird – nick-named the ‘Usain Bolt pigeon’, and create a legion of champion racers for South Africa.

There are over 4,000 pigeon fanciers in South Africa but Mbiza is one of few black breeders and racers.

Since Mbiza started the Samuel Lofts seven years ago, he has built a team of 650 birds in different stages of training and maturity.

He is also working on getting more, young, black South Africans involved.

Jerry Khumalo is Samuel Lofts manager. He is in charge of training and supervises the care of the birds.

“I teach them how to fly outside, how to train them, so in the morning we wake up, first we take them out, we chase them for one hour, thirty minutes, fifteen minutes, when they are still young. When they grow up we start to take them out of the bakkie, we basket them take them out 20 k’s, 40 kilometers, 60 kilometers up to 100, like from this week we train them 100 kilometers,” he said.

The sport is worth millions of dollars. In some races, first prize can go up to 1 million US dollars and the entry fee as high as 1,000 US dollars.

Pigeons flying long distances are exposed to various hazards like prey and other flying objects or power lines. Some die on the way home, while others get injured.

There have also been reported cases of doping, something activists say is difficult to clamp down on.

Mbiza says he loves his pigeons and treats them like royalty.


The ill-fated journey of Air CEMAC

1 day 7 hours ago

On August 3, 2018 in Douala, the CEMAC transport ministers announced the liquidation of Air CEMAC, an airline owned by central African states, which was never able to take off.

Beyond the selfishness of leaders, there is also the question of the maturation of projects upstream. The barriers such as taxes and charges that plague the aviation industry had been brushed aside as leaders rushed into the idea of Air CEMAC.

Indeed N’Djaména, Brazzaville and Douala are among the most expensive airports on the continent, in terms of operation. This posed a real challenge to profitability and competitiveness.

But if governments have failed, the private sector in Central Africa may well take over.

The market is there, and it’s growing. In this week’s business segment, Jean-David Mihamle examines the issues that grounded Air CEMAC even before its maiden flight.


Sierra Leone remembers victims of the deadly 2017 mudslide and floods

1 day 8 hours ago

The Sierra Leonean president Julius Maada Bio participated Tuesday in a ceremony in Freetown on the occasion of the 1st anniversary of the floods which had made more than a thousand deaths in 2017 and promised to build a memorial on the site of the disaster.

Some 500 people, mostly in black and white, gathered in a church in Regent, a neighbourhood on the outskirts of Freetown, where heavy rains had caused the partial collapse of a mountain on the night of 14 August 2017.

“We are here to witness the pain and trauma of the landslide tragedy,” said President Bio, who took office in April.

On August 14, 2017, after several days of heavy rain, a section of Sugar Leaf Hill on the outskirts of the capital Freetown broke away. Muddy torrents and huge blocks of stone had rushed down the steep slope, washing away the Regent neighbourhood houses below or covering them entirely with reddish earth.

One year later, residents are still facing the consequences of the disaster.

Olivia Cile, who lost her husband and two children in the landslide, says she is “always scared when it rains at night as if the memories of the disaster haunt me”.

“I still live in the area of the disaster because the help provided by NGOs and the government was not enough to start a new life elsewhere,” she told AFP.

Over the past 15 years, four major floods have affected more than 220,000 people in Sierra Leone and caused severe economic damage, according to the World Bank.

The one in August 2017 was the deadliest, with an official toll of 1,141 dead and missing.

By 2021, the country will need some $82.41 million (€70 million), or 2.2% of GDP, to recover from the disaster, including the reconstruction of six medical centres and 59 schools, according to the World Bank. Sierra Leone is ranked among the poorest countries in the world.

16 minutes 14 seconds ago
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