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African Titanic: 20 years after, Senegalese recall Le Joola ship tragedy where 1,863 passengers drowned

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Twenty years after, the people of Senegal and indeed Africa will never forget one of the greatest ship sinking tragedies to befall the continent when Africa’s biggest ship ever made, MV Le Joola, capsized off the coast of Senegal, drowning nearly 1,863 passengers on board.

Now tagged ‘The African Titanic’, MV Le Joola, a Senegalese government-owned ferry had capsized off the coast of The Gambia on September, 26. 2002, with 1,863 passengers drowning and 64 rescued, making it the second-worst non-military disaster in maritime history after the original Titanic ship sinking.

On the fateful day, the ship, named after the Jola people of Southern Senegal, and constructed in Germany in 1990, was plying the route from Ziguinchor in the Casamance region to the Senegalese capital, Dakar, when it ran into a violent storm, farther out to sea than it was licensed to sail, according to a report from an inquiry set up by the Senegalese government.

Maritime officials at the time said the ferry had a capacity of 536 passengers, but an estimated 2,000 passengers, about half of whom were without tickets, managed to get on board, amounting to nearly four times the ship’s design load capacity.

The government inquiry report stated that there were multiple causes for the disaster including overcrowding, poor management, as well as the ship being in poor condition and not sea worthy.

A local media had tried to piece the events leading to the African Titanic disaster thus:

“Le Joola usually traveled twice a week and often carried women who sold mangoes and palm oil in Dakar. At the time of the disaster, the ship had been out of service for almost a year undergoing repairs, which included replacement of the port side engine.

“At about 1:30 pm on 26 September 2002, Le Joola set sail from Ziguinchor in the Casamance region on one of its frequent trips between southern Senegal and Dakar.

“Although the ship was designed to carry a maximum of 580 passengers and crew, an estimated 1,863 passengers are believed to have been on board, including 185 people who boarded the ship from Carabane, an island where there was no formal port of entry or exit for passengers.

Video Courtesy: Le Monde Afrique

“The exact number of passengers remain unknown as some Senegalese organisations put the number at over 2,000), but there were 1,034 travelers with tickets.

“The rest of the passengers were either not required to hold tickets (children aged less than 5) or had been permitted to travel for free, as often happened.

“In the middle of the night, 40 kilometres off the coast, as tropical rains fell and strong winds raged, the hugely overloaded ship capsized.

“It took more than 16 hours for help to arrive. Sixty-four passengers survived.

Families of the victims tried to establish the truth, some filing a complaint against the Senegalese state for negligence, but the case was officially closed in 2003.

A procedure was also initiated in France by relatives of the 18 Frenvch nationals who died on board, but a court in Paris dismissed the case as being outside its jurisdiction in October 2018.

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South African police arrests woman over racist rant calling for blacks to be killed instead of pitbulls

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The police in South Africa have arrested a self-proclaimed pitbull advocate, Belinda Magor, after she made racist remarks calling for black people to be killed and banned instead of pitbulls.

Mayor’s comments came following a recent spree of attacks on people by pitbulls in different parts of the country.

On Sunday, November 20, a 3-year-old boy was attacked and killed by two pitbulls in the Sekoti-mpate province which led to a protest by residents of the area.

In another incident on Wednesday November 23, a 15-month-old baby was also mauled by a pitbull at Gonubie Farm in East London, led to more anger as residents went into town and rounded up pit bulls and set them on fire.

In the leaked Whatsapp voicenote, Magor sent to group of pitbull owners and advocates, she was heard saying:

“What I say is ban the blackman. They rape, they steal, they kill, worse than any pitbull could, and they get away with it.

“Ban those that are making the laws, ban Ekurhuleni, ban the blackman. Get all the black women and cut out their uteruses and their ovaries that they cannot procreate because they will all turn out the same because they are all the same.

“I’m very passionate about this. Ban them, kill them, shoot them. Get rid of them because they are the problem. Not pitbulls, not animals.

“Animals are beautiful, and they deserve, er, warm bed, er food, love and attention and everything else. God created those animals. Who created the black man, do you think God? I don’t think so.”

Confirming the arrest of Magor, South African Police Servies (SAPS) spokesperson, Colonel Brenda Muridili, said “a case of crimen injuria was opened on November 25, 2022, at Boksburg North and transferred to Putfontein Police Station for investigation.

“The suspect, aged 60 years old, was arrested and released the same day on a warning to appear in court on March 27, 2023,”

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Botswana woman executed in Bangladesh for drug trafficking

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An African woman from Botswana, Lesedi Molapisi, was on Friday, executed in Bangladesh after she was found guilty and sentenced to death for trafficking over 3kg of heroin into the country.

According to New Age Bangladesh, Molapisi, 30, was reportedly arrested at the Hazrat Shahjalal International Airport in January this year after the airport’s customs officials and intelligence officials intercepted while crossing the green channel after they had received information that she has smuggled drugs into the country.

The Bangladeshi news website reported that customs officials confirmed that they seized over 3kg of the heroin-like granular substance worth Tk 20 crore in eight polybags upon scanning Molapisi’s bag.

The Bangladeshi cabinet had approved a draft law prescribing the death penalty for drug offences in 2018. The law also supported the Narcotics Control Act 2018, which mandates either the death penalty or life imprisonment for anyone convicted of committing a range of drug offences.

Under the Code of Criminal Procedure 1898, “when any person is sentenced to death, the sentence shall direct that he be hanged by the neck till he is dead.”

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