Wednesday July 17, 2019
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Protesters vandalize Mahatma Gandhi statue in South Africa, label him ‘Racist’

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By Newsgram Staff Writer

A group of people defaced a statue of Mahatma Gandhi in South Africa by throwing buckets of white paint on it. The protesters also ranted slogans of racism against the iconic freedom fighter, a newspaper report said.

According to security guard Ntandzo Kwepe the incident occurred yesterday when a group wearing African National Congress regalia came in a car at about noon and threw buckets of white paint on the statue and surrounding plaques detailing Mahatma Gandhi’s history in South Africa.

“They said we would not stop them because Gandhi was a racist man,” Khwepe said, and added that the protesters bore placards saying, “Racist Gandhi must fall.”

As the group tried to flee, one person was nabbed, though he remained nonchalant about it saying his political bosses would rescue him. Police spokesman Kay Makhubela said he would be charged with malicious damage to property.

The statue in the center of the city is unique as it is believed to be the only one in the world showing Gandhi clad in his court robes as a young lawyer.

The statue is on a public transport hub square which was renamed Gandhi Square because the offices in which he practiced law during his stay in the city is on the periphery of the square.

Ironically, the incident took place on the same day  Prime Minister Narendra Modi unveiled a statue of the iconic leader, who is widely revered across the globe, in Germany.

ANC spokesman Keith Khoza condemned the incident and denied the ruling party’s involvement, saying that they could have been posing as ANC members to discredit the party.

Since the first democratic elections in 1994, a number of statues of Gandhi have been erected across South Africa.

One is at the at the railway station in Pietermaritzburg, where he was kicked off a train compartment reserved for whites, prompting the start of his Satyagraha movement in South Africa and later in India.

Former President of India, Pratibha Patil had also unveiled a bust of Gandhi and a permanent exhibition of his time in South Africa at Constitutional Hill  in Johannesburg, the seat of the country’s highest court.

There have been shouts of racism against Gandhi by black youth groups in recent months for the alleged use of the derogatory term kaffir, for indigenous blacks in his writings.

Next Story

No more Standing in Queues for Long Hours! Now South Africans to get Medicine from Vending Machines

Hutiri explains why he created the Pelebox

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Inventor Neo Hutiri poses in front of one of his Peleboxes. (T. Khumalo/VOA)

An innovative system to dispense medicine to patients with chronic illnesses is taking off in South Africa. The award-winning “Pelebox,” created by South African engineer Neo Hutiri, is a computer-controlled vending machine stocked with prescription drugs, which patients access using a personal code.

The Pelebox has been hailed as a life saver for many, who use often-crowded South African hospitals and clinics. The medicine dispenser resembles the common automated teller machine and functions in a similar way. Hutiri explains why he created the Pelebox.

“If you have been to public clinics, one of the biggest challenges that you face is spending hours and hours to get access to your chronic medication. The idea was very simple: Can we create a technology, locally manufactured, locally born idea where we can get somebody to collect medication in a couple of seconds, instead of waiting for hours?” asked Hutiri.

Details of each patient are uploaded into a computer system connected to the machine. The patient must indicate the clinic or point where they want to get their medication. The machine consists of a simple wall of lockers controlled by a digital system. And Hutiri, who once had a chronic illness, explains the most exciting experience for patients.

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Jenifer Shingange, a patient with a chronic illness, says the Pelebox has been a god-sent for her (T. Khumalo/VOA)

“We take pre-packed medicine, we would scan the medicine, load it inside the unit. It then sends an SMS to a patient saying ‘Neo your medication is ready for collection, here is a one-time pin, please come and collect your medication at Winnie Mandela clinic.’ The patient simply walks to the unit. On that touch screen, enters their cell phone together with a pin. It pops open the door. They collect and they are on their way,” said Hutiri.

The technology, first introduced in 2016, has been a hit among patients. There are 11 Peleboxes already operational across the country. For years, 45-year-old Jenifer Shingange, a beneficiary of the technology, had to line up at dawn to collect her medication every month. She says since she started getting her drugs from the Peleboxes, she chooses a time that suits her, including after work.

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“I would like to say very thank you. Thank you so much. What is making me excited is that when I come here I don’t stand in a long queue. I just put my cellphone and pin and press and get my treatment,” said Shingange.

The Aurum Institute, a leading health care organization that has partnered with Hutiri, expects to introduce 10 more machines in the city of Ekurhuleni. Up to 26 machines will be functioning across the country by September. With each of the Peleboxes serving over 1,200 patients a month, authorities say they will go a long way toward shortening lines in hospitals and clinics. (VOA)