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Daily Archives: April 18, 2009

Zuma rallies supporters ahead of SAfrica polls

South Africa's ruling party boss Jacob Zuma yesterday urged his supporters to keep up campaigning in the final days to elections, saying the party's message has been bolstered by the end of his graft case.
"We have now entered the siyanqoba [victory] phase of our 2009 election campaign," he said in a letter to supporters of the African National Congress (ANC) ahead of Wednesday's elections.
"The decision of the National Prosecuting Authority to withdraw charges against me provides an opportunity for the movement and the country to put this matter behind us, and to focus on the central task of the moment – to achieve a decisive mandate to intensify the struggle to achieve a better life for all," he said.
Zuma is set to hold a series of rallies in the run-up to his final campaign stop in Johannesburg on Sunday, when tens of thousands of people are expected fill a stadium.
Organisers are setting up live broadcasts of the event to be shown in other stadiums around the country.
Prosecutors earlier this month dropped corruption charges against Zuma, after an eight-year investigation into a scandal surrounding a multibillion-dollar arms deal.
They said the decision was not based on the merits of the case against him, but because top investigators had abused the legal process for political gain.
The corruption case has overshadowed the main themes of the campaign, with the ANC promising to rein in rampant crime and fight poverty.
The opposition have seized the case as a weapon against Zuma, accusing him of lacking the moral authority to crack down on government corruption.
Polls still tip the ANC to sweep to victory with at least 60 percent of the vote. The party has run South Africa since the first democratic elections in 1994, following the end of apartheid when Nelson Mandela became president.

US bank lays claim to Rijksmuseum masterpiece

US bank JP Morgan Chase is laying claim to an artwork that Amsterdam's Rijksmuseum bought last year from a man the bank says had used it as collateral for an unpaid loan, the museum said yesterday.
"We were contacted about the claim last night," the museum's director of collections Taco Dibbits told AFP, describing the painting as a "masterpiece of national importance".
Entitled "The bend in the Herengracht", a famous canal in Amsterdam, the 17th century work by Dutch painter Gerrit Adriaensz Berckheyde was acquired by the museum from a wealthy art collector last September.
It is currently on loan to the National Gallery of Art in Washington for an exhibition ending on May 3.
Dibbits said the Rijksmuseum and the Dutch state, which owns the painting, were examining the JP Morgan demand, filed with a US federal court on April 1.
"Our (the museum's) position is that we are the rightful owners," he said.
Dibbits declined to name the man who sold the painting to the museum or the amount involved.
Dutch media identified him as Louis Reijtenbagh, a collector who used it with other works of art as collateral for a 50-million-dollar [38 million euro] loan from the bank in 2006 before selling it to the museum for several million dollars last year.
Some 27 million dollars is reportedly outstanding on the loan, which has run full term.
The seller, added Dibbits, had signed a sales contract that indemnifies the museum against any third party claims.