Good morning and welcome to live coverage of the fourth and final Test between South Africa and England at the Wanderers in Johannesburg. Since England won the third Test on Monday, my subconscious has been shoving one particular TV scene to the front my mind. It’s from The Thick of It special Spinners and Losers, in which the prime minister unexpectedly resigns and everyone starts spinning.
Jamie, the other maniacal Scotsman, picks the absurd Cliff Lawton as his stalking horse. When word gets out and he is ridiculed, Jamie, with recourse to a popular four-letter word, tells Cliff that he’s not going to be prime minister – or, for that matter, anything else.
“This is your thing isn’t it?” says a bruised Cliff. “Everything has to be in absolutes, everything has to be in black and white. You know: ‘I love you! Fuck off!’ There are lots of shades of grey, you know?”
NB: clip contains adult language. Obviously, as I’ve just quoted said language from it.
The point my subconscious mind is trying to make, I think, is that we have similar extreme attitudes to the England Test team. Three weeks ago they were the biggest shambles since lists began; now they are on an intrepid journey to No1 in the world. Kipling would not be impressed.
Thing is, there are reasons for enthusiasm and cautious optimism. There is nothing in sport as life-affirming as the emergence of a young side. Nor are they many things as exciting as fast bowling. Not just fast bowling, fast bowling. On a Jo’burg pitch that is usually the quickest in South Africa, Mark Wood and Jofra Archer could play in the Test team together for the first time. Most excitingly of all, England have a functioning top six. I know.
The problem is that English cricket has been having false dawns since approximately 15 March 1877, and ultimately they have only won two Tests against a fragile South Africa. While it’s been lovely to see the return of Joe Root’s boyish smile, he really needs to stop saying publicly that England are targeting No1 in the world. This whole how-ya-like-us-now vibe is asking for trouble - particularly in 2021, when they will play two five-Test series against India and another in Australia.
It’s fun, if almost entirely pointless given the unforseeables ahead, to get a little carried away and start picking our XIs or XVIs to win the Ashes in Australia in 2021-22. We’ve been playing that kind of fantasy cricket since geeks began. It’s always the same process - include a big chunk of the present, a tantalising soupçon of the distant future, and at least one leftfield selection that subliminally informs the world you are a deceptively adventurous lover.
Mine, since you asked: Burns, Hameed (I know, I know…), Denly, Root, Stokes, Pope, Bairstow (I know, I know…), Holding Spinner, Archer, Wood, Anderson. But if you ask me again in an hour’s time, I’ll probably have Foakes/Sibley/Cobley in the team.
For now, lest we forget, England have a series to win. Most people think that is already in the bag, but the history of this fixture tells us that heists and late twists can occur. South Africa were the better side for most of their Test series in England in 1994, 1998 and 2003; they drew two and lost the other. For all the limitations of the current side, compounded by the absence of the banned Kagiso Rabada, I’ll be surprised if South Africa go quietly. Not at the Wanderers; not in Vernon Philander’s final Test, on a ground where he has 39 wickets at 15.69.
If England win this series and then the next three – which is not beyond the realms - we have permission to get a little giddy ahead of a mouthwatering 2021. For now, let’s just enjoy the fact that, for the first time since the last tour of South Africa four years ago, the England Test team seem to be making progress. There’s no need to announce our undying love for them just yet, although I reserve the right to tell them to eff off if they are 50 for six at lunch.
That’s if we get any play before lunch.
Isabel dos Santos, Africa's richest woman worth a reported $2 billion, is under increasing scrutiny over a series of murky deals that have affected her business empire and sparked a corruption investigation into her financial dealings in Angola.
In addition to owning expensive properties around the world, dos Santos has stakes in many of Angola's key industries, oil and telecommunication companies, as well as banks that have helped build her fortune.
Here are some other things to know about her.
Dos Santos, 46, is the eldest daughter of Jose Eduardo dos Santos, the former president of Angola who ruled the oil- and diamond-rich nation for 38 years until 2017. Many have accused him of stealing state money during his reign.
Dos Santos has been accused of accumulating her wealth using her family connections at the expense of average Angolans who continue to live in endemic poverty. Critics say her last name granted access to lucrative land, oil and diamond deals.
Two months before her father's retirement, he appointed her the chairwoman of Angola's state-owned oil company, Sonangol. She was later sacked by her father's successor.
Her business dealings came to light after 700,000 pages of documents, known as the Luanda leaks, detailing the structure of her business empire, were recently exposed.
She has claimed to earn money through her own merit and has cultivated an image of a hard-working businesswoman.
Isabel Dos Santos, daughter of Angolaís former President and Africa's richest woman, sits for a portrait during a Reuters interview in London, earlier this month. (REUTERS/Toby Melville)
Dos Santos owns stakes in a number of companies, including Portuguese oil and gas firm Galp, according to the BBC.
She owns 42.5 percent of Euro Bic bank, based in the Portuguese capital, Lisbon, and is believed to have used the institution to move funds internationally. On Monday, the bank said it will cut ties with Dos Santos' companies and people close to her.
She also has a 25 percent stake in Angolan telecom company Unitel and a 42.5 percent stake in Angolan bank known as Banco BIC.
Dos Santos is currently under criminal investigation in Angola for corruption. The leaked documents show she approved $58 million in payments with vague descriptions from Sonangol to a company in Dubai headed by a friend.
On New Yea's Eve 2019, a court in the Angolan capital of Luanda ordered a freeze on all her bank accounts, citing corruption and allegations that the former ruling family has pilfered more than $2 billion. Part of that investigation will focus on her time as head of Sonangol, the state-owned oil company the provides Angola with much of its revenue.
She has denied any wrongdoing, calling the allegations a political "witch hunt."
"Every time she appears on the cover of some glossy magazine somewhere in the world, every time that she hosts one of her glamorous parties in the south of France, she is doing so by trampling on the aspirations of the citizens of Angola," said Andrew Feinstein, the head of Corruption Watch.
A top executive with PricewaterhouseCoopers International recently resigned after PWC was linked to dos Santos. The company helped the billionaire with tax advice for her companies and consultant work, according to the BBC.
A banker implicated money-laundering and embezzlement cases against dos Santos was found dead in Lisbon Wednesday, the BBC reported.
Nuno Ribeiro da Cunha, 45, managed the Sonangol account while at Euro Bic. He was found dead shortly after Angolan prosecutors named him and Dos Santos as suspects in their investigation. Authorities believe da Cunha may have killed himself.
Angolan attorney general Helder Pitta Gros meets with his Portuguese counterpart Lucilia Gago, right, at the Portuguese attorney general's office in Lisbon on Thursday. Angola's attorney general arrived Thursday in Portugal to ask for help investigating a major corruption case targeting Isabel dos Santos, the billionaire daughter of Angola's former longtime leader. (AP Photo/Armando Franca)
Dos Santos is married to Sindika Dokolo, a Congolese businessman and art collector. In 2012, Dokola signed a reported one-sided deal with Sodiam, Angola's state-owned diamond company. The deal was supposed to be an equal partnership to buy a stake in Swiss luxury jeweler De Grisogono.
However, Sodiam put around $79 million into the partnership, while Dokola invested only $4 million, according to the documents. The BBC reported Sodiam borrowed the money at 9 percent interest from a bank in which dos Santos is a shareholder.
The loan was guaranteed through a presidential decree from dos Santos' father.
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She may be eyeing the Angolan presidency
Dos Santos told a Portuguese television station channel that it's possible she could run for president of Angola in 2022.
Her remarks are a shift from earlier comments where she showed no interest in entering politics.
In a BBC interview in London, dos Santos said she had a strong sense of patriotism and duty to her country. She also said her life was at risk if she returned to Angola.
The Associated Press contributed to this report.
Before the floods hit her village, crumpling buildings, ripping out pathways and submerging swathes of land, Nurto Mohamed Hassan could buy a kilogram of rice for the equivalent of about 70p.
Now the cost is more than £1. This may not seem a lot in isolation but, for people with little money and families to feed, it is a significant rise.
“Almost all the foodstuffs, in terms of prices, shot up. It became a big disruption,” said Hassan, who chairs a community group in the village of Sheikh Aweys, in the Bakool region of south-west Somalia. “People are struggling to survive.”
A series of floods across east Africa has been the latest shock to the region’s food supply, wiping out crops and raising prices in the areas most heavily affected.
The floods, resulting from unusually heavy seasonal rains from August to December, have had a devastating impacts. More than 280 people have reportedly been killed, hundreds of thousands have been displaced, and infrastructure across the region has been destroyed, according to the UN.
But people now face a longer-term effect, one that has been snowballing around the region for years: food insecurity.
The rains have drowned or destroyed hundreds of thousands of hectares of cropland in Somalia, South Sudan, Ethiopia and Kenya. They have flooded roads, making it difficult to transport surviving crops, and forced many farmers to abandon their homes and fields.
Once a population is displaced, there’s little incentive to return. The floods are emptying the breadbasket regionHajir Maalim, Action Against Hunger
These countries were already reeling from extended periods of drought in previous years that caused poor harvests and depleted reserves. Some have also had to contend with factors like inflation and conflict.
Hassan said her monthly income of about £75 used to cover all her family’s expenses. Since the floods, however, rising food prices and slowing business in the village have meant her salary barely lasts until the middle of the month.
Hajir Maalim, east Africa director for Action Against Hunger, said 60% of Somalis polled by the NGO reported eating less each day because of inflated food prices.
In Kenya, too, prices for staples like maize and beans are high. In comparison with the region’s five-year average, maize prices were up from 14% to 41% in November, and bean prices up from 9% to 25%, according to data from the Famine Early Warning System network (Fewsnet), a USAid-backed information provider.
And maize “prices are higher now than they were in November,” said JB Ohaga, communications officer at the One Acre Fund. “And we expect them to go even higher as a result of the river flooding.”
Even countries that weren’t hit as hard by floods and rains, such as Tanzania, Uganda and Rwanda, are facing higher prices. Fewsnet reported in November that “the regional maize market is expected to be tight and prices will remain high”.
Higher prices are also impacting humanitarian groups that buy in bulk to feed vulnerable people, like those who have been internally displaced.
While the floods have weakened the purchasing power of aid groups, they have increased the number of people in need of their support.
Although in some areas the floods have actually revitalised grazing land, according to Fewsnet’s decision support adviser Vanessa Roy, large areas of South Sudan, Somalia, Kenya and Ethiopia have nonetheless reached a “crisis” level of food insecurity, meaning they require immediate humanitarian assistance. The situation is expected to worsen in South Sudan through until May, while improving in the other countries.
Farmers are among those who have had to abandon their homes, and if they don’t come back their land could go uncultivated in future seasons, reducing production capacity.
“What we’ve seen over many years in Somalia is, once a population gets displaced, there’s little incentive to return,” Maalim said. “[The floods are] emptying the breadbasket region of people.”
Each time disaster hits, it gets harder to recover. In Somalia, “even people who had capacity to withstand previous shocks have now been impacted by the floods,” Maalim said.
Hassan leads the Baeqaaqo village savings and loan association group, which allows people to pool a portion of their monthly income. These savings can then be used as an emergency fund, for individuals to take out a loan in case of a personal crisis.
But after the floods destroyed infrastructure, houses and farms in the village, Hassan said there’s now concern that everyone in the group will need a loan – something the savings couldn’t support.People stand on debris blocking a highway after River Muruny burst its bank following heavy rains in Parua village, in Kenya’s West Pokot county. Photograph: Stringer/AFP via Getty Images
In Kenya, farmers have warned of a likely maize shortage in 2020, after only harvesting 33m bags the grain last year year compared with the usual 43m.
“Some farmers are purchasing maize, because they didn’t have enough for food security for themselves,” said Isaiah Mboya Sakasa, a farmer and field officer for the One Acre Fund in Kakamega, west Kenya.
The One Acre Fund works with farmers to practice “climate-smart agriculture”, using techniques like predictive weather data to determine when to plant instead of relying on traditional knowledge of rain schedules.
Sakasa said they expect an early rainy season in 2020, which would help. But as the past few years have shown, no one can wholly predict the weather.
“If it’s the way we expect, then we think everything will be OK,” Sakasa said. “But we depend on the rain.”