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Iran Election; U.S. Federal Holiday Celebrates the End of Slavery; Race in America; Vaccine Supplies Dwindle in African Countries; Ethiopian Elections; Construction Flaws Led to Mexico Rail Collapse; Tornado Destroys Dozens of Homes in Alabama. Aired 2-3a ET

Aired June 20, 2021 - 02:00   ET




ROBYN CURNOW, CNN ANCHOR (voice-over): Hi. Welcome to our viewers here, in the United States and all around the world. I'm Robyn Curnow.

Coming up, an ultra-conservative cleric is elected Iran's president. But the United States maintains, the process that got him there is anything but free and fair.

Plus, heavy rain and tornadoes, as the remnants of tropical storm Claudette, slowly, move across the southeastern United States.

And dancing, marches and block parties at Juneteenth celebrations across the country. Americans gather to mark the new federal holiday commemorating the emancipation of enslaved people in the U.S.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE (voice-over): Live from CNN Center, this is CNN NEWSROOM with Robyn Curnow.

CURNOW: Thanks for joining me this hour.

So the American government, on Saturday, acknowledged Ebrahim Raisi is the next president of Iran but denounced Friday's election as fundamentally undemocratic.

In a statement, the U.S. State Department said, "Iranians were denied the right to choose their own leaders in a free and fair electoral process. Our Iran policy is designed to advance U.S. interests, regardless of who is in power.

"We would like to build on the meaningful progress achieved during the latest rounds of talks in Vienna. We will continue discussions along with our allies and partners on a mutual return to compliance with a joint comprehensive plan of action."

The Iranian government says the conservative chief justice won more than 60 percent of the vote but with few alternatives on the ballot, many Iranians just, simply, didn't bother to vote, leading to a record-low turnout. Fred Pleitgen has more from Tehran. (BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

FREDERIK PLEITGEN, CNN SENIOR INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT (voice- over): Conservatives celebrating a major victory that could shape the political direction of this country for a long time.

Ebrahim Raisi, a man very close to Iran's supreme leader, will soon take over as president.

"With the help of God and with the help of Sajid Ebrahim Raisi, he we will do a good job," this man says.

While turnout was historically low, Raisi managed to garner more than 60 percent of the vote, the interior ministry says.

PLEITGEN: Raisi won his landslide victory in the presidential election. His followers are putting on a show of force. (INAUDIBLE) not everyone is celebrating after moderates suffered (INAUDIBLE).

PLEITGEN (voice-over): While some shops in this market have already hung up Raisi posters, others questioned the election after many candidates were disqualified by Iran's guardian council in the run-up to the vote.

"Before the voting, everyone knew the new president would be Raisi," this woman says.

And this one adds, "All the four candidates are the same. It makes no difference to me. The elections have no effect."

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: He will be pushed to move toward lift the sanction. Our people are in the very high pressure of economic pressure.

PLEITGEN (voice-over): The transfer of power is already being prepared. Raisi has already met outgoing president, the moderate, Hassan Rouhani, and said he is focused on the task ahead.

"I hope I can live up to the trust that the people have placed in me during my term," he said.

For many, that means getting the Trump-era sanctions lifted and reviving the Iran nuclear agreement, all to jump-start the ailing economy.

TRITA PARSI, QUINCY INSTITUTE FOR RESPONSIBLE STATECRAFT: There is a tremendous amount of continuity and very important foreign policy issues, such as the JCPOA, are not set by the president alone or the foreign minister. It requires much greater degree of systemic buy-in.

PLEITGEN (voice-over): One thing both moderates and conservatives agree on is that Iran's struggling economy is the country's top issue. Now Ebrahim Raisi will get his shot to bring it back on track -- Fred Pleitgen, CNN, Tehran.

(END VIDEOTAPE) CURNOW: International reaction to Raisi's victory ranges from pro forma congratulations to outright condemnation. Two of Iran's most immediate neighbors offered words of support for the incoming president.

Turkey's president, sending a letter sending -- saying, he wished "for the spirit of cooperation between our countries to continue to strengthen."

And Iraq's leader said, quote, "Iraq truly looks forward to strengthening its relations with Iran and works to have even closer brotherly and friendly ties that link the two nations through their historical, cultural and social bonds."


CURNOW: But Amnesty International wants Raisi investigated for crimes against humanity.

They say, "As head of the Iranian judiciary, Ebrahim Raisi has presided over a spiraling crackdown on human rights, which has seen hundreds of peaceful dissidents, human rights defenders and members of persecuted minority groups arbitrarily detained."

And Israel, too, condemning him as the most extremist presidential figure yet and said his election, quote, "makes clear Iran's true malign intentions."

Holly Dagres is a senior fellow at The Atlantic Council and she joins us from London.

Holly, lovely to see you. Great to have you on the show. Tell us more about who this president is; a hardliner, an ultra-conservative cleric, as we have been reporting.

What more do we know about him and his political legacy?

HOLLY DAGRES, SENIOR FELLOW, THE ATLANTIC COUNCIL: Well, Robyn, Ebrahim Raisi was not a household name until the 2017 presidential election, which he ran as a hardline rival candidate to incumbent president Hassan Rouhani.

He actually lost to him with 60 million votes. And from then on, we really saw his ascent in the Iranian government. He was made Iran's judiciary chief. And what we are really seeing is that this protege of the supreme leader is being groomed possibly as a supreme leader in waiting, once the supreme leader passes.

So this is part of Khamenei's legacy. Ayatollah Khamenei has envisioned a young and pious government. And with Raisi, at 60 years old, he sort of fits that area, when you look at the lineup of clerics in the government. So by having Raisi as president, he is one of the branches of government that will, all, be hardline led.

CURNOW: And then, with that in mind, for domestic politics, what does, then, that mean internationally for this Iran nuclear deal? DAGRES: Well, the reality is that Ebrahim Raisi does not have a lot of international experience; none at all, if anything. But when it comes to the Iran nuclear agreement, we have heard him say that he supports the agreement.

And, of course, this is in part because the supreme leader backs the nuclear accord. So right now, we have actually seen the slow walking of the nuclear talks in Vienna. And it became clear that this was related to the outcome of the election, which, of course, everyone knew what was going to happen.

But what -- what it's leading a lot of analysts, like myself, to believe is that they're probably trying to wait for Raisi to take office so they can give him this win and for him to put under his belt.

So it's something to give to the Iranian people, sanctions relief, which is something Iranians very much want because of the shambles their economy is in.

CURNOW: And what does, then, this also mean for -- for the new government in Israel?

And now, this new leadership in Tehran?

How are these dynamics -- these new dynamics going to impact tensions?

DAGRES: Well, I would say, over the past year or so, we have actually seen a lot of -- a shadow war between Israel and Iran. We've seen the assassination of Iran's top nuclear scientist. We've seen some sabotage attacks inside Iran and a lot of fingers being pointed at the Israeli intelligence agency, Assad.

So it seems this will continue. I think it's, also, interesting to note that Iran has a hardline government and we have more of a right- wing government in Israel. And that could, itself, be a problem, in the future.

CURNOW: And what do Iranians have to say?

Obviously, Fred Pleitgen's piece talked about them expressing frustration and pessimism with their lack of choice, which is why we saw this very low voter turnout.

How -- how do you think people will react to Mr. Raisi?

And -- and do they have a hope, at least, that the economic standards will be improved now that this is a leader who has the buy-in of the supreme leader as well?

DAGRES: Well, as Fred Pleitgen's report demonstrated, Iranians felt like this election was not an election, at all. It was a selection. They knew what the outcome was going to be. And that was, in part, why they did not take part.

The other, of course, being that they were disillusioned and fed up with things, on the ground. They have a long history of grievances with their government. And not just the economy but the mismanagement and the corruption, the rise in repression, the fact that the reformists and moderates have not been able to bring about tangible change because they are in -- unable to.

And so, for Iranians, when they look at their government, they feel that there's just no representation there. And this is, in part, why we saw this historically low turnout.


DAGRES: The worst, in the Islamic Republic's 42-year history.

CURNOW: Holly Dagres there, in London, thank you very much for your analysis.

So Brazil hits a somber milestone. More than half a million people have died of COVID there since the pandemic began. The death toll is twice as high as it was, six months ago. Experts say, that's a sign that the mortality rate is accelerating.

Thousands of Brazilians took to streets across the country on Saturday to protest president Jair Bolsonaro's handling of the pandemic. Many, many blame Brazil's crisis on his efforts to downplay the disease. Journalist Stefano Pozzebon has more on Brazil's case surge and the reaction inside the country -- Stefano.


STEFANO POZZEBON, CNN CORRESPONDENT: On Saturday, Brazil became just the second country in the world after the United States to cross the grim threshold of over 500,000 COVID-19 deaths.

The South American country reported over 2,300 new COVID-19 deaths on Saturday and over 82,000 new cases. That brings the total number of cases reported by the Brazilian health ministry since the beginning of pandemic to over 17 million cases.

And as Brazil marked this milestone, thousands of protesters took onto the streets to demand the impeachment of the president, Jair Bolsonaro over his handling of the pandemic. Major Brazilian cities such as Sao Paulo, Rio de Janeiro and Recife all reported large-scale and peaceful demonstrations as did the country's capital, Brasilia.

And Bolsonaro himself did not address either the COVID-19 deaths nor the protests when he attended an aid event (ph) earlier on Saturday. But his communication minister, Fabio Faria, did so on social media, attacking the government's critics for not focusing on the millions of vaccine doses delivered, he said, by the government and even cheering for the virus, according to the communications minister -- and for CNN, this is Stefano Pozzebon, Bogota.


CURNOW: In the in the coming hours, Taiwan is set to receive some 2.5 million doses of the Moderna COVID-19 vaccine from the U.S. That is more than three times the 750,000 doses that Washington had promised earlier this month.

That shipment, expected to arrive late Sunday evening. Taiwan's president, saying that the vaccines, quote, "will go a long way toward keeping Taiwan safe and healthy."

And U.S. travelers, soon, may be heading to their favorite European destinations, once again. The European Union's governing body has recommended that restrictions be lifted for the U.S. and more than a dozen other countries. Melissa Bell takes a look at what it means for the continent's travel industry.


MELISSA BELL, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Europe is, once again, opening up to tourism according to the recommendations of the European Union. It's urged its member states to change their rules to allow the citizens of a certain number of countries, now considered on the E.U.'s green list, to come in and out of Europe more easily.

It's up to member states, of course, to decide since they are in charge of their borders. France, one of the first E.U. countries to change its rules since Thursday. Vaccinated Americans have been able to come to France. Unvaccinated Americans will have to provide a negative PCR test.

Spain, on the other hand, has said that it's allowing vaccinated American citizens back in but not, yet, the unvaccinated. So it's going to take a few days for those changes to be announced by individual member states.

But it is a step in the right direction. Great news for those desperate to come back to Europe for the first time in over a year. And, of course, for the European tourism industry. It was back in 2019, worth more than $2.5 trillion a year.

And you will not speak here, in Paris, the most visited city in the world, to a taxi driver, to a hotel owner, to a restaurant owner, who is not desperate to see American tourists come back -- Melissa Bell, CNN, Paris.


CURNOW: Thanks, Melissa.

Just ahead here on CNN, Americans celebrate the first new federal holiday in 35 years. What Juneteenth means and why some activists say it is just the beginning.

Plus, the debate over teaching critical race theory in American classrooms heats up. We will show you how the fight is unfolding, in one community. That's next.






UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: This is a great start. This is a holiday, something that we all should come out and celebrate.


CURNOW (voice-over): It is a holiday weekend, here, in the United States. Around the country, people are marking the first national observance of Juneteenth as a federal holiday.

Juneteenth celebrates the end of slavery in the U.S. and the day in 1865, when former slaves in Galveston, Texas, were finally told slaves in the U.S. were freed. President Biden signed the Juneteenth holiday bill into law on Thursday. He gave the first pen to 94-year-old Opal Lee, the woman known as the grandmother of Juneteenth.

She helped lead the fight to make the day a federal holiday.


CURNOW: Well, Juneteenth celebrations have a special meaning in Washington. Suzanne Malveaux is there.


SUZANNE MALVEAUX, CNN U.S. CORRESPONDENT: It's a Juneteenth celebration here, in the nation's capital, an official national holiday. This is the holiday, of course. And the official day that it is happening, June 19th, 1865, that is when the Union troops told those in Galveston, Texas, that in fact they were emancipated, two years after the Emancipation Proclamation.

This is the festivities you see at the center of 14th and U Street. Earlier, we were at Black Lives Matter Plaza, really, iconic locations for civil rights and for social justice. Many of the people, who I talk to, say this is a celebration.

But we, also, saw T-shirts that said "free-ish," meaning, there is so much more work to do be done when it comes to voting rights, housing rights, economic parity and, of course, fighting against police brutality. But this day, an acknowledgement of Black achievement and Black resilience. Take a listen.


JUSTIN JOHNSON, ORGANIZER, MILLION MOE MARCH: So that's what all this is about, us coming together.


JOHNSON: Putting the culture on display but also infusing it in politics and getting our community more politically engaged and more politically motivated to participate in the political process essentially. Just like this man, Black Lives Matter Plaza, what does that really change for us?

Not much. You know, we still don't have justice around the world. We still don't have justice around the country. At the same time, it is cool to know this is a space of kind of belonging, though, it takes much more than that. You know, Juneteenth is the same thing.



UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: What I love about it that it's Juneteenth, it's something that we can celebrate our freedom, something that we used to celebrate, being Black. And something that we use to embrace ourselves and embrace our culture.

And that's why we have chosen Double Dutch to just have fun and choose joy, no matter what.


MALVEAUX: So as you can hear uniquely, the go-go music in the background, that really originally, from here, Washington, D.C., a celebration but also, a message. The many people that I talk to, Washington, official Washington to political Washington, that lawmakers must work harder, must work with the community, from the ground up, to change the laws and to make sure that, indeed, there is more progress, to make sure that African Americans are truly free in this country -- Suzanne Malveaux, CNN, in Washington.


CURNOW: The move to declare Juneteenth a federal holiday comes as the U.S. grapples with how to teach the legacy of slavery and to talk about race in the classroom. Randi Kaye shows us how the debate is unfolding in one American community.


UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Just because I do not want critical race theory taught to my children in school does not mean that I am a racist, damn it.

RANDI KAYE, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): A heated community forum outside St. Louis, Missouri, where the Rockwood School District has become a flashpoint in the national debate about critical race theory.

These moms were preparing to protest at the District School Board meeting --

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Sort of wave it around.


KAYE (voice-over): Fighting for a more diverse lesson plan at Rockwood School District where their children go to school.

AMY RYAN, PARENT IN ROCKWOOD SCHOOL DISTRICT: The children, they want to learn all kinds of curriculum, all right. Is there implicit bias? Yes. Is there racism? Absolutely.

CHARITY IKPE, PARENT IN ROCKWOOD SCHOOL DISTRICT: To have my daughter say I want to have blue eyes, curly hair, long blonde hair and white skin, like her teacher, let's start presenting our children with diverse curriculum.

GENEVIEVE STEIDTMANN, PARENT IN ROCKWOOD SCHOOL DISTRICT: People who were educated years and decades ago, they got a version of history that wasn't exactly right. That was whitewashed. And now, we're starting to recognize that and reconcile with that.

KAYE (voice-over): Critical race theory teaches that much of America's history and policies are infused with systemic racism. The district says it doesn't teach critical race theory but it has been teaching a curriculum rooted in diversity, equity and inclusion for years.

But this spring, the phrase became a lightning rod and some parents began accusing the district of teaching Marxist ideology and liberal propaganda.

So now lessons many hoped would bring the community together have created a chiasm.

KENNETH ROSA, PARENT IN ROCKWOOD SCHOOL DISTRICT: A five-year-old in a kindergarten class is not responsible for their 17th generation great grandpa's actions, even if that were in their family lineage 17 generations ago.

KAYE (on camera): But shouldn't they learn about it? What's wrong with them learning about it?

ROSA: Sure, they can learn about it as long as we're not targeting children to make them think that there's something wrong with them over how the history of the United States was formulated.

KAYE: So you say some children are being targeted or made to feel guilty?

ROSA: Correct.

KAYE: For things they didn't do?

ROSA: Correct.

KAYE (voice-over): Terry Harris is Executive Director of Student Services for Rockwood School District.

KAYE (on camera): Those who are complaining are saying, you know, they're painting us as racist. They're making us feel guilty. They're white shaming us. TERRY HARRIS, EXECUTIVE DIRECTOR OF STUDENT SERVICES, ROCKWOOD SCHOOL DISTRICT: No. So in our district, we're not white shaming, we're not making anyone feel bad about being white or calling anyone racist. That's not what this is about.

We have diverse students in the Rockwood School District that show up in our school district every single day, students who desire to see themselves reflected in the curriculum.

KAYE (voice-over): A curriculum that includes lessons about slavery but also about a Black astronaut and the African-American inventor of the traffic signal.

ROSA: For children of school ages, those are conversations that could be had at a later day, as opposed to trying to propagandize children in kindergarten and elementary in things of that nature.

KAYE (on camera): The district and proponents of this would just say, well, they're not propagandizing, they're just teaching. They're just asking them to think, not telling them what to think.

ROSA: No, I understand but if that was what they were actually doing, then they wouldn't find a need to cover it up.

KAYE (voice-over): And that so-called cover up is a problem.


KAYE (voice-over): This whole controversy seems to have picked up steam during the pandemic when children were kept home and parents got a closer look at lesson plans.

This leaked email from a Rockwood staff member advised teachers not to make everything visible about their race-based lesson plans on the platform, which parents can view. The email also suggested avoiding trigger words like "privilege" and "democratic."

The District told us that email does not reflect the mission, vision and values of the district. Adding, "Rockwood encourages transparency."

STEIDTMANN: The history is that white people have done things that are not great in the history of the United States. We've also done lots of great things. So what I advocate for is just telling the truth.

ROSA: They are teaching divisive rhetoric to children that are too young for that type of understanding and psychology.

KAYE (voice-over): But those protesting in favor of diversity teachings, say ignoring the history lessons in what they call whitewashing history is lying to children about the past and that's harmful.

IKPE: Our kids need to know the truth so they can know how to navigate and do not repeat the past. KAYE (voice-over): Randi Kaye, CNN, Eureka, Missouri.


CURNOW: Coming up on CNN, a powerful tornado rips through a town in the southeastern U.S. You will hear from a survivor who had a close encounter with a twister.

Plus, the coronavirus is spreading across Africa at an alarming rate. We're live in South Africa with a leading doctor on the situation there.





CURNOW: Great to have you along. Welcome back to our viewers here in the United States and all around the world. I'm Robyn Curnow, live, in Atlanta. It's 29 minutes past the hour.

So we are following more signs of progress in the battle against COVID in some parts of the world. Here, in the U.S., nearly 45 percent of the population is now fully vaccinated. That's around 149 million people.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention is tracking the data. Anthony Fauci, Dr. Anthony Fauci, has said herd immunity might be reached if 70-85 percent of people are immune.

But in Africa, COVID vaccines are hard to come by in some places. And now, cases in many areas are back on the rise. Some countries, including Namibia and Sierra Leone have seen cases go up in the last week by more than 100 percent.

One WHO official calls it quote, "very, very concerning." He also says positive cases aren't always detected and more contagious variants are putting the continent at risk.


DR. MICHAEL RYAN, WORLD HEALTH ORGANIZATION: The brutal reality is that in an era of multiple variants, with increased transmissibility, potentially increased impact, we have left vast swaths of the population and the vulnerable population in Africa unprotected by vaccines in context where health systems are already weak.


CURNOW: Well, Dr. Salim Abdool Karim is director of Center for the AIDS Program of Research in South Africa and joins me now.

Doctor, hi, lovely to see you, again. I am so glad that you are joining us because I have a lot of questions. I do want to get your reaction to the WHO comments there. Certainly, raising the alarm about the state of infections on the continent.

How concerned are you?

DR. SALIM ABDOOL KARIM, CENTER FOR THE AIDS PROGRAM OF RESEARCH IN SOUTH AFRICA: Good day, Robyn. And good day, to all of the viewers. I am deeply, deeply concerned. When one looks at the situation, globally, there are about 20 vaccinations per hundred people in the world. In Africa, it's tenfold less.

We have just over two vaccinations per hundred people living on the continent. So our vaccination rates are really way, way too low. And the challenge, right now, in Africa is that many countries are all ready and raring to go and give vaccinations. But there are no doses available.

The big problem has been that most countries in Africa have depended on COVAX. And COVAX was getting its main supply from India, from -- from the Serum Institute of India, that has stopped supplying vaccines because they are redirecting it to India, itself. So you can see, it's a huge challenge in Africa.

CURNOW: So how -- how much of a backlog do you think there is there?

KARIM: Well, we've got a lot of catching up to do. There is a need to get vaccines into the continent to bring that up so that at least 20 percent of our population can be vaccinated, you know, within the next few months, because many countries in Africa, roughly one out of four countries, about 14 countries in Africa, already, in the third wave.

So the sooner vaccines can arrive, the better. So I was very pleased that the G7 has made that commitment. And several companies are, also, now, making commitments to make vaccines available. But a lot more needs to be done.

CURNOW: Let's talk about where you are, now, South Africa. Of course, it's also my home country. It should have one of the continent's most developed health systems. But I am hearing that it's difficult to find beds in places, like Johannesburg.

How worrying is the situation in South Africa, right now?

KARIM: So South Africa went through a pretty bad patch, in the second wave. The second wave started rising at the end of November, driven, principally, by a new variant, called the Beta variant. And that went through the country.

And the second wave was much worse than the first wave. And so, much of the country has recovered from that second wave in January. And we have spent the last three months at low transmission.

However, the situation has changed. Over the last three weeks, cases have been rising in three or four of our nine provinces. And in the economic heartland, where Johannesburg and Pretoria are, the cases have been rising rapidly. As of today, the cases, the seven-day moving average of cases is now

higher in the third wave, than it's ever been in the first and second waves.

CURNOW: That certainly doesn't bode well for hospital beds but also, oxygen.

How concerned are you that oxygen supplies will be limited, will run out?

How have you prevent -- how are you trying to prevent what happened in India?


KARIM: So South Africa has been in a different situation with regard to oxygen. Because we flattened the curve due to quite severe restrictions in the first wave, we had a period of around 8-10 weeks to prepare for the first wave.

And we used that time to address the issue of oxygen because, when we did the calculations, it showed, quite clearly, that we did not have enough oxygen for our surge.

And so, we brought together an NGO together with Deloitte and the department of health, brought the four companies that make oxygen, that make the most oxygen in our country, together. That's not easy to do because that's prohibited.

And so, we had to get special permission from the competition commission for them to come together and do the planning to ensure that every hospital would have adequate oxygen.

And so, right now, we are in a situation, where we, generally, do not have a problem with oxygen supply, with minor variations, depending on some, you know, rural hospitals, where they are dependent on cylinders.

But most of the hospitals do not have a problem with oxygen supply. Our problem, now, is beds and Gauteng is going through that phase of the surge, where beds are in short supply. And I'm not sure if the field hospitals are going to be adequate.

So right now, there are a few beds available. And if the cases continue to rise, as they are, we might find that we might have to clear hospitals of other patients in order to make more space for COVID-19 patients.

CURNOW: How concerned are you, as the vaccines are given to South Africans -- and there, certainly, are a number of people over the age of 60 who have been getting it. Teachers are next, I understand.

How concerned are you about misinformation, about conspiracies, about crackpot Facebook pseudoscience, that is, perhaps, dissuading people from getting the vaccine or getting the second vaccine and creating even more anxiety? KARIM: Yes, so South Africa's planned its vaccine rollout in different phases. The phase 1 was to give vaccinations to healthcare workers. And that has, largely, been done. They still have a proportion of healthcare workers who are not front-facing; in other words, they don't face patients that still have to be vaccinated. But the vast majority have been.

And in fact, we are already reaping those benefits in our first and second waves. By now, a lot of hospital staff would be at home, infected or exposed. But right now, because of vaccinations, that problem doesn't really exist.

This phase 2 has been to give out to the elderly. And the next would be to give it to those in congregate settings or at higher risk, like teachers or prison warders and so on. Our situation right now is that we have people clamoring for vaccines. There is a big demand for vaccines.

But we know that, as we get to higher levels of vaccine coverage, we are likely to hit this wall of vaccine denialism, vaccine hesitancy. There have been there have been several studies there have been several studies taken in South Africa.

Overall, it's estimated between 10 percent and 15 percent, one of the biggest studies put it around 12 percent, of South Africans are anti- vax. So they will -- they just, you know, follow social media and just will not take vaccines.

But we have about another 15 percent to 20 percent that are not anti- vax. They are just hesitant because they don't know.

They're concerned is it safe?

Is it, you know, I'm asthmatic, should I take it?

So there is a lot of those kinds of concerns and those can, mostly, be addressed. The rest of the South Africans, just over 70 percent, have -- you know, are enthusiastic and will take the vaccine. So that's where we stand. Right now, for us, vaccine hesitancy is a -- is a problem in the distance but one that we are, already, preparing for.

CURNOW: OK. Thank you very, very much, as this third wave continues to spread, Salim Abdool Karim, thank you very much, Doctor, for joining us.

KARIM: Pleasure.

CURNOW: Ethiopians head to the polls Monday. They will cast their votes in both regional and general elections, which have been pushed back multiple times now.

Voting won't be taking place in the Tigray region, though, because of the violent conflict there. No date has been set for those elections yet. Larry Maduro has the details -- Larry.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE) LARRY MADOWO, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): After a delay of almost a year, Ethiopians will head to the polls Monday in both regional and national parliamentary elections.


MADOWO (voice-over): The country's prime minister, Abiy Ahmed, said he is committed to a free, fair and peaceful election. But it is already marred by a host of problems, including a violent conflict raging within its borders.

The violence in parts of Ethiopia's Tigray region in the north has created a humanitarian crisis, where there will be no election at all. The U.N. and other agencies say that large parts of Tigray are experiencing dire hunger because of food shortages, blamed on the fighting.

The Ethiopian government has denied these reports. But Prime Minister Abiy says he has hope for Ethiopia's future.

ABIY AHMED, ETHIOPIAN PRIME MINISTER (through translator): The choice between destruction and development, construction and demolition for our country, is laid in front of us. We Ethiopians carefully understand, feeling dismayed is not civilization. And pushing one another is not a better option.

MADOWO (voice-over): Opposition candidate Berhanu Nega is less optimistic.

BERHANU NEGA, OPPOSITION CANDIDATE: Whenever you attempt this transition from tyranny to democratic governance, there is no guarantee that it will be absolutely perfect or it will be clean.

MADOWO (voice-over): Accusations of ballot box fraud tainted the last general election held in 2015. This time around, logistical issues and violence have caused voting delays in 110 out of 547 districts.

Some parties, whose leaders have been imprisoned, are boycotting it altogether. Opposition figure and fierce critic of the prime minister, Jawar muhammad, remains in jail, where he is accused of terrorism and other charges.

The U.S. has also voiced alarm over the conditions ahead of the elections. The State Department issuing a statement, saying, quote, "The United States is gravely concerned about the environment under which these upcoming elections are to be held."

The country had big hopes for Abiy when he was appointed in 2018. The Nobel Peace Prize winner was, at the time, praised for cracking down on corruption and freeing political prisoners.

Abiy made many promises but his military campaign in Tigray and jailing of opposition leaders has angered many of his constituents. As Ethiopians get ready to cast their ballots, the Ethiopian government hopes for democratic election. But it comes at a time of turmoil where fighting in Tigray has killed

thousands, leaving people on the verge of starvation and threatening the credibility of the voting process -- Larry Madowo, CNN.


CURNOW: So coming up on CNN, independent investigators figure out why a railway overpass collapsed in Mexico City, killing dozens of people in this tragic incident that you can see here, on your screens. The findings, when we come back. We have that story, next. (MUSIC PLAYING)




CURNOW: Welcome back. I am Robyn Curnow, live, here in Atlanta. So a preliminary report indicates shoddy construction contributed to last month's deadly collapse of a commuter-train overpass in Mexico City.

More than 20 people were killed in the incident. And dozens more were injured. The accident has certainly put the spotlight on Mexico's richest man. Who owns one of the companies that built the structure. Rafael Romo reports now from Mexico City.


RAFAEL ROMO, CNN SR. LATIN AFFAIRS EDITOR (voice-over): There were no questions allowed.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: (Speaking Spanish).

ROMO (voice-over): Even though many unknowns remain. It was the first time Mexico City officials tried to answer why an elevated train collapsed in early May, killing 26 people and leaving at least 79 injured.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: (Speaking Spanish).

ROMO (voice-over): A top official said the accident was caused by faulty construction, including poor welding of metal studs and missing studs, as well as the use of different types of concrete.

He was quoting from the first preliminary report by DNV, a region risk management firm, hired by the Mexico City government to conduct an independent investigation.

ROMO: When line 12 was inaugurated in October 2012, it was supposed to be the crown jewel of Mexico City's public works projects. It connected some of the most marginalized neighborhoods with the best the Mexican capital has to offer. Now this stretch lies in ruins and no one yet knows when the whole line will reopen.

ROMO (voice-over): The accident is not only one of the worst tragedies in Mexico's recent memory but also a case that strikes at the very heart of Mexican politics and economic power.

Carlos Lim (ph), the owner of one of the companies involved in construction, is Mexico's richest man.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: The government of Mexico has given Carlos Lim (ph) a lot of money in infrastructure.


Because he is the biggest constructor in Mexico.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: (Speaking Spanish).

ROMO (voice-over): Mexico City mayor and presidential hopeful, Claudia Sheinbaum (ph), a protegee of president Andres Manuel Lopez Obrador, is the one who commissioned the independent investigation into the collapse.

Marcelo Ebrard (ph), Mexico's current foreign minister and another presidential hopeful, spearheaded the line 12 project when he was mayor of Mexico City. Some analysts suggest part of the reason why there were many faults in the construction is that it was rushed.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: He wanted to be the guy to cut the ribbon.

ROMO (voice-over): This Mexican journalist says the political implications for president Andres Manuel Lopez Obrador and his party Morena are widespread.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: The party has gotten a very big hit and we saw in the elections, when you see the capital of Mexico being divided in vote, where the capital of Mexico is the biggest political base for the president.

ROMO (voice-over): Morena, the president's party, used to rule all but two of Mexico City's 16 municipalities. After the June 6th midterm elections, held one month after the train collapse, the number was reduced to less than half.

Ebrard (ph), the foreign minister, has denied any wrongdoing multiple times.

"He who owes nothing, fears nothing," he said the day after the accident. The corporation owned by Carlos Lim (ph) told CNN that there would be no comment until the final result of the investigation is released.

And now the ruins of what was supposed to be Mexico City's crown jewel stands as a silent witness of the tragedy, while Mexicans wait to know the full truth about the deadly collapse -- Rafael Romo, CNN, Mexico City.


CURNOW: Well, still ahead on CNN, damage, flooding and homes torn to pieces. Take a look at these images. A small town takes a direct hit, as tropical storm Claudette spawns tornadoes in southeastern U.S. We're going to talk more about this, after the break.






UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: All of a sudden, the trees over this way behind the houses over there, they just kind of -- it was just like they imploded. They just fell over. I was in shock really. I didn't -- I mean, I didn't really know what to do. It was just really a helpless feeling because I knew that we were fine, I knew that the inside of my house was fine.

I knew that we were fine. And then when I walked out on the front porch and saw that, it just -- you know, it was really upsetting to see.


CURNOW: Upsetting, no wonder. That woman survived a tornado that tore through a town. That was a lot of alliteration. In Alabama on Saturday morning, you can see the aftermath here.

Officials say three people were injured; the tornado ripped through several homes and knocked down trees, scattering debris all over the town. It touched down after tropical storm Claudette hit the southeast of the U.S.

Claudette now has weakened to a tropical depression but it is far from over.



CURNOW: I'm Robyn Curnow. Thank you for your company. Follow me on Instagram and Twitter. I'll be back with more news in just a moment.