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Inside Africa, The Art Of Sheep Shearing; Tensions Not Slowing Down Between Iran and U.K.; Mistake or Deliberate Act by Russia; Britain to Welcome Its New Prime Minister; Home Sweet Home Turned into Rubbles; Trade Tensions Between South Korea and Japan Going up into the WTO. Aired 3-4a ET

Aired July 23, 2019 - 03:00   ET



ROSEMARY CHURCH, CNN ANCHOR: We are just hours away from finding out who will replace Theresa May as British prime minister. We are live at 10 Downing Street.

Iran facing new warnings as it refuses to release a British tanker seized in the Strait of Hormuz.

And the calls for the governor of Puerto Rico to resign are getting louder. We will have the latest from San Juan.

Hello and welcome to our viewers joining us from all around the world. I'm Rosemary Church, and this is CNN Newsroom.

We're just hours away from finding out who will be the next British prime minister. The conservative party is expected to announce its next leader in just under four hours from now. The winner of that contest will move into 10 Downing Street and replace Theresa May.

Former Foreign Secretary Boris Johnson is heavily favored but he faces a challenge from the man who replaced him at the foreign office, Jeremy Hunt.

Johnson is a divisive figure, especially over his willingness to take a no deal Brexit. Hunt has said he will serve in a Johnson cabinet, but several top conservatives say they will resign.

For more, CNN's Nic Robertson is live at 10 Downing Street in London, joins us now. So Nic, it appears to be a done deal. Boris Johnson will most likely take over the leadership of Britain, but he has many challenges ahead of him, Brexit one of them, Iran the other.

NIC ROBERTSON, CNN INTERNATIONAL DIPLOMATIC EDITOR: Absolutely. And the other challenge of course is the new cabinet, Boris Johnson is coming into this position, if indeed his position to take, which is widely expected, coming into this position looking to build a cabinet of people that absolutely agree with him are lockstep on the need for a potentially a hard Brexit, that if comes the 31st of October that no Brexit deal is arranged with the European Union that Britain would leave without a deal. So, he is going to be expected to pick to do that, the key cabinet positions are going to be to fill that door right there, that house number 11 at Downing Street, the chancellor the exchequer, the current chancellor Philip Hammond said over the weekend he would be resigning before Theresa May leaves her job.

Boris Johnson or Jeremy Hunt, whoever is going to be to take that leadership, that will be announced in a few hours, but of course, the actual handover doesn't happen until Wednesday.

But the other key positions in the cabinet that Boris Johnson will look to fill quickly will be the home secretary and the foreign secretary. Will he keep Jeremy Hunt, who has been his final and main challenger here for the leadership of the party.

And of course, Jeremy Hunt handling that very important portfolio you are talking about there right now as foreign secretary, dealing with the Iran issue right now. Boris Johnson is going to have to be mindful of that, when it comes into office.

But we've heard from other key government officials and senior ministers at the foreign office who has already stepped down yesterday, the overseas development secretary, Rory Stewart has already made clear he won't serve under Boris Johnson and David Gauke, another cabinet member has also indicated that he would be unlikely to serve under Boris Johnson government.

So, how much of a cleanup of the cabinet, how quickly just Boris Johnson move on that, these will be some of the first hours of challenges for him.

CHURCH: Most definitely. And we'll be watching it very closely.

Our Nic Robertson joining us live from 10 Downing Street. Many thanks.

And remember to tune in for our special coverage of the conservative party leadership results. That's coming up at 11 a.m. London time right here on CNN.

Well, the U.S. and the U.K. are considering their military options as Iran refuses to release a British oil tanker. The Pentagon says it could fly fighter jets over the Strait of Hormuz to protect American cargo ships, while the U.K. says it will take part in a European-led maritime protection force.

Our Matthew Chance has our report.

MATTHEW CHANCE, CNN SENIOR INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: This is the first glimpse of the crew detained on board the British flag oil tanker seized in the Strait of Hormuz.

Iranian state television shows what it says of some of the 23 men from India, Russia, Latvia, and the Philippines appearing to look well, and in good spirits. Even at as their ship the STENA IMPERO is confined to the Iranian port Bandar Abbas under close military guard and flying an Iranian flag from its mast. [03:05:02] British officials said their response would be robust, and

now the country's foreign secretary has laid out the next steps, announcing a European naval force in the region to protect international shipping.


JEREMY HUNT, BRITISH SECRETARY OF STATE FOR FOREIGN AFFAIRS: If Iran continues on this dangerous path, they must accept the price will be a larger western military presence in the waters along their coastline, not because we want to increase tensions, but simply because freedom of navigation is a principle which Britain and its allies will always defend.


CHANCE: And as this crisis develops, Iran has furthered ratcheted up tensions with another, denouncing what it says is the breakup of a CIA spy ring. Iranian state television casting it as evidence of America's malign activities. Iran says some of the 17 Iranian citizens arrested will be executed.

Iran has of course been the subject of U.S. intelligence efforts, but President Trump and his secretary of state are pouring cold water on the latest allegations.


MIKE POMPEO, U.S. SECRETARY OF STATE: I would take with a significant grain of salt any Iranian assertion about actions that they've taken.


CHANCE: But there's little doubt about the firm grip Iran and its elite Revolutionary Guard now has on British-flagged tanker, though on the fate of its crew now pawns in a geopolitical game with no end in sight.

Matthew Chance, CNN, on the Gulf of Oman.

CHURCH: And in an exclusive interview with CNN, the CEO of the company operating the seized tanker says there is no evidence the ship violated any kind of law.


ERIK HANELL, CEO, STENA BULK: Iran has said that there's been no Iranian war perspective for us. We see and it's confirmed that they were not.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Iran also claims that it was violating maritime law. What is your response to that?

HANELL: I mean, everything you see, and we've seen quite a lot from a ship, we're basically everything, there is nothing that shows us that we have been violating any kind of laws and the international sea way laws or anything like that.


CHURCH: Journalist Ramin Mostaghim joins us now from Tehran with more on these escalating tensions. So, Ramin, the U.K. says that it doesn't want confrontation with Iran, Tehran says it doesn't seek confrontation with the U.K., but Iran seized a British tanker and now London is beefing up its military presence in the Gulf, so where is all of this going?

RAMIN MOSTAGHIM, REPORTER, LOS ANGELES TIMES: Before I answer your question, I should remind you that from the mindset of Iranian sovereignty, their nuclear revolutionary sovereignty, they believe that it was Britain provoking a tit-for-tat policy by seizing Iranian oil supertanker (Inaudible).

So, from Iranian mindset, it was Britain, and they escalated the tension. So, it is on a burden on their shoulder to deescalate and reduce the tension in the region.

Now, I tell you, yes, it may lead to a minor incident in the Persian Gulf, and a minor incident can always be, I mean, lead to a major incident in the Persian Gulf that we call it war in the region.

But on the other hand, Eshaq Jahangiri, the vice president of the Islamic Republic of Iran today said that through dialog, legal dialogue, and logical dialogue we can find a settlement for the dispute with Britain.

So, on one hand, Iran is putting responsibility on Britain as a provocateur of tit-for-tat policy, and on the other hand Iran shows readiness to have a logical cordial dialogue to settle that (Inaudible). This is a mix signal coming from Iran. Bear in mind that Iran is a sovereignty, and they believe their sovereignty has been violated by British government.

CHURCH: Very different interpretations at the heart of this escalating tensions and the concern here of course, always is any possibility of miscalculation.

Many thanks to Ramin Mostaghim joining us there from Tehran. I appreciate it.

Well, Venezuela is blaming an electromagnetic attack for a nationwide power outage. It's the biggest and most widespread blackout to hit the country since March.

Blackouts are common amid the country's economic and humanitarian crisis but this one is unusually large.

[03:10:00] An organization that tracks outages says that the 94 percent of the country's telecommunications infrastructure has been affected.

In an effort to help with efforts to restore the power, the country says it's suspending all other work and school activities for the day. Well, a confrontation in the sky off the coast of Japan. South Korea

says Russian military plane violated its airspace. The details just ahead.

Plus, Israel demolishes dozens of homes in a Palestinian section of Jerusalem. We will hear from some homeowners about how they plan to respond. We are back in just a moment.


CHURCH: U.S. President Donald Trump is raising some eyebrows over a couple of bold statements while meeting with Pakistan's Prime Minister Imran Khan, he told reporters that he has a way to end the war in Afghanistan. America's longest running conflict, but he says it isn't worth the cost. Take a listen.


DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES OF AMERICA: If we wanted to fight a war in Afghanistan and win it, I could win that war in a week, I just don't want to kill 10 million people. Afghanistan would be wiped off the face of the earth, it would be gone, it would be over in literally in 10 days.


CHURCH: Now at the same meeting, Mr. Trump also offered to mediate the dispute between India and Pakistan over Kashmir.


TRUMP: I was with Prime Minister Modi two weeks ago, and we talked about this subject, and he actually said, would you like to be a mediator or arbitrator, and I said where. He said Kashmir. Because this has been going on for many, many years, I was surprised at how long it's been going on along --



TRUMP: And I think they'd like to see it resolved, and I think you'd like to see it resolved, and if I can help, I would love to be a mediator.


CHURCH: But India quickly pushed back on that, writing in a statement that, quote, "No such request has been made by the prime minister to the U.S. president. It has been India's consistent position that all outstanding issues with Pakistan are discussed only bilaterally."

Well, Israel is under fire for demolishing dozens of Palestinian homes and apartments in east Jerusalem. The French foreign ministry calls it a dangerous precedent and contrary to international law. The Palestinian prime minister accuses Israel of war crimes. CNN's Michael Holmes has the details.

MICHAEL HOLMES, CNN ANCHOR/CORRESPONDENT: In the predawn darkness, bulldozers and hundreds of Israeli soldiers move into the Palestinian villages of Sur Baher to demolish dozens of apartments and houses, some occupied, some still under construction. And all 17 people forced from their homes, the emotion caught on tape by residents and activists.

[03:15:00] Israeli forces closed off the immediate area, this is the closest that we could get, what remains of the homes though clearly visible, as (Inaudible) Israeli explosives experts wiring up an apartment building to be blown up.


AKRAM ZAWAHRA, HOME OWNER (through translator): It's a heartbreaking feeling to see our house being demolished, but we believe in God.

HOLMES: Akram Zawahra spent $280,000 building a home for his family of eight. He had Palestinian permits for the building and it was nearly completed. But just after dawn, it was torn down.

ZAWAHRA (through translator): Our family was calling me during the morning, crying. But in the end, what can I do? I can't change the facts. Our dreams and hopes are lost.


HOLMES: Israel routinely demolishes homes and other buildings in the West Bank that it says were built without its permission. The Sur Baher back there is more complicated. The houses in question are in what's known as area A under the Oslo Accords, and Palestinians say that means they govern this area and Israel had no right to demolish them.


ADNAN GHAITH, PALESTINIAN AUTHORITY GOVERNOR OF JERUSALEM (through translator): This crime they are doing is an area A, and all those houses had their permits from the Palestinian authority.


HOLMES: Israel sees it differently. The country's Supreme Court ruled that the buildings needed permits from the Israeli military commander because of their proximity to the security barrier, which in this area is a fence monitored and patrolled by Israel.

Israel's prime minister office said in a statement that the local population is treated humanely, quote, "Buildings that will be demolished, except one building are not inhabited. Those who built these buildings near the wall were already aware that they were doing illegal work."

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP) ZAWAHRA (through translator): They say they are demolishing for security reasons. There are no security reasons around here. There are lies. It's about uprooting people from their lands.


HOLMES: Palestinian say this case touches on the broader issue of the future of east Jerusalem which Palestinians have long wanted to be the capital of any future Palestinian state.

They worry that what happened here will set a precedent for other towns and buildings along the route of the barrier, even those extensively under Palestinian control, and just as closer or closed to the security barrier.

Security an excuse they say to displace the Palestinians in east Jerusalem, a point of view Israel roundly rejects. Regardless, Akram Zawahra says he will rebuild, even if he risks demolition again.


ZAWAHRA (through translator): We will build it again in the same place, we don't care what they think.


HOLMES: Michael Holmes, CNN, Jerusalem.

CHURCH: Well, South Korean fighter jets have fired warning shots at a Russian military plane that entered the country's airspace. According to South Korea's military, it happened twice within a half hour. Seoul says the Russian plane flew over an area chain claimed both by South Korea and Japan.

Carl Schuster is a visiting assistant professor of history at Hawaii Pacific University. He joins me now from Honolulu. Thank so much for being with us.


CHURCH: So, what do you think is going on here? And what message is Russia trying to send, do you think?

SCHUSTER: It's hard to say without knowing precisely the flight path, but in any time a plane violates airspace twice in half an hour that is usually indicative of a direct decision, a decisive act, if you will. And therefore, it was probably intended to send a message.

Having said that, there is a slight possibility the plane had some sort of catastrophic navigational error, and the pilot was trying to go repeat his previous course in an effort to get back to where he came from.

But given the timing, and the fact that they did it twice and had to be warned off with warning shots, tells me that it was probably a deliberate act.

CHURCH: All right. So still, there is still a possibility that it wasn't deliberate. But you're going more in the direction that there was a message being sent here. But the question has to be asked, why would a Russian plane fly over an island chain claimed by both South Korea and Japan?

SCHUSTER: Well, part of it is maybe it's actually sending a signal to the U.S. It would be new action by Russia, but during the Cold War, whenever Russia was displeased with something we did in Europe, they would often create a problem on the Korean peninsula.

Another angle to it might be that Putin was trying to challenge the U.S. globally, or challenge our interest on a global level, and so triggering an instant in or off the Korean peninsula that offends both Japan and Korea would draw our attention in a negative way, but we would not likely respond directly or aggressively because it's not our territory that was violated.

[03:20:04] The thing that surprises me, though, is Russia's relationship with both South Korea, predominantly with South Korea has been improving over the last five years. They're conducting or at least negotiating joint investment in North Korea.

Russia has been very positive towards South Korea's engagement of the north, Russia has tried to present itself as a supporter of the North Korean regime, but at the same time, as a responsible player who wants tensions reduced on the Korean peninsula.

CHURCH: Right.

SCHUSTER: Also, all the Russian relations with Japan are not as good as they are with South Korea. It would be unusual for Russia to provoke Japan at this point, but I do know that Russia -- Putin is not particularly happy with Japan's growing defense budget.

So, is he sending a signal to them, or is he sending a signal in support of China's challenging us, or was this a systems failure on an aircraft or pilot error?

CHURCH: Right.

SCHUSTER: Since Russia tightly controls how their pilots fly and where they fly, the odds of the pilot doing that on his own is quite small. And so, it's either a system failure or deliberate act.

I lean more towards the deliberate act but the reasons yet to take it's a pretty obscure signal and a risky one whose antagonizing people that Russia's improving relations with over the last two years.

CHURCH: So obscure that there are so many possibilities. I guess in the coming hours we'll have a clearer more clarity perhaps. We shall see.

Carl Schuster shedding or trying to shed a little more light on this instance. We'll see whether it was deliberate or not. Many thanks to you. I appreciate it.

SCHUSTER: Yes, ma'am. It would be nice to have a map that showed the exact flight path so we could determine if he was simply trying to get to a location it wasn't certain how to get there or was, you know, I wouldn't say loss.

CHURCH: Right.

SCHUSTER: But not clear on what was the best way to go. Without that, it's speculation as you aptly described.

CHURCH: Yes, absolutely. Well, in the coming hours of course we will hopefully have that very map. Many thanks to you. I appreciate it.

We'll take a short break here. Still to come, trade tensions are growing between South Korea and Japan and while that's a very modern problem, it's linked to a troubled past. And that is next. Do stay with us.


CHURCH: Hundreds of thousands of protesters packed the streets of San Juan in Puerto Rico on Monday. The day of mostly peaceful demonstrations ended with tear gas as police work to disperse a huge crowd near the governor's mansion.

Protesters are demanding that governor of the U.S. territory resign over rampant corruption, as well as leaked sexist and homophobic chats.

But Ricardo Rossello says he is not leaving just yet.

Well, South Korea is expected to bring up Japan's trade war restrictions at the World Trade Organizations general council meeting on Tuesday. Friction between the two countries has affected South Korea's high-tech industry. But the roots of that friction go way back.

CNN's Paula Hancocks report from Seoul.

PAULA HANCOCKS, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Making a point with Kenji. A protestor dressed as Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe takes a fermented cabbage beating by fellow South Korean protestors.

[03:25:04] Others pour out Japanese beer and sports drinks. Part of a growing boycott against Japan after the country impose export restrictions on three chemicals used to make high tech materials, such as display screens and memory chips. Materials which are vital to South Korean companies, including the world's biggest smartphone maker, Samsung. The consequences could be global.


ROB KOEPP, DIRECTOR, THE ECONOMIST CORPORATE NETWORK: South Korea doesn't have a lot of inventory of these chemicals, so unless something is done, we could start seeing very rapidly a disruption in the supply chain.


HANCOCKS: Samsung says they are assessing the current situation to minimize the impact. Earlier this month, Japan announced the restrictions, citing national security, a claim South Korea rejected and said it's gathering evidence for a complaint to the World Trade Organization.

Seoul sees the restrictions as retaliation for a series of disputes dating back to the early 20th century when Japan occupied Korea.

Late last year, South Korea's Supreme Court ruled that Japanese companies have to pay compensation to Korean victims of forced labor during the Second World War. Japan challenged that ruling, saying that all wartime disputes had been settled under a 1965 treaty which established diplomatic ties between the countries.

Japan denies that this has anything to do with its current export restrictions.


HIROSHIGE SEKO, JAPANESE MINISTER OF ECONOMY, TRADE AND INDUSTRY (through translator): We have made it clear that our move to carry out export controls appropriately is for national security purposes. It's not a counter measure.


HANCOCKS: Tokyo has also proposed removing Seoul from a white list of trusted trade partners.


MOON JAE-IN, SOUTH KOREAN PRESIDENT (through translator): The vicious cycle of actions and counteractions is not desirable at all for either r country.


HANCOCKS: The potential for escalation and global repercussions has the attention of a key ally for both countries, the United States.


KOEPP: Number one, you have the U.S. Is two, most critical allies in Asia, who are side by side neighbors to each other and China, add to that the North Korea issue where South Korea and Japan also play a very important part. So, there is a lot of interest for the U.S. in seeing this matter resolved.


HANCOCKS: Japan and South Korea have struggles to come to terms with that past for decades but dispute could reverberate around the world. Paula Hancocks, CNN, Seoul.

CHURCH: And thank you so much for joining us. I'm Rosemary Church. Inside Africa is up next. But first, I'll be back with the check of the headlines. You're watching CNN.


ROSEMARY CHURCH, CNN ANCHOR: Hello everyone, I'm Rosemary Church with a check of your global headlines. Britain's foreign secretary calls Iran's seizure of a British flag tanker an act of state piracy. They say the U.K. is beefing up its military presence in the Gulf and wants Britain's allies to help. Iranian TV aired video it says shows the tankers crew, the shipping company would not be to verify its authenticity.

South Korean fighter jets have been fired warning shots at a Russian military plane that into the countries airspace. According to South Korea's military, it happened twice within a half hour. Seoul says the Russian plane flew over an island (Inaudible) claimed by both South Korea and Japan.

Police in Puerto Rico deployed the tear gas to disperse a huge crowd of protestors Monday night. The demonstrators are demanding that Governor Ricardo Rossello resign immediately. The protest was sparked by league offensive chat messages and anger over corruption. Rossello has apologized but is refusing to step down.

The British conservative is set to announce its new leader in the coming hours. The winner of the contest will replace Theresa May as Prime Minister. Former London Mayor Boris Johnson is heavily favored to get the job. His chief rival is the man who replace him as foreign secretary, Jeremy Hunt.

I'm Rosemary Church, you're watching CNN, the world's news leader. Inside Africa starts right now.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: In the rugged hills of the Eastern Cape, where South Africa surrounds the tiny nation of Lesotho, the art of sheep shearing has been practiced and passed down for generation. It starts in the sheep and goat farms where workers who make a living off the speed of their knife are employed to help sheer hundreds of animals a day.

Harvesters for hire, they are some of the best in the world when it comes to the blade. And now, they have carved their career into a sport. For these men, de wooling sheep is more than just a job, it's become a way of life. This is competitive sheep shearing. This is Inside Africa.

ELLIOT NTSOMBO SIX TIME WORLD SHEEP SHEARING CHAMPION (through translator): My father was a sheep shearer and a herd boy. He would leave home for long periods of time and he would write us letters asking how we were doing and how our own sheep were doing. I remember that. UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Elliot Ntsombo is considered a trail blazer in

sheep shearing in Lesotho, an expert with the shearing blade, he has been following in his father's footsteps for over three decades. What started as a way to support his family eventually became a passion that took him far beyond his home in these hills.

NTSOMBO (through translator): I got interested in being a shepherd and my father told me I should sheer and look after the sheep, so I went out to look for a job. He really was the one who inspired me.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: A championship sheep shearer, Elliott has won six world titles in the sport. His exceptional talents have taken him around the world and made him a sort of legend in these parts.

NTSOMBO (through translator): I was very excited doing this job, working with other shearer and presenting Lesotho. I love shearing with all my heart. I didn't make any mistakes when I was shearing, that is what put me on the top.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: The sheep shearing skills of men like Elliot are highly sought after here in Lesotho.

[03:35:00] Many villages in this tiny mountain kingdom make their living by working in South Africa's huge commercial sheep farms. Migrant sheep shearers leave their villages for months at a time to work in South Africa.

NTSOMBO (through translator): My manager, Graham Frost, has always encouraging me to be the best I can.

GRAHAM FROST, MANAGER, CMW SHEARING SERVICES: Initially we are -- how I got to know them, Elliot Ntsombo who is the guru or was the grandfather of shearing is exactly my age. We kind of grew up with each other, we knew each other from the background. He obviously became a sheep shearer and when I started I immediately contacted Elliot Ntsombo and another friend.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: What started as a business also became a personal passion for Graham Frost. Friends with Elliot since childhood, he is a fifth generation sheep farmer who is the manager of a sheep shearing service with contingents of shearers that travel from farm to farm, the company sheers nearly 1 million sheep and goats per year. Sheep have been bred over the centuries to produce wool, and since they do not shed, they must be sheared for their own health.

FROST: Today we've got 50 machine teams, 50 hand teams and 50 cutting teams. That is 150 units that we actually send around the country.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: While most of the men who work in this field start out in blade shearing, this hand driven skill is being threatened by the increased efficiency of machine shearing.

FROST: One of the reasons why it's becoming more important to do machine shearing is you can do with far less labor or units that have to actually do the job of work. UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: While the economics of hand shearing may someday

die out, the traditional skill is still alive and well in the highly competitive sheep shearing events staged every year in South Africa.

Here, shearers get a chance to go head to head with the best of the best, a dizzying display of dexterity the and determination. Shearers are judged on the accuracy and speed of separating wool from an animal. The brute strength required of blade shearing puts most competitors in a league of their own. They compare a days' worth of shearing to running a marathon.

FROST: I have heard it is one of the hardest jobs you can do on earth, because you are physically shearing 100, 120 sheep a day. If you actually take a sheep weighing 50, 60 kilograms and you are doing 100 of them, that is 50 times that that is like five tons -- is it five tons? Or is it 50 tons, I'm not sure, of manual stuff that you are moving from point a to point b.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Fickson Maqhosha, like Elliott and Graham, was introduced to the sport by his father. A rising star in the Lesotho sheep shearing community, Dixon has set his sights on becoming the next South African blade shearing champion.

FICKSON MAQHOSHA, SHEEP SHEARER (through translator): I remember in 1984, that was the first time I started handling the sheep. At first, I was shown how to sharpen the scissors. I was shown how to handle the sheep from where it was to where it was going to be shorn. When the ship was close to me, I was also shown how to handle it with my feet so that I couldn't hurt it or that it wouldn't hurt me.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: As Fickson prepares his blades and his body to compete at the upcoming South African national championships its clear these competitors have helped set a new standard in the industry. Izak Klopper, the commissioner of the competition in South Africa has seen the sport grow over the years.

IZAK KLOPPER, NATIONAL WOOL GROWERS ASSOCIATION: I think the shearing sport at the start of 93 it's a spinoff of -- training course, because we needed something to benchmark the sheep where at the time you would actually proposed of influence. So, every shearing competition, you can see we have labels of the (inaudible), is increasing.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Although Fickson has traveled extensively with his shearing and has won many smaller competitions, the South African championships will be his most important test to date.

[03:40:00] He will have some serious competition. The current reigning world champion, Mayenzeke Shweni will be there too. Mayenzeke has left his international competitors in awe, but he still looks to the forefathers of the sport for his inspiration.

MAYENZEKE SHWENI, 2017 WORLD CHAMPION (through translator): The competition helps us build our own standard. When I got started, I was looking to the world championships of Elliot Ntsombo and (inaudible). I am always trying to build up my standards to be at their level. UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Game day, when we return.


UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: When it comes to the world of competitive sheep shearing, Southern Africa is in a league of its own. After entering international competition in 1996, Southern Africa has meddled every year in blade shearing. Here, at the South African national championship in (inaudible), shearers of all ages, regions and levels come to test their skills and try to qualify for the world. More than just a sport, it's a high stakes affair where some of the best shearing teams in the country get to exhibit the strength and efficiency of their wool removal operations.

FROST: The national shearing championship is an exposure medium. It brings a whole lot of groups of shearers. When I first started 20 years, ago there were very few of us.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Graham Frost was instrumental in the South African sheep shearing industry. He knows how crucial these shearing competitions are to people and their communities.

FROST: It's created a new industry through this exposure. It's brought more people to the floor, it's given more people opportunity.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Fickson Maqhosha and Mayenzeke Shweni are two of the top contenders in this year's hand blade category. As nerves begin to race, each man relies on years of experience and muscle memory. They have trained extensively for this day with the help of managers and teammates, all for a chance to go on to this year's world championship in France.

SHWENI: My only dream is to be on the team that goes to France. The goal is the world championships.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Mayenzeke is the favorite this year with four national and two world championships. His deft hand speed and ease with an animal has made him the man to beat. Joined by a long list of challengers, Fickson determination and grit gives him a fighting chance to de-throne the reigning champ.

[03:45:07] If he plays his rounds right, Fickson hopes to be on his first flight to France. Both men have been training for months just for this day, emotionally and physically demanding, this is not your standard day of shearing.

MAQHOSHA: These competitions are important because they show you how to improve and gives a place for younger guys to come to grow and improve their shearing.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Izak Klopper, has trained shearers for year, an expert in teaching how to quickly removed vast quantities of wool with the least amount of cuts, he is aware of the intricacies and pressures of competition.

KLOPPER: Competitions, it's not about just shearing, it's a combination of bigger qualities. There's three criteria. While the guys are shearing, there's judges on the board that looks for second cuts. Second cuts is you cut the wool in a middle of fire burn, you cut on the skin again, you get that piece of white wool.

Once the sheep (inaudible), it goes into a chute, into a special bin and the judges look for skin cuts. The skin cut a size of a ten cent coin is a point. Also look for regions of long wool, based on the sheep and of course the guy has cut maybe the (inaudible), or a teeth that will impair the breeding ability of the sheep, he is then disqualified. And then the third leg of the competition is speed.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: The competition is friendly yet fierce, the tournament randomly selects each heat for the divisions. Men from the same company are often pitted against each other, increasing the pressure during an already taxing time.

KLOPPER: The mental fitness, you've got to be strong, you can have all the skill, you can have the right build you can be fit, but you get that tough sheep and you must be able to do it well.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: The importance of shearing competitions is not lost on younger shearers. Most come to show off their skills to farmers, while others see it as a way to improve themselves in the shearing community.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I think the competition is quite important for the performance to kind of see the quality of shearing, and when you go on the stage step-by-step you think, what if I mess up, what if I, because I don't have another chance? But when you get the sheep in position and you just when that thing starts, you forget about everything. There is no one around you, there is no one you heard, there's no laughing, it's just you and the sheep and that is everything you need to know.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: The advent of machine shearing has introduced a new way for shearers to shine. A modern technique that is much more efficient than traditional blade shearing. It, too, requires its own style and skill set. Besides building a sense of pride for their rural way of life, gatherings like these make sure the art of manual sheep shearing is kept alive and celebrated.

KLOPPER: Many people look down at shearing and don't see the picture, and you need to have long distance goal, and you must keep your eye on the ball otherwise you will think it is harder than you -- you think you are not doing the right thing, but if you (inaudible), you don't know. We can smile at the other blocks and say, I've done it.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Fickson and Mayenzeke easily complete the qualification heats on day one. Now they must prove themselves against each other.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: A lot is at stake for the team that is going to be announced. The world championships in France in the beginning of July, so, yes, there is a lot riding on the hand shearing section.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Mayenzeke is the crowd favorite. His two world championships under his belt. Many are expecting him to win here and represent South Africa in France. Still consider the underdog, Fickson passion for the sport has carried him far and placed him within striking distance of the honor.

Ahead, can passion go the distance?


UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: When it comes to mixing work with play, the South African national sheep shearing championships bring together some of the most athletic farmers you will ever find. With competition well underway, up and coming sheep shearer Fickson Maqhosha is challenging fan favorite Mayenzeke Shweni for the South African sheep shearing crown.

MAQHOSHA: I think that people love their jobs. That is why we have the strongest shearers. I love it because it exposes us and our talent.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: With the event entering its final rounds, the stakes are high. Both are hoping to turn a win here into a chance to compete at the world sheep shearing championship in France. While Mayenzeke is ease with the animals puts him a cut above, Fickson's determination and work ethic may be just enough to give him an edge.

SHWENI: I'm fine. I don't know what the results are. We will see.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Watching the competition closely is Graham Frost. He is invested in these shearers, both as a businessman and a mentor. And regarded as instrumental in building some of the strongest sheep shearing teams in South Africa.

FROST: We understand him, we love him, we have already been with him and I have a very soft spot on the (inaudible), and well, generally from our fellow being, I just feel that if there is some way in this way that I can help them make something out of it for them I want to be there, I want to do it for them.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Shearing at least six sheep per round and racing against the clock, each man must turn in impeccable shaves as judges inspect for skin cuts on the sheep and how much wool is left behind.

Neck and neck in quality and speed, Fickson and Mayenzeke both battle for victory. All eyes are glued to the stage where Fickson fights to clinch the championship. After the points are tabulated and the sheep are inspected one last time, Fickson prevails on speed and precision and is crowned the new South African blade shearing champion. Just as shocked as the fans, he is humble in victory.

MAQHOSHA: This year I wasn't feeling good about it. I'm extremely happy that I have won.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Many of the shearers here are finished with their most stressful competition of the year. Izak Klopper knows that the training has only just begun for Fickson, who might have sheared well in South Africa, but now faces international competition. KLOPPER: He is always been very good in the quality department.

(Inaudible), to get shearing experience with one of the trainers, so Fickson has always won the best quality prizes. He will have to step up on the pace. The kiwis are going to throw face at us, and that's why a few we might be honorable, but, well, we go.

[03:55:13] UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Although training and passion paid off for Fickson, his new national medals was not enough to get him to the world championships. A passport issue kept him from being able to travel to France and his rival, Mayenzeke Shweni went in his place.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Three, two, one, go! This is the open blade final --

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Shweni brought home silver in both the world individual and team blade shearing championships.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Look at the man from South Africa, Mayenzeke Shweni, he has one more flick around the tail, ladies and gentlemen. One more flick.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Although he missed out on the chance to represent his country on the international stage, Fickson remains committed to his training and making his village proud.

MAQHOSHA: I want my community to think of me as the right person for this job and that they are happy to see me. I hope they think they work I'm doing is great and that I will do my best.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Frost sees huge potential for the sport and wants to help shearers like Fickson and Mayenzeke Shweni to reap the benefits of their hard work.

FROST: It's given more people opportunities, they have plenty of opportunity to go out on their own and become their own right sheep shearers and that I see as being an absolutely ideal way of doing it. It's a livelihood for its children and one day they will know that he was a world champion. And nothing in the world can take that away from him.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: And while the veterans of the sport agree that dedication to your craft and hard work can make anything possible, a world championship makes it all worthwhile.

NTSOMBO (THROUGH TRANSLATOR): To be successful, you have to love what you do and feel proud when you achieve something great.