South Africa: NOT ENOUGH MONEY TO FIX ROADS

14.December.2009 · Posted in news

There is not enough money to fix roads, so more toll gates will probably have to be built on national roads, Transport Minister Sbu Ndebele said in a report on Thursday.

He said it would cost more than R35 billion to fix the 4 100km of national roads needing repairs before 2014 but his department had only R16.8bn available.

Tolls would make up the shortfall

Source: (www.businessday.co.za 20091211)

CHILDREN INVOLVED IN MANY SEX CRIMES

14.December.2009 · Posted in news

The National Prosecuting Authority’s sexual offences unit has revealed that a quarter of the criminal cases on court rolls involve sex-related charges Of those cases, more than half involve children.

Speaking at the tenth anniversary celebrations of the NPA’s sexual offences and community affairs unit in Johannesburg on Thursday, the unit’s Deputy Director, Pierre Smith, said that, despite its achievements, sexual offences courts “are still tough for us”.

Sexual offences courts, which specialise in hearing sex-crimes, domestic violence and child-abuse cases, have been in “unfortunate demise” for the past few years, said Brandon Lawrence, the unit’s Senior Advocate.

Lawrence said that the number of special courts had shrunk from 75 to 39 because of a “misunderstanding” about their role. But “under the new government, those courts will be brought back,” he said.

The unit’s conviction rate in specialised courts was “a respectable” 68%, Lawrence said. The unit’s Special Director, Thoko Majokweni, spoke of the importance of resurrecting the child protection and sexual offences units, which was disbanded in 2006.

The return of the units has been mooted by police leadership and Ms Majokweni said they were essential to increase the conviction rate.

“This is very important as it is such a specialised area. Not everybody is able to deal with child victims, and most of the time you only have one chance,” she said.

Source: (www.timeslive.co.za 20091211)

MUSHWANA CLAIMS FIRST HRC CASUALTY

14.December.2009 · Posted in news

South African Human Rights Commission (SAHRC) chief executive Tseliso Thipanyane has resigned after being stripped of key powers by the new chairperson of the Commission, controversial former Public Protector Lawrence Mushwana.

The Commission has been keeping Thipanyane’s resignation secret since he submitted it on 30 November. He will leave at the end of this month.

Two senior staff members at the Commission told the Mail & Guardian that Mr Mushwana prevented Mr Thipanyane from giving media interviews on behalf of the commission and from representing it at work-related events — including trips the chief executive had already committed to attending, some of which had already been paid for.

The most recent work trip Thipanyane had to cancel was to Trinidad and Tobago last month, where he was to represent the commission at a Commonwealth Forum of National Human Rights Institutions meeting on climate change and human rights.

SAHRC deputy chief executive Naledzani Mukhwevho represented the Commission after the Commonwealth Forum pleaded with it to send at least one representative because expenses had already been fully paid by the forum.

“We expected that they [Mushwana and Thipanyane] would not have a good start, but he [Thipanyane] is known to be very tough. His resignation came as a surprise,” said another senior staff member.

Mr Thipanyane’s resignation comes a month after the former Public Protector took over as the Commission’s chairperson. When his appointment was announced in October, Mr Mushwana told the M&G that one of his priorities at the commission would be to assert the authority of human rights commissioners against the seemingly more powerful role of the commission’s chief executive.

He said he would push for an amendment to the South African Human Rights Commission Act of 1994, which does not provide a clear definition of the work of commissioners and the chief executive. “As long as you don’t have an executive authority in any institution, then you have problems. The chief executive must be subjected to an executive authority,” he said.

The chief executive should deal with the organisation’s finances and administration, he said. “When it comes to matters of human rights, the Act gives powers to commissioners.” He said chief executives were “bureaucrats” who were expected to give financial and administrative support to commissioners.

But a spokesperson for the commission expressed “total surprise” this week when the M&G asked about a reduction in the chief executive’s powers. “In fact the chief executive is continuing with his responsibilities as the head of the commission’s secretariat right until his last day with the organisation,” said Vincent Moaga.

Mr Thipanyane had been expected to help ensure continuity after the entire team of commissioners left in September at the end of their non-renewable terms. He was arguably the most visibly active chief executive of any Chapter 9 institution. In addition to being the commission’s accounting officer in terms of the Public Finance Management Act he was its chief spokesperson under former chairperson Jody Kollapen.

No press statement was released without his approval and he articulated the commission’s findings on several cases. He was fearlessly independent and outspoken in the running of the commission.

Mr Thipanyane headed the Commission secretariat, which includes the legal services and information programmes. The commission’s website lists “ensuring good relations with the media” as one of the responsibilities of the information and communication programme, which falls under the chief executive.

In another development, new Public Protector Thuli Madonsela has withdrawn all charges against chief executive Themba Mthethwa, saying there was “no legal basis” to charge him in the first place.

Mushwana suspended Mthethwa a few days before he left the protector’s office, accusing him of failing to declare a medical condition that could have affected his appointment.

Mushwana accused Mthethwa of misconduct in not disclosing that his previous employer, the South African Local Government Association, had investigated him for alleged tender irregularities.

It was later ascertained that Mthethwa had mentioned the matter in a job interview for the chief executive position.

Source: (MAIL & GUARDIAN ONLINE, 20091211)

JUDGE RULES FOR GILL MARCUS

14.December.2009 · Posted in news

A society watchdog lost its court bid to have the appointment of Reserve Bank governor Gill Marcus revoked. This comes after Ms Marcus revealed in papers before the South Gauteng High Court in Johannesburg that she was forced to take extra safety precautions following threats against her and ABSA boss Maria Ramos by an angry investor who claimed they were responsible for his being cheated out of millions.

The Society for the Protection of our Constitution alleged that Ms Marcus misled President Jacob Zuma, who appointed her, by not informing him that a criminal complaint had been laid against her at the time she was a non-Executive Chair of the bank’s board.

Judge Meyer Joffe said Ms Marcus was not involved in the bank’s daily operations and there was “no merit” in the attack on her Reserve Bank appointment

Source: (www.timeslive.co.za 20091211)

SIMELANE 'UNDETERED' BY DA COURT BID

14.December.2009 · Posted in news

New Prosecuting boss Menzi Simelane is “undeterred” by the court bid that the DA will launch today (Friday) to challenge his appointment. And, says National Prosecuting Authority (NPA) spokesman Mthunzi Mhaga, the DA’s court bid will have no impact on the stability of Mr Simelane’s leadership of South Africa’s prosecutors.

DA leader Helen Zille will this morning file an application in the Pretoria High Court, in which her party will seek a review of President Jacob Zuma’s decision to appoint Mr Simelane as National Director of Public Prosecutions.

President Zuma and Justice Minister Jeff Radebe have thrown their weight behind Mr Simelane – despite Ms Frene Ginwala’s findings that his sworn evidence in her inquiry into ex-National Director Vusi Pikoli’s fitness to hold office was replete with baseless accusations and “left much to be desired”.

Ms Ginwala’s findings later prompted the Public Service Commission to recommend that Mr Simelane’s future at the justice department be determined by a disciplinary inquiry. It is understood that the DA’s application will centre on Mr Simelane’s fitness to hold a position as National Director.

While Mr Zuma has yet to comment on the controversy that greeted his choice of National Director, Mr Simelane this week told The Star that criticism about his appointment was driven by armchair critics who were opposed to transformation.

Mr Mhaga on Thursday said the NPA would deal with the DA’s application when it was filed, but stressed that the court action would not stop Mr Simelane “from doing his job and carrying out his duties”. “As far as the NPA’s stability is concerned, we are focusing on the work at hand. We are undeterred by all of these processes,” he said.

Source: (www.pretorianews.co.za 20091211)

MORE MINISTERS SPLASH OUT ON LUXURY CARS

14.December.2009 · Posted in politics

Deputy Correctional Services Minister Hlengiwe Mkhize has splashed out on a Porsche Cayenne that cost nearly R760 000, while her boss, Minister Nosiviwe Mapisa-Nqakula, has splurged on a Lexus LS 460 that cost about R970 000. 

The combined cost to the department-which overspent its budget by R500 million in the last financial year – was R1.73m.  It also emerged yesterday that the Department spent R6.4m on hotel accommodation, travel and restaurant expenses between April and November this year – nearly R1m more than was spent on these items during the whole of 2008/2009. 

The details were contained in a series of replies to DA Parliamentary questions. DA correctional services spokesman James Selfe condemned what he called “rampant wasteful expenditure”.  “Our correctional services institutions are in crisis, with overcrowding at 143 percent and a 71 percent vacancy rate for psychologists and 34 percent for social workers. 

“The Special Investigating Unit uncovered billions in corruption and yet the Department has not renewed its contract with the SIU. The budget overrun was almost R500m, yet the Deputy Minister has bought a Porsche,” he said. 

Minister Mapisa-Nqakula’s spokesman, Sonwabo Mbananga, said his boss had settled on the Lexus because of its comfort and durability as she had to criss-cross the country doing her work.  The vehicle’s cost was within her R1.1m limit set by the ministerial handbook. 

Mr Mkhize’s spokesman, David Hlabane, said he was waiting to consult with her, as she was in a meeting.

Source: (www.pretorianews.co.za, 20091211)

‘BENIGN TREND’ THREATENED BY RISE IN IMPORTS

14.December.2009 · Posted in business

SA’s deficit on the current account, its broadest measure of trade in goods and services, shrank in line with expectations during the third quarter of this year, official data showed on Thursday. The shortfall narrowed to 3,2% of gross domestic product (GDP) — its lowest ratio since the second quarter of 2005 — from a revised 3,4% in the first quarter, the Reserve Bank said in this month’s quarterly bulletin. However, analysts say the benign trend in the shortfall, seen as the Achilles heel of the economy, will not hold in the coming months as domestic demand recovers, boosting imports.

“Given the high propensity of SA to import, we expect that even a moderate recovery in the economy will translate into increased imports,” Thebe Securities economist Monale Ratsoma said. On balance, this would lead to a deterioration in the current account in the medium term, he said. SA’s current account deficit was more than 7% of GDP in both of the past two years, after notching up a modest surplus at the start of the decade.

This is worrying for the country as the gap is financed mainly by foreign buying of local shares and bonds, which can abruptly dry up with shifts in global risk appetite. In value terms, the deficit dipped to R77,4bn in the third quarter of this year from R81bn in the second quarter and R157,3bn in the first. But the shortfall was adequately financed. Portfolio inflows reached R66bn in the first three quarters of this year, compared with an outflow of R71,5bn last year as a whole.

SA’s first recession in 17 years has helped to stem the ballooning deficit, with imports falling much faster than exports due to weak local demand. At the same time, dividend outflows have subsided with waning company earnings. They amounted to 1,9% of GDP in the third quarter compared with a peak of more than 4% of GDP at the end of 2007.

“Looking forward, although exports improved in the third quarter, they are likely to struggle significantly given the still strong rand and sluggish world economic recovery,” said Stanlib economist Kevin Lings. The rand has slipped off its peak for the year at R7,29/, and was at R7,58/ late yesterday. But it has still notched up hefty gains of about 18% against a trade-weighted basket of currencies in the year to date — a trend that reduces the competitiveness of local exports.

SA’s balance of payments would have benefited more from a global recovery in commodity prices if the rand had not strengthened so much, Lings said. But weak import demand was set to keep the trade deficit in check, even though it was likely to weaken over the next few quarters.

The Bank revised the estimated shortfall on the current account last year to 7,1% from 7,4% and for 2007, down to 7,2% from 7,3%. Forecasts from the Treasury in October predicted that the gap would shrink to 4,9% this year — a view many analysts share. Export volumes rose by about 3% in the third quarter of this year, after falling by more than 3% during the second quarter, yesterday’s data showed.

Imports declined by 0,5%. SA notched up a trade surplus of R21,1bn in the third quarter, its second in a row. But the deficit on its net service, income and current transfer payments edged up to R98,5bn from R93,5bn in the previous quarter. Foreign direct investment showed an inflow of R8,3bn in the third quarter, lower than R24,9bn in the second quarter.

Source: (www.businessday.co.za, 20091211)

31 HOME AFFAIRS OFFICIALS SUSPENDED

14.December.2009 · Posted in news

Thirty-one Home Affairs officials were suspended for alleged involvement in the fraudulent registration of births of foreign nationals, Minister Nkosazana Dlamini-Zuma said on Thursday.

“The fraudulent registration of births of foreigners constitutes a serious threat to national security, undermines the stability of our democracy and costs the state millions of rands meant for reconstruction and development,” she said.

“These fraudulent registrations of births of foreigners lead to the false registration of foreigners on the South African Population Register thus leading to the issuance of fraudulent IDs, duplication of existing IDs and fraudulent passports,” said Ms Dlamini-Zuma.

Most of the fraudulent registrations were for Pakistani nationals. By issuing fraudulent documents, the officials were denying the needy and the poor basic services because they were allowing the fraudsters to access social grants meant for South Africans, she said.

The 31 officials were suspended in KwaZulu-Natal, Mpumalanga, Eastern Cape and Limpopo. In another blitz last month 28 officials were suspended for the alleged fraudulent registrations of marriages and deaths.

Source: (www.pretorianews.co.za 20091211)

ZUMA GETS 9 OUT OF 10 FOR CHARM FROM ZILLE

14.December.2009 · Posted in politics

Helen Zille, the leader of the Democratic Alliance, gives President Jacob Zuma nine out ten for charm, but only one out of ten for his defence of the constitution. So his overall rating in the eyes of the DA is three out of ten.

It’s that time of the year when arbitrary judgments are made by political parties and the media on the individual performances of our rulers. And the judgements are invariably harsh. Delivering her party’s verdicts on Thursday, Ms Zille admitted that giving a minister a high mark might be considered as career limiting, so she has to be careful. But she has not held back – giving Finance Minister Pravin Gordhan a solid 8½ for example.

The scores are initially given by the party’s spokespeople on the various portfolio committees in Parliament, balanced with a score allocated to their spendthrift ways with public money and the reliability of their answers to Parliamentary questions, and then tinkered with by a three-person leadership troika consisting of Ms Zille herself, the leader of the party in Parliament, Athol Trollip, and the Chief Whip Ian Davidson.

The lowest-scoring ministers, both with 2½, are Membathisi Mdladlana the Labour Minister and Noluthando Mayende-Sibiya, who not only has the longest name of any minister, but also the longest title – Minister for Women, Children and People with Disabilities.

Mr Mdladlana gets marked down because although he is in his second term he “has still recorded no accomplishments to speak of”, according to Ms Zille. He is also not in favour with the DA because of his intention to abolish labour broking and because of the intemperate language he uses in his quest to do so.

“We will destroy millions of jobs by effectively criminalising temporary work,” Ms Zille said. The DA reckons that Ms Mayende-Sibiya has not risen to her challenge at all “tending to intervene in an ad hoc unco-ordinated manner”.

According to Ms Zille, “her failure to turn up at the first public hearing on the Domestic Violence Act spoke volumes”. Only eight of the 34 ministers get a score above six out of ten. The leader of the Freedom Front Plus, Pieter Mulder, is in a slightly more difficult position than Ms Zille, since he is a colleague of the individual ministers he would mark down, as deputy Agriculture Minister.

So he contents himself with rating the government under subjects dealt with rather than personally. He suggests that the government’s record on combating crime deserves a four. The administration of justice gets three. Local government earns a meagre two. Education gets five. Language and cultural rights – close to the FF+’s heart – gets four, and economic growth also four.

Source: (www.sowetan.co.za 20091210)

MALEMA LEAVES CONGRESS AFTER BEING BOOED

14.December.2009 · Posted in politics

ANC Youth League president Julius Malema stormed out of the SA Communist Party’s special congress after he was booed by delegates. He was later followed by ANC National Executive Committee Member Tony Yengeni, who also left the University of Limpopo hall in a huff.

Delegates at the congress in Polokwane booed Mr Malema and ANC Executive Member Billy Masetlha when SACP National Treasurer Phumullo Masualle acknowledged their presence at the start of the conference. A fuming Mr Malema told reporters he and others in the ANC delegation were humiliated by the “hostile” delegates.

“I was unhappy with the delegates booing us when we were introduced. “The environment is hostile and not conducive for persuasion because delegates have wrongly perceived ideas about the leadership of the youth league and the ANC,” he said.

“You invite people to your conference and then you just boo them and howl at them like that? We were humiliated in front of everybody. SACP General Secretary Blade Nzimande stuck the knife in even further after making humorous references in his opening address to the behaviour of delegates at the 2008 ANC Youth League conference during which Mr Malema was elected president.

He dismissed the league’s call to nationalise mines, describing it as “opportunistic” and a result of the “desperate conditions of BEE” because of the recession.

“The great majority of young militants who have flirted with this style of long nights of long knives, in bottom-baring conferences, with symbolic coffins for rivals, are not beyond constructive engagement,” Mr Nzimande said in his address.

After walking out, Mr Malema lashed out at the SACP for being hypocritical, saying that while it claimed to be against the “capitalist agenda”, it had given a Standard Bank representative a warm welcome.

“This is so shocking: that an alliance partner can be booed and monopoly capital in the form of Standard Bank can receive such a welcome by communists. This is a contradiction.” Mr Malema said he would tell ANC president Jacob Zuma what had happened.

Mr Zuma is scheduled to address the conference tomorrow. ANC Executive members Mr Masetlha, an aspiring businessman, and Minister of Co-operative Governance Sicelo Shiceka did not join Mr Malema and Mr Yengeni’s walkout.

Source: (www.timeslive.co.za 20091211)