MINISTER CONDEMNS ILLEGAL MEDICAL WASTE

10.December.2009 · Posted in news

Water and Environmental Affairs Minister Buyelwa Sonjica on Friday promised that action would be taken in an unfolding medical waste scandal.

“The Department of Environmental Affairs views these illegal activities in a very serious light and the green scorpions will leave no stone unturned in ensuring that those found transgressing the environmental laws will face the full might of the law,” she said in a statement.

“The department cannot condone the deliberate disregard of strict laws aimed at ensuring that waste is correctly managed, especially when this disregard places our communities and environment at risk,” Minister Sonjica said.

On Friday, investigators raided a brick works in Welkom where they discovered 300 tons of medical waste which had been disposed of illegally.

On Wednesday, two illegal dumps were found on in a farm 20km outside Welkom and at the town’s showground’s.

Minister Sonjica said special ‘green courts’ were needed to handle environmental perpetrators.

In her statement, she thanked the journalists whose work led to the revelations. “The media play a significant role in conveying information to the public and raising awareness about such important issues,” she said.

Source: www.sapa.org.za; 20091204

CORRECTION, NOT CHAOS

10.December.2009 · Posted in business

The recession had impacted on the Mineworkers Investment Company’s portfolio, it said yesterday.

Releasing its 2008-9 annual review in Joburg, MIC chairman Kuben Pillay said there had been a cyclical correction, rather than a catastrophe.

“The abiding impression created by our portfolio is that of solid quality. The market has changed, but underlying quality remains.”

Pillay said each MIC asset had the potential for strong, sustained recovery once market sentiment improved.

The company – established by the Mineworkers Investment Trust (MIT) to create a sustainable asset base for the benefit of mine, energy and construction workers – had de-risked its portfolio before the market meltdown, Pillay said.

He said the capital had gone into low-risk investments to generate continued funding for the MIT’s educational development programmes.

CEO Paul Nkuna said the MIC had increased its holding in Primedia from 32 percent to 49 percent, “demonstrating strength at a time when many empowerment groupings were under pressure”.

It had also increased its interest in document management company Metrofile to 33 percent.

(www.thestar.co.za; 20091205)

TRANSNET TO INVEST MORE IN RAIL

10.December.2009 · Posted in business

Logistics group Transnet plans to raise annual rail capacity for manganese ore exports to 7 million tons within five years from around 4 million tons this year, it said yesterday.

Transnet CEO Chris Wells said more capacity would be allocated to manganese exports from Hotazel in the Northern Cape to Port Elizabeth on the general freight rail, which is mainly dedicated to the metal used in alloys, including stainless steel.

Transnet also said the expansion of its coal export line would be completed much later than planned and that most of its projects could be delayed by rising costs.

Transnet is expanding the annual capacity on the iron ore railway lines to 60m tons from 47m tons and previously said it would raise the capacity of the coal lines to 81m from 72m by June next year.

“We are looking at putting in place a capacity of, say, 7 million tons plus (for manganese) in the medium term, both through Port Elizabeth and Durban, until we implement a new facility for manganese exports … I would say in the next five years,” Wells told Reuters in an interview.

Transnet’s freight arm, Transnet Freight Rail (TFR), has faced wide criticism for neglecting rail infrastructure, but the company points to recent investments that are five times what was put into the sector every year previously.

Wells said the cost of a new oil pipeline planned to be constructed between the port of Durban and Joburg, due in 2011, had also risen on the back of higher prices for steel and delays in getting some regulatory approvals for the construction.

Transnet has said its R80 billion investment programme was on track and the company had raised 90 percent, or R13bn, of the funding required for this year.

Wells said major expansion projects were on course but the timeline for some schemes could change due to cost variations.

“It’s typical of long-term contracts: you don’t know all the variables, but reasons would be the change of commodity prices like steel and also delays in getting various approvals, including regulatory approvals,” Wells said of the pipeline project.

“All key projects that have been announced are continuing.” Among major projects is an upgrade of rail transport to the country’s major Richards Bay coal export terminal.

“On coal, we have a big project in place to improve, together with our customers, the efficiency of the process and the intention is to get that line to around 81 million tons capacity in four to five years,” Wells said.

Transnet said in a statement its provisional revenue for the year to November had risen 5.5 percent to R23.6bn, despite a decline in overall global economic activity, and that it had R8bn in cash to finance projects.

(www.thestar.co.za; 20091205)

ZILLE TAKES AIM AT SADTU

10.December.2009 · Posted in politics

Democratic Alliance leader and Western Province Premier Helen Zille on Friday accused the South African Democratic Teachers’ Union (Sadtu) of shielding incompetent teachers at the expense of quality education.

Ms Zille wrote in her weekly newsletter that the DA would push ahead with plans to make all teachers in the Western Cape sign performance contracts, which would see them evaluated according to the results their students achieved.

She said it was part of plans to double literacy levels in grade three to six to 90 percent and increase numeracy levels from 35 percent for grade three learners and 14 percent for grade six to an average of 80 percent.

“These are ambitious targets, but we believe we can meet them with a sustained, focused and systematic approach that holds teachers, principals and schools accountable for failure to achieve set targets,” Ms Zille said.

“The response from Sadtu has, predictably, been belligerent. They say they will oppose any plans [which] change the conditions of service for teachers.

I hope they will see sense and put the interests of children first.

“Militancy should be aimed at ensuring our education system works, not protecting underperforming school and teachers.”

Ms Zille said that although South Africa spent nearly a fifth of the national budget on education, the system was failing because it was poorly managed.

She said many good teachers were forced out of the system 13 years ago through voluntary severance packages, while poor teachers were not held to account when they failed to produce results.

“They are protected by powerful unions, such as Sadtu, who care more about shielding incompetent cadres than about the quality of our children’s education.”

www.sapa.org.za; 20091204 / www.thestar.co.za; 20091205

GUINEA'S WOUNDED PRESIDENT FLOWN TO MOROCCO

10.December.2009 · Posted in news

Guinea’s president has been flown to Morocco for medical treatment after he was shot during an assassination attempt nearly a year after he seized power in a coup, a government official said Friday. Indicating the possible severity of his wounds, President Moussa “Dadis” Camara left the West African country, which he had never dared do since taking power.

He had nearly left on multiple occasions, only to cancel at the last minute because of fears of a counter-coup, leaving private jets idling at the airport.

Communication Minister Idrissa Cherif declined to elaborate on Camara’s wounds, saying only that they were not life-threatening and that Camara would undergo further tests in Morocco.

Camara had breakfast with his closest aides and is “walking and talking and doing fine,” Cherif said.

“He had an audience with us just before leaving,” Cherif said. “Everything is under control.”

Several people, though, said the president had suffered a bullet wound to the head. Guinea’s communication minister denied those reports.

Morocco’s official news agency reported Friday afternoon that Camara had arrived in Rabat to seek medical treatment.

A statement from the Foreign Ministry said he was being allowed in for “strictly humanitarian considerations.”

Guinea’s government had said earlier that Camara was shot Thursday by Abubakar “Toumba” Diakite, who commands the presidential guard.

A rift had opened between the two following a September massacre during which human rights groups say presidential guard members killed at least 157 narmed civilians at a pro-democracy rally.

A senior civil servant who spoke on condition of anonymity because he is not authorized to speak to the press, said that he had spoken to members of the military who confirmed that Camara was in serious condition from a head wound.

A retired diplomat, who also asked that his name not be used for the same reason, said that he, too, had spoken to the coup leader’s aides who said that Camara was bleeding from the head.

The 45-year-old Camara was shot while at a military camp housing hundreds of men under Toumba’s control, Cherif said.

Camara had driven to Camp Koundara to confront Toumba after Toumba went to a downtown police station and released officers that were loyal to him but whom Camara had ordered arrested, said Cherif.

Cherif declined to say how many people had been arrested in the ongoing investigation.

He confirmed that Toumba was still at large along with a contingent of his men.

Members of the junta, including Toumba, are believed to lead private armies that are faithful only to them.

Thursday’s attack underscored the deep divide inside the military clique that grabbed control of Guinea last December following the death of the country’s long-time dictator, Lansana Conte.

Camara had initially promised to quickly organize elections, but then reversed course and began hinting that he planned to run for office, prompting a massive protest Sept. 28.

Toumba is accused of having led the presidential guard that opened fire on the peaceful demonstrators, who had gathered inside the capital’s national stadium.

Human rights groups say at least 157 people were killed and dozens of women were raped by the red beret-wearing presidential guard who also assaulted them with bayonets, rifle butts and with pieces of wood.

The government put the death toll at 57. At least 20 women were kidnapped and driven away in military trucks to private villas where they were drugged and videotaped while they were being gang-raped over several days, according to three survivors as well as several human rights groups.

The government has denied all wrongdoing and blamed opposition leaders for going ahead with a banned protest.

The massacre led the European Union and the African Union to impose sanctions on Guinea, including on top members of the junta, who are now the subject of a travel ban.

Sources inside the military say that it deeply aggravated divisions that were already present and has led to the clique fracturing further.

A U.N. mission was in Conakry this week investigating the massacre and interviewed top military commanders in order to try to
understand how the order to kill protesters was given.

Some may face charges of crimes against humanity by the International Criminal Court.

Hardly anyone had heard of Camara until his men broke down the glass doors of the state TV station on Dec. 23, 2008.

He announced that the constitution had been dissolved and that the country was
under the rule of a military junta.

The military junta put top government officials on TV, where they detailed their roles in a lucrative international cocaine
trade in Guinea.

Guinea and other West African countries in recent years emerged as key trans-shipment points for cocaine bound from South America to Europe.

Camara’s arrests of corrupt officials won him admiration, but he has been criticized for his love of the spotlight and his insistence on broadcasting rambling, multi-hour tirades.

Camara generally sleeps all day only to emerge at night, and has a waiting room adorned with 6-foot (1.8-meter)-tall portraits of himself.
Since winning independence half a century ago from France, Guinea has been pillaged by its ruling elite.
Its 10 million people are among the world’s poorest, even though its soil has diamonds, gold, iron and half the world’s reserves of the raw material used to make aluminium.

In October, Guinea’s ruling junta announced a $7 billion mining deal with a Chinese company that gives it access to Guinea’s minerals.

(www.sapa.org.za, 20091205)

DANES UPSET OVER MUGABE

10.December.2009 · Posted in politics

The world’s heads of state gathering in Denmark for the climate change summit next week probably have little more than the effects of changing weather patterns on the mind.

But when Danish Queen Margrethe II has her gala dinner on Thursday night, she and her closest dinner guests will have much to talk about.

Purely because her dinner companion will be none other than Zimbabwean President Robert Mugabe.

The gala dinner will see various heads of state gathering on the second last night of the conference to cement climate change promises. But according to the Danish tabloid, BT, a huge furor has erupted at Mugabe’s important placing at the dinner.

Seating for the dinner is arranged according to seniority, which means he will sit at the master table with the queen.

Royal House communications director Lene Balleby has told the newspaper that protocol demands that guests are placed according to seniority.

In an article titled “Margrethe is sitting next to a mass murderer”, the newspaper condemns the 85-year-old president, saying he is a man known for his crimes against his fellow countrymen and is condemned by the EU.

Mugabe is understood to have special entry arrangements to Denmark under the UN’s diplomatic immunity rules.

EU sanctions, however, forbid Mugabe and many of his government officials from travelling to member states.

Mugabe confirmed his attendance on November 20. So far at least 60 heads of state and government leaders are attending.

British Prime Minister Gordon Brown, French President Nicolas Sarkozy and German Chancellor Angela Merkel are among the most prominent guests.

The Danes are allegedly furious at the request, saying Mugabe should not be attending the event in the first place.

Balleby did not respond to media requests for comment at the time of going to print

(www.thestar.co.za , 20091205)

NAMIBIAN OPPOSITION REJECTS ELECTION RESULTS

10.December.2009 · Posted in news

Namibian opposition parties threw the country’s presidential and parliamentary elections into doubt on Friday, saying they would not accept the outcome of the vote.

Eight opposition parties said in a joint statement they would not accept the results of the elections because the elections contravened Namibia’s electoral laws.

Results of the November 27-28 vote released so far showed that Namibia’s ruling Swapo party was heading for a landslide election victory and a chance to score the two-thirds majority that gives it the power to change the constitution.

But the opposition parties, including a Swapo breakaway called the Rally for Democracy and Progress (RDP), said they would not accept the results.

“Accepting these supposed elections outcomes will be tantamount to undermining democracy in Namibia,” the parties said.

They said they would launch legal action against the Electoral Commission of Namibia for contravening voting laws.

Initial results from 92 of the 107 constituencies show Swapo leading with 75 percent.

Swapo, the South West Africa People’s Organisation, is a former guerrilla movement that led the arid state to independence in 1990.
The electoral commission said the final count from 1.18 million registered voters would be made public later on Friday.

So far 674 724 votes have been counted. Swapo’s sternest political challenge yet comes from the RDP, which split from the ruling party in 2007, and holds 11 percent of the votes cast.

Namibia has enjoyed political stability and economic growth, but is struggling in the face of rising poverty, unemployment and widening cracks in its once highly regarded health-care and school systems, further exacerbated by the global recession.

Three African observer missions have declared the elections transparent, peaceful and fair, although some recommendations have been made to improve the counting process, media balance, voting and accuracy of the voters roll.

However local observers and opposition parties have widely criticised delays, also alleging voting and counting irregularities.

(www.thestar.org.za ; 20091204)

ROUNDUP: SWAPO, POHAMBA WIN NAMIBIA ELECTIONS BY LANDSLIDES

10.December.2009 · Posted in news

Namibia’s ruling SWAPO party clinched its fifth straight landslide election victory in last week’s Presidential and Parliamentary elections, in which President Hifikepunye Pohamba also trounced his rivals, the Electoral Commission of Namibia (ECN) announced on Friday evening.

SWAPO won 74 per cent of the vote against 11.4 per cent for the newly formed Rally for Democracy and Progress (RDP), the ECN said.

The RDP, which was formed by former Cabinet Minister Hidipo Hamutenya and other former SWAPO stalwarts two years ago, had been expected to make far greater inroads, but still becomes the official opposition of the desert country.

The RDP has said it suspects the ECN of tampering with the results, saying the slow counting of votes from the 27-28 November vote made it suspicious.

The RDP and seven other opposition parties said they would institute legal action against the ECN for alleged irregularities.

“We are not going to attend the final announcement of the results, because we are not prepared to legitimize a rigged election,” the party’s information Secretary Libolly Haufiku told the German Press Agency DPA.

In the Presidential poll, President Pohamba won a little over 76 per cent of the vote, giving him a second five-year term.

Hamutenya trailed in second place with around 10 per cent. Following the result, President Pohamba appealed to his rivals “to work together for our people – for Social and Economic Development.”

The ECN insists the counting process was done in accordance with the law and that the verification process was slow because it wanted to ensure that it published the correct results.

The former liberation movement SWAPO has ruled Namibia, an impoverished country of around 2 million people, since independence from apartheid South Africa in 1990.

Despite rising corruption and the slow pace of development, the party is popular among many voters for maintaining peace and stability among the 13 ethnic groupings in the country.

(www.sapa.org.za; 20091204)

MONEY AND POSITIONS SOURCES OF EVIL IN THE ANC – ZUMA

10.December.2009 · Posted in news

Love for money and top positions are two main sources of evil that have undermined the character of the African National Congress, party President Jacob Zuma said on Friday.

“Money and positions have undermined the ANC. They sought to change the character and values of the ANC,” President Zuma told delegates attending the formation of the party’s veterans’ league at Gauteng’s Esselen Park.

President Zuma was launching the ANC Veterans League, the ANC’s third league which will be afforded similar voting rights to those of the youth and women’s leagues.

President Zuma said some in the ANC were involved in underhand tactics to ensure that they received positions of power so that they would have access to money.

“We have people who pay others a lot of money as a way of bribing them to vote for them during ANC conferences.

These people approach others in the dark and give them money to support them,” said President Zuma.

He urged members of the new league to ensure there was discipline in the party which was being destroyed by the love of money and positions.
“We need your guidance to ensure that the ANC does not lose its focus.

“We need you to make sure that the ANC is not used for personal gains.”

The league was in a good position to enforce discipline as most of its members were not hungry for positions and had devoted their lives to the party.

“There is a need for your guidance to inculcate utmost discipline. We have seen shocking occurrences where people come to ANC meetings carrying weapons.

“We really need discipline in our movement,” President Zuma said.

According to the ANC constitution, a veteran is a person who is 60-years and older.

The league would comprise former liberation prisoners, ex uMkhonto weSizwe combatants and people who had given uninterrupted service to the ANC, said President Zuma. He warned members of the new league not to get involved in the ANC’s internal conflicts.

“The veterans’ role is very important. You are the reservoir of knowledge, custodians of values and traditions of the ANC. The ANC must come and listen to the wisdom of the veterans.”

It was in the veterans’ league where people would get information on how the South African liberation was fought, how the historic freedom charter was drafted and how liberation fighters were killed by the former regime, he said.

He urged the veterans not to keep quiet if they saw ANC leaders and ordinary member doing bad things. The veterans would also politically educate younger party members.

“You (veterans) must not be intimidated by the level of education among young people. Some speak big English and think that they know politics. They need to receive proper political education,” President Zuma said.

The league’s Mabhalane Booyi said the veterans would play a huge role in teaching young ANC members discipline and politics.

“We are happy that Zuma has given this task. We have always wanted to contribute meaningfully in this movement,” he said.

The first day of the three-day conference was attended by more than 400 delegates from all nine provinces and ANC National Executive member Fikile Mbalula.

Former presidents Nelson Mandela and Thabo Mbeki did not attend despite reports that they might be there.

(www.sapa.org.za; 20091204 / www.thestar.co.za; 20091205) –

SOUTH AFRICA WILL SURPRISE WORLD WITH WORLD CUP: PRESIDENT ZUMA

10.December.2009 · Posted in news

South Africa will leave a legacy for Africa when it hosts the 2010 Soccer World Cup, President Jacob Zuma said on Friday.

“I think from now onwards when people speak, we will say before 2010 and after 2010,” President Zuma said at the draw for the tournament at the Cape Town Convention Centre.

“It is a legacy that is being left for Africa. Africa at long last has been able to welcome the world on its soil.

“The 2010 Soccer World Cup will allow the world to see Africa display its cultures, warmth, humility, its skill in soccer.”

South Africa was proud to be hosting the tournament, President Zuma said.

“We are proud of it, but also proud that as South Africans we have been able to keep time. Everything has gone according to plan.

“We believe that the world is going to be surprised because this cup that has come to South Africa. at end of tournament it will remain in Africa.”

More than 100 million people are expected to watch the event live on television in 200 countries around the world.

(www.sapa.org.za; 20091204)