Tuesday, January 31, 2006

Home Affairs vows to crackdown on corruption

The Department of Home Affairs has vowed to crack down on corruption following the arrest of four officials in the Western Cape last week. The four, who were based at the Refugee Reception office in Cape Town, were arrested for allegedly assisting and facilitating the illegal stay of Egyptians in the country. Acting Director of Communications, Mantshele Tau, says the arrests follow an intensive two-year operation. Earlier this month two officials based in the Vaal Triangle were also arrested on charges of corruption along with about 33 illegal Egyptians. Tau said the guilty parties would face the full force of the law.

Monday, January 30, 2006

A low voter turnout expected for March elections

Political analysts have predicted a substantially lower voter turnout at this year’s municipal elections. Roger Southall, a political analyst at the Human Sciences Research Council says there is a big possibility that voter turnout will be substantially lower that in the 2000 local government elections. He says voters are more prepared to punish their parties by not voting in local elections, than in national polls. Patrick Lawrence, editor of the Helen Suzman Foundation's Focus magazine, says local elections generally do not generate the same interest as national elections because of a lack of drama.

Dina Rodriguez trial starts today

The trial of five people accused of ordering and carrying out the murder of baby Jordan Leigh Norton will start in the Cape High Court on Monday. Dina Rodrigues is accused of hiring Sipho Mfazwe, Mongezi Bobotyane, Zanethemba Gwada, and a 16-year-old youth to kill the six-month-old baby in June 2005. Norton was stabbed to death with a knife after four men gained access to her grandparents' home on the pretext of delivering a parcel. A safe was also stolen. Rodrigues' bail of 20-thousand rands was withdrawn last year after she broke her bail conditions by contacting witnesses in the case.

Metrorail workers go on strike

Thousands of Transnet employees are expected to embark on a series of strikes on Monday that could cripple public transportation and the country’s ports. This is likely to cost millions of rands in lost exports and leave thousands of commuters stranded. Four unions have called for the strikes following failed negotiations with Transnet over the proposal to restructure operations. Transnet spokesperson John Dludlu says the company is disappointed by the unions’ decision to go on strike. General secretary of SATAWU, Randal Howard, says that up to 500-thousand workers will support the strike, with Spoornet and Metrorail services likely to be disrupted.

Trueman Prince expelled from the ANC

Disgraced politician Truman Prince was one of four ANC members who were expelled from the party on Sunday following a disciplinary hearing. Western Cape ANC secretary Mcebisi Skwatsha said Prince, the former mayor of the Central Karoo district municipality, had contravened the party's constitution by opposing another ANC candidate in the same constituency. Skwatsha said three other ANC members Michael Motsoane and councilors Owenita Simpson and Rodney Visagie had also been expelled for joining other organizations. He added that the ANC was cleaner and more focused without what he termed these hindrances and embarrassments. Prince was exposed on a television programme earlier this year for his apparent involvement with under-aged girls.

Friday, January 27, 2006

Fresh firefighters dispatched to Table Mountain

Fresh firefighting crews have been dispatched to try and contain the blazes on the slopes of Table Mountain. The blaze has already claimed the life of one person, and has damaged several houses. SA National Parks spokesperson Fiona Kalk says the fire is still burning at four points. Kalk said that three helicopters are water bombing the flames, while the SA National Defence Force also has helicopters on standby. Windy conditions that fuelled the fire on Thursday have died down, and fire fighters are hoping to use this to their advantage before the strong south easterly picks up later today as forecast.

Meanwhile, Kalk could not confirm speculation that several people are believed to be trapped on the mountain. She says there has been some concern about unclaimed vehicles near the mountain’s access points, but adds that the owners could have left the area by other means.

Fire sweeps Table Mountain

Helicopters have taken to the air to drop tons of water on the flames still raging in places on Table Mountain. The fire caused the death of an elderly woman and severely damaged a number of expensive homes in Cape Town.
The main concern this morning is about the safety of the occupants of four hired cars that have been found parked on the lower reaches of the mountain near the Cable Way entrance. Nobody has yet come forward to claim the vehicles. Firemen spent an exhausting night trying desperately to quell the flames as a raging south-easterly wind fanned the blaze.
The fire is believed to have been started by a smouldering cigarette tossed out of a car window by a British tourist, who has since been arrested.
The suspect will appear in the Cape Town Magistrate’s court this morning to face a charge of culpable homicide.
The fire has been described as one of the most dangerous in years on the mountain. The daughter of the 65-year-old woman who was killed, a British tourist, has reportedly identified the man who started the fire. At least seven people, including two British and three German tourists, had to be rescued from the slopes of the mountain as the flames raced towards them.
Pic: Adrian Louw

Cape Town orphanage investigated for prostitution and drug offences

The Western Cape social services department has confirmed that it is investigating allegations of child prostitution and drug peddling at an orphanage in Cape Town. The allegations surfaced last year that children at the El Noor orphanage were being used as prostitutes and drug peddlers. At an urgent meeting called yesterday by Social Services MEC Kholeka Mqulwana, senior officials decided to probe the matter further. The orphanage houses 42 school children and a number of toddlers. Mqulwana’s spokesperson Simphiwe Xako confirmed that criminal charges would be brought against those implicated if the allegations proved to be true

Thursday, January 26, 2006

Mayor to hand over millions to community projects

Thursday night will see Cape Town mayor, Nomaindia Mfeketo, handing more than five-million-rand to various community projects. Over three hundred grassroots organisations will benefit from the City’s grants. Various sports bodies, child care programmes and environmental organsations will be receiving a portion of the grant. Mfeketo will hand the money to the organisations at the Good Hope Centre on Thursday evening.

Bainskloof fires rage out of control

The fire that started in Bainskloof near Ceres in the Western Cape on Saturday is still out of control and being fanned by a strong wind at the bottom of the pass. Firefighters from various municipalities as well nature conservation personnel are doing their utmost to try and contain the flames. A ground control spokesperson said that the Pass is still closed to traffic and motorists should use alternative routes. Two firemen had to be treated for eye injuries. Many hectares of vegetation have already been destroyed, but no structural damage has been reported so far.

Wednesday, January 25, 2006

Emergency power plans for Cape Town

Capetonians have again been warned to use electricity sparingly as the city takes desperate steps to try and prevent further blackouts over the next three to nine months. Die Burger reports that Table Mountain will not be lit up at night for the foreseeable future and the city council plans to cement power cables in place to prevent theft. Charles Kadalie, the city council’s manager of public lighting, says they are doing everything they can to minimise disruptions. Power stations which have been out of commission for several years, like the gas turbine in Athlone and the power station at Steenberg, are being fired up again.

Investigation continues into shopping mall teargas attack

Police are still searching for the two men who threw a teargas canister down an aisle in a busy Ottery supermarket in Cape Town on Friday. The motive for the attack is still unknown. The Cape Times says a staff member, who suffers from asthma, was treated by emergency services. No other injuries were reported. The Pick 'n Pay Hypermarket was filled with about 700 people at the time. The store had to be evacuated but no looting occurred and cashiers locked their tills before leaving the store. It is illegal to have teargas canisters and police are investigating the case under the Explosives Act

Tuesday, January 24, 2006

DA accuses ANC of breaking election promises

The Democratic Alliance has blamed the ruling ANC of systematically breaking promises it made before the last municipal elections in 2000. DA Leader Tony Leon says five years ago the ANC undertook to clamp down on corruption, improve service delivery, create jobs; fight crime and build more houses as well as accelerate the fight against HIV/Aids. He says these promises now lie in tatters, and warns that promises made during the campaign for the coming local elections will also be discarded if the ruling party is re-elected.

Monday, January 23, 2006

Mfeketo defends BEE policy

Cape Town Mayor Nomaindia Mfeketo has defended the city's black empowerment policy after critics slammed the Big Bay BEE initiative as a failure. Black-owned companies were given the opportunity to purchase 65 plots at Big Bay as part of an empowerment initiative. However, the companies simply put many of the plots back on the market and some made substantial profits. Critics say the transactions were nothing but "handouts" to a select few ANC suporters. In response to the resale of the land, the mayor's office says it is not the city’s responsibility to baby-sit the new owners and that no restrictions were attached to the tender for the land.

Sunday, January 22, 2006

State to act on private hospital fees

The government has set its sights on private hospitals with a warning that it intends to act against spiralling costs. Anban Pillay, a senior director in the national department of health, told the Sunday Independent that government is concerned that its efforts to reduce the cost of health care are not reaching patients. Pillay says ward and theatre fees at private hospitals have gone up dramatically to compensate for the hospitals' loss of earnings from medicines dispensed. Reports that patients are being made to stay longer at private hospitals to make up the shortfall in income because of lower medicine prices will be investigated.

Bizarre reburial plan for Mbeki’s father slammed

A bizarre plan to relocate the remains of President Thabo Mbeki’s father to a Port Elizabeth struggle museum has been slammed as illegal and immoral. The plan, driven by Nelson Mandela Metro Mayor Nceba Faku, is for anti-apartheid veterans Govan Mbeki and Raymond Mhlaba to be reburied at Red Location Museum next month. The Sunday Times has established that the completed mausoleum would cost more than one-point-two-million rands. But the President’s brother, Moeletsi Mbeki, says his father will never be moved from his grave and that any reburial will be illegal. Plans for Mbeki’s reburial nevertheless continued this week.

Cape Town police recover stolen goods

Cape Town police have confiscated stolen property worth an estimated 75-thousand rands during a raid on a house in Parkwood. Police spokesperson Elliot Sinyangana says members of the Grassy Park police responded to a tip-off on Saturday and raided the house in the Wynberg area. Sinyangana said that a 23-year-old man was arrested for being in possession of a huge amount of suspected stolen goods, including CD, radio and cassette players, car amplifiers, power tools, a digital camera and more than three-thousand rands in cash.

Tony Leon lists ANC municipalities’ failures

DA-leader Tony Leon says Democratic Alliance-run municipalities in the Western Cape are going from strength to strength, while those managed by the ANC are characterised by failure to deliver. At a campaign rally in Paarl, he told a large group of supporters that ANC control was destroying service delivery across the country. IOL quotes Leon as saying more than half of South Africa's municipalities could not provide water to most households, and nearly two-thirds could not remove refuse from most homes. He added that many municipalities are failing to collect revenue. Councils across the nation are owed an estimated 40-billion rands

Lekota defends deputy president’s flights

Defence Minister Mosiuoa Lekota has lashed out at reports about Deputy President Phumzile Mlambo-Ngcuka’s 13-minute flight in a sophisticated intercontinental jet to Sun City this week. Cheaper, alternative planes were listed in the report, but Lekota says they are command fighters and are not used for carrying passengers. He added that what he called disloyal members of the airforce who gave out the information would be investigated as this was effectively a security threat.

Commenting on the deputy president's expensive flight to Abu Dhabi in December, Lekota said neither the deputy president nor the president had a say in the planes they used, as that was the responsibility of the ministry of defence.

President Thabo Mbeki left for the African Union Heads of State and Government Summit in Khartoum, Sudan Sunday. Foreign Minister Nkosazana Dlamini Zuma is already in Sudan for the two-day summit. Issues under discussion include the political and economic integration of the African continent. Foreign Affairs’ Ronnie Mamoepa says reform of the United Nations including its Security Council will also be discussed.

Meanwhile, the DA’s Douglas Gibson says Sudan should not be hosting the AU summit and the country’s president should not be allowed to act as president of the organisation. According to Gibson, President Omar Hassan al-Bashir presides over a government which is directly responsible for aiding and abetting the human rights disaster in Darfur. He accuses Sudan of not caring about millions of its citizens who are discriminated against because of race. Gibson has urged the South African government to use its considerable influence to see to it that Bashir does not accede to the presidency of the AU.

ANC and DA fire municipal election salvoes

Political parties have wasted no time attacking each other in the run-up to the municipal elections. The ANC in the Western Cape has accused the DA of removing ANC posters in Cape Town. ANC deputy provincial secretary Max Ozinsky says the DA also ignored poster regulations by putting up more than one poster per pole. This apparently happened less than five hours after political parties in the Western Cape signed the election code of conduct, committing themselves to a free, fair and peaceful election campaign. Ozinsky said that the matter had been reported to the IEC and that a criminal charge could also be laid against the DA.

South African team to observe Palestinian elections

A South African observer team, led by the general secretary of the South African Council of Churches, Molefe Tsele, leaves for Palestine on Saturday to witness its legislative elections. Foreign Affairs spokesperson Ronnie Mamoepa says South Africa’s participation is a reflection of the strong support for the democratic process in Palestine. Wednesday’s elections are the first legislative ballot to be held in Palestine since 1996 and follow the presidential elections in January last year. Mamoepa says the Israeli-Palestinian peace process is at a critical juncture and the elections will hopefully provide a clear indication of the will of the Palestinian people.

Peace Boat on its way to Cape Town

A group of 350 young people from countries around the world will dock at Cape Town's harbour next week aboard the Peace Boat. They aim to interact with local communities, spreading the message of peace and goodwill. The Peace Boat is operated by a Japanese-based non-governmental organisation. Spokesperson Clive Newman says they hope to establish ties with grassroots movements and NGOs in South Africa. They focus on human rights, sustainable development, arts and culture and environmental issues. It’s the Peace Boat’s eighth visit to Cape Town and it will be in port on Thursday and Friday.

Saturday, January 21, 2006

IEC’s race against time begins

The Independent Electoral Commission says it could not allow parties to exceed Thursday’s deadline for registration as it would have held back its administration and might have prejudiced the electoral timetable. Ninety-eight political parties will contest the local government election on the 1st of March. Part of the IEC’s strict timetable includes verifying candidate lists, issuing certificates and printing ballot papers. Just over 45-thousand candidates have been registered. KwaZulu-Natal is the province with the most candidates after more than eight-thousand-800 registered, followed by six-and-a-half-thousand in Gauteng. In the Western Cape only one-thousand-748 candidates registered.

Diplomat’s son escapes rape charges

The National Prosecuting Authority has decided not to prosecute the son of a British diplomat who was accused of rape. A 17-year-old Johannesburg girl, on holiday in Cape Town, laid the charges in the early hours of New Year’s day. She claimed the 21-year-old man had raped her twice at a party the night before. The NPA’s Makhosini Nkosi says police investigated the matter thoroughly, in consultation with the complainant and the relevant witnesses. He says the NPA is satisfied that there is no reasonable prospect of a successful prosecution and they have decided not to charge the diplomat's son.

Deputy President on another expensive flight

Deputy President Phumzile Mlambo-Ngcuka could find herself embroiled in another flight controversy, although she was probably not aware of it at the time. Die Burger reports that an intercontinental jet was hired to fly her and her entourage on the 13 minute flight from Pretoria to Sun City to open the Women’s World Cup Golf tournament on Wednesday. The return flight reportedly cost some 75-thousand rands. Questions are now being asked why the jet that normally flies between South Africa and Europe or the USA was used instead of much cheaper aircraft that were available.

Fears of above-inflation electricity tariff increases

Consumers could be faced with above-inflation electricity tariff increases after Eskom applied for price hikes set at inflation plus two percent. At the first round of public hearings into the proposed tariff increases for the next three years, hosted by the National Energy Regulator, Eskom CEO Thulani Gcabashe explained that the power utility had to balance the need for affordable and predictable tariffs with Eskom's planned 84-billion rands, five-year capital expenditure programme. But Engineering News reports that the South African Local Government Association vehemently opposed the plans, saying above-inflation increases would restrict municipalities’ ability to meet their objectives and have a negative influence on South Africans’ living standards.

Third lion murder accused dies

The third accused in the Limpopo lion murder case, Richard Mathebula, has died after a long illness. Polokwane police spokesperson Moatshe Ngoepe says 36-year-old Mathebula died in the Nelspruit prison hospital. He was accused of the murder of Nelson Chisale together with Simon Mathebula and Mark Scott-Crossley. The three threw Chisale into a lion enclosure near Hoedspruit last year. Simon Mathebula was sentenced to 15 years, three of them suspended for five years, while Scott-Crossley was jailed for life. Before he died, the court agreed to postpone Richard Mathebula’s trial because of his illness.

Cape Town power blackout explained

Eskom says yesterday’s electricity blackout in Cape Town had nothing to do with the maintenance work at Koeberg Nuclear Power Station. Eskom spokesperson Carin de Villiers says the problem lay with the City of Cape Town. City spokesperson Charles Kadalie says the problem occurred at the Montague Gardens substation. The city centre and surrounding areas like Milnerton were without power for several hours from about three, disrupting business and causing traffic chaos. Kadalie says gas turbines helped to supply power while technicians worked on the problem. Eskom accepted the blame for widespread blackouts in November and December that hit businesses and other consumers hard.

Power failure hits the city centre

By Nadia Samie

The Cape Town CBD and surrounding areas, including the waterfront, have been hit by a power failure.

Eyewitnesses at the Waterfront reported that the centre is in darkness, and nobody has been forthcoming with information regarding the blackout, which occurred at quarter to three this afternoon.

Eskom has said that the City of Cape Town is responsible for supplying power to the affected areas. Charles Kadalie for the City, says that the fault does indeed lie with the city…

Earlier in the week, Eskom confirmed the possibility of more power cuts in the Western Cape. At a press conference, yesterday, Eskom ceo Thulani Gcabashe said that parts needed to be brought in from Europe to fix a faulty generator, which was damaged by a lose bolt.

Power failure causes chaos in Mother City

Cape Town’s first major power disruption of the year has caused chaos in the city centre and surrounding areas. City officials are investigating what caused the power outage, which hit around three on Friday. The incoming electricity supply from Eskom was apparently lost at the substation in Montague Gardens. Areas like Woodstock, Milnerton and Sunset Beach were also without power. Spokesperson Charles Kadalie says technicians are working on the problem. Motorists have been asked to be patient and to drive with care. Widespread power blackouts in November and December hit businesses and other consumers hard.

More upheavals expected in SA’s rugby administration

According to reports, next month’s SA Rugby Union general council meeting will produce fire works when Kwazulu-Natal Rugby Union president Oregan Hoskins opposes Brian van Rooyen for the SARU presidency. The meeting is to be held on the 24th of February. Finweek reports that the general council currently consists of 44 members made up of Van Rooyen, vice-president Mike Stofile and three members each of the 14 provincial unions. Hoskins' confirmation that he will be available for selection came amidst a stormy President's Council meeting on Friday.

No bail for laundry murder accused

The four people accused of murdering three laundry workers in Vereeniging in Gauteng have been refused bail. The victims were all strangled and their bodies stuffed into washing machines in what has been described as a racially motivated labour dispute. News24 reports that Charl Colyn, owner of Protea Dry Cleaners, his daughter Isabel, son-in-law Jacques Smit and family friend Ruan Swanepoel were arrested on the 13th of January. The Colyn's gardeners Samuel Mzizi and Jacob Dlamini, who were arrested three days earlier, are appearing separately. The six are accused of murdering Caroline Jocelyn Lesitho, Constance Moeletsi and Victoria Ndweni.

Security guard killed in Stellenbosch robbery

Police are searching for a gang of armed robbers who fatally wounded a security guard during a cash heist in Stellenbosch on Friday. The security guard was collecting money from a service station when five men accosted him. The robbers fired several shots, wounding the guard in the chest and arm and he later died en route to hospital. Police spokesperson Randall Stoffels says the robbers hijacked a vehicle at the service station and made off with the cash. The hijacked vehicle was found a short while later, and a search has been launched for the gang.

Still in the Cape, two people will appear in court on Monday after they were caught in possession of an illegal weapons cache. Police raided the house in Heinz Park in Cape Town, following a tip-off from the public. Police discovered several weapons, including a shotgun and a homemade gun, on the premises, as well as several rounds of ammunition.

Friday, January 20, 2006

CIA identifies Osama bin Laden’s voice on tape

The American Central Intelligence Agency has determined that the voice on a tape claiming preparation for an al-Qaeda attack on the United States was that of Osama bin Laden. The BBC reports that the tape was played by the Arab network al-Jazeera, the first public communication from the terror group's leader since December 2004. The CIA says technical analysis indicates that the voice on the tape is that of Osama bin Laden. The threats made against the US are therefore being taken very seriously.

Funeral arrangements for Anton Rupert announced

Funeral arrangements for South Africa’s top entrepreneur Anton Rupert have been announced. Rupert died at his Stellenbosch home at the age of 89 on Wednesday night. Dr Rupert will be laid to rest in a private cemetery next to his wife Huberte who died in October last year and where his son Anthonij also rests. A service will be held in the NG Mother Church in Stellenbosch at three o’clock on Wednesday. Former president Nelson Mandela was one of the many statesmen who paid tribute to Rupert, saying he had served his country and had lived a full life. He added the poignant words: Mooi loop Anton.

Citizens urged to send tips to Trevor Manuel

South Africans have again been asked to send their tips to Finance Minister Trevor Manuel on the eve of his eagerly awaited budget speech on the 15th of next month. According to BuaNews, the Treasury has invited all South Africans to send their suggestions to the annual Tips For Trevor Campaign on what they would like to see included in the speech. The campaign is aimed at ensuring that the Budget is in sync with the electorate's expectations and views on education, social services, health, job creation and taxes. A snap survey carried out by BuaNews indicates that the public want to see more money being spent on health and police services, education and housing.

Major Cape highway closed because of fire

The highway over Sir Lowry’s Pass near Somerset West that is one of the major routes in and out of the Cape Peninsula had to be closed to traffic for more than four hours thursday night because of a runaway veld fire. A raging southeasterly wind made fighting the blaze almost impossible and helicopters could not drop water on the flames because of the wind. Some 500 firefighters had to be brought in to help contain the fire on the ground.


By Staff Reporter

The City of Cape Town has initiated a three-year project to revitalise the Grand Parade. The project will involve a thorough review of the current run-down state of Cape Town’s largest and oldest public space. The City has also made a commitment to funding improvements over the next two financial years. City spokesperson and manager of the project Pierre Cronje says that the Grand Parade is currently experiencing social, cleansing and security problems. The planning and development process aims to address these issues. He added that the project will bring together the ideas of the public, key stakeholder groups, the City, the Cape Town Partnership as well as the input of professional planners and engineers.

Human Rights Commission speaks on gay blood row

The Human Rights Commission says gay men should not be excluded from donating blood on the basis of their identity or HIV status. Commissioner Leon Wessels says the HRC has reïterated its stance that exclusion can only be done on the basis of convincing research, which does not exist in South Africa. Wessels says everybody practising unsafe, high-risk sex, should be excluded from donating blood and special emphasis should not be placed on gay men. A group calling itself a gay rights organisation caused an uproar last week when it said it had asked its members to donate blood without disclosing their HIV status.

Thursday, January 19, 2006

Body of missing diver recovered

Divers have recovered the body of the pilot and located the wreckage of the helicopter with which he plunged into the sea off Cape Point on Tuesday. The deceased has been identified as 41-year-old Cornelius Marthinus Erasmus of Plattekloof, Cape Town. Police and navy divers, assisted by members of the National Sea Rescue Institute, located the body and wreckage yesterday afternoon. Simon's Town police have opened an inquest into the accident and an autopsy will be conducted soon. The wreckage of the helicopter will be handed to Civil Aviation for investigation.

Zuma slams the NPA

Former deputy president Jacob Zuma says the manner in which the National Prosecuting Authority and other state organs operate needs to be reviewed. In comments posted in a letter on the Friends of Jacob Zuma website, the sacked deputy president says organs of state should never be drawn into personal or political agendas and allow themselves to be used to further a cause that has nothing to do with their role or mandate. Zuma praises the way in which he himself, the government, and the ANC has handled allegations against him, but says there are questions about the actions of the NPA and members of the media. Zuma is facing a rape charge as well as corruption charges.

Tqon injured in cash-in-transit heist

Two men were injured in a cash van heist in Rondebosch in Cape Town this afternoon. Two Coin Security guards were collecting cash from a foodstore, when four armed men confronted them. Police spokesperson Billy Jones says the robbers fired several shots at the guards, and made off with a bag containing an undisclosed amount of cash. One of the guards was injured in the foot, while a bystander sustained a gunshot wound to his arm. Jones says the getaway vehicle used by the robbers was later found abandoned nearby.

Cape Town city manager steps down as election officer

Cape Town city manager Wallace Mgoqi has been forced to step down as the city’s municipal electoral officer after he sent a pro-ANC opinion piece to local newspapers last week. The article was in response to the Democratic Alliance’s criticism of the salary packages of city officials. Mgoqi also compared the track record of the DA and the ANC in the three years each had run the city. According to the Cape Times, provincial election chief Courtney Sampson asked Mgoqi to step down because as the municipal election officer he is supposed to be neutral.

Schools re-open in coastal provinces

Wednesday’s re-opening of schools in the four coastal provinces seems to have gone off reasonably well, although heavy rain and a lack of transport are making things difficult for some schools in the Eastern Cape. Schools in certain areas were damaged by hailstorms and tornadoes earlier in the season and not all schools have received the right textbooks. Teacher deployment has also not been finalised in the province.

Western Cape Education MEC Cameron Dugmore says 15 new schools have been opened in areas around Cape Town in an effort to provide facilities for the influx of new learners into the province and to reduce overcrowding. Dugmore says around 40 new schools are still needed and he is adamant that no children will be taught under trees this year. He says only two schools in Khayelitsha still have to share resources by being a primary school in the morning and a high school in the afternoon. Dugmore and Premier Ebrahim Rasool visited several schools on Wednesday.

In KwaZulu-Natal, Education MEC Ina Cronjé says 20 percent of the poorest schools will implement a no-fee policy this year. She says the schools have until the end of the month to apply for free education but has emphasised that no child will be refused education or should be victimised because they cannot pay.

Another shack fire in Cape Town

A fire in the KTC informal settlement in Guguletu in Cape Town has been brought under control. It is not clear what started Wednesday morning’s blaze, but Cape Town fire services says about 20 wood and iron structures have been destroyed. Fire services spokesperson Theo Layne said that nine fire-fighting vehicles were dispatched to the scene, and disaster management personnel are expected to visit the site to assess the damage. Layne says no injuries or fatalities have been reported.

Wednesday, January 18, 2006

Experts meet to discuss the future of South Africa's elephants

Ten of the world’s leading elephant scientists are meeting in Cape Town on Wednesday to debate the future of South Africa’s elephants. Environmental Affairs and Tourism has indicated that the Kruger National Park’s elephant population is roughly doubling every ten years. Scientists have recommended that the populations be reduced by translocation, contraception, range expansion and culling. BuaNews reports that today’s debate will hopefully determine whether elephants are really damaging biodiversity, if action is needed to reduce populations and which management options are most appropriate. Animal rights groups are pleading for the elimination of culling as a possible option in the management process.

Western Cape Education expecting smooth start for 2006 school year

By Busisiwe Mtabane

The Western Cape Education Department says that it is expecting smooth start to the 2006 school year and has contingency plans in place to deal with accommodation challenges. About one million learners are expected to flock back to schools this week including almost 80 thousand new learners. Over the past two days the department has opened more than three new schools in an effort to accommodate the growing number of learners. Gert Witbooi, spokesperson for the provincial Education Department says that this year they are opening a record number of schools to alleviate pressures of accommodation, especially in historically disadvantaged communities.

The deputy president’s controversial trip

The Presidency has confirmed that Thuthukile Mazibuko-Skweyiya, the wife of Social Development Minister Zola Skweyiya, accompanied Deputy President Phumzile Mlambo-Ngcuka on her trip to the United Arab Emirates. This is the first time since the start of the furore over the trip in an Air Force VIP jet that any official mention has been made of Mazibuko-Skweyiya’s presence on the plane. Presidential spokesperson Murphy Morobe told journalists at the Union Buildings in Pretoria the deputy-president had considered Mazibuko-Skweyiya the right person to take along, as she was involved in skills development work in the UAE.

Earlier, the Democratic Alliance joined the Freedom Front Plus in demanding that Public Protector Lawrence Mushwana probes the trip. The DA’s Gareth Morgan says Mushwana should investigate as a matter of urgency whether the Deputy President is guilty of violating the Executive Members Act. Cosatu has also repeated its call for a new rule-book to be drafted to regulate the use of public facilities by government ministers. Spokesperson Patrick Craven says there can be no justification for anyone to have free holidays at taxpayers' expense, especially not with millions of South Africans living in poverty.

The search continues for a crashed helicopter

Indications are that the helicopter that crashed into the sea off Buffels Bay at Cape Point on Tuesday was a civilian aircraft and not a military helicopter. Reports that a trainee pilot was alone on the craft before it went down could not yet be confirmed, but eyewitnesses say the helicopter appeared to summersault in the air before crashing into the ocean. Craig Lambinon of the National Sea Rescue Institute confirmed that an Air Force helicopter was in the area and immediately started searching after the crash. Navy and police divers, other emergency services and naval vessels are helping in the search.

Tuesday, January 17, 2006

YCL concerned about youth voter apathy

By Busisiwe Mtabane

The Young Communist League says it is worried by the recent survey report that reveals that 70 percent of young people have mixed feelings about voting. The Research Surveys study found that while three-quarters of adults across all race and language groups felt there are many good reasons to vote, 18 to 24 year-olds mostly disagree. The study was based on face to face interviews with 200 people in Johannesburg, Pretoria, Durban, Cape Town, East London, Port Elizabeth and Bloemfontein. The league says this poses a challenge to youth-political organisations to go all out there and improve on the predicted 41 percent of votes. Buti Manamela, National Secretary of the young communist league says young people must realise the significance of participating in elections as a means to exercise their rights.

Police seek public's assistance

Police are requesting the public’s assistance in locating a man wanted regarding a case of fraud. It is reported that the incident occurred at a shop in Hoog Street, Worcester, on the morning of September 25th last year. Police spokesperson, Bernadine Steyn, says that the man pretended to be a professor from the University of Stellenbosch in order to collect money at the shop…
Anyone with information regarding this incident, is asked to contact Inspector Basil Daamis at the Worcester police station, on 023 – 348 61 00.

Mlambo-Ngcuka saga continues

A crisis meeting was held on Monday afternoon in an effort to apparently limit the harm done to the government's image by deputy president Phumzile Mlambo-Ngcuka's controversial holiday visit to the United Arab Emirates. Reports say that Mlambo-Ngcuka and the head of communications in the presidency, Murphy Morobe, met to draw up a strategy to put an end to the perception that things were being covered up. Monday's meting follows questions from the Democratic Alliance about whether Social Development Minister Zola Skweyiya or his wife, Thuthu Mazibuko, accompanied the deputy president on her trip. Skweyiya's spokesperson, Lakela Kaunda, denied that the minister was on the flight, but said nothing about his wife.

The deputy president’s controversial trip

The Presidency has confirmed that Thuthukile Mazibuko-Skweyiya, the wife of Social Development Minister Zola Skweyiya, accompanied Deputy President Phumzile Mlambo-Ngcuka on her trip to the United Arab Emirates. This is the first time since the start of the furore over the trip in an Air Force VIP jet that any official mention has been made of Mazibuko-Skweyiya’s presence on the plane. Presidential spokesperson Murphy Morobe told journalists at the Union Buildings in Pretoria the deputy-president had considered Mazibuko-Skweyiya the right person to take along, as she was involved in skills development work in the UAE.

Robben Island museum denies media reports

By Busisiwe Mtabane

The Robben Island Museum head of communications has denied media reports that a family has been banned from the Island. Palesa Morudu’s statement comes a week after reports that a family was banned from the Island after their minor son allegedly assaulted a ten-year-old girl from another family residing on the Island.
The families involved work for the department of Public Works and the National Ports Authority. Morudu says the boy’s father volunteered to take his son on a holiday out of town until the matter is settled.

Youth not interested in voting in municipal elections

A survey has revealed that 70 percent of young people feel there are no good reasons to vote in the upcoming municipal elections. The Research Surveys study found that while three-quarters of adults across all race and language groups felt there are many good reasons to vote, 18 to 24 year-olds mostly disagree. The study was based on face to face interviews with 200 people in Johannesburg, Pretoria, Durban, Cape Town, East London, Port Elizabeth and Bloemfontein. The survey suggests that voter turnout could be as low as 41 percent, compared to the average of 48 percent in the last two local elections.

Monday, January 16, 2006

A possible energy crisis looms in the Western Cape

Western Cape residents have been warned of a possible increase in rolling power cuts should both units at Koeberg nuclear power station be shut down. One unit is out of service at the moment, and the second one will be shut down for maintenance next month. According reports, Eskom spokesperson Carin de Villiers says power cuts are a possibility, but would depend on the users’ requirements for every day. Eskom maintenance officials and turbine technicians from the French company that designed the generators are meeting today to discuss possible solutions to the generators being turned off.

Political parties launch election campaigns

A number of parties launched their local government election manifestos at the weekend. Leader of the Inkatha Freedom Party Mangosuthu Buthelezi said in Durban the IFP would not hesitate to dismiss any of its councillors who engaged in corruption or who did not deliver services. The IFP has lost control of some of the municipalities it won in KwaZulu-Natal during the last local government elections during the floor crossing period. IFP candidates have now been asked to make pledges of honour in which they promise not to cross the floor and to fight corruption.

In Athlone in Cape Town, the African Christian Democratic Party introduced its mayoral candidates when the party’s manifesto was launched. Cape Town candidate Pauline Cupido said the ACDP would turn the Mother City into a God-friendly, rather than gay-friendly city. She added that the ACDP would turn Cape Town into an efficiently run, world-class city. She said the present political leadership of Cape Town did not care about the needs of the people.

In Delmas, the Pan Africanist Congress of Azania said it would offer people dedicated councillors. PAC president Motsoko Pheko warned that greedy councillors would destroy South Africa. He said the PAC believed that councillors were elected not just to run services, but also to see to the interests and needs of the people. He promised that the poor would come first should the PAC come to power.

Western Cape ready for the new school year

Western Cape education authorities say they expect a smooth start for the 2006 school year and have contingency plan in place to deal with accommodation challenges. Education MEC Cameron Dugmore says he is confident that schools will be able to accommodate the estimated one million learners, including 80-thousand new learners, expected to return to schools this week. Schools officially open on Wednesday, but teachers will be at school from today to prepare for the intake of learners. Dugmore says 99 percent of schools had already received the required materials and funding by the end of last year.

Zuma says race for ANC presidency still wide open

ANC deputy president Jacob Zuma says the race for the presidency of the ruling party remains wide open. Zuma, who has been charged with rape and is facing a corruption trial later this year, says the leadership of the party can only be decided by the ANC membership. According to reports, Zuma has responded to questions about his own aspirations as ANC president by saying that it is not up to any individual in the party to go around saying that they want to lead the ANC.

More protection for taxi communters

Minibus taxi commuters will soon be able to claim for medical expenses and loss of income if they are injured in an accident involving the vehicle they are travelling in. This follows the gazetting of the Road Accident Fund Amendment Act of 2005, which will allow taxi commuters and those using lift clubs to claim compensation for medical treatment and loss of income. Department of Transport spokesperson Marissa du Toit says the RAF could provide for loss of income compensation of up to 160-thousand rands a year. The legislation will come into effect once the department publishes guideline regulations.

Saturday, January 14, 2006

Rape cases hampered by crime lab backlog

Western Cape prosecutors reportedly want private forensic laboratories to be used to process DNA samples in rape cases. They say huge backlogs at police laboratories are delaying the prosecution of hundreds of rape cases for months, and in some cases, allowing alleged rapists to walk free. Legal sources at regional courts told a local newspaper that it was not unusual for sexual offences cases to be postponed more than 30 times while magistrates waited for DNA tests to be completed. Activists say especially in child rape cases, the processing of DNA need to be prioritised so that the cases can be dealt with as quickly as possible.

Drug bust at Cape Town International

Two suspects have been arrested at Cape Town International Airport for trying to smuggle a large quantity of dagga onto a London-bound flight. Police pounced on the pair on Thursday night after receiving a tip-off. Spokesperson Bernadine Steyn says a search of the suspects’ luggage revealed 21 blocks of compressed dagga, with an estimated street value of over 250-thousand rands. Steyn the suspects, aged 34 and 44, will appear in the Bellville magistrate’s court on Monday on charges of dealing in dagga.

Friday, January 13, 2006

Local policeman due in court for torching his girlfriend’s home

A Cape Town constable will appear in court on Monday, January 16, on a charge of arson. The 32-year-old man, attached to the police service in Mfuleni allegedly set fire to a house in Kleinvlei early on Thhursday morning. The police’s Elna de Beer told Bush Radio that the house belongs to the constable’s former girlfriend. There was no one in the house at the time, and there were no injuries. De Beer says departmental disciplinary steps are also being taken against the suspect. The constable was off duty at the time of the fire.

Calls for a helipad on top of Table Mountain

Top rescue teams, pilots and Metro Rescue have called for a helipad to be built on top of Table Mountain to facilitate helicopter landings in emergency rescue operations. The call comes after seven rescues were carried out on Table Mountain during one week in January, one of which entailed an Air Force helicopter landing on the summit in high winds in the dark. Because Table Mountain is a national park and a World Heritage Site, construction of infrastructure is strictly controlled. But Fiona Kalk, spokesperson for the Table Mountain National Park, told the Cape Times the proposal would be put to senior park management next week.

Three killed in Western Cape road accidents

Two separate accidents on roads in the Western Cape claimed three lives on Friday morning. A taxi and a truck collided on the N1 near Prince Albert Road between Beaufort West and Leeu-Gamka in the Karoo. One person died in the crash and 13 passengers were injured. Traffic authorities say the taxi allegedly made a u-turn on the highway when the accident happened. In the second crash, two people were killed when the bakkie they were travelling in overturned on the N2 near Plettenberg Bay in the Southern Cape. Four people were injured after the driver apparently fell asleep.

Dam levels up but water restrictions remain

By Megan Hartogh

Towards the end of 2005, Cape Town residents had water restrictions, which were imposed on them throughout the year, lightened. This was due to the increased amount of water storage and dam levels. According to a Water Affairs official however, restrictions are still in place as dam levels are not as high as in previous years. For this reason, the City of Cape Town has urged all residents to adhere to the restrictions, as they are not as strict as they were. The current water restrictions include the following: Do not water the garden between 10 a.m and 5 p.m, and make sure that all hose-pipes being used to wash motor vehicles, boats and caravans are fitted with self-closing device.

No South Africans among Hajj Pilgtim victims

Cape Town Muslim authorities have confirmed that as far as they could establish, there were no South Africans among the victims of the fatal Hajj stampede in Saudi Arabia. At least 345 people died and hundreds more were injured when the huge mass of people stampeded at the foot of the bridge of Jamarat where pilgrims hurl stones at three pillars representing the spot where the devil is said to have appeared to Abraham. The BBC reports that the ritual has seen many similar stampedes but that the number of dead this year is the highest in 16 years.

Tutu buries the hatchet with Botha

Tutu extended his heart felt congratulations to former state president PW Botha on his 90th birthday. Tutu gave his well known chuckle and exclaimed "Happy birthday! God bless him!" when he was told of Botha’s latest milestone. Asked whether his feelings for Botha, who once described Tutu's Truth and Reconciliation Commission as a circus, had changed over the years, Tutu said laughingly that Botha was an old man now and that he would mellow with age.

DA wants details on Deputy Presidents semi-business trip

The Democratic Alliance has called on Deputy President Pumzile Mhlambo-Ngcuka to release the official programme of her recent visit to the United Arab Emirates. This comes after Mhlambo-Ncguka reacted to criticism of the trip by claiming it was part holiday and part official visit. Several opposition parties have slammed Mhlambo-Ngcuka’s visit to the UAE. They say it cost the taxpayer in the region of 700-thousand rands to transport the Deputy President and her family. Mhlambo-Ngcuka says she was in the country on a fact-finding mission, and the DA now wants her to give a full breakdown of official business conducted on the trip.

Family banned from Robben Island to take legal action

Public Works says a reported banishment of a woman and her two children from Robben Island has nothing to do with them. The statement comes after Robben Island chief executive Paul Langa said earlier this week the dispute over the banishment was out of his hands and was being dealt with by Portnet and the department. It has been claimed that the nine-year-old son of a National Ports Authority employee assaulted the daughter of a Public Works employee, resulting in the eviction. But Public Works spokesperson Thami Ngidi says they don’t manage access to Robben Island. The couple reportedly plan to take legal steps over the banishment.

Thursday, January 12, 2006

Unidentified body found at Mnandi beach

By Busisiwe Mtabane

Police are investigating a murder case this comes after an unidentified body of a man was found by fishermen near Mnandi Beach in Mitchells Plain Cape Town on Tuesday morning. The man, who was found amongst the rocks, had his hands and feet tied with a rope. The man had several visible injuries to his body. Police spokesperson Captain Randall Stoffels says an autopsy will be conducted to establish the cause of death. Anyone with information is requested to contact Crime- Stop on share call 08600 10111.

Wednesday, January 11, 2006

Police confiscate thousands of mandrax tablets

A 27-year-old man from Soweto has been arrested after being caught with 110-thousand mandrax tablets with an estimated street value of almost six million rand. Western Cape police say the man was travelling through Beaufort West en route to Cape Town when an inspector of the Saps’ Vehicle-Identification-System Unit spotted a suspicious-looking car with a trailer and, assisted by a traffic official, pulled it off. The police officer conducted a search and found the tablets hidden at the bottom of the trailer. The man will appear in the Beaufort West magistrate’s court on Thursday on a charge of dealing in an illegal substance.

Tuesday, January 10, 2006

Social development cracks down on grant fraud

Social Development says it is clamping down on people who attempt to defraud the social grants system, regardless of their nationality. The department has expressed concern at media reports and allegations about foreigners, especially Zimbabwean woman, who enter the country illegally in order to give birth in South Africa in an attempt to obtain the child support grant. But Social Development insists that the Anti-fraud and Corruption Strategy, in partnership with law enforcement agencies such as the Special Investigating Unit, the South African Police Services and the Scorpions, continues to yield positive results in removing illegitimate beneficiaries from the system.

Another police murder suicide in the Western Cape

Western Cape police have expressed shock at an incident in which a former police officer committed suicide after killing his two young daughters. Police spokesperson Elna de Beer said the tragedy happened on Friday but the details were only released Tuesday. Forty-four-year-old Francois Coetzee’s wife works in the police’s provincial office. She found the bodies after phoning home and not getting a response. De Beer says a post mortem will determine how six-year-old Ancois and eight-year-old Arnina died. An inquest docket has been opened to try and establish what the motive for the family killing was.

Another fatal bus accident claims three lives

By Megan Hartogh

Two people have died and 23 have been injured in the latest bus accident to occur on the country’s roads. Willie van Heerden, president of Rollersport South Africa, and his wife, were killed when a bus traveling to Pretoria from Cape Town crashed after one of the vehicles tyres burst on the N1 near Springfontein in the Free State. The bus was carrying a group of national and international speed skaters. The bus driver, who is believed to have lost control of the vehicle, also died in hospital while undergoing surgery. This accident is the fourth of it’s kind in the past month. According to the Colin Msibi, spokesperson for the Department of Transport, many accidents that occurred last month was a result of speeding, and that nine of the 15 most serious accidents last month were those involving taxis.

DA slams ANC election manifesto

Opposition parties say the ANC's election promises are a ploy to win votes. President Thabo Mbeki launched the party's local government election manifesto in Athlone on Sunday, January 8, and has promised a 400 billion rand boost for local government as well as increasing service delivery and halving unemployment by 2014. However, Democratic Alliance deputy leader Joe Seremane says the party should deal with corruption first. Seremane says voters who vote for the ANC in the March polls can only look forward to five more years of broken promises.

Monday, January 09, 2006

Two cousins burn to death in early morning shack fire

By Nadia Samie

Two cousins burnt to death early on Monday morning in a shack fire in Gugulethu. It is alleged that the two youth, Lifa Sika, aged 20-years, of Gugulethu and Khaya Mahlanyana, aged 19-years, of Summer Greens, fell asleep while an electric braai was burning. Relatives and neighbours who were woken by screams, tried in vain to rescue the two from the burning shack, but to no avail. Due to the intensity of the fire, the cousins were burnt beyond recognition. Mahlanyana matriculated recently from Gugulethu High School. Sika’s mother Phumla, who lives in Johannesburg, was on her way to Cape Town on Monday afternoon.

Eskom tight lipped about problems at Koeberg

Eskom is refusing to confirm the cause of problems with a nuclear reactor at Koeberg. Weekend media reports suggested that a loose bolt had been "bouncing around inside a generator" and might have been responsible for the recent power cuts. However, Eskom says it knows what the problem with the generator is, but will not divulge it at this stage. According to reports, experts from France, where the equipment was made, have flown to South Africa to help find and rectify the problems. Eskom spokesperson Carin de Villiers says a press conference will be held sometime this month to clear up the issue.

Climber in coma after Table Mountain fall

An experienced climber who fell from Table Mountain on Friday is in a coma in a critical condition with severe head injuries. Hugh Stevens, a registered mountain guide and Wilderness Search and Rescue volunteer, fell 20-metres on the cliff face beneath the cable car, splitting open his protective helmet. He underwent surgery at a local hospital to repair multiple compound fractures to his leg, and also suffered broken ribs. Stevens was leading two German climbers up the mountain at the time, and it took several hours for rescuers to bring him to safety.

Mbeki says corruption must be rooted out

President Thabo Mbeki says the undertaking that unemployment will be halved by 2014 and all homes will be electrified by 2012 can be fulfilled – but local councillors must commit themselves to improving service delivery and to fighting corruption. Mbeki focused on service delivery when he launched the ANC’s local government manifesto in Athlone in Cape Town on Sunday, January8. The party has promised a 400-billion rands investment in infrastructure development and job creation over the next five years.

Two arrests made for armed robbery

Police have arrested two suspects in connection with an armed robbery at Thornton station on Friday, January sixth. The suspects are alleged to have robbed a 55-year-old shop owner of cigarettes and an undisclosed amount of money after threatening him with a bottle and tying his hands and feet with a telephone cord. Police spokesperson, Randall Stoffels, says that the men will appear in court on Monday, January 9.

Friday, January 06, 2006

Last day for voter registration

Today is the last day for voters to get their names on the voters’ roll for municipal elections scheduled for March.
This comes after Provincial and Local Government Minister Sydney Mufamadi confirmed that the March 1st poll date will be published in the Government Gazette today, triggering the closure of the voters’ roll by midnight tonight.
Voters can register at the offices of municipal electoral officers in their municipalities during office hours today.
The declaration also gives political parties 14 days to complete their candidate lists, which should be submitted to the Independent Electoral Commission by the 20th of this month.
To find out if you are registered:- SMS your identity number to 32810,
call the City of Cape Town’s toll free line at 0800 221 350 or call the IEC hotline at 0800 118 000.

Garages risk hefty fines over unleaded fuel

Fuel stations that fail to meet the state’s deadline to provide only unleaded petrol by June can be fined up to one million rands.
The department of minerals and energy has given all fuel stations until March to phase out high-sulphur diesel.
According to Business Day, deputy minerals and energy minister Lulu Xingwana says government is satisfied that most fuel stations have already started complying with new regulations, but warns that those found to be lagging behind could face hefty fines.

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