Friday, March 31, 2006

The latest on the Bahrain sea disaster

It is now believed that at least 57 people - six of them South Africans – have died after a crowded pleasure boat sank in the Gulf off the coast of Bahrain. BBC News reports that at least 63 people were rescued from the al-Dana vessel, which was carrying up to 150 people foreigners and Bahraini nationals. Seven of those rescued were South Africans. They have already been discharged after being treated in hospital. Foreign affairs spokesperson Ronnie Mamoepa says initial reports indicate that 13 South Africans were on board the vessel. He says once a process of verification has been completed the next-of-kin will be informed. The two-deck Arabic dhow capsized in calm seas not far from the shoreline during an evening dinner cruise.

Troubled waters for Cape Town’s city manager

It is reported that the Cape Town city manager, Wallace Mgoqi, has been instructed not to attend today’s council meeting. This apparently follows after executive mayor Helen Zille and the Democratic Alliance asked for legal opinion on the validity of his contract. Mgoqi was reportedly warned in a letter that it would be inappropriate for him to attend today's meeting. It appears that his appointment by previous mayor Nomaindia Mfeketo was declared null and void as his contract had not been ratified by a full council.

Popcru and Correctional Services appear to have settled differences

The Department of Correctional Services and the police civil rights union Popcru appear to have settled their long standing differences. Relations between the organisations have been characterised by protracted disagreements and legal battles. Correctional Services Minister Ngconde Balfour says a groundbreaking agreement has been reached that will see the resolution of outstanding labour disputes. Balfour says both parties have now committed themselves to creating an opportunity for dialogue between them. Popcru spokesperson Nathi Theledi told BuaNews the union welcomes the signing of the agreement.

At least seven South Africans rescued in sea drama off Bahrain

Seven South Africans are believed to have been saved following the sinking of a ferry off the coast of Bahrain early this morning. At least 49 people are believed to have drowned as the two-storey vessel sank after hitting a wave while turning. Some 130 people were aboard for a dinner cruise when the tragedy occurred. United States divers have rescued at least 63 passengers so far. The BBC reports the divers and a helicopter are still in the area searching for more survivors.

Green Point stadium gets the green light

Cape Town’s new mayor Helen Zille last night gave the go-ahead for the multi-million rand soccer stadium at Green Point to be built. Earlier, Zille had halted building plans because she said she did not have enough information about the financial arrangements surrounding the project. Chairperson of the local Fifa committee Irvin Khoza told the media after a meeting with Zille that they had convinced her that the city would score by the building of the stadium. Western Cape premier Ebrahim Rasool, Minister of Sport Makhenkesi Stofile and Deputy Finance Minister Jabu Moleketi also attended the meeting to support Fifa.

Thousands of women in South Africa test anti-HIV products

Thousands of women in South Africa and elsewhere have volunteered for the world's largest clinical trials to test the efficacy of a range of anti-HIV products. Should the trials prove to be successful, they could prevent at least two-point-five million new infections in the developing world over the next five years. Dr Kim Dickson of the World Health Organisation in Geneva says once they are developed, these products could revolutionise women's lives. The largest trial involves nearly 12-thousand women in Durban and Johannesburg, Uganda and Tanzania. The first results of the trials will be discussed at a conference to be held in Cape Town next month.

DA calls on Hlophe to explain retainer allegations

The Democratic Alliance has called on Cape Judge President John Hlophe to respond urgently to allegations that he was on a 10-thousand rand a month retainer while he was judge president. Noseweek magazine says Hlophe was on a retainer from the Oasis Group. DA MP Sheila Camerer says Justice Minister Bridget Mabandla should also explain whether she granted permission to Hlophe to receive this retainer and to head up the Imbilo Trust, which owns a significant stake in Oasis Asset Management. Camerer points out that judges are not allowed to derive income outside that of their judicial posts, unless permission to do so is expressly granted by the Minister.

Robbers wound two Cape Town men

Two men are in hospital in a serious condition after being shot in a robbery in Table View in Cape Town. Police spokesperson Billy Jones says the men were shot and robbed of about 14-thousand rands when they returned to their place of work after drawing the money at a bank yesterday. The robbers fled in the victim’s car. The vehicle was found abandoned a few minutes later in School Street in Table View.

Authorities urged to tackle prison overcrowding

Judge Hannes Fagan says South Africa must tackle overcrowding in prisons, which is hampering rehabilitation of criminals and fuelling the country's crime record. Fagan, who heads the country’s prisons watchdog, says a drive launched last year to release low-risk inmates has helped, but is not a long-term solution. South Africa's prison population stands at 157-thousand although its 240 prisons are only meant to hold 114-thousand inmates. Fagan has also called for minimum sentences for offences like murder and rape to be scrapped and said efforts should instead focus on preventing crime through social programmes.

Thursday, March 30, 2006

Legal action threatened over deadly fire in Johannesburg

Gauteng Housing MEC Nomvula Mokonyane says legal action may be taken against the owners of the building in the Johannesburg city centre where a fire cost twelve people their lives on Wednesday. The fire started in a deserted factory on the corner of Commissioner and Nugget streets. Some 33 people were injured. Mokonyane says legal action will be taken if negligence is proved on the part of the owners of the building. Police have since opened an inquest docket into the fire, while waiting for forensic experts to determine the cause.

Unions claim victory against Telkom

Telkom has offered unions an amended deal regarding the company’s profit share scheme. Trade unions CWU and Solidarity gave Telkom an ultimatum to include all members in the offer before four o’clock on Wednesday afternoon, failing which an application for an urgent interdict would have been sought in the Labour Court. Telkom earlier threatened that its offer would only be made applicable to employees who had not joined in the strike. Solidarity spokesperson Jaco Kleynhans says the protest action has only been suspended with a view to further negotiations.

Saru delegation visit the Southern Spears franchise

A Saru delegation is to visit the Southern Spears franchise to establish whether they are ready for participation in the Vodacom Super 14 competition next year. Led by Saru president Oregan Hoskins, the delegation will visit Port Elizabeth on Friday for the first evaluation of the franchise. Hoskins will be accompanied by vice-president Koos Basson, CEO Johan Prinsloo, deputy CEO Mveleli Ncula and financial director Basil Haddad. This marks the beginning of an investigation into the franchise that will determine the future of the Southern Spears. Hoskins says Saru will not take a final decision lightly and the delegation will first obtain a total picture that will indicate whether Southern Spears is ready for 2007 or not.

Wednesday, March 29, 2006

ID warns DA’s control of Cape Town will be short lived

The Independent Democrats has warned that Cape Town mayor Helen Zille’s term in office will be short lived. This comes after the party’s request for a vote on Friday to replace the executive mayoral system with a collective committee system was rejected by the City of Cape Town’s speaker. According to the Cape Times, ID councillor Davey Sassman says this is the last chance for Zille to join the multi-party forum leadership of South Africa. He hinted that if she did not support the collective committee system, the ID would reconsider supporting a motion of no confidence in the newly elected mayor.

Suspects arrested for airport heist

Three suspects are behind bars and police are hot on the trail of others believed to be members of the gang that stole a 100-million rands from Johannesburg International Airport at the weekend. Airports Company of SA managing director Monhla Hlahla says the three suspects apparently know the airport system well. Nelspruit serious and violent crimes unit commander captain Ockie Brits told Beeld at least another six suspects have been identified. A group of men armed with AK-47 rifles stole the foreign currency from a SAA flight in a well-planned heist in a high-security area.

Social development takes steps to curb fraud

In a bid to enhance the integrity of the social security system, the Department of Social Development will establish oversight institutions that will monitor and evaluate its systems. Presenting the department’s budget vote in Parliamenton Monday, Social Development Minister Zola Skweyiya said a total of 45-million rands had been set aside for this purpose. He said the department was in the process of establishing key oversight institutions such as the Social Security Inspectorate, which will help develop effective monitoring, evaluation and impact assessment systems. Skweyiya said some of the department’s efforts at improving the social security system were already beginning to pay off.

Fire claims 12 victims in Johannesburg city centre

Twelve people lost their lives in a fire in an illegally occupied building in the centre of Johannesburg early on Tuesday morning. At least 33 people were injured as they scrambled to safety. Emergency spokesperson Malcolm Midgley said that some of the injured jumped from the first floor of the abandoned factory or warehouse on the corner of Commissioner and Nugget streets. Some 150 beds were found in the building. Midgley says those killed appear to have died as a result of suffocation because they could not flee from the flames in time. The cause of the blaze is not yet known.

And in the Cape Peninsula one person died when a fire destroyed a dwelling in Site C in Khayelitsha on Monday night. In another blaze, 16 informal houses were burnt to the ground in Philippi. There were no casualties, but dozens of people have been left without a roof over their heads.

SARU in trouble again over new Super 14 team

The ANC and the Portfolio Committee on Sport and Recreation has condemned the South African Rugby Union’s handling of next season’s Super 14 competition. Committee chairperson Butana Khompela says the unilateral decisions taken by the Presidents' Council of Saru to abandon the agreed relegation system is an about-turn on agreements reached between Saru, the government and the Portfolio Committee during 2005 on the participation of the Southern Spears in the Super 14 from 2007. Khompela has demanded reasons for Saru’s decisions and says no political argument can be made as to why the South-Eastern Cape should not be allowed to participate in the competition.

Row over Cape Town soccer stadium escalates

The row over the building of a 2010 Soccer World Cup stadium in Green Point in Cape Town is escalating. Western Cape Sport MEC Whitey Jacobs has come out in support of mayor Helen Zille’s decision to halt progress on the proposed one-point-28-billion rands stadium pending a financial review. The Cape Argus quotes Jacobs as saying it is the right thing for the new city administration to do.But the ANC and the Portfolio Committee on Sport and Recreation has expressed its concern about Zille’s stand. Committee chairperson Butana Khompela says all stakeholders should realise that the hosting of the 2010 World Cup is a matter of national and international importance and should not be used as a football to score cheap political points. Khompela says the assumptions in the mayoral committee’s statements are not only factually incorrect but also display a lack of understanding of the agreements reached between government and the 2010 Local Organising Committee. Earlier, Western Cape Premier Ebrahim Rasool reportedly called for a meeting between his cabinet and the mayoral committee. Reports say Rasool has already advised Zille that whatever her misgivings are, she cannot send a signal to the world that could be counter-productive to investment in the Western Cape.

Diarrhoea detected after heavy flooding in North West

The Greater Taung Municipality in North West has identified at least 15 cases of diarrhoea in eleven villages, following heavy flooding. Mayor Boitumelo Mahlangu says 30 villages have been hit by heavy rain. She says all roads have been washed away and low-lying bridges are inaccessible. But two helicopters are being used to assist sick people and to deliver food, blankets and tents. North West spokesperson Dineo Thatelo said that one newborn infant died after the mother gave birth at home and couldn’t reach help. More than a thousand families have been left homeless and many of them spent the night in the Taung Sports Stadium.

Tuesday, March 28, 2006

Transport minister meets with taxi industry representatives

Transport Minister Jeff Radebe is meeting taxi operators in Cape Town today in the last round of consultations before the implementation of the Taxi Recapitalisation Programme. Radebe’s spokesperson Collen Msibi says the Western Cape Taxi Council is attending a meeting in the Civic Centre to discuss key issues related to the programme. This includes the conversion of permits to operating licences, the scrapping of old taxis and the purchasing of new vehicles. Msibi says they are optimistic that the implementation of the long-awaited programme will start in the next two to three months. Meetings will be held countrywide to check the state of readiness of the taxi industry.

Western Cape premier upset about soccer stadium delay

Western Cape Premier Ebrahim Rasool has reportedly called for a meeting between his cabinet and the Cape Town Unicity mayoral committee. This follows executive mayor Helen Zille's decision to put on hold the process of building a new stadium for the 2010 Soccer World Cup in Green Point. According to reports Rasool say he has already advised Zille that whatever her misgivings are, she cannot send a signal to the world that could be counter-productive to investment in the Western Cape. Zille says the financing of the project must be fully clarified before any contracts are signed.

Zuma’s lawyers call for his acquittal

The defence in the Jacob Zuma rape trial has asked the Johannesburg High Court to acquit the former deputy president because his rape accuser conceded under cross-examination that Zuma could have thought she was consenting to sex. Kemp J Kemp resumed his argument this morning in his application to have the case thrown out. Kemp also asked Judge Willem van der Merwe to consider that the facts before the court show no signs of overbearing or badgering on Zuma's part during the incident at his Johannesburg home last year. Zuma has pleaded not guilty to the charge of raping a 31-year-old family friend. In another development the ANC in KwaZulu-Natal has voiced its concerns about the goings-on outside the Johannesburg High Court. Tension ran high between Zuma supporters and women’s rights activists yesterday and groups had to be separated by police at times. ANC spokesperson Mtholephi Mthimkhulu says the principle of presumption of innocence until proven guilty should be accepted and that the complainant should state her case without interference. He has urged all parties concerned to allow the judicial process to take its course.

Mayor halts construction of Cape Town stadium

Cape Town’s new executive mayor Helen Zille has stepped in to halt contract appointments for the building of a stadium in Green Point for the 2010 World Cup. Zille says the Council will wait for a comprehensive financial audit of the City's capacity to host the event before going ahead with the project. The Cape Times reports Zille as asking whether the stadium should be built while the poor people of Cape Town sit without essential services such as sewerage. Some 500-million rands for the stadium would come from the province, leaving it up to the city to fund the remaining billion.

Sacked intelligence boss to challenge his dismissal

Former director-general of Intelligence Billy Masetlha’s legal representatives say they will deliver papers on President Thabo Mbeki today informing him that Masetlha is to contest his recent sacking. Mbeki terminated Masetlha’s services on Wednesday last week, saying the relationship of trust between him and Masetlha had broken down irreparably. A day following Masetlha’s dismissal, the Inspector-General of Intelligence Zolile Ngcakani implicated him in the hoax email saga that has rocked the National Intelligence Agency. Masetlha’s legal representative says that they will wait for the judge’s decision before considering his future.

North West villagers evacuated due to flooding

Hundreds of residents of remote villages near Vryburg in North West had to spend the night in the Taung sport stadium and in tents after being evacuated from their flooded homes. Defence Force and police helicopters are helping with the evacuation and the distribution of food parcels. North West spokesperson Dineo Thatelo says one newborn infant died after the mother gave birth at home and couldn’t reach help. Flooding rivers have cut off villages for nearly two weeks. The Gift of the Givers organisation announced today that they are making another million rands in aid available to people hit by the disaster.

SA Rugby refuses to meet with Spears representatives

SA Rugby CEO Johan Prinsloo has turned down a request by the Southern Spears to address the body’s board of directors this week, as their programme is too full. The board of directors is meeting to consider a Saru presidents' council recommendation that there will not be relegation after this year's Super 14 series and the viability of the Spears franchise. The Spears want to address the board of directors before a decision is taken, but Prinsloo says it is doubtful whether a decision will be taken at this stage.

Zuma’s defence wants rape charges dropped

The defence in the Jacob Zuma rape trial will this morning continue with its application to have the case withdrawn under Section 174 of the Criminal Procedure Act. Zuma’s lawyer Kemp J Kemp started arguing on Monday afternoon that the court should ask itself whether there is enough evidence to convict. Earlier Monday Judge Willem van der Merwe turned down the application by three non-governmental organisations to testify as Friends of the Court. The judge said he could not see how the three organisations could assist him in reaching a decision based on the facts of the case. The State and Zuma's legal team opposed the application.

Policeman charged after suspected burglar is wounded

It is reported from Pretoria that a police inspector who helped residents to catch three suspected burglars at the weekend has been charged with attempted murder. Inspector Flip Welman appeared in court on Monday. A resident of Herbert Baker Street in Groenkloof, Francois Nel, called the police after he found the three suspects on his property. Beeld reports that several burglaries have taken place in the area recently and a number of watch dogs have been poisoned. Police say it appears unnecessary violence had been used and this led to Welman’s arrest. The Mozambican youth was wounded in the leg and has been charged with trespassing. His accomplices escaped.

Cape Town’s fire services get millions to upgrade

Cape Town’s new mayoral committee has approved a 31-million rands cash injection for the city’s fire services. The decision was taken at Monday’s inaugural meeting of executive mayor Helen Zille’s committee. It is reported that Cape Town’s fire and rescue services currently fail to meet minimum standards required by law for staffing and vehicles. A report tabled at the meeting says 62-million rands must be spent over three years to recruit and train new staff and to buy fire and rescue vehicles and specialised equipment. The money approved on Monday is earmarked for new vehicles and equipment.

Monday, March 27, 2006

Disgruntled Telkom employees march in Pretoria

About two thousand disgruntled employees are marching to Telkom headquarters in Pretoria, as unions kick off their campaign against the company’s profit sharing scheme. Trade unions claim Telkom’s CEO receives 130 percent of his salary in profit share, while workers get only four percent. Monday’s march is the first in a series of actions by Solidarity and the Communications Workers Union. Solidarity spokesperson Jaco Kleinhans said that Monday’s action has been successful so far, as all Solidarity members employed by Telkom are striking. Kleinhans says the marchers will hand over a memorandum to Telkom, before a decision is taken on their next move.

The latest on the Zuma rape trial

Three women’s rights NGO’s have applied to give evidence in the Jacob Zuma rape trial. Eyewitness News reports that they say they want to help the court understand some of the testimony that has been heard. Zuma has denied raping a 31-year-old Aids activist at his home in Johannesburg last year. Women’s groups say the court did not treat the complainant fairly as she was allowed to be questioned about her sexual history and alleged sexual abuse when she was a child. Protestors at the Johannesburg High Court waved banners on Monday morning alleging that the complainant had been subjected to abuse in court.

Deputy president launches skills project

The government will actively intervene to harness skilled labour with Monday’s launch in Pretoria of the Joint Initiative on Priority Skills Acquisition, or Jipsa. The lack of skilled people has been identified as one of the factors that constrain growth. According to the government information service, BuaNews, the high-level team led by Deputy President Phumzile Mlambo-Ngcuka will identify urgent skills needs and advise on ways to tackle the challenges. Some of the urgent interventions identified are mentoring programmes and the overseas placement of trainees. Retirees or expatriate South Africans may also be brought back and new immigrants could be drawn in where necessary.

DA demands independant judicial commission of enquiry

Democratic Alliance leader Tony Leon has written to President Thabo Mbeki to request that he urgently establish an independent judicial commission of inquiry to investigate the mandate and activities of the national intelligence structure. Leon said during a media conference at parliament yesterday that the investigation should include the national intelligence agency and make specific reference to recent findings by the inspector general of intelligence. These findings were that the NIA bugged the official opposition's parliamentary offices, along with those of several other key political figures.

Zille denies being chased out of Khayelitsha

Newly elected Cape Town mayor Helen Zille has rejected reports that an angry mob forced her and two other mayoral committee members to retreat to the local police station in Khayelitsha over the weekend. Her spokesperson Robert McDonald says Zille was invited to discuss housing concerns in the area and some ANC councillors and protestors were angry that they had not been invited to the meeting. He said the ANC councillors were later included and some progress was made regarding housing for people. Zille plans to return to Khayelitsha tomorrow to continue the talks.

Zuma appoints new legal team to tackle media

Sacked deputy president Jacob Zuma has reportedly appointed a legal team under a former Conservative Party MP to fight what he regards as his crucifixion by the media. News24 reports that Zuma has appointed Jurg Prinsloo, an advocate, and Wycliffe Mothuloe, a Johannesburg attorney, to investigate the possibility of defamation charges against newspapers. Prinsloo is a former CP MP for Roodepoort and the party's justice spokesperson. He represented Clive Derby-Lewis and Janusz Waluz in their trial for the murder of SACP leader Chris Hani. Zuma and his supporters have complained that the media formed part of a plot to prevent him becoming South Africa's next president.

Local Government suspends bus contract

The Western Cape government has suspended the contract of the company whose bus was involved in an accident in which two pupils died near Malmesbury in the Swartland last month. Education MEC Cameron Dugmore has called for the immediate suspension of the contract. Michaela van Rooyen and Heather van Wyk died when a bus, transporting 54 learners from the Anne Pienaar Memorial Primary School to their homes, overturned about 12 kilometres from the school, injuring a further 15 learners and the driver. The suspension follows a departmental probe into the accident that revealed the school had not approved the use of the vehicle to transport the pupils.

Confusion over Telkom strike

There is confusion about whether the planned strike action by Telkom workers will go ahead today. The company says it will only know later this morning whether the strike against the profit-sharing scheme will go ahead. Telkom increased the minimum profit-sharing amount payable to employees on Friday, but the trade union Solidarity says this was too late to inform all of its members. Solidarity says the strike will probably go ahead as planned today while members are informed about the latest offer. Solidarity could not say whether members would accept the offer or not.

Sunday, March 26, 2006

Another silver for South Africa

South Africa won another silver medal at the Commonwealth Games when David George ended second in the 15-lap men’s cycle road race over 165 kilometers at the Melbourne Royal Botanical Gardens earlier today. Australia's Mathew Hayman won the gold medal, and another Aussie, Allan Davis the bronze. George’s silver medal on the last day of the Games pushed South Africa’s tally up to 38 - 12 gold, 13 silver and 13 bronze.

Ramaphosa and Ngonyama also bugged by spies

The Democratic Alliance’s parliamentary offices, businessman Cyril Ramaphosa, ANC chief whip Mbulelo Goniwe and the ruling party’s spokesperson Smuts Ngonyama were among 13 targets whose telephones were unlawfully intercepted by the National Intelligence Agency. The interception was revealed in the report of Inspector-General Zolile Ngcakani after an investigation into hoax emails and the unlawful surveillance of ANC national executive committee member Saki Macozoma and media academic Anton Harber. The Sunday Tribune reports that the 13 telephone intercept targets were not named in the official report, but according to intelligence sources Ramaphosa, Goniwe, Ngonyama and the DA offices were among them. The bugging was done through an intelligence communications facility – known as the National Communications Centre – at the time dismissed NIA Director-General Billy Masetlha was acting executive director of the centre. This was part of Project Avani – an intelligence assignment aimed at monitoring the political climate in the country. But Ngcakani said the legitimate project was hijacked by Masetlha to sow confusion in the ensuing succession battle in the ruling party. The fight culminated in the ANC being polarised into camps supporting either President Thabo Mbeki or embattled former deputy president Jacob Zuma. Ngcakani said that almost 100 emails were created to look as if they were sent and intercepted between February and October last year.

Arrests in email saga expected soon

National police commissioner Jackie Selebi says those behind the hoax emails that suggested high profile ANC members were involved in a plot against former deputy president Jacob Zuma will be charged soon. At a media briefing in Pretoria yesterday Selebi confirmed that a complaint had been laid and police were investigating. Selebi said the hoaxes were dangerous mischief of the highest order that threatened among other the security of the state. This follows a report by Intelligence inspector general Zolile Ngcakani that found several civilians had been spied on by the National Intelligence Agency. They were businessman Saki Macozoma and a former journalist - probably former Mail & Guardian editor Anton Harber. According to the report DA leader Tony Leon escaped being spied on when the plans were uncovered.

The Absa Cup Results

Four Absa Cup matches were played yesterday. Black Leopards beat Witbank Spurs two-nil at Thohoyandou; Kaizer Chiefs came out tops against City Pillars by beating them five-four at the FNB Stadium; Orlando Pirates beat PJ Stars two-nil at Ellis Park; and Ajax Cape Town drew one-all with Tembisa Classic at Newlands.

The final day of the Melbourne Commonwealth Games

UK Prime Minister Tony Blair is to join other leaders at the closing ceremony of the Commonwealth Games in Melbourne today. The ceremony will feature Indian celebrities to mark Delhi's role as host of the 2010 Commonwealth Games. It marks the end of 12 days of competition involving four-thousand-500 athletes.
The remaining finals of several events take place today, including badminton, rhythmic gymnastics, cycling road races, table tennis, hockey and netball. South African athletes have so far won 12 gold, 12 silver and 13 bronze medals. Their total of 37 medals puts them in overall fifth position. Australia is in an unassailable first position with 217 medals, followed by England with 109, Canada with 86 and India with 50.

Charles Taylor to be handed over

Nigeria is to hand over Liberia’s exiled former leader and war crimes suspect, Charles Taylor. Nigeria's president Olusegun Obasanjo says Liberia's new government is free to take him into custody. Taylor faces war crimes charges over his role in the civil war in neighbouring Sierra Leone. He went into exile in Nigeria in 2003 as part of a deal to end 14 years of civil war in Liberia. Liberia's President Ellen Johnson-Sirleaf, who took office in January after winning elections late last year, has previously said her priority was to rebuild Liberia, rather than put Taylor on trial. United Nations peacekeepers in Liberia are under instructions to arrest Taylor and transfer him to the UN-backed Special Court for Sierra Leone if he sets foot on Liberian soil.

A daring robbery at Johannesburg International

Armed robbers have stolen foreign currency from a South African Airways plane at Johannesburg International Airport. Police say the incident happened late Saturday morning, when two men armed with AK-47 rifles approached the aircraft, held up guards and police, and took bags containing the currency. While the robbery was taking place, another group of men held up guards at one of the gates. All the men then fled the premises. Shots were fired but nobody was injured. The amount of money stolen could not be established. The currency was from the United Kingdom and destined for neighbouring countries.

Saturday, March 25, 2006

Communications union threatens to strike

Solidarity and the Communication Workers' Union have rejected a revised Telkom offer on profit-sharing and service awards. The offer was made on condition employees do not strike next week. According to Telkom human resources group executive Charlotte Mokoena the revised offer included improved long-service awards, compression of grades and increased gain-sharing for the lowest paid workers. Earlier another union, the South African Communications Union, accepted Telkom's offer, but Solidarity and the CWU threatened to strike if the discussions did not lead to a resolution. The CWU is reportedly planning to march on Telkom's head office in Pretoria on Monday and undertake a national stay-away in all the other provinces until Tuesday.

The DA wants NIA’s mandate to be reigned in

Democratic Alliance spokesperson Paul Swart says prosecution should follow intelligence inspector general Zolile Ngcakani's report on the hoax ANC emails. The DA also wants the National Intelligence Agency’s mandate to be reined in. This follows Ngcakani’s finding that elements within the NIA intercepted voice communications of members of the public, including members of the opposition. In a statement issued Friday, Swart expressed concern at the threats to the constitution exposed by the report, and the manner in which the report itself was released to the public. Swart said this meant that DA leader Tony Leon, among others, was subject to illegal surveillance. According to Ngcakani's report the NIA, under leadership of the sacked Billy Masetlha, paid an agent to create false emails about a non-existent plot against former deputy president Jacob Zuma. It was also found that at least three civilians had been spied on, and that NIA staff were on the verge of spying on the DA leader when their plot was revealed.

Calls for the protection of Zuma accuser’s rights

The public protector, the Gender Commission and the South African Human Rights Commission have expressed concern over the conduct of former deputy president Jacob Zuma’s supporters and media coverage of his rape trial. According to reports the three bodies, referring to themselves as the C9s, met on Friday the 24th of March to discuss events around the trial. This came after they received several complaints from the public. The C9s condemn the burning of photographs of the complainant in the rape trial, and insults to her from some of Zuma supporters outside the Johannesburg High Court. The Gender Commission met the Gauteng police commissioner to ensure that complaints about some of the supporters were attended to. The C9s say while they respect the right of the media to report on the trial, they are worried about how some sectors of the media have covered the trial. They say some coverage have a tendency to belittle sexual offences. The C9s add that they will seek to engage editors in order to ensure that the media conducts itself in a more responsible manner.

Friday, March 24, 2006

Striking security guards march in Cape Town

By Nadia Samie

Striking security guards in Cape Town, Gauteng, Mpumalanga, Limpopo are marching for higher wages.

In Cape Town a large crowd of chanting marchers, blowing vuvuzela’s and holding placards, marched through the streets of the CBD, through Woodstock and Salt River, to the soccer field next to the N1 highway. There they will be addressed by SACTWU representatives.

Police blocked the road with two casper vans, cutting off traffic in both directions. There is a large police presence on the scene and the marchers appear to be peaceful at this stage.

It is hoped that today’s talks at the CCMA will end the strike. If the arbitration fails to resolve the wage and working conditions dispute, another strike will follow in KwaZulu-Natal and the Eastern and Northern Cape next week.

Pic: Adrian Louw, Bush Radio

Cape Town to get additional nuclear power station

Eskom intends building an additional conventional nuclear power station at Koeberg at a cost exceeding some 16-billion rands. The proposed power station will be in addition to the pebble bed modular reactor already planned for the site. The Cape Times reports Public Enterprises Minister Alec Erwin as making the announcement in London at a nuclear industry conference. Erwin has been quoted as saying Eskom is fast tracking a feasibility study on the proposed nuclear power station. The Cape Times says sources close to the industry have questioned why Erwin chose to announce South Africa's domestic policy at an international conference. They say his attendance at a conference of this nature probably indicated that South Africa wanted to do some shopping.

Western Cape schools offered financial relief

More than 400 primary schools in the Western Cape may scrap school fees by the first of May if they opt for the no fee status. Provincial Education MEC Cameron Dugmore says in a statement that while the new law would only come into effect next year, his department had the necessary funds to make the offer to schools immediately. This could benefit more than 146-thousand students in public schools or nearly sixteen percent of the total. The offer was in line with new education legislation to scrap fees in poor schools. Parents of children attending participating schools would not have to pay fees or apply for exemption. Students would also be supplied with support materials.

Miners saved from fiery death

Possible tragedy turned to joy for many households last night as ten miners were rescued from a burning mine shaft two kilometres underground in the Buffelsfontein gold mine in Stilfontein in North West. A relieved Simmer and Jack spokesperson Gail Strauss made the announcement that the men had been rescued. She said they were all safe but all complained of being very hungry. The fire trapped the miners in the number seven shaft before they could be brought to the surface. The flames raged for more than 20 hours. Management says it is too early to speculate on exactly what had caused the near tragedy. The incident will be fully investigated. There were 136 miners in the shaft when the fire broke out. All were brought to safety.

Rasool urges councillors to get on with their jobs

Western Cape Premier Ebrahim Rasool says recently-elected local government councillors should shake off their election hangovers and focus on delivery issues. Rasool said in an interview that the Western Cape electorate had already spoken and the least they expect was for councilors to begin focusing their efforts on improving their lives. Speaking at the councillors summit in Cape Town, he said elected councilors should refrain from engaging in battles aimed at consolidating their political powers. Rasool said national government had already set a mandate for local government, and that what was required of newly-elected councillors was to execute this mandate, irrespective of which political party they belonged to.

Government ahead of target regarding police recruits

Government says it has exceeded its target of increasing the number of police officers to 152-thousand by April this year. Safety and Security spokesperson Hangwani Mulaudzi told BuaNews that his department managed to increase the number of police personnel to more than 152-thousand ahead of the set target. Mulaudzi said as a result of the increase, the rate of case investigations and arrests had also increased. He added that the current number of police officers was expected to rise further to 156-thousand by the end of this year and to 158-thousand by 2007.

Thursday, March 23, 2006

Cape Metro saga continues

The Independent Democrats are to launch a motion at the Cape Town council's next full sitting to replace the executive mayoral system with an executive committee based on the proportional support received by political parties in the recent local elections. The ANC says it will support the move. ID leader Patricia de Lille is quoted as saying if the DA does not agree to the executive committee system by March the 29th; her party will go ahead with the motion, which, if it succeeds, will wrest decision-making authority from executive mayor Helen Zille.

Since Zille's election last week, the DA has been trying to get the ID to join its multiparty forum which, with 106 seats, holds a fragile majority in the 210-seat council. But talks have deadlocked over, for example, the ID's insistence that the ANC come on board in a collective executive committee system. The DA gave the ID until midnight last night to make a decision. The ID has since rejected the DA’s offer.

Zuma rape trial continues

Former deputy president Jacob Zuma's rape trial is due to resume in the Johannesburg High Court today amidst media speculation on whether he will take the stand. Other reports suggest 63-year-old Zuma may apply for the case to be dismissed for lack of evidence. However, this could not be confirmed. Zuma is alleged to have raped a 31-year-old family friend in his Johannesburg home on November the second last year. Zuma supporters as well as others, who support the plaintiff, are once again expected to protest from separate positions along Pritchard Street.

Security guards on strike

Tens of thousands of security guards from 13 unions embark on a two-day nationwide strike today for higher wages and better working conditions. It is estimated that more than100-thousand union members will take part in the strike. The industrial action follows failed wage negotiations that started in October last year. Unions are demanding an 11 percent across-the-board increase and an additional four percent increase for the lowest-paid workers. Labour minister Membathisi Mdladlana has urged those involved to return to talking and seek an amicable solution.

Earlier, the Democratic Alliance said there was little doubt the strike would disrupt the services of private security companies. It said the onus was on the police to work closely with private security companies to ensure that a security vacuum does not develop.

Wednesday, March 22, 2006

Twenty20 world champs on the cards

Cricket is set to have a new global tournament with the creation of a Twenty20 World Championship. News24 reports that at a board meeting of the International Cricket Council in Dubai officials agreed to the creation of an invitational Twenty20 World Championship in 2007. Participation at a Twenty20 event in 2009 will be mandatory. According to the ICC several members are strongly in favour of including a Twenty20 World Championship in the next round of ICC events, while other members are not as enthusiastic. Hence the two-stage introduction. Pioneered in the professional game at county level in England, Twenty20 has proved popular with spectators around the world.

Egypt reports fourth suspected human bird flu case

Egypt has reported a fourth suspected case of bird flu in humans in a 17-year-old boy whose father had an outbreak of the disease on his chicken farm in the Nile Delta over the weekend. State news agency Mena quotes health minister Hatem el-Gabali as saying the boy was taken to hospital in the town of Tanta and was receiving Tamiflu treatment. His condition is described as good and stable. Laboratories are testing samples from the boy for the deadly virus.

Danny Jordaan wants Sven-Goran Eriksson

The chief executive of the 2010 World Cup believes England coach Sven-Goran Eriksson will be an ideal candidate to manage Bafana Bafana. The South African team are in a major rebuilding phase and Danny Jordaan says he has been impressed with Eriksson's record of bringing through young players. Jordaan told BBC Sport that Ericson had overseen the emergence of young players, and that an attitude would be important when building a new team for South Africa. Jordaan added that Eriksson's skills would be well suited to the challenge of rejuvenating Bafana Bafana.

ICC inquiry condemns racist fans

The International Cricket Council has promised a crackdown to stamp out racist abuse at grounds in Australia. This follows taunts directed at South African players during the recent VB Series tournament in Australia. India's solicitor general Goolam Vahanvati, who was appointed by the ICC to conduct an inquiry, said the abuse was premeditated, co-ordinated and calculated. The inquiry was set up following a complaint from the United Cricket Board of South Africa. BBC News reports that Vahanvati's findings have been discussed at a two-day ICC meeting in Dubai. According to the report Herschelle Gibbs, Shaun Pollock, Andre Nel and Boeta Dippenaar were all subjected to racial abuse in different places.

Zimbabwe to further tighten media laws

The head of Zimbabwe's media regulatory body wants to tighten press laws to control the distribution of what he calls subversive material of foreign origin. The state-controlled Herald newspaper quotes Media and Information Commission chairman Tafataona Mahoso as saying it is essential that both the publishers and the distributors should be regulated. Foreign publications distributed in Zimbabwe and which are often critical of President Robert Mugabe's government include weeklies such as South Africa's Mail and Guardian and the Sunday Times, as well as the Zimbabwean, which is published in Britain. At least four local papers had been closed down since 2002, and dozens of journalists - both local and foreign - were arrested.

KZN MEC quits after sex scandal

KwaZulu-Natal MEC for arts, culture and tourism, Narend Singh, has resigned from the province's legislature. In a statement Singh says continued pressure under which he and his family have been since the scandal broke over a DVD depicting him and a married Durban socialite having sexual intercourse, necessitated his resignation. Singh told a media briefing he was not prepared to sacrifice the pride and dignity of his family at what he calls the altar of blackmail and political backstabbing. Inkatha Freedom Party leader Mangosuthu Buthelezi says he respects and accepts Singh's resignation.

Teacher freed after rape trial errors

A teacher from Itsoseng in North West who served nearly five years of a life sentence for raping an 11-year-old schoolgirl, has been released after three appeal court judges found he should never have been convicted. Beeld reports that three appeal judges found that the erroneous conviction of NP Nonyane in the regional court should never have been ratified in the Bophuthatswana High Court when Nonyana was referred there for sentencing. According to the appeal judges the regional magistrate who presided over the trial made various legal errors, among others that he ignored the testimony of a witness for Nonyana, and that he found confirmation of the plaintiff's testimony where none existed.

Eskom denies appointment because of race

Eskom has rejected a claim by the trade union Solidarity that it turned down a coloured man for a job because he was too white to benefit from the company's affirmative action programme. Eskom spokesperson Fani Zulu says Leon Christiaans, whose racism complaint is being privately arbitrated, was never offered the specialist position in question. News24 reports that Christiaans claims Eskom unjustly discriminated against him on the grounds of his race. He said he had been informed that a promotion that had been offered to him had been withdrawn and the position offered to a black candidate. However, Zulu says the post was never offered to Christiaans. The arbitration continues.

International concern over Bush’s aggression

International political observers are concerned after American President George W Bush again warned Iran that he would not hesitate to use military might if necessary to solve the nuclear dispute with Tehran. Bush said in a statement that he would do everything in his power to solve the issue with diplomacy but that would turn to the military if necessary. Observers say this is very much along the lines that Bush followed leading up to the invasion of Iraq. Bush again accused Iran of trying to develop atomic weapons and said this was unacceptable behaviour. He also reiterated that he would use military might to protect Israel should this prove to be necessary. This follows a threat made against Israel by Iran.

Gauteng speedster wanted to evade police

A Johannesburg man faces a maximum fine of 24-thousand rands after fleeing from the police at speeds exceeding 200 kilometres per hour and jumping ten red lights in the process. Police said that the 23-year-old man from Tembisa on the East Rand was spotted jumping the first light in Bryanston. When police gave chase and ordered the driver of the vehicle to stop, the man accelerated and the chase was on. The police officer giving chase says he was doing 200 kilometres per hour but he could not keep up with the suspect who eventually had to stop in Midrand when traffic held him up. Asked why he was speeding the man said he wanted to get away from the police.

KZN temporary teachers get better deal

Following a series of complaints about the payment for temporary teachers, the education department in KwaZulu-Natal has put a new system in place that is aimed at solving the problem. The department has been inundated with complaints from temporary teachers who said they had not received salaries for up to two months. Education MEC Ina Cronje says her Department would register temporary teachers at the beginning of each year and this will ensure that they are taken up in the system. Another measure has been the creation of more permanent posts, a move which has seen the number of temporary teachers shrinking from nearly 17-thousand to some five thousand.

Arch gets new title

Archbishop Emeritus Desmond Tutu will become the formal mascot of the Free State Cheetahs on Friday. In accepting his new title, Tutu will follow in the footsteps of another great rugby supporter, former president Nelson Mandela who has been the mascot of the national team for years. The Volksblad reports that Friday’s Super 14 match between the Reds and the Cheetahs will be dedicated to Tutu and from now on the Cheetahs and the Blue Bulls will compete for the Desmond Tutu Trophy in the Currie Cup competition. Free State Manager of Rugby Development Dick Jansen says they want to make this year a highlight and celebrating the Arch’s 75th birthday is part of the plan.

Mbeki to lead high ranking delegation to Italy

President Thabo Mbeki leaves for Italy on Tuesday for a three-day State visit. He will be accompanied by a group of ministers and business leaders. Foreign Affairs Minister Nkosazana Dlamini-Zuma, Trade and Industry Minister Mandisi Mphahlwa and Science and Technology Minister Mosibudi Mangena are among the delegates who will accompany Mbeki. BuaNews reports the Department of Foreign Affairs as saying the meeting between Mbeki and his Italian counterpart, Carlo Azeglia Ciampi, will focus on the current status of bilateral political and economic relations between the two countries. Italy has been one of South Africa’s key trading partners since 1995.

Cape Peninsula target for armed robbers

The Cape Peninsula has been hit by a series of robberies involving armed robbers during the past few days. Robberies took place in Parow, Mowbray and Charlesville. In all three cases, security officials were threatened with firearms as they were collecting money from two stores and the University of Cape Town. A security guard and a woman passerby were shot and wounded during the Charlesville robbery. Nobody was injured in the two other incidents. In all three cases the robbers made off with an undisclosed amount of money.

Monday, March 20, 2006

Cape power crisis a step closer to being resolved

The Western Cape’s electricity crisis is a step closer to being resolved. The second-hand, 200-ton rotor, which will be replacing the damaged rotor at Koeberg’s generator, is being prepared for transport to South Africa from France by the SAS Drakensberg. According to the Cape Times, Eskom spokesperson Fani Zulu says it should take between 4 to 6 weeks for the part to arrive. However, the rotor will not be fitted immediately as other repairs still have to be done to the generator’s stator. Zulu says the generator could probably be back on line by mid-May.

Debate continues over Stellenbosch University’s language policy

A poll conducted at Stellenbosch University has found that while most of its convocation members want it to be a world class institution, nearly half want the university to be purely Afrikaans. The university uses Afrikaans as the primary language of instruction for undergraduates, while English is more-widely used at post-graduate level. University spokesperson Mohamed Shaik says the poll indicates that 70 percent of members support the language policy, but 44 percent want th university to be exclusively Afrikaans. A debate on the university’s language policy has been sparked by a controversial proposal of dual-medium instruction for all classes in the faculty of arts.

Man dies after Table Mountain fall

A climber has died after he slipped and plunged about 500 meters to the bottom of the Duiwelskloof second waterfall ravine on Table Mountain. The accident happened yesterday when Nicholas Abbott and Timothy Cromby, both in their early twenties, were ascending the ravine. Wilderness Search and Rescue organiser Kevin Tromp said that the men were about halfway to the top when Abbott slipped and fell. A Metro Red Cross rescue helicopter was sent out, as well as two members of Wilderness Search and Rescue. Abbott was stabilised on the mountain before being airlifted to Vincent Pallotti Hospital, where he later died.

Tony Yengeni allegedly subjected to racist remarks

A suspended Cape Town golf club official faces a disciplinary hearing over alleged racist remarks he made last week to former ANC chief whip Tony Yengeni and three friends. Yengeni confirmed that a course official at the King David Golf Club made derogatory remarks after they started their round from the wrong tee. According to Yengeni the official made some shocking comments and although Yengeni and his party were stunned, they did not respond. They however, made a statement later. King David Golf Club general manager Barry Levitt said a verbal complaint was lodged that was viewed very seriously. He said the official would be given a fair hearing.

Trade union accuses Eskom of discrimination

The trade union Solidarity says one of its coloured members has been informed by Eskom that he is too white to benefit from the company’s affirmative action programme. Leon Christiaans of Cape Town says that Eskom unjustly discriminated against him on the grounds of his race when he was informed that a promotion that had been offered to him had been withdrawn and the position offered to a black candidate. Solidarity has lodged a complaint against Eskom and arbitration will take place in Cape Town today.

Sunday, March 19, 2006

Fourteen Cabinet Ministers fail to declare interests

Fourteen South African cabinet ministers and deputy ministers face ethics charges for failing to declare directorships in private companies and closed corporations. The fourteen include Deputy President Phumzile Mlambo-Ngcuka. The Auditor-General, Shauket Fakie, made the finding in a report to Parliament on an investigation into declarations of interest by government employees in 142 departments. The Sunday Times reports that those who failed to disclose business interests include Education Minister Naledi Pandor, Public Works Minister Stella Sigcau and Social Development Minister Zola Skweyiya.

The crisis in the Independent Democrats deepens

The crisis in Patricia de Lille’s Independent Democrats appears to be worsening with open rebellion in various branches in the Western Cape. Members are mainly dissatisfied with her leadership style and links to the ANC. The Weekend Argus reports that in Worcester three angry ID members, including the party’s mayoral candidate, have obtained a High Court order to put a stop to the mayoral election. The order prevents the newly elected council from meeting. ID members in several small municipalities are refusing to support the ANC in hung councils.

A drowning man saved at the last minute

A man who was rescued after his sailing dinghy capsized in the Langebaan Lagoon near Club Mykonos was so grateful that he gave the dingy to his rescuers. The NSRI says 49-year-old Martin Kuhn of Bellville ended up in the water on Saturday when his dingy capsized and he became exhausted trying to turn it right side up. His life jacked wasn’t keeping him afloat and he felt he was going to drown. That’s when 20-year-old Bronwyn Thomson and 25-year-old Tarren Smith came to his aid in a canoe. They saved Khun and were sailing his dingy back as well when the NSRI arrived on the scene.

Bush defiant over Iraq war

Defying the tens of thousands of anti-war protesters around the globe, American President George W Bush says he made the right decision to go to war against Iraq. Demonstrations were held around the world on Saturday on the third anniversary of the US-led invasion of Iraq.
The demonstrators demanded that coalition troops pull out of the country. The BBC reports that thousands gathered near the British parliament and Big Ben before marching through the capital for a rally in Trafalgar Square. Protesters carried posters showing pictures of Bush, calling him the world’s number one terrorist.

Elderly woman survives being shot in the head

Free State police have confirmed that a 76-year-old woman is in hospital after being shot in the head following an argument with her 80-year-old husband. Police say the Hennenman couple had become embroiled in a heated discussion and the husband pulled out his firearm. A shot went off, hitting his wife in the left side of her head.

Stormers defeated again

The Stormers once again let their fans down when they went down 25-31 to the Cheetahs at Newlands on Saturday night. The defeat virtually rules the Cape team out of any possible honours in this year’s Super 14 series as they head Down Under for what promises to be a disasterous tour. Rookie Springbok flyhalf Meyer Bosman proved to be a match winner for the Cheetahs. Bosman produced a polished display and kicked eight penalties and a conversion.

Police on hand as Cape Peninsula squatters are forcibly removed

The police were on hand to monitor the forced removal of illegal squatters from a site at Seawinds near Lavender Hill in the Cape Peninsula earlier on Saturday. City Council spokesperson Pieter Cronje told said that the police were enforcing a Cape High Court interdict granted to the City. The interdict prohibited the illegal occupation and erection of structures on Council land. The order was made final by the court last week. Cronje said the number of shacks had increased from three late on Friday to 37 on Saturday afternoon . No violence were reported from the area.

New smoking law will come down hard on smokers

Thousands of smokers who regularly attend pubs and clubs might just as well begin learning to do without their cigarettes, pipes and cigars. If they do not and they ignore the proposed Tobacco Control Act when it becomes law later this month, they could face huge fines. It has been proposed that first time offenders be fined 20-thousand rands. Should they be caught lighting up in indoor public places, the owner of the establishment will also be fined. The penalty for subsequent offences could be as much as 100-thousand rands. However, South Africans appear to be tossing the habit and the Department of Health says it is happy with the high level of compliance amongst smokers so far.

Mbeki takes tough line with new ANC mayors

President Thabo Mbeki says ANC mayors and councilors who do not live up to expectations can expect to face the music. Writing in his weekly newsletter on the ANC website, Mbeki said he was confident the party’s candidate mayors would perform as was expected of them. However, should any of them fail to do so, the ANC would, within the context of the law, not hesitate to remove them from office. He says ANC mayors and councillors are expected to study and understand the party's vision of fundamental social transformation intended to bring about a better life for all, and to put in place practical and realistic programmes to ensure this takes place.

University proves a traditional medicine has no value for Aids sufferers

The University of KwaZulu-Natal has announced that research done on a traditional medicine claimed to be an Aids treatment has shown that it does not have any benefit for patients. According to media reports, Zeblon Gwala, the manufacturer of the medicine Ubhejane and Herbert Vilakazi, an advisor to Sbu Ndebele, the KwaZulu-Natal premier, have quoted research from UKZN to support claims that the product can cure Aids. Ubhejane is apparently a mixture of 89 herbs said to have a potent activity against opportunistic infections associated with HIV/Aids. The university says these claims are unfounded. A month's supply of the product is said to cost 342-rand.

Plan drawn up to deal with power cuts in Western Cape

A top management team has been appointed to deal with the expected power cuts just before and during winter in the Western Cape. The team has been set up by the provincial government while Eskom works non-stop to sort out problems at the Koeberg nuclear power station. The Argus reports that Environment, Planning and Economic Development MEC Tasneem Essop will head the team. Emergency load shedding is a virtual certainty as Eskom repairs a broken-down generator at Koeberg and also takes its other generator off line to do maintenance work. Essop says an integrated plan aimed at reducing load shedding will be launched next week.

Saturday, March 18, 2006

Police in search for missing girl

Police are requesting the public’s assistance in finding a 14 year-old girl. Lulama Nontlantla Ntamo was last seen at "Ons Plek" in Albert Street on March 10th this year. It is not known what she was wearing on the day of her disappearance. Police spokesperson, Nomathemba Mgwebile, says that Ntamo is tall and of slender build.

Police swoop on dealers in endangered cycads

Mpumalanga police have confirmed that 13 people have been arrested for the illegal possession of and dealing in endangered cycads. A policeman is among those arrested. The arrests were made near the Strydom Tunnel following months of investigations. Six of the thirteen suspects have been granted bail. The remainder have been denied bail as they have previous convictions. Police have warned that they intend coming down hard on those people who insist on threatening the endangered species in the province.

Another loss for Bulls

If ever a team had the right to say we were robbed it is the Bulls who were beaten 26-23 by the Hurricanes at Loftus on Fiday night. Not only was Australian referee George Ayob very liberal with the penalties he awarded the New Zealanders, but TV ref Linston Manuels made what will go down as the worst mistake ever this season. Akona Ndungane scored a try for the Bulls that was disallowed by Manuels – a decision everyone watching could simply not fathom and that eventually cost the home side the match. The disallowed try would have been Ndungane's second of the evening after scoring in the opening minute of the game after the Bulls had stolen a Hurricanes lineout and ran it down the line.

Earlier, the Cats had no excuse when they went down 43-15 to the Crusaders in Christchurch. The South Africans simply had no answer to the far superior Kiwi side.

More than a hundred civil servants up for fraud

More than a hundred civil servants implicated in social grant fraud will this week appear in several courts around the country. Social Development Minister Zola Skweyiya says the court appearances form part of his department’s national anti-fraud campaign. He says investigations which have so far resulted in court appearances of five hundred and seventy seven officials suspected of defrauding the system of over 10-million rands should send a strong message to would-be fraudsters. BuaNews reports that the department is being assisted in its investigations by a dedicated anti-corruption unit, the Special Investigation Unit and the police.

Mass defections from Patricia de Lille’s party

Resignations are reportedly streaming in from Independent Democrats ward and list candidates, as well as ordinary members, over the party’s surprise switch to support the ANC in its failed bid for control of the Cape Town metro. Leader Patricia de Lille pledged not to form an alliance with any party before the mayoral election and candidates and members are now accusing her of betrayal. The Cape Argus reports that at least eight letters of resignation from ID representatives were faxed to the party last night, representing about four-thousand people. De Lille has dismissed the disgruntled members as “odd ones out” and says most party members are remaining loyal.

NSRI withdraws from search for missing seamen

The National Sea Rescue Institute has withdrawn from the search for two men who were reported to be clinging to a boat that capsized off St Helena Bay on the West coast on Thursday. However, the police diving unit is continuing with the search. Three men were on board the boat when it ran into trouble on Thursday afternoon, and one of the men managed to swim to shore to raise the alarm. NSRI spokesperson Craig Lambinon said that they searched for the men all night, with no success. The boat was recovered on Friday morning.

Memorial service for veteran Cape Town journalist

By Busisiwe Mtabane

Cape Town veteran journalist Lynda Loxton passed away on Wednesday night, after being dragged by a train along Lakeside station. Loxton, a parlimentary correspondent for Business Report, who regulary commuted by train from Lakeside to Cape Town, was in a coma for two weeks after the incident. It is reported that Loxton fell backwards on a moving train and was dragged along the platform. Metrorail confirmed that the incident was reported but they are unable to conclude their investigations. Loxton's memorial service was held at the Muizenberg Methodist church today.

Centre established to manage Western Cape power outages

The committee tasked with the management of risks posed by electricity shortages has established a centre from where the Western Cape electricity situation will be closely monitored. The establishment of the recovery centre as well as a recovery team by the Energy Risk Management Committee is part of a broader strategy that will be launched next week to address the challenges of load shedding in the next few months. All coordination, including emergency services, traffic management and communications pertaining to power outages will be run from the recovery centre. The committee is led by Western Cape MEC for Environment, Planning and Economic Development, Tasneem Essop.

Union’s plan to boost clothing sector

The SA Clothing and Textile Workers Union has called for a new 6-point-5 billion rands growth plan for the local industry to create employment and save thousands of clothing and textile jobs. Sactwu head Ebrahim Patel says government and the private sector should fund the plan, with government committing a minimum of 3 billion rands and companies providing the balance. Patel has called for a partnership between labour, government and business to refocus the industry on a new growth path. The union wants all government procurement to be from local companies, and they have also called on retailers to support the industry with local sourcing.

A major platinum seizure at Johannesburg International Airport

Sixteen tons of platinum, with an estimated value of about eight million rands, has been seized at Johannesburg International Airport. Police spokesperson Vishnu Naidoo says the consignment was scheduled to be illegally exported to at least three countries - Dubai, Switzerland and England. Naidoo said that the seizure is the culmination of a six-month investigation by the National Task Team made up of the police’s organised crime unit, the precious metals and diamond unit and at least five mining houses. Last month, six tons of platinum worth about 2-million rands was also seized at the airport. Naidoo says arrests are expected soon.

Man paralysed after being shot in a Hermanus pub

Police are searching for three suspected gunmen after a shooting at a bar in the popular seaside town of Hermanus early Friday morning. Police spokesperson Eben Groenewald says the suspects entered the bar shortly after midnight, and started shooting in the direction of the bar counter. A 25-year old man was wounded in his calf and ankle, and another client, who tried overpowering the gunmen, was shot in the neck before they fled. Groeneweld says the second victim has been paralysed from the neck down as a result of the shooting. Nothing was taken from the scene, and the motive for the attack is still unknown.

Natalie du Toit breaks world record

South African swimmer Natalie du Toit has set a new amputee world record in the 50 metres freestyle at the Commonwealth Games. Du Toit, broke her own record with a new best of 29-point-32 seconds. She set the previous mark of 29-point-35 in Manchester last May. Du Toit made history at the 2002 Manchester Games when she made the final of the 800 metres freestyle becoming the first athlete with a disability to qualify for an able-bodied final in a major competition. She also won gold in the multi-disability 50 metres and 100 metres freestyle races at the Manchester Games.

Minister intervenes to avert transport strike

Public enterprises Minister Alec Erwin’s intervention in the dispute between Transnet and trade unions has averted a crippling four-day strike workers were threatening for next week. The minister and the unions have persuaded Transnet to postpone the transfer date of commuter rail service Metrorail to May 1st. The four unions - the United Transport and Allied Trade Union, South African Transport and Allied Workers’ Union, South African Railway and Harbours Union and the United Association of SA - represent more than half of Transnet’s workforce. Transnet wanted to transfer Metrorail by April, but the unions say the transfer should not take place until the jobs and pension benefits of Metrorail employees are guaranteed.

Friday, March 17, 2006

Zille to probe Cape Town’s fire service

Newly elected mayor Helen Zille is to launch a full commission of inquiry into Cape Town’s struggling fire services. According to reports, she will also probe the performance of the council’s executive team, and all questionable tenders awarded during the ANC’s reign in the city will be audited. The investigation into the fire service has been partially prompted by the resignation of the city’s chief of fire and life services Schalk Louw, earlier this week. Louw has cited frustrations about staff shortages and old equipment as the main reasons for leaving.

Helen Zille calls for South Africans to return home

Cape Town’s new mayor Helen Zille, fresh from her battle against the ANC to gain power in the Mother City, has appealed to all South Africans who have left the country to return. Speaking at a reception for the cast of the successful movie Tsotsi, Zille said those South Africans who left to seek success overseas should return where new ground is being broken and a vibrant democracy is being built. She says Tsotsi could be used as a bridge for national unity. Director Gavin Hood agreed with Zille, saying the movie speaks to people of different backgrounds and tells a universal story.

Zuma may take the stand next week

It is reported that former Deputy President Jacob Zuma may take the stand in his rape trial next week. The trial has been adjourned in the Johannesburg High Court until Thursday next week. Prosecutor Charin de Beer says the State could declare their case closed when the trial resumes. Zuma is accused of raping a 31-year-old HIV-positive woman at his home in November last year. The case has been marked by intimate details of the alleged rape. Zuma has been widely criticized for ignoring the dangers of HIV/Aids by having sex with the woman.

Peace keeping forces becoming huge economic strain

The Department of Foreign Affairs has admitted that the cost of keeping troops in Darfur is increasingly stretching the budget of the SANDF. The cost of the mission has already reached about 100-million rands. Department spokesperson Jessie Duarte told Parliament that the African Union was also feeling the financial pressure of protecting the local civilian population in troubled Darfur. Duarte said the AU does not have adequate funds to continue the operation in Darfur and that donor countries were not willing to continue contributing to the cost.

Thursday, March 16, 2006

Tremors shake Mozambique

Two tremors shook central Mozambique yesterday in what officials described as aftershocks of a powerful earthquake that killed four people in the country last month. No deaths or injuries were reported from the tremors, which occurred about two hours apart in the central province of Manica, the same region that was hit by the February 23rd earthquake. The first tremor measured 5-point-3 on the Richter scale, while the second measured 5-point-6. Mineral Resources Minister Esperanca Bias says there was a huge move of tectonic plates after the February quake, and aftershocks will continue until the plates stabilize.

The Zuma rape trial continues

The rape trial of former deputy president Jacob Zuma enters its ninth day today. Yesterday the prosecution presented a record of phone calls between Zuma, his associates and the complainant’s family to paint a picture of damage control in the aftermath of the alleged rape. Last week the complainant told the Johannesburg High Court that she received calls from Zuma and KwaZulu-Natal finance MEC Zweli Mkhize, who were trying to set up a meeting with her. She also said she met lawyer Yusuf Dockrat, who tried to persuade her not to proceed with the rape charge. Zuma has denied raping the woman, but claims they had consensual sex.

Western Cape government acts to prevent spread of swine fever

The Western Cape government is to mount two roadblocks to prevent the spread of classical Swine Fever to the province. The disease has been detected at Uitenhage in the Eastern Cape where at least one thousand pigs will be culled this week. Provincial authorities intend keeping roadblocks on the N2 and on the R62 for the next six months. No live pigs are allowed to move into or out of the affected areas and no pork products are allowed out of the restricted areas. There is no evidence that swine fever poses a public health risk, but pigs that have been infected by the virus should not be consumed.

Tshwane businesses owe the city millions in arrears

Tshwane Metropolitan chief financial officer Renier du Toit says businesses in arrears with municipal accounts owe the city 400-million rand. Du Toit warns that when the correctness of outstanding accounts has been verified businesses are expected to pay, or else credit control will be introduced to the fullest. City manager Blake Mosley-Lefatola says another problem the city is experiencing is illegal electricity and water connections. He says more than 100-million rand per annum is lost due to illegal water connections, and close to 100-million rand due to illegal electricity connections. Mosley-Lefatola says the fact that it is happening is indicative of how sick and disobedient society is.

Africa needs more aid

International Monetary Fund chief Rodrigo de Rato says rich countries should provide more aid to Africa and the world's least developed continent must tackle graft to attract foreign investment. Rato, who is in Lusaka to meet with a group of African finance ministers and representatives of western lenders, commends recent large-scale debt relief for Africa but says it is not enough to end the continent's economic woes. Rato says debt relief is an important step but it is not enough. He says there is need for more aid that is predictable and carries minimum pre-requisites. Rato calls on developed countries to fulfill their commitments.

Kaizer Chiefs still log leaders

The outcome of last night’s Castle Premier Soccer League matches contributed even more to the uncertainty of who the eventual winners of the competition will be. Orlando Pirates drew one-all against Free State Stars at Ellis Park; Kaizer Chiefs beat Santos three-one at Newlands; Silver Stars beat Golden Arrows three-one at the Royal Bafokeng Sport Palace; and Tembisa Classic scored a one-nil victory against Dynamos at the Harry Gwala Stadium. Kaizer Chiefs are still the log leaders with 45 points. Mamelodi Sundowns is only one point adrift on 44, and Orlando Pirates is in third position on 42 points.

Security Guards to embark on a nationwide strike

Private security operations around the country will be hugely compromised next week when thousands of security guards are expected to go on strike. According to the South African Transport and Allied Workers Union, the guards are embarking on the strike because of poor working conditions in the security industry. SATAWU spokesperson Ronnie Mamba says several large security companies, such as Chubb, Securicor and Coin Security as well as many smaller ones will be affected by the nationwide action. No details have been given on how long the strike will go on.

Zille vows to probe ANC tenders

New Cape Town mayor Helen Zille says all tenders and contracts allocated in recent times by the former ANC-controlled City Council will be forensically investigated to ensure the correct procedure was followed. At the same time, open and transparent government, in which members of a multiparty mayoral committee will have to account continuously for their decisions, will be instituted. Zille says projects, which have begun during previous mayor Nomaindia Mfeketo’s term and which have been in the interests of the residents will all be judged on merit. She says officials appointed by the ANC will not be dismissed, and everyone will be assessed on performance. However, Zille has indicated that city manager Wallace Mgoqi will not stay on much longer.

Helen Zille the new mayor of Cape Town

Helen Zillle has been declared the executive mayor of the City of Cape Town. She received 106 votes in a tense council meeting, with Nomaindia Mfeketo of the ANC receiving 103 votes. It seems that the ID voted with the ANC, while the small opposition parties voted for the DA candidate. In her acceptance speech, Zille emphasized the need for all parties to work together to improve the lives of Capetonians. She says the challenge for the city’s administration now is to ensure that the diversity of its inhabitants is not a weakness, but its greatest strength as the city faces challenges that can only be overcome through joint action. Zille’s speech was delivered in English, Afrikaans and Xhosa with racial reconciliation a major feature. She warned that corruption and nepotism would be dealt with swiftly and severely and that the needs of the poor would be her administration’s priority.

Earlier, Dirk Smit of the Freedom Front Plus was elected as speaker.

Wednesday, March 15, 2006

Negotiations continues in the Cape Metro

By Busisiwe Mtabane

The ANC in the Western Cape says that they are making progress in the negotiations with other parties. The congress has however stated that they have not been able to reach any conclusive agreement with any party including the Independent Democrats, dismissing earlier reports that they have reached an agreement. ANC provincial secretary Mcebisi Skwatsha says they are confident that a decision will be reached before the first meeting of the city council.

Mbeki to meet with DRC president

President Thabo Mbeki leaves for the Democratic Republic of the Congo tomorrow where he will co-chair the third session of the South Africa/DRC Bi-national Commission with President Joseph Kabila. The two leaders will also hold talks to evaluate the status of their cooperation in areas ranging from reforms in the security sector in the DRC, co-operation in finance and infrastructure to development initiatives. Social and humanitarian affairs such as education and health projects are also on the agenda. The first round of presidential and legislative elections in the DRC are scheduled to take place later this year.

Housing development on target in provinces

Housing Minister Lindiwe Sisulu has expressed satisfaction with the way provinces have spent funds allocated for housing development in their regions. On average, provinces spent 90 percent of the funds allocated during the present financial year. This emerged at the meeting of the Minister and the nine provincial housing MECs held in Benoni yesterday. Provinces were also urged to ensure that projects were monitored regularly and that quality was not compromised. According to a pledge signed here in Cape Town last year, all housing stakeholders have been bound to a contract compelling them to increase the construction of low-cost housing by more than two hundred thousand units per year.

Reform of UN’s Human Rights Commission expected this week

UN Secretary-General Kofi Annan says a decision on the reform of the United Nations’ Human Rights Commission into a more powerful Human Rights Council is expected to be made by the end of the week. Yesterday, the UN Human Rights Commission adjourned their meeting in Geneva in anticipation of a major decision over its future, which is currently being discussed in the UN in New York. Speaking in Cape Town on the second day of his three-day official visit, Annan made special mention of South Africa’s role in resolving conflicts in the DRC, Cote d’Ivoire, Burundi and Darfur.

DA flays Department of Home Affairs

The Democratic Alliance says the Department of Home Affairs is in a state of crisis. DA MP Sandy Kalyan says the problem areas include fraud, the unacceptable treatment of refugees, poor staff management, financial disarray and unacceptable levels of service provided to the public. She says that last year the department was found to be responsible for hundreds of false marriages, fake ID books and fraudulent death certificates. The DA is to hand a nine step plan to the Minister of Home Affairs for turning the department into a functional and accountable branch of the government.

More intimate details of Zuma rape trial

The Johannesburg High Court has been told that police did not send sheets from former deputy president Jacob Zuma's house for forensic testing because they only gained access to his house about 10 days after a rape charge had been laid against him. According to reports, Police Commissioner Norman Tayiwe said one could not simply go into Zuma’s house without making arrangements to do so. He added that the arrangements had been made through the police's VIP protection services. The court has also been told that Zuma's first statement to police made no mention of consensual sex with the woman who laid the rape charge.

Tuesday, March 14, 2006

A deal has been reached for Cape Town Metropole

An agreement has been reached between the ANC, the Independent Democrats and one of the smaller parties for control of the Cape metro. It is reported that the deal was reached in the early hours of this morning. A new mayor for the metro is expected to be announced before the first full council meeting, scheduled for tomorrow.

Transnet strike to discontinue

The Transnet strike will not continue this week. This follows a meeting in Pretoria yesterday between four unions and public enterprises minister Alec Erwin. The government would examine the issues at hand and make proposals to deal with them by March the 20th. The unions would meet Transnet management within 10 days of consulting on the proposals. Members of the South African Transport and Allied Workers Union, the United Association of South Africa, the United Transport and Allied Trade Union and the South African Railway and Harbour Workers' Union marched in major city centres around the country yesterday. They protested against proposed restructuring plans, which they fear could lead to massive job cuts. The unions handed a memorandum to parliament, calling for an end to bad faith negotiations and guarantees that all retirement benefits in all three Transnet pension funds will be guaranteed by the new employers.

Search continues for a missing yachtsman on the East Coast

The National Sea Rescue Institute says a yachtsman is still missing off the Kei River mouth on the East Coast after a catamaran capsized on Sunday night. According to East London’s NSRI station commander Geoff McGregor two other crew of the 40-foot Tamuza were rescued. The Tamuza was en route from Cape Town to Durban. The rescue operation was launched after one of the sailors had only managed to send a distress signal yesterday afternoon. The survivors told the NSRI they had been asleep below decks when the vessel capsized, while the missing third man had been at the helm. None of the sailors has yet been identified.

ANC’s metro mayoral candidates announced

The African National Congress has announced its mayoral candidates for six metropolitan councils. This follows a meeting of its national working committee in Johannesburg yesterday. Former Cape Town mayor Nomaindia Mfeketo is the candidate for this metropole, former mayors Amos Masondo and Duma Nkosi are the respective candidates for Gauteng’s Johannesburg and Ekurhuleni and Obed Mlaba is the candidate for Ethekwini in KwaZulu-Natal. Nondumiso Maphazi is the mayoral candidate for the Eastern Cape’s Nelson Mandela metro, and Gwen Ramakgopa is the candidate for Tshwane in Gauteng. According to ANC spokesperson Smuts Ngonyama the mayoral candidates for district councils will be announced at a later stage. Candidates for local councils will be announced by the party's provincial leadership.

Unions threaten to extend transport strike

Trade unions involved in Monday's Transnet strike say they will not hesitate to call on their members to strike for three more days if they do not get a decent response from the parastatal. About 50-thousand Transnet workers, affiliated to four unions, downed tools around the country today in protest against proposed restructuring plans at the company which they fear could lead to massive job cuts. The unions handed a memorandum to parliament this afternoon, calling for an end to bad faith negotiations and guarantees that all retirement benefits in all three Transnet pension funds will be guaranteed by the new employers.

Still no decision on who will govern Cape Town

Both the ANC and Independent Democrats have refused to confirm rumours that they have signed a coalition deal to control the Cape Town metropole. A new mayor for the metro is expected to be announced before the first full council meeting, scheduled for Wednesday. According to Eyewitness News, ID mayoral candidate Simon Grindrod says media reports of an ANC-ID coalition are incorrect, but meetings between the two parties are still ongoing. ANC Western Cape leader James Ngkulu has also denied that an agreement has been reached. There have been reports that the two parties had reached an agreement with the African Muslim Party to gain a controlling stake in the 210-seat council.

The Absa cup draw

Kaizer Chiefs and Orlando Pirates should fancy their chances of progressing to the quarter-finals of the Absa Cup after the draw was announced this afternoon. Chiefs, who faced defending champions SuperSport United in the first round, were pitted against Mvela Golden League side City Pillars, while Pirates will face PJ Stars. Big-spenders Mamelodi Sundowns also got a kind draw against Mabopane Young Masters. The draw was not so kind for Moroka Swallows and Ajax Cape Town as they were both paired against fellow Premiership clubs. Swallows will tackle Santos, while Ajax will meet Tembisa Classic.

Unions satisfied with transport strike

The SA Transport and Allied Workers Union says reports from around the country indicate the national strike has had a biting effect. Four unions, representing 50-thousand Transnet workers, are protesting against the group's restructuring programme, which could see the sale of non-core assets worth about 7-point-7 billion rands. The unions claim this could lead to job losses. Satawu general secretary Randall Howard says the strike has been successful as there is no movement at Durban Container Depot and train stations throughout the country are dead quiet . Metrorail reports that 30 percent of trains are operating.

Avian flu detected in Cameroon

The lethal H5N1 strain of bird flu has been detected in Cameroon, making it the fourth African country to be hit by the virus. A government statement says it had been detected in duck on a farm near the northern town of Maroua, on the border with Nigeria. H5NI has already been detected in poultry in Nigeria itself, Niger and Egypt. Cameroon banned all imports of Nigerian poultry last month. No human cases of the H5N1 strain have yet been found in Africa. But the United Nations has warned of a possible regional disaster if the disease continues to spread.

Allegations of housing subsidy fraud

The Democratic Alliance has called on housing minister Lindiwe Sisulu to devise a plan that will prevent housing subsidy fraud. This comes after the party revealed details of the Auditor General’s report on the approval and allocation of housing subsidies at provincial housing departments. According to the report, 3-point-6 percent of housing subsidies granted to government employees between 1995 and 2004, worth about 323 million rands, have been found to be irregular. DA spokesperson Butch Steyn says more than seven thousand government employees benefited from the fraud, while almost five thousand subsidies were granted without the correct identity documents.

Murder suspect to appear in Cape Town Magistrates Court

By Busisiwe Mtabane

A 38-year-old male will appear at the Cape Town magistrate court on Tuesday the 14th of March in connection with the murder of a 48-year-old woman. The woman’s body was found decomposed in an open field behind the Portugese club on Donegal street in Milnerton on Sunday the 12th of this month after being reported missing on the 20th of February this year. Police spokesperson Captain Elliot Sinyangana says that at this stage they cannot mention names of the deceased until her next of kin have been found and informed. Sinyangana says the investigation continues and anyone with information is requested to contact Detective Inspector Eugen Human from Milnerton Police Station at 021 551 8086 or Crimestop at 08600 10 111.

Monday, March 13, 2006

Belgium looks to South Africa’s economy

A high-profile delegation from Belgium is in South Africa to examine opportunities for business partnerships especially in the ports, energy and railway sectors. Led by Prince Philippe and Princess Mathilde, the delegation comprises among others executives and senior managers of about 70 companies and senior trade officials. Economists say the decision by Belgian business leaders to focus on South Africa’s economic market is seen as a sign of confidence by the international community towards the country’s economy. Prince Philippe and Princess Mathilde together with UWC Chancellor, Emeritus Archbishop Desmond Tutu, will visit a computer unit at the University of Western Cape this morning . UWC Executive Director of Information Services, Derrick Keith says the unit has received 1500 refurbished and low cost computers from a Belgian NGO called Close the Gap.

ANC expected to announce mayoral candidates today

Political observers believe the ANC will announce their mayoral candidates today. A special meeting of the National Working Committee will finalise the deployment of mayors to the metro and district councils in which the party won an outright majority. Media speculation is rife that the Johannesburg, Ekurhuleni and Durban mayors will retain their positions. The only real problem facing the ANC is in the Cape Town metro where no party has outright power. As time begins to run out before the first council session, a coalition between the DA and the ANC becomes more of a reality. The DA has admitted that this is possible, but maintains its position that Helen Zille will be mayor of the Mother City.

DA slams police management salaries

The Democratic Alliance says only senior police managers have reaped the benefit of higher salaries while the men and women who put their lives on the line every day remain hugely under paid. DA Spokesperson Roy Jankielsohn slammed Police Commissioner Jackie Selebi’s salary package, saying the police chief’s salary jumped from 339-thousand-591 rand in 1999 to 904-thousand-374 in 2006. Deputy national commissioners, of whom there are at least four, now earn 702-thousand-117 rand. Jankielsohn points out that constables only earn 55-thousand-350 rand. He says the gaping difference in salaries between management and the men and women who do the actual work has to be addressed as soon as possible.

Three arrested for brutal slaying of four-year-old Makgabo Bernice Matlala

Gauteng police have confirmed that three men have been arrested in connection with the murder of four-year-old Makgabo Bernice Matlala and the gang-raping of her 57-year-old nanny. The granddaughter of Transvaal Judge President Bernard Ngoepe was brutally killed and her body hidden under a bed in her father’s house in Lenasia. Three 20-year-old men were arrested in Wheeler's Farm near Finetown, Ennerdale in the early hours of Sunday morning. Cellphones stolen from the Matlalas’ home have been recovered. The suspects are expected to appear in court on Tuesday.

Transnet strike leaves thousands stranded

South Africa faces a nationwide strike by some 50-thousand Transnet workers today that will cause chaos for commuters and cost the economy millions of rands. Union spokesperson Randall Howard says the strike is necessary because of the transformation within Transnet. He claims the company did not consult with the workers about the changes and that jobs are on the line. Metrorail says train schedules have had to be changed drastically in an effort to keep the country’s commuters moving. In KwaZulu-Natal trains will only be running at hourly intervals. Pretoria commuters have been urged to find alternative transport while Metrorail in Cape Town says it is too early to tell how many trains will be running. Metrorail spokesperson Riana Scott says commuters must try to arrange their own transport.

Unions threaten to extend transport strike

Trade unions involved inMonday's Transnet strike say they will not hesitate to call on their members to strike for three more days if they do not get a decent response from the parastatal. About 50-thousand Transnet workers, affiliated to four unions, downed tools around the country today in protest against proposed restructuring plans at the company which they fear could lead to massive job cuts. The unions handed a memorandum to parliament this afternoon, calling for an end to bad faith negotiations and guarantees that all retirement benefits in all three Transnet pension funds will be guaranteed by the new employers.

Saturday, March 11, 2006

Jacob Zuma says he will bounce back

Former Deputy President Jacob Zuma says he will emerge from his trial on rape charges with popularity intact. Speaking in an interview with Reuters on Friday, Zuma said his widespread support in the ruling African National Congress represented a backlash against what he called the abuse of authority by some parts of the government. He said he was not worried first what happened to him, but rather what happened to the country and the system. Zuma added that he had a duty to ensure that the country worked properly, that the laws were properly upheld and that there was no abuse of authority or power. Zuma's rape trial began this week with his accuser alleging that he had sex with her against her will.

More than a thousand children murdered each year

A total of one-thousand-128 South African children were murdered between April 2004 and March 2005. Die Burger reports that this information is part of the latest police statistics regarding crime against children, according to which there is an incident once every six minutes. The statistics were announced by safety and security minister Charles Nqakula, following the murder of the four-year-old Makgabo Bernice Matlala, granddaughter of Judge-President of the Transvaal Bernard Ngoepe. According to the statistics a total of 85-thousand-808 violent crimes were perpetrated in the same period. The statistics for the current year will only be finalised after the end of this month.

Meanwhile the post mortem on little Makgabo has been completed. According to Gauteng police spokesperson Mary Martins-Engelbrecht the results are not going to be made public, as they will be used in court as evidence. Police discovered Makgabo’s naked body on Thursday under a bed in her parents' home in Lenasia, south of Johannesburg. Beeld newspaper reports that she was apparently strangled, and her hands were tied behind her back with electrical cord.

Police under fire for bungled search

Police have confirmed that an internal investigation has been launched into allegations of police incompetence in the search for the granddaughter of Transvaal Judge Bernard Ngoepe. A large-scale search was launched for four-year-old Makgabo Matlala on Wednesday, after four men entered her family home in Lenasia South and gang-raped the domestic worker before fleeing with household goods. Police initially thought the girl had been kidnapped, but discovered her body under a bed in the house yesterday. National Police Chief Jackie Selebi has expressed his anger at what he calls police incompetence in failing to find the child’s body sooner.

Government to boost number of health workers

To overcome staff shortages facing public hospitals the health department has proposed doubling the annual supply of doctors and increasing the yearly supply of new nurses and pharmacists by 50 percent. Reports states that 27 percent of health-care posts in the public sector are vacant, due to low output by training institutions and the migration of health care workers. Health department deputy director general for human resources, Dr Percy Mahlati says increasing the production of health-care professionals is key to resolving the crippling staff shortages and the treasury has already made provision for an additional 30-thousand health-care workers.

Friday, March 10, 2006

COSATU to launch a Class Action Claim against Eskom

By Busisiwe Mtabane

The Congress of South African Trade Unions is planning to launch a class action against Eskom for wages lost by its members or other workers in the Western Cape. The union says it will also participate in supporting lost production claims from Companies. Mike Louw from COSATU says the disregard shown by Eskom to the Western Cape communities have convinced them that they have to fight to get a fair deal.

Burundi rape trial to be heard in South Africa

The trial of a South African soldier accused of the rape and murder of a child prostitute while stationed in Burundi is to be moved to South Africa. Sergeant Flippie Venter is accused of raping and strangling a 14-year old prostitute and assaulting a security guard who refused to give him and the girl a room, in 2004. The last witnesses delivered their testimony in Burundi yesterday, and arguments by the defence and state will be heard in South Africa in May. However, if Venter is found guilty South African witnesses and the judges involved will have to return to Burundi. Venter has pleaded not guilty.

Cape Town gears up for cycle tour

More than 35-thousand cyclists are scheduled to participate in the 29th annual Cape Argus Pick ‘n Pay Cycle Tour on Sunday 12th of March, and it is estimated that the event will generate more than 300-million rands. Event director Anton Groenewald says the event is the country’s largest sporting and social event in scale, size and economic impact. He says previous assessments found that the tour generated 300-million rands, but he expects this year’s event to be in the region of 340-million rands. Except for the possibility of showers early on Sunday morning, mild weather has been forecast, and motorists have been warned to plan their routes in advance.

There is a new plan to curb Cape Town blackouts

A new energy risk management team has started talks on a plan to avert the chaos caused by the rolling blackouts in the Western Cape. The team is headed by Western Cape economic development MEC Tasneem Essop and includes representatives of business, Eskom, the City of Cape Town and civil society, among others. Essop says the plan will look at power cuts over the next 90 days. The team will meet again next Thursday to finalise the crisis-management plan which will be in effect at least until May.

Police chief furious over delay in finding murdered child’s body

Messages of sympathy continue to pour in for the Matlala family following the brutal murder of the four-year-old grandchild of Transvaal Judge-President Bernard Ngoepe. The ANC and its Youth League and the DA are among the political parties to express their anger and sympathy at the senseless killing of Makgabo Bernice Matlala. The little girl’s half-naked body was found under a bed in her home after three men burst in and gang-raped her nanny. It was at first feared that Bernice had been kidnapped, but police found her body under the bed a day after the murder.

Meanwhile, National Police Chief Jackie Selebi has expressed his anger at what he calls police incompetence in failing to find the child’s body sooner. Officers on the scene of the murder in Lenasia say, however, that they did a careful and systematic search all night long on Wednesday and only reached the part of the house where the body was found on Thursday. Police say a man was taken in for questioning but that he was not one of the attackers

Investigations into corruption drastically increased

Staff at the Special Investigating Unit is to be increased from 67 in 2001 to 550 by the end of this year in order to deal with the huge amount of corruption cases that have been unearthed. BuaNews reports that fraud cases in the social grant system alone are estimated to involve more than one-point-five billion rands. The Special Unit has so far recovered nearly nine million rands in actual funds lost to corruption in the first nine months of the current financial year. On the level of savings, however, it expects to have saved the state close to 200-million rands by the end of this month as a result of investigations into corruption.

Africa ready for avian flu

The Southern African Development Community and other world bodies say the region is generally ready to deal with any outbreak of avian influenza. This was the general consensus after a three-day workshop, attended by delegates from all 14 SADC countries, to assess the levels of their preparedness to deal with the possible pandemic. The workshop comes against the backdrop of recent detection of avian influenza in Africa. However, the chairperson of the workshop Dr Modibo Traore acknowledged that although countries had plans in place to deal with outbreaks, they varied in levels of preparedness. He explained that some countries had to be assisted in improving some aspects contained in their plans.

Thursday, March 09, 2006

Media urged to address gender imbalances

Deputy president Phumzile Mlambo-Ngcuka has called on the media to address gender imbalances in the industry by giving women more voice in stories. This comes after the launch of the national report of the Global Media Monitoring Project for 2005. The GMMP monitored various news sources last year and it found that 74 percent of news subjects were men, while 26 percent focused on women. The report also found that 45 percent of media coverage focused on crime and violence, 26 percent on social and legal issues, 13 percent on celebrities and eight percent on arts and culture while government and politics got five percent.

Energy saving boost for Cape Town

Cape Town households which have been experiencing power outages recently, are to be fitted with energy saving compact fluorescent light bulbs. This is an effort by the department of minerals and energy, in partnership with Eskom and bulb makers Osram, to address power failure problems and encourage conservation of energy. According to BuaNews, minerals and energy minister Lindiwe Hendricks says more than 500 million of the bulbs will be distributed in Cape Town soon. Manufacturers of the bulbs claim they use only a quarter of the electricity required by traditional bulbs and produce the same amount of required light.

The baby Jordan murder trial

A Wynberg magistrate has testified that one of the accused in the baby Jordan Leigh Norton murder trial broke into tears while giving his confession. The state alleges that Mongezi Bobotyane, Sipho Mongezi Mfazwe and a 16-year old youth murdered the baby at her family home last year, allegedly at the behest of Dina Rodrigues. Eyewitness News reports that magistrate Magdalene Gravensteen told the Cape Town High Court that Bobotyane, who allegedly stabbed the baby, started crying while she was taking down his confession. The defence for the three men is trying to have their confession’s declared inadmissible as they claim they were forced into making the statements.

Wednesday, March 08, 2006

South African Army gets wake-up call

The South African Army has embarked on a drive aimed at transforming and preparing the army for deployment where its services are required. The plan is also to equip the army to that it can thwart possible terror attacks or invasions, genocide and to assist in disasters. Briefing the media in Pretoria on Tuesday, Colonel Eddie Drost, said the Army was looking at better ways of creating a dynamic force that can face anything. We want to prepare an army that is always ready and focused he said. Attention will also be given to the best use of modern technology and this will entail boosting the skills of army personnel.

The latest on the Zuma trial

Former deputy President Jacob Zuma’s daughter, Duduzile, is expected to defend her father when she takes the stand in the Johannesburg High Court. Zuma is accused of raping a 31-year old woman at his home in November last year. Duduzile was at his home at the time. The trial enters its third day on Wednesday, and the complainant faced intensive cross-examination by Zuma's advocate, Kemp J Kemp on Tueday. According to the Star, this is expected to culminate on Wednesday in a revelation of her sexual past and claims that she previously made false rape allegations. Duduzile's evidence could prove crucial to her father's claims that he had consensual sex with the complainant.

Two men caught in possession of Cocaine worth R252 million in Still Bay

Two men appeared in the Riversdale Magistrate’s Court on Monday after being found in possession of cocaine valued at R252 million. Picture: ...