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Lock down SA

National State of Disaster Extended Again

In a briefing to media on Thursday, 11 March 2021, President Cyril Ramaphosa’s cabinet announced the extension of South Africa’s national state of disaster by a further month.  The National State of Disaster will continue until 15 April 2021.  The National State of Disaster was declared on the 15th of March 2020 under Section 27(1) and 27(2) of the Disaster Management Act.

The state of disaster was initially set to lapse on 15 June – three months after it came into effect – the act however provides that it may be extended by the Cooperative Governance and Traditional Affairs (Cogta) minister for a month at a time before it lapses.  The official directive confirming the extension has not yet been gazetted by Cooperative Governance and Traditional Affairs minister Nkosazana Dlamini-Zuma.

The latest extension marks a full year since the first state of disaster was introduced, with opponents criticising the South African government for perpetually extending a state of disaster without any oversight. The opposition Democratic Alliance, in February announced plans to introduce the Draft Disaster Management Bill, which aims to change South Africa’s laws around how a state of disaster is handled.

“It may be argued that the scope of the minister’s powers under a national state of disaster are necessary to enable the national executive to deal effectively with phenomena such as the Covid-19 pandemic, but save for the requirement of publication, the act does not provide for any formal procedural constraints on how these powers are to be exercised,” the DA said.

“The risks so created for the abuse of state power resemble the risks that have historically been associated with a state of emergency.”

The DA added that, unlike the State of Emergency Act which was introduced in 1997, the current Disaster Management Act does not allow parliament to review the extension of a national state of disaster. The proposed Disaster Management Amendment Bill aims to change this by establishing similar parliamentary supervision over national states of disaster.

In this way, it will also act as a ‘bulwark’ against executive encroachment on the legislative authority of parliament, it said.

“The draft bill therefore seeks to subject the wide-ranging powers of the Minister to declare and extend a national state of disaster, and to make subordinate legislation pursuant to such a declaration, subject to parliamentary supervision.

“The draft bill also seeks to limit the initial period a national state of disaster can be declared to the same 21-day limit that our law currently places on a state of emergency, the latter resembling the former in key respects.”

DA Petition Against TV License Changes

While the South African government continues its plan to broaden the definition and collection system for television licences – levying fees on citizens using computers, smartphones, and tablets – the DA have collected over 16 000 signatures in support of their petition to prevent what they have termed a “stealth bailout”.  The Democratic Alliance have gained 16 364 signatures for their petition against the changes that the SABC is trying to force on South Africans while people are still struggling to recover from the impact of the pandemic.

The DA’s Shadow Minister of Communications & Digital Technologies, Zakhele Mbhele, in a statement said that they will now submit the petition to the acting Director-General of the Department of Communications and Digital Technologies, Nomvuyiso Batyi ahead of the Monday 15 February deadline.

Mbhele said that the justification of the proposed fees by Communications Minister Stella Ndabeni-Abrahams prove beyond doubt that the scheme is merely a ploy to implement further state-funded bailouts of the struggling South Africa Broadcasting Commission (SABC). Ndabeni-Abrahams however said that amendments to the TV licence fee section are necessary because of the SABC’s financial challenges.

“The Democratic Alliance (DA) has received 16 364 signatures for a petition we launched in December 2020 to oppose the government’s plans to extend license fees to streaming services such as Netflix, Showmax, and others,” said Mbhele.

“It is outrageous that South Africans need to cough up money for watching ‘broadcast services’ regardless of whether they watch it on a television, a computer, or a tablet. The only reason the ANC wants to amend the law to include other devices other than a television set, is to implement a ‘stealth bail-out’ for the SABC. This cannot be condoned.”

The DA maintain that the ANC is solely responsible for the demise of the public broadcaste. It accused  the ruling party of allowing their “political capturing and interference with its operations” to bring the SABC to its knees.

“The SABC does indeed play an important role as a public broadcaster. However, it must find creative ways to self-sustain and break even without making South Africans fork out any more money,” insisted Mbhele.

“The DA is delighted that South Africans have made their voices heard,” Mbhele added, saying that members of the public who have not yet added their signature to the petition are able to do so until Monday 15 February to submit their comments and objections on the Draft White Paper.

 

Eastern Cape Gov Lays Down the Law

The South African Government’s Safer Festive Season initiative proved to be effective last week in the Eastern Cape and resulted in the arrests of over 1 000 people for a variety of crimes. This ahead of Police Minister Bheki Cele’s visit to the province, assessing compliance to the law by residents and businesses.

“Ahead of the annual Safer Festive Season Inspection Tour by the Minister of Police to the Eastern Cape to assess the effectiveness of Safer Festive Season plans put in place to ensure that residents and holiday makers are and feel safe during the holiday season and beyond, 693 rounds of ammunition and 72 firearms (49 revolvers/pistols, 15 rifles and 8 shotguns) were seized while 1 117 suspects were arrested for various crimes from 13 – 21 December 2020,” the South African Police Services’ (SAPS) Colonel  Sibongile Soci said in a statement.

Suspects arrested include 392 handcuffed for contact crimes, 54 for property related crimes, 234 for crimes detected as a result of police action such as drug-related crimes, driving under the influence of alcohol/drugs and possession of suspected stolen property while many others were held for several other crimes, Soci also said.

Police have also managed to recover 189 dangerous weapons which includes 172 knives, 13 pangas and four axes. People were also arrested for livestock theft, which is a huge problem in the rural province, particularly during the festive season.

“Furthermore, the stock theft market was dealt a big blow with the recovery of 41 cattle, 22 goats and 19 sheep. 23 suspected stolen vehicles were also confiscated,” police said.

All the suspects have subsequently appeared before various courts while others were issued with summons to pay fines.

Eastern Cape Provincial Commissioner, Lieutenant General Liziwe Ntshinga has commended the members for the arrests and confiscations.

“Eastern Cape has already rolled out the festive season operational plans which are directed into tightening the grip on trio crimes, stock theft, violent crime and the proliferation of unlicensed firearms as well as to see the general safety of all inhabitants throughout the Province. The arrests and confiscations are the results of those well-executed operational plans,” Ntshinga said.

Farm Attacks – SA’s Food Security at Risk

Farm attacks, invasions and murders have sparked heated debate across the nation.  Cabinet has now concluded that the killings and maiming of farmers and farm workers in the country are a serious threat to the country’s food security.  The fate of South African farmers have been uncertain as many claimed that the government did not acknowledge or act against the attacks.

According to Cabinet, the endless attacks poses a threat to the greater good and health of country.  Government is fast-tracking the implementation of the revised rural safety strategy to enable police to respond appropriately to the security needs of rural communities and support socio-economic development.  “Cabinet fully supports the work of our South African police in arresting those committing heinous crime in our country which includes the killing and maiming of farmers and farmworkers throughout the country,” said Jackson Mthembu, Minister in the Presidency.

“The farming community is an integral part of our economy, and crime on farms poses a threat not only to the personal safety of farmers and farmworkers but also to the country’s food security.” Minister in the Presidency Jackson Mthembu was briefing reporters about the outcome of the Cabinet meeting on Thursday.  Cabinet called on South Africans to assist police in the fight against crime by being part of community police forums, saying people should work together to root out crime in their communities.

Teacher in Trouble for Misrepresentation

A Western Cape teacher has reportedly been summoned to a disciplinary hearing for allegedly claiming to be African on his Curriculum Vitae, instead of being honest about his so-called official identity of a coloured man.  The accused, Glen Snyman, applied for a position as school principal three years ago, and claimed to be African on his Resume.  He is currently a teacher at Grootkraal Primary School in Oudtshoorn.

Snyman is an outspoken critic of race classification and is the founder of an organisation called People Against Race Classification.  Though his application was unsuccessful, the Western Cape Education Department summoned him to appear in front of a disciplinary committee.

Racial classifications on job applications is used to meat broad-based economic empowerment criteria which is essential for all employers.  Snyman is very outspoken on race classification and particularly detests being classified as coloured, claiming this to be degrading.  Snyman has been leading a campaign against government’s continued use of race categories – black, coloured, Indian and white, since 2010.  The campaign aims to stop racial classification on all official documentation, including applications for employment.

On the official Website of Snyman’s campaign, a whole section is devoted to explaining the reasoning for self-classification as ‘African’ and claiming it is the right of all people to decide for themselves.  The website also states that being classified as “coloured” is not an identity. 

Government measures the economic progress our country makes according to the progress made by certain race groups only. This is wrong! Government should use a socio-economic barometer to determine how many people still need jobs; how many still live under the breadline; the living-standards of people; education levels; etc. Government doesn’t need to know how many members of a specific race group live in the various residential areas. Quality services should be provided to everyone. If we address poverty, inequality will take care of itself. We should do away with the generally accepted LABELLING, which implies that each of us belongs to a distinct race group.”

National News – Cosatu Strike set for Wednesday

Cosatu, Congress of South African Trade Unions, is gearing up for its planned protest on Wednesday 07 October 2020.  Although many have objected to the protest claiming that it would further damage the already decimated economy, Cosatu leaders maintain that there will be no significant impact.  The protest was sparked by the ongoing corruption and the Ramaphosa government failing to act in any meaningful manner to curb ongoing corruption.  Reports of corruption during lock down and recent arrests contributed to the growing dissatisfaction of South Africans.  Several other trade unions will join Cosatu come Wednesday, to protest against the corruption and the government’s failure to increase public servants’ wages for the year.

Cosatu’s General Secretary, Bheki Ntshalintshali said that the economy has been brought to its knees: “People that we talk to seem not to be listening.”  He maintained that workers no longer had any other option but to withdraw their labour in an effort to force the government to act.  He added that despite many discussion, the government has failed to lead the country out of the economic crisis that have adversely affected millions of citizens’ lives.

“In these issues, and unless we do something, it’s (the economy) going to go away anyway and it is better to raise the consciousness of the people now before we lose everything. Corruption is now like a cancer, it’s gone to a stage that unless something is done, unless the limb that has got that particular disease is cut off, we will lose the whole body,” he said.  Cosatu has challenged the president to stop fearing to shake the tables within the ANC and, for once, putting the interest of South Africans who he vowed to serve by leading the country, first.  According to the labour federation Ramaphosa has failed to use his power to dismiss ineffective and corrupt ministers and other leaders in government.

“We need to go to the president and say if you have problems being your own organisation where you think you are powerless, remember the other 11 million South Africans who are not ANC members who you took an oath promising to serve them, serve them, and if you are going to be removed, be it so. But you can’t be an accomplice because of your organisation and people unwilling to do something, and that’s where we are,” Ntshalintshali said.

News: Government publishes all the Covid-19 tenders online

The Office of the Chief Procurement Officer (OCPO) has published a full list of all companies, which have been awarded contracts by government for the supply of goods and services relating to the COVID-19 pandemic, on the National Treasury website.

The list includes COVID-19 procurement information from all provinces, national departments and over 70 public entities.

The move is in line with a directive issued by President Ramaphosa on 5 August 2020 for departments to submit full information on COVID-19 tenders to the ministerial team convened by Justice and Correctional Services Minister Ronald Lamola, sanews reported.

National Treasury will regularly update the online register to ensure information remains current.

“By publishing these lists, we have honoured our promise to the South African people. They enable proper scrutiny of the details of all companies who have received tenders for COVID-19 related services,” President Ramaphosa said.

The directive follows outrage over a PPE tender scandal in Gauteng linking high-ranking ANC officials.

The National Departments and entities list can be found here.

http://ocpo.treasury.gov.za/COVID19/Pages/Reporting-National-Departments.aspx

The Provincial government list can be found here.

http://ocpo.treasury.gov.za/COVID19/Pages/Reporting-Provincial-Government.aspx

 

 

 

 

 

Gauteng News: Government spends R3m on virtual events during lockdown.

The Gauteng Sports, Arts, Culture and Recreation Department has coughed up close to R3million on virtual commemorative events during the Covid-19 pandemic.

The events include Youth Day, Freedom Day, and Human Rights Day. The funds were distributed among service providers, musicians, comedians, ambassadors and fitness instructors.

According to The Star, the department indicated that the initial budget for the three events was R14m.

Over R2m was spent on Human Rights Day while close to R800000 was channelled to Freedom Day virtual celebrations. Youth Day expenses were not provided, with the department citing that payments were outstanding as the process of supply chain management and financial accounting were delayed.

President Cyril Ramaphosa’s announcement of a State of Disaster last March prohibited gatherings. The president’s announcement altered the way national days were going to be celebrated and commemorated. Departments and institutions have since adopted the virtual method.

The DA’s Kingsol Chabalala questioned the importance of spending millions of rand on virtual events during a national crisis.

“The department under the leadership of the MEC continues to fail to prioritise issues in terms of their importance, as they throw money in a bottomless pit of unnecessary events that do not add value to the grassroots development of sports, arts and culture,” he said.

The department further spent R490000 on a Mandela Day programme, where they partnered with US TV channel Nickelodeon. Selected local young authors were also part of this celebration, and they were selected to read their published books.

“The use of this TV channel just also defies logic as it has a mass appeal among the very same audience the department was trying to reach. What is wrong with our TV channels which are accessible to everyone in the province?

“It is clear that the department is failing to address infrastructure development challenges that are riddling them, and yet in their wisdom money is being spent on these programmes that are insignificant. As the DA we won’t leave this matter. The MEC must account for how the programmes benefited our residents.”

The department has defended the spending as necessary.

Its spokesperson Nomazwe Ntlokwana said that partnership with the TV channel was to showcase local talent in the province on a global scale.

“Mandela Day is a national day of goodwill, this year the department decided to spend it by focusing its attention on children, something that was dear to Madiba. So the department paid for the platforms their books would be profiled on,” she said.

US dancer JoJo Siwa was also part of the Mandela Day celebrations. Ntlokwana said the dancer was among the artists voted for by kids in the Nickelodeon Kids Choice Awards. “The showcase was for the children and she is an entertainer the kids love. She is a positive role model for the kids in how she has conducted her career and continues to include kids within her brand,” she said.

Ntlokwana said the artist was not paid by the department, but was hired by the TV channel.

Source: The Star

News: IMF Loan – The money will be looted

The decision by the International International Monetary Fund’s (IMF) to give the nod for a $4.3 billion loan to South Africa has raised alarm from all corners of society, including political parties and civil groups.

Despite the country’s undesirable history with corruption and poor track record on accountability, the IMF said the funds would go towards aiding the country as it navigates the COVID-19 pandemic.

“The RFI will help fill the urgent BOP (balance of payments) need originating from the fiscal pressures posed by the pandemic, limit regional spillovers, and catalyse additional financing from other international financial institutions”, it said in a statement on Monday, 27 July 2020

The Economic Freedom Fighters (EFF), who have been vocal about their disdain for international lenders, has slammed the decision to borrow the funds in the first place and said the IMF would impose conditions that undermine the country’s fiscal policy sovereignty.

“Government is borrowing money without a believable plan to deal with already uncontrollable debt or economic recovery”, the party’s Vuyani Pambo said in a statement.

The massive cash injection comes just a week after the country managed to secure another loan – for R5 billion from the African Development Bank, which the red berets have described as “the biggest political blunder in the history of South Africa

The Congress of South African Trade Unions (Cosatu), the African National Congress’ (ANC) alliance partner is also not very optimistic about the loan, citing corruption as well as its lack of trust in the lender.

“They borrow money under these extreme conditions to go and loot. Look at the scandals we’re reading about recently…” said spokesperson Sizwe Phamla said on Enca.

Only the workers and the taxpayers are going to pay the price. Very little of this money will be spent where it matters most”, Phamla said.

Cosatu also said they were briefed by President Cyril Ramaphosa in an alliance meeting on the loan and added that he had explained to them that the loan was ‘special’, as the IMF had set aside the conditions usually applied in the granting of a loan.

 “We do not trust this institution and our understanding is that since this institution doesn’t accept physical collateral, it puts conditions first because it is a lender of last resort”,

Ramaphosa announced on Sunday, 26 July 2020, that he had signed an order empowering the Special Investigating Unit (SIU) to look into corruption and fraud claims arising from the COVID-19 pandemic – all while his own spokesperson Khusela Diko is herself embroiled in a scandal over a PPE tender.

Government: Might use pensions to address some of its big issues.

Finance minister Tito Mboweni says that government is looking at a number of options to help fund the establishment of the ‘new SAA’, including the use of pension funds, Business Tech reported.

In an answering affidavit to a case filed by the Democratic Alliance, Mboweni said that government would not use state funds to rescue the bankrupt national airline.

Instead, other options on the table include seeking money from strategic partners or private equity, as well as tapping pension funds and global financial institutions.

While the DA has welcomed the commitment to not use state funds, it expressed concerns about the use of pensions.

“On the basis of Mboweni’s commitment we are satisfied that there is no need for an urgent hearing, although we remain on high alert for other illegitimate attempts to fund SAA,” the party said in a statement.

“However, Minister Mboweni’s affidavit, belatedly filed in response to the DA’s court challenge, raises new alarms about how SAA might be bailed out using other means.

Most worryingly, he suggests using pension funds to ‘invest’ in SAA, which raises the prospect of the Public Investment Corporation being forced to give money to SAA.

“The DA will oppose any publicly-funded bailout of SAA, whether through direct cash, government-guaranteed loans, or an attempt to abuse pension funds.”

Economists have also criticised the idea of using pensions to help fund the airline, which they said could require a change to Regulation 28 of the Pension Funds Act.

Changing regulations

In a proposal document published by the ANC’s Economic Transformation Committee at the start of July, the ruling party indicated that the use of pension funds will be key to helping the government address funding shortfalls in areas such as infrastructure development and energy production.

To achieve this, the ANC proposes changing regulation 28 of the Pension Funds Act to boost the funding of infrastructure projects spearheaded by state development finance institutions (DFIs) using private capital.

Regulation 28 limits the extent to which retirement funds may invest in particular assets or in particular asset classes. The main purpose is to protect the members’ retirement provision from the effects of poorly diversified investment portfolios.

“Changes should be made to Regulation 28 under the Pension Funds Act to enable cheaper access to finance for development,” the ANC said.

“Furthermore, regulators should be vigilant to ensure increased competition in the banking sector, which frequently displays the kind of oligopolistic tendencies which limit access to finance particularly for SMME’s and for households in historically disadvantaged areas.”

The ANC said that the amendment of regulation 28 of the Pension Fund Act can also help DFIs to access private savings to fund long-term infrastructure and high-impact capital projects.

“In the meantime, the asset classes with the highest impact must be investigated, in line with the resolutions of the 54th National Conference,” it said

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