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Three Months After Riots and Only 7 Arrested

As businesses continue to try and rebuild with multi-million rand grants established by the government to help them recover from the July anarchy, the country is still largely in the dark about the true cause of the violence.

Three months after the looters went on the rampage damaging infrastructure, disrupting food production, and threatening water security, only seven suspected instigators have been arrested to date.

In the days following the violence, President Cyril Ramaphosa said that the violence and looting were orchestrated by individuals seeking to destroy the constitutional order in the country on the “pretext of a political grievance”.

Despite the early days of ignorance in government circles, a narrative began to form suggesting that those in power were aware of the real motives behind the attacks.

The president last month approved the terms of reference of the expert panel which has been appointed to probe the violence and security lapses during the July events. Meanwhile, the Hawks’ Katlego Mohale said that they were looking into seven suspects who were arrested for allegedly instigating the violence.

“Those that were being handled by the Hawks, we were tasked to look through those cases in order to assists the SAPS as well in properly tracing and investigation tracing them because that was information on social media and as you know it is very easy to delete an account when they’re on social media, so we were running against time.”

President Ramaphosa has insisted that the July anarchy was a deliberate, coordinated, and well-planned attack on the country’s democracy and promised that arrests and prosecutions would be carried out on those responsible.

R200 million Illegal Social Grants Paid To Government Employees Every Month

Over 170 000 South African government employees are illegally receiving more than R200 million in social grants administered by the SA Social Security Agency (SASSA) every month.

The Minister of Social Development Lindiwe Zulu revealed this in a parliamentary response to questions from DA Member of Parliament, Mimmy Gondwe. According to the Zulu, the 177 108 public service employees from national and provincial government departments skimmed a combined R200 787 648.

The government is now on a mission to recover the funds.  Public servants were entitled to receive a grant for a foster child and may also get a care dependency grant only when paid for the same child.  Zulu however revealed, in a five-page report to Parliament, that government employees also received other grants, including old age, disability, and child support.

“Since the information has been extracted, arrangements have been made to suspend the grants, apart from the foster child grants, for all public servants. Those who still qualify will have to come in and review the grant, and provide current information on their income to determine whether they still qualify to receive these grants”

Measures will also be taken to recover any funds overpaid, said Zulu.  The lion’s share of the R200 million went to KwaZulu-Natal government employees who looted Sassa out of more than R107 million.

The second-largest amount, R19.6 million was taken by Northern Cape government employees, while Gauteng and Eastern Cape government employees were in the top four after getting R18.1 million and R16.3 million, respectively.

Minister Zulu added:

Where it is found that the public servants were receiving a grant to which they were not entitled, the matter will be reported to their employing department, for disciplinary action to be taken.

Gondwe said it “can’t be right that public service employees drawing salaries from state coffers are applying for grants intended for beneficiaries that really require those grants”.

Gondwe said Sassa needed to strengthen its systems to ensure that no public service employees benefitted from grants they were not meant to receive.

“I am surprised by the high number of public service employees that are currently receiving grants and obviously, I welcome the commitment made by the minister in the response that measures will be taken to recover any funds paid to public service employees who do not qualify for those grants,” said Gondwe.

“They [employees] will be reported to their various departments so that disciplinary and other legal action are taken against them,” she added.
Gondwe said she became curious whether public servants received Sassa grants after earlier learning from Zulu that close to 40 000 public service employees had applied for the R350 Social Relief Distress Grant.

Cannabis Included in School Curriculum – Government Masterplan

The Department of Agriculture, Land Reform, and Rural Development estimates that the cannabis industry is worth R28 billion in South Africa, and could create anywhere between 10,000 – 25,000 jobs.

The department presented its ‘cannabis master plan’ to parliament this week, explaining how marijuana could be incorporated into South Africa’s business sector as part of the government’s ongoing drive towards legalisation and commercialisation.

“Establishment of the cannabis industry will lead to diversification of the economy and thus increase economic growth, create jobs and for poverty alleviation,” it said.

“The cannabis sector also has huge potential in terms of the development of SMMEs, attracting domestic and foreign investment and value additions in processing and manufacturing of various products for local and export markets.”

Before the value of South Africa’s cannabis industry can be unlocked however, the department said that government needs to address a number of issues including regulations, the distribution of seeds, and education initiatives.

The department has identified ‘seven key pillars’ in its masterplan:


Effective regulatory systems

Focused on developing a new regulatory framework for both hemp and dagga.

“This might include amendment of existing legislation by removing constraints that are hindering commercialisation.”


Sustainable seed supply system 

Focused on the production, processing, packaging, and trade of seed and related products.

Key proposals include:

  • Compulsory registration – All companies and organisations involved in the breeding, multiplication, and sale of cannabis seed must be registered and have valid permits to conduct their activities.
  • Certification schemes – All cannabis seed producers, packers, and other role players will need to be included in a compulsory certification scheme. The schemes will ensure that all members comply with regulations regarding seed quality and all other related matters.
  • Import and export control systems – There is a need for import and export control systems and protocols for cannabis seed to be developed and implemented.
  • Variety control and listing – All cultivars of dagga and hemp will undergo testing to ensure their distinctiveness, uniformity, and stability before they are released for sale on the South African market.
  • Seed testing – Seed that is destined for the export market, as well as that for local markets, will be tested for quality and viability. This is aimed at ensuring that only high-quality seed is used locally as well as exported to other countries.

Research and development 

Focused on supporting research and development programs for the South African cannabis industry.

This will include breeding programs and the development of new technologies needed across the entire value chain.


Producer support systems 

Focused on mobilisation and supporting farmers to participate in the cannabis value chains. This also involves the inclusion of current “illegal” dagga growers into the formal system.

“The farmers will need to be supported in terms of cultivar choices, cultivation practices, pest and disease control, harvesting and post-harvest practices.

“There is also a need for dedicated funding for farmers participating in the cannabis industry. Financial support may in forms of grant funding, loans, equity, blended funding, etc.”


Market development 

Focused on developing new domestic and export markets for the South African cannabis industry.

Some of the proposals include:

  • Facilitate the development of the domestic market for cannabis products.
  • Facilitate and coordinate the opening of export markets for South African cannabis products.
  • Facilitate public sector procurement of cannabis products from resource-poor farmers and manufacturers.
  • Facilitate the development of appropriate market support infrastructures like processing plants and storage facilities.
  • Development and implementation of incentive programs to support the participation of resource-poor suppliers in the local and export markets for cannabis products.

Supplier development 

Focused on supporting a wide range of suppliers to participate in the cannabis value chains in order to ensure sustainable growth and development of this industry.

“The indigenous dagga growers and sellers should be included in the cannabis value chains. The same also apply to new small-scale growers from other poverty stricken areas of the country,” the department said.


Manufacturing and product development 

Focused on supporting the growth and development of the manufacturing sector for cannabis products.

“There is a need for investments in the establishment of manufacturing plants that will be used for producing food, medicine, beverages and a whole of other value-added products from raw material of both hemp and dagga,” the department said.

“The investments will come from government, private sector, donors, and state-owned entities.”


Education 

Focused on providing a framework on education and training matters in support of the cannabis industry

Measures under this pillar include the following:

  • Development and implementation of formal and informal training programs on cannabis-related matters across its value chains.
  • Integration of cannabis-related matters in curricula of schools, colleges, and universities.
  • Support cannabis education and training programs through the appropriate Sector Education and Training Authorities (SETAs).

Communication 

“Cannabis had been shrouded in controversy for many years,” the department said.

“This pillar is focused on communicating a clear and unambiguous message about the cannabis industry and related matters to all stakeholders and the general public.”

Intervention measures include:

  • Development and implementation of information and awareness programs. The core messages will be around demystifying some of the negative perceptions about hemp, dagga, and their products.
  • Promote consumer education and awareness regarding regulatory matters in order to promote compliance with government legislation and root out wrongdoers.

SA Turning Into Zimbabwe 2

The provincial government of the Western Cape will formally oppose the Draft Constitution Eighteenth Amendment Bill allowing for land expropriation, citing concerns around property rights and the economic damage the policy will cause.

The bill aims to amend the South African Constitution to expressly allow for expropriation without compensation the country. It succeeds a previous version of the amendment bill that was published in 2019 for public comment.

“We have, from the outset, opposed expropriation without compensation,” the Western Cape government said in a statement on Tuesday (24 August). “The right to property is an important right that cannot be done away with. The current amendment bill is also not only confusing and ambiguous but, on one possible reading, also seeks to exclude the important and constitutional role that courts should play in determining the amount of compensation paid.”

Premier of the Western Cape Alan Winde said that the bill also aims to further centralise power to the state by introducing the concept of ‘state custodianship’. In a country already impacted severely by corruption and maladministration, further centralising powers to that level of government would be detrimental, according to Winde.

A road to Zimbabwe 

One of the main concerns raised relates to the considerable economic impact expropriation without compensation will have. “The introduction of expropriation without compensation threatens to undermine the property rights of those who were previously disadvantaged and who have worked tirelessly to own their property,” the Western Cape government said.

“This policy will not address the slow pace of land reform and is unlikely to improve the livelihoods of those previously disadvantaged.”

It cited data where similar policies were implemented in countries like Portugal, Spain, Romania, Vietnam, Venezuela, Ethiopia, and Zimbabwe, where those countries experienced a 13.9% decline in their GDP which led to higher interest rates and public debt, reducing service delivery.

This clearly demonstrates that the policy will likely worsen the livelihoods of those previously disadvantaged, it said.

“It is well established that land distribution in South Africa is skewed and that this threatens to destabilise our society,” said the Western Cape’s minister of agriculture Ivan Meyer.

However, he said it is not the existing policy that has failed to create meaningful land reform but rather a lack of political will, poor implementation, corruption, and insufficient resources that is the cause of the problem.

“The amendment bill or proposed national legislation will not create meaningful land reform but rather risk exposing us to unintended spillover consequences.”


Government Pushes Forward With New Wage Agreement for Public Sector

The South African government said that it would forge ahead with the implementation of the new wage agreement in the public sector. On Monday, the deal received the majority of support from trade unions, although three others have refused to sign it.

However, according to the bargaining council rules, once unions with over 50% representation signed the agreement, it became legally binding and therefore the employer had to enforce it.

Director-General Yoliswa Makhasi, of the Department of Public Service and Administration, said that the government was ready to get back to the negotiation table to deal with outstanding matters which were not included in the agreement.

“There’s other work that we need to do that we’ve agreed on at the level of the Bargaining Council because remember, their demands were not just the issue of the cost of living adjustment, there are other issues that they’ve made demands on and we’ve agreed on to process those issues.”

The agreement secures the workers in the public service 1.5% pay progression and R1,000 cash allowance payments for a year. At R27 billion, the deal far exceeds the amount budgeted by the National Treasury.

Meanwhile, Makhasi said that they would continue to work with those unions that had refused to sign the agreement, saying there was “life after the deal”.

SAA May Resume Flights Soon

The reconfigured South African Airlines (SAA) said that it hoped to start resuming operations of its full passenger service in the coming weeks. The interim CEO of South African Airlines, Thomas Kgokolo, said that the Civil Aviation Authority was evaluating compliance before flights could take to the skies.

The struggling airline went through a controversial and costly business rescue process from 2019 after it collapsed due to gross financial mismanagement. It has since been repurposed through new ownership between the government and a private equity partner, which now holds the majority of the shares. Kgokolo said that the retraining of SAA pilots who would be part of the new operation had already been completed.

Kgokolo also said that they were in constant communication with partners on finalising what he termed “touch-ups”, saying that he hoped to make an announcement about passengers in the next few weeks. SAA subsidiaries, on the other hand, were facing a very difficult time, including those at Mango, who had been working without pay for more than two months.

Jordan Butler, Mango Pilot’s Association chairperson, said that the government had failed to deliver on promises of recapitalisation.

“We’ve offered the department a joint business rescue right from the get-go. It’s in the interest of everyone, not just the employees, but also the public interest,” he said.

SAA said that all the issues faced by its subsidiaries were receiving attention.

Gauteng and KZN Finally Stabilized after Riots

The government said that it had managed to stabilise the situation of unrest in KwaZulu-Natal and Gauteng, with many affected businesses once again fully operational. The Acting Minister in the Presidency Khumbudzo Ntshavheni also said that those suspected of being behind the unrest had been arrested and would appear in court this week.

Minister Ntshavheni on Monday gave an update on the situation following almost two weeks of looting and destruction of property in the two provinces. The minister said that instigators of the unrest which has resulted in the deaths of more than 200 people have been apprehended. Ntshavheni didn’t mention any names but a former Ukhozi FM DJ, Ngizwe Mchunu, handed himself over to police on Monday.

“This is the latest update that we just got in now. So we’ve got six arrests of the key instigators and of those arrested, three suspects have already appeared but have been remanded in police custody for bail hearings later in the week. We understand there may be an appearance tomorrow or two appearances tomorrow,” the minister said.

She also said that since the last briefing, the situation in Gauteng had completely stabilised and KwaZulu-Natal was also stable.

“In KwaZulu-Natal, the situation is now stable, and no new incidents of looting have been reported. However, three additional deaths have been reported,” she said.

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.

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