19 November 2012

South Africa: Five Minutes - South Africa

A round-up of the weekend’s news from South Africa.


The country’s top prosecutors wanted to proceed with the corruption case against President Jacob Zuma, despite the existence of the ‘spy tapes’ that ultimately saw the case against him dismissed. This emerged in a report in the Sunday Times, which won a last-ditch attempt on Saturday night by the National Prosecuting Authority (NPA) to prevent the paper from publishing the story. The newspaper was given 300 pages of leaked documents that included confidential memorandums and details of secret representations made by Zuma’s lawyers to the NPA that prosecutors saw as an attempt to "blackmail" them into dropping the charges by threatening to release information on the tapes that would be embarrassing to the National Prosecuting Authority (NPA).


President Jacob Zuma’s emotional protests in Parliament last week that he had a bond on Nkandla that he was paying off have been called into question. City Press newspaper reported that there was no bond on the luxurious estate. It said King Goodwill Zwelethini’s Ingonyama Trust owns the land on which Zuma’s home is built. The newspaper said it had been “unable to locate public records to support the president’s claim that the Nkandla property is bonded”. The newspaper quoted Belinda Benson, the Ingonyama Trust’s property manager, as confirming that the deeds office records uncovered by City Press were for the Zuma homestead, and that “as far as she was aware, no bond had been registered against the property”.


Another farmworker has been killed as violent protests in the Western Cape’s agricultural sector continue. Bongile Ndleni was found dead in his home after being discharged from hospital on Friday. Police spokesman Andre Traut said the man’s death was not the result of police action, as in the case of Michael Daniels, who was allegedly shot dead by police on Wednesday. Traut said “individuals driving an LDV” shot Ndleni on a farm in the Prince Alfred Hamlet area. Despite a deal brokered by Cosatu to suspend the strikes for two weeks to allow the labour department to address the issue of changing the basic minimum wage, violent outbreaks continued around the province.


The Commission for Gender Equality has found that 22 girls in the Bergville district in KwaZulu-Natal were abducted and forced into marriage in a practise known as ukuthwala. The commission released the results of its investigation in Durban that revealed how various government departments responded to ukuthwala. The Commission’s researcher, Taryn Powys, told the Weekend Witness what was happening to the girls was a “crime, pure and simple: and that the traditional practice of ukuthwala should not be confused with the criminal activities being perpetrated by young men and the parents of young girls who force them to marry”.


South Africa’s energy minister’s refusal to make public its Integrated Nuclear Infrastructure Review (INIR) has led Greenpeace Africa and the South African History Archives to lodge a formal complaint with the Public Protector and the SA Human Rights Commission. The review was commissioned by the department of energy to assess the country’s readiness to build nuclear power stations. Greenpeace Africa energy campaigner Ferrial Adam said South Africa had neither the money nor the skills to develop nuclear power. "The continued secrecy and lack of engagement with civil society will lead to poor governance and corruption as we have already witnessed in the arms deal. The issue of transparency is a critical one,” Adam said in a statement.


A task team headed by former home affairs minister, Nkosazana Dlamini Zuma, to look in local government irregularities for the ANC says that the party's membership system has been manipulated. The Sunday Independent reported that candidate lists were changed and tampered with, and unknown candidates were imposed on members. Government services were reportedly withheld from communities that did not select councillors they were told to. The task team handed over its report to the ANC’s national executive committee at its meeting this weekend.


Helen Zille has visited the family of Sihle Sikoji, a 19-year-old woman who was killed apparently because she was a lesbian. The Premier said the attack on Sikoli highlighted the “scourge of hate crimes against lesbian women, and LGBT people more broadly, that continues to ravage our communities, leaving devastated families in their wake”. Luleki Sizwe, an organisation that supports lesbian, bisexual and transgender women, said Sikoji was stabbed because of her sexual orientation. Zille met with Luleki Sizwe founder and director, Ndumie Funda.


Journalist Mzilikazi wa Afrika will be paid R100,000 by police minister, Nathi Mthethwa, who has conceded that the arrest of the Sunday Times journalist was wrongful. The ministry will also pay the newspaper's legal costs. Wa Afrika was arrested shortly after the Sunday Times published a story exposing then police commissioner Bheki Cele's involvement in a dodgy lease deal for new police headquarters in Pretoria. Cele has subsequently been fired following several investigations, which upheld the truthfulness of the story. Editor Ray Hartley said his arrest was " a full-frontal assault on the freedom to report on corruption and it is comforting that the minister has acknowledged the arrest was wrongful”.


The DA has asked the Red Cross Air Mercy Services to confirm whether the helicopter flight taken by KZN Health MEC Sibongiseni Dhlomo was a medical emergency, or not. Dhlomo was recently found to have commandeered a medical helicopter that was needed to airlift a15-year old car crash victim Asheen Maharaj to hospital, who was later declared brain dead on arrival at hospital. The DA’S Patricia Kunene said AMS group CEO, John Stone should “also confirm how many medical emergencies were reported in the metro on that day. There may well be similar horrific tragedies that would have been caused by the power abuse of MEC Dhlomo”.

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