A round-up of the day's news from South Africa.
CONGO REBELS ARRESTED IN LIMPOPO
Police have arrested 19 suspected Congolese rebels, including two senior members of the M23 group, on suspicion of running an illegal military operation in Limpopo. Reuters reports the group may have been training for a military attack on Congo's government, according to a law enforcement source who asked not to be named. The group was taken into custody after an investigation by a crime intelligence unit. "More arrests might be coming," said police spokesman Lindela Mashigo. The 19 suspects are expected to appear in a Pretoria court this week to face a charge under the Foreign Military Assistance act. The M23 rebels, who launched their offensive after accusing President Joseph Kabila of reneging on the terms of a March 2009 peace agreement, have broadened their goals to include ousting Kabila and "liberation" of the whole of Congo.
UNIONS OPPOSED TO EDUCATION AS AN ESSENTIAL SERVICE
The ANC’s decision to make strikes illegal for teachers in an effort to improve the education system has been met with dismay by unions. "If you disrupt education, though you are not threatening life and limb, you do threaten the growth and the survival of society," ANC secretary general Gwede Mantashe said. The South African Democratic Teachers’ Union said the ANC was looking only at the symptoms rather than the cause of the crisis in education such as a badly trained work force, a lack of teaching materials and - in some cases - a lack of classrooms. The Congress of South African Students (Cosas) said it was against education being declared an essential service. "As much as learners have a right to education, teachers have a right to demonstrate," secretary-general Tshiamo Tsotetsi told reporters. Cosatu has threatened “mass action” to protest the decision.
ANC LOSES WARDS AT LOCAL LEVEL
The African National Congress is losing by-elections to independent or opposition parties, a survey by the Institute of Race Relations has shown. Researcher Georgina Alexander said “local level is where voters are able to hold their representatives directly accountable”. She said the fact that opposition parties and independent candidates are gaining wards while the ANC is losing them “is a sign of people using democracy to bring about change”. Data from the Independent Electoral Commission showed that between May 2011 and November 2012, the ANC lost six wards and the NFP lost one. The DA achieved a net gain of three wards and Cope a net gain of one. The DA managed to win five wards from the ANC while the ANC won two from the DA. The Inkatha Freedom Party (IFP) gained Nkandla (KwaZulu-Natal) in December 2012.
SOUTH AFRICA’S UNEMPLOYEMENT RATE DECLINES
South Africa’s unemployment rate declined to 24.9% in the fourth quarter of 2012, from 25.5% in the previous quarter. Speaking at the release of the results of the Quarterly Labour Force Survey – a household-based survey initiated in 2008 – for the fourth quarter of 2012, deputy director general of Statistics SA, Kefiloe Masiteng said, “Unemployment declined by 166,000 to 4.5 million in the fourth quarter of 2012, resulting in the unemployment rate declining to 24.9% from 25.5% in the previous quarter”. Stats SA said despite the strikes in the mining industry, no job losses were observed over the course of the quarter in the industry, but that there was a sharp increase in absenteeism.
SHABANGU: GOVERNMENT COMMITTED TO MINING INDUSTRY
Mineral resources minister Susan Shabangu has told delegates attending the Mining Indaba in Cape Town that South Africa is committed to creating a thriving and successful mining industry. Shabangu reiterated that nationalisation was off the table, and said government was “fully conscious of the reality that mineral development cannot happen unless capital is invested by the private sector”. But she warned mining companies to address the “historical structure of the mining sector” to avoid a “repeat of Marikana”. DA mining spokesman, James Lorimer, said Shabangu had “done a good job of pretending everything is hunky-dory” but that she’d “lost touch with reality”. He said the real problem in the sector was the “toxic combination of a government that does not understand the economic realities of the industry, and trade unions more interested in their own power and money than the jobs of their members”.
DA HAS NO CONFIDENCE IN MAPHETLE’S LUXURY MERCEDES
While the ANC in the Tlokwe municipality are threatening a vote of no confidence in DA mayor Annette Combrink, the Democratic Alliance is referring the previous ANC mayor’s purchase of a Mercedes costing R736,000 to the auditor general. ANC mayor, Maphetle Maphetle, was ousted late last year via a vote of no confidence. Now the ANC is threatening to do the same to Combrink. In the meantime, DA MP for Tlokwe, Juanita Terblanche, said Combrink would use her VW Passat for mayoral duties. The Maphetle Merc was delivered recently, after being fitted with luxury customisations such as rosewood interiors and leather seats. Terblanche said the DA would request the AG to make recommendations on how the exorbitant cost of the car can be recouped by the municipality.
MEC ASKS FOR PROBE INTO MALEMA FRIENDS’ LIMPOPO TENDERS
Limpopo’s co-operative governance MEC has challenged the public protector and the auditor-general to investigate allegations that his department had awarded tenders to friends of former ANC Youth League president, Julius Malema. City Press reports that Clifford Motsepe has denied officials in his department awarded over R900 million worth of contracts to Malema’s friends, or that they withheld bank guarantees from other bidders, resulting in their disqualification. Motsepe said when he read the story in The Star, he “asked the AG and the public protector to investigate these allegations not because I believe them to be true, but because I have every reason to believe that they are false”.
GAUTENG POLICE MELT WEAPONS
Gauteng police have destroyed thousands of guns and knives. The weapons were melted down at ArcelorMittal's steel processing plant in Vereeniging. The province’s deputy police commissioner, Major General Phumzo Gela, said the destruction of the firearms “means that many lives will be saved”. The weapons included rifles, pistols, knives, swords and axes. Some had been confiscated after police searches while others had been used in the commission of crimes, but that they’d been through ballistics testing and other processes before being destroyed. DM
Photo: Julius Malema (REUTERS)