South Africa

FIVE MINUTES: South Africa

By Daily Maverick Staff Reporter 21 January 2013

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

GOVERNMENT PAYS HEFTY PRICE FOR NEW AGE BREAKFASTS

Transnet, Eskom and the SABC are bankrolling business breakfasts being hosted by The New Age, a newspaper owned by the Gupta family, close friends of President Jacob Zuma. City Press reported that the state-owned companies have paid up to R25-million for the high-level breakfasts at which speakers such as Zuma, public enterprises minister Malusi Gigaba and justice minister Jeff Radebe have addressed the guests. According to the newspaper, Transnet paid R17.5 and Eskom R7.2 million. The SABC’s contribution came in the form of free broadcasting of the breakfasts on Morning Live. The information came to light after DA MP Kenneth Mubu submitted a parliamentary question to Gigaba.

GWANGA PLACED UNDER PROVISIONAL CURATORSHIP

Lesiba Gwanga, a close comrade of former ANC Youth League president, Julius Malema, has been provisionally placed under curatorship. The move is an attempt by the South African Revenue Service (SARS) to recoup millions in unpaid taxes, according to the Sunday Independent. Gwanga allegedly owes income tax and VAT from 2007. He owns properties and vehicles worth millions of rands, and seven companies including On Point Engineering in which Malema was involved. His properties include a stand on a luxury golf estate, a flat in Cape Town’s CBD, a farm in Limpopo and several houses in Pretoria.

OUTRAGE OVER RHINOS BEING NEWSMAKERS OF THE YEAR

South Africans have reacted with outrage at the National Press Club’s decision to make the rhino South Africa’s 2012 newsmaker of the year. Even the Club’s chairman, Yusuf Abramjee, said on Twitter he was “surprised and shocked” at the announcement. Users of the social network listed the death of 45 people during the Marikana mine strikes, the Limpopo textbook scandal, e-tolls and the furore over President Jacob Zuma’s private home in Nkandla as more worthy winners of the award. Aon, an insurance outfit that insures rhino, sponsored the award.

ZUMA IGNORED ADVICE OF COMMANDERS IN CAR DEPLOYMENT

President Jacob Zuma ignored the advice of several of his top military commanders when he sent 400 troops to the Central African Republic (CAR). The Sunday Independent says commanders advised Zuma to withdraw the small military force already in the CAR for purposes of training troops in the country as rebel forces drew closer to the capital. Instead, Zuma deployed a further 400 SANDF personnel, mostly paratroopers and Special Forces, the newspaper reported. Zuma said the deployment was justified in terms of a 2007 agreement with the CAR to help train the military.

ANSWERS NEEDED ON ‘ASTRONOMICAL’ MINISTERIAL RENOVATIONS

Nearly R65 million has been spent by the department of public works on renovating the homes of minister and deputy ministers in the last financial year. DA MP Anchen Dreyer says public works minister Thulas Nxesi should explain the expenditure, since “some of the amounts spent on renovating just one house are, frankly, astronomical”, she said. The Sunday Times reports R15 million was spent rural development minister Gugile Nkwinti’s house, R10.67 million on deputy transport minister Lydia Chikunga’s house, and around R5 million on upgrades to agriculture minister Tina Joemat-Pettersson’s allocated home.

ESKOM WITHDRAWS OBJECTIONS TO GLENCORE/XTRATA DEAL

Eskom has withdrawn its objections to commodities trader Glencore’s takeover of miner Xstrata, removing one of the potential hurdles to the $33 billion deal. Reuters reports Glencore pushed back the date for completion of the long-awaited tie-up to 15 March, citing lengthy regulatory processes in South Africa and China. Eskom, which was concerned the deal could affect its coal supplies, said it dropped the objections after agreeing a framework for discussion with Glencore on the issue. Xstrata is one of South Africa’s biggest coal producers and a key supplier of the fuel to Eskom. Glencore is still waiting for the go-ahead for the deal from antitrust authorities in South Africa and China, having already received a conditional approval from European regulators.

PUBLIC PROTECTOR MUST INVESTIGATE EDISON POWER DEAL

The DA says the Public Protector’s office should investigate the awarding of Johannesburg’s R1.25 billion smart meter contract to the Edison Corporation. Spokesman Mmusi Maimane was reacting to a report in the Mail & Guardian that revealed one of President Jacob Zuma’s benefactors, Vivian Reddy, had won the lucrative contract. “It is concerning that the Edison Corporation is owned and operated by Vivian Reddy, who is a known friend and benefactor of the ANC. Edison was reportedly also not the most cost-effective bid, nor did the company have prior experience in this field,” Maimane said.

MOTSHEKGA LOSES NWC POSITION

Basic education minister Angie Motshekga has been left out of the ANC’s powerful 26-member National Working Committee (NWC). The move came as a surprise as Motshekga is known as a strong supporter of President Jacob Zuma and was elected to the post-Polokwane NWC. Motshekga continues deny responsibility for the Limpopo textbook disaster last year in which the province failed to deliver thousands of books to learners. Other members of the party’s National Executive Committee who lost their positions on the NWC include Tony Yengeni, Pallo Jordan and speaker Max Sisulu. DM

Photo: President Jacob Zuma ignored the advice of several of his top military commanders when he sent 400 troops to the Central African Republic (CAR). 

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