South Africa

FIVE MINUTES: South Africa

By Daily Maverick Staff Reporter 14 March 2013

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


Parliament’s speaker, Max Sisulu, has told MPs the government task team’s report on spending at President Jacob Zuma’s private home in Nkandla was due to be tabled “soon”. Sisulu said public works minister Thulas Nxesi had asked him to make the announcement. The task team was appointed late last year after a public outcry over the reported R206 million spent on security upgrades at Nkandla. Sapa reports the news was welcomed by the DA, who said the full report “with no omissions or deletions” must be tabled, scrutinised and debated, and that action must be taken against all those implicated in any wrongdoing.


The Eastern Cape MEC for education has outraged civil society activists with his comments that children don’t have rights. The Daily Dispatch reports that Mandla Makupula told children attending a debating contest in the Bhisho legislature that while they were dependent on their parents for food and shelter, they had no rights. Those came “later in life when you are independent, finished studying and have your own place to stay and your own car. That is when you can start talking about rights”. He called into question the case of a boy who took his father to court over forcing him to attend initiation school. Makupula said he would have “hit him on the head with a knobkerrie and he would have gone to that school crying”.


The long-running Medupi strike is over and workers are expected to return to work on Thursday. National Union of Metal Workers of South Africa (Numsa) general secretary Irvin Jim said the union, contractors and Eskom reached a resolution on the disputed project labour agreement and bonuses. Agreement had been reached earlier in the week, but workers went back on strike after one day over bonuses. Workers were angry over how their year-end bonuses had been worked out, claiming this should have been done on the basis of a six-day week, not a five-day week. They also objected to workers living in the area being paid less than those from Johannesburg. Jim said part of the agreement to end the strike was that workers should get a once-off payment of R2000, plus a month’s salary. 


The regional secretary of the Pan Africanist Congress of Azania has told Metrorail commuters would burn the Gautrain if their demands for an improved rail service in Pretoria weren’t met.  Albert Mokoena informed transport department deputy director general Maria du Toit Metrorail had until 28 March to respond. He said commuters had “resolved amongst ourselves that it is really not good for us to burn our own trains [the Metrorail trains]”. He said he was aware that he was on record and that he was doing so deliberately. Mokoena said the Gautrain was not for ordinary commuters, but for rich people. “We will burn those nice trains which speak English inside them. This is not a threat. I am a politician and I use political language.”


Twelve Gripen fighter jets bought as part of the arms deal more than a decade ago are in long-term storage. “One of the biggest scandals of the Arms Deal is that we bought military equipment we could not afford to operate,” said DA spokesman on defence, David Maynier. Defence minister Nosiviwe Mapisa-Nqakula told parliament the South African Air Force (SAAF) has 12 Gripens in “long-term storage” and that their utilisation was dependent on ”budget expenditure patterns/flow of SAAF”. Maynier scoffed at the minister’s response to the parliamentary question. “The 12 Gripen fighter jets in long-term storage are presumably vacuum-packed, like frozen chickens, in a hanger somewhere in South Africa,” he said, adding they were supposed to provide the air combat capability for the SAAF.


Small textile factories owned by Chinese and Taiwanese families in Newcastle have won a court bid exempting them from National Bargaining Council agreements on wages. Bloomberg News reported a group of five Taiwanese-owned companies and the United Clothing and Textile Association, which represents some producers, asked the Pietermaritzburg High Court to set aside minimum wages set by the council and extended across the industry. Judge Piet Koen ruled non-members of the council could hold separate talks with workers on pay levels. The companies had threatened to close factories if they were forced to adhere to national labour regulations. Koen said the National Bargaining Council represents less than half of employees in the clothing industry.


Rights organisation Section27 has welcomed the new powers given to the Competition Commission by President Jacob Zuma, which allow it to conduct market inquiries. “The market inquiry should be conducted in an open and transparent manner and should be open to the public, while having regard to potentially sensitive information held by the various stakeholders,” Section 27 said in a statement. A market inquiry is a formal inquiry into the state of competition in a market for particular goods or services. Now the commission has the power to launch probes if it believes any feature of a market for products or services distorted or restricted competition within that market. Outcomes could include advising the minster for new or amended policy, legislation or recommendations.


Immediate action is needed to end the “pillaging of state coffers”, says the DA spokesman on public service and administration. Kobus Marais was responding to the release of the Auditor-General’s Audit Report for 2011/12 that showed contracts to the value of R141 million were awarded to suppliers in which close family members of employees of the entities had an interest. He welcomed public service minister Lindiwe Sisulu “tough stance” on public sector corruption, and called on her to publicly support the DA’s Private Members Legislation that aims to regulate the business interests of state employees. DM

Photo of Zuma’s Nkandla compound by Reuters.


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