A round-up of the day’s news from South Africa.
GASA’S KILLER SENTENCED TO 30 YEARS IN PRISON
The man accused of killing Durban businessman Nhlanhla Gasa has received a 30 year jail sentence, with 20 years for murder, and 10 years for theft and malicious damage to property. Mbulelo Arthur Ntlauzana, in a statement read by his lawyer, Hycenth Mlothswa, said he stabbed Gasa to death after the businessman tried to seduce him. Ntlauzana said he visited Gasa – whom he regarded as a mentor – at his home in Durban and that while they were watching television. Gasa put his left hand on Ntlauzana’s lap. He refused the older man’s advances, and a fight ensued. Ntlauzana said Gasa attacked him with a bottle, and he defended himself with a knife from the kitchen. Gasa was repeatedly stabbed and his body found in the Tugela River.
SA TO CLOSE LOOPHOLE ALLOWING DRUGMAKERS ROLL OVER PATENTS
South Africa is to overhaul its intellectual property laws to improve access to cheaper medicines by making it harder for pharmaceutical firms to register and rollover patents for drugs. Central to the reforms is closing a loophole known as “ever-greening”, whereby drug companies slightly modify an existing drug whose patent is about to expire and then claim it is a new drug, thereby extending its patent protection and their profits. “We have a policy position that says ‘Let us have a strong system that will not grant easy patents,'” said MacDonald Netshitenzhe, head of policy at the Department of Trade and Industry. “Because if you grant easy patents, a weak patent, there will be people that take it a little bit forward and claim an extension on the original patent,” he told Reuters.
CONSTRUCTION INDUSTRY UNDER FIRE
South African construction companies have admitted to the Competition Commission that they were involved in bid rigging to the tune of R26 billion, Parliament’s portfolio committee on public works has heard. The companies were implicated in collusion on projects to build dams, stadia, mines, shopping centres and roads. Another 22 companies face action after not taking up an offer for the Commission to present their evidence of bid rigging. Construction Industry Development Board (CIDB) chairman Bafana Ndendwa told the committee said the Special Investigations Unit would “look for evidence of criminality and SARS will look at money changing hands. If the firms involved got leniency from the Competition Commission, it doesn’t mean that they’ll get leniency from other agencies”.
ACTION WILL BE TAKEN IF SADTU, COSATU TEACHERS MARCH
The Democratic Alliance and basic education minister Angie Motshekga agree on one thing: Sadtu and Cosatu’s urging of Grade 10 to 12 pupils and teachers to stay away from schools and join them in their planned illegal march to Parliament is an attack on the rights of learners. DA education spokeswoman Annette Lovemore said she would ask the Human Rights Commission to investigate both unions. ”I have tabled a motion that Parliament debate appropriate measures to prevent union activity from interfering with the constitutional right of our children to receive basic education,” Lovemore said. Motshekga said teachers who took part in the stay-away and marches would be prosecuted. But Lovemore wants Motshekga to take “decisive action and deal with SADTU’s illegal ‘work to rule’ campaign and disruptive picketing”. She accused Motshekga of dithering.
CORRUPTION WATCH CHOOSES ‘POLITICALLY DRIVEN’ CASES
Corruption Watch, the graft-busting agency allied with Cosatu secretary general Zwelinzima Vavi, is “meddling” in union affairs, says the labour federation’s president. Sdumo Dlamini told Business Day the organisation had deliberately entangled itself in union power battles and had chosen to investigate “politically driven cases”. Vavi and Dlamini are believed to be at odds over Cosatu’s relationship with the ruling ANC with Dlamini backing President Jacob Zuma and Vavi outspoken on issues of government corruption and policy. Corruption Watch set up by the federation, was established early last year to probe corruption. Vavi serves on the watchdog’s board.
NPA OPERATING ON R200-MILLION BUDGET SHORTFALL
The National Prosecuting Authority is operating under a budget shortfall of R200 million, Sapa reported. An NPA deputy national director of the unit, Willie Hofmeyr, told MPs the organisation couldn’t fill vacancies or staff specialised courts. Hofmeyr said the lack of funding was the result of forced over-spending on salaries and bonuses. “The reality is our capacity is decreasing. Vacancies that arise are not filled. When we lose experienced people, we cannot replace them,” Hofmeyr told Parliament’s portfolio committee on justice. New NPA CEO Karen van Rensburg explained the over-spending last year was due to implementing the public service’s occupation specific dispensation for legal staff, which widened the gap between different salary levels. She said the trend was set to continue.
TODDLER DIES AFTER EXPOSURE TO HAZARDOUS WASTE
A toddler has died in Cape Town after being exposed to hazardous waste illegally dumped in a field in Delft. Three-year-old Jordan Lewis and other children came into contact with a substance that included sodium chlorate, sodium nitrate and sodium phosphate, chemicals used in the food and cosmetic industries. Police spokesman Frederick van Wyk said police were searching the area for clues as to who was responsible for disposing the waste that resulted in the death of Lewis and the hospitalisation of other children in the area. Van Zyl said the children had been taken to nearby hospitals for decontamination.
PICK N PAY TO AIM AT LOWER INCOME MARKET
The new chief executive of Pick ‘n Pay plans to win back market share by cutting prices, a risky strategy for a retailer already hurt by weak margins, Reuters reports. Richard Brasher, the former head of Tesco’s UK unit, who joined Pick n Pay as chief executive this year, has inherited a company with sliding profit and the thinnest operating margin in its industry. The company reported a 31% drop in full year earnings. “It is quite clear that we have, as company, spent too much and to date delivered too little on the investments we made,” Brasher told a results presentation in Cape Town. “We should be a determined discount operator,” he said, adding the grocer would increase its focus on South Africa’s millions of lower-income shoppers. DM
Photo: A man (L) walks past a branch of South African retailer Pick n Pay in Johannesburg October 20, 2010. (REUTERS)
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