South Africa

FIVE MINUTES: South Africa

By Simon Allison 19 June 2013

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

SOUTH AFRICA CONDEMNS SPYING AS ABUSE OF HUMAN RIGHTS

The South African government wants answers from Britain over reports that delegates attending the 2009 Group 20 meeting were put under surveillance. Documents leaked by former spy Edward Snowden showed that South African, Russian and Turkish officials, among others, were targeted using state-of-the-art surveillance equipment. “We do not yet have the full benefit of details reported on, but in principle we would condemn the abuse of privacy and basic human rights, particularly if it emanates from those who claim to be democrats,” said international relations spokesman Clayson Monyela. “We have solid, strong and cordial relations with the United Kingdom and would call on their government to investigate this matter fully with a view to take strong and visible action against any perpetrators.”

MARIKANA STORE RAN OUT OF PANGAS AND AXES

A storekeeper in Marikana ran out of pangas and axes during last year’s mining unrest that resulted in the death of 44 people. The Farlam Commission of inquiry into the massacre heard demand for weapons increased, as the unprotected strike continued. “There was a sudden great demand for pangas, axes and hatchets from August 11,” said general dealer, Mohammed Cassim, in a statement. “I usually kept at least 30 pangas in the shop at a time, but they ran out in no time and I had to go buy more stock.” Cassim’s statement was handed over to the commission, which would decide later whether to call him to testify.

GAUTENG PREMIER LABELS COP KILLING A ‘SENSELESS’ CRIME

A high-ranking Gauteng police commander has been found dead in a field near Hammanskraal, police reported. The body of Major-General Tirhani Simon Maswanganyi was discovered in the early hours of the morning with his hands and feet tied, said Gauteng commissioner Lieutenant-General Mzwandile Petros. Gauteng Premier Nomvula Mokonyane said his death was a “senseless blow to the province’s war against crime”.  Police who spotted Maswanganyi’s abandoned Isuzu bakkie next to the R101 found his body. They found a police uniform and police identification card in the bakkie, which set in motion a search for the policeman.

OVERTIME RULES KILLING GAUTENG HOSPITAL PATIENTS

Patients are dying in Gauteng’s hospitals due to a cut in the overtime allowed by the province’s health department, says the general secretary of the Democratic Nurses’ Organisation of South Africa, Simphiwe Gada. The department prohibits doctors from earning more than 30% of their salary in overtime pay. It also slashed nurses’ overtime, saying it was trying to cut down on irregular expenditure. Gada says the cutbacks and staff shortages have led to the deaths of at least five patients. Doctors say health MEC Hope Papo was aware of the problems, but “nothing has been done”, said spokesman Courage Khoza.

HOUSES IN DISTRICT SIX ILLEGALLY OCCUPIED BY FAMILIES

District Six is at the centre of a land claim row as a group of Khoisan people, who say they are the original land claimants of the District Six land, illegally occupied houses on the contested land. The Western Cape High Court granted the department of rural development and land reform an interim court order to evict the group of illegal occupants, but they have refused to leave. Head of communications, Vuyani Nkasayi, said the group “forcefully moved into the houses and illegally occupied 15 houses late on Saturday”. The Argus reported some in the group of around 60 people claim ancestry from the original Khoisan inhabitants of Table Bay, while others say they are land claimants whose families were evicted from District Six under apartheid.

VIOLENT CRIME COVERS SA IN ‘BLANKET OF FEAR’

Government says violent crime is preventing South Africans from participating socially and economically in the country, Sapa reported. A green paper on policing written by the police civil secretariat says in addition to R68-billion in tax money spent annually on the South African Police Service (SAPS), violent crime also cost the country in terms of loss of productivity and foreign investment. “Crime in South Africa is a blanket of fear that has an inhibitory effect on everything,” Dr Johan Burger, senior researcher at the Institute for Security Studies (ISS), told the agency.

FISHERMEN TO PAY SA MILLIONS FOR ILLEGAL ROCK LOBSTER HARVEST

A New York court has ordered three men to repay South Africa over R225-million after they unlawfully imported illegally harvested rock lobster into the US. The department of fisheries welcomed the decision, saying the move was the “largest restitution amount ever awarded under the Lacey Act”, a law that makes it a crime to import into the US fish, wildlife or plants taken in violation of another country’s laws. Arnold Bengis, Jeffrey Noll and David Bengis were ordered to pay “following extensive, unlawful harvesting of south and west coast rock lobster in South African water”. The department said the men “under-reported catches, bribed fisheries’ inspectors and submitted false information to the department”.

EASTERN CAPE PUPIL TAKES EDUCATION MINISTER TO COURT

A child at a school in the Eastern Cape has taken education minister Angie Motshekga to court over conditions at her school. Moshesh Senior Secondary School pupil Palesa Manyokole wants the Bhisho High Court to take action against those responsible for standards at her school, said NGO Equal Education. The NGO said pupils at the school had written to them for help. “Equal Education visited the school to assess the situation and found several problems at the school which were seriously hampering learner progress,” the NGO said in a statement. Problems included absenteeism of the principal, the principal’s unlawful expulsion of pupils, teacher absenteeism and lateness, a shortage of qualified teachers and no curriculum planning. EE said despite several attempts to get the Eastern Cape education department to address the children’s concerns, no action had been taken, forcing them to take the case to court.

Photo: Marikana protesters, 13 August 2012 (Greg Marinovich)

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