["South Africa","World","Maverick Citizen"] safety-and-belonging

Lead poisoning Part Two: Scientists find toxic metals in SA kitchenware

In the first part of this series on lead poisoning, Spotlight explored new research suggesting that lead exposure is far more damaging to cardiovascular health than previously thought. In Part Two, he takes a look at the sources of lead poisoning in South Africa, where the metal has been found in products ranging from cooking pots to serving plates.
  • Ceramic plates and bowls bought from South African chain stores are coated in glaze containing lead, a toxic heavy metal.
  • It is estimated that 7.8 million children in South Africa have lead poisoning.
  • Lead can come from lead-based paint, traditional ayurvedic medicines, fishing sinkers, lead ammunition and gold mining waste facilities.
  • Ceramics may leach lead into food or water prepared in them, and production of these items may also cause harm through airborne lead dust.
A 2020 study concluded that artisanal aluminium pots are a likely source of lead exposure in the country, which are used in households and in some school feeding programmes. (Photo: Congerdesign via Pixabay / Spotlight)

Read Part One here: What is behind the shocking number of deaths linked to lead poisoning?

A small study published in September found that some ceramic plates and bowls bought from South African chain stores are coated in glaze that contains lead, a toxic heavy metal that can damage multiple organs when consumed. 

The paper comes in the wake of research finding that due to its harmful effects on the cardiovascular system, lead exposure is linked to the deaths of between 2.3 and 8.2 million people a year worldwide (these findings are dissected in Part 1 of this Spotlight series on lead poisoning). 

It is estimated that about 7.8 million children in South Africa (aged 0-14) have lead poisoning, which is about 53% of all young people in that age range.

This means that they have more than five micrograms of lead per 100ml of blood, the clinical threshold for lead poisoning set by the National Institute for Communicable Diseases.

lead poisoning

An estimated 7.8 million children in South Africa have lead poisoning, which increases their risk of health problems. (Photo: Black Star / Spotlight)

Lead increases the risk of health problems at any level; however, if a healthcare worker finds that a patient exceeds this threshold, then this indicates the problem is severe enough to notify the health department

But why are children in SA exposed to so much lead?

Scientists from the South African Medical Research Council (SAMRC) have found several sources over the past two decades. These include lead-based paints (which can chip and generate lead dust which people inhale), certain traditional ayurvedic medicines that contain lead, fishing sinkers (which are sometimes melted down, producing toxic fumes), lead ammunition (which can generate lead dust when fired and may contaminate hunted game meat), as well as gold mining waste facilities, which can contaminate the surrounding soil.

The recent paper on ceramics adds to a growing body of evidence that cookware and crockery also likely play a role.

Toxic pottery 

Research for the new paper was conducted in 2018 when SAMRC scientists purchased 44 randomly selected plates and bowls from six large retail chain stores in Johannesburg. After testing the glaze, they found that almost 60% of the items contained more than the maximum amount of lead recommended by the United Nations – 0.009% of total content.

Indeed, the average item contained about 47 times this amount.

Glaze is a liquid coating that is applied to ceramic to make it shinier and more durable. Once it’s coated, the ceramic is fired, leaving it with a glossy sheen. 

Lead is often used in these glazes to add extra colour and increase water resistance, but if the ceramic isn’t heated at a high enough temperature, the glaze won’t completely solidify. 

In the case of ceramic crockery, this means that lead may run off into food or water prepared in these dishes, particularly if they are used for cooking or simply holding acidic foods. 

This is precisely what has happened throughout parts of Mexico. 

Research in that country found children have higher amounts of lead in their blood if they live in households where food is prepared in lead-glazed pottery (a result which researchers have found repeatedly). 

Recently, health inspectors in the US linked cases of lead poisoning to the use of ceramic cookware bought in Mexico. After the affected individuals stopped using the ceramics, their blood-lead levels went down. 

To test whether lead is leaching off the South African ceramics, the SAMRC researchers left an acidic solution in the plates and bowls. When they returned 24 hours later, lead was found to have run off only one of the 44 items. 

Angela Mathee, head of the SAMRC’s Environment and Health Research Unit and the paper’s lead author, says that while this is comforting, the results may be deceiving.

“Our speculative concern is that, particularly for people who are poor and keep their ceramic ware for a very long time, with knocks and cracks and wear and tear over the years, it’s possible that the product could start leaching – even if it wasn’t at the time of purchase. Though that is untested.”

A second caveat is that of the 44 bowls and plates, only one was originally made in South Africa, and it’s this item that released lead. 

Additionally, even if lead-based ceramics don’t leach, the production of these items may still cause harm.

For instance, a study in Brazil found that children who simply lived near artisanal pottery workshops were more likely to have high amounts of lead in their blood. Caregivers of these children did not report having any lead-glazed ceramics or being involved in pottery making. Thus, researchers suspect that children were simply breathing in lead dust generated by the nearby potters. 

Lead leaching from cooking pots

Although this is the first time lead has been found in ceramic glazes in South Africa, other kinds of kitchenware products have previously been shown to contain the metal. 

In 2020, researchers published a study in which they purchased 20 cooking pots from informal traders and artisanal manufacturers across South Africa. Each pot was made from recycled aluminium. 

They found lead in every pot, and some also contained dangerous amounts of arsenic (a known carcinogenic). 

The researchers cut the pots up and boiled a piece from each one in an acidic solution. They found that 11 out of the 20 pieces leached more lead than the maximum permissible limit set by the EU. (The experiment was repeated twice more on the same metal pieces, with similar results). 

Thus, the authors conclude that artisanal aluminium pots are a likely source of lead exposure in the country. The issue may extend past individual households, as the SAMRC has documented the use of artisanal aluminium pots in school feeding programmes. 

Not only can lead-based artisanal pots cause lead poisoning by leaching into food, but researchers note that simply manufacturing them is likely to generate lead dust. 

In a small follow-up study on informal metal workshops in KwaZulu-Natal and Limpopo, it was found that workers had a lot more lead dust on their hands at the end of the day than at the start. 

It’s also possible that production facilities like these end up contaminating nearby residential areas. 

A 2018 study in the Johannesburg suburb of Bertrams found that nearly a third of all garden soil samples contained dangerous amounts of lead (i.e. lead levels that exceeded South Africa’s guidelines for safe soil). 

The scientists hypothesised that one reason may be that various cottage industries, including scrap metal recyclers, are interspersed among suburban homes. 

Are regulations on lead being ignored? 

South Africa has already taken legislative steps to deal with lead coatings. 

In the 2000s, a number of alarming studies found lead-based paints covering homes and playground equipment in public parks across several cities. 

In response, a law came into effect in 2009 that made it illegal to sell household paint or glaze that is more than 0.06% lead. 

Draft regulations published in 2021 will further slash this limit to 0.009% in line with recommendations by the UN. These will only become enforceable once the finalised regulations are gazetted.  

Though evidence is scant, these laws may have had a positive effect. 

A study last year found that paints sold by large companies in Botswana, but manufactured in South Africa, were all below the lead threshold set by the 2009 law (and broadly in line with the new draft regulations as well). 

However, the research on ceramics suggests the regulations have not always been adhered to, at least not when it comes to glazes. The only South African-made piece of crockery which was tested in the study described earlier had a coating that contained over 100 times the amount of lead legally permissible under the 2009 law (despite the tests being conducted nine years after it was passed). 

If additional research finds that the problem is widespread, then Mexico’s experience may offer one path forward. There, a ban on lead glaze has long gone unenforced

NGOs in parts of the country have responded by assisting artisanal potters to switch to lead-free glazes and to develop higher-temperature kilns (which would prevent metals from leaching). This has been coupled with public awareness campaigns about the harms of lead-based pottery and a certification programme for potters using lead-free coatings. 

But stakeholders say the government needs to play its part as well. 

The South African Paint Manufacturing Association (Sapma) has previously urged the government to do more to enforce its regulations. In 2021 they stated that “random samples taken from hardware shelves by the government regularly showed that hazardous levels of paint were still being sold. But no report of any offender being charged by the police appeared in the press.”

The National Department of Health had not responded to a request for comment at the time of publication. 

However, the executive director of Sapma, Tara Benn, says: “I believe manufacturers are adhering to the current regulation and most if not all have already adopted the new regulation of less than 90 parts per million [i.e. 0.009%], but this regulation has not been published as yet.” 

Data and investment needed

Except for a few (mostly wealthy) nations like the United States, very few countries run nationally representative blood-lead surveys. In countries like South Africa, researchers have only been able to make very rough calculations about how many people have lead poisoning by pooling together different studies done in particular communities. 

As a result, policymakers lack good data about the extent of the problem. 

National blood-lead monitoring schemes would also allow health officials to work out which communities are most affected, which, in turn, could help them identify the sources of lead exposure. 

Bjorn Larsen, an environmental economist who consults for the World Bank, explains: “The first thing that needs to be done is we have to get in place routine blood-lead measurements that are nationally representative… 

“This can be done by adding a [blood-lead] module to existing routine household surveys, for example, Unicef’s Multiple Indicator Cluster Survey… Countries also have their own routine household surveys; [blood-lead tests] could be added to those.”

In the United States, all children who are enrolled in Medicaid (the government-run insurance scheme) receive blood-lead tests at ages one and two (these can be done via a simple finger-prick test). This is in addition to nationally representative surveys done by the Centres for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). Overall, the CDC receives about four million lead test results from across the country each year. 

In addition, experts are increasingly calling for greater international health financing for the prevention of lead poisoning in low and middle-income countries. 

Last month, a group of experts, including researchers from Stanford and officials from Unicef, released a joint statement on lead poisoning in developing nations. It argues that “despite the extraordinary health, learning and economic toll attributable to lead, we find the global lead poisoning crisis remains almost entirely absent from the global health, education and development agendas”. 

The statement argues that $350-million in international aid over the next seven years would be enough to make a significant dent in the problem. 

They provide a breakdown of these funds, which include international assistance with enforcing anti-lead laws, purchasing lead-testing equipment and assisting companies (such as paint manufacturers) to move away from lead-based sources. DM

Note: This is the second in a two-part Spotlight special series on lead poisoning. You can read part one here.

This article was produced by Spotlight – in-depth, public interest health journalism.

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All Comments ( 7 )

  • John Gauldie says:

    What is the follow up of this lead poisoning issue?
    There has to be some action>

  • Val Ruscheniko says:

    Cheap aluminum pots and pans are the main culprits. The aluminum gets smelted and alloyed with other metals, some of which are toxic, some are not.
    Worst offenders are products from India, Pakistan, Bangladesh, and last but not least, China. No regulations re. metal toxicity in household kitchen utensils. Italy, on the other hand , has a government regulator’s official stamp embossed into the underside of those pots and pans which are actually manufactured in Italy (not imported from Asia) to show that they are safe to be used in the preparation of food for human consumption, hence it’s success in battling cases of Alzheimer’s disease directly linked to toxic lead poisoninglevels in the blood.

  • Debbie Annas says:

    Customers should especially guard against using studio ceramics for salads with acidic dressings. While stoneware and porcelain that is fired above 1200C should be safe, terra cotta ware has “soft” glazes that may leach – as the Mexican example proved.

  • Lynda Tyrer says:

    Where do we import these products from and why is lead content not checked before the product is put on the shelves. I was interested to see in the USA anything coming into the country is tested for lead from toys to household items.

  • Dave Hansen says:

    Why say 1 SA ceramic plate failed- yet you dont notify us of who?!!
    So we must all scramble and panic- not helpful at all- just another unhelpful alarmist media story- too scared to state known facts. Tell us about Wonki Ware and Turkish bowls etc- stop being vague

["Maverick News","South Africa","Maverick Citizen"] safety-and-belonging

Hundreds march in Joburg in solidarity with Palestinians embroiled in bloody conflict with Israel

People marched through the Johannesburg CBD in solidarity with the people of Palestine on Wednesday. Many called for a permanent ceasefire and unrestricted access to aid.
  • Hundreds of people marched through the Johannesburg CBD on Wednesday, calling for a ceasefire in the Gaza Strip.
  • The demonstration was organised by the South African Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions (BDS) Coalition, South African Federation of Trade Unions (Saftu), and Congress of South African Trade Unions (Cosatu).
  • On 24 November, Israel and Hamas agreed to a four-day pause in fighting which was extended by two days on 27 November.
  • Activists are calling for a permanent ceasefire and for humanitarian aid to come into Gaza, as well as justice for the atrocities that have been committed since 1947.
A protester holds up smoke flares at Nelson Mandela bridge during a march on International Day of Solidarity with the Palestinian People. (Photo: Felix Dlangamandla)

In light of the International Day of Solidarity with the Palestinian People, hundreds of people marched through the Johannesburg CBD on Wednesday, calling for a permanent ceasefire in the Gaza Strip. 

The march started at the Mary Fitzgerald Square in Newtown, paused at Nelson Mandela Bridge, and ended at Constitution Hill with many people demanding an end to what’s been described as genocide, an occupation, settler colonialism, and ‘Israeli apartheid’. 

The demonstration was organised by the South African Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions (BDS) Coalition, South African Federation of Trade Unions (Saftu), and Congress of South African Trade Unions (Cosatu), with the support of over 40 organisations including South African Jews for a Free Palestine (SAJFP), Palestine Solidarity Alliance (PSA) and Health Care Workers for Palestine.

International Day of Solidarity with the Palestinian People is marked with a march from Mary Fitzgerald Square to Nelson Mandela Bridge, before reaching Constitutional Hill. (Photo: Felix Dlangamandla)

On 7 October, armed militias from Hamas entered Israel and killed over 1,200 people, mostly civilians, and took over 200 hostages. In retaliation, Israeli airstrikes have pummeled Gaza, with over 14,000 civilians estimated to have been killed, of which at least 5,800 are children. 

Read more in Daily Maverick: Middle East Crisis news hub

On 24 November, Israel and Hamas agreed to a four-day pause in fighting which was extended by two days on 27 November. During the period of truce, Hamas has released 69 captives in exchange for 150 Palestinian prisoners held in Israeli prisons and more humanitarian aid allowed into Gaza, according to Al Jazeera

The heads of the US Central Intelligence Agency (CIA) and Israel’s Mossad met in Qatar on Tuesday to discuss the extension of a truce between Israel and Hamas as well as the captives being held by the Palestinian group in Gaza. 

TK Nciza, Fikile Mbalula and David Makhura

TK Nciza, Fikile Mbalula and David Makhura at Nelson Mandela Bridge, standing in solidarity with people from Palestine. (Photo: Felix Dlangamandla)

Activist Maya Bhardwaj said a temporary ceasefire was not enough. “The power of the Zionist state and the occupation of Palestine continues, so we are here to show solidarity with the ongoing fight,” she said. 

Bhardwaj said that the parliamentary resolution to cut SA’s diplomatic relations with Israel needed to be finalised. 

On 21 November, parliament passed an amended resolution brought by the EFF, calling upon the government to close the Israeli Embassy in South Africa and suspend all diplomatic ties “until a ceasefire is agreed to by Israel and Israel commits to binding United Nations-facilitated negotiations whose outcome must be a just sustainable and lasting peace”.

Any decision on severing relations with Israel would have to be made by the Cabinet, which was due to meet again on Wednesday 29 November. 

Palestine flag

Activists holding a giant flag of Palestine during a solidarity march in Johannesburg. (Photo: Felix Dlangamandla)

A human rights issue

Rina King, from SAJFP, said what is occurring in Palestine is a human rights issue, and an issue of forced removal, oppression and occupation. “As a Jewish person, I value life and I see that the Palestinians have been disposed of their land since 1948 and that’s the problem,” she said.  King said that Benjamin Netanyahu, Israel’s prime minister, intends to continue what she described as genocide and that pressure and solidarity with the people of Palestine was needed. 

Joburg protester, Palestinians

Fébé Potgieter-Gqubule holds a poster at Nelson Mandela Bridge in solidarity with people from Palestine. (Photo: Felix Dlangamandla)

“As we speak, about 20 villages have had people chased off their land in the West Bank and that’s got nothing to do with Hamas,” she said.  King said what is happening in Palestine is an apartheid system. “Palestinians are discriminated against and oppressed and unless we stand up and support them, the Israeli government will not change,” she said.  “It’s not a Jewish issue, it is a human rights issue.”

International Day of Solidarity with the Palestinian People march

The International Day of Solidarity with the Palestinian People march weaves its way across Johannesburg CBD. (Photo: Felix Dlangamandla)

Permanent ceasefire needed 

Roshan Dadoo, from SA BDS Coalition, said they were calling for a permanent ceasefire and for unrestrained humanitarian aid to come into Gaza. “We are saying this is not enough. You can’t pause a genocide and then continue again as Netanyahu has declared his intentions to continue the bombarded of Gaza and we have seen incidents where occupation forces have continued despite this temporary pause,” she said. 

Dadoo said that they wanted to see a possibility for Palestinians to return to their homes.  “We want justice for the atrocities that are being committed, not just now although this is so clearly the worst, but from 1947 when people were massacred, villages were destroyed and Palestinians were forced into excel during that time,” she said. 

Joburg protesters, Palestinians

Protesters marching through Johannesburg CBD. (Photo: Felix Dlangamandla)

A public health and mental health crisis

Dr Sandra Fernandes, a specialist neuropsychiatrist, spoke about the 247 healthcare workers who have been killed since 7 October. “We are here today to say that our own horror and trauma of what we are witnessing daily in Gaza, cannot compare to the severe trauma experienced by those inside Gaza,” she said. 

International Day of Solidarity with the Palestinian People protest

Protesters march through Johannesburg on International Day of Solidarity with the Palestinian People. (Photo: Felix Dlangamandla)

As half of the population is under the age of 15 or 17, generational trauma will be expressed for years to come, with many people experiencing psychological long-term effects such as depression, anxiety, post-traumatic stress disorder, or other conditions, according to Fernandes. “What will unfold in the coming days and weeks will be a diary of diseases and other physical diseases as a result of poor drinking water and the lack of proper nutrition, despite some of the aid entering Gaza,” she said. 

Joburg march, Palestinians

A protester holds a poster at Nelson Mandela Bridge. (Photo: Felix Dlangamandla)

“This is a public health care. It is a mental health crisis”. 

Fernandes called for a permanent ceasefire,  sustained and unrestricted access to humanitarian aid, an immediate cessation of the siege, and targeting of healthcare facilities, schools, public areas, and free movement of healthcare workers to all affected areas. 

Joburg protest

A protester holds a sign during the International Day of Solidarity with the Palestinian People march. (Photo: Felix Dlangamandla)

On this day in 1947

29 November is the date that the UN General Assembly adopted a resolution on the partition of Palestine in 1947. Resolution 181 called for the creation of an Arab state and a Jewish state but was never implemented on the ground.  The date is also the International Day of Solidarity with the Palestinian People, an official observance adopted by the UN General Assembly in 1997. DM

Ronnie Kasrils

Former intelligence minister Ronnie Kasrils speaks to protesters at Mary Fitzgerald Square. (Photo: Felix Dlangamandla)


All Comments ( 2 )

  • Mordechai Yitzchak says:

    Ronnie Kasrils. If I’m a Palestinian I’m thinking – can I really trust this old Jewish guy? He looks sweet, buuuut ….

  • Samar Surana says:

    #Free Palestine.
    #World Peace.

["Maverick News","South Africa","Maverick Citizen"] age-of-accountability safety-and-belonging

AmaPanyaza: Instructors claim they were not paid as Public Protector confirms investigation

It is still not clear when – or if – a Government Gazette will be published legalising the Gauteng Crime Prevention Wardens and declaring them to be peace officers in terms of the Criminal Procedure Act. As this process is drawn out the confusion mounts. The group of former Department of Correctional Services officials who oversaw the wardens’ training claim they were not paid. And the SAPS top brass continue to distance themselves from the wardens until they are legally recognised as peace officers.
  • Nine former DCS employees recruited to train Gauteng Crime Prevention Wardens
  • Spent four months training 5,000 new recruits in discipline, physical training, drill and preparation for the passing out parade
  • Trainers promised R50,000 per month for their services but left unpaid
  • Trainers now speaking out to reveal truth of their experience
Gauteng crime prevention wardens dubbed AmaPanyaza at Rooiwal Waste Water Treatment Works 08 June 2023 following the outbreak of cholera in Hammanskraal.(Photo:Felix Dlangamandla)

In January 2023, a group of nine former employees of the Department of Correctional Services (DCS) were recruited to train the soon-to-be-established Gauteng Crime Prevention Wardens.

In interviews with Daily Maverick, Colonel Isaac Shabangu, one of the most senior of the trainers and a former head of a maximum security prison, has explained in detail how the trainers spent most of the next four months at the Castle Inn Resort, near Cullinan, training 5,000 new recruits in “discipline, physical training, drill and preparation for the passing out parade.”

According to Shabangu, their jobs included:

  1. Administering the admission process upon arrival of each group of trainees.
  2. “Inflicting and maintaining discipline” and law and order at the training camp.
  3. Solving complaints and attending to requests made by students during the day, after hours and over weekends.
  4. Teaching students saluting, physical training/aerobics and drill lessons.
  5. Invigilating exams.

The Correctional Services trainers, he says “had the biggest numbers to handle. Because the majority of the traffic officials [who also played a role in training] were not trained as Instructors, each of us had to handle more than 250 to 300 students at a time.  On some days we were the only ones left with the students because the few traffic officials could not come due to other operations they had to embark upon.


It is still not clear when – or if – a Government Gazette will be published legalising the Gauteng Crime Prevention Wardens and declaring them to be peace officers in terms of the Criminal Procedure Act. (Photo: Twitter / Gauteng Government)

“There were days when no one was able to drive either in or out of Castle Inn Resort because of heavy rainy days. We had no choice but to handle the masses because we were staying/sleeping there.”

However, the trainers now claim that despite a verbal agreement with the general who recruited them on behalf of the Gauteng Department of Community Safety that they each would be paid R50,000 a month for their services, when the training ended they were left high and dry.

Now they are speaking out.

South Africa ‘must know the truth’

Maverick Citizen was contacted by several of the trainers after they hit a dead end in their efforts to address their non-payment through official channels.

“We have been over-patient with the office of the honourable Premier Lesufi and himself as an individual” says Colonel Shabangu:

“It is high time that South Africa knows the truth.”



Gauteng MEC For Community Safety Faith Mazibuko delivers an update on the newly recruited crime prevention wardens on 28 April 2023 in Midrand. (Photo: Gallo Images / Luba Lesolle)

According to Shabangu the group “tried by all possible means”, writing emails to both the MEC for Community Safety Faith Mazibuko, “without any acknowledgement let alone response” and to Premier Lesufi “without acknowledgement of receipt let alone response”.

“Our aim by following protocol and being respectful to the office of the Premier and MEC was to avoid hanging our dirty linen in the public domain and handle our matter with dignity, respect and integrity … had we been shown respect we would not and were not considering going public.”

Gauteng Premier Panyaza Lesufi. (Photo: Gallo Images / Sharon Seretlo)

Maverick Citizen has seen emails and WhatsApps written to the Premier and MEC.

In a previous article, we reported an email from the Chief Finance Officer (CFO) of the Department to General J (whose full name is known to us) who recruited the trainers.

Read more in Daily Maverick: AmaPanyaza crime prevention wardens hopelessly unqualified — whistle-blower 

In the 15 February 2023 email, in which MEC Faith Mazibuko is copied, the CFO tells the general that he wants to formalise his “concerns” about “the instructors” being used by the department “without a contract”, and recommends (again) that “accredited instructors” be hired, pointing out how the “department has exposed itself to serious risks”.

In the email the CFO tells the general that he wants to formalise his “concerns” about “the instructors” being used by the department “without a contract”, and recommends (again) that “accredited instructors” be hired, pointing out how the “department has exposed itself to serious risks”.

“How are they going to be paid? (unless they are volunteering?” asks the CFO.

In response, Shabangu insists that all his team were Sasseta (Safety and Security Sector Education and Training Authority) accredited trainers.

He insists that they were not recruited “on a voluntary basis without any expectation of compensation”, as claimed by the general; he denies that they were there “with a very clear conscience of contributing to the ruling party targeting the 2024 elections as all of them are active members of the ruling party.”

Shabangu retorts: “At no stage was anything said about ANC membership. It would be very irregular and irrational to include politics in a state employment such as that of the Amapanyaza. Safe to say that not all of the nine ex-DCS Instructors are ANC.”

According to Shabangu, the trainers argue that “if it was agreed upon in the beginning that they were to volunteer they had no reason to turn around and demand payment”. He points to a WhatsApp message regarding their remuneration which he sent to the general on 11 June 2023, which the General responded to saying he had forwarded their request to the premier.

“If it is true that the ex-Instructors from DCS agreed to volunteer, the General should have responded like that to my WhatsApp enquiry”

“It is very strange that all service providers who rendered services at Castle Inn Resort were paid except the Ex Instructors from Correctional Services.” “Treat us as you would love to be treated Honorable Premier please, we respect you and your office, respect us and other families too”.

Wardens confirm role of ex-Correctional Services trainers

Daily Maverick has seen copies of the attendance register (known as the Z8) that was signed each day by the trainers.

In addition, we have spoken to several trainees, on condition of anonymity, who praised the work of the trainers.

One told us: “When we first arrived at camp for training we did not know anything about how to stand in the parade, how to drill or do platoon formation.”

They spoke highly of Shabangu and other trainers, calling them “the best of them all”, “very humble” and the “father of us”.

According to another, “teaching up to 1,000 people is not easy, yet they were still able to give attention to those who were struggling and make adjustments. For the three months that we were at the Castle Inn, they were there the whole time, including when we passed out in Tsakane.”

Questions about the allegations made by the instructors have been sent to General J as well as to Sizwe Pamla, spokesperson for the premier and the MEC for community safety. They were acknowledged but have not been responded to.

Still in legal limbo

The Public Protector has made public that it has commenced an investigation into “whether there were conduct failure in the establishment and deployment of Crime Prevention Wardens in Gauteng by the Premier”.

In a letter to advocate Paul Hoffman, the director of Accountability Now, in response to a complaint laid in September, Godwin Kock, senior investigator for the Public Protector in Gauteng, states that the matter “has been allocated to the PP’s Good Governance and Integrity Branch for further investigation”.

Meanwhile, it is still not clear when – or if – a Government Gazette will be published legalising the wardens and declaring them as peace officers.


Minister of Justice and Correctional Services Ronald Lamola. (Photo: Gallo Images / Phill Magakoe)

According to Chrispin Phiri, spokesperson for the Minister of Justice and Correctional Services Ronald Lamola, “The decision to gazette will be made once the three-way consultations [between the SAPS, Gauteng and Department] have been exhausted. These are still underway.”

As this process is drawn out the confusion mounts.

For example, last week, on 22 November, the Gauteng Provincial Police Commissioner issued a circular to all station commanders titled “Utilisation of Crime Prevention Wardens in the Community Service Centre for Performing SAPS duties”, which states that wardens are not allowed to act as commissioners of oaths “as they are not Peace Officers and therefore lacks the legal authority to do same”.

(Image: Supplied)

“No commander may under any circumstances allow the crime prevention warden to perform any duty that’s assigned to the SAPS”, states the circular.

The impasse seems to be irking Premier Lesufi.

Two weeks ago, on 12 November, Lesufi caused unhappiness when he launched an extraordinary public attack on the minister of police (without naming him), castigating him for not yet granting permission for the wardens to be classified as peace officers, and telling him “Your days are numbered”.

Read more in Daily Maverick: Amapanyaza: Gauteng premier launches extraordinary attack on minister of police   

However, late that same evening, shortly after the publication of Daily Maverick’s report on Lesufi’s outburst, and as the TikTok video went viral, Lesufi appears to have realised the error of his words and the trouble it might cause him.

At 10.02pm he issued an apology on X in which he “noted with disappointment the slicing and leaking of a video recording of an internal presentation I made to a gathering of one of our alliance partners.”

Admitting that “the content came across as insensitive and threatening to a government Minister” [he still did not say which one] the Premier apologised and accepted “full responsibility for what I said”.

He concluded that “since our frustration with fighting crime flows from a genuine desire to make a difference we are actively pursuing a meeting with the relevant Ministers to clear the air and make amends”.

It is not known whether such a meeting has taken place.

However, Lesufi seems unrepentant. This weekend he reposted a tweet from an organisation called Constitution First, which called on him to “cut the diplomatic crap and put it in public that Bheki Cele and Ronald Lamola Don’t want crime to be fought in South Africa.”




All Comments ( 5 )

  • Dee Bee says:

    I really do feel sorry for the wardens, who’ve become pawns in Lesufi’s egotistical drive to higher office and his insatiable need for power. 3 months training to hit the mean streets of Joburg and tackle hardened criminals? Not much difference in approach to Putin trawling Russia’s prisons for cannon fodder on the front line with Ukraine. Then again, birds of a feather…

  • John Simpson says:

    Apart from the shenanigans discussed above, I spent some time training some of these Wardens on driving skills for another company. Firstly, high performance driving is not what they should be trained on. They should be trained on defensive driving skills. Secondly, although some were very capable others must have been employed by friends, family, or connections, as they were neither very competent (not just in driving skills) to the point that some could not drive. Investigate how many vehicles have been damaged in crashes.

  • Kevin Busby says:

    Panyaza grandstanding again

  • JM McGill says:

    “They are here with a very clear conscience (sic) of contributing to the ruling party targeting the 2024 elections as all of them are active members of the ruling party”.

    i.e. Brown Shirts – good party members with a baton

  • Alley Cat says:

    It’s a circus! And yet again the ANC exploits people and doesn’t keep their promises.

["Maverick News","South Africa","Maverick Citizen"]

Western Cape declares intergovernmental dispute with Treasury over rising public sector wage bill

Western Cape Premier Alan Winde has warned that a shortfall of R1.1bn to pay public servants could hamstring healthcare, schools and infrastructure in the province.
  • Western Cape government has declared an intergovernmental dispute with the national government to secure R1.1-billion for public sector wage increase.
  • National Treasury committed to partial funding of R17.6-billion for provinces to implement pay increases, but the Western Cape still has a shortfall of R1.1-billion.
  • Eastern Cape MEC for finance says province is running at a deficit of R3-billion, with total transfers from national government amounting to R89.4-billion and total expenditure at R92.3-billion.
  • Western Cape Premier Alan Winde calls for "prudent fiscal consolidation, management and discipline" from national government to avoid cuts to vital services.
Finance Minister Enoch Godongwana. (Photo: Gallo Images / Die Burger / Jaco Marais) I Premier of Western Cape Alan Winde. (Photo: Gallo Images / Brenton Geach)

The Western Cape government has declared an intergovernmental dispute with the national government to secure R1.1-billion from the National Treasury for the public sector wage increase. 

Premier Alan Winde and the MEC for finance and economic development, Mireille Wenger, in a joint statement on Tuesday, said the dispute was declared with the national government represented by Finance Minister Enoch Godongwana and Public Service and Administration Minister Noxolo Kiviet in terms of the Intergovernmental Relations Framework Act.

Read more in Daily Maverick: National government inflicting death by a thousand budget cuts on SA and the Western Cape

The Act provides a framework for the creation of intergovernmental forums and mechanisms to facilitate the settlement of intergovernmental disputes. 

“The dispute relates to the centrally negotiated and agreed to public sector wage bill, which was implemented after the Western Cape provincial parliament approved the annual budget, leading to unprecedented in-year budget cuts,” they said.

“Through this action, we are trying to avoid dramatic reductions in service delivery spending in order to cater for the wage liability. We have tried to engage with national government to avoid this situation, to no avail. And for this reason, we have taken the difficult but necessary step of declaring an intergovernmental dispute.” 

In March, the government inked a deal to give 1.2 million public servants a 7.5% pay increase in the current fiscal year (2023/24) that it had not fully budgeted for. 

Public servant remuneration is already the single largest component of government expenditure, gobbling up 30% of 2023’s R2.26-trillion budget, Daily Maverick’s Ray Mahlaka reported. The provinces — who had no role in the wage deal negotiations — have been forced to accommodate pay increases from their existing budgets. 

After the provinces bemoaned that the national government had negotiated unaffordable pay increases centrally and then denied provincial departments the funds to implement them, National Treasury committed to partial funding of R17.6-billion for provinces to be able to implement pay increases.

But DA Western Cape budget spokesperson Deidré Baartman said the increase in public sector wages had had an impact of close to R2.9-billion on the Western Cape’s budget for this financial year. The national government had allocated an additional R1.7-billion to the province, but this would only partially cover the wage increase for education and healthcare. 

“All other departments’ wage increases will have to be self-funded. The approximately R1.1-billion shortfall would have to be found within the existing budget, meaning cuts to vital programmes that impact our residents directly,” Baartman said.

She added that the national government was also slashing R640-million from conditional grants to the province, and there would be no disaster funding from the national government to repair damage from this year’s flooding in the province. The provincial government had requested a State of Disaster declaration from the National Disaster Management Centre to unlock about R700-million in funding to repair flood damage caused by winter storms in May and June. 

Winde and Wenger said the “staggering” R1.1-billion shortfall needed to pay public servants would “have a direct impact on critical service delivery” like schools, clinics, hospitals and road networks.

Read more in Daily Maverick: Public sector wage deal doublethink hides a double whammy for provinces

The CEOs of the Western Cape’s three academic hospitals earlier this month sounded the alarm that, because of severe funding cuts, they could run out of cash by 15 January 2024. The wage shortfall for all the health departments across South Africa’s nine provinces is R8.7-billion, Elsabé Brits reported in Daily Maverick.

“From the start of this process, it was evident we could not afford this wage deal and all warning signs of the irrationality of the agreement were seemingly ignored. This is an issue that affects all provinces and every government department. What is desperately needed is prudent fiscal consolidation, management and discipline. This appears to be lacking in national government,” said Winde.

Read more in Daily Maverick: SA’s delivery of crucial services under threat after Treasury desperately calls for public ‘fiscal consolidation’

Eastern Cape pinching pennies

The MEC for finance in the Eastern Cape, Mlungisi Mvoko, last week said during his adjustment budget speech that the province was running at a deficit of R3-billion.

Provincial receipts of just over R1-billion, mostly the rollover of conditional grants, had reduced the deficit.

The total transfers received from the national government amounted to R89.4-billion and the total expenditure to R92.3-billion.

He said the province had received an equitable share of R72.3-billion in February and this was boosted by an adjustment of R2.3-billion specifically for the implementation of the health and education public wage bill. This wage bill was, however, R3.6-billion.

“What we got doesn’t even come close [to covering the wage bill],” he said. DM

Additional reporting by Estelle Ellis


All Comments ( 14 )

  • Patrick Veermeer says:

    What have we done to deserve this ANC government? What have we done to have our noble expectations of 1994 so thoroughly debased?

  • William Dryden says:

    Too many government and public services employees that are costing a fortune from the fiscal, and now the government negotiates a 7.5% salary increase? Why not used the lottery revenue to fund services first and then NGO’s after.

  • Vincent Britz says:

    The corrupt ANC government doing it’s best to stop the best run province & cripple the rest of SA just so they The ANC gangsters of SA can fill their own pockets!!!

    We as South African citizens need to vote the corrupt ANC government out of power to safe our beloved country..

  • coach.dion says:

    They say the Public Servant’s wage bill is about 30% of the budget, it’s not the wage bill that’s too big, it’s the budget that is to small!
    That’s said: I work for a government department, and there are to many bosses doing nothing but asking us for reports! One will ask for a report alphabetical, then next will ask for a similar report numerically!
    Oh wait, it’s all information they could download from the system if they knew how!

  • Richard Bryant says:

    It is clear that nobody in the ANC has a cooking clue about the value of money. They operate on a type of bravado where they commit to buying things at way over their commercial value (usually so there is enough to split a share among a whole lot of friends). And have no idea of how to pay for it.

    This is called reckless trading.

    The R150m the ANC owes for election posters clearly demonstrates the problem. Their useless SG Mbalula accepted a quote for nearly R3000 a poster but didn’t sit down with a calculator to work out that R3000 times 30000 posters is R90m. Obviously didn’t know here the money would come from, and now that he can’t pay, he tries to lie about it.

    Same as government salaries. Same as the NHI. Same as Eskom. Even the Post Office has been bailed out by the tune of tens of billions and we have absolutely zilch to show for it. Same as SAA.

    It’s time they move along.

  • Beezy Bailey says:

    Anything to hobble the DA led Western Cape by the ANC in its dieing days . SA has a massively disproportionate civil service [ mostly ineffective often corrupt] government employees sector . That goes hand in hand with the ANC policies of absorbing more tax payers money than they reap . And considering what the Western Cape brings into the national budget from taxes, well done Premier Winde for tackling it . The money should be going to hospitals schools and infrastructure instead of making ANC cadres fatter .

["Africa","Business Maverick"] a-sustainable-world

ArcelorMittal sees no way to avoid the closure of its steel operations in SA, and looming job losses

The closure of ArcelorMittal South Africa operations in Newcastle and Vereeniging, starting from January 2024, is set to put 3,500 jobs on the line. It is an indictment on President Cyril Ramaphosa’s reform agenda, which has arguably failed to deliver on promises, set four years ago, to remedy the electricity and logistics crises.
  • ArcelorMittal South Africa has poured cold water on the government’s efforts to reform the economy, citing the ongoing electricity and logistics crises.
  • The company is taking a big financial hit and has announced the closure of its operations in Newcastle and Vereeniging, putting 3,500 jobs on the line.
  • Eskom blackouts and Transnet inefficiencies have cost ArcelorMittal over R1-billion just in 2022.
  • Government policy blunders have given scrap metal traders an artificial competitive advantage over steel manufacturers.
(Photo: Waldo Swiegers / Bloomberg via Getty Images)

ArcelorMittal South Africa has poured cold water on the government’s efforts and ability to reform the economy, with Africa’s largest steelmaker saying it does not see an immediate fix for the electricity and logistics crises.

“The problems around Eskom and Transnet will unlikely change in the near term. We also do not see a change in the economic dynamics of South Africa,” said Kobus Verster, the CEO of ArcelorMittal South Africa, on Wednesday during a briefing with journalists.

ArcelorMittal has taken a dim view of South Africa’s economy and the government’s reform agenda because its steel operations in the country are taking a big financial hit. The company swung from a R3-billion profit in the first half of 2022 to a R448-million loss during the same period this year. The toll is so enormous that ArcelorMittal has announced the closure of its operations in Newcastle and Vereeniging, starting from January 2024, which will put 3,500 jobs on the line.

It is a damning indictment of President Cyril Ramaphosa’s reform agenda, which has arguably failed to deliver on promises, set four years ago, to turn around the electricity and logistics crises. The lights are now off more than ever and the state-owned transport group Transnet cannot fulfil its most basic function of moving trains and delivering goods efficiently through its ports.

Beyond ArcelorMittal, other companies are also planning to cut jobs. Several mining companies, including Glencore, Seriti, Sibanye-Stillwater and Impala Platinum have either planned to or have started retrenchment talks with workers and their trade unions to potentially cut up to 10,000 jobs by January.

Transnet, Eskom problems

The dysfunction and unreliability of Transnet’s rail network have meant that ArcelorMittal is transporting raw materials to its factories by road, which is more expensive.

ArcelorMittal relies heavily on Transnet Freight Rail to transport 91% of the iron ore and 100% of the coking coal consumed at its Newcastle and Vanderbijlpark factories to produce steel. However, the shift to road as a direct result of Transnet inefficiencies has cost ArcelorMittal losses amounting to more than R1-billion just in 2022, linked to an increase in operating costs and lost sales.

Then there is the negative impact of Eskom blackouts, which harms ArcelorMittal’s steel production process. Verster said higher stages of Eskom blackouts in recent days, with the country being placed on Stage 6, meant that its factory in Vanderbijlpark was asked by the power utility to embrace load curtailment for eight hours a day over the past three days. Load curtailment happens when Eskom asks big businesses and industries to reduce the use of electricity when the power system is under pressure.

Verster said the operating environment for businesses had become more difficult and the company was now forced to close its operations in Newcastle and Vereeniging, as well as the ArcelorMittal Rail and Structural operations in Mpumalanga, which rely on intermediate products currently produced at Newcastle.

These operations will begin winding down in January, when they are scheduled to stop receiving steel-making materials, such as iron ore. The winding-down process is set to take between five and six months, said Verster, adding that it might take longer as ArcelorMittal still had to negotiate with affected communities, workers, trade unions, Transnet and the government.

He stressed that the closure of these operations was the last resort, after years of aggressively cutting costs at the company, which turned out to be futile as structural and economic problems in South Africa became overwhelming.

In addition to Eskom and Transnet problems, ArcelorMittal has been battling with a 20% decline over the past seven years in the demand for long steel products (which includes wire, rods, railway rails and bars). Underscoring the decline is that South Africa has a crude steel manufacturing capacity of between eight million and nine million tonnes. However, steel demand stood at only 4.2 million tonnes.

The government is not embarking on large-scale infrastructure projects, which would pave the way for ArcelorMittal steel products to be in demand.

Government policy blunders

What also pushed ArcelorMittal to shut its operations were policy blunders by the Department of Trade, Industry and Competition (DTIC). It introduced a new preferential pricing system for scrap, a 20% export duty, and a ban on scrap exports that have given steel production via electric arc furnaces an “artificial” competitive advantage over steel manufacturers that use iron ore to produce steel. This means scrap metal traders who recycle steel are gaining an advantage over ArcelorMittal’s more intense operations such as Newcastle, which consumes heavy raw materials such as iron ore.

The Steel and Engineering Industries Federation of Southern Africa (Seifsa) — an industry body whose members include 1,300 companies, employing around 170,000 workers — has called for Ramaphosa to urgently intervene to correct the policy as “it seems that the DTIC seemingly does not have the capacity, nor the grasp of the broader implications of these developments.  

“The matter is now beyond urgent and we urge the President and key ministers in the Economic Cluster to treat it as such, if we are to avoid a socioeconomic catastrophe of gigantic proportions in the metals and engineering industry which will reverberate throughout the economy and the continent, impacting the auto, motor, construction and mining subsectors of the economy and all who work in [them].

“The reconstruction and recovery of the South African economy and more specifically the metals and engineering industry must be looked at in the wider context of reindustrialising critical sectors, along with all the other challenges facing the economy, from energy and logistics to the water infrastructure and crime,” Seifsa said in a statement.

At this point, ArcelorMittal cannot be convinced to reconsider the shutdown of its operations. Verster said he remained open to talks with the government. However, he is pessimistic about the ability of the government to intervene to fix problems weighing on the steel industry.

“We are clear about the problems. They are complex and will be difficult to fix,” he said. DM


All Comments ( 1 )

  • Jagdish Makan says:

    The biggest mistake this incompetent ANC government had done was to sell ISCOR to Arcelor Mittal. Their profit driven policy more than tripled steel prices over the years. Coupled with unrealistic central bargaining wage increases in the metal sector, transport and rail woes again due to total incompetence of their cadre deployment polices, load shedding, unrelenting cable theft and uncontrolled criminality has finally brought the steel industry to its knees.

["Maverick News","South Africa"] safety-and-belonging

‘My life is in danger,’ claims Zane Kilian as he pleads for bail in murder case

Murder suspect Zane Kilian has made an emotional plea to the Western Cape Division of the High Court to release him on bail because he is a target inside prison and is only safe outside the province.
  • Zane Kilian made an emotional plea for bail in the Western Cape High Court on Tuesday, charged with the murder of Anti-Gang Unit Lieutenant-Colonel Charl Kinnear in 2020;
  • Kilian and Nafiz Modack, alleged gang boss, face more than 3,100 charges together;
  • Kilian claims he was threatened if he implicated Modack in Kinnear’s murder;
  • Kilian told the court his life is in danger and that he needs to be released on bail to be safe.
Zane Kilian in the Western Cape High Court on 5 May 2023. (Photo: Daily Maverick)

Zane Kilian made an emotional appeal during the continuation of his third bail application and cross-examination by prosecutor Greg Wolmarans before Judge Mark Sher in the Western Cape High Court on Tuesday.

Kilian has been charged for the murder of Anti-Gang Unit Lieutenant-Colonel Charl Kinnear in 2020 and on Monday he told the court that he was told if he implicated accused gang boss Nafiz Modack in the assassination “myself and my family might as well pick out our coffins”.

Read more in Daily Maverick: Lawyer warned me not to implicate Modack in Kinnear’s murder, Zane Kilian claims in latest bail bid

Kilian and Modack are the main accused in the murder of Kinnear, who was shot outside his Cape Town home on 18 September 2020. He was investigating a number of high-profile cases at the time.

Kilian has admitted to “pinging” Kinnear’s cellphone to trace his location and claims he did it for Modack. Initially, Kilian was the sole accused when he was arrested shortly after the murder, but Modack was added to the charge sheet. The pair have also been charged with attempting to murder lawyer William Booth on 9 April 2020.

Read more in Daily Maverick: Gang leader charged alongside Nafiz Modack over attempted murder of lawyer William Booth

Modack, Kilian and 12 other co-accused face more than 3,100 charges in a case that depicts Modack as the leader of a lucrative criminal organisation dubbed the “Modack Enterprise”.

Zane Kilian

Zane Kilian (back to the camera) appeared the Western Cape High Court on 5 May 2023. (Photo: Daily Maverick)

‘My life is in danger’

On Tuesday, Kilian, who is from Gauteng, proceeded to testify and provide arguments for why he should be released on bail in the interests of justice.

He told the court: “Your lordship, my life is in danger. In prison I am an open target. The safest place for me is to be released on bail and sent to Springs where I’m surrounded by my own people.

Read more in Daily Maverick: The assassination of cop Charl Kinnear – three years of controversy and waiting for accountability

“My life’s at stake here. I will do anything I can after this. My life is in danger after today. That is why bail is very important to me. If I’m in Gauteng or Springs, in my safe zone with my people, I will be fine, whereas if you put me in any prison in Cape Town I won’t be safe. These people’s tentacles reach anywhere. This is a desperate attempt for me to clear my name, so that I can get bail and just go home and not die in prison.”

Kilian also told the court that while he was incarcerated, Modack’s supposed close associate, Renier van der Vyver, sent a voice note through his girlfriend to Kilian’s ex-wife warning him that “if I were to change my legal representation, he would put bullets through their cars”.


After his previous bail applications were denied, Kilian must present the court with new facts if he wants to be released pending trial. 

On Tuesday, the prosecutor, Wolmarans, went through the affidavit Kilian submitted on Monday and said it contained no new material and repeated what the accused said during his initial bail application in November 2020.

The following statements were found in the affidavits from November 2020 and Monday, 27 November 2023, both of which had the same assertion and were highlighted by the State:

  1. I intend to plead not guilty to all the charges against me;
  2. The only fact that links me to the murder is the allegation that I pinged the cellphone of the deceased in order to locate him;
  3. I do have the tools to ping a cellphone. It is done from my cellphone via a platform with the aid of a code;
  4. The software and the user code for this tool was obtained from Mr Bradley Goldblatt. He loaded the software on my cellphone and provided me with the code. It later came to my knowledge that neither the platform not the code was exclusive to me;
  5. The deceased is unknown to me; and
  6. I submit CCTV footage photographs proving that I was in Hillcrest Chemist in Springs purchasing medicine at the time of the murder.

Kilian responded by saying he had presented new information.

“If you look back, three years ago, we didn’t know which other individuals were also using the pinging platform, whereas in my submission Monday, we can say there is a whole meaning to that because we can corroborate all those statements with evidence we have.

He approached me in the holding cells, white as a sheet of paper and shivering. We then learned that he had been threatened.

“The narrative was that I offered the shooter information, but the images show that I wasn’t on my phone, and neither was the shooter on his or any phone,” he said.

The State also raised the subject of all various legal counsel who have been assigned to him since his detention in September 2020, including at least five lawyers. 

Kilian was asked if advocate Marius Botha, who is representing him in the bail application, had taken over from his previous counsel, advocate Johan van Aswegen.

“On the day of my bail application, Van Aswegen was supposed to do my bail. He approached me in the holding cells, white as a sheet of paper and shivering. We then learned that he had been threatened. He dropped out before we even got to court,” he claimed.

Kilian Modack

Nafiz Modack (far left), Zane Kilian (second from left) and 13 co-accused at the Western Cape High Court on 5 May 2023. (Photo: Daily Maverick)

Kilian did not take the stand in his previous bail applications. Asked why, he said: “To be honest, I never knew that I could testify in a bail application. My counsel never advised me that testifying was one of my options.”

He further told the court that the affidavit that was read into the record in the Bellville Regional Court in November 2020 was handed to him in court on the day of his bail application and he signed it.

“It wasn’t read to me. I signed stuff on the court bench. In retrospect, I’m not happy that the affidavit was read into the record, there was so much more that he could have done. 

“That bail application they made for me was pretty basic, like a guy charged for petty theft, it wasn’t up to standard for a schedule 6 bail application.”

Kilian’s cross-examination was cut short due to load shedding on Tuesday. His bail application was due to continue on Wednesday after the other accused in the case who had previously not secured legal representation, including Modack, appear in court. DM


All Comments ( 5 )

  • Jayce Moodley says:

    I know what’s good for me. I choose not to comment.i remain silent 🔕

  • Graeme de Villiers says:

    And the lives of the people that he has offed? Were they not in danger?

  • W De Soto says:


  • jcdville stormers says:

    Make him a state witness

["South Africa","Our Burning Planet"] a-sustainable-world

Hopes for clean seawater rise after Durban agrees to (partial) takeover of overflowing sewage plants

After two years of untreated sewage polluting the Durban beachfront, the eThekwini Municipality and uMngeni-uThukela Water Board have joined forces to bring cleaner water to the city's rivers and seas.
  • eThekwini Municipality has agreed to partly hand over control of Durban’s largest wastewater treatment plants to a state-owned water utility company
  • The contract provides for the Pietermaritzburg-based uMngeni-uThukela Water Board to assume joint responsibility for the operation and maintenance of the city’s biggest sewage treatment plants
  • The emergency repair plan will involve 10 local wastewater treatment works that collectively process nearly 90% of the city’s sewage and industrial effluent flows
  • The full implications of the new arrangement remain unclear, but local water engineering expert have expressed cautious optimism
Ethekwini mayor Mxolisi Kaunda, escorted by senior Metro Police officers and their assembled fleet of new patrol vehicles, arrives at the Durban beachfront on 29 November to welcome holidaymakers to the Durban beachfront. (Photo: Ethekwini Municipality)

The prolonged flow of sewage in rivers leading to the Durban beachfront may start to ease over the next few weeks after the eThekwini Municipality agreed to (partly) hand over control of the city’s largest wastewater treatment plants to a state-owned water utility company.

The initial 12 month-contract provides for the Pietermaritzburg-based uMngeni-uThukela Water Board to assume joint responsibility for the operation and maintenance of the city’s biggest sewage treatment plants — a clear indictment of the city’s failure to remedy the situation on its own.

The exact terms of the contract have not been disclosed, but many Durban treatment plants have been discharging untreated or partially treated effluent into rivers and the Indian Ocean, largely due to infrastructure damage caused by the April 2022 floods, but also because of the prolonged neglect of several treatment plants which predates the flood damage.

The emergency repair plan, announced this week by the water utility’s chairperson, Professor Vusi Khuzwayo, and eThekwini Mayor Mxolisi Kaunda, will involve 10 local wastewater treatment works that collectively process nearly 90% of the city’s sewage and industrial effluent flows.

This includes the Northern Wastewater Treatment Works, which has been discharging poorly treated water into the uMngeni River for more than two years at a point roughly 2.5km upstream of the Blue Lagoon.

Significantly, uMngeni-uThukela will also be responsible for the operation and maintenance of the Southern and Central treatment works (which discharge effluent directly into the sea via offshore pipelines) as well as the uMhlanga, KwaMashu, Phoenix, Amanzimtoti, uMbilo, Isipingo and uMhlatuzana treatment works.

seawater durban

While the latest water quality tests of seawater along the central Durban beachfront have been rated as ‘excellent’ by both Ethekwini and the independent Talbot laboratory group, the sewage pollution levels in the lower reaches of the Umngeni River remain off the charts – way in excess of the maximum safe recreation level of 500 E.coli units.
(Image: Supplied)

eThekwini officials promised to curb the flow of sewage into the uMngeni River from the Northern works just before the last Christmas holiday season, but a year later sewage levels in the lower reaches of the Umngeni River remain way above the maximum safe limit of 500 E. coli units — with recent levels still measuring in the millions in the vicinity of the uMngeni Bird Park.

Read more in Daily Maverick: Caught again! Durban tries to hide crappy sea water quality results as holiday season beckons

However, according to a joint statement issued this week by Khuzwayo and Kaunda, the Pietermaritzburg-based regional water utility company formally took over operations of the 10 plants on 15 November.

“We are happy to report that, to date, uMngeni-uThukela Water has completed a conditional assessment of the wastewater infrastructure in the 10 wastewater works and is implementing an urgent programme to restore compliance going into the festive season.

“We have dispatched technical teams from both uMngeni-uThukela Water and eThekwini that have already started working together on identified projects to improve compliance. The delivery of necessary chemicals, integration of monitoring and laboratory analyses is expected to be completed by Friday [1 December].”

The compliance levels from the 10 wastewater works were expected to “start improving by the first week of December”, they said — although an indication of the scale of the problems was evident from Khuzwayo’s statement that the initial 12-month contract would probably have to be extended for up to three years.

sewage pollution durban

Adopt-a-River founder and pollution monitor Janet Simpkins surveys sewage pollution along the banks of the Umngeni River in August 2022. (Photo: Tony Carnie)

The projects that have been prioritised include the “rehabilitation and putting back into operation of the uMhlanga wastewater works, which last operated before the 2022 floods”.

It would also include the rehabilitation and recommissioning of the Northern works; fixing a major effluent pipeline leading to the uMhlathuzana wastewater works; “reseeding” the Phoenix works and the rehabilitation of the KwaMashu, uMbilo, Isipingo, Amanzimtoti, Central and Southern wastewater works.

However, the full implications of the new arrangement remain unclear.

Janet Simpkins, founder of the Adopt-a-River group that has been monitoring sewage levels along the Durban beachfront and its feeder rivers for two years, said she was “cautiously optimistic — but time will tell.

“I think this agreement is a recognition that the city needs help to resolve this issue, and we will continue to monitor water quality,” she said.

durban sewage

An aerial view of Durban’s Northern wastewater treatment plant. (Photo: Shawn Herbst)

However, a local water engineering expert was more cautious and declined to comment until the full terms of the agreement were disclosed.

Responding to a question from Daily Maverick on whether the new contract could lead to higher rates or surcharges, uMngeni-uThukela chief financial officer Thami Mkhwanazi indicated that the new contract provided for a “costs plus 4%” arrangement for the utility company, which would be providing the services of additional engineering expertise.

“We do not see a big spike for [Durban] residents,” he said.

Meanwhile, the latest beach water quality tests suggest that the majority of the city’s 23 bathing beaches are currently safe for swimming, although there was a significant hiccup after heavy rains earlier this month — resulting in sewage pollution readings at six central beaches being way above the limits — in some cases more than 30 times higher than regulated recreational standards.

Speaking at a “state of readiness” ceremony on the Durban beachfront on Wednesday, Mayor Kaunda reiterated the city’s commitment to continue its partnership with the Adopt-a-River group and the independent Talbot Laboratories group.

This involves joint testing of seawater quality by the eThekwini Municipality and Talbot laboratory staff.

“We are pleased that the water quality results were comparable and reflected that our water was safe for swimming. The joint sampling is to enable credible comparison of results and to ensure transparency and public safety,” he said. DM


All Comments ( 0 )

["Maverick News","South Africa","World"] safety-and-belonging

Discovery Health adds Israel to list of countries not covered by travel insurance, joining Russia and Ukraine

If you are planning to visit Israel, which is currently in conflict with Hamas, you should know that the Discovery Health Medical Aid Scheme will not cover your travel insurance.
  • Discovery Health Medical Scheme excludes war-torn countries and territories from International Travel Benefit
  • Israel, Gaza and the West Bank added to list of 22 countries excluded from benefit
  • Discovery scheme rules exclude healthcare services when travelling to war-torn countries
  • Temporary ceasefire leads to release of hostages in exchange for Palestinian prisoners held in Israeli jails
(Photo: Flickr / Raphael de Kadt)

Israel is the latest country to be added to the list of countries where the Discovery Health Medical Scheme is no longer covering medical costs for members. 

Discovery, the largest open medical scheme in South Africa, told Daily Maverick that it was a longstanding company policy to exclude conflict zones from its international travel benefit. It said the exclusion of war-torn countries and territories was based on the advice of an international travel advisory service.

“Russia and Ukraine are included in the list of countries at war with the same rules applying to members travelling to these countries. Following the recent and unfortunate declaration of war in Israel, Gaza and the West Bank, they are presently included on the list of 22 countries and territories in total that are excluded from the International Travel Benefit,” Discovery said.

“The Discovery Health Medical Scheme has a general scheme exclusion for healthcare services when travelling to war-torn countries and territories, considering the complexities of care and evacuation, and other risks.

“In line with precedent and the Scheme rules, every country and territory at war is excluded and this criteria has been consistently applied by the Scheme over the years.”

Read more in Daily Maverick: Israel-Palestine War

The travel policy, which was formally implemented at the end of October, will only cover clients who were already in Israel at the time the decision was made.

Meanwhile, a temporary ceasefire in the conflict between Israel and Hamas has led to the release of women and children held hostage by Hamas, in exchange for Palestinian prisoners and detainees held in Israeli jails.

At least 86 hostages, from about 240 people taken to the Gaza Strip after Hamas’s 7 October attack on Israel, have been released, while around 180 Palestinians have been freed from Israeli jails.

Israel launched its assault on Gaza after Hamas fighters crossed the border into southern Israel on 7 October, killing 1,200 people and seizing hostages.

Israel has since engaged in an aerial assault and ground incursion on the Hamas-ruled enclave, killing at least 14,000 Gazans, with a significant number being children, according to Palestinian health authorities. DM


All Comments ( 1 )

  • Jayce Moodley says:

    *and not impose

["Maverick News","South Africa","Our Burning Planet"] a-sustainable-world

November breaks heat records in SA — a clear reminder of what’s to come in a warming world

As parts of the country reach day 10 of a heatwave, it’s not hard to imagine that scientists are predicting that 2023 will be the hottest year in history – a clear reminder that the world is catapulting toward the dangerous 1.5°C threshold, and that extreme climate events (like heatwaves) are only going to increase in intensity and frequency as we go.
  • November is the hottest month of the year in South Africa, with a number of highest maximum temperature records broken and heatwave conditions lasting 10 days.
  • This prolonged heatwave is likely a result of global warming and El Niño, leading to the warmest year ever recorded.
  • Scientists agree that human activities are causing climate change, with global warming since pre-industrial levels being rapid and cannot be explained by any natural process.
  • The UN Climate Change Conference (COP28) kicks off in Dubai tomorrow, with the UN Environment Programme’s latest Emission Gap Report warning that we are well behind emission targets.
A bus en route to Swellendam in the Western Cape. Climate scientists are predicting that 2023 will be the hottest year in recorded history. (Photo: Julia Evans)

November is racking up to be the hottest month of the year in South Africa, with a number of highest maximum temperature records broken and heatwave conditions lasting 10 days across parts of the country.

Meteorologist Annette Botha, from Vox Weather, told Daily Maverick temperatures reached record-breaking highs this week – above 40°C in the Northern Cape, Limpopo, Mpumalanga, KwaZulu-Natal and the Free State, and the high 30s in Gauteng and North West.

heat records

Temperatures in each province during the heatwave from 23 to 27 November 2023. (Image: Vox Weather)

Botha explained that we do get heatwaves in South Africa at this time of the year, as a result of high-pressure systems sitting over parts of the country that act like a heat dome, trapping sinking hot air at the surface.

“We are used to getting it at this time of the year, but having a heatwave that’s gone on for 10 days is definitely a little bit out of the ordinary and extreme,” said Botha.

This prolonged heatwave is likely a result of global warming – Botha explained that higher global temperatures mean that it’s easier for temperatures to reach the heatwave threshold – and that we have entered El Niño, which tends to have warmer and drier conditions across the country.

Francois Engelbrecht, professor of climatology and director of the Global Change Institute at Wits University, agreed, saying that “what we are looking at this year is the combined effects of ongoing global warming, with a strong El Niño event, and that has led to all these temperature records being broken across the world”.

The hottest year yet recorded

Leading up to this year’s UN Climate Change Conference (COP28), which kicks off in Dubai tomorrow (Thursday), Climate Central scientists assessed worldwide air temperatures over 12 months (1 November 2022 to 31 October 2023), and found that with an average warming of more than 1.3°C, the past 12 months were the hottest on record.

The UN Environment Programme’s latest Emission Gap Report, released this month, said that this year (until the beginning of October) 86 days were recorded with temperatures of more than 1.5°C above pre-industrial levels, and September was the hottest recorded month, with global average temperatures 1.8°C above pre-industrial levels.

Read more in Daily Maverick: New UN report (once again) warns that the world is well behind emission targets

And scientists have found that June, July, August, September and October 2023 were the hottest months since records began in the mid-1800s.

“So, you can see we are on the verge of exceeding the 1.5°C threshold of global warming for the first time,” said Engelbrecht, explaining that in terms of a single calendar year, we won’t exceed that threshold this year, but we are very close to that happening (some estimates say the late 2020s, the IPCC predicted the early 2030s).

But this is still going to be the warmest year on record. We’ve already seen exceptionally warm periods in the northern hemisphere – from Asia to Mediterranean Europe, to the southern US.

And now, as scientists predicted, these heatwave conditions have made their way to the side of the hemisphere during our summer months, because we have entered the El Niño period.

“And therefore, we can now say with certainty that 2023 will be the warmest year ever recorded by humans, with records going back to roughly 1850,” said Engelbrecht. 

Yes, it really is climate change

The Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change’s (IPCC) Sixth Assessment, published in August 2021, found: “It is indisputable that human activities are causing climate change. Human influence is making extreme climate events, including heatwaves, heavy rainfall and droughts, more frequent and severe.” 

Francois Engelbrecht and Coleen Vogel, from the Global Change Institute at Wits University and contributing authors to several IPCC reports, previously explained to Daily Maverick that “this [the global warming since pre-industrial levels we’re experiencing now] is likely the warmest Earth has been in 125,000 years. It is possible that during the Last Interglacial, about 125,000 years ago, the Earth has been warmer.”

Not convinced? Read in Daily Maverick: On the fence about climate change? We check the facts with scientific experts

But the difference is those periods of higher temperatures were caused by slow changes in the orbital characteristics of Earth, occurring over tens of thousands of years – the warming that has occurred since the pre-industrial era is rapid, and cannot be explained by any natural process. 

Thus, they found that “global warming since the pre-industrial era is unequivocally the consequence of human activities, specifically the release of greenhouse gases such as carbon dioxide into the atmosphere, through the burning of fossil fuels”.

Risks El Niño may bring

Engelbrecht explained that the heatwaves we are seeing are typical during El Niño, because this period sees big high-pressure systems form over southern Africa, which suppress rainfall, causing more sunlight to reach the surface, warming it more than normal and lasting very long.

Vogel explained that “heatwaves and periods of extreme heat can negatively impact on people and can lead to heat dizziness, headaches and fainting”, and that “oppressive temperatures can also result in heat stroke, organ damage and unconsciousness”.

The worst-case scenario would be heat-related deaths. Heatwaves can also negatively affect livelihoods, including farming and water access and supply. 

“I’m very concerned about what’s going to happen this summer in terms of heatwaves, and the impacts on our outdoor workers,” Engelbrecht said, referring to the January 2022 heatwave in the Northern Cape that killed seven farmworkers.

“A heatwave is not only a period of oppressive temperatures, it’s also a period of below-normal rainfall, and maize crops are vulnerable to heatwaves.”

Engelbrecht emphasised that extreme El Niño periods – which are naturally occuring, but whose impacts are more intense and longer lasting due to climate change – will put pressure on the agricultural sector, noting that in 2015/16, during the El Niño period, our maize crops reduced by 40% and our cattle industry, which is vulnerable to heatwaves, suffered.

El Niño can also bring the risk of drought of unprecedented duration and intensity, which also puts pressure on our water systems – less rainfall means dams will not be as full. And we are not prepared.

“Other vulnerable groups, of course, are older people living in informal settlements,” said Engelbrecht.

“This El Nino will be another important opportunity for us to learn how vulnerable we are when it comes to the impacts of drought and heat that occur in combination,” said Engelbrecht, explaining that we need to prepare for the consequences a world that has warmed by 1.5°C will bring, along with making our fair and strong contribution to mitigation (moving out of coal). DM


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["Maverick News"] age-of-accountability

Court denies murder accused Mark Lifman’s request to travel abroad

Cape Town businessman Mark Lifman, who faces serious charges including murder, told the Western Cape High Court he would return to stand trial if allowed to travel to Turkey and Dubai for business. The court said his word wasn’t enough.
  • Mark Lifman's application to have his passport returned to travel to Turkey, Dubai, China and Hong Kong for business opportunities was denied by the Western Cape High Court
  • The State argued that if Lifman absconded, it would cause prejudice to the State and its witnesses
  • The court noted that there was a trial date set for April 2024 and that extradition from Turkey and Dubai could be a lengthy process
  • The State also referred to the failed attempt to extradite the Gupta brothers from Dubai.
Murder accused Mark Lifman at the Western Cape High Court in Cape Town on 21 October 2022. Lifman and his co-accused face charges in connection with the murder of ‘Steroid King’ Brian Wainstein. (Photo: Gallo Images / Die Burger / Jaco Marais)

Murder accused Mark Lifman’s wings were clipped when the Western Cape High Court denied his request to have his passport returned so that he could fly to Turkey, Dubai, China and Hong Kong to explore business opportunities.

Judge James Lekhuleni dismissed Lifman’s application on Monday, 27 November and underlined that the State was attempting to extradite another accused to South Africa to face charges with Lifman. This person, Kishor Naidoo, is based in Turkey, where Lifman wanted to travel. According to the judgment, there are reasons to assume that Lifman may wish to exploit this fact.

Along with alleged Sexy Boys gang boss Jerome Booysen and 13 other co-accused, including police sergeant Wayne Henderson, Lifman is facing a slew of charges, including the 2017 murder of “steroid king” Brian Wainstein, several counts of conspiracy to murder, and contraventions of the Prevention of Organised Crime Act.

lifman wainstein

‘Steroid King’ Brian Wainstein. (Photo: Interpol)

Lifman, Booysen and former Cape Town bouncer and alleged underworld figure André Naude are out on R100,000 bail. Naidoo (also known as Kamaal), who was previously based in Cape Town, is the subject of an Interpol red notice.

In August 2017, Wainstein, also known as the steroid king, was killed at his Constantia home in Cape Town. Lifman, Booysen and the late William “Red” Stevens were arrested in connection with the murder in December 2020.

Stevens, widely known as one of the Western Cape’s most seasoned 27s gang members, was killed in a shooting in Cape Town in February 2021.

Lifman application

Lifman’s application essentially requested that his bail conditions, which were imposed on him on 22 December 2020, be amended to require him to deposit an additional R150,000 in cash and have his passport returned to him by the investigating officer.

He also asked for an order allowing him to apply for a new passport. Lifman said he wants to explore business opportunities in Turkey, Dubai, China and Hong Kong.

The State strongly objected to his application, maintaining that if Lifman was released on bail, he would evade his trial.

Lifman filed a similar application in November 2021, requesting the return of his passport so that he could travel to Turkey and other countries for work.

At that time, Lifman claimed he had been offered a consulting position in Turkey and that he would be required to travel extensively despite being based in Turkey.

This request was declined by Western Cape High Court acting judge Adrian Montzinger. Lifman subsequently failed to persuade the Supreme Court of Appeal to grant him leave to appeal against the ruling.

Lifman then applied to change his bail conditions two years later, citing “new” facts. Lifman claimed there would be an excessive delay before the trial against him began, and that the case was originally scheduled for hearing from 28 February to 24 March 2022.

Lifman also said he had instructed a private digital forensic expert to examine and analyse all phone data which the State is using against him to determine his physical whereabouts during the dates specified in the indictment.

While the State believes it has a strong case against Lifman, he believes he will be able to challenge the evidence and demonstrate that he is not guilty of the charges against him.

State’s objection

Opposing Lifman’s latest application, state prosecutor Mervyn Menigo submitted that if Lifman should abscond after being allowed to travel internationally, this would result in substantial prejudice to the State and its witnesses, some of whom are being kept under protective arrangements at significant cost to the State. 

Menigo reiterated that if the applicant absconds, the delay will prejudice his co-accused’s rights to a speedy trial.

“The poor level of cooperation between Turkey and Dubai, two of the destinations listed by Lifman in his application, are such that it could be a lengthy procedure to ensure his extradition, with no guarantee of success, as is evidenced by the fact that the Turkish authorities offered no genuine assistance in returning the wanted suspect in this matter – one Mr Kishor Naidoo,” Menigo added.

The State also referred to the failed attempt to extradite the Gupta brothers from Dubai.

Read more in Daily Maverick: The Guptas are gone. No one is to blame, everyone did their best. The end

‘His say-so not enough’

In his judgment, Judge Lekhuleni said that a trial date of 24 April 2024 had been set. 

“In my view, there can be no doubt that this matter will take some time to be finalised. There are 15 accused charged together with Lifman. The 15 accused are facing various counts totalling 38. This matter has been fast-tracked. A judge has been allocated for this matter, and the trial date has been set. All counsels have confirmed their availability to commence with the trial in the second term of 2024,” said Lekhuleni.

“Crucially, Lifman contends that his passport be returned to him and that he will stand trial and won’t abscond. It bears emphasis that Lifman ipsi dixit (meaning he said it) that he will stand trial is not enough. 

“His say-so is certainly not a cognisable indication that he will not abscond and will return to the country and stand trial if his conditions were to be amended.”

In the present matter, Lekhuleni added, the court had been informed there was another accused that the State was struggling to extradite to face charges with Lifman. 

“That person is based in Turkey, where the applicant intends to travel. In my view, there are reasons to believe that the applicant may want to take advantage of this fact.

“As correctly pointed out by Mr Menigo, Lifman alleges that he wishes to explore business opportunities in the countries mentioned, without providing any detail on the nature of the prejudice he would suffer should he be denied these opportunities,” the judgment reads.

Lekhuleni pointed out that Lifman and his co-accused were facing serious charges, including one of murder, and that a conviction on this charge alone could lead to a sentence of life imprisonment.

“Although the accused has previously adhered to his bail conditions by attending court without fail, I believe that the severity of the charges levelled against him, and the potential sentence he may face if convicted, could tempt him to abscond,” the judgment reads. DM


All Comments ( 2 )

  • td _a says:

    a fact about cape town that really must be addressed is that in order to fight the crime that happens on the cape flats, the police must go knock on doors in constantia and bishops court

  • jcdville stormers says:

    Good news


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