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Motion of no confidence against Ramaphosa will not succeed: Mathekga
5 February 2020, 6:07 PM

Political Analyst Ralph Mathekga says the envisaged motion of no confidence submitted by the African Transformation Movement (ATM) to remove President Cyril Ramaphosa has no chance to succeed.

The ATM has confirmed that it had received a response from the Speaker of the National Assembly Thandi Modise acknowledging its request. If Modise gives the go-ahead for the motion, it will be the first of its kind against Ramaphosa, since he took over from Jacob Zuma.

Mathekga called the ATM’s presence in Parliament “insignificant”, as the party occupies only two seats in the National Assembly.

“First of all I would imagine the speaker is not just readily going to table this motion. I think we might see the back and forth tussle between the political parties before this motion can even be tabled. But if it gets tabled, it will be very interesting because it would have been initiated by the very small party that has got just about two seats in Parliament. However, if one looks at the current caucus of the ANC…I prefer to refer to it as the very unpredictable caucus and it’s not about this motion succeeding. I think it has got no chance of succeeding.”

China virus puts cruise ships in quarantine, hits carmakers, airlines and Airbus
5 February 2020, 5:20 PM

Thousands of passengers and crew on two cruise ships in Asian waters were placed in quarantine for China’s coronavirus on Wednesday as airlines, car manufacturers and other global companies counted the cost of the fast-spreading outbreak.

China said another 65 people had died as of Tuesday, the highest daily total yet, taking the overall toll on the mainland to 490, most in and around the locked-down central city of Wuhan, where the virus emerged late in 2019.

There have been two deaths outside mainland China, both following visits to Wuhan. A man in the Philippines died last week, and a 39-year-old man with an underlying illness died in Chinese-ruled Hong Kong on Tuesday.

The virus had disrupted air travel, with more than two dozen airlines suspending or restricting flights to China and several countries, including the United States, banning the entry of anyone who has been in China over the previous two weeks.

Taiwan banned the entry of mainland residents from Thursday.

The disruption spread to cruise ships this week, with about 3 700 people facing at least two weeks locked away on a liner anchored off Japan after health officials confirmed that 10 people aboard had tested positive for the virus. Passengers on the Diamond Princess posted pictures online of officials in masks and gowns conducting health checks and an empty deck.

“This is not a good situation,” British passenger David Abel said in a video shot in his cabin and posted to Facebook.

In Hong Kong, 3 600 passengers and crew were confined to their ship docked in the city for tests after three people on board had tested positive earlier.

Hong Kong’s Cathay Pacific Airways asked its 27 000 employees to take three weeks of unpaid leave, saying conditions were as grave now as during the 2009 financial crisis.

American Airlines Group  and United Airlines said they would suspend flights to and from Hong Kong after this week, a step that would leave no US carriers flying passengers to the Asian financial hub.

Nearly $700 billion was wiped off mainland Chinese stocks on Monday with many factories shut, cities cut off and travel links constricted, fuelling worries about global supply chains. Asian stocks steadied on Wednesday.

Hyundai Motor  will suspend production in South Korea because of a disruption to the supply of parts, it said, becoming the first major carmaker to do so outside of China.

Global carmakers have already extended factory closures in China in line with government guidelines. These include Hyundai, Tesla , Ford, PSA Peugeot Citroen , Nissan  and Honda Motor.

Planemaker Airbus  has prolonged a planned closure of its final assembly plant in Tianjin, China, it said.

Taiwan’s Foxconn , which makes phones for global vendors including Apple, aims to gradually restart factories in China next week but could take at least a week or two more to resume full production, a person with direct knowledge of the matter said.

White House economic adviser Larry Kudlow said the epidemic would delay a surge in US exports to China expected from a Phase 1 trade deal set to take effect this month.

Japan’s central bank was ready to ramp up stimulus measures for the world’s third-biggest economy, citing uncertainty over the virus.

Evidence of human-to-human spread outside China surfaced after an international business gathering in Singapore in January was linked to virus cases reported in Malaysia and South Korea, but authorities did not comment on its nature or the industry involved.

Singapore – one of the worst hit countries outside China in the 2003 outbreak of Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome (SARS) – has reported 24 cases of the new coronavirus.

Across mainland China, there were 3,887 new confirmed infections of the coronavirus, making a total of 24,324. Nearly 230 cases have been reported in some 27 countries and regions outside mainland China, a Reuters tally based on official statements shows.

Macau, a gambling hub and like Hong Kong, a special administrative region of China, ordered casinos to suspend operations on Tuesday, effectively halting the lifeblood of its economy.

The World Health Organization (WHO) has declared the flu-like virus a global emergency, but experts say its mortality and transmission rates are unknown. Pregnant women may be able to pass it to their unborn children, according to Chinese state broadcaster CCTV.

Asked about various media reports of “drug breakthroughs”, WHO spokesman Tarik Jasarevic said: “There are no known effective therapeutics against this 2019-nCoV.”

Russia said it would take between eight and 10 months to develop a vaccine, the Interfax news agency reported. Scores of Russians began two weeks of quarantine in Siberia on Wednesday after being flown home from Wuhan.

Beijing has criticized as an overreaction US travel curbs that bar foreign nationals who have visited China.

“We have the ability and confidence to finally win this war of containment,” China’s state councillor Wang Yi told Thailand’s foreign minister.

A Thai taxi-driver who recovered from the infection told reporters in Bangkok of his shock at catching it and had a message of support for Wuhan.

“If I can beat it, so can you.”

Zuma has to prove he was really sick to avoid arrest: Legal expert
5 February 2020, 5:03 PM

Former President Jacob Zuma will have to prove beyond a reasonable doubt that he is sick and cannot stand trial or face arrest. That is according to a Johannesburg-based legal expert, Ulrich Roux.

The Pietermaritzburg High Court questioned Zuma’s alleged sickness, after raising concerns about his medical certificate.

The court then issued a warrant of arrest against Zuma should he fail to make an appearance on 6 May when his corruption trial resumes.

“Counsel for Mr. Zuma was notified in advance in the middle of January that a sound evidence is required to justify his absence from court and without that evidence this court cannot do anything else but issue a warrant of arrest, it is not only Mr Zuma who is entitled to a speedy trial, it is accused two who also has this right. As Mr Mantswa pointed out the right of the accused are well stated in the Constitution and no one accused to be preferred over the other in a warrant of arrest. I do nothing more than what the law requires me to do in the circumstance,” this was the ruling by Judge Dhaya Pillay in the Pietermaritzburg High Court on Tuesday.

This was after former President Jacob Zuma failed to make an appearance due to ill-health.

Roux says Zuma may be off the hook at least for now but if he appears in court in May, he will have to prove beyond doubt that he is indeed ill.

“One could expect Jacob Zuma’s legal representatives to say, if he is really ill and receiving treatment, for the doctor to depose what is happening and tell us what he is suffering from and where he was receiving treatment and why he didn’t attend the court proceedings. And if they use that affidavit it should be sufficient enough to be used in court so it can cancel the warrant so that the matter can proceed. Should it not be okay with the affidavit, the court can exercise its right to call the doctor.”

Roux says that should Zuma fail to convince the court that he was indeed not well, he may find himself behind bars. Meanwhile, the African National Congress (ANC)  has come out strongly in support of the former president.

Spokesperson, Pule Mabe, says Zuma is a law-abiding citizen and they shall continue to support him.

“Throughout he has always appeared to respect the laws of the republic, as a law-abiding citizen and also made himself available to the courts of the republic when required to do so and also later in May when the case will be heard again in court, they will be able to clarify all of the issues that need to be ventilated upon.”

It is not the first time Zuma has missed his legal obligations. Last week, the former President missed his third appearance before the State Capture Commission, citing illness as the reason.

Below is more information on the trial: 

Netflix has more Oscar nominations than any other distributor
5 February 2020, 4:53 PM

Netflix Inc will storm into Sunday’s Academy Awards ceremony boasting more nominations than any other movie distributor, but can the streaming service finally take home the film industry’s most coveted prize?

Netflix’s Mafia epic “The Irishman” has a shot at the best picture Oscar, according to awards experts, but faces tough competition from Warner Bros’ World War One drama “1917,” Sony Corp’s Quentin Tarantino film “Once Upon a Time in Hollywood” and South Korean genre-bending movie “Parasite” from privately held company Neon.

Winning the best picture statuette for the first time would burnish Netflix’s reputation in the film business and give it new bragging rights in the increasingly competitive fight for streaming video viewers.

The decades-spanning “Irishman,” playing in theaters and streaming on Netflix, features an A-list creative team of previous Oscar winners. It was directed by Martin Scorsese and stars Robert De Niro, Al Pacino and Joe Pesci, and was among the company’s most expensive films to date with a production budget of roughly $160 million. Critics raved after the film was released in November.

Whether it is named the year’s best picture is up to the roughly 8 000 voting members of the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences.

Experts surveyed by awards website Gold Derby as of Monday favored “1917,” giving it 11-2 odds to win, while “Irishman” stood at 17-2.

“Irishman” landed few of the top awards from groups such as the Screen Actors Guild and Producers Guild of America, the usual tipoffs to the best picture favorites.

“The fact they have not won any of the major precursor awards is notable,” said Scott Feinberg, awards columnist for The Hollywood Reporter. “This doesn’t mean they won’t be competitive in other categories.”

Netflix scored 24 nominations overall, including for “Klaus” and “I Lost My Body” in the animated feature category, and two feature-length documentaries.

And stars of Netflix films are competing in the acting contests. Laura Dern is considered a front-runner for her supporting role in the streaming service’s movie “Marriage Story,” a divorce drama also in the best picture race. Jonathan Pryce and Anthony Hopkins were nominated leading actor and supporting actor respectively for Netflix’s biographical film “The Two Popes.”

Netflix began releasing original movies in 2015 and has been working to build a library of prestige films alongside its dozens of comedies, thrillers and action flicks. The company now debuts more films per year than any Hollywood studio.

But the digital video pioneer clashed with theater owners by insisting that its films stream at the same time, or a few weeks after, their big-screen debuts. Major theater chains refused to show Netflix films, including “Irishman.”

Last year, Netflix’s “Roma” won Oscars for director, cinematography and foreign-language film but not best picture. The movie had stirred a debate about whether a film seen mostly via streaming should even qualify for an Academy Award, a controversy that have might influenced voters at the time.

Ted Sarandos, Netflix’s chief creative officer, said he believes academy members have moved past that issue.

“It is hard to sit here with 24 Academy Award nominations across feature films, animated films, documentary films, short documentary films, and say there is any bias against streaming,” Sarandos said in an interview.

“We are really thrilled that the academy recognized the quality of the work just for quality of the work.”

ANC Free State leadership court battle continues
5 February 2020, 3:21 PM

The court battle for the leadership of the African National Congress (ANC) in the Free State continues. The Supreme Court of Appeal in Bloemfontein has granted a disgruntled group leave to appeal.

In 2019, their case was struck off the roll by the High Court in Johannesburg with costs. The group sought to nullify the ANC Provincial List Conference arguing that it was illegitimate.

They want the current ANC Provincial Executive Committee disbanded.

Group Spokesperson Monnapule Ntamo says they are happy with the development.

“Remember, we’ve been saying that the Bloemfontein (High Court) has not really fairly treated us on the previous case including when they even refused to give us a right to appeal. We are very glad that the appeal court has finally found a way of granting us a hearing on our case and we believe that now there will be fairness.”

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