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National and provincial elections
22 February 2019, 4:21 PM

The run-up to the 2019 National and Provincial elections has begun and on 8 May 2019 millions of South Africans will cast their votes in the country’s sixth democratic elections. This day will be declared a public holiday to enable all eligible voters to have sufficient time to cast their votes and elect leaders that will govern our country for the next five years.

This is in line with the Freedom Charter which proclaims that the legitimacy of a government should be based on the will of the people and that “all people shall be entitled to take part in the administration of the country”.

According to the Independent Electoral Commission (IEC), more than 26,7 million eligible voters have registered for the upcoming elections and this represents 74.5% of the eligible voting population in the country. The increase in the number of people who registered to vote is testament to our vibrant and functioning democracy.

While we are pleased with the number of registered voters, we remain concerned about 9 million eligible voters who are still not registered. We appeal to all eligible voters, especially young voters to register at their nearest IEC offices situated at municipal offices around the country.

Registered voters can also confirm or verify their address details at these IEC offices.

This opportunity is however only open until President Cyril Ramaphosa proclaims the election date. Remember to bring your smart ID card, green barcoded ID document or a valid temporary ID certificate.

As we get closer to the elections, South Africans will hear what various political parties have to say on policies aimed at improving their lives, in particular the economy and job creation. Leaders of various political parties will also be campaigning all over the country and we appeal for political tolerance, peace and a free and fair environment for elections.

Some however, may argue that voting does not necessarily equate to material changes, irrespective of who wins. This is a fallacy as every vote counts, and the voice of the people is central to democracy.

Over the past 10 years one can actually argue that we have seen how our independent institutions have matured and remained steadfast to upholding the central tenants of our democracy, in the main accountability and exposing corruption where it arises. The recent numerous commissions which are currently running are a commitment to resolving and exposes those who may have abused public positions for personal gain. And in the words of the President during his State of the Nation Address (SONA) watch this space.

The participation of voters is central to the success of a well-functioning of democracy and regular elections are a means for citizens to hold their leaders accountable for their performance while in government. We should also never lose sight of the fact that many people sacrificed their lives for us to have this right to vote.

We therefore appeal that all who are eligible to vote should do so. Your voice is essential in building a better South Africa for all and will ensure that we continue to build on the gains we have made over the last 25 years of democracy.

As government we are convinced that our nation has changed substantially over the past 25 years of freedom, but we remain forever mindful that more still needs to be done.

We have made good progress in the provision of basic services and improving the lives of all citizens. For instance, over 3,2 million free houses have been built since 1994 benefiting over 14 million people. According to the 2017 General Household Survey, the percentage of South Africans living in ‘RDP’ or state-subsidised dwellings increased from 5,6 % in 2002 to 13,6 % in 2017.

Those with access to improved sanitation increased from 61,7% in 2002 to 82,2 % in 2017 while households without sanitation or who used the bucket toilet system decreased from 12,6% in 2002 to 3,1 % in 2017.

To ensure that our municipalities function optimally and deliver services to the poor, government last year launched the Municipal Recovery Plan which is derived from the Back-to-Basics principles.

Through the Municipal Recovery Plan, the competency of personnel is being improved through training and skills transfer as well as enforcing minimum standards for municipal managers and senior officials. Most municipalities have also adopted actions to improve their performance, in areas such as financial management and human resources.

Even though we have made many gains since 1994, there is much more to be done by leaders who will be elected in the upcoming elections. It is therefore incumbent that all eligible voters go out in numbers to elect leaders who will build on the achievements of the last 25 years. Our democracy requires that we regularly exercise our democratic right to vote and keep our democracy alive.

Author:  Deputy Minister of Communications Pinky Kekana.

 

Caster Semenya
United Nations throws weight behind Caster Semenya
22 February 2019, 12:09 PM

The United Nations (UN) is throwing its weight behind Caster Semenya in her fight against new rules planned by the International Association of Athletics Federations (IAAF).

The UN’s Human’s Rights Special Procedures body, consisting of independent lawyers, ethics specialists, medical experts and specialists, who look into issues such as inhumane and degrading treatment, have concluded that the stance taken by the IAAF is unfair and discriminatory to athletes who have Semenya’s natural condition of a high level of testosterone.

Semenya and a high-level South African team are fighting proposed new IAAF rules that would limit the testosterone levels in certain women athletes.

The IAAF has released a media statement on Monday morning, giving details of their argument, and a list of their expert witnesses. This has already earned the ire of  Athletics South Africa (ASA), who argued that this contravened the confidentiality agreement over the proceedings.

The panel has given ASA and Semenya permission to release a statement of their own, so the public can be aware of both sides of the argument.

Watch related videos below for more on the stories :


Britain's Prime Minister, Theresa May
May hails Brexit talks ‘progress’ but no breakthrough
21 February 2019, 5:31 AM

Prime Minister Theresa May said she had made “progress” in talks with the EU on Wednesday as she sought to extract concessions on the terms of Britain’s divorce, but as expected there was no major breakthrough.

With less than six weeks until Brexit day, May met European Commission president Jean-Claude Juncker hoping for movement on the “Irish backstop” issue  after EU leaders insisted they would not restart negotiations.

Fears are growing that Britain could yet crash out without a deal, and there was fresh drama just before May headed to Brussels as three of her MPs resigned from her Conservative party in protest over Brexit to join a new independent group of lawmakers.

Citing the risk of a “hard” Brexit, ratings agency Fitch on Wednesday warned it could downgrade Britain, while the pound slipped against the US dollar.

A joint statement from May and Juncker called their meeting “constructive”, striking a slightly more positive tone than when they met a fortnight ago.

“The two leaders agreed that talks had been constructive, and they urged their respective teams to continue to explore the options in a positive spirit,” the statement said.

Separately, May said she had stressed the need for “legally binding changes to the backstop” though the EU has ruled this out.

“We’ve agreed that work to find a solution will continue at pace, time is of the essence and it’s in both our interests that when the UK leaves the EU it does so in an orderly way. And so we’ve made progress,” May said.

May and the other 27 EU leaders approved a Brexit withdrawal agreement at a summit on November 25 last year, but the British leader’s own parliament rejected it overwhelmingly on January 15.

Since then, May and her ministers have repeatedly met EU leaders and their negotiator Michel Barnier to urge them to reopen the text to find a way to appease Eurosceptic MPs.

The main stumbling block has been the Irish backstop, which provides for Britain to remain in the EU customs union until a way is found such as a future free trade deal  to ensure that Ireland’s border with Northern Ireland remains open.

Brexiteers in May’s own Conservative party see this as a “trap” to keep Britain tied to the bloc indefinitely, and have demanded a time limit or exit clause.

But such a clause would be seen in Brussels as a betrayal of EU member Ireland and has consistently been given short shrift by EU officials.

May and Juncker’s statement indicated a fresh push to see what guarantees the EU could offer on the backstop to convince sceptical MPs it will not be used to trap Britain.

It also suggested the political declaration outlining plans for future EU-UK ties could be beefed up to “increase confidence” that both sides will try to reach a future deal as soon as possible, so the backstop never has to be used.

May said her Brexit Minister Stephen Barclay and Attorney General Geoffrey Cox would be back in Brussels on Thursday  just three days since their last visit as the pace of negotiations picks up.

A European source said Cox, whose legal analysis of May’s deal confirmed Brexiteer fears, will have a key role to play.

If Brussels does enough on the backstop to persuade Cox to soften his advice, it could help swing the parliamentary arithmetic behind the prime minister.

Without a deal, Britain is due to leave the Union abruptly after four decades on March 29, with no follow-on agreement or transition period to manage trade and economic relations.

Opposition Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn will meet Barnier on Thursday.

Officials in both Brussels and London have played down talk that an EU-Arab League summit in Egypt this weekend could become a “Brexit in the desert” meet, insisting the issue would not hijack the gathering.

Both sides have said they want to avoid a no deal Brexit, and many experts foresee economic chaos, even warning of food and medicine shortages or a renewed threat of unrest in Northern Ireland.

Manufacturing supply chains could be disrupted, and Brexit uncertainty has already been cited as a contributing factor in the closure or departure of several British-based businesses.

On the EU side, the commission on Wednesday published an update on its no-deal planning, with seven out of 19 legal proposals to mitigate the effects now approved.

One option to avoid no deal would be for Brussels to accord Britain an extension to the March 29 deadline, although May insists she will not request a delay.

A delay could keep Britain inside the EU for May 23-26 elections for a new European Parliament, which will start sitting from July 2, presumably without any British members.

 

Akila Dananjaya
Sri Lanka’s Dananjaya has illegal action ban lifted by ICC
18 February 2019, 9:19 PM

Sri Lanka spinner Akila Dananjaya has been allowed to resume bowling in international cricket after remedial work and a reassessment of his action, the International Cricket Council (ICC) said on Monday.

Dananjaya was reported for a suspect bowling action following Sri Lanka’s first test against England in Galle in November and suspended the following month after an independent committee found it to be illegal.

“Following remedial work and reassessment, the bowling action of Sri Lanka spinner Akila Dananjaya has been found to be legal and he can resume bowling in international cricket,” the ICC said in a statement.

The 25-year-old’s remodelled action was assessed in the Indian city of Chennai on Feb. 2 and the amount of elbow extension for his deliveries was found to be within the ICC’s permitted 15 degree level of tolerance.

“Match officials are still at liberty to report Dananjaya if they believe he is displaying a suspect action and not reproducing the legal action from the assessment,” the ICC added.

Dananjaya has taken 27 wickets in five tests for Sri Lanka since making his debut against Bangladesh in February, as well as 46 wickets in 30 one-day internationals and 14 wickets in 16 Twenty20 internationals.

 

 

 

Informal settlement
Plans to make off-grid sanitation system work for everyone
18 February 2019, 9:01 PM

The Water Research Commission (WRC) has warned that sanitation will come under greater pressure than the drinking water supply. This is amid climate changes and the greater demand on scarce water resources.

The commission and its partners have convened an international sanitation conference in Cape Town. This conference brings policymakers and experts in the field together.

It’s not a favourite topic of discussion and yet something that no one can live without. The management of human waste has not evolved much in the last 200 years.

Water-based disposal remains the norm and yet most people use a poorly managed system that is off the formal grid.

Globally, more than 4, 5 billion people lack access to sustainable sanitation services.

Conference chair Doulaye Kone says, “Every year, we have about 500 000 kids under 5 years dying; and this is very traumatic, because of pathogens from human waste. So, that, we can make better. The emphasis on technology is to say, if people are using a sanitation system that’s already off grid, how can we use the 21st century best technology?  Science that works? We don’t have to run for something that is necessarily a sewage system. We know this has limitation to expand in many communities. So, let’s use clever engineering – the best science in the world and make the off-grid sanitation system work for everyone.”

Most South Africans have water-borne sanitation while about 20% are on other systems, like dry disposal.

Researchers say sustainable innovative solutions are needed. Water Research Commission’s Jay Bhagwan says, “For a water-stressed country, we have to evolve away from this flushing concept to technology that is more robust, that we can treat. But we use the term beneficiate or valorise from the energy and carbon we generate from our bodies in a meaningful way. So, we believe at the Water Research Commission, we introduced this phrase. We say bringing sanity to sanitation environment – that we should move away from this water based conventional thinking.”

The conference ends on Friday.

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