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Gupta family associate Iqbal Sharma says regional court erred by declaring him a flight risk
9 July 2021, 10:00 PM

Former Transnet board member and Gupta family associate, Iqbal Sharma, says the Bloemfontein Regional Court erred by declaring him a flight risk.

Sharma made this argument in the high court on Friday during his second attempt to apply for bail after the regional magistrate court turned down his bail application last month.

He is amongst 17 accused people and companies that are implicated in defrauding the Free State Agriculture Department in 2011.

Sharma will remain in custody for now. The high court has reserved the judgment in his bail appeal to Wednesday.

His legal representative has argued that there is no evidence that Sharma will flee the country because of his resources. And that he cooperated with the State Capture Commission when he was required to submit a statement in relation to corruption allegations.

“We submit that this is where my learned magistrate, unfortunately, erred both not only in law but in fact and that relates to his financial resources and his means. And the state and Colonel Mtolo who is an investigation officer in the matter her attitude was very simple. She raised the same affidavits against all the other applicants who applied for bail and have been released on bail. The attitude is that the appellant is a flight risk, he got the means and resources he can leave the country, but she raised the same grounds is like a cut and paste job,” says Sharma’s legal representative, Mannie Witz.

The state insists that Sharma presents an overwhelming flight risk and that he has the means and incentive to flee the country if released on bail.

The state has further argued that Sharma failed to disclose R265 million held in his United Arab Emirates’ Issar Global account. Prosecutor Peter Serunye says the regional court in Bloemfontein was right in its decision to turn down his bail.

“But it was expected of him to be honest and truthful with the court and to state his assets into the record and he deliberately misled the court by not stating this. He only mentioned a small amount so that the court cannot get a clear picture of the person applying for bail. If the court were to fall for that trap and release him on bail Mr Sharma had in the overseas bank account that amount of R265 million out of which he can leave anywhere,” he told the court.

Meanwhile, the bail for Sharma’s four co-accused has been extended. They return to court on September 6 for trial date.

Background on the case: 

Third wave exceeding previous demand for hospital beds and ICU resources: Mediclinic
9 July 2021, 9:00 PM

Hospital group, Mediclinic, says the third wave of the coronavirus is exceeding previous admissions at its healthcare facilities with a huge demand for hospital beds and ICU resources.

Most of the pressure is being experienced in Gauteng, Mpumalanga, Limpopo, KwaZulu-Natal and the Western Cape.

There have been more than 12 000 reported COVID-19 related deaths in the Western Cape since the start of the pandemic.

Mediclinic says its Intensive Care Unit and high care capacity may vary from hospital to hospital depending on the number of licensed beds.

It confirms an increase in vaccines being administered through its vaccination sites and is currently operating 10 Pfizer vaccination centres; with more sites expected to be opened which will offer the Johnson and Johnson vaccine.

It adds that while human resources within the ICU and high care remain constrained, there’s a reduced impact of absenteeism among staff who have been vaccinated.

There are currently more than 27 000 Active COVID-19 cases in the Western Cape.

More than 2 300 people are currently hospitalised in that province.

Concerns over lack of hospital beds in Gauteng amid increasing COVID-19 cases: Dr. Fareed Abdullah

Constitution 18th Amendment Bill to be re-published for public comment
9 July 2021, 7:30 PM

The Constitution 18th Amendment Bill will be re-published for public comment for the next three weeks. The  Ad Hoc Committee to Amend Section 25 of the Constitution to Expropriate Land Without Compensation took this resolution on Friday.

Parliament’s legal service was tasked to look into the various proposals which the ANC, EFF, and  Al Jama-ah wanted to be included in the Bill. It briefed the Ad Hoc Committee on its opinion on the political parties’ proposals. Intensive deliberations were done –  clause by clause – by members of the committee soon after the legal services gave feedback.

These deliberations also saw the rejection of some of the proposals from the EFF, Al Jama-Ah, and the Freedom Front Plus to change certain clauses in Section 25.  However, the proposed amendments made by the ANC were approved and the new Bill was adopted. The ANC’s Cyril Xaba proposed that the new Bill should be published for comment.

“We are substantially complying with the object or the purpose of that requirement. I think the requirement was that we must consider sending this back to the public. We are proposing that it must be for three weeks and we are proposing that it must be for a written submission. And if for whatever reason Parliament says in actual fact you should have come back to us before we went to public. And then Parliament will tell us then. We will cross the bridge when we get there,” says Xaba.

However, the EFF disagreed that the Bill should be sent back for public comment. EFF Chief Whip, Floyd Shivambu, argued that it is was a procedurally flawed move.

“There is no provision in the Constitution or the rule of the National Assembly that gives you the right to re-publish the bill after deliberations by the committee. Publish hearings were conducted. Nowhere had we ever republished a bill after it had been deliberated by the committee. Once the committee has deliberated upon and considered all public submissions, it then tables that to the House for consideration and decisions. That is what procedure dictates. That is what procedure dictates. So what you are doing now is an innovation which is inconsistent with the prescripts of the rules of the National Assembly or the Constitution,” says Shivambu.

Finally, the decision was taken to publish the Bill despite the objections.

Ad Hoc Committee Chairperson, Mathole Motshekga, says this is a supplementary process to complete the work.

“Honourable members I think we have agreed on publication of the Bill informed on what came from our debate and public hearings. So this is really a supplementary process to complete our work. This new Bill we have voted on invites the public to make supplementary submissions. And for supplementary submissions, we allocate three weeks. And then if we have erred members have said if we make our report Parliament will correct us,” says Motshekga.

The Freedom Front Plus Chief Whip, Corne Mulder, and DA Member of the Ad Hoc Committee, Annelie Lotriet, gave their reasons for not supporting the re-publication of the Bill.

“What do we intend to finish? Do we intent to finish with a Bill or report? Be that as it may,- I will also not support the proposal at the moment,” said Mulder.

“We also can’t support it at this particular point because we would much like to know what the legal services opinion would be and the guidance in terms of the correct procedure,-  because we now have different views on this, So, therefore, we cant support it at this particular point,” Lotriet said.

The Ad Hoc Committee has until the end of August to report back to the National Assembly on whether the property clause should be amended to expropriate land without compensation or not. It would require two-thirds of the votes in the National Assembly to change Section 25 of the Constitution.

Full deliberations on the bill in the video below:

Call for King Mswati’s prosecution as EFF members protest in solidarity with amaSwati
9 July 2021, 7:00 PM

Members and supporters of the Economic Freedom Fighters (EFF) gathered at the Oshoek border post on Friday, in solidarity with the citizens of Eswatini, who are calling for electoral reform. The march was led by the leader of the EFF in Mpumalanga, Collen Sedibe.

He called on the citizens of Eswatini to continue calling for the unbanning of political parties in Africa’s last absolute monarchy.

Members of the EFF chanted slogans at the Oshoek Border Post. Operations were affected at this port of entry as it was completely shut down. The protest action took place despite the prohibition of public gatherings under adjusted level four of the lockdown.

Sedibe, who led the protest, justified their decision to march, saying it was not a COVID-19 super spreader event.

“No, no, no, we are not against any regulations and we are wearing masks me and you. The people who were here we have checked them they are vaccinated so they are safe. There is no gathering that is banned because there are elections in South Africa coming in October and elections need interactions,” he said.

Sedibe read a memorandum of grievances directed to Eswatini’s King Mswati III. He threatened to shut down all ports of entry between South Africa and Eswatini if their demands are not met.

Speaking during the march, National Chairperson of the EFF of Swaziland, Hlobisile Sibandze, says King Mswati should face the full might of the law for murder.

“Some of our members got shot while on their way to here. Mswati sent his police to shoot our members while on their way here. They tried to run and unfortunately, one of them was shot and injured and another arrested. Furthermore, Mswati should hand himself to the international criminal court because he has got blood in his hands.”

The EFF in Mpumalanga has refuted allegations that they are instigating violence at Eswatini. They have given King Mswati seven working days to respond to their grievances.

EFF members protest at Mananga border in solidarity with people of Eswatini: 

UN to support mediated talks between Egypt, Ethiopia, and Sudan
9 July 2021, 5:45 PM

The UN Security Council says it will support attempts by the African Union to mediate talks between Egypt, Ethiopia, and Sudan as they try to resolve a long-running dispute over the operation of the Great Renaissance Dam.

Egypt had called on the Security Council to intervene after discussions stalled.

Both Egypt and Sudan are opposed to what they call unilateral decisions by Ethiopia to operate its 6 000 MW dam on the River Nile.

Outstanding issues include a dispute resolution mechanism as well as the management of the dam during protracted drought.

Tensions erupt between Sudan and Ethiopia over the Nile dam:

Ethiopia has begun filling the dam for the second time. This action is opposed by Egypt and Sudan – that say any further filling should occur only in the context of an agreed framework.

Ethiopia’s Minister of Water, Seleshi Bekele, defended the decision to the UN Security Council, saying Ethiopia believes in equitable utilisation of the Nile waters.

“When you see it from Ethiopian context, we contribute 77 billion cubic meters of water to the Nile. It is only fair to take 13.5 to fill our dam. We are not building a white African elephant – not to fill the dam, but actually, fill and operate it and utilize it,” says Bekele.

The decision by the Security Council – to support the African Union in its attempts to mediate takes the three countries back to the table for discussions. But previous attempts by the continental body have yielded very little progress.

Egypt says the dam risks restricting water flow to the country and Sudan claims it could affect the nation’s abilities to operate dams of its own. Ethiopia, though, says the dam is a matter of livelihood for its citizens.

Bekele says: “65 million people are without electricity but if you go downstream, there is 100% access to electricity. Hydropower is one of the solutions. If you take Drinking water about 25 million people are without access to clean water in Ethiopia. We have to drink water, we have to treat it and provide solutions for our people.”

Ethiopia has refused to honour the colonial agreement of 1959 that gave Egypt 85% control over the River Nile and Sudan 15%. The conflict began in 2011 when Ethiopia began constructing the dam. A decade on, it continues.

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