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Graphic of the State capture commission
State Capture Inquiry: Former Denel chair to testify
19 March 2019, 8:05 AM

The Commission of Inquiry into State Capture will continue its hearings in Parktown, Johannesburg, on Tuesday morning, with testimony from former chairperson of the board of arms manufacturer Denel, Marties van Rensburg.

She is also a former shareholder of VR Laser Benny Jiyane.

On Monday the commission heard testimony from Khathatso Tlhakudi, the current Deputy Director-General at the Public Enterprises Department.

He said that the board members that former Public Enterprises minister Lynne Brown had appointed had neither the qualifications nor the skills to perform and this became a serious challenge for the department.

Tlhakudi also said Brown managed the department with an iron fist.

Tllhakudi told the commission that Denel had a healthy financial statement of R35 billion when Lyne Brown was appointed minister of public Enterprise in 2014.

Brown even complimented the company’s performance and staff.

However, things started to deteriorate when outgoing board members were replaced with incompetent ones who possessed neither critical knowledge, leadership abilities nor skills to run the organisation.

He said he felt helpless in the wake of the crisis at Denel as he and other officials were victimised or bullied out.

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Gordhan, Mabuza to brief media on electricity supply problems
19 March 2019, 7:29 AM

Public Enterprises Minister Pravin Gordhan and Eskom board chairperson Jabu Mabuza will brief the media on the current electricity supply problems that the country is currently experiencing on Tuesday morning.

The briefing will take place in Rosebank, north of Johannesburg.

Eskom says it will continue to implement stage 4 loadshedding, as large parts of the country is currently experiencing stage 2 until 9 o’clock this morning. From 9 am until 11pm stage 4 loadshedding will start.

The power utility has capacity shortages. It has suffered repeated faults at its coal-fired power stations, along with low water levels at hydro-electric plants and diesel shortages.

Acting head of generation at the power utility, Andrew Eitzinger says, “Today we will be implementing stage 4 loadshedding once again this is due to a large shortage of generation plants on Eskom’s side as well as the lines from Mozambique still down. From tomorrow we will be seeing a slight improvement in the situation but we unfortunately still will be at stage four loadshedding but from Thursday the situation will ease.”

On Monday, President Cyril Ramaphosa said that the loadshedding was very worrying and authorities were working around the clock to keep the lights on.

The situation worsened on Saturday after Eskom lost its electricity imports from the Cahora Bassa hydro-electric system in Mozambique, after Cyclone Idai struck that country.

Meanwhile, president of the Cape Chamber of Commerce and Industry, Geoff Jacobs, has warned that if nothing is done to urgently resolve the current electricity crisis, the situation will deepen.

Jacobs says it is forcing businesses and municipalities to look for other sources of electricity supply. He says the situation will also hurt struggling municipalities which rely on income from electricity to subsidise their costs and keep rate-paying commercial and industrial firms going.

“The present crisis is hurting business, municipalities and Eskom. Businesses need electricity to survive. Eskom desperately need more power to keep going but instead finds itself and its revenue going down while it costs increase it has to use diesel which is expensive to keep its emergency gas turbines going.”

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Cyclone Idai in Zimbabwe
Death toll in Zimbabwe cyclone rises to 96
19 March 2019, 5:32 AM

The death toll has risen to 96 in Zimbabwe after Cyclone Idai struck the eastern and the southern parts of the country, creating a humanitarian crisis in a country grappling with serious economic problems and a drought.

The scale of destruction is only becoming apparent as rescuers reach the most affected areas near the border with Mozambique.

Chimanimani district has been cut off from the rest of the country by torrential rains and winds of up to 170-kilometres per hour that have swept away homes, roads and bridges and knocked out power and communication lines.

Video obtained by news agency Reuters, show people weeping when bodies were recovered from a local church in the aftermath of the cyclone.

Local officials say the death toll is expected to rise.

Four bridges along a single road that leads from Mutare to Chimanimani have been washed away for the area is actually. They actually have had to use alternative roads and the military are also conducting searchers where they believe a lot of people are marooned.

Chimanimani has been hard hit. It also the area where the most number of deaths have been reported.

Meanwhile, the United Nations (UN) says it’s working with governments affected by recent natural disasters in Southern Africa and Indonesia.

“We issued two separate statements by the SG in which he expressed sadness at the loss of life, destruction of property and displacement of people by tropical cyclone Idai in Zimbabwe and by flash floods, landslides and an earthquake in Indonesia. He extends his condolences to the families of the victims in both tragedies and to the people and government of Zimbabwe and Indonesia. On cyclone Idai our humanitarian colleagues report that in Mozambique widespread damage is reported in Beira City with at least 48 people reportedly killed. In Malawi is has affected more than 183 000 people while 9600 people in Zimbabwe have been impacted due to flooding and landslides. The UN and our humanitarian partners are supporting the government-led relief efforts,” explained the UN Secretary-General’s spokesperson Stephane Dujarric.

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Land
Govt land beneficiaries face uncertain future due to corruption
17 March 2019, 1:50 PM

Beneficiaries of government’s agricultural land reform policies at a grape farm called Nirwanda in the Hex River Valley, in the Western Cape, face an uncertain future due to corruption.

In one of the biggest land scandals, the SABC’s investigative program Special Assignment has uncovered how the beneficiaries have been left in the lurch due to conflict between a farming co-operative called the Big Five and the Department of Rural Development and Land Reform.

This is over the alleged imposition of a multinational dutch fruit exporter called SAFE and its BEE partner BONO.

A member of the presidential land advisory panel, Professor Ruth Hall, says the practise is rife throughout the country.

“Companies and individuals who are politically connected are getting lucrative contracts from the state to take over land reform farms to farm them with state subsidies. They are getting free land to farm on state’s behalf. The people, who are ostensibly signed up as beneficiaries, don’t have oversight of financials and don’t receive dividends. In this sense it’s not land reform.”

Valtteri Bottas.
Bottas upstages Hamilton at Australian Grand Prix
17 March 2019, 12:59 PM

Valtteri Bottas upstaged his Mercedes world champion team-mate Lewis Hamilton on Sunday to win the season-opening Australian Formula One Grand Prix in a sizzling performance that he called his “best ever”.

The flying Finn started second on the grid but got a jump on the pole sitting Briton at the first corner and never looked back, scorching round the Albert Park circuit to take the chequered flag a massive 20.9 seconds ahead of Hamilton.

Red Bull’s precocious Max Verstappen came third to join them on the podium after audaciously overtaking Ferrari’s Sebastian Vettel midway through the race.

“How about that! Yes!” said Bottas over the team radio after also taking the new bonus point for the fastest lap.

“I don’t know what just happened. I don’t know what to say. It was definitely my best race ever,” he said after. “I felt so good and the car was so good.

Four-time world champion Vettel had to settle for fourth, trailing in 57.1 seconds behind Bottas. Ferrari partner Charles Leclerc was fifth, with Kevin Magnussen in a Haas sixth.

Bottas, whose last triumph was at the Abu Dhabi season finale in 2017, was overshadowed last year by Hamilton, failing to win a race, hampered by mechanical problems and bad luck but was fast in qualifying and only narrowly edged out of pole position.

“In the beginning it was all about managing the race and building the gap,” Bottas said. “I knew I could do it, I’ve done it before, it was about being at my best level.”

Bottas, now in his third year with Mercedes, knows he must perform with promising Frenchman Esteban Ocon, 22, waiting in the wings as the team’s reserve driver. He delivered in spades on Sunday for his fourth Grand Prix win in his 119th race.

“It’s a good weekend for the team,” said Hamilton. “Valtteri drove an incredible race today so he deserved it. We have some work to do, (but) it is more than we could have hoped for as a team.”

Starting on soft tyres on a fine day, Bottas got an electric start and built a gap of 1.153 seconds on Hamilton after the opening lap, with Vettel, Verstappen and Leclerc trailing in their wake.

The gap kept growing, and when Vettel pitted on lap 14 to swap for medium tyres Mercedes called in five-time champion Hamilton soon after.

Bottas stayed out, pumping out fastest laps, and when seven laps later he pitted he emerged more than 10 seconds ahead of his team-mate, who was clearly bemused.

“What was the reason for stopping so early?” Hamilton asked over the team radio, to be told it was to cover Vettel’s early stop.

With Bottas having an insurmountable lead the battle was on for second, with Verstappen hounding Hamilton but unable to find a way through.

“I had to overtake Sebastian to get onto podium which is not easy here but was happy to pull that move off,” said Verstappen, who was ecstatic at beating the Ferraris.

Mercedes have been in a class of their own all weekend, turning the tables on pre-season testing when Ferrari looked like the team to beat.

The Italian team’s performance will be a source of worry, especially as they haven’t won the constructors’ title since 2008 and their last driver to become world champion was Kimi Raikkonen in 2007.

In contrast, Mercedes and Hamilton have been dominant, winning the drivers’ and constructors’ titles five years in a row.

Carlos Sainz Jr was the first casualty, forced to stop his McLaren with smoke and flames billowing out of his engine on lap 10 while he was running 14th.

It was also a day to forget for local hero Daniel Ricciardo in his first race for Renault after switching from Red Bull.

He lost his front wing after running onto the grass before the first corner and had to pit for a new nose. He finally retired on lap 30 of the 58-lap race.

The next Grand Prix is in Bahrain on March 31.

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