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Voting for by-elections under way around the country
19 May 2021, 12:33 PM

Seven wards are up for grabs in KwaZulu-Natal as five municipalities are holding by-elections on Wednesday.

Three wards – wards 15, 22 and 30  in the uMhlathuze Local Municipality at Richards Bay and the other by-elections are in eThekwini’s ward 110, ward 11 of Nquthu, ward 14 of oPhongolo and ward 2 of eNdumeni in the Dundee area.

More than 18 000 people registered to vote in the ward.  

SABC News Simphiwe Makhanya reports: 


Some political parties would want to test their support in the run-up to the local government elections at the end of October.   

This is the last round of countrywide by-elections.  

The DA, IFP, ANC, EFF and Minorities of South Africa are among the parties that are contesting the eThekwini Municipality’s ward 110. 

 In Phoenix, north of Durban, residents say they want a councillor who will be able to work with community members 

“We want a councillor that will form a committee that will ensure community safety as sometimes children go missing while they are playing on the street,” says one voter.

Another voter complained over the shortage of clinics; and hopes that more schools will be built in the community as many children have to travel far distances to get access to schooling.

Limpopo

At Sengatane village, outside of Polokwane, one of the issues affecting voters are water shortages. Several suburbs in Polokwane have been hit by water shortages due to operational challenges as SABC’s Lutendo Bobodi reports:

Eastern Cape

By-elections are also taking place in seven wards in the Eastern Cape. These include the King Sabata Dalinyebo municipality, Port St Johns, Matatiele, Intsika Yethu and Mnquma.

A ward in the Nelson Mandela Bay metro is also being contested and the Amahlati municipality.

Our reporter Lubabalo Dada is in Keiskammahoek in the Amahlati municipality:


Electronic registration

Meanwhile, the Independent Electoral Commission says it is considering electronic registration as one of the modalities for future elections.

It says an announcement will be made soon in this regard. IEC Chief Electoral Officer Sy Mamabolo responded to questions from members of Parliament’s Home Affairs Committee during a virtual briefing. The Commissioners and IEC officials appeared before the committee to brief it about its 2019/2020 annual report.

Mamabolo explains, “It is correct that the commission is considering additional modalities of voter registration and we confirm that there will be an electronic registration modality introduced,- supported by safeguards to ensure that the person who actually registered is the person who claims today. So there are safeguards that will be inbuilt into that programme. An announcement in that regard will be made by the commission.” -Additional reporting by Mercedes Besent 

India reports 267 334 new coronavirus infections
19 May 2021, 12:19 PM

India on Wednesday reported 267 334 new coronavirus infections over the last 24 hours, while deaths rose by a record 4 529.

The South Asian nation’s tally stands at 25.5 million, with a death toll of 283 248, health ministry data showed.

On Tuesday, the country’s COVID-19 caseload surged past 25 million on Tuesday as a powerful cyclone complicated the health crisis in one of the states where the disease is spreading most quickly.

COVID-19 tests were administered to 200 000 people evacuated from coastal districts of the western state of Gujarat before the cyclone struck late on Monday and efforts were being made to try to limit any spread of infections.

Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s home state of Gujarat had suffered a 30% increase in infections since May 2, while the total number of vaccinations administered in the state last week was just 1.1 million – half the total of a month earlier.

The storm complicated efforts to tackle the coronavirus in the state as vaccinations were suspended for two days, while hospitals awaited back-up generators to keep power running and additional oxygen supplies.

Gujarat Chief Minister Vijay Rupani said oxygen manufacturing and distribution were not disrupted. Out of the more than 1 400 hospitals designated for treating COVID-19, power failures were reported in 16, and restored in 12, while the remaining four moved to back-up generators.

Texas bars mask mandates for schools, defying latest CDC guidance
19 May 2021, 9:23 AM

Texas Governor Greg Abbott on Tuesday ordered all public school districts in his state to lift mask-wearing requirements next month, contradicting the latest student-safety COVID-19 guidance from the US Centres for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC).

Abbott’s executive order also bars other local government entities in the state from continuing to require face coverings beginning on Friday, echoing a similar move earlier this month by fellow Republican Governor Ron DeSantis of Florida.

Abbott said Texas was making strides against the COVID-19 pandemic through vaccinations, antibody therapeutics and voluntary health-safety practices, leaving government mask requirements no longer necessary.

“We can continue to mitigate COVID-19 while defending Texans’ liberty to choose whether or not they mask up,” he said in a statement announcing the executive order.

Abbott and many other Republican politicians have cast mask mandates as an imposition on personal freedoms, though they grudgingly required face coverings at the height of the pandemic as hospitalizations and deaths surged out of control.

Texas lifted its state-imposed mask mandate 10 weeks ago when the crisis began to ebb. The state then sued officials in Austin, the Texas capital, for refusing to go along with the lifting of those restrictions.

Tuesday’s order marked an escalation in Abbott’s determination to force other local governments to align with his no-mask policy at the state level.

It also puts Texas at odds with the latest CDC guidance recommending students in schools across the United States wear masks for the 2020-2021 academic year because not all will have been inoculated against the coronavirus when in-classroom instruction resumes.

The action in Texas comes as states across the country have moved to end or relax compulsory mask-wearing in most other public places, in accordance with CDC guidelines in recent weeks. Those recommendations reflect a steady decline in coronavirus infections, hospital admissions and mortality as the US vaccination campaign gains momentum.

New York Governor Andrew Cuomo announced on Monday his state will drop face mask requirements in most public spaces for vaccinated individuals, while fellow Democratic Governor Gavin Newsom of California said he would keep his mask order in place for another month.

But most governors who have discarded mask mandates at the state level have allowed local governments, school districts and businesses to exercise discretion in choosing when and how to ease their own requirements.

Texas, the second-most populous state in the nation, now becomes the most aggressive in steering away from masks altogether.

Beginning Friday, local governments or officials attempting to impose a mask mandate or other restriction in defiance of Abbott’s latest executive order would be subject to fines of up to $1 000.

Public school districts have been given more time to comply, but after June 4, “no student, teacher, parent or other staff members of visitor can be required to wear a mask while on campus,” his announcement said.

Regardless of what government mandates are in place, a new Ipsos poll conducted for Reuters over the weekend shows more than half of Americans expressing a reluctance to quickly return to normal pre-pandemic behavior.

Of those surveyed, just 17% said they intended to swiftly get back to their previous routines. Another 28% said they already were doing so, a figure that included 42% of Republicans polled.

Court orders illegal occupants at SABC Mahikeng property to submit arguments
19 May 2021, 9:15 AM

The North West High Court in Mahikeng has ordered people who are illegally occupying SABC property in the town to submit their arguments as to why they should not be evicted by Thursday next week. 

The public broadcaster approached the court calling for the eviction of the illegal occupiers after they defied last week’s court order.  

Judge Monica Leeuw earlier ordered that all illegal occupiers must vacate the SABC property.

The SABC had earlier announced that it intended to sell non-core properties as part of its turnaround strategy. This includes more than 20 houses and 60 flats that have been rented out.

The auction is set to take place next week Wednesday.  

In April, South African National Civic Organisation Provincial Secretary, Khumalo Molefe said they would not allow the SABC to take any decision “without public participation.”

“We have learnt about the unfortunate and unjust action by the SABC based somewhere in Auckland Park, in Gauteng, to sell our property here in Mahikeng in the North West without any public participation. We reject this attempted hijacking of our public property by the SABC and we will not only reject it, but they will find us in the building. We will defend these buildings and we know how these buildings came about.”

“It was because of the contributions of our parents from the University of the North West to every building. It is because our parents contributed through their taxes through their blood and sweat that you find in the province. We will not stand by the side and allow the SABC, sitting somewhere in Auckland Park, to take the decisions about our public property,” says Molefe.

However, SABC Spokesperson Mmoni Seapolelo said at the time that the public broadcaster will continue with the auctioning of its non-core assets.

“The SABC will in May 2021, in line with section 52 D of the Public Finance Management Act for the disposal of non-core assets, hold a public auction of residential property which were rented by SABC employees and none employees. In order to ensure a fair and transparent process and as part of the recommendations of this process  a public auction will be held in May 2021.”

In the related video below, Community members hijack flats belonging to the SABC in Mahikeng:

-Report by Sylvester Serame

New York state probe of Trump Organisation is now criminal: Attorney general
19 May 2021, 8:51 AM

The New York attorney general’s office said on Tuesday it has now opened a criminal investigation into former President Donald Trump’s company, going beyond what began as a civil probe.

Attorney General Letitia James has been investigating whether the Trump Organization falsely reported property values to secure loans and obtain economic and tax benefits.

“We have informed the Trump Organization that our investigation into the organization is no longer purely civil in nature,” Fabien Levy, a spokesman for the attorney general’s office, said in a statement.

“We are now actively investigating the Trump Organisation in a criminal capacity, along with the Manhattan DA,” he said.

The Trump Organisation could not immediately be reached for comment. Trump has said that the investigation overseen by James, a Democrat, is politically motivated.

James has been investigating whether the Trump Organisation inflated the values of some properties to obtain better loans, and lowered their values to obtain property tax breaks.

Separately, Manhattan District Attorney Cyrus Vance has been investigating Trump’s pre-presidency business dealings for more than two years.

Vance’s office has said in court filings it was investigating “possibly extensive and protracted criminal conduct” at the former president’s Trump Organisation, including tax and insurance fraud and falsification of business records.

Vance’s probe began after Trump’s former lawyer and fixer Michael Cohen paid hush money to silence two women before the 2016 election about claimed sexual encounters with Trump.

That probe has accelerated since Republican Trump lost his bid for a second term to President Joe Biden, a Democrat.

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