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‘Socio-economic factors to blame for low W Cape pass rate’
5 January 2018, 11:59 AM

The Western Cape Education Department says various socio-economic issues can be blamed for poor matric results, especially in poor communities.

Overcrowding in classrooms also remains a concern.

Western Cape matric results will be released on Friday morning.

Provincial Education Head Brian Schreuder says it’s unfair that pupils living in gang riddled areas are forced to deal with violence, while trying to obtain an education.

“How do we expect kids to learn when bullets fly around. How do we expect kids to learn when we teach them that when there are gang fights and killings on a regular basis, they must fall down for safety sake. How do they go to school under that environment?”

Meanwhile, the South African Democratic Teachers’ Union (Sadtu) in the province has called on affected communities to work together to create safer schools.

National Guard responds to blizzard pounding U.S. Northeast
5 January 2018, 9:59 AM

A powerful blizzard battered the U.S. Northeast on Thursday, knocking out power for tens of thousands of people and snarling travel amid a cold snap that has gripped much of the United States for over a week and killed more than a dozen people.

Thousands of flights were cancelled, firefighters scrambled to rescue motorists from flooded streets in Boston, National Guard troops were mobilized in the Northeast and New York City’s two main airports halted flights because of whiteout conditions.

“Today, I thought Manhattan was going to have the streets cleaned up, but I see not,” said Valentine Williams, who usually operates an electric scooter to deliver food in New York City.

The snow forced Williams, 28, to make deliveries on foot. No customers complained that he was slower than usual. “They’re just surprised that I‘m out here,” he added.

Officials feared fast-dropping temperatures after the storm passed would turn snow on roadways to ice.

Ahead of that threat, snow plows and salt trucks were dispatched along streets and highways, and schools were closed through much of the region. In Boston, Mayor Marty Walsh said schools would remain closed on Friday.

Blizzard warnings were in effect along the East Coast from North Carolina to Maine. The U.S. National Weather Service measured wind gusts of more than 70 miles per hour (113 kph), which downed power lines.

Almost 80 000 homes and businesses in the Northeast and Southeast, where the storm struck on Wednesday, were without power.

 

The Boston area received 12 inches of snow, with more on the way, according to the National Weather Service. Parts of New Jersey were buried under nearly a foot and a half of powder.

The storm was powered by a rapid plunge in barometric pressure that some weather forecasters called a bombogenesis, or a “bomb cyclone.” It brought high winds and swift, heavy snowfall.

The wintry weather has been blamed for at least 14 deaths in the past few days, including four in North Carolina traffic accidents and three in Texas because of the cold.

Nearly 500 members of the National Guard were activated along the East Coast to assist with emergency response, including 200 in New York state, the U.S. Department of Defense said in a statement.

 

TRAVEL WOES

More than 5,000 U.S. airline flights were cancelled. At New York’s John F. Kennedy (JFK) and LaGuardia airports, all flights were temporarily halted because of whiteout conditions, the Federal Aviation Administration said. LaGuardia on Thursday evening announced on Twitter that the suspension had been lifted. But the Port Authority of New York and New Jersey said flights at JFK would not resume until 7 a.m. Friday.

Passenger train operator Amtrak ran reduced service in the Northeast. Sporadic delays were reported on transit systems, including New York’s Long Island Rail Road and Metro-North commuter lines, as well as the Boston area’s Massachusetts Bay Transportation Authority system.

“Years of Band-Aid solutions create nightmare situations when storm damage occurs,” said Joseph Schwieterman, a professor of public policy and specialist in transportation systems at DePaul University in Chicago. “Replacement parts are tough to find and maintenance process turns into major headache.”

In New York’s Fort Greene neighbourhood, Mohammed Farid Khan said his morning commute took three times as long as usual because of train woes.

“There were only local trains, no express,” Khan, 30, said as he hunched with an electric drill trying to fix the handle of his snow shovel inside the convenience store where he works.

 

ICY RESCUES

A 3-foot (0.9-meter) tidal surge flooded the area around Boston’s historic Long Wharf with icy seawater.

Firefighters used an inflatable raft to rescue one motorist from a car submerged in water up to its door handles, Boston Fire Commissioner Joseph Finn told reporters.

The flooding tied a 40-year record, the National Weather Service said.

Boston officials briefly thought they would need to evacuate a shelter near the flooded areas, Walsh said.

Officials reported traffic accidents throughout the Northeast and the storm’s reach extended to eastern Canada.

On Wednesday, the same storm brought historic cities in the Southeastern United States their heaviest snowfall in three decades.

 

 

 

To lead South Africa, Ramaphosa must balance populism and pragmatism
5 January 2018, 9:17 AM

Mashupye Herbert Maserumule, Tshwane University of Technology

Maiden speeches are tricky. They only come once. The one delivered in South Africa by newly-elected president of the African National Congress (ANC) Cyril Ramaphosa required extraordinary ingenuity.

Ramaphosa had to knit together multiple dynamics into a coherent whole. He managed to do this, delivering a speech which largely resonated with the delegates. His maiden address to the party, at the end of its 54 National Conference, was shaped by the context of a narrow victory following a fierce and highly polarised contest in a factionalised organisation. A necessary aspect of his leadership was therefore to unite the ANC for a new beginning in a way that didn’t rock the boat.

Ramaphosa’s maiden speech showed he might indeed be the leader South Africa has been waiting for. Its power lay in its simplicity and ordinariness. Measured, but forthright, he touched on many policies that were approved by the conference. These included a raft of resolutions that tried to give meaning to the goal of achieving “radical socio-economic transformation”. Two policy initiatives in particular set the cat among the pigeons: land redistribution without compensation and fee-free higher education.

These are policy extremes with far-reaching implications for the economy, and that could easily create distress. They require exceptional leadership, a sense of ingenuity and dexterity, both at party and state levels – lest recklessness sully policy intentions.

Ramaphosa struck the right note as he thanked delegates for electing him. But the real test of his leadership will lie in how he walks the tightrope between populism and pragmatism, and his ability to make his incongruous leadership team share his vision and approach.

Corruption

Ramaphosa did not shy away from the elephant in the room – corruption. But will he be able to take decisive action given the permutations of the motley crew of the ANC’s top leaderhip team as well as those chosen to serve on its national executive committee? These two outcomes may in fact have made his presidential victory Pyrrhic.

The power dynamics in the national executive committee – the party’s highest decision making body between national conferences – will come to the fore as soon as Ramaphosa moves to act against those implicated in a report – called State of Capture – produced by Thuli Madonsela, the country’s former public protector.

The trickiest issue will be what to do about Jacob Zuma who remains president of the country even though his term as ANC president has ended. This means that South Africa faces a gridlock as the two “centres of power” – Ramaphosa as head of the ANC and Zuma as head of the country – vie for power.

There are many in the country who want the ANC to “recall” Zuma as president of the republic. There are a number of understandable reasons for this, over above the two-centres of power problem.

Chief among of them relate to various court judgements against him. The latest was a decision by the North Gauteng High Court to dismiss his application for the review of the State of Capture Report. It also ordered Zuma to comply with the remedial action set out in the report.

Zuma is appealing the court’s decision. This runs against the wishes of the ANC conference which called for Zuma to institute a judicial commission of inquiry, as recommended by the public protector.

How the ANC deals with this matter will determine whether Ramaphosa meant what he said when he declared:

The people of South Africa want action. They do not want words.

Land and fee-free higher education

On policy issues, the speech tried to moderate populism with a semblance of pragmatism. A caveat that the ANC’s new policy on land reform shouldn’t compromise food security and destroy financial markets, and that its implications on property rights should be adroitly managed, exemplifies this.

In politics, populism is as important as pragmatism. As American anthroposopher Joel Wendt put it, populism is “rooted in the people”, and therefore gives legitimacy to a political system. It is sustained by pragmatism, especially at the level of policy implementation.

It appears that, as his speech showed, Ramaphosa’s leadership of the ANC’s newly-found radicalism is going to be that of pragmatic populism – the ability to manage expectations generated by populist policy posturing to recapture waning electoral support, with extraordinary care not to destroy the sources of revenue necessary to sustain the state.

But this will be a huge challenge, particularly when it comes to delivering on the promise of fee-free higher education. At issue is the haste with which Zuma announced the new policy on the eve of the ANC’s elective conference, sparking suspicion that it was intended to influence the outcome of the race for the presidency in favour of Nkosazana Dlamini-Zuma, his anointed candidate.

Zuma’s announcement sent the higher education sector into a tailspin and caught the National Treasury off-guard as no discussions had been had about how to fund it.

Fee-free higher education is a poisoned chalice for Ramaphosa. It is already being used by opposition parties for political opportunism on campuses. And uncertainties about its administration are likely to be blown out of proportion to spark disruptions.

Zuma’s hasty pronouncement on this politically charged and emotive issue is going to be the first test of Ramaphosa’s mastery of the art of managing the confluence between populism and pragmatism, not as binary opposites, but as elements of the same policy.

Mashupye Herbert Maserumule, Professor of Public Affairs, Tshwane University of Technology

This article was originally published on The Conversation. Read the original article.

Rescue operations resume following Kroonstad train crash
5 January 2018, 8:31 AM

The rescue operation in the Kroonstad train crash is expected to resume on Friday morning after it was suspended last night.

The crash has claimed the lives of at least 18 passengers. Free State Emergency Services suspended the operation because of lack of heavy-duty machinery.

The train was travelling from Port Elizabeth to Johannesburg when it collided with a truck at a railway crossing. Over 200 people are said to have been injured.
Those who survived were bussed to their final destinations in different parts of Gauteng.

Meanwhile, DNA tests will have to be done to identify the bodies of the deceased passengers.

Transport Minister, Joe Maswanganyi, visited the scene and sent a message of condolence to the families of the deceased. The crash scene was one of carnage with wreckage scattered all over the place. It’s believed that the truck driver thought that he could beat the train at the level crossing.
Survivors share their experiences.
“The accident was caused by the truck driver hooting on the railway line. But unfortunately the back of the truck was still on the railway,” says one survivor.
Another survivor says: “I was sleeping and the couch that I was in was shaking and when I woke up, everyone was crying.”

Maswanganyi says the truck driver must account and commended community members and local business from Hennenman who provided survivors with food and water.

UWC will not allow walk-in applications
5 January 2018, 7:49 AM

The University of the Western Cape says it will not allow walk-in applications for the 2018 academic year.

Registration is due to begin on the 18th of this month.

Universities have clashed with government, with vice chancellors insisting that they were not consulted about President Zuma’s free higher education plan.

Zuma announced the plan at the ANC National Elective Conference last month.

Economic Freedom Fighters (EFF) leader Julius Malema has meanwhile called on all students to pitch up at tertiary institutions to register following Zuma’s announcement.

UWC Spokesperson Luthando Tyhalibongo says precautionary measures are in place for any eventuality.

“Our academic year will begin on the 5th of February. UWC will not allow walk-in applications. A provision has been made for students who did not previously qualify for financial aid and who therefore did not apply to the university for admission in 2018. Those students can now go to the website of the Department of Higher Education and Training for further assistance.”

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