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Antonio Gutteres
Guterres calls for effective multilateralism as the world battles major challenges
25 June 2020, 9:37 PM

The United Nations Secretary-General has called for effective multilateralism in the world as the globe confronts major challenges like the coronavirus, conflict and climate change. Antonio Guterres was speaking a day ahead of the 75th anniversary of the adoption of the UN Charter.

“In the 21st century, governments are no longer the only political and power reality.  And we need an effective multilateralism that can function as an instrument of global governance where it is needed.  The problem is not that multilateralism is not up to the challenges the world faces, the problem is that today’s multilateralism lacks scale, ambition and teeth,” said Guterres during a virtual media briefing.

“And some of the instruments that do have teeth; show little or no appetite to bite, as has recently been the case with the difficulties faced by the Security Council.  We need to give multilateralism the capacities to confront our challenges, not only to meet immediate needs but to enable future generations to meet theirs,” he added.

Guterres also warned that it would be difficult to achieve meaningful transformation in the global governance sphere without the active participation of world powers. However, he says the most powerful countries are reluctant to allow greater inclusion in such bodies as the Security Council.

“In an ever more interdependent world, national interests are not easily separated from the global good. Shared values, shared responsibility, shared sovereignty; shared progress – these must be our guide and our goals.  I understand the challenge. It is difficult to have a meaningful transformation of the mechanisms of global governance without the active participation of the world powers – and, let me be blunt: relationships today have never been more dysfunctional.  But I firmly believe that an awakening will come when we recognise our shared fragilities – when the factors that today divide instead begin to force people to finally understand that division is a danger to everyone, starting with themselves. Ultimately, that is the way out of the mist. Our charter still points the way,” he concluded.

The United Nations was established after the Second World War in an attempt by the victorious powers – the US, Russia and Britain – to avoid future conflict and foster global co-operation. However, some analysts say world powers have retreated from multilateral co-operation and have in recent years, focused more on self-interest.

Three Limpopo police officers to be charged for dumping rape docket
25 June 2020, 8:17 PM

Three police officers at the Thohoyandou Sexual Offenses unit in Limpopo are facing charges of negligence and defeating the ends of justice over a dumped docket. The 2016 rape case docket was found dumped in the bush at Lwamondo, outside Thohoyandou.

The docket was of a case of the rape of a 17-year-old girl, who had been sexually violated by an intruder at her home in Lwamondo. Her family says since the case was opened more than four years ago, the investigating officer only contacted the girl once.

They say when the docket was discovered in the bush by a passerby, they had to relive her ordeal. The young woman’s mother says they had expected updates during the past four years, but this never happened.

“Since the case was opened in 2016, police investigating officers visited the family only once and never again. It’s only today that I got an update from you and you came here with the docket informing me that it was found dumped in the bush. When we reported the case we had expected that they will give us an update or arrest the suspect. It happened a long time ago and we had already forgotten about it,” says the mother of the victim.

Limpopo MEC for Community Safety Mavhungu Lerule-Ramakhanya has welcomed the suspension of two captains and one constable at the Sexual Offenses Unit in Thohoyandou. She says government will not tolerate incompetence in gender-based violence cases.

“We are continuing with the investigation. We want to say it to the public and also to our own police officers that we are not going to tolerate incompetence and ignorance when it comes to SGB cases. We are going to investigate why the police team that was given the responsibility did not do that. But we are equally going to work with the family to make sure that they get justice,” says the MEC.

Gender activist Riri Sengani of the Riri Sengani Foundation believes the implicated officers must be dismissed as their actions show they are not serious about gender-based violence.

“Only a suspension is not enough. We need an expulsion where those people will not go back to that work environment because they don’t deserve to be there. They don’t deserve to protect victims of gender-based violence, they just don’t belong in the SAPS. So we would want to make sure that we get those people totally removed from law enforcement because that is not where they belong,” she says.

Sengani agrees with the rape survivor’s family that dumping her docket where anyone could see it, is secondary victimisation.

“Throwing out a docket of a gender-based violence victim is secondary victimisation. The victim has already been victimised and then having to make sure that the docked disappear, is secondary victimisation, now we get to understand why victims of rape feel that they don’t have the courage to go and report rape cases. How then do you feel comfortable?”

Over 41 000 rape cases were reported in South Africa in the 2018/2019 period. Thohoyandou reported 297 sexual offenses at the time.

Nuclear Physicist Prof Vilakazi to take over from Prof Habib at Wits
25 June 2020, 7:25 PM

Wits University has appointed Nuclear Physicist Professor Zeblon Vilakazi as its new Vice-Chancellor and Principal.

Vilakazi will be the 15th Vice-Chancellor of the university and will take over from Professor Adam Habib, who is expected to step down from the position at the end of the year.

Vilakazi is due to start his tenure from January 1, 2021.

“Professor Vilakazi is the current Vice-Principal and Deputy Chancellor for Research and Post-Graduate Affairs at Wits University. Under his leadership, Wits’ output has more than doubled with the university increasingly producing more research with impact,” says university spokesperson, Sharona Patel.

Patel says Professor Vilakazi is the epitome of a world-class researcher and is globally recognised for his scientific work.

He has also played a role in developing higher education in Africa. She describes Vilakazi as a truly talented individual and an inspiring example for all Africans.

Habib takes up international position

Habib announced his new appointment in February 2020. He accepted an offer to serve as the Director of the School of Oriental and African Studies at the University of London from next year.

In the video below, Habib reflects on his tenure at Wits:

 

Prepare for difficult times ahead, BLSA tells SOE Council in an open letter
25 June 2020, 6:22 PM

In an open letter to the State-Owned Enterprises Council, appointed by President Cyril Ramaphosa, Business Leadership South Africa (BLSA) has warned of the tough task ahead.

BLSA has also urged the Council that state capture must never reoccur at SOEs, which has been the case in the recent past.

The Council was set up by President Ramaphosa to look at ways of fixing SOEs that are in huge financial problems with debt running into hundreds of billions of rands.

Below is BLSA’s open letter to the Council:

Dear SOE council members,

Congratulations on your appointment to this crucial advisory body. Your role is a critical one: many of our SOEs are financially broken and are not adequately providing the services that the economy needs to grow and create jobs. Many are struggling after years of neglect and plunder by vested interests. With more than 700 SOEs, you have much work to do. So, we wish you luck in fulfilling your mandate.

Your job will not be easy. Each SOE has a complex mixture of ideology, legislation and regulation, so there is no standard model. There are complex mechanics surrounding how each fits into the state and into the economy, while their true functions are often a mix of myth and necessity. You will need to find a systematic way of thinking about SOEs while not losing sight of the nature of each.

Indeed, in this sense you’ve been given a tough task – to come up with some overarching SOE legalisation. SOEs are expected both to facilitate the economy to create jobs and wealth while delivering direct outcomes. There are trade-offs in this. Does Eskom employing 2 000 more people count for much if it raises electricity prices for everyone so that it means 20 000 fewer people are employed outside Eskom in the private sector? In thinking through an overarching strategy, we need a rational mechanism to decide on these trade-offs that takes a holistic view of the economy.

First, though, there is some firefighting to be done. Taxpayers and consumers must be protected from future state capture. Your role as a council should be to ensure that our experience of state capture can never happen again.

Transparency will be key – radical transparency –  to allow the public to see when things are going wrong, and indeed when they are going right.

Government needs a cool head in thinking about how some SOEs can be rescued and, as importantly, how others cannot – where the rot is too deep and where systems and controls cannot be put in place. In such cases alternatives, particularly private sector alternatives, should be considered. This leads to issue of when it is appropriate for the state to provide goods and services and when the private sector should do so. There are going to be some services best provided by SOEs but others where SOEs are needlessly competing with private sector providers at greater cost.

We note that you’ve been mandated to look at SOE liquidity, which is a difficult issue given that each individual case is quite different. There are, however, some big picture, complex issues here to get your teeth into. For instance, why does government continually insist that SOEs must borrow off their own unsustainable balance sheets at very high interest rates, but then have to use its own balance sheet to bail them out later, rather than fund them through a central treasury operation at lower interest rates? How much more space is there on the fiscus to support SOEs with endless guarantees?

When things go wrong, how should SOEs go through a restructuring and workout? The current SAA situation with its business rescue practitioners and their conflict with the Public Finance Management Act is a key case study that can provide some guidance on what the correct resolution process should be for a bankrupt SOE.

A further question is whether government has the capacity to deal with SOEs – both at a macro policy level and at a shareholder oversight level on an individual departmental basis. Does National Treasury have adequate capacity to provide real-time oversight to over 700 SOEs? And should it be more transparent about how it does so in order to lend more eyes to the problem and prevent balls being dropped, as with the Land Bank?

BLSA will support government, SOEs and you in your new role in trying to answer these difficult questions – with capacity where needed. Our asks are ultimately simple – the lowest possible electricity costs; taxes directed to social security, investment, healthcare and education rather than bailouts for SOEs; and fair competition without perverse incentives for SOEs. We stand ready to invest, create jobs, fund the economic recovery post the COVID-19 crisis and help society to flourish.

The COVID-19 pandemic has brought into much sharper and more immediate relief the weakness of all SOEs (not just the obvious ones). As such, your role is more important than ever. You will have to prepare for a difficult time ahead: be wary of being kicked into the long grass or sidetracked by various vested interests and elements within and outside government – and work for what’s best for South Africa.

With warmest wishes for the crucial role you are embarking on,

Business Leadership South Africa.

 

 

School
Activists unhappy with cut to Basic Education’s budget
25 June 2020, 6:00 PM

Education rights activists say Finance Minister Tito Mboweni’s supplementary budget has left them worried about the outlook for Basic Education now and in the long-term.

In a joint statement, Equal Education, Equal Education Law Centre, Section 27 and the Public Service Accountability Monitor say instead of providing additional funding for the sector, Mboweni has opted to roll back key programmes to fund COVID-19 costs.

Highlights of the joint statement below:

  • R1 billion has now been cut from the National Department of Basic Education’s budget. Some funding that was previously allocated to longer-term projects like support for maths, science and technology and for learners with profound intellectual disabilities, has been cut.
  • A net total of R1.7 billion has been cut from school infrastructure grants alone, and a further R4.4 billion has been reallocated from these grants to cover COVID-19 expenditure needs. It is astonishing that in a moment which has highlighted the painful consequences of government’s failure to provide schools with adequate infrastructure and basic services such as clean water and safe toilets, school infrastructure funding has been further reduced.
  • No new funds have been allocated to the National School Nutrition Programme. R50 million has been reprioritised within the programme to fund emergency hygiene measures. This is a missed opportunity to boost a programme that reaches millions of learners and, by extension, their families, and could, therefore, be expanded to assist in meeting escalating food relief needs. 

The organisations say the cuts will have an impact on the right to Basic Education and equality for learners across the country for years to come. It will also jeopardise long-term infrastructure projects already in the pipeline.

In the audio below, Equal Education’s Hopolang Selebalo reacts to the budget:

They believe yesterday’s budget represents a continuation of concerning trends of under-spending in the sector.

“Recently published research shows that government spending per learner on Basic Education decreased by an average of 2.3% between 2009 and 2018.  The February 2020 budget deepened this trend by cutting the total basic education budget in real terms,  possibly the first time this has happened in the democratic era,” the joint statement says.

While the organisations welcome plans to ensure water and sanitation at poor and rural schools, they view the move as a temporary solution to historic problems that government has failed to resolve. “These interventions are temporary and some will require upgrades and frequent maintenance,” they add.

The activists have also raised concern over the lack of transparency prior to the budget’s tabling.

“Transparency is critical to ensure that budget allocations prioritise the greatest need and that financial loss due to corruption and maladministration is limited. This is especially true in the current circumstances, where emergency procurement and urgent funding is required,” they say.

Below is the full statement from the organisations:

 

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