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Stella Ndabeni-Abrahams
DA wants Parliament to discipline Minister Ndabeni-Abrahams
24 August 2020, 9:36 PM

The Democratic Alliance (DA) wants the National Assembly to take action against Communications Minister Stella Ndabeni-Abrahams for ignoring Parliament.

The DA says Ndabeni-Abrahams failed to implement a Parliamentary recommendation on the number of councillors that have to serve on the Independent Communications Authority of South Africa (ICASA). This comes after Ndabeni-Abrahams’ issued a notice in the government gazette over the weekend, stating that she will appoint five ICASA councillors.

DA member of Parliament’s Communications Committee Phumzile van Damme says her party will formally write to National Assembly Speaker Thandi Modise about the Minister’s conduct.

“The DA will be requesting that the Minister of Communications Stella Ndabeni-Abrahams be subjected to Parliamentary disciplinary action. This follows her latest decision to ignore Parliament regarding the appointment of ICASA councillors. Last month, she sought to reject a report adopted by the National Assembly saying she must appoint six councillors to the ICASA Council. She has again decided to ignore Parliament by appointing only five. While this may seem like a minor infection, it not in the sense, that the Minister brazenly decided to ignore Parliament,- despite a very clear instruction related to the appointments to ICASA,” says Van Damme.

Last week, the official opposition called for the Minister’s sacking, saying it has found further evidence for why it thinks Ndabeni-Abrahams should be fired.

The party says it is in possession of a copy of the letter written by lawyers on behalf of Post Office Chairperson, Tshikane Makhubele, to Ndabeni-Abrahams – questioning the legality of her decisions to remove her as SAPO Chairperson and her attempts to overturn decisions taken by the board.

 

Judgment reserved in Mkhwebane’s bid to halt Parliament probe into her fitness to hold office
24 August 2020, 9:00 PM

Judgment has been reserved in Public Protector’s bid to stop a Parliamentary probe into her fitness to hold office. Advocate Busisiwe Mkhwebane approached the High Court in Cape Town after the National Assembly endorsed a motion by the DA Chief Whip Natasha Mazzone for a panel of independent experts to be appointed to assess whether or not Mkhwebane has a case to answer.

Mkhwebane wants the High Court to halt the process pending a determination on the constitutionality of the National Assembly rules for removing the head of a Chapter 9 institution from office.

Advocate Dali Mpofu, acting on behalf of the Public Protector, took five hours to try and convince the full bench why Mkhwebane’s application for an interim interdict should succeed. This after the virtual sitting of the court was interrupted twice by technical glitches, forcing the matter to be postponed to give Mkhwebane’s legal team a chance to make their concluding submissions.

In terms of the National Assembly rules, an independent panel – possibly headed by a judge – must be appointed after a substantive motion has been received. But Mpofu argued that appointing a judge would be trenching the separation of powers between the legislature and the judiciary.

“Our issue really with that is the panel breaches separation of powers,” said Mpofu.

Mpofu also argued that the Speaker, Thandi Modise, does not have powers to appoint a judge to serve on any panel.

“If this is ultimately a political decision, judges should be kept far away, rules fatally flawed.”

Responding to the DA’s argument for the court to award a punitive cost order against Mkhwebane, Mpofu asked the court not to grant the party its wish, saying the DA has hounded Mkhwebane from day one.

“They insulted her, called her a spy from the day she was appointed. So to ask for costs, because they have an axe to grind, is thick coming from them.”

In the video below, Parliament Speaker and Mkhwebane headed for a legal showdown:

Mosque
Durban mosque building tenants escape unharmed following fire
24 August 2020, 6:29 PM

Fourteen tenants at the Juma Mosque building in the Durban CBD have escaped unharmed after a fire broke out in one of the flats that is used by people who work at the mosque.

It has now been confirmed that the fire has not affected the Juma Mosque itself- formerly known as the Grey Street Mosque- that is situated behind the block of flats. The extent of the damage has not yet been established.

Businesses in the building that caught fire were immediately closed for safety reasons. The movement of people near the scene had to be restricted as firefighters extinguished the blaze.

While initial reports from the scene indicated that it was the mosque itself that had caught alight, updates confirmed that the religious space had escaped the fire that was limited to the block of flats. AK Moola is among the tenants who narrowly escaped the fire. He says he was helped by Metro Police who came to evacuate them. But he says he lost everything including his pension money that was inside his flat.

“I saw the smoke came out, so Metro Police came out and said everyone must come out, everyone. But we are all Ok and very lucky. I lost the furniture there and I have a gym there. My wife had cash there and everything there,” says one tenant.

Ihsaan Khan is another tenant who narrowly escaped the blaze.

“I was busy taking a shower in my bathroom and I heard my child crying and screaming talking to me but I couldn’t hear what she was saying. The maid came and said see the fire and smoke. The maid told me to come out of the building as I was taking a shower. I had nothing to do but to put a towel around me and ran out of my house. All my belongings and all that I had, all gone. I have nothing, the goods that I sell at the market and over R40 000 cash, just over R40 000.”

Speaking to SABC News at the scene, a senior official of the Juma Mosque says it is difficult to estimate the extent of the damage at this stage. He says it is believed that the fire started in a single flat and spread to others rapidly.

“The fire started in flat number three and it then rapidly moved to the other flats and the Fire Department are here all I need to say is that there is no casualty on hand the mosque is not damaged in any way thanks to Allah the mighty God for that and the shops that are below the flats have not been damaged other than that there could be water damage as well.”

Meanwhile, chairperson Advocate Ahmed Mohammed says the mosque is not yet open to congregants, because it is observing lockdown regulations. He explains the legacy of the mosque that was built in 1881.

“It’s been the largest mosque in the Southern Hemisphere with more than a 100 years with a capacity of seven thousand members of the congregation and we have been observing the COVID-19 lockdown since March so we have not yet opened the mosque for any of the congregation. We have been observing that very strictly, we have to thank the All-Mighty it been contained as you can see.”

Emergency services and firefighters worked hard to extinguish the fire. KwaZulu-Natal Emergency Medical Services’ Robert McKenzie has confirmed that there were no casualties.

Kimberley residents up in arms over alleged highest electricity cost in the country
21 August 2020, 9:39 PM

The Sol Plaatje Municipality in Kimberley, in the Northern Cape, could face legal challenges and protests soon over its alleged high electricity costs. Anger has been mounting in the city since Eskom CEO, André de Ruyter, revealed that Sol Plaatje has the highest mark-up in the country.

Two years ago, Kimberley was under siege for weeks as residents protested over a proposed electricity tariff the municipality wanted to implement.

Residents say the electricity tariff in Kimberley is one of the highest in the country and De Ruyter’s revelation that Sol Plaatje added an 84% mark-up was their confirmation.

For 59-year-old Christine Joseph it is a struggle to keep the lights on every month. Her pension barely covers the cost of living for her brother and grandchild.

Joseph and her neighbours also say negotiations following the 2018 Kimberley shutdown did not bring the relief they were expecting. They’ve vowed to escalate their actions.

Community leader, Tumelo Mosekari says they will go back to the streets should negotiations fail and the chairperson of the Northern Cape Chamber of Commerce’s Hendrik Wessel says they will talk the municipality and if that fails, they will go to court to make sure the municipality charges less.

Wessel says high electricity prices have a knock-on effect on business with some struggling to survive, while others  choose to invest elsewhere.

The Sol Plaatje Municipality has denied the pricey mark-up, saying it will seek clarity from Nersa and Eskom. Sol Plaatje Municipal mayor Patrick Mabilo says the mark-up is around 26% and they can’t afford another shutdown of the city.

Two of three DA leadership contenders unhappy with online voting system
21 August 2020, 7:38 PM

The race is on for the divided Democratic Alliance (DA) as leadership hopefuls, Mbali Ntuli, John Steenhuisen and John Moodey battle it out for the party’s top position. The official opposition is gearing up to hold its elective conference virtually from October 31 to November 1.

DA members will vote for their new leader through an IT voting system. But discontent seems to be rising from two of the candidates, Ntuli and Moodey. They’re questioning the independence and legitimacy of the online system.

“The opus system will not allow any verification of who is actually voting, it will only allow us to know that a vote took place. I also stress that the system will be able to be rigged. This opus system does not allow myself or anybody in my team to be able to ensure the fidelity, impartiality of the system,” says Ntuli.

Moodey says: “It has been admitted that the electronic voting system is not without flaws. It cannot be guaranteed that the intended delegates will be in fact be the people who are voting. Quite frankly I’m not gullible to believe that the process will not be manipulated.”

But in a statement, the party’s federal chairperson and CEO refuted allegations that the party would attempt to influence internal election results through the IT system. The DA says all systems are in place for the conference.

“We are getting into the phase where candidates are intensifying their campaigns but from the party’s side, the focus now is making sure that all those qualifying branches conduct their branch launches and that they can nominate their candidate. So by the end of this month, we can be done with the nomination of delegates to congresses in order to establish the voters roll to congress,” says DA National Spokesperson, Solly Malatsi.

Earlier this week, Ntuli challenged Steenhuisen to a series of public live debates. She says she targeted Steenhuisen because he is the interim party leader.

In a short response to SABC News, Steenhuisen says he respects the decisions of the party and the presiding officers to determine when, and on what platform, any internal debates will take place.

He further says that he is focused on his campaign and will only be speaking directly to voting delegates for the upcoming congress.

However, one analyst is of the view that by virtue of being an incumbent leader, Steenhuisen may have the upper-hand in the leadership race.

“There is no doubt that any incumbent leader that would include Steenhuisen does have an advantage when they run office. You can look comparatively to the ANC. Incumbents have advantages. When opponents like Ntuli raise this points it sensitizes participants, it could even help her of John Moodey for that factor,” suggests Professor Susan Booysen- a researcher for the Mapungubwe Institute for Strategic Reflection.

Ntuli has since sent her grievances to the DA’s electoral team.

 Mbali Ntuli speaks to SABC News on her decision to run for DA leader:

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