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We did everything in our power as Parliament to deal with corruption: Mbete
18 May 2021, 9:47 PM

Former Speaker of Parliament Baleka Mbete says it is not true that the fifth Parliament did nothing to investigate allegations of widespread corruption between 2014 and 2017. She is testifying at the State Capture Commission on the parliamentary oversight during the former President Jacob Zuma’s administration.

Mbete said they did everything in their power through portfolio committees to find out what was happening.

“We did what is contained in this submission, whether it was by way of questions to the President, questions to specific ministers, that’s apart from portfolio committees and that’s apart from the motion of no confidence. So, it is simply untrue to say the fifth Parliament sat through massive amounts of corruption and did totally nothing. It is not true. What did happen might be inadequate and yes I dare say actually, it was inadequate because the resources are not adequate.”

Mbete has decried the current political culture which she says gives unfettered powers to the Executive.  She says currently the President is both the Head of State and the Executive. She says Parliament and the Judiciary are not treated equally with the executive making it difficult for the two arms of the state to execute their constitutional obligation.

“The political culture has given the Executive what in my view are unequal powers that militate against the principle of separation of powers in relation to the other arms in as far as procurement of finances from the National Fiscus or work of each arm is concerned. This is not in keeping with the spirit of this original relevant constitutional principle seeks. It is a practice that unwittingly promotes the supremacy of the Executive as opposed to the principle of the separation of powers. ”

Earlier co-owner of travel agency, Travel Excellence,  Halima Allana has told the commission that  Gupta-associate, Salim Essa, made many travel bookings for important and high-profile clients between 2013 and 2018.

She said she had no reason to lie about the bookings Essa made and initiated through her agency for top executives of State-Owned Enterprises and some Ministers. Allana indicated that one of the high-profile people the agency made bookings for was former Mineral Resources Minister Mosebenzi Zwane.

“We got quite a few referrals from Salim Essa and the Gupta’s and from other clients that we then built a client base for travel excellence, for example, I don’t know who Mr. Zwane is but there were some names that I didn’t know were Ministers or high profile people because we were given names and were told book, so I wouldn’t know if I was booking for government or  a high profile person  but come later then I realise this was a high profile person.”

Below is co-owner of travel agency, Travel Excellence,  Halima Allana: 

A travel agent with Travel Excellence, Sameera Sooliman who also testified before the commission confirmed that she was introduced to Former Eskom Chief Financial Officer Anoj Singh by Gupta associate Salim Essa.  Sooliman says Travel Excellence had an account for Essa who was an exclusive client.

She says although she never met Singh personally, they communicated through WhatsApp or email whenever he needed a trip to be booked.  Answering a question from  Zondo about Singh’s bookings, Sooliman told him that the former Eskom executive mostly paid in cash and that the payments were delivered to her home.

“When he made cash payments how did he go about doing that?” Zondo asked.

“He used to send me a WhatsApp or call and say that somebody would be dropping off the payment and most of the time it used to be dropped off at my place. I was living in Mayfair at that time, offices were in Lanesia and it was much easier to drop it off by me and I used to ring my office and say I have received so much from Mr. so and so, kindly receipt it out because I never used to have a receipt book at home,” said Sooliman.

Video:Travel Agent Sameera Sooliman’s testimony at the State Capture Inquiry 

 

 

India’s halt on vaccine exports ‘problematic’ for Africa
18 May 2021, 9:35 PM

An extended halt to exports of COVID-19 vaccines from India, where authorities are battling a wave of domestic infections, risks derailing vaccination efforts already underway in Africa, one of the continent’s top health officials said on Tuesday.

India stopped vaccine exports a month ago and, according to a Reuters report earlier on Tuesday, is now unlikely to resume major exports before October, dealing a major setback to the global COVAX initiative on which many poor countries rely.

Video: India records 7 million cases in two weeks

Africa has lagged far behind other regions due to supply issues and meagre financial resources but had planned to vaccinate 30-35% of its population by the end of the year and 60% within the next two to three years.

“This is very problematic as it means unpredictability of our vaccination programmes and a serious risk of not achieving our stated target… on time,” the Director of the Africa Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, John Nkengasong, wrote to Reuters.

Those targets primarily relied on supplies from the global COVAX vaccine-sharing facility, which has depended heavily on AstraZeneca shots produced by the Serum Institute of India (SII). “Given India’s huge challenges, it will be impossible to expect anything soon,” Nkengasong said.

There have been at least 4,742,000 reported infections and 126,000 reported deaths caused by the novel coronavirus in Africa so far, according to a Reuters tally.

And while the pandemic’s impact has been less acute than in the United States, Europe, and now India, Africa’s largely unvaccinated population of over 1 billion remains vulnerable, experts say.

COVAX had already begun distributing millions of doses of the two-shot AstraZeneca vaccine to countries across Africa. But those initial shipments have now been largely exhausted, with around 80% having been administered as a first dose, according to the World Health Organization (WHO).

Most countries using COVAX will now surpass the 12-week maximum interval recommended between the first and second dose of AstraZeneca unless 20 million doses are delivered by the end of June and another 5 million in July, the WHO said.

“The supply gap could be closed if countries with adequate supplies set aside a percentage of vaccines for COVAX,” said Richard Mihigo, coordinator of the WHO’s Immunization and Vaccines Development Programme in Africa.

A deal negotiated with Johnson & Johnson by the African Union should supply Africa with 400 million vaccine doses beginning in the third quarter of this year.

Several countries’ health officials told Reuters they had yet to receive updated information on expected arrival dates for COVAX shots. Some are now weighing their options.

Ethiopia, for example, has received just 2.2 million of the 7.6 million AstraZeneca shots it was due to get through COVAX by the end of April.

“We were expecting some delays, but not to this scale. As a country we must search other options,” Muluken Yohannes, a senior adviser to Ethiopia’s health ministry, told Reuters.

IEC considers electronic registrations for upcoming local government elections
18 May 2021, 9:00 PM

The Independent Electoral Commission (IEC) has reflected on its 2019 achievements.  The Commission appeared before  Parliament’s Home Affairs Committee on Tuesday.

The IEC achieved an unqualified audit opinion from the Auditor General for the 2019/2020 financial year which ended in March 2020.

In his opening remarks, IEC Chairperson, Vuma Mashinini, reflected on some of the achievements of 2019.

“Among those outstanding things is that we had a record number of 26.6 million voters who were actually on the voters roll. And a record number of 78 political parties have contested these elections. Again a record number of special votes were cast which is about 570 000. And we also enjoyed the lowest percent takes of spoilt ballots since 1998 where we recorded  1,27% as opposed to 1.29 (%) in 2014. And also we enjoyed the highest percentage  of women elected to the National Assembly, 45.25%, which is a major development of our country.”

 

Electronic registration

The IEC says it is considering electronic registration as one of the modalities for elections. It says an announcement will be made soon in this regard. The commission also says it does not know what impact COVID-19 will have on the voter turnout in the upcoming local government elections in October.

IEC commissioners and officials appeared before the committee to brief it about its 2019/2020 annual report.

The IEC achieved an unqualified audit opinion from the Auditor General for the 2019/2020 financial year which ended in March last year. In his opening remarks, IEC Chairperson Vuma Mashinini reflected on some of the achievement of 2019.

The briefing comes five months before the upcoming local government elections.

Voter turnout 

The IEC says it does not know what impact COVID-19 will have on the voter turnout during the 2021 municipal elections.

IEC Chief Electoral Officer Sy Mamabolo was responding to MPs in the committee. “We are experiencing a decline in national and provincial elections. But that phenomenon is not applicable in local government elections, because of these facts: In 2011 we were able to improve voter turnout from 48 %  to  58% and we retained that turnout in 2016. But as I sit here now,-  I  don’t know what the impact of COVID(-19) is going to have on turnout. If all things were equal,- in other words if there was no COVID(-19), –  as a commission, we would have pushed very hard through our programmes, voter education, communication programmes and so on to push that into the 60% arena.”

Mamabolo also responded to questions on the electronic registration system which he says is under consideration. “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.”

Mashinini added that the commission has no control over the voter turnout and why eligible voters do not want to participate in elections. “We are very much conscious about the voter challenges. Among the things that we need to highlight there is that as a country we don’t have what we call compulsory voting and participation, where if you don’t participate like in other countries, – you can get a fine. So, that has an impact in voter turnout and participation. The other things we don’t have control over is the issue that there are voters now who have been discouraged by various reasons, from participating in the elections. Now those groupings, we remain very much vigilant to say how then do we continue to pursue them.” Meanwhile, the IEC says it is open to election postponement of the elections: 

During the briefing, the EFF called on the IEC to look into the issue of potential fake addresses on the voter’s roll in KwaZulu Natal,  especially in EThekwini.

“I raised the fact that in KZN you’ve got to 100 people staying in one address and it’s occurring quite a lot. There is a huge problem there and then you find that people who are not staying in that address or staying somewhere else, they take that address and go and vote. So, they (IEC) need to zoom into those kinds of spaces and inspect their voters’ role especially in KZN, EThekwini. We are seeing it in some other areas where one address is being used for many people,” says EFF Member of the Home Affairs Committee Mgcini Tshwaku.

Five schools closed in Northern Cape due to COVID-19
18 May 2021, 7:05 PM

Five Northern Cape schools have been closed due to coronavirus (COVID-19) cases, two in Kimberley and three at Delportshoop near Barkley West. The department has dismissed claims that proper COVID-19 decontamination processes were not followed at the schools.

There are concerns about the rising number of COVID-19 cases in South Africa. The provincial Spokesperson for the Department, Lehuma Ntuane, says the affected schools will be reopened soon.

“We currently have a total number of five schools that have closed due to COVID-19 cases and it’s very important to mention that we are working closely with the Department of Health in this regard. Our decision to close schools is based on their advice. We will never neglect or put the lives of learners and educators at risk. Our schools are still using the rotation system as part of controlling and managing COVID-19 within the confines of the school.”

Third wave of the COVID-19 pandemic

The province currently has 6 159 active COVID-19 cases. The number of deaths in the province currently stands at 987 with 37 797 recoveries.

The number of cases has been increasing across different provinces in South Africa. The total cumulative cases is 1 526 638 and in total 55 260 people have died in South Africa.

There have been growing concerns about the third wave of the virus. Speaking at the official opening of a refurbished mining hospital in Carletonville, west of Johannesburg, Gauteng Premier David Makhura confirmed that the province has reached the third wave.

The Health Department says it is working with provinces to update their resurgence plans to ensure they are ready to deal with a possible influx of COVID-19 cases.

The Department of Health has assured South Africans that the country is not experiencing the third wave, however, the risk remains.

Below are the latest coronavirus statistics: 

 

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Palestinian Embassy in SA calls for international support
18 May 2021, 7:01 PM

The Palestinian Embassy in Pretoria has called on the international community to rally behind their fellow Palestinian community back home. This is as the Israeli government continues to unleash attacks on Palestinians despite calls by the United Nations (UN) to end the violent attacks immediately.

More than 60 people, mostly women and children, have been killed in the Gaza strip and Jerusalem since the outbreak of violent attacks by the Israeli army.

Palestinians living in South Africa have called for a Day of Action in Solidarity with the Palestinian people and a general strike across Palestine. This will include picketing and night vigils in strategic venues like embassies, among others.

“We want the international community to implement justice and peace. We are worried about what is happening in Jerusalem, West Bank, and Gaza. It’s a genocide and massacre against the Palestinians. We see the Security Council of the UN take extreme resolutions against a few regimes in the world, but when it comes to the Israeli, they keep silent and they don’t implement the resolution. They don’t take action against what is happening in Palestine and against Israeli,” says Palestine Consulate in South Africa, Hassina Aldrany.

Video: Palestinian Councillor to SA speaks about the Israel-Palestine conflict

Video: Analysis | Israel-Palestine conflict

More calls for support 

Africa Palestine Movement in South Africa’s Muhammed Desai has urged South Africans to take note of the prevailing violent situation in Palestine. Desai also appealed for support in condemning the ongoing killings in Palestine.

“The people of South Africa come from various sectors facing some racial backlash and are coming together in condemning the attacks on Palestinians which resulted in more than 200 people being killed in less than one week, and 50 of them children under the age of 16.”

The South African Student Congress has also weighed in. The Student Congress is in solidarity with the people of Palestine. A mass protest action is scheduled to take place outside the Israeli Embassy in Pretoria.

“There will be a protest by the South African students. The largest student movement in the continent at the Israeli Embassy in Pretoria against Israeli apartheid policy in particular the recent violence that [the] Israeli regime is unleashing on the Palestinian people,” says Desai.

Last week hundreds of people marched to Parliament in solidarity with the people in Palestine: 

 

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