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IEC says voters can continue to register online despite postponement of registration weekend
23 July 2021, 7:27 PM

The Independent Electoral Commission (IEC) says while it has postponed the national voter registration weekend scheduled for July 31 and August 1, voters can continue to register to vote on its virtual platform.

The IEC announced this after announcing that it has unanimously accepted the recommendations of the Moseneke Inquiry, which recommended that free and fair elections will not be possible on October 27.

The IEC says it will apply for authorisation with the courts for the polls’ postponement to February 2022.

IEC deputy chairperson, Masego Sheburi, says the commission is seeking legal advice on which court to approach.

“The Constitutional Court will have jurisdiction in relation the fact that this matter raises weighty constitutional matters however the court takes a dim view of being approached as a court that sits as a court of first and final instance it wants to hear the matters being vindicated first by a lower court, however it is approached. However, it is notionally possible that we could approach the Constitutional Court but we must make a case for direct access to that court and make a case for direct access to that court and that your matter is that of a constitutional nature,” explains Sheburi.

Should the courts not be amenable to the application to postpone the elections, another route would be to amend the Constitution.

“The Constitutional amendment route is a lengthy route it requires 70% or super majority of members of the national assembly it would also require support of at least six of the provinces. If you look at the submission of political parties, political parties have taken two divergent views there are those that want the elections proceed and there are those think elections cannot proceed because they won’t be free and fair. That alone should tell you that a constitutional amendment while notionally possible may not be possible given that political parties that must sponsor it and support it in the national assembly are divided on the matter,” adds Sheburi.

Mashinini says the commission will now consult with Cooperative Governance Minister, Nkosazana Dlamini-Zuma, the Treasury as well as political parties to communicate its decision.

He says the commission will also need to adjust its electoral schedule accordingly to accommodate a new date, starting with the deferment of the national registration weekend.

IEC Chairperson Glen Mashinini says only face-to-face registration has been affected by the developments.

“The commission reminds all eligible voters that the online registration facility launched recently will continue to provide a safe convenient and easy way to register as a voter and to update registration details and since its launch on the 14th of July more than 8 648 voters have already successfully used the system to register or to change their registration details,” he says.

Political parties have generally accepted the IEC’s decision, with some such as the DA saying they will watch closely to ensure that local elections do indeed take place at the earliest possible time when it is safe to hold them.

Electoral Commission briefing on decision on Local Government Elections 

Dry weather conditions force Free State farmers to dig deep into their pockets
23 July 2021, 7:00 PM

Farmers in the Free State say dry winter conditions are forcing them to dig deeper into their pockets. They say not having enough grazing is costly for them as they have to buy feed for their livestock. Also selling livestock in winter is not profitable.

Weight loss among livestock is a serious concern. Crop and livestock farmer Mponeng Lentoro says these conditions are affecting her bottom line.

“Now the grass is dry and this means we have to buy more food for animals. The cattle are also not in good condition and we are forced to sell them with less profit because of their condition.”

Livestock and salt farmer, Gobonweng Thebeagae, says his salt production is more better off in summer than winter.

“In winter we have more challenges because there is no enough sun and the wind is cold. It usually takes us 5 to 6 days to create salt but now it takes more days. Its an expensive exercise.

Free State Agriculture board member, Andre Jane van Rensburg, says worst affected farmers are those in the drought and fire-stricken areas.

“Unfortunately stressed animals like the animals in drought and fire stricken areas are taking a severe strain and they need a lot more feed to survive. Lambs being born are also under strain and severely affected can barely survive. Windmills and water pipes need more maintenance,” says Van Rensburg.

Grain farmers, on the other hand, are smiling as the cold weather conditions are ideal for their crops.

Concern over vigilantism if sexual offences registry is made public
23 July 2021, 6:30 PM

Deputy Justice Minister, John Jeffreys, says South Africa’s history of vigilantism is one of the main concerns about making the sexual offences register public.

He’s briefed the Select Committee on Security and Justice on the Sexual Offences and Related Matters Amendment Bill.

Parliament has heard that an overwhelming number of submissions have been received. The Bill has already been processed and passed by the National Assembly.

It’s now up to the National Council of Provinces (NCOP) to decide if it will make changes.

This Bill deals with the crime of incest, categorises the offence of sexual intimidation, and seeks to further regulate the National Register for Sex offenders.

“The concern with making the registry public to everybody is two-fold. One we have a history of vigilantism in our country. And the fear would be that if you have a child that goes missing, or a young woman who goes missing, and it’s known that there is (vigilantism)……across the world it’s very few countries that have their registers open,”  says Jeffreys.

Jefferys says an application can be made to check up on a name or details of someone on the register. But this application also comes with conditions.

Various quarters, including the Action Society, have called for the National Register for Sex Offenders (NRSO) to be made public, saying it will assist parents to make informed decisions on who they allow around their children.

More than 35 000 sex offenders included in the NRSO:

The topic of decriminalising sex work also came under scrutiny during Jeffreys’ briefing, with the select committee agreeing that further discussions are needed on it.

“The issue of sex work does fall beyond the ambit of the bill. This should also be a matter that we as the select committee should discuss…dealing with the decriminilisation of sex work,” says committee chair, Shahidabibi Shaikh.

NCOP members will continue with its deliberations on the bill.

Vodacom Group reports 9% increase in revenue
23 July 2021, 3:30 PM

The Vodacom Group has reported a 9% increase in revenue to R24.8 billion in the quarter ending June 30th.

The group notes that South Africa’s service revenue was up 5.2%, while strong M-Pesa revenue supported normalised growth of its International markets.

Vodacom also announced that mobile contract customer revenue increased by 4.1%, while contract customers increased by 8 000.

“The company says in response to the demand for connectivity the group has reduced the cost of the 1GB 30-day data bundle by a further 14% from the 1st of April 2021.

It says the reduction adds up to a cumulative 43% cut over the last two years.

The move is seen in line with the Competition Commission’s 2019 recommendation, which called for network service providers to lower mobile data costs by between 30% and 50% or face prosecution.

Tradition, fireworks and a moment of silence as Tokyo Games start
23 July 2021, 3:06 PM

The Tokyo Olympics like no other opened on Friday with fireworks illuminating an empty stadium and a moment of silence to honour those lost to COVID-19, with a nod to Japanese tradition represented by wooden Olympic rings linked to the 1964 Games.

Postponed for a year, organisers were forced to take the unprecedented step of holding the Games without fans as the novel coronavirus is on the rise again, taking lives around the world.

Even the opening ceremony, normally a star-studded display teeming with celebrities, was eerily silent with fewer than 1 000 people in attendance, strict social distancing rules and signs calling on the spectators to “be quiet around the venue.”

Regardless, it marks a coming together of the world, with an audience of hundreds of millions around the globe and at various stages of the pandemic tuning in to watch the start of the greatest show in sport.

The opening video featured at the stadium recapped Japan’s path to the Games and the challenges the world has faced since the selection of the Japanese capital as host in 2013.

It showed how in 2020 the coronavirus struck, with lockdowns forcing the unprecedented postponement only four months before the Games were supposed to open, setting off a roller-coaster period of uncertainty and preparations in isolation for the athletes.

Some of them are expected to use the ceremony to make statements about equality and justice and several nations will be represented by a man and a woman after the organisers changed their rules to allow two flagbearers.

Echo of ’64 

Japan had billed the Olympics as an echo of the 1964, which marked the country’s return to the world stage after its devastating World War Two defeat, but this time showcasing its recovery from the 2011 earthquake, tsunami and nuclear crisis.

In the segment highlighting the impact of the pandemic on the athletes and people around the world unable to see the Olympics in person, the organisers showed a lone female athlete, Japanese boxer nurse Arisa Tsubata training in the darkness, running silently on a treadmill.

Dozens of dancers moved about while projection mappings showed connections between them, highlighting how people around the world, including the athletes, have formed fresh connections online during the lockdown.

Japanese Emperor Naruhito and International Olympic Committee (IOC) President Thomas Bach, both masked, entered the stadium and bowed to each other before sitting down socially distanced.

The giant wooden rings were carried onto the field on a platform, guided by the light of many paper lanterns. With the pull of a rope, the rings were transformed into the Olympic symbol.

The rings make use of lumber from thinned trees that grew from the seeds borne by athletes from each of the participating nations to the previous Olympics hosted by Tokyo.

The performance of putting the rings together began with the “Kiyari Uta,” a traditional work song that has been sung for centuries by labourers to synchronise their efforts in rhythmic spectacle.

No-frills opening 

The opening is taking place without the usual mass choreography, huge props and cornucopia of dancers, actors and lights associated with past celebrations.

A vastly smaller number of athletes will march in the teams’ parade, with many planning to fly in just before their competitions and leave shortly after to avoid infections.

Only 15 global leaders are in attendance, along with Emperor Naruhito, who will formally open the Games as his grandfather Hirohito did in 1964, and US First Lady Jill Biden.

The ceremony is marked by high-profile absences, including former Prime Minister Shinzo Abe, who wooed the Games to Tokyo. A number of top sponsors and economic leaders will also stay away, highlighting strong opposition to the sporting extravaganza in COVID-fatigued Japan.

Hundreds of protesters carrying placards that read “Lives over Olympics” protested around the venue. The protesters, a mix of people in white surgical masks, yelled “Stop the Olympics” as they marched.

Hundreds of protesters carrying placards that read Lives over Olympics protested around the venue. The protesters, a mix of people in white surgical masks, yelled Stop the Olympics as they marched.

Only a third of the nation have had even one dose of vaccines, prompting worries the Games could become a super-spreader event. More than 100 people involved with the Olympics have already tested positive.

The Olympics have been hit by a string of scandals, including the exit of senior officials over derogatory comments about women, jokes about the Holocaust and bullying.

The Games run until August 8.

About 11 000 athletes from 204 national Olympic committees are expected, along with a team of refugee athletes competing under the Olympic flag.

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