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NPA promises independence in prosecuting looters, violence instigators
23 July 2021, 2:42 PM

The head of the National Prosecuting Authority, Shamila Batohi, has assured members of Parliament that the entity will be steadfast in its independence while prosecuting those responsible for the recent violence and looting in the country.

Appearing before Parliament’s Justice Committee this week to discuss how instigators of the violence and looters would be prosecuted, Batohi emphasised that the NPA would only follow fact and evidence.

The NPA says while it will consider restorative justice in cases where this can be justified, it will come down hard on the ones who planned and orchestrated the chaos.

“Where we are shows, the real importance of truly independent prosecuting authority. a lot being said about arrests and incitors etc… we want to make it clear, NPA is clear about mandate, takes instruction from no one, follow evidence and proceed accordingly,”  says Batohi.

She added says those found guilty will be prosecuted taking into account the nature of their crimes.

“Poverty may have driven the actions, not an excuse, we will consider dealing with low level perpetrators, will apply restorative justice where necessary. But in more serious categories of crime, will be relentless in ensuring coordination is clear, to bring to book those most responsible for what happened in our country. I want to emphasise again, we will only follow the evidence and nothing else and we will serve only the people of this country and no one else. ”

Over 1 400 arrests have been made in connection with the recent violence and lootings.

 Beds, fridges, fire extinguishers among looted items confiscated by police

IEC to engage Political Party Liaison Committee on Moseneke’s report recommending that local polls be postponed
22 July 2021, 5:00 AM

The Independent Electoral Commission (IEC) is set to consult with the Political Party Liaison Committee on Thursday to discuss Justice Dikgang Moseneke’s report calling for the postponement of the country’s municipal elections.

The Political Party Liaison Committee comprises of registered political parties, which are represented in the National Assembly, provincial legislatures and municipal councils.

Moseneke’s recommendations which considered scientific, expert and legal opinion suggest that free and fair elections won’t be possible this year.

“We go further to find that the scheduled elections are likely to be free and fair if they are held not later than the month of February 2022, “ says Justice Moseneke.

The report cites that mass gatherings for elections could undermine the country’s efforts to contain the COVID-19 virus from spreading.

Another concern is that political parties will not be able to campaign under strict lockdown restrictions.

IEC will be the final arbiter on planned October elections:

Executive Chairperson of the Institute of Election Management Services in Africa, Terry Tselane, explains the options available to the IEC if they choose to implement the recommendations.

Parliament would have to need 75% of the national assembly and also six provinces vote for a constitutional  amendment,” he says.

 Tselane has also indicated a second option, which he believes is the better option.

“The minister would have to approach the component court, in this case the Constitutional Court. There is need for the minister of the IEC to approach the Constitutional Court for an amendment.” 

 Unpacking Moseneke’s report with Terry Tselane:

Findings of a survey conducted by the University of Johannesburg and the Human Sciences Research Council show that two thirds of the public support the postponement of the elections.

The IEC is expected to deliver its decision on the matter in the coming days.

Saccawu decries membership loss due to retrenchments
21 July 2021, 8:55 PM

The country’s biggest food and retail workers union  South African Commercial Catering and Allied Workers Union (Saccawu) says it has lost over 10% of its membership due to the ongoing massive retrenchments in the sector.

However, things are likely to get worse following widespread looting and vandalism of shopping centres, malls and warehouses in the country recently.

Last year, the country’s biggest non-food retailer Edcon served 22 000 workers with retrenchment notices in one go in the wake of the hard national lockdown to curb the spread of COVID- 19.

Retail group Massmart has also retrenched thousands of workers, most of them Saccawu members.

Now, an estimated 150 000 workers have lost their jobs in KwaZulu-Natal alone following the recent unrest that saw over 3 000 shopping centres looted and over 160 malls destroyed.

“Any act of retrenchments to our members is always viewed as a negative act. It also add pressure not only to the union but to members who have lost their jobs. It is always a pain for the union and pain for the country,” says Saccawu.

SACCAWU had 107 000 members before the outbreak of COVID-19 in 2020.

The closure of hotels, restaurants and casinos since the beginning of the national lockdown last year has also added to the union’s severe loss of membership.

SACCAWU laments job losses: 

Diverse views over allegations of racism in Phoenix
21 July 2021, 7:47 PM

 

As KwaZulu-Natal picks up the pieces after the recent unrest, residents in the mixed-race township of Phoenix are dealing with allegations of racism.

Traffic is flowing freely on the streets of Phoenix and Amaoti, north of Durban. Although they are traditionally Indian and Black areas, these communities are somehow intertwined.

Children from surrounding townships attend schools in Phoenix and 70% of the learners of Foresthaven Secondary School in Phoenix are African.

Doctor BP Singh taught at the school when it started admitting Black learners after 1994.

He says Foresthaven fostered cultural inclusivity and diversity.

“Twenty seven years ago to say that our community here is an enlightened and a transformed one, we were able to break the racial bearers of the apartheid days not on rhetoric speech but also the way this school operated and I think that a very important point that we have little challenges now and then but fundamentally this society and this school community represent a true South Africa where we don’t look at people around racial lines. We look at all being equal. This particular school while it is situated in the Phoenix so called Indian area seventy percent of the schooling population are our South African, African students. ”

But Phoenix albeit rich in diversity has now been tainted by allegations of racism. As looters ran amok in the area, claims of racist attacks by Indian people started circulating on social media.

These attacks and murders were brought to the attention of authorities. This saw Minister of Police Bheki Cele visit the area in an attempt to quell tensions.

Professor Paulus Zulu of the Race Relations Unit at the University of Kwazulu-Natal says racial tensions were fanned by the instigators of the unrest.

“It is easy to call it a race war, because after all this is what the organisers of the mayhem would have liked to see. I believe they would have shot at anybody. It just so happened that the people who were there and looting were Africans.”

Zulu urged citizens not to fuel racial tension, saying it is a ploy to destabilise the country.

“As South Africans we must by all means make sure, that before we make pronouncement – particularly dangerous pronouncements that might  create disorder in the country we know the facts clearly, or we conduct a proper analysis. There is a fatal ground, for mutiny. That once you organise on that fatal ground for your own purposes, which was the case in this instance. The mutiny might take any direction, it’s like a dam that is overflowing and there isn’t any channel to cause way where the water might have to go, it goes all over and this is what the organisers of this mutiny wanted to do.

Victims of the unrest are left with permanent scars.

Alisha Bhagwti from Phoenix says her mother was hit in the head by a stray bullet whilst preparing super.

“She was shot during the unrest and she is in hospital she survive the ordeal, its criminal elements. It’s a time to rebuild and try and move on from what happened.

A man, who wishes to remain anonymous,  recalls the night he was shot at.

 “I was coming from work when I passed four Indian males the next thing I heard was gunshots towards me. I am now I’m  injured and I have several wounds on my body. All I want is for police to investigate and find the culprits.”

A social cohesion advocate, Dr Rajendra Govender, says racial rifts need to be dealt with.

“The people themselves need to tell us exactly what they want going forward in terms of racial disharmony, yes this looting also there was an element of racial tensions especially in Phoenix, Chatsworth and other places. Now we need to find out how can we overcome this racial disharmony what needs to be done where did we go wrong as a society because I am not an Indian I am a South African for example. I am a very proudly South African citizen; we need to embrace one another we need to work on finding solutions.”

Police are investigation the death of 20 people in Phoenix as residents rebuild their lives.

Minister Cele addresses the Phoenix community in KwaZulu-Natal:

UN human rights office describes Pegasus spyware scandal as extremely alarming
21 July 2021, 7:00 PM

“Extremely alarming” is how the human rights office of the United Nations is describing revelations regarding the widespread use of surveillance software to spy on individuals from heads of state to journalists.

The scandal was confirmed by Amnesty International, pointing to the possibility that several world leaders might have had their phones hacked using NSO Group’s Pegasus spyware.

The latest data leak uncovered by the Pegasus Project, a groundbreaking collaboration by more than 80 journalists from 17 media organisations in 10 countries and co-ordinated by Paris-based media non-profit Forbidden Stories,  revealed the mobile phone numbers of some familiar names among them 14 heads of state and government, including South African President Cyril Ramaphosa, France’s Emmanuel Macron and Pakistan’s Imran Khan.

SA’s authorities were not aware Ramaphosa was a potential target of spy surveillance: 

Amnesty International’s South Africa Executive Director, Shenilla Mohamed, has called it an unprecedented revelation.

“There’s a need for urgent regulation to reign in the wild west surveillance industry. States must with immediate effect impose a moratorium on the export, use, sale and transfer of all surveillance equipment until a human rights compliant regulatory framework is put into place.”

According to the consortium’s reporting, the Pegasus malware infects electronic devices, enabling operators of the tool to obtain messages, photos and emails, record calls, and even activate microphones.

The United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights, Michelle Bachelet, pointed to the information as confirming some of the worst fears about potential misuse of surveillance technology to illegally undermine people’s human rights as calls for an international regulatory framework grow.

“We’re certainly aware of these reports. And, as you know, the UN has been calling consistently for better regulations of these cyber activities to make sure that people’s rights, including the rights of activists, the rights of journalists and others, are not violated. There are many bodies, of course, that deal with communications, including the UN Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO), on the one hand. There’s… and our own various technology offices, but you’ll have seen that the Secretary General himself has been calling for a greater sense of regulation of this system to avoid the basic loss of people’s rights from improper information sharing,” says  UN Spokesperson, Farhan Haq.

The Committee to Protect Journalists, along with Amnesty, has long warned that sophisticated spyware products marketed to governments to fight crime have been used to target the press, posing a severe threat to press freedom globally.

“NSO Group can no longer hide behind the claim that its spyware is only used to fight crime, so what we are asking for is very simple – that the NSO must immediately stop selling its equipment to countries with a track record of putting human rights defenders and journalists under unlawful surveillance,” adds Mohamed.

In a statement, the Israeli tech firm at the centre of these revelations, the NSO Group, denied the veracity of reports related to the leaked database – adding that numbers appearing on a list were in no way indicative of whether that particular number was selected for surveillance using their Pegasus software.

Despite that, the UN’s Michelle Bachelet warns that, in the absence of a human rights compliant regulatory framework, there are simply too many risks around these tools being abused to intimidate critics and silence dissent.

Reaction to leaked Pegasus project database compromising world leaders: 

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