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Nehawu accuses N Cape misusing public funds worth millions
9 August 2021, 5:21 PM

The National Education, Health and Allied Workers’ Union (Nehawu) in the Northern Cape says it’s disturbed by what the union says is the indifference of officials at the provincial legislature to possible fraud and corruption.

The union accuses the Northern Cape legislature of misusing public funds and making payments worth millions to what it says is a dubious company that has failed to finish work at the building. The union is calling for the Speaker of the legislature to appoint a body to investigate.

“There is malfeasance there according to us. Where you have duplication of service providers. The others are paid for work that is no done. And others are appointed to do the very same work. So there is something terribly wrong at the legislature and we have been raising this sharply since 2017,”  says Nehawu’s Northern Cape secretary, Moleme Moleme.

The Northern Cape legislature has denied the allegations. It says tenders were issued by the book and that the second contractor was appointed by the principal contractor at his own costs to complete the work.

“As the legislature we are charged with the responsibility of overseeing matters relating to accountability and oversight over the executive. We also appeal to those making the allegations ageist senior officials of the legislature to demonstrate that they too are free of ill motives and to drive a certain narrative to advance other interests,” says Northern Cape legislature Spokesperson, Carmen Gopane.

Video : Nehawu on Northern Cape fraud allegations

Unions demand explanation for SANDF deployment at SABC headquarters
8 August 2021, 10:25 PM

Communications Unions have called for an explanation into why armed soldiers were allowed inside the South African Broadcasting Corporation (SABC) headquarters in Auckland Park, Johannesburg.

The staff has reported seeing soldiers carrying guns walking through the third floor of the TV Building where the News studios are situated.

The SABC has confirmed that soldiers were deployed to its offices in Gauteng and KwaZulu-Natal to protect the national key points.

SABC Board Chairperson, Bongumusa Makhathini, says if soldiers were seen in the public broadcaster’s newsroom, it may have been to familiarise themselves with the building and its exit points.

“Based on what management has reported to us as a board, there’s no evidence that had been provided that the soldiers were marching in the newsroom. They may have been walking around because for them to be able to guard these premises, they needed to be clear about all the exits. And it is an operational matter. And if there’s any evidence of soldiers on our studios, I would like to see that.”

President of Bemawu, Hannes du Buisson has challenged the SABC to study their CCTV cameras if they want proof of the soldiers in the newsroom. He says the presence of soldiers creates an atmosphere of fear.

“That easily could create the impression that government or the SANDF are watching you, as journalists. You don’t have to say anything, your mere presence there totally out of place, totally unwarranted, unjustified, being in the public broadcaster building armed with rifles, totally out of place. All of that has certainly created the impression that we are not free, we are not independent, we are watched by Big Brother.”

Reaction to SANDF deployment to the SABC: Hannes Du Buisson

‘Not aware of soldiers escorted into newsroom’

Police Minister Bheki Cele says he is not aware of soldiers being escorted into the newsroom. “Soldiers, as they operate in these particular cases, they operate under the guidance of the police. Maybe the police can report to me why they would come to the newsroom if indeed they did.”

The SANDF says they were deployed to National Key Points during the riots in July, and SABC premises are part of that deployment. SANDF spokesperson, Brigadier General Mafi Mgobozi, says soldiers will remain stationed where they are needed until they are told to withdraw.

“Our soldiers, when the unrest started, we started deploying our soldiers to national key point areas. The SABC was one of them. And then this deployment will continue until we receive instruction from the Commander in Chief that our soldiers must start withdrawing from the areas where they are.”

Aubrey Tshabalala from the Communication Workers Union says the soldiers must immediately withdraw from the SABC buildings.

“This decision must be reversed completely. If they do not do that then we will do what we did last week and approach the portfolio committee. The third thing that we need to see, even if they do not withdraw the decision the SABC they must come back to the table and explain to us the decision they have taken, as labour, so that we go back to labour and explain why was it there in the initial place, whether we agree with it or not, but we need an explanation.”

Transport Minister Fikile Mbalula tweeted: “We know that the rebels intended to take over the broadcaster.” Du Buisson says if this is true, the broadcaster must play open cards with the employees and the country.

“If a Minister of this country says the rebels wanted to take over the broadcaster, that is very serious. And I think the question should be asked to the board, were you aware or are you aware of any attempts that were aimed at taking over the public broadcaster, the SABC? And why has that not been communicated to the general public out there.”

The SABC says it will not be commenting further at this stage.

SABC confirms SANDF deployment at its headquarters in Auckland Park

Tokyo douses Olympic flame closing pandemic Games
8 August 2021, 9:32 PM

Tokyo doused its Olympic flame on Sunday in a ceremony that echoed the restraint of a Games held without spectators and transformed by the global pandemic, dazzling sport and deeply person turmoil.

After postponing the Tokyo 2020 Games for a year, organisers said the event would serve as a symbol of world triumph over the pandemic.

But with strict pandemic countermeasures and as COVID-19 variants have surged back around the world, the Olympics fell short of the triumph and financial windfall Japan had wanted.

The ceremony, although lustreless, gave athletes something of a glimpse of everyday Tokyo life as the Olympic Stadium was transformed into a park with grass, buskers and BMX riders.

The scene was meant so the visitors could “experience Tokyo”, organisers said, a poignant reminder of the many restrictions of the Games.

It was a duly odd ending to an unprecedented event. Japan is now saddled with a $15 billion bill, double what it initially expected, and with no tourist boom.

The president of the International Olympic Committee thanked the Japanese people and acknowledged the difficulty of staging the Games during the pandemic.

“For the first time since the pandemic began, the entire world came together,” Thomas Bach said. “Nobody has ever organised a postponed Games before.”

PUBLIC ANGER

Public anger over the pandemic response and a slow-to-start vaccine roll-out have badly damaged Japanese Prime Minister Yoshihide Suga’s standing. Public opinion polls showed most Japanese opposed holding the Games during the pandemic.

In a sign of the measures, winners accepted their prizes from trays, putting the medals around their own necks, although social-distancing protocols such as preventing hugging were largely ignored throughout the Games.

Fueled by the Delta variant of the virus, daily infections spiked to more than 5 000 for the first time in Tokyo, threatening to overwhelm its hospitals.

Japan’s record medal haul also helped to take out some of the sting for organisers.

The United States finished top of the tally with 39 gold medals, one more than rivals China at 38 and Japan at 27.

The Games also showcased the Olympics’ push for more diversity.

For the first time, a victory ceremony was held for both the women’s and men’s marathon event. The Kenyan anthem filled the 68 000-capacity stadium twice, for gold medalists Peres Jepchirchir and Eliud Kipchoge.

COLD WAR AND ‘TWISTIES’

And when they came, the Games themselves provided plenty of high drama.

In a moment more reminiscent of the Cold War, Belarusian sprinter Krystsina Tsimanouskaya refused to board a flight home after she was taken to the airport against her wishes. She has since sought refugee status in Poland.

US superstar gymnast Simone Biles shocked the world when she pulled out of five of her six events, including abruptly abandoning the women’s team final after attempting just one vault, citing concerns for her mental and physical health.

Her frank admission, combined with earlier comments by Japanese tennis star Naomi Osaka, brought a sharp focus on issues of athletes’ mental health.

In athletics, Italy provided a different kind of shock with their amazing run. Their wins included a stunning gold in the men’s sprint relay, taking their athletics gold tally to five.

In swimming, a United States team without 23-time Olympic gold medallist Michael Phelps still ended the meeting on top of the medals table.

Capping five years of intense preparations for athletes, some of them stretched out on the grass laid down in the stadium. Some appeared to relax as they watched a volley of fireworks light up the Tokyo sky.

In the end, two massive screens stadium projected a retro display that called back to the 1964 Tokyo Olympics: the word “ARIGATO” or “thank you”.

Video: 2020 Tokyo Olympic Games are wrapping up

 

‘The Suicide Squad’ Underwhelms With $26.5 Million Debut
8 August 2021, 9:24 PM

“The Suicide Squad,” the R-rated comic book adaptation directed by James Gunn, underwhelmed in its box office debut, collecting $26.5 million from 4 002 North American theaters.

Those ticket sales were easily enough to lead domestic box office charts despite falling short of expectations heading into the weekend. There were several factors contributing to its less-than-stellar start, including but not limited to growing concern over the Delta variant of COVID-19, the Warner Bros. film’s hybrid release on HBO Max at no extra charge to subscribers, and its R-rating.

An opening weekend below $30million isn’t surprising, given the ongoing pandemic, but it’s disappointing because “The Suicide Squad” cost $185 million to produce and many millions more to promote globally.

At the international box office, “The Suicide Squad” added another $35 million from 70 overseas territories, bringing its global tally to $72.2 million.

“The Suicide Squad” serves as a do-over, of sorts, to the2016 Warner Bros. movie about a group of expendable super-villains on a deadly mission. It brings back Margot Robbie as Harley Quinn, Joel Kinnaman as Col. Rick Flag and Viola Davis as Amanda Waller, but original stars Will Smith and Jared Leto didn’t return for the fresh spin on the DC Comics adaptation.

Though Robbie and Davis are A-listers, “The Suicide Squad” likely suffered from lack of star power. Despite the vastly different reception (the article-less “Suicide Squad,” directed by David Ayer, has a 26% on Rotten Tomatoes), the latest take won’t come close to reaching the ticket sales of the original, which kicked off with $133 million and ended its run with $746million globally.

Of course, that film didn’t open during a deadly pandemic and wasn’t offered simultaneously on HBO Max.

Still, industry analysts thought “The Suicide Squad” would have a stronger launch because the film has excellent reviews, and its target audience of younger males has been among the most loyal moviegoers during the pandemic.

Instead, “The Suicide Squad” didn’t collect much more than its fellow Warner Bros. and DC tentpole “Wonder Woman 1984,” which generated $16.7 million last December at a time when only 35% of movie theaters had reopened and the idea of a widely available vaccine felt like afar off dream.

Today, more than 85% of US and Canadian cinemas have reopened, according to Comscore.

“Currently, this is an unforgiving market,” says David A. Gross, who runs the movie consulting firm Franchise Entertainment Research. “Under normal conditions, a strong marketing campaign can overcome a few drawbacks and generate a good weekend. Under current conditions, that isn’t happening.”

In a distant second place on box office charts, Disney’s “Jungle Cruise” dipped 55% in its second weekend with ticket sales totaling $15.7 million from 4,310 venues. The family-friendly film, starring Dwayne Johnson and Emily Blunt, has grossed $65 million in North America and $121 million globally.

Disney reported last weekend that “Jungle Cruise” made $30million on Disney Plus, but the studio did not provide an update beyond its initial outing.

Universal’s psychological thriller “Old” landed in third place with $4.1 million from 3 138 locations. After three weeks on the big screen, the M. Night Shyamalan movie has pocketed $38.5 million.

The PG-13 film has amassed another $26 million at the international box office, propelling its global tally to $65 million. That’s not a bad result since “Old” cost $18 million to produce. Unlike many summer releases, such as “The Suicide Squad” and “Jungle Cruise,” the latest mind-bender from Shyamalan is only available to watch in theaters.

At the No. 4 spot, Disney and Marvel’s “Black Widow” pulled in $4 million from 3,100 theaters. The superhero tentpole, starring Scarlett Johansson as the eponymous Avenger, has earned $174 million at the domestic box office and $359 million worldwide. It made at least an additional $60 million on Disney Plus, where it premiered on the same day as its theatrical debut, but, like “Jungle Cruise,” the studio didn’t report digital purchases after its opening weekend.

With this weekend’s total, “Black Widow” has surpassed Universal’s “Fast and Furious” sequel “F9” to become the highest-grossing movie of the year in North America. Still, it ranks as one of the lowest-earning titles in the Marvel Cinematic Universe.

For that reason, “Black Widow” has been in the center of a bitter, public dispute after Johansson sued Disney, alleging the film’s day-and-date release on Disney Plus was a breach of contract and cost her tens of millions in backend deals. Disney has claimed the actor received a healthy sum tied to its launch on the company’s streaming service and asserted her lawsuit showed “callous disregard for the horrific and prolonged global effects of the COVID-19 pandemic.”

Rounding out the top five, Matt Damon’s drama “Stillwater” posted $2.86 million from 2 611 theaters. The well-reviewed Focus Features film, about a man who travels to France to clear his daughter’s name, has crossed the $10 million threshold, which is a nice accomplishment for an indie film amid the pandemic.

Separation of powers under spotlight after Modise’s new appointment
8 August 2021, 8:36 PM

The decision by President Cyril Ramaphosa to appoint the Speaker of the National Assembly, Thandi Modise, into his Executive has raised questions about the separation of powers between Parliament and the Executive.

Some analysts say the decision has breached the separation of powers while others have defended the President’s decision.

Congress of the People (Cope) is one of the parties which have questioned the President’s decision.

“It cannot be that one arm of government can withdraw and redeploy another member of the arm of government. This causes a very serious disruption of the functioning of both the Executive and Parliament. Where is the new Minister of Defence Thandi Modise? Why was she not sworn in?'”

The spokesperson for Parliament Moloto Mothapo says the Modise was out of the country when other new ministers were sworn in.

Other analysts have joined the fray asking if the President’s announcement was procedural.

The National Assembly is still in recess and is expected to resume its business in a week’s time.

The appointment of Thandi Modise raises questions about separation of powers: 

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