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Firefighters handover Parliament over to Hawks for investigation
6 January 2022, 2:51 PM

Cape Town firefighters have officially withdrawn from Parliament after containing and stopping the fire that ravaged the building and have handed it over to the Hawks for investigation.

The Presiding Officers of Parliament, led by the Speaker of the National Assembly, Ms Nosiviwe Mapisa-Nqakula, and the Chairperson of the National Council of Provinces (NCOP), Mr Amos Masondo, are satisfied with the overall progress made on the containment of fire and the investigations currently underway at the precinct of Parliament.

Parliament Fire Update: 05 January 2022

Meanwhile, the Democratic Alliance (DA) has called for an independent forensic investigation into the fire that has destroyed the buildings of Parliament. Chief Whip Natasha Mazzone says the police themselves cannot investigate the incident.

The DA held a media briefing on Tuesday following the fire that has destroyed the entire National Assembly building and part of the Old Assembly building.

Mazzone says they will insist at the meeting of the Chief Whips Forum that independent investigators work alongside police forensic investigators.

“We have seen forensic investigators on the precinct this (Tuesday) morning. But we do believe that an independent forensic investigation is needed. From the damage and the devastation that we can see and the damage and devastation that we cannot see and the last statement by the Speaker, it looks like something more sinister than simply a homeless man jumping the fence and starting a fire on the third floor. It is looking like something more sinister going on and we will get to the bottom of it believe you me.”

SONA Preparations

Parliament says that preparations for the State of the Nation Address SONA) to be delivered by President Cyril Ramaphosa on 10 February 2022 are at an advanced stage.

On Thursday afternoon, the Presiding Officers will join the Mayor of the City of Cape Town on inspection of the possible alternative venues, such as the Municipal Chambers, Cape Town International Convention Centre, and the Town Hall.

The inspection follows the offer by the provincial government of the Western Cape and the City of Cape Town for the use of these venues for both the SONA and the Budget speech.

Meanwhile, the Congress of the People (COPE) is calling on President Cyril Ramaphosa to address the Nation and Parliament virtually from the Union Buildings during his State of the Nation Address.

SABC News’ Parliamentary correspondent Mercedes Besent spoke to Parliament’s spokesperson on an alternative venue for SONA:

 

Thousands of flights canceled globally as Omicron mars Christmas weekend
25 December 2021, 12:58 PM

Commercial airlines around the world canceled more than 4 500 flights over the Christmas weekend, as a mounting wave of COVID-19 infections driven by the Omicron variant created greater uncertainty and misery for holiday travelers.

Airline carriers globally scrapped at least 2,401 flights on Friday, which fell on Christmas Eve and is typically a heavy day for air travel, according to a running tally on the flight-tracking website FlightAware.com. Nearly 10,000 more flights were delayed.

The website showed that 1 779 Christmas Day flights were called off worldwide, along with 402 more that had been scheduled for Sunday.

Commercial air traffic within the United States and into or out of the country accounted for more than a quarter of all the canceled flights over the weekend, FlightAware data showed.

Among the first U.S. carriers to report a wave of holiday weekend cancellations were United Airlines and Delta Air Lines (DAL.N), which scrubbed nearly 280 flights combined on Friday alone, citing personnel shortages amid the surge of COVID-19 infections.

COVID-19 infections have surged in the United States in recent days due to the highly transmissible variant Omicron, which was first detected in November and now accounts for nearly three-quarters of U.S. cases and as many as 90% in some areas, such as the Eastern Seaboard.

The average number of new U.S. coronavirus cases has risen 45% to 179,000 per day over the past week, according to a Reuters tally.

New York reported more than 44,000 newly confirmed infections on Friday alone, shattering that state’s daily record. At least 10 other states set new one-day case records on Thursday or Friday.

Rising hospitalizations were hitting healthcare systems especially hard in the U.S. Midwest, with intensive care units in Indiana, Ohio and Michigan bracing for the worst even as they remain under pressure from an earlier wave of Delta variant cases.

In Britain, many industries and transport networks were struggling with staff shortages as sick workers self-isolated, while hospitals have warned of the risk of an impact on patient safety.

One in 20 Londoners had COVID-19 last week, a figure that could rise to one in 10 by early next week, according to data released on Thursday by the Office for National Statistics.

United Nations welcomes Ethiopia’s decision to withdraw forces in certain regions
25 December 2021, 11:54 AM

United Nations Secretary General, Antonio Guterres has welcomed the government of Ethiopia’s announcement, that the Ethiopian National Defense Force will pause fighting at its current positions.

He also supports Tigrayan forces decision to withdraw from Amhara and Afar regions.

Guterres has encouraged warring parties in Ethiopia to grasp this opportunity, cease hostilities in the year long conflict, take all necessary steps to ensure the provision of much needed humanitarian aid.

He also called for withdrawal of foreign troops and urged parties to address political differences in a national dialogue.

Meanwhile, the UN top diplomat has backed mediation efforts led by former Nigerian President Olusegun Obasanjo in Ethiopia.

Withdrawal of Tigray forces from neighbouring regions in Ethiopia’s north: Prof. Mammo Muchie

England look to arrest Ashes slide in Melbourne
25 December 2021, 10:23 AM

England have never come back from a 2-0 deficit to win an Ashes series but that is the task that faces Joe Root’s team when they walk out in front of a Boxing Day crowd at the Melbourne Cricket Ground for the third test on Sunday.

Cricket enthusiasts around the world would probably be satisfied with something resembling a contest after the latest edition of the game’s most iconic series opened with thumping victories for Australia in Brisbane and Adelaide.

Controversial selections, brittle batting and toothless bowling from the tourists have all contributed to nine days of cricket which have been competitive only in very short patches.

Root has made it clear he expects a vast improvement from his whole team at the MCG as England look to win an Ashes test in Australia for the first time in nearly 11 years.

“It has to be (better), simple as that,” he said on Friday. “The two performances we’ve put out have not been good enough, there’ve been basic mistakes. We’ve addressed it, spoken about it and I expect us to be a lot better.”

England will not name a final line-up until the toss but changes are expected, with Zak Crawley being heavily backed to come into the side in place of one of the struggling openers, Rory Burns and Haseeb Hameed.

“The most important thing is we pick a team that we think is going to win it,” Root added. “We have to win this game to make sure the series stays alive.”

While everything has turned to dust for the tourists over the last few weeks, Australia have negotiated every apparent banana skin with alacrity.

They lost skipper Tim Paine to a sexting scandal before the series and his replacement, Pat Cummins, to COVID-19 protocols on the eve of the second test.

Cummins will return for the Melbourne test after serving a period of isolation, while coach Justin Langer expects Mitchell Starc to be fit despite suffering a rib injury in Adelaide, where the left-armer quick took 6-80.

Paceman Josh Hazlewood looks set to sit out a second consecutive test with a side strain but Jhye Richardson and Michael Neser proved more than adequate replacements in Adelaide, where the former took 5-42 in the final innings.

On the batting front, Australia could hardly be in better shape with Marnus Labuschagne having just overtaken Root at the top of the world test rankings.

England avoided a 5-0 sweep on their last tour of Australia in 2017-18 courtesy of a draw at the MCG on the back of an unbeaten 244 from Alastair Cook.

“That’s exactly what’s required, somebody has to stand up and put in that kind of performance,” Root added.

“But that’s a great example that it can be done on this ground by an English player. It would be great to see that this time.”

Milk
Striking Clover workers call for nationalisation of the company
25 December 2021, 9:27 AM

Striking members of the General Industries Workers Union of South Africa (Giwusa) and the Food and Allied Workers Union (Fawu), are calling for among other things, the nationalisation of dairy company Clover.

They were set to meet with the office of the Minister of Trade, Industry, and Competition on Saturday. The unions are currently in the second month of strike action against Clover. Giwusa president Mametlwe Sebei has called on the government to protect jobs.

“The problems with Clover at the moment, since it was taken over by an Israeli based Milco company, there’s been a restructuring that has resulted in factory closures and job losses amounting to about 2 000 in our calculation. Now, we do think that in this situation, what is required is for government to nationalise and expropriate Clover under a democratic control and management by the workers, so that we can defend jobs.”

Clover workers vow to continue with strike

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