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JB Marks Municipality to request extra funding for amalgamation process
7 January 2018, 9:58 AM

The newly established JB Marks Municipality in North West comprising of former Ventersdorp and Tlokwe municipalities, says the funds for the process of amalgamation has dried up and the municipality intends requesting additional funding.

The decision to amalgamate the two municipalities was taken by the then Minister of Cooperative Governance and Traditional Affairs, Pravin Gordhan.

Gordhan said Ventersdorp municipality was unable to perform its constitutional obligations, as it was not financially viable.

“There was money allocated for these two municipalities to an amount of R13 million, that was used to run all the process of amalgamation like to re-brand the new municipality. So now that money is finished, we must write again to national to submit a new business plan so that we embark on the second process of running the amalgamation,” says JB Marks mayoral spokesperson, Victor Boqo.

N. Korea names delegates for inter-Korean talks
7 January 2018, 9:20 AM

North Korea has named its delegation for a rare high-level meeting with the South this week, the unification ministry in Seoul said Sunday, as Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe cautiously welcomed the talks.

The two Koreas agreed Friday to hold their first official dialogue in more than two years and are expected to discuss the North’s participation in next month’s Winter Olympics in South Korea.

The North Korean delegation for Tuesday’s meeting in the border truce village of Panmunjom will be led by Ri Son-Gwon, head of the North’s agency handling inter-Korean affairs, the ministry said.

Pyongyang informed the South that four other officials will accompany Ri, it added, including those in charge of sports.

The tentative rapprochement comes after the North’s leader Kim Jong-Un warned in his New Year speech that he had a nuclear button on his desk, but also said Pyongyang could send a team to the Pyeongchang Winter Olympics.

Seoul responded with an offer of talks and last week the hotline between the neighbours was restored after being suspended for almost two years.

The message comes a day after South Korea suggested Unification Minister Cho Myoung-Gyon would lead its delegation for the upcoming talks.

Kim said in his New Year speech that his country wished success for the Olympics, to be held from February 9-25, while Seoul and Washington have decided to delay their annual joint military drills — which always infuriate the North – until after the Games.

The Japanese prime minister voiced cautious hopes for the talks but stressed that having a meeting for the sake of a meeting would be a waste.

“The Olympics is a celebration of peace. I want to recognise that change,” Abe said in a recorded interview aired Sunday on national broadcaster NHK.

His comments came as US President Donald Trump went a step further and said he was open to holding direct talks with Kim under certain conditions.

The two Koreas have been separated by the world’s most heavily militarised border since the Korean War ended in a stalemate in 1953.

In recent months, the North has held multiple missile launches and its sixth and most powerful nuclear test — purportedly of a hydrogen bomb — in violation of UN resolutions.

Abe, who long has taken hawkish stance against the hermit state, said Japan must upgrade its defence capacity in the face of the North’s missile threats.

He reiterated the importance of “maximising pressure” on Pyongyang in order to force Kim’s regime to change its policies and said North Korea had violated past agreements designed to stop its nuclear programmes, adding: “We cannot afford to be fooled again.”

 

At least 25 dead in migrant shipwreck off Libya: rescue charities
7 January 2018, 8:30 AM

At least 25 people are feared to have drowned in a shipwreck off Libya after a dinghy, possibly carrying some 150 migrants, ran into trouble, two rescue organisations said Saturday.

“Rubber dinghy sunk north of Tripoli. At least 25 people died in the incident, exact numbers still unclear. Italian navy on the scene,” the German charity Sea Watch said on Twitter.

The Italian coast guard told AFP 85 people had been rescued from the sinking vessel, and eight bodies recovered so far.

It was believed to be the first shipwreck of 2018 — though rescue organisations say countless dinghies attempting to cross the Mediterranean are likely to sink without a trace, meaning the year’s death toll may have begun even earlier.

The alarm was sounded after a surveillance aircraft deployed in the EU anti-trafficking mission Sophia spotted the partly-submerged dinghy some 40 miles off the Libyan coast, in international waters.

“Shipwreck off the coast of Libya, east of Tripoli. Dozens of people missing who will die without a burial,” tweeted the Spanish charity Proactiva Open Arms.

Sea Watch said it had been alerted to the disaster by the coast guard, which believed 150 people had been aboard.

“The search continues for survivors,” said the coast guard, which was aided in the rescue by a navy vessel.

Last year, 3,116 people died trying to cross from North Africa to Europe, according to Doctors Without Borders.

Italian-led efforts to prevent people from setting out saw a sharp drop in the number of arrivals in the second half of 2017.

While migrants who made the perilous journey across the Mediterranean in rickety boats still numbered nearly 119,000, it was a roughly one-third drop over the previous year.

The drop has been attributed to a controversial combination of an Italian-led boosting of the Libyan coastguard’s ability to intercept boats and efforts to seek the assistance of powerful militias.

In the first six days of 2018, over 400 people have been brought to safety in Italy, the interior ministry said, compared to 729 in the same period last year.

 

Department of Water to tackle drought crisis in Western Cape
7 January 2018, 8:01 AM

The Water and Sanitation Department says it will send officials to the Western Cape within the next two weeks to assist with water conservation and enforcement as the province grapples with its worst drought in over a century.

Level six water restrictions came into effect on January 1, requiring agricultural users to reduce their consumption by 60%.

Department spokesperson, Sputnik Ratau, says a meeting with farmers’ interest group, AgriSA, took place in the past week to discuss the crisis.

Ratau says the agricultural sector is an integral part of the country’s economy.

“The department is enhancing the capacity of the enforcement unit in the Western Cape by bringing in other members of staff from other provinces so that we can carry out the enforcement duties that will allow us to make sure everyone that is a water user is performing within the restrictions that have been gazetted.”

Ratau says they will do all to ensure the drought in the Western Cape does not lead to Day Zero.

“Obviously, because the discussion was with the agricultural sector, there is going to be a particular emphasis on the agricultural sector based on the fact that isn’t still the highest user of our water resources, but also a very important part of the economy.”

SACP urges ANC to mend tripartite alliance
7 January 2018, 7:43 AM

The South African Communist Party says if the African National Congress’s new National Executive Committee ignores calls to reconfigure the tripartite alliance and deal with state capture, it risks losing the 2019 elections.

On Saturday, the party commemorated 23 years since the passing of its former leader Joe Slovo in Johannesburg. Last month, President Jacob Zuma applied for leave to appeal a Constitutional Court ruling that he could not appoint the judge to head the commission of inquiry into State Capture.

SACP General-Secretary Blade Nzimande called on Zuma to stop appealing court rulings.

“This appeal by the president compromises the integrity of the African National Congress. Why is the president appealing this thing, because it’s clear he is conflicted? You can’t appoint a commission to investigate yourself. It’s a very clear principle.”

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