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Herman Mashaba
Mashaba suggests decentralization of rail management
29 April 2021, 2:42 PM

Action SA president, Herman Mashaba says the management of South Africa’s failing and ageing passenger rail services must be decentralised to allow qualified provinces and metros to operate rail services within their areas to provide services to the communities that they serve.

Mashaba visited the derelict Greenview Train Station, in Mamelodi East, in Pretoria on Thursday.

He plans to ask Transport Minister Fikile Mbalula to investigate why the R102 million station is now derelict.

The station was built in 2011 but never occupied even though the railway track that passes the station still carries passenger trains.

 

 

The building of the Greenview Train station can be seen from afar, but close up, it is a dysfunctional shell with the roof, aluminium windows, door frames, steel, rail tracks and other trimmings stolen by criminals.

The station that promised so much to the Mpomolong community, next to it, delivered more poverty.

He says the private sector must also be given the opportunity to operate privatised rail services on the rail network. Mashaba says he was shocked when he heard about the Greenview Train Station.

“When I was told about this, I said it’s not possible. Though I’ve experienced, more especially looking at our infrastructure, how the ANC government has destroyed our infrastructure over the last 27 years. It’s actually quite criminal. As you’ve heard early on, we’ll take it up with Minister of Transport Fikile Mbalula.”

The building of the Greenview Train Station was part of a R373-million investment of the Passenger Rail Agency of South Africa (PRASA) to double the rail tracks between Eerste Fabrieke and Greenview and upgrade the Mamelodi Gardens and Pienaarspoort stations.

Thabo Thobejane-Mphela is unemployed and has been living in an informal area adjoining the derelict station. He says if the project was finished it would have changed the lives of the community.

“It would have created jobs for us. It would have created a service for the community. Remember if the station works – it’s job opportunity for others,” says Thobejane-Mphela.

Thobejane-Mphela  says the train station could have presented business opportunities for people and employment for cleaners and security guards.

He says community members often have to travel far to get transport.

“They go far, there is the last station there – Pienaarspoort. They are going there. They get robbed, they get raped. And especially now we are approaching winter, it will be difficult for them. But if the station was working, it was going to be easy,” adds Thobejane-Mphela .

Prasa indicated to SABC News they will only be able to comment later on the issue.

Mashaba says across South Africa, formerly functional train stations have followed the route of Greenview, having either been gutted by criminals or have fallen into disrepair.

Giulio Regeni
Italian prosecutors ask judge to try Egyptian officers over Regeni murder
29 April 2021, 2:30 PM

Italian prosecutors asked a judge on Thursday to have four senior members of Egypt’s security services sent for trial over their suspected role in the disappearance and murder of student Giulio Regeni in Cairo in 2016.

Regeni, a postgraduate student at Britain’s Cambridge University, disappeared in the Egyptian capital in January 2016. His body was found almost a week later and a post mortem examination showed he had been tortured before his death.

Italian and Egyptian prosecutors investigated the case together, but the two sides later fell out and came to very different conclusions.

The Rome prosecutors have accused four officials of the “aggravated kidnapping” of Regeni and in addition say one of them, Major Magdi Sharif, from General Intelligence, should be charged with “conspiracy to commit aggravated murder”.

Egyptian police and officials have denied any involvement in Regeni’s killing. Egyptian prosecutors said last year they “did not support” the Italian findings and asked for the accusations against the four to be removed from case documents.

Italian judicial sources say their Egyptian counterparts have not supplied the addresses of the four suspects and none of them are expected to attend any eventual trial. A source said Italy had not issued international arrest warrants for them.

A judge suspended Thursday’s preliminary hearing in the case until  25 May 2021 as one of the court-appointed defence lawyers had contracted the coronavirus and could not attend. A full trial is unlikely to start before the summer recess.

 

TORTURE

Regeni had been in Cairo to research Egypt’s independent unions for his doctoral thesis. Associates say he was also interested in the long-standing domination of Egypt’s economy by the state and military. Both subjects are sensitive in Egypt.

Prosecutors say they have evidence showing that Sharif got informants to follow Regeni and eventually had him arrested. The charge sheet says Sharif, and other, unidentified Egyptian officials, then tortured the Italian over several days, causing him “acute physical suffering”.

Giving details from the autopsy, prosecutors say Regeni’s teeth were broken, while he also suffered multiple fractures to his shoulders, wrist, hands and feet. He was eventually killed by a blow to the neck.

Egyptian officials could not be reached for comment on the prosecutors’ charge sheet.

Prosecutors say they have been approached by new witnesses in recent weeks. Two reported seeing Regeni while he was being questioned, while a third had knowledge of contacts between a union chief and the security forces that related to the student.

Regeni’s death soured relations between Italy and Egypt and Rome initially withdrew its ambassador from Cairo in protest. It subsequently restored its top envoy and there has been no let-up in trade relations.

Days after prosecutors called for the trial of the four Egyptians, Italy handed over the first of two frigates to the Egyptian navy in a deal worth up to 1.2 billion euros

Vaccination
North West launches Phase 2 registration of COVID-19 vaccination programme
28 April 2021, 8:37 PM

Registration for the second phase of the COVID-19 vaccination programme has officially been launched in the North West province.

Provincial Health MEC Madoda Sambatha launched the online registration system in Lichtenburg on Wednesday.

Senior citizens, those with comorbidities and essential services employees were encouraged to register.

Those aged 60 and above, and those aged 18 and above, with chronic conditions like Diabetes, HIV/AIDS and Hypertension will be prioritised during the second phase of the COVID-19 vaccination programme.

Their inoculations are set to start on 17 May 2021 and run until the end of October 2021.

North West Health MEC Madoda Sambatha says existing healthcare centres will be used in the rollout programme so that communities can have easy access to the vaccines.

“We must go to where our people are, register them, vaccinate them. That’s why there is now decentralization of vaccination sites for your community health centres. Clinics in those areas are going to be vaccination sites, so people are not going to be vaccinated only in Mahikeng provincial hospital,” says Sambatha.

Vaccination researcher, Dr John Tumbo says essential workers are people who deal with members of the public.

He cites political and tribal leaders, members of the media, police officers and teachers as essential workers.

He says so far, the vaccine rollout programme is on par with their expectations.

“We are hoping that February next year we will be done with the entire vaccination programme … and we are not saying 2.7 million. We want to vaccinate more than 2.7 million, so that then we protect the entire population of the North West province for us to be able to do that we have strategies, which will then improve our access to bring these service close to communities.”

The SABC spoke to residents who have registered for the vaccine.

“I am happy that I have already registered so that I am safe from the virus and live a healthy life because this virus is killing people and all that is needed is a vaccine,” notes one resident.

“We are happy that we are on Phase 2. It shows that our government cares. So, I will avail myself for registration,” says another resident.

“I have already registered for COVID-19 vaccination and I feel happy because, for me, the vaccine will reduce the infection rate and that can save not only us, but also our loved ones,” a resident said.

Approximately 18 000 of the 43 000 healthcare professionals in the North West have already been vaccinated.

Their inoculation is expected to be completed by mid-May 2021. Thereafter, the elderly and vulnerable groups will be given with inoculation.

Suspects
Suspects accused of killing the Coka brothers to know their fate on Friday
28 April 2021, 7:31 PM

The five suspects accused of killing the Coka brothers at the Pampoenkraal farm in Piet Retief, Mpumalanga will know their fate on Friday. This after the Piet Retief Magistrate’s Court postponed their bail application.

Daniel Malan, Cornelius Greyling, Othard Klingberg, Michael Sternberg and Zenzele Yende were arrested a few weeks ago following the death of Amos and Zenzele Coka.

The defence has urged the Piet Retief Magistrate’s Court to release the suspects on bail. They allege that the state witnesses were dishonest when giving statements to the police.

The defence also claim that the alleged shooting incident took place because there was a confrontation between two groups of people. They also allege that one of the suspects and another farmer were assaulted shortly before the fatal shooting.

The court also heard that the fifth suspect, Zenzele Yende played a role in holding captive one of the people who were apparently on the farm to seek employment.

On the day of the incident, it is alleged that a group of seasonal farm workers went to the farm to ask the owner as to why they had not been hired this year. According to the police, one of the deceased was on the farm to rescue the person who was allegedly held captive.

Five men accused of killing Coka brothers apply for bail

The second deceased was an employee at the farm.

The investigating officer, Vukile Nhlapho told the court that Yende could be involved in the alleged shooting incident because he was in possession of a firearm on the day he attempted to evade arrest.

Nhlapho also says police found ammunition and cable ties in Yende’s house. However, Nhlapho says at this stage there is no evidence that Yende also fired shots.

The state then argued that Yende and the other suspects are accused of murder because they acted in common purpose. The state is also concerned about the authenticity of a video that was provided by the defence.

State Prosecutor, Robert Malokoane says the video only shows selective scenes.

Malokoane also dismissed claims made by the defence that one of the suspects who fired shots was disoriented when the incident occurred.

He also dismissed an allegation that one of the deceased grabbed a firearm from one of the farmers and started shooting. The Piet Retief Magistrate’s Court is expected to hand down the bail judgement on Friday.

Cyril Ramaphosa
SADC postpones meeting on Mozambique insurgency
28 April 2021, 7:18 PM

A Southern African Development Community (SADC) leaders’ meeting that was scheduled for Thursday to address the insurgency in Mozambique has been postponed, Botswana President Mokgweetsi Masisi’s office said on Wednesday.

The meeting was to receive a report from a team sent to Mozambique to assess the security situation and identify ways to support the country after insurgents attacked the coastal town of Palma, displacing tens of thousands of people and stalling a $60 billion natural gas project.

The gas project by French oil major Total is meant to transform the economy of one of Africa’s poorest countries.

Masisi’s office says the meeting was put off due to the unavailability of Botswana’s President, Mokgweetsi Masisi, and  President Cyril Ramaphosa of South Africa.

Botswana, South Africa, Zimbabwe and Mozambique form a division of the Southern African Development Community (SADC) that wants to decide how to help Mozambique’s northern Cabo Delgado province against the militant attacks.

Botswana is the current chair of the SADC division, which is tasked with promoting peace and security in the region.

Masisi went into self-quarantine on Tuesday after the detection of a case of COVID-19 among his staff, while South Africa’s Cyril Ramaphosa is giving testimony to an inquiry into corruption under his predecessor Jacob Zuma.

State Capture Inquiry | Commission hears evidence from the President of the ANC, Cyril Ramaphosa

The insurgency broke out in Mozambique’s northeast in 2017 and the rebels have stepped up attacks in the past year.

A report by rating agency S&P Global said militant attacks in Mozambique’s Cabo Delgado province pose a “significant threat” to production facilities associated with one the biggest natural gas discoveries in the world.

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