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Sphamandla Khoza’s family welcomes court decision on accused’s bail
28 April 2021, 6:20 PM

The family of a man who was brutally murdered, allegedly because he was openly gay, says they welcome the court’s decision to deny the accused bail.

Sphamandla Khoza died after he was stabbed numerous times last month.

Earlier, the Ntuzuma Magistrate’s Court, north of Durban, denied Thando Mgenge bail, saying he is facing a serious charge and he failed to give strong reasons for him to be released.

The public gallery in the courtroom was packed with Khoza’s relatives and members of the LGBTQIA+ community. They were all eagerly awaiting the court’s ruling in the bail application.

In his ruling, Magistrate Amos Mchunu said the accused was handed over to police by his sister. He also said the victim was found by a security guard who followed a blood trail to where the body was hidden.

Magistrate Mchunu reminded Mgenge that he was facing a serious crime.

Judgment in the bail application of Thando Mgenge:

In his bail application Mgenge focused on his personal circumstances. While Mgenge told the court that he had helped the police in the investigation, Magistrate Mchunu said he showed no remorse.

It transpired in court that the accused has a relative that is gay and he allegedly cannot live in a same house with him.

The court denied Mgenge bail.

Outside the court, Khoza’s father Nkosinathi Chamane thanked members of the LGBTQIA+ community for supporting his family.

“I’m relieved. So far, according to the court ruling, so far today, we are so much grateful. It is promising, although the case is not yet finished and we still have to wait for the court decision. But since the murderer is not granted bail, we are so relieved and I want to thank the investigating officers, the members of the LGBTQIA+, my family, friends and my employers to allow me to be in court everyday.”

The Gay and Lesbian Alliance of South Africa has welcomed the decision.

Glasa Secretary Frank Gazu says they are really happy.

“Our position, we are very elated and indeed, we are very happy. Like we said last week, we are more than confident that the state was going to deny him bail based on the evidence that was brought in court the state has against him. We are very much happy. We are delighted that for a change the justice system is indeed prevailing. We are also monitoring the developments in other similar cases as well where we are calling on the judges to deny perpetrators of hate crime bail.”

Meanwhile, Director of the KwaZulu-Natal LGBT Recreation Hlengiwe Buthelezi says they will be monitoring the case.

“So far, we are very happy for the fact that he did not get bail. That is why we came out here in numbers, to oppose bail. That is a victory. However, we have to monitor this case that it must not delay like it did the last time.”

Mgenge will be back in court on the 31st of May.

Lindiwe Sisulu
Minister Sisulu urged to reconsider decision on Cuban engineers or head to court
28 April 2021, 5:42 PM

Human Settlements, Water and Sanitation Minister, Lindiwe Sisulu has been given less than 24-hours to suspend her department’s Cuban engineer programme, or she may have to defend its rollout in court.

The programme has courted controversy with trade union Solidarity threatening to go to court on Friday to obtain an interdict, forcing its suspension.

Solidarity calls for suspension of the Cuban engineering programme

Sisulu has brought in 24 Cuban engineers to help repair the country’s ailing water infrastructure at a cost of R65-million.

There’s also a backlash from South Africa’s Engineering Sector.

The Vaal sewage spillage crisis exposed years of poor maintenance of water infrastructure in the country. In an attempt to address the ailing infrastructure, Sisulu is hiring 24 Cuban engineers to assist with repair work.

She insists the engineers are not in South Africa for employment, but to transfer skills and mentor local officials.

Sthembile Tshikosi, an engineering professional with over two decades of experience, feels aggrieved that the government is importing skills, that are already available in the country.

“There is no shortage of engineers in this country, therefore there’s no need to go look outside until you have exhausted every Engineering graduate out there then you can say you can bring people from outside because we struggling. So I would say reach out to the Engineering Council of South Africa, find out from the universities who are the graduates. Are they working? Do something on the ground before you get on the plane and go look for people from outside?”

South African Institution of Civil Engineering CEO Vishaal Lutchman says there’s a lot of anger in the sector over this matter.

“From an institutions point of view, we do respect bilateral trade agreements etc. And we believe that Geo-political relationships matter a lot especially in the time when we have economic woes like what we are having,” says Lutchman.

 

“However the rationale and the explanation of why this is happening, perhaps it is more important. It comes across as if government lacks care for its professionals that are in the country. Its regard for professionals has not been good enough. There was the comment about the local engineers not being skilled and in need of training and the like,” adds Lutchman.

The Human Settlements, Water and Sanitation ministry denies the decisions are aimed at undermining the local engineering sector. It says local engineers were invited to assist, but only a handful responded.

The ministry says the programme’s R64-million budget is justified as it covers the engineers’ travel, accommodation and communication expenses, as well as a stipend.

The department’s spokesperson, McIntosh Polela, says minister Sisulu previously invited engineers to assist.

“The minister some months ago invited South African engineers to say we need help. So it is not to say by bringing the Cuban Engineers we saying South African engineers are not welcomed. If anyone feels that they have people who are skilled they need that help. My goodness, we need the skills. We have a lot of places like municipalities that need skilled engineers. But us bringing Cuban engineers does not mean we are undermining any skill that is here in South Africa,” says Polela.

Department of Water & Sanitation defends its decision to procure the services of 24 Cuban engineers

However trade union Solidarity insist that the minister must suspend the programme or risk being forced to do so through a court interdict.

“The decision to import Cuban engineer is not only foolish and immoral, but it seems it also illegal. It appears at face value that these engineers do not meet the requirements for registration and licensing of the South African Engineering council. In its legal letter to the minister Solidarity asks that this whole Cuban programme must be suspended till we get legal certainty,” says Dirk Herman. from Solidarity.

The industry regulatory body, the Engineering Council South Africa (ECSA), says Cuba is not a member of the International Engineering Alliance – a global organisation that governs the recognition of engineering qualifications and professional competency.

ECSA says the Engineering Profession Act does not make registration mandatory in South Africa.

“They will have to register with us as competent people so that they can be held accountable. Alternatively, they must work under the supervision of someone who is registered with ECSA who will take that accountability. Those are the two channels they can follow,” says ECSA CEO Sipho Madonsela.

 

“We do not have yet a compulsory registration regime in South Africa.  The issue of making compulsory is something we are working on and i hope by the end of this year that process will be done and dusted. Then we can exclude certain people from performing certain engineering options if they are not registered,” elaborates Madonsela.

Discussion on Minister Sisulu’s decision to hire Cuban engineers to deal with SA’s water problems

Wales
Wales to begins Six Nations title defence against Ireland in 2022
28 April 2021, 4:36 PM

Six Nations champions Wales will begin their title defence against Ireland in the first round of the 2022 tournament while Scotland host England on the same day, organisers announced on Wednesday.

The tournament begins on February 5 while the final round will be played on ‘Super Saturday’ on March 19.

Wales claimed their second Six Nations title in three years but had to wait for the final fixture to be played between France and Scotland after it was postponed due to COVID-19 cases in the French squad.

Scotland eventually claimed their first win in Paris since 1999 to hand Wales the title.

“The 2021 Championship was one of the most competitive in history with eight of the 15 matches won by seven points or less,” Six Nations CEO Ben Morel said in a statement.

“The drama of Super Saturday with France’s last-minute win against Wales, meant that the winner of the Championship was only revealed after the final match was played.

“We look forward to next year’s Championship with hopefully a return to normality when we can welcome fans back in stadia and bring that unrivalled Six Nations atmosphere into sitting rooms, pubs and rugby clubs all over the world.”

Scotland ended their 38-year wait for a victory at Twickenham in this year’s tournament and England, who finished a disappointing fifth, will have the chance to win the Calcutta Cup in the first round.

After a trip to Italy in the second round, England then host Wales and Ireland. Wales will play home games against Scotland, France and Italy.

Super Saturday will have France taking on England while Ireland play Scotland.

Vaccine
COVAX a good programme, but too little to meet Africa and Global South’s needs: Thabo Makgoba
28 April 2021, 3:08 PM

Anglican Archbishop of Southern Africa Thabo Makgoba says COVAX is a good programme, but too little to meet the needs of the African continent and the Global South in tackling the coronavirus.

Makgoba insists that the pharmaceutical industry in Africa should start developing vaccines against COVID-19.

Some opposition parties say it is possible for the continent to develop its vaccines, but they express certain concerns.

The Anglican Archbishop first made the call on Good Friday saying it is possible for the pharmaceutical industry on the continent to start developing vaccines.

In continuing with his call for the development of vaccines, Makgoba says if the vaccine know-how is shared with developing countries, the continent will be able to produce vaccines in the fight against COVID-19.

“We can do it. If we can look at  the amount of money that we (use to) import health (sic) and drugs in the continent as a whole … and if we move that there should be the World Trade Organisation TRIPS (Trade-Related Aspects of Intellectual Property Rights) and the waiver on licenses and the sharing of the know-how, I’m sure that, as a continent, the pharmaceutical industry can scale up and produce the much needed vaccines for the continent. I have made this call and will continue to make it loud and clear up until Pentecost, which is 50 days from Easter until Pentecost. In all the platforms that I have with my colleagues in America, in England and Australia, and throughout the world, through the South African Council of Churches and other inter-faith groupings. COVAX as a programme and idea is good, but it is too little for the continental needs and the Global South. It is just a trickle. We need population immunity, not just a trickle for the Global South.”

The call for the sharing of vaccine knowledge with developing countries was also made by President Cyril Ramaphosa and World Health Organisation Director General Tedros Ghebreyesus during a recent virtual briefing to mark the one-year anniversary of the Access to COVID-19 vaccines.

President Ramaphosa spoke out against vaccine nationalism.

“We should say that vaccine nationalism seriously threatens the global recovery from the pandemic and it’s deepening inequality between countries. The COVID-19 vaccine is a public good and must be recognised as such. To overcome challenges with access, low and medium income countries must be supported. Yes, to have access to vaccines, but also to be able to manufacture their own vaccines, diagnostics and other treatments,” says Ramaphosa.

He says South Africa and India “are calling for a temporary TRIPS waiver to respond to COVID-19.”

“As a continent, Africa has embarked on a ambitious drive to work towards the development of pharmaceutical manufacturing capacity so that it can supply the continent’s people with the vaccines and other medical supplies they need, to use the existing vaccine manufacturing capacity in developing counties and to enable further development. South Africa and India are calling for a temporary TRIPS waiver to respond to COVID-19. This, in our view, will facilitate the transfer of technology and international property to more countries from the productions of vaccines as well as diagnostics and treatments.”

And Ghebreyesus has also called on rich countries to share to resources and vaccine know-how to scale up production and save lives against COVID-19.

“The solution is straightforward; we need countries and companies that control the resources that could save lives, to share. That means sharing financial resources to fully fund the Act-Accelerator, which means sharing vaccines doses to protect the most at risk, (and) not just the most rich. It means all countries being transparent about their bilateral doses donations, so we know who has what. And it means sharing technology, know-how and intellectual property to urgently and massively scale up production.”

The Democratic Alliance (DA) and the Freedom Front Plus say they support the idea of the continent, and particularly South Africa, to develop vaccines against COVID-19. However they have certain conditions.

DA Spokesperson on Health Siviwe Gwarube says while the current priority should be on getting more vaccines, it is possible to develop domestic capacity.

“”We are always in support of the notion that, since pandemics will become very much part of our lives, we would want to develop domestic capacity to be able to develop vaccines and other kinds of medical  advancements. We welcome that fact because we also know that we have some of the best medical and some of the best medical and some of the best academics and some of the experts in the country when it comes to this field,” says Gwarube.

“And so, if government is able to design a platform by which they are able to exercise those expertise, where they are able to access funding; where the process is not simply bogged down by bureaucracy and hollowed up by corruptions, but it is more about putting the interest of scientific advancement first, we would simply not have a problem with supporting something of that nature. We are in full support of South Africa to have its own capacity (to) develop these kinds of advancements. However, we are of the view that in the meantime the most urgent priority right now for government is to ensure that we secure as any vaccines as (much as) possible and that there is a little wastage and as little corruption as possible.”

FF-Plus Leader Pieter Groenewald is more concerned about whether vaccines should be developed by the private sector or state-owned companies.

“In principle, no one can object to the idea that Africa as a continent must start to produce its own vaccines as far as the COVID-19 pandemic is concerned. The question is whether it will be state-owned enterprises, or whether it will be private companies. If it’s going to be state-owned enterprises, the Freedom Front Plus is of the view that it will not be successful. If you look at the corruption and the management of state-owned enterprises in South Africa, it is doomed to fail. The only way to success in this dream is to ensure that private companies supported by government, (are allowed) to produce and manufacture these pharmaceutical products. Then it can be a success.”

Audio: Anglican Archbishop intensifies call on Africa to develop vaccines against COVID-19:

Community meeting
Mokopane community structures demand return of stolen municipal assets
27 April 2021, 8:08 PM

Various community structures in Mokopane, Limpopo, say they want political management team of the embattled Mogalakwena Local Municipality to commit itself to return some assets allegedly stolen from the institution.

The community structures, including Sanco, Mokopane Task Team and the Mogalakwena Concerned and Affected Communities, held meeting with political management team led by mayor Frans Mokwele at the municipal’s council chamber on Freedom Day.

The meeting discussed service delivery and municipal property lease agreement issues.

The lease agreements of some municipal property was allegedly done irregularly. The properties such as land and houses have apparently been leased for a period of 20 years instead of five years. There is also a challenge of the appointment of more than 400 people which was allegedly done irregularly.

The spokesperson of the community structures, Baba Selomo, says they believe that money and land have been stolen from the municipality.

“We believe that our money and our land has been stolen by politician and also administration of this municipality we do not have services has we speak now water is a problem as we speak now don’t have roads the issue of more than 400 employees which are paid by the municipality by the money which were supposed to service our people is paying salaries council is not committed or than PMT is not committed ensuring that money that was stolen go back to the public coffers,” says Selomo.

The civic organisation, SANCO chairperson in the Waterberg region, Tlou Sasa, says it seems that the PMT is not willing to meet their demands.

“Actually we are not satisfied with anything here they are playing with us as civic organization it seems they are not willing and ready to answer us on many things giving the issue of garage here and the issue of that illegal hiring a number of people that is 480 close to 700,” says Sasa.

Mogalakwena Mayor, Frans Mokwele, refused to comment on the matter saying he is focusing on bringing stability to the municipality. The municipality has been placed under section 139-b, which enables the provincial government to exercise administrative powers.

Non-compliance in the supply chain and municipal finances resulted in the municipality incurring an unauthorised expenditure of nearly R3 billion in the past three financial years.

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