Monthly Archives: June 2017

President Jacob Zuma appoints Justice Theron as Judge of the ...

President Jacob Zuma has in terms of section 174 (4) of the Constitution of the Republic of South Africa, 1996, and after consulting Chief Justice Mogoeng Mogoeng and leaders of parties represented in the National Assembly, appointed Justice Leona Valerie Theron as Judge of the Constitutional Court with effect from 01 July 2017 in an existing vacancy.

Justice Theron is filling the vacancy occasioned by the discharge from active service of former Constitutional Court Judge, Justice Johan van der Westhuizen.

Justice Theron has served on the bench for more than eighteen years including acting positions in various courts including the Supreme Court of Appeal.

President Zuma has congratulated Justice Theron and has wished her all the best in her new important responsibility of advancing South Africa's constitutional democracy.

Source: Government of South Africa

Government sets record straight on SABC probe

Pretoria � Government says the article titled SABC promotions to be probed in house, which appeared in The Times on Wednesday, has not accurately reflected Communications Minister Ayanda Dlodlo's views on the Special Investigative Unit (SIU) probe into the SABC.

The Times Live article dated 28 June 2017 titled SABC promotions to be probed in house failed entirely to capture the context and intent of the Minister of Communications in her input on the work proposed to be undertaken by the Special Investigative Unit (SIU) at the SABC, said the Government Communication and Information System (GCIS) on Thursday.

The GCIS said after the report of the Ad-Hoc Committee on the SABC Board Inquiry and the subsequent appointment of the SABC Interim Board, work is underway to turn around the South African Broadcasting Corporation (SABC).

Interventions include addressing corporate governance lapses, investigating alleged corruption and maladministration, and correcting the financial position of the entity.

The SABC board has been in talks with the SIU on the investigations and subsequently, the SIU has approached the President for a proclamation that would enable them to commence their work.

Minister Dlodlo recently attended a meeting as part of the oversight work of the Standing Committee on Public Accounts (SCOPA) at the SABC. This meeting included the SABC Interim Board and the SIU. The meeting discussed the role and mandate of the SIU in the investigative work that they will undertake at the SABC.

The meeting discussed the capacity and strength of the internal forensic unit and its role in supporting the work of the SIU. In assessing the internal forensic unit, it was found that this unit was severely understaffed and incapacitated.

The Minister's intervention was to impress upon the Interim Board the need to urgently capacitate that unit from a personnel point of view. In addition, the SIU work at the SABC should be leveraged to enhance the technical capacity of this unit to enable them to implement some of the recommendations that will emanate from the SIU's report, once the investigation is completed.

It was in that context that a proposal was made that matters, which can be handled by the internal forensic unit, should be handled as such. This, it was felt, would also assist the SIU to focus on major issues, inter alia, including unlawfully awarded contracts, irregular, fruitless and wasteful expenditure and irregularly awarded bonuses, said the GCIS.

As part of a comprehensive change management process, Minister Dlodlo undertook to facilitate a team of experts to be seconded from the public service to assist in strategic management areas where weaknesses have been identified.

It remains the Minister's view that the collapse of human resources systems has largely contributed to the current challenges at the SABC. The Minister has noted that there are skilled people available within the SABC, however, bad management practices and a culture of impunity have made it difficult for them to carry out their work efficiently.

The Minister's approach is to champion a change management process at the SABC in line with her role as the shareholder representative. This approach is aimed at utilising these processes to revitalise governance frameworks, structures, systems, and procedures to ensure that once these processes are complete, the SABC will be able to deliver on its mandate.

We must also be cognisant of the fact that the SIU operates on a cost recovery basis. While the public appreciates the huge responsibility to undo years of pillaging of resources, we must take care not to be profligate.

On the irregular expenditure that was condoned, the Minister advised that this should not be investigated, in view of the cost factor. We have a responsibility to apply our minds in the means we employ to achieve our strategic objectives and ensure a correlation between these two, the GCIS said.

Source: South Africa Government News Agency

Thailand, China to Sign $5 Billion Rail Infrastructure Agreement

BANGKOK � In a major boost to Thailand's transportation infrastructure, the military government is set to sign a more than $5 billion agreement with China for a high-speed rail network.

The first stage of the rail, the 252 kilometers from Bangkok to Nakhon Ratchasima, is a key step in a line that, once complete, will stretch more than 1,260 kilometers to Kunming, in China's Yunnan province. The next stages will reach the Thai border with Laos.

Analysts see the rail line as an extension of China's One Belt, One Road initiative, expanding regional trade and investment. The project also highlights China's growing regional influence.

The agreement, expected to be signed in July, follows almost two years of delays in negotiations, with final details of the contract still to be made public.

The deal has also raised widespread criticism of the government's use of powerful clauses in an interim charter.

Economic boost for Thailand

Economists say investment in Thailand's rail infrastructure needs to be a priority.

Pavida Pananond, an associate professor of business studies at Thammasat University, said general improvements to Thailand's transportation network are welcome.

Several other countries, including Japan and South Korea, have put forward transportation plans and proposals for rail systems in recent years.

"It's good for Thailand and it's good for Thai business. I would say a clear 'yes' because Thailand is in dire need of better infrastructure, especially with regard to transport," Pavida said.

Thailand, she said, faces high transportation logistics costs due to a reliance on roads.

Talks surrounding the Sino-Thai rail agreement have been bogged down for over two years due to disputes over land access to China, debate over interest charges on loans from Chinese banks, and the eligibility of Chinese engineers and architects to work on the project.

Professor of economics Somphob Manarangsan said the rail project offers the region significant economic potential and a boost in Chinese foreign direct investment.

He said Thailand is also looking to China to invest in the government-backed Eastern Economic Corridor (EEC) that is targeting regional foreign investment.

"Thailand wants them [China] to move their regional supply chain outside of China to the mainland of ASEAN [Association of South East Asian Nations] area, which has Thailand at the hub, connecting to CLMV [Cambodia, Laos, Myanmar, Vietnam]," he told VOA.

The rail network includes a 410-kilometer section through Laos, in which China is contributing 70 percent of the total $5.8 billion cost. Laos sees the rail line as vital to enable it to export goods to the Thai seaport of Laem Chabang, near Bangkok.

Special powers raise concern

But the project has come under increasing criticism in Thailand after the military government, in power since May 2014, insisted on using powers under Section 44 of the interim charter that give the government absolute authority in policy application.

The government claims the use of the special power was to ensure Chinese investment, expertise, technology and equipment.

Former army chief and Thai Prime Minister Prayut Chan-o-cha told local media the use of the charter powers was to clear legal hurdles in the Thai-Sino rail project, "not a special favor to China but to Thailand's benefit."

But the use of the laws was challenged by organizations of Thai professional engineers and architects who said Chinese engineers were not registered to work in Thailand.

Thitinan Pongsudhirak, a political scientist at Chulalongkorn University, in a commentary, said Thailand should press for open bidding on the project to ensure the country ended up with the "best bid with the best value."

"Instead, opting for the Chinese plan is poised to violate a slew of Thai laws and undermine the government's own good governance agenda," Thitinan said.

Besides exemptions to Chinese engineers and architects working on the project, the charter articles also exempt state procurement laws and environmental regulations covering forest reserves, which will be set aside for the line's construction.

Thammasat University's Pavida said other concerns include levels of transparency on the agreement.

"People don't know the details. People haven't seen much information on the potential benefit, and partly, this is because the feasibility study has been done by the Chinese," she said.

"So, if you look at that and the Chinese try to sell their technology and then we let them do the feasibility study, so they would say, 'yes, it is feasible.' So that's one of the reasons why people do not have trust in the rush into this," she said.

Analysts said the government's push to sign an agreement comes as Thai's Prayut is due to visit China in September to attend meetings of the BRICS � Brazil, Russia, India, China and South Africa � forum in Xiamen.

Source: Voice of America

UNODC, Asset Recovery Inter-Agency Network of Southern Africa meet to ...

Illicit trafficking is among the most challenging forms of crime in Southern Africa. As an integral part of organised crime networks, illicit trafficking facilitates the spread of contraband and it generates considerable profits for individuals and groups involved.

With a view to strengthening information sharing and international cooperation, the 7th Asset Recovery Inter-Agency Network of Southern Africa (ARINSA) Annual General Meeting (AGM) was organized in partnership with UNODC, under the theme called "Development of national strategies for the management of seized assets".

Speaking at the opening ceremony, Eric Molale, Minister for Presidential Affairs, Governance and Public Administration of Botswana, said: "The expansion and administrative consolidation of ARINSA is a reflection of its members' commitment to increase their effectiveness in depriving criminals of their illegal proceeds from criminal activities."

"The value chain of implementing an effective asset forfeiture regime includes the establishment of an asset management directorate", Mr. Molale continued, describing asset management as critical and important.

Throughout the event, participants discussed their respective countries' asset recovery achievements in 2016. That included forfeiture of $23,000,000 worth of assets, investigation of 419 money laundering cases, seizure of 178 vehicles worth over $2,000,000 and $5,600,000 worth of gold and other assets such as cattle.

Participants emphasized the need for country assessments to determine the status of asset management legal frameworks. Equally important is to organize more judicial retreats in the region and that countries submit requests for technical assistance to enhance a multi-disciplinary approach in dealing with asset recovery cases.

The 7th AGM brought together more than hundred asset forfeiture practitioners from the police, financial intelligence units and prosecuting services agencies from Angola, Botswana, Democratic Republic of Congo, Kenya, Lesotho, Malawi, Mauritius, Madagascar, Mozambique, Namibia, Seychelles, South Africa, Swaziland, Tanzania, Uganda, Zambia and Zimbabwe.

Source: United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime

SOUTH AFRICAN INIDIGENOUS LANGUAGES TO BE PRESERVED FOR POSTERITY

PRETORIA, Research shows that there are 13 indigenous languages belonging to the Khoi, San and Nama still spoken in South Africa today and the Pan South African Language Board (Pansalb) has embarked on a process to develop a national strategic plan for the development and promotion of these language groups.

Pansalb wants to ensure that indigenous languages are preserved for posterity.

About 300 people, comprising academics and representatives of indigenous language groups, deliberated on the state of the Khoi, San and Nama languages during a two-day conference at the University of Free State in Bloemfontein this week.

Research shows that there are 13 indigenous languages belonging to the Khoi, San and Nama still spoken today but several have become extinct over the past 100 years; among them the Khwe Dam.

The Director of the Centre for African Language Diversity, Dr Matthias Brenzinger, says: "There are about 2200 languages; most of them are not written in the African continent. So, the question that people sometimes ask me, is 'Why do you bother about helping communities to develop practical lexicographies to write their languages'?'"

The Language Board is taking the matter seriously and encouraging dialog on the issue. "The idea is to first establish the state of Khoisan language development. We want to understand that whenever we craft a strategy; how we address the Khoisan question nationally, and look at how to accelerate the development."

The South African Broadcasting Corporation (SABC) is also on board to do its part in preserving the languages. SABC General manager Thabang Tsoenyane says: "Where people have the creative capacity to sit down and write stories that reflect their traditions and culture, we encourage them as well."

No time frame has been set for the final indigenous language strategic plan.

Source: NAM NEWS NETWORK

North West on Mahikeng Local municipality’s lack of compliance ...

North West SCOPA lambasts Mahikeng Local municipality's lack of compliance on supply chain management laws and regulations that resulted in irregular expenditure of R133 Million

The North West Provincial Legislature's Standing Committee on Provincial Public Accounts (SCOPA) has lambasted Mahikeng Local Municipality's continuous failure to comply with supply chain management laws and regulations that resulted in irregular expenditure as well as their inability to implement control measures to ensure compliance and recurring matters on the audit report. This came after the Committee held public hearings on the Municipal Finance Management Act (MFMA) audit outcomes for the financial year 2015/16 with Mahikeng; Madibeng and Moretele Local Municipalities.

In the 2015/16 financial year, Mahikeng and Madibeng Local Municipality received a disclaimer audit opinion and Moretele Local Municipality received a qualified audit opinion respectively. Mahikeng Local Municipalities incurred unauthorised expenditure of R133, 4 million; irregular expenditure of R133,5 million and fruitless and wasteful expenditure of R370 769 due to overspending of budget, payments made in contravention of supply chain management regulations and due to interest and penalties charged by suppliers due to non/late payments.

SCOPA Chairperson, Hon. Mahlakeng Mahlakeng said Mahikeng as a seat of provincial government cannot continue to receive disclaimer audit opinions due to lack of adequate control measures; non-functionality and implementation of the supply chain management policies and increased vacancy rate from 6 percent in the previous financial year to 15 percent in the current year.

It cannot be correct that there were no consequences for irregular expenditure transgressors and other supply chain management transgressions. There is lack of sufficiently skilled and competent staff in the supply chain unit. The auditor general has also indicated that the municipality operates from an unfavourable financial position.

The audit report has also highlighted that there is inability of the municipality to effectively bill users and collect money from debtors and has impacted on the ability to settle and pay its creditors , which exposes the municipality to cash flow risk, said Hon. Mahlakeng.

He said the municipalities continue to ignore SCOPA Resolutions hence there are recurring matters in the current year's audit report.

On water, sanitation and infrastructure, the Acting Business Executive at the Provincial Auditor General's Office, Mr. Schalla van Schalkwyk said the municipality does not have approved policies in place to address routine maintenance of water infrastructure and planning, management and reporting of roads infrastructure. There was also an investigation prompted by the previous municipal manager, undertaken by the hawks on the irregular sale of property to an external party without following the correct disposal processes and it is on-going, said Mr. van Schalkwyk.

The Municipal Manager of Mahikeng Local Municipality, Mr. Thabo Mokwena said the Municipal Public Accounts Committee has been assigned to investigate the unauthorised; irregular and, fruitless and wasteful expenditure. In order to ensure that there are control environment around record keeping. The municipality has centralized the supply chain management unit to ensure that there is document filling. Other control measures include compliance checklists, implemented and review for correctness by independent officials including the Internal Audit Unit, said Mr. Mokwena.

All incorrectly allocated debtor payments were identified and allocated to the correct debtor accounts during the August and September 2016. The water losses are mainly as a result of incomplete billing for water services that has been primarily caused by faulty and non-installed water meters. The municipality purchased the required water meters for replacement and process is ongoing. The management is also addressing the issue of duplicate positions and abuse of overtime by officials, said Mr. Mokwena.

He said President Jacob Zuma has signed a proclamation for an investigation on the entire land of Mahikeng by the Special Investigations Unit and the Hawks. There is no development on the land due to illegal sale of most empty spaces in the town hence the current investigation on land, said Mr. Mokwena.

The Head of Department Finance, Economy and Enterprise Development, Mr. Ndlela Kunene said SCOPA and MPAC oversight processes can assist the municipality in improving audit findings. The department continues to assist all municipalities with revenue and debt management, said Mr. Kunene.

The Committee has also welcomed Madibeng and Moretele Local Municipalities' audit action plans to address matters raised on the 2015/16 audit reports. Madibeng Local Municipality regressed from a qualified audit opinion in 2014/15 to disclaimer audit opinion in the 2015/16 financial year whilst Moretele Local Municipality remained on qualified audit opinion in the financial year under review.

Hon. Mahlakeng said the Committee is impressed with steps taken by management of both municipalities to turn-around their financial statuses. Although our municipalities are the worst performing in the country, we aim to work hard towards clean audits. Investigations on the supply chain management transgressions should go ahead as planned, said Hon. Mahlakeng.

Source: Government of South Africa

In South Sudan, One Hospital Delivers New Limbs, New Life

JUBA, SOUTH SUDAN � Solomon was just 7 years old when he woke up missing a leg.

And he was one of the lucky ones.

Weeks later, Solomon was back on two feet with the aid of an artificial leg, fitted at a hectic hospital, turned into a limb-making factory, in the South Sudanese capital of Juba.

The hospital is in horribly high demand in a country born of war that remains littered with mines and explosive devices, with civil war still raging all around.

Most of South Sudan's estimated 60,000 amputees have suffered war-related injuries, be it gunshot or landmine wounds.

As civil war devastates the world's youngest country � it celebrates its sixth anniversary next month � it has become increasingly difficult for amputees to gain good treatment.

Second chance

Solomon came to his first artificial limb after an open fracture turned into a life-threatening infection, which forced doctors to amputate.

When he woke from surgery in a remote hospital in South Sudan's Bentiu, he was far away from the capital with little chance of rehabilitation or help adjusting to his new life.

I was put on a flight to Juba, where I am receiving a new, artificial leg, he told the Thomson Reuters Foundation from his current home at the Physical Rehabilitation Reference Center.

It is the country's biggest hospital for prosthetic orthotic treatment, treating about 30 patients a day.

Amputations have gone up since the beginning of the civil war in 2013, but even with increased need, access to some areas is impossible due to active fighting and many people who have lost limbs might never be able to get out and receive help, said Emmanuel Lobari, who as head of technicians oversees the production of all the prosthetic limbs.

Both hospital and factory, the center produces an average of 50 prostheses each month � all hand-made and custom fit.

Durable, affordable

We use polypropylene to make the limbs, a material that has proved to be both durable and affordable, physiotherapist Daniel Odhiambo said.

A Kenyan, he is one of a handful of expatriate staff at the hospital, employed by the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC).

The prostheses last for an average of two years and it's usually the foot, made out of a softer material, that wears out the fastest. The leg itself can last up to 10 years.

Making a limb � from melting the plastic-like polypropylene to shaping it into a leg � is a quick process in the hospital's small, modern factory and can be done within a day.

It's the fitting and the patient's adaption that take up to 10 days, Lobari said.

Lobari is South Sudanese, like most of the hospital's 30 staff, all of whom received Red Cross training.

The organization first started treating amputations in 1979 during Ethiopia's civil war, and developed the polypropylene technology that has since spread across all conflict zones.

Odhiambo has worked in many places, including Afghanistan, Yemen and Iraq. He recently took up his second mission in Juba.

Here in South Sudan, I mainly see war wounds and they are very different from civilian wounds, he said.

Nearly 250,000 mines and explosive devices were found and destroyed in South Sudan so far in 2017, according to the United Nations Mine Action Service (UNMAS). South Sudan slipped into civil war in 2013, two years after becoming independent from Khartoum, and some 4 million people, one third of the population, have fled to neighboring countries in its wake.

For those left behind, risk is part of daily life. The worst case Odhiambo has seen is an 18-year-old boy, who was brought to the clinic with both legs blown off by a landmine, pieces of muscle hanging out of the wound and shrapnel fragments stuck deep in his flesh.

He was in consistent pain and it took months to build the right prosthesis, but I stayed with him through the whole process. I told him not to give up. He had his whole life ahead of him still.

A resilient nation

Simon has been coming to the hospital for several months and can still vividly recall the day he was attacked, when several bullets were shot through his leg.

I thought I was going to die, but my family took me to a small hospital where my leg was amputated, he said.

Simon is from the north of the country then moved to Juba to get better care.

Three in four patients at the center are male. The women and children at the hospital underwent amputations after suffering different traumas, such as war injuries, crocodile bites, road accidents or infections.

It helps patients such as Solomon, just starting a new life with his first prosthesis, to meet older patients like Simon.

The boy is still young, but he can see that he's not alone with his injury, Odhiambo said.

The one difference I've noted working in South Sudan is that people here accept their fate easier than any others. They are resilient and want to go on with their lives. I even see it in Solomon, Odhiambo said. People have suffered, but they don't lose their drive and motivation.

Source: Voice of America

Minister Senzeni Zokwana: Media briefing on Avian Influenza outbreak ...

Media Briefing by Minister Senzeni Zokwana Avian Influenza Outbreak in South Africa

Good morning

The Department alerted poultry owners about the eminent threat of Avian Influenza when Zimbabwe reported their first case at the end of May. The disease, which at that time had been reported in 14 countries, 2 of which were in Africa, had been confirmed in Zimbabwe making it the third country in Africa to be affected.

Avian Influenza is an influenza virus, and is classified as either highly pathogenic or low pathogenic by the World Organisation for Animal Health. The type that has been reported is the highly pathogenic one and is extremely contagious.

The Department, in its alert notification, called for all chicken keepers to observe basic biosecurity measures in order to prevent contact with wild birds. This can be achieved in commercial farms by improving biosecurity and in free range farms by simply removing feed and water from where it attracts wild birds.

Despite the warnings, the disease still managed to get into our flocks. Two cases, one in a broiler breeder farm in Villiers and another in an egg laying farm in Standerton, were reported since 22nd of June. Both these farms are in the Mpumalanga province. There seems to have been confusion with the location of one farm which is near Villiers, as its closest town. I confirm that this farm is on the Mpumalanga side of the provincial boundary. No cases have been reported so far in the Free State, or in any other province.

Our team of veterinarians has swiftly responded to this threat. We have placed the affected farms under quarantine and the affected birds have been euthanised and the eggs destroyed. Approximately two hundred and sixty thousand (260 000) birds have been culled.

Section 19 of the Animal Diseases Act, gives the Director Animal Health the legal mandate to compensate for any animals or birds killed by the state pursuant to any disease control measure. The Director of Animal Health will consider each case on its own merit.

There have been several calls to permit vaccination against the disease; I have been advised by my team of experts that this will not be in the best interest of both the country and the producers. Vaccination of birds will create an endemic situation, affect surveillance efforts and affect our export certification because all our trade partners only want products from a country that is free of avian influenza where vaccination is not practised.

In order to contain the disease, our team called for the ban on the sale of live chickens to manage the further spread. This triggered a nation-wide concern since a number of livelihoods had been affected. However this measure was imposed in the interest of the country and the poultry producers at large, and I can assure you that it was not taken lightly.

My team has since met with the Poultry Producers and have devised a solution that will provide the desired disease management outcomes and improve traceability, while ensuring that micro businesses continue with their operations. The buyers or sellers of more than 5 live chickens for any purpose other than direct slaughter at a registered abattoir will be subjected to the following conditions:

1. The sellers of live chickens, including commercial farmers, as well as the traders who buy and resell these chickens must register with the Poultry Disease Management Agency (PDMA). The Director Animal Health, of the DAFF has authorised the PDMA to register and keep records of all parties selling and buying live chickens. The PDMA is an independent organization and all information about the trade of live chickens will be kept strictly confidential.

2. Only registered sellers and buyers are allowed to trade and it is the responsibility of both the seller and the buyer to ensure that their counterpart is registered.

3. Farmers may only sell live chickens certified as healthy by a veterinarian or Animal Health Technician.

4. Traders may only sell healthy chickens and must keep records as prescribed.

5. Sellers and buyers registering with the PDMA would have to sign an undertaking to adhere to the required control measures.

These conditions apply to sellers of live broiler chickens, live spent layer hens, live spent breeder birds, point of lay pullets and any chickens that may fall into these categories. The conditions also apply to any buyers and traders who buy more than 5 live chickens that fall into the above categories.

All stakeholders are implored to comply with the registration and other requirements that are designed to allow the trade of live chickens to continue without compromising animal health. Depending on the level of compliance that is achieved with these conditions, the Director Animal Health will review future requirements for blanket bans.

Registration forms for sellers and buyers are available on the DAFF (www.daff.gov.za) and PDMA (www.poultrydiseases.co.za) websites and further information can also be obtained from the PDMA (at 012 529 8298).

We request utmost cooperation of all affected parties in order to prevent further spread of the current outbreak and enhance the disease management efforts.

The Department wishes to reiterate that the type of virus we are dealing with, does not affect people, as has been confirmed by the World Health Organisation and the World Organisation for Animal Health.

The meat that is on the shelves is safe to eat as it has gone through a process of meat inspection and certified fit for human consumption.

A number of trade partners, have suspended trade of raw meat, eggs and live birds from South Africa. This is mainly because the South African veterinarians have to certify that the country is free of Avian Influenza, and since the 22nd June, they could not provide this certification. However, processed meat is considered safe for trade, and some countries still accept this.

South Africa introduced the concept of compartments in line with the World Organisation for Animal Health (OIE) guidelines; raw meat, eggs and live birds originating from these compartments have been accepted by most trade partners. Our team is already in negotiations with these trade partners to accept our products from these registered compartments.

Chicken owners, farmers and the public should remain vigilant and all cases of high mortalities in chickens and other birds should be reported to the nearest State Veterinarian.

I wish to thank the Poultry Producers for their cooperation and consistent engagement with the Department. I also wish to thank my team for the swift response and their dedication.

Source: Government of South Africa