Saturday, December 20, 2014

CTN fires leave hundreds homeless

A total of 118 people have been left homeless after 30 shacks burned down in various parts of Cape Town, the City's Disaster Operations Centre said on Saturday.

“No injuries were reported,” said the Centre's acting head Wilfred Solomons-Johannes.

In the most devastating of the five fires that had broken out since Friday night, 80 people were displaced and 20 shacks were destroyed when a fire broke out at the Imizamo Yethu informal settlement in Hout Bay.

In Ravensmead, two adults and a child were left homeless after their backyard dwelling was destroyed in a fire, while in Khayelitsha, another shack burnt down, leaving two people displaced.

In the early hours of Saturday morning, two fires broke out: one in Fizantekraal and the other in Kraaifontein.

Eighteen people were left displaced in the Fizantekraal fire that destroyed six shacks.

In Kraaifontein, 15 people lost their homes after two shacks were burned down.

Solomons-Johannes said those affected were receiving food, clothing, toiletries blankets and building materials.

“The cause of these fires is undetermined at this stage,” he said, adding an investigation would, however, take place. - Sapa

Tuesday, December 9, 2014

Two girls die in shack blaze

Cape Town - Two little girls burnt to death after they were trapped inside their burning shack early on Tuesday morning.

Lithabo, 2, and Kwakhanya, 5, were fast asleep in their Philippi East home when the fire broke out.

Their mother, Vuyokazi Gcilitshane, managed to escape. She ran for help, screaming: “The children are inside.”

Gcilitshane was taken to hospital with burns, according to City of Cape Town fire chief Theo Layne.

Her neighbour, Douglas Gungqisa, was home on Tuesday morning to recount the horrifying night.

Gungqisa owns the formal house and property on which the backyard shack was built. The Gcilitshane family had lived there since last year.

“I was woken at 1am by a woman who came running to tell me the shack is on fire,” he said. “I jumped up and ran. I was so confused. Then we went to fetch water in buckets to throw on the fire.”

Gungqisa said the blaze only grew as they poured water over it, as if the water was paraffin.

“I heard the screams of the mother saying the children are in there,” he said. “The mother couldn’t say what caused the fire, she was just crying. All she could say was ‘the children are inside’.”

Soon community members came to help, and a security van called the fire brigade.

When the neighbours managed to put out the flames, they set about searching for the girls.

“We didn’t hear the screams of the children,” Gungqisa said. “It was just quiet.”

He found their charred bodies under a sheet of collapsed corrugated sheeting.

On Tuesday morning, the blackened site was home only to twisted metal, burnt plates and the soggy remains of a tiny girls’ T-shirts and pink shoes.

Gungqisa’s house in Apile Crescent was slightly damaged by smoke, but not burnt.

Layne said that a man had died in a separate fire last night. “There was also a fire in Kosovo informal settlement. One adult male sustained fatal burns.”

The cause of both fires was not known and details were unclear as formal reports had not yet been filed on Tuesday morning.

- Cape Argus

Poo protesters off the hook

Cape Town - Nine men on trial for dumping human waste at the airport were discharged on all but one charge at the Bellville Magistrate’s Court on Monday.

Andile Lili, Loyiso Nkohla, Yanga Mjingwana, Ben Dyani, Jaji Diniso, Bongile Zanazo, Thembela Mabanjwa, Bantubakhe Mgobodiya and Wandisile Mkapa will have to answer a charge of contravening a section of the Civil Aviation Act – which carries a sentence of up to 30 years’ jail.

They are accused of dumping human faeces at the entrance of Cape Town International Airport’s departure terminal on June 25 last year.

They appeared at the Bellville Regional Court on Monday to hear the outcome of their section 174 application, which their lawyer, advocate Pearl Mathibela, had filed with the court in October.

This followed the State’s decision to close its case against the men.

They were charged with contravening the Civil Aviation Act with an alternative count, contravening the National Environment Management Act with an alternative count, and contravening the city’s environmental health by-laws.

They were cleared of all but the first count.

In dismissing counts two and three, magistrate Nonkosi Saba agreed with Mathibela on many aspects, including that “waste” as defined by the by-laws or acts did not mean faeces.

She said the State had not brought evidence before the court to prove the nine men had conspired to cause a riot.

Saba said their intention was to shame the City of Cape Town. “The intention of the accused was not aimed at the aircraft, crew or the navigation facilities of the airport,” she said.

Saba, however, said their actions had affected the operations of the airport, with the entrance having to be cordoned off, forcing some passengers to use an alternative access.

In this regard the men had a case to answer to because someone stepping on the dumped faeces could have slipped and injured themselves.

Their application for discharge was refused.

The nine accused displayed considerable relief, in particular Lili, who pumped his fist and smiled in the dock when the magistrate freed them on some of the charges.

Outside court Lili told his supporters that their lawyers were devising a strategy to deal with the remaining count.

“Now our lawyers are going to look at how they deal with that part that speaks about (possible) injuries to passengers. The one that speaks about injuries is true, because if one would have walked on the (faeces, they could have slipped),” Lili said.

“This is a serious indication that we must not take for granted what we are standing for; the issue of sanitation which has become a problem for all of us,” Nkohla said.

The case was postponed until Thursday.

- Cape Times

Monday, December 8, 2014

Dunoon hit by sixth blaze this year

Cape Town - For the sixth time this year 160 residents of Dunoon, near Milnerton, watched in despair as a fire devastated the informal settlement - reducing all their possessions to ash and prompting the community to initiate a contingency plan.

The residents were among about 400 people who were displaced following fires in seven informal settlements across the peninsula at the weekend.

In the early hours of Sunday morning, mother-of-three Tokoza Xamlashe was woken by a cry for help as a fast-moving fire headed in her direction. “I woke my children, grabbed the baby and ran. There was no way that I was able to stop that fire. It was big and spreading very fast,” said Xamlashe.

“We rebuild, then lose our belongings. So the cycle continues. It is heartbreaking and terrible, especially because I know I am not responsible.”

City of Cape Town Disaster Risk Management spokesman Wilfred Solomons-Johannes said the cause was unknown.

At a meeting on Sunday, community leaders implored residents to be more careful about leaving fires unattended.

According to community leader Thembinkosi Janda, residents were considering establishing a night patrol to check whether residents had properly extinguished fires before they went to sleep.

“We will have meetings. The selected group will be responsible for ensuring that people kill their fires properly and report to me anyone who has fallen asleep with their candles still lit. This needs to end,” said Janda.

Residents of the informal settlement did not have access to electricity.

Janda said they had been occupying the land illegally for the past six years because there was no other place to stay.

Solomons-Johannes said the fire was one of eight at the weekend. On Saturday night, 63 people were displaced when fires swept through Masiphumelele, Philippi, Strand and Khayelitsha.

On Friday night, 118 people from Kanana informal settlement in Gugulethu and 41 people from Joe Slovo also lost their homes in shack fires.

Solomons-Johannes said on Sunday the causes of the fires were not yet known.

In another incident in Elsies River on Friday night, a 58-year-old woman died during a fire, leaving a male occupant displaced.

The cause of that fire was also being investigated.

- Cape Times

Sunday, December 7, 2014

Over 150 people displaced in Cape Town fire

Over 100 people were displaced on Sunday, when a fire ravaged shacks in Du Noon, the city of Cape Town.

"It happened in the early hours of this morning. Thirty-eight shacks were burnt, 152 [people] were displaced," said spokesman Wilfred Solomons-Johannes.

No injuries or fatalities were reported.

Many of the shacks had been rebuilt by Sunday afternoon, he said.


Aftermath of a Shack Fire

With summer heat and seasonal gale force southeaster winds, it is a time of high risk for shack fires. There were 123 fires in the past month in informal settlements in the Western Cape. This December, load shedding may well be adding to that risk. GroundUp visited a family in the aftermath of a recent shack fire to see how they are coping.

In a fire on the weekend of 29 November in Barcelona, Gugulethu, Sindiswa Swapi lost everything.

At about 4:30pm, Swapi said she was woken by three of her neighbors, shouting to her to open her door.

"I took my children out of the shack to safety and ran to see what was happening. I saw people throwing water at my neighbor's house and trying to kick a door open. By the time the door was opened, half of the house was burnt, affecting other houses," said Swapi.

A lady known as Nomampondo said that some people in the community believe the cause of the fire was a stove that was left switched on.

"We think that the owner of the shack where the fire started left his stove switched on or did not realize that the stove was on because there was load shedding in the area ... [Shortly] after the electricity came back on, the fire started."

"We do not blame Eskom, but I think that Eskom should give us notices about times of load shedding, because sometimes when the electricity just goes off, we get upset and forget about safety precautions," said Nomampondo.

Eskom does give notice of planned power cuts, but as GroundUp previously reported, some communities struggle to get the information.

Nomampondo says that the owner of the shack ran away after what happened and they haven't seen him since.

According to Wilfred Solomons-Johannes, acting head of the Disaster Operations Centre in the Western Cape, faulty electrical equipment was the suspected cause of the Barcelona fire.

Solomons-Johannes said the City's disaster response team assisted the fire victims with food parcels, clothing, blankets, toiletries and building materials.

Seven shacks were destroyed by the fire and 28 people left homeless.

Swapi, her three children and husband are now staying in a neighbour's one-bedroomed shack.

"My neighbour offered my family a place to stay even though she and her family of four are already staying in the shack. My family and I are sleeping on the floor. We eat food parcels that were given to us by disaster management."

"I am hurt because I not only lost everything, but my two two-week old puppies were burnt to death and we couldn't help them," says Swapi.

Her surviving dogs and puppies are now homeless.

Swapi said that she doesn't have anything to wear; her children's school books were burnt, including their school uniforms, clothes and birth certificates. She feels helpless; she had just bought her children summer clothes for the December holiday before the fire destroyed everything.

All that remains of the neighbour's house where the fire started. Photo by Pharie Sefali.

"My husband is the only one working at home ... He doesn't know how we are going to survive for the month because we have to buy beds and other furniture and still have to think of the children's school uniforms for next year amongst other things," says Swapi.

Sibulele Swapi, who is 13 and in grade six, says he is glad that none of his family members were burnt, but he is sad he is not going to enjoy his holiday like other children; there won't be any money to buy Christmas goodies.

Other families are also staying at their neighbours until they rebuild.

Charlotte Powell, portfolio Head of Public Awareness and Preparedness at the Disaster Risk Management Centre, says the fire season is normally the summer months ranging from early October to late March every year.

"This is a high risk time when the southeaster blows at gale force strength and temperatures are high. Once uncontrolled fire is started, the combination of strong winds and dry vegetation makes it extremely difficult to control, especially in mountainous areas where access is difficult", says Powell.

According to fire and rescue services in the Western Cape, between 1 November and 2 December, 2216 fire responses were recorded of which 397 were structures on fire; 123 of those were in informal settlements with nine fatalities and 406 informal dwelling units burned down.

According to Ian Schnetler Chief Fire Officer, the shack fires (123) and fatality (nine) figures for this year and last year were exactly the same, but 81 less homes were destroyed.

- allAfrica

Sisulu's house centre of fight - large family evicted

A HOUSE that belonged to Minister of Human Settlements Lindiwe Sisulu is at the centre of a storm involving the new owner and a large family of tenants.

Ruskiya Karaniya, who has lived in the house in Yeoville, Johannesburg, for the past 11 years, accuses Sisulu of selling the house without giving her notice.

Sisulu's spokesman Ndivhuwo Mabaya confirmed the house was sold six months ago.

"Those people living there were given notice and they know the house was sold," said Mabaya.

The new owner, Sibusiso Maphisa, said he was now renovating the house, which he bought from Sisulu six months ago.

However, Karaniya and 22 family members said they could not move out of the house as they were not notified in time about the sale.

She accused Maphisa, a metro police officer, of threatening to kill them should they not move out soon.

"We are not refusing to move out if it is the case that the house has been sold but at least they should give us three months notice," said Karaniya, a Congolese national.

"We are a big family and there is no way we can just move out. We need to look for another big place where we can stay."

Sowetan found the house in a dilapidated state yesterday with no doors or windows, broken furniture, electric cables stripped off the walls, damaged water pipes, a leaking geyser and a passage flooded with water.

Karaniya said the damage was caused by Maphisa.

Maphisa denied the allegations.

"Those people are lying . I do not know if it is a crime to renovate your house but if it is so you know there are lawyers and courts as well as police, [then] I should be arrested."

Karaniya, who has been paying R7000 monthly rent to property agents Trafalgar for the past 11 years, said she felt she had been betrayed by Sisulu as she had added another two bedrooms outside and plastered the whole yard.

"I never missed any payment, not even one rand, but today I am being evicted like a dog.

"Even if she has sold the house, I feel she should have also told me about it so that I would have made an offer too," Karaniya said.

Maphisa's lawyer, Abram Mogoboya, said: "If the tenant and the landlord had it on agreement that when the house is sold, the tenant would get first preference, then there can be a strong case, but we do not know the terms between Sisulu and Karaniya."

- Sowetan

Saturday, December 6, 2014

Nkandla debacle takes a deadly turn

Two close family members of high-profile people linked to the allegedly irregular multimillion-rand upgrades to President Jacob Zuma’s Nkandla homestead have been murdered within a month of each other.

The latest is Bavelile Mahlalempini-Mqadi, the 64-year-old mother of uMhlanga businesswoman, Thandeka Nene, the Nkandla builder who was recently arrested as investigators sought to uncover who had irregularly benefited from the mammoth project.

Mahlalempini-Mqadi was stabbed 21 times - in front of three nephews - at her Nagina home near Pinetown on Wednesday night. Six men entered and ransacked the house before killing her and fleeing with a car.

Nene’s liquidated company, Bonelena Construction Enterprise, had secured a R90 million contract to upgrade Zuma’s private home.

The death of her mother came 35 days after Sergeant-Major Shanilnand Indurjith, 45, the head of the SANDF’s health unit in Durban, was gunned down at a bus stop in Phoenix.

His brother - former surgeon-general Lieutenant-General Vejay Ramlakan - had been linked to the Nkandla affair for allegedly authorising construction of a helipad, military quarters and a military clinic at the homestead.

Speaking to the Daily News at her mother’s Nagina home on Thursday, Nene said she was puzzled by the murder.

But, she blamed the media for publicising the fraud and corruption charges against her.

The state alleges she bribed a Department of Public Works official to secure R118m worth of contracts for the construction of schools and hospitals between 2006 and 2012.

“To people reading the paper they think I have been awarded a R118m contract, but that’s not true - that work was awarded over a period of time,” she said.

“People think that because they know my mother they will get money from her, because the criminals were asking her ‘iphi imali? (where is the money?), sifun’imali mama (we want the money).’

“This worries me because these big figures make people think we have money, and we have not been awarded any work this whole year,” she said.

Nene’s husband, Sikhumbuzo, said six men “stabbed” her 21 times all over the body and tied the guys (her nephews) with cable ties. One of them had a gun and was showing it to them.

“They stabbed her in front of the boys until she collapsed to the ground.”

They were then shoved into wardrobes before the criminals ransacked the house and stole television sets and a car.

Ramlakan’s younger brother, Anand Indurjith, recently told the Daily News he wondered if the October 29 murder, which is yet to be solved, was a warning for those implicated to keep quiet.

“It’s just a thought and not a fact, because there is no evidence to back that up,” he said.

“On the other hand it could have been just a robbery in which the robbers just didn’t care about the results of shooting at him.... We think a lot and we have questions, but no answers.”

In a statement released by the military after his brother’s death, Ramlakan said the death of his youngest brother had nothing to do with the Nkandla matter.

Police spokesman, Major Thulani Zwane, said four men were arrested near uMzinto in connection with Mahlalempini-Mqadi’s murder and would appear at the Pinetown Magistrate’s Court on Monday.

Police were still searching for other suspects, he said.

They face charges of murder, house robbery and theft of a motor vehicle.

While police believe robbery was the motive, Sikhumbuzo said they questioned why his mother-in-law, who had founded the Power of God Assembly, had to be murdered.

He said she had no enemies.;

- Daily News

Friday, December 5, 2014

Moving Up in Joe Slovo

Approved Joe Slovo housing beneficiaries, who were deemed to be "too young" by government to receive houses in October, this week moved into their new units at the N2 Gateway development. Other families, who remain behind in the informal settlement, and who are now being moved to make space for the next phase of the housing development, remain unhappy.

In the last week of October, Zimasa Zibeko, 32, and dozens of their neighbours were denied access to houses at the Joe Slovo N2 Gateway development in Langa. The houses, they believed, were due to them, and they threatened to resist being moved out of shacks on land earmarked for the next phase of the development.

GroundUp investigated and found that that Human Settlements MEC Bonginkosi Madikizela had deemed the beneficiaries too young to "be prioritised" for government houses.

But Madikizela has now confirmed that those beneficiaries (56 in total) were approved before government's policy shifted to prioritise people over the age of 40 for housing.

"This is incredible," said Zibeko, as she gave GroundUp a tour of her new double-storey, two-bedroomed apartment at the N2 Gateway development. She received the keys on Monday.

"We were worried [in October] that this day would never come. Here we have a toilet and running water. We are warm at night, and this has already had a good impact on me and my children's health. I have asthma, and when the wind blew through my shack at night, I used to cough until the early hours of the morning."

The novelty of a house has been particularly entertaining for her three-year-old son, Yomelela. He has been flushing the toilet with glee, and been mesmerised by the door handles, the likes of which he has never seen before, according to Zibeko.

Nomonde Mahlati in the shack from which she is to be removed to make space for the next phase of the Joe Slovo housing development, in Langa. Photo by Daneel Knoetze.

"My child was always sick; the flu would not go away and he had a runny tummy sometimes. It is all because of the conditions where we lived in the shacks. It was not healthy ... We had to walk far just to go to a portaloo or a water tap."

For other residents of Joe Slovo informal settlement who have not yet received houses, such unhealthy conditions persist. Approved for housing at the new development, 41-year-old Nomonde Mahlathi has lived in the area since 1995. When her shack was demolished by the Housing Development Agency to make space for the housing development, she spent four nights outside in May 2013. She now stays in a small two-roomed shack with seven family members, four of them children. As the land is cleared for the next phase of houses, she will have to move again.

"We are disappointed ... Some of those beneficiaries were very young, in their early twenties, and they do not even have families to look after," said Mahlathi.

"What about my children? My son Ndim, who is now six, still has memories from being evicted," she said, recounting how her son, aged four at the time, came home from creche to find his mother's shack lying in tatters.

"He has become a withdrawn and scared boy at school. Living like this is not good for his health and he is psychologically damaged from us being removed so violently. Now, we have to move again -- to a small shack in a congested area where the risk of fires is very high."

- allAfrica

Thursday, December 4, 2014

Cape Town goes after bid-rigging money

Cape Town - The City of Cape Town is claiming R400 million in damages from construction companies involved in bid rigging for construction of Cape Town Stadium, making it the first municipality to attempt ty to recoup costs.

“Bid rigging is the most serious contravention of the Competition Act and is designed to subvert competitive tender processes, leading to increased costs,” said mayor Patricia de Lille during her address at Wednesday’s final council meeting for the year.

“The damages suffered were at the expense of the public whose rights we are duty bound to protect.”

The Competition Commission has referred the case of collusive tendering for the 2010 World Cup stadiums against WBHO Construction, Group Five Construction, Stefanutti Stocks Holdings and Basil Read to the Competition Tribunal. Murray & Roberts was granted some leniency.

These companies, excluding Murray & Roberts, did not settle the case as part of the general construction fast-track settlement process, which started in 2011.

The commission’s investigation found evidence of collusion when bidding for the construction of stadiums by allocating tenders among themselves and agreeing on their profit margins.

Among the alleged deals was that the tender for Cape Town Stadium would be given to Murray & Roberts in a joint venture with WBHO.

“I have instructed the city’s attorneys to issue summons for the recovery of the damages suffered and they will be attending to the formalities over the next few days,” De Lille said.

The city would also lay criminal charges.

ACDP caucus leader Grant Haskin threw cold water on the announcement: “How do we believe what you are saying when the companies involved keep getting contracts from the city?”

In October, Haskin asked the mayor which of these contractors were awarded contracts after 2010. De Lille said in her written reply that R313m was paid to Group Five for four contracts after 2011, including two MyCiTi contracts.

Group Five Construction was awarded a R70 662 543 contract for Phase 1B and the N2 phases of the MyCiTi service in 2012. It was also awarded a contract for R87 269 708 for construction of the inner-city feeder bus stops.

“This shows that the DA government’s prior commitment had been unilaterally ignored and, rather, that they had been rewarded with even more contracts,” said Haskin.

Asked why the city had continued to do business with this company, De Lille said: “Watch this space.”

She added that the construction companies had paid fines after the commission’s findings. “We had to wait for the process to run its course (before taking further action).”

She later quipped to the ANC, on the other side of the House: “You must be careful, there are a lot of comrades in those companies.”

- Cape Argus

Monday, December 1, 2014

Nkandla builder arrested for fraud

The woman who built President Jacob Zuma’s Nkandla homestead has been charged with corruption and 18 counts of fraud.

Thandeka Nene, 42, is accused of exaggerating her experience as a builder to win government tenders to the value of R118 million. She is also accused of bribing a public works official to secure the work.

The Umhlanga businesswoman was arrested by members of the Hawks Anti-Corruption Task Team last week and was released on bail of R30 000. Spokeswoman for the National Prosecuting Authority (NPA) Natasha Ramkissoon-Kara confirmed the arrest.

“We can confirm Nene was arrested and charged with fraud and corruption. She appeared in the Durban Commercial Crime Court before Judge Nalini Govender. She was granted bail and the case was remanded to December 12.”

Nene’s charges relate to work done by her companies Bonelena Construction Enterprise and Project CC and Ntshantsha Construction CC for the building of schools and a hospital.

After a four-month investigation by the Special Investigating Unit it emerged there were irregularities in the tender procurement process:

* She lied to the Construction Industry Development Board (CIDB) when applying for a grading so as to increase the grade she was awarded.
* She sent the CIDB forged tax clearance certificates.
* She shared a corrupt relationship with someone from Public Works. It is alleged that she made regular deposits into this person’s account to manipulate the tender process. As a result, Nene was awarded 12 tenders by the Department of Public Works.

The current charges make no mention of the upgrade to Zuma’s home in Nkandla.

Nene’s company secured R90 million for the “security upgrades” at the president’s home.

Nene’s husband Sikhumbuzo Eric Nene, 43, her sister Cynthia Cyndi Mahlalempini, 34, and brother-in-law Jordan Mlamuli Ngubane were also arrested last week because they were listed as directors of Ntshantsha Construction. They were each released on R5 000 bail.

Nene told Independent Media her legal team was looking into the findings of the investigation.

“I have nothing much to say about the matter since it is a new case and it is a legal matter still in court. I will leave the rest in their (legal team’s) capable hands.

She said business people often faced challenges.

“This is a testimony to other entrepreneurs like me out there that business is not for the faint-hearted, but if you have God on your side then all is well.

“God has been nothing but good to me through the many challenges that I faced. He kept me and still continues to keep me going.

“And my friends and family have always been supportive, even today, and I thank them for that,” said Nene.

When asked whether she believed the investigation had anything to do with her involvement in Nkandla, she said she did not want to comment on that.

A high-ranking police source believed the investigation into Nene’s credentials was sparked by her involvement with Nkandla and a fraud charge against her in the Seychelles last year.

“The SIU has done a great job. We are now looking into her assets and there is a possibility that assets to the value of the charges may be retained for the course of her trial,” said the source.

Nene got in trouble with the law last December when she was arrested in the Seychelles, accused of allegedly being involved in an international R7-billion bank fraud syndicate.

According to previous media reports, she was arrested along with two other people, one believed to be from South Africa and the other from Sierra Leone.

She pleaded guilty and paid an admission of guilt fine to return to her family in time for Christmas.

Who is Thandeka Nene?

Thandeka Nene, 42, is a multimillionaire businesswoman who enjoys the finer things in life.

Her company, Bonelena Construction CC, was one of two building firms nominated by the Public Works Department to do major work on the “security upgrades” to President Jacob Zuma’s Nkandla homestead. The high roller clinched almost R90 million in 2010 when she secured the contract.

Nene built her empire on government construction tenders.

She boasts on her company’s website that she has a string of academic qualifications and that she’s received a number of awards over the years for being the best female contractor.

Nene, who is formerly from Durban’s KwaDabeka township, now lives in Pietermaritzburg and is known for her flashy cars as well as her opulent homes in Umhlanga and Pietermarizburg, registered in her company name.

She’s often seen draped in designer clothing, and spends a lot of time travelling overseas. She was thrust into the international spotlight last December after she was arrested for bank fraud and alleged links to an international fraud syndicate.

In media reports last year, it was revealed that Nene was arrested with two others, one said to be a South African and the other from Sierra Leone. They were charged with attempted bank fraud.

At the time of the arrests, the Mail & Guardian reported that Nene and the two accused had allegedly approached BMI Bank on the islands to open new accounts that would be funded by what police in the Seychelles said was €500-million (R7-billion) in available funds held by HSBC Bank. Their arrests followed soon after, with a specialised fraud unit of the island’s police force also seizing documents and IT equipment. Nene pleaded guilty and paid a fine in order to return home.

From her Facebook profile, it is evident that she frequents Zimbali on KZN’s north coast, the Michelangelo Hotel in Sandton, and the lavish Beverly Hills hotel in Umhlanga.

- Independent Media

Scramble to fix Nkandla fences after exposé

The broken fence at President Jacob Zuma's Nkandla home has been fixed - thanks to the Sunday Times. Until last weekend, no one appeared to know that parts of the R6.2-million outer perimeter fence were falling apart.

On Thursday, the government sent a KwaZulu-Natal North Coast fencing company to repair the damage.

By the time a Sunday Times team arrived at Zuma's homestead on Thursday afternoon, all sections of the broken fence, including the part near one of the guardhouses, had been repaired. The logs used to support the collapsed fence around the security personnel compound had been removed and a new fence installed.

Two trucks belonging to Cornerstone Homes, a KwaDukuza-based company specialising in fencing projects, were parked nearby. When contacted on Friday, the company refused to comment.

Phillip Masilo, legal adviser to Public Works Minister Thulas Nxesi, said he did not know whether the fence had been fixed because that was an operational issue and the minister was not in charge of operations.

Public works spokesman Sabelo Mali referred questions to the SAPS, which is responsible for internal security at Nkandla. Police spokesman Solomon Makgale declined to comment.

Zuma's 8.9ha homestead is surrounded by two rings of 3m-high fence - an internal fence that cost R8.2-million and the outer perimeter fence at R6.2-million.

The perimeter fence has a R1.8-million CCTV camera installation and a kinematic fence detection system that cost almost R1-million, bringing costs for the perimeter to about R17-million.

The contract to install the perimeter fence was awarded to Durban businesswoman Thandeka Nene's Bonelela Construction Enterprise and Projects, which secured work worth R98-million on the Nkandla project.

However, Bonelela's contract was cancelled because of nonperformance and the work of installing the outer perimeter security fence was given to another company.

Despite the fences, the Special Investigating Unit has raised concerns about Zuma's safety at Nkandla.

Matter of fact

Last week in "Nkandla falls apart" we incorrectly implied that Betafence Projects erected the outer perimeter fence, which is in a state of disrepair, at President Jacob Zuma's Nkandla residence.

We also failed to ask Betafence for comment. Mike James, general manager of Betafence SA, said that only the inner security - which is in good repair - was erected by his company.

We apologise for these errors. - TimesLive

Saturday, November 29, 2014

Nkandla spending hidden from AG - report

Evidence of large-scale misappropriation in the Nkandla construction project was hidden from the auditor general (AG), Beeld reported on Thursday.

That was why, over three years, the AG did not pick up on the R246m spent on so-called security upgrades at President Jacob Zuma's private Nkandla homestead in rural KwaZulu-Natal.

This was revealed by AG Kimi Makwetu on Wednesday in his response to a question at the release at Parliament of the latest audit outcomes for national and provincial departments.

"If you go back to our audit reports for the department of public works during these years you will see that we said we could not deliver an audit opinion because we could not get access to all the necessary documents," he was quoted as saying.

"It was not an easy task for us to do the audit because the documents were classified and it was not easy for us to do a normal audit."

Makwetu had been asked why the AG never raised the alarm over the Nkandla spending.

The public works department took steps against officials involved in the project only this year after the public protector and Special Investigating Unit found that rules and regulations were contravened and R155.3m was overspent.


Thursday, November 27, 2014

‘Deadly’ E.coli levels found in Cape river

Cape Town - A river flowing into scenic Gordon’s Bay has been found to contain potentially deadly levels of E.coli bacteria. It has sparked calls from the ANC for City of Cape Town officials to take immediate action and prevent life-threatening infections, especially among people with low immune systems and those living with HIV.

The Sir Lowry’s Pass River was found on October 23 to have an E.coli count of 130 000 per 100ml at the point where it flows into Gordon’s Bay.

The test was confirmed by the South African Bureau of Standards (SABS).

This count is four times that found by a DA health fact-finding mission into borehole water at the poor community of Mokopane in Limpopo, where the E.coli count was 40 000 per 100ml.

DA health spokesman Dr Wilmot James described a count this high as “highly pathogenic and unfit for human or animal consumption”.

But he pointed out that some of the water at Mokopane was for drinking, whereas the water in the Sir Lowry’s Pass River was not intended for human consumption.

The results on the Sir Lowry’s Pass River show the E.coli count increases dramatically as the river winds down to the ocean after passing through an informal settlement 6km upstream.

The information comes two weeks after a False Bay fish exporter revealed he found dangerously high levels of E.coli in harders (mullet) tested in July.

E.coli, or Escherichia coli, is normally found in the intestines of people and animals. Most E.coli is harmless, but its presence indicates the presence of pathogenic (illness-causing) compounds.

The young, elderly, pregnant and those with weakened immune systems, such as people with HIV, are particularly vulnerable.

“This could be devastating,” said the ANC’s acting spokesman Cobus Grobler. “An E.coli count that high is a potential killer, especially if you have TB or are HIV-positive, because you are then more prone to be infected.

“It can have severe, if not fatal, consequences. The city may not think it is serious but to the poor it is life-threatening,” said Grobler.

“The city seems to know there is a problem in that area, yet they are doing nothing. If this escalates they could find themselves legally liable.”

But mayoral committee member for health Benedicta Van Minnen said there was no need to be alarmed.

“The City of Cape Town cannot comment on these results as they were not analysed in the city’s laboratory and it is unclear how the samples were taken, stored and transported to the laboratory.”

She acknowledged that the count was over the limit for recreational water use as set by the Department of Water Affairs and Forestry’s SA Water Quality Guidelines.

A single sample result should give an E.coli count of equal to or less than 1 000 per 100ml or it is unsafe for bathers and other water users. “However, the appropriate manner of testing is to weigh each single sample result against a number of fortnightly samples collected over three months.

“A single sample result does not really provide adequate information to draw any specific conclusions,” said Van Minnen.

Rivers passing through urbanised areas often had “background” pollution owing to contamination on hard surfaces that was washed into the river by rain. Blocked or overflowing sewers could also cause a problem.

“The water quality in the Sir Lowry’s River is therefore impacted to varying degrees at various locations. However, it does not impact on the overall water quality along the coastline. Bikini Beach is a Blue Flag-accredited beach and the water quality there is fine,” said Van Minnen.

“The water in the Sir Lowry’s River would be considered non-potable – it is not for consumption.”

The SABS report comes just three months after the DA embarked on a four-province water-testing tour in ANC municipalities.

The DA’s James, along with Kevin Mileham and Leon Basson, travelled across Limpopo, North West, Mpumalanga and the Eastern Cape investigating the quality of drinking water and water supplies.

This was sparked by an outbreak of diarrhoea in Brits in North West that affected more than 500 people and led to the deaths of at least three babies.

James described an E.coli count of 40 000 per 100ml in boreholes in the community of Mokopane in Limpopo as highly pathogenic and unfit for human or animal consumption. “That will kill you if you drink it.”

The count at Gordon’s Bay is more than three times higher than found at Mokopane.

The DA vowed to take legal action against the ANC-run municipalities where high E.coli counts were discovered.

But on Wednesday, James told the Cape Argus the Gordon’s Bay results needed to be tested over a period by the National Health Laboratory before confirmed as reliable.

“Our oversight visits to the provinces examined E.coli levels in drinking water. The Gordon Bay tests were of non-potable river water not intended for human consumption.

“It appears as if the river in question is polluted as a result of dumping and contamination practices of civilians and possibly businesses.”

He said the city ran educational programmes to promote public health.

“We can always do more – including post warnings – and I give you our assurance we will do whatever is appropriate under the circumstances.”

- Cape Argus