Friday, January 23, 2015

Cape Town’s own Nkandla

Cape Town - Cape Town has its very own Nkandla. But unlike President Jacob Zuma’s multi-million rand homestead in KwaZulu-Natal, it has no “firepools”, cattle pens, tuck shops or other R246-million security features.

Instead residents of Nkandla in Mfuleni live on an open field without basic facilities such as running water or toilets, and now even without shelter.

Some of the almost 80 people live in makeshift tents, patched together from bits and pieces of used material.

Most of them sleep under the stars on old and broken mattresses, and food is cooked over bonfires.

The group were among over a thousand people who were evicted from Fountain Village in Blue Downs last year.

Yongama Folose of the Mfuleni Backyarders Organisation, says they first moved into a big tent, which they named Nkandla, on the open field.

“We clubbed together R1 each to hire the tent, and we paid R1 000 per week,” he said.

“But the number of people dropped and we couldn’t afford to rent the tent anymore.”

He said most of the people have left to move in with family and friends in other areas.

“Every time we build a structure, law enforcement comes and demolish it. But we are not moving from here because we have nowhere to go,” he adds.

Mama Yandisa Vika, 30, who lives with her two-year-old baby girl on the field says it’s been tough on them: “When the night comes it hurts me so much.

“Imagine I have to sleep with my daughter in the open under the moonlight. It was better when we had a tent, at least we had a roof over our heads.”

Folose also accused ward councillor Themba Honono of ignoring their plight.

But Honono says people were warned not to occupy the land, which he says belongs to the city council.

“But they were ordered by Ses’khona members to occupy the land,” says Hono.

Ses’khona spokesperson Sithembele Majova denied the allegations: “We are aware of the eviction, but we did not order the occupation of the land.

“As an organisation we believe people should be provided with an alternative place to stay when they are evicted.

“It is councillor Honono’s ward, and he is unable to manage it,” said Majova.

- Daily Voice


Monday, January 5, 2015

Boy killed, 300 homeless after fires

Cape Town - A seven-year-old boy was killed and close to 300 people were left displaced in separate shack fires over the weekend.

Brian Olifant, 7, was killed when a fire broke out, destroying four shacks in Wallacedene.

City of Cape Town Disaster Risk Management spokesman Wilfred Solomons-Johannes said the fiire broke out on Sunday at around 10am.

Solomons-Johannes said a community worker had said Brian was the second child in the family to be killed in a fire.

Community workers said they suspected the fire was ignited by a child playing with matches. However, city fire and rescue spokesman Theo Layne said investigators at the scene found that the fire was caused by an electrical short circuit.

Solomons-Johannes said 10 other people were displaced as a result of the fire.

In another incident, 67 shacks were destroyed in a blaze and 270 people were left homeless at the Ekuphumleni informal settlement in Dunoon near Milnerton. The fire broke out on Sunday around 11am.

Layne said it was suspected that it was caused by a cigarette left unattended.

“The cigarette ignited (clothing) which spread to the rest of the shack.”

Solomons-Johannes said no injuries were reported and a community centre in the area was used as an emergency shelter. He said humanitarian relief was arranged and building materials had been delivered.

Layne warned people to be careful when using cooking with fire at this time of the year, especially in informal settlements.

“We find that fires are mostly started by these braais, and what is worse is that people sometimes cannot extinguish the fires properly.”

He said that although there had not been many shack fires during the festive season, his department had received more than 100 reports of vegetation fires.

“Fires happen all the time in open fields; sometimes we find that it was a cigarette butt thrown out the window of a car, or someone walking through the fields.

“Also we found that a lot of malicious vegetation fires are started by children playing with matches.”

In the past few weeks, firefighting crews have been stretched due to the large vegetation fires caused by dry, sunny weather and New Year’s Eve celebrations.

On New Year’s Eve two large vegetation fires broke out and several small fires ignited in the Cape Flats.

Layne reported that the first day of the new year was chaotic.

In Noordhoek, two helicopters were called in to water bomb a vegetation fire. Layne said conventional vehicles were unable to reach the fire.

On the same day another large fire broke out in Ocean View and teams of firefighters, along with two helicopters, were called to the scene.

Both fires were suspected to have been caused by firecrackers.

- Cape Argus

President has a fire pool - Fuck the rest!

Party leaders, including Zuma and Ramaphosa, will start mobilising support for their rally tomorrow. The ANC uses the annual January 8 founding celebrations to outline its programme for the year in a speech delivered by the party’s incumbent president.

Zuma is expected to do walk-abouts and attend public meetings in various townships around Cape Town, including Langa, Nyanga and Mitchells Plain.

In Cape Town Zuma will be joined by 80 national executive committee members and ministers Nomvula Mokonyane and Derek Hanekom. Ramaphosa is also expected to hit the townships, but his schedule also includes door-to-door visits and mobilising campaign at taxi ranks and train stations.

“There were a lot of by-laws that we had to comply with, and we did. At first it was clear there were signs of frustration with us hosting the celebrations here. We are past those things now and we are ready for the business that has brought us here,” said Kodwa.

He said all political parties were looking to strengthen their bases, but that the weekend event had nothing do with campaigning.

- Sunday Independent

Sunday, January 4, 2015

Seven year old boy killed in Western Cape shack fire

A seven year old boy was killed on Sunday when a fire tore through four shacks in Wallacedene, the Cape Town disaster management said.

Ten other people were left homeless as a result, spokesman Wilfred Solomons-Johannes said in a statement.

In a separate incident, 270 people were displaced when a fire destroyed 67 shacks in Ekuphumleni informal settlement at Du Noon near Milnerton, he said.

No injuries were reported. Provision of humanitarian relief aid was being arranged.

Building materials would be provided to the affected households on Monday by the human settlements department, Solomons-Johannes said.

A community centre in the area would be used as an emergency shelter for those affected.

- Timeslive

Nkandla 11 won’t plead guilty to pending charges

Cape Town - The 11 Department of Public Works officials accused of flouting procurement procedures in relation to the upgrading of President Jacob Zuma’s controversial Nkandla homestead in KwaZulu-Natal will not settle with the state by pleading guilty.

According to the Sunday Independent, the officials, all represented by the Public Servants Association (PSA), are reportedly determined to allow the internal disciplinary hearings – set for next month - to go ahead.

Claude Naker, PSA manager, told the newspaper that the officials “do not fear anything at this stage and would want the process to continue so that they can prove their innocence”.

This comes after a 12th official, director of projects, Itumeleng Molosi, was handed a two month suspension after pleading guilty to charges relating to the Nkandla scandal.

Initial reports, as reported by News24, state that the remaining 11 officials could follow suit. The PSA has however, put this speculation to rest.

Molosi - represented by Nehawu at his hearing, served a brief spell as department of public works KZN director towards the end of the construction of the R246m upgrades of Zuma’s Nkandla residence.

Two-month suspension

At a closed hearing in Durban, Molosi admitted to failing to ensure that all Public Finance Management Act (PFMA) procurement processes were followed. He accepted a two-month unpaid suspension as part of his penalty, but with his job and pension intact.

Molosi would not comment on whether he took a deal to save his pension and referred all queries to the department of public works (DPW). But he did say that other officials implicated haven’t spoken to him since he admitted his guilt.

Another official facing sanction said the first he heard about Molosi’s deal was when it was published in City Press.

Naiker meanwhile said Molosi’s deal “surprised us”.

“As it stands, our 12 clients have all stated they are not guilty.

“Once the disciplinary hearings commence and we see the evidence, we will have a better idea [as to what our members’ options are],” he said.

He said if the DPW had strong evidence against Molosi, then his deal was “a good result” as his pension and job are still intact.

Naiker said the majority of officials face charges similar to Molosi’s.

A court application by Media24 to gain access to the process is pending.

But Media24 lawyer Willem de Klerk said nothing stops the accused officials and the DPW “from settling at any time, even though the media application is pending”.

Molosi was a member of the department’s bid adjudication committee, accused by the Special Investigating Unit (SIU) of financial misconduct and irregular expenditure.

The SIU found that Molosi approved a “negotiated procurement strategy” instead of an open tender system by which tenders are advertised.

- News24

Tuesday, December 30, 2014

Hawks not investigating Nkandla: spokesman

Police on Tuesday dismissed reports that suspended Hawks boss Anwa Dramat was asked to provide information about the Nkandla investigation to police commissioner Riah Phiyega.

"Phiyega and... Dramat never discussed the Hawks' investigations into Nkandla," said the elite police unit's spokesman Captain Paul Ramaloko in a statement.

"The Hawks is not investigating the Nkandla matter."

Instead, said Ramaloko, the National Investigation Unit, under Lt-Gen Vinesh Moonoo, was looking into the R246 million spent on upgrades to President Jacob Zuma's private homestead in Nkandla, KwaZulu-Natal.

On Tuesday, Democratic Alliance MP Dianne Kohler Barnard said her party believed Dramat's suspension -- ordered by Police Minister Nkosinathi Nhleko on December 23 -- was linked to Nkandla.

"The suspension of General Dramat came the day after he focused on the Nkandla files... She [Phiyega] has demanded that General Dramat hand over the files on Nkandla," she said in a statement.

Kohler Barnard said she had heard allegations that Phiyega had asked for files on a number of other high-profile investigations, including one into alleged fraud involving Northern Cape ANC chairman John Block, and another into alleged corruption between MECs and businessman Toshan Panday in KwaZulu-Natal.

Ramaloko dismissed these claims, saying: "At no point did General Phiyega request Lt-Gen Dramat to submit any files to her."

Earlier, during an interview with Radio 702, Dramat's advocate Johan Nortje mentioned Nkandla as a possible reason behind the suspension.

"One has to look at the timing of the so-called suspension out of the blue... It's exactly the time when the KZN investigations, and obviously the Nkandla investigation are at a very crucial point," he told the broadcaster.

"It's quite clear that there are politics that are involved here."

Nortje said the reason given in a letter by Nhleko and Phiyega for Dramat's suspension -- that he was facing allegations into illegal rendition of Zimbabweans in 2010 -- was "baseless".

He said a report into the matter had cleared Dramat months ago.

Nortje said that, according to a recent court ruling, the suspension was unconstitutional.

"The most important aspect of the Constitutional Court judgment on November 27 is that the suspension clause has been deleted."

Yet, said Nortje, "10 days later, the minister used that suspension power".

The ruling was part of a larger judgment dealing with the constitutionality of legislation to establish the Hawks.

The court found certain defects in the laws -- such as the "untrammelled" power given to the police minister to dismiss the head of the hawks --had to be "severed".

Dramat's lawyers have given Nhleko until January 5 to lift the suspension.

- Timeslive

6000 kids at Zuma Nkandla party

More than 6000 children and youth attended President Jacob Zuma's RDP education trust party in KwaNxamalala, Nkandla in KwaZulu-Natal, the presidency said on Monday.

This was Zuma's 13th year hosting the annual Christmas party.

"Every year, we look forward to this day when we do something for the many orphans and children who come from the poorest of backgrounds yet have this thirst for knowledge and education," Zuma said in a statement.

Since its establishment the education trust had educated 24,000 students, Zuma said.

Those in attendance came from KwaZulu-Natal, Mpumalanga and the Eastern Cape.

The children received Christmas gifts, which included lunch packs, school bags, vanity bags, and an undertaking from the SA Social Security Agency to follow up and deliver books to needy and disadvantaged pupils, Zuma said.

What Zuma was doing through the trust was building on the work he had done for education since becoming president, said Higher Education Minister Blade Nzimande.

- Sowetan

Nkandla officials seek a deal

The 11 Public Works officials charged for rampant overspending and flouting of tender regulations on Nkandla may now all plead guilty, seeking to protect their pensions and avoid protracted hearings. Earlier, they had indicated they would plead not guilty.

It emerged at the weekend that Pretoria director of projects Itumeleng Molosi was let off with a two-month suspension without pay and a final written warning after pleading guilty to irregularly appointing contractors and flouting procurement procedures.

Had Molosi been found guilty rather than signing a plea deal he would have forfeited his pension.

Opposition parties have reacted strongly, calling for the officials to stick to their original not guilty stance, and saying the guilty plea would not exonerate President Jacob Zuma.

On Monday Public Servants’ Association labour officer Roshan Lil-Ruthan said he thought Molosi’s penalty was harsh because “none of the employees benefited financially from the project and they told the Special Investigating Unit that they were pressured by their supervisors to fast-track the project”.

The disciplinary hearings began in Durban in September and Molosi’s case was the first to be concluded.


he SIU report found that Molosi and his colleagues Rakesh Dhaniram, Bheki Dlamini and Thuli Ngubane approved the appointment of contractor E Magubane CC in June 2011.

The contractor was to be paid R9.6 million but ended up receiving R10.8m for installing electronic security systems at Zuma’s rural KwaZulu-Natal home.

In September Lil-Ruthan told The Mercury that all the officials intended pleading not guilty and that the disciplinary hearings were nothing more than the department looking for “scapegoats” to blame for the scandal.

But on Monday he said this could change.

“I’m not sure whether some of them will choose to plead guilty because I haven’t met them recently since we (the PSA) closed for the holidays,” he said.

Lil-Ruthan said Molosi’s plea was a “brave step” and he thought the co-accused might consider the same route to fast-track their cases.

“These hearings have brought tension and anxiety to our members. They obviously want the whole thing to be over, but it is also important to consider the future implications of either pleading guilty or being found guilty,” he said.

The PSA would now analyse transcripts of Molosi’s case to see if the remaining officials were implicated in his plea and if they needed to re-strategise their defence.

The EFF’s Mbuyiseni Ndlozi said it was “a travesty” that Zuma was being “protected” through the charges brought against the officials. He urged the remaining 11 officials not to plead guilty, pledging the support of the EFF and other opposition parties.

“In the end, Zuma will not be held accountable. The issue is being buried by destroying people’s careers. We reaffirm our position that the officials must not stand down and instead stand their ground. The opposition parties, including the EFF, are willing to stand by them; they do not have to be scared. They must stand up for the truth.”

His sentiments were echoed by the IFP’s Narend Singh, who said the guilty plea did not exonerate Zuma from paying for non-security upgrades.

“Not all the work that was done was part of the security upgrades and the president must do the right thing and acknowledge that he unduly benefited from the project and pay back some of the taxpayers’ money,” he said.

The DA’s spokesman on public works, James Masango, said while the party acknowledged the findings of the SIU, it wanted the recommendations in the initial report issued by Public Protector Thuli Madonsela to be adhered to.

“The junior officials’ guilty plea will be for not following open tender processes and obviously that was against the regulations. However, we want Zuma to take responsibility for the money that was spent on things like the swimming pool, kraal and chicken run which had nothing to do with security,” he said.

ANC spokesman Zizi Kodwa said Molosi’s suspension was welcomed and dealt with what the party viewed as the unlawful escalation of costs.

“The suspension of an official, or officials, is what we called for. Someone must be responsible for the unexpected escalation,” Kodwa said.

- The Mercury

Teen dies in freak electric shock

Cape Town - A 14-year-old Khayelitsha teen was electrocuted to death in a freak accident at the TR informal Settlement over the weekend.

Amahle Masala, a Grade 9 pupil at Ntlanganiso High School, was killed when she held on to a metal wire connected to a shack which had an electric cable running through the zinc roof. The incident took place on Saturday at around 11am.

According to witness Lungile Jungwana, Amahle was stretching her arms out when she held on to the metal wire, used as a washing line, for support.

“We had just been joking around when she stood and held the wire. The next thing I saw was her body shaking and she was screaming for her friend Wendy to help her.”

Jungwana said at first he was so shocked that he stayed rooted to the spot. But he was triggered into action by the sight of flashing sparks coming from the wire near the roof.

“I quickly grabbed a wooden rake and tried hitting her away from the wire. We tried moving her with the rake several times until the wire broke.”

Jungwana said when the wire broke it got tangled around Amahle’s body causing her to choke even more.

“It lasted for a few minutes, but when we managed to set her loose from the wire she had already lost so much strength.”

Amahle collapsed and, according to Jungwana, her mouth and tongue had turned white. Neighbours arrived and threw water on her.

She was taken to the nearby fire station as the area’s clinics were closed for the weekend. Amahle died at the fire station.

Amahle’s sister Babalwa Masala, 19, said this was not the first time someone in their neighbourhood had been shocked.

“Our neighbour who lives in the shack directly beneath the electric pole where the cable runs through was also shocked, but survived. I thought my sister would survive it too.”

Babalwa said at the time of the incident she was inside their home cleaning the bedroom. Amahle had just finished doing the washing and was about to wash the dishes.

She said she heard her sister’s cry for help and when she went outside, she saw her sister dangling from the wire.

“I feel very hurt and shocked by the incident. It scares me because we have been living here since birth and we never imagined something of this nature would happen. Not to my sister, of all people.”

Babalwa said Amahle wanted to study tourism. She said her sister was also a good singer and was part of the high school choir.

“Amahle used to sing for us here at home and was a very humorous person who loved entertaining people. I’m not sure how this house will be now that she is gone.

Eskom spokesman Andrew Etzinger confirmed the incident. He said Eskom management was deeply saddened.

“Our heartfelt condolences go out to her family.”

Etzinger said based on an initial investigation, it appeared that Amahle held on to a washing line for support as she stood up from her seat and was subsequently electrocuted.

He said Eskom technical staff arrived on the scene and inspected the area.

“There was no apparent indication as to how the washing line had been electrified. The incident is under investigation.”

- Cape Argus

Sunday, December 28, 2014

Civil servant suspended over Nkandla

A senior public works department employee has become the first official involved in the upgrades of President Jacob Zuma's Nkandla homestead to take the fall for the R246 million project, City Press reported on Sunday.

Itumeleng Molosi, 58, director of projects, pleaded guilty to irregularly appointing contractors and flouting procurement procedures, the newspaper reported, according to information from "department insiders".

Molosi would keep his job after the department imposed a two-month suspension without pay and a final written warning.

Molosi signed the deal last Monday after writing to the department about his intention to plead guilty.

Molosi reportedly blamed officials, including himself, who felt pressured into cutting corners and taking short cuts because the project involved the president's home.

Eleven other officials, all represented by the Public Servants Association (PSA), may sign similar deals to avoid lengthy hearings, the newspaper reported.

Roshan Lil-Ruthan, the PSA labour officer representing the officials, said his clients intended to tell the hearings they also felt pressured into speeding up the Nkandla upgrades.

- Timeslive