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Zondo says he'll make findings whether Zuma returns to inquiry or not

Chairperson of the state capture commission of inquiry, Deputy Chief Justice Raymond Zondo, has said the inquiry will make findings whether former President Jacob Zuma returns to testify before it or not.

Addressing the media on Thursday, Zondo said it was “preferable” for Zuma to reappear before the inquiry because he was the head of state when state capture allegedly occurred. Allegations have also been made about Zuma, he added.

Zondo said, “If for whatever reason we were to finish without him appearing, I will make my findings based on the evidence of everyone else.”

Postponements of Zuma’s return

Zuma first appeared at the inquiry in July 2019 and testified for several days. He was then scheduled to reappear in October.

However, he requested for a postponement to prepare for his application for a permanent stay of prosecution in his corruption trial related to the arms deal.

The inquiry subsequently announced that the ex-President would appear in mid-November, but issued a statement shortly afterwards saying it had been informed that he was “ill.”

The inquiry’s legal team decided to apply for a summons against Zuma last week, but postponed it on account of Zuma’s unspecified “medical condition.”

No preferential treatment for Zuma

Zondo subsequently agreed to postpone his appearance, which had been tentatively set for 27-31 January by the legal team, to a later date.

In response to the aborted summons application, Zuma’s lawyers threatened to challenge the legality of the inquiry and the way it has conducted its work.

They accused the inquiry of abuse of process because it had sought to summons the ex-President even when he had not refused to appear before it.

In his briefing on Thursday, Zondo denied giving Zuma preferential treatment, insisting that he treats “everyone equally and with respect.” 

He said, “I have sought to treat him as I treat everybody. I do not think there are implicated witnesses to whom I am soft. If I dealt with him in a certain way, there would be others who say I am singling him out.”

The inquiry was due to complete its work at the end of February. It has now applied at the high court for an extension until December 2020.

DA to take legal action against Maile over Gauteng councillor suspensions

The Democratic Alliance (DA) has said it will take legal action against Gauteng MEC for Cooperative Governance and Traditional Affairs Lebogang Maile for “political harassment.”

Earlier on Thursday, Maile suspended former City of Johannesburg Speaker Vasco Da Gama as a councillor for three months without pay for contravening the Code of Conduct for Councillors.

Da Gama controversially adjourned a council meeting last year ahead of a vote to elect the city’s new Mayor following Herman Mashaba’s resignation.

‘Illegal move’

Maile also suspended current City of Tshwane Speaker Katlego Mathebe for six months without pay for failing to preside over two council meetings ahead of votes of no confidence against her and the Mayor.

However, the DA reacted angrily to the suspensions within hours of Maile’s press conference on Thursday.

In a statement, the party’s interim leader John Steenhuisen said the Municipal Systems Act does not permit Maile to make the suspensions without a council resolution.

He said, “The DA will not give in to the bullying tactics of MEC Maile. We have instructed our lawyers to approach the courts on an urgent basis to review this illegal move.”

Personal cost order

Steenhuisen added, “We have also written to the MEC to invite him to retract his unlawful decision, failing which we will apply for a personal and punitive cost order against Maile.”

He slammed Maile’s move as “self-serving” and cited several examples of the African National Congress (ANC), which deployed Maile, failing to act against its councillors.

The DA leader said the ANC had not invoked the law against former eThekwini Mayor Zandile Gumede or former Emfuleni Mayor Simon Mofokeng despite various allegations against them.

“The ANC’s selective application of the law, applied only to DA councillors, shows its transparent hypocrisy and emphasises that they care not for residents, but rather for their own narrow interest to attain power at all costs,” Steenhuisen added.

A council vote to elect Johannesburg Mayor was eventually held last year. ANC’s Geoff Makhubo won the vote with help from some DA councillors.

In Tshwane, Stevens Mokgalapa, who is on special leave, remains Mayor. However, the DA’s Federal Council is set to make a decision on his future imminently.

Journalist Sikonathi Mantshantsha named new Eskom national spokesperson

State power utility Eskom has appointed prominent financial journalist Sikonathi Mantshantsha as its national spokesperson.

In a statement on Wednesday, Eskom said its CEO, André de Ruyter, had announced the appointment to employees earlier in the day. Mantshantsha is expected to start on 1 February, 2020.

De Ruyter was quoted saying, “His appointment is a firm step from our side to strengthen our efforts to improve Eskom’s image, to add another layer of success to our media response strategies in order to be more direct and proactive when engaging with media and other interest groups.”

Journalist of the Year

Mantshantsha is currently a journalist with Scorpio, Daily Maverick‘s investigative journalism unit. He was previously deputy editor at Financial Mail.

He is widely known for his investigative work on Eskom, which won him the Sanlam Journalist of the Year award in 2018.

De Ruyter added, “His extensive media experience, specifically within the energy industry, will benefit his transition into Eskom and allow him to adapt quickly to this dynamic environment.

“I, together with EXCO, am convinced that he will certainly add another layer of success to our efforts to change the fortunes of Eskom.”

From Eskom critic to spin doctor

Mantshantsha has established himself as one of the most strident critics of Eskom, the government’s handling of its crises, and the state capture networks that ravaged it.

In a recent article in the Financial Mail, he said the resignation of Eskom’s chairperson Jabu Mabuza “exposes the bankruptcy of ideas and lack of vision in the ruling political elite, led by the ANC government and [Presient] Cyril Ramaphosa.”

In December during Ramaphosa’s briefing to the nation on the Eskom load shedding crisis, Mantshantsha told the President that he “should have stayed in Egypt” because he had not offered a solution.

He has also been equally scathing of former Eskom executives such as ex-Acting CEO Matshela Koko, who he said failed to stop load shedding.

As the face of Eskom’s media liaison, Mantshantsha will now have to defend the institution he has been most critical of.

The embattled utility has managed to keep the lights on since the last round of load shedding earlier in January.

Ranjeni Munusamy: 'Baseless' state capture allegations halted my life

Journalist Ranjeni Munusamy has lamented that the “baseless” allegations made against her at the state capture commission of inquiry “abruptly halted” her life.

In an article published on spotlight.africa on Monday, Munusamy compared her situation to that of former Finance Minister Nhlanhla Nene, who she said was also caught in the inquiry’s “crossfire.”

She wrote, “There is a possibility that I might end as a mere footnote in the great state capture saga, as the allegations against me may be considered peripheral to the inquiry’s core business.”

Crime Intelligence slush fund

Munusamy added, “The false accusations against me feel, however, like a face tattoo – hideous and defining – and threaten to recast who, and what, I really am.”

Col Dhananjaya Naidoo, a former Crime Intelligence official who turned state witness, told the inquiry in September last year that Munusamy had benefitted from a Crime Intelligence slush fund.

He alleged that about R40,000 was used to service Munusamy’s BMW convertible in 2008. Naidoo is currently in witness protection.

A Hawks investigator, Col Kobus Roelofse, also testified that R143,621.78 from the same slush fund was allegedly paid to Wesbank Vehicle Finance to settle a car in Munusamy’s name.

Zondo grants approval to cross-examine

The Tiso Black Star journalist denied the allegations but was placed on special leave. In her article on Monday, she said the inquiry’s chairperson, Deputy Chief Justice Raymond Zondo, has now granted her application to testify and cross-examine “one of my accusers.”

She said “sometime between 2008 and 2009,” she called the police to “inspect” her car after all four tyres were deflated at a shopping centre, suggesting she did so because of security concerns.

Munusamy explained, “Naidoo seemed not to know that my car was sent to the police to be inspected and made the ridiculous conclusion that I handed it over to be repaired, serviced and four new tyres fitted.”

She said she wasn’t working as a journalist at the time and only resumed in 2012, adding, “Naidoo jumped to another bizarre conclusion that the incident was reflective of a scheme to bribe journalists.”

She claimed Naidoo did not disclose what she had done in exchange for the alleged benefits. “In my case, the accusers have not produced evidence of any quid pro quo,” she wrote.

Munusamy implied that her reputation may remain tarnished until the inquiry completes its work and clears her name.

“It is my wish that the arbiter, in this context Judge Zondo, declares my innocence, not just pronounce the obvious – that our society is deeply corrupted and that the state was captured,” she concluded.

DA claims Menzi Simelane, Mo Shaik earn R1.9m each as Sisulu's 'special advisors'

The Democratic Alliance (DA) has claimed Human Settlements, Water and Sanitation Minister Lindiwe Sisulu’s “special advisors” earn an annual salary of R1,978,533 each.

It emerged recently that Sisulu had appointed former National Prosecuting Authority (NPA) head Menzi Simelane and former State Security Agency (SSA) head Mo Shaik to the plum posts.

In a statement on Tuesday, DA MP Emma Louise Powell said their alleged salary amount was at Notch A of Level 16 DPSA (Department of Public Service and Administration) Grading – the equivalent of Directors-General of national departments.

‘Well-paid political cadres’

Powell added, “The DA is yet to understand how an optometrist and an ex-prosecutor are qualified to provide advice to a department whose focus is on water, sanitation and housing delivery.

“There is no doubt that gross mis-hiring has taken place – and the deck has been stacked with well-paid political cadres.”

In a statement on Monday, Sisulu’s department said she had obtained approval from the Minister of Public Service and Administration for the appointments.

The department said, “In considering an appointment of a special advisor, qualifications, experience and skills, amongst others, are taken into consideration. Therefore, both appointees are suitably qualified for the positions they hold.”

‘Providing advice to the Minister’

It added that Simelane and Shaik’s responsibilities include “providing advice to the Minister to enable her to execute her duties such as the development of policies to meet the service delivery needs of all South Africans.”

In Sisulu’s case, such service delivery needs include the provision of water as well as decent sanitation and shelter, the department said.

However, Powell said Sisulu is staffing a “political war room in lieu of a capably staffed Ministry” while “taps are running dry across our nation.”

She said, “The total annual cost of Sisulu’s Ministerial Office staff remuneration stands in excess of R13.9 million per year.

“This is excluding the costs of the additional 19 employees recently staffing her ‘National Rapid Response Task Team.'”

Sisulu also stoked controversy last year over her appointment of former Minister Bathabile Dlamini as chairperson of the Social Housing Regulatory Authority’s interim board.

Powell similarly criticised the appointment as “illogical,” but Sisulu’s spokesperson, Makhosini Mgitywa, defended it.

In a radio interview, he said, “[Dlamini] remains a member of the National Executive Committee of the ANC, she is the president of the Women’s League of the ANC and we have to accept the fact that there is a deployment committee of the ANC.”

Proteas legend Jonty Rhodes admits benefitting from 'white privilege' in selection

Proteas legend Jonty Rhodes has said white privilege helped him secure his first selection into South Africa’s national cricket team.

In an interview with Indian publication The Hindu over the weekend, Rhodes said as a white cricketer growing up during apartheid, he only had to compete with a limited section of South Africa’s population at the time.

He explained, “You talk about white privilege and it raises a lot of heat and debate on social media but it is the case. I’m very aware of that. My cricketing statistics as a player were very average when I was selected.

‘I wouldn’t have been picked’

Rhodes added, “If I was competing with the rest of the country then possibly I wouldn’t have been picked. And I would not have been diving around the field.”

Transformation in cricket was brought to the fore again earlier this month when batsman Temba Bavuma was omitted from the Proteas squad against England in the second Test.

Although Bavuma and all-rounder Andile Phehlukwayo have been recalled to the squad for the fourth Test, premier fast bowler Kagiso Rabada has been suspended.

Cricket South Africa’s transformation targets require the fielding of six players of colour, including at least two black Africans.

Opportunities in disadvantaged communities

Rhodes, who is widely regarded as one of cricket’s best fielders ever, lamented that equal opportunities are not accorded to disadvantaged communities.

He said, “The biggest question for me is why in over 20 years have we not produced opportunities for young players in disadvantaged communities? It’s not about racism. It’s about equal opportunity and that’s not happening.”

This has resulted in the absence of a large pool of talented black players on the domestic cricket scene, he explained.

Rhodes added that the cricket fraternity could learn from the way rugby administrators have built structures in disadvantaged areas.

According to him, South Africa’s democratic transition resulted in political freedom, but not economic freedom, in such areas.

In their series against England, the Proteas won the first Test convincingly, but struggled in the second and third Tests. They lost the third Test by an embarrassing innings and 53 runs.

The fourth Test is set to begin on Friday in Johannesburg.

AfriForum files UN complaints against Ramaphosa, Sisulu over farm killings 'denial'

Minority rights group AfriForum has filed complaints against President Cyril Ramaphosa and Lindiwe Sisulu, in her previous capacity as Minister of International Relations and Cooperation, with the United Nation’s Special Rapporteur on the Situation of Human Rights Defenders.

In a statement on Tuesday, the group said it had reported the two leaders for “attempting to discredit AfriForum as a human rights defender and, in doing so, impairing the work that the organisation is doing to promote human and civil rights in South Africa.”

The matter relates to US President Donald Trump’s tweet in August 2018, posted after an AfriForum trip to the US, that he had instructed his secretary of state to “closely study the South Africa land and farm seizures and expropriations and the large scale killing of farmers.”

Trump ‘clearly misinformed’

In a subsequent trip to the US in September 2018, Ramaphosa told Bloomberg TV news channel that Trump had been “clearly misinformed.”

He said, “There are no killings of farmers or white farmers in South Africa. There’s no land grab in South Africa. We are involved in a process of discussing land reform.”

AfriForum later claimed that Ramaphosa had “lied,” but his spokesperson Khusela Diko denied this.

“It is very unfortunate that anyone would want to deliberately distort the President’s remarks which were in direct response to ‘large scale killing of farmers,’ a characterisation everyone knows holds no truth in South Africa,” she said.

AfriForum’s UN demands against Ramaphosa

The lobby group has now taken the matter to the UN, enjoining Sisulu in it for claiming AfriForum was spreading “blatant lies” and “misinformation” about South Africa.

It wants the UN Special Rapporteur to ask Ramaphosa and Sisulu to retract their statements “on an international platform.”

It also wants the UN to hold the President and his government responsible for allegedly discrediting AfriForum’s efforts to raise international awareness against “gross human rights violations, particularly against minorities, in South Africa.”

Ramaphosa should also commit to protecting AfriForum “as a human rights defender,” the group demands.

Ernst Roets, AfriForum’s Head of Policy and Action, said, “The first step in addressing these issues is to admit that it exists.

“It is very worrying that the South African government ignores these issues locally, but it is unacceptable for the President to completely deny the existence of these crises in the international sphere.

“The attempts by the President’s spokespeople to contextualise his statements after his return to South Africa did nothing to repair the damage that was done internationally.”

The Presidency and the Department of International Relations and Cooperation have not yet reacted to AfroForum’s complaints.

Tito's intriguing political advice: Don't be nice to people who plot against you

Finance Minister Tito Mboweni has continued using his Twitter account to freely comment on South Africa’s political landscape, particularly the African National Congress (ANC).

In an intriguing tweet on Monday, he dished out political advice and left his followers guessing as to whom it was directed.

He wrote, “In politics, never try to be nice to people who hate and plot against you. Confront them head to head, hand to hand, fist to fist, word for word, tongue for tongue. Don’t give the other cheek.”

‘Give that advice to your President’

A number of Twitter users speculated that Mboweni should proffer that piece of advice to President Cyril Ramaphosa.

There is a growing belief that Ramaphosa should boldly confront his detractors in the ANC instead of pursuing his mantra of unity.

However, in an interview with SABC News after delivering the ANC’s January 8 statement earlier this month, Ramaphosa said he’s not a dictatorial President.

He said, “If people want a dictatorial President, they’ve knocked at the wrong door. I will never be. Throughout my leadership process, I’ve always been a leader who leads from the front, but leads people knowing that we’re taking people along, we discuss matters, and we mould consensus.”

‘Don’t criminalise those who disagree with you’

In several other tweets on Sunday, Mboweni also challenged the ANC to allow positive debate and disagreements within the party.

The ANC recently criticised him for stating that adopting a resolution to nationalise the South African Reserve Bank (SARB) was a “wrong” decision.

Mboweni said on Sunday that such disagreements and “conflict of ideas” create impetus for “forward movement.”

“Throughout political history, those who have no new ideas hide behind name calling and refer to those who bring up new ways of thinking, the mindset changers, as ill-disciplined. That is an old Stalinist way of politics. Change your mindset. Politically therapeutic! Move with the times,” he tweeted.

Mboweni added, “There is nothing as reactionary as sticking to outmoded ways of thinking and of doing things! Inertia is what [it] is called in politics.

“Move, change your thinking when material conditions change. Otherwise you become a political has-been. ‘Nothing is STABLE except STABILITY!'”

Ndabeni-Abrahams: Abuse of state resources claim is a 'malicious smear campaign'

Communications Minister Stella Ndabeni-Abrahams has refuted claims that she abused state resources and interfered with the editorial independence of the South African Broadcasting Corporation (SABC).

Over the weekend, a Sunday Independent report claimed Ndabeni-Abrahams used taxpayers’ money to fund her wedding anniversary celebrations in September last year.

It claimed the Minister had taken along her husband, Thato Abrahams, on a trip to the United States (US) and Switzerland without permission from President Cyril Ramaphosa.

‘No permission required from President’

The report further alleged that Ndabeni-Abrahams had allowed Mr Abrahams to “interview candidates for positions on the various boards for which she has political oversight.”

However, the Minister denied the allegations in a statement on Monday, saying they amounted to a “malicious smear campaign.”

She said, “At the outset, attention is drawn to the fact that the President is not required to approve the inclusion of a spouse for official international trips, as long as all is in line with the limits set in the Ministerial Handbook.

“That the trip coincided with the Minister’s anniversary is of no consequence as public funds were not used and/or misused for this purpose.”

Minister ‘welcomes EFF’s call for investigation’

Ndabeni-Abrahams also assured the public that Mr Abrahams has not attended any government meetings, did not drive from Switzerland to France for a “shopping spree” and did not use a Mercedes-Benz S600 during the trip.

The Economic Freedom Fighters (EFF) issued a statement based on Sunday Independent‘s report and said it would file a complaint with the Public Protector.

The Minister said she welcomed the EFF’s call for an investigation and urged anyone with evidence of impropriety on her part to present it to the relevant authorities.

She added, “The Minister is fully aware of the political malice at play, which has given shape to a well-orchestrated and sinister campaign to discredit her and deter her from fulfilling the department’s mandate, which includes sector transformation.”

Ndabeni-Abrahams lamented that the report had caused her reputational damage and urged the media to “avoid being conduits for gossip and character assassination.”

She however did not comment on Public Works Minister Patricia De Lille’s apparently erroneous assertion that ministers are required to “motivate why you must take your spouse along” for “each and every trip.”

Rami Chuene confirms exit from 'The Queen' after 'fallout' with Fergusons

Popular actress Rami Chuene has confirmed that her role as Gracious, popularly known as T-Gom, in the Mzansi Magic telenovela The Queen is coming to an end.

Sunday World reported over the weekend that members of the cast received new scripts that see T-Gom being killed off.

In a tweet on Sunday, Chuene confirmed the speculation but stopped short of shedding further light on it citing legal advice.

‘TGOM nation forever’

She wrote, “Yes, TGOM’s stint on #TheQueenMzansi has come to an end. Unfortunately, I won’t be getting into details as advised by my legal team.

“I still have to finish shooting and I’m hoping to execute as excellently, exceptionally and professionally as I always have. #TGOMNATION forever.”

In a follow-up tweet, the actress added, “Thank you for all the well wishes and blessings. It’s been a ride. We keep pushing and working because the #SHOWMUSTGOON no matter what.”

Chuene’s role has been a cornerstone of the telenovela, which tells the story of intrigues between two families – the Khozas, led by Harriet played by Connie Ferguson, and the Mabuzas, led by Chuene’s character T-Gom.

Rumoured fallout

News of Chuene’s exit has fuelled rumours of a fallout between her and Connie and Shona Ferguson, who are The Queen‘s executive producers.

In October 2019, Chuene pinned a Twitter thread she had written earlier in September supporting fellow actress Vatiswa Ndara’s claims of actors getting a raw deal in the industry.

Ndara is popular for playing NomaRussia in another telenovela produced by Ferguson Films, iGazi.

She had written an open letter to Arts and Culture Minister Nathi Mthethwa revealing that she had rejected an offer of R110,000 from the Fergusons to continue her role on iGazi‘s Season 3.

The talented actress said this amount wasn’t much because the contract entailed “limitless calls.” This means she could have been on set for 12 hours a day, Monday to Saturday.

Sunday World cited sources who said Chuene’s support for Ndara had caused a rift between her and the Fergusons.

Entertainment commentator Kgopolo Mphela also tweeted on Sunday, “I know the issues around @ramichuene leaving #TheQueenMzansi are loaded and will respect the process and privacy.

“But, THIS … yah… it is so disappointing that we have to do these things to each other.”

In another tweet, he also hinted that Dineo Moeketsi, who plays Kea, may also depart the telenovela. Other unconfirmed reports suggest that Setumo Motsoaledi, who plays Mmabatho, may follow suit.

Ferguson Films has not yet officially commented on the matter.

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