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Ramaphosa and Zuma’s Meeting

ANC president Cyril Ramaphosa on Wednesday allayed fears surrounding speculation about President Jacob Zuma’s future as the head of state.

In a statement, he said he met with Zuma on Tuesday night to discuss the transition and matters relating to his position as state president.

“The discussions were constructive and lay the basis for a speedy resolution of the matter in the interests of the country and its people,” said Ramaphosa.

He said it was agreed to postpone a special meeting of the ANC’s national executive committee that was scheduled to take place on Wednesday afternoon.

“This will enable President Zuma and myself to conclude our discussions and report back to our organisation and the country in the coming days.”

Ramaphosa said he was aware and it was understandable that there was a lot of uncertainty surrounding Zuma’s position as the president of the country.

“However, I am certain that the process we have now embarked on will achieve an outcome that not only addresses these concerns, but also unites our people around the tasks that all of us must necessarily undertake to build our country.

“We will be able to communicate further on President Zuma’s position as President of the Republic once we have finalised all pertinent matters.”

 

He added that, while the situation made it necessary to postpone the State of the Nation Address until further notice, the work of the government and Parliament would continue.

“This is a challenging time for our country. Both President Zuma and myself are aware that our people want and deserve closure. The constructive process we have embarked on offers the greatest opportunity to conclude this matter without discord or division.

“Throughout this process, I am guided by the principle that the interests and needs of the South African people are paramount,” he said.

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Zimbabwe’s Tsvangirai critically ill in South Africa

Zimbabwe’s main opposition leader, Morgan Tsvangirai, is critically ill in a South African hospital and his supporters should “brace for the worst”, a party source with knowledge of his condition said on Tuesday.

The 65-year-old has been in and out of hospital since disclosing in June 2016 that he had colon cancer. He returned to Johannesburg in neighboring South Africa for his latest round of treatment in early January.

“From the medical report that I received yesterday the situation is not looking good. He is critically ill and we should brace for the worst,” the source said.

Tsvangirai’s illness has divided his Movement for Democratic Change (MDC) party, with officials publicly jockeying to succeed the former trade union leader.

Last month, Tsvangirai said it was time for the older generation to step back and make way for “new hands”, raising prospects of leadership change.

Without its founder at the helm, the MDC is likely to face immediate instability and could even split, handing a gift to new President Emmerson Mnangagwa in an election expected within the next six months.

Mnangagwa came to power in November after a de facto military coup against 93-year-old Robert Mugabe, the former guerrilla leader who had run Zimbabwe since independence from Britain in 1980.

Tsvangirai spokesman Luke Tamborinyoka said the MDC leader was “stable but the nation should keep on praying.”

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South African Farmers Lose Crops And Workers Amid Crippling Drought

Tony Largier grows apples, plums and nectarines at Little Oaks Farm, near Villiersdorp, in South Africa’s Western Cape province. It’s a beautiful piece of land in a valley between mountains. The closest peak gets snow in the winter.

We walk amid his nectarine trees.

“This variety is summer bright. It’s sweet, crunchy. It’s a good nectarine. It’s one of the newer varieties,” says Largier.

He and other farmers in the area pull water from the nearby Elandskloof Dam — part of a network of dams that farmers, villages and the City of Cape Town share.

Farmers here work on a quota system. An irrigation board determines how much water each farmer needs to grow certain crops, and how much the dam can spare. The allocations have gotten smaller amid a three-year drought.

“All these farms pull off the dam, and we have a measured amount that we can pull every year,” Largier says. “If you get your 100 percent quota, that would be what they reckon you need to grow a hectare of fruit.”

This year, Largier only got a 17 percent allocation, because the Elandskloof Dam is only one-third full.

“You’re living on borrowed time at that. Seventeen percent is a huge problem,” Largier says.

Agriculture is big business here in the Western Cape. Industry economists estimate that apples and pears are worth hundreds of millions of dollars per year. South Africa is one of the world’s largest pear producers.

The Theewaterskloof Dam is the biggest in the network. Located about 85 miles north of Cape Town and about 70 miles east of said port city, it supplies both city and local farmers. It’s sitting at just 13 percent capacity.

But here on the dam, there’s no water to be seen. It looks like a sunken, sandy beach in the middle of a mountain range. A beach with no water.

Billy Bourbon-Leftley is known as the Strawberry King — which is also the name of his business. He sells strawberries locally and exports plums.

“We start planting in a month, and there’s no water. We’ve ordered the plants. We’ve paid for the plants. What are we going to do?” he asks.

One thing he will do: Lay off workers. Analysts estimate between 30,000 and 70,000 seasonal workers could lose their jobs this year.

Bourbon-Leftley told his workers that less water means lower yields, and lower yields means he can’t afford to hire everyone this season.

He had his dam water shut off earlier this week.

“They’re taking the water away to the city. So it’s a little bit unfair. As long as there’s enough water for us, we don’t mind. But with the drought, they’re taking more and more water from agriculture,” Bourbon-Leftley says.

The water is being diverted to Cape Town to avoid Day Zero, when the city’s taps will be shut off and residents will have to stand in line for a daily water ration.

But Kevin Winter, of the Future Water Institute at the University of Cape Town, says curtailing farmers won’t prevent Day Zero.

“It’s not going to make a massive difference. But anything that allows us to push Day Zero out a little bit further is one management tool,” Winter says.

Back at Little Oaks Farm, Largier says he can use water from the dam until next month. After that, he’ll rely on boreholes — small wells drilled by machines specifically to obtain water. But he doesn’t know how long that will last.

“If the boreholes keep going, I believe, with a push and a shove, I can get through this season,” he says.

Largier is worried about the future. If the dams don’t fill, there will be no groundwater. And since so many farmers are now relying on boreholes, they’re depleting the underground water supply.

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South Africa’s Zuma faces new no-confidence vote this month

South Africa’s Jacob Zuma faces a no-confidence vote this month, a new attempt to unseat the president by opponents emboldened by splits within his own party.

Zuma, who is battling corruption allegations, is in a weakened position since he was replaced as leader of the ruling African National Congress (ANC) party in December by Cyril Ramaphosa, the deputy president.

The 75-year-old president is expected to meet the ANC’s six most powerful officials this weekend, but the agenda of the meeting has not been disclosed. Ramaphosa, 65, has been lobbying the ANC’s national executive to force Zuma to resign.

The ANC has said it has discussed Zuma resigning before the end of his term in mid-2019, although his staunch supporters within the party say that will not happen.

Zuma, who has not said whether he will step down voluntarily before his second term as president ends, has been deserted by several prominent allies in the ANC since Ramaphosa took over leadership of what is the only party to govern South Africa since the end of apartheid.

On Friday, parliament speaker Baleka Mbete agreed to a request from the opposition Economic Freedom Fighters (EFF) for a motion of no-confidence, though she refused to hold the vote before the president’s state of the nation address on Feb. 8, and scheduled it for Feb. 22.

The rand, which tends to strengthen on signs Zuma could leave office, pared losses on the announcement from parliament.

Investors associate Zuma’s tenure with a period of economic decline, with growth slowing to an average of 1.5 percent a year and unemployment up to 28 percent from around 23 percent when he took office in 2009.

Zuma narrowly survived a no-confidence vote in August, when some ANC lawmakers voted with the opposition.

“STATE CAPTURE” INQUIRY

He has survived several no-confidence votes during his rule thanks to loyal voting by ANC lawmakers, who form a strong parliamentary majority. Although Zuma retains the support of a faction within the ANC, he no longer holds a top post.

In its letter requesting the vote, the EFF said Zuma was not a suitable head of state as he is likely to be embroiled in a judicial inquiry into state corruption. Zuma has denied any wrongdoing.

“The majority of parliament is going to say that Jacob Zuma will not be the president of South Africa because the biggest sentiment, even in the ANC, is saying that Jacob Zuma cannot continue as president,” EFF Deputy President Floyd Shivambu told eNCA television.

Zuma agreed to establish the inquiry into “state capture”, a South African term for government corruption, last month.

Another opposition party, the Democratic Alliance (DA), had lobbied speaker Mbete to postpone the state of the nation address until Zuma had been removed from office.

On Thursday, Mbete said she was aware of “processes going on, every day and every night” over Zuma’s future but he was due to read the state of the nation speech next Thursday as he was still head of state.

Lukhona Mnguni, political analyst at the University of KwaZulu-Natal, said Zuma could take his chances and wait for the no-confidence motion rather than decide to resign.

“Zuma might want to take his chances with the motion and see how many ANC members will come to vote with the opposition and those that would still vote to support him,” Mnguni said.

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Rescued Sibanye Gold miners receiving medical attention after being trapped underground for over 24 hours

The National Union of Mineworkers confirmed on Friday morning that all 955 Sibanye Gold mine workers who were trapped underground have been resurfaced.

“The mine workers were rescued at around 06:30 this morning,” the union’s national spokesperson Livhuwani Mammburu confirmed to News24.

“They are currently getting medical check-ups. No injuries were sustained – they are just exhausted.”

A meeting was set to be held later at the mine’s training centre with management after all the workers had been attended to medically.

Sibanye Gold spokesperson James Wellsted also confirmed that the miners had been brought to the surface and that there were no serious injuries.

“There were some people with dehydration and few cases of high blood pressure and 16 of our older employees needed drips – but everything was successful.

“We are providing counselling for them and their families where it’s necessary,” Wellsted told News24.

Storm

The miners were trapped underground at their Beatrix mine unit following an electric cable outage after a storm on Wednesday night. The mine worked around the clock to restore the power supply in order to rescue them.

“[They have been trapped for quite some time now and [are] quite fatigued, but they are in an area that is ventilated,” Wellsted said on Thursday evening.

He added that they had been in constant contact with the miners, who had access to food and water and were in no danger.

 

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MAKHURA TO RESTART DISCIPLINARY PROCESSES AGAINST HEALTH OFFICIALS

Gauteng Premier David Makhura says that disciplinary processes against provincial Health Department officials who were found not guilty for their roles in the Esidimeni tragedy will be restarted.

Makhura concluded his testimony at the arbitration hearings in Parktown on Wednesday.

He apologised to the families who lost their loved ones as a result of the chaotic patient transfer project.

At least 144 mentally ill people died.

Makhura has been questioned about health officials who were charged for their roles in the Esidimeni tragedy but then found not guilty and only given written warnings.

These officials include the deputy director of mental healthcare services in Gauteng, Hannah Jacobus.

Jacobus, a professional nurse with more than 30 years experience, admitted earlier this year that she bypassed legal processes when licensing the NGOs where patients subsequently died.

Makhura says he plans to have people such as Jacobus be subjected to another disciplinary hearing because a warning letter is not enough.

“We’re so determined to proceed with those disciplinary processes of any of our officials who did something that was wrong.”

Makhura has also assured families that former health MEC Qedani Mahlangu’s resignation does not mean further action can’t be taken against her.

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Eskom profits down 34% South Africa

South Africa’s state-owned power company has released figures showing its profits are down by 34%.

Eskom’s figures also showed a worsening cash position, a fall in asset values and a gap of 50% between the funding it needs, and the funding it has.

The struggling company has received a number of government bailouts, but is also implicated in a corruption scandal involving South Africa’s president, Jacob Zuma.

There are allegations that certain contracts relating to Eskom were given to government allies, instead of being properly tendered out.

Eskom dominates the electricity market in South Africa and exports power to some of the country’s neighbours.

But in recent years, the size of its debts have regularly been cited by credit ratings agencies as a threat to South Africa’s economic stability.

Last month, the company elected a new board, prompting hopes that its fortunes can be reversed.

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Managers focused on furniture needs, not water – De Lille on Cape Town’s ‘derailed’ drought plan

Cape Town – Project managers in the City of Cape Town tasked with coming up with solutions about the drought spent lots of time talking about furniture they wanted instead of water projects, a submission by Mayor Patricia de Lille has revealed.

“At some of the very first meetings it was astounding to hear feedback from project managers who, when asked for updates on the plans to get additional water, instead spent a great deal of time talking about furniture for the ‘war room’ for the water resilience team,” she said.

“Instead of receiving substantial feedback on the actual delivery of water and commencement of projects, senior project managers spoke about desks and other office furniture needed for the war room and the costs to set it up.”

De Lille’s scathing submission also details how a year ago, when Cape Town’s water situation needed urgent tackling, some City officials did not believe there was a crisis and did not realise climate change was affecting the water supply,

Drought plan ‘veered off course’

By the end of October last year, her submission said, it worryingly appeared that a water resilience plan created months earlier was not actually moving ahead.

“It was apparent that the plan had veered off course and the commitment of the second date in October for ‘new water’ to come online would not come to fruition,” De Lille wrote.

“It was incumbent on me to step into the management of the water crisis even more hands on and more frequently.”

This means just three months ago the City was still not on top of the pending crisis.

– See our Water Crisis special report

De Lille’s version of how the drought crisis has been handled by her colleagues is contained in a submission, dated January 5 this year, addressed to the DA’s federal executive chairperson James Selfe.

It is headed: “Reasons why Patricia de Lille should not resign from her position as executive mayor of the City of Cape Town and reasons why the Democratic Alliance ought not to move a motion of no confidence against her”.

De Lille has been at the centre of several allegations and claims about her conduct. Many of the claims have been leveled at her by colleagues.

READ: 5 scandals that have recently rocked the City of Cape Town

The City council may debate a motion of no confidence against her this week.

In December the DA’s federal executive suspended De Lille from all party activities pending investigations into her actions.

Court action

De Lille has approached the Western Cape High Court over the matter.

A draft court order, dated last Wednesday and which News24 has seen, says that De Lille may still attend caucus meetings.

But the caucus may exclude her if the meetings go into allegations against her which are contained in two reports. If she is excluded, the caucus chairperson should inform De Lille of decisions taken during her absence.

‘Wholly inaccurate weather predictions’

De Lille’s submission to Selfe about why she should not resign said that before the winter of 2016 and 2017, the South African Weather Service predicted a higher chance of wetter conditions compared to 2015’s dry season.

“The prediction of rainfall and climate change does not fall within the mandate or expertise of municipalities, but we are now all too well aware that these predictions were wholly inaccurate,” she said.

In 2016 the City had implemented water restrictions. This was before it was required by national government to do so.

Disaster area declaration denied

De Lille said that by February 2017 “the situation was so concerning”, that she applied to national government to declare the City a local disaster area.

This, she said, was rejected on the grounds that this action would have been too early and the situation was not yet at crisis level.

“Had the disaster declaration been approved, we would have been provided with the legal mechanism to enable the City to move budget from one purpose to another, as well as had access to emergency funding,” De Lille said.

In January 2017 dam levels stood at 40.4% and daily water consumption stood at 880 million litres. A second attempt at getting national government to declare the City a local disaster area was again denied.

Officials didn’t believe it’s a crisis

“At this time national government and many of our own officials did not believe we were at crisis stage and remained of the view that water restrictions, and later reducing the water pressure, remained the best intervention that would see Cape Town through until the winter of 2017 when rains were expected,” De Lille said.

“Furthermore, many City officials did not see that climate change was introducing more uncertainty into our water supply and planning models.”

Extremely concerned, De Lille called on officials to provide plans on how to address the water shortage, saying more action was needed.

READ: City of Cape Town answers your water questions

De Lille said in May 2017, when dam levels were at 22%, she appointed Craig Kesson, the executive director in her office, as the chief resilience officer tasked with creating a team of experts and project managers to work with the City’s water and sanitation department to develop a new drought crisis plan.

She asked that the plan be developed in a week.

At that stage, De Lille said, officials were relying only on rain water and she had emphasised they needed to look at other sources of water.

The City’s new water augmentation plan was announced publicly in May last year.

Chance of CT drought ‘less than once in 1 000 years’

De Lille said that in late August, rainfall analysis by senior climatologists at the University of Cape Town “showed that the chance of this severe multi-year drought (in) Cape Town is less than once in a thousand years”.

The water team, she said, indicated that the first water from additional resources would be online in August 2017.

“This did not materialise and the team attributed this to the fact that a project of this unprecedented scale and complexity had never been done before,” De Lille said.

Another date of October was then provided for extra water resources to come online.

Seemingly ‘stalled’ plan

“At the end of October, it seemed that the Water Resilience Plan had not been moving and the responses to my questions on updates from the water task team became increasingly worrying,” De Lille said.

She had then started daily water meetings.

De Lille said Kesson had gone on study leave for most of October and early November, but when he did return, he did not attend all the daily water meetings.

“Despite this, I have continued to lead the senior management team to ensure that we address obstacles and remain focused on our work and timelines which I am checking on a daily basis,” she said.

De Lille detailed several interventions she had undertaken to deal with the water crisis.

These included getting expert guidance on groundwater, meeting water and sanitation minister Nomvula Mokonyane and asking National Treasury for help.

R2.6bn budgeted

“A key positive example of my leadership in this water crisis is the R2.6bn from the existing 2017/18 budget which the City made available for new water projects,” De Lille said.

“This was made available through savings and reprioritisation of existing budgets without impacting on service delivery and the Integrated Development Plan.”

She said she had also brought in external independent groundwater expertise to ensure this water augmentation process, which was cheaper and faster than desalination, was prioritised.

“These major achievements under my leadership have mitigated some of the disastrous consequences that the initially high proposed rates increases would have had for both the City administration and the people of Cape Town,” De Lille said.

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South Africa Hawks raid ANC leader’s office

South Africa’s elite police unit, known as the Hawks, said they are executing a search and seizure warrant at Premier’s office in Free State province.

The premier also happens to be the Secretary-General of the governing African National Congress (ANC), Ace Magashule.

The investigation relates to the Estina dairy farm near Vrede, from which the controversial Gupta business family – who are close to president Jacob Zuma – are alleged to have pocketed millions of dollars from a scheme originally meant for poor black farmers.

Evidence revealed in a tranche of WikiLeaks-style leaked emails showed large sums of money meant for the dairy project were allegedly siphoned-off to Gupta bank accounts and – eventually – paid for the family’s lavish wedding at Sun City, South Africa’s upmarket holiday resort.

According to the National Prosecuting Authority’s Asset Forfeiture Unit – which filed papers with the Bloemfontein High Court earlier this week – just two million of 220m rand ($169,00 – $18.5m; £118,500 – £13m) given to the project was spent on the farm, South Africa’s Times Live reported.

Brigadier Hangwani Mulaudzi, from the Hawks, confirmed the operation. He said they are looking for documents and any other evidence related to the farm project in a search expected to take the whole day.

“We have members from our serious corruption and cybercrime team that are that are executing those search and seizure operations at the Office of the Premier and the Department of Agriculture. It’s in relation to the Estina farm.

“People must watch this space…soon we will make announcements that will shake this country,” he emphasised.

The ANC responded by saying that its secretary-general Ace Magashule “is innocent until proven otherwise in a court of law”.

Speaking for the 106-year-old liberation movement, Khusela Diko also said: “The African National Congress is committed to root out corruption wherever that corruption is committed.

“We must allow the Hawks to do their work. The matter will go to court.”

Mr Magashule’s spokesman said they were cooperating fully.

In a separate process in the fight against what is known in South Africa as “state capture”, the government published terms of reference for a judicial commission of inquiry which is going to investigate President Zuma, his family friends the Guptas and other government officials in his administration.

President Zuma is under considerable pressure to come clean about dodgy government contracts and the influence his family and friends have had over state officials.

The Guptas and President Zuma deny any wrongdoing.

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Plane Crash on Ilovo Beach

Two pilots have escaped injury after the plane they were in crashed on Illovo Beach on Saturday morning.

Rescue Care spokesperson, Garrith Jamieson, said the incident happened just after 07:00 off Elizabeth Drive in Illovo Beach.

“Paramedics responded to the call to find that the plane was lying on its roof,” he said.

KZN EMS tweeted that the plane had made an emergency landing on the beach.

Jamieson said the two occupants of the plane were found outside and had sustained no injuries in the crash.

He said the events leading up to the plane crash were unknown, however all necessary authorities were on the scene and will be investigating further.