ID leader Patricia De Lille has thankfully gone back to doing what she does best, raising a stink about our multi-billion Rand arms deal.
The allegation that the Nelson Mandela Children’s Fund was on the receiving end of dirty cash of course has everyone’s moral indignation meter turned up to eleven. Minister of Defence (and ANC Chairman) Mosiuoa Lekota was suitably outraged:
I can now confirm that on the 29th of January 1999 the following organisations each received R500 000 from [German arms manufacturer] Thyssen-Krupp – African National Congress, Nelson Mandela Children’s Fund, Community Development Foundation.
Is [she] saying… that Comrade Nelson Mandela, the former president of this country, was a crook that wanted to steal money through the strategic defence package? Because if that is what she is saying, she must get out of this House and say it there.
I’m just wondering if donating to various charities has become a ‘tribute’ that is needed to be paid to prove that you’re willing to spend the big bucks later on. For instance wasn’t the “anonymous” donors behind the statue of Nelson Mandela in the (appropriately titled) Nelson Mandela Square in Sandton revealed (in Noseweek if I remember correctly) to be the consortium behind the Gripen fighters?
Thabo Mbeki has a history of using commissions as a political tool. It was barely three years ago that he convened the Hefer Commission to decide whether Bulelani Ngcuka (also head of the NPA at the time) was a spy for the Nationalist government. That commission ended in exoneration for Ngcuka and humiliation for Mo Shaik and Mac Maharaj who had made the accusations. It strengthened the case against Mo’s brother Schabir Shaik and by imlpication against Jacob Zuma as well.
This time however we have a new commission headed up by former Speaker of Parliament Frene Ginwala and instead of looking to exonerate NPA chief Vusi Pikoli it will be looking to decide whether he was abusing his role and had become a ‘rogue agent’ of sorts.
It’s interesting to note the tactic that government is taking in going after Pikoli. They are accusing him of abusing his “discretion in the decision to prosecute offenders or grant immunity from prosecution to suspects allegedly involved in organised crime”. From all the rumours going around it seems Pikoli has offered Brett Kebble murder suspect Glenn Agliotti some kind of deal in exchange for some juicy goods on Police Commissioner Jackie Selebi, his (ex?) friend “finish and klaar”.
This will allow government to show some righteous moral indignation that Pikoli was consorting with an accused murderer to go after a government official. I predict lots of statements talking about how justice in the Kebble case was being subverted for other aims and how Agliotti is not to be trusted. Any deals that were in the works will be quietly scuppered and Agliotti will receive the full weight of the law and be shuffled off to C-Max never to be heard from again.
The Regulation of Interception of Communications and Provision of Communication-related Information Amendment Bill (RICA) was passed by the National Assembly yesterday. We’ve spoken about this law before. It is quite simply one of the worst pieces of legislation ever passed by government.
It’s intended purpose is to fight crime by registering every cellphone SIM card in use in the country. That’s at least 30 million cellphones of which I would bet 70% are pre-paid users although I would not be surprised if that percentage is higher. And it needs to be done within a year, which is close to impossible.
Any criminal with two brain cells to rub together will be able to circumvent this law in about 5 minutes. All it takes is a street person with a valid ID book and a bottle of cheap brandy. That of course assumes that said criminal does not have a fake ID in the first place. Meanwhile every other citizen in this country will have to register their phone or risk being cut off.
The terrible thing about this law is that millions of the poor and disadvantaged in South Africa rely on cellular telephones as their primary telecommunications means mainly due to Telkom refusing to service low income and rural areas, in contravention of their licensing agreement (but that’s a whole other story). If they are cut off it just makes their lives increasingly difficult. Who is going to employ you when you don’t have a reliable means of contact?
What’s really going to make the enforcement of this law really fun is that tourists and foreigners will have to register SIM cards in phones they bring into the country and because we use a GSM network a large chunk of European tourists bring their own phones when they visit. What’s better than standing in a half hour line at customs? Why standing in another 30 minute line to register your phone straight afterwards. With the volumes of people expected in 2010 for the World Cup there are going to be some flaring tempers at OR Tambo International Airport.
This law really is stupid and I have a hard time believing it will have any affect on crime. Actually scratch that, I know it will not have any effect.
Thanks to certain government departments being asleep at the wheel the electricity supply in South Africa is on some rather shaky ground till 2011 at the least. Now it seems government may be doing the same again with an even more important resource – water.
The primary policy guiding South Africa’s economic development, Asgisa [the Accelerated Shared Growth Initiative for South Africa], makes no mention of this key restraint to growth, or the need to carefully manage our rainfall catchments and improve the water-use efficiency of industry and agriculture
South Africa is a water scarce country with a long and regular history of drought occurrence (we’re going through one right now), let’s not wake up in 2025, the projected year that demand will outstrip supply with another minister making excuses that they never saw this coming.
Readers of this blog will be familiar with our constant harping on the dire situation of telecommunications in South Africa. After Telkom was semi-privatised and a chunk sold to a consortium including US telco SBC Communications (now AT&T, whose name it took when it acquired it). Telkom was given a 5 year monopoly (which has become a defacto 14 year monopoly at the very least) in exchange for providing telecommunications service to under serviced areas, which they never did.
After Telkom’s legislated 5 year monopoly was up SBC sold their stock for a massive profit, packed their bags and South Africa has been struggling with a complete messed up telecoms industry ever snice.
And that’s probably because the Telecommunications Act which set up our current environment was written with the help of SBC to ensure they made profit before they did the ol’ cut and run.
In an interview with the authors last year, Myers explained that when it became clear that SBC would secure the Telkom stake, “the company temporarily transferred its entire San Antonio [Texas] corporate office legislative team to South Africa to help draft the Telecommunications Act, to make sure the legislation comported with the company’s requirements”.
Myers told Horwitz and Currie that SBC’s strategy was very clear: “Maximise the value of Thintana’s investment during Telkom’s five-year exclusivity period and then exit quickly.”
I can’t help but think the ANC got taken for a complete ride by SBC (and probably then decided to get in on the act when Andile Ngcaba and his Elephant Consortium saw the massive profits Telkom was making) and our lethargic Communication Dept and toothless regulator ICASA have been unable, or unwilling, to do anything about it.
Sometimes even the golden boy of SA politics, Trevor Manuel, is so bound by the rules of obedience to the party that he’s forced to utter some non-sensical mutterings every now and then (we hope). Take his recent statements in parliament over that constant thorn in the government’s side, our northern neighbour Zimbabwe:
“We must encourage Zimbabweans to solve their own problems. That is the most we can do because the decisions have to be carried by Zimbabweans into perpetuity,” Manuel said in a heated exchange in parliament.
“For those who don’t understand, I ask that President Bush recruit them and send them to Iraq,” a visibly angry Manuel said amid heckling from opposition lawmakers.
“Then they will understand what regime change is about.”
Sure the Zimbabweans have to make the change themselves but it’s a bit hard to do so when you’re starving and the army and police seem to be getting all the food. Also the quiet diplomacy tactic is a bit strange when you consider the considerable international support the ANC raised against the Nationalist Apartheid regime.
Manuel – one of Africa’s most experienced and respected finance ministers – said that South Africa would not squander South African taxpayers’ money by bailing out the ailing Zimbabwe economy.
“We can not… decide what kind of economy the Zimbabweans must have. They must get the prices to work, they must drive the changes. We can’t commit financial resources …”
Well if we’re not going to be spending taxpayer money on Zimbabwe I assume we’ll be cutting those Eskom powerlines into Zimbabwe pretty soon? Also I would think my taxes which are spent on social services for the 4000 to 5000 Zimbabweans who jump the border every day might be better spent on SA citizens first.
And then Foreign Minister Nkosasana Dlamini-Zuma will keep digging:
South Africa has blamed Britain for the deepening crisis in Zimbabwe by accusing the United Kingdom of leading a campaign to “strangle” the beleaguered African state’s economy and saying it has a “death wish” against a negotiated settlement that might leave Robert Mugabe’s Zanu-PF in power.
According to a South African government document circulating among diplomats ahead of a Southern African Development Community (SADC) summit this week, President Thabo Mbeki will paint an optimistic picture of his efforts to broker an agreement between Mugabe and the Zimbabwean opposition.
“South Africa is a signatory to many UN conventions. We cannot impose a refugee status on people who do not want to be refugees. We will be doing that if we set up a refugee camp… and that will be against the UN regulation,” Home Affairs Minister Nosiviwe Mapisa-Nquakula said in a televised interview.
She described most Zimbabweans who illegally enter the country as “economic migrants” who had no intention of settling but wanted only to buy food.
And pray tell how many ‘asylum seekers’ have applied for visas to SA at our embassy in Harare? Of course why apply at all when the border is wide open anyway.
The firing of Deputy Health Minister Nozizwe Madlala-Routledge will be remembered as another short-sighted blunder by the Mbeki administration. The pretext for the firing was Madlala-Routledge’s unauthorised trip to an AIDS conference in Spain. Her party left OR Tambo international airport under the (false) assumption that the President’s Office had authorised the trip and when they arrived in Spain and found this was not the case, they headed straight back home. The entire affair cost R161 000.
That’s the pretext. Everyone with two brain cells to rub together knows that she was fired because of the statements she made about government’s AIDS policy while she was acting minister during Health Minister Manto Tshabalal-Msimang’s long illness (and subsequent liver transplant). Let’s just say her views on AIDS treatment (using anti-retrovirals and medical research) clashed with Mbeki and Msimang’s (garlic, beetroot and whatever Thabo found on the internet the previous night).
This is all indicative of the level of paranoia and control that rules Mbeki’s administration. Why does a deputy minister have to get permission from the president’s office to travel overseas officially? And why are other cabinet ministers who have cost South Africa untold billions of Rands in bungled policy and administration allowed to continue in their posts?
Thanks to some shoddy planning SA is facing an electricity crunch for the next few years. Let’s not have the same thing happen with our water supply. According to that article around one third of our 1000 treatment plants are in need of urgent repair and maintenance to avoid an all out crisis.
Director-General of the Department of Water Affairs and Forestry, Jabu Sindane found these statistics “disturbing”.
Now I’m not sure what exactly is required to make sure that a country can function properly, but I’m pretty sure “A reliable source of water” is in the top five. I don’t think there’s a segment of SA that doesn’t rely on it somehow. So to have the man who is in charge of the running of the department that oversees our water say he only finds it disturbing now when two thirds of treatment plants require maintenance and half of them are understaffed is a bit… disturbing.
Barely two days back on the job Minister of Health makes another puzzling comment:
Tshabalala-Msimang faulted private hospitals for spending R66bn on treating only 7-million people while the state had only R59bn for the treatment of more than 30-million.
I’m not sure if Manto was misquoted, I hope she was. The fact of the matter is that private hospitals didn’t spend R66 billion on 7 million patients, those 7 million patients spent R66 billion on themselves. That government spends only R59 billion on 30 million patients (roughly R2000 per patient per year) is more of an embarrassment for Manto than for the private sector.
I just hope the plan is to raise the amount spent on public health care, not decrease the amount spent in the private sector and then pretend that the two are equal.