Mbalula hands over Sigidi, Makwantini access roads

Mbalula hands over Sigidi, Makwantini access roads

Transport Minister Fikile Mbalula has urged the leaders and people of Pondoland and the Eastern Cape to support Sanral’s multi-billion rand N2 Wild Coast Road Project.

He was speaking at the handover ceremony of the recently completed rural access roads to the communities of Sigidi and Makwantini in the Alfred Nzo Municipality.

“The N2 Wild Coast Road Project is the economic artery that is going to bring the Eastern Cape alive,” the Minister says.

He adds that it is a strategic project that will provide a national route to improves access to the east coast region of South Africa while reducing road-user costs and optimising safety, comfort and socio-economic benefits.

The Minister says more than 6 000 jobs are expected to be created during the project.

“Development must be community driven – that is why we are involving women and youth from local communities in the building,” Mbalula told community members.

The community of Xolobeni meanwhile surprised some people after gathering in Sigidi to welcome the Minister.

The residents have been at loggerheads with the Department of Mineral Resources over the issuing of mining rights to an Australian company without the community’s consent.

Their peaceful gathering was, however, marred by a heavy police presence, which some South Africans have slated.

Environmentalists mourn death of a colleague, call for justice

Environmentalists mourn death of a colleague, call for justice

Shock, anger and fear have followed the killing of Mfolozi environmental activist, Fikile Ntshangase.

Ntshangase was gunned down in front of her 11-year-old grandson on Thursday night in her home at Ophondweni, near Mtubatuba.

Initial reports say four men forced their way into the home and shot her five times. She passed away on the scene. 

Environmental rights groups say they are devastated by the murder and are calling on the police to act swiftly and bring her murderers to account.

“We mourn the senseless tragedy of Mama Ntshangase’s murder, and condemn her killing.”  

Ntshangashe was the Vice-Chairperson of a sub-committee of the Mfolozi Community Environmental Justice Organisation (MCEJO). MCEJO has been challenging the further expansion of a large coal mine at Somkhele in KwaZulu-Natal by Tendele Coal Mining (Pty) Ltd. 

One of the court cases brought by MCEJO is scheduled for hearing in the Supreme Court of Appeal on 3 November. Environmental rights activists say tensions have been simmering over the matter in the area for months now.   

Tendele was allegedly pushing for MCEJO to withdraw its court challenges against the planned expansion. Ntshangase refused to sign the agreement, which some of her fellow colleagues signed.

 “I refused to sign. I cannot sell out my people. And if need be, I will die for my people,” a defiant Ntshangase said.     

She warned sub-committee members that they had no power to make decisions on behalf of MJECO and that the agreement only benefited Tendele. She is said to have also refused to attend any of the secret meetings that other sub-committee members held with Tendele. 

“Days before her brutal killing, Mama Ntshangase stated her intention to write an affidavit, revealing that sub-committee members had spoken to her of a payment of R350 000 in return for her signature,” says a joint statement of rights organisations, including the Mfolozi Community Environmental Justice Organisation; Global Environmental Trust, Women Against Mining United in Action and the Mining Affected Communities United In action. 

The environmental rights activists add that: “The court challenge that placed a price on Mama Ntshangase’s life is MJECO’s pending review application of Tendele’s new mining right in respect of a 222km2 area in Mpukunyoni, KZN. This review is due to be heard by the North Gauteng High Court in March 2021.”  

Tendele has allegedly publicly described MCEJO’s legal challenge against its expansion as a threat to the mine’s continued existence. The firm’s plan requires the relocation of 21 families (19 of them MJECO members) from their ancestral land. It is alleged to have also tried forcing their hand through intimidation and death threats.

“On 15 October, two sub-committee members, accompanied by two known hitmen, tried to disrupt a MCEJO executive committee meeting with community leaders, which included Mama Ntshangase. One sub-committee member tried to lock the doors, and a prominent leader was assaulted. A criminal case is being opened. This leader, who works in another area, has been warned that his life will be in danger if he is seen in the vicinity,” they say.

Environmental activists also accuse Tendele of trying to get the State, the Ingonyama Trust Board, traditional leaders and fellow community members to pressure affected families into signing relocation agreements.  They say the mine appears to have the support of the provincial government.

“In July, the Department of Community Safety and Liaison sent a staff member, apparently from its Civilian Secretariat arm (which is conspicuous in its absence whenever the threat of violence looms), to persuade community members to negotiate with the mine.,” the organisations allege.

The activists say Tendele’s coal mining operations have caused untold destruction of the environment and the homes and livelihoods of the residents of Somkhele. 

Local Voices is chasing comment from Tendele and the KwaZulu-Natal government.

Masuku files court papers, challenging SIU report

Masuku files court papers, challenging SIU report

Former Gauteng Health MEC Dr Bandile Masuku has filed legal papers in the High Court in Pretoria.

He is seeking an urgent hearing over a Special Investigating Unit’s report that led to his sacking.

The former MEC wants the report declared unlawful and unconstitutional.

He was fired this month after he was found to have failed to execute his executive duties in the procurement of Personal Protective Equipment (PPE) for Gauteng Health.

A R124 million tender awarded to the Masukus’ family friend, Madzikane II Thandisizwe Diko, is among the controversies that sparked the battle. Diko is also the husband of Presidential Spokesperson, Khusela Diko.

While the preliminary report had not found Masuku to have exerted his influence in the matter – investigations are still ongoing and Gauteng Premier David Makhura has promised to reinstate the former MEC should he be proven innocent.

However, Masuku is having none of this and wants his name cleared urgently. He says he has been co-operating with the investigations – both at a party and government level; took a firm stance against corruption and ordered a probe into alleged PPE procurement irregularities back in April.

Presidential Spokesperson Khusela Diko is meanwhile on leave while investigations continue.

The Gauteng ANC Provincial Executive Committee (PEC) has ordered that both Masuku and Diko face a disciplinary process.

It has also suspended them from party activities pending the outcome of the disciplinary process.

Msinga school principal gunned down in front of learners

Msinga school principal gunned down in front of learners

The KwaZulu-Natal Department of Education has condemned the shooting of the principal of Somashi High School in Msinga, uMzinyathi District.

The school principal was allegedly gunned down in his office on Friday, in full view of learners and educators.

Those suspected of involvement have been arrested.

“As the KZN Education Department, we strongly condemn this barbaric act as school principals are regarded as mentors and guardians to learners. We maintain a tough stance towards any form of violent crime in our education system,”  says MEC Kwazi Mshengu.

He is hopeful that justice will prevail.  

“A delegation of senior departmental officials have already been dispatched to the school to gather more information and provide the necessary support. ” 

The principal’s killing isn’t the first at the school. In 2010, a teacher was gunned down in front of his living quarters within the school premises. That incident had come weeks after a principal was stoned to death at Muden, also in Umsinga.

Masuku, Diko to face ANC Gauteng DC

Masuku, Diko to face ANC Gauteng DC

The ANC Gauteng Provincial Executive Committee (PEC) wants former Gauteng Health MEC Dr Bandile Masuku and Presidential Spokesperson Khusela Diko disciplined.

“The PEC further decided that comrade Bandile and comrade Khusela should step aside from organisational activities pending the finalisation of the DC process,” the party’s provincial treasurer Parks Tau told the media on Thursday.

The pair has also been suspended from taking part in organisational matters until the disciplinary process is wrapped up.

Masuku, his wife Loyiso who works for the Mayor’s office in the City of Johannesburg and Diko are embroiled in an alleged Personal Protective Equipment procurement scandal.

It relates to the R124 million PPE contract Diko’s husband secured at Gauteng Health, while Masuku was still the MEC. The couples are close friends and have denied collusion.

Diko has taken a leave of absence until investigations into the matter a completed.

Masuku was recently sacked as Gauteng MEC after the Special Investigating Unit’s preliminary report on the scandal found him guilty of failing to execute his functions – thus violating the Constitution and the Public Finance Management Act (PFMA).

Masuku is challenging those findings. Despite this, however, his Gauteng comrades want him replaced urgently.

The ANC Gauteng PEC has urged Premier David Makhura to find a replacement for the former MEC and stabilise the provincial health department that has been rocked by high profile resignations recently amid the PPE corruption allegations.

Masuku’s wife has meanwhile been given the greenlight to return to work. The PEC says it has found allegations against her to be unsubstantiated.

Thursday’s Gauteng ANC PEC’s briefing followed a two-day special virtual meeting, which took place on Tuesday and Wednesday.

Another matter that dominated talks at the meeting, was the VBS scandal.

The PEC’s Deputy Secretary-General, Nomantu Nkomo-Ralehoko, said the PEC will pronounce its decision on the matter once an appeal that is before the party’s National Executive Committee (NEC) is complete.

Chairperson of Parliament Communications Portfolio Committee, Boyce Maneli, and Merafong Mayor Maphefo Letsie-Mogale have lodged the appeal with the NEC.

They are contesting the PEC’s resolve that they resign over their alleged failure to act against officials involved in the VBS saga.

Bheki Mlangeni Hospital CEO placed on ‘precautionary transfer’

Bheki Mlangeni Hospital CEO placed on ‘precautionary transfer’

Controversial Bheki Mlangeni District Hospital CEO, Ruth Mabyana, has been transferred.

She has been moved to the district office in what the Gauteng Health Department says is a precautionary measure.

“The CEO is allegedly implicated in a case of misconduct. The issues surrounding the case must still be verified and a determination will be made accordingly.”

Makabedi Makhetha will be acting in Mabyana’s position.

“There is a need to urgently resolve the broader challenges at Bheki Mlangeni Hospital and restore the confidence of the community in the facility’s capacity to continue providing much needed healthcare services,” says  acting Gauteng Heath MEC, Jacob Mamabolo.

Patient safety concerns were also raised at the health facility this week following rape allegations.

A patient is alleged to have sexually violated another healthcare user at the hospital last Friday.

The MEC says a probe into that matter continues.

“The department will appoint an independent investigator to help finalise the matter following an internal preliminary report. The matter has also been referred to the South African Police Services (SAPS) to investigate.”

The DA’s Jack Bloom has welcomed Mabyana’s transfer, saying she shouldn’t return to the hospital.

Earlier this month, Soweto residents and members of the Independent Liberation and Allied Workers’ Union also took to the streets, calling for the removal of the health facility’s management. Corruption was among the accusations the residents levelled against the hospital’s leadership.

Ex Gauteng Health senior officials facing graft charges out on bail

Ex Gauteng Health senior officials facing graft charges out on bail

Four former senior government officials in the Gauteng Department of Health (GDoH) and two businessmen were granted bail by the Specialised Commercial Crime  Court in Palm Ridge on Thursday

Sybil Ngcobo, former head of department and accounting officer for the (GDoH); Mmakgosi Mosupi, former Chief Director of Information and Communications Technology; Valdis Romaano, former Director of Supply Chain Management; and Obakeng Mookeletsi, Deputy Director General, Executive Support Program Manager, appeared on charges of corruption and contravention of Public Finance Management Act.

Ngcobo is out on R8 000 bail, Mosupi, Ramaano  and Mooleletsi R25 000.

John Richard Payne and Phil Austin, and their respective companies, Ukwakha Dezign (Pty) Ltd and Life Channel Communications (Pty) Ltd, were also expected to appear alongside the four. Their warrants of arrest could not be executed as they are out of the country.

The matter relates to a 2008 tender for the provision of HIS and e – HR systems. Subject to confirmation of the funding by the Gauteng Treasury, the tender was awarded to the Baoki Consortium, which consisted of AME Africa (Pty) Ltd, Health System Technology (Pty) Ltd, AMETHST (Pty) Ltd and Equiton Investments (Pty) Ltd. 

The estimated cost for the new HIS and e-HR systems was R630 million. However, the final total value of the tender awarded to Baoki Consortium was R1 045 174 125.12.

A company called 3P Consulting (Pty) Ltd (3P) was appointed by the GDoH to manage various contracts on its behalf. A Service Level Agreement (SLA) was signed on 28 March 2008 between the GDoH and the Baoki Consortium. 

The state alleges that on 23 May 2008, Mosupi and Mr Mookeletsi, together with representatives of the Baoki Consortium (AME, HST Technology and Equiton), signed a change order to allow Baoki Consortium, through AME, to procure the services for the provision of power (generators), furniture, network, computer literacy training and catering.

The value of the change order was R13 369 693.

“The services that were procured by Baoki Consortium as a result of the May 2008 change order were not services related to the original tender listed in the RFP. The change order was supposed to be a separate tender or to be procured internally by the GDoH on a tender basis. The supplier for the furniture as stated in the change order above was Ukwakha Design (Pty) Ltd (Ukwakha).  This company was owned by Payne. This meant that the Baoki Consortium contract was managed by 3P, with Payne as one its directors. In turn, the sub-contracting company which supplied furniture, Ukwakha, was owned by Payne.
The negotiations for the HIS and e-HR rollout agreement for the GDoH was handled by 3P on its behalf.  The rollout agreement needed a signature from the Gauteng MEC for Finance to be an effective agreement which can legally bind the Gauteng Provincial Government (GPG) for future financial commitments.”

Despite the need for the rollout agreement to be compliant with the PFMA, 3P and the health department allegedly failed to acquire the written authorisation from the Gauteng Provincial Treasury (GPT).

On the 27th of October 2008, the GDoH was warned in writing that it could not procure the services of the Baoki Consortium due to lack of funding thus future financial commitments would be in contravention of the PFMA and would not bind the Provincial Revenue Fund. 

Despite the above warnings, Ngcobo and her two senior officials, Mosupi and Ramaano, allegedly signed the SLA on 03 November 2008.

After the signing of the rollout agreement, on 26 November 2008, Mosupi submitted a change order for the provision of Gauteng Wide Satellite Based WAN. There was subsequently a change order proposing to add services for the provision of a Gauteng Province Wide Area Network (WAN). The submission was recommended by Mookeletsi, on the 27th of November 2008. The RFP for the HIS and e-HR did not include the service of network connectivity as one of the services to be supplied or rendered.

In a motivation which was submitted by Mosupi, the National Prosecuting Authority (NPA) says it was recommended that the contract be awarded to TLC Africa VSAT Solution (TLC Africa).

A change order was signed on 16 January 2009 allowing Baoki to provide the service. On 12 February 2009, an SLA was then entered into and signed between Life Channel and AMETHST (a Baoki Consortium member). The contract value for the VSAT solution was R203 936 304.79. 

No competitive bids were invited by the accounting authority although the value was above R500 000.

The agreement with the Baoki Consortium was cancelled during 2009. It is alleged that Life Channel, through its director, Austin, paid for Mosupi’s family to visit London and that the trip was facilitated through 3P. 

AMETHST, member of the Baoki Consortium, is also accused of making several large deposits into a bank account in the name of Mookeletsi, totaling R300 000. Payne and Ukwakha Dezign are said to have covered the cost for the refurbishment of Romaano’s house to the value of R952 358.

The Hawks’ investigation follows that of the Special Investigating Unit in 2010.

Former SIU head, Willie Hofmeyer, has hailed the developments.

In a FaceBook post, he has said: “Well done to the Investigating Directorate!!! At last, action on the biggest Asset Forfeiture case done at the time (2010). Working with SIU and the National Treasury, we recovered about R1.4 billion that was being siphoned off by senior ANC members in Gauteng. Unfortunately I still do not know why the NPA in Gauteng did not prosecute the case. I hope the NPA will hold someone accountable for this. We tried to resuscitate it while Nxasana (Mxolisi) was head of the NPA, but he was removed before anything could happen.”

He adds that:” After that state capture go into full swing and nothing appeared to have been done to prosecute the case until now. Lots of strenght to the NPA team.”

The case has been postponed to 3 December.

Magistrate in Horne murder case urges state to expedite investigations

Magistrate in Horne murder case urges state to expedite investigations

Skekwetje Mahlamba has been remanded in custody while his co-accused in the Horne murder is out on bail.

The duo appeared before the Senekal Magistrate’s Court on Thursday.

Sekola Matlaletsa has been granted R5 000 bail.

After reading an alibi witness’ submission before court, Magistrate  Deon van Rooyen said: “Other than what is currently on the police docket at this juncture, there is no evidence that links applicant number two to the commission of the crimes he is charged with. The results of the DNA swaps that were taken from the inside and the outside of the bakkie of the deceased, are inconclusive in as far as it relates to him.”

Magistrate van Rooyen believes it is in the interest of justice to release Matlaletsa.

He says he is not a flight risk nor will he interfere with witnesses.

Matlaletsa will have to report to a local police station on Mondays, Wednesdays and Fridays.

Magistrate van Rooyen believes Mahlamba has “some explanation to do on why he left home in the middle of the night and returned the next morning.”

The fact that his girlfriend is a key witness in the matter and that he lied about his presence in the shack where a bloodied pair of pants were found by investigators are other factors for Mahlamba’s bail denial.

The Magistrate has urged the state to expedite the matter. He also appealed to the Police Minister Bheki Cele to use his influence of his office to ensure that the case is finalised timeously and the accused’s right to a speedy trial is realised.

The case will return to court on the 1st of December.

Matlaletsa and Mahlamba are accused of killing Brendin Horne on October 1.

His body was found the next day at a farm by his father and a colleague.

Horne’s death sparked racial tensions in the small Free State town.

The first appearance of the accused was marked with violence.

Attacks weary farmers and community members stormed the court building and torching a police van, among other things.

Two men are being prosecuted for that incident.

First Eastern Cape COVID-19 fraud case in court

First Eastern Cape COVID-19 fraud case in court

The Hawks have made the unit’s first Eastern Cape arrest regarding the misappropriation of COVID-19 funds.

Pumza Gambula (49) appeared before the Mthatha Magistrate’s Court early on Thursday on two fraud charges, amounting to R4.8 million.

The OR Tambo District Municipality contracted Gambula’s company, Phathilizwi Training Institute, to conduct COVID-19 door-to-door community awareness workshops.

While the company did visit residents of Mhlontlo and Port St John’s Local Municipalities, they allegedly never conducted the workshops that they have submitted invoices for. They instead allegedly asked community members to write down their names for COVID-19 social grants.

The prosecuting team says attendance registers attached to the invoices as proof of services rendered contained names of people who were not staying in some of the wards that were visited by the accused as part of their “door-to-door awareness campaign.

These documents were widely circulated on social media and sparked a public outcry. 

Gambula was never paid for the  R3 036 000 and R1 821 600 invoices she submitted between March and June. However, the state says the municipality stood to suffer a potential prejudice by means of the said false pretenses.

Gambula has been granted R20 000 bail and is due back in court next week Friday.

The court has ordered her to hand over her passport to the investigating officer and report to Madeira Police Station twice a week until the trial is finalised.

Government slams torching of four North West schools

Government slams torching of four North West schools

The Department of Basic Education has condemned the torching of four schools in Moruleng, north of Rustenburg, in the North West.

The incidents occurred last Thursday night.

“The Department of Basic Education condemns this callous act of vandalism and appeals to the community to help the police with information that can lead to the arrest of the criminals. Schools are community assets. We must protect them,” the DBE’s Elijah Mhlanga says.

  Five classrooms and the administration office were some of the properties that caught fire at Manamakgotha Secondary.

“At Raphurele Secondary in Welgevaal village attempt was made to burn classrooms, in Moruleng, two classrooms’ doors were partially burnt and at Dikwepi Primary School two classrooms were completely torched while one was partly burnt,” the North West Education Department says in a statement.

The incidents come as schools across the country gear up for the 2020 final exams, which begin on the 5th of November.

A probe into the matter continues and no arrests have yet been made.

The education department says it is evaluating the cost of the damage.

School vandalism in South Africa is an ongoing problem.

In April, the Department of Basic Education revealed that 397 learning centres had been vandalised in the country since the COVID-19 lockdown started on March 27.