|Views from the News|
Commission ‘hard at work’ preparing for arms deal inquiry
21 February 2012
Natasha Marrian & Wyndham Hartley
THE arms deal commission of inquiry, formed to lay to rest allegations of corruption against the government, is still "setting up the infrastructure" for the work ahead, four months after its formation was announced in October.
President Jacob Zuma announced the probe into the multibillion-rand strategic defence procurement packages, or arms deal, in time to ward off a Constitutional Court challenge by activist Terry Crawford-Browne to compel him to do so.
But several months later, Mr Crawford-Browne said there has been little word on what, if any, work had been done. "Time is getting on. Are they actually serious, or are they attempting to bury it?" he said.
Mr Crawford-Browne formally withdrew his Constitutional Court bid to compel Mr Zuma to institute an independent inquiry into the arms deal, following the president’s announcement of the formation of the commission.
Mr Crawford-Browne’s advocate, Paul Hoffman, wrote to a dvocate Vas Soni, one of the lawyers tasked with leading and assessing evidence, to ask about progress.
Mr Hoffman also wrote an open letter to Mr Soni late last year. Mr Soni responded in November, saying a number of "administrative matters" were being ironed out.
After further inquiries last week, Mr Hoffman was told his open letter had been forwarded to the commission headed by Judge Willie Seriti for a response.
Commission secretary Mvuseni Ngubane, a former member of the Judicial Service Commission, said the body’s "work is in progress".
"We are in the process of setting up infrastructure. The hearings have not begun but the work is in progress. There will be an announcement soon, very soon."
Justice Minister Jeff Radebe , responding to a question at a media briefing on Sunday about the delay in getting the commission up and running, said the inquiry would be proceeding soon.
He said the judges and commissioners were in place and infrastructure such as a venue for the commission sittings had been secured. "They are all hard at work in this, the preparation phase," he said.
Steven Friedman, the director for the Centre for the Study of Democracy, said the commission was given two years in which to do its work, and it was premature to conclude it was approaching its task lightly, or that its formation was politically motivated. However, in the interests of public accountability, the commission ought to be more vocal on its progress.
"If they say work is in progress, what work is in progress? Let’s be more specific," he said.
The arms deal was surrounded by allegations of corruption, fraud and irregularities, with speculation rife over the involvement of several senior government officials, ministers and former president Thabo Mbeki . Corruption charges were dropped against Mr Zuma relating to the deal.
The commission, which will sit in Johannesburg at an estimated cost of R40m, must determine the rationale for the strategic defence procurement packages; whether the acquired arms and equipment are being used; whether the anticipated job opportunities materialised; whether any person(s) within and outside the government improperly influenced the awarding or conclusion of any contracts; and whether there should be legal proceedings against such person(s), or any basis to pursue the recovery of losses to the state.
Small claims court to benefit the vulnerable communities in Dipaleseng
The New Age
21 February 2012
Since its inception the legal institution has heard 16 cases, some of which related to money lending, burial society funds and lack of payment for services rendered.
The court’s services are easily accessible because the service of an attorney is not required – only the complainant and accused are entitled to debate during the hearing.
Those under the age of 18 are compelled to be accompanied by their parents or guardians to access the court.
The small claims court sits only on Thursdays and is facilitated by two attorneys who act as commissioners.
According to Nel, the court was proclaimed in June 2011 to serve the residents of the Dipaleseng local municipality, which consists of areas like Balfour, Grootvlei, Greylingstad as well as 21 farms in the municipality.
The official opening was also graced by the provincial regional court president Annette Engelbrecht, chief magistrate David Ngobeni, court operations director Nomkhosi Shenge and Gert Sibande district municipality’s executive mayor, Khotso Motloung.
Nel said the official unveiling of the legal institution brought the number of small claims court to 38 in the province, and 224 countrywide.
He also said the court was officially dedicated to the late freedom fighter Gert Sibande, the struggle hero who was famous for the 1959 Bethal potato boycott.
“The absence of the small claims court in this disadvantaged area, especially on the farms, used to deny the residents access to justice. The unveiling is part of the department’s mandate to respond to the services and needs of the people.
“The unveiling is officially dedicated to the tireless freedom fighter Gert Sibande, who also fought against the violation of farm workers,” said Nel.
Nel said the legal services were accessible once a week without legal aid.
“The services of the court are reachable because no representation by an attorney is required. The two parties involved are entitled to argue the case in front of an attorney acting as a commissioner.
“We will continue to open more small claims courts in rural areas to bring justice services closer to the people.”
Nel also said areas like Carolina, Mdutjana, KwaMhlanga and Mbibane do not have small claims courts and the department was working hard to extend service to such areas.
He also urged young people to consider legal careers.
Nel disclosed that the building of provincial high court was under way.
Gert Sibande mayor Motloung welcomed the opening of the small claims court in his district.
“The district municipality is happy about the court’s establishment because access to law should not be limiting.
“The poor also deserve to have justice in our courts,” said Motloung.
The regional court president, Annette Engelbrect, said: “The judiciary worked collectively with other stakeholders to make sure the court’s services become a reality for vulnerable. We are satisfied with the work done to make this a reality.”
• Balfour is the seat of Dipaleseng, one of seven local municipalities that make up Gert Sibande district.
Jub Jub blames his co-accused
21 February 2012
Musician Molemo “Jub Jub” Maarohanye has blamed his co-accused, Themba Tshabalala, for the deaths of four Soweto schoolchildren.
Prosecutor Raymond Mathenjwa put Maarohanye to the sword with some tough cross-examination on Monday when the trial resumed in the Protea Magistrate’s Court for what he said were contradictions in his testimony.
“Is it your evidence that accused two (Tshabalala) is the cause of the accident and the (children’s) mortality?” asked Mathenjwa.
The question seemed to jolt Maarohanye. After pausing for almost a minute and giving a sigh, he replied: “I would say yes.”
His response was met with murmurs and jeers, especially from the parents and relatives of his alleged victims.
Mathenjwa then asked Maarohanye how it came about that traces of the same drugs – including cocaine, morphine and codeine – had been found in his and Tshabalala’s blood samples.
“So you are telling this court that (Tshabalala), in his peril, also took the medication?” Mathenjwa asked.
“It’s highly likely that our urine (samples) were tampered with,” Maarohanye said.
Mathenjwa was less impressed.
“How do you explain that? When did this tampering happen? And who do you suspect and why?”
Maarohanye stood stony-faced and did not respond.
The gallery again broke into murmurs when Maarohanye, asked how cocaine was used, gave a frank response. He said it was injected through syringes and sniffed through the nose.
“It’s also smoked through a pipe,” he said.
“A lot of people in the (music) industry do take (cocaine),” said Maarohanye.
He had told the court earlier that Tshabalala had offered him whisky moments before their ill-fated trip. The offer was declined.
Mathenjwa then explored the contentious issue of which of the two Mini Coopers had been travelling in the right lane before crashing into a group of schoolchildren.
The State contends that Maarohanye’s charcoal-black Mini Cooper was the one that had been travelling on the right.
“Your track marks were on the right and were crossing over (the lane). Your car was on the right-hand side of the blue car (Tshabalala’s),” asserted Mathenjwa.
Maarohanye denied this. He also maintained his assertion that he had not been drag-racing, blaming the media for this allegation.
“The whole racing thing was a fabrication by the media,” he said.
Maarohanye and Tshabalala face charges of murder, attempted murder and driving under the influence of alcohol and drugs.
The trial continues.
Murder suspects arrested
The New Age
21 February 2012
A 30-year old murder suspect, who is also linked to several cases of robberies in Tshepisong and Kagiso was arrested after a shootout with the police on Monday.
It is alleged that members of the West Rand Flying squad and Kagiso Crime Intelligence were following up on information about the suspect who was in possession of an unlicensed firearm.
Gauteng police spokesperson, Lt-Col Katlego Mogale, said upon arrival the police knocked on his door and identified themselves.
The suspect responded by firing shots at them.
“Police returned fire and the suspect was injured. The police searched the house and confiscated two unlicensed firearms, a 9mm norinco pistol and a .38 special revolver, which are believed to have been used during the robberies,” Mogale said.
The suspect, who was on parole after serving time for murder, was taken to a nearby hospital in a serious but stable condition and is under police guard.
He will appear in court on a charge of possession of unlicensed firearms and ammunition.
Priest killed for computer, phone, R50
February 21 2012
A Diepsloot man told the Pretoria High Court on Monday how he was woken up by a shot in the early hours of the morning and found French priest Father Louis Blondel in a pool of blood in the bedroom of his parish.
Samuel Thobane, who lived at the parish at the time, took the stand in the trial of four youngsters accused of breaking into the church premises in December 2009. During the incident, the elderly Blondel was shot dead at point-blank range and Father Guido Bourgeois was attacked. Both priests were in their seventies.
The man who confessed to pulling the trigger, Nelson Malope, 19, earlier pleaded guilty to the murder and he was sentenced to an effective 18-year sentence.
His four co-accused appeared in court on Monday after they denied any wrongdoing. Jabu Ndebele, Freddy Mahlangu, Thembalethu Sindane and Kgaugelo Manzini pleaded not guilty to an array of charges, including murder and robbery. Two of the accused were 17 at the time the priest was killed, while the other two were 20.
Thobane, who stayed in a room in the parish, testified that he woke up to the sound of a gunshot. He jumped up and heard Bourgeois shouting. Thobane said he saw three men running away from the church and he walked towards the kitchen, where Bourgeois had locked himself in.
“On the way I noticed blood on the tiles… I went to the room of Father Blondel and I found him in a pool of blood behind the door.”
Thobane said they phoned the police. He could not identify any of the culprits as he only saw the back of their heads as they ran away.
Various items were taken from the parish, including a computer, a cellphone and R50 in cash.
A Diepsloot woman, Yoliswa Yeyani, testified that she was doing her washing at home when a man, whom she identified in court as Sindane, came to her and offered her a cellphone for sale at R100.
She said she did not ask him where he got the phone from, but she in any event bought it. The police arrived at her home a few days later and took the phone.
Sindane, through his lawyer, claimed that he sold the cellphone on behalf of one of his friends and that he received a commission for it.
Malope testified earlier that he and his friends broke into the parish that night as they wanted to steal a computer. He said he found Bourgeois in the bedroom and he told the sleepy priest that he needed a computer.
They went to the room where the priest said they would find the computer, but when they looked up, they saw Blondel standing in the door.
“I pointed my firearm at him and he walked towards me. I fired a shot. We took the computer and left,” he said.
Blondel, the court heard earlier, had spent 22 years of his life trying to uplift the poor. At the time of his death, he was establishing a programme to teach youngsters skills so they could get jobs. The programme never got off the ground after his death.
Soweto teen murder: cop may get life
February 21 2012
The student policeman arrested over the death of 16-year-old Thato Mokoka could face life imprisonment if it was found that his shooting of the Soweto teenager was premeditated.
If Sipho Mbatha is found guilty only on the charge of murder, he could face a minimum of 15 years in prison.
It was Mbatha’s first court appearance at the Roodepoort Regional Court, but magistrate Delize Smith did not mince her words in issuing the warning to Mbatha. She told him she was not saying he was guilty, but that she needed to explain the possibility to him.
Later, she granted the State’s application to postpone the bail application until February 27 so that an identity parade could be held.
Mbatha was arrested on Friday, three days after Mokoka was shot dead outside the shack that he lived in at his granny’s Bramfischerville Phase Two home.
Mbatha was allegedly holding the gun that discharged and killed Thato. The semi-automatic R5 was not on its safety setting and fired seven bullets, three of which allegedly hit Thato in his forehead, abdomen and back.
Mbatha, a sector police patroller, had accompanied a warrant officer to Thato’s shack, where they believed he and other boys in a gang called BWA had gathered.
The Dobsonville police station had received complaints that the gang had been terrorising schoolchildren in the area and were brandishing guns.
Mbatha, dressed in a navy tracksuit top and a black tracksuit pants, stood confidently in the dock, looking straight ahead. The bald-headed officer was a reservist from 2006 until 2009 and went to police college in 2010. He is currently on the last level of his practical training and will finish his training at the end of this month.
A small crowd of Bramfischerville teenagers gathered at the court to follow the proceedings.
After the appearance, they were angry and disappointed.
One teen, Oupa Masisi, said while he would respect the law, he “hated” the way Smith had told Mbatha he would face prison time only if he was found guilty.
Mbatha is being held at the high risk unit of the Johannesburg Central police station until Monday, when he’ll appear.
Farm murders, victims of failing government: DA
The Times – Sapa
21 February, 2012
The death of a farmer in Buffelshoek, in the North West, is a result of the government neglecting its responsibility towards the safety of its rural citizens, the Democratic Alliance said on Tuesday.
The 49-year-old farmer was shot dead on Monday morning.
"The striking prevalence of farm attacks in the North West as well as other rural provinces testifies to the extreme vulnerability of rural South Africans in the absence of proper, visible and co-ordinated sector policing," DA MP Juanita Terblanche said in a statement.
"The government is neglecting its responsibility towards the safety of its rural citizens."
The farmer and his wife were milking cows in their dairy when they were overpowered by about five armed men, said Brigadier Thulani Ngubane. The dairy is roughly 70 metres away from the couple’s farmhouse.
"They were both taken back to the farmhouse where there was a confrontation between the suspects and the farmer. He was shot in the head from behind." He died on scene.
"His wife was taken inside the house and tied up. She was assaulted … on her head with a blunt object," said Ngubane.
The gang fled in the farmer’s car. The woman was taken to hospital for medical treatment.
Sterkfontein nurse stabbed to death by girlfriend
The Times – Sapa
21 February, 2012
The Gauteng health department and the Democratic Nursing Organisation of SA (Denosa) expressed shock on Tuesday at the murder of a nurse at Sterkfontein Hospital in Krugersdorp.
The male nurse was stabbed to death by his girlfriend in the hospital’s nurses’ residence on Monday night, department spokesman Simon Zwane said in a statement.
Health MEC Ntombi Mekgwe had sent her condolences to the nurse’s family, said Zwane.
"We send our heartfelt condolences to family and friends of the deceased," said Denosa Gauteng chairman Simon Hlungwani.
The nurse was stabbed in the chest around 8pm and died on the scene.
The motive for the murder was not known.
‘Child sex’ 4 in court
Sowetan – Sapa
21 Feb 2012
FOUR men accused of human trafficking and child sex will apply for bail in the Durban Magistrate’s Court on Friday, police said.
The state would oppose their application, Lieutenant-Colonel Vincent Mdunge said yesterday.
The four were arrested when 16 girls, eight of them minors, were rescued from a building in the Point area in Durban.
Some of the girls were as young as 12 years old and some were allegedly under the influence of drugs when they were rescued.
The girls were thought to have been used as drug mules and were to be shipped out of South Africa from Durban.
Mdunge said the four men briefly appeared in the Durban Magistrate’s Court last Friday.
"They were remanded in custody," Mdunge said.
Limpopo principal accused of rape: report
The Times – Sapa
21 February, 2012
A Limpopo school principal has been arrested for allegedly raping a former primary school pupil, according to a report on Tuesday.
The principal allegedly had sex with the 13-year-old girl on the back seat of his car on the road between Vuwani and HaMasia villages, outside Thohoyandou, the Sowetan newspaper reported.
The girl’s aunt said the girl had confessed to having sex with the principal after a "cat-fight" with a friend.
"I only became aware that all was not right after the victim had a cat-fight with her friend over the principal," the aunt told the newspaper.
"When I asked them why they were fighting, the friend told me that the victim had accused her of dating the principal while fully knowing that the principal was hers."
The girl told her aunt that she had been having sex with the principal since last year when she was in Grade Seven at the school. She was now a pupil at another school.
The principal was arrested on Sunday. He would appear in court on February 28 for a formal bail application.
Now cops go after Mandla
21 February, 2012
Eastern Cape police are on the hunt for Mandla Mandela, who they claim is evading arrest.
A warrant for his arrest was issued last Friday after the Mvezo chief failed to appear in court on charges of bigamy.
Yesterday, Mandla – grandson of former president Nelson Mandela – again failed to report to the Bityi police station, where he was expected to sign a mandatory document acknowledging the charges against him.
Bityi police station commander Lieutenant-Colonel N Ngame has now written to police in Goodwood, Cape Town, asking them to serve the warrant at his address in the Acacia Park parliamentary village.
"It has become crystal clear that this person is evading justice," Ngame said.
Yesterday, police spokesman Lieutenant-Colonel Mzukisi Fatyela said Mthatha police had gone out looking for him near the home of his grandfather.
However, it is understood Mandla, an ANC MP, is at present in Cape Town, where parliament resumes work today.
The National Prosecuting Authority has, however, denied the warrant’s existence. But the Daily Dispatch, The Times’ sister paper, is in possession of a copy of the signed warrant.
Speaking on behalf of the Mandela family, attorney Gary Jansen said: "These are legal matters, not media matters, and they are taking their legal course."
In his letter to the Goodwood police station, Ngame states: "All efforts have been made to solicit [Mandla’s] cooperation . This office has gathered enough evidence on this case and a prima facie case exists with strong prospects of a successful prosecution. Your office is requested to execute arrest immediately on sight of this person."
Mandela had been due to appear in the Bityi Periodical Court last week after his estranged first wife, Tando Mabunu-Mandela, laid charges of bigamy after he defied the court to marry a second and third wife in 2010 and 2011 respectively.
Both marriages have since been annulled by the Mthatha High Court.
State recovers R110m in graft crackdown
The New Age
21 February 2012
The government had recovered R110m that was siphoned by public servants from the coffers of several national and provincial departments, the governance and administration cluster said yesterday.
The announcement was made by cluster chairperson and Home Affairs Minister, Nkosazana Dlamini-Zuma, in Pretoria.
Addressing reporters during a media briefing, Dlamini-Zuma said the government was committed to cleaning up its structures to ensure public money was well spent while improving its investment climate.
The money was recovered from the officials during 2010-11 through the national anti-corruption hotline, but the full details about the recovery were not immediately available. The anti-corruption drive further resulted in 814 national and 685 provincial officials being charged with misconduct for corrupt activities.
The most affected departments include Water and Environmental Affairs at the national level and in the Mpumalanga province, as well as the South African Social Security Agency (Sassa). Sassa is an agency administering the payment of social grants.
“We have improved interdepartmental and intergovernmental coordination and introduced more vigour into our evaluation processes,” Dlamini-Zuma said. “We have also completed the first year of quarterly reporting to the Cabinet, thus enabling the monitoring of implementation of the delivery agreements and expeditious interventions where required.”
Dlamini Zuma said the government had noted vast improvements in the turnaround of services by the Home Affairs department. The national population registration campaign was now encouraging the registration of babies within 30 days of delivery and all 16 year old persons to apply for ID books.
The improvements included the secure and efficient provision of identity documents and an online verification of fingerprints.
In addition, the Home Affairs department introduced a unique qualification to train officials in civic and immigration management. The first group of officials participating in this programme began their practical and theoretical training last month.
Dlamini-Zuma said the cluster intended to create an environment conducive to clean and effective governance. “We must ensure good governance and financial discipline in all our institutions in line with the recent findings and recommendations of the African Peer Review Mechanism.
“The appointment of former deputy president Baleka Mbete to serve on the African peer review panel of eminent persons also encourages us.”
The other objectives of the cluster for the next financial year included the accelerated implementation of the local government turnaround strategy. Infrastructure development has been prioritised in order to improve service delivery including water, sanitation and waste removal. Support would be provided to the joint effort of the provinces, municipalities and the South African Local Government Association aimed at monitoring and evaluating the implementation of the Municipal Systems Amendment Act.
The minister said capacity building was the main focus area to ensure an efficient, effective and development-oriented public service. This included an induction programme for newly appointed public servants and the training of unemployed youth graduates.
A post-graduate financial internship programme had been introduced in all municipalities to address the financial management gaps.
Other monuments to be declared include Wesleyan Church Hall in Waaihoek, Mangaung and the Bhambatha monument in Greytown, KwaZulu-Natal.
Women duped in job scam
The New Age
21 February 2012
KwaZulu-Natal police are investigating a human trafficking case involving nine young South African women.
It has emerged that nine women were lured out of the country after being promised job opportunities in foreign countries.
“The girls are believed to have been lured after being promised jobs. They have told us that the job advert looked authentic,” said a policeman, speaking on condition of anonymity.
During the interview, the women were told that they would be transporting shoes between different countries for an international company called – Shoes Unlimited.
After securing the jobs, they were taken to Bangladesh to start working for the shoe company. But when they got to the Asian country, the women were informed that they would be working as drug mules. They were also physical and sexually attacked daily.
The alarm was raised to the human trafficking case following the escape of three women from Bangladesh who alerted the police about what was happening.
The three women are in a place of safety in Durban.
Patricia Gerberm, director of Locked Up, said: “There are so many young people who have fallen for this and ended up as drug mules in foreign countries. It’s easy to be drawn into this without knowing.”
Meanwhile, four men accused of human trafficking and involvement in child sex appeared in the Durban Magistrate’s Court yesterday. They will apply for bail on Friday.