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Black South Africans are able to make success of owning
and managing land says President Cyril Ramaphosa

CAPE TOWN South Africa (Xinhua) -- Black South Africans are able to make a success of owning and managing land, President Cyril Ramaphosa said on Monday.

In an apparent bid to alleviate fears for the proposed land expropriation without compensation, Ramaphosa said black South African farmers "are able to farm successfully, ensure food security and sustain livelihoods."

The president was speaking at an event in Kempton Park, Gauteng Province, hosted by the African Farmers’ Association of South Africa (AFASA), which is dedicated to ensuring meaningful participation of black individuals in the mainstream commercial agribusiness sector.

Ramaphosa praised the AFASA for shining a light on the historical challenges faced by farmers, and solely on the basis of their skin color.

"Through its lobbying and advocacy work, AFASA is helping to re-shape agriculture, bridging the divide between policy and reality, between legislation and the live experience of emerging black farmers," said Ramaphosa.

In doing so, it is sending a clear message to young South Africans that there is a future in farming, he said.

The AFASA is challenging some of the preconceptions about black farmers and changing attitudes throughout society, Ramaphosa said.

He was speaking as South Africa’s Parliament is accelerating the process to review Section 25 of the Constitution and other clauses where necessary to sufficiently cater for the principle of land expropriation without compensation.

Opponents argue that land expropriation without compensation will drive away white farmers, kill jobs and threaten food security, just like what has happened in neighboring Zimbabwe where farming land seized by blacks has turned useless.

Earlier this month, AfriForum, an association of South African farmers, has launched an international campaign to get the South African government to stop its move to expropriate land without compensation.

Ramaphosa disputed the notion that blacks can’t manage land successfully.

The ability of black farmers to work the land successfully is constrained by the accumulated disadvantages of centuries of dispossession and deprivation, the president said.

This is in addition to the challenges they face when the forces of nature and forces of the market conspire to cut production and undermine profitability, he said.

"This is the reality that we need to confront and overcome together," Ramaphosa said.

The country’s land must be shared among those who wish to work it, and those who wish to work it must be given the support and encouragement to be successful, he added.

South Africa, he said, has embarked on a program of accelerated land reform that aims to redistribute more land, at a faster pace, to black South Africans.

This will ensure tenure security for the insecure and change the distorted patterns of development, both in the cities and the countryside, said Ramaphosa.

"We should ensure that government uses its procurement power to open up markets for emerging farmers," he said.

It is through engagements with groupings like the AFASA that the government must define what other measures it must take to create a conducive and favorable environment for black farmers to thrive, said Ramaphosa.

He said however that land reform should be guided by the need to increase agricultural production, unlock the economic potential of land, stimulate economic growth, create jobs and ensure food security.

"Black and white farmers must together, and working with government, build a better future not just in the agrarian economy but in society at large," Ramaphosa stressed.

Since taking power in 1994, the South African government led by the African National Congress has made land redistribution from whites to blacks without compensation as one of its main policies.

But land remains predominantly in white hands more than two decades after the end of apartheid, sparking growing discontent among South African blacks.


South Africa probe former president Jacob Zuma
role as state capture inquiry finally underway

JOHANNESBURG South Africa (Xinhua) -- The state capture commission of inquiry will probe whether South Africa’s former president Jacob Zuma played any part in the alleged offering of cabinet positions to former Deputy Minister of Finance Mcebisi Jonas and ex-MP Vytjie Mentor by the controversial Gupta family.

The much anticipated inquiry began in Johannesburg with the Deputy Chief Justice Raymond Zondo outlining the terms and references of the inquiry set to take place for two years.

"In particular, the commission must investigate the veracity of allegations that former deputy finance minister and Mentor were offered cabinet positions by the Gupta family and whether the President had any role in the alleged offer," Zondo said.

President Cyril Ramaphosa appointed the commission to investigate allegations of state capture, fraud and corruption in the public state.

The inquiry stems from the findings made in the State Capture report by the former Public Protector Thuli Madonsela that alleged improper relationship between Zuma and the Gupta family in the appointment of cabinet ministers and directors at state owned companies which benefited the family.

In 2016, Jonas alleged that Ajay Gupta offered him a post of Finance Minister and R600m bribe in exchange for executive decisions favorable to the interests of the Gupta family. According to South Africa’s Constitution, only the president can appoint and dismiss cabinet ministers.

  Former South African President Jacob Zuma | Coastweek

JOHANNESBURG South Africa (Xinhua) -- Former South African President Jacob Zuma attends closing of the country’s ruling party African National Congress (ANC)’s most recent national conference in Johannesburg. XINHUA PHOTO - DAVID NAICKER
Zondo said the inquiry would establish if the allocation and the distribution of state resources was determined by a network of individuals both inside and outside government.

"It bears emphasis that state capture is not just about corruption.

"It is not even about widespread corruption.

"Corruption may be part of State Capture, but it is more than that," said the Judge.

He added that, "State Capture would concern a network of relationships both inside and outside government, whose objectives is to ensure the repurposing of government departments, officials and state owned entities for private gain.

"Did what occurred concern not only acts of corruption but also a deliberate weakening of constitutional government?"

Zondo also said that it would investigate whether the appointment of "any member of the executive was disclosed to the Gupta family."

The ruling ANC said it welcomed the inquiry, appealing to members with evidence to appear before it.

South African ruling party urges members to
co-operate with inquiry into state capture

CAPE TOWN South Africa (Xinhua) -- South Africa’s ruling African National Congress (ANC) on Monday urged its members to offer their full cooperation to an inquiry into state capture.

This came after the Commission of Inquiry into State Capture, led by Deputy Chief Justice Raymond Zondo, began its first long-awaited hearing on Monday, with former deputy finance minister Mcebisi Jonas and former ANC MP Vytjie Mentor among the first group of witnesses to testify.

The commission will first deal with the influence of the controversial Indian Gupta family on the appointment of ministers and boards of state-owned entities under the administration of former president Jacob Zuma.

Zuma and a number of senior government officials were also accused of collaborating with the Guptas in looting from state coffers.

"The ANC urges its members and others who are summoned to appear before the commission to offer their full cooperation to the commission, so that the country can deal with this difficult chapter," the party said in a statement emailed to Xinhua.

"The allegations and reports on this matter have done immense damage to the image of the country and the confidence of ordinary citizens in state institutions," ANC national spokesperson Pule Mabe said.

Therefore it’s crucial to ensure that the commission completes its work expeditiously, Mabe said.

In May last year, the ANC National Executive Committee endorsed the establishment of the judicial commission to investigate the alleged state capture.

The commission will assist to ensure that where wrongdoing was done, appropriate action is taken and people are held accountable.

The ANC has repeatedly said it wants to see the facts and truth to come to light even though a number of its senior members are involved in state capture allegations.

South Africa major opposition party to fight hostile takeover of central bank

CAPE TOWN South Africa (Xinhua) -- South Africa’s major opposition party, the Democratic Alliance (DA), vowed on Sunday to fight any hostile takeover of the country’s central bank, whose independence it said must be safeguarded.

There can be no meaningful public interest motive in nationalizing the South African Reserve Bank (SARB) but only the furtherance of private political interests, the DA said.

This came after another opposition party, the Economic Freedom Fighters (EFF), submitted the SARB Amendment Bill to Parliament earlier last week, proposing to do away with private shareholders and "make the state the sole holder of the shares in the bank."

To nationalize the SARB "is a hostile move in a long game of the EFF political maneuvers" to influence the mandate and operations of the bank and ultimately South Africa’s banking system as a whole, the DA said in a statement.

This is also an electoral game for the EFF because whether or not the bill is passed, the EFF hopes to dominate the ruling African National Congress’ radical agenda, and position itself as the authentic party of the left, said the DA.

The SARB’s nationalization has become a focus of attention as South Africa head to the 2019 general elections.

The ANC, which proposed nationalizing the bank before, is lukewarm to the EFF’s bill. On Friday, the ANC refrained from neither supporting nor opposing the bill but said it will scrutinize it.

Unlike most central banks in the world, the SARB has been privately owned since it was established in 1921, but its shareholders have no control over monetary policy, financial stability policy or banking regulation.

As a result, the bank has been criticized for failing to help boost the economy and create jobs.

The debate on nationalizing the SARB has been going on for quite some time.

There has been a growing call, even within the ANC, to nationalize the central bank.

At its 54th national congress in December last year, the ANC proposed nationalizing the SARB so as to allow the government to own 100 percent of the bank’s shares, replacing current arrangement, where the shares are held by a number of private shareholders.

The ANC later softened its stance on the SARB due to growing jitters among investors.

Nationalization will mean that the finance minister will have the ability to appoint every board member from a list of nominees that are confirmed by a panel also largely appointed by the minister.

Coupled with greater ministerial involvement in the bank, this would give the government enhanced ability to influence its rules in a market in which it also competes, investors say.

The SARB insists that changing the ownership structure of the bank could raise the level of risk and uncertainty for the country in both the financial and economic policy sense.

South Africa minimum wage bill to be sent to president for assent

CAPE TOWN South Africa (Xinhua) -- South Africa’s Upper House of Parliament, the National Council of Provinces (NCP), on Tuesday approved the controversial National Minimum Wage (NMW) Bill which will be sent to President Cyril Ramaphosa for assent.

The NCP approved the bill without amendment, Parliament said.

The bill, which Minister of Labor Mildred Oliphant introduced in November 2017, aims to provide for a NMW and the establishment of a commission with clear functions and composition for implementation, Parliament spokesperson Moloto Mothapo said.

The National Assembly (Lower House of Parliament) had earlier approved the bill and referred it to the NCP. Once signed by Ramaphosa, the bill will become law.

The bill sets 3,500 rand (about 243 U.S. dollars) per month or 20 rand (about 1.4 dollars) per hour for over 6 million working people in the country.

Trade unions have lambasted the NMW as "slavery wage," saying the working class cannot make both ends meet with the meagre NMW. In May, massive protests against the bill took place across the country.

Trade unions have threatened to stage more protests if the NMW wage is not raised to a living wage.

The government says setting the NMW was informed by research and robust analysis of various scenarios and their possible ramifications, not by some idealistic desires.

All social partners have worked hard for nearly three years to reach agreement on the NMW to improve the conditions of millions of poor families, according to the government.

Ramaphosa has pledged to increase the NMW over time in a way that meaningfully reduces poverty and inequality.

South African Parliament assures tribal chiefs of leadership in initiation

CAPE TOWN South Africa (Xinhua) -- South Africa’s Parliament on Sunday assured tribal chiefs of their leadership in traditional initiation.

Parliament’s ongoing process to pass the Customary Initiation Bill (CIB) "is not intended to usurp custodianship of traditional initiation," said Richard Mdakane, Chairperson of Parliament’s Portfolio Committee on Cooperative Governance and Traditional Affairs.

Parliament is currently holding public hearings into the CIB. At its first hearing in Rustenburg, North West Province, people emphasized the difference between medical circumcision and traditional initiation, as well as the role of tribal chiefs in the tradition.

Some tribal chiefs have expressed concern that the CIB, once becoming law, would deprive them of their leadership in traditional initiation.

Responding to the concern, Mdakane said tribal chiefs’ authority in traditional initiation is guaranteed in the Constitution.

The CIB, tabled in Parliament on April 5 this year, has provoked discussions throughout the country.

The bill aims to provide for the effective regulation of customary initiation practices and provide for the establishment of a National Initiation Oversight Committee and Provincial Initiation Coordinating Committees to supervise initiation practice.

"Through this piece of legislation, we’re doing something for the nation. We can’t have a culture that brings tears to the people," Mdakane said.

Every year dozens of boys die and many more are hospitalized in South Africa as a result of botched initiation. In the last 10 years there have been more than 1,000 penile amputations.

Given this situation, there have been growing calls for introducing a law to strictly regulate circumcision.

Circumcision is viewed a sacred practice in African cultures, marking a male’s transition from child to adulthood. According to the tradition, young males have to be circumcised as the passage to manhood. Traditionally tribal chiefs act as custodians of initiation.

Quack doctors take advantage of the tradition to force teenagers to go to illegal initiation schools to be circumcised.

It concerns Parliament when culture gets distorted, Mdakane said, adding that distortion causes havoc.

It is important for society to understand what is being taught at initiation schools and the content of the schools should be proper so as to ensure that parents feel at ease when their children are at initiation schools, he said.

"Culture is about development of society we want to return better man and women from these school," Mdakane said.

He said tribal chiefs and kings will be invited to Parliament once the current process is finalized to get their input on how best to practice the tradition.

South African government calls for end in violence against women

JOHANNESBURG South Africa (Xinhua) -- South African Deputy President David Mabuza on Saturday called for the people across political and religious divide to unite to stop women and children abuse.

Mabuza was speaking at the inter-faith national prayer day for moral regeneration and the end of violence against women and children in Ellis Park Stadium, Johannesburg on Saturday. He pointed out that the country has one vision for unity and prosperity for all.

"We are gathered together in prayer, united in our diversity as one people, with one mission, and a shared sense of collective responsibility to build a better nation," said Mabuza.

Mabuza said the county is confronted with women and children abuse which needs urgent attention.

There has been an increase in cases of femicide in the county. According to Statistics South Africa in May 2018, about 21 percent of women above 18 years in the county or one in five women have experienced violence by their partner.

Mabuza stated that gender based violence undermines the government’s quest for economic liberation and inclusion.

He also called on all stakeholders to work with government to fight the scourge of alcohol, drugs and substance abuse.

Last of very ancient 'coelacanths' facing extinction in South Africa

CAPE TOWN South Africa (Xinhua) -- The coelacanth, the most endangered fish in South Africa and one of the rarest in the world, is threatened by oil exploration.

Older than dinosaurs, coelacanths have remained almost unchanged for 420 million years. In 2000, people found a small coelacanth colony near the iSimangaliso wetland park in South Africa. Currently, there are only about 30 coelacanths known to exist near the east coast of the country.

Now the energy group Eni plans to start several deep-water oil wells in this area, which might threaten the future of coelacanths, experts said.

"The Deepwater Horizon oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico in 2010 decimated fish populations—so if we had an oil spill off iSimangaliso it is very likely it could wipe out these coelacanths," said Dr. Andrew Venter, who has been devoted to expansion of South Africa’s protected ocean areas.

According to coelacanth expert Prof. Mike Bruton, previous research showed that the remoteness of their habitat had not protected them from exposure to pollutants.

"Oil spills do not respect the boundaries of marine protected areas," he said.

"Eni always applies the highest operational and environmental standards, which often exceed local compliance regulations," the energy group responded, adding that a study about accidental spillage modelling is being independently reviewed.


Inquiry into ‘state capture’ scandal begins in South Africa




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