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South African president vows to fight
corruption in state-owned enterprises

JOHANNESBURG South Africa (Xinhua) -- South African President Cyril Ramaphosa vowed on Thursday night to root out widespread corruption that has left several state-owned enterprises in need of government bailouts.

Amid criticisms that cash-strapped state-owned companies such as power utility Eskom, South African Airways and Transnet were bankrupted by corrupt officials in the past nine years, Ramaphosa said actions are being taken against the corrupt.

"The levels of corruption is horrifying in a number of these state-owned enterprises. We have seen where the rot is and we are cleaning up. We are going to continue cleaning up. We are beginning to see a wave of change," he made the comments during a two-hour radio interview with Radio 702.

The interview touched on several pressing issues including government-owned institutions, corruption, youth unemployment and the economy.

With South Africa facing a possibility of power cuts next January as a result of problems affecting Eskom, the president said issues affecting the company are being addressed.

"We are dealing with this and the debt at Eskom is closer to R475 billion (33.5 billion U.S. dollars) and therefore it is collective problem as South Africans," said Ramaphosa.

Addressing youth unemployment, Ramaphosa said that "clear strategies" are required in an effort to reduce joblessness and provide young people with relevant skills. "We have lots of plans for young people. Many of the projects we are embarking on are aimed at creating opportunities for young people."

He said his dreams were to see young people being active participants in the fourth industrial revolution.


South Africa makes further step to stabilize revenue agency

CAPE TOWN South Africa (Xinhua) -- President Cyril Ramaphosa has received the final report on recommendations to stabilize the troubled South African Revenue Service (SARS), the Presidency said on Friday.

This was seen as a step forward in stabilizing SARS at a time when efficient revenue collection and tax justice is vital to economic recovery in the country.

"The President is studying the report and will apply his mind to its detailed recommendations," presidential spokesperson Khusela Diko said.

The report was submitted by the Nugent Commission of Inquiry into governance of the revenue service and tax administration.

The submission of the commission’s final report followed the submission of an interim report to the president in October 2018.

The president appointed the commission, led by retired Justice Robert Nugent, in May 2018 following Ramaphosa’s announcement in his 2018 State of the Nation Address that he would take steps to stabilize SARS, restore the credibility of the institution and strengthen its capacity to meet revenue targets.

The terms of reference for the commission cover, among others, the adequacy and legality of steps that SARS took to address revenue shortfalls in the last two years, including allegations of unauthorized payment of bonuses to top executives and withholding of refunds owed to ordinary tax payers.

Ramaphosa dismissed Tom Moyane as SARS Commissioner in November following a recommendation by the commission. Since then, South Africa has been without a chief tax collector.

Moyane is blamed for significant tax undercollection during his tenure. Tax revenue was projected to fall short of the 2017 budget estimate by 50.8 billion rand (about 3.5 billion U.S. dollars) for that fiscal year. This was the largest undercollection since the 2009 recession.

Earlier this year, Moyane approached the North Gauteng High Court, seeking an order to have his dimissal set aside.

Last week, the court upheld the president’s dismissal of Moyane, saying the national interest far outweighed that of Moyane’s interest, hence the dismissal to lift the status quo.


South African Presidency to abide by court ruling over Zuma’s legal fees

CAPE TOWN South Africa (Xinhua) -- The South African Presidency pledged on Thursday to abide by a court ruling which bars the state from funding former President Jacob Zuma’s legal fees in his criminal defence litigation.

The Presidency will abide by the court’s decision, in line with a notice to this effect filed with the court, presidential spokesperson Khusela Diko said.

This came after the North Gauteng High Court ruled on Thursday that Zuma himself must pay the legal fees for his pending cases.

"The Presidency has noted the judgment of the Gauteng North High Court on the personal legal costs of former President Jacob Zuma," Diko said.

The Presidency specifically notes the court’s interpretation of the applicable law, said Diko.

The court said that if the state is burdened with the high legal costs of public office bearers charged with fraud and corruption, the taxpayer bears the burden and poor communities continue to be denied services.

The court ordered Zuma to pay back the money already incurred by the state in his criminal defence litigation.

The state has spent over 30 million rand (2.1 million U.S. dollars) on Zuma’s legal fees over the past 13 years, according to the court.

The 783 payments or gratifications Zuma allegedly received outside of his official remuneration cannot be seen as conduct connected to his official function, said the court.

It’s in the public interest that charges of abuse of public office, such as fraud and corruption, are prosecuted, the court said.

Zuma, who resigned in February, faces 16 charges of fraud, corruption and racketeering.

Thursday’s ruling drew applause from political parties and civil groups.

"Today the people of South Africa have achieved a great victory in the battle for accountability," Democratic Alliance (DA) leader Mmusi Maimane said.

The system of corruption where those who loot the state are then able to defend themselves using public money has been stopped today, said Maimane.

Calling the ruling "an important precedent," she said the DA will take this fight further to those people complicit in state capture, which refers to collaboration between senior government officials and the Indian Gupta family in looting from state-owned enterprises.

"The DA is committed to seeing justice done, and we will continue to fight for accountability at all levels of government," Maimane said.

The Center for Constitutional Rights (CFCR) said the judgment against Zuma confirms the constitutional principle of accountability.

This sends out a clear message to public officials that the state is not a cash cow to finance lavish criminal defence litigation, the CFCR said.

The DA filed papers at the North Gauteng High Court in late March, asking it to set aside a 2006 agreement the Presidency had signed, over legal costs Zuma incurred for his criminal prosecution.

The agreement formed the basis for the decision to continue paying for Zuma’s legal fees in his criminal defence litigation regarding an arms deal with French weaponry manufacturer Thales in the late 1990s. In the deal, Zuma allegedly received a bribe from the company.

South African court orders former president Zuma to repay huge legal fee

JOHANNESBURG South Africa (Xinhua) -- Embattled former South African President Jacob Zuma is not entitled to state funding when defending his criminal prosecution and must start footing his own legal bills, said North Gauteng High Court in Pretoria on Thursday.

"The decisions taken by the Presidency and the State Attorney that the State would cover the legal costs that Mr Zuma incurred in his personal capacity in interlocutory and ancillary applications related to his criminal prosecution are reviewed and set aside," said Deputy Judge President Aubrey Ledwaba.

Ledwaba ordered that the State Attorney must determine the amount of money spent on Zuma’s legal fees from 2005. It is estimated that the state has paid over R15 million (around 1 million U.S. dollars) for Zuma’s legal fees since 2005.

Judge Dunstan Mlambo says it is unfair that millions are being diverted from services in an effort to fund Zuma’s criminal charges.

Zuma faces 16 charges including racketeering, corruption, money laundering and fraud emanating from a government arms deal in 1999.

In March this year, opposition parties, including the Democratic Alliance and the Economic Freedom Fighters filed court papers seeking the court to review and set aside the state decision to fund Zuma’s legal fees in his personal capacity.

Also on Thursday, the opposition Democratic Alliance (DA) welcomed the court ruling that bars the state from funding former president Jacob Zuma’s legal fees in his criminal defence litigation.

"Today the people of South Africa have achieved a great victory in the battle for accountability," DA leader Mmusi Maimane said.

The system of corruption where those who loot the state are then able to defend themselves using public money has been stopped today, said Maimane.

Meanwhile, the Center for Constitutional Rights said the judgment against Zuma confirms the constitutional principle of accountability.

This sends out a clear message to public officials that the state is not a cash cow to finance lavish criminal defence litigation, the center said.

Debt-ridden South African electricity utility gets
French funding to enhance power transmission

CAPE TOWN South Africa (Xinhua) -- South African electricity utility Eskom said on Thursday that it has secured a loan worth 1.5 billion rand (about 107 million U.S. dollars) from French Development Agency (AFD) to enhance power transmission.

An agreement to this effect was signed between the two sides on Thursday, Eskom said.

The loan facility from AFD aims to support Eskom’s investment policy in strengthening its high-voltage electricity network, in order to ensure the integration of planned or under-construction renewable energy sources, Eskom said.

This is in line with Eskom’s Transmission Development Plan 2019-2028 investment of 91 billion rand for the construction of 6,535 km of high voltage lines and the installation of 45,900 MVA of additional transformer capacity.

The transmission system plays a pivotal role in the nation-wide provision of electricity, as it delivers electricity from the power stations to distribution centers across South Africa, said Eskom.

"AFD remains part of a core of longstanding partners to Eskom, and we regard the signing of this loan agreement as a formal yet symbolic gesture of a sustainable partnership in aiding Eskom to enhance the security of supply, and stabilize the power systems in South Africa," said Phakamani Hadebe, Eskom’s Group Chief Executive.

"AFD’s funding to Eskom reaffirms our commitment to support the public utility’s efforts to diversify its energy mix, which will ultimately strengthen its capacity to respond to the growing energy needs of South Africa while addressing the climate change challenges attached to it," said Bruno Deprince, AFD’s Regional Director.

This funding also demonstrates AFD’s support to Eskom in a period of transition and recovery, he added.

Eskom, which provides more than 95 percent of the electricity consumed in South Africa, has implemented rolling blackouts for more than one month, seriously affecting economic activities and people’s lives.

The state-run parastatal has been blamed for poor management and rampant corruption which are believed to be the main factors for the blackouts.

Eskom says it implements load shedding rotationally as a last resort to protect the power system from a total collapse.

Cash-strapped Eskom reportedly wants the South African government to absorb about 100 billion rand of its debt as part of a rescue plan for the utility.

International ratings agencies have warned that Eskom is a risk to the health of South Africa’s economy.

South African official calls on citizens and foreigners to fight crime together

JOHANNESBURG South Africa (Xinhua) -- A senior South African government official on Wednesday called on compatriots and foreigners to unite and fight crime to achieve the country’s economic prosperity.

State Security Minister Dipuo Letsatsi-Duba said this at Hillbrow police station while addressing the police and community members. She had visited crime-ridden areas inhabited by South Africans and foreigners and discussed how to fight crime.

"We want you to partner with us to identify any threats that seek to destabilize our sovereignty, peaceful arrangement of this country and our economy. Policing is not the role of the government only but for every responsible citizen of the country," said Letsatsi-Duba.

She called on South Africans and foreigners to work together to fight crime, noting that if they turn a blind eye on crime, they will be killing the economy.

"You will be accomplices in crimes if you do not take action. You are killing the economy of this country. It will never grow and will remain where it is and create more unemployment. We have to take action. We need participation of all of us," she said.

Statistics released by the police showed that South Africa is one of the 10 most murderous countries in the world. Violence affects all South Africans, with the greatest impact on people who are black and poor.


Fewer political killings in South Africa confirms minister



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