Monthly Archives: April 2013

Home Affairs mulls over holiday recommendation

Pretoria: No changes will be made to South African public holidays until the matter receives due consideration from the Ministry of Home Affairs, the Presidency has said.

This follows reports about the recommendations of the Commission for the Promotion and Protection of the Rights of Cultural, Religious and Linguistic Communities, relating to public holidays.

The commission has reportedly recommended that South Africa scrap Family Day, Boxing Day and the Day of Reconciliation. It wants public holidays to be more inclusive.

“Considering the fact that the recommendations of the Commission may result in the amendment of the Public Holidays Act, 1994, which is administered by the Department of Home Affairs, the recommendations of the Commission were forwarded to the Minister of Home Affairs for further consideration,” said the Presidency.

Meanwhile, the Presidency said it has not yet received the Protection of State Information Bill. The Bill was passed in the National Assembly last week by an overwhelming majority. “The President will attend to it when it is referred to the Presidency by Parliament.”

On media reports that the Zimbabwean government had requested a loan from South Africa to fund the upcoming elections in that country, the Presidency said any such request would need to be channelled through to SADC which would discuss and provide direction on what the region should do to support Zimbabwe.

President Jacob Zuma has also noted weekend reports of untenable conditions in some schools. The SABC reported on poor sanitation and lack of ablution facilities at Maqhingendoda High School in Ulundi, KwaZulu-Natal and the Sunday Times reported on two schools, Nyangelizwe Senior Secondary and Ntapane Junior Secondary schools in Mthatha in the Eastern Cape.

“The President has directed the Department of Performance Monitoring and Evaluation in the Presidency to look into the matter and advise him on what is being done to change the situation in the three schools.”

Energy dept speaks out on PetroSA

Pretoria: The Department of Energy (DoE) has acknowledged that it is aware of a Hawks investigation into allegations of criminal activity at PetroSA.

“The Department of Energy wishes to acknowledge that it is aware of and supports the Hawks investigation into allegations of criminal activity by certain employees of PetroSA, which is a state owned company that reports to the DoE, through the Central Energy Fund SOC Ltd as the shareholder,” spokesperson for the department Thandiwe Maimane said on Monday.

The department was instrumental in bringing the allegations of financial mismanagement to the attention of the Hawks.

Within hours of learning of the matter, the Minister of Energy formally directed the Central Energy Fund (CEF) to investigate procurement undertaken during the period in question.

The investigation focused on procurement practices at the national oil company. “The department can now also confirm that it has received the final report from the CEF Board, and will make a pronouncement after the Minister [Dipuo Peters] has had an opportunity to consider its contents and recommendations,” explained Maimane.

CEF Chairperson Dr Sankie Mthembi-Mahanyele on Monday announced that PetroSA Chairperson Dr Benny Mokaba had vacated his post, a move that was effective immediately.

It follows the conclusion of the investigation ordered by Minister Peters, to investigate the robustness of the procurement system at the national oil company.

The investigation is part of an initiative by Peters to ensure adherence to good corporate governance principles and transparency at enterprises which report to the DoE.

A preliminary report, issued by the investigating team last month, unearthed several instances of inappropriate executive override of internal control systems at PetroSA. The report also made serious allegations against certain senior officials.

PetroSA is a wholly-owned subsidiary of CEF. The CEF Group manages defined energy interests on behalf of government. It promotes the development of energy entities with a special focus on renewable and cleaner alternative energy sources.

Africa must unite to prosper

_: Our future is intertwined with Africa’s prosperity, 54 states share the African continent; a united continent is the key to unlocking the massive potential that is inherent to this unique region of the world. Our future successes are intertwined and we can only truly prosper if we embrace integration and work together.

South Africa’s destiny is undeniably linked with that of the continent. President Jacob Zuma emphasised this when he said that South Africa “cannot survive in isolation, as its economic development and security is linked to the continent’s stability”. He added that when South Africa helped to bring peace to the continent it created “an environment that was conducive to reconstruction and development in our region…”

Africa is central to our foreign policy. This policy is based on the premise that there are two ‘sides’ to our continent. On the one hand, it is the second fastest growing economic region in the world, while on the other it is also a continent that still struggles with conflict, poverty and underdevelopment.

Against this background, our efforts to maintain peace and security are undertaken as part of our membership of the Southern African Development Community (SADC), the African Union (AU) and the United Nations (UN). The election of Dr Nkosaza Dlamini Zuma as Chairwoman of the AU Commission is one example of the country’s readiness and commitment to playing its part in regional and continental organisations.

It was also in this spirit that South Africa contributed to reaching peace agreements in Burundi and Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC). Currently former President Thabo Mbeki continues to mediate in Sudan and South Sudan.

South Africa has also been involved in more than 15 peace support operations since 1999. We were among the first countries to deploy military personnel to support the peace process in Burundi and over the past decade our troops have continually made a strong contribution towards stabilising the DRC.

South Africa remains committed to stability, peace and the strengthening of democracy on the African continent. We know that a stable continent is the only way to ensure foreign investment, growth and socio-economic development for us, our region and the rest of Africa.

International Relations and Co-operation Minister Maite Nkoana-Mashabane said: “Without peace and security there can be no sustainable development, and without sustainable development there can be no peace and security and the achievement of the Millennium Development Goals in Africa will remain a dream deferred. We need peace, not war.”

As part of our foreign economic policy South Africa places great emphasis on a ‘development integration’ approach. This implies integrating trade with programmes of cross-border infrastructure development.

Currently negotiations for a free trade area are well on track and will be concluded by next year, with implementation scheduled for 2015. The first phase of regional integration will see the expansion of existing regional communities and the creation of large trading blocs. The broader free trade area would embrace 26 countries with between 600 million and 700 million people, and a combined gross domestic product of $1-trillion (R8.9 trillion).

Trade and Industry Minister Rob Davies captured this well when he said: “If you start to add up the numbers across our (African) regions, we start to have the critical mass to support a new industrial wave.”

Standard Bank CE Sim Tshabalala supported the importance of integration for business by saying that “a free trade area throughout the continent was vital to development”.

However, the infrastructure deficit in Africa is negatively affecting integration and development of the region. According to the New Partnership for Africa’s Development (Nepad), “there can be no meaningful development without trade and there can be no trade without adequate and reliable infrastructure”.

In 2010 President Zuma was elected to head up the Programme for Infrastructure Development in Africa of the AU and Nepad. The overall goal of the programme is “to promote socio-economic development and poverty reduction in Africa through improved access to integrated regional and continental infrastructure networks and services”.

The programme for Infrastructure Development in Africa will cover the four key sectors of transport; energy; trans-boundary water and information and communications technology.

President Zuma said: “Africa’s time has come and without infrastructure, our dreams will never be realised. We cannot trade on the continent because of the lack of communication. The infrastructure that we want to create will provide new opportunities for our continent.”

The North-South Infrastructure Development Corridor that South Africa champions through the Programme for Infrastructure Development in Africa initiative will connect the three regions of SADC, East Africa and Central Africa.

A continent with better infrastructure will not only be more attractive to foreign investors, but will improve intra-Africa trade and trade with foreign markets. This will encourage faster socio-economic development, create jobs and reduce poverty.

As Minister Nkoana-Mashabane correctly pointed out: “Africa is stronger when it is united… We prosper better and faster when we work together as a continent, for our unity and integration.”

However, integration and infrastructure development cannot take place in an unstable environment. Therefore it is imperative for us to resolve the conflict on our continent.

On May 25, South Africa and the rest of the continent will celebrate the 50th anniversary of the OrganisationofAfrican Unity (OAU now the AU). We are proud to be part of this continent and are looking forward to working together with AU member states to develop Africa over the next 50 years because only through integration and unity can we prosper better and faster.

Commendation for Prof Gray on Order of Mapungubwe

Pretoria: Gauteng Health MEC Hope Papo has congratulated the CEO of the Perinatal HIV Research Unit, Professor Glenda Gray, on being awarded a silver Order of Mapungubwe.

Gray, who is based at Chris Hani Baragwanath Academic Hospital, was awarded the Order of Mapungubwe during the National Orders ceremony held on Freedom Day at Sefako Makgatho Presidential Guest House.

President Jacob Zuma bestowed National Orders on outstanding South African citizens and foreign nationals, who have made a positive and meaningful contribution to the country’s social, economic and political advancement.

Gray was honoured for her excellent life-saving research in mother-to-child transmission of HIV that has changed the lives of people for the better in South Africa.

Gray said their unit was strong because of scientists who are passionate about understanding HIV, sharing their findings and making a difference in the world.

“This award is a great honour and I’d like to accept it on behalf of the community of dedicated clinicians, scientists and researchers who work with me, and who share the vision that eliminating paediatric HIV is realisable and achievable,” she said.

Papo said the honour received by “dedicated and hard-working” Gray was proof yet again of the calibre of health professionals and the high level of expertise that they have in the public health sector in Gauteng.

“As the province, we are very proud and will continue supporting such pioneering work towards improving the lives of the people. “Her knowledge, skills and years of experience have indeed contributed to making Gauteng’s public hospitals centres of excellence,” said Papo.

He noted that through Gray and other health workers’ initiatives in the province, the department has improved services for mothers and children.

These included the opening of an additional Kangaroo Mother Care Unit at Tshwane District Hospital, and ensuring that three out of every four new mothers are visited at home within six days of delivery.

“From [April 2011 to March 2012], approximately eight out of 10 pregnant women (80.5%) who were HIV-positive were placed on long-term anti- retroviral therapy (ART) as they were severely immuno-compromised.

“Although this is primarily intended to treat the mother, it also effectively prevents transmission of HIV to the baby. HIV positive women who do not require long-term ART during pregnancy receive a shorter course of ARVs,” Papo noted.

Gauteng has managed to cover 99% of babies who are born to HIV positive mothers. Only 3.6% of babies born to HIV positive mothers proved to be HIV infected when tested at the age of six weeks, a rate which is below the national target of 5%.

Gray said the next 10 years would see major achievements in the field of HIV research, achievements no one thought would be possible.

“Within the next 10 years, we will have an HIV vaccine and/or a microbicide that women can use,” said an optimistic Gray.

Minister reflects on democracy ahead of Workers’ Day

Pretoria: Labour Minister Mildred Oliphant says it is important for workers not only to realise the gains that have been made in the 19 years of democracy, but also to commit themselves to adhering to the laws that have made the changes possible.

Speaking on the eve of Workers’ Day, Oliphant said it was significant that May Day celebrations come hot on the heels of commemorating Freedom Day.

“Clearly, the two days complement each other and no one can deny that the achievement of our freedom was to a large part predicated on the involvement of trade unions in not only shaping our new labour dispensation, but also of recognising that workers’ rights are human rights,” she said in her Workers’ Day message.

Workers Day is celebrated annually on 1 May. The minister paid tribute to struggle heroes that had an affinity with the trade union movement such as JB Marks, Elijah Barayi, Emma Mashinini, Oliver Tambo, Chris Hani and Ray Alexander.

The minister said the heroes of the trade union movement would be concerned about the erosion of collective bargaining that is on the rise. “They would be worried that strikes now have become so violent and that people, in the name of workers, destroy lives and property. In their honour and in doing what is correct, I would like to appeal to those involved with the trade union movement to plant a seed that recognises that rights are tempered by responsibilities.

“Turning to violence negates the important fights for better pay and better working conditions,” she said. Oliphant also paid tribute to worker representatives, who have taken it upon themselves to improve their qualifications in the field of labour studies.

“Education is the key to everything in life and I would like to take this opportunity to encourage those who represent the workers to arm themselves with knowledge. It is only through this knowledge that they would be best able to represent and guide workers accordingly,” she said.

It was also important for the Labour Department to continue funding and assisting civic organisations whose aim was to train workers on their rights. These organisations and advice offices – including the funding for May Day celebrations – will see the department disbursing just over R16 million to various entities across the country.

“Some of these organisations do sterling work and contribute to better working conditions in this country. They must continue with the good work in the knowledge that as the department, we will support and assist them as far as possible in entrenching human rights for workers,” said Oliphant.