Daily Archives: March 7, 2014

Rwanda: Kigali Expels South African Diplomats

Rwanda has expelled six high ranking South African diplomats from Kigali, all accused of espionage.

Reliable sources in Kigali told News of Rwanda that South African High Commissioner to Rwanda is not among those expelled. The source, however, did not disclose the names of expelled diplomats.

There was no comment yet from either Rwanda’s Ministry of foreign affairs or South African embassy in Kigali.

Rwanda and South Africa have been in news for sometime over Rwandan dissidents hiding in South Africa.

Zimbabwe: Mangoma Supended

MDC-T national council met in Harare today and suspended deputy treasurer, Mr Elton Mangoma, accusing him of bringing the name of the opposition party to disrepute. Party spokesperson, Mr Douglas Mwonzora, confirmed the suspension.

He said all the party’s 12 provinces voted for Mr Mangoma’s suspension.

He, however, said Mr Mangoma had the right to appeal against the national council’s decision.

Mr Mangoma and youth leader Mr Promise Mkwananzi were attacked a fortnight ago at Harvest House by party youths aligned to leader Mr Morgan Tsvangirai.

Secretary general, Mr Tendai Biti, who was also targeted by the youth escaped unhurt.

South Africa: Pistorius Obsessed With Firearms – Witness

Photo: Marco Longari/Sapa

South African Paralympic athlete Oscar Pistorius crying in court.

Pretoria — An ex-girlfriend of Oscar Pistorius on Friday portrayed him in court as a man obsessed with firearms who often woke her up at night because he feared somebody was breaking into his house.

Samantha Taylor, testifying on day five of Pistorius’s murder trial, stressed that during their relationship Pistorius always alerted her when he suspected there was an intruder.

Prosecutor Gerrie Nel begged Judge Thokozile Masipa’s indulgence to introduce fresh evidence before asking Taylor to describe these incidents, taking the disabled Olympic athlete’s defence lawyer by surprise.

The former girlfriend recalled one night when Pistorius heard something hit against the bathroom window.

“He woke me up and asked if I had heard it. I told him it was probably the storm,” said Taylor.

Pistorius on Monday pleaded not guilty to the premeditated murder of Reeva Steenkamp, a blonde model for whom he left the teenaged Taylor.

He claims he believed he was targeting an intruder when he fired four shots into a locked bathroom, fatally injuring Steenkamp.

Taylor’s testimony on Friday, cast Pistorius as a paranoid and aggressive man who frequently argued with her, and was extremely attached to his cellphones and his handgun.

On one occasion he fired a 9mm pistol through the sunroof of a car while driving with her and a friend, she said.

“There was a lot of commotion in our relationship,” she said, adding that it ended for good when he attended an award ceremony with Steenkamp.

“He cheated on me with Reeva Steenkamp.”

In cross-examination, Pistorius’s lawyer Barry Roux immediately reduced Taylor to tears.

He said the young woman, who was 17 when she started dating Pistorius, was lying about when their relationship ended and that he would provide copies of their emails to prove this.

Judge Masipa briefly adjourned the court, before Roux resumed questioning and set out to show Taylor’s recollection of events during her relationship with Pistorius was unreliable.

This included her account of the night he drew his gun at a car he believed had followed them to his home.

Taylor said it was not true, as Pistorius claimed, that he had merely moved to her side to protect her.

The next witness was the chief security guard at the Silver Woods estate where Pistorius shot Steenkamp in the early hours of February 14 last year.

Pieter Baba too became emotional on the stand after describing the events of that night and recalling his shock when he saw Pistorius carry a fatally wounded Steenkamp down the stairs of his house.

Baba said following reports of gunshots at the athlete’s home, he had called Pistorius, who told him everything was fine.

“Mr Pistorius said to me, ‘security, everything is fine’,” Baba said.

“I heard that he was crying,” he added.

But he told his colleague Jacob who was with him that he was sure that something was wrong. Pistorius then phoned him back, perhaps by accident, and simply sobbed before the line went dead.

“I immediately told Jacob everything is not right.”

Roux tested his recollection too, asking whether Pistorius said “he is okay” or “everything is okay”, and whether he said “okay” or “fine”.

An exasperated Baba sighed, lowered his head and slowly repeated: “My Lady, the exact words were ‘security, everything is fine’.”

Earlier this week, Johan Stipp, a radiologist and neighbour of Pistorius, testified that he found him crying next to a dying Steenkamp at the bottom of the stairs.

By then Steenkamp had lost all pulse and it was too late to save her life, he said.

During cross-examination of Stipp on Friday, Roux challenged his recollection that Pistorius told him that he shot Steenkamp because he believed she was an intruder.

“Mr Pistorius says he can’t remember telling you he thought she was an intruder… He recalls asking you to help him,” said Roux.

But Stipp maintained that Pistorius had given him this explanation.

“I shot her. I thought she was a burglar. I shot her,” he quoted Pistorius as saying.

Roux has doggedly tried to cast doubt on the credibility of every witness since the trial began on Monday.

He has put it to Stipp and other neighbours it was impossible that they were woken, as they claim, on the night Steenkamp died by a woman’s screams followed by gunshots.

Roux claims it was in fact Pistorius who they heard scream, and that his voice could easily be mistaken for a woman’s because it rose when he was distraught.

However when Nel asked Taylor whether Pistorius, 27, sounded like a man or a woman when he shouted, she was adamant: “It sounded like a man, My Lady.”

The trial will resume on Monday morning.

South Africa: ISS Survey – MPs Too Absent, Too Often

As the general elections approach, it is worth noting what, in fact, the people of South Africa will be voting for. Strictly speaking, they will not be voting for a president – they will be voting for representation in the South African Parliament. It is they, the parliamentarians who will, in turn, then elect the president.

This may be the first job of the Parliament within a system of proportional representation, and an important one at that, but it is by no means its most important.

The South African National Assembly (NA) and the National Council of Provinces (NCOP), along with other representative bodies, serve as the voice of the electorate in between elections. But they can only do so if they show up for work, and as an Institute for Security Studies (ISS) sample survey has revealed, attendance within Parliament has room for improvement.

Over the last two sessions of Parliament in 2013, the ISS monitored the attendance of Members of Parliament (MPs) at committee meetings, where the real work takes place.

The survey found that of the 482 committee meetings monitored, the average attendance was approximately 59% in the NA and 54% in the NCOP. Almost a quarter of these (23%) had less than 49% attendance, which is a critical marker as a majority is required for the committee to take any decisions.

Few jobs are more important than governing a country, and MPs have one overarching function: to represent the will and interest of the people. To do so, they have two essential tasks. The first is to exercise oversight of the executive branch, to ensure that it is doing what it is supposed to, (i.e. delivering services to the people).

The second is to formulate and review legislation, although with most cases around the world, the role of formulating new laws has been usurped by the executive branch.

Indeed, in South Africa, the vast majority of new bills come from the executive, and ‘private members’ bills’ are rare. Hence, Parliament’s role is largely to review and amend proposed legislation in a process that should, legally, involve extensive public consultations.

Plenary sessions of Parliament, whether the NA or the NCOP, are mainly for voting on proposed legislation or conducting debates. Voting on bills requires that at least 50% of the total number of MPs cast a vote (in some cases 66%, for instance, if it is to change the Constitution).

Not infrequently have these votes been postponed because of insufficient attendance, much to the chagrin of the African National Congress (ANC) who are usually the source of the bill in question and who – with 63% of the total vote in the last elections – can on their own make up more than 50% of the total number of MPs.

Although the debates in the plenary sessions are relevant, the majority of work on legislation takes place within committees, of which there are over 50 if one counts both houses of Parliament. The Portfolio, Ad Hoc, Select and Standing Committees are the engines of Parliament, where issues can be explored and elaborated.

This is where individual MPs can play their greatest role, and where the topic can transcend party politics – although this is also rare. Hence, attending committee meetings is perhaps the most important aspect of an MP’s job description.

Absenteeism from committee meetings should therefore be rigorously monitored and explicitly disapproved of, as it would under any other normal conditions of employment. If, for instance, an average employee only showed up for work 60% of the time, it is highly likely that they would find themselves unemployed.

To be fair, one should note that some of the smaller political parties, such as the Pan-African Congress (PAC), Freedom Front Plus (FF+), or United Democratic Movement (UDM), to name a few (there are nine political parties with fewer than five ‘seats’ in Parliament, and four with only one seat each), are physically unable to attend all the meetings – especially when a committee meeting schedule would require them to be in two places at the same time.

Conversely, the ANC and the Democratic Alliance (DA), the two largest parties in the National Assembly, are able to have representatives at all scheduled meetings.

The ISS survey supports this assertion, with the UDM’s attendance averaging 14%, that of the FF+ 15% and the PAC less than 1%. Of all the political parties, the DA scored highest, with an average attendance record of 78%. The ANC comes in second at 64%.

For the smaller parties, engaging in committee work is perhaps the only arena in which they are able to make any impact, making attendance all the more critical.

This, it seems, is something that the DA has picked up on and is reflected in their attendance record. On the other hand, the strong majority of the ANC at all levels – whether in plenary or within committees – means that they are able to control the agenda, business, and outcome of the meetings.

For the opposition parties there may therefore be little incentive to attend regularly, and, conversely, the sheer number of ANC committee members may induce a sense of over-confidence in some members.

There are, without question, some very dedicated and motivated MPs from all parties, while some MPs are chronically late, absent or leaving meetings early. Some MPs did not show up for any meetings, while others – many more than the persistently truant, it should be said – have perfect attendance records.

Given the absence of a constituency-based electoral system, however, measuring individual attendance has little relevance, although most parties have self-appointed constituencies that they ‘represent’ and ‘report to’. That all said, attendance at committee meetings is mandatory; it is part of the job and absence should not be taken lightly or excused easily.

What is perhaps of most importance – given the absence of a constituency-based system of accountability – is that the required number of MPs is present to take decisions (called a ‘quorum’). This was the case in 371 of the 482 (77%) meetings monitored.

Breaking this down further, 45% of meetings had 50% – 69% attendance, and 32% of all meetings had more than 70% attendance. While only some of the Ad Hoc committees managed to record 100% attendance, a total of 27 of the 482 meetings had an attendance score of 90% or better.

Considering the importance of this work, and that it is, in fact, a job (and a well-paid one at that), it would not be impertinent to suggest that attendance needs to be improved. Were it a school, remedial action would have been taken against the truant pupils. But it is not; it is one of the highest decision-making bodies in South Africa.

While biometric systems have been proposed for the plenary sessions of Parliament, little seems to have been done or proposed to ensure that MPs attend committee meetings.

– Stefan Gilbert, Senior Researcher, Governance, Crime, and Justice Division, ISS Pretoria


JOHANNESBURG, March 7– The Banking Association of South Africa says it is concerned that many South Africans are failing to save enough of their earnings, despite drowning in debt, and are lagging other countries in terms of savings.

The association’s Managing Director, Cas Coovadia, said Thursday that among the BRICS countries – -Brazil, Russia, India, China and South Africa, China had a savings rate of 52 per cent, while in Brazil it stood at 40 per cent. South Africa had the lowest rate of savings, at only 13 per cent.

The banking industry body, which held one of its savings campaigns for two days in Thaba-Ncu in Free State Province on Thursday, says it is concerned that many South Africans are failing to save their earnings, despite drowning in debt.

The Free State Education department says teaching and learning should also focus on money saving for the students.

The head of the department of education, Staney Malope, elaborated: “Indeed what we try to say is we do give lessons in class, however those children do not see the value and the relationship in the real world outside but this how in real terms in the real world this is going translate in itself as you grow up and interact with life itself.”