Cosas calls for exams in indigenous languages

SABC News reports that the Congress of South African Student (Cosas) has once again called for all 11 languages to be treated equally in order to improve the pass rate.

Cosas wants pupils to be allowed to write exams in their mother tongue. The Department of Basic Education embarked on an initiative aimed at bringing indigenous African languages into mainstream education, but it is yet to bear fruit.

NSFAS workers on strike for higher wages

GroundUp reports that about 200 employees of the National Student Financial Aid Scheme (NSFAS) protested outside its offices in Wynberg, Cape Town, on Tuesday, demanding higher salaries and other improvements. The workers claimed management had failed to meet demands submitted by their union, the National Education Health and Allied Workers Union (Nehawu) in September last year.

Among their demands were higher minimum salaries, promotion for cleaners, medical aid for parents of employees, permanent employment for workers on contract, and an end to “abuse of power and prostitution for jobs”. Baxolise Mali, Nehawu Regional Secretary, told protesters: “NSFAS has been playing hide and seek. Nehawu has decided to take workers out of the workplace as we believe [it] is the language the employer would understand.” “If we do not get a response by Friday, we will call other branches to join the strike,” said Mali. The demands were handed to Steven Zwane, NSFAS CEO. Zwane said management would look into workers’ demands. “Their right to go on strike is respected. We believe we will be able to find common ground soonest.”

by Bernard Chiguvare

State to appeal landmark Gatherings Act ruling

GroundUp reports that a landmark ruling by the Western Cape High Court last month, which declared part of the Regulation of Gatherings Act unconstitutional, is to be challenged by the State and the Minister of Police in the Constitutional Court. On 24 January, Judge Thandazwa Ndita ruled that the section of Regulation of Gatherings Act 205 of 1993, which criminalises the gathering of more than 15 people if no notice is given, was invalid and unconstitutional.

The case was brought by the Social Justice Coalition (SJC) against the state and the Minister of Police. Equal Education, the Open Society Justice Initiative, and The UN Special Rapporteur were admitted as friends of the court. In her ruling, Ndita set aside the convictions of ten SJC members. She said the criminal sanction in the Act was “disproportionate to the offence”. In the papers submitted on 13 February, the Minister of Police said that Ndita’s order could only come into effect once it has been confirmed by the Constitutional Court. The Minister maintains that the Act does not limit or infringe on the right to freedom of assembly, that giving notice was a “simple and straightforward procedure”, and that it ensured protest “takes place peacefully and with due regard to the rights of others”. Should Ndita’s ruling be upheld by the Constitutional Court, it will have important implications for civil society activists, poor communities and other citizens engaged in protest action against the state or powerful private organisations.

Naval project will create 5‚000 jobs over five years

TimesLive reports that a naval project for building ships will create about 5‚000 jobs in the South African National Defence Force (SANDF) over the next five years‚ President Cyril Ramaphosa said on Wednesday. The project is part of Operation Phakisa‚ Ramaphosa said during a brief speech on Armed Forces Day in Kimberley in the Northern Cape. Ramaphosa said the project would create 570 “high-end technical jobs” and 4‚500 indirect jobs over the next five years.

Armed Forces Day commemorates the sinking of the SS Mendi in the English Channel on February 21 1971. It resulted in the deaths of 600 black soldiers. Ramaphosa said it commemorates the “bravery” of the soldiers prepared to “fight in a war that was not theirs”.  Ramaphosa praised the collaboration between South Africa and Cuba in Operation Thusano‚ which entails the SANDF using Cuban military mechanics. “From inception in 2015‚ over 4‚000 vehicles have been repaired and maintained in several workshops‚” he said. As part of the project‚ 446 South Africans mechanics are currently apprentices and 395 have qualified.

by Nico Gous

NUM marches at Optimum Coal mine

Mining Weekly reports that the Department of Mineral Resources conducted an inspection on February 8 and Optimum Coal must take measures to reach compliance within 60 days of a pending order, the ministry said by email. Hundreds of members from South Africa’s National Union of Mineworkers (NUM) marched on the premises of Optimum Coal Mine owing to fears they might not be paid as the mine was owned by Gupta family company, Tegeta Resources. The NUM said it went on strike because key questions have yet to be answered at the mine.  Livhuwani Mammburu, NUM spokesperson, said:  “What our members want to know is are they going to sell the mine or not.

They also want to know if they’re going to be paid this coming Friday.”  Gupta-controlled Oakbay Investments and Duduzane Zuma, the former president’s son, bought Optimum through Tegeta Exploration from Glencore in December 2015.  Oakbay said in August that it agreed to sell Tegeta to Swiss company Charles King.  Reports that the Gupta brothers have left the country have raised anxiety of workers at Optimum, where NUM is the majority labor group, Mammburu said.  “Our members were asking a lot of difficult questions about the future of the mine.”

Ref: Bloomberg

NEHAWU CURRENTLY PREPARING FOR A STRIKE

The National Education, Health and Allied Workers’ Union in its national meeting of Water and Sanitation held on the 20th January 2018 was directed to convene membership general meetings throughout the country to report on its outcomes of the meeting but also consult to sort a mandate on a possible national strike in the department. Having met with its members, the mandate given is clear that the union should go for a total shut down in the department. This will be in the form of a strike action that will commence on the 08th March 2018.

The strike action comes after failed protracted negotiations with the department that lasted more than 12 months solely because the department was not negotiating in good faith. The department continued to make unfulfilled promises in the Departmental Bargaining Chamber, which resulted into the union declaring a dispute and obtaining a strike certificate in December 2017. The Acting Director General requested to meet the union on the 19th December 2017 wherein he requested time to resolve the impasse but to date he has dismally failed to even come back to the bargaining chamber to report progress. To this effect, NEHAWU will be commencing with lunch hour pickets effectively from the 05th March 2018 leading to the total shut down on 08th March 2018. The union hopes that the department will revert back to the negotiating table with tangible proposals to avert the strike action.

Hopes raised for interest-rate cut

BusinessLive reports that inflation moderated to 4.4% in January from 4.7% in December, raising hopes of an interest-rate cut in March. Inflation, as measured by the annual change in the consumer price index (CPI), was expected to slow in January thanks to a drop in fuel prices. The slowdown to 4.4% was better than the 4.5% economists’ consensus reported by Trading Economics. Statistics SA reported on Wednesday that January’s CPI, which was set to 100 points in December 2016, rose to 105 points from 104.7 points in December. The annual change in CPI is the key measure used by the Reserve Bank’s monetary policy committee to set its repo rate.

The committee is scheduled to announce its next interest rate decision on March 28. At 4.4%, inflation is now slightly under the halfway mark of the Reserve Bank’s target range of keeping inflation above 3% but below 6%. In January, the retail price of 93 octane petrol fell 29c per litre and 95 octane fell 34c per litre. The wholesale price of 0.05% sulphur diesel fell 22c per litre and 0.005% sulphur diesel fell 26c a litre. The fuel component of CPI fell 1.3% from December to January, but rose 9.1% over the year, Statistics SA reported. Items in the CPI basket, which became cheaper in January compared to the same month in 2017, included bread and cereals with deflation of 5.1%, fruit with deflation of 3.6%, and oils and fat with deflation of 3.4%. The price drops helped mitigate meat inflation of 13.4% to bring average food inflation to 4.6%.

Annual lifestyle audit for senior civil servants

Business Report writes that Lord Peter Hain, the anti-corruption crusader, on Friday gave his full backing to calls for senior civil servants and politicians to be subjected to annual lifestyle audits as a measure to curb corruption. Hain said lifestyle audits could be a useful tool in combating the rampant corruption in South Africa.  “When legislators have declared their interest, lifestyle audits are a useful gauge to check whether they are living within their means or not.  This is a direction South Africa should seriously consider taking to root out corruption,” he said.

Ismail Momoniat, a deputy director-general at the Treasury, last week became the first high-ranking official to publicly call for lifestyle audits in the fight against corruption.  Last year, Naledi Pandor, the Minister of Science and Technology, called on the ruling party to conduct lifestyle audits on its members to verify the source of their wealth.  Steven Powell, the head of the forensic services division at Edward Nathan Sonnenbergs, said lifestyle audits were an excellent barometer of the extent of the fraud risk within an organisation.

by Kabelo Khumalo

estern Cape aims to help 11,000 apprentices

EWN reports that the Western Cape Government has activated its Red Tape Reduction Unit and hopes to assist more than 11,000 qualified apprentices to get into the labour market by 2019.  MEC for Economic Opportunities Alan Winde said this would be in partnership with schools, colleges and employers.  He commented that apprenticeships were the first step on the career ladder for many young people.

Winde’s spokesperson Bianca Capazorio said the unit had been set up to help businesses overcome hurdles which they might face in setting up or running their business.  “Our Red Tape Reduction Unit will take calls and answer any questions that any potential employers may have so that we can connect them with young people looking to get on-the-job training.”

EC Education dept launches skills improvement program

SABC News reports that the Eastern Cape Department of Education has launched a  support program that seeks to assist learners in their studies and ensure they improve their marks. The program, called Learner Attainment Improvement Strategy (LAIS) was launched at Dutywa in the Amathole district. The aim is to address curricular delivery related matters in schools.

Education MEC, Mandla Makupula says his department provides the services of trained tutors, afternoon, evening and weekend classes and even study material for learners who lag behind in any studies. Some schools in the district are already seeing results. Principals Mzulungile Zozo and Nohlobo Matyholo started the program in their schools in 2015 and say it has yielded good results.

by Fundiswa Mhlekude