Court ruling makes dagga now legal at home

eNCA reports that the Western Cape High Court passed a ruling on Friday morning (today) that allows for the possession, cultivation and private use of marijuana at home.  The court also ruled that Parliament has 24 months to change sections of the Drug Trafficking Act and the Medicines Control Act. Dagga Party of SA leader Jeremy Acton, Rastafarian Garreth Prince and 18 others argued in December last year for the decriminalisation of the substance.

According to the Dagga Party the ruling is a massive step forward for the cannabis movement in the country. The court also ruled that Parliament has 24 months to change sections of the Drug Trafficking Act and the Medicines Control Act. Dagga Party of SA leader Jeremy Acton, Rastafarian Garreth Prince and 18 others argued in December last year for the decriminalisation of the substance. According to the Dagga Party the ruling is a massive step forward for the cannabis movement in the country.

metered Taxi operators in the city have given transport minister ultimatum

Pretoria News reports that metered taxi operators in the city have given transport minister Dipuo Peters seven days to expel Uber operations. More than 200 taxi operators caused severe traffic disruptions in the city on Thursday as they marched to the department’s offices in Struben Street, where they warned the department to remove the “cheap” taxi service from the capital’s streets, vowing to resort to extreme measures should this not be done. Drivers belonging to the Tshwane Concerned Meter Taxi Operators said they were upset. They had approached the minister several times with the same problem but had received no joy, they said. In February the metered taxi drivers marched to the department to hand over a memorandum of demands, among them that Uber and other e-hailing taxis be removed from Gauteng roads because they brought unfair competition.

The taxi operators claimed some Uber vehicles were owned by the government and law enforcement officials, which was why their pleas fell on deaf ears. They met to discuss the way forward, meeting in an open space near the Marabastad bus terminal, and resolved to march to the department; hundreds marched under the watchful eye of law enforcement officers. Uber operators have been unwelcome in taxi ranks and areas such as the Gautrain stations, where they mainly operate. Incidents of violence against and by them have been reported, including hijackings, kidnappings and the alleged rape of passengers by Uber drivers. The charges against Uber drivers have been labelled as a smear campaigns aimed at discrediting the service and making the operation unpopular.

by Sakhile Ndlazi

Ten cops, eight home affairs officials arrested in Free State for extortion

News24 reports that ten police officers and eight home affairs officials were arrested in the Free State on Wednesday morning for allegedly extorting money from foreigners, the SA Police Service (SAPS) said.

In a statement, acting national police commissioner Lieutenant-General Khomotso Phahlane’s spokesperson, Athlenda Mathe, said the officials threatened Lesotho nationals who did not have the correct documentation.  In some instances, they assisted these nationals to cross the border without the correct documentation required, Mathe said.  A joint operation with the Hawks, at the Ficksburg port of entry into Lesotho and SA, led to their arrests.  This comes as SAPS revealed that 706 police officials had been arrested for criminal activity in the 2016/17 financial year, compared to 725 in 2015/16.

by James de Villiers

High joblessness leaving elderly who support others in ‘precarious situation’

TimesLive writes that SA’s elderly are bearing the brunt of the country’s unemployment problem‚ with more than half of all old people living in households where everyone is unemployed. This and other data are contained in the report on “Social Profile of Older Persons 2011- 2015” released by Statistics SA on Wednesday.  The report describes the economic conditions of South Africans 60 years old and older.

Amongst the findings in the report are the following:  Elderly people are living in conditions that are slightly better than in 2011 due to the widespread roll out of grants‚ with more having access to formal housing and water; about 3.1 million people (70%) out of the 4.5 million people over age 60 receive pension grants of R1,500; the elderly are doing better economically due to the wide roll out of grants; but the grants get absorbed by the able-bodied as more than half of all old people are living in households where everyone is unemployed; this leaves the elderly in a “precarious situation.

by Katharine Child

CALS study shows that mining communities ignored in social plans

Business Report reports that in five case studies of mines, the Centre for Applied Legal Studies (CALS) found that most communities were unaware of the commitments companies made in their social plans and in almost all cases those promises were not fulfilled.  The cases ranged from platinum and coal extraction to clay.  Legislation introduced in 2004 requires mines to establish and implement social and labour plans in order to be granted a license.

The plans, along with legislation demanding greater black ownership of assets, are supposed to be part of the post-apartheid government’s plans to reduce inequality.  “Our case studies, together with the testimonies of mining communities, would suggest that social and labour plans are not assisting in overcoming systemic inequality,” the study’s authors, Robert Krause and Louis Snyman, said.  The case studies, in which the mines were not identified, said that the companies had failed to meet commitments ranging from building houses and childcare centres to funding bursaries.  In most cases the local community was unaware of the commitments the companies had made in order to secure the mining licenses.

Ref: Bloomberg

SA not ready for fracking due to lack of scientists and infrastructure

BusinessLive reports that fracking should not be considered for SA because of a lack of qualified scientists and laboratories‚ incomplete information on water sources, and a shortage of “institutional capacity to ensure proper water management”. These are the findings of a desktop study conducted by AgriSA into the controversial mining method. The nine-page report — Fracking and Water: Is there enough to go around? — was released on Wednesday morning.

Fracking is currently being considered across the country‚ particularly in the Karoo Basin‚ which was the chief focus area of AgriSA’s study. While shale gas has been tipped as a potential boon for the country’s economy‚ communities have reacted negatively‚ citing pollution to water sources and the water-intensive nature of the mining as chief concerns. AgriSA researcher, Gregory Smith said a comprehensive set of information was needed before fracking was even considered‚ including exactly how much water was needed to ensure that all competing needs were met. However, he was particularly concerned about the country’s ability to make sure water was properly managed.

by Matthew Savides

Nelson Mandela Bay finally gets 111 metro cops

The Citizen reports that newly trained Metro Police officials from Nelson Mandela Bay will take to the streets to put their knowledge to test combating crime under the wing of the SA Police Service (SAPS).

Fresh out of training, all 111 law enforcement officers took a constitutional oath on Wednesday at a passing out parade held in Port Elizabeth.  Their main focus would be on traffic and bylaw enforcement.  Visible policing and crime prevention will be done in conjunction with SAPS, as agreed to by Provincial Police Commissioner.  The establishment of the Metro Police Force in the city has been long in the coming, with several road blocks inhibiting its materialisation.  Metro Police Chief, Yolanda Farrow, said the officers were now in a process of gaining experience.

Ref: ANA

NUM goes to war over proposed closures of five Eskom power stations

Mining Weekly reports that the National Union of Mineworkers (NUM) on Wednesday said it was planning mass protest action over Eskom’s decision to mothball five power stations in the next five years to make room for independent power producers (IPPs). In an effort to “save” the state-owned power utility from bankruptcy and privatisation, as well as to prevent the loss of up to 50,000 direct and indirect jobs, the union said it would mobilise all its members across the mining, energy and construction sectors and society at large to protest against the signing of the inclusion of more IPPs into the national grid.

“We are going to go on strike, because this is a war we must win,” vowed NUM president Piet Matosa.  The power stations to be shut down are Hendrina, Kriel, Komati, Grootvlei and Camden. The NUM’s threat comes after high-profile protest action undertaken by the Coal Transportation Forum on 1 March led to roads in Pretoria being blockaded.

Immigrants and South Africans march together in Hillbrow

GroundUp reports that on Tuesday, hundreds of people from Johannesburg’s immigrant community were joined by South African civil society organisations in a march against xenophobia and to raise concerns over government’s new White Paper on immigration. Organised by the African Diaspora Forum, the march was to bring South African and immigrant communities together and promote unity.

Chairperson Marc Gbaffou said: “We want to use this opportunity to say no to xenophobia, but also to encourage the government to assist migrants in obtaining the correct permits.” He expressed concern about the government’s new White Paper on immigration. “This paper is asking people with asylum permits not to work or study or open a business. This kind of law could encourage people to become criminals,” he said. Leaders of various communities held hands as they led the march through the streets of Hillbrow, which is home to a large immigrant community. No incidents related to the march were reported.

by Ihsaan Haffejee

NUM threatens strike at Eskom

Business Report indicates that National Union of Mineworkers (NUM) members have threatened to go on strike at state-run utility Eskom over its plans to mothball five coal-powered stations, a move the union says would lead to thousands of job losses. NUM general secretary David Sipunzi said on Wednesday that the strike would involve all its members employed at the utility without offering a timetable.

The union has about 15 000 members at Eskom, close to a third of Eskom’s workforce. The union said the power station closures would translate into 10 000 direct job losses and as many as 40 000 around the stations and at the coal mines that supply them. Eskom has said that its workers cannot strike because it provides essential services. Coal is used to generate more than 90 percent of South Africa’s power supply and job cuts are a sensitive issue in a country where the unemployment rate is almost 27 percent.

Ref: Reuters