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.

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

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

NHLS starts suspended executives’ disciplinary hearing

BusinessLive reports that almost a year after the board of the National Health Laboratory Service (NHLS) suspended its top executives for alleged corruption and maladministration, it has only just begun getting its teeth into the meat of the disciplinary action it brought against them. CEO Joyce Mogale and chief financial officer Sikhumbuzo Zulu were suspended at the end of February 2017, following a forensic investigation ordered by the board after the National Health Education and Allied Workers’ Union (Nehawu) alleged corruption and maladministration.

The board also suspended the NHLS’s head of internal audit, its supply chain manager and its facilities manager.  The latter two resigned in the face of their disciplinary charges.  NHLS board chairman Eric Buch said that after numerous technical and procedural delays, the disciplinary hearing for Mogale and Zulu had got under way in earnest on Tuesday.  Further dates for the hearing have been set for later in February and in March.  Buch declined to elaborate on the disciplinary charges brought against Mogale and Zulu, saying only that they were largely related to procurement irregularities.

by Tamar Kahn

Rand climbs following the president’s resignation

eNCA reports that the rand hovered near two-and-half year highs against the US dollar early on Thursday, boosted by former president Jacob Zuma’s late-night resignation after his ruling ANC party recalled him from his post this week.

The rand climbed to 11.66 against the dollar on Wednesday, its strongest since mid 2015, and was holding generally firm at 11.71 by 07:30 am on Thursday. “Global markets are smiling on South Africa, being the second African country in a matter of months to take a stand against corrupt leadership and skewed politics,” said market analyst Bianca Botes of Peregrine Treasury Solutions.

Ref: ANA

SAPO to take over from CPS

SABC News reports that Cash Paymaster Services (CPS) has asked the Constitutional Court to amend its judgment ordering that a new service provider should take over social grant payments after March 2018. The South African Post Office mentioned this in passing, while briefing parliament’s Telecommunications and Postal Services Portfolio Committee. SAPO is expected to take over from CPS on April 1.

In 2017, the Constitutional Court ruled that the contract between the CPS and the South African Social Security Agency(SASSA) was invalid. It then gave SASSA a deadline for a new service provider to take over. The CPS application follows another affidavit filed by SASSA last week at the Concourt. SASSA also wants the court to allow the extension of the CPS contract for six months, to help bridge the handover of grant payments.