Tshwane metro yet to decide on ‘Vat Alles’ march on Friday

Pretoria North Rekord reports that Tshwane metro police are still mulling over whether to give dismissed “operation Vat Alles” workers permission to march on Friday or not. “Vat Alles” was the name given to the government’s extended public works programme (EPWP) in Tshwane until last year.  The former employees are seeking permission to “shut down” the city this Friday for their march to mayor Solly Msimanga’s office to demand their jobs back after their contracts were not renewed at the end of December.

Mayoral spokesperson Sam Mgobozi confirmed that the metro had received an application for permission to march.  He added:  “They have a democratic right to march as long as it is done peacefully and within the confines of the law, but one thing we will not tolerate is damage to property.”  On Monday, a group of about 45 former EPWP workers burned down the metro’s waste management depot in Mabopane.

by David Matsena

Worker still waiting for compensation

GroundUp reports on the case of Ntongenzani Ngidi (57) from KwaSithebe in Mandeni, north of Durban, who has not received any compensation after losing his arm in a work accident in August and is finding it difficult to look after himself and his family. He had been cleaning machines used to manufacture sacks at Tufbag when his arm got stuck inside and ended up being cut off by the machine.  Forms were filled in, but compensation has not been paid nearly six months later.  Until the compensation comes through, he is getting half his monthly salary from the company, but he claims that is paid late.  Tufbag’s HR manager said all their employees were covered by the Department of Labour’s (DOL’s) Compensation Fund should they incur any injury on duty and the fund should be approached for further information.  Ngidi still has to submit forms to the Provident Fund to claim disability benefits.

DOL spokesman Lungelo Mkamba said they had accepted Ngidi’s claim.  “However, Ngidi is still undergoing medical treatment and among other things we are waiting for the progress reports from his doctor, physiotherapy report, resumption report from the employer stating his salary, an affidavit from the employer stating for how many months was he paid for after the injury,” Mkamba indicated.  He added that for assistance with an artificial arm, the doctor who was treating Ngidi should write a referral to an orthotist requesting an artificial arm. Neither Tufbag nor the DOL could say how much longer Ngidi would have to wait until he received compensated because the process involved a lot of paperwork.

by Zimbili Vilakazi

Oxfam urges South Africa to reduce widening wealth gap

BusinessLive writes that according to Oxfam’s new report titled ‘Reward Work, Not Wealth’, the amount of wealth concentrated in the top 1% of society’s richest individuals came at a great cost to the working class and the poor, who were now worse off than before with the rise in inequality levels. In the report released on Monday to coincide with the World Economic Forum in Davos, Oxfam shared alarming statistics of wage gaps between employers and workers.  It showed by way of an example that it took the best-paid executive at retail giant Shoprite only 4.58 days to earn what a seasonal farm worker in the country earned in 50 years.

Wage inequality has been considered the biggest contributor to SA’s inequality crisis.  As Oxfam SA leaders called for action to alleviate the inequality gap, they also conceded that some interventions by the SA government — such as the national minimum wage — could help narrow the gap.  National minimum wage expert Dr Gilad Isaacs said that although there were some reservations about certain parts of the bill, which is expected to come into effect in May, it had potential to reduce inequality.

by Theto Mahlakoana

Battle over SABC top job continues

City Press writes that with the three top positions at the SA Broadcasting Corporation (SABC) filled by acting executives, the public broadcaster’s board and Communications Minister Mmamoloko Kubayi-Ngubane cannot agree who has the final say in making the permanent appointments. The board is relying on a judgment handed down by the Pretoria High Court in October last year which indicated that the SABC only needed to consult with the minister regarding the appointment of the group chief executive officer (CEO), chief operating officer (COO) and chief financial officer (CFO).  The judgment overturned former minister Faith Muthambi’s decision to arrogate to herself the power to appoint these executives.  In November, Kubayi-Ngubane filed papers to appeal the judgment.

he present standoff was brought to a head by Kubayi-Ngubane’s refusal to accept the appointment of former journalist and MTN corporate affairs executive Chris Maroleng to the COO position.  Kubayi-Ngubane said she was not necessarily opposed to Maroleng’s selection, but that a conditional offer should have been granted to him once the vetting had been concluded, to avoid embarrassment if he failed.  The SABC board wants Maroleng’s security vetting done by the end of the week, so that he can start his new job in February. SABC spokesperson Kaizer Kganyago said an appointment would only be announced when everything had been done.

by Setumo Stone

Barbrook deal in jeopardy

City Press reports that a deal by a local minerals and investment company to buy the cash-strapped Lily and Barbrook mines is mired in controversy and could collapse before the end of this month. Siyakhula Sonke Empowerment Corporation (SSC) has entered into a binding agreement to acquire 74% of Vantage Goldfields SA, which owns the mines near Louieville in Mpumalanga.  SSC is, however, still trying to raise the funds needed to take the mines out of business rescue.  Vantage sold the shares to SSC for a nominal fee of R1. To complicate matters, on 29 January, a court will hear an application by creditors to have the mines liquidated.

They are adamant they will only withdraw their application if the mines are reopened before the court date.  Lily Mine was placed under business rescue in March 2016 and Barbrook followed suit in December of that year.  Since then, business rescue practitioner Rob Devereux has struggled to get investors to reopen the mines.  Lily Mine was shut down when part of it collapsed on 5 February 2016.  Three employees and the container they were working in on the surface fell into a huge sinkhole and were buried under tons of rock.  Their bodies have still not been recovered.  About 1,000 workers were laid off.  Barbrook, a sister mine that depended on Lily’s operations, experienced financial distress and was shut down as well.

by Sizwe Sama Yende

SANDF warns of recruitment scam in Eastern Cape and Western Cape

News24 reports that the South African National Defence Force (SANDF) has warned of a recruitment scam operating in the Eastern Cape and the Western Cape. Defence spokesperson, Brigadier General Mafi Mgobozi, said they believed a syndicate was posing as a recruitment agency of the SANDF.  “These perpetrators mislead and lure innocent victims into paying a certain amount of money for transportation to various parts of the country, with the hope of joining the SANDF,” he indicated.

Mgobozi pointed out that SANDF recruitment processes were free, and no amount of money was required to make applications.  Moreover, the SANDF did not use any agency or association for recruitment and advertised its application forms annually in national newspapers as well as on its websites.

by Derrick Spies

Ex Palabora Mining employees launch class action

City Press reports that more than 3,000 former mine workers have launched a class action against a liquidator they have accused of being secretive about the R421.9m surplus accrued in their pension fund. The former workers of Palabora Mining Company (PMC) in Phalaborwa, Limpopo, have been fighting for at least 12 years to get their money after PMC’s pension fund was liquidated in 2005. The PMC liquidated the fund following the introduction of the Pension Funds Second Amendment Act, which was aimed at ensuring that surpluses of pension funds were allocated equally to beneficiaries.

The gist of the copper mine workers’ claim is that the fund’s liquidator, Garth Barnard, who was appointed by the Registrar of Pension Funds, has not been transparent about the amount of surplus accrued, nor about how and when it will be distributed.  Tolie Mnisi, chairperson of the Palabora Pensioners’ Forum, said 3,133 former employees had come forward to claim what they were owed.  He also noted that 673 employees had died without receiving any payouts while the forum tried in vain to claim the money on their behalf.  In his affidavit in the Pretoria High Court, Mnisi said they wanted the court to review and set aside the calculation performed by Barnard, and that he must be ordered to recalculate the benefits to be paid to the beneficiaries.

by Sizwe sama Yende

Fatal accident at Harmony Gold’s Tshepong mine

Mining Weekly reports that Harmony Gold on Thursday stated that an employee at its Tshepong mine, near Welkom, in the Free State, had been killed in a mining equipment-related incident on Wednesday afternoon.

It added that an investigation into the accident was currently underway.  Management extended its heartfelt condolences to the family, friends and colleagues of the deceased.

Dis-Chem initiates discussions with 760 strikers

ANA reports that retail firm Dis-Chem said on Thursday that approximately 760 employees had gone on strike at its Midrand distribution centre and head office but trading and operations at its 131 stores were not affected.

The company stated:  “Their dispute relates primarily to union organisational rights as well as disagreement on decisions relating to discretionary bonus payments to a portion of its members. Dis-Chem has initiated discussions with the affected employees in an effort to arrive at a common understanding of certain issues and agree on a suitable resolution.”

Ref: The Citizen

State opposes observation bid for man accused of raping a domestic worker

Pretoria News reports that the prosecutor in the case of a Bronkhorstspruit man accused of sexually assaulting his parent’s domestic worker and then forcing her to perform sexual acts on his dogs argued on Tuesday that he was trying to be declared mentally challenged to avoid prosecution. Prosecutor Solly Ledallo opposed an application by the accused’s family who wanted the court to send the accused to Weskoppies Psychiatric Hospital for observation, which could influence his criminal case. According to the charge sheet, the suspect first held the woman against her will in a room on 23 October and damaged her cellphone.

The accused faces 10 counts which could all be scrapped should he be declared mentally unstable.  The prosecutor advised that the accused had already been seen by a psychiatrist, who, after observing him, wrote a professional medical report indicating that he was not insane.  The case was postponed to 15 February for the psychiatrist to give testimony about the accused’s metal state.

by James Mahlokwane