Civil society seeks to protect Mpumalanga water source from coal mining impact

EngineeringNews reports that new legal proceedings have been launched in the Mbombela High Court against Atha-Africa Ventures’ proposed development of the Yzermyn coal mine inside a protected area and strategic water resource area, in Mpumalanga. A coalition of eight community and civil society organisations have lodged a judicial review application to set aside the decision of the Mpumalanga Department of EnvironmentalAffairs to grant an environmental authorisation to Atha-Africa for the proposed mine, as well as the decision of the Mpumalanga Environmental Affairs MEC to dismiss the coalition’s appeal of that environmental authorisation.

The review application is coupled with an interdict preventing the start of any activities at the proposed mining site pending the outcome of the review. The coalition says the environmental authorisation for the project had been granted despite longstanding recognition of the strategic environmental importance of the area, specifically as a water source. The coalition believes it has good prospects of success, and that the approvals will be set aside by the courts in due course. If necessary, the coalition has stated that it will take the matter to the Constitutional Court.

by Simone Liedtke

Student arrested over R14-million NSFAS bungle

TimesLive reports that a Walter Sisulu University student appeared in the East London Magistrate’s Court on Tuesday after she accidentally received a whopping R14.1-million from the National Student Financial Aid Scheme (NSFAS). Sibongile Mani‚ 28‚ was arrested on Tuesday morning by the Serious Commercial Crimes Unit after she was asked to hand herself over at the Hawks’ Eastern Cape provincial office in East London.

It is alleged that during June last year‚ Mani illegally received millions from NSFAS‚ spending just over R810‚000 on personal items over a period of three months. Three months after she was paid out‚ the anomaly was detected by the scheme. From June 1, 2017‚ when the money from NSFAS mistakenly landed in her account‚ Mani‚ a second-year accountancy student‚ spent an average of R11‚000 a day. Mani was released on a warning and is expected to appear in court again on July 2.

by Angela Daniels

SABC to investigate sexual harassment

TimesLive reports that the SABC is establishing two Commissions of Inquiry that will investigate editorial interference and sexual harassment at the public broadcaster. Acting CEO Nomsa Philiso announced the commissions at the state broadcaster’s offices in Auckland Park in Johannesburg on Thursday. “We are hoping that when we get to the other side of these inquiries‚ we are going to be able to say that we have cleansed the first layer of the people issues. We are under no illusions that we have a lot issues.”

Philiso said the sexual harassment investigation will be broad. “We’ve been at pains to explain that it is broad as it could be‚ including unwelcoming gestures‚ whether it is touching or just how it makes you feel.” Philiso said staff and others remain hesitant to come forward because of stigma or distrust in the system. The inquiry into editorial interference follows the recommendations from the parliamentary ad hoc committee on the SABC board inquiry. The commission of inquiry will investigate editorial interference between 2012 and 2018. There is no timeline for the inquiry into sexual harassment. Philiso said the SABC was still reviewing its current editorial policy. The public broadcaster has appointed a legal firm to run the inquiries. “No SABC members will sit on the Commission of Inquiry so that it remains independent‚” said Philiso.

by Nico Gous

Fuel prices expected to climb up

BusinessLive reports that the pressure on SA’s embattled consumers continues, with a massive fuel-price increase expected to be announced on Friday due to a surge in the price of Brent crude oil and rand weakness. This will in all likelihood push the cost of unleaded petrol towards R16 a litre, but analysts say it is not all doom and gloom.

In the long term, oil prices should ease from recent multiyear highs as major producers Saudi Arabia, the US and Russia ramp up production. Expectations are for an increase in the fuel price of between 70c and 85c, adding to the up to 72c levied at the beginning of May.

by Karl Gernetzky

New anti-tobacco products law to be introduced

SABC News reports that the Ministry of Health says a new tobacco products control amendment law is on its way, this as the country joins the global community in celebrating “World No Tobacco Day” on Thursday. Acting Director for Health Promotion Lorato Mahura says the public have been given until the first week of August to comment on the draft bill that highlights tobacco-related diseases such as TB, heart and other cardiovascular diseases. Mahura says the bill seeks to legislate issues related to electronic delivery systems and issues relating to a ban on indoor public areas.

She says: “It means that we shouldn’t be able to smoke where the public has converged like indoors and also some of the outdoor areas like the stadium and your beach-front.” “The bill also seeks to do away with point of display because it is attracting the youth to initiate smoking. Lastly, the vending machines will also have to go away because we cannot monitor them. We also want to introduce graphics warnings on the cigarettes packets because currently we have text messages that we are putting as warning but we need to but pictures as well. People must see what tobacco does instead of advertising it as something that is cool.” She says the first NO-SMOKING laws introduced two decades ago have helped many people to quit smoking. She says those still addicted but wanting to quit smoking must not switch to other products as they also contain high levels of nicotine.

by Neo Makwitting

Eskom forecasts major job losses

SABC News reports that Eskom has announced that 7 000 construction workers at the construction site of the R145 billion  Medupi Power Station at Lephalale in Limpopo will lose their jobs by the end of 2018. The power utility is reducing its workforce at Medupi as the construction is nearing its end. About 18 000 people have been employed on construction since work began in 2007.

Medupi Power Station Project Director Phillip Dukashe says construction is winding down and that by 2020, all six units will be up and running. “We currently have 13 500 people, and because the project is coming to an end, by the time we reach December of this year, 7000 people will be demobilised – or will not be required in the project. So, we will drop in terms of numbers. Obviously, we have put things in place to try to minimise impact of demobilisation of resources on the people. All of them have been trained, so they have been up-skilled to make sure that they can enter the jobmarket at a better level than they enter at Medupi.”

by Rudzani Tshivhase

Operations at Lily Mine are set to resume

The Portfolio Committee on Mineral Resources has welcomed a report by the Department of Mineral Resources that mining operations and the recovery of the bodies of three missing mine workers at Lily Mine is set to resume in November 2018. The committee was briefed by the Director-General of the Department of Mineral Resources, Mr Thabo Mokoena, and heard that business rescue practitioners have secured a buyer who is in the process of acquiring ownership of the mine.

“Although sceptical, the committee believes that resumption of operation at the mine will not only bring closure to the families of the three missing workers, but will also bring about 600 workers back to work,” said Mr Sahlulele Luzipo, the Chairperson of the committee. Mr Luzipo warned that if the department is not in control of the situation, investors could come and go without completing the work of recovering the bodies of the workers. The committee has deliberated on the inquiry into allegations of state capture in the Department of Mineral Resources, and resolved to seek a way forward from the House Chairperson, Mr Cedric Frolick.

D-Day for history in school curriculum

eNCA reports that South Africans will find out if history will be made compulsory at high school. The Basic Education Minister is releasing a report into the possibility.

A Ministerial Task Team was established in 2015 to look into the matter. At present, pupils take history up to grade nine and are allowed to drop it the next year. The plan is being criticised in some quarters‚ with some saying the subject will be used for political propaganda.

Constitutional Court grants CPS permission

eNCA reports that the Constitutional Court has granted Cash Paymaster Services(CPS) permission to approach National Treasury. It will make presentations on a new rate. Last week, lawyers for CPS wrote to Chief Justice Mogoeng Mogoeng saying the company’s cash reserves were low and that it urgently needs money to sustain operations.

However, the CEO of CPS’s parent company, Net1, says beneficiaries will receive their grants as normal. The company wants a fee of R66,70 per grant paid. Alternatively, it wants a blanket monthly fee of R160-million. Treasury is proposing a payment of R51,00 per transaction.

Nene expands scope of VAT panel

eNCA reports that Finance Minister Nhlanhla Nene has expanded the scope of a panel of experts appointed to review the current list of items exempt from value-added tax (VAT). “The amended terms of reference allow the panel more flexibility to make proposals that may alter the fiscal framework for the 2019/20 financial year and beyond, as they can be taken into account in the 2019 February Budget,” the National Treasury said in a statement on Tuesday.

The panel was appointed after the Treasury increased VAT from 14- to 15 percent in April to help raise an additional R36-billion as South Africa tries to narrow its budget deficit. The panel is looking at the impact of the VAT increase on poor and low-income households and how this could be mitigated through measures such as increasing the basket of 19 items exempt from VAT. The deadline for public submissions was shifted to Friday, 1 June 1,  while the committee has been given an extra month, until 31 July, to submit a final report to Nene.

Ref: ANA