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

NUM members at Sibanye Stillwater’s Kloof Mine to observe a day of mourning

The National Union of Mineworkers (NUM) members will today observe a day of mourning at Sibanye Stillwater’s Kloof Mine mine in Westonaria in honour of the two miners who perished last week. A decision to observe a day of mourning was taken by the NUM members during a mass meeting today because they are worried about the ever deteriorating levels of safety at Sibanye Stillwater operations.

The NUM is disappointed on the trend of incidents and accidents at Sibanye Stillwater. There was a near miss of disaster where about 1000 workers were trapped underground as a result of power failure two weeks ago at Beatrix Mine in Welkom. Less than a week again two workers died as a result of fall of rocks at Kloof Mine at Sibanye Stillwater. NUM Health and Safety Chairperson comrade Peter Bailey and Cosatu Deputy General Secretary comrade Solly Phetoe, SACP and ANC representatives are expected to address the event.

The details of the event are as follows:
Time: 9 am
Venue: Kloof Mine
Date: 15 February 2017

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.

ConCourt hears argument on leave to appeal over FSB’s dormant pension fund

BusinessLive reports that the Constitutional Court hearing on former deputy pension funds registrar Rosemary Hunter’s battle for a review of the Financial Services Board’s (FSB’s) dormant retirement-fund cancellations project concluded on Tuesday. Hunter asked the court for leave to appeal against an earlier judgment of the High Court in Pretoria, which dismissed her application to obtain a wider investigation into the cancellations project, with the investigator reporting to the court.  Hunter had also sought to compel the Minister of Finance to look into two notices of noncompliance against FSB head Dube Tshidi.

Counsel for Hunter, Tshidi, Hunter’s predecessor Jurgen Boyd and the minister each had a short time to plead over one day before the Constitutional Court in regard to whether Hunter should be granted leave to appeal.  “It is very hard to tell at this stage [how the Constitutional Court will rule],” Hunter commented on Tuesday.  “We will be in a position to comment only once the court has taken a decision on the matter,” said FSB spokesman Tembisa Marele.  This report goes on to detail the complex background to this dispute.

Eastern Cape gives cash injection to 26 hospitals

BusinessLive reports that the Eastern Cape provincial health department has set aside R300m to fill more than 1‚800 critical posts. The positions include doctors and nurses‚ as well as specialists for maternity sections, in 26 identified hospitals‚ including the Nelson Mandela Academic Hospital in Mthatha‚ Frere Hospital and Cecilia Makiwane in East London‚ and Livingstone Hospital in Port Elizabeth.

Provincial health spokesperson Sizwe Kupelo said the “R300m was allocated to the department to assist with human resource improvements in order to assist about 26 hospitals across the province, which were soft targets of medico-legal claims”. The recruitment process for the hundreds of health workers has already begun.

by Zine George

Nehawu, Sol Plaatje University reach wage agreement

SABC News reports that members of the National Education Health and Allied Workers’ Union (Nehawu) at Sol Plaatje University in Kimberley have reached a settlement with the higher learning institution after being on strike for three weeks. Union chairperson Keeme Mongale said they would be meeting with the university on Wednesday to sign the agreed settlement.

The members had been demanding a 10% salary hike, an annual 100% bonus and a 13th salary cheque.  “We agreed on a 100% bonus on the low earners and the rest is followed by 80% on those who earn from R470,000 and upwards.  So, others they only remain on 70% bonus.  Others remain on 7% salary increment.  But we managed to say based on the sliding scale let the low earners at least get a upward movement in terms of salary remuneration,” Mongale indicated.

by Refilwe Gaeswe

Gold mines report progress in preventing deadly silicosis

GroundUp reports data presented at the Mining Indaba in Cape Town suggest that gold mines might at last be making progress with the prevention of silicosis among miners. Silicosis is a progressive, deadly lung disease caused by silica dust, while affected workers are much more likely to contract TB.  Graham Briggs, retired CEO of Harmony Gold and convenor of the Occupational Lung Diseases Working Group (a collaboration between the six largest mining groups in the industry), said silicosis diagnoses had dropped 24% from 853 cases in 2015 to 635 cases in 2016 on the four gold mines in the group.

These are Anglo American SA, AngloGold Ashanti, Gold Fields and Harmony Gold.  Over the same period, cases of pulmonary TB had dropped almost 14% (from 1,666 to 1,436 cases).  Briggs also reported significant progress with the “Ku-Riha” project, which is aimed at dealing with the enormous backlog of unclaimed compensation and unprocessed claims.  From 2015 to 2016, settled claims leaped from 1,628 to 7,756, and total payouts to sick workers climbed from R79m to R226m.  But Briggs was much less forthcoming on progress with dust monitoring.  He said sampling frequencies and dust analysis methods had improved in recent years, but he did not give any detail.

by Pete Lewis

Parliament’s women’s caucus to host sex work summit

News24 reports that Parliament’s Multi-Party Women’s Caucus (MPWC) said last week that it planned to host a summit on sex work in light of the ANC’s resolution to have the practice decriminalised. The summit will be hosted on 5 March in Parliament and it will hear views from stakeholders on the South African Law Reform Commission’s (SALRC) report on adult prostitution, which was released in May 2017.  Sex work is currently a criminal offence in SA and the country has some of the highest rates of sexual violence in the world – particularly in the sex work industry.

Following the release of the SALRC report, which indicated a preferred option of retaining a totally criminalised legal framework, the MPWC said the full decriminalisation of sex work was the only way to protect the rights of sex workers and address the country’s HIV/Aids crisis.  At the time, caucus chairperson Masefele Morutoa said the authors of the SALRC report were oblivious to the fact that legalising sex work would allow sex workers to access the criminal justice system.  “This has been pivotal to the calls made by many sex workers calling for full decriminalisation,” she pointed out.  In a statement on Thursday, Morutoa said the caucus had received “huge” interest from the public who wished to comment on the matter.

by Jeanette Chabalala

Another worker killed at Sibanye-Stillwater mine

eNCA reports that another mineworker has died at a Sibanye-Stillwater mine, less than a week after two people were killed at another shaft, the National Union of Mineworkers (NUM) said. The union said a worker was killed at the Driefontein’s No. 1 shaft on Monday while trying blast an ore pass box that was blocked by big rocks. When the rock was crushed, a rush of mud overwhelmed the worker, who suffocated to death.

A rockfall at the company’s Kloof mine killed two people on Wednesday.  “We are very much concerned about the loss of lives happening at Sibanye-Stillwater,” said Mbuyiseli Hibana, NUM Carletonville regional secretary. “The company must be made to account on all of these incidents and those found responsible must be made to take the blame.” In another incident in January, more than 1,100 miners were trapped underground at the Beatrix gold mine in the Free State province, after a power outage at the mine caused by a severe storm in the area. No one was injured. Trade union Nehawu has demanded all Sibanye mines be shut down until they can be declared safe.

Ref: ANA