Daily Archives: July 26, 2016

South Africa: Desperate ANC Has Lost the Argument On Creating Jobs and Stopping Corruption

ANC Spokesperson, Zizi Kodwa’s vitriolic attack on the DA’s election campaign today reveals the party’s growing desperation as they face losing Johannesburg, Tshwane and Nelson Mandela Bay to the DA on 3 August 2016.

The truth is that the ANC has lost the argument on which party can create jobs, stop corruption and deliver better services.

Under Jacob Zuma, unemployment has sky-rocketed, corruption is rampant, and service delivery is deteriorating. The ANC are no longer willing to compete with the DA’s record and clear plans to move our country forward again, because they know they do not have a record to defend.

The ANC’s election campaign, if anything, has descended into all-out chaos. The party has no distinct offer to voters; they have used divisive and racist comments to divide our people; and they face an internal rebellion from within their structures, including Marius Fransman.

The DA today is the only party in South Africa that is honouring Madiba’s dream of a non-racial South Africa, united its diversity. The ANC have abandoned his legacy – committing instead to corruption and joblessness.

We will not be distracted from their negative campaigning, and will continue with our positive offer to voters: where we do not govern yet, we want to bring the CHANGE that is needed to move our country forward again. Where we currently govern, we want to build on the progress we have made over last five year. We know we have much more work to do.

Source: Democratic Alliance.

South Africa: Nkandla – Zuma Must Pay Back Money Personally, and Come Clean On Tax Owed

The DA welcomes the Constitutional Court’s endorsement of National Treasury’s determination ordering that President Jacob Zuma pays back R7.8 million for his liability for the upgrades at his private residence at Nkandla.

In doing so President Zuma and no one else must “personally pay back” this money and not rely on the Guptas or members of the notorious “Premier League” to do so on his behalf as they have offered to do using taxpayer rands in recent times.

This follows a letter issued by the registrar of the Constitutional Court confirming that the President is to pay back R7.8 million by 29 September 2016 or face being in contempt of court.

While National Treasury has determined, in line with the Constitutional Court’s ruling, that R7.8 million is an amount of the costs to be personally paid by Zuma for the over-inflated R246 million project of corruption, this is not the only amount that Zuma should pay to the people of South Africa.

We contend that this is merely the first instalment of the total amount that Zuma owes at Nkandla, which must also include the fringe benefit tax for which Zuma is still liable. It cannot be that the President can get away with paying R7.8 million on a house that cost R246 million.

As such we are approaching the end of this first chapter of the Nkandla saga and are at the beginning of holding the President to account for the R63.9 million he owes in fringe benefit tax. Jacob Zuma is liable by law to pay any tax benefits personally amassed in relation to the luxurious updates at his Nkandla homestead. The DA maintains that Jacob Zuma, and only Jacob Zuma, must pay back every single rand owing at Nkandla.

For Zuma and the ANC, all the years of evading accountability, undermining the Public Protector via the farcical Nkandla Ad Hoc Committee, blocking impeachment proceedings and Motions of No Confidence, and spending millions of rands of public funds defending Zuma in every court at every level seemed to have paid off.

Unfortunately for Zuma and the ANC, that is not the case. This is not the end of the road for Jacob Zuma and his corrupt cronies; it has only just begun.

Source: Democratic Alliance.

How date palm seeds can remove toxins from the environment

Date palms are an iconic feature of landscapes in the Middle East and North Africa. These graceful trees are one of the oldest known fruit crops and have been cultivated for well over 5,000 years, providing sustenance for generations.

To this day, dates have been an important international crop, cultivated in a wide belt from Pakistan to Tunisia and exported to markets across the world. The crops were especially prized by the ancient Sumerian cultures of Mesopotamia between the Tigris and Euphrates rivers. Once one of the earliest cradles of human civilisation, this region is now home to the sadly war-torn countries of Iraq and Syria.

As anybody who has eaten dates will know, the succulent fruits contain a large pit which is normally discarded, though traditionally in the Middle East they were collected and used for feeding livestock or making decorative beads.

But what if, rather than throw these pits away, we could use them to address a very modern issue, solving a serious problem that plagues people around the world and especially those in countries ravaged by conflict such as Iraq and Syria? What if we could use them to remove toxins from the environment?

Date seeds contain small but significant amounts of oil, which can be extracted by pressing. This oil used to be processed to make soap and other beauty products. However, in a joint venture with colleagues in Syria, we have now found a way to use the oil to remove dangerous toxins from the environment.

A dated solution

This finding came about through a unique international scientific collaboration between Dr Abdulsamie Hanano in Damascus, colleagues in France, and our group at the University of South Wales.

Dr Hanano was interested in the problem of how to remove toxins, known as dioxins, that can accumulate in watercourses and soils due to industrial contamination or warfare. Dioxins are byproducts of industrial processes, and perhaps best known from the Vietnam War in the 1960s, when the US military sprayed huge amounts of a herbicide called “Agent Orange” over the countryside in order to remove vegetation.

Tragically, the Agent Orange formulation contained dioxins and many thousands of Vietnamese people were exposed to the toxin, resulting in a huge toll of illness and birth defects that is still with us today.

More widely, industrially produced dioxins are present in many areas around the world and enter human food chains via livestock, fish or drinking water from contaminated areas. Dioxins accumulate in the human body eventually leading to reproductive and developmental problems, damage to the immune system and cancer.

One of the biggest problems in trying to remove dioxins from the environment is their extreme insolubility in water, which means that they cannot simply be washed away. This is where Dr Hanano spotted a possible opportunity to use date seeds: he realised that the seed oil was encapsulated in very stable structures called lipid droplets. And, as we had shown previously, such lipid droplets are covered by a layer of specialised proteins that enable them to form highly stable emulsions. We speculated that these oily emulsions might attract the dioxins and remove them from the environment – in effect acting as “molecular magnets”.

The first challenge was to get the lipid droplets out of the hard date seeds. This required the seeds to be soaked in water for two weeks to soften them, before the droplets could be extracted as a creamy emulsion. The next stage was to add this emulsion to a water/solvent mixture that contained the most common and most toxic dioxin, TCDD. The results were dramatic and exceeded all of our expectations: within a minute, almost all of the dioxins had been removed from the solution and into the lipid droplets.

This was the start of several months of intensive research by our respective labs in Syria, France and the UK. Because of the ongoing conflict in Syria, we were unable to meet in person, and our colleagues in Damascus suffered from severe shortages of equipment and supplies – not to mention the very real dangers of living and working in a war zone.

Having shown a preliminary “proof of concept” in our recently published paper, we are now interested in practical applications of this new form of environmental biotechnology. One of Dr Hanano’s ideas is to use it on fish farms where the higher levels of dioxins in coastal waters (compared to the open oceans) can result in significant accumulations in fish and shellfish. The water could be passed through cartridges containing date seed lipid droplet emulsions in order to remove the dioxins, which can them be incinerated.

In the short term, we hope the technology will be used to help clean up the huge numbers of contaminated sites in Syria created during the present conflict. Longer term, we are also interested in using this sort of bio-remediation to tackle other toxins across the world, proving that date palms are even more useful than our ancestors imagined.

Source: The Conversation

South Africa: DA Challenges ANC Metros to Follow Cape Town’s Lead in Rejecting Eskom Decision

The DA today challenges ANC metros to follow the DA-run City of Cape Town’s lead to reject the decision by Eskom CEO, Brian Molefe, to discontinue the signing of power purchase agreements with the Independent Power Produces.

Mr Molefe’s decision, which flies in the face of national Energy Policy, will have serious repercussions for the stability of electricity supply in South Africa and be yet a further hurdle to much needed job creation.

The DA is alarmed that despite abundant empirical evidence globally on the job creating potential of renewable energies Mr Molefe is preferencing nuclear energy as Eskom’s priority within South Africa’s energy mix.

Global experience tells us that Mr Molefe’s preference for nuclear will undermine job creation in two ways, firstly by limiting expansion of the renewable sector thousands of future jobs that would have been created will now fall to the wayside; secondly, expensive nuclear energy which will drive electricity costs in South Africa to an all-time high will force many businesses to close and jobs to be destroyed.

To stem this tide of needless job destruction DA Mayor of the City of Cape Town, Patricia De Lille, has written to the Minister of Energy requesting what is known as a Section 34 determination to allow the City of Cape Town to directly procure electricity from locally based independent power producers. This will allow the City of Cape Town to directly promote expansion of the renewable sector and in so doing boost jobs and lower electricity costs for City residents and businesses alike.

Mr Molefe complains that Eskom no longer wants to be forced to procure energy from IPPs. On this point the DA agrees. IPPs should not be forced to sell electricity to Eskom; instead IPPs should be able to sell electricity directly to Cities, businesses and consumers via an independent grid operator. This would introduce much needed competition to Eskom and place downward pressure on electricity prices benefiting businesses and residents alike.

The legislation to introduce an independent grid operator already exists, but still needs to be passed by Parliament. The DA will again write to the Minister of Energy demanding that the legislation be tabled in Parliament as a matter of urgency.

Only where there is competition to Eskom and where South African Cities enjoy the power to procure electricity from the cheapest provider, will energy supply be secure, will business grow and, most importantly, will jobs be created for the millions of South Africans.

Source: Democratic Alliance.

Four Corners: is using restraints akin to torture?

Monday night’s ABC Four Corners program on the treatment of detainees in juvenile detention in the Northern Territory was devastating viewing. Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull’s subsequent announcement of a royal commission to investigate is to be applauded.

One of the many concerns raised was the use of what are termed “restrictive interventions” to control behaviour. The vision of the use of brute force to restrain a child, strip him and leave him crying in distress, as well as the image of a hooded figure sitting strapped to a chair, are difficult to erase.

What restraints are used?

The use of various forms of restraint to control behaviour occurs in a wide range of institutional and other settings. However, it is controversial due to the adverse physical and psychological effects that may result.

There are different definitions of restraint used in legislation across Australia. Tasmania’s Mental Health Act defines three different forms of restraint:

physical restraint: “bodily force that controls a person’s freedom of movement”;

mechanical restraint: “a device that controls a person’s freedom of movement”; and

chemical restraint: “medication given primarily to control a person’s behaviour, not to treat a mental illness or physical condition”.

But, there are no universal definitions. And there are gaps in regulation and oversight. There is also no formal, routine, nationally agreed data collection and reporting framework for the use of restraint.

In health-care settings, regulation occurs primarily under mental health and disability services legislation, as well as through a range of policy directives and guidelines.

In Australia, deaths have resulted from:

asphyxia and cardiac arrest during the use of physical force: Justin Fraser and Adam White in Victoria, Robert Plasto-Lehner in the Northern Territory, Mark Hare and Brett Sparks in New South Wales, and Warwick Ashdown in Western Australia;

overdoses resulting from the use of medication to control behaviour: Antoinette Williams and David Lee in Western Australia; and

the use of a wheelchair restraint strap on an elderly person: Ruth Dicker in South Australia.

Physical injuries have also been reported during the use of physical and mechanical restraint. The Victorian Ombudsman recently investigated claims by five patients in a mental health facility that they had been dragged by their hair, sustained injuries to their shoulders from having their arms and hands held behind their back, and experienced bruising and grazing to their forehead and legs after being physically restrained.

Experiences of physical and mechanical restraint have been reported as overwhelmingly negative, associated with immediate escalation of distress, and intense feelings such as despair, shame, terror and rage.

What does the law say?

The United Nations Special Rapporteur on Torture has called for an absolute ban on the use of restraint in health-care settings. There are strong arguments that there should be an absolute ban in the use of restraints on children in institutional settings.

Article 7 of the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights states:

No-one shall be subjected to torture or to cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment or punishment.

Article 4 clarifies there can be no exemptions from this provision.

The Convention against Torture and Other Cruel, Inhuman or Degrading Treatment or Punishment also provides a globally significant framework for combating torture and inhuman treatment. Article 1 defines torture as:

Any act by which severe pain or suffering, whether physical or mental, is intentionally inflicted on a person for such purposes as intimidating or coercing him [or her] or a third person, or for any reason based on discrimination of any kind, when such pain or suffering is inflicted by or at the instigation of or with the consent or acquiescence of a public official or other person acting in an official capacity.

What was shown on Four Corners last night was cruel, inhuman and degrading treatment – if not torture.

Research has found any reduction in the use of restraint in health-care settings requires a commitment to workforce development so there is a sufficient number of staff as well as education, supervision and accountability of both staff and management.

This should apply to all institutional settings – lest the events at Don Dale detention centre be just the tip of the iceberg.

Source: The Conversation