Daily Archives: September 8, 2016

South Africa: Eskom Procurements to Proceed Under Veil of Secrecy

In response to a parliamentary question, Minister of Public Enterprises, Lynne Brown, has indicated that the content flowing from the procurement processes for all Eskom new building programmes will not be made public.

The Minister indicated that while “high level procurement process information … is available upon request,” “procurement content information however (e.g. Tender submissions, contracts, pricing) … is confidential.”

The decision by the Minister severely compromises the transparency of the procurement process and leaves the door wide open to large-scale corruption and political interference.

This does not bode well for the growing perception that South Africa’s state-owned enterprises have been politically captured by the ANC in a bid to plunder their coffers.

The response by Minister Brown follows shortly after a similar response to a question posed by DA Shadow Minister of Energy, Gordon Mackay MP, wherein she made clear her refusal to release documents pertaining to the nuclear deal on the basis that they are “privileged, sensitive state documents” and “could compromise the new build process.”

There is a long history of irregularities in the awarding of Eskom tenders, including the alleged involvement of the ANC’s Chancellor House in helping Hitachi to secure Eskom contracts in the construction of Medupi, as well as Eskom’s irrational decision to award a R4 billion tender to Areva over preferred-bidder Westinghouse citing “strategic considerations” – a decision that was later overturned by the Supreme Court of Appeal.

With the Request for Proposal for the new nuclear build set to go out on 30 September, we must ensure that this process is not similarly captured by Zuma Inc at the expense of the South African economy. We cannot allow it to proceed under a veil of secrecy; procurement process must be open and transparent and allow for maximum public scrutiny to ensure that they are free from corruption.

Source: Democratic Alliance

Special Envoy Thomas Perriello Travel to Tanzania, DRC, Belgium

U.S. Special Envoy Thomas Perriello to the Great Lakes Region of Africa is traveling September 6-17, 2016, to Dar es Salaam, Tanzania; Kinshasa, Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC); and, Brussels, Belgium. He will attend the East African Community (EAC) Heads of State summit on September 8 in Dar es Salaam, in an effort to support regional leadership in resolving the Burundi crisis and specifically the EAC-led dialogue amongst Burundian stakeholders. He will be in the DRC, September 9-15, to engage at length with stakeholders there on issues of dialogue, protecting political space, and advancing the electoral process. His trip will conclude in Brussels, where he will meet with international and European partners.

Source: U.S. State Department

SOUTH AFRICAN CENTRAL BANK GOES AFTER ILLEGAL DEPOSIT-TAKING SCHEMES

The South African Reserve Bank (SARB) has launched a national campaign aimed at raising public awareness of illegal deposit-taking schemes and advance-fee schemes.

Launched under the theme “Easy Come. Easy Go”, the campaign aims to give South Africans practical tips to check whether they are being scammed. It also encourages the public to exercise extra caution when choosing potential investment opportunities.

“Easy Come. Easy Go draws on the old adage that if a deal sounds too good to be true, it probably is. One of the responsibilities of the SARB is the prudential supervision of banks. The Banks Act prescribes that only registered banks can take deposits from the general public and it is an offence for unregistered persons to conduct the business of a bank,” the central bank’s governor, Lesetja Kganyago, said at the launch of the campaign Tuesday.

Kganyago added that the SARB was empowered to investigate the activities of unregistered persons suspected of taking deposits from the public in contravention of the Banks Act.

Last year alone, the central bank investigated 41 illegal deposit-taking schemes. Twenty-eight of these were from previous years, while 13 were new schemes. The SARB is investigating 19 suspected illegal deposit-taking schemes. More than 5,000 advance-fee scams have been reported to the SARB in the past five years.

The central bank said illegal deposit-taking schemes took a number of forms and varying degrees of inventiveness, including Ponzi, pyramid, and related schemes.

“Generally speaking, Ponzi and pyramid schemes fall within the jurisdiction of the National Consumer Commission, but the SARB investigates such schemes to the extent that they may have an element of deposit-taking, in contravention of the Banks Act,” said the SARB.

The bank called on the public to make use of the “stop, check and report” mantra, noting that the public should stop for a moment and ask yourself some basic questions. If it sounds too good to be true, it probably is.

The public should also check to see if they are being targeted and avoid becoming a victim and they should report the scam and help others stay vigilant.

Source: NAM NEWS NETWORK

SOUTH AFRICAN BASIC EDUCATION DEPT TAKES STEPS TO DEAL WITH RAPE IN SCHOOLS

South Africa’s Deputy Minister for Basic Education, Enver Surty, says the Basic Education Department has put in place several measures and interventions to deal with rape in schools.

He said this when he participated in a debate in the National Council of Provinces, the upper chamber of the South African Parliament, on “Addressing the spate of rapes of learners in our schools’ here Tuesday.

“When you talk about rape, it is not only about the physical aspect of rape or violence against children, it is also about the emotional aspect, the psycho-social aspect, and therefore one has to reflect on the trauma that the child suffers as a result of this particular conflict,” he said.

He said the department had ensured that in the revised curriculum assessment policy, attention was paid to gender, including the prevention and management of gender-based violence.

“We have developed and trained teachers on the guidelines of the prevention and management of sexual violence and harassment in public schools. We also collaborate with partners who have dedicated their time and energy to ensure that they enhance protection for our learners,” he said.

He added that through partnerships with non-governmental organizations (NGOs) such as Tshwaranang and the Foundation for Human Rights, assistance was provided in bringing about awareness and advocacy in preventing violence in the schools.

The department has also developed a Values and Action Programme which speaks to the importance of respect, the importance of gender equality and about the responsibility the department has in protecting the rights of girl learners,” he said.

“We have developed a manual called Opening Our Eyes; it is a manual for educators in addressing gender-based violence in South African schools and educators across the country have been trained with regards to the use of this manual, with regards to the content and with regards to the methodology in the implementation of the content that is contained in the manual.

“There is also a manual that has been developed, titled ‘The Prevention of Violence in Schools’, which focuses on enabling learners to take action to prevent violence in their own schools and communities. This manual has been distributed to all provinces and has disseminated to all schools via the heads of the departments.”

Surty said the department had distributed a resource to all schools called “Challenging Homophobic Bullying in our Schools”.

“Very often you find an expression of violence against our girl learners through the act of bullying and indeed that is another element where we dedicate time and effort for it, including the training of our educators in dealing with this particular issue,” he said.

More than 15,000 schools in South Africa have been adopted by the South African Police Service (SAPS) to ensure that students and teachers have easy access to the police in their areas.

Schools have introduced movements called GEM (Girls Education Movement) or BEM (Boys Education Movement), where the boys are taught to be their sisters’ keepers and are vested with the responsibility and obligation of ensuring that they protect girl students.

“We are in the process of finalising a protocol on the prevention and management of sexual violence in our schools and this will provide for all the provinces a step-to-step guide for educators, for principals, for parents and the learners in terms of how do you deal with acts of sexual violence and sexual abuse in our schools because the lack of knowledge of how to respond to it often results in a cover-up. So a great deal of work has been done, but much more needs to be done. We certainly have a particular responsibility in protecting our learners.”

Source: NAM NEWS NETWORK

Migrant Numbers Rise in Italy, Prompting Soul-Searching, Straining EU Relations

In rubber dinghies and rickety wooden boats, refugees and migrants have been risking their lives in increasing numbers crossing the Mediterranean in one desperate expedition after another from Libya.

The voyages have been making a mockery of the European Union’s claim it has control over its southern borders, and a referendum in October in Hungary threatens to further undermine the European bloc’s efforts to stay on top of a crisis that has been roiling the continent and fueling the rise of far-right anti-immigrant parties.

Pollsters predict a majority of Hungarians will signal in the referendum that they don’t want the EU to resettle non-Hungarian citizens in Hungary without the approval of the anti-immigrant dominated National Assembly. A vote against the bloc’s troubled mandatory migrant relocation plan will likely encourage other EU states, mainly central European governments, to dig in and continue to refuse to accept Brussels-designed quotas to share the burden of resettling war refugees and economic migrants from the Middle East and Africa – a key plank in the EU’s migration policy.

Hungary’s hardline prime minister, Viktor Orban, who has been leading the ‘keep them out’ campaign, expects record numbers to turn out for the Brexit-inspired plebiscite and deliver a snub to Brussels bureaucrats.

In one recent speech, Orban said, “We don’t want to change the character of our country. We want to remain Hungarian, to keep our religious and ethnic compositionThey want to force rules on member states that are in conflict with their interests, including Hungary’s. We are preparing for a conflict.”

Earlier this year, Orban ordered Hungary’s borders with Serbia and Croatia closed, although that has not stopped migrants still crossing into Hungary – 14,000 are believed to have done so illegally.

While the political focus, when it comes to the future of EU migration policy, currently is on Hungary, the on the ground crisis is in Italy, which, since March, has been in the eye of the migration storm once again. Since the Europeans struck a deal with Ankara in March, under which migrants arriving at Greek islands from Turkey are supposed to be sent back, the flow of refugees from Turkey to Europe has receded dramatically.

The migrant crisis is like a balloon — pressed at one point, it bulges at another. More than 118,000 people have made the perilous journey from Libya to Italy so far this year, 3,000 of them dying in the attempt. About 15,000 have been picked up off the Libyan coast since August 28.

Nothing seems to arrest the traffic, including the much-trumpeted EU naval interdiction operation. Nor has a high-profile, hard-hitting Italian government online campaign launched just over a month ago and called ‘Migrant Aware.’

The campaign aims at discouraging migrants dreaming of a better life in Italy from making the journey. Costing $1.65 million, it consists of harrowing first-person accounts of the horrors migrants faced on their journeys, with videos and testimony posted on popular social media sites used by would-be sub-Saharan migrants. Launching the campaign, Italy’s interior minister, Angelino Alfano, said it was a “message in a bottle we have thrown into cyberspace.”

The message is not being heeded, throwing up moral dilemmas for Italians, who pride themselves on welcoming those fleeing war and destitution but who now feel they are inundated.

“We can’t take everybody,” says 54-year-old Helene Forni, a Roman who has been searching for full-time work and resents migrants resettled in Italy getting a daily stipend. “I don’t get that support from the government. Rome has changed – it is overwhelmed with migrants,” she adds, saying that “street crime is rising.” So is prostitution, with the EUR neighborhood, south of Rome’s center, relentlessly being turned into an open air sex market – many of the women and girls there have been trafficked from sub-Saharan Africa or are paying off criminals for arranging their migration.

Another moral (and legal) question answered by a court in Palermo, Sicily, Thursday is whether migrants who have been instructed by people smugglers to pilot boats and dinghies should be prosecuted for doing so – and especially when the crossing ends in loss of life.

The court decided to acquit two young African men – a Gambian and a Senegalese – who steered a boat in July 2015. A dozen of the migrants in the boat drowned. Prosecutors demanded life sentences but the court decided that as the men had been threatened by traffickers with death if they didn’t pilot the boat, they should be freed. “They acted,” the judge decided, “in a situation of necessity” and “had no choice but to commit the crimes” attributed to them and committed in a “context of extreme drama and tension.”

The rise in migrant numbers coming into Italy is straining relations between the country and its northern neighbors – France, Austria and Switzerland, which have all strengthened their border controls. In recent weeks, there have been chaotic scenes at the Italian-French border, with hundreds of asylum seekers being turned back by French police.

The Swiss have also refused to allow migrants in from Italy, and on Wednesday, Austrian police said there has been a “creeping rise” in the number of asylum seekers attempting to cross into Austria from Italy. The head of the Tyrol police, Helmut Tomac, said between 40 and 50 migrants are being stopped every day at the Brenner border crossing.

Tyrol’s governor, Gunther Platter, told the newspaper Tiroler Tageszeitung that if the French and Swiss decide to shutter their borders with Italy completely, “the pressure will fall on us even more.”

Source: Voice of America