Daily Archives: November 16, 2017

Inquiry into state capture critical, says Deputy President

Deputy President Cyril Ramaphosa says it is critical that a judicial commission of enquiry into state capture be established without any delay.

During an oral questions session in the National Assembly on Thursday, the Deputy President said there is ample evidence of the capture of key state institutions to advance private interests.

This evidence suggests that efforts to divert public resources into the hands of a few families and individuals is continuing.

While a commission of inquiry is necessary to ensure that the extent and depth of state capture is fully revealed and for us to understand how it happened, the investigation and prosecution of those responsible does not need to wait for the commission, said the Deputy President.

He said every credible allegation needs to be investigated thoroughly by law enforcement agencies and those who have broken the law should be criminally charged.

The Deputy President said to put a stop to corruption and state capture, it is essential that those who are involved are brought to book.

He added that he had had no indication from President Jacob Zuma that he does not intend to establish a judicial commission of inquiry into state capture.

Earlier this year, President Zuma announced his intention to establish a commission of inquiry into state capture. He said at the time he deemed this to be in the public interest in the course of good governance and accountability.

Source: South African Government News Agency

Experts Question Role of Data Mining Firms in Kenya’s Annulled Election

WASHINGTON Kenya’s annulled 2017 presidential election was among Africa’s most expensive. President Uhuru Kenyatta and main challenger Raila Odinga spent tens of millions of dollars on their campaigns, including sizeable investments in global PR firms that mined data and crafted targeted advertisements.

As experts sort through the historic election’s aftermath, the involvement of data analysis companies has come to the forefront, raising questions about privacy, voter manipulation and the role of foreign firms in local elections.

Mercenary outfits

Data mining and PR companies conduct surveys to gauge public sentiment and sift through reams of data across social media. They stitch that information together to build detailed profiles and deliver targeted, customized messages aimed at changing behaviors.

Some see it as smart campaigning. But others point to the ethical concerns of manipulating voters with false information.

You have a lot of these organizations, these PR firms, lobby firms, out there, and they’re essentially just mercenary outfits that do work for the highest bidder, regardless of their bloodstained track record, Jeffrey Smith, executive director of Vanguard Africa, an organization that advocates for good governance on the continent, told VOA.

It’s all legal. It’s a business, and these businesses exist to make a profit … It’s the ethical and moral side where I tend to question.

Democratic practices falling behind

According to media reports, Kenyatta’s campaign paid $6 million to Cambridge Analytica, the analytics and PR firm tied to the Brexit referendum, the 2016 U.S. presidential election, and, as recently reported by The Wall Street Journal, WikiLeaks.

Owned in part by the influential Mercer family, U.S.-based billionaires and political donors, Cambridge Analytica compiles demographic information to build vast databases of voter profiles. It then delivers personalized advertisements to key voters in an attempt to sway them.

Kenyatta wasn’t the only candidate to enlist the services of a high-tech PR firm. According to new reporting by The Star, one of Kenya’s leading newspapers, Odinga’s campaign employed Aristotle International, a U.S.-based company focused on campaign data mining.

The exact impact of these firms on the outcome of the August election is impossible to gauge, but their prominence in Kenya points to the role high-tech campaigning will play in future elections across the continent.

That’s raising questions about whether these companies undermine the democratic process by giving their clients an unfair advantage and manipulating the public.

We have reached a point where our technological advances now exceed the ability of democratic practices to catch up, said Calestous Juma, a professor of international development at Harvard University’s Kennedy School of Government.

That has created a window where people can exploit platforms like Facebook, Twitter and Google to amplify certain messages that play on ethnic stereotypes for purposes of creating fear and winning elections, Juma told VOA.

Previous involvement

This isn’t Cambridge Analytica’s first foray into Kenyan politics. Although it won’t acknowledge working on the recent campaign, the company boasts of its role in the 2013 elections, when Kenyatta contracted with the firm.

According to its website, Cambridge Analytica designed and implemented the largest political research project ever conducted in East Africa by sampling and interviewing 47,000 respondents to provide key political issues and identify voting behaviors, from which it drafted an effective campaign strategy based on the electorate’s real needs (jobs) and fears (tribal violence).

New frontier

Cambridge Analytica and other data-driven PR firms have worked throughout Europe, the Middle East and the Americas. The African market, with a projected population of 2.5 billion people in 2050, represents an enticing new frontier, with Kenya emerging as an especially appealing place to do business.

A unique mix of high mobile phone penetration, fast mobile internet, pervasive social media use and a young electorate � people under 35 comprise more than half of Kenya’s 19 million registered voters � makes the country ripe with opportunities for data mining and digital PR companies to invest in, or exploit.

For Smith, the lack of transparency inherent in how companies like Cambridge Analytica operate undermines the democratic process.

What they do is essentially help propagate false news stories, Smith said. Me and my organization, Vanguard Africa … were portrayed as somehow financing and supporting the Kenyan opposition, which was fundamentally not true, he said.

That didn’t make those stories go away, of course. The truth becomes the victim in all of this.

Source: Voice of America

Thank you for paying your taxes

Cabinet has expressed gratitude to taxpayers who have already submitted their tax returns ahead of the deadline later this month.

Tax season, which is administered by the South African Revenue Service (SARS), opened on 1 July.

Cabinet extends its gratitude to all taxpayers who have already submitted their tax returns for the 2016/17 tax year, said Communications Minister Mmamoloko Kubayi-Ngubane on Thursday.

Briefing reporters following Cabinet’s fortnightly meeting, Minister Kubayi-Ngubane said the revenue generated from income tax ensures government has the capacity to provide much-needed services and social support to millions of less fortunate South Africans.

Cabinet reminds taxpayers that the deadline for submission is Friday, 24 November 2017 and encourages them to submit their tax returns, the Minister said.

Tax Season is an opportunity for taxpayers to reconcile their personal income and tax-related deductions with SARS. This allows SARS to assess if there were any factors that were not accounted for over the tax year, thus ensuring that the taxpayer is compliant.

At the end of October, the revenue service announced that it had paid out over R120 billion in refunds across all tax types.

The refunds were paid out from the beginning of April of the tax season to date.

An amount of R100.6 billion in Value-Added Tax (VAT) refunds has been paid this year. This is a 5% increase compared to R95.6 billion paid last year at the same time.

For Personal Income Tax this year to date, refund payments have increased by 16% with R14. 9 billion already paid compared to R12. 8 billion paid last year at the same time.

For the year to date (1 April 2017 -10 October 2017), R6.9 billion in Corporate Income Tax (CIT) refunds has been paid, compared to R5.7 billion last year this time, marking a 21% increase.

Source: South African Government News Agency

President Jacob Zuma answers Questions for Oral Reply in the National Council of Provinces, 16 Nov

President Jacob Zuma will this afternoon, 16 November 2017, answer questions for oral reply in the National Council of Provinces (NCOP), in Parliament, Cape Town.

The President will provide replies to a range of questions including on the recent BRICS Summit Declaration which seeks collaboration with South Africa’s manufacturing and Industrialisation Programmes; recent changes in the National Executive; SADC Climate Change Strategy and Industrial Plans; matters before the National Prosecuting Authority, as well as on progress on Operation Phakisa in the Oceans Economy.

This is President Zuma’s last session of the NCOP in the Parliamentary programme for the year.

Source: Government of South Africa

Minister Edna Molewa publishes Draft Biodiversity Management Plan for the Bontebok for public comment

The Minister of Environmental Affairs, Dr Edna Molewa, has published the draft Biodiversity Management Plan (BMP) for the Bontebok (damaliscus pygargus pygargus) in Government Gazette No. 41249 on 14 November 2017 for public comment.

The Draft BMP for bontebok has been published in terms of the National Environmental Management Biodiversity Act (Act No. 10 of 2004).

Bontebok is endemic to the East Coast Renosterveld bioregion within the Cape Floristic Region (CFR) of the Western Cape. Evidence from fossil records indicates that past climatic and habitat change promoted the splitting of the species into the two separately classified subspecies known today as the blesbok (Damaliscus pygargus phillipsi) and bontebok (Damaliscus pygargus pygargus). Each subspecies exhibits different behavioural and morphological traits including body markings and hide colours. Historically, the natural ranges of the two subspecies did not overlap, with blesbok occurring widely on the grasslands of Gauteng, Eastern Cape, Mpumalanga and Free State and bontebok restricted to the coastal plains in the southern CFR.

Conservation of the species within the natural distribution range and extended distribution range in the Western Cape has resulted in about 1650 individuals. A further 7500 individuals survive on properties outside the native range of the species throughout South Africa. Bontebok are tolerant of human activities and adapt to changes in the landscape and readily utilise transformed landscapes with old fields of short grass areas.

The Draft Bontebok BMP focusses on strategies to strengthen the effective implementation of conservation actions aimed at ensuring populations are genetically diverse and that overall population fitness and resilience within the natural distribution range is enhanced and maintained in the long-term.

Bontebok occur in a number of small isolated populations across the country and are threatened by low genetic diversity, population fragmentation, habitat fragmentation and hybridisation with blesbok.

In order to mitigate the historic and current threats to bontebok and conserve this species, an integrated management strategy, applied through collaborative partnerships between stakeholders, is urgently required. This would encourage public support, ensure genetic diversity within the metapopulation and sustainable utilisation of the species by the private sector.

Amongst the anticipated outcomes of the BMP-S are:

The management of the bontebok population in the natural distribution range to ensure the long term survival of this species;

A co-ordinated national approach to bontebok conservation in and outside of the natural distribution range in terms of management, monitoring and research;

Halting the loss of habitat and ultimately ensuring a steady increase in conserved habitat and rehabilitation of degraded areas for re-introduction of bontebok within the natural distribution range;

Highlighting research and communication priorities;

A national database of population distribution and national testing and profiling protocols for bontebok;

The identification and gradual elimination of hybrids of this species and maintained economic and conservation value; and

Promotion of bontebok as a flagship conservation species.

Source: Government of South Africa