Stay informed and up to date with all the latest news in South Africa by seeing what’s making headlines on Thursday 29 October.
While South Africa processes Finance Minister Tito Mboweni’s ‘underwhelming’ Medium-term Budget Policy Statement (MTBPS) and what it means for the country’s economic future, Deputy President David Mabuza distances himself from allegations of corruption in Mpumalanga. In sports news, Minister Nathi Mthethwa denies claims of ‘interference’ in the Cricket South Africa saga.
TODAY’S LATEST NEWS IN SOUTH AFRICA, Thursday 29 OCTOBER
Mboweni’s Medium-term Budget: A hapless tale of hippos and handouts
It was never going to be a simple task — delivering a budget speech against the backdrop of 2.2 million jobs lost and a historic GDP contraction amid the coronavirus-induced lockdown — but Finance Minister Mboweni’s MTBS will be remembered as ‘exceptionally underwhelming’ according to opposition parties and economic analysts.
With his trusty Aloe Ferox in tow, Mboweni set about expanding on President Cyril Ramaphosa’s Economic Recovery Plan. Before diving into the dire details of South Africa’s economic prospects, Mboweni took a moment to reflect on the nation’s resilience by quoting former President Nelson Mandela, saying:
“Meet despair with hope and death with a reaffirmation of the beauty of life.”
What followed was a story of burgeoning debts, economic decline, coronavirus-related corruption and public-sector employee compensation, all underpinned by talk of long-term reform to recoup losses incurred during the lockdown period. Let’s recap the bad news:
- The economy is expected to contract by 7.8% this year
- Gross debt is expected to rise from R4 trillion in 2020 to R5.5 trillion in 2023/24
- Government is currently borrowing at a rate of R2.1 billion per day
- Public sector employee compensation has consistently outgrown inflation over the past five years
- Massive tax increases which seek to yield R40 billion by 2024
- South African Airways (SAA) will receive a R10.5 billion bailout. The Land Bank will receive R7 billion “over the medium term”
Another bailout out for the embattled national carrier, which, in Mboweni’s words, will be “used to implement the business rescue plan”, outraged opposition parties in the National Assembly. Geordin Hill-Lewis, the Democratic Alliance’s (DA) Shadow Minister of Finance, lambasted Mboweni for backtracking on earlier assertions that the National Treasury would not support another SAA bailout, saying:
“In summary, the Minister has abandoned his commitment to get debt under control by 2023. And he has abandoned his commitment to stop bailouts of SAA.
South Africans will continue to pay for a zombie state company, and will continue to suffer the consequences of ever-higher debt.
That is why today’s Medium Term Budget Speech must be considered a failure.”
But it wasn’t all ‘bad news’ as Mboweni outlined a number of urgent interventions intended to resuscitate South Africa’s ailing economy. Silver linings from the MTBPS include:
- Narrowing the main budget primary deficit from an expected R266 billion in 2021/22 to R84 billion in 2023/24
- Economy expected to grow by 3.3% in 2021, 1.7% in 2022 and 1.5% in 2023
- Public sector wage freeze for the next three years
- Independent power producers to supply 12 000 MW and ease strain on Eskom
- Easing ‘red tape’, making it simpler for businesses to operate with and in South Africa
- Social Relief of Distress grant extended to the end of January 2021
- R12.6 billion dedicated to employment initiatives
- R600 million to employ early childhood development and social workers
- R1 billion for food relief to fight hunger
- R2 billion is allocated to Working for Fire, Working for Water and Working for Forests
- ‘Emergency procurement’ procurement instruction withdrawn; tighter processes now in place
Mboweni, who battled his way through heckling and jeers when discussing contentious topics of job creation and state owned enterprises, once again, drew comparisons between the South African economy and his Aloe Ferox, saying:
“… the country’s Aloe Ferox is drought resistant, it can survive the harshest of circumstances and can certainly withstand a pandemic.
Our little Aloe Ferox has survived. It is recovering.”
Malema’s legal counsel pokes holes in top cop’s assault case
Economic Freedom Fighters (EFF) leader Julius Malema and MP Mbuyiseni Ndlozi will reappear before the Randburg Magistrate’s Court after a crucial cross-examination of Presidential Unit police officer Johannes Venter on Wednesday.
Venter, who laid a charge of assault against the EFF top brass following a physical confrontation at the funeral of Winnie Madikizela-Mandela in 2018, faced a gruelling time in the dock. Representing Malema and Ndlozi, advocate Laurence Hodes poked holes in Venter’s testimony, exposing irregularities in the cop’s original affidavit and later statements.
It was determined that Venter did not have a list of permitted dignitaries and that Madikizela-Mandela’s family had invited the EFF leaders to the cemetery. Malema and Ndlozi’s primary argument is that the confrontation arose from Venter’s illegal act of barring the pair from entering the area where Madikizela-Mandela was being laid to rest.
Despite Venter’s shaky testimony and Hodes’ dogged line of questioning in defence of the Red Berets, video footage from the scene, which clearly shows both Malema and Ndlozi shoving Venter on multiple occasions, is irrefutable evidence of the physical confrontation.
Lieutenant Colonel Venter has argued that he couldn’t identify a permit in Malema’s vehicle and, upon stopping the pair to question their accreditation details, was met with a barrage of insults shortly followed by ‘physical assault’.
National Taxi Lekgotla: Mbalula under presidential pressure to formalise sector
Transport Minister Fikile Mbalula will lead a two-day National Taxi Lekgotla in Gauteng aimed at formalising the self-regulated sector. Engagements with all major taxi associations and stakeholders come just days after President Ramaphosa called for ‘urgent solutions’, saying:
“Many of our people’s experiences with public transport are not positive. Since taxis are the primary means of public transit for people across all provinces, we are giving urgent attention to the problems in the industry.
The lekgotla will seek common ground on existing business models, safety and compliance, broader economic empowerment of operators and the issue of subsidies for taxis. It will also look at how to end the conflict and violence that continues to plague the industry because of competition on routes.”
Mbalula explained that the lekgotla will focus on three key pillars:
- Regulation and control
- Economic empowerment
Discussions concerning regulation in the taxi industry will revolve around Operating Licences and law enforcement while the empowerment aspect of the lekgotla will seek to redefine the Taxi Recapitalisation Programme which prioritises operators over commercial banks, retailers and other corporates. Mbalula added that lawlessness in the taxi industry remained a serious concern and one which required better training and policing, saying:
“The conduct of taxi operators on the road displaying flagrant disregard of the law and the rights of other road users remains a pervasive problem.”
The South African National Taxi Council (SANTACO) — which has had a tumultuous relationship with Mbalula, especially during the lockdown period — is expected to command a strong presence during the lekgotla.
Countdown to ‘critical’ Democratic Alliance Federal Congress
The official opposition party is readying for its highly-anticipated Federal Congress which will be held via a virtual platform this weekend. The Federal Congress, which has faced numerous delays due to COVID-19 and complications as a result of recent high-profile resignations, comes at a critical time for the DA.
A lot has changed since the DA held its last congress in 2018. Then-leader Mmusi Maimane resigned and burnt all bridges with the official opposition. He was joined by Johannesburg Mayor Herman Mashaba, Federal Chairperson Athol Trollip and, more recently, the party’s Gauteng leader, John Moodey.
Prior to resigning, the latter had committed to competing for the party’s penultimate leadership position at this weekend’s event.
The race will now be run by two candidates; current interim leader John Steenhuisen and KwaZulu-Natal MPL Mbali Ntuli.
DA Federal Council Chair, Helen Zille, who has been labelled as a divisive force within the party with former members blaming her return for the ‘mass exodus’, will be looking to fend off Moodey’s replacement, Mike Moriaty.
The run-up to the Federal Congress has been marred by contention surrounding a proposed public debate between candidates vying for the position of party leader. The idea, spearheaded by Ntuli, was initially dismissed by Steenhuisen. Earlier this week the debate took place behind closed doors.
Deputy President Mabuza distances himself from Mpumalanga corruption case
Deputy President David Mabuza has broken his silence on recent arrests made in connection with alleged corruption within Mpumalanga’s Human Settlement’s Department. Senior ANC member and former State Security Minister, Bongani Bongo, was arrested earlier this week and appeared in court, alongside 10 other co-accused, including his brother, on charges of fraud and corruption.
Bongo is accused of defrauding the department of R142 million in the purchase of farms in Mpumalanga between 2011 and 2012. Mabuza was premier of Mpumalanga from 2009 until 2018, when he became appointed as President Rampahosa’s second-in-command.
Despite serving as Bongani’s senior during the height of the alleged corruption, Mabuza has denied being the subject of associated investigations. The Presidency issued a statement on Wednesday afternoon, saying:
“Whilst the Deputy President confirms that the reported alleged events fall under the period that he was serving as the Premier of Mpumalanga, he would like to categorically deny any involvement and condemn any attempt to drag his name in any form or capacity into the criminal conduct under investigation.”
Bongani, who was working as department’s head of legal services at the time of the alleged fraud, has been granted bail and his trial date postponed to 4 March 2021.
Minister Mthethwa steps in to assist with CSA rescue plan
Sport Minister Nathi Mthethwa will oversee the restructuring of Cricket South Africa (CSA) following a mass exodus of board executives over the past month. Mthethwa, who welcomed the resignations as a step in the right direction, met with CSA earlier this week to assist with forming a task team aimed at turning the embattled organisation around,
The scandal-ridden cricket federation has been marred by mismanagement and allegations of corruption. And while Mthethwa may be eager to intervene, government meddling could result in a suspension from the International Cricket Council. Minister Mthethwa has, however, denied wanting to rule the CSA roost, saying:
“Right from the beginning‚ we had no business running cricket or any sporting code. We want sport people and administrators to run sport.”
CSA’s restructuring process comes at a time when the Proteas are looking to re-enter the international fray, with England due to tour South Africa in late-November for a series of matches in the Western Cape.
Super Rugby Unlocked: Jantjies fit to lead the Lions
Lions skipper Elton Jantjies made a full recovery after his injury scare last week when he sustained a calf injury during training.
Jantjies will captain the Lions against Griquas on Friday evening (19:00) at Ellis Park in the first home-game for the Johannesburg based side in Super Rugby Unlocked.
The starting line-up sees Gianni Lombard named in the number 15 jersey while Stean Pienaar and Courtnall Skosan will patrol the side-lines as the Lions starting wings.
Wandisile Simelane will join forces with Dan Kriel in the centres and highly-rated young loose-forward MJ Pelser gets the nod as flank.
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Read the original article on The South African