Never miss a beat when it comes to the latest news in South Africa, be sure to check out what’s making headlines on Wednesday 28 October.
All eyes turn to Finance Minister Tito Mboweni, as the Medium-Term Budget Statement (MTBS) seeks to plot the South Africa’s post-pandemic economic course. The corruption crackdown continues, with African National Congress (ANC) MP and former State Security Minister Bongani Bongo appearing due to appear in court on multiple graft-related charges. In sports news, Bafana Bafana coach Molefi Ntseki defends ‘surprise’ squad selection ahead of the Africa Cup of Nations (Afcon) kick-off.
TODAY’S LATEST NEWS IN SOUTH AFRICA, Wednesday 28 OCTOBER
Mboweni’s medium-term budget speech: What to expect?
The economic devastation wrought by the coronavirus-induced lockdown, coupled with the pre-pandemic malaise impacting the public purse and embattled state owned enterprises, presents Finance Minister Mboweni with a fierce financial conundrum.
At 14:00 today, Mboweni will present the vital MTBS to the National Assembly in Parliament. This comes after President Cyril Ramaphosa announced an Economic Recovery Plan which focused extensively on job creation through public works programmes.
During South Africa’s hard lockdown period — between April and June 2020 – it’s estimated that 2.2 million citizens lost their jobs. Additionally, South Africa’s GDP shrank by an annualised 51% in the second quarter of 2020; one of the steepest declines in recorded history. The introduction of special economic relief schemes and exorbitant bailouts looming for state owned enterprises means that government’s coffers have dwindled to dismally low levels, piling pressure on cash-strapped taxpayers.
Mboweni is expected to address all of these concerns and, in particular, provide clarity on government’s ‘contradictory’ stance on the public wage bill. While the National Treasury has, in the past, promised to trim the state’s bloated expenses, recent assertions of large-scale public works programmes — and on-going tensions among major trade unions — puts Mboweni in an uncomfortable predicament.
The finance minister will also need to address the elephants in the room; South Africa’s troubled state owned enterprises, particularly Eskom and South African Airways (SAA).
Opposition parties are also expecting Mboweni to elaborate on the International Monetary Fund’s (IMF) $4.3 billion loan to South Africa. The finance minister was recently forced to dismiss allegations that the R70 billion loan would be used to supplement ANC salaries but could not reject claims the funds being used to prop up the exorbitant public wage bill.
ANC MP Bongani Bongo to appear in court on corruption charges
ANC MP Bongani Bongo — who held various senior positions while in government, including Chairperson of Home Affairs’ Portfolio Committee, Minister of State Security and MEC of Mpumalanga’s Human Settlements Department — is expected to appear in the Nelspruit Regional Court today on multiple corruption-related charges. Bongo was arrested on Tuesday afternoon.
It’s further alleged that Bongo’s younger brother, Sipho, is expected to appear alongside the embattled ANC MP as co-accused in the corruption matter.
The latest arrest executed by South Africa’s Directorate for Priority Crime Investigation — better known as the Hawks — comes amid a fierce crackdown on corrupt politicians following President Ramaphosa’s promise to bring public purse looters to book.
This isn’t the first time Bongo has found himself under judicial scrutiny. In 2017, Bongo was accused of disrupting a parliamentary inquiry into Eskom and was subsequently slapped with bribery and corruption charges. Bongo is expected to return to answer these charges before the Cape Town Magistrate’s Court on 27 November.
‘Leaked’ NPA document implicates Kelly Khumalo in Meyiwa murder
The National Prosecuting Authority (NPA) has admitted to dropping the ball in the high-profile case concerning the ‘mysterious’ 2014 murder of soccer star Senzo Meyiwa. Following the arrest of five suspects of Monday, a tense atmosphere beset the Boksburg Magistrate’s Court when the accused refused to comply with proceedings.
The situation was further complicated when the NPA ‘mistakenly’ distributed an internal document to journalists attending the hearing. The document, which the NPA has admitted was released in error, divulged shocking details about the case, namely, that Meyiwa’s girlfriend and celebrity, Kelly Khumalo, had communicated with one of the accused.
The communication revolves around a ‘lender’ who gave Khumalo money to ‘hire hitmen’. The document detailed how the lender demanded that the loan be repaid.
Meyiwa was killed at Khumalo’s house in Vosloorus. Advocate Gerrie Nel, representing civil rights group AfriForum in its legal bid to assist Meyiwa, echoed sentiments allegedly made by police investigators who theorised that the soccer star was assassinated and not murdered during a botched house robbery, as was first purported, saying:
“And we agree, that having gone through the evidence that this is a hit and we’ve also indicated our full cooperation in exposing the mastermind and ensuring that the mastermind is also prosecuted.”
While the NPA has noted that it has a ‘watertight case’ against all five accused, lead prosecutor George Baloyi pleaded with the public to ‘ignore’ the document which had been leaked for fear that it may jeopardise proceedings.
Muzikawukhulelwa Sibiya, Bongani Ntanzi, Mothobisi Mncube, Mthokoziseni Maphosa, and Sifisokuhle Ntuli have denied any involvement in Meyiwa’s murder and chose to reject legal aid and instead represent themselves during Tuesday’s brief court appearance.
The accused are expected to return to the Boksburg Magistrate’s Court on 27 November 2020, with Police Minister Bheki Cele alluding to the likelihood of more arrests in the coming weeks.
No discussions around return to hard lockdown…yet
The Department of Cooperative Governance and Traditional Affairs has dismissed claims that government intends to institute a hard lockdown as a result of rising infection rates and non-compliance with Disaster Management Act regulations. This is the latest from spokesperson Mlungisi Mthsali, who said that discussions around the potential move back to hard lockdown had not yet taken place and added that, in line with government’s risk-adjusted response strategy, hospital beds were not overwhelmed.
Western Cape Premier Alan Winde also denied claims that South Africa would be plunged back into hard lockdown, but urged citizens to adhere to the current regulations and practice good hygiene, saying:
“There’s a reason everybody’s panicking; our numbers have started going up again. It’s a good reason to panic, it means people are relaxing too much. We’ve got to keep the course. We all know what to do. We’ve seen what’s happened in Europe, we’re seeing what’s happened with second waves in the rest of the world. Let’s not be stupid about this.
Another lockdown would kill the economy and we can’t afford that. It means we all need to be responsible.”
Winde added that any discussion around another hard lockdown would need to be spearheaded by the President’s Coordinating Council (PCC), which has not yet convened to address a potential move to harsher levels.
KwaZulu-Natal Premier Sihle Zikalala caused panic when he said that a return to hard lockdown was inevitable.
President Ramaphosa, who has also denied the rumours, is, however, expected to address the recent rise in infections and remind citizens of the need to practice social distancing and consistent hand-washing protocols.
Ramaphosa grilled during parliamentary question and answer session
President Ramaphosa answered questions before the National Council of Provinces on Tuesday afternoon, addressing issues of lockdown, corruption, gender-based violence and the controversial Zimbabwe envoy.
With the Public Protector investigating whether the ANC envoy, which was sent to engage with Zimbabwe’s ruling Zanu-PF amid growing unrest and cries of human rights abuses, Ramaphosa reiterated that the trip was irregular.
Defence and Military Veterans Minister Nosiviwe Mapisa-Nqakula garnered fierce critism when she authorised the use of a South African National Defence Force (SANDF) aircraft to ferry ANC delegates to Zimbabwe. The abuse of state funds and ensuing outcry forced the ruling party to admit wrongdoing and vow to repay the military from Luthuli House’s purse. Mapisa-Nqakula was subsequently reprimanded by Ramaphosa.
Speaking to Parliament on Tuesday, Ramaphosa said that he had signed-off on Mapisa-Nqakula’s original request because it dealt with matters of security, explaining:
“This kind of diplomacy requires dexterity and flexibility within the confines of rules, processes and the law.”
Commenting on the issue of coronavirus-related corruption, Ramaphosa said that the work done by the Special Investigating Unit (SIU) had uncovered tax evasion of approximately R300 million and that while the looting of funds intended to fight the pandemic had “blinded” South Africa, there was a “silver lining”. Ramaphosa said:
“It was my honest wish and hope that there would be no corruption in the procurement of PPE [personal protective equipment].
COVID-19 related corruption has emboldened us, given us strength. It’s been a cathartic moment to reinforce our resolve to fight corruption.”
Ramaphosa also addressed the rumours concerning South Africa’s return to a harsher level of lockdown, saying:
“I don’t want people to be alarmed. That is simply not true. If it gets there, I will advise the nation.”
Newlands won’t host New Year’s Day Test against Sri Lanka
In a break from tradition, the iconic Newlands cricket stadium will not host the New Year’s Day Test match in January 2020. The series against Sri Lanka will, instead, take place in Gauteng. This is only the second time in history where the New Year’s Day Test match will not played at Newlands.
The Proteas are scheduled to take on Sri Lanka in a Boxing Day test, which will take place in Centurion, and a second fixture at The Wanderers between 3 and 7 January.
Before then, though, the Proteas will go head-to-head with England in a return to international cricket following a protracted period of dormancy due to coronavirus-related lockdowns. The England series will, however, take place in the Western Cape, with matches at Newlands and Boland Park.
Bafana Bafana: Ntseki names surprising squad for Afcon Qualifiers
Bafana Bafana head coach Molefi Ntseki has announced his latest squad for the upcoming 2021 Africa Cup of Nations qualifiers.
Bafana Bafana started their Afcon qualifying campaign with a 2-0 defeat away to Ghana before earning a vital 1-0 win at home over Sudan late last year. They now face Sao Tome and Principe in crucial back-to-back qualifiers next month.
The first of the two upcoming qualifiers against Sao Tome and Principe will be played in Durban at the Moses Mabhida Stadium on 13 November 2020 at 19:00 while the away match will take place three days later on 16 November 2020 at 17:00 (SAST).
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