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South Africa ruling party rejects motion over State Capture claims

CAPE TOWN South Africa(Xinhua) -- South Africa’s ruling African National Congress (ANC) on Thursday rejected a proposed motion by the opposition Democratic Alliance (DA) for Parliament to establish an ad hoc committee to investigate allegations of state capture and undue influence over the government.

Such allegations are of serious nature and should not be used for mere grandstanding in parliament, but should instead be reported to competent authorities such as the police or relevant chapter 9 institutions for investigation, said the Office of the ANC Chief Whip.

Chapter 9 institutions refer to a group of organizations established in terms of Chapter 9 of the South African Constitution to guard democracy.

"Only the appropriate authorities have the expertise to establish the truthfulness of such allegations to ensure that if anyone is involved in such illegality, they are made to face the full wrath of the law," said the office.

This came after ANC MPs voted against the motion in the parliament.

The DA wants the establishment of an ad hoc committee which would have extensive powers—including powers to summon any person and require any person or institution to report to it—in order to investigate.

The DA accused the ANC of closing ranks in a desperate effort to protect President Jacob Zuma, and the Indian Gupta family from any investigation by the Parliament.

The Gupta family, which allegedly keeps close ties with Zuma, has been under fire for exerting undue influence on Zuma in the appointment of cabinet ministers. But the Guptas have rejected the allegations.

"State capture and undue influence over the government is a serious offence, and if such allegations are proven correct, then those responsible must be prosecuted and convicted," the office said, asking the DA to report the matter to the competent authorities instead of engaging in publicity gimmicks in Parliament.

"Parliament is neither an investigative agency nor professionally equipped to conduct criminal probes," it added.


ANC condemns 'smear campaign' against newly appointed Public Protector

CAPE TOWN South Africa (Xinhua) -- The ruling African National Congress (ANC) on Thursday expressed grave dismay over the baseless and downright defamatory claims made by the opposition Democratic Alliance (DA) regarding the fitness of Adv. Busisiwe Mkhwebane to hold the office of the Public Protector.

"We wish to join all patriotic South Africans in condemning with the deserved contempt the party’s malicious political campaign, whose real intention is not only to assassinate the character of a qualified and highly capable woman but also to tarnish the crucial institution supporting our democracy," ANC national spokesperson Zizi Kodwa said in a statement emailed to Xinhua.

"These reckless dirty claims are being peddled with impunity without even providing a shred of evidence to back them," he said.

On Wednesday, the National Assembly endorsed Mkhwebane for her appointment as Public Protector. All political parties except the DA supported her to take up the position to succeed the current incumbent Thuli Madonsela, whose seven-year non-renewable term expires on October 2016.

The decision of the House will be send to President Jacob Zuma for ratification.

Being independent of the government, the Public Protector is tasked with the investigation of misconduct in any state affairs and all spheres of government including that of public administration in the country.

The DA objected Mkhwebane’s appointment, saying she "is simply not the best candidate".

The DA said it cannot support the nomination of Mkhwebane for the simple fact that her appointment would be unreasonable as she was by no means the best candidate for the position and was illogically preferred over other qualifying candidates.

"Ms Mkhwebane may possibly turn out to be a capable candidate for the position of the Public Protector.

"However, we contend that her qualifications and experience make her unsuitable for this position," DA Shadow Minister of Justice Glynnis Breytenbach said.

Responding to the objection, the ANC said the DA is known to be anti-women and would go to great lengths to malign their integrity just to prevent them from advancing to positions of power.

"We have witnessed the same posture in the Western Cape provincial government, where the DA shamelessly appointed an all men and mostly white executive," Kodwa said.

The DA’s objection and its smear campaign against Mkhwebane also smacks of racist undertones which regards any black candidate before Parliament as incompetent and unfit until proven otherwise, said Kodwa.

The DA must not be allowed to continue with its spurious and damaging public claims without providing evidence to support them, Kodwa added.

The ANC demands that the DA immediately retract and apologize to Mkhwebane and all South Africans, he said.


Water restrictions imposed in South Africa due to severe drought

CAPE TOWN South Africa (Xinhua) -- Minister of Water and Sanitation Nomvula Mokonyane on Thursday urged South Africans to respect water restrictions currently being applied across the country as a way to fight against the effects of a severe drought.

Water restrictions have been imposed in a number of provinces, and most recently in the Gauteng Province.

A total of nine out of twelve water supply systems are applying water restrictions, with the main aim of managing water supply and distribution from the source to ensure continuous water availability, the minister told a press conference in Parliament.

The Department of Water and Sanitation has recorded a significant drop in the country’s water storage and quantity/dam levels despite recent rainfalls and floods in some parts of the country.

Mokonyane said the department is looking at improving the design of water infrastructure to ensure that it adapt to unfavourable climatic conditions.

She urged citizens to "never overexploit but to manage the little water at their disposal", saying that if this is done, the country will be best equipped to manage the effects of the drought.

Also on Thursday, Minister of Cooperative Governance and Traditional Affairs Des van Rooyen said dams across the country are at their lowest levels in years due to the drought.

South African dams at lowest levels in years: minister

CAPE TOWN South Africa (Xinhua) -- Dams across South Africa are at their lowest levels in years due to a severe and persisting drought, the government said in its latest update on drought conditions in the country.

"Although some areas are receiving rains and flooding experienced in some provinces such as KwaZulu-Natal, the drought conditions have not improved, the dams across the country are at their lowest levels in years," Minister of Cooperative Governance and Traditional Affairs, Des van Rooyen said Thursday at press briefing in Cape Town.

The country and the Southern African region have experienced drought in its four forms: meteorological, hydrological, socio-economic and agricultural, he said.

"When we briefed the country last year the national dam levels were estimated at 64.3 percent of our normal full supply. Since then we have seen a drop in our storage quantity to the current 53 percent as at Sept. 5, 2016," the minister said.

This decline has necessitated the imposition of water restrictions in a number of provinces, and most recently, the Gauteng Province.

Although spring is coming, scientists say there is no guarantee of sufficient rain during the coming season, according to Van Rooyen.

As part of the on-going drought mitigation measures, the Department of Water and Sanitation has deployed more than six million litre motorized water tankers and to date, some eight million litres of water has been delivered to nearly 49,200 people in the provinces of North West, KwaZulu-Natal, Free state and the Eastern Cape, Van Rooyen said.

In addition, the department is also increasing the water mix, especially ground water utilization and more than 7,487 boreholes are now operational across the country.

Due to massive declines in natural grazing and crop residue, massive livestock losses have been recorded throughout the country, with statistics showing a 15 percent decline in number of cows between 2013 and 2016.

In terms of crop production, the average decline in national planting area for maize was 30 percent, with Free State and North West provinces experiencing drops of 32 percent and 43 percent respectively.

"We call on all South Africans to make a concerted effort to save water and use it wisely, as well as take care of the public infrastructure within communities," the minister said.

South Africa gets boost in power supply

JOHANNESBURG South Africa (Xinhua) -- South Africa’s power utility Eskom on Thursday synchronized unit 5 at Medupi Power Station, which will add an additional 800 megawatts (MW) to the national grid.

The move is seen as a milestone to ensure stably power supply in the country, which has been hard hit by power shortages that led to constant blackouts over the past year.

It is expected that the unit 5 will become commercially operational by March 2018.

State-owned Eskom provides more that 95 percent of the electricity consumed in South Africa. Lynne Brown, Minister of Public Enterprises, congratulated the company on tiding over difficult times.

This year Eskom announced a net profit (after tax) for the 2015/2016 financial period of 4.6 billion rand (about 331 million U.S. dollars).

"This has contributed to operational and financial sustainability for the company, while the grid had stabilized to such an extent that we have a reliable electricity supply for South Africa," Brown said.

This year South Africa has seen Ingula Power Pump station’s unit 3 and 4 becoming commercially operational, while Medupi’s unit 6 led the way in the second half of 2015.



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