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South African government moves to stabilize power utility Eskom 

JOHANNESBURG South Africa (Xinhua) -- The South African Presidency on Saturday put in place measures to stabilize the country’s power utility, Eskom which is facing governance challenges.

The Presidency issued a statement on Saturday outlining measures to stabilize the state-owned enterprise, which includes appointing a 13 member board to oversee the turnaround of Eskom.

The Presidency said Eskom is critical to the South African economic growth as an enabler to also social transformation. The government also called on the Eskom employees with evidence of wrongdoing to come forward so that the culprits can face the music.

The government also promised to continue with the interventions to the state-owned enterprises to bring about investor confidence.

Eskom has been facing weak financial position, declining revenues and governance failures, which are threatening the sustainability of the company.

President Jacob Zuma, his deputy Cyril Ramaphosa, Finance Minister Malusi Gigaba and Public Enterprises Minister Lynne Brown met and discussed measures to rescue the power utility on Friday.

“We are confident this intervention will restore the important contribution Eskom makes to our economy. We are determined to address the damage that has been done to this institution and place it on a new path of efficiency and integrity,” said Ramaphosa,    

“Government calls on all stakeholders, employees, suppliers and members of the public to work together to ensure that these measures are successful. For South Africa to flourish, Eskom must work and work well.”

South Africa’s ruling party, African National Congress welcomed measures to stabilize Eskom. In its statement, ANC said the measures put in place would help to bring about the integrity in Eskom.

The measures would be ratified by Cabinet at its next meeting. 



South African government takes decisive move to address challenges at SOEs

CAPE TOWN South Africa (Xinhua) -- The South African government on Saturday announced a series of measures to strengthen governance at state-run electricity utility Eskom hit by poor management and corruption.

These measures included the appointment of a new board, with Jabu Mabuza as chairperson and stabilizing management at the energy parastatal, the government said in a statement distributed by the Presidency.

The intervention will be ratified by the cabinet at its next meeting, the statement said.

The latest development is seen as the most decisive move by the government in recent years to address challenges at key state owned enterprises (SOEs).

The intervention was spearheaded by President Jacob Zuma, with the participation of  Deputy President Cyril Ramaphosa, Public Enterprises Minister Lynne Brown and Minister of Finance Malusi Gigaba. They met at a meeting on Friday to address the “urgent challenges” confronting Eskom.

Eskom’s new board is directed to appoint a permanent Group Chief Executive and Group Chief Financial Officer within the next three months.

The government also directed the board to immediately remove all Eskom executives who are facing allegations of serious corruption and other acts of impropriety, according to the statement.

The government further calls on all Eskom employees and other stakeholders who may have evidence of wrongdoing to bring this to the attention of law enforcement agencies so that culprits can be brought to book, the statement said.

Other structural issues, which include the funding model and other industry challenges, must also be dealt with, said the statement. 

“We are confident this intervention will restore the important contribution Eskom makes to our economy. We are determined to address the damage that has been done to this institution and place it on a new path of efficiency and integrity,” Ramaphosa said.

This will help restore public and investor confidence in SOEs and ensure that they fulfill their economic and developmental mandates, he said.

Eskom, which provides more than 95 percent of electricity consumed in South Africa, is critical to the South African economy.

Poor management at the parastatal led to widespread power cuts across the country from 2014 to 2015, dealing a heavy blow to the economy.

The company is now facing severe challenges, including a weak financial position, declining revenues and governance failures, which are threatening the sustainability of the company going forward.


South Africa ruling party keen to take country forward

JOHANNESBURG South Africa (Xinhua) -- South Africa’s ruling party, African National Congress (ANC), on Saturday said they resolved to build a bond between government, business and the people to take the country forward.

The party’s highest decision making body outside congress, National Executive Committee (NEC) held its first ordinary meeting after the 54th national conference on January 18-19 in Pretoria. On Saturday the ANC General Secretary Ace Magashule issued a statement about the meeting.

“The meeting agreed on the need to forge a social compact among government, business, labor and communities for economic recovery, drawing on the resolutions of the 54th national conference,” said Magashule.

The NEC discussed the political and economic environment in the country. They also resolved to engage President Jacob Zuma to ensure there is effective coordination between government and the party.

Jacob Zuma is the president of the country while Cyril Ramaphosa is the president of the ANC.

Magashule also said, “The NEC agreed that the ANC must act decisively and with determination to rebuild the bond of trust between our people and the movement, restore the dignity of our movement, and reclaim the moral legitimacy of our movement.”

The ANC’s December conference resolved to engage the people in various parts of the country to restore lost faith. The NEC also elected a 20 member party national working committee to carry out its decisions and party work.


Calls emerge for action to prevent Gupta family from fleeing South Africa

CAPE TOWN South Africa (Xinhua) -- The opposition Democratic Alliance (DA) on Tuesday called for immediate action to prevent the Indian Gupta family from fleeing South Africa ahead of their reported imminent arrests.

South Africa should not allow the Guptas to leave the country, and certainly not with the assistance of the government, the DA said in response to reports that warrants of arrest are being prepared for at least one Gupta brother and an undisclosed number of the family’s associates.

On Tuesday, the Asset Forfeiture Unit (AFU) started the process to serve a summon on the Gupta family and freeze its assets to the tune of 1.6 billion rand (about 130 million U.S. dollars).

Under a court order, the AFU would freeze the assets of the Guptas pending the outcome of their prosecution. After they have been successfully prosecuted, the assets will be permanently forfeited to the state.

The Guptas are being investigated for its alleged collaboration with President Jacob Zuma and a number of senior government officials in looting the state coffers, through the awarding of lucrative contracts with state-owned enterprises to Gupta-linked families, known as state capture.

Two companies—the Gupta-linked Trillian company and international consultancy giant McKinsey—reportedly were sommoned on Tuesday. They are linked with corruption involving the controversial Gupta family.

A special anti-crime unit, known as the Hawks, has obtained warrants for the arrest of at least one of the Gupta brothers, according to the City Press newspaper.

The unit is now waiting for prosecutors at the National Prosecuting Authority (NPA) to sign off the warrants so that the arrests can be effected, the report said.

But the report did not identify those facing the arrest warrants. The Gupta brothers include elder brother Ajay, as well as Atul, and the younger brother Rajesh, also known as Tony.

Despite the reported arrest warrants, the whereabouts of the Guptas remain unknown.

“Our borders should be urgently secured to prevent the Guptas from slipping through the net. It is unlikely that the Gupta family will sit and wait for their arrest,” DA leader Mmusi Maimane said.

There is a strong possibility that the Guptas will attempt to flee the country, if they have not done so already, said Maimane.

Since Zuma is deeply compromised and implicated in this matter through his well-known relationship with the Guptas and their joint state capture efforts, Deputy President Cyril Ramaphosa, as second in command, ought to take action in the best interests of the country, Maimane said.

Ramaphosa has been extremely vocal in condemning state capture and corruption, therefore he must act without delay, Maimane said.

Maimane called on South Africans who have information about the whereabouts of the Guptas to come forward and alert the authorities.


Expansion of South Africa state capture inquiry faces opposition

CAPE TOWN South Africa  (Xinhua) -- A South African parliament committee on Friday opposed attempts to broaden the scope of the “state capture” inquiry, as concerns mount over the dilution of the probe’s focus on Zuma-era corruption.

Any state capture inquiry should restrict itself to the remedial action recommended by former Public Protector Thuli Madonsela, Parliament’s Portfolio Committee on Justice and Correctional Services said in a statement.

The committee expressed concern with the “conflicting and confusing” messages relayed by current Public Protector Busisiwe Mkhwebane.

Mkhwebane should respect the remedial action proposed by her predecessor regarding the state capture inquiry, Committee Chairperson Mathole Motshekga said.

Last week, President Jacob Zuma announced his decision to appoint the Judicial Commission of Inquiry into state capture.

The commission is to probe allegations of state capture lodged against Zuma, senior officials and the controversial Indian Gupta family in relation to their collaboration in looting the state coffers.

Following the Zuma announcement, Mkhwebane said she wants to ensure that the inquiry is not limited to the issues identified in the initial report by her predecessor.

Mkhwebane has been accused of acting under Zuma’s order to derail the inquiry by broadening the investigation into long-existed corruption, even before 1994 when South Africa was still under apartheid.

In her report on state capture, Madonsela wants remedial action to cover the period under Zuma’s rule only.

Several South African political parties have publicly opposed Mkhwebane’s idea, insisting that the inquiry scope be confined to the findings and requirements of Madonsela’s report.

“It is not for her (Mkhwebane) to request an expansion of the terms of reference for the state capture inquiry. In fact, it is only the courts that have the power to amend or change the remedial action,” said Motshekga.

The calls made by Mkhwebane “are confusing to the general public” and she must not interfere in the remedial action or scope of the inquiry, Motshekga said.


Day Zero looming for drought-stricken Cape Town

CAPE TOWN, (Xinhua) -- The drought-stricken city of Cape Town in South Africa warned on Thursday that the chance of reaching Day Zero when water supply is cut off “is now very likely”.

The chance of reaching Day Zero on April 21 is now very likely, the city said in an emergency notice to the citizens.

April 21 is the day when dams supplying water to the city would run dry, the city’s taps would be switched off and water would have to be collected from designated points.

The city will be announcing everyone’s local collection points from next week so that communities can begin preparing for that eventuality, according to the notice.

“The time to act for everyone’s sake is now. So if we reduce the demand enough now, we can still get our water delivered to our houses and not have to queue daily for our allocation.

“We will also be making detailed Day Zero contingency plans available soon to answer all questions that residents and businesses might have,” the statement said.

The city imposed Level Six water restrictions on January 1 amid predictions that Cape Town might become the first metropolis in the world to run out of water.

The city, hit by the worst drought in history since 2015, had urged the public to use no more than 87 liters of municipal drinking water per person per day.

But in Thursday’s notice, the city urges its residents to use 50 liters per person per day for the next 150 days, after which the city will reassess the situation.

The new restrictions will come into effect on February 1.

The City Council will on Friday be voting on the punitive tariff that will charge residents exponentially higher rates for water usage above 6,000 liters per month.

As the second-most populous urban area in South Africa after Johannesburg, Cape Town is the capital of the Western Cape province and the seat of South Africa’s Parliament, with a population of nearly four million.

In 2014, the city was named the best place in the world to visit by both the New York Times and the British Daily Telegraph.



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