Government wants to track you from cradle to grave

By Ciaran Ryan

The government’s draft official Identity Management Policy was released on 22 December, just before Christmas.

DearSA-ID-trace

Publishing something just before Christmas is a tried and trusted tactic in the news business if you want to bury a potentially acrid story.

The Department of Home Affairs wants a new randomised ID that allows for sex alterations, links you to your parents, captures your biometric information at birth and then later in life, and all this in the interests of serving you better as a governing body.

Is it just me, or is this a tyrant’s wet dream

Reading the sales pitch for this policy document, you might think “fine, okay, I don’t really see how this will help me, but I’ll go with it.”

The document is freighted with roseate buzz words like “international best practice”, “respect for privacy” and “interoperability”.

Let’s pause right there. What is meant by “interoperability”? Essentially, gathering every bit of information possible on everyone in the country and sharing this “between identity subsystems” and other domestic and international jurisdictions.

SA’s ID system is not currently integrated and interoperable with those of other African countries and the EU, and that’s about to be rectified. Even the most venal of sins committed in SA will be shared with other jurisdictions. It’s already happened in the tax sphere, where jurisdictions share information through what is called Common Reporting Standards. In other words, South African expatriates under new rules to be introduced in March 2021 can be hunted down anywhere in the world for taxes owing.

The sharing of data between “jurisdictions” is about to get a lot more fluid. One of the justifications for this is combatting organised crime. The new draft proposal wants to capture facial and other biometrics, like fingerprints – which should make capturing criminals a doddle, right? How’s that worked out so far?

This begins to take on the vague outlines of China’s Social Credit System, where eating or playing loud music on public transit systems earn you demerit points on your social credit score, as do traffic violations, failure to sort your waste, cheating in exams, jaywalking, and cheating in online video games. Making blood donations and volunteering work hours can earn you back points. The list of potential ways to earn demerit points is too long to list here, but you can take a look yourself. It’s pretty frightening. Snitching on religious minorities is encouraged, and there’s an app to track “deadbeat debtors” – those who owe money.

Viewed through this prism, your conduct in life determines the extent to which you are declared a person or a non-person. Consider that as of June 2019, nearly 27 million Chinese citizens were denied high-speed rail tickets based on their social credit score, and by July 2019 2.56 million were denied flight tickets.

Is this what’s in store for us?

There’s been little discussion around this draft ID system – which is in itself a worry. Any proposed change in the law must be subject to rigorous cross-examination from the viewpoint of socio-economic impacts.

Anyone watching the farce of the US election – and the ability of people with no ID to vote and potentially skew an election – may be wondering what’s wrong with our system of national IDs. Americans have resisted the idea of a national ID for decades on the basis this is an infringement of privacy and Constitutional rights, though they have something approximating this in the form of a Social Security Number. Then, of course, they have state drivers’ licences. There are multiple ways to track US citizens, with or without a national ID.

It seems our elections are far more trustworthy, if only because you have to have a national ID and then register to vote.

South Africans long ago accepted the national ID as a fact of life. ID numbers were introduced under the 1950 Population Registration Act as a way of keeping tabs on different racial groups. What was an apartheid contrivance has served the ANC well, which introduced the Identification Act in 1997. The original aim of racial profiling is still very much alive today, but this new ID system will expand it well beyond that.

What’s wrong with the current system?

So, what’s wrong with the current ID system that it needs a complete overhaul?

And what kind of an overhaul is contemplated by the Department of Home Affairs (DHA), the government entity responsible for ID management?

To find this out, we go to “Problem Analysis” in the draft policy document. The Identification Act is now more than 20 years old, needs modernising, will help deliver e-government and e-commerce services to those in need, and all the other motivations that typically accompanies a proposal such as this.

The Identification Act of 1997 was enacted for the purposes of maintaining a population register and to enable government to issue ID cards. Section 7 of the Act obligates the Director-General to issue ID numbers in a way that details date of birth, gender and whether a citizen of resident.

The current ID system and how it works

Here’s how it works. The existing national ID comprises a 13-digit code as follows: YYMMDDSSSSCAZ.

The first six digits represent the date of birth, and the next four digits (SSSS) are based on gender. The next digit “C” shows if you are a South African citizen – 0 being a citizen, 1 being a permanent resident.

The last digit (Z) is what is called a “checksum” which is a statistical check that the number sequence is correct.

Here’s how it will change under the proposed new system

ID numbers will be based on parents: the ID number of a child must be processed on the basis of biographic information and linked to their parents’ ID numbers and mother’s biometric data.

Recognition of other sex/gender categories – The new legislation and population register must make a provision that enables the establishment of a category that is neither male nor female.

Random unique identity number – Another option is to issue a random unique identity number that is not linked to or founded on a person’s sex/gender, date of birth, place of birth or any other marker.

Records of persons throughout their lifespan – Every birth that takes place in the country must be registered. If possible, the biometrics of children must be captured at birth. Where impossible, the biometrics of a parent must be linked to the birth certificate of a child.

Re-registration – Children must be reregistered when they reach age five with 10 fingerprints and iris and facial photographs. A combination of different biometric data for children should be considered with options such as the photograph of the ear.

The capturing and management of this data will fall under the National Identity System, or NIS, which will link with both government and non-government databases, such as banks and retailers. On the government side, health and education data will round off a near full picture of the citizen.

It’s not hard to see how the Chinese credit scoring system is but a hop, skip and a jump away for South Africans. Also linked to the NIS data are the issue of passports, immigration and refugee data. As some have remarked, it’s almost as if the Chinese government wrote the policy document for us.

The government plans to hoover up every bit of data it can on you and your children yet to be born. What’s also clear from the document is that government plans to monetise (sell) this data. This should concern us on several front: state security agencies have been implicated in extrajudicial surveillance against SA citizens, while law enforcement bodies appear to have an extremely wide interpretation of their powers under the Criminal Procedure Act to gather up cell phone subscriber records (having obtained 70,000 such records, according to Right to Know).

Where does privacy fit into this?

Section 14 of the Constitutes guarantees the right to privacy, which includes the right not to have your person or home searched; your property searched; possessions seized; or privacy of communications infringed.

Though the draft ID document makes multiple mentions of privacy, most of these relate to data privacy – but even that must be regarded with suspicion, as we have seen a number of devastating breaches of data security (and privacy) at the hands of companies like Experian. There may be severe penalties for mishandling of private data under the Protection of Personal Information (POPI) Act, but that’s no guarantee of anything placed in the custody of a new, and massive, government bureaucracy.

All this is being sold to us as a way to afford rights to non-traditional gender groups, and to accelerate transformation and government services to those in need. It ticks all the right boxes. But we had better know what we are signing on to.

Have your say

Have your say on this police document here.

Disaster Management Act – new regulations download

President Cyril Ramaphosa has moved South Africa back to Lockdown Level 3.

“We are at an extremely dangerous point in our fight against the pandemic.”
Ramaphosa said on Monday, Cabinet has decided to put the country on an adjusted Level 3 from Level 1 with immediate effect.

Under the adjusted level 3 regulations:

  • All indoor and outdoor gatherings will be prohibited for 14 days from the date hereof, except for funerals
  • Funerals may not be attended by more than 50 people with social distancing.
  • Every business premises must determine the maximum number of staff and customers permitted at any one time based on our social-distancing guidelines and may not exceed that limit.
  • The nationwide curfew will be extended from 9pm to 6am. Apart from permitted workers and for medical and security emergencies, nobody is allowed outside their place of residence during curfew.
  • Non-essential establishments – including shops, restaurants, bars and all cultural venues – must close at 8pm. The list of these establishments will be released shortly.
  • From now on it is compulsory for every person to wear a mask in a public space. A person who does not wear a cloth mask covering over the nose and mouth in a public place will be committing an offence.
  • A person who does not wear a mask could be arrested and prosecuted. On conviction, they will be liable to a fine or to imprisonment for a period not exceeding six months or to both a fine and imprisonment.

Under the strengthened regulations:

  • The sale of alcohol from retail outlets and the on-site consumption of alcohol will not be permitted.
  • The prohibition on consuming alcohol in public spaces like parks and beaches remains.
  • Distribution and transportation will be prohibited with exceptions that will be explained by the minister.
  • These regulations may be reviewed within the next few weeks if we see a sustained decline in infections and hospital admissions.
  • In effect, the adjusted Level 3 regulations will keep the economy open while strengthening measures to reduce transmission.
  • With a few exceptions, businesses may continue to operate as long as all relevant health protocols and social distancing measures are adhered to.
  • Night clubs and businesses engaged in the sale and transportation of liquor will not be allowed to operate.

The Level 3 restrictions will remain in place until 15 January 2021.

DearSA campaign helps avert a potentially disruptive change in voting methods

Thanks largely to a robust campaign by participative democracy group DearSA, the government has decided to ditch two clauses in the Electoral Laws Amendment Bill – which would have allowed a change in voting methods.

DearSA-electronic-vote

These clauses would have allowed a switch from the current paper ballots to electronic voting – potentially sparking the kind of controversy and allegations of fraud now surrounding the recent US Presidential election.

Cybersecurity experts and lawyers have warned of the potential for hacking such electronic systems, and many have cautioned against adopting systems prone to abuse by malign actors.

On Wednesday, 2 December 2020, the Portfolio Committee on Home Affairs approved the Electoral Laws Amendment Bill and said will recommend to the National Assembly to adopt it – but without the disputed clauses 14 and 21 which would have empowered the Electoral Commission of South Africa (IEC) to prescribe a different voting method.

“The committee agreed that voting method is a policy matter that cannot be left to the IEC alone to decide, even though the IEC had mentioned that the intention was to only allow for testing of such alternatives,” says a press release issued by Parliament this week.

Parliament acknowledges the role played by DearSA in having these clauses removed from the Bill. It notes the concerns raised by members of the public in the 12,305 submissions received.

The Electoral Laws Amendment Bill seeks to amend three pieces of legislation:
· the Electoral Commission Act, 1996;
· the Electoral Act, 1998; and,
· the Local Government: Municipal Electoral Act, 2000.

These amendments were deemed necessary to prepare for the forthcoming general local government elections in 2021.

DearSA director Rob Hutchinson says removal of the concerning clauses is as a direct result of the work done by DearSA and the IRR – who brought attention to potentially disruptive changes that could lead to future disputes in election outcomes.

“The last thing we want in SA is to have election results disputed, such as we are currently seeing in the US. There are grave concerns over electronic voting methods”.

While all voting methods have potential for fraud and error, the view comments on the DearSA platform around this campaign, is the existing paper ballot method is the most reliable method we have, since it leaves a paper trail and auditing the results is therefore easier.

“This is a great victory for participative democracy in SA, and we want to thank the thousands of people who took the time to understand and comment on the proposed changes to the law.”

New ‘Internet censorship bill’ open for comment until mid October 2020

Stella Ndabeni-Abrahams, Minister of Communications and Digital Technologies,  recently extended the period for comment on the Draft Film and Publications Amendment Regulations, which align with the Films and Publications Amendment Act (FPAA).

DearSA-internet censorship

Anti-censorship groups have dubbed this the “internet censorship bill” for seeking to regulate what it deems “harmful content” and to corral online content providers under its wing. Many commentators have pointed out the regulations contravene Constitutional rights to freedom of expression.

A campaign by Dear SA attracted nearly 14,000 comments, the overwhelming majority expressing their opinion against the Bill as it stands.

“I did not sign up for fascist, communist tyranny,” says one commentator.

“Gross overreach,” says another.

Yet another: “Freedom of speech should be a basic right and any law that has as its aim the removal of this right should be viewed with great reservation and suspicion, it is one step away from a police state.”

President Cyril Ramaphosa signed the Bill into law on 4 October 2019, though it has yet to come into effect. Defenders of the bill argue that though the clumsily worded document extends itself to everybody distributing content online, in practical terms little will change for most people, if only because regulators are simply unable to deal with the volume of content produced daily. Others. However, have pointed out that this is always a dangerous assumption – that government will not attempt to extend its reach to the literal limit of the law.

It is therefore almost certain this Bill will be challenged in the Constitutional Court should it proceed in its present form.

In practical terms, all online distributors of content – whether they intend to make money from it or not – will have to register with the Film and Publications Board (FPB) and submit content for review prior to publication, or apply to the FPB Council for self-classification accreditation. Another alternative is to seek approval for the use of classification ratings issued by a foreign international classifications authority.

Previously, the Film Publications Act limited itself to the regulation of films and games, and only where these were made available for hire or sale. Now its reach extends to all online content.

Once the FPB issues a registration certificate, it can then impose any conditions it deems necessary to achieve its objectives, which are:

“To regulate the creation, production, possession and distribution of certain publications and certain films by means of classification, the imposition of age restrictions and the giving of consumer advice, due regard being had in particular to the protection of children against sexual exploitation or degradation in publications, films and on the Internet; and to

“Make the exploitative use of children in pornographic publications, films or on the Internet, punishable.”

While few people would disagree with the need to have strict laws against the sexual exploitation of children, the reach of the new Regulations goes well beyond this. The state, in the form of the FPB, will now have a say over every piece of online content distributed via the internet.

It seems inconceivable that the drafters of the Bill gave much consideration to the Constitutional protections to freedom of expression, nor to the practical effects of issuing registration certificates to tens of thousands of content producers and each item of content published. Every bit of ‘film” – which means a “sequence of visual images” – is covered by the bill, and will require an age classification from the FPB.

Interestingly, those who are members of the Press Council of SA get a free pass. Those who are not and intend to publish online content “shall submit the publication to the FPB together with the relevant form provided by the FPB, and the prescribed fee, for examination and classification, before it may be distributed or exhibited within the Republic (of SA).”

In other words, the state will now decide who is fit to distribute content (in effect designating who is a journalist) and will require everyone to submit to the registration and classification process.

You will have to apply to the FPB for classification of a film or trailer, and once that film or trailer is reviewed, each member of the classification committee will be expected to express their “opinion” with reference to the Classification Guidelines of the FPB.

A majority decision by the classification members will carry the day.

Similarly, if you are a broadcaster falling under ICASA (Independent Communications Authority of South Africa)

The amended Films and Publications Act makes it a criminal offence to distribute a film as defined above without first registering with the FPB and getting your “sequence of visual images” classified with an age restriction.

Many commentators have expressed alarm at the draconian nature of this regulation and its echoes of the darkest days of apartheid censorship. Though the Bill does not on its face appear to infringe political discourse, it is broad enough to conceivably be used in such a manner under a less benign regime. In other respects, this Bill goes beyond the wildest dreams of apartheid’s information police because of its attempt to extend the arm of the law to virtually anyone expressing an opinion or providing entertainment online.

If you are convicted under this Bill, you face a fine of up to R150,000 and imprisonment for up to eight months.

You have until the end of October to comment on this bill, and you probably should.

New cannabis bill allows you to grow your own – within limits

Cannabis-bill-DearSA

The Cannabis for Private Purposes Bill, published for comment in August 2020, proposes allowing adults to grow up to four plants (per adult) at home, and exchange up to 100 grams of dry cannabis, provided no money changes hands.

The bill will also expunge any criminal records for those previously convicted of the possession or use of cannabis.

At the core of the Cannabis for Private Purposes Bill is the right to privacy embodied in Section 14 of the Constitution.

The release of the bill for comment follows the September 2018 Constitutional Court ruling that the prohibition on the personal use and cultivation of cannabis by adults in their own homes was unconstitutional. The government was given two years to amend the offending legislation.

Dear South Africa is calling for public comment on the bill. There has been considerable comment around the bill, both for and against. Some have argued that cannabis is a gateway to more harmful drugs, and that children and non-consenting adults may be exposed to potential harm. There are also concerns over the police’s ability to enforce violations of the proposed law.

Though the new bill allows for limited cultivation and use of cannabis in one’s own home, there are severe penalties for those violating the proposed new law: 15 years maximum jail for anyone dealing in cannabis or provides it to a child under 18. Smoking cannabis around children can also land you four years in jail, or two years if you smoke in public or too close to a non-consenting adult.

Cannabis is defined as anything containing the psychoactive cannabinoid THC (including vaping of cannabis-derived liquids).

The proposed legal limits for personal, legal use of cannabis at home are:

  • unlimited for seeds and seedlings
  • four flowering plants for those living alone, or eight for homes with two adults or more
  • 600 grams of dried cannabis if you live alone, or 1.2 kilograms in homes with two or more adults.
  • In public places, possession is set to 100 grams of cannabis or one flowering plant.

The bill proposes allowing private adults to carry up to 100 grams of cannabis in public, though it must be concealed from public view.

Those previously convicted of cannabis-related offences under the Abuse of Dependence-producing Substances and Rehabilitation Centres Act, or the Drugs and Drug Trafficking Act, will automatically have their criminal convictions expunged.

While the bill proposes relaxing possession, cultivation and use of cannabis, the following will be deemed to be in violation of the new law:

  • Any person who exceeds possession limits in a public place;
  • Any person who exceeds possession limits in a private place;
  • Any person who smokes cannabis in a public place;
  • Any person who smokes cannabis in the immediate presence of any non-consenting adult person;
  • Any person who smokes cannabis in the immediate presence of a child;
  • Any person who smokes cannabis in a private place near a window, ventilation inlet or doorway to or entrance into another place;
  • Any person who consumes cannabis in a vehicle on a public road.

Have your say on this bill. Does it go far enough in protecting the rights of children and non-consenting adults? Are the penalties for over-stepping the bill too severe? Will it encourage greater use of cannabis and act as a gateway to other, potentially more harmful drugs?

More than R1 billion spent on commissions of inquiry for such meagre dividends

More than R1 billion. That’s the cost of various commissions of inquiry in recent years, most of them investigating corruption.

commission-of-inquiry-DearSA

The granddaddy of them all is the Zondo Commission of Inquiry into state capture, which has been allocated an additional R130 million to complete its work by March 2021. This is on top of the roughly R700 million spent so far on the inquiry since its formation in early 2018.

Total cost of Zondo Commission: R830 million.

Number of corrupt officials in jail: 0.

To be fair, Zondo has not completed its work and arrests will surely follow. In June this year, Deputy Chief Justice Raymond Zondo asked the Hawks to account for the lack of progress made in recovering the R2.4 billion paid by Passenger Rail Agency of SA (Prasa) to Swifambo Rail easing for locomotives that could not be used because they were too tall for the rail tracks.

Zondo has summoned the Hawks to account for the lack of progress on this, and other, cases.

South Africans are rightly outraged at the regular outpouring of corrupt tales from Zondo and other commissions of inquiry, and the fact that few have been held to account.

Moneyweb reports there were eight arrests related to the looting at VBS Bank, and four executives from Tubular Construction and Eskom were arrested late last year in relation to claims of corruption around contracts awarded for the building of the Kusile Power Station.

That’s about it. A dozen arrests, but no convictions as yet. And a few people lost their jobs.

Is this a decent return on investment on the roughly R1 billion spent on commissions of inquiry over the last few years? Let’s take a look.

Why the cost of Zondo has escalated

We have only a rough idea how the Zondo Commission budget was spent, thanks to answers provided by the ruling party in September last year to questions posed by the DA. Some R244.5 million was spent in the year the commission was set up (2018/19) and R111 million the following year. The big-ticket costs were legal fees (R53 million), investigative tools (R35 million), investigators (R86 million) and “other goods and services” (R95 million).

We don’t have more recent figures, which have obviously ballooned over the last financial year.

In July 2019, President Cyril Ramaphosa set up a special tribunal under the Special Investigations Unit (SIU) to recover an estimated R14.7 billion in looted funds.

Let’s take a look at some of the other commissions of inquiry and assess their overall benefit to the country.

Marikana Inquiry cost R153 million

2012 was a low point for the SA Police Services, when 34 mineworkers were shot and 78 wounded during a violent strike at Lonmin’s Marikana platinum mine in North West province. A Commission of Inquiry was set up in 2012 and sat through till 2015. It was chaired by retired Judge Ian Farlam, and in 2015 issued its findings, which included recommendations of a further inquiry into the fitness of senior police officials to hold office, and referred the killings and assaults to the Director of Public Prosecutions for further investigation.

The cost of the inquiry was R153 million. Police say they acted in self-defence, but issued no apology to the families of the slain miners. There has, however, been a noticeable change in police behaviour in handling violent protests as a result of the Marikana massacre.

Seriti Commission into arms deal cost R130 million

Open Secrets reports that the Seriti Commission in Inquiry into the arms deal, which ran for four years, cost taxpayers more than R130 million. It is reckoned that the arms deal cost South Africa R65 billion, and Judge Willie Seriti, who chaired the inquiry, was accused by more than 40 civil society organisations of conducting a whitewash of corrupt dealmaking by senior political figures in collaboration with international arms companies. Corruption Watch and Open Secrets accused Seriti of failing in his duty to act impartially, failing to hold accountable those accused of corruption and ignoring key evidence. In August 2019 the North Gauteng High Court set aside the findings of the Seriti Commission for its “manifest failure” to hold those responsible for the arms deal to account.

PIC Inquiry cost R54.5 million

The Commission of Inquiry into the PIC was set up in 2019 to investigate any impropriety surrounding investment decisions made by the Public Investment Corporation (PIC). The cost of the commission came to R54.5 million – small change compared to Zondo. The PIC manages more than R2 trillion in funds, predominantly on behalf of public sector workers.

The Commission found multiple irregularities relating to loans and share swaps made to the Sekunjalo Group, and recommended a forensic review of all process involved in transactions with Sekunjalo. Further irregularities were found in the PIC’s R1 billion investment in a Mozambican pal oil plant called S&S Refinery, and a R9.4 billion equity and loan funding transaction to Steinhoff International Holdings. A reading of the final report shows numerous violations of internal policies and irregular funding to business deals, some of them clearly “deals for pals.” The PIC was also heavily invested in the VBS Bank, which was found to have looted municipalities around the country.

As a result of the Inquiry into the PIC, there were some positive outcomes. Dan Matjila resigned as CEO of the PIC in November 2018 while fighting claims of impropriety which are now under an internal investigation. Executive head of listed investments, Fidelis Madavo, and assistant portfolio manager Victor Seanie, were fired over the last year. This followed an internal investigation into a R4.3 billion investment by the PIC into AYO Technology Solutions. Daily Maverick reports that in April 2018, PIC’s executive head of risk management, Paul Magula‚ was fired after being found guilty of poor performance, while executive head for legal counsel‚ governance and compliance, Ernest Nesane‚ resigned.

Nugent Commission of Inquiry cost R8.8 million

Retired Judge Robert Nugent chaired the Commission of Inquiry into tax administration and governance at the SA Revenue Service, at a total cost of R8.8 million. Nugent rounded on former tax commissioner Tom Moyane who had seized control of Sars and “dismantled the elements of governance one by one.”

The findings are scathing, and point to a pattern of governance failures and weakening revenue collection under his watch. President Ramaphosa fired Moyane in 2018 as a result of the Nugent findings.

A 2014 benchmarking exercise by the International Monetary Fund found that Sars was world class in 15 of 27 categories, and only one rung below good international practice in one of the remaining 12 categories. It was a place of higher calling for many skilled professionals eager to build a new democratic SA, says Nugent’s report.

But by March 2018 it was a shadow of the organisation lauded by the IMF. It reeked of intrigue, fear, suspicion and mistrust. Moyane installed CCTV cameras to surveille his staff, some of whom covered the lenses for fear of ending up in disciplinary hearing for a misdemeanor.

The modernisation programme that had been a decade in the making, replacing the largely paper-based system that preceded it with state-of-the-art computer systems, was summarily stopped when Moyane took over the helm, “with not so much as a word to the person who had been instrumental in creating it.” US-based consulting firm Bain & Co had a destructive hand in dismantling working installations without consulting staff. Bain subsequently repaid R217 million to Sars.

Mokgoro Board of Inquiry into National Prosecuting officials cost R3.6 million

The Mokgoro Board of Inquiry into the fitness of advocates Nomgcobo Jiba and Lawrence Mrwebi to occupy the top positions in the National Prosecuting Authority cost the country R3.6 million. Jiba was accused of being politically captured by former President Jacob Zuma.

The bottom line

Overall, we think this is a rather poor dividend on the more than R1 billion spent over recent years on various commissions of inquiry.

Five suspects nabbed for R5.7m UIF fraud in predawn raid by Hawks

By Jeff Wicks, Times LIVE

Hawks investigators descended on several properties in Pretoria in an early morning raid on Saturday to round up five suspects linked to a R5.7m UIF fraud and money-laundering scam.

The suspects cannot be named until they have appeared before a court.

Hawks spokesperson Col Katlego Mogale said that three men and two women — aged between 25 and 68 — were taken into custody in the predawn raid.

“This is following an intensive investigation into a case registered at Brooklyn SAPS relating to the Unemployment Insurance Fund Covid-19 relief. The suspects were traced to various residences in Soshanguve, Atteridgeville and Mamelodi,” she said.

“Five vehicles, including a Range Rover Evoque, were recovered from the scenes as well as other items suspected to have been bought with the monies which weren’t meant for the suspects,” she added.

Two weeks ago, the graft-busting Asset Forfeiture Unit secured a preservation order in the Pretoria high court, freezing R3.2m in cash in 28 bank accounts.

R2.4m remains in the ether.

Hawks investigators and operatives from the Financial Intelligence Centre had followed the money from the UIF into the bank account of a factory worker.

His bank account details had been inexplicably swapped with those of his employer, and the misstep saw Covid-19 relief funds meant for 1,400 paid into his account.

Detectives, on being alerted to the scam, unravelled a web of payments, which saw funds hastily moved between the man’s family members and his girlfriend, according to documents before court.

The Sunday Times and TimesLIVE reported that the family had splurged on cars, tombstones and catering equipment.

SA Lockdown: Cele wants another ban on alcohol

JOHANNESBURG – Police Minister Bheki Cele says there is sufficient evidence to warrant the banning of alcohol sales once more.

Cele made the comment during a visit to the families of two Durban Metro police officers who were ambushed and shot dead on Tuesday.

The officers were on their way to work in Hammersdale outside the city.

“I have said it all the time that if I were given the opportunity to run and decide alone on this matter, then my first prize would be to ban the alcohol because I believe there is a lot of evidence that it is not doing good,” he said

The Police Minister added that crime levels have increased since the ban on the sale of alcohol was lifted.

Cele says he hopes the National Coronavirus Command Council will do the right thing.

Article by ENCA

Ad hoc committee to amend Section 25 of the Constitution to be re-established

  • The National Assembly will re-establish an ad hoc committee to amend Section 25 of the Constitution to allow expropriation without compensation.
  • This after the previous ad hoc committee was allowed to lapse before it finished its work because of the Covid-19 pandemic.
  • The new ad hoc committee’s deadline will be set later, but the end of this year has been mooted. 

The National Assembly will again establish an ad hoc committee to amend Section 25 of the Constitution to allow expropriation without compensation.

Two weeks ago, all parties at the National Assembly Programming agreed to let the ad hoc committee amending Section 25 lapse.

The committee had a deadline to finish its work by the end of May.

It was in the midst of an expansive public participation process when the coronavirus reached South Africa and social distancing measures were put in place to prevent its spread.

Hence, the committee could not continue with public meetings, which generally attracted groups of more than 50 people.

At last week’s meeting of the programming committee, opposition MPs said they were surprised when the ANC proposed re-establishing the committee at the previous day’s meeting of the Chief Whips’ Forum.

READ | Amending Section 25 of the Constitution: Five questions answered

The ANC proposed that the committee is given the deadline of the end of October to complete its work.

The FF Plus and DA – who oppose an amendment – said the committee must not be established yet given the uncertainty around the Covid-19 pandemic.

The ANC, backed by the EFF – who both want an amendment, albeit in different forms – said the committee’s deadline could always be extended.

Speaker of the National Assembly Thandi Modise said she will discuss the matter with her deputy Lechesa Tsenoli.

Re-establish 

On Thursday’s meeting of the National Assembly Programming Committee, Tsenoli said the committee will be established, but its deadline will be determined later, but their view is that it must complete its work by the end of the year.

He said the committee would have to explore innovative ways to conduct its public participation.

DA chief whip Natasha Mazzone asked that the decision to re-establish the committee be put in writing to parties.

As the committee has lapsed, it will have to be re-established by a motion of the National Assembly.

In July last year, the National Assembly resolved to appoint the committee and give it the task to amend Section 25 of the Constitution. This after the Fifth Parliament’s committee with the same task could not finish its work before Parliament rose for the 2019 elections.

The committee’s initial deadline was 31 March.

The National Assembly extended this to 29 May in March.

Article by News24

 

Hundreds of millions budgeted to spruce up politicians’ houses, government buildings

The government is planning to spend a whopping R423m on renovating the official homes and offices of SA’s senior public office bearers.

Public works and infrastructure minister Patricia de Lille revealed in a written reply to a parliamentary question by DA MP Tim Brauteseth that R423,741,621 has been set aside for the government’s so-called prestige projects for the 2020/21 financial year.

De Lille’s document reveals that R203m of the budgeted amount will be spent on facilities management for the Union Buildings and presidency facilities in Pretoria.

About R135m is set aside for numerous projects in the parliamentary precinct, including structural repairs to a part of the Old Assembly building, upgrading of security systems, refurbishment of ministerial offices and replacement of kitchen equipment, including construction work in kitchens.

Some of the projects in parliament have been completed while others will be completed in the next few months.

The Groote Schuur Estate in Rondebosch, Cape Town, will get a “total upgrading of its civil infrastructure and electrical installation”. De Lille said they have budgeted R48m for this, while almost R16m has been set aside for refurbishment of roads and parking at the Bryntirion presidential estate.

A further R40m will be spent on routine and sustainable maintenance and minor upgrades to residential units in the three parliamentary villages in Cape Town. Another R54m has been set aside to provide integrated facilities management services for five years in the parliamentary villages and for official residential accommodation.

De Lille explained that this was the current facilities management contract that will expire on September 30 2020.

A similar amount [R54m] is budgeted for similar integrated facilities management services for five years but this time the contract pertains to providing these integrated facilities management services for the parliamentary complex and for official office accommodation. That management contract also ends on September 30 2020. A further R26m has been set aside for a new facilities management contract that will kick in when the old one ends in September.

The residences of sessional officials in the three parliamentary villages were refurbished to the tune of R300,000. De Lille said this project has been completed.

The minister’s response shows that tens of millions more will be spent on the parliamentary precinct, including on structural repairs to the Old Assembly building area, repairing cracks, water proofing, repairs to walls and removing of shelving to the archives and to carry out external work. This will come at a cost of R15m.

The department told parliament last month that its spending focus over the next three years will be on developing and reviewing policies for the prestige accommodation portfolio in line with the ministerial handbook, improving the delivery of services to “prestige” clients with regard to the provision of both movable and immovable assets as well as meeting the protocol responsibilities for state functions.

“While it may be argued that some of this expenditure is essential maintenance, the DA believes that in a Covid-19 crisis when the health services are faltering under immense pressure and the economy is plummeting, such expenditure is incredibly irresponsible,” said Brauteseth on Wednesday.

He called for all available, non-essential expenditure to be directed towards caring for the lives and livelihoods of all South Africans, not projects concerning government installations which are only being used by a greatly reduced percentage of their occupants, especially during the lockdown and Covid-19 pandemic.

Article by Sowetan Live