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Decade-in-the-making taxi rank costing more than R272-million still not ready to be opened

Thohoyandou taxi owners and businesses in Limpopo want the rank to start operating.
Taxi owners and businesses in Thohoyandou, Limpopo are demanding that the taxi rank, which was started in 2011, be opened.
But the provincial transport department says the rank is still not ready. “Structural defects” have been found and further work is needed, according to Limpopo Department of Roads and Transport spokesperson, Tidimalo Chuene.
The department started building the taxi rank in 2011, said Chuene. It was thought to have been completed in 2013 at an initial cost of over R250-million. Construction included retail space, office blocks, 65 taxi loading bays on the ground and 160 bays on the first floor. But now defects have been found.
Groundup visited the taxi rank recently and found that the fencing is dilapidated, some windows are broken, lights are falling off and grass around the taxi rank is overgrown.
Alfred Mthigalala, Vhembe regional secretary of the South African National Taxi Council (Santaco), said department officials had stopped updating the council on the progress of the project. “Currently we are not sure why the taxi rank is not operational.”
Mthigalala said there are only three taxi ranks in Thohoyandou, and these have not been maintained and are not in good condition.
“Santaco is calling the department to open this taxi rank. There are reports that at night there are people sleeping inside the new taxi rank. Very soon the place will be vandalised and will turn into a crime hot spot,” said Mthigalala.
Visit Daily Maverick’s home page for more news, analysis and investigations
Chuene, told GroundUp that slabs on sections of the first floor started showing cracks, an assessment was done and several problems were identified.
The department then hired a structural engineer in 2014 to do a detailed assessment of the taxi rank, including the retail and office spaces. “Several structural defects were found . mainly ascribed to: overloaded pile foundations, insufficient dimensions of concrete elements, and insufficient reinforcement of concrete elements,” he said.
After the assessment, remedial work was completed at a cost of over R25-million. But Chuene said further repair and maintenance work was required.
The contractors had been paid in full because they were not liable for structural deficiencies but the engineering consultant responsible for the design of the structure had not been paid in full, said Chuene.
Chuene acknowledged that the department had not given feedback to Santaco about the repairs and promised to notify Santaco when the rank ...

Civil society has been a force for change – but can it change the politics of South Africa?

Saturday, 10 December is international Human Rights Day. It also marks the signing of the Constitution of South Africa 26 years ago. All well and good. But with children starving in the Eastern Cape and 989 women murdered between July and September 2022, isn’t it time for a serious discussion about the strategies activists use to advance human rights?
Civil society has played a vital role at every stage of South Africa’s democracy.
Through resistance, litigation, research and demonstration, it has led in giving flesh to both the spirit and letter of the Constitution’s promise of a society based on “democratic values, social justice and fundamental human rights”. Like Atlas, civil society has held up the constitutional sky.
Prominent examples of successful advocacy include:
The response to the HIV/Aids epidemic catalysed by the Treatment Action Campaign (TAC);
The thwarting of the Secrecy bill by the Right2Know campaign; and
Mobilising against State Capture by a range of organisations.
But it has not only been about advocacy.
Civil society has often filled the gaps where the state is failing in service delivery. No organisation better exemplifies this than the humanitarian work of Gift of Givers who have shown that with will and relatively few resources, delivery is possible. Think of how they have:
Drilled boreholes to provide water to drought-stricken towns in the Eastern Cape;
Ensured vital oxygen supplies to hospitals during the Covid-19 pandemic; and
Rescued people and offered emergency relief during the floods in eThekwini and surrounds in April 2022.
In a country still full of hate and prejudice, civil society has also refused to surrender the human rights of the most marginalised: shack dwellers, African migrants and refugees, the LGBTQI community. This is sometimes at great personal cost. For example, living literally at the nexus of politics and criminality, Abahlali baseMjondolo, an organisation campaigning for the rights of access to housing and land, has had 24 of its leaders murdered in a decade – four in 2022.
Read in Daily Maverick: “The Abahlali baseMjondolo experience exposes South Africa’s shrinking democratic space”
By these means and through these organisations (and many many more) civil society has kept hope alive. Where other new democracies have failed it is not an exaggeration to say that in South Africa activism has prevented the dismembering of democracy.
New challenges
But the heady days of activism in the 1990s and early 2000s, flush with the possibilities of a new Constitution, are gone. In the past decade the political and economic geography ...

Special Investigating Unit uncovers multimillion-rand Covid-related corruption in Northern Cape

A Special Investigating Unit report has revealed unlawful processes in the procurement of Covid-related equipment in the Northern Cape, costing many millions of rands.
Action is being taken against Northern Cape officials implicated in wrongdoing related to the Covid-19 pandemic. This is according to the Special Investigating Unit’s (SIU’s) seventh progress report on its investigations into allegations of corruption related to Covid-19 and the National State of Disaster.
The report is a supplement and update to the “final” report that the SIU made public in January.
The report was handed to President Cyril Ramaphosa in July and was released this week.
Read more in Daily Maverick: “Latest SIU report reveals billions more rands of unlawful and dodgy Covid-19 spending exposed”
The SIU’s initial investigations stemmed from a request by the premier of the Northern Cape, Dr Zamani Saul, that all personal protective equipment (PPE) contracts in all departments, including his own Office of the Premier, be investigated in relation to allegations of corruption. The provincial Treasury then undertook a report into the allegations, which was in turn handed over to the SIU. The SIU then initiated its own investigations based on the Treasury report.
Macronym 37 (Pty) Ltd
This case was identified by the premier’s office based on matters highlighted by the provincial Treasury. In June 2020, the Northern Cape Department of Health (DoH) made an award to the value of R26,960,025 (including VAT) for:
Coveralls — R12,443,500 (excluding VAT);
Disposable surgical masks — R3,000,000 (excluding VAT); and
N95 masks — R8,000,000 (excluding VAT).
According to the SIU, “the contract concerned was preceded by an unlawful procurement process” which resulted in a flawed general approved deviation submission. Alternatively, no specific deviation submission or application was made to an accounting officer for the procurement being awarded.
“On this premise, the Accounting Officer has not approved any procurement to be made on the basis of deviating from the normal prescribed procurement prescripts in respect of conducting a competitive bidding process for the procurement of the goods and/or services,” read the SIU report.
This was an unauthorised departure from the required procurement systems, said the SIU. A report furnished to the SIU by Supply Chain Management “explicitly indicated that Macronym was initially disqualified due to non-compliance”.
MKV Investments (Pty) Ltd
This investigation was based on a request by the Office of the Premier, as well as the Northern Cape Provincial Treasury report. According to the SIU, on 18 August, the provincial health department procured the following from MWV ...

Eastern Cape MEC helps 30 children obtain birth certificates to fend off starvation after Gqeberha mother’s plight

After being alerted about a baby girl in Gqeberha, who was kept alive with cooldrink powder by her desperate mother who could not get a child grant as neither she nor the baby was registered with Home Affairs, the MEC for Social Development in the Eastern Cape, Bukiwe Fanta, has intervened and secured birth certificates for 30 undocumented children in Gqeberha.
Moved by the plight of a mother whose baby almost starved to death, the Eastern Cape MEC for Social Development, Bukiwe Fanta, has intervened and helped 30 mothers secure birth certificates for their babies so that they can access the Child Support Grant.
Shortly after being informed of the condition of the child, Fanta’s spokesperson, Busisiwe Jemsana-Mantashe, said the MEC was very concerned about the number of children with malnutrition in the province and about “the number of children that are not getting the Child Support Grant because they do not have birth certificates”.
Fanta had promised to draw in all necessary government departments and sort out the issue. And she did.
Meanwhile the five-month-old, who had suffered from severe acute malnutrition and TB, has been discharged from hospital and moved to a place of safety.
Glenda Brunette, who runs the Walmer Angel Project, said they were happy that the MEC had assisted the mothers with the documentation to access the child grant, but they would continue to assist with formula and baby food. Thanks to generous donations, the project was able to provide formula and baby food to 50 mothers who were undocumented and awaiting the Child Support Grant.
Brunette said they were feeding more than 300 children a day at their soup kitchen and for many this was the only meal they would get.
Visit Daily Maverick’s home page for more news, analysis and investigations
Nomasomi Mbambo who, along with her sister Julia Mbambo helped identify the mothers who needed assistance from the SA Social Security Agency (Sassa) and the Department of Home Affairs, said there was universal relief and joy when the mothers received registration documents for their children.
She said the project was ongoing and Home Affairs officials and Sassa officials were still trying to help as many mothers as possible.
“Despite most people applying and receiving all necessary civil documents like birth certificates immediately at birth, identity documents upon reaching the age of 18 years, many of those living in marginalised areas of the Eastern Cape get into adulthood without IDs or other forms ...

HIV is not a death sentence; you can live a normal life – Sadag

Although HIV is still prominent in South Africa, it no longer means that those who contract the disease will die from it. This is according to Lara Ellwood of the South African Depression and Anxiety Group.
There are 8.5 million people living with HIV in South Africa, with 85,796 deaths as a result of Aids in 2022, according to a Statistics SA report.
“You will live a normal life and things are going to be okay,” said Lara Ellwood of the South African Depression and Anxiety Group (Sadag) and host of a Facebook Live discussion titled “World Aids Day – Unpacking Mental Health and HIV”.
The medical definition of the Human Immunodeficiency Virus (HIV) is a virus that is transferred from an infected human to an uninfected human, through bodily fluid, said Zella Young, chief operations officer at LifeSense Disease Management.
The virus then attacks the CD4 cells while replicating itself, explains Young.
If HIV is left untreated, the virus continues to replicate itself, causing a “viral overload” which impacts the immune system of the infected person, she says.
Read more in Daily Maverick: “Equalise or lose the Aids battle, UNAids warns”
Visit Daily Maverick’s home page for more news, analysis and investigations
Change post-2016
In 2016, then health minister Aaron Motsoaledi announced in his health budget vote speech in Parliament that “in September this year, we will remove CD4 count as an eligibility criterion for ARV treatment”.
Before this amendment, ARV treatment was only available to infected people when their CD4 count was below a certain level. However, during that time, treatment would start late in the disease’s progression, Young explained.
“If this is the only message that goes out today, it’s that if you take your ARVs constantly and correctly, the viral load can decrease, and if the virus is undetectable it is non-transmittable . HIV cannot be transmitted,” said Young.
Read more in Daily Maverick: “One day a year is not enough to fight HIV in South Africa”
The stigma continues
As long as there is still stigma attached to HIV, people will not come forward, said Young.
The element of the unknown with regard to HIV often increases anxiety, and it’s important to “remind ourselves that it [HIV] does not have to define us”, said Ellwood.
“It’s okay to have a chronic illness,” Ellwood said. DM/MC

Saldanha Bay residents voice support for Karpowership during public meeting

The controversial company, which uses fossil fuels to generate power from ships, claims it will create 225 jobs in the West Coast town.
At a public meeting held in Saldanha Bay as part of Karpowership’s regulatory requirements, many residents expressed their backing for the controversial electricity-generation deal, despite environmental organisations opposing the “flawed” deal.
Karpowership runs power ships (literally a ship that produces power) that use fossil fuels to generate electricity.
“We support this project,” said Samuel Moorkroof, who was speaking on behalf of the West Coast Black Business Alliance. Moorkroof said that some media reports have claimed that people of Saldanha Bay were wholly opposed to the deal, but that this wasn’t true. He said many people in Saldanha supported the Karpowership project.
GroundUp sat in on the public meeting held in Saldanha Multipurpose Centre on 21 November. About 50 people, including representatives of local business and fishing organisations, attended the meeting and most showed support for the Karpowership deal. One man at the meeting said that he was not in support of the deal.
In March 2021, three Karpowerships, to be based in Saldanha Bay, Coega, and Richards Bay, were listed among eight preferred bidders as part of the Risk Mitigation IPP Procurement Programme (RMIPPPP) of the Department of Mineral Resources and Energy (DMRE) in a 20-year deal worth over R200-billion. In June last year, the Department of Forestry, Fisheries and the Environment (DFFE) refused Karpowership initial environmental impact assessments (EIAs).
Investigations by amaBhungane in May last year suggested that the tender process was rigged in Karpowership’s favour, among other irregularities. In January this year, a court challenge by a competitor that sought to overturn Karpowership’s appointment was dismissed.
Many of the Saldanha residents that spoke in support of the deal noted that unemployment and poverty were widespread, and that the effects of rolling blackouts have exacerbated these problems.
Saldanha Bay is the Local Municipality with the highest unemployment rate in the West Coast District, despite being the biggest contributor to GDP, according to recent statistics.
Public meetings were also held in Richards Bay and Ngqura last week. It was Karpowership’s second attempt to hold public meetings, after the initial environmental impact assessments (EIAs) were refused by the Department of Forestry, Fisheries and the Environment (DFFE) in June 2021. The DFFE found that there were “significant gaps and limitations” in the EIA, that proper public consultation didn’t take place, and that it lacked a necessary underwater noise ...

Some Free State patients only given lifesaving antiretrovirals for two weeks at a time

While the Free State health department is denying that clinics in the province are experiencing stockouts of antiretroviral medicines, some healthcare users and HIV activists working in communities claim otherwise. The department does however acknowledge that some people are given only a two-week supply at a time.
Both health minister Dr Joe Phaahla and health authorities in the Free State last week denied claims from activists that there are shortages of antiretroviral medicines at health facilities in the province. Authorities did however confirm that some people living with HIV are only given a two-week supply of medicines at a time.
“I can confidently say that there are no stockouts or shortages of ARVs in the Free State,” Phaahla told Spotlight at the World Aids Day commemoration event in Mangaung.
This was reiterated by spokesperson for the Free State Department of Health, Mondli Mvambi saying, “We do not have shortages of HIV medicines in the province.”
He says allegations of patients not receiving their medication are very serious and cannot be taken lightly. He says should the department hear from patients who are not receiving their HIV medicine, they will investigate.
But Makhosazana Mkhatshwa, a research officer at the Treatment Action Campaign (TAC), says in the past three months, nine clinics in the province indicated that patients have left their facility without the medicine that they needed and of these nine clinics, three of them had sent people home because there was a stockout of HIV medication. She says impacted clinics include Poly Clinic and MUCPP in Mangaung, and Namahadi Clinic in Thabo Mofutsanyana District.
According to community-led monitoring group Ritshidze’s latest report on clinic services in the Free State, there were 40 patient reports this year of shortages of HIV medication compared to 13 patient reports last year. The report states that the most commonly reported medicine shortages by public healthcare users were contraceptives, HIV, and TB medicines. The report was based on monitoring at 28 clinics. TAC is a Ritshidze partner organisation.
Only seven or 14-day supply for some
One woman Spotlight spoke to at the World Aids Day commemoration event held in Mangaung last week says she is a patient at Pule Sefatsa Clinic in Botshabelo, Mangaung. “I am forced to go to clinic every week because they only give me a supply for eight days. This is an inconvenience for me because I have to skip work every week just to get my medication.”
Another public ...

Time to challenge our own prejudices about people with visible and invisible disabilities

One billion people, or 15% of the world’s population, live with some form of disability. Disappointingly, despite all the calls for inclusion, recognition of diversity, for more amplified voices through social media platforms and so on, there is deep-rooted ableism across societies, most of which is unrecognised by those exercising it.
‘There are none so blind as those who will not see. The most deluded people are those who choose to ignore what they already know,” the satirist Jonathan Swift wrote in 1738 in his Polite Conversation.
It’s an easy enough citation, given my own inability to see, but mine is a disability and not the turning of a blind eye, a practice well exercised as we at times delude ourselves into the idea of what has now in South Africa come to be termed “soft life”.
It was International Day of Persons with Disabilities on 3 December and, whether we know someone with a disability or not, it matters that we don’t afford ourselves the ignorance of “out of sight out of mind” and rather be anti-ableist.
As we reach the year’s end, many of us are looking forward to some rest.
South Africa’s hardships will unfortunately be with us even as we wind down to enjoy the festivities. So, lest we forget, even for a short while, let me implore you to not forget the world’s 15% and, among those, the ones whose condition is not “visible”.
One billion people, or 15% of the world’s population, live with some form of disability.
Ableism refers to discrimination in favour of able-bodied persons.
“Anti-ableism is the opposite of ableism, with a practical focus on strategies, theories, actions and practices that challenge, and counter, ableism, inequalities, prejudices and discrimination based on any type of disability — including visible, invisible, learning, developmental, physical or mental health,” according to Sheri Byrne-Haber, an American disability activist.
The International Day of Disabled Persons is observed annually and was proclaimed by UN General Assembly Resolution 47/3 in 1992, when I was in my first year of high school. It aims to promote the rights and wellbeing of persons with disabilities in all spheres of society, and to increase awareness of our situation across political, social, economic and cultural norms.
Having lived with a disability practically all my life, I’m endeavouring to inspire “polite conversation” or, preferably, vigorous conversation, to take place within the framework, political, social, economic and cultural aspects of disability, particularly the cultural, focusing ...

Dear South Africa, we are on our own – let’s be extra vigilant as we chart a new future

The crisis South Africa is in is a golden opportunity to define the country’s progressive politics anew, ditching the old ideological dogmas whose preoccupation is contestation to defeat the other at the expense of progress on issues where there is broad social agreement. Here’s what we must pay urgent attention to.
I had initially decided to wait for the ANC’s National Executive Committee (NEC) meeting before writing this article, but I changed my mind. It occurred to me that whether President Cyril Ramaphosa resigns or not, nothing changes in terms of what South Africans need to do to protect the country’s democracy and the wellbeing of the people.
The most important thing is for all of us to accept that there is no “better ANC” or “better people in the ANC”. The entire organisation, from top to bottom, is rotten, with only smatterings of integrity. For those who believed that Ramaphosa could miraculously change the character of the party for the better, I hope they can now see that this was a pipedream.
We also have the benefit of knowing who his likely successors would be if he were to resign or be fired. All of them have been at the epicentre of the rot that has brought our country to its knees. Some are under criminal investigation, facing criminal charges or curiously have the endorsement of openly corrupt elements.
It is critical that South Africans are not fooled by their false promises to, somehow, be visited by fresh ideas and energy or develop an allergy to corruption when they have fed off it for decades.
As Professor Mzukisi Qobo wrote in Business Day a decade ago, people like Ramaphosa, who are perceived to be clean, give ordinary people a false sense of hope that somehow the ANC can be rehabilitated when this is not possible.
It is from this perception that the ANC was able to knit together a fragile coalition to carry it to power in 2019, with Ramaphosa as its public face.
Except for die-hard ANC supporters, that coalition is dead, with many of those elements now looking for political consensus on their own, and with no horse to back.
Even if Ramaphosa were to survive the chop, he is severely compromised. There is simply no way around bricks of undeclared forex stuffed into couches. That is the stuff of drug smugglers.
It is unseemly for the president of any country to place themselves in such ...

Competition law and healthcare – lessons from the Hazel Tau case

Competition law can be used to facilitate access to affordable medicines, as demonstrated by the 2002 Hazel Tau & others case against big pharma companies GlaxoSmithKline and Boehringer Ingelheim. This case is a reminder that for many South Africans with chronic illnesses, access to medication remains a struggle.
A seminar on the Hazel Tau case was held by the Competition Commission and the Health Justice Initiative on World Aids Day to commemorate the monumental role that the case played in the fight for affordable antiretrovirals (ARVs) in sub-Saharan Africa.
The case set a precedent for the way competition law can be used, the Competition Commission’s Nandi Mokoena said at the seminar:
“Competition law is one measure available to progressively realise the right to healthcare to all and it needs to be actively used, otherwise we would not be meeting our constitutional mandate as an entity.”
Those lost to big pharma
At the time of the case in 2002, 5.9 million South Africans were infected with HIV/Aids and were unable to access treatment, added the director of the Health Justice Initiative, Fatima Hassan.
“The state-sponsored ARV denialism influenced the lack of access in the public sector and prices,” she explained. “Unless you had a lot of money or a really comprehensive medical scheme or private sponsor, you would not be able to access ARV. You would die prematurely.”
Tau was one of the first complainants against the pharmaceutical companies and although her treatment was sponsored, she maintained that “with or without a sponsor, I was willing to push until we get treatment”.
A bittersweet win
Tau has mixed emotions about her win.
“It was a bittersweet experience because everyone could not be saved. I was still in pain. I lost friends, family, colleagues,” she said.
While the availability of ARVs had helped many in the country, there were still problems facing the HIV/Aids community that needed to be addressed.
“We lost millions of people who were breadwinners, which has left the country with orphans and child-headed households.”
There is still a long way to go with stigma, added Tau.
“(Your HIV status is something) that people think is easier, but it is not easier to disclose. It depends on the type of support you have”.
One reason behind the stigma is HIV-specific clinics, said Tau, and health workers who disclose people’s status when handing them forms or medication in clinics.
To negate this, Tau suggested that all sicknesses are grouped together, and that separate clinics for HIV ...

Domestic workers call on President to sign compensation bill into law

The legislation was sent to Cyril Ramaphosa more than two months ago.
“We sacrifice everything to make sure the homes of our employers are in top shape. But no one cares about us,” says Eunice Dladla, of the South African Domestic Service and Allied Workers Union (Sadsawu). This was the feeling expressed by several domestic workers at a dialogue for workers, unions and government representatives on matters affecting domestic workers, held on Wednesday at the Nelson Mandela Foundation in Houghton.
The dialogue was given the title, “Two Years after Mahlangu”, referring to the case of Mahlangu and Another v Minister of Labour and Others. In its ruling on the case in November 2020, the Constitutional Court declared invalid a section of the Compensation for Occupation Injuries and Diseases Act (Coida). The section had effectively excluded domestic workers employed in private households from claiming compensation for workplace injuries.
The court order was made retrospective, allowing claims to be lodged by domestic workers and dependants, who had experienced work-related injuries, diseases or death from 27 April 1994 onwards.
Pinky Mashiane, president of United Domestic Workers of South Africa (Udwosa), urged President Cyril Ramaphosa to sign the amendment bill for Coida into law. (Parliament sent it to the President for assent in September 2022.)
Visit Daily Maverick’s home page for more news, analysis and investigations
“In the two years since the Mahlangu victory, fewer than ten claims from domestic workers have been processed,” said Keitumetse Moutloatse, of social movement Black Womxn Caucus.
Possible reasons for this were given by Mashiane. She said the Labour Department needs to do more to educate employers and domestic workers, because many don’t know about the Constitutional Court hearing. She also said that domestic workers might not report their injuries out of fear of intimidation or dismissal.
“Employers will take domestic workers to their own doctors, who will write medical reports that please employers instead of accurate medical reports that would assist the injured worker in reporting and claiming from the fund,” she said.
“The [labour] department is making it very difficult for domestic workers to put in claims and benefit from the fund. They say the claim forms must be completed by employers,” she said. DM
First published by GroundUp.

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