Drowning by red tape

Drowning by red tape

Remember the biblical reference to the sins of the forefathers? The experiences of some Western Cape property owners hark back to the days nearly 50 years ago when the once-rampant ruling National Party, in an attempt to make a fast buck, ignored all environmental constraints and declared lagoons, coastal sand dunes and swathes of swampland in the province suitable for sale as residential plots.

People living in the 150-year flood plain of the Lourens River at Somerset West recently got a taste of the wrath of God visiting them, when retirement complexes and a hospital had to be hastily evacuated as the long-predicted flood came down, wreaking tens of millions-worth of damage.

The University of Stellenbosch’s hydrological department had been warning the local authority of such an eventuality – in formal written reports – since 1981. They were ignored by the politicians. Why deprive their developer friends of a wonderful profit opportunity? They were allowed to build “secure” villages for retirees and a hospital in the path of the flood.

Not far away, down the coast at Pringle Bay, a Cape Town artist who dreamt of having a straw-bale house built has felt the wrath of what Deuteronomy 5:9 described as “…a jealous God, visiting the iniquity of the fathers upon the children unto the third and fourth generation of them that hate me...”

To avoid a National Party scandal, it was baled out by Sanlam, and that story you can read here.

KWV tries to bury report

KWV tries to bury report

Blushing KWV tries to silence revelation of BEE trickery.

The black economic empowerment leg of South Africa’s premier wine and spirits company, KWV Holdings Limited, remains embroiled in conflict; the latest being the rearrangement of deck chairs of Phetogo Investment Holdings, which holds a big chunk of the business.

The mystery is how a British-born white man, Rob Dow, has managed to snatch an influential interest in the BEE leg of KWV, apparently with the assistance of his business mate Khutso Mampeule.

The sounds of silence

The sounds of silence

Officialdom remains tight-lipped about the violent death of a good man who knew too much.

May 11 marked the first anniversary of the death of Moses Tshake, a whistleblower in the employ of the Free State government. He had been asking questions about millions of rands paid out on agricultural projects by the provincial government and probing municipal maladministration when he was hijacked in Bloemfontein, brutally assaulted and left for dead on 22 February last year.

Tshake died in May after lingering for three months in hospital.

“My son died for fuck-all. It is heartbreaking,” says Tshake’s father, David Chaka. His anguish is compounded by frustration that nothing is being done about his son’s murder.

Boer maak 'n planning permission

Boer maak 'n planning permission

Defying numerous obstacles, Durbanville landowner Boetie Louw has his way with a distinctly dicey development on a Cape Town wetland.

Wealthy landowner, Boetie Louw is a determined man. Though well into his eighties, he has long planned to convert one of his farms, Uitkamp, near Durbanville, into a 700-unit housing estate with a retirement facility, a school, a conference centre, and even a game reserve. It’s not the first time Louw has tried to pull this off, and there’s a great deal of money at stake.

A development like this requires multiple approvals. Whereas the environmental approval is processed at provincial level, more mundane issues like “extending the urban edge”, town planning approval and re-zoning are done at city or town level.

Health care probe turns into chess game

Health care probe turns into chess game

Netcare and KPMG accuse each other of delaying tactics over Competition Commission investigation into medical costs.

The Competition Commission inquiry into what is driving up hospital and doctors’ fees has turned into a riddle in a thicket of deceit and finger-pointing.

The trouble started when the commission began its two-year inquiry late last year into why medical costs in South Africa are going into orbit, well above the inflation rate year-on-year.

The private hospital giant, Netcare – which describes itself as the largest private hospital group in South Africa and enjoyed revenue of R27.8 billion (up 10.4%) in 2013 – has been accused by the commission of deliberately delaying its inquiry into rocketing medical fees, according to the TimesLive website.

Netcare took auditors KPMG to the South Gauteng High Court in October to stop it working for the commission. It argued that there was a conflict of interest because KPMG – which is doing much of the legwork for the commission’s inquiry – had previously worked on its accounts.

Right on!

Right on!

Right2Know national coordinator Mark Weinberg is ready for action at the helm of a movement that features increasingly in public-interest campaigns – and it’s poised to pounce on the Secrecy Bill.

The Secrecy Bill is on President Jacob Zuma’s desk, seconds from being signed… The minute he does, the Right2Know campaign will swing into action: “We’ve briefed a legal team, drawn up our papers and we are ready to take it right to the Constitutional Court to have it declared illegal.”

That’s Mark Weinberg, national coordinator of the Right2Know campaign (R2K), who says the Secrecy Bill has top priority, but in the greater quest for freedom of information in South Africa, it is by no means the only one. Also on R2K’s agenda in the coming months is the cost of communication.

Child of the struggle

Child of the struggle

Mark Weinberg is descended from generations of social protest. He is a third-generation activist from a family whose contribution to fighting apartheid and building democracy in South Africa has been considerable.

Weinberg, 40, was born in 1974 in Johannesburg to activist Sheila Weinberg, a single parent. Her father, Mark’s grandfather, was the trade unionist and renowned photographer Eli Weinberg who with his wife, Violet, was a founding member of the South African Communist Party. He died in exile in Dar es Salaam, Tanzania, in 1981.

“My mother was, in many ways, a ground-breaker. That must have influenced my life,” says Weinberg. “My mother became an activist at an extremely difficult time in South Africa’s history; in the 1960s and 70s. At one point, aged 19, she was the youngest-ever detainee in South Africa.

“My mother was at meetings almost every other night of the week and was placed under house arrest for her activities, right up until a month before the UDF was formed in 1983,” says Weinberg.

After the ANC was unbanned in 1991, Sheila Weinberg served as a member of the Gauteng Legislature from 1994 to 2004 and took particular interest in emerging farmers in her constituency of Westonaria, and in the rights of the disabled.

Latest reports from Africa Confidential

Latest reports from Africa Confidential

Kenya. Somalis screened and confined to camps

The investigation by Kenya’s security agencies of the Somali community for links to terrorism is meeting growing criticism. It forms part of the Jubilee Alliance government’s response to the attack by Somalia’s Al Haraka al Shabaab al Mujahideen on the Westgate Mall. Critics say the authorities have dusted off tactics from their old counter-insurgency handbook and some also suspect the business elite is taking advantage of the campaign.

Disannointed. Mugabe keeps ‘em guessing

President Robert Mugabe’s continued stonewalling on the leadership succession threatens chaos as increasing numbers of politicians from the ruling Zanu-PF throw their hats into the ring, or at least appear to do so.

Divine right. Mind what you say

Divine right. Mind what you say

The  ANC has a penchant for assuming it has a divine right to rule. President Jacob Zuma has stated this on several occasions. In 2008 he told a May Day rally in Cape Town: “Even God expects us to rule this country because we [the ANC] are the only organisation that was blessed by pastors when it was formed. It is even blessed in heaven. That is why we will rule until Jesus comes back.”

In January this year Zuma made a similar claim while handing over a new school at Libode in the Eastern Cape: “We want to eradicate all mud schools. We are already doing so. We are not in a hurry because no one is going to rule but the ANC.”  This assumption that the fate of the ANC and South Africa are as one has a long pedigree – one that I experienced at first hand.

Future shock. Messi destiny

Future shock. Messi destiny

His name was Oliver Curry, an unlikely one for a prophet. But, for about a week, he was the most famous soothsayer in the world. It was 2006, and Dr Curry, an evolutionary theorist working at the London School of Economics, had just revealed the future of humankind. Ten thousand years from now, he said, our species would have split into two sub-groups. The one, presumably the descendants of today’s elite, would be tall, intelligent and creative. Even better, they would be sexually delicious: men would evolve symmetrical faces, square jaws, and, of course, large penises. Women, said Curry, would evolve away their body hair and develop naturally perky breasts.

If only our future could be a schoolboy daydream of wonder-bosoms bouncing in the sunshine towards obelisk-like cocks; but the ugly people always have to ruin it for everyone else. Enter Curry’s second sub-group. This tribe, a kind of global underclass apparently brought low by millennia of neglect and menial labour, would be short, squat, “goblin-like” morons.

Sex abuse cover-up row at elite Cape school

Sex abuse cover-up row at elite Cape school

Highly respected teacher scapegoated over 30-year-old sexual abuse incident – to save school’s reputation. By end of this school term, Bishops – formally Cape Town’s (Anglican) Diocesan School for Boys – and its powerful old ...
 
Drowning by red tape

Drowning by red tape

Remember the biblical reference to the sins of the forefathers? The experiences of some Western Cape property owners hark back to the days nearly 50 years ago when the once-rampant ruling National Party, ...

KWV tries to bury report

KWV tries to bury report

Blushing KWV tries to silence revelation of BEE trickery. The black economic empowerment leg of South Africa’s premier wine and spirits company, KWV Holdings Limited, remains embroiled in conflict; the latest being the rearrangement ...

The sounds of silence

The sounds of silence

Officialdom remains tight-lipped about the violent death of a good man who knew too much. May 11 marked the first anniversary of the death of Moses Tshake, a whistleblower in the employ of the ...

Boer maak 'n planning permission

Boer maak 'n planning permission

Defying numerous obstacles, Durbanville landowner Boetie Louw has his way with a distinctly dicey development on a Cape Town wetland. Wealthy landowner, Boetie Louw is a determined man. Though well into his eighties, he ...

Health care probe turns into chess game

Health care probe turns into chess game

Netcare and KPMG accuse each other of delaying tactics over Competition Commission investigation into medical costs. The Competition Commission inquiry into what is driving up hospital and doctors’ fees has turned into a riddle ...

Right on!

Right on!

Right2Know national coordinator Mark Weinberg is ready for action at the helm of a movement that features increasingly in public-interest campaigns – and it’s poised to pounce on the Secrecy Bill. The Secrecy ...

Child of the struggle

Child of the struggle

Mark Weinberg is descended from generations of social protest. He is a third-generation activist from a family whose contribution to fighting apartheid and building democracy in South Africa has been considerable. Weinberg, 40, was ...

Latest reports from Africa Confidential

Latest reports from Africa Confidential

Kenya. Somalis screened and confined to camps The investigation by Kenya’s security agencies of the Somali community for links to terrorism is meeting growing criticism. It forms part of the Jubilee Alliance government’s response ...

Divine right. Mind what you say

Divine right. Mind what you say

The  ANC has a penchant for assuming it has a divine right to rule. President Jacob Zuma has stated this on several occasions. In 2008 he told a May Day rally in Cape ...

Future shock. Messi destiny

Future shock. Messi destiny

His name was Oliver Curry, an unlikely one for a prophet. But, for about a week, he was the most famous soothsayer in the world. It was 2006, and Dr Curry, an evolutionary ...