Dear Reader: Cape Town knee-deep in...

Noseweek has long suspected that the DA-led Cape Town City Council has been so absorbed in politicking that it has neglected the job of ensuring the city will have enough water in years of drought to come. Perhaps they don’t believe in climate change, so they’ve done nothing other than repair a fair number of leaking joints – and reduced water pressure on the system to slow down the leakage from those that remain. And, business-oriented as they are, they’ve upped the price of water. I have heard it referred to as “disaster profiteering”.

To give credit where credit is due, Noseweek accepts that some councillors and municipal executives have occasionally stopped to pray for rain. For now, their prayers have been answered. But what of those much-heralded desalination plants they hurriedly commissioned? Silence.

Noseweek can now reveal why that is: The three completed plants are non-operative because the city’s problems are much, much bigger than we could have imagined.We cannot draw water from the sea that surrounds the city because the Council has for decades neglected to build and maintain sewerage plants. Instead it has found it cheap and convenient to pump the huge and growing tonnage of raw sewage into the sea – on both sides of the peninsula.

But they’ve also been fudging the pollution statistics – on a scale to equal Steinhoff – to fool tourists into trusting our “blue” beaches. The sea is now so polluted that the filters of the desalination plants clog up within an hour, slowing down the process – and raising the cost. They are designed to take out salt, not sewage – megatons of it. Admit their failure? Never! The game of pass-the-buck (and the bill) is already in full swing. Turn to Raw deal in this issue and read on.

• MNS Attorneys, established in 2002, is an on-the-up all-black law firm operating from Johannesburg’s Illovo. The firm’s impressive public-private client list, includes the DTI, Transnet, Prasa, Telkom, Rand Water and the KZN Treasury. Chairman Mncedisi Ndlovu, it is said on the firm’s website, “also acts as procurement ombud for Transnet”.

In our not-to-be-missed story Is Pravin Gordhan secretly controlling state capture probes?, you will learn that MNS has a major role in the privatisation of criminal investigations where the appropriate organs of state are no longer trusted with the task.

But can these private investigators operating in the shadows be trusted to be law-abiding and unbiased?

• The UN Working Group on Arbitrary Detentions (UNWGAD) has protested WikiLeaks co-founder Julian Assange’s precarious position ever since he first sought asylum in the Ecuador Embassy in London. With good reason.

It now emerges that a US secret grand jury has had whistle-blowing soldier Chelsea Manning jailed in solitary confinement for years to pressurise her to testify against Assange. She has announced she will not testify against him.

Assange’s WikiLeaks published Manning’s leaked video of US soldiers gunning down civilians from a helicopter in Iraq. The New York Times and The Guardian were amongst the publications that thought it in the public interest to publish the video, too.

Meanwhile, any number of brave whistleblowers have been inspired by Assange to leak massively important hidden computer-held data for which citizens everywhere must be immensely grateful: think only of the Panama Papers, of the LuxLeaks exposing hundreds of major tax dodgers sheltered by Pricewaterhousecoopers (PwC) in Luxembourg (nose225) – and our own Gupta Leaks.

Assange needs support: this is the major freedom of speech issue of our time. As the UK holds Assange in custody pending his expected extradition to the US, it celebrates press freedom as two Reuters journalists are released in Myanmar. It’s okay to champion journalists when they expose official enemies, but not when they train their sights too close to home?

South Africa’s silence – in failing to speak out for Assange – is sad and worrying.

• Also in this issue, Ed Herbst brings us the latest on Iqbal Survé. The storm clouds are clearly closing in on the good doctor, what with the ANC rejecting his R1m election donation – to applause from Cosatu.

All that and more in this great issue of Noseweek! – The Editor

Apology and Correction

In Noseweek’s issue 235 we used a photo of advocate Herman Steyn in our story “Bungle justice” about a mismanaged criminal court case in the southern Cape. Prominently featured in that story was senior prosecutor, advocate Herman Steyn. Unfortunately the photograph we used was of the wrong advocate Herman Steyn, for which we sincerely apologise. The man pictured is of advocate Herman Steyn who practises at the Johannesburg and Windhoek Bars and has no connection to our story. – Ed.

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