Today's Big Stories

High-calibre gun showdown between illegal miners and police

Rouge miners vs police in shooting showdown: confirmation in the EWN bulletins over the last two hours of what looks like a massive shoot out between illegal miners and Ekhuruleni Metro Police in Benoni overnight. It’s understood around ten men were involved in firing at police officers who later called for back up and no one was hurt in the gunfire. Ekurhuleni Metro Police Spokesperson, Chief Superintendent Wilfred Kgasago:

Our guys were on routine patrol yesterday and when they drove past the area, they were shot at with high-calibre weapons and they had to return fire, later calling for back up. Another version is aparantly, there were two factions fighting against each other, and they started shooting at the police vehicle when they saw it. There's still an investigation underway, but it wasn't an ambush (on the police) but a fight between these two groups, but we are certain that it's illegal miners. (on the miners having high calibre weapons) we've never seen anything like this before, never! This is prevalent in Benoni, Brakpan and Springs. The most arrangement we've had (in the past) is guys in combi's with a few firearms that we've confiscated.

NUM General Secretary, Frans Baleni:

We have said in the past that this is a very dangerous game. If you recall two years ago, we lost a female member in Welkom who was shot at by illegal miners. Even one mining house reported that they are losing over R2 bil. annually from illegal mining and once mining houses aren't productive, they have to retrench workers and this is costing the economy. They (the illegal miners) are extremely organised and (authorities) need to find intelligence as this is a very broad, international syndicate and authorities need to deal with the syndicates, not just the troopers underground.

Organised labour reaction on e-tolls: on the Thursday edition of The Midday Report, you will have heard EWN's Mia Lindeque explaining the recommendations of the Gauteng Provincial Government’s e-tolls review panel which has recommended changes to the way Gauteng’s highways are funded. The panel has suggested a hybrid model of funding, that could include changes to vehicle licencing fees, off-peak discounts and some excemptions. Cosatu National Spokesperson, Patrick Craven:

We are extremely disappointed. The e-toll system as it stands, incredibly unaffordable. The panel ended up contradicting itself, as it ended up saying that it (the report) can be tweaked slightly and our take is 'no'. The people of Gauteng are against e-tolls, we want a new way of funding roads as we believe it's an important service, not a commodity.

A day to mark Marikana: a proposal this week from the Anglican Bishop of Pretoria, Bishop Jo Seoka is that the day of the Marikana shootings in 2012 should be declared a public holiday:

The workers did not die in vain - their struggle for human rights and a living wage, should be marked. This is also to keep them alive in our memories. I think that Marikana should not have happened, it could have been avoided. The way they were massacred is something that should never have happened and should never happen again, when they were people that were standing up for their rights. It was not an accident, they were massacred by the very government who is supposed to protect them.

Eskom and business: next week on the Eskom calendar is expected to see the start of large scale load shedding around the country. Yesterday, Eskom said it expected a high risk of load shedding from Monday until the end of April. This is going to make it very difficult for businesses to operate in their normal way. Acting CEO of the South African Chamber of Commerce and Industry (Sacci), Peggy Drodskie:

The threat of loadshedding has been there for so long that they were expecting it. Whether they were prepared for it is another question. The risk also depends on the activity on which they are involved, for example if you are in retail, you close up to avoid thefts in the dark. Organisations that are able to afford are less impacted than those who can't, is generators are expensive. Some businesses have had an interaction with Eskom to ask for ideas of how to overcome the problem. The problem-solving we are getting from our members are rather short-term solutions and we need long-term solutions. We are particularly concerned for the small-scale manufacture industry.

Youth wage subsidy: a claim this morning that one of the first studies into whether the youth wage subsidy has created jobs for young people has found that it is not that effective. UCT Economist, Vimal Ranchhod is one of the people who conducted this research:

Thus far, we don't have any evidence that it has any effect and that's also because this subsidy also go to new hires that are just entering the market. What we know from the Treasury statistics is that there are lots of claims that are being made. Youth turn over is very high, so they are not a very stable part of the labour market, because you can claim the subsidy if you have a new person in the same position.

Vodacom, Neotel: at the offices of communications regulator Icasa this week, there’s been public hearings into the plan by cellphone network Vodacom to buy the land line operator Neotell, with competitors saying this would lessen competition in the industry. Editor of TechCentral, Duncan McLeod:

They say this would enable them to build a more competitive fixed-line market and they need the infrastructure to compete with Telkom. If they want access to radio frequency, the airwaves to deploy 4G and LTE.

Police vs Dramat: in the EWN bulletins this morning, confirmation in legal papers from Police Minister Nathi Nhleko that he says his decision to suspend Hawks Head Anwar Dramat is based on his own investigation into whether Dramat was involved in the illegal rendition of Zimbabwean citizens. Nhleko also denies any political motive for the decision to suspend Dramat. EWN Correspondent, Govan Whittles:

Minister Nhleko denies his decision to suspend Dramat was not political and says he decided on it after reading the report on the Zimbabwean rendition. Nhleko also says that just because Ipid has submitted their report, doesn't mean he should sit back and wait for it, and he says he too should launch his own investigation.

The Minstrel Show: the annual parade by the Cape Minstrels is due to go through the streets of Cape town tomorrow, after a series of delays. Chief Executive of the Cape Minstrel Carnival Association, Kevin Momberg:

We're ready for tomorrow and there's already people that are parked out here. We are looking at about 40000 - 50000 people, but we often have about 100000 people in attendance. Initially, it was difficult, but after we met with the City, we got the permit (to put on the show). We are going to put on a show to show off the talent we have in the Cape Flats.

More on Max: on Thursday, veteran journalist Max du Preez wrote a letter to the Executive Editor of Independent Newspapers, Karima Brown, in which he said he was resigning. This followed an incident when Independent Newspapers published an apology to the Presidency for a piece du Preez had written, in which he'd said in a column that a judge had found the relationship between President Jacob Zuma and his financial advisor Schabir Shaik was corrupt. The group apologized for what it says was a factual inaccuracy. Du Preez says that the Supreme Court of Appeals found that there was a corrupt relationship between Zuma and Shaik. Wits Caxton Professor of Journalism, Anton Harber:

I'm very sadded by it all because there's been a number of reasons and things that have thrown questions about what's happening editorially at Independent Newspapers recently. When your Executive Editor is on social media wearing party colours, when there's a clear out of many of the columnists, you have to ask what's going on there, really? It's very sad and very unfortunate and with declining circulation, it doesn't give me great hope for the newspaper.



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