Today's Big Stories

ANC loses Con Court bid against DA-Zuma electoral SMS campaign

DA's SMS victory: in the Constitutional Court, judges have overturned an Electoral Court ruling that the Democratic Alliance (DA) was wrong to claim in an SMS before last year’s elections that the Public Protector had found President Jacob Zuma had stolen government money for his Nkandla home. They have made no order as to costs, but have found - in a series of three judgments – that the DA could make this statement. DA Parliamentary Leader, Mmusi Maimane:

It's a very important case because we believe it's a principle of free speech because we believe you can't in the lead up to an election then curtail what a contending party is saying. Secondly, President Zuma was found to have unduly benefited on security upgrades to his home. We think he (Zuma) has shown he has no intention to pay back any money and therefore we maintain what we said was accurate (and was a statement of fact). I believe in the Public Protector's report which says that President Zuma unduly benefited from security upgrades to his home in Nkandla. I don't push aside that there were other contractors involved who inflated prices, but here, the President was not ignorant of what was happening - he must have known, he gave a licence to loot, therefore he must be held accountable.

African National Congress (ANC) National Spokesperson, Zizi Kodwa:

What the Con Court has done is interpret the constitution, which reaffirmed the view that the DA SMS was misleading as it wasn't fair comment, because it was opinion presented as a fact.There are certain things, obviously, that you say during an election period, that are said to sway people, but that SMS was written as fact, even though it is opinion. Institutions - including the Public Protector - have cleared the President of wrongdoing with regards to Nkandla. That SMS doesn't make reference to the report of the Public Protector. The Con Court has made a ruling that the SMS is an opinion of the DA, it is not fact. We know there were investigations conducted, we know that the Parliamentary Ad Hoc Committee had made its conclusions - the issue isn't that there should be rhetorical statements made, but to find out what has been done to address the expenditure.

Dramat-Hawks-Nhleko for Police Ministry: in the High Court in Pretoria, Judge Bill Prinsloo has heard a claim from Police Minister Nathi Nhleko that he is still allowed to suspend the head of the Hawks, Anwa Dramat, despite a Constitutional Court ruling that appears to say he can’t. Dramat was suspended just before Christmas - days after the Constitutional Court ruled in a case brought by the Helen Suzman Foundation (HSF). The Foundation says that ruling means Nhleko can’t suspend Dramat, whose lawyer claims he’s only being suspended because he wanted to investigate politically sensitive cases including President Jacob Zuma’s Nkandla home. EWN Correspondent, Govan Whittles:

The HSF says that the approach of the court isn't about the merits of the Police Ministry's suspension, but rather around the legality of the suspension. Sections of the SA Police Services Act were amended to not allow the Police Ministry to suspend the head of the Hawks, so the HSF is arguing on a point of law. Judgement has been reserved and will be delivered at the end of the week, with a ruling from Judge Prinsloo on the legality of the case.

Zelda's Twitter faux pas: over the weekend, a large and sometimes emotional discussion on Twitter took place that was sparked by a series of tweets by Nelson Mandela’s former personal assistant Zelda La Grange. She claimed that white people were being made to feel unwelcome and criticized President Jacob Zuma for blaming the problems at Eskom on apartheid. La Grange then suggested that she should ask the French President if she would be more welcome there. That led to a lot of criticism for La Grange, leading Deputy Telecommunications Minister Hlengiwe Mkhize to tweet her, saying she would ask her to participate in debates about prejudice and racism:

I found myself reacting with limited information, but questions that came to my mind included where Zelda was coming from and where she has lived. Over the last 10 years, she has lived closely with Former President Nelson Mandela and it seemed she was asking for solace or refugee status from French President François Hollande. I think she was expressing anger and came across confused and messed up. I think it's important to include her in a high-level debate because we need to appreciate legacy-related challenges as South Africans and not see them as personal attacks against one another and see them as President Mandela did through the Truth and Reconciliation Commission.

Throwing away traffic fines: a report in the Times newspaper claims that millions of Rands worth of traffic fines in the City of Joburg could be written off, because of an argument about whether the way the fines have been posted to drivers, is legal. Chairman of the Justice Project South Africa, Howard Dembovsky:

The fact is that on the 18th December 2014 the Public Protector issued a report on fines dating from 1 June 2010 to 31st December 2012 showing, that the JMPD was guilty of maladministration. In 2012, a company that came against the JMPD won on the basis that the JMPD was violating the Aarto Act. When you have traffic law enforcement agencies breaking the law, is that any better than any person breaking the law themselves?

Shed survival: Eskom’s calendar says today is likely to be the first day of a long period of high risk of load shedding, as it switches off power stations to perform maintenance ahead of the winter period. EWN Senior Correspondent, Gia Nicolaides:

The line is as usual the grid is 'stable but vulnerable'. Eskom say they have adequate reserve margins for today, while they implement maintenance. We are in the red block today, which continues right through to the end of April, so we are at high risk of load shedding right into April.

Meanwhile it appears that many people have been preparing for load shedding. Merchandise Director at Builder's Warehouse, Neville Hatfield:

The generator sales have been unbelieveable for us and that's because it's an easy product for our customers to get hold of, to prepare themselves for long-term loadshedding. (On prices and accessibility) you start at about R1500 and it's quite portable and can fit into the boot of a car. The only small negative is that they make a lot of noise, so they aren't suitable for complexes and small town houses. We are currently under pressure to have stock.

Weeding for a King: a comment this morning from teachers union Sadtu is that schools in Swaziland are going to open a week later this year, reportedly because King Mswati III wants children to work on his land longer this year. Head of Communications of the Swaziland Solidarity Network (SNN), Lucky Lukhele:

We can confirm that the King made the announcement a week ago that school must be closed while he demands that all young men must weed his fields. So indeed, a child's education has been put on hold while they do what I'd say is modern day slavery. It has been happening for years, because if for instance these people refuse the royal demand, their land will be taken and forced to cross the seven rivers of Swaziland. The King's children are all over the world in America, the Middle East, yet a Swazi child is told to stay at home and weed the King's fields.


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