JOHANNESBURG — South Africa's top court says adults can use marijuana in private.

The Constitutional Court on Tuesday upheld a provincial court's ruling in a case involving Gareth Prince, who advocates the decriminalization of the drug.

Prince says cannabis should be regulated in the same way as alcohol and tobacco. Government authorities have said cannabis is harmful and should be illegal.

The top court says an adult can cultivate cannabis in "a private place" as long as it is for personal consumption in private. It says the right to privacy "extends beyond the boundaries of a home."

The court says it would be up to a police officer to decide if the amount of marijuana in someone's possession is for personal consumption or dealing.

The SABC’s Group Chief Executive Officer Madoda Mxakwe outlined the 'dire financial situation' to staff on Friday as the broadcaster weighs up possible retrenchments.

This after an internal memo was distributed to employees on Thursday stating that the corporation had met with organised labour to discuss cost-cutting measures.

Mxakwe told staff that the corporation had had a demanding financial year with a total revenue of R6.6bn against a budget of R7.3bn which resulted in an under-performance of R709m.

“The SABC had a net loss of R622m for the 2017/18 financial year. One of the SABC’s biggest cost drivers is the salary bill,” Mxakwe said in a statement.

Mxakwe said the corporation generated R7.2bn in revenue with a salary bill of R3.1bn.

“The current ratio of revenue to wage bill is not sustainable given the SABC’s dismal financial situation. It is for this reason that the SABC is contemplating other cost cutting measures to further reduce costs,” he said.

SABC spokesperson Neo Momodu said on Tuesday that the corporation had done all it could to cut costs and was now at a stage where it was looking at other measures.

"We have communicated to our staff our intentions to start engagements with unions in relation to the cost-cutting measures that we have been going through as the corporation," she had said.

She said the meeting with unions on Thursday was to inform them that the broadcaster had been looking at various ways of cutting costs, and was now "contemplating further cost-cutting measures, which may include Section 189".

"It's a contemplation and we told the unions that we had done all we can to cut costs in all the areas of the corporation..." she said.

 

News24

The poor are carrying the burden of State Capture through the VAT increase, a Parliamentary committee has heard.
 
This is just one of the criticisms raised by several organisations and industry representatives before Parliament’s Standing Committee on Finance at a hearing on the VAT panel report on Wednesday.
 
The report, published in August, is the work of an independent panel that reviewed the current list of items exempted from VAT and proposed new items to be zero-rated. The panel was constituted after then Finance Minister Malusi Gigaba announced in February that the VAT rate was to increase by one percentage point from 14% to 15% to raise an additional R22.9bn. 
 
1. The poor are paying for State Capture
 
Neil Coleman, who represented the Institute for Economic Justice, said that SA has to try to find ways to plug revenue shortfalls as tax collection has lagged. This problem has further been exacerbated by State Capture, which has reduced revenue to the fiscus.
 
“It should not result in punishment of the poor. We had nothing to do with that failure,” he said. The SA Revenue Service has experienced two successive years of tax shortfalls: R30bn in 2016/17 and R49bn in 2017/2018. 
 
Similarly, trade union federation Cosatu believes the one percentage point VAT hike punishes the poor for the “sins of the rich”. The federation insisted that government has other options to address revenue shortfalls. It wants the state to “stamp out corruption” and set out how it will recover stolen funds.
 
2. Unlikely VAT hike will be rescinded during the mini-budget
 
The Budget Justice Coalition was among the organisations calling for the VAT hike to be rescinded. But committee chair Yunus Carrim pointed out that the mini budget, set to be delivered on October 24, has already been set and it is unlikely that any decisions would be implemented then.
 
Cosatu proposed that government purchase and distribute sanitary pads to clinics, hospitals, no-fees schools and tertiary institutions.
 
“Government has done it with feeding schemes and condoms. Girls should not be disadvantaged because of a normal cycle of life,” said Cosatu’s Parliamentary coordinator Matthew Parks.
 
The Budget Justice Coalition also proposed that government invest in providing sanitary products to poor women and girls – as this will ensure that they will directly benefit from the zero-VAT status, while richer households can continue to buy the sanitary pads. Sanitary pads were one of the items that the VAT panel proposed be zero-rated. 
 
4. More protein needed on the zero-VAT list
 
The Budget Justice Coalition, which represents several other organisations, raised concerns over the lack of protein on the zero-VAT list, a concern as malnutrition and protein deficiency leads to stunting and anemia. It suggested peanut butter and soya mince be included on the list.
 
The South African Poultry Association pointed out that chicken accounts for 13% of food expenditure for lower-income households, and supported the inclusion of whole fresh or frozen chicken products and portions. 
 
5. VAT hike simply unaffordable for the poor
 
The Pietermaritzburg Economic Justice and Dignity Group collected data on the impact of the VAT hike by tracking a basket of 38 foods, 20 of which are subject to 15% VAT, the committee heard.
 
In August 2018, the total cost of the basket was R3 009. Foods subject to VAT accounted for 55% of the basket - or R1 654. The VAT on the foods amounted to R215, or 7.2% of the entire basket, said the group's Mervyn Abrahams. This equal to the price of a 35kg of maize meal which poor and working-class households buy each month.
 
Taking into account the recommendations of the VAT panel, the savings on the food basket for August 2018 would equal R40.81, bringing the total cost of the basket to R2 968. Abrahams said this was roughly equivalent to the median wage of a black South African worker, which is R3 000.
 
“That is just food alone - therein lies the problem,” he said. SA households are not getting sufficient income, and that the problem is not just simply a question of zero-rated items, he said. 
 
6. Food choices must be expanded
 
Geoff Penny of the Baking Association of South Africa weighed in on making white bread zero-rated. He said this decision would enable poor consumers to choose the product they prefer.
 
Poor consumers should be given the opportunity to shop with dignity, the baking association’s submission read.
 
Similarly, Dr Ziyanda Majokweni of the Broiler Organisation argued that whole chickens should not be subject to VAT - as opposed to just having portions like chicken feet and gizzards zero-rated. This would give consumers more choice, she told the committee. 
 
7. Double take on current list
 
Lionel Adendorf of FairPlay criticised the fact that the current list 19 zero-rated items was not reviewed. If there were a thorough review of the list the panel would have taken some items off the list, and would have included new household items which are being used by these poorer households, he argued.
 
The PwC’s VAT Partner Lesley O’Conell also echoed views that the current list should be reconsidered to include ones that are consumed by the poor.
 
The committee's chairperson Yunus Carrim called for Treasury to interrogate the submissions more seriously than they had previously.
 
 
Business Insider.
South Africa’s state-run power utility Eskom expects to have 7,000 less staff from now, a senior manager at the utility said on Thursday.
 
Marion Hughes, who made this known in Johannesburg, said the job cut would be done in the next five years.
 
Eskom employs 47,000 people and has powerful labour unions, some allied with the ruling ANC and others more militant.
 
The unions have said they would resist attempts to cut the workforce and fight moves to privatise the company, which is struggling to emerge from a financial crisis.
 
 
Source: VOA
Booking a learners or drivers license test in South Africa has never been the easiest thing in the world. The new online system is sure to change things up.
 
While a strike at the office that makes the license cards had caused some worry in recent weeks, getting a slot for your learners or drivers license test is about to become a whole lot easier. The Road Traffic Management Corporation (RTMC) is finally looking to keep up with the digital times in 2018.
 
RTMC to offer new online drivers license test bookings
 
On Friday, the RTMC unveiled a plan that is sure to make millions of young South Africans lives a lot easier. Yes, from September, you will be able to begin to book your learners and drivers licenses online.
 
The new system will begin to be rolled out in Gauteng in September and will then move its way to other provinces after assessing how well the system worked and if there were any issues.
 
Those looking to book their tests will be able to choose the date, time and place for their test. Want to book your test at a traffic department on the other side of the province, that is easily doable. Seriously, you won’t even be required to go in beforehand.
 
RTMC spokesperson Simon Zwane has been doing the media rounds explaining why the system was needed and what it does for people.
 
“I think this will be convenient for the members of the public because now you will be going to the centres to pay for your appointment and do the eye test and from there will be no interaction with officials and officials won’t have the opportunity to block bookings.”
 
Zwane explained that fraud and corruption have played a huge part in there being a need for an online method. In some cases, corrupt driving schools are even paying for certain slots to be booked with specific traffic officials.
 
“We have found that spaces are being blocked to enable people who are coming from the corrupt networks to be able to do tests on a particular date and a particular time. We want to deal with that so people have equal opportunity and the handling of officials,” Zwane says.
 
Let’s hope the system launch goes relatively smoothly.
 
Source:IreportSouthAfrica
South Africa’s Upper House of Parliament, the National Council of Provinces (NCP), on Tuesday approved the controversial National Minimum Wage (NMW) Bill which will be sent to President Cyril Ramaphosa for assent.
 
The Parliament said the NCP approved the bill without amendment.
 
The bill, which Minister of Labour Mildred Oliphant introduced in November 2017, aims to provide for a NMW and the establishment of a commission with clear functions and composition for implementation, Parliament spokesperson Moloto Mothapo said.
 
The National Assembly (Lower House of Parliament) had earlier approved the bill and referred it to the NCP. Once signed by Ramaphosa, the bill will become law.
 
The bill sets 3,500 rand (about 243 U.S. dollars) per month or 20 rand (about 1.4 dollars) per hour for over six million working people in the country.
 
Trade unions have lambasted the NMW as “slavery wage,” saying the working class cannot make both ends meet with the meagre NMW.
 
In May, massive protests against the bill took place across the country.
 
Trade unions have threatened to stage more protests if the NMW wage is not raised to a living wage.
 
The government says setting the NMW was informed by research and robust analysis of various scenarios and their possible ramifications, not by some idealistic desires.
 
All social partners have worked hard for nearly three years to reach agreement on the NMW to improve the conditions of millions of poor families, according to the government.
 
Ramaphosa has pledged to increase the NMW over time in a way that meaningfully reduces poverty and inequality.
 
Source: PMNEWSNIGERIA
Telkom Mobile has been suffering a "system failure" over the past 24 hours.
Its four million South African subscribers have been struggling to connect. 
Telkom’s website and app have also been down since Thursday afternoon. 
Telkom Mobile - which has over four million cellular users in South Africa - is experiencing a countrywide “system failure”, the company said on Friday morning.
 
Users have reported extremely poor network quality, the sudden loss of airtime and data, and problems with recharging airtime over the past 24 hours. Some are demanding free data to be compensated for their inconvenience. 
 
Telkom’s website and app have also been down since Thursday afternoon. 
 
“Our team is still attending to the service issue with urgency. We'll keep you updated until this issue is resolved,” Telkom tweeted on Friday. 
 
“Please be patient as the team works on resolving the issue. We will keep you updated with further information.” 
 
On social media, users expressed outrage with the service disruption, demanding the cellular service give free data to apologise. 
 
MTN recently gave away clients R100 worth of airtime, and 100MB data for free, after its service was disrupted by a “technical glitch”.
 
 
Source: News24
A small business incubation programme that is supported by by Rand Merchant Investment Holdings is looking for entrepreneurs who aim to disrupt financial services.
 
A total of 16 businesses will be selected to pitch for eight places on the AlphaCode Incubate programme of twelve months. The eight businesses will each get R1 million in grant funding as well as R1 million worth of support including mentorship,  exclusive office space in Sandton, marketing, legal and other business support services as well as access to RMI’s networks.
 
The businesses must be no older than two years and must be 51% black owned and managed.
 
The competition is open to businesses across the financial spectrum including payments, insurance, savings and investments, advisory, data analytics and blockchain.
 
"We want to help take courageous entrepreneurs with seriously disruptive financial services business models to the next level," says AlphaCode head, Dominique Collett.
 
In partnership with Bank of America Merrill Lynch South Africa and Royal Bafokeng Holdings, AlphaCode Incubate has disbursed R13 million to 15 black-owned businesses over the last three years
 
Entries can be done on the competition website. The first round of applications closes on August 31.
 
 
News24

A South African High Court on Monday overturned a decision by the government to grant Zimbabwe’s former first lady Grace Mugabe diplomatic immunity after she was accused of whipping Gabriella Engels with an electric cord.

Delivering his judgement on Monday, Judge Bashier Vally stated that the decision by the former Minister of International Relations and Cooperation Maite Nkoana-Mashabane, to grant Mrs Mugabe diplomatic immunity was inconsistent with the South African Constitution and should therefore be set aside.

“It is declared that the decision of the minister of August 19, 2017, in terms of the diplomatic immunities to recognise Dr Grace Mugabe immunities is inconsistent with the Constitution of South Africa. The decision is reviewed and set aside,” the judgment stated.

The former minster explained in court that Mrs Mugabe automatically qualified for immunity from prosecution by virtue of her status as the wife of a head of state.

She also argued that not awarding Mrs Mugabe diplomatic immunity might have serious implications for relations between South Africa and Zimbabwe.

Engels filed a court application challenging the government’s decision last August.

Mrs Mugabe returned to Zimbabwe immediately after South Africa granted her diplomatic immunity, allowing her to evade prosecution for assault and causing a row in South Africa where the opposition Democratic Alliance also challenged the ruling.

Mrs Mugabe denied assaulting Engels with an electric cable, saying an “intoxicated and unhinged” Engels had attacked her with a knife.

South African advocacy group Afriforum, which represented Engels, dismissed the allegations as lies.

According to Engels, an irate Mrs Mugabe burst into the room where she was waiting with two friends in a Johannesburg luxury hotel suite to meet one of Mugabe’s sons last August, and started attacking her with an electric cable.

Photographs taken by Engels’ mother soon after the incident showed gashes to the model’s head and bruising on her thighs.

Willie Spies, a lawyer for Afriforum, said the National Prosecuting Authority (NPA) should now take action to prosecute Mrs Mugabe and seek her extradition from Zimbabwe to South Africa.

Spies said if the NPA failed to take action, Afriforum would start proceedings against Mrs Mugabe.

“The ball is in their court now,” Spies said, adding that Afriforum had argued that Grace Mugabe committed the attack on Engles while she was on a private visit to South Africa and therefore did not qualify for diplomatic immunity.

NPA spokeswoman Phindi Mjnonondwana said the case was still in the hands of the police and had not yet been sent to the NPA for action.

However, NPA spokesman Luvuyo Mfaku said South Africa and Zimbabwe had previously cooperated on extraditing suspects from one country to the other.

Following the judgement, International Relations and Cooperation Department under Minister Lindiwe Sisulu said they were still studying the judgment.

The news from the South African court came as former president Mugabe (94), accompanied by his wife and daughter Mrs Bona Chikore, cast his vote at Mhofu Primary School in Highfield township, the first election that does not include his name on the ballot paper since the country gained independence from Britain in 1980.

Source: News24

The President of Association of Foreign Relations Professionals of Nigeria (AFRPN), Amb. Gani Lawal, has said that Nigerian cannot severe diplomatic ties with South Africa over xenophobic attacks.
 
Dr Lawal, a former Nigeria Deputy Principal Representative in Algeria, said this in an interview News Agency of Nigeria (NAN) in Abuja.
 
NAN reports that killing of Nigerians in South Africa had been on the increase in recent times.
 
A report had stated that no fewer than 117 Nigerians were extra-judicially killed in South Africa between 2013 and 2018 for one flimsy reason or the other.
 
According to Lawal, we cannot because of xenophobic attacks break diplomatic relations with South Africa because the issue is not between government and government.
 
”We will continue to work with South Africa to make sure that offenders are apprehended and prosecuted to serve as deterrent to others,” he said.
 
The former director in the Ministry of Foreign Affairs said that the issue of killings in South Africa was not between government and government but among the people on the streets.
 
“However, South African government also has the responsibility to protect our people and also to advise them on where to go and not to go.
 
“We have to be able to find a ground to ensure that the attack doesn’t happen by establishing rules of engagement,” he said.
 
The former director said that the present administration had been doing a lot to strengthen the Nigerian foreign policy.
 
He said the association was ready to assist the government in ensuring that the government achieves its goal on foreign policy and strengthen ties with other countries.
 
According to him, what we do is to work behind the scene by doing research using our experience to advise the government.
 
He said that the formation of AFRPN was to fill a vacuum in the country in terms of providing credible advice to the government on foreign relations.
 
He added that the association would be formally inaugurated on Tuesday, July 31, by Vice President Yemi Osinbajo and Emir of Kano Muhammadu Sanusi II
 
Lawal said the event, would also feature inaugural lecture titled, “The New International System: A Diplomat’s Nightmare” to be delivered by Prof. Bolaji Akinyemi, former Foreign Affairs Minister.
 
He said the association’s “Peer-Review Journal” would be launched by business moguls Alhaji Aliko Dangote, Alhaji Abdulsamad Ishyaku Rabiu, Femi Otedola, and Mr Tunde Folawiyo.
 
Lawal said the association was founded to serve as a think-tank to the Federal Government and other stakeholders on foreign relations matters.
 
“The AFRPN was established as a legal body to engage in scholarly research, coupled with our experience to positively impact on the foreign policy process and practice of our country through an interactive process drawing both from the diplomats and the academia,” he said.
 
He said when inaugurated the association would be able to advise the government on foreign policy.
 
According to him, most of the pieces of advice that people often give are based on guess work and that is why we are coming on board to offer help to the government based on experience and research.
 
“So we feel that those who have experience in foreign relations can assist in filling necessary vacuums.
 
“Those of us who have gone all over the world should be able to put our heads together to advise the government on foreign issues.
 
“Also, government can also look at our ways when there are issues to be dealt with and we also are ready to give government the alternative way of doing things,” he said.
 
 
Source: NAN
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