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Clumsy robbers nabbed

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Staff Reporter

Two armed men who robbed an Odendaalsrus business owner of an undisclosed amount of cash and cigarettes yesterday may live to regret their love for gadgets after they dropped a cellphone during the robbery and tried to retrieve it later.

Provincial police spokesperson Brigadier Sam Makhele said in a statement the pair entered a shop owned by a 31-year-old foreign national just before 18:00 and ordered him and his employee to lie down.

They allegedly robbed them of an undisclosed amount of cash and cigarettes before fleeing the scene, dropping a cellphone in the process.

“Police were alerted and at the scene a cellphone believed to belong to one of the suspects was found,” said Makhele.

And as if to test fate, the alleged robbers returned to the supermarket to try and retrieve the cellphone without being recognised but this time luck was not on their side.

“The complainant recognised them and informed the police who were at the scene,” he added.

Realising the mess they had put themselves in, the two jumped into a waiting blue Toyota Conquest and fired shots at the police as they drove off.

The police returned fire and the fleeing suspects hit a taxi, forcing them to abandon the vehicle and flee on foot together with the driver of the getaway car.

The taxi also had one of its tyres shot in the chaos.

“Residents, SAPS and taxi drivers gave chase and a 35-year-old suspect from Thabong, Welkom, was arrested inside a furrow full of water.

“The second suspect was arrested later at about 21:15 by members of Public Order Policing who were patrolling along the R730 in Kutloanong . . . whilst at a hiking spot,” said the police spokesperson.

According to the Makhele, the suspect, 57, was heading towards Kroonstad.

He said the man, who is from Vosloorus in Gauteng, tried to flee but was arrested and a 9mm Pietro Barletta with one live round was found in his possession.

The getaway vehicle and the cellphone found inside the supermarket were seized.

The third suspect remains at large.

Those arrested are facing charges of business robbery, possession of an unlicensed firearm and ammunition and attempted murder.

They will appear in the Odendaalsrus Magistrates Court soon.

Meanwhile, another two suspects were arrested separately on Monday on the R59 and N3 roads for possession of illicit cigarettes.

Police patrolling the R59 noticed a vehicle parked alongside the road.

They approached it and requested to conduct a search on the vehicle.

The police found cigarettes hidden in a black bag and the driver of the vehicle tried to bribe one of the officers with R1 800 and he refused.

About 2 470 packets with an estimated value of R20 000 were confiscated.

The 40-year-old male suspect was arrested for possession of suspected illicit cigarettes and bribery.

He is set to appear in the Sasolburg Magistrates Court on Wednesday.

The other suspect, a taxi driver, was arrested and charged with possession of illicit cigarettes at a roadblock on the N3 near Harrismith while travelling towards Durban.

The taxi was stopped at about 13:00 and searched.

A box containing illicit cigarettes valued at about R12 500 was found on the vehicle and confiscated. 

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Ngwathe pays Eskom to fix damaged line

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BLACKOUT . . . The Ngwathe electrical network tripped on Friday and damaged Eskom’s equipment due to overloading

Ngwathe Local Municipality in the northern Free State has paid R1.1-million to Eskom so it can repair damages to the power line in the area caused by overloading.

Eskom provincial spokesperson Stefanie Jansen van Rensburg said in a statement the payment was made on Monday morning and work to restore supplies to Parys and Vredefort has started.

“Repairs to the Eskom equipment will now commence,” said Van Rensburg.

“Based on the assessments of the damage, supply to Ngwathe should be restored by midnight tonight,” she added.

The spokesperson however said the initial repairs were focusing on the hot connections and will only be temporary to assist communities.

Another outage will be scheduled to repair the transformer bushings that were also damaged during the overloading incident.

The Ngwathe electrical network tripped on Friday and damaged Eskom’s equipment due to overloading.

“Since 2018, Eskom has warned Ngwathe that their continued exceedance of their Notified Maximum Demand (NMD) – the contracted amount of electricity supplied by Eskom to the Municipality – will eventually result in damage to the Eskom network and that the municipality needs to apply for an upgrade in their NMD.

“In August 2021 and in April 2022, Eskom informed the municipality that any damage to the Eskom network that is caused by the municipality’s negligence, will be at the municipality’s cost.

“The municipality agreed to this condition and, although they were well informed and aware of the risks, they did not take the necessary precautions or made sufficient efforts to upgrade their NMD,” Van Rensburg explained.

Following the incident, Eskom insisted on the municipality making an upfront payment as it is one of the municipalities in the province sitting with a huge debt to the national power utility.

As at end June, Ngwathe’s overdue debt to Eskom totalled R1.89 billion.

Eskom says this debt continues to grow as current accounts are not paid in full.

“Ngwathe’s non-adherence to payment conditions and negligence in protecting the power system, jeopardises Eskom’s financial sustainability as well as the security of supply to the residents of towns such as Parys and Vredefort.

“Supply to Ngwathe will be restored to the capacity as per the contracted NMD.

“Risks of overloading and consequent damage remain, and it is imperative that the municipality invests in upgrading its supply,” according to the power company. – Staff Reporter

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Mangaung electricity tariffs up

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POWER TARIFFS UP . . . Local power distributor Centlec has hiked electricity charges

Electricity tariffs in Mangaung have gone up by 7.47 percent.

In a statement released on Thursday night, local power distributor Centlec said the increase was due to come into effect at midnight on July 1 following approval by the National Electricity Regulator of South Africa.

The increase will cover the period July 1, 2022 to June 30, 2023.

“A guideline increase of 7.47 percent on electricity tariffs for Centlec was therefore approved with effect from the 1st of July 2022 for the 2022/23 financial year,” read part of the brief statement.

It said a more detailed outline of the increases will be announced soon. – Staff Reporter

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CUT students arrested for protesting against exams

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DISTURBANCE AT CAMPUS . . . Five students protesting against exams at the Central University of Technology in Bloemfontein have been arrested

Police have arrested five students from the Central University of Technology (CUT) for public violence after they embarked on an unsanctioned protest against the institution’s decision to have the mid-year exams conducted in person at its two campuses in Bloemfontein and Welkom starting this Thursday.

The exams are set to run until July 20.

The fracas follows an announcement by CUT acting vice-chancellor and principal Professor Alfred Ngowi on Wednesday in which he stated the exams would take place physically at the two campuses as scheduled.

Ngowi said a detailed discussion about online exams at the Welkom campus concluded that it would not be feasible to conduct online exams because circumstances have changed regarding the COVID-19 restrictions and that it was also against the policy of the university.

“CUT is a full-contact institution and not a distance learning institution and therefore does not have the authority to accredit examinations that are not done under CUT’s status as a full-contact institution,” said Ngowin in a recorded video.

Ngowi told the students that academic assessment is one of the important building blocks of their qualifications.

He warned the students against disrupting the exams saying they would face disciplinary action as such action will be illegal.

“The unreliability of the power supply may have unintended disruptive effects,” he said.

“The COVID-19 restrictions which necessitated virtual classes and virtual assessments have all been suspended and the various accrediting bodies to which CUT is affiliated may not accredit online assessments.

“Therefore, we will proceed with physical assessments.

“Management has made all necessary preparations for the smooth running of the mid-year assessments, which have been communicated to all students.

“Therefore, any student who plans to disrupt the physical examinations on our campuses must be aware of the legal and disciplinary consequences.

“In addition, the CUT management has put several measures in place to protect the constitutional rights of all our students who are prepared for and prefer to sit for physical assessments.

“Students must be aware that any disruptions of the planned and scheduled assessments are illegal and unlawful, and students who act outside the law will have to face the consequences of their actions.

“Students further need to note that failing the upcoming academic assessments will directly impact their NSFAS funding status.

“No further funding will be available to NSFAS-funded students who fail the assessments or fail to take the upcoming assessments.”

But, in a statement, members of the South African Student Congress (SASCO) at the university argued that since all assessments had taken place online due to the COVID-19 restrictions, “it is only normal that the exams take place online as well”.

SASCO also argued that some students had not received their allowances from the National Student Financial Aid Scheme (NSFAS) and it would therefore be impossible for them to write their exams in a physical setting.

But Ngowi addressed the matter earlier in the same video: “As previously communicated through the Student Representative Council, NSFAS-funded students who still have unresolved challenges with their accommodation are encouraged to make written submissions to the relevant faculty deans in that regard.”

Park Road police spokesperson Lieutenant Colonel Thabo Covane said members of Public Order Police Unit arrested five male students for public violence at the CUT’s Bloemfontein campus on Thursday morning.

He said the group of protesting students was warned by the operational commander to disperse within a given time as they were contravening the conditions stipulated in an issued court order but refused to do so.

“The protesting students became violent and started throwing stones and bottles at the police and the security officers,” said Covane.

“The police used stun grenades to disperse the crowd. The other group ran into King Edward Street and blocked traffic by placing stones on the road.

“Police then arrested the five students with ages ranging from 18 to 22 years.”

The arrested students are expected to appear in the Bloemfontein Magistrates Court on Monday facing charges of public violence and contravening a court order. – Staff Reporter

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