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Magashule insists state wasting his time in asbestos case

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Staff Reporter

Suspended ANC secretary-general Ace Magashule says the state is wasting his time in the asbestos corruption case having allegedly failed to provide him with the names of witnesses against him so he can prepare his defence.

He said this as he arrived at the Free State High Court in Bloemfontein on Monday morning for the resumption of the pretrial conference.

“The state is just wasting our time,” Magashule told reporters outside court.

The pre-trial conference is set for two days.

“We have been asking for the names of witnesses against me so I can prepare my defence but the state has failed to provide us with any names,” said a relaxed Magashule.

The former Free State premier insisted that on the charges listed in court papers against him and his 15 co-accused, he doesn’t understand what the actual charges against him are.

“I see reports in the media that there are about 70 charges against Magashule and his co-accused, but what are the charges against me and who are the witnesses?” he asked.

“It’s my right to know who the witnesses against me are.”

But National Prosecuting Authority (NPA) spokesperson Mthunzi Mhaga dismissed Magashule’s claims saying the state has a strong case against him and has no reason to waste time on the matter.

“We wouldn’t be here if we were wasting his time. We have got charges that we can sustain. Wait for the trial to resume so that everything can be ventilated in court,” Mhaga told The Free Stater as he walked into court.

Asked if the state had a particular witness against Magashule, the NPA spokesperson stated they had witnesses whose names were mentioned when the accused were served with the final indictment in the Magistrates Court last year.

“We have witnesses but we are not going to wrestle in the media with Mr Magashule,” he said.

“There is a list of witnesses that has been supplied to all the accused persons. They were supplied in the Magistrates Court . . .”

In November last year, Magashule expressed confidence that the asbestos corruption case would collapse before going to trial.

He is charged together with 10 other people including businessman Edwin Sodi and former human settlements MEC Olly Mlamleli.

The matter relates to a failed asbestos audit and removal project worth R255 million which was commissioned by the Free State Human Settlements Department around 2014.

According to the state, the department engaged Sodi, his company Blackhead Consulting (Pty) Ltd and joint-venture partner Diamond Hill (Pty) Ltd as a professional resource team for the eradication of asbestos in the Free State.

Diamond Hill was owned by the late Ignatius Mupambani who was murdered in 2017.

Sodi and his joint-venture partner then subcontracted the work to Sello Joseph Radebe and his company Mastertrade 232 (Pty) Ltd at a cost of about R44.2 million.

Radebe and his company further subcontracted the work to Abel Kgotso Manyeki and his company Ori Group (Pty) Ltd at a cost of nearly R21.4 million.

The state alleges that Magashule, Mlamleli and the government officials had a legal duty to comply with the stipulations in the Public Finance Management Act as well as treasury regulations.

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Parts of Free State may not have power for up to three weeks

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PROLONGED BLACKOUT LOOMS . . . Eskom says consumers in some parts of the Free State may not have electricity for up to three weeks

Eskom has warned consumers in the south-eastern Free State that they may not have electricity for up to three weeks due to voltage constraints on the network feeding the Melkspruit Substation.

The power failure resulted in electricity users in Zastron, Rouxville and Smithfield as well as those fed directly by Eskom on the RVZ and RVS 22 kV lines experiencing outages over the past weekend.

Eskom’s spokesperson in the Free State, Stefanie Jansen van Rensburg, said the problem may persist until major work on a line from the Northern Cape is completed.

“The voltage constraint on the network will persist until construction of structures on the Ruigtevallei-Valleydora 132 kV line in the Northern Cape is completed,” said Van Rensburg as she urged consumers to remain patient while the supply challenge is addressed.

“Free State teams are currently assisting to speed up the process. It is however expected that work will take two to three weeks to complete.”

“In the meantime, electricity users are urged to use electricity sparingly, especially during the morning and evening peak hours, to prevent trips,” she added.

South Africa has been experiencing rolling blackouts in recent weeks due to what Eskom has described a “continued shortage of generation capacity”.

On Sunday, the national power utility said in a separate statement it had about 3 028 megawatts on planned maintenance, while another 14 992 megawatts of capacity were unavailable due to breakdowns.

While the loadshedding is meant to ease pressure on the national grid and avoid a total collapse of the system, the practice has reportedly caused damage on some lines when power is switched back on.

Eskom has always said loadshedding is implemented only as a last resort to protect the national grid and promised to limit the implementation of loadshedding to the evening peak in order to limit the impact of the capacity shortages on the public. – Staff Reporter

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Minister shuts down troubled Free State water supplier

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MOVE GAZETTED . . . Water and Sanitation Minister Senzo Mchunu has disestablished Sedibeng Water

Staff and key assets from the embattled Sedibeng Water Board are set to be transferred to the Bloemwater and Magalies water boards following the gazetting of the move by Water and Sanitation Minister Senzo Mchunu last week.

The department’s spokesperson, Sputnik Ratau, said in a statement the development is in line with the minister’s commitment to review the country’s water boards to enable them to perform optimally while enhancing the delivery of water to municipalities and ultimately to households.

The decision to disestablish Sedibeng Water – which served Matjhabeng, Masilonyana and Nala local municipalities, among others – means its staff, assets and liabilities will be absorbed by Bloemwater in the Free State and Magalies in Gauteng.

The move, according to Ratau, was initiated by the minister following his working sessions with provincial governments, various water services authorities and water boards regarding issues of governance, financial viability as well as accountability and broader service delivery issues after taking office in August last year.

“The review is based on considerations of financial sustainability, servicing areas that are not currently serviced and is also intended to address institutional confusion caused by having multiple water boards serving the same area,” said Ratau.

“The disestablishment of Sedibeng Water is in accordance with section 28 of the Water Services Act of 1997 which affords Minister Mchunu the authority to disestablish a water board.

“The gazette was published on Friday, 20 May 2022 and will remain open to the public for a period of 40 days.

“Members of the public and all interested parties are invited to make comments in writing on the disestablishment of the board.”

The department said it will ensure there is smooth transition of the disestablishment and that water service provision to communities is not affected.

Based in Bothaville, Sedibeng Water was established to, among others, treat wastewater and supply potable water in a viabile and sustainable manner.

However, in recent years, some of the municipalities served by the water board have struggled over the years to pay on time for the bulk water supplies even though residents have argued that they pay their monthly bills on time.

At the end of March this year, Sedibeng reportedly owed its service providers over R5-billion as it was struggling to secure payment from several municipalities. – Staff Reporter

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Mangaung warns residents to brace for heavy rainfall

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DISRUPTIVE DOWNPOUR LOOMING . . . Mangaung Metropolitan Municipality has warned heavy rainfall is expected to pound the capital

The Mangaung Metropolitan Municipality has warned residents in and around the Free State capital to brace for heavy rainfall that could cause flooding this Friday.

The municipality is urging drivers to take extra caution by reducing speed and switching their headlights on, while pedestrians are being reminded to be careful when crossing the road and to avoid crossing rivers and streams where water is above the ankles.

“Residents of Mangaung Metro, particularly in the former Naledi region, are urged to be cautious on the road and in their homes as the South African Weather Service has issued an impact-based warning . . . for possible disruptive rainfall,” the metro said in a statement.

“This warning is valid for Friday, 20 May 2022 until Saturday, 21 May 2022.”

“Heavy rains are also predicted in Bloemfontein on Friday,” it added.

“Localised flooding can be expected in susceptible low-lying areas, roads, formal/informal settlements and bridges.” – Staff Reporter

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