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ANC clears Tshabalala

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ACQUITTED . . . Vusi Tshabalala could soon return to the Free State Legislature as the ANC chief whip

Suspended ANC chief whip in the Free State provincial Legislature, Vusi Tshabalala, is set to bounce back in his position after he was acquitted by the party’s Provincial Disciplinary Committee (PDC) on a charge of working with the opposition ahead of last year’s local government elections.

At the hearing held on May 10 and 11, 2022 at the ANC provincial head office Kaizer Sebothelo House in Bloemfontein, Tshabalala faced two counts, namely organising and participating in a meeting which discussed the possibility of the party working with the opposition in the November municipal elections as well as trying to bring the party into disrepute.

Both cases however quickly collapsed due to lack of evidence.

Tshabalala, who is a strong ally of Ace Magashule, was represented by Mathews Phosa while the party had Steven Mabalane.

The PDC panel was chaired by Mongi Ntwanambi with Makalo Mohale, Linda Makhubu and Mando Shasha as the other members.

The committee called two witnesses on the first count – Ntswaki Shasha and Ncubuka Ntswaki.

Bongani Madonsela was the sole witness on the second count.

On the first count, it was alleged that on September 22, 2021, Tshabalala convened and participated in a meeting of ANC members at Robala Lodge in QwaQwa where members discussed the possibility of the party working with the opposition.

This, according to the charge sheet, resulted in a number of those ANC members gathered – Mamotimpana Mosoeu, Ntswaki Molehe and Mokete Mohai – being registered at the Independent Electoral Commission as candidates for the All Unemployed Labour Alliance (AULA) for the November 2021 local government elections.

The second count was said to have occurred on October 4, 2021 when he allegedly went on Lesedi FM and stated that the ANC was working with the DA to remove him as its chief whip in the provincial legislature.

The ANC argued the statement was not true and that it only intended to bring the party into disrepute.

However, Shasha and Ntswaki, who testified on the first count, failed to provide evidence pointing to Tshabalala as the organiser of the Robala meeting and being present at the event.

“Shasha testified that there was a meeting . . . at Robala Lodge but also testified that she was not at the meeting. The witness testified that she only learned of . . . Tshabalala being part of AULA after meeting Mr Sdumo who works for the IEC,” the PDC found.

It said Ntswaki told the PDC that she received a call from Mamaponesa Mokoena on September 22, 2021 requesting her to organise transport for 15 ANC members who wanted to attend the Robala Lodge meeting.

“The witness testified that she could not go to the meeting and thus could not confirm the presence of . . . Tshabalala . . . this evidence could be argued as hearsay and does not directly implicate . . . Tshabalala as the organiser of the meeting or as having participated in the said meeting,” the PDC said.
On the second count, the PDC case collapsed equally fast.

The witness, Madonsela, testified that he heard Tshabalala speaking on Lesedi FM making the allegations that the ANC was working with the DA to oust him.

He presented a recording which he claimed contained the voice of Tshabalala making those claims.

He said he had recorded it while listening to the station.

“On cross examination, the witness confirmed that the recording is not his direct evidence but someone else’s (radio presenter) – extracted information and as such cannot confirm or deny anything relating to the date of recording, authenticity thereof and possible tempering thereof . . .

“The disciplinary committee therefore acquit the charged member on all charges,” read the ruling.

Tshabalala, who is the former executive mayor of Maluti-a-Phofung, is however not yet out of the woods as President Cyril Ramaphosa authorised the Special Investigating Unit in August 2020 to investigate allegations of corruption, maladministration and the awarding of tenders at that municipality.

He was kicked out as the mayor of Maluti-a-Phofung in 2018 following a vote of no confidence.

He also claimed at the time that some ANC members had voted with the opposition DA for his ouster.

In same year, the municipality was placed under administration after the opposition alleged deep-seated financial bleeding and maladministration.

Thabo Meeko, a member of the ANC Interim Provincial Committee, has been acting as the party’s chief whip in the provincial Legislature. – Staff Reporter

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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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