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Masks no longer compulsory as SA drops COVID-19 measures

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PANDEMIC MEASURES REMOVED . . . South Africa has repealed its COVID-19 regulations, including the compulsory wearing of masks

South Africa has dropped the compulsory wearing of masks in indoor settings as well as other measures put in place to contain the spread of COVID-19 following a marked decline in active cases.

Health Minister Joe Phaahla confirmed this during a media briefing in Pretoria on Thursday.

On Wednesday, he published a notice in the Government Gazette repealing the country’s COVID-19 regulations.

The minister also announced that limits on gathering sizes and border checks for COVID-19 also fall way with immediate effect.

According to Phaahla, by mid-June the country recorded a marked drop in new reported cases while the number of hospitalisations also dropped.

The effective reproductive rate of the virus declined to under 0.7 percent and the reported deaths also declined. – Staff Reporter

National

17 confirmed dead at East London tavern

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HORROR AT CLUB . . . Police are investigating the deaths of at least 17 patrons at a tavern in East London

Authorities are investigating the deaths of at least 17 patrons found inside a popular township tavern in East London, police officials said on Sunday.

Brigadier Tembinkosi Kinana said police were alerted by members of the public to the incident at Scenery Park, about three kms from the city centre.

“The circumstances under which they died are under investigation,” Kinana said, adding it was too early to determine the cause of death of the young adults aged between 18-20 years. – Reuters

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Zondo wants Magashule, Zwane charged over failed Vrede Dairy Project

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CALLING FOR ACTION . . . Chief Justice Raymond Zondo wants law enforcement agencies to pursue Free State government officials involved in the failed Vrede Dairy Project

Chief Justice Raymond Zondo has marked the trio of former Free State premier Ace Magashule, former MEC Mosebenzi Zwane and former head of the provincial agriculture department Peter Thabethe as possibly liable for the infamous Vrede Dairy Project and wants them charged for their roles in the failed enterprise.

In the latest report of the State Capture Commission of Inquiry released on Wednesday evening, Zondo found that the Free State provincial government unlawfully paid a Gupta family-linked company, Estina, over R280-million for a project that ironically sidelined small-scale black farmers – the intended beneficiaries of the project – and got nothing in return.

“The whole Vrede Dairy Project (debacle) happened because Mr Thabethe dismally failed to do his job and failed to protect the interests of the [department of agriculture and rural development] and to protect taxpayers’ money,” read part of the report.

Thabethe is already facing criminal charges – together with other people and companies – in connection with the failed dairy project but the matter has been provisionally removed from the court roll.

Zwane and Magashule have however not been charged in the matter.

“It also happened because Mr Mosebenzi Zwane as MEC was pursuing the agenda of the Guptas and did not do his job to perform oversight over Mr Thabethe,” added the report.

“It also happened because the premier of the province, Mr Ace Magashule, would have also been pursuing the agenda of the Guptas.”

The main idea behind the Vrede Dairy Project was to introduce black farmers in the Memel and Vrede areas to farming with dairy cows, process their milk and sell milk products on the provincial and national dairy products market.

The farmers were told about the project by Zwane.

However, the promises made to these community members were never realised.

At best, according to the report, a few members of the community were employed at the dairy project as manual workers.

None of the local black dairy farmers were invited to bring their milk for processing at the dairy farm.

The investigation found that the consultancy work on the dairy project appears to have been undertaken by companies from outside South Africa which had some association with the Gupta family enterprises.

It said Estina had R16 in its bank account before the Free State Department of Agriculture and Rural Development gave it a R30-million prepayment for the Vrede project in June 2012.

The prepayment was arranged by Zwane.

At the time, Estina had just one director, Kamal Vasram, a sales manager at the controversial Gupta family’s Sahara Computers.

“The company had no experience whatsoever in farming, never mind milk farming, or the crucial milk processing prior to its appointment. The core business of the company on the date of its appointment was still slated as ‘business consultant’,” said Zondo in the report.

Thabethe did not subject the project to competitive bidding and signed the contract with Estina without doing any due diligence, thereby violating the Public Finance Management Act.

“The Vrede Dairy Project failed in its first two years of operation . . . because of Mr Thabethe’s incompetence or because he was carrying out the agenda of the Guptas and cared less about the taxpayers’ money and the black farmers.

“Apart from anything else, Mr Thabethe must be held both criminally and civilly liable for his role in causing the department to lose so many millions of rands in taxpayers’ money,” Zondo suggested.

He said the Provincial Executive Council (EXCO) should have required Zwane and Thabethe to place before it full documentation which showed that all the legal and relevant prescripts had been complied with and that the implementation of the project and the appointment of Estina would be appropriate and reasonable.

Zondo dismissed the evidence of former treasury MEC Elzabe Rockman that a resolution of the executive council that the provincial agriculture department should implement the dairy project did not imply any breach of the law.

“This is so because the resolution said nothing about complying with the legal prescripts,” he said.

“But also, the EXCO should have preserved giving approval for implementation until satisfied themselves that implementation could still be lawful which they did not do.”

Zondo recommended that law enforcement agencies conduct further investigations to establish if Zwane and Magashule contravened any law in the roles they played in regard to the Vrede Dairy Project.

“The premier should have performed his oversight function over the MEC, Mr Zwane and the head of department Mr Thabethe, but failed dismally,” he said.

“It is necessary that there be consequences for people who fail to do their job . . . otherwise, this corruption and these acts of state capture are going to continue forever to the detriment of the country and all people.

“Neither the Provincial Legislature nor the ANC called the premier to account for the asbestos project and the R1-billion Housing Project debacle.

“Premiers must know they must supervise the MECs and their departments.”

Zondo also suggested that legal proceedings should be put in place in order to recover from Zwane and Magashule some of the monies lost by the provincial agriculture department in the Vrede Dairy Project as a result of their failure to perform their legal obligations.

He also wants members of the Gupta family and their associates involved in the dairy project to be criminally charged. – Staff Reporter

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Coca-Cola, government join hands in hunt for young entrepreneurs

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BIZNIZ IN A BOX . . . Coca-Cola Beverages South Africa is running an entrepreneurship competition targeted at young people during the month of June.

Coca-Cola Beverages South Africa (CCBSA), in collaboration with the Free State Department of Economic, Small Business, Tourism and Environmental Affairs (DESTEA) and the Gauteng Department of Economic Development (GDED), has launched an entrepreneurship competition targeted at young people during the month of June.

CCBSA says this youth month, young people with a South African identity document stand a chance to win with CCBSA in partnership with DESTEA and GDED.

The competition, which was launched this week on Lesedi FM, allows listeners who qualify to do a 90-second business elevator pitch live on the Thakgoha Show.

The best presentation chosen by the panel stands a chance to win one of the 10 mobile kitchens valued at R82 000 each.

This competition will run until June 30 on the show.

To be considered for the Bizniz in a Box programme, candidates must be South African and aged 18-35 years old with at least one year of entrepreneurial experience.

Ideally, each applicant’s business should address the needs of the local community like convenience stores, fast-food stores, car washes and shisanyamas.

CCBSA says the collaboration is aimed at tackling the country’s worsening unemployment rate which stands at 34.5 percent for the first quarter of 2022, an all-time high.

The jobless rate for the youth is a staggering 63.9 percent.

It says while the country is slowly emerging and recovering from the devastating effects of the COVID-19, the number of employed people across both formal and informal sectors remains around 1.8 million below the level reached before the onset of the pandemic in March 2020.

“This is an untenable situation and, as CCBSA, we believe in using our industry leadership to be part of the solution to achieve positive change in the country and build a legacy that we can be proud of,” CCBSA managing director Velaphi Ratshefola said in a statement.

He said this has inspired the company to put strong emphasis on economic inclusion, particularly of young people through its Bizniz in a Box (BiB) initiative.

“There is no single entity that can manage this challenge on its own and we are proud to collaborate with the provincial governments to co-create sustainable solutions that will empower young people,” he said.

Ratshefola said the decision to partner with the Free State and Gauteng governments since 2016 was a natural progression towards working jointly to alleviate youth unemployment.

“Through our collaboration to empower small, micro, and medium enterprises (SMMEs) by setting them up in business, we can go further and also provide incubation and support through training and resources to ensure they grow their businesses, to create livelihoods for themselves and other young people. This can change the quality of their lives,” he explained.

During the tabling of his 2022/2023 budget speech, DESTEA MEC Makalo Mohale said: “Key challenges facing the Free State economy remains lack of regulations, barriers to entry, ownership patterns and insufficient access to financial and non-financial support to SMMEs.”

Makalo said DESTEA entered into this partnership with CCBSA because it believes this is a giant step towards youth development, growth, and investment in the province.

Previously, the department supported Free State SMMEs financially and non-financially through its different programmes designed to resuscitate and revitalise the provincial economy.

The MEC said the department is committed to continuing its support and partnering with the private sector to support SMMEs for sustainability, job retention and job creation.

The Bizniz in a Box initiative could not have come at a more opportune time as the Gauteng provincial government uses the month of June to put the spotlight on the province’s youth.

Gauteng Economic Development MEC Parks Tau said: “The department is excited about this initiative and encourages young people in Gauteng to take advantage of it and other programmes aimed at youth empowerment offered by the province, such as Tshepo 1 Million.”

Tau stressed that this was but one among many programmes that would be rolled-out throughout the youth month aimed at connecting young people to opportunities provided by government and the private sector.

In 2021, the initiative supported 118 entrepreneurs across Gauteng and the Free State and the plan is to integrate 135 businesses in 2022 in Maluti-A-Phofung, Dihlabeng, Ngwathe and Setsoto local municipalities as well as the cities of Johannesburg and Ekurhuleni.

“With the staggering statistics, we need to be deliberate about listening and responding to what our communities need. BiB is by no means a handout but rather, a holistic support that will enable them to build their businesses and move to the next level or entrepreneurship,” CCBSA public affairs, communication and sustainability director Nozicelo Ngcobo said.

Bizniz in a Box is dedicated to creating opportunities for young people and integrating them in the economy.

The ultimate aim is to contribute towards revitalising township economies and supporting the country’s development agenda.

It is created to transform aspirant entrepreneurs into fully fledged business owners who can build businesses, create jobs, and provide a livelihood for themselves and others.

For the last six years, CCBSA’s Bizniz in a Box has contributed meaningfully to reducing youth unemployment by partnering with national and provincial governments, local municipalities and development finance institutions.

These partnerships have enabled entrepreneurs to develop businesses, improve their skills, access capital, improve supply chain development and inspire hope. To date, the initiative has trained over 700 entrepreneurs. – Staff Reporter

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