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ANC top brass to convene urgent meeting over Free State crisis

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Staff Reporter

The National Executive Committee (NEC) of the ANC is set to have an urgent meeting after the party’s provincial conference for the Free State held in 2018 was nullified by the Supreme Court of Appeal (SCA) on Wednesday.

In a statement, ANC national spokesperson Pule Mabe called for calm among members in the province as the party studies the judgment before deciding the way forward.

“The National Executive Committee will convene urgently to give direction,” Mabe said in the statement.

“We call on ANC structures in the province to remain disciplined and calm, whilst we study the judgment and its implications for the movement, and in particular the Provincial Executive Committee (PEC) elected at the conference,” he added.

In its ruling, the SCA declared the provincial conference unlawful and unconstitutional.

It said the conference held from 18-19 May, 2018 was in violation of a court order given on November 29, 2017.

This means the decisions/resolutions and/or the outcome of the conference are unlawful and unconstitutional.

The court however ruled that decisions made by the PEC before the delivery of the judgment will not be affected.

The matter was brought to the SCA by three disgruntled ANC members, Matshepo Ramakatsa, Themba Mvandaba and Shashapa Joshua Motaung.

The respondents to the matter were listed as members of the ANC in the Free State and the PEC respectively.

The trio wanted the appeal court to declare that the ANC provincial conference that took place on 18 and 19 May, 2018 was held in violation of a High Court order dated November 29, 2017.

They argued that the conference’s decision/resolutions and/or outcome were unlawful and unconstitutional.

The appellants also sought a declaration that the respondents acted in contempt of the High Court order.

The High Court had made an order that the provincial conference should not be held until certain branch general meetings (BGMs) had been held in a lawful manner that accords with the constitution of the ANC.

The members, according to the judgment, had contended that their rights in terms of section 19 of the Constitution of the Republic of South Africa had been infringed and that the respondents had breached the provisions of the ANC Constitution and National Guidelines which mirror the ANC Constitution on elections.

The contention by the appellants was that as provided in the ANC guidelines, at the heart of any lawfully convened conference of the ANC, whether at the regional, provincial or national level, is the basic requirement that delegates participating at such gatherings must have been elected at properly constituted BGMs.

The judgment said the rationale behind the contention was that if persons who participated at such a conference as delegates, who had not been elected at properly constituted BMGs, or if delegates who have been elected at properly constituted BGMs are denied such participation in a conference, any decision to hold such conference is invalid and the outcomes of such a conference are equally invalid and null and void.

“At least eight of the 28 BGMs identified in the (High Court) order did not take place lawfully or at all,” read part of the judgment.

“On this basis alone, the (provincial conference) could not lawfully proceed,” the SCA found.

The respondents however argued that the disgruntled members rushed to court before exhausting available internal remedy mechanisms within the party.

It emerged in court that the aggrieved members sent a complaint to that provincial conference but they were ignored.

The respondents’ argument that branch audits were done ahead of the conference could not hold as some had been held more than nine months earlier.

“. . . one must mention that both respondents’ versions are undermined by the attendance registers . . . These attendance registers show that in respect of all branches the last audit was conducted in April 2017,” the SCA found.

“Therefore, the required audit was conducted more than nine months before the (provincial conference) and contrary to the assertion that an audit was conducted during February 2018.

“The failure of the respondents to respond squarely and with sufficient details to allegations made by the appellants, the contradictions between the two versions presented by the respondents, and the effect of the attendance registers leads to the ineluctable conclusion that there has been no compliance with the peremptory audit requirement.”

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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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