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Severe weather feared in Free State, North West

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TRAIL OF DESTRUCTION . . . Floods have caused severe damage in KwaZulu-Natal

The Free State and the North West provinces could be affected by extreme weather conditions similar to those recently experienced in KwaZulu-Natal and the Eastern Cape which resulted in widespread flooding, hundreds of fatalities and destruction of property.

This was said by President Cyril Ramaphosa Ramaphosa during a televised address on Monday evening in which he declared the catastrophic floods which have devastated parts of KwaZulu-Natal and the Eastern Cape a national state of disaster.

He said other parts of the country may also need assistance in the near future.

“With the heavy rains and flooding in the Eastern Cape and indications from the South African Weather Service that the North West and Free State may also be affected by bad weather, it is clear that there are other areas of the country that need emergency intervention,” said Ramaphosa.

The address followed a special cabinet meeting on Sunday where the government assessed the social and economic aftermath of flooding in the two provinces and work underway to provide relief and to rebuild.

Ramaphosa visited the eThekwini Metropolitan Municipality last Wednesday where he received an update on the responses of local, provincial and national authorities to the provincial disaster.

Following the declaration, Cooperative Governance and Traditional Affairs Minister Dr Nkosazana Dlamini-Zuma is now expected to gazette the declaration.

This, according to Ramaphosa, is to ensure an effective response across all spheres of government to the extreme weather events that have occurred in several parts of the country.

“The primary responsibility to coordinate and manage the disaster is assigned to the national sphere of government, working closely together with provincial governments and municipalities,” he said.

“It enables the mobilisation of more resources, capabilities and technical expertise in providing relief, recovery and rehabilitation to affected communities.”

The president said government response will be rolled out in three phases, namely: humanitarian relief to ensure that all affected persons are safe and that their basic needs are met; stabilisation and recovery, rehousing people who have lost homes and restoring provision of services; and reconstruction and rebuilding.

“This will not only involve the construction and repair of major infrastructure . . . it will also involve the construction of houses in suitably-located areas and measures to protect the residents of these areas from such adverse weather events in the future,” he explained.

Areas located close to rivers and waterways – particularly informal settlements – were severely affected and many dwellings were swept away.

To date, a total of 443 people are known to have lost their lives in KwaZulu-Natal, while approximately 48 people are missing or unaccounted for.

Nearly 4 000 homes have been completely destroyed and over 8 300 homes have been partially damaged.

It is estimated that more than 40 000 people have been displaced by these floods.

“This is a humanitarian disaster that calls for a massive and urgent relief effort,” said Ramaphosa.

“The lives, health and well-being of thousands of people are still at risk.

“The floods have caused great economic and social damage.”

It is also estimated that over 270 000 learners have been affected and about 600 schools have been damaged.

About 16 of these schools cannot be accessed due to damage to connecting roads and bridges.

At least 1 300 road repair projects have been identified and progress has been made in restoring operations at the Port of Durban by opening alternative routes for trucks to access the port terminals and clean up debris in the harbour.

National treasury has indicated that R1-billion will be immediately availed to get all work started.

It will seek further funding from parliament.

Ramaphosa said a comprehensive assessment of the economic cost of these floods still has to be made, but it is likely to run into billions of rands.

He said it will be critical that all the resources mobilised are used for their intended purposes and reach the intended recipients.

“There can be no room for corruption, mismanagement or fraud of any sort,” he warned.

“Learning from the experience of the COVID-19 pandemic, we are drawing together various stakeholders to be part of an oversight structure to ensure all funds disbursed to respond to this disaster are properly accounted for and that the state receives value for money.

“These stakeholders include the Office of the Auditor-General, business, religious sector, labour, community-based organisations as well as professional bodies such as engineers and accountants.

“We are determined that there must be transparency and accountability as the projects are costed and implemented . . .” – Staff Reporter

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Municipal manager facing tender fraud charges granted bail

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THE ACCUSED . . . Maluti-a-Phofung municipal manager Futhuli Patrick Mothamaha is out on bail

Maluti-a-Phofung municipal manager Futhuli Patrick Mothamaha, 49, was on Friday released on a bail of R500 000 by the Phuthaditjhaba Magistrates Court after he was arrested by The Hawks for fraud, corruption and Contravention of the Municipal Finance Management Act.

The state alleges that he allegedly awarded a contract of R58 million to Kill Crime Security Company in 2020 without following proper procurement processes.

National Prosecuting Authority regional spokesperson Phaladi Shuping said Mothamaha allegedly signed a service level agreement on May 19, 2020, appointing the company to render security services to the municipality for a period of three months without following procurement processes.

“The municipality continued to pay Kill Crime Security Company for almost two years without a contract,” said Shuping.

He said Mothamaha was supposed to appear with his co-accused, father and daughter who are the owners of Kill Crime Security, Thabiso, 55, and Dimakatso Sekhosana, 29, on Monday after they were instructed by The Hawks to hand themselves over on Sunday, but he failed to do so.

The Sekhosanas appeared on Monday facing similar charges and were released on bail of R150 000 each.

Part of Mothamaha’s bail conditions are that he must not enter the offices of the municipality, not interfere with the investigations nor intimidate witnesses.

The case was postponed to September 30 for further investigations. – Staff Reporter

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Six nabbed for alleged theft of network batteries

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NABBED . . .  The six men believed to have stolen network batteries and damaged critical infrastructure

 Six men were due to appear in the Marquard Magistrates Court on Friday after being found in possession of eight network batteries believed to have been stolen.

Police spokesperson for the eastern Free State, Warrant Officer Mmako Mophiring, said the suspects were arrested following a joint effort by members of the SA Police Service, private security and farmers.

He said police received information from the community at about 3am last Wednesday saying some unknown men were digging up network boxes and cutting copper inside a manhole.

“The police activated and mobilised other members and arrested the first suspect who is a foreign national near a filling station while sitting inside a vehicle,” said Mophiring.

The man was arrested for possession of suspected stolen property after eight network power box batteries were found in his possession and failed to properly account for them.

While pursuing the matter with the help of some farmers, the police received information at about 8am that some five men were trying to hitch-hike near a certain farm to Senekal.

“The team quickly responded and arrested the three suspects who were successfully linked to the initially arrested suspect. Two other suspects managed to escape but were chased and arrested near a farm going to Senekal. Four of the six suspects are Illegal immigrants and two are South Africans,” he explained.

The six are aged between 23 and 30 years of age.

They are facing charges of contravening the Immigration Act, possession of suspected stolen property and damage of infrastructure.

Provincial Police Commissioner Lieutenant General Baile Motswenyane applauded the community and the team for the prompt arrests and urged them to “continue working together to fight crime”.

Meanwhile, three suspected armed robbers were sniffed out of their hideout in Thaba Nchu near Serwalo on Thursday morning following a petrol station robbery.

Police spokesperson in Mangaung, Sergeant Mahlomola Kareli, said in a separate statement four armed robbers arrived at the petrol garage just after midnight on Wednesday and threatened the security guard with a firearm before tying him up with wire and fleeing the scene with a undisclosed amount of cash and cans of motor vehicle oil.

The suspects demanded keys from the guard and gained access to the back offices.

And while others were busy helping themselves to the oil cans and cigarettes, others were busy grinding the safe to access the money inside.

The four then left the security guard with his hands and feet tightly fastened with a wire.

The guard was only rescued by staff starting duty at 5am.

The matter was reported to the police and a case of armed robbery was opened at Thaba Nchu Police Station and a manhunt was launched.

Luck ran out for three of the suspects aged between 38 and 40 after they were traced and found near Serwalo in Thaba Nchu at about 2am on Thursday and were arrested.

They were found with an undisclosed amount of money suspected to have been stolen during the robbery.

One suspect remains at large.

The three were due to appear in the Thaba Nchu Magistrates Court on Friday for business robbery. – Staff Reporter

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Garden scissor attacker nabbed

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THE CRIME TOOL . . . A 64-year-old man allegedly used this garden scissor to attack a man and his family

A 64-year-old man has been arrested after stabbing one person in the stomach with a broken garden scissor and injuring the victim’s family while holding them hostage.

Police say they were called to a place in Verkeerdevlei on Wednesday evening where a person had been stabbed in the stomach.

Upon arrival, they found a 53-year-old man who had been stabbed in the stomach with the broken scissor.

The suspect had already fled the scene.

“The victim was taken to hospital for medical treatment,” said Captain Stephen Thakeng in a brief statement.

Further investigations revealed that the same suspect went to the house of the victim’s 36-year-old daughter house where he held her and her two children – aged 13 and 15 – hostage.

“Tactical Response Team (TRT) members from Park Road were activated at about 21:30 and it was realised that the suspect was holding (the family) hostage in a three-roomed shack,” said Thakeng.

“The TRT members gained entry into the shack and rescued the three from the suspect.

“The three victims were also stabbed with the same half part of the big scissor.”

The suspect is facing a charge of attempted murder and three counts of assault with intent to cause grievous bodily harm.

He will appear in the Verkeerdevlei Magistrates Court soon.

THE CRIME TOOL . . . A 64-year-old man allegedly used this garden scissor to attack a man and his family

Meanwhile, a man believed to be terrorising tuckshop owners around Bothaville was arrested on Wednesday following a tip-off by community members.

Police say they received information about a man with a firearm and who might be involved in robberies of tuck shops of foreign nationals at about 16:30.

The suspect’s house in Kgotsong was identified and members of Bothaville Crime Prevention approached it and asked for permission to search the place.

They were granted permission and a 9mm pistol was found and a 27-year-old man from Potchefstroom was arrested for possession of an unlicensed firearm.

The suspect will appear in the Bothaville Magistrates Court soon. – Staff Reporter

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