Mine agrees to talks on Bekkersdal land

Municipality workers erect a road between the land and the mine in Bekkersdaal in Johannesburg, 12 May 2014, which residents want to occupy by force. Picture: Nigel Sibanda
Municipality workers erect a road between the land and the mine in Bekkersdaal in Johannesburg, 12 May 2014, which residents want to occupy by force. Picture: Nigel Sibanda

NOTE: Article first appeared in The Citizen newspaper on May 13, 2014. 

Rand Uranium mine on the West Rand will enter into talks with concerned residents in Bekkersdal this week over unused land in the area.

The land close to the mine, which is owned by the mine, has been standing empty for nearly 30 years.

Residents in Bekkersdal attempted to occupy the land earlier this year but were stopped when the mine issued an interdict against their action in January.

Thabang Wesi, spokesperson for the Greater Westonaria Concerned Residents’ Association, said “they (Rand Uranium mine) withdrew the charges because they understand that we need this land”.

Residents were not stopped by the interdict but by “other pressing issues”, said Wesi.

“We need that land. It’s vacant and there’s no development happening there. Bekkersdal must grow like other townships.”

The only residents seen by The Citizen on site yesterday were miners leaving to go home and municipality workers paving a new road to connect the mine to the township.

Wesi described the vacant land as being as big as Bekkersdal itself. “The mine is in the township but doing nothing for the people who live there. They are only developing the land and not the people,” said Wesi.

The current management of the mine also stands accused of not contributing to the community trust fund.

“They have to contribute – if not they must go” said Wesi.

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SA NGO fighting crime in the UK

NOTE: Article first appeared in The Citizen newspaper on May 12, 2014. 

OPERATING IN LONDON AND KZN: A participant in a Khulisa Social Solutions art workshop in London. Picture: Provided.
OPERATING IN LONDON AND KZN: A participant in a Khulisa Social Solutions art workshop in London. Picture: Provided.

 South African non-profit organisation is helping to fight crime in the United Kingdom through specialised programmes.

Gugulethu Shezi, marketing and communications manager at Khulisa Social Solutions, said inner-city London and semi-rural townships in KwaZulu-Natal had much in common. They were both “communities where the youth frequently see drugs, crime and gangsterism as their only redemption”, said Shezi.

The NGO uses the commonalities between the two to implement programmes that help, “youngsters transform their lives”.

In South Africa, Khulisa focuses on marginalised youngsters in some of “the poorest, riskiest townships”, and the same formula is being used in the UK.

Some of the life skills interventions used by Khulisa include art and drama-therapy workshops, said Lisa Rowles from Khulisa’s UK branch.

“Each programme is tailored to the needs of the client group,” said Rowles, meaning that some programmes are day-long “taster sessions” while others are year-long intervention programmes.

Established in 1998 in KwaZulu-Natal with financial assistance from British donors, the NGO only opened its second branch as a charity in the UK in 2007.

NEW WAYS TO LIVE: Art workshop in London.
NEW WAYS TO LIVE: Art workshop in London.

A lot of fundraising and responding to government bids is done to keep it afloat, said Rowles.

In the UK, the “holistic” programmes the NGO uses include crime reduction programmes at schools and juvenile and adult correctional facilities which have been tracked by several academic institutions for possible successes and failures.

A report by Dr Tim Pascoe, criminologist and researcher, found that of all participants in Khulisa’s programmes, 98% progressed positively.

Some of the participants cited “anger management and conflict resolutions” as some of the benefits they had received from the programmes said Shezi.

This year and in 2015 the NGO plans to host programmes that focus on domestic violence, parents and children and looking at “the streets we walk with new eyes”, according to Rowles.

‘This parliament robbed our democracy’

FILE PICTURE: A general view of President Jacob Zuma's private Nkandla home. Picture: AFP PHOTO / Stringer
FILE PICTURE: A general view of President Jacob Zuma’s private Nkandla home. Picture: AFP PHOTO / Stringer

NOTE: Article first appeared in The Citizen newspaper on May 1, 2014. 

The decision to dissolve the parliamentary ad hoc committee tasked with investigating the Nkandla debacle is unlawful and unconstitutional, a constitutional law expert said yesterday.

Professor Shadrack Gutto, constitutional law expert at the University of SA, said the decision to dissolve the committee and defer the matter to the new parliament appointed after the elections is “not legal and not constitutional”.

Gutto said the current sitting committee “does not have the powers to defer the matter. They can’t order the new parliament to do their work”.

ANC MPs voted as a majority on Monday to dissolve the parliamentary ad hoc committee, stating there was not enough time for the committee to investigate the matter before election day.

Gutto bluntly said: “The ad hoc committee had simply decided not to do the work it should be doing.”

He said this decision would not make the matter go away, as “serious maladministration and unjust enrichment from public funds by the president and his family” needed to be investigated in Parliament.

Members of opposition parties have said they will pursue the matter.

Gutto said: “This Parliament will go down in history as one that robbed our democracy by not complying with legal and constitutional regulations.”

He said the reasons why the committee had to be dissolved were “irrelevant and wrong.”

The newly elected members of Parliament will sit for the first time on May 21.

Research for Africa, by Africa

FILE PICTURE: Chairperson of the African Union Commission Nkosazana Dlamini Zuma. Picture: Nigel Sibanda
FILE PICTURE: Chairperson of the African Union Commission Nkosazana Dlamini Zuma. Picture: Nigel Sibanda

NOTE: Article first appeared in The Citizen newspaper on April 25, 2014. 

Pooling resources and working together, instead of competing, are some of the ways research conducted at African universities can help propel the continent to be a global leader, projecting to 2063.

During a public lecture on research in African universities in the Senate Hall at the University of Pretoria yesterday, Dr Nkosazana Dlamini-Zuma, chairperson of the African Union Commission, emphasised how research done at universities can help with the overall development of Africa.

“The only way to do so is by getting universities to look 50 years into the past and 50 years in to the future,” said Dlamini-Zuma. Projecting ahead “liberates you – it is not defined and confined by immediate circumstances”.

Research carried out at universities is one of the ways universities could help to “turn all our resources into wealth for our people,” said Dlamini-Zuma. A fundamental way of doing this was to broaden the base from which students are chosen, she said.

The university’s vice-chancellor, Cheryl de la Ray, responded by saying demand was too high to accommodate more students. “We don’t take international students for our undergraduate courses because of huge demand locally,” she said.

“We make plans and expect other people to fund them.”

Dlamini-Zuma said development needed to happen internally, with Africans helping Africans. The AU has found that most African researchers collaborate with researchers from overseas and not one another, something which “surprised and disappointed” her.

She added that African universities and researchers needed to work together towards Pan-African development, mentioning the African Union was in the process of starting a virtual Pan-African university.

Dlamini-Zuma stressed that through research conducted at African universities “vexing questions could be answered”. She cited a cure for malaria and the gradual disappearance of Lake Chad as examples of questions that needed to be investigated.

Meet Little Lagos – Jozi style

NOTE: Article first appeared in The Citizen newspaper on April 9, 2014.

Evans Emeafa does a client's hair at his family owned beauty salon in Braamfontein, 7 April 2014. The area has been nicknamed little Lagos due to the amount of Nigerian owed businesses in the area. Picture: Tracy Lee Stark
Evans Emeafa does a client’s hair at his family owned beauty salon in Braamfontein, 7 April 2014. The area has been nicknamed little Lagos due to the amount of Nigerian owed businesses in the area. Picture: Tracy Lee Stark

You can find anything from vegetables to groceries and a unique haircut to traditional clothing when you visit the Nigerian shop-owners in Braamfontein.

It is a busy area, with loud Nigerian music playing in the shops where both foreigners and students do business.

It is also known as Little Lagos by students who stay nearby.

Some of the Nigerian entrepreneurs in downtown Johannesburg told The Citizen they were happy to hear their mother country’s economy had overtaken South Africa as the continent’s largest.

Biccard Street in Braamfontein has quite a few Nigerian-owned businesses that bring competitive services and products to consumers. Everything from salons, to Internet cafes, gyms and clothing stores line the busy street.

Oluwadamilola Apotieri, a Nigerian business owner in the area, said while the GDP takeover was good news, the truth of the matter is that it will not put food on the table of the poor. “It will not reduce the level of poverty. It will only add up to the political mumbo jumbo.”

Apotieri attributed Nigerian business people’s success to zeal. “Nigerian entrepreneurs do not mind spending time, money and energy to build.”

Ameck Ottance, a dressmaker at Graceland Fashion Design, said: “Nigerians are business-minded people. You can see that from the businesses on this street.”

Evans Emeafo, manager and stylist at a hair salon, said his trade secret lays in “keeping it in the family”.

The salon he works at is owned by his brother and their employees are all family members.

Emeafo said he “was happy that the Nigerian economy was doing so well”, but so was his business. He sees no reason to move back home.

EFF will leave Wits’ Senate House ‘when recognised’

NOTE: Article first appeared in The Citizen newspaper on April 4, 2014. 

EFF-Senate-house-602x379
Students of the Wits EFF branch occupy the 11th floor Senate Room, Wits University yesterday. The students are demanding recognition as an official university club. Picture: Tracy Lee Stark.

Economic Freedom Fighters (EFF) Wits entered their second day of occupation on the 11th floor of the Senate House building at Wits University in Johannesburg yesterday. 

The student branch of the EFF on Wednesday occupied vice-chancellor Adam Habib’s office in protest against its lack of recognition by the university as a society.

Security moved the EFF members from the office the following morning, which is when they relocated to the Senate House, with a constant security presence.

Habib said the security measures were put in place as “a precaution to ensure that the occupation doesn’t get out of hand”.

Vuyani Pambo, EFF Wits chairperson, said the occupation would only come to an end once the EFF’s Wits group was recognised as a university society on campus.

“”Every day that passes frustrates our political programme,” he said.

The EFF had followed all the right channels and had interacted with both the SRC and the dean of student affiars, Pamela Dube, on various occasions, yet their application was still rejected, he said.

Reports have indicated that the EFF was not registered because they submitted their application late to the SRC.

“These are lies. This is a tactic,” said Pambo.

He said that the group went into action when they discovered that their application would have to wait until next year.

Habib said the university intended to launch an investigation into the matter, which would be completed today.

On the indefinite period of the occupation, Habib said that students are “free to occupy any public space, as long as they obey the rules”.

However, he added that the EFF group were being unreasonable” as their gripe was with the SRC, and not him.

Habib was away in Pretoria when the students took over his office. He initially engaged with them publically during their occupation of his office live on twitter. Their hashtag #EFFoccupation has gained traction on the social media site.

Pambo said that their “soft radical action” would escalate if the university didn’t engage them today or at latest on Monday.