News in South Africa 6th October:
1. Health department under scrutiny:
The Gauteng government is facing increasing scrutiny over its health infrastructure spend. The pressure is such that Premier David Makhura is reported to be planning a press conference on Thursday 8 October at Chris Hani Baragwanath Hospital to provide “a comprehensive update of all the infrastructure projects”.
Over the weekend there were also media reports that the premier had asked the Special Investigating Unit to extend its Covid-19 investigation to infrastructure development.
Nevertheless, last week the MEC for Infrastructure Development, Tasneem Motara, was holding firm. In response to issues raised in an investigation by Maverick Citizen, she defended the building of 1,400 highly specialised intensive care unit (ICU) beds in four rapidly constructed (but still not ready) field hospitals using alternative building technology (ABT).
Contradicting doctors who have told us that the beds cannot be easily repurposed for use other than by intensive care patients, on 28 September Motara told Newzroom Afrika that tender processes had been followed for the hospitals:
“The additional bed space that we are making available at the four hospitals is a combination of ICU, as well as general beds. And with all the support mechanisms that go with it.
“In fact, once we have concluded discussions with the Department of Health, the Bara additional facility will actually become the Lillian Ngoyi Hospital, which was always in the long-term plans of the Department of Health.”
But as the questions mount, the Gauteng Department of Health appears to be trying to get out of the line of fire. It has referred all questions on the hospitals to the Department of Infrastructure Development (DID). Acting Health MEC Jacob Mamabolo is apparently keeping mum on issues he should be better placed to speak about than Motara.
A significant amount of the pressure can be sourced to growing questions about the R1.2-billion ICU field hospitals.
2. PPE contacts investigated:
The Special Tribunal is expected to hear arguments on Tuesday in a matter between the Special Investigating Unit (SIU) and 40 Gauteng-based contractors that benefitted from a tender involving the supply of personal protective equipment (PPE) and services during the Covid-19 pandemic.
The arguments follow the urgent application by the SIU, which led to the freezing of R38.7 million held in the contractors’ bank accounts.
It was previously reported that the SIU obtained an interim order against entities linked to a Gauteng health department PPE tender that was allegedly irregularly obtained.
Among these were accounts linked to Ledla Structural Development, Royal Bhaca Projects and Mediwaste.
Bhaca Projects is owned by Madzikane ll Thandisizwe Diko, the husband of President Cyril Ramaphosa’s spokesperson, Khusela Diko.
3. Cosatu strike gains support:
Cosatu is urging workers to take part in a national “stayaway strike” tomorrow in protest against corruption, retrenchments and unemployment, gender-based violence and attacks on collective bargaining.
Due to the Covid-19 pandemic, workers have been asked to stay at home, rather than congregate in the streets.
On the occasion of World Teachers’ Day, they have been hailed for their bravery during the Covid-19 pandemic and ensuring that the academic year is saved, but the South African Democratic Teachers Union (Sadtu) has accused the state of being an “uncaring employer” for failing to pay salary increases due two years ago.
The union said as a result of this it supports the planned strike by Cosatu on Wednesday, which, among other things, is against corruption, unemployment, gender-based violence and the erosion of collective bargaining.
4. Multichoice stake bought:
French media giant Groupe Canal+ has acquired a not-insignificant stake in South Africa’s largest broadcasting company, DStv parent MultiChoice Group.
MultiChoice, which is listed on the JSE, disclosed the Canal+ investment in a statement on the stock exchange news service on Monday morning. Canal+ has bought 6.5% of the company’s total ordinary shares in issue, it said. MultiChoice shares leapt higher in Monday morning trading on the news and were quoted up 8.2% at R110.84 apiece at 10.39am.
“As a publicly held company, MultiChoice regularly engages with its strategic partners and maintains an open dialogue with the investment community. The group’s policy is not to comment on its individual shareholders nor on its interactions with them,” it added.
Canal+ is owned and controlled by Vivendi and produces movies and television shows. It has a significant pay-television business and a film library of more than 5 000 titles. It is headquartered in Issy-les-Moulineaux, outside Paris.
5. Meddling in Eskom details:
Former SAA board chairperson Dudu Myeni’s active involvement in the affairs of Eskom as well as the suspension of the company’s senior executives in 2015 was due to her close relationship with ex-president Jacob Zuma, the state capture inquiry heard.
This is the assessment given by business consultant, Nicholas Linnell, who on Monday appeared before the Judicial Commission of Inquiry into State Capture led by Deputy Chief Justice Raymond Zondo. Linnell was roped in by Myeni to conduct an investigation at Eskom following a number of consultations with her, including a meeting at Zuma’s Durban residence in March 2015.
Linnell told the commission that Myeni had summoned him to attend an urgent meeting at Zuma’s residence in Pretoria on 6 March 2015. However Zuma didn’t show up, and Myeni proceeded to brief him on what needed to be done at Eskom, with regards to the direction of a planned investigation into the management of the power utility which was at the time battling financial challenges and power outages.
The three executives that were suspended were former CEO Tshediso Matona, then-group capital executive, Dan Marokane and then-technology and commercial executive, Matshela Koko. A fourth member of the executive, then-finance director Tsholofelo Molefe was added to the list, Linnell said during the hearing.