“Draining the Swamp” – in Johannesburg

One of Donald Trump’s often-repeated promises on the stump, was that he would “drain the swamp”. In office, he looks more like flooding it  than draining it – but that’s another story. Elsewhere, there’s another successful businessman recently turned elected politician trying to drain a swamp, in his case an inherited mess of embedded corruption. That’s Herman Mashaba, in Johannesburg.

A feature of last year’s municipal elections in South Africa, was that the opposition Democratic Alliance was able to gain control of three major metropoles.  The new mayor in Johannesburg is Herman Mashabe, who immediately promised to tackle corruption head-on.

An analysis of the difficulties he faces by Sara Gon, a Policy Fellow at the respected Institute of Race Relations, shows both the scale of the problem, and some of the achievements to date.

Gon states

“On a daily basis employees are being suspended as they discover more and more corruption. The scale of corruption is so great that the mayor has established an independent Forensic Unit to investigate allegations and uncover evidence to the city, because the office of the mayor couldn’t cope with the sheer volume of cases. Auditors such as KPMG, EY and SizweNtsalubaGobodo are participating.”

One of the depressing difficulties in rooting out the problem, and a reason for establishing an independent forensic unit, is that they have been receiving very little help from the National Prosecuting Authority. Nevertheless, there is already some progress:

Some of the recent actions taken by the Council include:

  • a forensic review into City Power;
  • the reintegration of the services companies back into the Council;
  • the arrest of 106 traffic department officials for corruption – Mashaba refers to it being only one department so far and merely the ’tip of the iceberg’;
  • charging and suspending an employee who defrauded the Council by conniving with large property owners to reduce the values of their properties. Carte Blanche exposed this activity a year before the DA came into office, yet nothing had been done about it;
  • suspending a senior member of the Billing Department who was manipulating billing for her own gain;
  • closing down Jozi@Work, an employment/entrepreneurial opportunity programme in which former mayor, Parks Tau, recently expressed great pride. Mashaba describes it as ‘an official corruption system‘ where the ANC simply acted as a ‘labour broker’, creating a system of middlemen who were completely unjustified.

Read more at  Rand Daily Mail:

Can Herman Mashaba wade his way through the corrupt mess he found in Joburg?


South Africa’s youngest MP dazzles as she delivers her first address | Africanews

24-year-old Hlomela Bucwa, the youngest Member of Parliament (MP) in South Africa took her turn to address the house for the first time on Tuesday.

She delivered a contribution to the parliamentary debate on the subject, ‘‘Government’s failure to improve the lives of young South Africans with regard to employment education and training.’‘

Hlomela emphasized on the section of the youth she described as the ‘‘lost generation,’‘ those who continue to be without basic access to education and to employment.

The lost generation is a generation of born frees who are victim to to decades of compounding government greed and corruption. Let us tread softly because we tread on the dreams of a lost generation.

Source:  Africanews

South African President Zuma Finds (Again) Constitution Overrides His Whims.

South African judge blocks attempt to withdraw from ICC

President Jacob Zuma ordered to withdraw ‘invalid’ notification of withdrawal, ruling move to be unconstitutional.

A South African judge has blocked the country’s planned withdrawal from the international criminal court (ICC), saying the move is unconstitutional without prior parliamentary approval.

Sitting in the high court in Pretoria, deputy judge president Phineas Mojapelo said on Wednesday that any move to pull out of the ICC must be “on the basis of the expressed authority of the constitution”. He ordered Jacob Zuma, the South African president, to withdraw the “invalid” notification to the court of withdrawal.

Pretoria said last year it planned to leave the ICC after receiving criticism for ignoring the court’s order to arrest the visiting Sudanese president, Omar Hassan al-Bashir, who is accused of genocide and war crimes, in June 2015.

Source: The Guardian

Brexit: It’s Not What We Were Promised.

Slowly, the truth about Brexit is emerging. On the one hand, voters were promised that withdrawing from the EU would end immigration by unskilled workers. Polls showed clearly that was the main reason for Leave voters choosing to do so. Now, we learn that  Brexit will not end immigration from the EU after all. Leave voters will be justified in feeling they were sold a lie.

Brexit Secretary David Davis says UK will stay open to migrants after leaving EU

The Brexit Secretary said it could take “years and years” for Britain to fill all the jobs that would otherwise have been done by EU immigrants coming to the UK to work.

Brexit Minister David Davis shakes hands with Lithuania Prime Minister Saulius Skvernelis in Vilnius on Tuesday Petras Malukas/AFP/Getty

His comments were apparently aimed at calming fears in Europe of a sudden shift in policy that might affect EU citizens in the UK, but drew angry comments from Leave campaigners who said their referendum victory was based on a promise of falling immigration.

Speaking on a visit to Estonia, Mr Davis said: “In the hospitality sector, hotels and restaurants, in the social-care sector, working in agriculture, it will take time. It will be years and years before we get British citizens to do those jobs.

Source: The Independent

On the other hand, Remain voters too have reason to feel aggrieved. Throughout the campaign, there were repeated assurances from Leave campaigners, in UKIP and the Conservative Party, that leaving the EU did not mean withdrawing from Europe completely. We were constantly told that we could be outside the EU, but still in the free trade area, just like Norway or Switzerland.  Remainers knew that would not be possible, without agreeing also to free movement of people – and that has been confirmed.  Theresa May has made it clear that the Brexit she is seeking will not be in the customs union, or the free trade area: hard Brexit . Although she rejects the term, that is what in effect we are getting.

On neither count are we getting what we were promised by the Leave campaigners.


Greens see hope for gay marriage after Foster comments – BelfastTelegraph

The DUP’s changed position on Stormont’s petition of concern could finally lead the way for same sex marriage in Northern Ireland, it has been claimed.

Green Party leader in Northern Ireland Steven Agnew said DUP leader Arlene Foster’s claims that she would like to see the petition of concern scrapped has left him hopeful of a change in the law for marriage equality.

A petition of concern – a mechanism introduced as part of the Good Friday Agreement to help protect minority rights in the Northern Ireland Assembly – was used by them in 2015 to stop votes on same-sex marriage being passed.

A majority of MLA’s voted in favour of same-sex marriage, but the motion was blocked by the DUP when it deployed the petition.

Northern Ireland is the only part of the UK where gay marriage is not legal.


Gay marriage to be introduced in Malta soon – timesofmalta.com

Gay marriage could soon be introduced in Malta as a Marriage Equality Bill is in the process of being drafted, Civil Liberties Minister Helena Dalli announced this afternoon.

Speaking during an event organised by the NGO Drachma, the minister said the Civil Union Law gave gay couples the same rights as heterosexual couples under a different name. The government was now also “changing this”.

“You are not going to believe this but, just yesterday, I was revising a bill on marriage equality,” the minister said prompting a round of applause by those present.

“Our civil union law is already on a par with marriage. All the rights are there and it’s just different in name so we’re changing that. We’re working on it,” Dr Dalli said.

Same-sex unions were approved by Parliament in Malta on April 14, 2014. The Opposition had abstained.


Source: – timesofmalta.com

Same-Sex Marriage Laws Linked To Powerful Drop In Teen Suicide Rate | The Huffington Post

Living in a community that recognizes gay marriage can improve the mental health of all teens, according to a new study.

State marriage equality laws enacted in the years before the 2015 Supreme Court ruling were linked to lower rates of suicide attempts among all high school students but especially among teens who identified as gay, lesbian, bisexual or unsure. Ultimately, the researchers found, for every year that same-sex marriage laws were in place, 134,000 fewer teens attempted suicide. 

This is noteworthy because queer teens are more than four times as likely to attempt suicide as their straight peers.

While the study doesn’t demonstrate that these laws actually caused a reduction in suicide attempts, lead study author Julia Raifman theorized that having equal protection under the law may account for much of the change.

How difficult, and how costly, is a hard Brexit? | UK news | The Guardian

Leaving the EU without a deal and falling back on WTO rules would mean paying customs duties on British exports to the EU. Guardian calculations put the annual bill at $7.6bn just in tariff costs. Here’s why:

We calculated the cost in customs duties for each product if Britain carried on exporting to the EU as in 2015 but without a deal. The total bill is $7.6bn, but the pain is not felt equally by all industries, nor by exporters to all destinations.

Source: | The Guardian

Entrenched: Nasty chemicals abound in what was thought an untouched environment | The Economist

NOT far off the coast of Guam lies the deepest point on Earth’s surface, the Mariana trench. Its floor is 10,994 metres below sea level. If Mount Everest were flipped upside down into it, there would still be more than 2km of clear water between the mountain’s base and the top of the ocean.

Such isolation has led many to assume that it and similar seabed trenches will be among the few remaining pristine places on the planet. However, a study led by Alan Jamieson of Newcastle University, in England, has shown that nothing could be further from the truth. As Dr Jamieson and his colleagues report this week in Nature Ecology and Evolution, trenches are actually loaded with pollutants.

Despite the cold, the darkness and the high pressure, ocean trenches are home to ecosystems similar in many ways to those found on other parts of the planet. In one important respect, though, they are different. This is the source of the energy that powers them. In most ecosystems, sunlight fuels the growth of plants, which are then consumed by animals. In a few shallower parts of the ocean, hydrothermal vents provide energy-rich chemicals that form the basis of local food chains. No vents are known to exist below 5,000 metres, though, and no sunlight penetrates a trench. The organisms found in them thus depend entirely on dead organic material raining down upon them from far above.

Since these nutrients, having once flowed into a trench, never make their way out again, Dr Jamieson found the notion that trenches have somehow remained untouched by human activities questionable.

Source: The Economist

Zuma drags the ANC down with him | M&G

The political year is under way. It is an especially important one for South Africa (as well as elsewhere), and it is delicately poised. For the ruling ANC, it is an especially fragile time: if the party fails to exit the Zuma era anything other than extremely carefully, it risks a fatal fracturing.

This is where the laws of physics and politics part company. When a big political entity such as the ANC starts to fall, Galileo’s theorem notwithstanding, it will tend to fall faster than a less weighty political creature.

The ANC is falling faster than we imagined and too speedily for it to see it itself or even comprehend what is happening.

But let us not run ahead of ourselves. What are the elements of such a decisive and, for many people, premature analytical outlook? And what have we learned from phase one of the “political season”?

The first thing is that President Jacob Zuma has been significantly contained and is probably appreciably weaker than he was at any point in the past 12 months.Source: M&G