Category Archives: Environment

South Africa’s Watergate – Zuma friend nets huge cash advance

City Press/News24

2017-05-21 05:51

KwaZulu-Natal tycoon Philani Mavundla stands outside his homestead in Greytown. (Gallo Images)

KwaZulu-Natal tycoon Philani Mavundla stands outside his homestead in Greytown. (Gallo Images)

A close friend of President Jacob Zuma was paid an R81m advance on a R1bn tender by an entity of the department of water and sanitation.

Philani Mavundla (49), a construction magnate who once offered to pay Zuma’s portion of the security upgrades to his home in Nkandla, is involved in a joint venture which was awarded the R1bn contract to build an acid mine drainage plant in Springs, east of Johannesburg.

However, documents City Press has obtained show his joint venture company was paid the R81m advance before he even broke ground on the plant – which is expressly forbidden by the Public Finance Management Act (PFMA).

Yet, a spokesperson for the department’s entity insists the advance payment was regular.

Mavundla, the former mayor of Greytown in KwaZulu-Natal, was awarded the contract by the Trans Caledon Tunnel Authority (TCTA), which falls under the department of water and sanitation. It is tasked with managing and delivering bulk water-supply projects around the country.

A senior TCTA official told City Press this week: “The media has neglected this organisation, but the rot that is here is enormous. The acid mine drainage projects alone are worth R12bn. Companies have received projects which did not go out via public tender. People are carrying money out of this institution in bags.”

This is the latest instalment of City Press’ Watergate investigation, which has previously exposed the scale of corruption in bulk water delivery projects, as well as how Water and Sanitation Minister Nomvula Mokonyane’s young companion has been effectively running her department, and how Phase Two of the Lesotho Highlands Water Project was stalled by Mokonyane in apparent efforts to ensure that businesspeople close to her got a slice of the R26bn deal.

Last month, City Press also reported that Treasury shot down Mokonyane’s attempt to consolidate the TCTA and the Water Trading Entity into a parastatal with its own board, budget and balance sheet.

The TCTA has also been implicated in further alleged wrongdoing after it paid another company, Intelligent Water Solutions (IWS), R12m before a contract was even signed. Invoices that City Press has obtained show that IWS started submitting invoices from June last year, but the contract with TCTA – for the “maintenance and operations of another acid mine drainage purifying plant” in Germiston, eastern Johannesburg – was only signed in August. The remainder of the R36m they initially billed for was paid by TCTA at the end of August.

The entire 36-month contract awarded to IWS is worth R234m. IWS claims the advance payments were agreed to by TCTA.

MAVUNDLA’S BIG DEAL

Meanwhile, copies of paid invoices and email exchanges between TCTA officials show that in June 2014, the TCTA advanced R81m to a joint venture involving Mavundla and Italian construction giant CMC.

The joint venture, known as CMC-PG Mavundla EB JV, built the R1bn Eastern Basin acid mine drainage purifying plant, which cleans the water filling disused mines and makes it fit for domestic use.

The invoices and emails show that:

  • Mavundla’s joint venture was paid the advance, despite officials initially informing them they would not receive an advance payment.
  • Even though it had completed and commissioned the plant in June last year, the joint venture continued to submit monthly invoices for the plant’s construction until three months ago.
  • The company was paid a further R42m for an “operations and maintenance” contract at the same plant which did not go out to tender and seems to have been extended irregularly.
  • The joint venture was paid R93m in unspecified variation orders, but requested an additional R144m for more unspecified variation orders. It is unclear if this amount has been paid.

TCTA spokesperson Wanda Mkutshulwa confirmed that for the main contract, the joint venture was paid R956m, excluding variations, value-added tax and contingencies. She insisted it was all above board.

But a senior Treasury official, who spoke on condition of anonymity, told City Press that “there was no place and space for advance payments in the PFMA”.

“The normal way is that you supply the goods and the services, then we pay – not the other way round. The bidding process is meant to eliminate those who do not have resources and those who do not have the capacity to do the job,” the official said.

“If you can give a tender to anyone and then assist them to do the job, what is the point of procurement policies? Advancing payments means you can give a tender to anyone, without regard to whether they have the resources or capacity to deliver.”

WHO IS MAVUNDLA?

Mavundla found fame in 2014 when he offered to pay back Zuma’s debt following former public protector Thuli Madonsela’s Nkandla finding that the president should personally pay a portion of the R246m security upgrades to his Nkandla home.

One of his companies, PG Mavundla Engineering, was involved in large construction projects in KwaZulu-Natal, Lesotho and Gauteng – including Durban’s Inkosi Albert Luthuli International Convention Centre, Sibaya Casino and the R250m John Ross Highway Bridge in Richards Bay. It is also involved in Eskom’s R20bn Ingula hydro-electricity scheme, near Ladysmith.

In 2011, Mavundla was elected mayor of Greytown’s Umvoti Municipality but declined to draw the R700 000-a-year salary, diverting the money to development projects instead.

He owns a palatial property outside the town, which features a triple-storey mansion with 28 bedrooms, 12 lounges and a gym for him and his immediate family.

By October 2014, he had three wives and 18 children.

He is listed as an active director of 15 companies and owns four more properties, including the Propaganda Hotel and the Mavundla Square Shopping Mall in Greytown.

In 2005, he helped establish the Friends of Jacob Zuma Trust to raise funds for his fraud and corruption trial.

In 2008, Mavundla slaughtered 20 cattle to celebrate Zuma’s ANC presidency victory at Polokwane in Limpopo.

In June last year, Durban’s Daily News reported that “financial constraints” forced PG Mavundla Engineering to cede a R20m Durban housing contract to another company.

WHAT THEY SAY

Mkutshulwa said the advance paid to Mavundla’s joint venture was provided for in the contract.

“It is not true that TCTA refused to pay; neither is it true that this was against the PFMA. The upfront payment was provided for under the International Federation of Consulting Engineers’ conditions of contract. The contract allowed for an advance payment of 10% of the contract amount, in return for an advance payment guarantee.

“An advance payment serves to fund initial site establishment costs and payment for long lead items. It is repaid by the contractor over a predetermined fixed period during the life of the contract.”

Although the contract was concluded in June 2016, Mkutshulwa said such projects had a standard three-month trial period to ensure the plant operated well.

“Further payments were for an extended period for the operations of the plant and for noncritical work done during the 12-month defects liability period, which was part of the original contract,” she said.

Mkutshulwa said Treasury approved the extension of the contract for another year for operations, which was not included in the contract which ended in August last year.

She said the company would be paid R98m for operations, adding that this figure excluded R48 million in variations. Variations for the original contract amounted to R150m.

Mkutshulwa said there was no tender for the IWS contract as no other company could do the work.

She said the company was paid before the contract was signed in August because there was an “interim contract” between April and July. The invoices paid before then were for the “interim agreement”.

About the IWS contract, she said: “Only a letter confirming the conclusion of negotiations was sent to IWS on July 28 2016, but because of internal processes, the relationship for the 36-month contract was terminated in December 2016 before a contract could be signed.

“Although we had terminated the 36-month contract, we renegotiated a six-month interim contract while we went on an open tender, which was approved by the board in December 2016.”

IWS boss Dumi Luthuli also said there was an “interim three-month agreement”, adding that the money paid before the contract was signed was for management, personnel, maintenance, repairs, quality management and chemicals.

After initially being by told CMC-PG Mavundla EB JV lawyer Nicqui Galaktiou that her client would only be able to answer the list of questions sent to them on Friday morning by Wednesday, we received a detailed response after City Press had already gone to print.

Below is the detailed response:

1. When was PG Mavundla appointed to handle this project?
PG Mavundla was NOT appointed. Following a Two Envelope Tender submitted and evaluated the  Joint Venture between CMC SA Branch  and PG Mavundla Engineering (Pty) Ltd was appointed as per the Letter of Acceptance dated 21 May 2014 received from TCTA (the Employer) on 23 May 2014.

2. How much was PG Mavundla’s contract worth?
Once again for the sake of clarity we record that the contractor duly appointed was CMC / PG Mavundla Engineering Eastern Basin Joint Venture(“CMC PGM JV”). The accepted contract amount was R956,141,123.68 (Nine Hundred and Fifty Six Million, One Hundred and Forty One Thousand, One Hundred and Twenty Three Rand and 68/100), excluding VAT, escalation and contingencies.

3. For how long was the contract supposed to be?
The duration of the contract on conclusion of same was expected to be 18 months (15 months for the  construction works followed by 3 months of plant trial operation) and thereafter a one year maintenance period which is the defect notification period.

4. PG Mavundla was paid an upfront of R81 million, despite the TCTA’s refusal to do this due to the fact that this is not in line with the PFMA. Why was PG Mavundla paid an upfront fee of R81m?
The above was forseen in the Tender Documents available to all tenderers specifying that same will be a condition of the Tender on Award. The advance payment was accordingly duly provided for in the contract entered into with  CMC PG JV.  The contractual condition for payment of the advance payment was that the contractor would provide a Guarantee in favour of the Employer before payment. The Guarantee was duly issued prior to payment being effected. An advance payment was contractually necessary so as to  to enable the contractors to place the order for the deep mining submersible pumps (long lead items). The Employer was not prejudiced in any way in light of the Guarantee requirement.

5. Who approved the advance payment?
As per above mentioned point, an advance payment was foreseen in the Tender documents and on Award became a contractually binding obligation. As per the  usual contract procedure and conditions (FIDIC 1999) the advance payment was certified by the Employer’s consultant (“the Engineer”).

6. This plant was completed and declared operational and commissioned in June last year. But the company continued submitting invoices until, at least, February this year. What was the company invoicing for?
It was agreed between the Parties by way of a duly concluded addendum that CMC-PG JV’s  operation of the plant would be extended until August 2017, in addition to certain necessary additional works related thereto to ease the plant operation and to dispose of the sludge. This is currently being implemented.

7. As far as City Press is concerned, PG Mavundla was contracted to build the Acid Mine Drainage purifying plant. But it appears that, from documents we have received that the TCTA paid  about 7 invoices “Maintenance and Operations” invoices to the company, to the tune of over R40 million. This was from September last year. Did PG Mavundla receive a “Maintenance & Operations” Tender?
Refer to response in paragraph 6 above.

8. If yes, when did the company receive the tender?
Addendum 3 was concluded on 2nd February 2017.

9. How much was the tender worth?
The final cost is not yet determined as the additional work is not yet completed.

10. Was the tender ever advertised?
Yes.

11. If yes, when was it advertised?
The Tender documents were available for collection from 23 July 2013.

12. In which media outlets was it advertised?
Our client is not in a position to indicate the list of media outlets. The Employer will be in a better position to do so. Our client can however confirm that it, as with most other companies, monitors Tenders advertised in newspapers on a daily basis including on line subscription services such as ‘On line Tender SA” and the CIDB website.

13. Please send us all minutes of all the tender processes.
Our client was not involved in the Employer’s Tender adjudication process, which is something you would know. Kindly refer this request to the Employer.

14. PG Mavundla claimed about a further R93m in variations orders. And this was paid. However, according to documents received by City Press, the company further claimed about R144m in variations orders. What was this R144m for?
The total amount of variations certified as per the conditions of the contract by the Employer’s representative , AECOM (the Engineer) as at IPC in 2017, amounts to R152 701 982.27.  In light of your unreasonable timeframes our client cannot confirm what portion of these certified amounts have in fact been received to date. The main variations relate to the realization of an Eskom sub-station to provide power to the plant and improvements to the electro-mechanical components of the plant.

15. Why did the TCTA paid this R144m as it had already paid R93m?
The cumulative amount of variations certified is reported above.

Suspect in Kenya’s ranch raids found dead

BBCThomas MinitoImage copyright The Star

Image caption Thomas Minito was reported missing earlier this week

A Kenyan politician being investigated for the raids in private farms in the Laikipia region has been found dead.

Thomas Minito’s body was found floating in a river in Machakos, 50km (30 miles) from the outskirts of the capital, Nairobi.

Police say he was also being investigated for possible involvement in the shooting of Italian-born conservationist Kuki Gallman.

The army has been deployed to the region to quell months of unrest.

A biting drought in the Laikipia region had forced herders to invade private farms to get fresh grass for their animals.

However, some analysts say local politicians incited pastoralists communities to invade private farms.

Minito was a member of the Baringo county assembly in the Rift Valley and had been reported missing earlier this week, according to media reports.

After examining the body, police said they suspect that he was murdered because he had a head wound.

His family is however yet to verify his identity.

Security forces have been conducting an operation in Laikipia county in central Kenya after a series of attacks on private lodges.

map

Tristan Voorspuy, an ex-British army officer, was killed in March when he went to inspect his lodge.

Pastoralists have accused police of killing hundreds of their animals in an attempt to drive them out of the farms.

The privately-owned Star newspaper reports that Minito was arrested last month and freed on bond for allegedly planning violence in Laikipia and neighbouring Baringo county in which several people were killed or injured and livestock were either stolen or killed.

South Africa – escaped lions wander back into Kruger

News24

2017-05-17 17:27

(File, iStock)

Pretoria – They may have enjoyed their time on the wild side, but for five lions who escaped from the Kruger National Park last week, home is where the heart is.

At a SANParks briefing on Wednesday, officials said that four of the five lions have since returned to the park. While one is still missing, it is believed that the final runaway had most likely also returned to the park.

SANParks acting managing executive of conservation services who is also the head of scientific services, Danie Pienaar said it was not a new phenomenon for animals to escape from the park. However, in the case of the five lions, the animals were far more visible as they were spotted next to the N4.

He said it was obvious that the five male lions all aged between four and five were relatively tame because of the way they reacted to tourists and vehicles.

Pienaar said the lions had not left the park because they felt threatened or were evicted from their pride. The lions probably managed to escape because they were simply wandering around, he said.

Pienaar said because the lions were not habitual offenders and did not behave like animals who had been away from the park for a while, the decision was taken to move them back to the park after they were captured.

Habitual offenders, that kill livestock or act is if they have been harassed, are put down, Pienaar said.

Because the lions were fairly tame, it was not very difficult for rangers to catch them and escort them back into the park.

As for the fifth missing lion, Pienaar said it was likely he had returned to the park to find his “mates”.

“Where they were on the N4 is close to the Komati river, which is a stone’s throw from the Kruger fence so he probably just walked back, because he might have heard his mates roaring on the inside, so in all likelihood, he found his way back,” said Pienaar.

SANPark spokesperson Reynold Thakhuli said they are still receiving false alarms that people have spotted the fifth lion, but there has still been no positive sighting.

He said when there has been a positive sighting and confirmation from the ranger that the fifth lion’s whereabouts are known, they would send out an update.

Armyworm invasion threatens food security in East Africa

Daily Nation

This foreign pest has just invaded Kenyan farms, and nobody knows what to do about it. Tighten your belt, it’s about to get messy.

By VERAH OKEYO

One uneventful afternoon in March this year, insects expert Muo Kasina was enjoying a cold glass of pina colada when he received a call from a small-scale farmer in Kitale, Trans-Nzoia County.

’Must be another worm attack, he thought to himself. He was right. And also wrong. Terribly wrong.

As the farmer described the damage insects had inflicted on his maize plantation — there was nothing that could be salvaged — Dr Kasina’s eyes began to widen as the pina colada lost its attraction.

Damn, I hope it is not the fall armyworm, he thought to himself, again. I hope.

Suddenly, the mind of the entomologist, who is also the director of National Sericulture Research Centre at Kenya Agricultural and Livestock Research Organisation (Kalro), wandered into the Bible story of the plagues that God sent to wipe out Egyptian farms.

PREV NEXT

But the insect in Kitale was worse than the locusts of Egypt. It was the dreaded fall armyworm, and it had the potential to drive an entire nation into hunger and famine. Before arriving in Kenya, it had ravaged over 300,000 hectares of food crop in southern Africa. Dr Kasina, therefore, had every reason to lose appetite for his rum, oineapple juice and coconut cocktail.

He asked research officers in Kitale to look into the matter, and as they visited farms, he consulted regional and international crop experts. Every one of them, down to the last call and e-mail, told him to prepare for the worst.

“This was the first time the fall armyworm was being detected in Kenya,” he told HealthNation recently, “and nobody knew what to do about it.”

The Food and Agriculture Organisation of the United Nations (FAO) says the worm, native to the Americas since 1957, has ravaged Brazil for decades, but no one knows how it crossed the seas to Africa. A few researchers hypothesise that it could have been shipped here alongside maize supplies.

The International Maize and Wheat Improvement Center suggests that it first landed in Nigeria in January last year. From there, it made its way into central and west Africa before burrowing into southern Africa at the start of this year. It arrived in Kenya in March.

And so, barely a year on the continent, the fall armyworm has lived up to its fame. The FAO indicates that Zambia has lost 90,000 hectares of crop, while Malawi and Zimbabwe have lost 17,000 and 130,000 hectares, respectively.

FAO’s Africa coordinator David Phiri is now worried about the food security of the continent because all the countries that the insect has attacked so far are Africa’s key producers of maize, the staple food of more than 80 million people on the continent.

As at April 28, 2017, fall armyworm invasions had been confirmed in 14 other countries, including the whole of East Africa.

The invasions are particularly painful for the region, as they come at a time when the Greater Horn of Africa — Djibouti, Eritrea, Ethiopia, Kenya, Somalia, South Sudan, Sudan and Uganda — is being ravaged by a famine that the United Nations has termed as “the worst in three decades”.

In Kenya, panicky technocrats and researchers met to form a technical working team comprising experts from Kalro, Center for Agricultural and Biosciences International (Cabi), pesticide manufacturers, Kenya Plant Health Inspectorate Services (Kephis) and the Ministry of Agriculture, Livestock and Fisheries.

Their assessment of the damage so far showed that Kenya has lost approximately 15,000 ha of maize, valued at Sh1.3 billion. The annual loss could be 40 million bags of maize, valued at Sh120 billion, assuming that the cost of one bag remains at Sh3,000. That loss is exclusive of the cost of farm inputs, including seeds, fertiliser, irrigation, pesticides, and labour.

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Army worm attack: Agriculture Cabinet Secretary Willy Bett (centre), when he toured some of the maize farms affected by Fall Army Warm invasion, at Kinyoro in Kitale, Trans Nzoia County on April 8, 2017. PHOTO | JARED NYATAYA

FERTILE INSECT

Mr Joseph Ng’etich, director of Crop Resource and Plant Protection at the Ministry of Agriculture, says the counties affected by the worm so far are Bungoma, Busia, Siaya and Kisumu in the western region; Trans-Nzoia — which hosts the maize belt of Kitale, Uasin-Gishu, Kericho, Nandi, Bomet, and Narok in the south Rift; and West Pokot in the north Rift. Others are Baringo and Nakuru in central Rift, and Kwale in the Coast. Last week, Kalro confirmed that the insect had invaded Kiambu.

United in their disdain for the fall armyworm, globally acclaimed agriculture experts gathered in Nairobi at the end of last month to understand its biology. They wanted to track its behavioural ecology — how it feeds, how it reproduces, and what chemicals affect it the most.

Prof Ken Wilson of Lancaster University in the UK said even the insect’s life cycle differentiates it from those that Kenya is used to, such as the African armyworm, a less destructive species that feeds exclusively on maize, wheat, sorghum, rice and pasture grasses, unlike the fall armyworm, which has a voracious appetite and feeds on more than 80 varieties of crops.

Even worse, at the larva stage, the fall armyworm is a cannibal, feeding on other larvae, meaning at maturation it colonises huge swathes of land. Other insects have a life span of between two to six months, and are thus vulnerable to predators and pesticides. The fall armyworm, on the other hand, is not loyal to the natural laws of food-chain dynamics. It reproduces fast, and dies even faster, at the age of two weeks.

“It is new here, so even the mites and spiders have not learnt how to eat it,” said Dr Kasina, of Kalro. “And by the time they do, it will have had its fill and moved on.”

It is also a very fertile insect, laying up to 2,000 eggs within four days in batches of 100 to 200 on immature maize plants. It eats up the leaves — the food-making part of the plant involved in photosynthesis — leaving the plant stunted and unproductive.

This larval destruction takes 14 to 28 days, after which the pest climbs down from the dead plant to the soil to become a pupa, a process that takes seven to 10 days.

Then it becomes a moth, the final product in a series of vampirism cycles on a farm. The moth, a strong flier that can cover up to 100 kilometres a day, lives for about 11 to 14 days.

During this time, the army of moths disperse in the hunt for something else to devour. The spread is as wide geographically as is the intensity in each farm.

The government says its only hope in fighting the worm is in pesticides, and the Ministry of Agriculture says it requires an additional Sh320 million for this. The ministry’s Joseph Ng’etich says the money will be used for training of extension officers, the public and purchase of pesticides.

“Before we know what to do in the long term, we have to slow down its reproduction as quickly as possible,” Ng’etich told HealthyNation.

However, experts have raised environmental concerns over the use of pesticides in this scale, and Mr Ramasany Srinivasan, an entomologist from World Vegetable Centre in Taiwan, says “the pest will develop resistance to available pesticides if application is not managed and guided”.

These concerns are valid as, Dr Kasina says, farmers sprayed double or triple the recommended dose in the hope that they could eradicate the pest faster.

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THE BAD NEWS

Now that it is here, it is not going anywhere

Apart from its agility, the fall armyworm thrives in any temperature above 10 degrees Celsius. That is basically anywhere in Africa.

Staring in the eye of a new threat to the country’s agricultural survival, experts in Kenya have to learn as quickly as possible from other countries that have battled the pest, as well as apply control measures that have been used successfully on other crops in the country.

Small-scale farmers, who contribute 70 per cent of agricultural production in Kenya, according to Food and Agriculture Organisation (FAO) estimates, hold the key to the success of the war on fall armyworms. But even then, Mr Boddupalli Maruthi Prasanna, director of the Global Maize Programme at the International Maize and Wheat Improvement Center (CIMMYT) and the CGIAR Research Programme on Maize, says “we cannot eliminate the pest from Africa”.

“Now that it’s here, it will stay,” he says. “But we can provide support to farmers and provide options to manage their crops against it.”

Dr Muo Kasina says any strategy should limit damage to the environment and costs as much as possible, and that includes using pesticides judiciously. Small-scale farmers, for instance, can pick the insects from their crops or pour ash or fine soil on them.

“They have a soft, delicate skin that would be pricked by the ash,” he says.

In large-scale farms, Dr Kasina advises that the government deploys the military or the National Youth Service. To pick the worm, however, farmers have to differentiate it from its cousin, the African armyworm. Major markers include the fact that it does not move in colonies, its fully grown larva has a set of four dots on the end of the abdomen that look little black bumps that make a square, and it also has an inverted Y on the head capsule and white stripes just behind the head.

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POSSIBLE SOLUTIONS

Intercropping: Intercropping with legumes has been used as an effective control method. In Nicaragua, for instance, it reduced infestation by 30 per cent in 1981. The cassava plant has also been cited in studies as immune to the pest’s appetite because of the cyanide the plant produces.

Biological warfare: In 2013, Kalro used pheromones — a chemical produced by an insect to modify how members of its species relate to it — to reduce sandflies, which had so ravaged Kenya’s avocado crop that South Africa banned it. “The female pest produces chemicals to attract the males,” expalins Dr Muo Kasina. “We harvest that chemical and make synthetic forms of it, which we place in farms. The males are attracted to the trap and are killed en masse. When all the males are decimated, the pest will not reproduce, and so it dies off.”

Genetic engineering: The United States has managed to resist massive fall armyworm losses by planting genetically modified maize, but the jury is still out on the use of genetic material in Kenya.

Kenya – anti-Ruto candidates in in Jubilee North Rift primaries

Daily Nation

North Rift anti-Ruto rebels bask in glory of primary wins

Wednesday May 3 2017
Deputy President William Ruto gestures during a church service at PCEA Zimmerman Parish on November 6,2016. Four North Rift politicians seen as having rebelled against the DP are basking in glory after wnning Jubilee Party tickets. PHOTO | EVANS HABIL | NATION MEDIA GROUP

Deputy President William Ruto gestures during a church service at PCEA Zimmerman Parish on November 6,2016. Four North Rift politicians seen as having rebelled against the DP are basking in glory after winning Jubilee Party tickets. PHOTO | EVANS HABIL | NATION MEDIA GROUP 

By WYCLIFF KIPSANG and  BARNABAS BII

Uasin Gishu politicians perceived to have rebelled against Deputy President William Ruto are basking in glory after registering outright wins in the recent Jubilee Party nominations.

The four are Uasin Gishu Governor Jackson Mandago, MPs Alfred Keter (Nandi Hills) and Oscar Sudi (Kapseret) and former Cherangany MP Joshua Kutuny.

Mr Keter and Mr Sudi have gone on holiday on the coast after successful party primaries, saying the will of the people carried the day.

“The outcome of the polls has clearly shown that it is only the people who decide on the leaders they want.

“This is a wake-up call to Jubilee that wananchi do not like sycophants but people who talk on pertinent issues affecting them,” Mr Keter told the Nation by phone.

The two MPs were categorical that being independent-minded should not be mistaken as being rebels or undermining anybody politically.

PEOPLE’S WILL

“Our main agenda now is to campaign for President Uhuru Kenyatta’s re-election in the North Rift as we focus on doing the same for Deputy President William Ruto’s 2022 bid,” said Mr Keter.

Mr Keter garnered 19,734 votes against Emmanuel Tallam’s 5,620 votes. Mr Tallam was a communications director at the deputy president’s office

Mr Sudi received 15,864 votes to beat his challenger Steve Kewa in Kapseret. Mr Kewa was second with 8,831 votes.

“At least the results reflected the will of the people. The voters spoke loudly,” said Mr Sudi.

Mr Sudi, Mr Keter and Governor Jackson Mandago had claimed in the run-up to the party primaries that there was a plot to rig them out in the party primaries.

Governor Mandago and the two MPs had openly hit out at officials at the deputy president’s office who, they claimed, had come up with a list of preferred candidates.

GRAB LAND

According to Mr Mandago, the individuals were plotting to have one of their own control the administration of their targeted areas by influencing nomination results.

“The operatives want to grab land and plunder public resources in the region [and] thus the rush to impose their cronies on the people.

“I have respected and campaigned for the party for the last four years, but I wonder why some people are plotting to have me removed. It is only the voters to decide who will be their leaders,” said Mr Mandago then.

The claims prompted President Uhuru Kenyatta to intervene by defending Mr Ruto against the accusations, saying neither of them had preferred candidates.

“We have said that we don’t have any preferred candidates. We want the choice of the people to prevail. We will work with whoever the people have decided to be their leaders,” President Kenyatta said last week when the duo addressed the nation over the Jubilee Party primaries.

BEING TARGETED

Mr Mandago eventually emerged the winner after garnering 126,681 votes against his closest opponent Zedekiah “Buzeki” Bundotich, who received 82,869 votes.

The governor and the two MPs had claimed that Mr Kutuny was also targeted in the scheme.

However, Mr Kutuny also won the party’s ticket after garnering 15,385 votes against 2012 Boston marathon champion Wesley Korir, who got 8,378 votes.

“This victory is a clear indication that the electorate still has confidence in what I did for them during my tenure as MP. I call upon my colleague to support me in my journey,” said Mr Kutuny.

 

South Africa – W Cape court rules SA nuclear deal unlawful

News24

Cape Town – A court ruling declaring government’s actions to secure a nuclear build plan for South Africa unlawful, occurred on the very same day a nuclear disaster happened in Chernobyl, Russia, said Makoma Lekalakala of Earthlife Africa Johannesburg.

“The timing of the judgment, before this important day in South Africa’s history and on the day of the nuclear disaster in Russia, adds to the sense of justice being done,” she said in a statement.

Earthlife and the South African Faith Communities Environment Institute (Safcei) launched a joint court bid in October 2015 to stop government from procuring nuclear energy.

READ: Nuclear battle not over yet – OUTA

Judge Lee Bozalek on Wednesday ruled in favour of the two organisations’ court bid, declaring government’s attempts to secure 9.6 GW of nuclear energy unlawful, including the initial determination to procure nuclear energy in 2013, the cooperation agreements signed with Russia, the US and South Korea, as well as former energy minister Tina Joemat-Pettersson’s decision to hand over the procurement of nuclear energy to Eskom late last year.

“[The ruling was a] victory for justice and the rule of law and the people of South Africa,” said Makoma Lekalakala of Earthlife.

“After over a year and a half of court preparation for justice, Earthlife and Safcei were finally able to block the unlawful and unconstitutional actions of the South African government in its nuclear deal,” she added.

READ: FULL JUDGMENT: Nuclear process declared unlawful 

Safcei spokesperson Liziwe McDaid said the two organisations experienced considerable “delays and dirty tricks along the road to the courts”.

“But we persevered and now we have been vindicated,” she said.

SAFCEI and Earthlife based their case on the South African Constitution, McDaid said, which states that when it comes to far-reaching decisions, such as the nuclear deal, which would alter the future of our country, government is legally required to debate in Parliament and do a thorough, transparent and meaningful public consultation.

Public participation to underpin energy policy

According to Adrian Pole, legal representative for Earthlife and Safcei, the judgment means that there is no decision in terms of the relevant empowering statute that new nuclear generation capacity is needed and should be procured in South Africa.

READ: Energy minister to cough up for nuclear court costs 

“The Russian agreement has been declared unlawful and unconstitutional for its tabling. Before any nuclear procurement can proceed, the Minster of Energy in concurrence with the National Energy Regulator of South Africa (NERSA) will be required to make a new determination in accordance with a lawful process that is transparent and includes public participation.

“This will necessarily require disclosure of relevant information that to date has been kept from the public, including critical information on costs and affordability,” Pole said.

Project 90 by 2030 – an environmental non-profit organisation – called the court ruling a “victory for democracy”.

“Both Safcei and Earthlife are small organisations, with a handful of people working tirelessly over the last few years on this issue,” said researcher Richard Halsey. “Despite all the high level issues of state capture and patronage politics, the courts are still standing up for due process and the need to have energy planning done in a transparent and consultative manner.”

Reuters

By Wendell Roelf | CAPE TOWN

CAPE TOWN A South African pact with Russia’s Rosatom to build nuclear reactors was deemed unlawful by a High Court on Wednesday, casting fresh doubt over the country’s energy plans.

Operator of Africa’s only nuclear power station, Eskom wants to add 9,600 megawatts (MW) of nuclear capacity – equivalent to up to 10 nuclear reactors – to help wean the economy off of polluting coal in what could one of the world’s biggest nuclear contracts in decades.

South Africa and Russia signed an Intergovernmental Agreement (IGA) in 2014 that sealed a cooperation pact between state-owned nuclear group Rosatom and state-owned utility Eskom.

Judge Lee Bozalek said any request for information to kickstart the procurement process was set aside as was the cooperation pact. The deal had included a favourable tax regime for Russia and placed heavy financial obligations on South Africa, Bozalek said.

“Seen as a whole, the Russian IGA stands well outside the category of a broad nuclear cooperation agreement, and at the very least, sets the parties well on their way to a binding, exclusive agreement in relation to the procurement of new reactor plants from that particular country,” Bozalek said.

The Southern African Faith Communities Environment Institute (SAFCEI) and Earthlife Africa-Johannesburg had jointly filed the court application to stop the nuclear programme.

“There are no more secret deals and everything has to be done in the open,” said SAFCEI spokeswoman Liz McDaid.

It was not clear whether the government would appeal the ruling.

The government has downplayed the agreement with Russia, saying it was not a final contract and that an open tender process would still be conducted.

The Department of Energy said the government “has not entered into any deal or signed any contract for the procurement of nuclear power,” adding that it has signed IGA’s with the United States, South Korea, China, Russia, and France.

The head of South African nuclear state agency said last year that Rosatom was not the frontrunner and that the tender would be open to all bidders.

Eskom Chief Nuclear Officer Dave Nicholls said: “We haven’t been through the judgement yet so we can’t comment.”

Rosatom officials in Moscow and in Johannesburg said the company “could not comment on legal disputes between South African entities that do not directly involve us.”

The main opposition Democratic Alliance (DA) party said the nuclear battle would now return to parliament and it would use all its powers to block the deal.

NUCLEAR OPTION

After the 2011 nuclear disaster in Fukushima led many countries to cut back nuclear programmes, South Africa is one of the few still considering a major new reactor project and the tender is eagerly awaited by manufacturers from South Korea, France, the United States and China.

With U.S. firm Westinghouse in Chapter 11 proceedings and France’s Areva being restructured, Rosatom’s two main competitors are hamstrung by financial difficulties, boosting the Russian firm’s chances.

China has little experience building reactors abroad and Korea’s KEPCO has only one major foreign reactor contract, in the United Arab Emirates.

France, which built South Africa’s two existing reactors, is keen to stay in the race and utility EDF – which is taking over Areva’s reactor manufacturing unit – said last month it would respond to Pretoria’s “request for information”.

Eskom sees nuclear as an option to replace coal-fired power, but some economists, however, have questioned whether the country’s ailing economy can afford a nuclear building programme they estimate could cost around 1 trillion rand ($76 billion).

Some pundits say former finance minister Pravin Gordhan was fired partly because he resisted pressured by a faction allied to President Jacob Zuma to back nuclear expansion.

New Finance Minister Malusi Gigaba has said nuclear expansion will only be pursued if it is affordable.

The ruling would not stop the nuclear plan, analysts said.

Travis Hough, business unit leader for energy & environment at consultancy Frost & Sullivan Africa, said: “This is most probably just another bump in the road and nothing is going to derail the nuclear programme.”

(Additional reporting by Mfuneko Toyana in Johannesburg, Jack Stubbs in Moscow and Geert De Clercq in Paris; Editing by James Macharia)

 

South Africa – how to save the Karoo

News24

2017-04-26 07:17

As the Karoo faces increased development, scientists are calling on citizens to help them research this unique landscape. (Ashraf Hendricks, GroundUp)

As the Karoo faces increased development, scientists are calling on citizens to help them research this unique landscape. (Ashraf Hendricks, GroundUp)

Oudtshoorn – “Scientists know very little about the plants and animals in the Karoo, and there is an urgent need to document the indigenous species found in this important part of South Africa,” says the Karoo BioGaps Project, a citizen science initiative which aims to document the Karoo’s natural resources.

But this vast track of South Africa, which contains a wide range of animal and plant life despite its extreme temperatures and low rainfall, is being eyed for development. Shale gas exploration, solar plants and other infrastructure are being earmarked for the Karoo, to boost much-needed development. But without data, scientists and policy makers do not know which areas require additional protection or to be left alone entirely.

“We need to learn which species are widespread, and which are sensitive to proposed future changes in land use and development,” says the newly launched project, GroundUp reports.

There are two ways you can get involved in documenting Karoo biodiversity:

• You can photograph Karoo species and upload your pics to http://www.ispotnature.org/projects/karoo-biogap. There is also a community forum where uploaders can discuss photos and observations.
• Even if you have no plans for visiting the Karoo anytime soon, you can help to transcribe the thousands of historical records at http://transcribe.sanbi.org/. These treasure troves were collected before conservationists and explorers dreamed that a person would be able to take and share photos with anyone in the world instantly.

Historical records

“It is absolutely critical for us to digitise these old herbarium and museum records as they are basically unavailable for use by scientists in their un-digitised format,” says Carol Poole, the South Africa’s National Biodiversity Institute (SANBI) project co-ordinator for biodiversity research.

“The ability these days to crunch large datasets means that including all these historical records along with current fieldwork records is very important.

“They give us a perspective of what species existed where in the past, and we can compare that to where we find these species in the fieldwork being conducted today. So comparing historical and current species records is an important part of assessing species’ distribution and threat status,” she says.

Some of these records date back to the 1830s, and digitising them will make them accessible to anyone who wants to look at them. There are 12 main groups that the Karoo BioGap Project is looking to inventory: plants, mammals, amphibians, reptiles, freshwater fish, birds, bees, spiders, dragon flies, scorpions, grasshoppers and butterflies.

Climate change

Citizen science is the latest trend in resource cataloguing, but researchers say that engaging non-scientists in this way introduces them to a world that usually gathers dust in archives or allow them to discover new things.

There are a number of citizen science projects in South Africa, allowing anyone interested to choose the project that would suit their interests best.

For example, rePhotoSA, an initiative from the Plant Conservation Unit and the Animal Demography Unit at the University of Cape, is collecting photos from around southern Africa to track how climate change and development have altered landscapes. It calls itself a “repeat photography project of southern African landscapes”  http://rephotosa.adu.org.za/

For a more hands-on experience, the miniSASS project aims to create an inventory of life in our rivers and dams. The types and numbers of small animals living in our water bodies tell whether that water is in a good condition or not. Based on the SASS (the South African Scoring System), this initiative is the brain-child of the Water Research Commission, environmental consulting organisation GroundTruth, and the Wildlife and Environmental Society of South Africa (Wessa). This information is then passed on to policy makers.

Digitised records

Asked what volunteers got in return for being part of  the Karoo BioGaps Project, Poole says that they will be helping decision-makers on important national issues, such as the shale gas development.

“There is also the excitement of being part of history in a way – transcribing these historical records will mean that the transcriber themselves has played a role in history as these digitised records will exist in databases forever.”

One thing that makes the Karoo BioGaps Project stand out is that its managers recognise that sometimes kudos is not enough. There are also prizes for the most pictures and most transcriptions.