Judge dies of mamba bite | Mokonyane: from cabinet to chair | Naked Chef loses chain | Caster plans track return


Judge dies of mamba bite

Highly-respected and popular Cape Town Labour Court Judge Anton Steenkamp has died after being bitten by a black mamba in Zambia. Steenkamp was on holiday with his wife Catherine when he was bitten on Monday. Relative Ruby Steenkamp told News24: ‘We are devastated. No words. What an incredible man. His wife, Catherine, is still on her own in Zambia. They were touring Africa. We as a family were very, very proud of him.’

Niki Lauda dies

Three-time Formula 1 world champion Niki Lauda ‘passed away peacefully’ on Monday, just nine months after undergoing a lung transplant. The legendary Austrian, who won the 1975 and 1977 world titles with Ferrari and a third with McLaren in 1984, is probably best known for his return to racing after being badly burned in a crash at the 1976 German Grand Prix. More recently, as non-executive chairman for the Mercedes team, Lauda was instrumental in bringing Lewis Hamilton to the team, a partnership which has yielded five world championships so far. 

Mokonyane: from cabinet to chair

Nomvula Mokonyane – notorious for her disastrous tenure as water and sanitation minister – will no longer be a cabinet minister. It was announced yesterday that she would be the ‘chair of chairs’ in the new parliament  – effectively the person who co-ordinates the activities of parliamentary committees. It is an influential position, but a distinct step down from a cabinet post: she is presently the Environmental Affairs Minister. In other ANC announcements yesterday it was revealed that Thandi Modise will be the party’s candidate for Speaker of the National Assembly (succeeding Baleka Mbete) and Job Mokgoro will be the new North West premier. 

Zuma judges slam advocate

Jacob’s Zuma’s bid in the Pietermaritzburg High Court to have his corruption charges set aside went into its second day today with, well, not much happening by the time of writing. French arms company Thales is also bidding for a permanent stay of prosecution for its role in the alleged offences, and its advocate Anton Katz spent much of the day being berated by irritated judges. Judge Thoba Poyo-Dlwati said Katz was repeating parts of his presentation and added: ‘When you make the argument over and over, we lose it. Let’s just digest it. Sometimes a lawyer makes a good argument but ruins it by repeating themselves’. He was still at it this afternoon. News24 is doing a live feed on proceedings. Yesterday evening Zuma told a crowd that had gathered outside the court after the day’s proceedings: ‘You can’t build a respectable case and in the other hand conspire to charge an innocent citizen like Zuma.’


A homophobic crusade? 

Crusaders players have been accused of intimidating and ridiculing two gay men at a McDonald’s in Cape Town after their 19-19 Super Rugby Match draw against the Stormers on Saturday night. While what actually transpired is still a they-said they-said muddle, the Crusaders come across as louts. The team’s management were quick to ‘strongly refute’ the accusations and, according to coach Scott Robertson, it was all one massive misunderstanding. He explained that All Black George Bridge, one of the players involved in the fracas, just wanted a photo with one of the men and it was all ‘a selfie gone wrong really’. Really? The rugby players have been accused of making homophobic slurs, limp wrist gestures and adopting high pitched voices, which doesn’t sound like a selfie gone wrong. This ugly slice of menace behaviour comes hot on the heels of Israel Folau being fired by Rugby Australia following his disgusting comments condemning gays and transgender people to hell unless they repent. 


Sekunjalo offer ‘came with strings’

A senior executive at the Public Investment Corporation has told the PIC inquiry that Sekunjalo offered to buy out the PIC’s shares in Independent Media at almost double their book value – but the offer came with a catch: the PIC would have to cough up a much bigger investment in Sekunjalo’s Sagarmatha Technologies Limited plan. Senior market risk analyst Tshifhango Ndadza said it would have been a great deal for the PIC without the Sagarmatha link. Sekunjalo would also have benefited if it ‘bought’ the shares at the inflated price, as Sagamartha could then also reflect an inflated value for Independent Media on its books, even though Independent was technically insolvent – it’s liabilities exceeded its assets by R500m to R600m, he said. The PIC invested R1.285bn in 2013 to help Sekunjalo buy Independent Media from its former Irish owners. 

Lonmin cuts mines, jobs

Lonmin has begun a retrenchment process that will see 4,100 people lose their jobs at six platinum mines. The mines are to be closed as they have run out of commercially viable ore.


Caster plans track return

World 800m Champion Caster Semenya will compete in the 3,000 metres at the Diamond League’s Prefontaine Classic in California on June 30. The 3,000m race falls outside the IAAF’s controversial testosterone ruling, which means Semenya can compete without reducing her levels of the hormone. Semenya is adamant she will not take medication to lower her testosterone levels, despite the IAAF rules. The California event is likely to be her first official outing since the rules came into effect earlier this month. The rules require athletes with the so-called ‘46 XY DSD’ condition to lower their testosterone levels if they are elevated above a certain level and wish to compete in events from 400m up to a mile.

Another heads overseas 

Another rugby player is heading overseas to earn pounds but there was some good news for South African fans yesterday. The Sharks will lose the services of lock Ruan Botha who has signed a complicated deal that sees him heading to the London Irish for six months, then to Japan’s Kubota Spears before settling back with the London Irish for the 2020 season. However, a slew of Stormers players have committed to the Cape franchise next season. Afrikaans newspaper Rapport at the weekend reported that lock/flank Pieter-Steph du Toit, flank Siya Kolisi, lock JD Schickerling, hooker Bongi Mbonambi and props Steven Kitshoff, Wilco Louw and Frans Malherbe have all committed to staying in the Western Cape. Eben Etzebeth is however still leaving for Toulon. The report suggests the appointment of coach John Dobson is the reason the players have opted to stay.


That’s clear, then

George RR Martin, the creator of the books on which Game of Thrones was based, has posted a blog reflecting on the ending of the series, and answering the one big question that has been concentrating the minds of thousands of fans: when he gets to finally writing up the ending in the books (the TV series overtook them and had to come up with an imagined ending which didn’t sit well with many fans), will it end differently? The answer: ‘Well… yes. And no. And yes. And no. And yes. And no. And yes.’ You can read Martin’s reflections on the end of the series here.

Naked Chef loses chain

Celebrity chef Jamie Oliver’s restaurant chain has collapsed and been placed under administration. The move means that 1,300 people are set to lose their jobs. The closure affects 23 restaurants, but Oliver’s other business interests are unaffected. 


Kitten boxing

This very short clip of a cat managing its kittens was posted by Paul Bronks, saying drily: The maternal instinct is strong with this one. 


Clothes to dye for

Your clothes will soon be your ‘canary in the coal mine’, alerting you to dangerous gases and pollution. Nanotechnology scientists at Tufts University in Massachusetts have developed a simple technique where your clothes change colours to warn you of dangerous breathing conditions. Sameer Sonkusale, a mechanical and computer engineer who leads the university’s Nano Lab, told The Daily Beast, that his lab has been working on a variety of low cost, portable sensing platforms that can give people access to data about the world around them they otherwise haven’t had access to. The colour-changing technology uses dyes that change colour when they’re exposed to specific gases. For example, bromothymol blue dye responds to ammonia and methyl red dye reacts to hydrogen chloride — both gases commonly found in cleaning supplies and fertilizer. ‘We realised we could provide a way that people can see the pollution in their environment,’ said Sonkusale.


Tuesday’s terrific tweeter is Fred Delicious (@Fred_Delicious) for this outstanding Dad joke:

Q: Why did the ghost’s desserts come back when he threw it?
A: It was a boo meringue

Not reading the replies to this



Today’s clue compiled by Kieron Callaghan‏ is, Old enough to know throwing cone at Farage is the beginning! (2,1,7,3)

The solution to yesterday’s clue, Learns about a different side of London? (7) is ARSENAL – an anagram of ‘learns’ and ‘a (‘different’ is the anagram indicator) and the answer to our second clue, He tips poorly on golf course (6), is SPIETH – an anagram of ‘he tips’ (‘poorly’ is the anagram indicator), gives the name of the US golfer on the PGA Tour and former world number one.


What happens when cocaine washes up on the shores of a very small island? The Guardian reports on the impact of the marching powder on the island of São Miguel after it was flooded with high-grade cocaine almost two decades ago. 


Helen Zille has probably earned the right to be rude, blunt, irrational … whatever she wants to be. But she might want to take into account the fact that she will forever be associated with the DA. That’s what happens when you lead a party and become its premier in the only province it controls. Her newfound outspokenness on race might seem to some like a breath of fresh air, but it is short on nuance and long on generalisation. And the people who are going to pay are the new generation of DA leaders who are desperately trying to attract black people into their ranks.

GroundUp and us

the.news.letter is partnering with GroundUp for the month of May, so those of you who subscribe to both outlets will find us there as well. For those of you who don’t, do yourself a favour and head over to GroundUp for some excellent journalism on under-reported issues in our country. To see some of their groundbreaking work, have a look at this link.

Posted in News | Comments Off on Judge dies of mamba bite | Mokonyane: from cabinet to chair | Naked Chef loses chain | Caster plans track return

Zuma’s High Court bid to end trial | ‘Irrational’ Public Protector’s report invalid | Proteas are (mostly) fit to play | Google pulls plug on Huawei


Zuma’s High Court bid to end trial

Jacob Zuma was back in the Pietermaritzburg High Court today, trying to get a permanent stay of prosecution on corruption charges. His legal team suggested that ‘undue delays’ in the decade-long case were such that he had been unfairly prejudiced and it should be struck from the roll. The state, yet to respond, will no doubt point out that the delays are largely due to Zuma’s own delaying tactics – the so-called ‘Stalingrad defence’ he has adopted. You can read updates courtesy of News24 here.  And if you believe the old adage that ‘birds of a feather stick together’ then things might not be looking all that good for Zuma: among the crowd that gathered outside were disgraced MK veteran Carl Niehaus, Des ‘Weekend Special’ van Rooyen and Andile Mngxitama, fresh from leading the BLF to an election walloping. 

Breaking news

Western Cape businessman Rob Packham was this afternoon found guilty of murdering his wife. You can read about it courtesy of News24.

South Africans in Egypt blast

Several South Africans were injured in a bomb blast targeting a tourist bus near the Giza pyramids in Egypt yesterday. The bus was transporting a reported 25 South Africans to the pyramids from the airport when a roadside bomb was detonated, according to reports. No fatalities were reported but at least three South Africans are among the 17 injured in the blast. Islamic militants – locked in a battle with the country’s military forces – are thought to have been responsible.

Legend-dairy weapon

Politicians have been pelted with eggs, but now milkshakes have become a weapon of mess production. According to CNN, police ordered a McDonald’s in Scotland to stop selling milkshakes over fears protesters would dunk them over Brexit campaigner Nigel Farage, who was holding an event in Edinburgh on Friday ahead of European elections. A milkshake-dunking movement in Britain began after recent footage of protesters throwing  milkshakes over far-right campaigners Tommy Robinson and Carl Benjamin. Burger King saw a gap and tweeted that it would be ‘selling milkshakes all weekend’ in Scotland, urging people to have fun but drink responsibly.    

‘Irrational’ Public Protector report invalid 

Public Protector Busisiwe Mkhwebane has more legal egg on her face after the North Gauteng High Court ruled her Guptas’ Vrede dairy farm project report was unconstitutional – and called her irrational. The court overturned her report today after the DA and the Council for the Advancement of the SA Constitution applied to have it reviewed. The project, meant to empower black emerging farmers, is one of the most scandalous allegations involving the Guptas’ state capture saga. The #GuptaLeaks emails revealed how at least R30m from the project ended up paying for the family’s exorbitant Sun City wedding in 2013. The DA insisted Mkhwebane’s report was a cover-up because it failed to hold to account those responsible for looting almost R200m of public money. The public protector gave no indication of the role played by ANC secretary-general Ace Magashule, then Free State premier, and Mosebenzi Zwane, then the province’s MEC for Agriculture, and former mineral resources minister. 


Shriller Zille 

Helen Zille just can’t help herself. After ranting on social media that looting was ‘black privilege’ she doubled down and ranted some more, trading Twitter blows with actor Hlomla Dandala, politician Makhosi Khoza, the former public protector Thuli Madonsela and everyone else with a keyboard. Zille has embarked on a mission to take on ‘woke’ people, but her tone-deaf Twitter tirades just make her come across as patronising and insensitive. Predictably, there was a backlash, a backlash against the backlash, accusations of racism and reverse racism, allegations of generalisations and claims of double standards and just lots and lots of noise.The outgoing Western Cape premier has made a tremendous contribution to the country – and hopefully will continue to play a valuable role as she exits formal politics – but only if she manages to give up her Twitter addiction.  


Fedusa fires George over Ayo shares 

Trade union Fedusa has fired its former general secretary Dennis George for serious misconduct relating to his involvement in buying shares in Ayo Technology Solutions. George’s role in Ayo came to light at the PIC inquiry when it was revealed that he had bought 11 million shares through his Difeme company and had accepted a non-executive directorship of Ayo. He said the shares were bought for the union but Fedusa said he had acted without a mandate and had not disclosed his directorship. The Difeme shares were purchased at a price of R1.50 while the PIC paid R43 per share. Ayo shares were trading at R10.99 at close of business on Friday, 75% down from the PIC’s investment price.

Google pulls plug on Huawei

Google has terminated the contract of Chinese tech giant Huawei that allows it to use Google products in its Android smartphones – a direct outcome of the Trump administration’s new limitations on technology trade with China. Google confirmed it had revoked the licence to comply with the new US rules but said existing devices fitted with Google products would be able to keep using them – they just won’t get any future updates.


Koepka survives late scare

American Brooks Koepka survived a final-round scare to hold off Dustin Johnson and win the US PGA Golf Championship by two shots. After three days where Koepka built a seemingly invincible seven-shot lead, he wobbled dramatically with four bogeys in four holes on the back nine of the final round on his way to an unconvincing 74. At the same time, two groups ahead, Johnson finally mounted a charge – much to the delight of the boorish New York fans. Johnson clawed his way to within a shot of the leader, but the grandstand finish was averted when ‘DJ’ (as the fans were loudly chanting every time they were not inanely willing the ball to ‘Get in the hole’) dropped shots at 16 and 17 to give Koepka the cushion he needed to bogey 17 and still win by two. Erik van Rooyen was the leading South African on one-over par in a tie for eighth. Koepka’s back-to-back PGA title – his fourth win from the last eight majors – returns him to number one on the world rankings. 

SA’s super surprising successes

In a weekend of Super Rugby surprises, all the South African conference teams enjoyed taking league points off their Antipodean opponents. At Newlands the Stormers grabbed a morale-boosting 19-19 draw with the high-riding Crusaders and further dented the log leaders’ aura of invincibility. The two points have kept the Western Cape side in contention for the playoffs, but only just. The Lions dented the Highlanders hopes with a plucky 38-29 win while the Bulls were full value for a 32-17 victory over the Rebels for a rare away win for the Pretoria side. The Jaguares briefly took over top spot in the South African conference when they shocked the Hurricanes 28-20, but the Bulls’ triumph a couple of hours later left the Pretoria side as the conference leaders and pushed them up to second on the overall log.

Are City the best ever?

Manchester City were able to use the FA Cup as a celebration of the greatest domestic season ever when they became the first team to win the League title, League Cup and FA Cup in one season. The 6-0 margin would be embarrassing for Watford if it was against any other side, but the record-equalling FA Cup final score just underlined the quality of Pep Guardiola’s side. The domestic dominance of City will lead to comparisons with the 1999 Manchester United side which won the Premier League, Champions League and FA Cup; Arsenal who were unbeaten in the 2004 Premier League season; and the 1994 Liverpool team who were First Division, European Cup and League Cup champions. Meanwhile, City captain Vincent Kompany confirmed he will be leaving Manchester and joining Anderlecht as a player/manager next season.

Proteas are (mostly) fit to play

The Proteas left for the Cricket World Cup in England yesterday with a near full strength squad after all but one of their remaining injury concerns were declared fully fit. Fast bowlers Kagiso Rabada‚ Lungi Ngidi‚ all-rounder JP Duminy and spinner Tabraiz Shamsi were all given the green light to play while Dale Steyn may miss the opening match on May 30, but is expected to be fit for the remaining matches. Anrich Nortje was replaced by Chris Morris earlier this month. South Africa open their World Cup campaign against the tournament favourites and hosts England. 


GoT fans want a remake

Over a million unhappy Game of Thrones fans have signed a petition asking HBO to hire a completely new team of writers to rewrite the whole of Season 8 of the series that ended last night. The fan who started the petition, one DylanD, says he set up the online petition in a fit of pique when he was annoyed after episode 4, and didn’t realise it had any momentum until a friend asked him if it was his petition. At which time he discovered it had already reached 500,000 signatures. The problem is that the show is based on a book series, A Song of Ice and Fire, which is not yet complete. And fans are furiously arguing about how the author George R R Martin plans to wrap it up. Considering that HBO spent $15m to make each episode, it is unlikely to buckle, but there is some pressure now on Mr Martin. 


Heavy petting is udder madness

Swiss app Castl thought it had stumbled upon a cash cow and launched a bizarre challenge to raise money for charity – the Cow Kiss Challenge (KuhKussChallenge). People are urged to smooch bovines ‘with or without tongues’ for charity. How exactly kissing a cow raises money is unclear, as is the specifics of the charity. And yet, people in Switzerland and Austria have been smooching cows. However, Austria has ordered its citizens to refrain from puckering up. The Guardian quoted the country’s agriculture minister, Elisabeth Köstinger, who said: ‘Pastures and meadows are not petting zoos – actions like these could have serious consequences.’  


Ass if! 

From cows to donkeys. See why a video of a donkey cart driver reversing out of a parking bay in Mahikeng, North West, has gone viral.


Monday’s marvellous tweeter is Robyn (@Robyn Hobson) for this:

Helped a 90-year-old woman cross the street this morning. 
Seeing our glacial pace, a driver stopped, flicked on the hazards and blocked traffic so we could cross safely.
Halfway thru, the sweet, old duck pipes up: ‘Well look at me, I’m stopping traffic at my age!’



We have two sports related clues. The first, compiled by Kieron Callaghan, is: Learns about a different side of London? (7) and the second, compiled by above-par cruciverbalist Charles Machanik, is: He tips poorly on golf course (6)

The solution to Friday’s clue, One hundred arms and legs going uphill (6), is CLIMBS – a word sum of C (the Roman numeral for ‘one hundred’) + LIMBS (arms and legs), which is what you do when you’re going uphill.  


Scared of what information about you Facebook may be tracking and sharing with others? They are not the only ones monetising your private life – those innocuous free games you downloaded for your kids, or for your own idle hours, are tracking your digital life. The Vox will make you think twice about how casually you load games on your phone.  

And just in case weights and measures matter to you, you may want to know that the way we measure things changes today. Everywhere. Here’s The Conversation’s interesting explainer on how far we have come from the days when we relied on the size of a Pharoh’s forearm to set measurements. It’s a bit technical in parts, but makes interesting reading.


Developments in Makhanda (Grahamstown) last week might be a metaphor for the country at large. As has been extensively documented, Gift of the Givers pulled out of a project to supply water to the town after local businesses were paid R10-million … for work done by the NGO at its own expense. The breathtaking brazenness of the rip-off suggests that those behind it do not think there will be consequences. As, no doubt, do those responsible for the estimated R1.5-trillion lost to state capture. Ratings agency Moody’s – normally well disposed to this country – has warned that we are at a tipping point. It is precisely the sort of behaviour that took place in Makhanda that has taken us there. Only decisive action against such roguery will pull us back from the brink.

GroundUp and us

the.news.letter is partnering with GroundUp for the month of May, so those of you who subscribe to both outlets will find us there as well. For those of you who don’t, do yourself a favour and head over to GroundUp for some excellent journalism on under-reported issues in our country. To see some of their groundbreaking work, have a look at this link.

Posted in News | Comments Off on Zuma’s High Court bid to end trial | ‘Irrational’ Public Protector’s report invalid | Proteas are (mostly) fit to play | Google pulls plug on Huawei