PP loses, and must pay costs – again | NHI Bill tabled | Molefe must cough up | Scientists find Squawkzilla


Ramaphosa triumphs in Mkhwebane case

Public Protector Busisiwe Mkhwebane was on the receiving end of yet another damning court ruling today – this time losing to President Cyril Ramaphosa. Mkhwebane had insisted that Ramaphosa immediately take ‘appropriate disciplinary action’ over a finding against Pravin Gordhan, in spite of the fact that the public enterprises minister was taking it on judicial review. The finding in question was the one in which she said Gordhan had erred when he was the SA Reserve Bank commissioner by granting a full pension to his deputy, Ivan Pillay. The Gauteng High Court’s Judge Lettie Molopa-Sethosa found that it was ‘reasonable and rational’ that Ramaphosa wait for the outcome of the review and that it was ‘mind boggling’ that Mkhwebane had insisted that the disciplinary action should go ahead. ‘Minister Gordhan, like everyone else, has rights. Why now subject him to disciplinary action when there is a review pending?’ she asked. The judge also pointed out that Mkhwebane’s demand in this case was ‘inconsistent’ with her response to other cases which had been taken on review – a finding that is bound to reinforce perceptions that she is engaged in politicking. And she ordered Mkhwebane and the EFF – which had joined the case – to pay legal costs. The EFF immediately announced that it would be appealing the judgement.

Here comes the NHI Bill

The National Health Insurance Bill was tabled in parliament today. What is it all about and why is it controversial? Here the Bhekisisa Centre for Health Journalism provides a handy summary. The centre’s website – https://bhekisisa.org – also has other detailed analyses of the Bill, which are worth a read.  

Disguise bid prisoner commits suicide

Yesterday we reported on the man who tried to escape from a Rio de Janeiro, Brazil, prison by disguising himself as his daughter. Gang leader and drug trafficker Claudio da Silva was caught by prison guards and sent back to his cell. Today media from the country are reporting that he has committed suicide, but prison authorities are providing no other details. Da Silva’s disguise for his escape bid included a silicone mask and black wig. He had been sentenced to 73 years in prison for drug trafficking. 

What’s #RamaphosaLeaks all about?

This is a longish read but worth it if you are trying to wade through the ranting and raving on social media about the so-called #RamaphosaLeaks – e-mails between the president and others to do with fundraising for his ANC leadership campaign. The Daily Maverick’s Rebecca Davis takes a dispassionate look at what the whole thing means. 


Climate change shocker

The menace today is you, which is to say, us – all of us. We are the menace. The United Nations has issued a deeply disturbing report on climate change that warns that if we don’t change our diets and look after the land better the world is going to descend into a catastrophic state. According to the report from the UN’s Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, human activity has caused significant land degradation, deforestation and destruction of natural habitats.  This has resulted in carbon dioxide being released from the soils and into the atmosphere. At the same time climate change-induced wildfires, permafrost melt and desertification are putting strain on the land which means it is releasing even more greenhouse gases into the atmosphere. ‘This is a perfect storm. Limited land, an expanding human population, and all wrapped in a suffocating blanket of climate emergency,’ said Professor David Reay from the University of Edinburgh, who advised the report’s authors. However, we can de-menace ourselves. To escape this vicious cycle, the UN report suggests humans need to urgently stop chopping down rainforest, degrading soils and peatlands. Sustainable farming, replanting forests and protecting habitats can also help curb global warming.  We hope US President Donald Trump – a climate change denialist – takes note.


Molefe must pay up

Former Eskom CEO Brian Molefe has reached the end of the road in his bid to avoid repaying the pension he got when he left the power utility. He will now have to pay back the R10.3-million he received in 2016. The Constitutional Court has dismissed Molefe’s application for leave to appeal last year’s Pretoria High Court ruling that found he was not entitled to a R30-million pension. Molefe had been in the job for just 15 months when he was awarded a package that was incorrectly calculated as if he had been CEO of Eskom for 10 years. He will have to pay back the R10.3-million, which is the portion of the pension he has received. 

Not so Supra

The Department of Agriculture is suing a company that has refused to disclose details of R600-million worth of contracts it received from the provincial government of the NorthWest under former North West premier Supra Mahumapelo. News24 reports that Minister Thoko Didiza told parliament that requests for a report on the contracts have been ignored. The company, Agridelight, is one of several whose contracts are being examined after the province was placed under administration last year. A Sunday Times report last year alleged that Agridelight had arranged a gift of 24 cattle and one bull to former president Jacob Zuma at the behest of Mahumapelo.


Rassie beefs up front row

Springbok coach Rassie Erasmus will start the weekend’s test against Argentina with a new front row. Trevor Nyakane, Bongi Mbonambi and Tendai Mtawarira come in for Frans Malherbe, Malcolm Marx and Steven Kitshoff in the only changes from the team that started against the All Blacks last time out. The Argenitinian scrum has not been at is best in recent matches and the inclusion of powerful scrummagers Nyakane and Mtawarira may be designed to exploit that. A bonus point win will secure the Rugby Championship for the Boks – for the first time since 2009. The full team is: 15 Willie le Roux, 14 Cheslin Kolbe, 13 Lukhanyo Am, 12 Damian de Allende, 11 Makazole Mapimpi, 10 Handre Pollard, 9 Faf de Klerk, 8 Duane Vermeulen, 7 Pieter-Steph du Toit, 6 Kwagga Smith, 5 Franco Mostert, 4 Eben Etzebeth, 3 Trevor Nyakane, 2 Bongi Mbonambi, 1 Tendai Mtawarira. Substitutes: 16 Malcolm Marx, 17 Steven Kitshoff, 18 Frans Malherbe, 19 RG Snyman, 20 Francois Louw, 21 Herschel Jantjies, 22 Frans Steyn, 23 Jesse Kriel.

EPL transfer window closes

English Premier League football fans will have an eye on the closing day of the summer transfer window today with several teams hoping to make last-minute signings. You can catch up with the latest developments here courtesy of The Independent.


Mein GoT, they’re back

The creators of the massively successful Game of Thrones series have sealed a $200-million deal with Netflix to create new series and movies. David Benioff and DB Weiss, who have worked for HBO on Thrones for the past decade, have reportedly been courted by a number of studios all vying to lock the pair into bringing their skills to them exclusively. 


Crossing into history?

Today marks 50 years to the day since one of the most recognisable images of the 20th century was photographed by Iain Macmillan in London – all four of the Beatles using the zebra crossing in Abbey Road. 

Big beast

There is no photo of this bird, just an artist’s impression: the fossilised remains of a parrot that stood about a metre tall has been found in New Zealand, making it the biggest parrot known to have lived. Formally named Heracles inexpectatus by scientists, it has quickly been dubbed ‘Squawkzilla’ and was discovered among fossils dating back 20-million years by Australian paleontologists who have published their findings in Biology Letters. 

Bigger beast

But there is actual, real-life footage of a 3.9-metre python caught outside a house in Durban at the weekend. The creature weighed 31kg and its head was almost as big as the hand of the snake catcher Nick Evans who removed it. 


Home Office sets Fu-Kennard fu-kenstraight

When Kenny Kennard was 16 he changed his name to ‘Coco Kenny’ but when he joined the army three years later, he was told to change it back because it was ‘immature’. But  19-year-old Coco Kenny wasn’t done. Instead of changing his name back he changed his surname to Fu-Kennard instead (say it out loud). All was okay and in 2016 Mr Fu-Kennard even successfully applied for a driving licence with his new name. The 33-year-old British man had no reason to suspect it would be any different applying for a passport. However, according to The Mirror, when he applied for one to leave Britain for a stag party, the UK’s Home Office refused, saying his name ‘may cause offence’ and was unacceptable and not fit for a passport. After three failed attempts to fight the refusal, he says he feels like a prisoner in his own country. In other words, Fu-Kennard is taking the news, well, fu-kennard! 


Today’s champ is Nat Usher (@thenatewolf) for this nonsense:

*Chooses paper towels instead of the hand dryer as a tree walks into the bathroom*


Today’s topical clue, compiled by Ganesh C Prasad, sparked a huge debate in crossword circles: Gnu – a regrettable American tradition (3,8)

The solution to yesterday’s clue, Roll awfully in pain (6), is PANINI – an anagram of ‘in pain’ (‘awfully’ is the anagram indicator). 


This fascinating feature from Wired magazine, A Crashed Israeli Lunar Lander Spilled Tardigrades on the Moon, is worth reading just for the headline. It tells the story of the first private spacecraft to land on the moon and its mission to create ‘a backup of planet Earth’. The spacecraft was carrying the foundation’s first lunar library, a DVD-sized archive containing 30-million pages of information – including the secrets to David Copperfield’s magic tricks; human DNA samples; and thousands of tardigrades, microscopic ‘water bears’ that can survive space. And then the spacecraft crashed into the moon. 


Post Office CEO Mark Barnes’s decision to quit should ring alarm bells. He is the latest person recruited from business – many of them highly talented and driven by a sense of civic duty – who has run head first into government in its guise as the proprietor of a state-owned enterprise (SOE). Some have thrown in the towel when key initiatives were rejected because, it seems, they were politically unpalatable. These include interventions such as job cuts and partial privatisation. Several SOEs have become a serious drain on the country and reversing that will require the retention of talented leaders and political courage from those in government. 

* We’re taking the day off for the public holiday tomorrow. We’ll be back on Monday.

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