WHAT YOU NEED TO KNOW
Breaking news from Nairobi, Kenya, this afternoon is that heavy gunfire and explosions were heard in the location of the 5-star Dusit Hotel, where at least two cars were on fire. A reporter on the scene posted photos of people being treated for gunshots, and said eyewitnesses said four gunmen were involved in an attack. The area had been cordoned off by police who said they were treating it as a possible terror attack. Some reports however suggested it may have been a botched robbery.
Off the rails
In the 2017/18 year there were a staggering 1,027 collisions between trains in South Africa’s rail network, and 450 derailments. That’s more than two crashes a day. Presenting its annual report to parliament’s transport portfolio committee late last year, the Railway Safety Regulator also reportedly revealed there were hundreds of injuries, and several deaths. In October, Prasa’s entire rail service came within a day of being shut down because of safety concerns. Only a court deal, in terms of which Prasa would make monthly safety reports to the regulator, kept the trains running. In June the court will assess whether the shutdown should be reimposed.
Schweizer-Reneke teacher hits back
Elana Barkhuizen, the suspended Schweizer-Reneke teacher who took thephoto (but who is not the teacher of the class), sobbed as she told the press how the debacle has destroyed her life. Her photo that went viral depicted a segregated Grade R class, which sparked outrage, a backlash and then a backlash against the backlash. Trade union Solidarity, which has come out in support of Barkhuizen, denied the school seated pupils according to race and said the blame lay with the North West Department of Education for not creating bridges for pupils who can’t speak English or Afrikaans. Solidarity is pursuing a claim for damages following Barkhuizen’s suspension. The department said more heads would roll if its investigations show more people are to blame for separating pupils by race.
Mbeki and Zuma: the love affair continues
You will recall that then president Thabo Mbeki fired erstwhile deputy president Jacob Zuma in 2005 over corruption allegations. Then Zuma led a fightback which ultimately deposed Mbeki and led to the Nkandla crooner assuming the highest office in the land in 2009. The (very) bad blood between the two has become evident again with Mbeki’s reported refusal to serve on President Cyril Ramaphosa’s ‘elders council’ because of Zuma’s presence on it. The council would include all three living former presidents – the other being Kgalema Motlanthe – and be a forum for Ramaphosa to consult on thorny issues. But Mbeki’s enthusiasm apparently waned when he was told Zuma would be part of it.
Zim protest deaths reported
The fuel price riots in Zimbabwe have claimed lives, says the country’s National Security Minister Owen Ncube. He did not say how many people had died, but added that more than 200 people had been arrested in connection with violence which started yesterday after petrol and diesel prices were hiked more than 100%. The Zimbabwe Association of Doctors for Human Rights said 13 people had suffered gunshot wounds and five people had died from them. This morning there were reports that the opposition Movement for Democratic Change’s offices in Harare had been set alight during the night and a number of businesses had closed their doors. There were also reports that social media platforms, including Facebook and WhatsApp, had been blocked.
THE DAILY MENACE
Lost in translation
The.news.letter hangs its head in shame. We are today’s menace. We brought you fake news in our story about the Betty’s Bay blaze. As reader Henri du Plessis points out the fire did not miraculously jump over the whole of Walker Bay and over Gansbaai to land at Franskraal. ‘Even with the breeze as strong as it was on the day, that was well nigh impossible. Franskraal is some 85km further along the coast on the far side of the bay of geese,’ said Henri. We would send our geographically-challenged journo Jonno to spend some time in the corner for his error but he would just get lost.
WHAT’S THE BUSINESS?
Eskom’s R480bn headache
Eskom CEO Phakamani Hadebe yesterday revealed that the power utility is R480bn in debt. He was asking the National Energy Regulator of SA (Nersa) for tariff hikes of 15% a year for three years, and a massive government bailout. The increases, which would start in 2019/2020, would result in a total increase of 52% over the three years. Nersa is holding hearings to determine if it will sanction the request.
Ivanka Trump won’t be World Bank boss
The good news is that Ivanka Trump is NOT in contention for leadership of the World Bank. as suggested by the Financial Times. As far as can be ascertained. A White House official has dismissed the suggestion but confirmed she will be helping the US make its choice for the position. According to Reuters, the US has traditionally held the casting vote on who gets the job.
IN THE SPORTS CORNER
Harris blown away
Australian Open qualifier Lloyd Harris was swept out of the first Grand Slam tennis tournament of the year by a clinical Daniil Medvedev this morning. The young South African made too many unforced errors to put the 15th seed under pressure and was eventually overwhelmed 6-1 6-2 6-1. The world number-ones in the men’s and women’s draws both progressed but their experiences were vastly different. Men’s top seed Novak Djokovic cruised past Mitchell Krueger 6-3 6-2 6-2, while Simona Halep had to dig deep to get Kaia Kanepi 6-7 6-4 6-2 to prevent a repeat of her US Open first round defeat. In a battle of mothers, Serena Williams began her quest for her eighth Australian Open title by beating Tatjana Mariav 6-0 6-2. Here are all the results.
Gab the Great doubles up
Gabriel Jesus took his tally to six goals in five days when he added another two as Manchester City pulled back to four points behind Liverpool in the English Premier League last night. Jesus, who five days ago smashed home four goals in a League Cup match against Burton Albion, scored twice in the first half to set up City’s 3-0 win over a 10-man Wolves.
Team Sky doc faces charges
Team Sky doctor Richard Freeman will face charges over allegations linked to covering up the use of performance enhancing drugs within the cycling team. Britain’s General Medical Council has charged Freeman with misconduct and he will face a hearing on 6 February. The council claims Freeman allegedly ordered large quantities of testosterone drugs. Freeman was also at the centre of the ‘Jiffy Bag’ scandal involving Tour de France winner Bradley Wiggins in 2011.
Varsity Cup transformation
The Varsity Cup rugby organisers confirmed this week that 33% of players on the field must be black. According to Sport24, the competition’s transformation policy for 2019 states that eight out of a match day squad of 23, and five from the starting 15, must be ‘black persons’. The organisers’ definition of a black person is: African, Coloured or Indian people who are natural persons and are citizens of the Republic of South Africa.
Jenner’s eggsistential crisis
Kylie Jenner, who is famous for being famous, has been beaten by an egg. A stock image of a brown egg has poached her record by cracking the most-likes for a photo on Instagram. On 4 January the profile @world_record_egg posted a photo of an egg with the caption: ‘Let’s set a world record together and get the most liked post on Instagram, beating the current world record held by Kylie Jenner (18 million)! We got this.’ In less than a week the egg has received nearly 40-million likes and counting, which was totally uneggspected.
TWEET OF THE DAY
Our winner today is (insert drumroll here) Jonathan Goodwin (@TheDaredevil) for this tweet/picture combo:
CRYPTIC CLUE OF THE DAY
Today’s clue from the Guardian’s crossword is All possible orders of prime numbers (4).
The solution to yesterday’s clue, Her postman delivered communications device (10) is SMARTPHONE – an anagram of ‘her postman’ (delivered is the anagram indicator).
THE BIG READ
Some of the most beautiful baobab trees are dying. Topic magazine examines the life and death of Africa’s oldest trees, and asks what this means for the people who depend on them — and for the planet.
WHAT WE SAY
The challenges facing South Africa are many, but if the most serious ones are going to be addressed it will require a strong economy. The powers that be are sceptical of ratings agencies, sometimes with good cause, but might have been heartened by Moody’s observation that the country has a stable outlook going into 2019. This, it says, is due to the strengthening of institutions and more transparency, both of which have been a consequence of getting rid of Jacob Zuma and the appointment of Cyril Ramaphosa as president. But Ramaphosa and his lieutenants will hopefully be alert to the agency’s warning that risks remain: ‘Growth will continue to be hampered by rigidities in the labour market and insufficient and unstable power supply.’ The former is a thorny political issue and the latter – sorting out Eskom – requires some tough action. Let’s hope Ramaphosa feels sufficiently emboldened this year to take some decisive steps.