SA is not in a recession, says Manuel

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South Africa is not in a recession despite some economists saying so, Finance Minister Trevor Manuel said on Thursday.

“No, we’re not,” Manuel said in an interview with South African Broadcasting Corporation (SABC) radio.

“I know that a number of economists that you speak to, say, ‘We think that the third quarter might be revised downwards’ — but the third quarter hasn’t been revised downwards. Technically, we’re not in a recession.”

He said he realised there was “an argument that if it walks like a duck and quacks like a duck, it probably is a duck, it probably is a recession, but in technical terms, we’re not in a recession”.

“We’re not in recession yet, that’s a very important point, we’re not in a recession as we speak,” said Manuel.

Manuel, at the start of the interview, jokingly referred to himself as “number four”.

The African National Congress released its national election list on Wednesday and Manuel was its number four candidate.

“Call me Number Four,” he told radio host Tim Modise.

“Number Four, are you ready for us,” replied Modise, before heading into a number of questions.

Zimbabwe reconstruction
Meanwhile, the Southern African Development Community (SADC) is considering the investment of $2-billion into Zimbabwe’s reconstruction, Manuel said.

This was much less than the $5-billion that Zimbabwean Prime Minister Morgan Tsvangirai said was needed to reconstruct the crisis-torn country.

“I was present when Prime Minister Tsvangirai gave the number, but it was just a number given,” Manuel told SABC.

“There’s a document … that actually splits the immediate costs over the next 10 months into two amounts of about $1-billion each.”

This included a $1-billion loan to “restimulate retail and all kinds of things … that’s one billion we are exploring”, said Manuel.

“The other [is] about $1-billion for emergencies in education, health, municipal services and some infrastructure.”

The latter amount would include funds for water sanitation.

“It will be necessary to try to get as much support as possible to prevent this horrible, horrible, horrible scourge of cholera that Zimbabwe has lived through over these past few months,” said Manuel, referring to the epidemic that has killed more than 3 800 people and infected 83 000.

Zimbabwe also has the world’s highest inflation rate and is grappling with severe food shortages.

Manuel said the SADC ministers also discussed the effects of the global finance crisis on the region with the African Development Bank.

“We are a number of commodity exporters and I think that the impact is pretty severe and we were able to work through that and we will prepare a more detailed report for a meeting of African finance ministers on March 10 and 11 to be held in Tanzania,” said Manuel. — Sapa

Source: Mail&guardian

How Recessions Work

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­­On Jan. 21, 2008, stock prices tumbled around the world. Most analysts pointed to fears surrounding the United States economy and a possible recession as the reason for the drop. Ironically, economic conditions in the United States were affecting the world economy on a day when its own markets weren’t even in session — they were closed for the Martin Luther King Jr. Day holiday. Three days later, news outlets were already reporting a new economic stimulus package, designed in part to try to prevent a recession.

This isn’t the first recession news in recent memory. On Nov. 26, 2001, the news media announced the United States was officially in a recession and had been since March of that year. To most Americans, this wasn’t all that surprising: Rising unemployment and a weak stock market had been in the news for months.
­Both the 2008 market drop and the 2001 news blitz raised a lot of questions. Who decides when the economy is in recession, and on what grounds? What actually constitutes a recession, anyway? When a nation’s economy enters a recession, is life guaranteed to get harder for most of its citizens? And how often does a recession lead to a depression?

In this article, we’ll find out what recessions are, see why they occur and examine the criteria economists use to identify them. We’ll also look at the effects of recession as well as explore some of the ways a country can turn the economy around again.
American History: The Great Depression
In 1929, the stock market crashed, and the American Dream turned into a nightmare of hunger, unemployment and hopelessness. In farming communities, the Dust Bowl added to the problems of the Great Depression. (July, 2008)

Money Makes the World Go Round

Photo courtesy NARA
In the Great Depression of the 1930s and ’40s, laid-off U.S. workers lined up daily at employment agencies.

­A recession is a prolonged period of time when a nation’s economy is slowing down, or contracting. Such a slow-down is characterized by a number of different trends, including:

* People buying less stuff
* Decrease in factory production
* Growing unemployment
* Slump in personal income
* An unhealthy stock market

By the conventional definition, this slow-down has to continue for at least six months to be considered a recession.

This definition really raises more questions than it answers. What does it mean for the economy to slow down? Why does this happen? How are all these factors related? And what exactly is “the economy”?

People talk about the U.S. economy as an independent entity, but it is actually the result of millions of people’s actions. Economists use all kinds of esoteric terms to describe the connection between people’s actions and the economy as a whole. But you can understand the basic idea of this connection by looking at only a few basic concepts: producers, consumers, markets, supply and demand.
Producers and Consumers

Broadly speaking, a nation’s economy is the production and consumption of goods (food, clothes, cars) and services (repairs, lawn-mowing, haircuts) in that nation. Anybody producing or consuming things in a country (and that’s just about everybody) plays some role in the economy.
share prices board
A pedestrian passes before a share prices board in Tokyo,
Jan. 22, 2008.

Production and consumption are intertwined. In order for people to consume things, someone has to produce those things. And in order to produce things, you need to consume things (you need to consume natural resources and people’s labor, for example).

stock board
People walk past a stock board displaying the Hang Seng Index in Hong Kong,
Jan. 22, 2008.

In a market economy, or a modified market economy such as the U.S. economy, production and consumption are connected in various “markets.” A market is simply a place where consumers can go to buy things from producers and producers can go to sell things to consumers.

A grocery store is an example of a physical market. People who want to consume food go to the grocery store and buy it from producers through a series of middlemen. The store itself is one of the middlemen, and there are usually others along the way (distribution companies, for example). The labor market is a more abstract sort of market. In this market, businesses who want to consume work pay people to produce labor. In the stock market, consumers and producers buy and sell percentages of ownership of companies (see How Stocks and the Stock Market Work for more information).

As you can see, almost everybody is both a producer and a consumer acting in more than one market. If you have a job, you are a producer of labor. Whenever you go shopping, you are a consumer of goods.

Supply and Demand

The ultimate goal of producers is to make money — to bring in more money than they spent producing the product. Consumers may want to satisfy their wants and needs by buying products, or they may buy products in order to make money (by reselling the products or by using the products to produce other products). In any case, consumers generally want to pay as little for goods and services as they can.

supply and demand
© Photographer: Jason Yoder | Agency:
The supply curve and the demand curve — where they meet determines the price of a particular item or service.

In a market, the actions of producers and consumers determine the value of goods and services. Producers are the ones who actually set prices, but they do so based on the behavior of consumers. If nobody buys a product at a particular price, the producer knows the price is too high. If some consumers buy it, but not enough to buy everything produced, producers must either decrease the price or decrease the supply. The willingness of consumers to pay for products is known as demand. Even if there is constant high demand for a product (toilet paper, for example), individual producers need to keep the price down or consumers will just buy it from a competitor.

In the next couple of sections, we’ll see how all these factors work in a growing economy and in a contracting economy.

For more

Source: how stuff work

Fans parks provide World Cup vibe – for free

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NELSON Mandela Bay soccer fans who fail to secure tickets to watch 2010 World Cup matches at the 48000-seater stadium in Port Elizabeth can also experience the atmosphere at the official fan park at no cost.

Sahara Oval St George‘s, which will accommodate 35000 to 40000 fans, has been earmarked as the venue for the fan park in the Nelson Mandela Bay metro, and this has been approved by the council.

“St George‘s is seen as the ideal venue for a fan park as it has the capacity to house the thousands of people who will be wanting to be there,” municipal spokesman Kupido Baron said.

“The ground has shown that it is very capable of housing this number of people during cricket games.”

The fan park concept was introduced during the 2006 World Cup in Germany and proved to be a huge success, prompting the soccer governing body, Fifa, to implement them in subsequent tournaments.

“The metro will only be hosting eight World Cup games, but the fan parks will be open throughout the tournament – for all 30 days. There will be cases where people will be asked to pay if they want to be in the VIP section or other sections that provide hospitality services, but ordinary people will be going in for free. These parks will create a vibe for the tournament and will be the focal point internationally on the days when there are no games played in the city. We want the fan parks to be jam-packed as they will be the main gathering place,” said NMB 2010 local organising committee executive director Errol Heynes.

The fan park will be equipped with a large viewing screen which will run in conjunction with other public viewing areas around the city, with all the games being shown in taverns, restaurants and pubs throughout the city.

“We have not yet planned on the issue of public viewing areas. As they are quite an expensive area, we have to look at the costs that come with it,” Heynes said.

It is a Fifa requirement that all host cities have an official fan park – one per stadium – but public viewing sites can be in both host cities and non-host cities.

The public viewing areas will be spread across the Eastern Cape, including rural areas.

Food vendors who frequent local stadiums are not allowed to trade at the official fan park. According to the agreement between Fifa and host cities, only commercial Fifa affiliates, including Coca-Cola, Budweiser and McDonald‘s, will be allowed to advertise and trade at fan parks.

“Although vendors will not be allowed to sell their goods inside the venue, they will be allowed to trade outside – around Rink Street, Parliament Street and St George‘s,” Heynes said.

Fans will also have a free shuttle bus service to ferry them around Rink, Parliament, Donkin and Chapel streets –- with an entertainment area at the Donkin Reserve.

“We are also looking at ensuring that we have trains coming in and out regularly, especially from Uitenhage, to ensure the safe and efficient transportation of the fans,” he said.

source The Herald

Thousands queue for relief as recession bites

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THOUSANDS of desperate retrenched workers are queuing up for unemployment benefits as the global economic recession bites hard in the Eastern Cape.

As the motor industry and other sectors shed jobs, the number of people seeking relief from the Unemployment Insurance Fund (UIF) has rocketed. Those dependent on UIF has increased by 20 per cent nationally – from 139000 to 168000 between 2007 and last year – and the situation is getting worse.

Long queues of unemployed people outside the Port Elizabeth regional labour department offices at Britannia Street in the central business district attest to soaring unemployment figures.

Labour Minister Membathisi Mdladlana, who is visiting the Eastern Cape, said UIF benefits had become “a temporary relief mechanism” for especially migrant workers‘ families.

With massive retrenchment on the mines, thousands of migrant workers have returned to their rural homes in the Eastern Cape.

Mdladlana will today hold an imbizo at Chief Ngqika‘s palace near King William‘s Town to assist members of the public to register UIF claims and file for injury-at-work compensation.

The UIF fund pays beneficiaries about R14-million a day and the figure is expected to increase dramatically.

Last year alone, more than R2-billion in benefits was paid out.

In a bid to fend off further job losses and company closures, motor industry representatives will meet Trade and Industry Minister Mandisi Mpahlwa on Tuesday to present a R10-billion bailout proposal for the industry. The National Association of Automotive Component and Allied Manufacturers (Naacam), National Association of Automobile Manufacturers of SA (Naamsa) and the trade and industry department yesterday confirmed the meeting.

DTI spokesman Vu- kani Mde said: “I can officially confirm that the minister is meeting Naamsa on the 24th. I don‘t know about Naacam, they could be together.”

Naacam chief executive Roger Pitot said the meeting would be between his organisation‘s president, Stewart Jennings, the Naamsa president, VWSA managing director David Powels and Mpahlwa.

Pitot said: “We want to request assistance for the motor industry. Government has to provide bridging finance. We estimate that we will need about R10-billion in loans. We also say the government should subsidise the interest rates for these loans. Interest rates in South Africa are much higher than the rest of the world. If government doesn‘t assist, we will lose a lot of companies and thousands of jobs.”

Naamsa chief executive Nico Vermuelen said the meeting was also aimed at briefing Mpahlwa on the state of the sector. “We will put a case for measures for the stabilisation of employment and measures to improve access to finance for suppliers and dealers.” They were the ones hit hard by the crisis. Yesterday, The Herald reported that General Motors planned to reduce its staff by a further 400 people, adding to the 1000 jobs cut through voluntary retrenchments last year.

Last month, VWSA announced it would offer voluntary packages to 400 workers and a three-week production cut. There have also been job cuts at Ford here and at its main plant in Pretoria.

It was reported yesterday that Mercedes-Benz SA in East London is planning a month- long production cut.

Source: The Herald

Traffic bosses face charges in licence fraud scandal

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THE Nelson Mandela Bay traffic department has been rocked by allegations of wide-spread fraud and corruption at a senior level.

Five suspended senior and middle management traffic officials yesterday started laying charges of fraud with police against three top department officials  “including two assistant directors,” alleging a cover-up of corruption and mismanagement.

The three are alleged to have requested “kick-backs” for considering certain officers for promotion, arranging that examiners unconditionally pass driver and learner licence tests for friends and family, and using municipal funds for personal holidays. The group pressing the charges include Uitenhage principal examiner Dennis Januarie, senior traffic officer Lindsay Klerk and middle-management officers Petro Meyer, Elsie Gilbert and Luzaan Kettledas.

According to well-placed sources, the group has claimed they have been unlawfully suspended since December last year for refusing to bow to pressure from the department’s senior management to illegally pass certain drivers in their learner’s tests and practical exams or allow unqualified drivers to obtain driver’s licences. After attempting to open a case at the Uitenhage detective branch yesterday, the group were instructed to lay the charges with the Port Elizabeth Organised Crime Unit in Newton Park.

The unit is responsible for investigating fraud and corruption within the traffic departments.

Police spokesman Superintendent Priscilla Naidu confirmed the charges needed to be opened at the Port Elizabeth unit, because detectives would investigate the counter-allegations in conjunction with the claims made.

The charges have opened a can of worms over long-standing allegations and counter claims of wide-spread corruption in the department’s upper echelons for which it has come under fire in recent months. These include incidents of officers accepting bribes and issuing fraudulent licences.

According to signed affidavits “which Weekend Post has in its possession” from those suspended, the charges are against a high-ranking licensing officer, a top law enforcement officer and a senior examiner.

“They were suspended because they refused to be their (top management’s) puppets,” said a municipal employee close to the case, who spoke on condition of anonymity. When approached for comment, the five suspended officers said they were bound by a confidentiality clause in their contracts which prohibited them from speaking to the media. But according to the municipal source, the group, along with three other colleagues who did not hand in affidavits, were unlawfully suspended by the department last year.

The informal charges include receiving bribes from driver’s licence applicants, failing to complete forms, using colleagues’ passwords while working on official documents, and “completing transactions with applicants not present”. Lawyers say the department did not give the eight an opportunity to state their cases and had failed to present formal charges within 60 days of their suspension.

George Malgas, a Uitenhage lawyer acting on behalf of Januarie, said he had received no word from the municipality despite sending a letter to manager Graham Richards last week demanding formal charges be presented to his client.

“The things the (suspended) group was accused of doing are the same things they (senior management) are guilty of,” the source said. “They are corrupt and need to be exposed.” Yesterday, DA MP Pine Pienaar hit out at corruption within the department, calling on police to launch a province-wide inquiry.

“It shouldn’t just stop at local municipal levels, but at all municipalities throughout the country. The police must get involved with this investigation across the province, because lives are at stake,” he said. “An illegal driver’s licence is life-threatening.”

Pienaar said road deaths were directly attributed to fraud within the traffic department, as many unqualified drivers went on to cause serious and fatal accidents. “Road fatalities in this province are already far too high,” he said. “It is growing and by 2010 it’s projected that as many as 3000 people will die on our (Eastern Cape) roads.”

Uitenhage Man up on kidnapping charge

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A UITENHAGE man arrested in connection with a tense 16-hour hostage drama in Port Elizabeth earlier this week appeared in the Motherwell magistrate‘s court yesterday

Xola Stanley Zembethe, 35, of Solundwana Street, is facing a charge of kidnapping following the incident in Motherwell.

The state opposes granting bail to Zembethe, who will now have to bring a formal bail application on February 26.

Zembethe allegedly threatened to douse his girlfriend‘s house with petrol following a long standoff with members of the police.

Police negotiators tried in vain to convince the Uitenhage man to hand himself over after he had earlier taken his girlfriend‘s sister and her two children hostage in Ndlovu Street.

Source :   The Herald

VWSA to halt output and cut 400 jobs

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Nomahlubi Sonjica HERALD REPORTER

IN A further blow to the regional economy, Volkswagen SA announced last night that it would halt production at its Uitenhage plant for three weeks and shed up to 400 jobs.

VWSA spokesman Bill Stephens said the company planned to close all production areas in the last week of February and the weeks before and after the Easter weekend.

The company also said it would release up to 400 of its employees in a voluntary separation package process, a decision that has outraged the National Union of Metalworkers of South Africa (Numsa).

This comes after 575 workers were laid off in December and the company extended its holiday shutdown period.

Stephens said the continuing worldwide financial crisis was dramatically affecting the demand for vehicles, with practically all global markets showing a substantial reduction.

“A significant part of VWSA‘ s production is export-related therefore the global situation will have a profound effect on the company‘s production volumes (this year).

“In addition, the current forecasted domestic total vehicle market (this year) shows a further decline in excess of 10 per cent versus (last year).

“Employees have been invited to apply for the voluntary separation package.”

Numsa regional secretary Zanoxolo Wayile said yesterday the union wanted a moratorium on all retrenchments in the region.

“There is a problem in the manner which these companies, including VW, are dealing with the current economic situation,” he said.

“They are putting their profits first before the plight of ordinary citizens. They do not consider the fact that the Eastern Cape has the highest rate of unemployment.”

VWSA‘s decision was “an extreme level of provocation and a demonstration that (it) has taken a decision to get rid of employees”.

Numsa has called a workers‘ meeting at the Uitenhage town hall on Sunday “to present our proposal and the dirty tricks VW is pulling”. The union was also willing to engage the community, church leaders and the ANC to condemn VW‘s “parasitic stance”.

“We are going to channel our anger against those companies to ensure we save our members from this crisis,” added Wayile.

Source The Herald

How Trevor pulled the fat from the fire

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By Gaye Davis

‘I think he’s running on autopilot right now,” the Treasury official said as the lift doors closed. “This weekend, he will probably crash.”

She was referring to her boss, Finance Minister Trevor Manuel, whose office is on the third floor of the giant office block housing government ministries, across the way from parliament.

It was Thursday, the day after his 13th Budget. There had been no respite for Manuel, no time to savour the headlines welcoming a bold yet realistic Budget designed to offset as far as possible the fallout from the perfect storm raging in the global economy.

‘It was like walking a tightrope strung from Table Mountain to Devil’s Peak’

Producing this Budget, he told a television interviewer minutes after delivering it, was “like walking a tightrope strung from Table Mountain to Devil’s Peak”.

Manuel’s day started with a business breakfast at 6am, broadcast live on TV, then he fielded calls on radio. Back in his office, his secretary brought him a cup of tea and a croissant to make up for the breakfast he didn’t get to eat.

It was the school-going daughter of one of the breakfast guests who asked the question everyone wanted answered, but were too afraid to ask: “Is this your last Budget?” she asked.

“Is this my last Budget? Is this your last question?” he shot back.

If not his last Budget, it was certainly the toughest yet. Budget Day was brought forward this year in the expectation that the election would be called early – ratcheting up the pressure.

Imagine piloting a tiny plane in an immense storm

But the killer was trying to plan in a world turned on its head since the subprime catastrophe in the United States.

Imagine piloting a tiny plane in an immense storm, with zero visibility, and then having your instruments fail on you.

That’s a taste of what Treasury staff had to deal with: the forecasts had to be made – they had to be accurate, but “none of the tools you use to get the numbers are currently delivering”, said Manuel.

His policy course over the past decade, the conservatism that has seen him vilified by the Left, is exactly what has allowed him to produce a Budget that will pump billions into an economy already sluggish from the first shock-waves of the global turmoil rippling into every corner of the world.

Manuel brought it all home in his speech: “When a global motor company cuts back on making cars, it cancels its orders for catalytic converters. This firm making catalytic converters is not in Detroit or Shanghai, it is here, in the Eastern Cape.

“The mine producing the platinum that goes into that converter is near Rustenburg. The worker in the factory in Uitenhage and the mineworker in Rustenburg are now without work.

“And the woman running the little stall selling vegetables outside the mine is making less money each passing week. Their families, all of them, face a future made more precarious by the vagaries of global finance.”

South Africa is going into debt so that the government can spend at a time when the private sector won’t be.

Billions have been allocated for roads and rail networks, pipelines and power stations, hospitals and classrooms, municipal water-works and other projects that will not only create jobs and offset the slowdown, but will also provide a lasting legacy – and position the country for the growth that will inevitably come. It’s an investment in the future.

Spending has to be sustainable, said Manuel, which is why he balked over extending the child support grant to 18.

He doesn’t want a culture of dependency created, and that goes for industries coming begging for help too. It’s a debate that’s going to rage.

“There are some jobs that we will have to do everything in our power to try and save – but we need to focus on people, rather than the jobs.

“Manufacturing, mining – these are the sectors that underpin the real economy, for their workers’ production is the dynamo that generates the other jobs. That’s where we either save jobs, or we look at how we look after the people who’ve lost their livelihoods.”

But there is also the concept of “creative destruction”, said Manuel, when excess gets deservedly cut away.

“It’s what the money buys that matters,” he said. That’s why he called for a review of government spending, including the provinces, and given notice of a crackdown on wasteful state expenditure – the travel, the consultants’ fees, the self-promoting advertising that politicians love.

“You can sit in your car in Cape Town and hear Mpumalanga road safety ads. Why?” he asked. “We need some order about this.”

Hence his call on whoever becomes the country’s next president – most likely ANC president Jacob Zuma – to launch a comprehensive government expenditure review right at the start.

Whatever Manuel’s own future, he said the country had a precious asset in its “exceedingly competent, high-pressure, high-energy” Treasury team. What was most important for him was that this be recognised, whether he was at the helm or not.

    • This article was originally published on page 8 of Saturday Star on February 14, 2009

ANC Alliance and taxi owners meet on strike

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Tabelo Timse, Sbongile Dimbaza and Nomahlubi Sonjica HERALD REPORTERS

A BID to end the taxi strike that has crippled Nelson Mandela Bay for three days will be made at a high-level meeting today.

SACP district secretary Zukile Jodwana said last night the ANC alliance and taxi owners would meet this morning to discuss an alliance proposal regarding the Bus Rapid Transit (BRT) system at the heart of the strike.

The action has stranded thousands of commuters, seen vehicles stoned and torched and buildings petrol bombed, including two clinics and an ANC office.

“There have been engagements between the alliance and taxi owners and there are positive signs that we are coming closer together to reach an amicable solution,” said Jodwana.

“The taxi owners raised a number of issues and we presented a proposal which we wanted them to consider.

“It is after the meeting that they will decide whether to continue with the strike or not,” he said.

As opposition to the strike grows, the regional ANC Youth League and MK Military Veterans Association expressed concern at its effect on “ordinary people”.

“We are therefore calling upon all responsible citizens within the taxi operators to reconsider an action that prevents a worker to go to work, pupils to go to school, emergency staff not to go and help the vulnerable communities in health institutions,” they said in a joint statement.

“We wish to reiterate our call that under no circumstances can we fold our arms when the masses of people find themselves in this humiliating situation.”

Thousands of taxi commuters are now relying on trains for transport.

Metrorail regional manager Claudia Williams said the company had seen a 25 per cent increase in train commuters since Monday.

“On Monday we introduced a shuttle train that operates from Swartkops to Uitenhage and back, because we have noticed a high volume of train commuters in that area,” she said. “An extra train from Uitenhage to Port Elizabeth was also added during the morning and afternoon peak hours.”

Metrorail has also added an additional 35 to its 100 train guards.

College student Andile Thethani, of Khayelitsha in Uitenhage, said: “Since the strike started on Monday, I had to leave my house at 3am every day to walk from Khayelitsha to Uitenhage where I catch a 5.30am train to Port Elizabeth. Normally I take a taxi at 7am to Port Elizabeth, but I‘m not complaining because the train is much cheaper, safer and more reliable than a taxi.”

Another taxi commuter who had to take a train during the past three days is Eunice Godwana a domestic worker in Summerstrand. “I walk for an hour from where I live to the Swartkops train station where I‘ll catch an 8.10am train to town. I come late every day at work but my boss understands that there is a taxi strike.”

Angry Siyabelela Bunny, of KwaZakhele, said he was no longer going to commute by taxis anymore.

“I wish Metrorail would build more train stations and add more trains. It is safer and more reliable than a taxi.”

Bunny said taxi drivers were selfish and unfair in not telling commuters when they would strike.

“If we knew, we could have arranged other means of getting to work on time. What is also unfair is that the taxi drivers are threatening to burn buses that operate in the township.”

Williams said Metrorail would also introduce a Saturday service from the first week of March. “We are busy renovating some of our stations and will introduce a new train station in Motherwell in the next financial year.”

Shock and panic were the first emotions of patients arriving to fetch their medication at Motherwell‘s NU8 and NU2 clinics yesterday, as they were turned away because the clinics were petrol-bombed on Tuesday night.

Seething residents condemned the attacks as the work of “unruly hooligans” in the taxi industry.

“What have we done to deserve this? What are we going to do?” asked an angry Nomisile Valeni.

“I was here early in the morning before 6am to queue. I‘ve brought four clinic cards to get medication for my three children and husband. My children all suffer from asthma and my husband has high blood pressure. Today is their date to get tablets.”

Nonkululelo Tana, who lives next to the clinic, said she noticed smoke coming out of it just after 8pm “and quickly went to the public phone to call police and fire services”.

As firefighters tried to put out the blaze, “people were throwing stones but stopped when police arrived”.

She said people started queuing for medication from 3am.

The NU8 clinic was badly damaged and the municipality has confirmed that it will be closed temporarily.

However, volunteers at the clinic continued treating TB patients who had arrived for check-ups and also visited those who had no transport.

The NU2 clinic was not badly damaged, but patient files were gutted.

Nandiswa Smanga said she feared for her nine-month-old asthmatic baby Bathobele. “I have been taking him to this clinic since he was born. His asthma gets really bad and I am scared he will get sick tonight.

“My hope is that when I call the ambulance, it will arrive in time.”

Lucas Matomo, 84, who needs medication for high blood pressure, diabetes and arthritis, said: “I stood here for more than 30 minutes while it was raining hard, refusing to believe that the clinic is closed.”

An administrator at the Motherwell ANC office, Sipho Ngcaba said he was woken by his cousin at 9.30pm informing him the office was on fire.

“The police confirmed the fire was caused by a petrol bomb. It burnt shutters in the kitchen and no extensive damage was caused.”

In Cape Town, thousands of commuters were left stranded when National Taxi Alliance members prevented taxis and some buses from taking people to work, leading to the defence force being placed on alert.

There were also reports of striking drivers preventing people from boarding trains and buses.

In Nyanga, journalists were stoned and several cars damaged.

Additional reporting by Khanyi Ndabeni

source: The Herald

Mzansi briefs

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Health challenge: Gauteng needs at least R5 billion to turn around its health system, MEC for health Brian Hlongwa said yesterday.

He said many people did not realise the “scale and scope of the challenges” the department was facing.

Hlongwa said he had agreed with Health Minister Barbara Hogan that Gauteng would ask for more funds from the national treasury. He denied reports that the health department had failed to spend R144 million of its budget. – Sapa

Farmer gored: A 71-year-old farmer was gored to death by his own bull after it broke out of its pen at Kareedouw near Uitenhage yesterday.

Alan Germond tried to get the bull into its pen at about 9am. The bull charged and flung him into the air. He sustained an open wound to his stomach. He died on scene. – Sapa

Zuma plan: The National Prosecuting Authority will take oral representations from ANC president Jacob Zuma’s lawyers tomorrow.

The NPA said yesterday this formed part of Zuma’s legal strategy to overcome the corruption charges he is facing. – Sapa

Voting row: The Freedom Front Plus yesterday filed papers in the Constitutional Court to join expatriate Willem Richter in his bid to secure voting rights for citizens abroad. – Sapa

Hoax posts: The Johannesburg metropolitan police department said yesterday that an e-mail inviting new recruits was a hoax and did not come from it.

The department said it was presently not recruiting. When posts became available they would be advertised through the media. – Sapa

Protesters arrested: Forty-two people were arrested and charged with public violence during an illegal protest outside Ventersdorp yesterday.

North West police said about 450 people barricaded the Ventersdorp/Rustenburg road in a protest against poor service delivery. They burnt tyres, causing the road to be closed. – Sapa