Venue clash hits parties’ right to rally

TWO political rallies, to be addressed by heavyweights from the ANC and the Congress of the People respectively, are scheduled to be held at the same venue, the Jabavu Stadium in Uitenhage, on Saturday, Human Rights Day.

The municipality confirmed yesterday that it had invited Winnie Madikizela-Mandela to be keynote speaker at a gathering that will be held on the soccer field at the stadium to celebrate the day.

It has been disclosed by the National Union of Metalworkers of SA (Numsa) that youth league president Julius Malema, will also deliver a speech.

SACP general secretary Blade Nzimande has also been invited, said Numsa organiser Andile Zitho.

At the same time, Cope supporters are expected to turn out in big numbers to hear their president, Mosioua Lekota, speak in the rugby section of the stadium.

It is not clear how the municipality decided to allocate the venue to both parties.

ANC provincial spokesman Mcebisi Jonas said he was not aware that the rival party intended holding its own rally at the same venue and has undertaken to investigate.

“This has potential for conflict,” he said.

Municipal spokesman Roland Williams said the municipality “would encourage any political party to encourage its members to attend the municipal celebration”, which would commemorate the Langa massacre.

Cope regional spokesman Elvis Bana confirmed they had booked the venue to hold their own Human Rights Day celebration rally and were adamant that his organisation “will not call off the rally” .

Bana said “the venue was booked as early as February 2 this year and it was confirmed by the municipality.

“We are perturbed by this apparent political intolerance and by the kind of behaviour of the municipal officials who exhibit partisanship in their work,” said Bana.

Two other popular ANC crowd pullers, Cosatu general secretary Zwelinzima Vavi and the party‘s head of elections, Fikile Mbalula, will be in the Eastern Cape on that day to address a Queenstown rally.

Source:   The Weekend Post

Orders from parent firm to export 6000 cars puts brakes on VW shutdown

THOUSANDS of employees were handed an early Easter present yesterday when Volkswagen SA announced a “surprise” multimillion rand export contract had been secured, staving off a planned two- week shutdown at the Uitenhage plant.

VWSA managing director David Powels said that after export orders for the Uitenhage-built Polo had been halved at the start of the year from 40000 to 20000, a German parent company order for an additional 6000 had been confirmed this week.

“We had been planning to close down production during the week before Easter and in the week after the holiday, as both would have been short weeks,” he said yesterday.

“However, the order – valued at between R500-million and R600-million – means that the plant will no longer have to work the short weeks.”

The Easter weekend runs from Friday, April 10, to Monday, April 13.

Powels said the German market was experiencing a “buying down” to smaller cars and that Volkswagen AG – which yesterday reported the best annual sales and profit figures in its 70-year history – had asked Uitenhage to provide the extra vehicles.

Powels said VWSA “were obviously not happy” after the export order was halved “and informed Germany of the significant consequences” of this “in terms of our head count”.

“Those representations, our record of producing world-quality units and our ability to increase volumes helped our case at a time of continuing demand for Polos,” he said.

“It is very good news and enables us to keep the plant running,” said Powels, although adding that the local market was still “very dismal”.

“However, our R3-billion investment to secure the future of our operation is still firmly on track, although some programmes not directly related to product, productivity and quality improvements, and skills training have been delayed,” Powels said.

The process of offering voluntary retrenchment packages to 400 employees was still under way and should be completed next month.

The new export order was hailed by Port Elizabeth Chamber of Commerce and Industry (Percci) chief executive Odwa Mtati as “a very positive development, especially in the current economic climate”.

“We are happy that this will enable employees to continue working, coupled as it is with positive spin-offs for component manufacturers.”

The National Union of Metalworkers of South Africa (Numsa) said “a move in the direction of avoiding further job losses and expanding employment should be welcomed”.

source: THE WEEEND POST

Uitenhage schools scrum down

There will be rucking and mauling galore in Uitenhage when eight high schools battle it out in the maiden BK Top 8 rugby tournament at Jabavu Rugby Stadium, KwaNobuhle, today.

The tournament will be played under the auspices of the Uitenhage Schools Rugby Development Committee.

Mncedisi Jafta, a committee member, said they are grateful to businessman Butityi Konki for his financial support in a move to popularise the sport in the area.

He urged parents to come in large numbers because their presence will inspire the future stars to give it their best shot. – Meshack Khotha

Source: Sowetan

Factory teams face up for 2009 SA rally season

The 2009 Sasol SA Rally championship promises to be another humdinger between the VW and Toyota factory teams in a battle that will be fought from March until the final round in October. The South African motor industry is part of the international motoring community but despite financially challenging times has put on a brave face and fielded highly competitive teams.

A healthy 35 cars should be chasing the various championships, the field boosted irregularly by another dozen cars as they dip in and out of the championship as funds allow. Heading the race for the overall title chase that will start on Friday, March 13 with the Tour Natal will be the three-car VW Polo trio of defending champions Hergen Fekken/Pierre Arries, 2007 titleholders Jan Habig/Douglas Judd and 2006 champs Enzo Kuun/Guy Hodgson

A healthy 35 cars should be chasing the various championships

. VW finished the 2008 season with a 1-2-3 – doing that again will be tough.

Toyota spent 2008 re-building its team after Serge Damseaux retired at the end of 2007 and developing an S2000 Auris. There were two unexpected but very welcome victories. Fekken and Arries, who won four times in 2008, have a new car to defend their title, with Habig and Kuun making do with what they had, but refurbished.

In the Toyota camp, Johnny Gemmell/Peter Marsh and Mark Cronje/Robert Paisley will take the fight to VW. The Toyota teams were ultra-competitive in 2008 but prone to mistakes and niggling mechanical issues

Toyota spent 2008 re-building its team after Serge Damseaux retired

. The Auris, launched late in the year, showed it had the pace to fend off the Uitenhage challenge and this is where the real action will be this season – a five-way fight for an overall win on every outing.

Both brands have a number of S2000 private entries to add points towards the Manufacturers’ championship, won by Toyota these past 11 years. Leading them will be JP Damseaux and new co-driver Andre Vermeulen in their re-shelled Toyota RunX. Damseaux had his first career win in 2008.

He’ll be up against Fernando Rueda/Dave Lewkowicz in a new S2000 RunX. They were third overall on a recent Regional event that was won by Damseaux. Japie van Niekerk/Robin Houghton will return in another S2000 RunX. Van Niekerk finished third overall on his first outing in S2000 last year in KZN and became one of the season’s most consistent points-scorers.

VW has Theuns Joubert/Hennie Botes in a new S2000 Polo as well as the Rally Chicks, Lola and Megan Verlaque in the ex-Williams Polo as and when their African championship campaign allows them a local outing.

OUT OF THE WILDERNESS

Joubert is still relatively new to rallying and his progress will be watched. The Rally Chicks, on the other hand, were fourth overall in the recent Tanzanian Rally.

Class A7 will be back after a year in the wilderness led by defending champions Chris de Wit and Dean Redelinghuys in their RunX. The KZN pair are always there or thereabouts and should start the year with a bang on home soil but their biggest threat will come from Evan Hutchinson and new co-driver Elvene Coetzee.

They in turn will have young hotshot Stevan Wilken and Greg Gericke in a brand-new VW Polo in their mirrors. Wilken has been quick in the lower classes, if a little hairy.

Milestone as new national park comes into being

The new Garden Route National Park was formally declared by Environmental Affairs and Tourism Minister Marthinus van Schalkwyk at a function in Knysna at the weekend. The massive new conservation area, one of only four national parks in the world incorporating urban areas, covers about 121000ha, incorporating about 52000ha of newly proclaimed park land and 68500 hectares of the Wilderness and Tsitsikamma national parks.

It straddles the Eastern and Western Cape provinces as well as the Eden and Cacadu district municipalities and the local municipalities of George, Knysna, Bitou and Koukamma. The environmental diversity of the park includes indigenous forests, the Knysna estuary, the Wilderness lake areas, marine protected areas, lowland fynbos and mountain catchment areas. Van Schalkwyk said at the function on Friday that new ground was being broken with the establishment of the park and some parts would be fenced off while others would have open boundaries.

“The Garden Route is one of the most important areas in South Africa and one of our crown jewels in terms of biodiversity and its attraction of both foreign and local tourists.”

He said it was increasingly necessary to give economic value to conservation in order to achieve conservation goals, and that the level of conservation protection afforded to the area had increased due to its proclamation as a national park. SANParks chief operating officer Sydney Soundy said the new park contained the largest continuous indigenous forest in the country, spanning about 60500ha all along the Garden Route.

“Its aquatic systems, the Knysna estuary and the Wilderness lake areas, are rated number one and number six (in order of importance) respectively in the country. The fynbos falls within the Cape floristic region, which is a designated global diversity hotspot.”

Soundy said the term “conservation without boundaries” had to become a way of life, not just for major stakeholders but also residents in areas surrounding the park. Van Schalkwyk said South Africa‘s parks were among the country‘s most important conservation and tourism assets, and as such the government had steadily increased expenditure on parks.

“We have invested R411- million in infrastructure development for the period 2006/07 to 2008/09 and a further R245-million is being earmarked for the next medium term expenditure framework period. Other financial assistance has increased from R85,6-million in 2004/05 to R205-million in 2009/10.”

source: The Weekend Post

Recession blues bite Bay business outlook

THE Nelson Mandela Bay metro‘s Business Confidence Index continued to decline in January “under recessionary economic conditions and low levels of both business and consumer confidence”.

The decline came amid the economy contracting by -1,8 percent in the fourth quarter of last year, the first annual retail sales decline in nine years, and a 22% plunge in manufacturing output.

The index, compiled for the regional business chamber, tracks the performance of 15 key economic indicators chosen from those available that are believed to “best reflect the business mood in the PE/Uitenhage area”.

These include the inflation rate as measured by the Consumer Price Index for the metro; the prime rate at month end; the rand-dollar exchange rate; retail sales in the Eastern Cape; the total number of new cars sold in the metro; the value of building plans passed and completed; the Consumer Confidence Index for the metro by the Bureau for Economic Research of Stellenbosch University, and number of passengers arriving at the PE airport.

But Dr Neil Bruton, compiler of the index, says current developments “will ultimately yield a consolidation in the rate at which the index is declining at present”.

“The inflation rate is set to decline rapidly in 2009 and … interest rates are set to decline, probably steeply. Furthermore, households and businesses are addressing their debt positions, with growth in credit extension to the private sector down to 11,9% in January, the lowest since November 2004, and with growth in demand for mortgage finance falling to the lowest level since mid-2003.”

The indicators that supported the index through January included significant declines in the trend cycles of the metro inflation and prime interest rates; continued growth in the real value of buildings completed and steady growth in value of those passed; and marginal growth in the trend cycle of retail sales.

Negative indicators included the “steep decline” in new cars sold and the “declining” number of airport passenger arrivals.

“The level of consumer confidence in the Eastern Cape, while reflecting a generally declining trend, remained unchanged.”

source: The Weekend Post

Consumers face shock 25% power price hike

BATTERED consumers in municipalities across the country could face a further shock 25 per cent hike in the price of electricity.

In a circular last week, the national treasury advised municipalities to factor in a 25% rise in the cost of purchasing electricity from Eskom in preparing their budgets, although it stressed that the National Electricity Regulator of South Africa (Nersa) had yet to rule on what increase it would award the power utility.

Last year, Eskom was awarded an increase of 36%, of which 30% was passed on by the Nelson Mandela Bay municipality to residents.

Indigent households which qualified for the council‘s Assistance To The Poor programme were handed a 14,2% increase.

Eskom needs the tariff increase to contribute to the financing of its capital expansion programme.

The circular warns local authorities that in considering changes in property rates they should “take cognisance of local economic conditions such as the downturn in the property market, trends in household incomes and unemployment. Excessive increases in property rates and other tariffs are likely to be counterproductive, resulting in high levels of non-payment and increased bad debts”.

The national treasury requires the municipalities to justify all increases in excess of the 6% upper inflation target of the Reserve Bank. The circular states that given the current economic crisis, municipalities will be faced with some “very tough decisions” when preparing their 2009/10 budgets, adding that they must give priority to:

Managing all revenue streams, especially debtors;

Protecting the poor from the worst impacts of the economic downturn;

Supporting local economic development initiatives “that foster micro and small business opportunities and job creation”;

Securing the health of their asset base in increasing spending on repairs and maintenance; and

Speeding up spending on capital projects funded by conditional grants.

“Municipalities must pay special attention to eliminating all unnecessary spending on nice-to-have items and non-essential activities,” the circular states, adding that Finance Minister Trevor Manuel had noted in his budget speech that there was “insufficient control of foreign travel, advertising and public relations activities as well as consulting services”.

With regard to the fuel levy allocation that will replace the regional services council levy that was halted in 2006, the circular states that the sharing of the general fuel levy will be regulated in terms of the Taxation Laws Amendment Bill. This piece of legislation is expected to be passed in September this year.

At that stage the specific allocation for each metro will be released, although information on provisional allocations will be given to metros this month to allow them to budget for the next financial year.

The amount allocated is based on fuel sales in each metro and the amount that Nelson Mandela Bay is expected to receive is not likely to differ dramatically from what it gained through regional services council levies.

source: The Herald

Hostage drama accused wanted to ‘sort things out’ after affair rumours

A MOTHERWELL hostage-taker yesterday claimed in the magistrate‘s court that he had gone to the house of the victims to “sort things out” with his girlfriend after he heard allegations of an affair.

Xola Stanley Zembethe, 36, faces charges of kidnapping and illegal possession of a firearm and ammunition stemming from a tense 16-hour standoff between him and a police contingent.

The drama unfolded on February 16 in Ndlovu Street, where Zembethe allegedly took hostage his girlfriend‘s sister, Nompumelelo Myali, her year-old son Lisa, another son, Mafixole, 19, and a relative, Simphiwe Wilskuit, 23.

Zembethe, of Uitenhage, and his girlfriend, Bulelwa Jack, were embroiled in counter accusations of cheating on each other, the court heard.

During a bail hearing yesterday, Zembethe said he would plead not guilty to the charges when the matter went to trial. He insisted on conducting his own defence.

He said that after he had arrived in Motherwell from Cape Town that morning, he had wanted to set the record straight regarding rumours that he had cheated on Jack. “Prior to this, I received a phone call saying I must not accuse her of cheating because I was also having an affair. They also accused me of having killed my mother and children. I said, ‘I will deal with you when I arrive in Port Elizabeth because of false allegations‘,” said Zembethe.

Shortly after his arrival at the house, four occupants were held hostage, allegedly by Zembethe, and threatened with a firearm.

Two shots were fired. A firearm was allegedly taken from Zembethe after the incident. He claimed he had found it on a Jeffreys Bay beach in December.

Zembethe refuted claims by the state that he had a tendency to watch hostage-drama films.

Investigating officer Inspector Monde Sithole testified that Zembethe had demanded Myali call her husband, Simphiwe, and tell him to bring Jack from Despatch.

Asked why he wanted to be released on bail, he said he was responsible for his 13-year-old child, he was required to perform elder duties in the Presbyterian Church of Africa and he was also the co-ordinator of an HIV/Aids project

The matter was postponed to March 19 for the investigating officer to verify Zembethe‘s previous convictions. The state alleges he has several previous convictions, including car theft and armed robbery.

He has two pending case involving shoplifting and arson.

source: The Weekend Post

Bay rates appeals to cost millions

Patrick Cull and Tabelo Timse HERALD REPORTERS

NELSON Mandela Bay ratepayers will have to fork out millions of rands to pay travel and accommodation expenses for board members appointed to decide on appeals lodged by irate home-owners regarding exorbitant increases in their property rates.

And despite appeals against the controversial property evaluation system being launched as far back as June last year, the board is not yet functional.

Due to alleged appointment irregularities, the municipality has now asked Local Government MEC Thoko Xasa to disband the board and re-advertise for new members, a move which is likely to cause further delays.

The valuation of some 7000 properties increased or decreased by more than 10 per cent of the original amount as a result of challenges to the initial valuation, while some 600 people are in dispute with the price the metro put on their properties.

In terms of the law, the department of local government is required to establish an appeals board and duly did so, appointing one member from Jeffreys Bay and three from East London.

However, the Property Evaluations Act requires that a representative from Nelson Mandela Bay be on the board when it reviews appeals from the city.

Metro chief financial officer Kevin Jacoby said: “In terms of the regulations the MEC must consult and supply written motivations to the mayor when appointing members who do not reside within the jurisdiction of the municipality. It is therefore evident that the MEC for local government has not complied with the procedures that must be followed in the appointment of members of the appeal board.”

Municipal spokesman Kupido Baron said that the municipality had written a letter to Xasa suggesting she re-advertise for the appeals board.

Jacoby said the chairman is paid R3000 a day and ordinary members R2500 in addition to the costs of accommodation and transport. This bill, which would run into several millions of rand, would have had to be paid by the citizens of Nelson Mandela Bay.

Jacoby said the metro had calculated that if each case took just 10 minutes to complete that would cost the municipality R1,7- million for accommodation – a four-star hotel is mandatory – and transport in addition to the fees paid to the board members. The whole process would take between eight and nine months. A more likely scenario, he said, was that each case would take at least a minimum of 20 minutes to complete, in which case the bill for accommodation and transport would rise to R3,4-million plus the fees to the four board members and take 18 months to complete.

The appeals board process in Cape Town has continued for some two years.

Although Jacoby assured councillors attending a recent budget and treasury meeting that the municipality had the best interests of property owners at heart, councillor Leon de Villiers (DA) said the process was taking too long and frustrating property owners who had lodged objections.

The final valuation roll was presented to the municipality on January 31 last year and implemented on July 1.

During that period objections against the valuations of properties were received and investigated. Letters regarding the outcome were then forwarded to the objectors.

Jacoby said objectors who were still not in agreement were then given the opportunity to request that they be provided with the valuers‘ reasons or to lodge an appeal.

During the general valuation process a total of 249669 properties were valued. More than 10000 objections (4,4% of all properties valued) were received.

Irate homeowners felt the hike in property rates could force them to downgrade so they could pay the new rates.

Following the increases one resident, Summerstrand pensioner Patrick Goldstone, 72, said his rates had increased by 107 per cent from R395 a month to R820.

“What really interests me is the fact that the person who was evaluating my house did not even come to the front door or enter the property,” he said.

“This leaves questions about how such a person could carry out a reliable valuation on my property the way he went about the process.”

Goldstone said the municipal correspondence showed his property was valued at R2,5-million.

He had decided to employ the services of two independent estate agents to value the property . They valued it at between R600000 and R650000. Some property owners have had an increase of as much as 568%, which translates to a rates hike from R420 to R2807 a month.

Major flaws in the evaluation process were reported early this year, with claims of underqualified valuators being used and up to 800 properties being valued twice – with widely differing results.
Source :The Herald

High voter turnout in metro by-elections

Tabelo Timse MUNICIPAL CORRESPONDENT

A MAN was arrested after a group of toyi-toyiing people disrupted voting in the Nelson Mandela Bay by-elections at a Uitenhage polling station last night.

Earlier, voting got off to a good start in all eight wards holding by-elections yesterday.

IEC regional supervisor Crosby Bacela said the group had been protesting about a tent used as a polling station in Ward 53.

“They claimed that the voting station was illegal and tried to stop some of the IEC staff from performing their duties. We had to call police to intervene and one man was arrested.”

It was not clear last night which party the protesters were supporting.

Voter turnout is expected to be 50 per cent or more. Full results will be released today.

While some voting stations got off to a quiet start in the early morning, hundreds of people later queued outside waiting to vote at the George Botha Hall in Kwanoxolo.

The presiding officer at the station, Buntu Matsha, said that by 11am more than 380 people had already voted and 3961 people were on the voters‘ roll. “We are expecting people to come in a bit later.”

The queue stretched from the entrance of the hall to the street.

Matsha said there were tensions among the political parties, but everyone was well behaved.

However an elderly woman, Liziwe Simani, accused an election officer of misleading her to vote for another party instead of her party of choice.

Simani said: “I told her I couldn‘t read and write. She took me to the voting booth and asked me which party I wanted to vote for. I told her ANC but she showed somewhere else to put the cross. It was not the ANC emblem.”

Simani refused to go and said she wanted her ballot paper to be taken out so she could vote again.

Matsha said the incident was a case of misunderstanding. “The official told the woman that she should place the cross on the party of her choice in the first row, but the woman interpreted that as the top of the ballot and for the first party.”

Presiding officers in other wards reported a slow turnout in the morning, but by noon people started to trickle in.

In Ward 54 at Ncedo High School in Motherwell, presiding officer Thabo Bailey said that between 7am and 8am there had been 32 voters. “Everything is running smoothly. There were just a couple of people who were turned away because they were not registered.”

Nonkoliso Kula, from area 29 in NU12, who was outside the school, said although she had been disappointed with previous councillor Lindikhaya Matebese, she would continue to vote to make sure there was change.

“I want the person I‘m voting for to concentrate on the rectification of RDP houses and the tarring of roads.”

Bacela said no incidents had been reported apart from complaints from voters who had been turned away because they did not meet the requirements of registering for the by-elections.

There was also a heavy police presence at all the polling stations.

Source :The Herald